Excerpt from the Professional Log of Dr. Tess Avrakotos (A Bite-Sized Bit of Fiction)

I have seen many interesting cases since I became a doctor over two decades ago.  The case of Eta Shepard remains the most intriguing case I have ever come upon. (For reference, Eta is pronounced with a long e – “Eeta”.  As in the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet. Her name is explained in further detail later in this log.)  

As for a brief explanation of my background, my full name is Dr. Tess Maria Avrakotos.  I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Biology and received my doctorate from Johns Hopkins University with a specialization in Family Medicine.  I did my residency at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, VA and continued to work there after I completed my residency. I started with NASA after the end of the war as part of their physiology department, studying the effects of microgravity and radiation exposure on the human body.  

Manned space programs have been indefinitely suspended since the onset of the war but, in an effort to rebuild the international space flight community, research has resumed which is how I came to be at the agency.  After about six years with NASA, I came across Eta Shepard.

In an effort to understand her unique physiology, I have done an extensive investigation into Eta’s background through multiple interviews with Eta herself, as well as former NASA staff who would have been familiar with the Delta Space Station and, more interestingly, familiar with Eta’s mother, Millicent Shepard.  In addition, and included in this report, are journal entries and transcribed voice entries recovered from the Delta’s primary computer database before the station was destroyed. Finally, Millicent kept detailed medical records using the stations medical testing equipment on both herself and on Eta.  Regular medical testing had been the practice on space stations in the past and Millicent kept up with this, well after communication was lost with the ground. Medical records were retrieved from the station and are submitted here as well.

Eta is one of the most significant physiological discoveries of our time in that her case showcases the direct effects of long term space exposure.  She kept a detailed verbal log of her life starting at the age of six. This is believed to have been the idea of her mother, Millicent, who, as a scientist herself, certainly understood the importance of keeping a record of such a life.    

I have pieced together the logs and included information taken from my own interviews as well as from interviews with the team at NASA that worked with Eta on the station after she was discovered there.  Her entire life is interesting, of course, however, the most interesting details begin, coincidentally, on Eta’s 18th birthday.

This is her story.

Suit Up Space Style: Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Spacesuit


I’m currently writing about spacesuits. And I’m trying to make my fictional spacesuit as realistic as possible.

My suit is futuristic, so I plan to take some liberties with the facts. But the point is, I’ve been doing a bunch of research about spacesuits. And I found out some cool things.

Without further ado, here’s my list of cool things you didn’t know about the spacesuit.

1. They Have Heaters In the Fingers

To clarify, I’m looking at the big, bulky white suits here. You know, the ones that everyone thinks of when they think of an astronaut floating around outside the ISS.

Obviously, the spacesuit keeps humans alive. But to do that, it’s got to do a bunch of things. Including, keeping the temperature regulated.

The gloves have the hard, outer piece known as the EVA glove (EVA = Extravehicular Activity). The inner glove is a comfort glove and it helps pull moisture away from the astronaut’s hand.

Plus, it’s got little heaters in the fingertips. The astronaut turns the heaters on or off with a little switch by their wrist.

It makes sense. Temps swing like 400 degrees in LEO. It wouldn’t do to have frostbite take hold on your fingertips.

2. They Are Tiny Spacecraft

Want to see the world’s tiniest spacecraft? Take a look at the EVA suit. That’s because the spacesuit has to keep a guy alive like any other spacecraft.

Enter the space backpack. That big bulky hunk of machinery you see them wearing on their backs isn’t there for looks. It’s got all the important stuff tucked inside.

That pack is called the Primary Life Support Subsystem (Can I get some oxygen, PLSS???) It’s got all the following:

  • Oxygen for breathing
  • Fans for ventilation
  • CO2 filters to keep you from suffocating
  • A water tank/heating system to heat and cool the water that flows through the thermal undergarments
  • Electricity to power all of the above
  • Oh yeah, and tiny thrusters with fuel to fly you back in case you float off

You get the point. It’s a spacecraft in a backpack. The ultimate jetpack!

3. You Can’t Pick Your Nose

Picking your nose may not sound all that important now… but imagine if you couldn’t do it when you wanted. Or scratch your face, or rub your eyes, or wipe away tears, or tug on your ears.

That’s the situation you’re in when you’re inside a spacesuit. The helmet’s made of super strong plastic so you’ll see as much as possible.

They’re also equipped with their own sunglasses or big fold-down visors. And before you venture out in one of these, they’re sprayed with an anti-fog stuff.

Because that would be the worst, if your facemask fogged up and you couldn’t do a thing about it.

4. The First Suit Was Made By a Bra Company

That’s right folks, the very first space suits capable of EVA were made by the well-known bra company called International Latex Corporation (ILC). They are responsible for Playtex bras and girdles.

