Character Development

Emotionally attached to fictional characters

Character development can be challenging. You have a character. You’ve given them a name and some physical details, but you want your audience to connect with them on a deeper level. When I’m reading a story, my connection with them grows when I get a glimpse inside their head.

Make a list of characters you like from different books you enjoyed. What was it about them that made you grow an attachment? Are they forgetful and worry all day at work whether or not they switched off their straightening iron? Did they worry about the impression they made at an interview? Do they bite their nails when they’re anxious?

Define the character are you working on? Is it your protagonist or antagonist. Think about what makes your character interesting for better or worse? To start out on an easier note, let’s pretend you’re making a new friend. I’ve included the questions below to help you dig a little deeper. Keep in mind you want your audience to become emotionally invested in your character.

It’s Coffee Talk Time

A couple of people sitting directly across from each other with a cup of coffee.

Observational Questions

  • How do they act when they are happy, excited, in love, sad, or angry?
  • What kind of gestures do they make in conjunction with these emotions?
  • Do they have any tattoos or noticeable scars?
  • How do they typically dress?

Interpersonal Questions

  • What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
  • The song you blast when you’re happy?
  • Favorite bar/restaurant you enjoy?
  • Beverage of choice?
  • Do you like to travel? Where have you been?
  • Do you have pets? What kind? How many?
  • Do you have children? What are their names and how old are they?
  • Are you close to you family? Any specific member you call when times get tough or unbearable? Why?
  • Who do you spend your holidays with?
  • Are you religious or spiritual?
  • Do you play or watch sports?
  • What do you do when you’re stressed out?
  • What languages do you speak?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Do you have a nickname? How did you get it?
  • What is your favorite appetizer?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What is your favorite vacation spot?
  • Happiest moment of your life? Worst?
  • How do you see the world? Is the glass half empty or half full?
  • What’s your greatest fear?
  • What is one of your biggest regrets?

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These questions may only scratch the surface of getting to know your character. Let me turn this over to you now. What else do you want to know about them? Think back on how you got to know your own friends. How can you integrate them into your character? Maybe put some of yourself in them. Try putting them in a scene.

Here’s an example. Allow them to sit alone in a restaurant. What do they notice about other people around them. Is your character comfortable or embarrassed sitting in a booth by themselves. Why do they feel that way?

Inner dialogue can help move your story along and throwing your character into action will help you determine what they’re missing.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is not the problem. The problem is not writing.

Wikipedia has listed the term writer’s block as a condition. It occurs when a writer has a creative slow down or can’t think of any new material.

When I first started writing, I believed it. But guess what? Writer’s block doesn’t exist. I think it’s an excellent armpit excuse, but in all honesty, writers have got to write.

Here are some ways you can conquer the imaginary block and write on.

Free Write

Free writing is what the name implies. You don’t have a plan. If having no plan interests you check out my earlier post Pantser 101. Write whatever comes to mind and keep writing. When I hear free writing, I see Jack Nicholson repeatedly writing Red Rum in The Shining. If you get stuck on a word, keep writing the same word until you come up with the next one. You know what? Something magical happens. You’ll come up with another word.

Do not be afraid of an incomplete thought. No one is judging you. It’s between you and your keyboard or pen. Whatever medium you decide, keep writing. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Next time you can set it for 20 minutes. It’s up to you. I want to tell you not to look back and change your words, but I know you will. I know I’ve done it. But remember, free writing is about allowing the words to flow out of you without bringing out the grammar police or wordsmith. You can bring them out later.

Writing Prompt

There are plenty of sites that you can sign up for to get your writing juices flowing. One of my favorites is reedsyprompts, where you can use their weekly writing prompts, and if you are interested, you can enter their weekly contests. As a judge on their site, I love to see the beautiful way an author can weave these prompts in their short stories.

The other site I enjoy receiving emails from is writers write. Once a week, they send out a newsletter that includes a helpful post, comic, words we like, a quote, and lastly, writing prompt. This week’s writing prompt is, “The cat’s bowl was empty.”

Word List

Who doesn’t like a good word list? I’m in the middle of revision and rewrites, and I realized my sentences were…well, lacking in the realm of better words. Sometimes it’s about how your words are arranged. For example, Fredrik Backman writes simple sentences, but I walk away thinking about his prose long after putting down any of his books. “It doesn’t take a lot to let go of your child. It takes everything.” –Beartown.

Here’s one example of a word list. Make a food list. Start with your grocery list, and if you are a foodie, even butter. Yes, I love a good food pun. You could list a menu from one of your favorite restaurants. Go beyond pizza and tacos. Of course, you can easily upgrade the basic tacos into something of the street variety like carne asada encased in those cute little corn tortillas or a brick oven pizza covered in truffle shavings.

