Sunday, November 15, 2009

my first half-marathon experience

Preface: I signed up for this race back in the spring when I was training regularly and saw no reason I couldn't get ready in 7 months. There was no reason I couldn't have been ready, but I let my head get in the way. I have basically not trained at all in the last few months. Which brings us to...

Catepeiler crossing the parking lot road in Lo...Image by veganstraightedge via Flickr

4:30 a.m. this morning: the alarm goes off. We ate our bagels and were ready to go at 5 a.m. We parked and took the shuttle to the start line, where by 6:30 we were among thousands of people waiting to use the portapotty. Nissa and I were in our corral at the start time (7:30), but we didn't actually get to the start until an hour later. No big deal, I knew it would be this way.

I spent the first three miles trying to overcome my certainty that I could not do this, which Nissa really helped with, reminding me I get in my own way too much. Nick had told me yesterday this race would be a major psychological hurdle for me, and he was right. I approached it as a psychological hurdle, hoping if I could get past it the next time would be easier.

By Mile 3, Nissa went on her way, and I kept my (much slower) pace. At each mile marker I just told myself now I just have to make it to 4... now I just have to make it to 5... In these little chunks, I really started to believe I could make it. It would take all day, but I'd make it.

Between Miles 5 and 6, it all started to fall apart for me. First I realized the police cars were on my heels. Anyone who has ever done a race knows the police cars bring up the rear, corralling the slowest runners to mark the end of the race. I couldnt' keep pace ahead of the cars, so I let them pass. This was really ok with me, I just wanted to keep going.

But one spectator really cracked me open when he looked me in the eye and gave me the most pitying thumbs up. I realized I was that person who makes a great human interest story, the girl who overcomes physical inferiority to accomplish something mediocre. I did not want to be that girl! And I started to cry.

With the police cars getting farther ahead of me, I saw what was even worse. The ambulance and the street sweepers were passing me too. I had not anticipated my slowness would leave me totally outside the race. They were opening the blockades, cleaning up the water stations. I started crying harder because I was being culled totally from the race.

Then as I walked on the sidewalk and cried, a photographer stood right in front of me taking my picture. Look, I understand journalism. I know the crying girl, struggling to stay in the race makes a GREAT picture, but I did not want to be the girl in that picture!

I sat down on a bench to get all this self-pity and frustration out of my system, but I was always ready to keep going. I thought I would take my race number off and become just a girl strolling the next 7 miles through town. But I realized then, I couldn't go on. Physically I could, but there would be no water stations, no roads blocked off, no one to look after me if I collapsed. I was too afraid to go on in this unfamiliar area.

So I was done at six miles, took a cab back to the parking lot to meet up with my heroes, Nick and Nissa, who killed themselves to actually finish.

But wait, there's more. I don't want this to sound like a story of defeat or failure. It is really a story of inspiration. Because, listen to me, I want to run more than ever now. I want to do a hundred races and never be the girl who gets left behind and melts down halfway through. See, this was the benchmark that I will improve upon.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Diet update

A steamed tail-on shrimpImage via Wikipedia

This weekend, Nick and I accomplished a feat I would never before have imagined: we ate no junk food. Come on, everyone knows that weekends are meant for ice cream, cheeseburgers, and hot wings and forgetting all the good diet deeds you did the previous week. That's certainly the way we usually treat them. But as I wrote last week, I'm working on lowering my triglycerides, eliminating all animal products except fish. And this weekend has been a feast of seafood.

Friday night we went out for Thai food, where I had some yummy shrimp thing. Then last night, Nick made a giant seafood paella, with shrimp, calamari, monkfish and mussels. Tonight I'm making salmon.

Besides the distinct lack of any other meat, cheese or eggs, we are also avoiding processed carbs and sugar. Yeah, seriously. None of those yummy things in the last 4 days. But this is not torture when you have hummus and avocados, olives and asparagus.

26 more days to go... don't count me out yet!
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

French fries are vegan, right?

