Thoughts on the Whole30 Thing Now That It’s Over

Whole30 cat memeFor those who haven’t been reading the weekly posts, here’s the simple scoop on Whole30. Essentially, it’s a 30 day challenge to eat clean — as in no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites), or re-created junk food — as well as to detox, change, habits, and so forth. There’s more to it than that, lots of philosophies and perspectives and addendum and such that fill and entire website with essays and blog posts about the challenge, but that’s the essential gist.

I didn’t really have any expectations when I started this challenge, so it’s easy for me to call it a success — and on the whole, I’d say it was. I followed the rules for 30 days, even when certain family members begged me to quit so that I could drink with them, even when I sat helping a friend put together grab bags of candy while she ate cupcakes, even when I was getting really, really bored and feeling really, really over it.

I’m not going to passionately rave about how great Whole30 is, like I’ve seen other bloggers do. But I will say the experience was worth it for me. Three days after the challenge has ended, and I’m still feeling pretty good.

For anyone interested, my here are my week one, two, three, and four breakdowns of what I spent on groceries and so forth. My overall thoughts and feelings are below. It’s a little random, but that’s how I roll.

It’s Not as Hard as It Seems

Okay, I know I said I had no expectations going in, but I guess I had one — that it would be hard as hell.

That was one expectation I was glad to have proven wrong. The Whole30 did take more work, requiring time and energy to meal prep for the week and cook after getting off work. But when I looked for it, the willpower to say, No, to candy, chips, and other junk food was there. One reason was that I was in the right headspace for this. When a sister roped me into trying to do this two years ago, the entire concept annoyed me and I didn’t really try, which had me quitting at the end of the week (better than my sister, who quit after two days). This time around, I was ready to commit, which made things go smoothly. Another reason was that I had already stopped buying some of the things on the banned list (such as milk and bread).

The hardest part was reprogramming weird habits that are almost like muscle memory. Like grabbing taquito off of my nephew’s plate to take a bite and show him how good it is and that he should eat it, too (which never works). Or, snagging a piece of candy out of the dish at the doctor’s office. In all of these occasions, I didn’t even particularly want the thing I was grabbing, but latched onto as a reflex. I caught myself immediately, but was surprised how I could act without making a conscious decision to do so.

The other challenge was that eating Whole30 is more pricey — with my grocery costs at least doubling what they were before the challenge — although not too bad when you can buy things to last you a couple of weeks, such as bulk items and meats that you can freeze.

Feeling Clean

The best way I can describe how I feel after all this is clean. The best way to describe it is the opposite of when you eat fried food and junk, when you feel heavy and dragging and like your skin is producing grease. It’s a good, light feeling, one I’d like to hold on to — which is one of the reasons I don’t have any immediate urges to runout and consume copious amounts of junk food.

No Cravings

The only thing I desperately wanted to have in the final two weeks of this challenge was corn (specifically corn as part of a Chipotle said) and a beer. Not the worst things to be craving as things go. I am not, however, dying to have chips or cupcakes or chocolate or any of the other things I used to want to have ALL THE TIME. In fact, if a cupcake were set in front of me, I wouldn’t even really want it right now (although I would probably be tempted to take a bite, which would likely lead to more bites). It’s kind of cool and makes me feel more in control of

There’s Sugar in Everything

I kid you not. Read the labels. It’s added to salad dressings and lunch meat and all kinds of things you wouldn’t think sugar would be in. It was one of the hardest things to avoid.

Also, wheat, which is also in a ton of things — although since most of those things are processed food items that I wasn’t allowed to eat anyway, it was easier to avoid.

Apparently, I Can Cook Things

I have been known to be a lazy cook, the kind of cook that just throws pre-made frozen food into the oven and sets a tim, the kind of cook unwilling to do anything that requires even a hint of additional effort. My mom and sisters have consistently made fun of me (in a loving way) for my complete lack of interest in this regard, as they are all rather good cooks in their own way.

But on the Whole30, I had not choice but to prepare my lunches at the beginning of every week and cook my dinner every night. So, I planned out that required small amounts of effort and time and was able to come up with a number of good eats that often took me less than 20 minutes to make. This included super easy stuff like chicken salad wraps or lettuce-shell chicken tacos to slightly more complicated meals like sausage and zucchini-bell-pepper-cauliflower stir fry, baked salmon with brussel sprouts, and a beef patty and portobella mushroom burger. After three weeks, I was even starting to get a little creative, mixing together ingredients without double checking a recipe first.

My favorite meal was a sausage sweet potato hash with a friend egg on top (I do not have a photo of this, I’m afraid as I got lazy about taking food pics toward the end) — something I would never have thought to make prior to this challenge. This breakfast is sweet and savory, and I love the egg yolk mixed up in it all. It’s just so good and supper simple. (If anyone wants the recipe, then I’ll provide it, but honestly it’s just sweet potato, yellow peppers, and sausage in a pan with a fried egg).

I Freaking LOVE Almond Butter

No, seriously. I didn’t know how good this was, so blinded was I by the standardized peanut butter.

A Balance Between Healthy and Happy

Finding a good balance between healthy and happy is the next step. What this balance looks like is different for everyone. Theodora Goss has a great post on this concept and presents an example on what works for her. For some this balance may involve sticking strictly to something like the Whole30 plan, for others it may mean eating whatever the hell they want when they want, and for still others it might mean something in between.

balance

It will probably take some time to figure out exactly what sort of balance works best for me, but this is what I do know:

  • I want to stick to having most of my meals consist of primarily meat and vegetables, with an addition of some grains like corn, quinoa, and so forth. I feel like this would work well for me, since I probably need some additional carbs beyond meat and veggies in order to power my running. I’m also happy having various kinds of fruit for a sweet kick with dinner or whenever.
  • I want to keep the habit up of cooking my dinners most nights. It feels good to be in control of my own cooking and it’s great when I get a tasty meal just right.
  • I’m going to have beer, wine, whiskey, or other booze when I feel like it (even if Whole30 says its a no-no, as in never). Enjoying a drink from time to time is a part of what makes me a happy person, as long as I’m keeping it (mostly) in moderation.
  • I am not going to play an is-it-worth-it game every time I want to have something less than the usual healthy. That kind of game would probably just make me miserable in the long run, feeding the kind of guilt spirals I just don’t need.
  • That said, I don’t want to fall into the eating-junk-food-because-it’s-there trap, which was something I did quite often before I started this challenge.

I’m sure I’ll have to change things around and re-adjust in the coming months as I continue to explore what sorts of food works for me, and as I face peer pressure again. (It’s amazing how much easier it is for me to say “I can’t because I’m doing Whole30” than it is to say “I’d rather not.”) Already this week, I’ve had a glass of beer and some sushi and other non-Whole30 items — and I’m still feeling clean, still feeling good.  Let’s keep it that way.

Tell me about your own food journeys in the comments. Whether you’ve done the Whole30 things or have tried other kinds of plans.

_________________

The Whole30 Thing – Week Four

The what and why of the Whole30 food challenge is here, but essentially the rules are no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites) for a 30 days.

How I Feel

There are four days left in the challenge and I’m feeling good — that same clean feeling throughout my body. I also have no cravings, or at least not any for junk food (I just really, really want some corn, okay?). My only physical complaint right now it that my right shoulder and neck are a mess — although that is more than likely from some other cause.

In general, this has been a good experience (which I’ll write about next week when this is all officially over), but I’m definitely looking forward to being done and having more flexibility in terms of my food choices.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Thing – Week Four”

The Whole30 Things – Week Three

The what and why of the Whole30 food challenge is here, but essentially the rules are no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites) for a 30 days.

I’m three weeks in and fully in the I’m so done stage.

How I Feel

Clean (I don’t really know how else to describe it), but otherwise normal. No surges of energy that other people have described. At least not yet.

Mostly, though, what I’m feeling is a kind of boredom with the level of restrictions and I’m wanting this to be over with. I’m not craving anything in particular (except booze). I don’t want candy or pastries or chips or other kinds of junk food. All I want is to be able to have some corn on my Chipotle salad. Or, quinoa. Or, other mostly healthy things that provide some variety, but are restricted during the Whole30.

And I want a freaking beer, or wine, or whiskey, or whatever.

Other than that, I’m feeling pretty good to go on this. The cooking is sometimes annoying after a long day, but doesn’t feel overwhelming. Even the weekly meal prep is easy enough. So, I’m sticking with it and I’m certain I’ll make it through the next week and a half.

Meanwhile, my dad being his ever helpful self told me I should drop this thing so we can go out and have drinks together — thanks, dad.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Things – Week Three”

The Whole30 Thing – Week Two

The what and why of the Whole30 food challenge is here, but essentially the rules are no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites) for a 30 days.

How I Feel

I’m told most people quit on day eleven. That was yesterday.

I’ve had a few “I’m so over this” moments” and some cravings this week, but they were mostly idle thoughts and I was able to easily enough brush them aside.

The hardest part of the week was hanging out with my niece and nephew. There are some weird habits people can get into around kids — they aren’t eating their dinner so there is leftover food on their plates that’s easy to nab, or they have their little cups of Goldfish crackers and it’s just so easy to reach in an grab one, or so on.

While feeding my nephew dinner, which he was not eating, I went to do the see-look-it’s-good thing and went to take a bite of one of his taquitos to prove to him that I wasn’t lying, that his good was indeed good. I brought the taquito up to my mouth and even touched my teethe to it before I realized what I was doing. No bite was taken, thus no rules were broken. But, man, it was so close.

The funny thing is: trying to prove to a kid that they should eat a thing by eating it yourself never actually works. They see us eating stuff they don’t like all the time. So, maybe that habit should just be shut down entirely.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Thing – Week Two”

The Whole30 Thing – Week One

As I mentioned last week, I’m doing the Whole30 challenge — essentially no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites). Here’s my week one round up of how it’s going.

How I Feel

So far I haven’t felt overly tempted have been few. My office has chocolate in stock and other no-nos for this challenge. But even though I’m aware of them and other temptations in my everyday, I’ve found that I’m able to glance them longing for a brief moment and then move one. (I have had an anxiety dream midweek in which I was tricked into eating some pasta or something and felt frustrated about having to start the challenge over.)

