Do It On Your Own

Short post tonight, because it was a long day tacked on to a longer night. The Super Bowl party was a hit, though half our guests barely caught five minutes of the game. Good food and good company, I suppose?

Today was my last day of physical therapy. I’ve gotten stronger since I started last year, but let’s be honest: I’m not very good about keeping up my exercises at home. I’ve got a long way to go, but at this point, there’s no need to keep making appointments with my PT guy, so I’m officially discharged. It’s just time to buckle down and figure out a way to get my exercises in and do them consistently. That, coupled with my time on the elliptical, is how I’ll get stronger.

And don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I’m still jonesing to take up running like I was last year. Rather, it’s the realization that everything I do between my day job and my hobbies involve me sitting on my ass. I need to get stronger so that there’s less pressure on my joints, which means I’ll be dealing with less pain as I get older. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

That said, I wish there were more hours in the day, or that I was the type of person who really looked forward to exercise of any kind, or barring even that, I wish I was the type of person who was motivated by the benefits of exercise, even if I didn’t like the exercise itself.

I’m not, so it’s a matter of buckling down and doing it.

Today’s headline brought to you from “Invincible” by Muse, from the album Black Holes and Revelations. It’s one of my favorite albums by them, and part of the playlist for my Codename: Telepathic Soulmates project. That’s right…I’m getting in the mood! You can listen to “Invincible” here.

It’s Been A While…

I haven’t posted in nearly a week. I apologize. It’s funny to watch how my site’s stats go downhill when there isn’t regular content, but my brain has been so full of stuff that posting in the blog has been the last thing on my mind.

So to catch-up:

1) The husband and I marathoned the fourth and most recent season of Homeland. This last week was the 10 year anniversary of the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica, and one of the articles I read discussed how the last ten years of television has failed the expectations set up by the show. Mostly, it discusses how science fiction and fantasy has failed, and it makes some interesting points. It also talks about how the successors of the show aren’t actually science fiction or fantasy at all, and after watching this fourth season of Homeland, I think you can make a case that this show could indeed be a successor. No, it’s not science fiction or fantasy. But you want to take some (not all) of the really hard questions BSG asks, the moral ambiguity it puts its characters in and find a current show doing the same thing? Take a good look at Homeland, especially this last season. Damn, it was good.

2) I’ve been reading both published and unpublished work. The latter has taken up most of my time, but I also sank my teeth into Jo Walton’s My Real Children and found myself completely absorbed. The structure is such that once you get to a certain point, you’re compelled to read two chapters at a time, due to the parallel structure. And I’ll give Walton credit where credit is due: at first, I feared she was making a case for one obviously good life and one obviously bad one, and yet it slowly became obvious that wasn’t the case. A clear picture is painted in the last chapter, and the reader is always asking oneself, which life would YOU choose? The ending doesn’t provide a clear answer, but it definitely provides food for thought, especially in light of both realities being alternate universes to ours. A fascinating read, and one I could read again.

3) I’ve changed up my elliptical schedule. Since 2013, I’ve been getting up early to put in my thirty minutes on every work day, but the end of 2014 had me cutting that out completely, and while in 2015 I’ve gotten back on the saddle, I’m looking at a serious change to my work schedule which, in order to keep working out in the mornings, means I’d have to get up an hour earlier, and I’m not sure my body will tolerate that. So, before the work schedule changes, I’m retraining myself to work out in the evenings. The pros: I can do the full 30 minutes without feeling rushed, and I’m fed with plenty of calories, so I don’t get tired. The cons: it takes an hour when it’s all said and done, and I have to take a second shower that day.

4) Nothing of note to report on the writing front. That being said, I’m starting to make plans. I have three projects that I want to reach a certain state, and I making plans to ask myself the following: 1) what is my goal for this project? 2) when do I plan to accomplish this goal? It’s a good start, considering I’m notoriously bad at PLANNING things when it comes to writing, unless it’s something simple, like a word count per day. But what I’m embarking on is a level up, maybe two levels up. We’ll see how it goes.

