When I was in Edinburgh at the beginning of the month, we stumbled upon a little bookshop.  It wasn’t anything special, just a basic bookshop, with an average selection of new books and book related knickknacks.  I saw several books I would have loved to have bought, if not for the issue of getting them home somehow, as well as a collection of mugs with book vintage looking book covers printed on them that would have looked amazing on my shelf (or filled with my coffee).  In the end I walked out with a few buttons, a bookmark, and a nostalgic feeling over actual bookshops that sell books in a language I read. 

The bookmark was a fun little metal sheet with a list of 50 books to read before you die.  I’d seen the list before, and thought it would be fun to have a version to carry around with me.  My daughter, Big One, also loved it and decided to get a copy for herself as well.  Naturally, it sparked a conversation between myself and my husband as to how many of the books we had read before.  Counting only the listed ones I was certain I had read, in school or out, I had only read twelve books on the list, with six I was pretty sure I might have.

Realizing how many books I hadn’t read I decided to make it a goal to read every book on that list, even the ones I thought I might have read at some point.  Needing a new reading challenge for the blog, it seemed like a good idea to just throw the two of them together.  So, now I bring you……

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Starting August 1, I will set out to read all of the books on this list before the end of one year.  I know, fifty books in one year, sounds easy, and it is, but a one year challenge will allow for many things including having a life, and searching for copies of the books.  Additionally, it is not actually fifty books, it is sixty books.  Three books listed are actually series, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Harry Potter Series, and His Dark Materials Trilogy (3+7+3= 13 books for the price of three, or, ten additional books).  Sixty books in one year is still completely doable, but hopefully challenging enough to keep things interesting.  Some of these will be re-reads, and some will be classics I will be reading for the first time.  Who knows, maybe I’ll walk out with a few new favorites.

I’m honestly not certain who created this list originally, or what their criteria was, but I’m still going with it.  I’m hoping to learn more about what makes a book absolutely vital and stand the test of time, and maybe get a few tricks I can add to my own writing.

I have a few rules, but I plan to keep it simple.

1) Books can be read, or listened to as unabridged audiobooks, but no movie substitutions. 

2) Books do not need to be read in any special order, I can pick whichever one I feel like reading.

3) All books need to be read by July 31, 2015

4) I will check-in once a week to share my progress, tell how I am enjoying the book, and maybe share little things I have learned.  I’m planning on sticking to Thursdays, but I will give myself the flexibility to change the date in extenuating circumstances. 

5) I can beg, buy, or borrow books, in either paper, CD or digital format, as long as it is unabridged.

6) I am giving an option to opt out of one book, but my decision is not made yet.  I’m not a religious person, and have already read the bible, so I am leaving myself  the option of excluding this one from the list.  I know it is kind of cheating, but I am having it as part of the rules from the beginning so I can decide later if I feel like reading it again.  No other books will be allowed to be skipped.


I have no plans for a punishment if I break the rules, but maybe if I break them significantly I will have to allow my readers to select a suitable sentence to fit my crime.

Wish me luck everyone!  If anyone wants to read along, I will be starting with 1984, by George Orwell.  It is ready to go tomorrow when my challenge begins.  Time for a year of (hopefully) good reading.

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In Hindsight

Do you ever have an absolutely brilliant idea?

This idea comes along, and just seems perfect.  You do everything you can to execute this amazing plan, because you know it will be fantastic.  Unfortunately somewhere between starting and finishing you realize it is the by far the stupidest thought that has ever crossed anyone’s mind.  Ever.

My stupid idea of the week is trips to the gym with my husband.

My husband and I have both been slacking off with our health a little lately.  I have struggled with a combination of oversleeping. and summer heat.  My husband hit a gym slump after leaving for work for a couple months.  Let’s face it, once the routine is broken, it is easy to grab onto any excuse and run with it. 

To help us both, I gave the brilliant suggestion that we go to the gym together.  If we’re counting on each other, neither of us will want to back out.  I’ll be able to use the cardio machines and do my normal toning, the only thing I have been keeping up with, at home as usual.  He will be able to use the cardio machines and weight room. 

