What I Learned from Hamilton

Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do. I could go into all the reasons I’ve never seriously sat down to write one. I won’t. There’s no point. They are all just excuses. At the end of the day, the real truth is I have never felt worthy enough to have a story to tell and I was scared.

I am still scared. But I am worthy.

In October 2016 the children and I evacuated to Alabama during hurricane Matthew. I braced myself for the worst. The car was packed. The Volkswagen was busting holding the five of us. We knew we would be like that for about six hours – if the route I chose wasn’t crowded with other evacuees. Fun right?

Turn out to be a blast!

I had heard of the Broadway play Hamilton before in passing. The cast performed for some award show I watched. The accolades, awards, and Pulitzer news had made its way to me. My oldest daughter had mentioned it and was a fan.

Once we were on the road, she asked if we could listen to it. The other children seemed excited. I agreed.

It would be the only thing we listened to for the totality of the 12 hour, round trip car ride.

For the next month, I rarely listened to anything else. I almost felt guilty turning some other type of music on. As a writer, I already knew how hard it was to take nouns and verbs and put them together in such a way that is meaningful. It’s really fucking hard. Sometimes, it seems impossible.

Lin Manuel Miranda did it – within the boundaries of history and the restriction of musical movement in the art of storytelling without crutch and with passion.

The body of work struck me as genius in its entirety. I ranged emotions. I was engrossed in the story. I moved, felt, wanted, loved, feared, rejoiced.

Over and over again a thought kept coming into my head. “How in the hell did he do that? How did he birth a body of work into existence? How did he manage? Why can’t I?”

And the answer, when it occurred to me, was so simple. He just did the work. He allowed the process. He encountered a piece of work, Alexander Hamilton’s biography, found inspiration, and worked it out. Six years he did the work. Sure he had help, collaborators, supporters. But he did the work and this is his reward.

I do not do the work. I want to do the work. I want to want to do the work.

Nina Crespo once told me that writing is a muscle – you have to work it out or it gets soft. I have neglected the gym for a while. I have played with it like the bench sitters that go to the weight rack to be seen and not sweat. I have held the fear of failure and fear that the work will be too hard. I worry that it won’t be good.

Unfortunately what I have managed to achieve is worse. It won’t be anything if I don’t commit to the process.

There is no such thing as Writer’s Block (Take 2)

Alrighty, now that I got all of THAT out of my system (I think), let’s try this again, shall we?

“I don’t believe in Writer’s Block…Writer’s Block is something that people tell themselves; it’s not something that really exists…if you give them a writing prompt and tell them to write as many words as they can in five minutes, they will all write words. One sentence breeds another sentence.”
~ Grant Faulkner, Executive Director, NaNoWriMo

I know that I have said “damn Writer’s Block!” before. In fact, just yesterday I stared at a computer screen on and off for probably two hours just trying to figure out what word to write next.

I know what it is, firsthand, to feel the creeping anxiety that you will never be able to come up with another cohesive sentence again. To feel like every idea that you have ever had is used up. That every phrase you turn has been turned so many times before that you are one cliche away from being a fabricated pop song. I know what all that feels like.

So it is probably fortunate that Grant’s little declaration that Writer’s Block isn’t merely a myth, but a situation of our own creation, therefore controllable and not really a thing occurred deep in a conversation that had already cemented my opinion of him as someone to listen to. Otherwise, I am certain I would have dismissed the notion straight away.

As it is, I considered it. And considered it again.

This will shock you…but I have been known to be wrong. I know. Even more unbelievable is that I am pretty okay with admitting it. In fact, I will over analyze some situations just to ensure I haven’t overlooked the way in which I am wrong even after I have determined that I am, in fact, right. That’s the tactic I employed today. Convinced as I was that I myself could vouch for the validity of Writer’s Block, I needed to give the contrary its due.

“I feel like I have experienced Writer’s Block.” – True
“Writer’s Block is a subjective concept” – True
“I can 100% say that my feelings are always objectively correct.” – False

A subjective label determined by subjective methods cannot be objectively verified; I had to consider the possibility that what I had experienced was not Writer’s Block.