When JFK decreed that we would walk on the moon before the decade was up, the space program had a time issue. And they didn’t have much in the works for how they would actually suit up the astronauts on the moon.

NASA opened up the bidding and ILC submitted their idea. ILC was not a large company. Nor was it used to dealing with government contracts. But they got the contract to build the Apollo spacesuits.

Their proposal included accordion-like joints to make the suit more flexible. Similar joints are still part of spacesuits today.

Suit Up Space Style

With its heated fingers and turbo style backpack, this machine packs a useful punch when it comes to exploring space.

Humans and space don’t mix well together. Space is full of all sorts of things that can kill us… quick. No problem though. We’ll bring our own little atmosphere and thermal control along with us.



4 Reasons You Should Pay Attention to New Horizons

Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Guess what’s happening on January 1, 2019, at exactly 12:33 am EST (give or take one minute)?

You might be opening your third bottle of champagne for the night. Or maybe you’ll already be sleeping it off. I’m thinking of something a little bit further away…

Give up?

Okay, here’s the answer: New Horizons will fly by Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, also known as Ultima Thule.  

You didn’t know about that? What kind of science nut are you!? I’m just kidding, of course. I understand that not everyone thinks space, and space probes, and Kuiper Belt objects are exciting.

But I’m here to tell you that they are exciting!

Here are four reasons that you should pay attention to New Horizons. For what it’s done in the past and what it will do. The future is bright for the little space probe that could.

  1. This probe is cool.

It took this little guy almost 10 years to reach Pluto. But that’s crazy fast considering the amount of mileage (or kilometerage, whatever you like), it put on while getting there. Pluto is over 3 Billion miles away from us. That’s a serious trek.

New Horizons is moving fast. In fact, it’s the fastest launching spacecraft ever. It’s going about 36,000 miles per hour. That’s almost 1 million miles every day!

Plus, this piano shaped spacecraft has all kinds of cool instruments on board.

There’s Ralph, which is an infrared spectrometer that provides color and thermal maps.

Alice is an ultraviolet spectrometer that’s an expert at analyzing the makeup of atmospheres. REX is a radio experiment that measures atmospheric temperatures.

LORRI is a telescopic camera, the best at taking long range pics. The SWAP is all about measuring the solar wind way out there in space. PEPSSI is a particle spectrometer measuring ions escaping from Pluto and any other object the probe passes.

There’s even a little device built and operated by students. It analyzes dust and how it affects the space probe.

Like I said, this little guy is cool.

  1. Pluto was cool.

Pluto is a big enough reason for you to care about New Horizons all on its own.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Since its discovery in 1930, people have wondered what the little planet way out in the boonies looked like. Of course, it was eventually knocked out of the planet group and classified as a dwarf planet instead. Is dwarf planet the PC term?

But you might be asking since Pluto is so close, why can’t we point our big telescopes at it and snap a picture? We take pictures of galaxies far, far away all the time.

Pluto may be closer than a galaxy far, far away, but it’s much smaller. And dimmer. And since it’s a little brown lump in the middle of a vast, endless vacuum, it can’t be pictured from here.

Enter New Horizons. This fast spacecraft managed to reach Pluto in an unprecedented amount of time, just 9.5 years. And when it did, the wait was well worth it.

What did it discover on Pluto? A complex world that nobody dreamed existed that far away from the Sun.

Pluto and its moons are a complicated system. Pluto and Charon, its largest moon, have a strange gravitational bond where the two actually orbit around a fixed point in space instead of one orbiting around the other.

Charon might have a subsurface liquid ocean and for the first time, we saw its red polar ice cap.

Pluto greeted us with a huge, heart-shaped surface feature. It has mountains, valleys, and a relatively new surface, indicating volcanic activity. It’s also got an atmosphere… who knew!?


  1. Ultima Thule will be really cool.

I know, it sounds like the villain in the next Avengers movie. But New Horizons will fly by it on New Year’s Day and I couldn’t be more excited.

Like most of the icy, dust lumps floating around out in the Kuiper Belt, we know little about Ultima Thule. The spacecraft managed to capture its first picture of the little world a few days ago.

And although the pictures aren’t outstanding (it’s still more than 100 million miles away), the scientists are excited that it’s right where it should be. After all, it’s not easy to pinpoint an object that small with a spacecraft that’s even smaller.

It’s expected that Ultima is just a few kilometers in diameter and may be a binary system. Meaning it’s two dusty rocky things floating around together.

It will be the furthest and least-known object ever visited. Who knows? Maybe it really is the next Avengers character, lying in wait for the little spacecraft to come discover it.

  1. New Horizons after Ultima Thule.

Most exciting of all is what’s yet to come. After the flyby of Ultima Thule, we’ll have a lot more knowledge about the Kuiper Belt and its elusive objects.