Apparently, it’s entirely normal during the first 14 days to experience headaches, lethargy, sleepiness, crankiness, and so on. My energy has definitely went down as the week went on, with it being harder and harder to get out of bed in the mornings up through Thursday. There were also a couple of times midweek in which I’ve had less patience things that normally don’t bother me (although the fact that I’m overwhelmed with work at the moment may be contributing to this).

However, I woke up this morning with significantly more energy than yesterday and in a much better mood, so hopefully I’m on an upswing.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Thing – Week One”

The whole Whole30 thing

Whole30There is this thing called the Whole30 challenge. It’s a challenge to eat whole, non-processed foods for 30 days, including “meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds.”

During that time you are not allowed to consume added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. You are also not supposed to create baked good (breads, pancakes, etc.) with compliant substitutes, and smoothies and other blended drinks are frowned upon.

The aim is to go for healthy eating and there are entire areas of the internet given over to how awesome this challenge is and the health benefits it provides.

Although I find aspects of it annoying, I’ll be doing the Whole30 challenge for the month of August. Why? Because my sister has had some anxiety and health challenges, she wants to try it to see if it will help her, and she doesn’t want to do it alone. So, I’m backing her up.

I’m pretty sure I have the willpower to stick to the plan (she says as she sticks a piece of chocolate candy in her mouth). My two main challenges are going to be cooking and cost.

Most of the recommended meal plans I’ve seen for Whole30 so far have been elaborate to say the least, often written by people who seem to enjoy cooking. The plans involve weekly meal-prep work and homemade dinners every night and 50-item shopping lists.

None of which works for me or my sanity.

I don’t really cook much and I dislike grocery shopping. And it seems like the Whole30 thing would less helpful if it includes a massive amount of stress.

I’m trying to find ways to keep it all as easy and cheap as possible. I need breakfasts that I can put together in less than 5 minutes flat and ideally eat while I’m walking out the door (right now I do protein shakes, which are not allowed in the plan). Lunches will be mason jar salads made on Sundays (something I used to do for a short while) and dinners will have to be one-pan and able to be finished in no more than 20-30 minutes. Most of my shopping will be at Trader Joe’s. Apparently, I can have carnitas salads from Chipotle, which is awesome for a quick fix, since they’re right across the street.

I’ll post weekly updates on the meal plans and costs and how things are going — in part to just keep myself accountable.

Have you done Whole30? What was it like?

Let's just bask in the moment

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.” – from the ruling

I am ridiculously happy right now.

Five Ways to Chill When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

Photo by Alex E. Proimos (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic ).

Sometimes life likes to throw everything at you at once. Sometimes you like to add to the pile by throwing things at yourself. Work, family, life, the universe, and everything adds up into a big knotted ball of overwhelmed — which is pretty much where I’m at right now. Not all of it is bad, in fact a lot of it is many kinds of awesome, but it’s still mentally, emotionally, and physically tiring.

Looking forward into the next year, I know it’s probably not going to lighten up anytime soon — my day job will remain hectic, my creative work will still need to get done, community in the form of family, friends, and social activities will still call for my presence. Life will likely remain packed over the foreseeable future, so I need to have strategies to maintain my physical and mental health.

As with my usual doling of advice, these items are representative of things that I am doing or am going to try to do in order to help myself. Results may vary.

Continue reading “Five Ways to Chill When You're Feeling Overwhelmed”

Here Comes the Rain

A few drops of rain spattered my face as I stepped out of the office today — the beginning of the great storm to come tomorrow. The night is calm, cool. You wouldn’t believe a massive storm system was about to roll in.

The news has been spouting about “storm watch 2014,” because tomorrow’s storm is supposed to be the biggest deluge since 2008, with heavy rain fall and strong winds. There could be power outages, fallen trees, and flash floods. There could be thunder and lightening (a rare occurrence).

As I wrote on Friday in honor of recent rains, mild in comparison to what is coming. My feelings are torn in regards to the storm. I love storms, love cuddling up safe inside and warm and watching lightening flash through the downpour. But I’m a little wary of commuting to work, as I’ll be heading home (very slowly) during what is supposed to be a peak of the storm.

All will be well, though, I’m sure. And I hope everyone stays safe on the roads tomorrow.

Lazing or resting

A reclining lady with a fan by Eleuterio Pagliani (1826-1903)
“A Reclining Lady with a Fan” by Eleuterio Pagliani

* * *

Sun rises and I pad out from bedroom to loveseat in pajamas, curl up with a thick blanket, let my feet dangle over the seat’s arm. The TV clicks on with an electric beep, noise pours out, full of automated laughter flipping through to reality celebrities bitching flipping to the laser fire of epic space battles. During commercials, the TV falls to mute, and I read, shifting to a more comfortable position. Afternoon light lines the room through the window blinds. Stomach rumbles, bladder complains. I get up, go pee, fix a sandwich, grab an entire bag of chips, return to my perch on the loveseat. Settle in. Words, channels, social media scanning on my phone. I don’t notice the light fading from the sky until I can no longer read the words on the page.

* * *

I sometimes give myself permission to have such lazy empty days. After a particularly stressful week it feels good to regress into the cave of my apartment and disconnect from the outside world.

But it’s easy to overdo it. Too many laze days in row or over the course of a month, and I begin to feel heavy. The emptiness weighs on me. The inner gnat starts nagging me about all I’ve failed to do — writing, laundry, cleaning, writing, running, writing.

Laying in one position watching hours and hours of television can be draining, sucking the life out of the day. It empties the mind but doesn’t necessarily make me feel good in the long run, sometimes making me feel more tired than when I started the day.

A completely lazy day is never as restful as I imagine it to be. Even one act of movement from the couch — a good run, lunch with a friend, a walk to the coffee shop across the street — opens the day up to a greater feeling of restfulness. I find that being active and taking part in fun (though not hectic) activities brings a greater inner stillness than sitting on the couch all day doing nothing.

What do you find most restful? Lazy days doing nothing at home? Or getting out and doing things?

Failure to Vote

One of my personal flaws is my disinclination to engage more in politics. I suppose this is in part due to a sense of helplessness in the face of social and other issues I see within my country and in part due to laziness. Keeping up with politics is often disheartening, time consuming, hard work, and there are so many fun things I’d much rather be doing. Though I do read blogs and watch The Daily Show, I don’t often speak or write about politics.

But I feel I should be able to pull of a basic level of engagement: voting.

I tell myself every time that I miss a chance to vote that next time I will get my mail-in ballot, read up on the candidates and measures, and vote on time. And yet, here I am again. I’ve forgotten about the election, I’ve failed to get it together to vote, and promising myself to do better next time. I hope I can make that happen.

How often do you engage in politics? If you’re in the U.S., did you vote today?

Edited to Add: Just learned about headcount.org, which helps voters to register, find polling places, and provides other resources.

If you know of other such resources to make life easier for voters, let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Resources for Voters

Facing the mountain

Tom Frost - Robbins ventures up - 1961
Photo by Tom Frost (Creative Commons 3.0).
Saturday morning, I came to the sudden realization that I was doing Nanowrimo whether I liked it or not. After several hours of denial in which I instituted time-old delay tactics, such as twitter and tumblr, I decided on a story to work with — a novel in poems involving the interweaving and retelling of many fairy tales and myths — and began to dig in.

This weekend was an excellent lesson in making time to write.

On Saturday, in between switching out laundry, I wrote. After going for a 4 mile run/walk, I wrote. In the few minutes before I had to leave for the awesome Dia de los Muertos party, hosted my fantastically awesome friend Lise, I wrote.

On Sunday, I woke up early and wrote, because I knew the majority of my day would be given over to helping my sister move from one apartment to another — both apartments were on the second floor. Well, one was on the second and a half floor, because there was a flight of stairs just to get to the second floor, which means my legs are all wibbly wobbly today. While my sister and mom were organizing all the moved-in things, I sat in the living room and wrote some more.

The result: 3,079 words written.

Already, with just that start, I feel better. The poems are more prosey than I’d like, but that’s for editing to fix. The months of feeling stuck and miserable from not writing has slid off my shoulders. This was exactly what I needed. I have a mountain of work ahead of me, but if I continue to be creative with my use of time, then I’m certain I can make it all work.

This is the mountain of things to be done during the rest of November:

1 — Trip to the U.K. for work. I’ll have a day and a half in London to tour the city, which will be action packed

3+ — Bridal party events to attend, including the bachlorette party, the rehearsal, and actual wedding itself.

2-3 — Thanksgiving dinners. The family dynamics are shifting this year and I’m not sure how it’s all going to fall into place.

27 — Blog posts left to be written as part of NaBloPoMo.

46,921 — Words left to be written for Nanowrimo.

Unknown Number — Of books to be read, runs to be run, and hang out time with friends and family have to be fit in.

Are you participating in any November challenges? Have you had a good kick off to the month?

Ahhh! Zombies run!

Zombies and survivors ran together during the Running with Zombies 5K fun run event in San Jose, which I participated in with my sister, both of us shambling out of bed bright and early Saturday, donned decaying flesh, and set out to run our brains out.

Despite some confusion as to where to park (the online directions were wrong), my sister and I had a rotting good time at the race. It kicked off with an air raid siren. The sky was grey and bleak with a slight mist, matching the tone of the event as we ran along the quite, closed off streets of San Jose, making it feel as though the city was a dead zone. The terrain then carried us through winding trails of a park where scattered zombies snarled at runners (some caged behind a chain link fence), past a abandoned and dilapidated building, and down a dirt, vacant feeling path where slow shuffling zombies wandered (one dragging the plastic corpse of a half eaten pig).

It was fun to see all the people who came, from young kids to wizened adults, many of whom came as zombies. Some got fairly creative with their costumes, including a zombie Star Trek officer.

As I haven’t been actively training as much as I would like, I felt a wee slow during the three-mile run and was definitely below my usual pace. But, hey, I was undead at the time, so I have an excuse and it was a shotgun blast of fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat (if I had one). I think I’ll rise to the occasion again next year.