What would be characteristics of true writer’s block? The inability to put words on a paper. If someone offered me a huge sum of money or threatened some terrible consequence, could I, even at the height of the perceived block, put words together on paper? Yes.

Shit. He’s right. What I experience is not Writer’s Block…it’s Writer Refusal.

There are times I just refuse to write. Ranging from mismanagement of time to fear of rejection or consequence, I was immediately able to identify a myriad of reasons why I couldn’t get words on the paper. Not a damn one of them had anything to do with being unable and everything to do with being unwilling.

There’s a huge difference between unable and unwilling. Frankly, I can see why my soft self prefers the former. That one can’t be my fault. That one can’t be chalked up to my failure or my accountability. It just is and I’m off the hook. That’s a much cozier feeling that the latter – the choice, the willful neglect, the culpability.

So I find myself here, and it’s a pretty serious gut check. I have quit my job. I have declared myself a full time writer. I have insisted that there is a better than average possibility that this will not only make me happy, but can parlay into a dream career. The obstacle that stands in front of me is not one, despite previous declarations to the contrary, that I can shovel into the “oh well that just happens sometimes and I’ll just have to play Candy Crush until it passes” pile.

The obstacle is created by my own doing and it will only be moved the same way. There is not Writer’s Block. There are only Writer Choices. As I have declared myself the writer, it’s time to start declaring, and owing, my choices.

Thanks Grant.

*Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Start Reading Fairy Tales Again

Some day you will be old enough
to start reading fairy tales again.

~C. S. Lewis, 1898 – 1963

If it feels like change is occurring at a pace faster than before, you would probably have most folks agree with you. The development of technology, change in the social landscape, and general sense of “when I was growing up” is happening so quickly and often that many of us are looking around trying to maintain some concept of balance.

Of course there are a few folks that will say the idea of accelerated change isn’t a thing. If you take certain statistics from certain benchmarks, turn them a certain way, and look at them in just the right angle, there is a case to be made that things are evolving at the rate they always have. It is just you.

There has always been lots of opinions on things like change, seizing the day, living life to the fullest, bravery for the unknown, and acting your age. These discussions are all too often coated in fear and judgment. From the very earliest fairy tales we read as children, there is an adventure to be had, change to be made, naysayers and villains attempting to thwart the path. We read these as children and knew the adventure was good and worthy, the path worth walking. We knew the hero would be better for the journey.

Today I want to encourage you to recall the courage you had when you read those fanciful stories.  Maybe, if you are feeling particularly defiant, pick one up and read it. Cheer for the underdog. Embrace the silly and be uplifted by the sheer joy we often allow only in children.  Let yourself get to the place where you knew slaying the dragon was not only possible, but a foregone conclusion.

Thanks for the coffee,


Platitudes and Wherewithal

There are all of these platitudes that people use
when trying to convince us that we’re better than ourselves.
The truth is, unless you have the
wherewithal to get off your ass and do it,
you’re not going to.

~Thom Williamson, Navy Buddy, 2004 – forever

I have been getting all my past writings together in one place in an attempt to become more organized and better service folks who ask, “what have you written.” I discovered two things I found interesting.

First, I have no idea how many Turn Around Tuesdays I’ve done. However, the first TAT was published over a decade ago on April 3, 2007. Ten years, depending on how you account for time off, I have been sharing a quote, turning it around, and having coffee with you. That’s a really long time.

Second, I still have no idea how many TATs I have done. I didn’t know when I had written the first one. I am embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to find it. Unbeknownst to me, I was dangerously close to losing the entirety of the first seven years. I missed its 10th birthday. Realizing how flippant I have been about the whole thing is curious.

I have had a lot of support through the years. I was a better steward of some it than others. But my path always turned into a jungley mess of convoluted. There are a bunch of influences there – some ridiculous, other therapy worthy – but all topics for another day. Regardless of the ancillary, the end result has been the same; I have been blessed with a lot of convincing platitudes and still couldn’t get off my ass and do it. As usual, I am betting I am not alone.