Think of brioche, tiramisu, sashimi or goulash. There is a whole world of food out there. If you’re a visual person, tune in to The Food Network. You are the writer. Imagine your character taking their first bite from a savory piece of filet mignon or dipping a piece of lobster tail in that buttery sauce as it drips off their fingertips. Then again, it could be as simple as chomping down on a Spam sandwich during their 20-minute lunch break.

Other lists could include favorite words, body movements, or places.

News Headline

Newsbreak headlines usually get my attention. Try taking a headline or an article you found exciting and making something more out of the subject matter. A headline reads, A Mother Carjacked, Baby Survives High-Speed Car Chase.

What happens to the woman afterward? Does she become agoraphobic or a cop? What happens to the 16-year-old kid not thinking about the consequences that follow? Is he scared straight and turns into one of his generation’s most influential motivational speakers for at-risk children? I’d like to know. Not all stories need to have a sad ending.

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I see it as writer’s block is nothing more than a myth. There are a plethora of avenues you can travel when it comes to your creativity.

I hope you found this helpful in your writing journey. Let’s do some trade secrets, and you can comment on how you get through writer’s block. Send me a like and follow, and I’ll do my best to develop other ideas to help you unleash your creative self.

Write on!

I Am…

I once made a list of all the I ams I was and all the I ams that I want to be. It was a two-column list in smallish writing. I’ve lost the list, but I remember writing, “I am a sheep owner.” Let me explain. I am a knitter. I started out with that icky acrylic yarn, but then I discovered specialty yarn.

When I moved to the East Coast, I felt the need to pick up a pair of needles and yarn. Little did I know there was a world of yarn just a click away on Etsy. I could get the kind that is hand-dyed, and hand spun. Oooh wheeeee… it was irregular in some places, but it added a certain je ne sais quoi to my knitting experience. It sounded magical in my head (i.e., shearing the sheep, picking through the wool, and using a spinning wheel), which brought me to the conclusion that I wanted to be a part of the wool to yarn process.

Anyways, in my brief search, I learned that it makes more cents (pun intended) to own goats than sheep because people like goat meat, but then I thought I couldn’t possibly raise goats to send them to the slaughterhouse and then I thought what about running a place that did yoga with goats? Can I get a namaste? Phew! And there’s a little sneak peek at Des’s thought process.

Yeah, I am NOT a sheep owner. I’m not too keen on the idea right now. The actual process sounds overwhelming. Give me the looped yarn that’s twisted all pretty because I’d rather get to the knitting.

I like the end process, please and thank you, but that’s not how processes work as we develop and grow as people, is it? It takes a lot of time and energy sometimes, it’s more than we like to exert.

The I Ams That Define Us

I had to give myself a pep talk the other morning because I DID NOT want to get out of bed. So you know what I did? I went through a short mental list of some good moments in my past. I am what I am because of the actions I have taken. It made my morning for some reason. I didn’t need to hear it from someone else. It was just me talking to me. It is easy to forget that we are our own greatest cheerleaders and our own biggest roadblocks. We don’t give ourselves enough props, so go ahead and pat yourself on the back. You’re doing great…even if the only thing that got you out of bed was that first sip of coffee.

I started calling myself a writer when I began my first class in my master’s program. I didn’t want to call myself one publicly, but I had to say it a couple of times to myself out loud and to my family members so that I believed that I was, if that makes sense. What made it real for me was seeing my name in the table of contents of a literary journal. Knowing that other people might read my essays besides my family and friends brings a smile to my face.

I have no idea what I hoped to look or feel like when I claimed those words in the I am form. Nothing really changed except for the fact that I put myself out there. My thoughts are no longer private. Writing for me is like putting a part of my soul out there.

As writers, we torture ourselves with our endless banter within that maybe what we have to say isn’t all that important or that no one will read it. We write because there’s this unknown force compelling us to write out loud.

I’m in the middle of sending query letters and receiving the dreaded rejections. I keep putting myself out there because I have things I must say. If I don’t, I feel incomplete.

In between the things that get in the middle of me and my laptop, I might not get 1000 words a day, but I keep on keepin’ on.

I’m trusting in the process.

Your I Ams Await

If you haven’t already felt inspired by my thoughts on proclaiming my right to say, “I am a sheep owner,” go ahead and make an I am list of your own. Write out the things you already are and the things that you want to be. You’ll be surprised at what you might tell yourself.

Underline, circle, highlight, or * any you’re interested in turning to a present-day I am. And then buckle down and get to it. Look at that. You just made yourself a goal. Don’t I ams sound so much better?

I’d love to hear what made the cut on your list, and please share it in the comments if you’re feeling up to it. Thanks for dropping by.

Good Grief

This last week has been a trying one. Biggie didn’t want to come in most of the day on Wednesday, so he sat underneath the trampoline. A few hours later, my daughter, Lauryn, found him laying motionless in the front yard. The kitchen light spread over him like a blanket. You wouldn’t have been able to see him unless you went outside. It happened quickly…too soon. He was the sweetest of our two dogs.