With all that cool tech on board, we’ll know about its atmosphere, chemical makeup, gravitational properties, interaction with the solar wind, and thermal maps. And we’ll have some spectacular pictures!

Odds are good that if this flyby goes well, another will be in the future for New Horizons. With the speed it’s carrying, it could reach another object within a few years. And it’s going to tell us more than we ever knew about the edge of our solar system.

Now I ask you, how can you not pay attention to that?

If you haven’t yet, please follow me on Instagram! I’ve also got a new Facebook page where I’m sharing with you all that I love about space, space travel, space adventures, space fiction, space dancing, space mania!

Want to know about a certain topic? Drop a comment below and I’ll write a blog about it!

July 4th, It Is

As the late, great Jedi Master Yoda would say, “July 4th, it is.” Apparently, the vote to actually become independent was taken on July 2nd, unanimous, of course, setting into motion an unbelievable chain of events that would produce the most powerful nation in the world, by a long shot. I wonder if the founders themselves knew what they were starting and what it would grow into?

John Adams, future POTUS and signer of the Declaration itself, wrote a letter to his closest advisor aka wife, Abigail Adams, stating that July the 2nd would go down as the most memorable day in all of American history. Well, he was close. The Declaration of Independence was actually ratified on July 4th, hence all the hullabaloo that surrounds the 4th day of the 7th month of every year.

I saw the Declaration of Independence once, when I was about 12, visiting on a class trip. It’s kept in a sealed, glass-fronted vault at the National Archives in DC. Hermetically sealed beneath bulletproof glass, the delicate parchment is protected from fire, water, wind, earth, you name it. When I saw it, there were big, purple, velvet partition ropes, strung on waist-high, brass posts, keeping all visitors back 20 feet from the document itself. You had to lean over the rope to see it, and it was illuminated from above with special, “parchment friendly” lighting. I remember the tour guide said that the vault was programmed to fall 15 yards into the ground in less than a second if anyone touched it, or even breathed on it too hard. That statement made me hold my breath, just in case.

It just looked like an old piece of paper to me. But, as age and wisdom catch up to me, I understand its significance now. Freedom is not to be taken lightly. Happy Birthday America! I’m mighty grateful to call you my home!




I realized recently, that although I know a lot about social media and how it works, there are still a ton of things out there in the social media world that I really need to brush up on.  Take SEO, for example. Don’t know what that is? Nah, neither did I, until just a few months ago.

Search Engine Optimization is the name of the game these days.  I figured this out when I started looking on job boards (more about that in the next paragraph) and almost every content writer job out there required knowledge of SEO.  Okay self, it’s time to learn about SEO.  As it turns out, the king of the universe, aka Google, aka the sultan of SEO, actually has a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide available for you to read…  all 240 pages of it. (It might not be that long, but that’s how long it felt.) Anyway, enough about SEO, let’s just say, it’s more important than you might think, and I’ve taken a crash course in it, with hopes of earning an advanced degree sometime in the near future.  Check it out if you have never heard of it before.

Novel update:  I’ve been plugging away (I’m at 73,776 words, to be exact) but I’ve also recently discovered job posting apps.  Who knew that there were so many of them and that there were so many JOBS for writers available!? I was blown away.  Of course, I’m not qualified for most of them. Most require several years of experience, which, even though I’ve been writing business reports for the last 12 years, it’s not article or blog writing or anything journalistic, which is what most of the places hiring freelance writers want.  

And of course, most of the jobs are not in my area, so I have to concentrate on those that are specific to the “freelance” or “work from home” crowd.  And of the ones that I have applied for, I haven’t heard boo from about 90% of them. That said, I did actually get my first paying job as a writer through this means!  Yay! Celebrate! It’s for a marketing firm that handles websites and social media accounts for healthcare professionals. My job description is: Social Media Content Writer.  Tada!

Frankly, I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but now that I do, I realize that there are jobs like this everywhere.  This is, of course, a newly cultivated row in the garden of the writing community. Until the last couple of years, most businesses didn’t mess with social media.  It was maybe only 10 years ago that having a website for your business was optional rather than mandatory. Along with the website, many businesses are finding that a social media presence mandatory as well.  If you’ve got a business, you had better have your ear to the social media grindstone.

Take your doctor, for example.  Since when do doctors have Facebook pages, or Twitter accounts, or even websites?  When I was a kid, you just went to the doctor. My mother never said, “Let me check Facebook for a good podiatrist recommendation.”  But then, when I was a kid, it took AOL 5 minutes of beeping and buzzing and crackling through the phone line, before finally connecting to the internet and alerting me that You’ve Got Mail.  Times have changed my friends!   

