First Drafts: Chapter One

snoopy writerIs it just me or has January flown by before you had the chance to get comfortable writing 2015? I bid farewell to Tennessee last Friday and returned to Texas after a long absence. To me, two years and eight months seems like forever, but in reality it wasn’t that long at all. I am grateful for the people I met and friendships I formed in Tennessee and will always hold a special place in my heart for the state, but I am happy to finally be home. Well, almost home. I’m not far from Dallas and a trip to Houston is less than 250 miles so that makes me close enough.

Almost Home

In the six weeks since graduation I have not had a moment to breathe. Immediately, I morphed into relocation mode and started considering my options. Then of course there was the actual move. There have been forward steps and backwards steps along the way, but progress by any means is always good. This latest move feels like a first draft. I’m on chapter one and the pages are all crisp and blank. The environment is new, my senses are awakened, there is anticipation mixed with uncertainty, and excitement about the possibility that in any moment something wonderful could happen. As usual, I unconsciously write outside the lines.

We did not get any pictures during this last road trip because we covered 529 miles in about nine hours. I now remember why on previous trips we checked into a hotel after driving for five or six hours. The good news is we arrived without any major mishaps. (That fire hydrant I almost took out with the truck doesn’t count.) The bad news is our furniture was not as lucky. I strongly recommend hiring professional movers to help with every aspect of the relocation process if you plan to travel across several states. The loading process is extremely important and you must make sure all items are firmly secured with tie-downs before traveling even a short distance. It is cheaper to rent a moving truck and do the driving, but I recommend saving enough money to hire a well-known company who specializes in relocation to do the driving instead. You might be broke by the time you arrive to your destination, but you will be less stressed.

Unpacking is moving slowly as we adjust to the new place and find ways to rearrange our possessions in unfamiliar surroundings, but there is joy that comes from seeing our favorite places and familiar conditions (like traffic jams, Barnes & Noble, Whataburger and Shipley’s). My writing room is almost set-up and I am already beginning to feel the familiar longings to put words on paper, create beautiful sentences and develop complex characters. The novel I was working on during thesis is waiting for the story to be finished and I need to feel like a capable, creative writer again instead of someone in transition. I think it is good that I stepped away from it for a bit to give the story a moment to breathe, but too much time away makes everything stale. I have a story to tell that won’t finish itself so my goal is to become more disciplined in order to reach my personal goals. Writers must write. It is what they do. It does not get more simple than that.

What I loved most about attending residencies at Murray State was the bonds formed with other writers within the program. Nothing replaces that kind of support and I cannot stress how important those relationships are. Just knowing the people you interact with understand why you are there (even if you haven’t figured it out yet) makes all the difference in the world. As fellow writers they share your frustrations and recognize the desire to create something remarkable from nothing and have it be appreciated. I find it difficult to explain why I do what I do – why I want to write or my love affair with words. An explanation isn’t necessary for those who speak my language. My only hope is that the rest who do not understand will some day find comfort and enjoyment in reading something I have written and that my words will speak for themselves.

My goals for the next several months are to work, write, read and spend time just enjoying life – once we’re settled, of course. Right now, I am not sure if I will be able to attend AWP 2015. Either way I will keep you posted, but first, I have to finish unpacking.

 

 

 

 

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Pomp and Circumstance

It’s New Year’s Eve and instead of making resolutions for 2015 or waiting to watch the ball drop in Times Square I am looking forward to the fact that tomorrow I get to sleep in. December has been a busy month and I have much to be grateful for. In fact, I am about to embark on my next journey which crosses several hundred miles. It’s time to go home.



Tennessee - Texas

If you have been with me from the beginning you know I have been a Tennessee Texan for the past two years and seven months while attending graduate school. Two weeks ago I attended Murray State University’s commencement and walked across the stage as they called my name to accept the keys to a dream I have been chasing. As I look at graduation pictures sometimes it is hard to believe I am the girl in the photographs. Surreal does not even scratch the surface of what it felt like to be in that room. It was the Academy Awards for graduates. Our procession in robed regalia to Pomp and Circumstance was the red carpet, and walking across the stage and being recognized for your hard work was like winning the Oscar.

