Half-Marathon Year

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On a Friday at the end of last May I went into the OR to have my IUD removed.  That same night I drove 4 hours to the mountains to run my first half-marathon the next morning.  On a Saturday at the end of last May I ran my first half-marathon (see old post below).

I almost did’t run the race – I had encountered a few obstacles in my training and I didn’t think I was prepared.  Despite everything, I made the choice to run the race and enjoy the experience.  As I ran through the mountains and enjoyed the views of the nature around me, I remember wondering what the next year would bring:  I daydreamed about pregnancy, and about hopefully welcoming a baby girl into my family… I let my mind relax and reflect on what everything in my life meant to me, where I was going with the different paths in my life, and how I was going to try and “let things go” and enjoy the little things in life.

When registration opened for this race again back in January, naturally I felt inclined to register.  I didn’t want to commit myself to something that wouldn’t be reasonable or healthy so close to giving birth, but it was important to me to go back to this place, participate in the race, and reflect on the last year.  Therefore, I chose to register in the 5Km run/walk that takes place the day after the half marathon.  I figure that is reasonable for 3.5 weeks post-partum.  This coming weekend I will be walking this 5Km with one of my very good friends, and hopefully, with my baby girl strapped to my chest.  What a way to mark this little anniversary!

Posted on The Old Blog, May 25, 2015

I did it.

I ran my Half-Marathon.

For weeks I feared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.  I worried that my disrupted training schedule would make it utterly impossible for me to survive the distance, especially since I read that it was a challenging course.  Right up until the day before the race (I’ll write about this day in another post), I contemplated changing my registration to do the 10K race instead.

There was a part of me, however, that knew I had to run the half marathon. No. Matter. What.

I have been working hard since the beginning of 2015 to make positive changes in my life.  Most of those changes have been working well, but there have been a few set-backs.  With those setbacks, I’ve been beginning to feel like I’m not as strong, determined, or capable as I thought i was.  I feared that if I gave up on my goal to run this half marathon, I would only be letting myself down and reinforcing the negative thoughts and attitudes that I’ve had recently.  So, I had to run this race… even if it meant that I walked most of it… even if it meant that my goal of completing it in under 2 hours was no longer a goal… even if it meant it was just an excuse to spend a few hours with myself in the beauty and splendour of the mountains…

On Saturday morning I showed up at the race site prepared to run (or walk) the half marathon as planned.  My new goal for the race was to complete it… no matter what.  My other new goal was to enjoy being out in the mountains, alone, and with my own thoughts.  I decided to run the half marathon without any running apps to tell me my distance, pace, or interval to ensure that I didn’t get distracted from my goals, push myself too hard to keep up to my usual pace, or to feel disappointed in myself for being too slow.  So, I shut off the little voice in my ear and set off running with some good music and beautiful scenery.

As I crossed the start line, I felt a wave of emotion come over me and I almost started to cry.  Right then it was confirmed that running this race meant more to me than just running 21Km straight; it had everything to do with proving to myself that I could do something that I set my mind to and that I am not someone who gives up.  Throughout the race, I walked when I needed to, I looked up at the mountains and trees around me.  I watched the water in the river flow past me.  I felt the trails and pavement under my feet.  I even stopped at a port-a-potty around the 15Km mark… because after all, this race was about being comfortable!

The last 6Km was the greatest challenge because it was almost all up-hill.  The start line was on the side of a mountain, which I ran down in the first part of the race to get to the river path.  I was sure I had nothing left in me when I saw the last sign on the route: “1 Km Left to Go!”  Ahead of me, it was still an incline.  I pushed through and when I saw the pink arch that marked the finish line, I picked up the pace just a little more.  I saw my boys shaking their white cowbells and my husband poised with the camera.  I saw the chip readers above my head, and then I watched my foot strike the ground on the other side of the finish line.  After the flurry of people putting a medal over my head, congratulating me, handing me my swag bag, and giving me a refreshingly wet towel, I finally looked at the clock.  Somehow, I had completed the race in less than 2 hours and 15 min.  Later, when I looked up my official time, I was in awe: 2 hours, 10 minutes, 21 seconds.

Without proper training, on a mountainside course with a 300m elevation change (150m down and then 150m back up), and with a goal to “just finish” the race, I clocked in at only 10 minutes and 21 seconds past my original goal time.  Unbelievable!  I still cannot believe that I accomplished this amazing goal.