Today I want to encourage you to consider your influences. Thought I was gonna say get off your ass? I was. In fact, I did and deleted it. In the typing, it occurred to me that’s the very thing we just discussed wasn’t enough – someone telling another what to do. The thing that moves those unfinished things we have created in or around ourselves is not platitudes, it is wherewithal. I am going to tell you that you have it, but you already know that. No amount of me telling is going to push past the absolute siphoning effect negativity or doubt has on the energy required to step into our best selves. But, when we find the thing that’s holding us down on the couch, we can start getting some work done.

Thanks for the coffee,



“If you’re drivin’ down the road and you look over and see a truck in the middle of a field, you know what happened.. Liberation.” – Jase

I freely admit with pride that “Duck Dynasty” is my favorite show on TV. And Jase is my favorite personality (it is a pretty close call between him and his daddy though). As fate would have it, this quote came at about the same time as this post by Amanda from Run to the Finish.

And, as life is oft to do, it clicked and there it was.

My 2013 word. LIBERATION.

Now if you are not a “Duck Dynasty” fan, first, that’s just weird. If you aren’t acquainted with the background of the above quote, let me see if I can sum it up quickly.

The Robertson family have accumulated quite a bit of wealth through Willie (son) creating a million dollar business out of Phil’s (dad) duck call (which was already doing really well). Phil is serious backwoods, salt of the earth, pioneer man. He is very mindful of the “yuppiefication” of his children and grandchildren. Willie is probably the biggest offender. A $100/hole bet between Willie and Jase (brother) leads to Jase discovering the plethora of bullfrogs at the country club golf course. Jase decides a group needs to go catch those bullfrogs after dark, however country club security disagrees. Phil makes off safely with the bullfrogs, Willie has to come pick the rest of the crew from security. Willie is not happy. His reaction brings criticism of his qualification to wear the beard. Having had enough of the ribbing, Willie pulls off into a field and proceeds to get some mud on the tires.

“If you’re drivin’ down the road and you look over and see a truck in the middle of a field, you know what happened.. Liberation.” – Jase

2012, if I had to be honest, was full of a bunch of backseat riding. There was a ton of metaphorical “no, I am not going frog gigging today.” All too often I would be afraid of the country club security. Seriously? I mean really, I can run faster and my gun is bigger.

  • Liberation ~ the act of liberating…the state of being liberated
  • Liberating ~ to set at liberty
  • Liberty ~ the quality or state of being free, the power to do as one pleases, of choice, freedom from physical restraint, arbitrary or despotic control, the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges

Hell yeah.

There is a lot of power for me in that idea. And understand, “liberation” does not equal “reckless.” But it does encourage a bit of confidence in one’s decision to make more “to hell with the box” choices. It begs the opportunity to harness the big ideas and ride the wave of possibility for a while. It shuns the notion of reserved and safe. It downplays the need for subtle. It urges the bright pink toe shoes and 100 mile races. It pokes in the side for large professional accomplishment. It shouts to the roof tops “HELL YEAH!”

For far too long I have been concerned about the whispers of the unknown masses taking personal inventory of my journey. They aren’t there. I have long been convinced that there is a group of commentators working my choices over in the press box. They are obviously not. However, if they are, pop tall ~ I am about to take 2013 in a way that makes Clowney’s Outback Bowl hit look like a preschool game of “Red Rover.”

“If you’re drivin’ down the road and you look over and see a truck in the middle of a field, you know what happened.. Liberation.” – Jase

A few more excuses…

If you have not read this, (I will tell you…but we have to talk about this first) please do that first. Seriously. Thanks 🙂

Yeah, that will be at the beginning of all these posts. I am kinda serious about it. I realize I can be kinda snarky, this topic is kinda sensitive, and we all beat ourselves up enough. It is important to me that you know that is NOT happening here.

If you missed my First Steps

Just a few more things to get in place, then I will be ready. Tomorrow, Monday, the beginning of the month, the beginning of the quarter, after this season, at the New Year…whatever. If you are anything like me. That time will just keep pushing itself backwards to a new milestone. I have heard of this phenomenon somewhere. I think it has a name…oh yeah, procrastination. (Don’t you like how I pretend I don’t know this cat amazingly well?)