Even though it was not the intimate graduation our English Department has planned in May and even though my immediate family in Texas could not attend, I am so glad I participated. My daughter, who has been with me along this entire journey, was there to see me graduate which made it even more special. If you are grauating soon make sure to attend graduation. Think of it as the Pre-Oscar party to the rest of your life. It is worth it!

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Now that I am officially no longer a student my focus has turned to finding employment, finishing my first novel, and traveling. My goal is to attend AWP – 2015 which will be held in Minneapolis and get settled once I return to Texas. I would really like to do more book reviews as well. I hope these posts have been helpful and encouraging, especially for those of you who may be considering entering graduate school. If you have any questions about the thesis process, low-residency MFA programs, road trips, or just want to talk about writing please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Right now, I am surrounded by boxes, but as always, I  am excited about the next adventure. The next time you hear from me I will probably be back in TEXAS. Thank you Tennessee for the Texas-sized welcome. Kentucky, I am pleased to be able to take a piece of you back with me. Texas, I will be home soon.

As always, keep reading, keep writing and keep dreaming.

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Happy New Year!

BALLOONS

I do not own the rights to this image.
Copyright: Megan McMillan

Every morning at work part of my responsibilities includes putting out new balloons to welcome new prospects to the property. For the most part I get to choose what colors to inflate. Just so long as what I choose is inside the package of balloons within the office. I tend to like bold, bright colors (which are not usually inside the package within the office), but I have made good use of the colors that are available and managed to put together some interesting, yet presentable combinations.

“It is all in the twist of the wrist,” the balloon expert at another property said when I asked how hers looked so pretty. Actually, it is a bit more than that. The sizes have to be right, the pattern has to be right and the string has to be the right length. A thin balloon and a bit too much helium leads to a loud gunshot erupting from within the office. I can tell that my senses have either dulled or I’ve grown accustomed to the environment because now I rarely scream when one pops. I just dig in the bag for another one of the the same color and start the process again.

Once they are inflated, I wrap them with string. Then I do the same with the next sets, layering and joining until I have something that remotely resembles a pattern. Most times the image in my head doesn’t fit the finished product, but I acknowledge the fact that I’m not a balloon expert and make a mental note to ask a clown for some lessons. Then I maneuver the large, flying mass out to the road where the welcome sign is and do my best to tether it so that the string is least visible.

On a good day I accomplish this fete and am able to walk back to the office, task complete, with my head held high. Then there are days when, during the process of tethering, the balloons refuse to cooperate and instead find a way to escape from my grasp. When this happens I take my walk of shame back to the office and pray for rain. On sunny days I console myself with the idea that the neighborhood children were going to steal them anyway.

My thoughts are on balloons now because so much has happened since my last post. In fact, that is the reason for the long delay between posts. What has changed? For starters, I’m working full-time, and it is no longer temporary. The two classes I’m taking this semester are coming to an end, but the past few months have been filled with numerous reading assignments, editing assignments, writing assignments and discussion board posts. While this is the normal graduate school course load most students probably don’t combine it with full-time work, and if they do, there is usually another breadwinner in the family. Don’t get me wrong – it is doable, and I’m certainly counting my blessings, because I couldn’t have fallen into a better opportunity, but sometimes I feel like one of those balloons tethered to the welcome sign. Some days I too want to escape.

The life of a writer is not easy, but it is definitely one worth embracing. Every writer has a different path and each uses different tools to produce their craft. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them felt like balloons sometimes too – especially when the rejections start coming in. I haven’t submitted anything lately, although I did start a new piece the other day. My time at MSU has taught me to soak up every experience – with that in mind I’m currently working on a story relating to apartment life. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Thesis semester is just around the corner and I haven’t even booked my hotel room yet for Murray. I’m excited, scared, overwhelmed, eager, and apprehensive all at once. More than anything I’d kill for some away time. I’m definitely going to have to follow suit and lock myself away in a cabin like my poet friend Whittney. She will be defending this coming semester and I’m so proud of her. If you recall, we started the program together and were supposed to finish together, but I took this past semester off. I’m glad I did. Out-of-state tuition is a killer and I really needed the time to find my writing voice.