I am so proud of myself.

I needed to do this, and I am so glad that I didn’t give up on myself.

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New Year, New Challenges

I have been meaning to sit down since the beginning of the month to blog about my goals for 2016.  However, I have been feeling the constraints of time, exhaustion, and just plain uncertainty about the goals I want to set for this year.  Last year felt like it had a completely different “flavour” than this year: I was hugely focussed on fitness, being healthy, expanding my social circle, taking time for myself, and basically becoming better integrated into my new life in my new surroundings.

This year, however, feels much different.  I feel like I am in constant battle with myself over my life decisions and choices.  I have been questioning whether or not I am in the right field of my career; I am struggling with maintaining an adequate work-life balance; I have a new baby on the way and I am both excited yet scared about what this will mean for my family… this list goes on. With all of these thoughts and challenges swirling around in my mind, it is hard for me to focus in on specific goals that would help to “make me a better me.”  Not only that, but I am finding it difficult to set realistic and measurable goals in the midst of all this mental turmoil: After all, a goal of “figure out what I want out of life” is not a helpful, measurable, or realistic goal.

As a result of this year’s “different flavour,” I am going to use a different format for setting out my goals.  Last year I set 11 goals and organized them according to categories like Health, Personal, Family, Misc.  Goals that were successful for me last year included: running a half marathon, meeting new friends, engaging in other fitness activities aside from running, reading 12 books in the year, and making more meaningful time for my husband and kids. Those are all goals that I would like to strive for again, maybe with slight modifications.  This year I will have a completely difference scheme: First, I will have some overall year long goals, and then I will have some goals organized as pre- and post- baby goals.  I hope to revisit goals every month to check on in their progress and to modify them as needed.  At he post-baby mark, I will reassess all the goals to see how I am doing.

Have Realistic Expectations

Goals:

  1. Complete unfinished tasks:
    1. Baby birth record cross-stitches:  I started making E’s birth record cross stitch back when I was still pregnant with him (yes, 4 years ago).
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      Little E’s Birth Record

      For various reasons, it keeps falling onto the back burner and it has always been a source of guilt for me.  A had his done before he was born, and it was twice as big and much more intricate.  While this is no time for excuses, I will say that I was not in medical school when I was pregnant with A, nor did I have a busy toddler running around and competing with my time.  This year’s goal is to complete E’s cross stitch birth record (hopefully before Baby Girl arrives) and also make one for Baby Girl.  Goal Deadline: End of my maternity leave (still TBD but likely before the end of 2016).

    2. Decluttering: I started reading the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”
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      Started but never finished

      I love the idea behind it, and I did manage to declutter my closet sometime back in the summer.  It made me feel great and I only wished I had more time to concentrate on decluttering.  I am going to make it my goal to do more decluttering.  The biggest challenge is that you need to set aside a significant amount of time to get this done.  I will have to do it in stages, but with being off call in a few weeks and then a maternity leave, hopefully I will have a little more time to dedicate to decluttering my home. I realize this is somewhat of an “unmeasurable goal,” but I will do my best.  Goal Deadline: Ongoing.

    3. Anxiety Management: Another “project” I started in 2015 and never completed was my Mindfulness and Anxiety Workbook.
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      Another project to finish

      I did find the exercises in this book to be beneficial and I would like to continue working on them.  I have noticed my anxiety levels starting to creep up again and I want to get ahold of them while they are still manageable.  I am only about 1/3 of the way through the book.  Ideally I would like to finish it before baby arrives, but I feel that is quite unrealistic.  Goal Deadline: December 31, 2016.

  2. Self Care and Fitness:
    1. Meditation: I love my meditating app, Headspace.  When I was actually taking time to use it regularly, I found that I did feel more calm and less overwhelmed.  I don’t know if it was meditation alone that did this, but there have been proven benefits to mindfulness and meditation, so I am going to make it a goal this year to meditate regularly.  I only have 6 more call shifts before I am officially off call.
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      I need to finish this series of meditations

      Until then (middle of February), My goal is to meditate every day that I am not on call.  Once I am no longer on call, I will make it my goal to meditate every day.  These are 15 minute sessions, so there is no excuse for me not taking 15 min a day to dedicate to myself.  I believe this will be a challenging goal for me because since the beginning of January, I have used the app twice.  Goal Deadline: Ongoing.