My new (part-time) job is writing social media posts for healthcare professionals.  I don’t actually have to post them, the company I work for does that. I simply write them and upload them onto a shared Google Sheet and, slick as snot, they’ve got a whole month’s worth of Facebook and Twitter posts for Dr. SoandSo, MD’s OBGYN Clinic.  

I get to write short, snappy social media posts which usually include an attached article from a reputable source pertaining to the practice, and researched by me, as well as several pertinent hashtags.  It’s cool stuff. So far, I’ve learned that your feet have 250,000 sweat glands in them, hemorrhoids are more common than you think with 1 in 4 Americans walking around with them, alcohol is the deadliest drug of all the drugs out there, and you can actually get Botox at your dentist (well, not all dentists, but some).  

It’s a fun gig and I’m very very very very very very (did I mention very?) grateful for it.  

And back to the book!  I am at an exciting part, preparing for a daring, edge-of-your-seat escape aboard a Russian spacecraft called a Soyuz.  Which, of course, requires lots of research about the Soyuz and its inner workings. Russian Space Web and Roscosmos are my newest internet friends.  If you don’t know, my novel takes place on a space station in the near distant future. Futuristic enough to have some sci fi elements, yet not too distant that we’re still using the Soyuz, a cold war era space machine, to get up there.  

My biggest hurdle so far?  Forcing myself to NOT read parts that I’ve already written.  Eventually, I will have to go back and do major editing. But editing at this point is counterproductive.  A long piece of work like this is sort of like a developing organism. It starts off as one thing and morphs into something different by the end.  You’ve got to fight back the urge to revisit the beginning and make changes because if you do that, you’ll never finish!

Take care!



The 65,000 Word Sunroof

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the books You are a Badass and You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero.  First, she has a lovely, dry sense of humor, which I can’t get enough of.  Okay, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, obviously she curses and tells it like it is, but I’m betting that most of you will consider it a good read.  

Jen has an idea about how the little prince (that is her term for the human subconscious) tends to throw a big fit whenever you try something new and step outside your comfort zone.  Apparently, and I realize that this is a little bit out there, the little prince and fate have a tendency to interfere in our environments. Stay with me here.

Whenever we dare to leap into the unknown, aka quit an excellent job with benefits to start a writing career, our little prince starts to “do” things to sabotage our success.  Mostly, the little prince tells us things that aren’t real. For example: There’s no way you’re going to make money doing that! or People are going to think you’re crazy and fall over laughing at you or What will your family think of you when you fail?  You get the idea.  

The little prince is basically that voice in your head that tears you down so that you don’t make a colossal financial mistake and end up on the street eating out of a dumpster and sharing a cardboard box with alley cats.  So really, the little prince is there for a good reason, because way back in caveman times, getting laughed out of the crowd, or taking a wrong turn and ending up lost from your tribe would actually get you killed. The safest thing to do was to stay the known path and hope to God that you could kill yourself a mammoth to feed your family that month.  

Since we humans have now evolved past the mammoth stage and can get our meat from the grocery store instead, we have the luxury of taking bigger risks.  Getting shunned by our “tribe” isn’t necessarily going to get us killed. The little prince is a relic of times past, doing his very best to keep us safe and accepted in society.

Another thing that happens when you start to make big, bold changes, according to Jen, is that fate starts to intervene and throw obstacles in your way.  Fate does stuff like throwing nails under your tires, or burning down your newly built recording studio, or causes your sewer to back up. All of which cost you time and money that you don’t have because you’re busy taking risks and following your dreams.  It’s basically the universe’s way of asking how serious you are about accomplishing your goals. If you’re serious enough about starting your own recording studio, you won’t let a little backed up sewer water get in your way. You’ll figure it out, no matter what.  Whether or not you believe in this stuff is irrelevant to this story, but it’s a good lead in to what happened to me earlier this week.

About six months ago, I traded in my fancy new vehicle (and it’s fancy monthly payment) for a 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser that I lovingly call Petey (Paid-in-full Petey).  


Let me say this… Petey was a top-of-the-line vehicle back in the day and although he’s got some miles and a little bit of rust on him, I love him. Petey is the perfect vehicle for me and even has such perks as a turbo engine, black leather, heated seats, and a fully functioning sunroof.  Or should I say, he did have a fully functioning sunroof.  

A few days ago, my kids and I were taking a drive into town for some groceries and while on the gravel road that leads to civilization, a car passed us and we heard the ominous CLINK of a rock hitting glass.  You know that sound. It’s the sound of money running out of your bank account to pay for glass repair and/or a whole new windshield.

But on inspection, I saw that there were no cracks in Petey’s windshield.  With a sigh of relief, we continued to drive and about a minute later POW! A very loud pop came from somewhere in the car.  At first, I thought, Oh, this is it…  my dear Petey has blown something and will never again drive me anywhere.  But I quickly realized that the car was still running fine except that I was covered in glass and the wind was rushing into the brand new hole in my sunroof.  