IMG_4423.JPG
Survivors and zombies assemble before the the race start line.
IMG_4424.JPG
Me and my undead sister.
zombies in a cage
Caged!

All Hail the Great Pumpkin

IMG_4389.JPG

October is my favorite time of year, or at least that’s what I’ve decided just now. The crisp, cold mornings allowing me to pull out my collection of scarves, the hope of future storms and rain so desperately needed after the long, dry California summer, and the coming of my favorite holiday, Halloween.

So, it was a delight to see that Monster, my niece who just turned two this summer, is delighted with the season as we walked around the pumpkin patch with her parents and her baby brother.  Monster held shoulders back with an expression of smiling, princessy pride as she rode the pony. She sat (mostly) still as Minnie Mouse was painted on her cheek with glitter that made everything from her baby brother to my tee-shirt where she rested her head sparkle. She scampered through the pumpkins in her Minnie Mouse dress, pointing to each one and calling out, “Ha’oween!” All pumpkins are Halloweens to her.

I know she’ll love dressing up as Tinkerbell (though, honestly, she’d wear a sparkly dress every day of the week, if she could) and going out Trick or Treating (she’s already started practicing).

I’m so proud and happy to be an Aunty. Halloween this year is going to be so much fun.

Joys, travels, poetry, and other doings

A lot has been going on over the past couple of weeks since I last posted, so I’m going to sum things up in list format (in order of importance, rather than chronology) to make things easier on myself. I still have to do my book and movie round up for May, but that’ll come tomorrow probably.

– The biggest announcement by far is the birth of my nephew. The Monster (my niece) is being adorable around him, very gentle and loving so far. I can’t even express what a joy it is to welcome this tiny little person into the family.

20140609-130241-46961672.jpg

– I also turned 34 years old in the past two weeks (on May 26 to be exact), and a Happy New Year to me. A gentleman recently told my friend that she should count her birthday as the true new year, since it announces another new year of her life. I love that, and it seems like a perfect time to reassess life, the universe, and everything. With all that’s been happening, I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but I’m planning to think about taking a serious look at my goals this week. It so happened that my birthday was marked by…

– getting rather sick. Oh the joys of coughs and runny noses, just as I’m launching into…

– a two week work trip, involving two conferences and an industrial plant visit. Travels took me to Detroit, West Michigan, and Montreal. There was a lot of work and a lot of trying to rest in order to recover from being sick, so I didn’t do much touring, except for two beautiful days in Montreal. I let my feet carry me around the city to here and there, exploring Old Town and other areas of the city center. It was beautiful out and I’d like to have more time to explore Montreal properly in the future.

20140609-130237-46957544.jpg
Montreal with the Parc du Mont-Royal in the background.
20140609-130243-46963559.jpg
Inside the Basilica of Notre Dame in Montreal.

– Being in Montreal, I had to go see Cirque du Soleil. It was a bigger expense than I had planned, but Kurios is a steampunk inspired show, so I couldn’t resist. They did a marvelous job with the aesthetic and it fit really well into the acrobat sequences. The first half, in particular, was astounding in beauty and stunts. The second half had a few weird bits that I didn’t get, but it didn’t lessen my overall enjoyment. Kurios is my favorite of all the Soleil shows I’ve seen.

20140609-130239-46959075.jpg
Inside the Cirque du Soleil: Kurios tent. The show had an awesome steampunk aesthetic.

– I came home to two poetry pretties in my mailbox — the lovely TEN chapbook by Val Dering Rojas (which I received from the author) and Live From The Homesick Jamboree by Adrian Blevins (which I received as part of a poetry giveaway). I’m looking forward to reading both!!

 – Two contributor’s copies of the Strange Frenzies anthology also arrives. The anthology includes my poem, “Comfort At Last.” A wonderful surprise.

Easter weekend, tra-la-la

I have plenty of things I could-a, should-a, would-a written, but its Friday and Easter weekend. I will get to eat all the good food and watch my almost-two-year-old niece run around being the cutest little monster as she looks for Easter eggs without really understand why.

So, have a great weekend one an all!

She is Beautiful

20140326-094148.jpg
A foggy Sunday morning in Santa Cruz.

20140326-094251.jpgLast Sunday (March 23*), I rolled out of bed at the unfortunate hour of 6 a.m., fell into my running gear, and drove into Santa Cruz with my sister to participate in the She is Beautiful run, an event that supports the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. My sister planned to run the 10K and I would run the 5K.

The morning was foggy and chill as we parked our car and we rubbed at our arms as we hiked up the hill to check into the event. At least the cold woke us up; all sleepiness falling away in the face of the damp chill. There were complications with our bibs (which for a short while could not be found), but before long we were at the starting line with a multitude of women — many in pink — waiting to start the race.

Then we were off an running (well, it was walking at first, due to the crowds). We both fell into our own rhythm and my sister soon outpaced me, and I found myself running alone but not lonely among the throngs of women.

And what wonderful, beautiful women there were of all shapes, sizes, and ages, from elementary school kids to older women with wrinkles and greying hair. Women of amazing athletic skill and women power walking through the course. Thin women and round women. Mothers pushing strollers or with babies in packs strung across their chests. Disabled women in wheelchairs or using canes. And everyone cheering everyone else on.

At one point, a supporter on the sidelines, called out to the crowds, “You’re beautiful!”

I choked up and almost cried, because they really were and I was apart of that and it was an amazing feeling of love and community. I breathed and held back my happy tears and kept running.

I ran the entire way (minus the short bit of walking at the beginning and one short stretch of walking up the final hill). I wasn’t the fastest runner, but I did it. I accomplished my goal and that felt amazing.

As far as my first real running event goes, it was wonderful — such an empowering experience and it has me looking forward to the next one. Maybe next time, I’ll stretch myself further and god for a 10K.

20140326-094202.jpg
Sister Pilar and I, smiling and ready for our race.

 

20140326-094218.jpg
Many beautiful women crossing the finish line.

*Yes, it’s taken me a whole week to write this post.

Weekly Update (because I don't have energy to come up with a clever title)

My weekend was lovely. Spent Saturday night out with a good friend, having a tasty meal at Johnny Garlic’s.

Sunday I met up with another good friend in San Francisco, where we discovered a street fair in preparation for Chinese New Year. We had szechuan food for lunch, checked out City Lights Bookstore (which is amazing! can’t believe I’ve never been!), and then closed out the day with a tea tasting. So much fun. (^_^)

Accomplished in Writing

In one of those moments where an idea just clicks into place, I realized the dynamics of one of the relationships in the story, which allowed me to rewrite a recent chapter and move forward on a stronger footing. Previously this chapter had almost zero conflict, or at least zero conflict based on anything solid. Now it’s much stronger and it creates a nice ripple for conflict in upcoming chapters. Has me excited to get back to making progress on Under the Midday Moon (the title of which I might change).

Two submissions sent out this week, containing one short story to a paying market and three poems to a non-paying market that I think is cool.

In Running

I did my three miles on Saturday using the Zombies, Run! app, which was fun and forced me to do sprints to escape the zombies. Though my pace turned out to be slower, because I think the sprints slowed me down afterward as I tried to even out my breathing.

Sunday’s run was skipped, however, because I decided to let myself take it easy before heading to SF.

To Do in the Coming Week

I’ve been feeling off today, bit of a scratchy throat and, well, just generally off. Also, I’m in the midst of going to press at the day job, which means added stress. So, I’m taking it easy on myself by not actually making a list. If I get some writing done or stuffsomething submitted out, great. If not, well it’s important that I rest.

I just might survive the zombie apocalypse

Zombieland: Rule #1 – Cardio
Zombieland: Rule #1 – Cardio

Over the weekend, I finally reached one of the goals I set for 2013. I ran three miles.

Huzzah!

It’s not the fastest three miles, but it’s not the slowest either. I average about a 12 minute mile, and I’ve noticed that every time I run, I do that first mile just a little bit faster (this weekend, I did that first mile in 11 minutes), which is also awesome.

I have now signed up for the She is Beautiful 5K in Santa Cruz, which will be my first official race in the sense that it’s the first that I plan to run straight through (I’ve done two others that I mostly walked). I’m quite excited.

To make my weekend runs a little more fun and interesting, I have also bought the Zombies, Run! app, which has you as a runner in the zombie apocalypse. It has a whole storyline and you can set it to zombie chases, which force you to run faster to escape the zombies. Along the way you collect various gear, which you can then use to upgrade the camp. It seems like a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to doing runs and playing the game, being the zombie lover that I am. 🙂

My next running goal is to build up to six miles and potentially run in the Wharf to Wharf run in July. I think it’s doable.

In Other News

Not much to report. Getting the info back from my old computer gave me some ideas of what I might send out as submissions, but none have actually been sent.

Novelling progress is still set at zero for the month, though I finally have some good ideas for scenes in my novel, which have me wanting to get back to it.

To Do This Week

  • Write a minimum of 2,000 words on Under the Midday Moon
  • Submit something (poem, story, whatever)
  • Do two runs and a strength training routine
  • Edit Letter Box poetry chapbook and find somewhere to submit it
  • Set a budget for the week and stick to it

Happy Holidays!

I’ve been missing in action, I know. At the moment I’m visiting with family and relaxing. It’s a packed house with kids and chaos and lots of laughter and love.

Since it’s the holidays, I’ve just been kicking back and reading and that feels like the right thing to do. I’ll start posting more regularly next week with all my end of the year wrap ups, too.

I hope you are all loving life and enjoying the holiday season!

Things

1. Thanksgiving yesterday was great, family and food filled fun. Lots of laughing and eating. Turkey and stuffing and salad and twice baked potatoes and candied yams and green beans with bacon, not to mention pecan pies and apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake — all homemade, by the way. Plus lots and lots of champagne.

20131129-153704.jpg

2. I received a rejection for a poetry chapbook submission, called The Letterbox, sent out many months ago. The rejection included a personal note, thanking me for submitting. The editor said I had a nice narrative arc to my poems and suggested that I submit again. I never take rejections to heart, because they are a part of the process of being a writer, but it’s always great to see that personal touch and get a bit of encouragement.