Creed and Biggie Photo credits: Alexis Sant

Our black lab, Creed is distraught, you can see it in his eyes. He doesn’t know how to handle grief and I have learned that I don’t either. Biggie was alive and now his soul is somewhere else. It makes my heart ache to no longer see him snuggled up to one my older daughters. He had a deep love for them.

A part of our every day life. We adopted Biggie from our local animal shelter almost 4 years ago. He had come from an abusive home and had a scar down the middle of his head. We adopted him one day before he was going to be “put to sleep.” He wasn’t just a dog. He was a family member who will be truly missed.

I grow existential during times like these. When grief strikes, my world stops. I get lost in thought. What are we doing? What am I doing? What is my purpose? Yes, I struggle with these things even though I have said over and over that I know what my purpose is. It is so easy to lose sight of that. We have so many things we worry about in this life, things that weigh us down, but when it comes down to it what is it in our lives that supersedes all the bull crap we experience in this life?

I think it’s all about the connections. It’s the whole reason people are missed when they leave to where ever it is they go. We go into nostalgia mode. I am grateful for those moments.

One thing I learned about grief is that it helps me to remember what’s important and allows for the stupid nonsensical junk to fall by the wayside.

My challenge to you is to make time today and everyday for those whom are important in your life. You just never know when it will be the last time you get to give them one last kiss, hug, or to say, “I love you.”

Are You Smiling?

The soft pattering of rain hits against the roof. I pour myself a cup of coffee and revel in that first sip… but the dog is barking outside. Not Biggie, it’s Creed…again.

I throw the door open and notice that our sweet dog has decided to make the trash his new play thing.

Diapers and anything food related has turned into confetti that litters the lawn. He watches as I assess the damage, waiting for his punishment. He bolts when I call his name. Our neighbor begins to drive down her driveway and Creed also decides that now is the best time to visit them. He barks and runs towards them. He acts like a brand new dog that has never seen the light of day, all because someone forgot to shut the gate. These neighbors have called animal control on us and I doubt this day will be any different.

Another neighbor drives by with a wave, palm held up against the steering wheel. She looks forward, not noticing what surrounds me while I yell at my dog with the least amount of obscenities to get the fork back here. He isn’t listening. I show him a doggie treat and he comes bounding towards me, don’t worry folks, I didn’t give him the treat.

I come back in to grab a garbage bag and discover that my independent two year old has taken it upon herself to pour a generous cup of orange juice for herself and her little sister. They dance in and around the orange puddle as if they are summoning the OJ gods to deliver more of this goodness into into their sticky hands and feet.

Are you smiling yet?

Picture yourself for a moment in my shoes. Did that scene make you smile or frown? Did it make your blood pressure rise?

These instances occurred over the course of a month or even two, but my creative mind rolled it all into one awesome morning scenario. When I think how things could have been worse, it makes those individual life occurrences much less intense.

These are moments that will pass and a very big thankforkinggoodness they do. I’m learning how to smile through it.

There is so much more smile about, am I right or am I right?

Take a minute to write down the things that bring a genuine smile to your face.

Truth be told, there are some days, I don’t want to smile, but I feel like that’s when I need to do it the most.

That one class I’m taking…statistics. It does not bring a smile to a face. Most of the time, I’m looking at formulas and YouTube videos with my lips downturned and a constant look of confusion. But if it wasn’t for the class I wouldn’t be able to share with you something I learned.

How about now?

Doesn’t talking about it make it easier to do? Have you heard of The Duchenne Smile? I didn’t know it had an actual name. You’ve heard about embracing the suck, right? I used that as a a mantra on hard running days. When embracing that suck, I smiled. I smiled big until my brain felt it. I smiled at the trees, the sky, and the ground.

If I am having a particular taxing day and my husband says, “Smile.” Do you know what I want to do in response? I’ve got some pride, maybe it’s more inflated on other days, so what I really want to do is go ballistic. I want to throw a fit and curse. Of course, my initial reaction depends on how into my feelings I am. I could go on frowning when it would be so much easier to give in and just smile for goodness sakes. I imagine I look like that Merryweather. You know the blue fairy godmother from the old old Sleeping Beauty Disney cartoon. I am pretty stubborn.

When I don’t let up, he adds, “Smile like you mean it.” I smile with my teeth showing, but it looks more like this: 😬

At this point I want to ride my broom and tell him all the reasons I don’t want to smile, but he’s not one for hearing excuses. He’s so flippin’ right and Lord help me when he is. It’s his chance to wallow in his rightness. I’ll allow it, because I know I do the same thing when the tables are turned.

It’s usually not my best smile and more times than others it is the LAST thing I want to do, but somehow it changes my mood to a lighter one.