As Big One is old enough to babysit, we occasionally take advantage of having an in-home sitter.  We decided the easiest way to go, without disrupting the children would either be before they wake up, or after they go to bed.  Of course, at the end of the day, we’ll be tired and more likely to refuse to go, so morning seemed like a good idea. 

Morning gym call is now 5am.  I’m getting out of bed at 430 so I can spend an hour on machines that go nowhere.  The first day wasn’t so bad.  The second day, I began to wonder what in the hell I was thinking. 

I’m not a morning person.    I get up early regularly, but only so I can wake up without anyone else bugging me.  It’s not because I like it, it is for the health and safety of those I live with. 

Today was our first rest day.  It’s based on his workout schedule, so I still have my toning later today, but I get a rest from the hamster wheel the gym is trying to convince me is fun.  I know in a few weeks it will be routine, and I will do it without thinking.  Today, in hindsight, I should have never have suggested I leave my bed.

What brilliant plan have you had, that didn’t turn out how you thought it should?

I Write Like……

There is a lot about writing that can be a drag. 

I mean, sure it’s creative and fun, but that is only part of the time.

There are times when writing can seem depressing.  I’m alone a lot of the time, because it is not much of a social job.  I doubt myself constantly, trying to find the right words, and always feeling like I got them wrong.  I send out letters, trying to get a few people to read my work, and never get as many as I would like.

And sometimes, there is something fun that comes along.

When I heard about the site, I Write Like, I naturally had to test my writing.  I had just started a new novel, a young adult fairy tale, with a little bit of a dark edge.  I was naturally, quite pleased with my results.

I write like
Lewis Carroll

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!



Lewis Carroll seemed like a good result, even if it was only an analysis of a small part of the beginning.  I wasn’t trying to imitate anyone, but that audience seems very good for what I am aiming to do.  I found it encouraging and refreshing to hear good news, even from a text analysis tool.

I ran a few other manuscripts through, and got authors I didn’t recognize, but I was not placed with authors well known for bad writing, so I am counting it as a win for the day!

Five Things About the Zoo

I love going to the zoo with my kids.  There are people who think we’re a little nuts for how often we go to the zoo.  It’s not always the same zoo, at least not anymore, but we are still at the zoo at least once every couple of months.  Many times when we travel for vacation we will visit the local zoo, but not always.  We did hit up the zoo in Edinburgh recently, but we skipped zoos in Amsterdam, London, and almost everywhere we’ve been in Germany.  Not sure why.

Last weekend we made another trip to a zoo, driving two and a half hours to see Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands.  (If you’re counting, yes that makes two zoos this month.)  Between the zoo and homework I got a little behind posting, but the trip was definitely worth it. 


1) The animal variation can be fun.

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I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember what this guy is.  We saw him at a zoo near Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and he made me happy.  There was a cool structure of logs that allowed him to climb from his pen area across a walkway to a tree and another pen space.  He just looked so relaxed up there.

Every zoo has a different mix of animals.  Most of the zoos I have visited in the USA have the same animals; lion, tiger, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of monkeys and birds.  It’s not that there aren’t ever any other animals, it’s just usually within the same range, depending on the size of the zoo.  Zoos in other countries have animals that almost seem normal to me.  In Okinawa we saw deer and horses.  In several of the European zoos we have seen raccoons.  None of these seem like ‘zoo’ animals to me, but it is fun to think of how different the world is.  Animals that seem common place to me are actually exotic in other areas of the world.

2) There are still some animals I have never seen.

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This little guy came from the Edinburgh zoo.  I had never seen a koala before.  I know koalas can be a little vicious when provoked, but they look so cute and cuddly.  It was amazing to see them being cared for.  A few weeks earlier I had seen a sloth for the first time in Antwerp, and fell in love with him.

I was a bit disappointed to discover that while Edinburgh had panda bears, they were by appointment only and we were not able to see them.  I technically understood; as a couple they were attempting to breed, it is understandable that they would want to keep them from being too harassed.  I realized, while I have seen many pandas in photographs, I’m not sure I have ever seen one in real life.  It can be shocking how familiar I am with something I have never encountered.

3) Zoos almost always have sunshine, shade, and a little bit of a relaxing walk.