A rock had careened off the side of the passing car, hit the sunroof, cracked it, and caused it to literally explode all over us.  Now I ask you, what are the odds of that?! I’ve never had a vehicle with a sunroof before, but you can’t tell me that it’s common for them to crack…  or explode into a million shards of tinted glass.

After I cleared out the excess glass.

Needless to say, it put a kink in my day.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but we were all sufficiently freaked out about how on earth that could happen.  After we stopped briefly to brush ourselves off, we returned home, I vacuumed the entire vehicle and broke out the remaining sunroof glass so as to not spread bits of glass all over the highway (I still had to go to the store after all!)  

I think back on Jen and her theories about the little prince and fate intervening and I think Yep, maybe that’s what has just happened here.  Who knows?  I’ve written just over 65,000 words in my novel, it’s getting close to game time, meaning time to edit and find an agent and a publisher and do the real work to get it published, and fate is throwing everything he’s got at me.  

I am happy to report that I was able to find an affordable replacement sunroof at the local junkyard (yes, Petey is as old as dirt, I have no shame in putting junkyard parts on him) and he’s at the body shop getting fixed today.  Take that little prince!




And we are again complete!


Puppy Love

We got a new puppy about two weeks ago.  She’s amazing. But as puppies tend to be, she is a handful.  Her name is Miss Daisy Duke (I added the Duke part, just because she looks the exact opposite of the actual Daisy Duke… or even the Jessica Simpson version).  Miss Daisy is half pug and half shih-tzu. An odd combination, I realize, but so cute you almost have to look away when she stares at you.

And she has brown eyes…  which melts my heart!

The pug in her is definitely more dominant, but she’s got some thin, flyaway hair that give away the shih-tzu roots of her mother.  In a way, I feel for the little mama dog, since Miss Daisy looks soooo pug. It’s like when you run into a mother with her baby at the grocery store and that baby is the spitting image of the father, but you’ve heard the horror story of what the poor mother went through giving birth (two days of labor in the searing August heat when the air conditioner went out in the hospital) and the only thing you can say is, “She looks just like you!”  

It’s been quite an experience having something so fresh and new as a puppy come into our lives.  We do have baby chickens as well, but they pretty much take care of themselves. Baby chickens spend their days lounging around under their heat lamp in their little wheelbarrow, shielded from all the scary things of the world outside, eating their fill of chicken feed.  Puppies are, shall we say, a little more work.

We also go two new baby ducks, but they fall into the same care category as the chickens.  Although, we’ve had a little help raising the ducks. They are black and the same breed as our adult duck, who is a male.  Despite the fact that he is not their “mother,” the two babies follow him around like he’s the king of their world. And I think he likes the attention.  He never seemed to fit in quite right when he was the only duck in a flock of chickens. But since the babies have arrived, he has settled into a new rhythm, showing the little ones all over the yard, watching as they play in the duck pond, and bringing them back to the coop at night so they can sleep within its safe walls.  It’s amazing how just a little bit of fresh and new can perk up any creature, even our old, black duck.

That’s how I feel about Miss Daisy.  She has us all perked up.

The book is going well.  I am at about 40,000 words with 16 chapters written so far.  It will be a heck of a haul to get it finished before the kids are out for school.  But that is my goal. I want to be able to spend the summer editing my tush off and submitting to agents and publishers, while camping and playing outdoors and doing all those other fun summer things.  

I found that after I did my detailed snowflake outline, my book seems to be forming itself.  Almost like it already exists in my mind and I’m just the vessel from which the words flow to the page.  But still, it’s a research heavy book, so actually writing it takes up less time than researching the logistics of it.  It makes me wonder why I chose to write something so scientifically accurate instead of just going the Star Wars route and making things up on the fly.  

So the new puppy has taught me some things.  Note, I have had puppies before. My mother bred and raised cocker spaniels when I was a child, so we always had lots of dogs and, fairly regularly, new puppies around.  But let’s be real, I, as the child, was not primarily responsible for the care of those puppies, so they can hardly be classified as “mine.”

T Bone is our 12 year old toy fox terrier.  He was a puppy when I brought him home in November 2006, just one month after we got married.  He was tiny.  Like really tiny.  He fit in the palm of my hand, or in the pocket of Tim’s hoodie.  But when he was young, we were also so young and preoccupied with other things:  jobs and student loans, and eventually kids. I still feel a little guilty because we really couldn’t give him the attention he needed as a puppy.  Don’t get me wrong, he has had a very nice life and he is loved. But we could have done better.