Studies have shown that if you smile like you mean it, the kind of smile that reaches your eyes, it will raise your mood. It’s referred to as the Duchenne Smile.

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Own that Duchenne Smile and make it a part of your daily routine. Smile around your family during times you normally wouldn’t. They might think you’re psychotic, but they’ll get over it.

Try it and notice how it can change your mood and theirs. Give it a week or even a day and let me know how it goes. I look forward to hearing from you.

Stressed? It’s Forking Desserts

Did you know that desserts spelled backwards is stressed? It was news to me. It’s no wonder that desserts are often given to us when we are stressed the fork out.

A quote concerning stress: “You can’t control the winds, but you can adjust the sails.” – a number of people are attributed with this saying.

So, Are You Feeling Stressed?

Stress forking affects EVERYTHING in my life. Be it mentally, physically, and emotionally. I wished I wouldn’t let it get to me, but I know time and time again that’s where my faith steps in. Easier said than done. It takes some serious concentration to get unstuck from the loop. I’ve talked about negativity before. Don’t worry, nothing has changed.

Loops of Negativity = Negativity about everything. Talk about a dark cloud consistently looming overhead.

The Loop

You know, that mental treadmill of sorts that keeps you stressed, anxiety ridden, and filled with worry. It sucks the joy out living. I believe that’s the reason I enjoy basking in the happy, peaceful, joyful moments. Now that’s a treadmill filled with abundance.

Here I am, still learning this concept. Always learning. I’m learning to forgive humanity and myself. I’m trying to be a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter and dare I say it…a better Christian.

Personally, I’m turned off by people that introduce themselves and then add, “I’m a Christian.” Show me what you mean by that. You don’t need to tell me something you are, especially if you already show it by your actions. This goes for people who say they are kind, generous and loving. Show me kindness, generosity, and love.

It’s rough out here in this world.

If you’re not careful you can turn into a negative human only attracting the worst of what life has to offer. Doesn’t reading that sentence make you feel icky?

When I start seeing the negativity enter, there’s only one thing I can do. I must freaking change my gosh darn attitude. I’m trying to reverse my sailor’s mouth. It’s flippin’ tough, but not impossible. I’m not going to say I have a good track record, which I did for a big chunk of my life because of a religion, but now I’m just doing it because no one likes a potty mouth and there are so many more better words out there.

Have you looked at a dictionary lately? I just wish there was one that would carry as much emotion as that one four letter word that rhymes with duck. Do you have a better one? Let me know in the comments down below, because fork doesn’t do it for me.

What to do when forking desserts get the best of me?

I write, run, lift weights, knit, and pray A LOT.

If that doesn’t work, then what?

Lean on hope and faith when you’re stressed.

I could quote a bunch of bible verses here, but I’ll spare you. In this process of becoming better, I’ve come across a new friend. Her name is Jackie. We text each other a lot. It’s mostly about remaining in prayer for one another. We talk about our faith and discuss how it’s made us stronger women, thus making us better wives, mothers, and friends.

As fate would have it, she was initially friend’s with my husband’s mother. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. She’s also my age and hit it off the moment we met. Our two older children are similar in age. We can relate on so many levels. We know and are acquainted with the same people. I’ve lived here for over a decade. All this time, in this small but big county, we met at the Family Dollar in the frozen food aisle on Christmas Eve.

I’m constantly trying to see the little blessings in my life when I’m consumed by the bigger problems.

When life feels devoid of hope and lacking in love, I turn to God in faith and He answers me through friends.

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If you’re forking desserts, my hope is that these words find their way to you.

Goals: Failures and Successes

What better time to talk about goals than on the Chinese New Year.

Goals

Does the word goal make you cringe inwardly a little? Sometimes I feel like it attaches meaning to something that I don’t really want to do, but must get done, like my statistics homework that I’m pushing out to do tomorrow instead of right now.

Why? Because I attach a higher priority to my writing. Although learning and understanding how it applies to psychology is an important skill and a required course to complete my long-haul hopes and dreams, I L-O-V-E to write. Writing hits that feel-good receptor.

I bet you know what this segue is leaning towards.

If you guessed running, you get a virtual fist bump. 

Let’s just say that goals aren’t for dreamers. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great stepping stone towards the “G” word, and do I ever like to dream with the best of them.

Unfortunately, for the dreamer, like myself, I have to jump off the cloud and take my Care Bear tushy down to my reality like (quick side note: I imagine the Care Bears every time I think about what it would be like to live in the clouds if  they weren’t really made out of water droplets like the scientists say), “Why do I smell ____?” or the Majority question in the Haros house, “What are we having for dinner?” As if I know the answer, SMH. I wouldn’t use that shortened form unless I actually did that, which I often do. I think it’s equivalent to the eye roll for teenagers. We parents have our own language. We shake our heads for a myriad of reasons, but I won’t discuss that today.