3. I have no motivation to do anything at all, even though I’m supposed to pull off 18,000 words before midnight tomorrow. *sigh*

4. I’m am enjoying reading Slice of Cheery by Dia Reeves, which has consumed most of my day so far.

5. I’m sure I have enough motivation to seek out more pecan pie, though. Mmmmm, pie. And then a nap.

Batkid Saves the Day!

In October of this year, I traveled to Italy and along the way bought myself a $300 Italian leather jacket. It was a huge expense for me, more money than I probably should have spent. But the jacket was gorgeous and fit me perfectly and came with a wonderful little story, and I didn’t once feel any regret about the purchase.

I came home and showed the jacket off and received positive responses from family and friends, assuring me that it was a great purchase.  “It’ll last you forever,” several people said.

Except that today, I discovered that I somehow managed to tear the jacket, a solid two-inch rip in an awkward place just above the right pocket — which just about breaks my heart. I know it’s just a thing, an object I don’t need to hold attachment to, but dammit, between the cost and how much I love wearing, it hurts.

Apparently, there might be a shop near my office that does leather repair, so I’ll take it in and see what they can do to fix it.

At the moment, though, I’m just taking deep breaths and trying not to loose my sh!t.

Fortunately, for everyone, there is this story to make everything all better.

image

Miles Scott, a 5 year old boy who’s fighting leukemia, just wanted to be a superhero, specifically, he wanted to be Batman. So, Make-A-Wish Foundation worked to put together a special event, turning San Francisco into Gotham City for a day. Miles as Batkid and accompanied by Batman, was driven through in a “bat-mobile” and was able to partake in a series of death defying rescues, while thousands of people cheered. The miniature hero got ot help nab arch-villains Riddler and the Penguin and save a damsel in distress tied to the city’s famous tram tracks.

The internet exploded with glee at the event, and every Batman, from Adam West to Christian Bale congratulated Miles on his heroism.

Here is a nice Batkid video for some smiles. (^_^)

Falling into Autumn

The days are getting colder here in Bay Area, California. This really just means that we can wear out light sweaters, maybe with a thin jacket over top. Meanwhile, it will probably be sunny outside, the light bright and happy, despite an ever so slight chill to there. If you’re out taking a walk, you might even build up enough warmth to forgo the jacket entirely.

The leaves are beginning to change, not in a dramatic display of colors as in other region, but a yellowing and the occasional orange. Some trees with skip the over the colors altogether and simply fall in heaps of brown. Others stay solidly green, as though they do not even realize Autumn is upon them.

I have to be grateful for what passes for winter here. How can I not? How can I complain about it being 55°F outside, when there are some areas steadily inching toward subzero temperatures as winter approaches?

And yet, I grow tired of the sunshine and some part of myself longs for a proper storm, for pounding rain, for growing puddles and growling thunder and flashes of lightening. (It would be too much to hope for snow.) I find rain to be cleansing to the spirit. It makes the world smell green and clean, and I feel lightened.

When I was a kid, my brothers and sisters and I would run out into the rain in tank tops and shorts. We’d go down to the parking area, where the spouts spewed water from the second story like a waterfall. We would stand beneath the spouts and pretend they were waterfalls.

Now, I enjoy sitting on the porch, while water falls around me, letting the sound thrum me into relaxation. The tap-tap-tapping of drops in the leaves. I wrap myself up in a blanket, pour a cup of hot tea, open a book, and let it be a backdrop to my afternoon — at least until my fingers grow too cold to turn the pages.

I think days of rain (and maybe it’s because they come so sparingly) are my favorite part of Fall and Winter. They allow moments of comfort and warmth, as you huddle inside, drinking hot cocoa or tea, eating cookies and comforting treats. They allow internal searching, an implied intimacy, as you cuddle close to a loved one.

What are your favorite things about Autumn and Winter?

Witches and Woods and Good Fairies

Autumn woods
Autumn woods by Mel Green

Sophie Masson wrote a lovely post about a home she grew up in, which seemed to possess the soul of a good fairy. It was a home of secrete histories and ghosts and wild places to explore (and I recommend reading it, rather than taking it at my sparse description).

Her post immediately reminded me of the park and little woods in Anchorage, Alaska, where I used to live when I was a kid (seven-ish). The park across the street looked out over Cook Inlet, the water grey and, in the summer sun, sparkling. Two sides of the park were framed with little woods, patches of trees that separated the park from other peoples homes. I remember running through those woods and believing them huge, giant forests almost filled with wonders and strange creatures. I remembered looking up at the tall trees and feeling very far from home. I remember stepping only a few feet inside the little woods and feeling as though I could become utterly lost.

As kids exploring the little woods, we once stumbled upon a tree house — just a platform, really — that sat perched at what seemed to be the tippy top of a tree, which we were never brave enough to climb. But we imagined the kind of strange, brave person who would live at such heights.

Another time we discovered a cement slab (something industrial) hidden in the trees. It became the framework for an invisible house in which we pretended to live. It became a stage upon which we pranced and gave our bows. It became the home of an evil man who kidnapped good children and hid them away. It became so many things.

A few years ago, I was remembering the little wood and wondered what would happen, if such a small wood, the kind it was impossible to become lost in, actually hid in its heart an older, much greater wood — the kind one might never return from. That idea inspired a a short story, called “The Witch of the Little Wood,” grew into a novella, which transformed into part one of an unfinished novel that I plan to finish eventually.

My life inspires my writing quite a lot, usually in unusual ways. “The Witch of the Little Wood” makes use of several moments from my life, all unconnected. A phrase shouted at me by my sister during the middle of a fight (which made us laugh at the time) becomes barbed cruelty tossed at our MC by a bully. The awkward feelings of junior high, in which several people whom I thought were friends suddenly changed and became bitter enemies, makes it into the story. Bits of life here and there, hurts and loves and joys, travel through me and become new unrecognizable scenes in my characters lives. Bits of myself show up in everyone, from the heroes to the villains.

Writing is a fascinating process that way. Reading is, too. How you can look at a story just discovered and realize, oh, this is me, this is my life, here is everything I love and hate and need and feel all right there on display.

When you write or read do you often discover yourself in the stories? Does it surprise you?

A Black Hole of Baby Love

I have long since dubbed my sister’s house the Black Hole of Baby Love, because ever since my niece has been born, visiting her house means the loss of hours, time sucked away in gleeful love of the cutest little girl currently in existence. In our family, little Sienna has become the center of gravity from which none of us can escape — not that we’d want to anyway.

I had tentative plans this weekend to clean my bedroom (which had dissolved into a disaster of epic proportions) and catch up on some reading.

However, I decided to visit my sisters house for a few hours (hah!), which turned into many hours. As the day drifted on we decided to lounge around the house and watch some movies. We watched The Monster Squad (which I hadn’t seen since I was a young teen), while also chasing the baby around the living room, watching her giggle in delight as she tried to get away from me. And, then once baby went to bed, we watched The Conjuring (a terrifically creepy movie, all the more so because these people portrayed were real).

I told myself to go home that night. I told myself that if I slept over, as my sister invited me to do, then I would surely spend the entire next day there and get nothing done. I told myself in earnest that no matter how scary the movie might be, I could walk myself through the dark knight to my car and drive home.

In the words of Alice, I gave myself very good advice and didn’t follow it.

In other words, I slept over. (Though, this was in part because after The Conjuring finished, I had a headache so massive I could barely concentrate on falling asleep, let alone driving anywhere.)

Waking to the sound of my niece babbling in the next room, though, was a great reward for staying over. Plus, I got to have early morning cuddles with the baby, which are absolutely very different from any other kind of cuddles.

I might have gone home, if I wasn’t made aware of baby’s first pumpkin carving to happen that afternoon. Why go all the way home only to have to come back again, right?

So, I hung out and carved pumpkins.

Let the carving begin! #pumpkin #halloween

Baby Sienna took one tiny poke at the pumpkin guts and then wouldn’t touch it again. We tried to show her how it was done, but she wasn’t having it. Little Sienna is very dainty that way; she doesn’t like to get dirty (at least, not that kind of dirty). Her avoidance of even touching the pumpkin was adorable, though. (^_^)

Honestly, I feel ya, baby, I hate the “guts” stage of pumpkin carving, too — the icky, slimy, stringy, gooey that has to be pulled out is not the fun for me. ‘

My sister Pilar (other sister, not the baby mama), meanwhile, LOVED the gooey stage and dug into her pumpkin’s guts with delight. “It’s just so messy! I love it!” she squealed. Yup, that’s my Pilar.

But the carving stage I love. And this was my final result (sorry about the bad cell pic, plus the candle light wasn’t quite bright enough…).

Finished! It needs a brighter candle, but I've done Cthulhu. #pumpkin #cthulhu #halloween

All praise the Elder Pumpkin, Cthulhu!

An Assortment of Five Things

1. I picked up my sister from the airport on Tuesday. She had just got back from visiting my grandmother in Anchorage, Alaska. She’s 90 years old and my sister and I started talking about how important it is to record her life in some way. I told her that I have photo copies of her homesteading journal (which I’ve been meaning to do something with for a long time) and we both agreed that it would be great to put together a kind of memoir. Likely we wouldn’t try to publish this, though we might put it as an ebook and make some print copies for family through LuLu or something. We just need to make sure we make steady progress on this and not let it be just one of those things we talk about.

2. Speaking of writing, while I was digging through my filing cabinet looking for the copies my grandmother found me, I noticed a stack of paper about an inch thick in one of the files. I couldn’t help but take it out and read it — turned out to be movie script. I started reading some of the pages.

My thought: What is this? Did I write this? I didn’t write this. There’s no way I wrote this. *keeps reading* Oh, my god. I DID write this. I can’t believe I wrote this.

Turns out that stack of paper was the crappy martial arts script I tried to write about a guy and a girl who train and go take part in a tournament in China. It is so, so bad and I’m sure chock full of cultural inaccuracies. This will never ever see the light of day.