First, I am not a fan of the word “excuse.” I think, by definition, it conveys the appropriate idea. By connotation, it sucks. When we say “excuse”, we assume lazy, non committed, unable, failure, lack of discipline, untruthfulness, and general full of shitness.

We are not any of those things. I am not any of those things.

What I am is a married mother of four children with a demanding profession. I am active with my family, friends, parish, and community. What I am is what you probably are – challenged to do one more thing in your non-forgiving 24 hour day.

I prefer “challenges” to “excuses”. And if you are one who thinks that is little more than a cop-out or feel good semantics, just keep going with what ever works for you. But most people I know already have more than enough self hate speech going on in their heads. If that kind of motivation works for you, go with it. Seriously, I am for whatever helps you achieve your goals. But for me, it is paralyzing and defeating. Then, not only do I have real challenges to contend with, but I have to move past the mental sewage that just stink piled in my brain. No thanks.

Second, I found no point in morally sorting my challenges. Do I lack time because I watch too much TV or because I have four kids that need homework help? Do I eat fast food because it was the only option or because I just really wanted that cheeseburger? Did I make this choice because I am a good, upright super citizen of the world, or a big, fat piece of crap? See, how it doesn’t matter? Just more brain sewage.

But, I DO have challenges. The most pressing one is time. And there are a ton of reasons this is a challenge. Some could be classified as legitimate and some not. Not the point. The point was not beating myself up over choices I had made with my past time, but making this new thing a priority…making new choices in spite of, and without carrying the baggage of, the previous choices.

I am always thinking about how to answer your question. “April, how did you do it?”

The answer is I haven’t done it. I am doing it. And it is a process of waking up every morning, identifying the specific challenges to my priorities for this specific day and making it my mission in the next 24 hours to successfully navigate those challenges. Not yesterday’s challenges. Not maybe unforeseen challenges of tomorrow. Not cranked up brain sewage shitness. But honest to goodness logistics of Friday, June 29, 2012 “To Do” list.

There is no better day 🙂

Gearing Up and Walking the Dog

If you have not read this, (I will tell you…but we have to talk about this first) please do that first. Seriously. Thanks 🙂

It is true that I should have been writing about this all along. When Lisa says it, it is almost always true. But I didn’t. And I know why.

I didn’t know how it would turn out. Truth be told, I still don’t. Who in the world wants to embark on a journey of such a personal nature in a public way without knowing the end? Well, I don’t know who would, but I can tell you who wouldn’t. This girl.

Fear is a funky thing. And we will talk about that maybe. Not now I don’t think. I don’t really feel like giving it any play right now. But, just know, if you are fearful, frustrated, failed before – you are not alone.

In 2010, I looked like this ~ and that ain’t so bad. 30 something Momma of four. Busy woman, limited schedule. A little extra weight, a little soft. But my clothes fit poorly. My energy was down. My blood pressure was up. And Karen Handel still looks great.

However, in the middle of the summer (swimsuit season!!) this happened. And you can read all about that “AH Shit” moment here.

And I was over it. Sort of…this picture was taken in May…it will take me THREE more months before I actually DO anything.

Battling self-esteem issues, depression, stress, and general mental and physical pissed offedness (<< should SO be a real term), I needed to get to where I loved to be – outside. But the phone and the kids and the chores and the world follow you outside. The dog needs a walk…so that’s what I did…

On August 12, 2011 at 6:41 a.m., I laced up my shoes, leashed up my dog, turned on my Nike+ app and walked. Ka’nani and I covered 6 miles in an hour and a half. It was amazing. So I walked some more. (I switched trackers a few times…I don’t use Nike+ anymore. I am on Endomondo and you can friend me here.)

And I just walked…nothing too serious. And don’t let the high mileage fool you. I was poking along pretty good. There were walks where I averaged more than 17 minutes a mile. Towards the end of the month I had picked up some speed and started jogging. But that was only because my body said it was time and it was okay. Even then, I never broke the 11 minute mark. That 8 mile stint that you see on the 24th took me nearly 2 hours. And what a mind clearing two hours it was!