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While at Burgers zoo, we happened to be there just in time to see them letting these guys inside to get some shade and cool air.  We had just gone around the corner from spotting a gorilla munching on leaves and arrived at the larger viewing area.  There were four or five Mama’s with babies clinging to either the front or back, all walking towards the door (another cool thing I had never seen before).  As they walked in, the big silverback stood guard.  He watched them go in, looked around as though checking to see if anyone was missing, and then went in himself.

A little while later we made it just in time to see reindeer running over to eat.  Last year we happened upon a mama deer giving birth in the zoo (which freaked out Little One, as she was afraid for a few minutes she might poop out a baby one day).  Walking around the zoo, you get to relax, see fun moments of animal life you might not have been expecting.  

4) Some zoos are depressing.

No, there is no picture for this.  It’s not that I haven’t been to small, depressing zoos because I have.  I’ve seen the pens where the animals can hardly move.  I’ve seen animals that simply lay there, as though they don’t have the will to even try to go anywhere.  These zoos break my heart because this is not how animals are meant to live.  When I go to the zoo, I want to see a small slice of how their life might be in the wild, not see creatures in small cages.  No one wants to see those pictures.

I’m not an animal rights activist, but there are some zoos that I don’t go to.  I know some need the money more than others.  Some of these zoos would get more space if they were able.  But some zoos just don’t care for their animals as they should.  They don’t give them the space and freedom they need or they kill off surplus animals.  I might not be able to change that, but I also will not support them.

5) Many zoos also serve as animal rescue centers.

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Many zoos keep a wide variety of animals that need a little help for survival.  Edinburgh has a large number of endangered animals, kept in nice pens where they can be protected, studied, and possibly breed.  A wonderful zoo near Eindhoven has a large bear rescue center, where bears are nursed back to health and cared for.  Some of these bears come from abusive performance acts, such as the circus. 

Most of the time, the bad aspects of the zoo make the news, such as small cages and limited movement.  It is no where near often enough that the zoos that are charging a viewing fee to help fund animal rescue efforts get the spotlight.  It is important to remember, that not all zoos are created equal and boycotting all places that keep animals away from the wild can at times interfere with necessary animal preservation efforts.  A little research, and a person can have a fun day with the family, and help out animals at the same time.


I don’t post pictures of my kiddos very often.  There isn’t a huge reason for that.  I suppose it is mostly because I am doing the posting, not them.  I don’t want them to feel like I am violating their privacy.  Considering they are 12 and 6, it might not seem like they care (and they don’t yet) but it’s a small courtesy I can extend to them as their loving mother. 

With this in mind, my Little One, Lily gave me permission to post her in her new dress.

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A few weeks ago, we visited the fabric store together, Little One, Big One and I.  We were looking for fabric to repair Big One’s favorite tank top, and of course anything else that appealed to us.  I found some fabric to make a shirt for me, and Little One fell in love with a dress made by the store owner.  It was a cross front dress, about knee length, made of tee shirt fabric covered in photos of white kittens in the grass and trimmed in orange.  They didn’t have a pattern, but they had everything else.  Instead of picking the exact fabric, she picked this tiger covered fabric with hot pink trim.  In the store, the combination looked hideous, but on the dress it’s not quite as overwhelming.  It didn’t really matter what I thought, it was her dress and she knew what she wanted.

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I made the pattern without much expertise.  Seriously, I have no idea what I am doing 90% of the time when I sew, but it tends to look fine even without my technical knowledge.  I must sew with more luck than skill.  I took a comfortable tee shirt of hers, and laid it out on some big paper, traced and cut to give the cross front look, and extended it longer.  I kind of wish I had flared the skirt out a little more to give her room, but it also turned out longer than intended.  Big One instantly told my Okinawa born Little One it was obviously a Kimono since she is Japanese.  I told her she was now officially my little TigerLily, but I don’t think she got the Peter Pan reference.  Little One settled the argument by telling us both she was happy with her new dress and that was all that mattered. 


It’s Been a While

It’s been a while since I posted anything about any reading I have been doing.  I have been reading, and more than just my text book, I just haven’t talked about it much here. 

I came to a realization a while ago.  I am not a book critic.  I HATE doing reviews.  It’s not because I dislike saying something bad, or I feel obligated to say something good.  Stating my opinion of a book isn’t a problem.  I don’t even mind analyzing further into why I like or dislike a book.  I do that anyway because it helps my writing. 