Goals require action…

Whatever your stance is on goals, there is no side stepping option available here. Goals are for those who are all about action. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like talking about something unless I’m actually going to do something about it.

As of late running has once again grabbed at my soul.

Running is the adrenaline rush, the breathing in and out, the one step after the other, the feeling of the sun on my skin…the untapped potential just beneath the surface of my very being.

This is the place where I feel like anything and everything can happen…when I truly believe that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

Let me rephrase that. ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH GOD. I know that without Him in my corner, I wouldn’t be able to do the things I have been fortunate enough to do.

In regards to that rush, this is how I feel when I run. If that rush could be bottled up and stored, no one would ever have to experience those lows, but then again how could we ever enjoy those highs? One is not possible without the other.

With all that said, it’s time to prove to myself that I can run a 100-mile race.

I know it can be done and I also know from prior experience that it can’t always be done.

Did you see what I said there? Let me say it one more time. Just because you want something bad enough, even if God has you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it.

It took many failures to get me there. My ego was knocked to the curb and my vulnerabilities exposed. Humbled much? Too many times to count.

Greenlights weren’t happening when I attempted the 100 mile race at Zion 100, Keys 100, Wild Sebastian, Daytona 100, and Atacama Extreme 100.

I don’t have a great track record of 100- mile distance finishes, but it shows that I tried. In my life time, I have completed the distance twice. Those finishes meant a whole lot more.

The same goes for my writing. There were several rejections, before my essays were accepted. Once again, those failures made my successes that much sweeter.

How did I get from point A to point B?

I didn’t give up. I kept pushing because I knew I could get it done.

At this point, I feel like I’m giving myself a pep talk. Hope this speaks to you in some way.

I will continue to chip away at my running milestones just as I did before I completed my first 100. How? One step at a time.

If you are a writer, how do you get there? One word at a time.

# # #

Just like any goal, you have to visualize the outcome.

Close your eyes.

Now bask in the feeling of your accomplishment.

Can you see yourself there? Holding that buckle? Or that diploma or that finished book in print?

Whatever goal you have. It’s in you. This is what I have to remind myself on the daily. I am my own roadblock at times. Those negative thoughts are like land mines.

In my own experience, I notice that every time I take my eyes off a goal, I step on a mental land mine and that outcome is never pretty. The moment I do, everything seems to go wrong. One catastrophe to the next.

I’m now ever slowly learning that I need to say a prayer to God asking Him for help and guidance. I also ask my friends to lift me up with their positive vibes. Both of these options are provided to all of us. You just have to ask.

Interested in goal achieving?

Here are some easy steps to follow. If you’re already in the middle of these steps. Let me know how it’s going.

1. Create a goal. Write down your why. Make sure it’s big enough to get you out of bed every day.

2. Write down the steps it will take to get you there. Work backwards from the finish to the beginning. This will put in a different head space.

3.  Ask others who may have accomplished your goal. Just ask and I guarantee they will help you out.

4. Get to it and accomplish your goal. I’ll be cheering you on.

“Oh Buhay”: Life is So Hard

Oh buhay, Tagalog for “Life is so hard.”

In contrast, my sweet friend, Maribel, made me a frame that says, ” Life… it’s so easy.” It’s a little inside joke my friends and I have with her.

We can either go through life thinking one of the two.

How do you see it? I’m blinking at you like Dora the Explorer.

I need to brag about Maribel for a hot minute. She knows how to do things…from cooking to styling hair, to instructing Zumba, to being a phlebotomist. This lady can do HARD things. She is a devoted wife, mother, friend and foremost a Christian. She doesn’t need to advertise her beliefs because she embodies it in her daily actions. She’s the real deal. I love you, Maribel! I haven’t even covered half of what makes Maribel the awesome person she is.

*Disclaimer: If you are my friend, you may be subject to appearing in a post. I am a bragger, so if you are a friend of mine it is because you are a strong individual and I am inspired by the person you are. You continue to motivate me to be the best version of myself.

Life in the Ultrarunning Community

I have once again immersed myself into the ultrarunning community. I am currently living the cheer mat life sidelines. I am the person who will be one of your biggest supporters as you run and train for those ultra running races. My husband and I might just be at the aid station, making that crowd favorite of peanut butter and jelly wrapped in a tortilla.

I’ve missed it. If you’re one of my running friends reading this, I’ve missed you.

I know I’ve been a crappy friend, but can you blame me? Depression kicked my @$$ BIG TIME. I retreat inwards. It’s not good. I do not recommend it. I’m learning to reach out to others. Like I’ve said before, people can’t read your mind, because if they could your people would be right there to lift you up.

When you are in that big pit of despair, who do you turn to when you no longer have your friends to turn to. I found out who I really needed to turn to.