    2. Regular Exercise (Post-Baby): Baby Girl is due to arrive in the middle of May.  It is my goal to get back into a regular walking/running routine within 1 week of delivering baby.  This means that I will start walking regularly (at least 3x/week) either outside or on the treadmill until my body is sufficiently recovered to start jogging and running again. Goal Deadline: Must start once Baby Girl is 1 week old.
    3. Run a 10K race before the winter: Originally, I thought I would want to try and run the 5K or 10K race in the mountains that is associated with the half-marathon that I ran last year at the end of May.  I realized however, that this is likely very unrealistic.  Even if I was sufficiently recovered from pregnancy and child birth to run any meaningful distance, would I really want to drive 4 hours to the mountains with a newborn baby and the other members of my family for this goal?  It seemed like setting that goal would just add more stress to my life.  Instead, there is another Mountain race that I participated in a few years ago that takes place in September.  While I would like to hopefully be prepared to run a 10K sooner than 4 months post-partum, my official 10K running goal will be to run this mountain race in September with a time of 1:00hour or less. Goal Deadline: September 2016.
    4. Nutrition/Post-Partum Weight Loss: With baby #1, I did a horrible job of losing weight post-partum (despite breastfeeding for 14 months). With baby #2 I did an amazing job of losing the weight and was down below my pre-pregnancy weight within 6 months.  This time I am hoping to lose weight like I did with baby #2.  M hope is to do this with a combination of breastfeeding, regular exercise (see above goals), and nutritional awareness.  Last time I joined Weight Watchers.  Perhaps I will do this again.  Goal Deadline: Initiate within 1 week of Baby Girl’s arrival, then ongoing.
    5. TaeKwonDo: This activity was something I really enjoyed doing in 2015.
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      2015 Taekwondo Success

      I have taken a break from it now with the pregnancy and it is my goal to get back into in once Baby Girl is here.  Since starting in January of 2015 until I started my Hiatus in December, I completed 6 belt levels!  It was also a great activity to share with my kids, who are now both doing TKD.  I will be starting up again at the “blue stripe” level when I return.  I don’t yet know if we are going to continue TKD through the summer months or not, but it is my goal to resume TKD and attain 2 more belt levels before the end of the year.  Goal Deadline: Red Stripe Belt by Dec 31, 2016.

  3. Personal Goals:
    1. Quality Family/Kid Time: I am making it a priority to spend more meaningful time with my kids and my husband.  Not only does this mean “finding” more time to spend with them, but it also means being more present in my time with them.  The biggest challenge to this is the existence of my cell phone.  I have already tried (with great difficulty) to not use my cell phone while I am with my kids.  This will be an ongoing challenge.  I also want to make sure I am setting aside time to “do” more activities with them instead of just watching movies with them or “supervising” their play.  Ideas for this goal will be a work in progress and will hopefully get easier once the weather is nicer and once I am more able bodied after this baby vacates my uterus! Goal Deadline: Ongoing.
    2. Find Meaning and Balance in my Work Life.  How’s that for the most vague and uncertain goal of 2016?  I anticipate that this year will involve a lot of soul searching and questioning myself about my career choices and how they affect my family life.  I can say with confidence that I am not happy right now.  I need to get off of this treadmill of putting up with the unhappiness and find solutions.  If a solution is changing career paths, then I need to come to terms with that decision and just make it.  If the solution is making changes in my current career situation, then I need to put aside the roadblocks I have set for myself (like length of my maternity leave, for example) and allow myself to be satisfied with that decision.  I don’t really know how to measure this goal, but I do know that something in this realm needs to change.  Goal Deadline: Ongoing
    3. Blogging: I love blogging and I find it to be extremely enjoyable and therapeutic.  I have really let blogging fall to the wayside and I need to stop doing that.  This year I will make it a goal to blog at least twice a week. Goal Deadline: Blog (at least) twice a week, all year.

If you made it to the end of this blog post, thanks for being so attentive to my long winded goals!  Wish me luck in my endeavor to accomplish these goals.