I can’t say I completely know my style or can give you authors I think I might share similarities with (the normal questions everyone asks when they find out you want to be a writer), but I can know when I’m not being true to myself and that is a great start. I’m so much farther along than I was when I started the program. I can even say I might have a smidgeon more of confidence. It has all worked out better than I could have ever expected.

I’m a balloon. Maybe today I’ve escaped and am soaring, enjoying my freedom in the skies. Tomorrow, who knows, I might be tethered to float above the welcome sign, providing a path for those unsettled.

I’m free. I’m floating. I’m good.

Solitary Confinement

solitary-confinementI saw the cutest comic the other day on Mashable from Josh Mecouch of Formal Sweatpants. It was about how Trolley the Procrastination Troll easily convinces the character to blow away his entire day watching videos instead of working, and it made me think about my own procrastination when it comes to writing. I like Mecouch’s idea of giving an identity to that which pulls us away from being productive, because it creates an entity which can at some point “I hope” be tied up and gagged.

I don’t know the name of my procrastinator, but I know he/she isn’t working alone. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve anguished over losing touch with a piece and then spent more time analyzing the reasons why I think it happened. I don’t recommend doing this. It always leads to intense introspection with turns into self-deprecation and eventually depression.

Last week I completed my third residency/tutorial semester on the path to obtaining an MFA from Murray State, and it was the most productive one yet, but that is not to say there haven’t been some serious bouts with procrastination. A typical “good” writing day begins with me awaking feeling energized and ambitious about tackling whatever piece I’m working on. That feeling lasts for maybe an hour or so before my visitors arrive, causing it to flatline.

First there’s Distraction which brings in every noise imaginable and puts them all on blast. Then there’s Guilt which reminds me that I’m needed elsewhere and whatever that is is more important than what I’m presently doing. Entertainment comes along to suggest that I take a break since I’m not making much progress on what I’m supposed to be doing anyway then it holds me hostage with social media. Sometimes the order of entry changes, but the players remain the same as does their agenda – procrastination and sometimes their voices get really loud.

There’s a great section in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird that discusses how to handle the voices:

“Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contacts, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won’t do what they want – wont give them more money, won’t be more successful, won’t see them more often. Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you. Leave it down, and get back to your shitty first draft.”  (27)

rubber-roomI used to think my only chance at really getting any work done was solitary confinement. A room without a view (maybe even a rubber room) with no people, no pets, no music – just enough air to breathe and most importantly – no wi-fi, but I’d probably go stir crazy from all the silence. There’s nothing worse than being trapped inside your own mind – or at least mine with thoughts and ideas running amok.

Lately I’ve been dying for a vacation. My daughter keeps reminding me that we already are on vacation – our move to Tennessee has been almost a year long and already I’m eager to see something else before returning home to Texas. More than anything this move has taught me that relocating doesn’t mean escape. Problems no matter how big or small will always find you and if not, new ones will be created just to keep the balance between happiness and chaos unstable.

So now going into my thesis semester (next January) I’m focusing more on completion than innovation. I spent this semester preparing for thesis by working on a new piece and I have five chapters/stories to write before I can truly say the story has been told. I’ve been trying to focus less on what I’m writing and just trying to be the mouthpiece for whatever story my characters want to tell. It’s something I never saw myself writing, but when the characters appeared I knew they all had something to say and it was my job to help them do it. My summer (when not job hunting) will be spent taking a summer literature class at one of the Texas A&M campuses (which I’m stoked about because I like the course and the professor) and when August rolls around I’ll be working on New Madrid, a required field study course at MSU.

Since I decided to postpone my thesis residency until January it means I won’t be finishing the course with two of the special people I met when I first began this journey. I thought we’d all be there together and it kills me to know I’ll be going the last trek alone, but I can’t be happier for the two of them.  Both girls, Whittney and Jayne, have had pieces published since we started which gives me hope in possibilities. I’ll forever have our special spot on the couch seared into my memory along with Whittney’s laugh and Jayne’s welcoming smile. That experience alone is enough to make me recommend an MFA program to an aspiring writer like myself. There’s just something you find there that doesn’t exist in any other place.