3. I saw Pacific Rim and loved it. It was in truth long sequences of robots smashing kaju, which was stunning in its realization, as in jaw-dropped, me-sitting-up-straight-in-my-seat in awe stunning. Beautifully wrought action sequences. It also had characters I like and story that dealt with countries and cultures working together for a common goal (that, importantly, did not revolve around good ol’ US of A saving the day). Rinko Kikuchi is wonderful and I will now be looking to watch every movie she has ever been or will be in. So, yay! I’m so glad I saw this one in theaters.

4. Also, in movies, I recently purchased Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, a fascinating art project, in which curator Mike Schneider asked artists from around the world to animate sections of George A. Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. All of the sound for the original movie is the same, the only difference is that the visual element has been changed (which can be done because the original movie is in public domain). Every minute or so, a new animation style flashes on the screen. It’s a little confusing at first, but quickly becomes hypnotizing to watch. A very cool art collaboration (with zombies!).

5. I went to a Curvy Girls Fashion Show (Curvy Girls is the name of a store in Santa Clara). It was just so cool to see a dozen women of varying shapes and sizes, bravely sporting lingerie walk down this make shift runway, while everyone in the audience cheered them on. Good feelings. Also some really cute stuff, costumes and some day ware too, so I may have some shopping to do soon.

Hello

I am currently in Mexico (since Sunday) doing a combination of fun visiting things and fun work things. I’ve been meaning to post about the sites I’ve visited, but I’ve been too sleepy at the end of the day (which means I have a lot of blog writing in my future).

So, anyway, I’m not missing in action, just doing things. 🙂

Buenas noches.

Ready for the Weekend

No Friday Five this week, as I’m currently in Lakeport with family, sipping a Guinness and enjoying the view. The plan is to sit here, relax, read my books, and maybe get a teenie bit of writing done.

There will be tabletop games and laughter and drinking and good times with the family. So, in other words it’ll be perfect.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

My mom is awesome and other news

Saturday, my mom and I decided to hit the local trail in Los Gatos. I had intended to just do my run and then head home, but upon hearing my mom’s plans to walk the entire trail loop (a 4-ish mile stretch that involves some steep hills). In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve had.

We did the running intervals first, which went smoothly, then started walking up the hills. It was hot and one of the hills looked almost like this /, so it was very difficult. I probably didn’t drink enough water or eat enough food that morning, so I got extremely light headed halfway up. I was fine when I reached the top and the trail leveled out, but it was rough going for a while there.

But the trail being rough isn’t the point of the story. The point is that my mom is awesome.

At one point during our walk, my mom drifted ahead of me with her headphones in her ears. To music only she could hear, she began to fan her arms over her head in circles and loops and spirals in a kind of walking dance. She followed this with childlike skips and hops and tippy toe sprints, all smiling and in tune with what ever she was listening to. I couldn’t help but smile at her dancing, at her freedom of self, at her willingness to just play. It made me want to skip and cavort, too, so I did (for a little bit). It made me think of the way as a kid I could just run around and play without embarrassment, and that I wanted more silliness in my life.

Here’s a new goal for myself: Live life with childlike abandon and joy.

So, in other week roundup news, exercise was very successful with four of three completed.

Writing and organizing was less successful, as in nonexistent. I’m giving myself a break on the organizing, though, since I’ve been housesitting and thus haven’t been at home to work on it. I’m housesitting this week, too, but I’m leaving my organizing goals on the list, because maybe I’ll work on it next weekend.

That which must be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish Chapter Five of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poetry, fiction, whatever)
– Edit Letter Box poetry chapbook and submit it
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
• Shred papers and dispose of them
• Find a minimum of ten items (big or small) that can be gotten rid of and get rid of them
• Take box of items to donate to Goodwill

Trimming

I had all of last week off and chopped off most of my hair and got new color is kind of eggplant, which I LOVE. I lost a total of ten inches this week, which I will be donating to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, an organization that makes wigs for women with cancer.

Here’s a before and after:

Before and After of new hair cut Before and After of new hair cut

 

My week was a good cross between relaxing, hanging out with friends, and getting things done. In terms of writing and Spanish practice, no progress was made.

But I did a total of four and increased the walk/run interval difficulty levels by two increments, which felt fantastic. Seeing the progress on my running skills is keeping me so motivated and I know I’ll eventually meet my goal of three miles, if I keep this up. 🙂

I also made some great progress on my paperwork. I have all my past years separated out and put in appropriate envelopes and stored away, as well as all my paperwork for the current year filed in the filing cabinet. I still need to buy a new filing cabinet that would be more accessible, as well as organize other stuff in my closet so things are functional, but I feel really good about the progress I made this week.

.

That which must be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish Chapter Five of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poetry, fiction, whatever)
– Edit Letter Box poetry chapbook and submit it
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three yoga workouts, three sun salutations min. (0/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):

— Shred papers and dispose of them
— Find a minimum of ten items (big or small) that can be gotten rid of and get rid of them
— Take box of items to donate to Goodwill

Lazy Days in a Summer Haze

Moon over the Golden Gate

Last weekend was spent celebrating my birthday, so I spent the weekend with my mom and aunt up in Sausalito and the Marin Headlands. On Saturday night, we hiked up to the lookout point to see the moon over the city. It was so, so cold and windy, but so beautiful.

The rest of the weekend was also restful and beautiful, though Sunday was more foggy and still cold. We sat on the beach and drank beers and enjoyed the sound of the waves.

I came away from the weekend feeling relaxed (though the stress started to reassert itself on the drive home).

As you may have noticed (or not), I didn’t post a weekly update this week. This is because I didn’t get much done with all the hanging out and relaxing and stuff that I’ve been doing, so the to-do list has not changed, except that I need to get through Chapter Four now.

It’s going to be warm this weekend and there’s more lazy days by the pool to be had, so we’ll see if I get anything else done.

"At the end of the day, we're just trying to prevent each other from going mad." ~ Will Champion

Writing was a bust last week. I feel like I’m going a bit crazy with this. I mean, it’s not that I’m block, per se, but I’m avoiding writing like a mad fiend, which is not helpful for my sanity. I always like to see at least a little forward progress each week, however minimal. I think I’m going to have to break up my routine, because it seems like as soon as I get home, I’m done. A few evenings at the nearby coffee shop might break me out of my slump.

I’ve been doing great in terms of running though and have been meeting all my goals in that regard. I’m seeing slow, but steady, improvement in my running abilities, so I’m feeling fantastic about that.

Walking into my room, I was greeted with quite a mess and so immediately set to work organizing the space. It wasn’t a complete job (you’ll notice the solution to the problem of the closet was to just close the door), but I feel like I can breath easier in my room now. This small progress has me wanting to work toward finally getting the closet where I want it, just because of how good it feels to have it clean.

Room Cleaning

That which must be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish Chapter Three of Under the Midday Moon (need to get a move on)
– Submit something (poetry, fiction, whatever)
– Edit Letter Box poetry chapbook
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three yoga workouts, three sun salutations min. (0/3)
– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
— Sort paperwork out by year for filing and set up system for the current year
— Organize craft supplied
— Shred papers and dispose of them
— Find a minimum of ten items (big or small) that can be gotten rid of and get rid of them
— Take box of items to donate to Goodwill

Cross-posted to my livejournal.

Aprendiendo Español

En Julio, yo voy a México, D.F. para mi trabajo y para turísmo. Estoy muy feliz, porque me encanta Mexico y puedo regresar a la Casa Azul de Frida Kahlo, el Zocalo, el Palacio de Bellas Artes, y la Basilica de Nuestra Señora Guadalupe. Pero necesito practicar my Español y tengo un pocos possibilidades para esto.

All of which means:
In July, I am going to México, D.F. for work and for tourism. I’m very happy because I love Mexico and can return to Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, the Zocalo, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe. But I need to practice my Spanish and I have a few possibilities for this (or that).

At least that’s what I think it means, because I wrote the above without using any dictionary translation. So I’m sure there are a few spelling errors, some missed accents, and definitely some screwed up pronouns (since they are all feminine or masculine, as well as different for singular and many), but on the whole I didn’t do too bad.

I have a strong base for Español, because I’ve had multiple classes in high school and college and even spent a semester (10 weeks) in México learning the language. But upon returning home and not speaking it for a while, I feel I’ve lost a lot of what I learned and don’t know anything anymore. But I’m always surprised to find that when I put my mind to it, I do have limited conversational skills.

I’ve always wanted to be fluent, though, wanted to read Pablo Neruda’s poetry in the original language and have legitimate and soulful conversations with native speakers. This trip to México, even though I’ll only be there a week, is spurring me to work toward this goal. Here are a few things I can (and plan) to do to make this happen.

1. Leer libros y escribir blog mesajes en Español — Reading books and writing blog posts in Spanish are kind of two sides of the same coin. Upside: They both have the potential to improve my vocabulary (especially the reading) and both can help me work on the grammar.

Downside: Neither will help much with pronunciation or being able to understand when someone is speaking Spanish a million miles a minute. Also, I’ve tried both for very brief periods of time and then gave them up. The reading is especially hard, because even with children’s books I have to look up words so often that it makes the experience kind of stressful. Reading is supposed to be fun relaxing time for me, so I end up giving up too quickly. Writing is a bit easier, but I’m limited by my vocabulary and so end up repeating the same ideas or phrases over and over.

2. Ver peliculas y telenovelas en la lengua original — Great for getting used to hearing the language, building vocabulary and an understanding of how words are pronounced, and learning slang phrases. Also helps in learning to think in the language.

3. Ir a un café y hablar con una amigo en Español — Definitely the best option, especially if I get to talk to someone who is a native speaker or knows more than me. Nothing builds language skills like speaking the language with someone who actually knows it.

4. Usar unu lengua aprendiendo programa para la computadora — Rosetta Stone is the language learning program that immediately comes to mind, though I’ve seen complaints about it, such as this review that recommends Fluenz instead. Both are on the pricy side, but handle the learning process very differently.

Rosetta Stone is a total immersion program, which means they don’t incorporate any English into the learning process. They go straight to the Spanish words and pair them with images, so that learners are supposed to pick up on it intuitively. The program also has interactive games that allow you to connect with other learners online and live sessions with native Spanish speakers (the real boon).

