The Pantless Guide to NaNoWriMo – #TBT

October 22, 2015

Pulling a relevant post from the archives because I have lost my mind and decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

(which isn’t ALTOGETHER crazy, since NaNo is how The Ruth Valley Missing came to be, so you never know…)

See you on the other side….



NaNoWriMo begins very soon. For those of you who don’t know, NaNo (yeah, that’s right, I’m using a nickname ‘cause we are tight like that) is a time when writers spend the month of November cranking out 50,000 words in one month.

This number of words can mean writing an entire (or a solid chunk of a) novel in the span of one month. It also means that the writers who participate are committing themselves to sitting down and regularly doing what they should do: write.

There are a lot of great resources bouncing around the interwebs at the moment on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Plotting methods, character charts, graphs, diagrams; the list goes on. It’s good stuff.

However, I am what is often referred to as a pantser. I’d go as far as saying that I am pantsless. I don’t have a pretty story board with color coordinated sticky notes (although that sounds like a lovely reason to spend some time at the office supply store…ahhh, the smell of fresh notebooks). I don’t always know where my story is going until I am there. For me, that is part of the fun.

Talk of planning makes me twitch. And maybe itch.

So, what is a pantsless writer like myself to do? I mean, if I am meant to crank out such a substantial amount of words in a short period, I should have some plan, right?

What follows is the Pantsless Plan for WriMos:

  • Make a Schedule: No, not for writing, sillies. For all the stuff you need to get done. (see Creative Chores) It is easier to let the words flow if you don’t have a stack of dirty dishes threatening to topple behind you.
  • Gather Sustenance: Your minutes are precious in November. Consider hitting up Coscto for the rain barrel of pretzels, ten pound bag of coffee, and three pound bag of chocolate covered acai berries. I’m watching out for your health by throwing the berries in there.
  • Freeze Meals: Have a family? Large pans of lasagna and pots of stew can be made at the end of October, then frozen in the appropriate serving size.
  • Creative Chores: Writing a book about pirates at sea? Envision the storm-like waves you are creating while scrubbing the toilet. Throw a Cheerio in there and picture the ship being tossed about. Make screaming sounds as you flush and the ship goes down in the whirlpool. Swordfight with the broom handle. Sneak around corners with the vacuum as if your life depended on your stealth.
  • Change Voice Mail Message: Something like, “If this is an emergency, call over and over. Otherwise, I’ll talk to you in December.” If you use an email client that allows you to put an “Out of Office” message on, give that a go, too.
  • Scout Locations: For the sake of your sanity, find spots other than that office chair that already has your butt groove in it where you can write comfortably. Preferably a few places out of the house, but close to home. The backyard, park, bookstore, or coffee shops are all acceptable choices.
  • Pre-Apologies: If you live with anyone, start apologizing now for the following: snapping at them when they interrupt you mid-scene, neglecting your chores (see Make a Schedule to avoid this), and the smell of coffee breath and body odor coming from your writing corner. Come to think of it…
  • Hygiene: Just saying. Although, ‘tis better your body stinks than your words. Shakespeare said that one, right?
  • Print Out Cute Stuff: Everyone needs motivation. This will likely not come from real people around you, who think you are nuts, so try finding adorable animals to hang around your writing nook to encourage you instead.

The only editing you should do in November.











We can’t all be planners. But we can be prepared.

What are your plans for NaNoWriMo? Do they include pants?


What Can You Fix in 21 Days?

October 6, 2015

If you spend any time on social media, you are going to run into all sorts of products I like to call “mom products”.

They don’t necessarily have anything to do with being a mom specifically, but it seems the demographic for buying AND selling the products is right in that motherhood sweet spot.

While I’ve never sold aforementioned products, I also don’t get too cranky about those who sell them. Moms gotta make a living like everyone else, and since these products usually allow a person to work from home, you can see the appeal.

(sidenote: don’t take this as license to invite me to every “i-sell-stuff-party” ever)

One product making the rounds in my Facebook feed over the lat year or so has been the 21 Day Fix and Shakeology – all parts of the BeachBody brand.

Now, I generally tune out to any brand that perpetuates the idea that there is such a thing as a “beach body” (if you are at the beach, TA DA, your body is beach worthy), or the idea that I or anyone else need to be fixed.

And memories of a sorely misguided attempt at weight loss using SlimFast really turned me off to the idea of drinking any kind of shake to shed pounds.



I was weak.

Before and after pictures from people I actually knew made me curious.

And I DID have at least a few pounds I wanted to lose.

I read up a little more and the shakes didn’t seem terrible.

And regular exercise sounded good.

And those little containers were cute.

So I signed up, or more appropriately, turned over my credit card.

I committed to the 21 days of shake-drinking and flab-shaking known as the 21-day fix.

The concept is actually pretty simple. You drink a Shakeology shake for brekkie or lunch (or I guess you could do dinner?) and the rest of your day is a plethora of foods, so long as they fit in their assigned color coded containers.