I haven’t tried the mason jar trick yet or hog-tied and gagged my trolls or whatever they are (I think maybe mine are pigs. Greedy little pigs), but I’m going to name them and then practice locking them up when they get too noisy in their quest to drag me down the halls of procrastination. If I put them in a mason jar I’d have to then put the jar in a desk drawer or paper bag for the whole “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” thing. Either way it’s a really good start.

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Here We Go Again

IMG_1444I survived another residency and I’m glad to be home – sort of. Before I get into all the bitter-sweetness of driving back to TN let me first tell you about my latest residency.

It amazes me how they can pack so much into nine days. Towards the end my brain was turning to mush and pleading with me to pull the plug and succumb to my hotel mattress, but I persevered. It took me about 1 hour and 40 minutes  to drive from Jackson,TN to Murray, KY. I arrived with time to spare and a really full bladder. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Like the last residency I brought along the entire family: my daughter/pet sitter/emotional picker-upper, an extremely touchy Cockatiel, two high-maintenance tabby cats, and a twelve year old Jack Russell Terrier aka The Light of My World. The bird didn’t adapt well the last time I put him into a smaller traveling cage. In fact he was so angry he screamed all the way to Kentucky, so this time I decided to bite the bullet and take his much larger cage. So large that I had to tilt it quite a bit just to get it in and out of the car – hence the birdseed all over my back seat. The cats hate car rides, so we dulled their anxiety by placing one carrier on top of another and covering both with a sheet. The overly eager Jack Russell rode in a carrier in the front seat with my daughter, because (1) there was no place for her to fit in the back seat, and (2) she’s just special like that. She wasn’t too keen on the carrier though, and expressed her thoughts on the matter in a shrill whine all the way into town.

I’d filled up on water and juice on the drive with no bathroom break because I’d gone before we left home. Apparently my bladder is shrinking, because by the time I pulled into the parking lot at MSU I was fighting the urge to wet my pants. After I parked, I sat in the car and wiggled a little, trying to decide how to inconspicuously get into the building and to the bathroom without it being obvious that I had to go.

My daughter offered to show me some potty dances she does when she has to go really bad, but I declined and pleaded with her not to make me laugh. Finally I just went for it. I opened the car door and walked as fast as I could into the building. Each residency the kindest volunteers are waiting by the front doors to welcome you back to the program. They hand you your packet of materials and get the info for your parking pass. I breezed in, then in a flash gave my name, told them I was in fiction, and said something like, “I’m about to wet my pants. I’ll be right back.” So much for being subtle.

After that the ball got rolling and a banquet kicked things off.  The next several days were filled with meetings, speakers, teaching presentations, craft lectures and mentor sessions. Speaking of mentors, I got a new one this semester. After last semester I wasn’t sure what to think; in fact I was preparing for the worst. I hate to jinx myself, but I’m really hoping something extremely positive comes out of this.

For starters, this time around the rules changed quite a bit. I’m no longer working on the novel I spent my first two semesters revising, revising and revising. My program doesn’t recommend students do a novel as a thesis project, but never before had it been told to me or explained in the method my mentor did. I have to thank him for that.

Short stories are sort of the meat and potatoes of the writing world. Once you master that process and develop your writing skills the sky is the limit. Was I disappointed? Hell yeah! I was so devastated it took me a good two days to wallow in self pity before I could put my big girl pants back on and give the short stories a go.

Looking back on it now – I’m okay with it. I’d much rather start from the beginning instead of the middle and work my way up. I just wish someone had told me sooner.

As you can see from this semester’s reading selections I’ll be reading a lot of short stories as well as a few novels. As far as my relationship with my mentor goes – it’s different. Not bad at all – just different. My mentor genuinely loves teaching and he wants to make sure I’m learning. So much to the point that sometimes when we’re one-on-one, and he’s talking he’ll ask if I’m listening (which annoys the hell out of me), but alas his heart is in the right place so I try not to get offended.

My goal this semester is to learn as much as I can and try to turn out some decent short stories. Thesis semester is up next and I need to be prepared, so I’m going to try and milk this semester for all it’s worth.

