Monday, December 26, 2016

Running Priorities

Merry Day-After-Christmas, everyone!

I'm sure you're all busy with the aftermath of Christmas and with spending time with family. I know I am. Which is why I'm going to keep this post short and hopefully hilarious.

I run. This is no secret. I've posted about it before. In fact, a number of my past posts have been about me being surprised with the changes that come to body and mind as I become more and more of a "runner." You see, I didn't start out thinking I was a runner. I was one of these people:

Because this is where I started and where I grounded my identity, I still kind of see myself in these terms. So, now, I keep doing this:

"Oh, man, when did I become someone who likes flax seeds?"
"I ran six miles this morning and I loved it. Who does that?"
"Personal best. I broke the eight-minute mile. That's gotta be a mistake; I don't do things like that."

I could keep going (I'm still trying to verify the less-than-eight-minute-mile thing). But my favorite thing was when my priorities shifted to a very strange place. For example, if I get up and look outside in the winter and the sidewalks are caked in ice, I will 1) get annoyed because I can't run, and then 2) decide I can't run because if I do I could slip and break a leg which means I wouldn't be able to run for a long time. That last part in italics is the big, horrifying problem.


Another example: I got sick for a few days. The cold was in my chest, and they suggest that if the cold is in your chest, you don't run. In your head is fine, though. But it was in my chest and I reluctantly skipped my runs those days because I didn't want to get worse and not be able to run for even longer.

I have become a person whose priority in staying healthy and safe on runs is so I can keep going on runs. I want to stay safe so I can keep running. It sounds like an odd priority to me, the newbie runner who still doesn't quite see herself as a capital-R Runner, but believe it or not, I'm not alone in it. Which brings me to Christmas.

As a runner, I got a lot of running gear for Christmas, including this reflective vest:

Now I can go running in the dark and be better seen by cars! It looks like it works; you can see the gleam where my flash reflects on the vest.

So, good, I have a reflective vest for running. I wanted one, and now I have one. But then I see the side of the package:


So, they're telling the buyers that they should get this vest so they'll be seen and be able to run longer. It's hard to run if you've been hit by a car and have broken bones, damaged organs, or are dead. But they don't say, "Be seen. Live longer." No, they say, "Be seen. Run longer." You don't want to get injured. Be safe out there, because if you're not, you won't be able to run, and that would be a disaster.

I have been laughing all morning. All I can think of is this:

"If you get hit by a car because no one sees you, you could be killed. Or worse, you won't be able to run."

Running really does change the brain. Good to see I'm not alone.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Unsung Literary Hero of Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!

I have begun my holiday vacation, so I'll keep this post short. I'm taking this opportunity to let my brain rest so I can write all the better in the new year.

So, I want to ask you, faithful readers, if you know this man:

This is E.T.A. Hoffmann. Know the name? If not, don't be ashamed. A lot of people don't; I wouldn't have if I didn't study this guy in college. But we owe this guy for one of the most iconic traditions of our modern Christmas.

The Nutcracker.

E.T.A. Hoffmann was a Prussian Romantic writer. He wrote the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King in 1816. It was adapted into a ballet by the famous composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky  and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and premiered on December 18, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.

We know the ballet today, and it's performed by many ballet troupes across the world every Christmas. We know the movie adaptations, and the references in other holiday works. But it all started with E.T.A. Hoffmann's novella.

The story itself is darker and more fairy tale-like than even the ballet. It answers questions about the prince and how this whole story is set up before Marie (or Clara, in the ballet) even gets the nutcracker doll. Here's a link to the whole story, if you'd like to read it for yourselves:

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

So, this holiday, I just wanted to pay homage to one of the great names of Christmas tradition, who may often be overlooked. E.T.A. Hoffmann, we raise our mugs of cocoa to you.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Special Christmas Special Post

'Tis the season to make cookies and watch lots of Christmas specials.

This week is my last week of the semester, which means this week I'm doing a ton of grading. Which means, in turn, that I spent this last weekend doing all the things I knew I wouldn't have time to do during the grading, such as seeing the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Concert and the lights at Temple Square on Friday night:

Baking Christmas cookies Saturday:

And watching Christmas specials Sunday:

(It wasn't that Christmas special; I save that one for later. It was actually this one):

I'm an adult. I watch cartoons. No regrets.

Anyway, I love Christmas specials. They're rare TV fare. It may not seem like it now, when all TV seems to offer are Christmas specials, but think about it. We only get them one month out of the year. Might as well enjoy them when they're here.

Especially the Phineas and Ferb one. That one's gold.

Why do I love them so much? Well, there's the festivity of the Christmas special. We see them and know it's a holiday season. There's also the nostalgia. The old specials that I watched as a kid take me back to the first time I saw them, and even the ones I haven't grown up with still remind me of being a kid and waiting for Santa to come.