By the end of the month, these were the numbers I had accumulated. But let me tell you a few things about them.

I had lost NO weight. None. Nada. Read that again…the scale DID NOT move.

And that pissed me off a bit. And I had to do some soul-searching about that for a minute. Because while the scale reflected nothing, my personal well-being was starting to reflect a lot.

I felt stronger. I felt stronger. Yep, I typed that twice. Why? Because that one change changed everything. It wasn’t about being skinny or fast ~ it was about being better today than I was yesterday. It was about mental fortitude and physical ability. I didn’t have to compete against anything but my own challenges. And I was winning!

And I was just walking the dog…

Ka’nani August 12, 2011

I will tell you…but we have to talk about this first

So a really cool thing happened on my Facebook page a few days ago. I posted this

After 5 pregnancies, 4 deliveries, nearly 36 birthdays, I NEVER thought I would look this way again. Stronger than I have been since I was in my early 20’s and my washboard is back (although with some new tiger stripes). Melissa, Tanisha, Marc, Victoria, Dan, Shannon, Tony & Allison, Lisa, Sabine ~ and a host of others I can’t tag because of facebook’s stupid tag limit ~ Thanks…the hard work, attention to food and body, focus and spirit connection, is not only paying off now, but is proving to be a shift in lifestyle and not another tangle with fad diets and sporadic exercise activity. I really appreciate y’all. My future grandchildren thank you as well!!

And my friends showed out to the tune of 117 notifications!

**Are most of the comments made by folks that liked thus not actually resulting in 117 individual people? Yes. Did that change the number of notifications that came through and actual instances of encouraging moments to me? Not on your life.

Almost immediately my friends came to my side, encouraging and congratulating. The amount of happy conveyed was immeasurable. I hoped one day to return the favor. I quickly discovered how.

There are a bunch of folks out there just like me who want to make different choices. They want the results I am getting. They want me to tell my story. And I will. In a minute. This conversation has to happen first.

I hit a ton of roadblocks in my journey. I am still hitting them. I do not do everything “right”. Quite frankly, I don’t even know what that means. In all honesty, if I did, I probably still wouldn’t do it.

While researching, talking, and listening, I encountered quite a few folks who obviously did know “right.” And if it didn’t feel right to me, conflicted with a different piece of research I found, or just didn’t factor high onto my personal priority list, well, I was obviously the uneducated dolt who just didn’t care enough about my well being to hear what they had to say.

I can’t function that way. Good on folks who can. That ain’t me.

I am going to go back to last year and tell you my story thus far. Please know that I made no decisions haphazardly and my choices may or may not fit for you. That’s okay. We are all different. We all have different perspectives, resources, priorities, desires, and lives.

Here is what I can tell you.

  1. We aren’t talking real estate, so I am not trying to sell you anything 😉
  2. Every word of that Facebook post is true.
  3. I am happier than I have been in years.
  4. Your choices are not my choices and vice versa. So there is no judgement here. You do you, I do me, and maybe we can help support and encourage each other in the process.
  5. I am not a professional dietitian, nutritionist, sport medicine, whatever ~ I know some, but I ain’t one. All the information I give you will be solely anecdotal with references that stand on their own.
  6. Thanks for everything. I can use all the help I can get.
  7. In appreciation for that help, I offer all the help that I can.

So, that being said, I will post about my health choices. But you have to know, you are probably already mostly awesome 🙂 Your path may have different things in store for you. I can’t wait to hear what they are!

Little Bit of Accountability and Hopefully Some Fitness Fun

I love new stuff…and the 1st of the month is like getting new stuff. Kinda gives you some mental permission for a mulligan. At the very least, I can feel justified taking a deep breath, pulling in all the new and breathing out all the past (with a little does of kiss my ass for good measure).

March was BANANAS! April was a bit wild. May will probably be the same. But today, she isn’t. She is a calm and good girl with tons of potential and so I will treat her that way. My calendar is up to date, my to do list is sparkling clean, my goals are set.

While all of this is good, i am going to shock some you (ok, none of you) when I reiterate that I am, in fact, a pretty social creature. While it is true that, as I get older, I find more value in my time alone, I am still, by my hard wiring, and extrovert. I like to do stuff with people. These kinds of things are no different.