Reflections for a New Year

 Many of these types of inspirational pictures and messages have been floating around on my Facebook feed over the past few days. Given that I’ve been in a rather introspective mindset and contemplating changes in my life, they have really been hitting a chord for me. I know that I’ve been rather absent from the blogosphere lately and I think that has actually been a bad thing. This is a great place for me to come and let out my thoughts, fears, questions, and frustrations. While I’ve been very busy with work and home, I feel like the winter blues have been making me lazy and unmotivated to blog. The truth is,  though, I really miss it and I think my mental health is suffering because of it.  I really need o work harder on making blogging a priority – not because I want to promote my blog or anything, but because I know it contributes to my mental sanity. 

On a similar note, I have been reflecting on some goals for the new year. Last year on the old blog, I set 11 goals for myself over the year. I met most of them by half way through the year, and a few of them fell to the wayside. In July, right before I closed down the old blog and started anew, I revised and reset some goals but with the blogging fiasco, I never kept up with them. I really want to start some new goals for 2016 here on this blog, much like I did last year. I have been reflecting on  some reasonable goals given that I’m struggling with decisions surrounding my career, I am 4.5 months pregnant, and I feel like I am starting from “zero” most days.  I’m hoping that by the end of this weekend I will have delineated some reasonable goals and will have posted them here for accountability. 

In the meanime, in will make a shot-term “pseudo goal” to get back into the blogging world.   
    
 

Together in Pieces

“It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.”
~Suzanne Collins

Image Source: ldsperfectday.blogspot.com

Over the past year, I have slowly been working on putting myself back together.  In last year’s post on this day, I spoke about making an attempt to be more positive and figure out a way to start moving forward.  Here is an excerpt from The Old Blog’s post from last year:

As I child, I remember my mom always getting so angry when something fragile would break because she could never glue it back together without it looking perfect.  This gave me the idea, from a young age, that you are never as good as you were before you were broken.  Anytime I got in trouble or got hurt in some way, I just imagined that it made me less “valuable.”  When I came across this Japanese idea of accentuating flaws – because it makes something more beautiful – I suddenly felt so much less “broken.”

I took the small pieces of myself that I had left and assembled them into a new life.  This really started to materialize in the new year, when I made multiple goals that I wanted to meet – most of which I did accomplish by the mid point of this year.  I am proud of my accomplishments – I ran a half marathon, I made great progress on my goal to read 12 books this year (I read 9 whole books, and I have 3 books on the go… the year still isn’t  over yet…).  I made some new friends, joined a taekwondo club, where I have attained a green belt (that is on hold now while I grow a tiny human), and I’ve got another year of residency completed and under my belt.

The most important part of all of this, though, is that I haven’t been pretending that everything is always okay.  I’ve admitted to difficulties and mistakes – and those are the gold seals that show up in this new and re-formulated life of mine.

I Am The Leftovers

“Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts, it’s what you do with what you have left.”

~Hubert H. Humphrey

 

It has almost been a year since I hit “rock bottom,” or “the bottom of the barrel,” or whatever expression you use to describe the worst and most dark moments of life.  When I wrote last year’s post based on this quotation, I actually thought I was there, and I didn’t possibly think it could get any worse.  A few weeks later and I lost one of the most important friends and supports I had in my life.  I realize that it could have gotten even worse from there… but it didn’t.  Thank Goodness.

I spent much of my time and energy last year focussing on everything that was taken away.  I realize now, that this was likely one of the reasons this friendship was stolen away from me.  While I could post quotations about how real friend see you though everything, or that they are the ones who are still standing by you when you come out of those dark moments, and passively lay blame on a person who was actually nothing more than a shitty friend, I won’t.  I also won’t put myself down and take the blame that was handed to me and convince myself that “if only” I hadn’t been such a bad person (or something along those lines), I would still have her friendship.  There are two sides to every situation, and I’m merely realizing that I was negative, and broken, and maybe not working as hard as I could have at picking up the pieces.  Anyhow, I digress.

Last year I was at least thankful that something I “had left” was this friendship that was going to support me and see me through.  But then I lost that, too.  So, really, what did I have left in the end?

Here’s what I had (and still have, mind you):
My husband and my kids, who have loved me unconditionally and are here for me always.
My willpower, which saw me run a half-marathon this year… something I never though I would do.
My dedication to my self and my values, which has (somehow) led me to the decision for a third baby (despite my already crazy life)
My work ethic and my dedication to my job, which has not wavered and sees me succeed on a daily basis, even when it doesn’t seem as much.