I’m not gonna lie. I was very tempted to spend my 21 days taking photos of me stuffing a donuts and such into my tiny yellow (carbs!) container, because, JOKES.

But I didn’t.



I signed up with a girl I went to high school. We had overlapping friends in those days, but didn’t run in the same circles. She always seemed nice enough, even if she was infinitely more pretty and popular, and as an adult she only seemed nicer, so I felt like I should put some effort into the 21 days.

Also, I spent money, and it would have been a bit spendy for three weeks worth of jokes on Twitter and Instagram.

Each day had a certain number of containers of food allotted. Four big green containers of veggies. Several purple containers of fruit. A healthy helping of red containers of protein. Much smaller containers of all those things you eat and shouldn’t be eating so much of.

It was actually a pretty manageable amount of food. Rather than focusing on restrictions, it was more about retraining myself to pay attention to portion control, and to make sure those portions were balanced well across various foods.

Shrimp and cauliflower "grits"

Shrimp and cauliflower “grits”

Also, the yellow container can be wine. So there’s that.

Each day of the week also had an assigned workout. For someone who hasn’t worked out regularly in ::ahem, cough, garbled number:: years, this was a huge adjustment.

Not only the physical exertion, but the idea of taking 30 minutes of my day for me was a huge change. Between the kids and work, I don’t spend much time during the day on me.

Post-workout selfie

Post-workout selfie

So what did I think of all these changes?

I won’t lie.

I don’t have the same adoring relationship with the Shakeology shakes so many people seem to. I found that with fruit added, or on the rougher days, cold brew unsweetened coffee, there were palatable. But not delicious.

However, they did force me to eat breakfast, something I am terrible about. And they gave me an extra bit of energy.

Which was good, because those 30 minute workouts I mentioned? TOTALLY KICKED MY  BUTT.

They had one person in the video who did altered versions of a lot of exercises and I was totally following her. I’m just not that little tight-pants, sports bra, all-abs lady who doesn’t break a sweat.

I’m more the sippin-coffee, reading-a-book, singing-showtunes girl, for the record.


At the end of the three weeks, I found myself 9 pounds lighter. Inches missing from my waist and hips.

More energy.

And most importantly, after it’s all said and done, I plan on doing another 21 days. I haven’t gained the weight back. While I’m not on the same exercise/diet regimen, the habits I developed over those 21 days made for a positive change that will keep me eating well, and staying active.

Would I recommend the program for others?

If you need a program that tells you exactly what you need to do, a program that will jump start healthier habits, and a program you don’t mind dropping a bit of dough on, this may be the thing for you.

Find a coach that will keep you motivated – mine was great, checking in with her team every day, encouraging us in our progress, supporting us when we felt we couldn’t do it. She never once made me feel like I was just another sales figure.

Definitely find someone who is doing more than just selling you the product, someone who is genuinely as excited to see your results as their own.

While I might not continue to follow the program to the “t”, I’ll be using the skills I learned (or refreshed) to keep a more healthy view of my eating and exercise habits.

Whether your goals are a six pack, or just healthier living, this is definitely a program worth trying.

Food (Nom Nom Nom)

Healthy Mini-Meatloaf

September 17, 2015

I’ve been doing some healthy eating thing for the last week or so.

Not that I eat badly in general. But with the craziness of life, I admittedly am not much for calorie counting.

On my current eating and exercise plan, I’m making healthier choices and trying to be more aware of how much I have of any given thing.

I guess that’s what most people call a “diet”. But I really don’t care for that word.

Diets, in my mind, tend to be overly restrictive and, as a result, are hard to sustain.

I mean, if you tell me I absolutely can’t have bacon, I WILL break and eat a whole pound of it. (That that, THE MAN.)

But, if you tell me I can eat most things, in moderation, and once in a while have a little something that is entirely unhealthy, well, I may be more on board.

I’ve jump started that approach by doing the 21 Day Fix. (note: this post is not about that. I’ll give my whole thoughts on the Fix when I’m through the 21 days)

In my single days, changes to my diet were different. I was the only one affected by these changes, so I didn’t always have to give much thought to what I was making. If I wanted to eat yet another salad with grilled chicken, so be it.

But I have a picky 6 year old and a husband who has grown accustomed to yummy dinners over the last 13+ years.

To that end, when I’m eating differently, I like to try new recipes that will keep the hubs and child relatively happy and satisfied.

And let’s be honest. I love food. Just because I’m making healthier choices doesn’t mean they shouldn’t taste good.

This recipe came from two places – a husband who loves a good meatloaf (with a wife who never makes the stuff) and the desire for a quick and easy recipe that fit my current eating plan.

To my surprise, this meatloaf tasted really good. It was a hit with the boys (as evidenced by the fact that they didn’t break out the ketchup bottle), and mini versions mean a faster cooking time and easy leftover storage.











This is basically a dump and combine recipe, so even if you aren’t much for spending time in the kitchen, you can handle this.