Thanks again for following along with me on this journey. I don’t know where I’m going, but I promise there will be few dull moments.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

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Pretty on the outside, but bring a pillow for your bottom

I promised you an update on my residency, but must admit is is a few days late. We returned on Saturday and I hit my bed and remained there throughout much of the next day. Yesterday I finally put the clothes back where they belonged and this morning I emptied the last bag which contained all of my toiletries. I can honestly say it wasn’t as shocking of an experience as the first residency in January because the people and places were familiar, the routine was familiar and there wasn’t any snow; however it wasn’t without chaos.

I learned so many things this time around.

(1) Make sure the car keys are in a safe place – anywhere but in the ignition of a locked car. The morning we were supposed to leave, before we could even load the car I had to call a locksmith to come retrieve my keys. $45 later we loaded the car.

(2) Go easy on the luggage.

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When packing I felt sane. When I took this picture I felt a little apprehensive, but knew I could make it work. After I considered attaching a tow to the back of my car and renting a small U-Haul I realized things had gotten out of control. So did I leave anything at home? No. In fact I ended up with more once we arrived. Next time instead of packing for ten days I might pack for three days and just wash and re-wear my pieces. Not only did I damage my trunk, but I ended up with two damaged tires.

(3) If you are out of town and must have any kind of work done on your car – take a man with you to negotiate. I can’t believe I just said that, but sadly our world is a bit twisted. I had a screw in one tire and a nail in another and they were both on the same side of the car. After checking tread depths I opted to replace one of the tires and patch the other. This should not have cost me $146 nor should I have had to wait two hours when I was the second person in line (behind an oil change). Next time I’ll get a membership to AAA.

(4) READ ALL MATERIALS BEFORE RESIDENCY BEGINS. I cannot stress this enough. Each residency I get to work with a different mentor (they choose the mentor). Whoa was I not prepared. The last residency required me to bring two books and my workshop piece. There was a craft book and a fiction novel. The fiction novel was small so a chapter could be read each night. We discussed the craft book but did not do any in-class writing assignments. This residency: three books (medium to large), craft book exercises and readings every day, workshop revisions due during residency (not afterwards), and a presentation on the novel (in this case Room – all 321 pages). I felt as if I were constantly out of sync, like someone had plucked me out of my own reality and dropped me into the middle of a movie where there is nothing but sea. I sank, bud didn’t drown. Next time, bring a life preserver and prepare for the worst.

(5) People Like to Party. This residency we were required to attend a picinic at one of the lovely homes of a fellow fiction writing student I met last residency. It was so kind of her to offer her home, but the logistics were in conflict with my desire to stay afloat. There were so many things I needed to be doing that I didn’t have time to enjoy what I was supposed to be doing. The lesson I learned here is to loosen up. Not everything has to always be about productivity.

I’m thankful for the wonderful people I get to work with at residency. The people who put it together are truly amazing and I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s butt. I’ve never felt so cared about – anywhere. They want me to succeed and are encouraging along the way. I don’t know about other MFA low residency programs, but the one at Murray State is pretty amazing. I keep saying how blessed I am to be a part of it.

Now that it is over it is nose to the grind time. I have 8 books this time around to read and two of them are craft books. Of the 4 annotations due I also must include thirty new pages of fiction. On a good note I got positive feedback on the novel I’m working on and want to use for my thesis. My undergrad degree is in communication whereas many of the students I am in the program with majored in either English or creative writing. I find myself slipping into the “showing/telling” traps. I start off showing, but sometimes get technical about it and lapse back to my AP writing/tell skills. It makes for a lot of rewrites, but at least it is fixable. My goal this semester is to catch myself when I am doing it.

For the millionth time it seems I am rewriting the beginning of the first chapter. The novel began with my character waking up after having a dream and my mentor suggested I go with something else if at all possible. The great thing about work-shopping a piece is you get to step aside and see from another person’s perspective what can be improved in your story. I agree with her about the beginning. She also suggested I add a map for my fictional town which I think is a terrific idea. The second character I introduced, Jaxon is likeable – but to me he still needs more depth. People seem to really like my first character, Macey. I want them to all be liked for whatever reason, but I need to even the playing field or balance them out. The third character’s entrance needs to be strengthened in my opinion as well which means I’m probably going to move some things that happen in the story around for more impact. The worst thing I think you can do when trying to write a novel is to cause the reader to lose interest. If you are bored writing it – the reader most likely will be bored reading it.