5) That’s it for now. My brain is still kind of fuzzy and fill, so I’ll leave you with this song that I pulled the headline from: “It’s Been a While,” from Staind’s Breaking the Cycle. You can hear it here.

Cat Be Nimble, Cat Be Quick

Today was my first physical therapy session of 2015. Somehow and miraculously, I’m getting stronger, which is news to me, since I’ve done a shit job of taking care of myself the past three months. Of course, 2015 is a new year, and I resolve to do better, but I assumed my session today would kick my ass.

But apparently I’m getting stronger. My therapist wanted to try some new exercises with me today, and while he was setting up one of them, I made the smart-ass remark, “Oh great. You’re gonna make me jump those, aren’t you?”

“Oh no,” he said, “But we can do that next!”

And despite my protests, he set up two jumping exercises while I attempted this balance and coordination thing with a four-pound ball that’s apparently supposed to be strength-training.

The jumping exercises: in one case, I had to jump up on a step. “Light as a cat!” he kept telling me, and I told him that was a bad analogy: my cat is a 17lbs cat, and there’s nothing light about the way he jumps. As I practiced the exercise, he kept reminding me, “Light as a cat!” and I decided to think differently: spry as a kitten. Yes, that works. Funny that last night, one of the lines I wrote a few times during my free-writing session involved my heroine thinking she’s weak as a kitten.

There’s some kind of irony in that, me thinking I’d be weak as a kitten before my session, and then being a spry one instead.

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Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 1,217 words
Total word count: 3,833 words
A good session last night, despite writing in bed. Since I’ve got a laptop now, I’m trying to mix up the writing locations a bit, keep myself from getting into a rut or settling into super-bad posture, which is what I think sparked the migraine of DOOM back in October. And after hearing the 12/21/14 episode of Writing Excuses, I think it’s an even better decision: all too often, we forget that writing is supposed to be FUN. I think more thoughts are coalescing about this topic, so they’ll get their own post, but the point is, I’m trying to mix things up this year, writing what I what, when I want, how I want. We’ll see how it goes.

Currently Reading: Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance
Enjoyed the Alexie, but now it’s time to start nibbling at my pre-Hugo reading pile. Finishing up VanderMeer’s weird-but-wonderful trilogy is a must.

Next up: tonight we finished up the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises, and I have some THOUGHTS about the re-watch. Those can come later. We’re saving tonight’s new episodes of Gotham and Sleepy Hollow for later this week, but tomorrow, I’m super-excited to be watching the two-hour premiere of Agent Carter live. What’s Agent Carter, you may ask? Just put Marvel, the television show Alias and the year 1946 in a blender, and that’s Agent Carter. I can’t wait. I hope to hell it’s worth it.

Becoming Janus

Happy New Year’s Eve! It’s the time of year to sit down, reflect on what’s gone by, to look forward to the future, and to attempt to mold that future through a resolution or two. It sounds daunting because we’re talking about, yanno, a year, and it sounds daunting because we usually have BIG IDEAS and BIG PLANS for that year, and often, it’s easy to fall off the saddle before January has even wrapped up.

I have some friends who don’t do resolutions. Not just the ones who don’t do resolutions at all, but those who simply have a different approach. My friend Nu Yang names her years: she gives herself a theme and focuses each year to make sure everything she does is supporting that theme. I love that idea. It’s not one I can embrace for myself, because I need more direction, but I love it. However one approaches a new year, if it works, hats off to you!

As for me, it’s time to reflect: what happened, where I am now, and what I hope to maybe accomplish in 2015. If you’re interested, just click the cut. If you’re not, Happy New Year! May your 2015 be better than 2014.

I sure as hell hope mine is.