There’s only so much you can do when you turn away from God.

I can tell you one thing, your problems will not end. You may get tried, but He can make your burdens lighter. When you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, only He can make it lighter and send people to you to help alleviate those burdens. If you are still on the fence about the God thing, think of it as the Universe. I’ve said this before. We are interconnected. You know why? Because we need each other. There is no “lone wolfing” this life.

I mean, you can if you want, but you are essentially making life a lot harder for yourself than it needs to be.

Back to talking about running…

I’ve missed the people who became my life’s greatest cheerleaders.

When you stop running, are you still a runner?

When I wasn’t running…no, I didn’t think of myself as a runner. I walked the trail for 3 years and could not imagine myself ever running ANY foot race again. I asked and wondered, mostly in my head, why ANYONE would subject themselves to a 100 mile race, especially a race in the Florida Keys during the month of May?

I forgot the joy that running brought me. The onset was sudden. It started when my husband, Anthony, our daughter, Lexi, and our other daughter, Brooklyn came down to Ancient Oaks 100 in Titusville, Florida to volunteer at the start/finish aid station this past December. This past year it has become an infamous race for other reasons, but I’ll let you do the research on your own.

I planted the seed when I said I lost my passion for running.

I used reverse psychology on me and now I have some races lined up leading up to the Keys 100.

Do you see how our lives are created by our own making?

I had a reawakening in my soul. Please refer to my last few blog posts to understand what I’m talking about.

In two weeks, my daughter, Alexis, aka Lexi will be jumping out of a perfectly good plane and upon landing, she will then run 13.1 miles. Why? Free will. Also, one of the greatest gifts God has given each one of us on this planet.

The race is called Sky Dive Ultra, created by Eric Friedman. He’s also the guy who created FUR Florida Ultra Runners group on FB.

I’ve wanted to attend Sky Dive Ultra (not jumping out of the plane) get together/reunion of sorts since 2014. The date has not worked out in my life’s schedule.

I’m not saying live a YOLO life. I’m saying we need to live among the living. The world is so much better with YOU in it. Be with the people who make it worth living.

You will be happier for it. I’m living proof that it’s better to live life among the living. I changed how I saw things and once I did that, everything else just clicked. I mean EVERYTHING. Thoughts, ideas, and actions. Most importantly, people have been placed in my path to facilitate the actions. More on that in another post.

Well, now that we have a family member running the race, the race will be more meaningful to say the least. Not only that, but now I created an opportunity to catch up with my running friends and introduce them to my husband, who has unwittingly caught the running bug, before I knew I wanted and needed running back in my life. I am grateful he planted the seed in his own way, unbeknownst to him.

The Keys 100

In the same vein of ultrarunning thought, I’m in the beginning stages of training for The Keys 100. This race is a special one for me.

Here’s the short short story…

2014

I attempted this race as a solo runner…meaning no running crew. I depended on the aid stations. The problem? They can’t anticipate your needs, because they don’t know you. I did experience what it means to help a sister out. Christian Stewart and Susan Anger who are well known to those of us who are Florida Ultra Runners. They helped me after the 7-Mile Bridge. I made it as far as 96 miles, but knowing that I wouldn’t buckle, I threw in the towel.

2015

I towed the line once again…and finished.

Why?

I had a crew. Three other ultra runners (Lani, Bernadette, and Kevin volunteered their time and energy just to get me thru to the finish. They were there to anticipate what I needed, before I even knew I needed it.

I’ll never forget the moment when my friend, Lani, said sometime during the last six miles. I was severely chaffed in my nether regions. It hurt with every step I took.

Lani said, “If you want me to put Butt Paste there, I’ll do it.”

Her look of compassion for a situation I put upon myself in made my heart fill with more gratitude than I can express here in words.

I could not have done it without them. This year I’ll have a different crew. Two of them will be my family members. I’m sure you can guess who that will be.

2022

I have been looking for my buckle from 2015…it’s vanished from my possession. I can’t remember the last time I physically touched it.

Lexi said, “Well, I guess you’ll have to run another one.”

So, I guess it’s time for me to get a new one. I look forward to the coming months and years with my new found love to live life. I’m continually learning to love every aspect of it..meaning the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I ask that we all adopt Maribel’s saying, “Life…it’s so easy,” and add “when you allow others into it.”

Let us help each other in this crazy journey we call life!

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Thank you for visiting and I hope to “see” you again soon.

Making Connections: Penny in My Thoughts

Penny, Sharon, and Myself San Francisco Circa 1996

We were The Bania’s, a family of three. It consisted of my dad, Lou, my mom, Remy, and myself.

My dad found a niche as an electrician and refrigeration technician in San Francisco and the surrounding areas.

His accounts included Taco Bell chains, Pizza Hut, and Wolf Gang Puck on the Pier, and what he called “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants in China Town.