Fluenz on the other hand provides instructions in English and can pair the Spanish words with their English equivalent. It also provides English instructions for understanding pronoun usage and grammar. The review I linked above notes, “Fluenz believes that while full immersion might work with children, adults don’t learn languages as instinctively. Fluenz believes that adults learn best when they can relate the grammar and syntax of a foreign language to the structure of the tongue they already know — in my case, English.”

I’m sure it really just depends on your learning style, though. For me, I already have a good groundwork of the Spanish language and I understand the grammar and pronoun rules in theory at least, so total immersion is more up my alley. I internally debated for a while whether to spend the money, but Rosetta Stone was having a sale and they do payment plans, so I went with that. It should be here in a few days.

5. Todos los ariba — Really a mixture of all of the above will probably get me the best results, and conversing (or attempting to converse) while on my trip to Mexico will also be a great help.

Have you learned to become fluent a second (or third!) language? How did it work for you?

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment here or there.

Who's a good little Chapter One? Why you are!

Current Project: Under the Midday Moon
New Words: 1866
Current Total Word Count: 6,737
Goal: Put together an workable draft of the novel that I would actually let someone read.

Accomplished: A new draft of what I think will be Chapter One. At least, it resembles chapter one, though it may not be chapter one later.

Random Rough Sentence(s): I kissed the top of dad’s head before heading through the door and down into the basement. The stairs led down to a landing and then veered right. The basement was fitted out with a little seating area on the right, a bunch of random boxes on the left, and rows of wine racks along the back wall. One of the racks from the center had been removed, rolled out of the way on hidden wheels. Behind it a steel door with inch thick bars stood open, revealing a stone walled cell.

Notes:
So, like I said a new Chapter One is down on the page, which works much better than my old chapter one (the version I was previously agonizing over). I’m resisting the urge to go back and reread any of it, because I know I’ll sit there and cringe and start hating everything I’ve just written, if I do. So, I’m going to move on to upcoming scenes, assuming I can just figure out what they are.

In other news: My foot is still acting up and what’s frustrating is I can’t really tell what’s triggering it. If I go on a walk/run it hurts, or sometimes it feels better. If I stay off it, it feels better, or sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it hurts when I ice it. Sometimes it feels better when I ice it. Sometimes when I wear my regular flats, the foot feels fine. Sometimes when I wear the flats it hurts. Same with my comfy tennis shoes. I can’t seem to fully pinpoint what’s causing the resurgence of pain, so I’m not really sure what action to take to make it all better. At this point, I’m planning to just do what I’m going to do and get on with things, because waiting around for it to heal is driving me crazy.

In other, other news: Susie Subaru has been sold, which is both wonderful and a little sad.

Cross posted to my website. You are welcome to comment either here or there.

The Bio Meme

Apparently the rules are: You comment, I give you an age (please tell me how old you are, or risk having to time-travel to find out the answers) and you respond to the meme questions with what applied to you back then, and what’s true now.

The lovely wordweaverlynn gave me: 16, which was 1996 and I was a Sophmore/Junior in high school.

I lived in:
I’m trying to remember if my family made the transition from Willowbrook St to the mountain house before or after I was sixteen. It maybe have been during that year, because I remember my parents having to drive down the backside of mountain, bouncing over potholes in the dirt road and then drop the youngest off at elementary school, me off at high school, and the middle kids off at middle school – in that order.

Living in the mountain house was an interesting experience, not only for the drive, but also for the mountain folk, giant spiders, occasional fire warnings, snow, horses and wild dogs, and general sense of disconnection from town.

Now:
I live in an apartment with my good friend. It’s my first on-my-own-adult-home and I’m very happy there, in part because I was lucky to get the end apartment, which seems to have it’s own backyard. After being here, I don’t think I could live in the mountains again and having to deal with driving down HWY 17 and all the hassle of not living in town.

I drove:
Nothing. I didn’t even have a license, let alone a car until after I was 18. It’s was public transport all the way, baby.

Now:
I’ve recently sold my Susy Subaru Forester for M’Lady Cavalier. M’Lady is doing well by me so far.

I was in a relationship with:
Myself. I had a few crushes and some good buddies, but no romantic relationships.

Now:
Same. It was just me enjoying being with me.

I feared:
Being mocked, being made fun off, being embarrassed, being unloved, having no friends. I transitioned friendships every year of high school. It was like my friendships reset every summer and I had to start over at the beginning of the school year. I always had friends, but I was also always adapting myself to the new set of friends in an attempt to make sure I fit in.

It’s why I’ve always had a problem watching movies that rely on embarrassment humor (think Meet the Parents). If a character is being humiliated in some way, either from acting stupid or being mocked, I’ve been known to cover my face while cringing of even run from the room so as to not have to face it.

Now:
Embarrassment is still a thing with me, but not as much. I know how to process it better now, and my focus has shifted from friendships to career. All my fear of embarrassment and being mocked is now in relation to my writing and tied up with the main fear of failing as a writer.

I worked at:
Oh, I don’t know. I kind of worked at school, but not with much effort. I kind of worked at friendships. I only worked at art or writing when I felt like it, which wasn’t much. I just remember spending most of my time hanging out with friends. So maybe that’s what I was working at, trying to fit in.

Now:
So, so many things, including my day job and trying to be a working writer and trying to be healthy and be a good friend and be responsible about adult things like paying rent and more than I can seem to fit in a day.

I wanted to be:
An artist, as in painter. Though I think about that time I was starting to become disillusioned with that idea, as I realized I didn’t have the kind of dedication to really hone the craft or be creative in a way that would stand out. About that time, I was starting to shift my interest into becoming a writer.

Now:
A lover of life everyday in every way. And, yeah, a prosperous writer, too.

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.

The Things That Need Doing

1. Because I thrive (go mad-hatter crazy on) deadlines, I have put off compiling this poetry chapbook until the day before the competition ends. At least it’s only 16-18 pages. *sigh*

2. Oh, and I’ve also signed up for the 10 by 10 Short Script Challenge, which has begun this week. I now have ten nine days to complete a short indie horror script that challenges the genre’s portrayal of women.

3. And lets not forget that I have to provide a rewrite of Chapter One and/or Chapter Two of Under the Midday Moon, my YA werewolf novel to my writing group by next Wednesday.

4. Did I also mention that my entire Saturday will be taken up by attending the AMC Best Picture Showcase, leaving me next to no time to do any of this stuff? No. Well, I am.

5. Somewhere in there, I’m also supposed to exercise.

6. *dies*

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.]

What I'd Like to Accomplish in 2013

I’m doing this a little different. While I liked my Massive List of 2012 goals (everything was together!), it was a little unfocused, allowing me to hop through willy-nilly. Instead I’m going to try working with primary goals (those that must be accomplished first) and secondary goals (things I would like to get done at some point, but only after I’ve made progress on my primary goals). If I can complete these four primary goals in 2013, I will be a very happy lady.

Primary Goals
1. Finish a coherent draft of Under the Midday Moon (my no-longer-untitled werewolf novel)
The spirit of this goal would be to submit a new chapter to each meeting of my writing group and thus produce a novel I can edit and feel comfortable sending out for beta reads. Using the writing group meetings as a way to break it up is a good way to keep me progressing.

I’ve worked on this one a number of times, beginning with some scenes posted online and with a previous Nanowrimo attempt, which provided me some good exploratory pages as I tried to figure out where I wanted to go with it. Since then, I’ve been pondering and been doing some mental stewing on the novel. I’ve decided to add another character point of view to the mix and have more clear ideas of the challenges my characters will need to face. The only thing causing me to hesitate at this point is that I don’t have Claire’s voice, which would give me the launch point into the novel. I don’t want to do a ton

Accomplishing this will require me to, as whipchick so wisely put it, “Write First,” which means before I do anything else (TV, reading, websurfing). I’m pretty sure I can pull this off, if I stick to that motto.

2. Work up to running three miles
I really, really, really, really, really want to do this. I’ve tried and failed to complete the Couch-to-5k program, and part of it was because the increases were too quick and partly because my head gets in the way (from “I don’t feel like it” to I can’t!”). Listening to music while I run will help some, and I’m also trying another version of the Couch-to-5k via an iPhone app. The app alerts me as to when to start and stop the running intervals, which takes the metal calculations out of it. I can just listen to my music and do as I’m told.

If anyone has any advice on how to beat the mindf*ck while running, I would love to hear it. I may just start with some affirmations for the time being.

3. Submit a chapbook- or full-length collection of poetry for publication
I have enough poetry written to do this. So it’s just a matter of selecting the poems and putting the package together. I know of one chapbook that’s open for submissions this month, so I’m going to start there. I plan to also submit a larger manuscript to a poetry book publisher that I’ve been looking at for a while. So that means two submissions in January/February.

I may have to follow up this submission with another manuscript in the middle of year, depending on the reply I get.

4. Address finances
This encompasses a number of factors that I may need to work on and adjust to as the year goes on. Essentially, I need to spend with in my means by sticking to a budget and set up a savings plan and making progress to pay off my debt, as well as begin an IRA or other retirement investment plan.

I would also like to earn an additional income from my poetry and fiction writing. I don’t have control over who chooses to publish my work, but I do have control over who I send it to. So, I plan to work toward sending my work to markets that pay something (rather than nothing) as my first choice.

*
Secondary Goals
Fiction
– edit stories and submit them to paying markets (try for no less than 6 for year)
– finish Fay Fairburn 1st draft

Poetry
– perform morning poetry ritual at least six times per week
– submit new poems to paying markets (try for no less than 6 for year)
– begin work on my novel-in-poems idea
– finish 30 letter challenge
– post a new poem to wattpad as a part of The Poetry Project every week
– continue on my series of fairytale inspired poems

Events
– attend FogCon
– attend one additional convention
– attend and/or participate in 12 open mics/readings (1/month)
– attend poetry retreat
– 48 Hour Film Project

Finances/Employment
– create a system to track money spent/earned as writer and maintain receipts
– create a filing system that functions (which may mean I need to pull my mom in on this for help)

Exercise/Health
– do yoga five mornings a week (a minimum of three sun salutations each morning)
– keep using calorie counter, but more importantly try to incorporate healthier foods
– make appointments as necessary (don’t avoid doctors)
– participate in sunday/saturday hikes
– participate in Wharf to Wharf run (6 miles)

Inspiration
– adjust my perception of “having enough time,” because it’s not just about having enough, but using the time you have wisely
– meditate for at least ten minutes every morning after yoga & every night before sleep
– do a new set of affirmations every month
– go to monthly women’s circles or other spiritual meetings

At some point I would like to write a spec script and start making some short films, but that may be too much right now with everything else I already have on my plate, so that’s more of a tertiary goal.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to either comment here or there.]