Do you notice what all of this things I had have in common?  They are all about ME.  They are all parts of me; my traits; the best parts of the person I am.  Those are things that are left even when it feels like I have lost everything else.  After everything is gone, regardless of whether is was just or fair, in the end there is only me.  The question becomes, then: What can you do for yourself when everything else is gone?

New Fitness Goals

Last week while I was off work, I forced myself to go for a run. I have completely fallen off the running horse so far in this pregnancy because I have been so tired. The run felt great, even though it was significantly slower than my usual running pace. Before I even finished the first km, I wanted to quit. I have gained a significant amount of weight in the last little while, so in addition to the pregnancy nausea and exhaustion I am hauling around a whole lot of extra weight.  

 As the run progressed, it got easier and I felt better. I decided that I needed to set out a more specific pregnancy fitness goal than “do not gain too much weight.” So, how about plan for a race after the baby is born?

I remEmber fondly the half-marathon I ran in the mountains last May. I certainly will not be in any shape to run a half marathon anytime soon post-partum. But, how about aiming to run/walk a 10K?  The same half marathon also hosts a 10k run/walk in the mountains. The only problem is that This baby’s due date is mid-May.  Last pregnancy I had cholestasis of pregnancy, which requires me to be induced 3 weeks early. This has a 60-70% recurrence rate.  So odds are, I will have to be induced early with this one as well. If that’s the case and this baby comes end of April, I think it might be reasonable to plan for this run at the end of May… reasonable enough to keep me motivated to stay somewhat fit through the pregnancy. I’ll have to have some hard and beast guidelines though, so I don’t force myself to do something my body is not ready to do: perhaps a minimum of 4 weeks post partum, at the least.

If that run doesn’t work, there is also another mountain 10K in September. There really should be no excuse for not being able to run that one! (Except maybe for my pelvic floor.. But that just reason and motivation in itself).

Wish me luck in my runnin goal planning! 

Week off Work

I am off work this week for “vacation.”  I have nothing planned except to study for an upcoming exam and to get back into some sort of exercise routine.  Today, though, I have already found myself tired and overwhelmed with nothingness that I have locked myself in my bedroom under the muse of studying.  So far I have: done a headspace meditation, drank my coffee, checked in in facebook, and ignored my child.  Now I am blogging.

I have found myself to be extremely tired.  I was on call over the weekend, but for the few nights before that, I went to bed right after I put my kids to bed.  I have been doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and working, quite literally.  I am feeling myself getting grumpier and heavier and somewhat depressed.  I am hoping that this week will help to cheer me up, but I fear that it’s just going to make me realize more of what I miss about my home life – or else make me feel like a bad mom for locking myself away from some time to myself.

It was my goal to stay on top of running and exercise during this pregnancy to prevent myself from gaining 50 pounds like I did the last two times.  I was also hoping that I would be able to curb some of the complications I had in my last pregnancy by being more active.  Unfortunately, the exhaustion and nausea has been overwhelming and I haven’t been doing anything.  Last week I only went to TKD once and even that was a challenge.  I have already been gaining weight and it is making me grumpy.  I know it is my own fault, but I can’t seem to stop myself from eating, especially when I am not nauseous.  It also doesn’t help that I have continued to have spotting all week, which makes me feel like I should be taking it a little easier, physically.

Today I am setting less-than-lofty goals.  I am going to go for a massage, since I had that booked a while ago.  But then I am going to go for a 5K jog/walk around the neighbourhood later this afternoon, likely with my older son on his bike.  This will make me feel better about being active and also about spending time with my kids.  Later I will take my younger son to his little soccer game/practice.  I will go to TKD, and I will also get a little bit of studying in as well.  That’s all for today.

Wish me luck as I try to lift this cloud of grumpy exhaustion from around my head this week.

On To Book 10

  
This weekend I am off on a quick “all expenses paid” trip to an Oceanside side city for a conference planning meeting. I’m not as keen on going as I was two months ago when I agreed to the trip; I am tired and nauseous and I just want to lay low and sleep. 