Doing a book review feels like homework.  It’s like being in fourth grade again and having to read the stupid book off of the stupid list when you would rather be reading ANYTHING else, and then writing one stupid page on the stupid book you never wanted to read in the first place.  (I may have been a little bitter about book reports as a child.)  When I was trying to review books, as brief as that time period was, I had good intentions.  I wanted to bring attention to beginning writers and show that everyone starts somewhere, and even the beginning can be pretty awesome.  It just didn’t take long until it felt as though I HAD to read another book, and write up a review. 

So, I decided to stop.  Reading is something I do because I love it, and I am too old to have to write book reports, even if I am assigning them to myself. 

It is not to say I will not longer talk about books, or share good books I have read.  I’ve just decided to go in a new direction with the book side of blogging.  I’d like to give myself new challenges, and branch out to new places.  Hopefully you will come back next week, and so I can share a little more with you on my new reading challenge.

Playing Dress Up

I have an interview to do today.  Sadly not something fun, but something practical.  I have no idea how it will go, and I am trying to remain hopeful and optimistic before hand.  There is not much that will make you tank on something more than walking in believing it will go badly. 

So I put on a costume. 

I paint my nails a calm, conservative color, getting rid of the bright pink they used to be.  I pull my hair out of my face, making it neat and concealing how long it is.  I choose elegant earrings, and leave a couple of holes empty.  I put on my makeup, but not too much.  I dress in solid colors, nothing too bright or too dark.  I wear the skirt that makes my bum look good, not because I expect the interviewer to be looking, but because it is the only thing that feels even slightly like me.

It’s a part I know how to play.  Look attractive, but not overwhelming.  Make an impression, but don’t make waves.  Smile brightly, but don’t let them see the real you, the person who wants nothing more than to kick off her shoes and sprint out into the sunshine.  Be the person they want to see.

It’s all a lie.  I create the persona, I say the right answers, and I don’t believe a word I say.

I’m not sure things will go well.  I’m not even sure how I want things to end.  But I know the role I am in today; responsible adult, who knows what they want from life and will get it. 

Deep breath, and start the scene.

What’s in a Name?

I have been preparing to start a new story, and have been caught for almost a week on one important detail.  I couldn’t name my main characters. 

I know there are people who will begin writing, using a placeholder of some sort and work out the name later.  I am not one of those people.  I can see why people might name their characters this way.  This allows for the character to develop a little, and then allows the author to name them something that seems to fit them. 

That’s not how real life normally works.  Most of us have names given to us when we are born.  It shapes us as much as anything else in our life.  We learn to identify with our name in some way, working to live up to it, fighting against it, or never really thinking about it.  A person named Sunny might choose to try to be as cheerful as their name suggests, or might rebel against it becoming a dark person. 

I didn’t like my name too much growing up.  It’s not like there is anything technically wrong with the name Shannon, but there were things that made it rough.  In first grade, there was a boy in my school who shared my name, prompting the other children to tease me that I had a boys name.  Of course now I understand the concept of a unisex name, but at the time it was devastating.  A little later, the show Beverly Hills 90210 came out, the original one with Shannen Doherty.  Having a famous person share my name might have helped to restore the femininity, however she was reported to be, well not a nice person.  It didn’t really matter if she was actually quite lovely, my name was now synonymous with a difficult actress.  Later in life, I learned that Shannon may have actually been the name of a former girlfriend of my father.  This Shannon may or may not have been around when my parents were married.

To me, a name can be important.  Maybe I would have felt more confident as a child if I had had a different name.  I know I considered my experience when naming my daughters.  Having a not-so-feminine name, I gave my daughters more traditionally girly names.  Joanna Rose, and Lilyen Faith.  Both names are soft, and clearly female names.  My daughters are both strong and tough, and not necessarily as delicate as their names might indicate.  Knowing them as I do, and knowing their names, I cannot think of them as anyone else.  However, if I knew who they were going to be, would I have named them something different?  It’s hard to say. 