So having a new puppy, something that we can really bring into this world from scratch, feels like a second chance.  I just pray that we don’t screw it up! So far though, it has gone really well. Here are a few things I have learned about having a puppy over the last couple of weeks:

  1. YouTube is a lifesaver.  Seriously, if you don’t watch YouTube, you’re missing out.  Why? Because it is literally full of advice for how to train your puppy.  And master the perfect “messy bun.” And contour like a boss.  And create the best ping pong ball trick shot to wow your friends.  And find the ultimate review of that power drill you’ve been eyeballing at the hardware store.  You name it, YouTube has a video about it.
  2. Rawhide is a gift from heaven.  I would equate Daisy’s little teeth to tiny hypodermic needles, eager to draw blood.  Chewing and puppies are synonymous, so rawhide bones have become our best friends.
  3. Chew toys don’t play with themselves, and neither do puppies.  Puppies are like children, they don’t like to play by themselves and you can buy them the best chew toys around, but if you don’t physically get down and play with them, those toys don’t mean boo.  
  4. There’s almost nothing better than puppy love.  Seriously though, puppy kisses are the best!



Run Girl, Run.

Over the last several weeks, I have been running.  No, not metaphorically, like “Oh, I’ve been running to catch up to the next big social media trend” or “I’ve been driving my kids all over the planet to their various activities.”  I’m talking literally. I’ve been running on my treadmill. This is a pretty big deal for me and I’ll try my best to explain why.

You see, when I was in the darkest days of my eating disorder, I ran.  A LOT. I ran every day. I ran as much as I possibly could. It was a way for me to punish my body for not conforming to how I wanted it to behave.  I thought that running was how I would get skinny… well, running and starving and calorie counting and binging and purging and all those other fun things. But I knew that running would up the ante.

I’ve never been all that athletic.  In high school, I was on the tennis team and I was okay.  Not great, but okay. I was also in the marching band, which, in my opinion, is definitely an aerobic activity.  I played softball for one year on the junior varsity team and I blew out my knee mid-season. That about sums up my athletic abilities.  It was a shame because for my age, I was quite tall. I would have probably made a good basketball player. But I was never into basketball…  too much running.

I remember in junior high, I tried to give basketball a shot, but I soon realized that running is hard work and that I am not very good at it.  Tennis was better. You still have to run when you play tennis, but it’s more of a short spurt kind of running and you get to stop after every point.  Whereas in basketball, you basically have to run around that court until the whistle blows. Back and forth, back and forth. In softball, the only running is around the bases and maybe to catch a fly ball.  That is, of course, assuming you can get on base, which was the main reason I wasn’t very good at softball either.  

But as I got older, I realized that I needed to exercise or I would become fat.  It was never a matter of being healthy. I hear women say that to themselves all the time (and to everyone on their Facebook friends list)…  I just want to be healthy, it’s not about the weight.  I call BS on that.  I always knew it was about the weight.  Skinny at any cost.  Why the hell else would I run?!

In college, I had a friend named Bridget.  I think she spelled it a different way, but you get the idea.  Bridget was on the track and field team at Texas Tech. She ran long distances and she was very good, which is evidenced by the fact that she actually made the Tech track team.  I was always fascinated by Bridget. First, she could eat whatever she wanted and still be skinny. But she didn’t just eat whatever she wanted all the time, she actually ate healthy stuff because she knew she needed to eat healthy in order to be a good athlete.  Second, she actually enjoyed running.  That was a foreign concept for me.  Not a single cell in my body enjoyed the act of running.  But Bridget liked it. She would go for a five, six, ten mile run.  Every. Single. Day. Excuse me!? It could be that Bridget was full of bologna and simply did a very good job at faking it.  But she seemed legit to me.

Years later, when I was really at my lowest point, I was running regularly too.  I hated it. I hated to run.  Running made me feel like a fat slob, huffing and puffing my way down the dirt road that we live on.  I hated running on the treadmill even more because it was incredibly boring and I still felt like a sweaty pig, running my ass off in the pursuit of skinny.  

When I finally made the decision to get some help for my eating disorder, I started to see a counselor named Bette.  As I went to Bette’s office week after week for six months, my mentality started to change. Note – one does not change their mentality unless they are ready and willing to change it.  The same goes for any type of addiction. You must be ready to give up the addiction in order to be successful.  That’s how I was. I had had my limit of the terrible mental struggle that I went through on a daily (or hourly) basis.  The terrible things I said to myself. The vicious lies I told myself about my body. I was tired of it all.

But the longer I stayed with Bette, the less of a hold that the depraved voice in my head had on my thoughts.  I was able to acknowledge the presence of the terrible voice, but I could ignore it and let it scream and cry until it finally became silent.  It became easier and easier to reject the notions that diets were good and eating was bad.