Continue reading

A Year in Reflection: 2013

Every year, I struggle to believe that it’s already over. I remember when I was a child, when my year was structured into definitive patterns: school, break, vacation, etc. Now the months just slide on by, because every day of every month is marked with more of the same. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. When I was compiling addresses for Christmas cards this year, I always felt at a loss when people asked what I’ve been up to lately, because for me, the answer is, the same old thing. I don’t look at my life as anything interesting or exciting, and as a result, when people ask what’s up, all I do is shrug, you know?

I realized, a few days ago, that such a response is somewhat disingenuous of me. Because while my life is not filled with the crazy ups and downs (we don’t have kids, we’re not having marital difficulty, we’ve not moved or had major job upheavals, etc), there are things I should be really, really proud of this year, things that are worth talking about. So I thought I’d share them here, with you.

1) I retired the book blog. It was a bittersweet event, but one I knew needed to happen, because it was a major source of anxiety for me, and I found I was getting more and more jaded by the books I read, rather than simply enjoying them for what they were. Looking back, I’m very proud of all the work I did there and the community I fostered, but I don’t regret closing it. I can’t believe I found the time to read so much or write so many reviews. But that’s because I’ve filled that time with other things.

2) I’m slowly getting over my cooking-phobia. It’s a running joke in mine and my husband’s families: I don’t cook. I can do a few things, sure, but any more than those few things I’m likely to screw up somehow (like the time I put the Hot Pocket in the microwave without its cooking sleeve). My husband and I have a handful of things we argue about, and cooking is one of them. However, ever since I discovered the Andes Mint Cookie recipe, I’ve been starting to branch out and getting a wee bit more comfortable in the kitchen. Mostly cookies, and cake-mix cookies at that. However, I’ve also tried a few glazes for salmon, and of the meals we usually make, I started helping out more and have gradually gotten to the point where, if need be, I can do it myself. I know I need to branch out even more, but this year’s been a good step.

3) I’ve actually developed an exercise regimen and I’ve stuck to it. Mostly. The spring got me walking again, and my employer’s walking initiative kicked my motivation into competitive mode so that I can reach and pass 10,000 steps a day. Not only did that get me walking daily, but it also got me on the elliptical every morning before work for 30 minutes. The walking initiative is over, and with the time change and colder weather, walking is on the back-burner until the weather warms up again, but I’ve kept up the elliptical, which is something of an amazing accomplishment for me. I’d like to find something to complement it next year, and that’s going to take some digging, but working out on a regular basis has been an amazing thing, not because I love exercise or anything, but because I’ve kept it up (we won’t talk about the recent holiday gorging on sweets or the days I’ve been skipping due to my cold, no sir).

4) While I can’t talk specifics, we reached a great milestone at work, and as a result, I was treated to an all-expense paid trip to St. Louis to visit headquarters and attend some fantastic sessions to keep upping my game at work and sessions that I could also apply to my own personal life in terms of, well, just being better. Learning how to undo negative thinking and trying to take more positive routes isn’t something that’s done overnight, but trying to take the more positive route in my head instead of the negative one has been really helpful and uplifting. I find myself more cheerful and less stressed. That doesn’t mean NO stress. I’ve had a few late nights at work where it felt like everything was piling up on me, but the difference is before, I would’ve gone home with a migraine, and now I’m not. This is something I’m still working on, but that trip to St. Louis taught me a lot about myself and my job and what I want to accomplish, and that’s a good thing.

5) This is more nebulous, but I realized I’ve got to stop compartmentalizing my life. I’ve always treated my life like a little kid treats their dinner plate: things must not touch! So I had college friends in one box, writing friends in another, family in another, my interests in a billion different ones, and so on and so forth. Do you know how draining it is trying to be one person for each of things things, rather than embracing it all and saying if you don’t like it, fuck it? Seriously. Growing up, I groomed myself to be the kind of person that is accommodating and to be what other people want and expect. And to some extent, that’s a good trait to have (especially when you work with the public on any level), but everywhere else, it’s exhausting. I shouldn’t be apologetic for my interests, no matter how disparate they appear, and I need to stop living in the mind set of “One day, when I grow up, life will be THIS.” Fuck that. I’m 33 years old and living life NOW. What, exactly, am I waiting for? It’s time to take who and what I am and take the cards life’s given me and play the best hand possible, rather than waiting on the magical winning hand that’ll give me the ever-elusive jackpot. And on that note:

6) Like Minute Maid’s slogan says, “Put good in, get good out.” Where I live often gives me a crushing feeling of isolation. None of the people I would call good friends or even best friends are local, and all the writing events or readings I would love to attend aren’t even remotely local, which means in order to visit the people I love, or attend the events I want to, I need to travel, which costs vacation time and money, both of which are not limitless. As a result, I’d find myself feeling bruised and chafed when friends would talk about things they did on Facebook, things I would’ve loved to do but I wasn’t able to (or wasn’t invited). But I realized: what do I expect? I’m not reaching out to these people, I’m not making my interests or wants or desires known. I’ve let my relationships go stagnant, so how can I expect them to include me when I’m probably just an occasional reminder on a Facebook page? I have to start putting myself out there. I have to start re-cultivating these relationships. I have to stop looking at my local friendships as less superior and embrace the time I have with these people, because while I am an introvert by nature, I require a healthy dose of social interaction. In person, online, whatever: put good in, get good out. Time to stop looking in and start looking out.

7) Part of that “put good in, get good out” philosophy is something I’m attributing to myself as a writer. Last year, I finished the crap-draft of a fantasy novel that, in 2014, I’m going to sit down and really hammer into shape. But for 2013, I’m close to finishing a prequel novel to my thesis novel (code name Telepathic Soulmates for those of you who are following up on that). The prequel wasn’t originally going to be an actual novel, but it’s kind of turned into that. I would kill to have it done by the end of the year, but that means I probably shouldn’t be writing this blog post, because I’ve got a decent chunk to churn out if I want to meet that deadline. Regardless, I’ve been happy with my progress this year. I’m starting to take myself a little more seriously as a writer, and I’m trying to look ahead about what I want to accomplish, when I want to accomplish it, and how. The Telepathic Soulmates world is a big one, and I realize it’s not something I want to rush out, because I’m still making discoveries that are molding and shaping the world and its characters. That’s why I’m going to polish the fantasy novel (code name: Magic Elves) next year so that I’ll have something to shop around that isn’t my precious, you know? Also helping shape my writerly frame of mind is the weekly podcast Writing Excuses (15 minutes, because you’re in a hurry, and they’re not that smart–>that’s their slogan. If that doesn’t make you want to listen to the podcast, I don’t know what will). If you’re a writer of any sort (hobby, amateur, want-to-be-professional, whatever), start listening to this puppy. It’s free, and it’s worth it.

8) On December 30th, my husband and I will celebrate our 15 year Together anniversary, and our 5 year wedding anniversary. That’s right: we got married on our ten year dating anniversary. The plan, provided this cold I’m fighting doesn’t get in the way, to go to our favorite fancy-pants restaurant and enjoy good food and good drinks. But 15 years together without killing each other is an amazing thing, and hell, so is five years married. We’ve got each other, and we’ve got the cat. Things are good.

9) I got off the pill. Women know of what I speak. While the hubby and I aren’t trying to have children, being on the pill for so long was doing things to my hormone levels that frankly wasn’t good for me mentally. I’ve been off the pill since June, and that, combined with the exercise and various tweaks I’m making to my diet, have me feeling far, far better, which makes everyone happy.

10) No list is complete without 10 items, right? So last but not least, I’m trying to be more decisive. It’s not that I wasn’t before, but you remember what I said about being accommodating? It’s a bad thing when you’re doing it all the time, or when you think your wants aren’t as important, or you feel like you shouldn’t have the things you want for whatever reason (but namely reasons that are all in your head and involve you punishing yourself). So to that affect, I’ve been trying to be a bit more assertive in the little things: if I want something (for dinner, to listen to on a car ride, to watch a particular movie), I say so. If I definitely don’t want something, I say so. It doesn’t mean I get my way every time, but at least I’m making a clear declaration, you know?