He had a little apartment over on Geary Street working three weeks on and one week off where he would come home. Long enough for my parents to get on each other’s nerves and then he would be gone again.

My mother worked full-time as an ESL teacher at Delta Middle School.

Something peculiar was occurring at the end of the street where my parents parked our 1991 Plymouth Voyager mini-van, white with a wood panel stripe that graced the sides.

It would become my future ride during my Senior Year at Delta High School, but that was still in the works. It was 1995, I was 15 and a Junior without a driver’s license riding the bus home.

Like any day after school, I took my time shuffling from the corner of North 500 West Street and West Center Street towards 350 West.

I lived at the dead-end gravel street on 350 West. There are three houses on this road, cookie-cutter ranch-style homes, three bedrooms, and one bath. A blue one (which for the life of me I can’t remember who lived there, I just remember the porcelain toilet that was used as a plant holder), the yellow one that belonged to the Fountaines’ and then my house, a milky chocolate house on the end.

This was the year I decided to cut my hair short like Monica the R&B singer. It looked good on her, why not me?

Billy and Cody Shumway’s mom was the hairdresser and said that I needed to style it every morning if I wanted it to look like Monica’s. Let me tell you, it was more work to have it short than long, but I’m getting off track. All I have to say is thank goodness my hair grows back quickly.

Back to the odd occurrence happening in my driveway. My parents were talking in the minivan. Odd.

Anytime they had a “discussion” it involved slammed doors with my mother going silent behind the closed door, usually with my dad heavy fist pounding the door yelling at her to come out.

This time they were calmly talking. They were both smiling, especially my dad.

When they saw me they exited the vehicle and walked towards the house saying they had something important to tell me.

The News

“You have a sister.” My mom said.

“I thought your mother was going to kill me,” my dad said all smiles.

“Why would I kill you?” she scoffed shaking her head at the thought. “It was in the past.”

Learning Lesson

From that moment and on through my own life I learned that someone’s past did not dictate their worth.

Back to the Story

I was in shock. I had a sister?

Growing up as an only child was B-O-R-I-N-G. Need I say more? My parents were older than most in the area, not to mention they weren’t Mormon. I was the odd girl at school and I was a Filipina Chinese girl living in rural America. I really could have used a sister.

Now I magically had a sister.

An awkward conversation revealed he had a one-night stand with Penny’s mother. Penny had called earlier that afternoon from Washington State and said that she was his daughter.

His reply, “Oh shit, she [Penny’s mother] was telling the truth.”

A New Sister

She was the spitting image of my dad, there was no mistake. She came for a short visit prior to Christmas and we met again in San Francisco and then I took a solo trip up to Washington the following summer.

Throughout the years we kept in touch. She met my fiancé, who would become my husband of 14 years (technically 15, but I filed for divorce our 14th year and it wasn’t finalized until November of 2014). Can you tell I get particular about the particulars?

I took a solo trip in the summer of 2008 to visit Penny and occasionally see her ever-busy husband, Mitch. 2009, following the Disney Marathon, me and the family came out for a visit. We visited the Brevard Zoo, fed the giraffes, and on a separate day, we spent it at Disney World.

The Call

Back at home in Orting, WA. Penny called. She told me my children had been ungrateful. Not thanking her for the dolls she had purchased for them at Disney. She said we had left the house a mess and said she had to call a cleaning service because her house was a mess.

“I was taught that you leave the house, better than you found it!” She yelled in the receiver. Yes, we still had a cordless phone back then.

I yelled back and told her I would send her a check for the maid service. I didn’t recall leaving the house a disaster. It was unlike me to do that. It was strange that she was incredibly upset. She had never yelled at me before.

I hung up the phone while she ranted. She called back leaving two irritated voicemails outraged that I had hung up the phone on her.

In her last voicemail, she said that she was sorry for yelling and plead for me to call her back.

I sent her a check for the maid service and didn’t call her back.

December 3, 2021

Remember that nasty car accident I was in? The dog’s name was Penny. I thought about my sister as the drunk driver called out her name over and over again.

December 5, 2021

I came across my journals and a picture came to the surface. The one my dad took in San Francisco. The same picture shown above.

December 7, 2021

I messaged Mitch, Penny’s husband, asking how I could get a hold of her.

December 11, 2021

He didn’t reply, but he added me as a friend on FB. I scrolled through his feed looking for any sign of Penny.

And then I found this…

Another Lesson

Sometimes we go through the pain of not learning the first time and God nudges us again, patiently waiting for us to relearn something He already taught us.

It is not enough to proclaim we are Christians when we aren’t willing to forgive. I do not claim perfection. I’m still learning how to forgive others in my life.

I Am a WIP (Work in Progress)

I thought I still had time, but now it was too late. I allowed pettiness to break up a relationship that was never based on the trivial.