I remember what Bette told me in one of my very first visits to her.  She said that I was free to give myself permission to eat what I wanted.  What?! Is this woman crazy?! I thought that if I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted, I would balloon into the biggest human being alive.  I simply did not trust myself… at all. Not even a little bit. But since Bette told me that I had to do it, and I genuinely believed that Bette could help me, I did it.  I gave myself permission to eat.

Since that time, I eat what I feel like eating.  Note, my fears about gaining weight were valid. I certainly did gain  weight in that first year.  At first, I was worried about this, but with time (and Vitamin P) I was able to release those worries and just move forward with my new, I-love-my-body, mentality.  

But with recovery came some unexpected anxieties.  I got very nervous about doing anything that might disrupt my new, more stable attitude towards my body and the food that I put into it.  That included staying away from all of those nasty eating disorder habits that I had stuck to religiously for 20 years. For example, I refused to weigh myself and I made this request clear when I visited the doctor.  You can weigh me, but if I even get a whiff of the number, you will rue the day you messed with me!  I was also reluctant to log food or count calories.  I did that so religiously during my twenties and early thirties that I couldn’t bear to spend another second of my precious life on Earth counting calories, or points, or carbs, or fat grams, or protein count.  

Another one of those nasty eating disorder habits was running.  I came to see running as a punishment. It was something I had to do to my body because I was too weak to stick to a strict diet of celery and popcorn.  If I were only strong enough to stay under 500 cals per day, I would not have to run. But since I busted and had 800 calories today (oh the shame!) I must run off those extra 300 calories.  This was my thought process behind running. So, as I started to heal and my mind shifted to a more healthy state, I stopped running completely. It was something I hated doing anyway and it had an even more negative connotation because of the disorder.  So I quit… cold turkey. No more running for me.

But there’s a problem with quitting.  Unfortunately, as I get older, I’m starting to feelold. And I’m only 36 for heaven’s sake!  But, because I spent so many years abusing my body and because I put on weight in recovery, I felt like a creaky old lady trying to hide the fact that my back and hips and knees were killing me.  It came to a point where walking was difficult. I’d have to stop and stretch my back just to make it across the parking lot at WalMart.

So, I decided to start running again.  And I’ll tell you what… it felt great.  Like, really great.  Whenever I would walk on the treadmill, my back would be so tight that I’d have to stop after 15 minutes just so I could rest my back.  But running did not cause this issue. I could run for 30 minutes without having to stop for my back. Not only that, it made my legs and sides feel better and stronger.  It made my knees less creaky. It even make my arms feel stronger.

Now, it’s true that I am, by no means, a good runner.  I run at a very slow pace and I have to stop and walk from time to time.  It’s much more like jogging than running.  But it feels great!  And my body is thanking me for it.

It makes me see the whole point of it all.  Like Bridget, who loved to run, I too can enjoy it.  Not because it will make me skinny, but because it takes away those little aches and pains that come with age.  I can enjoy running for that simple fact. It’s an activity that is good for my body and it makes me feel like a superstar!  

Oh yeah, and the book is coming along really well.  I’m almost at 30,000 words and I couldn’t be more happy about the way it’s turning out.  Thanks for listening y’all!



What did we do before YouTube?

I’m about 10,000 words into my novel. So far, it’s going well. Except for the fact that every time I sit down to write I have to give myself a little pep talk about how this novel doesn’t suck and how yes, I too can be a successful novelist. Trust me, there’s a reason that I didn’t find this calling earlier in my life… because frankly, I wouldn’t have been strong enough mentally to do something like this earlier in my life.

Writing is tough work. It’s really difficult to put yourself out there. Even if it’s only fiction, you’re still slicing off a piece of your soul and putting out there on a plate for people to gobble up.

But for the first time in my life, I feel deep down in my bones that I have a good idea and that I am actually capable of writing it. I also believe that it will be worthy of publishing and that perhaps, one day, it will be read by millions. Okay, so I know that’s a pretty lofty goal. But as Kurt Russell aka Herb Brooks said in Miracle… That’s why I want to pursue it. Plus, nobody ever started up a book thinking nobody will want to read it.

Anyway, the writing is going really well. So far, I’ve done a pretty good job of shooing away the doubts that muck up my mind. I’ll write more about how I’ve done that later. But it’s working because every day, after I get my word goal written, I feel like a superstar!

Now, the biggest question I have is this: What did we do before YouTube? And Wikipedia? Seriously. I’m writing this science fiction novel and I spend every spare moment of my time either reading science fiction (I am currently on my second go-around reading The Martian. Haven’t read it? You’re missing out), or watching YouTube videos about space travel.