BONUS ITEM: I served on a jury for the first time this year, on a murder trial no less. It was fascinating, and if you missed my break down, you can read all about it here.

That’s my 2013. There were other minor ups and downs, but nothing to expound upon here (though I could put up a post from my cat’s point of view of the year. That would be mighty entertaining). I’ll probably try and put up a post about what I hope for 2014 or what I look forward to, but that’s gonna have to wait. Right now, I’ve got laundry to do, reading to do, and a book to finish writing.

How was your 2013? What was your biggest accomplishment? Any regrets? Things that you want to make better?

Podcasts versus Music (On the Elliptical)

When I started getting my sorry ass up at 6:00 am to work out on the elliptical, I filled my Nano with podcasts. I liked putting on something that woke up my brain while I was using the elliptical to wake up my body. Well, this morning, I’d run through my available podcasts and was too lazy to download a new one to the Nano, so I put on a music playlist and started working out.

And I’ll be honest: with the exception of the FIRST day I did it (by it I mean waking up at six am, getting on the elliptical for 20 minutes, and feeling my body go OMG-WTF-WHY?!?!?!?!), this is the hardest workout I’ve had. I mean that in a good way: I didn’t feel sick or tired after, but I definitely worked up more of a sweat than usual, and my pores still felt like sweating even after I showered and dried off. Definitely got my heart-rate up, which is the whole point of exercise, right?

Which makes me realize that while I like stimulating my brain first thing in the morning, music may be the way to go. 2-3 minute songs also make the 30 minutes on the machine go by faster, especially since my pace is more determined by whatever beat I’m listening to.

For those of you wondering what I’m listening to, here’s the breakdown: Continue reading

Calico versus The Elliptical

For those of you curious how my crazy idea to end all crazy ideas worked out, here’s the rundown:

Tuesday (Day One): put in 20 minutes on the elliptical, kind of wanted to die, definitely felt a bit sick to stomach. Walked two laps around the neighborhood that evening and my legs felt like they belonged to Gumby afterwards.

Wednesday (Day Two): put in 25 minutes on the elliptical, but sipped some G2 (different than regular Gatorade as it has lower calories) before, during, and after the workout. Didn’t feel like dying, not sick to stomach. Walked one lap around the neighborhood that evening but kind of felt guilty for not doing two, as my legs felt like they could handle it.

Thursday (Day Three): put in 30 minutes on the elliptical, sipped the G2 at appropriate times. Still don’t feel like dying, nor do I feel sick. This is progress! The decision will be for my evening walk tonight: one lap or two? I’ve usually been doing two laps when I don’t have enough steps in during the day (there’s an initiative at work to reach 10,000 steps every day), but now that the elliptical is part of the plan, two laps aren’t necessary in that regard (hence why I only did one last night). So we’ll see.

In short, so far, so good. My body’s getting used to me putting it through hell. And while I’m not woo-hoo! EXERCISE!!! afterwards, the recovery period isn’t taking long and I’m pretty awake and alert. The trick will be on the weekends, when I don’t plan to work out on the elliptical (but still plan to walk), or on mornings I’m really not feeling it (due to sinus, headache, or just simple bad sleep).

We’ll see how it goes!

Crazy Idea to End All Crazy Ideas

There are people in this world who adore working out. They’re the kind of people that can do a grueling workout or run and feel more energized afterwards than when they started. They’re full of energy and joy and happiness and do everything in their power to convert you to the Church of Workouts Are AWESOME.

I am not one of those people.

But I have been walking daily since the weather got warmer, and I’ve made a specific point to do so when my employer announced a fitness initiative that encouraged staffers to walk 10,000 steps a day. Pedometer provided, incentives every week, and I signed up, because it was just the thing I needed to make sure I didn’t put off the daily walk.

Well, now I’ve gotten a crazy idea: Continue reading