Once you’ve diced your onion (I like a finer dice since the meat loaf is small), dump it in a bowl with all the above ingredients. For those watching their sugar intake, you want to go with a good quality, no sugar added tomato sauce. There are plenty of really yummy ones out there, and the best tasting ones tend to be the ones that are NOT branded as “diet”.

I seasoned with a healthy pinch of salt and granulated garlic, but you can season with whatever flavors float your meat boat.




Smush everything together – hands are the best tools here.

Roll healthy handfuls of the mixture together and place in a non-stick cupcake pan.

Promptly after making this, I tossed this pan and got a new one.

Promptly after making this, I tossed this pan and got a new one.

Bake at 400F for 35-40 minutes.

It’s seriously that easy.

I’m experimenting with a lot of favorites here, but I’d love to hear some of yours. Feel free to share in the comments!


“Feeling In” and Learning to Listen

September 2, 2015

I’ve written for as long as I can remember. Journals, stories, blogs, unnecessarily verbose emails; whatever medium was available, I’ve taken advantage.

While writing for me was never about an audience, most of those methods involved at least one person who I could share with, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy knowing someone was reading the words I wrote.*

Technology has made it way more accessible for everyone to not only get the words out, but get them in front of others.

Everyone has a way to be heard.

The desire for this seems to be a common one. The affirmation that what we have to say somehow matters, whether it’s to entertain or educate, feels great.

But it seems in the rush to be heard, we haven’t really become any better at listening.

Getting caught up in our own words, I’d venture to say that we may actually be worse at it.

And that can make us pretty lousy friends, companions, and human beings in general.

Maybe it’s a product of our captive audiences in front of their screens.

In typing up a blog post, I can fully complete a thought (well, when my brain is cooperating) and express myself without interruption. A Facebook status, an Instagram pic, or a Tweet, while shorter, accomplishes the same.

My thoughts. Complete. Out there to be consumed.

I don’t worry about the audience “interrupting” or completing my thoughts for me.

But do I afford those I interact with the same courtesy? Or am I still in performance mode, quick to offer up my thoughts, quips, anecdotes, and advice?


Do you ever find yourself listening to someone else’s story and finishing their sentences?

Or thinking about what you are going to say in response?

What sage advice will you offer? What deeply personal story will you share?

Sure, you may think you are just helping the conversation along, but are you really? Or are you just trying to be the one who’s heard?

When was the last time you found yourself really listening to those with whom you interact?

Meaningful communication takes effort, time, and patience.

I know being a mom of two little ones, I’m inclined to rush. Maybe it’s the excitement over chatting with someone whose butt or nose I don’t wipe. Maybe it’s the not knowing when I’ll have to run off to fish a crayon out of someone’s nose, or a Lego out of the toilet.**

Whatever the reason, I’m not always the listener I want to be.

And if I’m not, how can I really expect to contribute in a meaningful way in my friendships and relationships?

I blogged a few years ago about empathy, and it’s importance in our day to day lives. I still love reflecting on the meaning, that to be empathetic, we have to “feel in”. We have to feel as if we were the person we are sharing with.

How can we ever show empathy (and in turn, compassion and care) if we don’t take the time to truly listen to those around us?


Sad monkey is sad.

I get to do plenty of the talking, albeit mostly through this blog and social media. I’d like to make it a point to do a whole lot more listening, online or off.

To that end, I’ve made a list of just a few things to keep in mind as I endeavour to be a better listener:


My Best Friend is a Square

Or, more accurately, a rectangle.

Oh, beloved iPhone. My constant companion. Which probably isn’t so great for all my other companions. You know, the human ones, competing for my attention over the ding and buzz of every Instagram like and Facebook comment.

Not only am I going to make an effort to put the phone away when I’m talking to people, I’m shutting off all those pesky auto notifications that demand my attention.

I mean, my phone DOES talk in an alluring British man’s voice, but I’d rather that not be my only friend.

I’ll Be There

I’ve got a lot on my mind. Full-time job, writing obligations, kids, family, etc… it’s easy to get lost in the never-ending to-do list in my head.

Or, let’s be honest, it’s easy to get caught up in story ideas as well.

Giving my full attention, not just the bit of my brain not currently occupied with what laundry load needs to be done next or what story scene I need to work out, is the least I can do when someone is sharing with me.


While it may not always be intentional, sometimes I find myself stepping on the ends of someone else’s story. Maybe it comes from growing up in a large (and loud) family. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t take much to wait for that FULL STOP before saying my bit.

Whatever I have to say, it will keep.

Enjoy The Silence

Being a social introvert, I’m not great with silences. Even brief ones. They leave me feeling anxious and can result in a crazy internal spiral of “what now” that isn’t pretty.

As a result, I tend to fill those silences. But why not ask questions that allow others to take that role?

And sometimes, maybe what the conversation needs is a beat of silence. Thoughtful reflection. A little discernment can go a long way.


Do you find you’re a better listener than you once were? How do you make sure you are doing your part?


*if you have published work and say you don’t have any desire to have an audience, you are probably not being honest with yourself
**I have not had to fish a crayon out of any noses, but the night is young…