What do I watch? EVERYTHING. I need to cram as much knowledge about space as I can fit into my brain. So I watch anything that looks appealing. Some of the videos do actually play right into my story and I spend the entire time taking notes and thinking Yes! This plays right into my story! Some videos don’t seem to have anything to do with my story, but I still watch because I’ve found that some of the best ideas come from those YouTube videos that I didn’t even think would pertain.

Here’s a list of some of my recent Internet searches:

Space suits

Space disasters

Command modules

Cassini/Huygens Mission

Secret soviet space missions

Communications satellites

Geostationary Earth Orbit


International Space Station (Many, many videos are available on the ISS, just FYI)

Space shuttle flights

Heat shields

Ion thrusters

Centrifugal force

Plants grown in space

Humidity levels in greenhouses

Industrial dry lubricants for ball bearings

Kevlar and its uses in space

You get the idea. What have I learned from it all? Pay attention to everything. Keep your mind open because you never know where your next breakthrough might come from. And plus, this is stuff that I am really interested in (nerd alert, I know). So, watching YouTube videos about how an interplanetary probe uses gravity assist to reach the outer solar system doesn’t really bother me. It’s actually turning into the best job I’ve ever had! Now, to finish the book… that’s the final frontier!

Squeeze the day peeps!



Snowflake and Carrie

I’ve had a breakthrough.  If you’re following me, you know that I haven’t the foggiest idea about how to write a novel…  But I am actually writing one.  I have an idea for my story, one that’s been semi-formed in my mind for over a year now. I started writing it based on what I know so far, but I found myself staring aimlessly at my computer trying to decide what to write next.  Like, hoping that I would just figure it out.  

So I turned to my good friend Google.  Apparently, Google knows everything.  I searched the phrase “how to write a novel” and clicked on the very first link that popped up (the “I’m feeling lucky” button doesn’t show up on my browser tabs for some reason).  It was an article written by  Randy Ingermanson aka “The Snowflake Guy” according to his website.  He’s a theoretical physicist and a novelist and he’s known for something called The Snowflake Method to outline your novel.  He states in the article that it can triple your writing speed.  I was skeptical…  But when I actually started to work on it, I realized that by gosh, he might be right.  

I’ll spare you the details about how The Snowflake Method works. You certainly are welcome to Google it yourself.  But the short of it is, that it outlines the steps to designing your novel. Here’s what I learned. 

  1. It is important to create a single sentence to describe your book.  Trust me, this is much harder than it sounds.  It took me a whole hour to write mine.  And I’m not even sure I’m  happy with it.  But for a start, it’ll do
  2. Map your characters.  Characters are the heart of the novel.  Yes, some novels are driven by the story, but all novels, even the story-driven ones, have characters.  And that’s what people relate to.
  3. I can actually use Excel!!  Joy and happiness!  I love Excel.  Of course, it doesn’t come into play much when writing, but this guy suggests to take your single sentence synopsis, expand it into a full page, then write each scene in a different row on a spreadsheet.  This is your basic outline.  And you can move the scenes around as you need them.  I wrote mine in chronological order and then moved them around based on how I want to tell the story.

I am BLOWN away by how well this mapping process went.  I now officially have my theme, plot, storyline, characters, and outline fully nailed down!  It will change, of course, as I continue to tweak it, but for now, I have a basis to follow.  I have it neatly broken down into four parts and 52 chapters.

On another note, I’ve been trying to read as much science fiction as I can, and I found out, just a few months ago, that you can get library books on your phone!  Mind = blown.  Now I don’t have to pay for books!  Let’s be real, I’m much more likely to check out a book on my phone than to drive to the library.  It’s an app called Overdrive.  All you need is a library card and viola!  Insta-library books!  So anyway, I’ve been reading science fiction, but I wanted to read a book that dealt with mother/daughter relationships since I’ve got one of those in my story. The only book that I could think of that had a mother/daughter relationship was Carrie by Stephen King.  I know.  Of all the ridiculous, messed up, insane, totally whacked-out mother/daughter relationships out there, I picked the MOST crazy one.  But I decided that even a totally insane mother/daughter relationship might be worth exploring.

So I checked out Carrie on Saturday, started reading it Saturday night, and was completely finished with it by Sunday afternoon.  I’m no stranger to Carrie.  I’ve seen the “plug it up” scene, and I’ve watched John Travolta bleed the pig, and I’ve seen Sissy Spacek scream in the closet, and walk in a trance through the gym, covered in blood.  So I had expectations about it and I certainly thought I knew how it ended.  Boy was I wrong!  That was a heck of a good book and I highly recommend it if you’re into that type of crazy, terror-filled, Stephen Kingesque drama.  It’s not my usual cup of tea, but like I said, I got to examine a really messed up mother/daughter relationship and a heck of a good novel at the same time.  Two birds, one stone.  Plus, it’s short.  Added bonus!  Take care peeps!