Please let this be a lesson to you. Do not allow the pettiness of life to get in the way of relationships. As many have said before me, “Life is too damn short.”

I say to you, “Love yours, show kindness, and when it doubt be slow to anger and forgive others on a regular basis.” Yes, even to the drivers that drive like they own the road. We are all God’s children.

If they are toxic, love them from a distance and pray that they will feel your love and forgiveness.

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As always, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my blog.

I appreciate the outpouring of support from my friends near and far.

May God be with you as He has shown up in my life even when I didn’t want to acknowledge His existence. He is as real as the air we breathe. Ever present yesterday, today, and forever.

A Come to Jesus Moment or What Have You

Choice #1

Two nights ago, after a minor “discussion” with my husband. We decided it would be in our best interest, if we went to get some food…meaning fast food.

Choice #2

We saw Lexi and Lauryn (our two oldest) on the way out. Lexi had picked Lauryn up from work. Lauryn works at Wendy’s. She said they were out of fries. We were going to get fries for Brooklyn. I said, “Let’s go to Taco Bell!” Anthony says, “Yes, that sounds most excellent.” He didn’t say that, but he agreed that it was a good idea.

Choices #3

Insignificant choice, but let’s talk consider the time it took to go through the drive thru. I ordered 2 spicy tacos and he got the Grilled something box. Thankful we spent under $15. We headed home.

Choice #4

There are two routes home. One that takes less time than the other. It was foggy…like unusually foggy, so we took the short way home. We were nearly 5 minutes away from home when….

We heard honking, but couldn’t figure out why.

Choice #5

Headlights appeared out of nowhere, because the driver from the oncoming lane turned on his headlights at the last second, but he was in our lane.

Choice #6

Swerved left and the only thing that ran through my head was a clear male voice that said, “Hold on tight and brace for impact.”

Choice #7

Anthony hopped out of the car and ran to the other driver and asked him what the eff he was doing driving on the wrong side of the road. He scared the man so bad, he kneeled in front of his vehicle and put his hands behind his head and promised he wouldn’t move and asked if we were okay. He thought my husband was a cop.

Choice #8

I had to reign in my husband’s wrath, because he was about to beat the living crap out of that man. Not only that, my husband was going to get ran over by oncoming traffic because he was wearing all black. Meanwhile, the clearly inebriated man repeatedly called out, “Penny!!!” A little black and white puppy came running out towards him.

Choice #9

We made our way back to the curb once the police started showing up.

Choice #10

We called Lexi to come and pick us up.

Choice #11

The man pleaded with the cops to not take away his dog. Thankfully, he had someone pick up his animal. It was either that or they were going to take her to the pound. (disclaimer: the shelter is currently filled to capacity and there is a two week waiting list, one day I’ll explain how I know that.) My husband and Lexi said we couldn’t take the dog home. I made a momentary sad face.

Choice #12

After 1.5 hours we were able to go home. We sustained no life-threatening injuries and Lexi asked if we had any Taco Bell left because she was hungry.

Choice #13

We arrived home, tired, exhausted and incredibly grateful that our family was still intact.

Choice #14

Meanwhile, my mother confused her 81mg Aspirin for allergy pills. She took 4 Benadryl and slept until I woke her up the next morning to tell her about the accident. She is usually awake just as much as I am, but more on that later.

The Lesson Learned

We should have gone to Wendy’s.

I’m kidding. The lesson we learned was that life is too short to have “discussions” that last more than 10 minutes. We promised not to get petty as long as we both shall live, but because we said that we happened to get into another “discussion” yesterday. Not even 24 hours later we were “discussing” petty things once again. I thought he was being petty and he thought I was being petty. It turns out we were both being petty. Do you see how choices lead us to where we are today. We can play the blame game all day long, but where does that get us? Stuck on a hamster wheel.

We apologized for our behavior and I begged my daughter to not one day put me in a nursing home. I also apologized to the Universe for being petty.

The Blessing

Anthony went outside and finished fixing our van which has been out of commission for about a month-ish.

He put in the last part that needed to be replaced and we now have a working vehicle again. Our 2016 Nissan Altima is totalled, but we have a working vehicle and we are still alive.

The Conclusion

See the blessings in disguise and recognize when you are not being a very nice human. The sooner you straighten out, the quicker the Universe will work in your favor.

What ever you want to call the higher power, it is there and listening. I believe those who have passed on before us, meaning our ancestors are our guardian angels. That voice I heard in my head was perfectly calm. I listened. The question I have for you is, “Will you?”

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Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate your support and hope you will take the opportunity to like and send me a comment or drop me an email. You can even buy this mama a cup of coffee so that I can continue to make you laugh, cry and jump for joy all at the same time with my clever wordsmithing. Remember to tell your loved ones how much they matter to you, because you don’t know when or if you’ll see them again.