But I think it's also the goodness and innocence in so many Christmas specials. They seem to be overwhelmingly hopeful and optimistic, even in shows that aren't by nature that way. There's something pure about Christmas that changes what it touches.

Yes, there are bad specials. There are the poorly made and annoying. I think that's more a crime of bad writing than a crime of genre, because there are the good ones, too. Here's a short list of some of (I think) the best, not in any kind of order:

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated one)
3. A Year Without a Santa Claus (Rankin-Bass is classic)
4. Elf
5. Arthur Christmas
6. The Nutcracker
7. The Muppet Christmas Carol (or any good Christmas Carol retelling)
8. It's a Wonderful Life

Yes, Elf is a movie. But it's a good one. Arthur Christmas is another good, little-known Christmas movie. Nutcracker counts if you can find a good performance, same with Christmas Carol. I could keep going, honestly. There are so many good options out there.

I love me a good Christmas special.


Hey, by the way, are you looking for a good gift for a book lover, especially a young book lover? Don't mind if the book comes 4 months late? Then maybe you should consider Under Locker and Key by yours truly as a Christmas gift! Here's the link to the Amazon page:

Under Locker and Key by Allison K. Hymas

Or maybe put it on your own wish list. It's up for pre-order!

Monday, December 5, 2016

How to Run in Winter

Last night I checked the weather report because this is Utah and it's December and I wanted to know if it was feasible for me to do my habitual fast run on Monday morning or if it would be too snowy or icy. said a winter storm was coming late Sunday night, so the ground would be covered in snow the next morning.

I thought, "Fine. I'll run Tuesday and sleep in tomorrow."

Feeling good with my decision, I fell asleep. Well, I wake up this morning early, look outside, and THERE'S NOT A SINGLE FLAKE ON THE SIDEWALK!

So I ended up doing my run. I'm happy I was able to do it before any snow could get here this week, but at the time I woke up (having come to terms with my decision), I felt like this:

I feel the same way when I'm planning a run and then I look outside and see something like this:

Winter weather can really ruin a perfectly good running schedule.

But I don't let it because I'm stubborn and I really do like running. I've learned how to run as safely as possible in the winter, even when it's snowing or has snowed recently. These last few weeks I've had to remind myself of what I've learned, which is this:

Allison K. Hymas's Rules for Running in Winter:
  •  Watch the weather report. If it's calling for snow and ice and you can change your schedule, do it.
  • If you can't or won't change your schedule, consider changing your route. Some places maintain trails and sidewalks better than others. Time changes (later in the day, when the sun has melted some of the ice) also work well.
  • If that fails and you end up running in snow, slow it down. Running fast is fun right up until you slip.
  • Know your route. Where are the places where water tends to pool? Any gutters? Broken sidewalk? Remember those and slow down for them, or avoid them altogether.
  • There is gear for running in snow, like Yaktrax. Look into that if you can.
  • Choose your steps wisely. Look ahead, and if you see clear sidewalk, aim for it. If it's shiny, DO NOT STEP THERE!
  • Snow isn't as slick as ice. If you have a choice between ice and snow, pick snow.
  • Look for patches of salt. They mark ice, but they also mark ice melt and they themselves are gritty. Step on the salt, not by it.
  • Leaves. If the leaf is stuck flat to the sidewalk, don't step on it. It's wet and icy. If it has texture (dry leaf), step carefully. It might give you traction. It might also be hiding stretches of ice.
  • Watch yourself when crossing the street. Cars slip. You may think the car can stop by the time they reach your crosswalk or stoplight, and maybe they think so too, but they might not. Extra caution is always advised.
I've been trying to keep all of these things in mind as I run, which adds a mental effort to something that's already difficult. Winter running is hard. The air is cold and occasionally full of snow, so it's hard to breathe, and I'm carrying extra weight in my jacket and thicker clothing, to say nothing of the darkness of a winter morning.

Too bad I enjoy the feeling of racing downhill at top speed so much, or the peacefulness of running slowly while the snow quietly falls in the early morning, the houses around me adorned with Christmas lights.

Yeah, I think I'll keep up the winter running.

Before I go, I'd like to report that I had a meeting with my writing group to talk about the work in progress, and I am SO EXCITED to finish this book now. I have so many new ideas that change, somewhat, my original plans for the ending, but I like my story better with the changes. Also, my group is great. They're so helpful and they know how to give criticism without making me feel like me and my book are worthless. Also, one friend made a movie cast for my characters, which I enjoyed seeing. Maybe I'll post her cast when the book is finished.

And one more thing. A fellow 2017 debut writer has a blog where she's interviewing other 2017 debut authors. If you'd like to learn more about some of the up-and-coming MG writers and their books, follow the link below and check out her blog!

Melissa Roske - Ask the Author: Patricia Bailey

I will also be interviewed on this blog as my book approaches publication, so stay tuned!