When we name a character, we are naming a person who is at least partially developed as a person.  They are not a small lump of wrinkly baby, swaddled in a blanket and thinking of nothing more than their next meal. We name an infant based on their potential, and who we might want them to turn into; a character is named based on who they are, and what they are going to do in the story.  I know I am not the only person who looked for a name that has a special meaning, even if not everyone knows it.  I have seen message boards filled with people wanting names that mean ‘destiny’, ‘fate’, ‘strength’, or even ‘hero.’  They want a name that somehow tells everyone their character is extraordinary from the beginning.  They want us to think that a higher source had a hand in bringing this person to their fate.

There is a bit of a trend for strange character names in modern books.  Many of these strange names make a certain kind of sense.  A dystopian novel takes place in a different time, and the names are meant to reflect that.  Language evolves, names go through trends; it would be strange to read a novel that is supposed to take place several hundred years in the future and have all of the names be in the most popular names of 2014. 

More than just fitting a time, we want our character name to be distinctive.  If I bring up Katniss, everyone knows who I am talking about, including many people who have never read the books.  There is no question that I am talking about the character from The Hunger Games; the name and the book go together.  If anyone else tried to use that name in their story now, there would be a bit of a question.  It’s like naming a wizard Harry, or a vampire Dracula; some names are, simply put, taken.

So how can you name a character perfectly, distinctively, and with meaning without going overboard?  There are three things I consider when naming a character. 

First, time period.  Going to the past, the present, or the future, the name needs to fit.  Some names didn’t really exist in the past, or were not used the same as we use them now; Sandra Dee would not be an appropriate name for a person of the Victorian era.  A modern day teenager would not have been named yesterday, they would have been named at least 13 years ago.  The names of the future depend on the type of future you are presenting.  A steampunk, old fashioned but with technology, type future may have many old fashioned names, whereas a space oriented alien world may have names that seem to come from outer space.

The Second thing I consider is the story.  In a video somewhere in the vlogbrothers  John Green answered a question about why the character in The Fault in Our Stars was named Hazel.  He answered hazel is an in between color, in between green and brown, and Hazel was an in between character, living in between life and death due to her illness.  (I don’ think that was a spoiler of any sort, but if someone cared about this book and movie and does not know she is sick by now, I am sorry.)  In truth, while reading that book that thought did not occur to me once.  I liked the name because it is not entirely common now, and reminded me of a friend of my Grandmother’s who I loved when I was a child and who died when I was 8 years old.  Hearing the meaning behind the name, I loved it even more.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t get it when reading, it was still there, giving meaning and influencing others.

The final thing I consider when naming a character is their parents.  My character might be a very flighty, hippy like, character, but if their parents have always been conservative, her given name is not likely to be Rainbow.  It can be a nickname, but her real name is probably something simply like Sarah or Molly.  The same can be done the other way.  The serious young man with the free love hippy parents is not likely to be named John, he is more likely to be Rain or Forest.  No matter what the character is like, you are not the only one who would need to give them their name; they had parents at one point in their lives, parents who would need to have chosen the same name as you did.  Even if the parents are never in the story, their role in the characters life is shown in the name they picked for their child. 

So how do I name my characters?  I pour over books, and look through name databases online.  I know many people visit cemeteries, but that is not a common practice for me.  I look through genealogical records, anything that might give me ideas.  In the end, it all depends on how I feel about the name.  When I find the right one, I just know it.  Just as when I named my daughters, there is a brief moment when it feels right.  I look at the character, with it’s shiny new name, and think, that’s you. 



When I was younger, I would run all over the neighborhood without shoes on.  I rolled down hills, laid on the grass, and generally ran wild outside in nature. 

One day, when I was around 22, I rolled down a hill with my daughter, trying to show her the fun we could have.  When I reached the bottom I looked over and saw a bug crawling on a blade of grass.  It suddenly occurred to me what I had been rolling in my entire life.  It wasn’t just the bugs; it was the animal urine, and…. other animal leavings. 

That was the moment that I realized that nature can be a truly disgusting place.

I’m sure you are slightly curious as to what my point is.  As disgusting as the great outdoors can be, it is also the best place to photograph certain sizes of blankets.  I have lots of space in my backyard, and when the sun shines, I have excellent lighting.  There was however, no way I was going to lay out the blanket I had just made for my bed on the questionable surface that is my lawn.  I might be crazy, but it’s a kind I’m alright with.