Where I'm At — 2012 Round Up‏

Writing Assessment for 2012

Fiction
Stories Submitions: 1
Stories Acceptances: 0
New story drafts completed, but unedited and unsubmitted: 6

Poetry
Poetry Submitions: 2
Poetry Acceptances: 2
Rejections: 1

Published Poems:
“Comfort at Last,” Z-composition, Issue I, February 2012 (link)
“The Teeth that are Teeth,” Z-composition (on Google+), February 2012 (link)
“Bird Collides with Window,” a handful of stones, February 11, 2012 (link) and in A Blackbird Sings: a book of small poems [US | UK | Kindle]
“Annie Taylor, Niagara Falls, 1901″ and “Red Riding Hood Remembers,” Linden Avenue, Issue I, June 2012

Events
Total Open Mic/Readings attended: 5
Open Mic/Readings in which I actually participated: 3
Cons Attended: 1

Though I didn’t come anywhere close to completing what I set out in my Massive List of 2012 Goals, I feel fairly good about what I accomplished in 2012. I got a lot of writing done. Though I do need to step up with submitting my work, especially since I have a lot on hand to submit. Getting myself to FogCon was also great, and I’m planning to go again this year.

*

The following Self Assessment comes via whipchick who discovered it from kathrynrose’s Goal setting 2013.

Health
For many months (anywhere from 4-6), I have been off my walking/running and yoga routine. My days have been mostly sedentary, with my two hour commute, sitting at my computer all day, and then sitting to read or watch TV or write when I get home. It has been very rough on my body, and I can feel how my body creaks and how my muscles ache. It’s a clear sign that I need to get back to walking and running, as my health depends on it.

However, I have been (mostly) keeping up with my calorie counting (I didn’t bother much during the holidays, when there was so much good food about, figuring I would just let myself enjoy it). It works for me. I find that I eat healthier when I’m following it, and doing calorie counting alone has allowed me to loose 13 pounds. There are several shirts and dresses and such that drape better on my body, which makes me feel great (and how my clothes fit is a better indicator to how I feel than the actual pounds lost).

It would be great, too, if I kept more regular doctor appointments.

Education
I feel good with where my education is at with my BA. Though I’m always interested in learning more and would be open to take more classes. But I don’t really have the time for that at the moment. So, I will continue to improve my mind through reading (a given for me anyway), and participation in Cons can be educational as well as fun.

Though I would like to improve my Spanish speaking. I spent many years in high school and college, as well as ten weeks in Mexico, learning the language, soyou’d think I’d be able to speak it better than I do. I’d like to practice that more.

Employment
I still enjoy my job, though it has its frustrations. The work is often challenging and I’ve progressed enough in the office that my employer trusts me to handle most articles. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy having the opportunity to visit manufacturing plants and write about them. The commute is probably the roughest part of my work experience, and I wouldn’t mind figuring out a way to not have to deal with that as much.

In terms of my side job of freelance writing, I have not been as successful. I earned little-to-no money from my story and poetry writing so far and have not pursued it with regularity, making my output sporadic. I am less happy about that.

Daily living
I love my apartment, which is located at the end of the row giving a clear view of trees and grass, almost as if I had a back yard. However, I don’t have much, or well, any, artwork up, so the walls in the living room are very blank, making the space feel unlived in.

In comparison, my bedroom has too much stuff (since it must include office supplies, filing, arts & crafts, etc.) and it’s not very well organized (mountain-of-unfiled-paper work lives and breeds in my closet), so when I let things slip it gets cluttered. I’m sure that adds to any feelings of being overwhelmed I get throughout the work week.

Also, my household cleanliness is not great. My bathroom progresses to nasty before I’ll clean it, so I need to either abide by a cleaning schedule and/or invest in having a cleaning service come to the apartment once a month.

The commute to work is a pain in the ass, but I’m not sure how to get around it as public transportation is not viable in terms of financial savings or time and I don’t have a bicycle. I’d like to do something about it though, and it might be worth investing in a bike and trying it out one day a week.

Finances
Month-to-month I am living just above my budget, so some of my spending is ending up on credit cards. I hate that, and need to amend it immediately. I want to decrease, not increase my debt. As awesome as it is to have a job that sends me to places around the world, it also means that I’m spending a lot of money on travel, so I need to save better for my trips and plan my budget better.

I have no idea or concept of investing and have no retirement plan. This does not seem wise to me, so I need to start educating myself on financial matters and get help with a retirement plan.

As I mentioned in employment, I would like to earn more money as a writer. It’s one way to put aside money for savings and lighten my financial load a bit. Though I recognize that I can’t depend on it to save, but consider it bonus money for savings for trips and retirement investment.

Social
Between my family and a small group of friends, I’m generally happy. I don’t want to have my social schedule overly filled, and so trips outside of the usual routine need to be planned ahead of time. I don’t do well with spontaneity because of that, though I would like to bend the extent of the routine some and start going to stage plays, concerts, or comedy shows.

I’m not good at calling or contacting family and friends who live out of state, or heck, even in state. There are a handful or more close friends, whom I have not seen in over six months. I hang out with them for a day, but then don’t see them for ages — though they are often on my mind and in my heart. I’d like to reach out and connect with them a bit more, either by making phone calls or meeting in person. This includes contacting and touching base with my penpal and many of my online acquaintances.

I enjoy solitude, moments of just me myself at home reading, taking a mental break from interacting. I would like to spend that time more wisely, not in terms of working more, but in terms of walking and allowing for silence. Hence, no TV and such during those periods.

Leisure
I read (a lot) and I hang out with my baby niece.  I occasionally sketch just for the fun of it, and I’d like to do that more.

I also spend significant amounts of time flipping channels, watching shows that I don’t particularly care about. I’d like to use that time better, choose to watch shows I actually love or watch movies that interest me.

It would be fun to spend more leisure time doing outdoor activities. Geocaching, for example, would be spectacularly fun. I also like hiking and would like to explore more of the trails in the area.

Travel has been good for me with my job pitching in and allowing me to go places I might not otherwise. I’d like to do more day trips and weekend trips closer to home, though.

Inspiration
I used to attend Women’s Circles regularly and participate in group breath sessions and other forms of spiritual connection with self and community, but it’s been a while and I feel the absence. I miss the women I’ve met and the connection with inner calm through deep breathing (it’s funny how even as I write this I start to breathe more deeply). I’d like to meditate more on my own, but also attend spiritual events again. They were so good for me.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve fallen into the I’m-not-good-enough and I’m-not-worthy traps, especially as a writer. I know this is contributing to my procrastination around writing and submitting my work, and why I tend to choose market that pay nothing over those markets that do. So, it would be good for me to work through some affirmations and try to process that a big and dislodge some of my self-doubt.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. Feel free to comment either here or there.]

Happy New Year!

I have several 2012 round ups to post for books, movies, and life in general, as well as new goals for 2013. Those will all be thrown up this week.

In the meantime, be merry and safe with all your celebrating tonight. (I personally shall be wrapped in cuddly pajamas, playing board games, drinking beer, and being joyfully mellow with family.)

To one and all —

X All the Things

Sketch by The Oatmeal.

[Cross posted to my livejournal.]

Letting go of "should" in order to enjoy "is"

People tend to have high expectations for the Holidays, a lot of ideas of what it should be, from decorations to food to family coming together in certain and specific ways. When things don’t line up with the shoulds, things get uncomfortable. This collision of what we think it should be and what it is is where most of the conflict and tensions rise.

My family is no exception to this. There has been a lot of shifting of what the holidays look like in recent years that has required reajustments of expectations, but this year has involved an especially uncomfortable shifting. It started with Thanksgiving, and now we’re faced with it again for Christmas. It’s not even close to what it used to look like.

So various family members are pissed upset. Different family members have different expectations — each with their own set of should be‘s. I’m seeing a lot of upset feelings and a lot of unwillingness to compromise, and there’s not much I can do about it. I’m willing to give my support where I can, but for the most part how everyone chooses to handle it is beyong my control.

I’ve already had a freak out over Thanksgiving, which I processed and let go. I think that experience has let me be okay with allowing Christmas to be whatever it’s going to be. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me what it ultimately looks like — it doesn’t matter whose house it’s celebrated at, where Christmas dinners happen, when the presents are opens, and etc., etc., etc. — just so long as family comes together in love and laughter.

Because that’s the important thing. Family and love and laughter (and maybe a few carols and some spiked eggnog and some good food). All the rest is just details.

If one can just let go of the idea of the holidays they have in their heads, they can enjoy the holidays for what they are — a gathering of those we love.

Being a list of 10 things that happened this week

1. I finished, polished, and submitted my new short story, “The Shadow’s Flight,” to the anthology Rustblind and Silverbright. Clicking “send” has to be the scariest part of the writing process for me. It’s that moment when I keep wanting to do just ONE more proofread of both story and cover letter with the knowledge that once it’s been sent, it cannot be retrieved. Once it’s gone, I can sit back, comfortable in the knowledge that things are no longer within my control, and what will be will be. I’m quite happy with this story, and wether in this anthology or another market, I’m sure it will find a home.

2. I started work on another short story this week, which has been a little more challenging for me. I started out excited and enthralled with my idea, and was deperately throwing down snippets and phrases into a notebook, but now things have stalled a bit. I have the parameters all sketched out, filling in the colors and the details has turned out to be considerably more difficult. I need to give up finding the “perfect” words and just get any words into sentences and paragraphs in the hopes that my writing gang can read it and review it tonight.

3. The Untitled Werewolf Novel, which now has the tentative title of Beneath the Midday Moon, continues to evolve inside my head. I was originally going to write it in first person with a single perspective. Now, I’m planning to add another character POV, and am undecided on whether to go with first person still or with a limited third person omnicient POV. Decisions, decisions.