Regardless, I am committed and I’m going to make the best of it. The hotel is right next to the ocean, so hopefully I’ll get in a beach walk. But even more exciting, is probably the opportunity for some time to myself: to do anything I want!

This book has been burning a hole in my bookshelf for a long, long time. I’m excited to get into it and see how much I can read over this weekend!  

Here’s to 2015’s Book #10!

The 9th Book

I am sitting in the children’s section of my local bookstore, watching my boys play with the Thomas train set and drinking a new fall specialty drink – a cinnamon chai tea latte. I came here to buy a new book. 

I really don’t need a new book, seeing as how I currently have two unfinished books on my night table and a pile of unread books in my closet, patiently waiting for me to delve into them. However, I saw this book show up on my Facebook feed yesterday, and I knew I needed t read it.

 I read “Sweetness in the Belly” many years ago and I remember the beauty of it today. I still recommend it to people when asked if I have any good book recommendations. I came here to the bookstore to look at the book, read its cover flaps and it’s praise and then make a decision. 

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul

~Simone Weil

This quote, which serves as a sort of prologue to this book, spoke to me and expressed the necessity of this book in my life – right now. 

In January I made a goal for myself to read 12 books in 2015, one per month. I was doing extremely well and The purpose of my goal was being fulfilled: I was rediscovering my love of reading and the literary arts. When life got busy, and complicated, and stressful in July, I had abandoned all the goals I had set for myself. Immediately prior to that, though, I commented on my old blog that I was ahead of my reading goal having read 8 books in the first 6 months of the year. I postulated that, perhaps, I could read 14 or 15 books this year instead of just 12.  Alas, I have not completed any books in the past two months. But since I was two books ahead, I am still on track to complete my original goal of 12 books in 12 months. 

It is time to pick up the pieces of my shattered goals and move forward. 

“This is Happy,” by Camilla Gibb will be my book #9. 

Writers Block

Since starting my new blog, I have been having difficulty with creative and expressive writing.  My blog posts have mostly been about the literal and practical aspects of my life and sometimes I find these types of posts somewhat unfulfilling.  As a result, I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to or I would like to.  I’m not sure what to do about it.  I thought about looking at some of the daily prompts (after all, that’s what got me Freshly Pressed on my old blog) for inspiration.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot of time for that most days.

I think I am also mourning the fact that I used to be a really great writer, and now I’m just… not.  I wish I knew what happened.  I wish I could go back to the old days of blogging.  In the meantime, I’ve come up with a few ideas that I’m going to try and stick with.  Most of them involve my newly discovered pregnancy, but I think it will be a good place to start. First, I am thinking of starting a series of letters to my baby.  In my first pregnancy I kept a journal and wrote it in the style of a “Dear Baby” book.  It was tedious at some points, but I enjoy going back to it every once in a while.  I’m hoping that these letters will be more personal and less of a “documentation of my pregnancy” like I did before.  We’ll see how it goes.

Lately I have also really been questioning my career choices in medicine.  This mostly revolved around the fact that I have chosen a very time consuming and demanding specialty, even though I love it.  Obstetrics is amazing and I love women’s health, but I hate being away from my family so much.  I suspect it will get even worse, especially if this pregnancy sticks.  I maintain that I fell in love with obstetrics when I was pregnant the first time around.  This pregnancy might be an opportunity for me to revisit everything that I found interesting and amazing about pregnancy, obstetrics, and the wonder of a woman’s body.  Hopefully I will be able to document that as I go along too.

I’ve been trying to get back into my mindfulness exercises.  I haven’t been doing them for a few months, and I’m sure that has a bit to do with how much I’ve been feeling down lately.  Last night I started up again and conveniently, the Headspace app has a new Pregnancy Series.  I would like to blog more about my headspace experiences and see where that goes as well.

Finally, I want to get back into blogging about my goals.  In January I set goals for myself and every month I would blog about the progress of those goals.  In July I re-visited the goals because there were some that I had made great progress with, and others that needed some revisiting.  I never actually did an August update, and if I’m being completely honest, I felt like closing down my old blog meant that I didn’t have to be accountable about them anymore.  For that reason, I think that starting up the monthly updates is going to be a great way to hold myself accountable again.

Does anyone have any other ideas for how I can incorporate more creative writing?  (I feel some some of these ideas are still very literal and not very creative)