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Instead of a photo of this quilt outside in the sunny well lit yard, you get a photo of my new quilt in my dark and cramped room with a wild animal to give the illusion of nature.  You don’t need to worry about Sam the Moose though. He’s clean.

I found this quilt on pintrest, and decided to make one of my own.  We needed something light weight for the summer, and I haven’t yet found the right fabric to make my dream quilt.  I’m not sure what the fabric is yet, but I will know it when I see it. 

Each of the circles is made from uneven numbers of scraps of fabric in various shades of blue, teal or black, with a gray background.  I didn’t do things quite the same as they instructed in the tutorial, and it might have been easier if I had.  The back of my quilt is also not as pretty as theirs.  When I was growing up, my mother always had a special way of doing quilt backs, and I have kept up her tradition.  She would buy us a sheet set, put the curvy sheet on the bed and use the flat sheet as the back of the quilt.  It left us with a matching set, gave the back of the quilt a soft feel, and meant we never had to mess around with making a bed with flat sheets as well as blankets.   It was win-win my book, and tends to save me money as well, because I don’t have to pay fabric store prices for quilt back size fabrics.  Of course, it means the back isn’t really pretty. It’s a trade off.

I know my photograph excuse is horrible, and maybe for my next project I will do the fantastic well lit photo.  Just not for something I am going to sleep with.  (insert shudder here)

Something Stupid

I did something stupid recently. 

As I mentioned, last week I was in Edinburgh.  My family has a bit of an unofficial policy for our vacations.  We walk everywhere, and only take taxis if we are going to or from the airport.  It doesn’t mean we won’t take public transportation.  We took the tube in London, and the Metro in Paris.  It can be a little intimidating at first, but we learned how to figure out where we are going, and we do all right.  Generally speaking however, we walk everywhere.  We walk to the underground, and then from the stop, walk to wherever we want to go.  It’s not that we have a technical problem with renting a car or taking taxis occasionally.  It is more of a reluctance to spend any extra money on transportation when we could be using that for something else.

So, we were in Edinburgh, walking around fairly early in the day, trying to find the Waters of Leith.  It had already been a little bit of searching, since we had missed a turn and walked a little off course.  We were heading down a bit of a hill, after finally figuring out how to get where we wanted to be.  I took a step, and hit an uneven point in the sidewalk.  I came down pretty hard on the side of my foot and ankle.  It was quite painful to be honest.

Can you guess the stupid thing I did?  Yup, I limped off and kept walking.  Not only for the rest of the long day, but all of the next day as well.

I suppose I could have said, ‘hey, that really hurt, I shouldn’t keep walking’, but I couldn’t do that.  If I had refused to keep walking around, it would have changed not only my vacation, but my families vacation as well.  So I kept going. 

After a few blocks the pain seemed to fade, leaving not much more than the ache I had been beginning to feel from walking up and down hills anyway.  I figured it was just one of those things.  It hurt in the moment, but I was able to walk it off, so everything was going to be fine.

Now, a week later, the side of my foot is in fairly bad pain.  It hurts to walk or stand for prolonged period of time.  It even hurt laying down last night when the side of my foot was laying against the mattress.  It feels like an injury I had about four years ago where I ran a 10k on the side of my foot due to poor form.  The doctor at the time said I had bruised the muscle underneath the skin, which was why you couldn’t see anything on the outside.  I hadn’t had any idea anything like that was possible, and I’m still not sure how it worked.  All I knew for certain was I was informed I would be doing no running for six weeks. 

I am continuing to do something stupid at this point, and I haven’t seen a doctor for my foot yet.  I know, I know, I know.  Not smart.  I’m still just kind of in denial at the possibility of a REAL injury.  So far I am choosing to rest and soak my foot for a few more days before I call a doctor, hoping I will feel better with a little time. 

I know, this might be the reason I have recurring foot pain.  If I see a doctor, they might be able to help me and get me back on my feet.  But, if I don’t see the doctor, they can’t tell me I am not allowed to run.  Denial gives me hope that I might one day get back to who I was, once upon a time.  So, I give myself a few more days of hope before I give in and ask for help.  It might be something stupid, but sometimes the hope is what I need.  

So there is my something stupid for the week.  What stupid thing do you do, even when you know better?