I started running walking in August. It was good. It became great when I picked up the pace and met folks like Marc, Dan, and Victoria and discovered the #runsav hashtag on twitter (which is a bit dead right now until RnR training kicks in). It was fun and social (and it made my butt look fantastic!) I have run a half marathon since and have plans for a full in November.

I started eating better. Motivating messages and tips came from folks I know on facebook and twitter. It was easier to do when you knew there were other folks out there doing it to.

I got a workout buddy…life changed. (that’s her at the beginning :))

Now it is May…and what is more fun than winning? I don’t know (there goes my Type A). So we are going to try to put my competitive, love to win, ain’t gonna punk out in front of you, not afraid to die on a treadmill tendencies to good use.

It is May 1st. The brand new start of a Health Month. And I joined a team (courtesy of the wonderful Lyman Reed) of Fitocracy users. So now there are 2 point keeping systems tracking my progress and showing me that progress in light of other people while promoting an amazing atmosphere or grace and support.

Oh yeah, this is Momma’s game 🙂

So, I have seven rules for May

  1. Exercise for at least 60 minutes at least 5 times a week
  2. List things that I am grateful for at least 2 times a week
  3. Drink at least 42 glasses of water a week
  4. No fried foods
  5. No red meat or pork
  6. No soda or energy drinks
  7. Limit dairy to 2 times a week

There are a whole bunch of other rules you can adjust for your own situation. And you only have to have 3 to play.

So this could be fun. I am looking forward to it. I invite you to join me. Text me if you feel like it. If you are a group kinda person, we could all use a little more support 🙂

Super Pissed at Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Savannah 2011

Ok, so maybe I am not pissed at them…maybe I am super pissed at me.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Savannah was this past weekend. However, it has been sold out since August. I didn’t even run my first under 10 minute mile until mid September. It wasn’t on my radar.

Ok, so maybe it was on my radar. I get lofty like that. I had a bunch of friends that were running it. Some were doing the full and lots were doing the half. I can do a half. 13.1? Sure, why not? I had already scored a 10 mile run (it was slow, but I finished). Yeah, too bad it’s sold out. Because I could so do that. Yeah.

Then came the day I logged an 11 mile run at a 9:43/mile average. That was cool. Then came the tweet from Bigbie (one of the best running buddies. Ever.) saying there were some spots that had opened up. As in not sold out. As in Cinderella can go to the ball. As in me. As in 13.1. In front of people…really, behind people.

Yeah, no. Quick brush off about registration fee and work and volunteerism…blah, blah, blah. End of subject.

I mean really, those things are a big deal. And who wants to run a race they have never even seen before, right? And really, isn’t it more responsible to not hurry these kinds of things and just make sure you are super prepared? Right?

Whatever. I chickened. Worse – I self sabotaged. I worked so hard to convince myself that this was a great decision that I had almost convinced myself I wasn’t really a runner. My run log last week was seriously lacking. Why? Because maybe I would never be prepared and maybe I started too late and maybe there are all those folks out there who really are runners and won’t that be embarrassing…

Now it was Saturday afternoon…Sunday…reports, stories, pictures are coming in. It was great, it was fun, it was wonderful. And none of them got handcuffed by the imposter police because they didn’t score a 6 minute pace.

And I missed it. Worse than missing it. I chose not to do it. I allowed my brain to jack up yet another wondrous capability that is mine.

So this morning I said screw it. I laced up my shoes and went for a run. Some where around mile 2 I felt better. Somewhere around mile 5 I thought about when I would turn around. Right around mile 6 I realized – I am going to run 13.1 todaybecause I can!

And that is exactly what I did. In under two hours.

I didn’t get a medal or a picture to post on facebook. But I did get a front row seat at life lesson reminder number…well, it’s a big one.

Forget fear. Forget brain jacks. Forget made up lies about inability and substandard fortitude.

Guess who will be there November 3, 2012 ready to eat 26.2 for breakfast. Until then, I have some new words to remember.

“Do it for fun…even if it is Monday.”