4. I posted a new poem on wattpad, called “Ode to an Antique Suitcase,” which you can read it here.

5. Yesterday, I pulled off my  sweater and totally freaked out, suddenly sure that I was naked underneath and had just exposed myself to the entire office — only to realize after a couple of deep calming breaths that it was fine, reall. That I was not naked, but just wearing a nude colored tank top undearneath the sweater. The panic, however, reminded me instantly of those terrible dreams I used to have in high school of being in class without my pants on.

6. Spent Thursday night hanging out with my brother and his friend in San Francisco, drinking beers and eating good food. We stopped by the restaurant he manages, called Split Bread, which is all organic food and has really good toffee cookies.

7. It is raining outside. A lot. It’s like the sky is dumping whole buckets of water on the earth, for which I am very grateful, because how else are my potted plants to get watered.

8. It didn’t help, though, that I left both rain jacket and umbrella in the car, and so had to run down the pathway, leap (unsucessfully) over a puddle and throw myself into the car — none of which stopped me from looking like a wet cat and having to sit there, shaking the water from my limbs.

9. I don’t really have anything else to say.

10. I just like round numbers.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. Feel free to comment here or there.]

It's Friday. Huzzahs.

I’ve been somewhat sick half the week, but I’ve discovered that taking Nyquil before bed = awesomeness. What? Sleep through the night? Without my head congested and generally unbreatheable? Wake up feeling better not worse the next morning? Yeah! Why haven’t I done this before?

Because I’ve been a head full of mucus this week, I’ve use this as an excuse to be lazy. Thus no progress has been made on my anti-nano goals — I can’t, at the moment, even bring myself to open the untitled werewolf novel to even see where I’m at with it. However, I have been making some progress on a piece that will probably end up being just a little too long for flash fiction.

So that’s it in news about me.

Now I point you to this awesome post, “Black Women in Speculative Fiction: A Brief Investigation,” which increases my TBR list exponentially.

Also, here’s a meme I snatched from brigits_flame:

Book you are currently reading: The Hobbit by Tolkien, Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, and Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
Last book you read: Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey: Vampire Slayer as Feminine Chosen One, by Valerie Estelle Frankel
Book you could read again and again and again: The Hobbit and Beloved by Toni Morrison and a handful of others.
Book you are glad you read once but will never ever read again: Most recently? Probably The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. (But I never really know what books I’ll read again.)
Favorite book (if it differs from a book you could read again and again…): Too many, but a novel that is my current favorite is Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
Writer whose stories you enjoy immensely: Neil Gaiman, for one, Holly Black, Nova Ren Suma, Libba Bray, for others.
Writer whose style blows you away: Mostly poets, such as Ai, or Walt Whitman, or David Perez, or Karen Finneyfrock. Also, Toni Morrison.

[Cross posted to my livejournal.]

So grateful it's over now…

and that I no longer need to hear the political ads on TV (and hopefully vitriol being spouted on Facebook will trickle off as well).

I’m grateful that Obama has been reelected. He hasn’t been a perfect president, but he’s done well in an incredibly tough situation, not to mention that he supports gay marriage and women’s rights, both things I care about.

Other things I’m happy about:

A lot of good things there, and I’m sure there are others that I’m not listing. Edited to add: You can read about a lot more of the awesomeness here.

It doesn’t mean we’re “fixed” as a country, and none of these things eliminate the continued presence of racism, sexism, ableism, or other problems in our country, but I like to see that steps are being taken and seeing signs that we might be starting to head in the right direction.

Happy Fourth!

I’m about to head off home (I worked today) to hang with my fam by the pool. But in the meantime, I was reminded today that four years ago I co-wrote a short film for the 48 Hour Film Project. As its a Fourth of July holiday film, I thought I’d share it again with you all.

I’m hoping to get to work on some more fimmaking and script projects. A director friend of mine (who’s youtube is here) is hoping to start working on some stuff, the next 48 Hour Film Project is coming up in August, and I found another director online who is requesting short scifi script submissions. So lots of fun opportunities for me to get involved with, assuming I get off my lazy ass and do it.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

Being a list of 5 things

1. Kinderbard – Songs for Children Sung by Characters from Shakespeare
Kinderbard is an awesome project to create that uses Shakespeare and music to inspire and educate children.

“We want to bring into the world the first in a planned series of books, music, and interactive apps containing songs for children. Each song is ‘sung by’ a character from Shakespeare, and is true to the quotation spoken by that character, and on which the song is based. Many of our songs address issues with which children can identify, such as anxiety, sibling rivalry, even bullying. Some are just silly or funny. But they are all lovingly created, and professionally performed, produced, and mastered.” — quoted from here

If you watch the video on the kickstarter page, you can see the love that has gone into making all of this. Daeshin Kim is organizing the project, while his wife is creating the art and his young daughter is singing the songs. The project is in fact inspired by the challenges the daughter had to face when the family moved to Paris and how music and Shakespeare helped her adapt to a new language and culture.

The project only has a few days left to gain funding, so I’m trying to signal boost and get others to join in. It certainly helps that in every interaction that I’ve had with Daeshin, he has been generous and kind, so I hope, hope, hope that the funds for this project come together.

2. Rereading The Martian Chronicles
The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories that have been strung together into a novel, which presents earth’s colonization of Mars. The first expeditions meet with challenges from the Martian natives, who are an advanced race in their own right. In one such story, “The Earth Men,” the company lands hoping to receive acknowledgement and fanfare in this first interaction with an alien race, only to find the Martians to be bored and annoyed by their presence.

As the colonization continues and more and more humans come to Mars, we see new kinds of stories, stories of people reshaping a stranger world, of strange people finding peace in solitude away from the red tape of Earth, of people fighting back once Earth tries to bring it’s red tape to Mars. Some stories are better than others of course — and certainly, being written in the ’50s, there’s not much space for women who are little more than background — but on the whole they are stories with interesting characters, stories that analyze humanity and society by situating it on an alien world.

I actually picked up the book to reread just a few days before Ray Bradbury passed away, the coincidence of which added a new level of poignancy to the reading. I remember being immediately smitten with the book when I first read it in school. “There Will Come Soft Rains” remains one of my favorite shorts stories, and in rereading it again now, I’m still amazed by the way he spun the story and how it still both moves me and gives me chills. Really a fantastic book — just one piece of evidence showing how amazing Bradbury was, and I’m already looking forward to reading it again someday.

3. Snow White and the Huntsman and the fabulous witch
I was going to write a post all about how, while Snow White and the Huntsman was a flawed movie in many ways, Charlize Theron was gorgeous and wonderful, bringing a haunted, unhinged depth to Queen Ravena (that pretty much carried the movie), and how I really do love the queen in the Snow White stories in general, because Snow in her purity is rather boring, but Gemma Files (aka [info]handful_ofdust) already wrote about it in her fabulous column and said it so much better than I ever could.

The only thing she didn’t mention is Theron’s fantastic costumes throughout the movie. Her gowns were amazing, like this one with the amazing headpiece and bird’s skulls around the neckline or this one that’s made with dung beetle carapaces or this one that looks like chain mail. Gorgeous.

Photo 184. Speaking of fairy tales…
I was introduced to this story at PANK Magazine by Rachel Rodman, called “Experimental Breeds: Bears, Clothed In Rumpled Hoods, Pipe “Rapunzel” To The Sleeping Pigs,” which fractures multiple fairy tales and mashes them together. It blew my mind. I mean, literally I was left sitting in my chair, slack-jawed, and unable to think properly — mind-blown. Go read it.

5. Pants
Yesterday, I arrived at work, only to immediately rip a hole in the seat of my pants. It was NOT awesome and set a bad precedent for the day. However, that evening I went to the mall to replace the pants that ripped, and … I ended up buying myself a whole new outfit, pants, shirt, sweater.

Considering the fact that shopping can sometimes be a stressful and/or depressing event for me, finding a whole outfit that works perfect, makes me feel good, and that I love is a really great feeling.

Don’t I look cute! For joy. (^_^)

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

Turkey and Pecan Pie and Writing and Writing and Card Games

I had a lovely, relaxing four day weekend with my family. In addition to a full weekend of fabulous food (half of which was gluten free) — candied yams, leftover turkey sandwiches, leftover turkey soup, cookies, brownies, and four different kinds of pie — we also participated in nightly rounds of 31 (a card game).

On Friday, we went to see The Muppets, which was fabulous. It was exactly what a muppet movie should be: fun, funny, wacky, and heartfelt. Also, “Am I a Man or a Muppet?” has to be the best song ever:

“Am I a man or am I a muppet?
If I’m a man that makes me a muppet of a man.
Am I a muppet or am I a man?
If I’m a muppet, then I’m very manly muppet.”

My whole family was singing this song and quoting from the movie for the rest of the weekend, and we are all in agreement that we want to own it.

When I wasn’t hanging out with the fam, I was on my computer either writing or being distracted from writing by the internets.

I’m currently at 26,700 words on my Untitled Werewolf Novel, which I’ve been trying to pound out in one go for Nano. I probably should have pushed myself a little harder on getting my word count up, but I kind of just let it be what it was in terms of progress. I have a right to have fun, too, and I did manage to get another 10,000 or so words down. I won’t be completing the Nano challenge this year, but I’m planning to keep working on the novel. Hopefully, I’ll manage to get draft zero completed by the end of December.

I am feeling fairly good about this Werwolf novel and there are some good scenes coming out. I can already tell that there is going to be some serious rearranging that’s going to have to take place in order to shift the emphasis on certain relationships and to make sure there’s conflict from page one. I’m not sure that I’m starting at the right place at the moment.

Draft zero writing is practically like outlining for me. Even though I have most of the novel planned out in my head, I spend most of my time figuring out who these people are and where they want to go. It become exploratory, which is an important step in the process. As I go along I insert notes into the text to help me know what I might want to change in previous chapters (such as putting more focus on the father-daughter relationship at the beginning).

In my next draft, I’ll be able to nail things down a little more solidly and will begin to share it with my writing gang.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]