On a final note, I’d like to fill you in on my progress with “In Pieces” since the last time we spoke it was literally in pieces. I read from some of it during our banquet but don’t think it went over well, because it wasn’t a piece that could be done well in under 4 minutes – at least not from where I started reading. I learned a bit about the personal essay at residency and am trying my hand at it with this piece. I’ve edited it to just under 3,000 words and am submitting it (for the first time) to a writing contest. At this point I’m going to be realistic – but try (though I find it easy) to not be pessimistic. Writers get rejection letters and I am totally prepared for that. I’m not so sure I’m prepared for the upside of that equation, but I’ll let you know how I do when we make it there.

Up first to the annotation plate is: “Lunatics” by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel and “A Summons to Memphis” by Peter Taylor.

I’m still working on my African American Literature research paper about the importance of race. I’m studying the way people identify themselves and what role race plays in that identification, particularly if one is of more than one race.

Criminology is still along for the ride as well. Two more tests and I’ll be finished with the criminal profiling course I enrolled in during the summer. Yes, I am taking more criminology classes this fall.

In the meantime, thanks so much for coming along with me on this journey. I’ll upload some photos from both my residencies to a website and get the link to you next time we talk.

Keep reading and writing!

It’s That Time Again!

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Sorry I have been away for so long. I’ve been busy unpacking and my summer classes started so I haven’t had time for much else – especially sleep, but I’ve missed blogging.

Good news! I’ve finally gotten settled in the new place and there are no more boxes left to unpack. I love it here. Sure I miss the water back home, but the weather here is amazing and I truly adore the new digs. I’ve even managed to find my way around a bit more without relying on the GPS, but I would love some new friends.

Writing is going well. I’ve finally connected my characters and formed a bond so it should be easy going from here I hope. My biggest concern when writing is to make the story and characters believable. I’m such a harsh movie critic I look at books the same way. I place my self in the position of the reader and if I don’t think it would make sense to them or if there are any questions left over I fix it. Sure it has taken me longer than most probably for a first novel, but this means a lot to me and I want it to be good. Once I’m finished I really hope you like it.

I’m at the “Ooh it’s getting good” point of writing and there is an excitement that goes along with that. I just wish I could have more uninterrupted writing time. I wish I could say work is the problem, but it is not. It will be soon I hope, but there’s not much employment for writers (that I am aware of) in Jackson. I even applied at the local newspaper but so far, no luck.

If I were working at the moment it would mean I would have even less time for graduate courses, writing, housework and all the other things that go along with life.

I joined one of the dating sites to make some friends because I can’t remember the last time I went on a date. That is another wasteland area. I don’t know what it is these days with men and women. Not everything is about the physical and not everything is about sex. Okay, enough of that soapbox.

There are several writing contests I’d like to enter but I haven’t had time to focus on them. One is a memoir type entry which sounds really interesting. I think I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and submit something for that one. I think it needs to be between 2,000 and 3,000 words.

I will look seriously into that and get back to you. I hope everyone is having a great week. We’re halfway there and I’m halfway to my next residency. Just eight more days and I’m off again to Kentucky and MSU. The hotel is booked and this time I’ll be driving my own car – though I’d rather a rental. It’s funny when I tell people I’m going to my residency they think I’m in medical school. I will have to start saying writing workshop or writing residency.

Anyway, the two cats and the Jack Russell Terrier will be traveling with me once again, but this time instead of taking me three days to get there it will only take a little under two hours. The move was worth it. I tried to get my mom to stay with them while I went, but she wasn’t able to fly in from Texas since she will be working during that time so they’ll be with me.

I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures and share them with you when I return in a few weeks. Also, I’ll update you on my new favorite coffee shop. I haven’t found one here in Jackson to replace the one I had back home so when I get to Kentucky I’ll be filling up on fattening asiago cheese bagels with cream cheese and skinny chai lattes. I know why bother to do low fat when you’re pigging out on the other stuff. I consider it to be a reasonable balance between the two. Besides when I return home, I’ll just kill myself with a few more pilates sessions LOL.

Blessings to you all.

: )