Guinea 1.Image via Wikipedia

Before this morning I had never thought about how hard it is to construct a breakfast without animal products or refined carbs. A list of my regular favorites were immediately excluded: eggs, toast with butter, cereal, yogurt, cheese, croissants. I ended up with grapes and plain oatmeal (no milk, butter or sugar, of course). OK, that was adequate, but I need to do some better planning for future breakfasts.

To clarify, I'm not your new Super-Vegan, out to save the world one salad at a time. This is part of a temporary experiment to see if I can go off all my prescription medications this year. I'm not going to discard those medications and go about business as usual. Instead, I'm taking one health issue at a time and replacing the medication with lifestyle changes that have been proven by research to improve the condition.

First on the chopping block is my triglyceride-lowering medication, Trilipix. Yes, I'm 33 and on medicine for my triglycerides, along with about 1/2 a dozen other medicines. I think this is not due to the atrocious state of my health, but instead to the ease of prescribing drug after drug to someone like me, who sees doctors regularly for chronic conditions. Every three months I see an endocrinologist, he analyzes my blood work, and writes a new prescription for any abnormality. I'm not villainizing the man because he's a good doctor, but I've never been offered too many "alternatives" to more prescriptions. And I think when you have great health insurance, doctors are even less likely to consider giving you other options. He's in the business of medicine, right? But I'm in the business of doing research and figuring out what's best for me.

Now, these high triglycerides. Triglycerides are typically elevated for Type 2 diabetics. Type 2 diabtes often results from years of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a common result of polycystic ovary syndrome. See all those connections? Doctors see lab work that indicates high triglycerides, but I know I'm a network of cause and effect resulting from circumstances that are unique to me. I have those unique circumstances in mind when I research treatments.

For this project, I'm using a health database of scientific research on every health condition you can think of. As for herbal and vitamin remedies, the database categorizes them as having strong data, ambiguous data or insufficient data. I'm only trying remedies with strong scientific data. And, drumroll, please... the prescription for lowering my triglycerides without medication is...

  • No animal products, except fish twice a week
  • No refined carbohydrates
  • Take these supplements: B-complex, fish oil, guggal
  • Eat oats
  • Exercise 30 minutes a day

Oh wow, not so "alternative", is it?? Often, rejecting pharmaceuticals is made to sound like an act of Hippie wackadoo or fringe-religiousity. However, I see this experiment as a way to stop treating myself like a sick person and start acting like a healthy person. I'm going to do this for 30 days (aiming for 75 percent compliance) while tapering off my Trilipix and then ask the doctor to check my blood. Stay tuned for more from the human guinea pig.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

the latest cure

vegan food pyramid adapted from recommendation...Image via Wikipedia

I admit I'm continually renewing my outlandish health and fitness goals, from training for this half-marathon to endlessly trying to nail down the best nutrition program. I could see all these passing goals as a series of failures, but they are always, always informative. For example, I've learned in the last year that I feel healthiest when I exercise everyday and keep a food journal. I've learned that with just a little effort, I can see obvious fitness gains. And I need yoga everyday.

What's the latest grand scheme? I hesitate to even say, but too much of my recent readings have been pointing to it: vegetarianism. I always thought my legacy of animal husbandry automatically disqualified me from being a good vegetarian, but now I'm sick. Chronic illness demands loyalty only to getting better. But let me explain why I've been approaching this as a possible solution...

It started with a health book I bought and read over vacation: Quantum Wellness. I had no idea until I was half way through it, but this book is a handbook for vegetarianism. At the same time, I heard an interview with Dr. Neal Barnard, whose research supports veganism as a cure for diabetes. I ALWAYS pay attention to research that claims to approach a cure for diabetes. I bought Dr. Barnard's book last week, and then I read an article in the magazine Natural Solutions also about veganism as a cure for diabetes.

I can't responsibly ignore these hints. I have to conduct this experiment on myself and see if I can withstand it, if it works. I'm starting small, with the food I bring into our house (not being so strict right now on food we eat in restaurant). First I want to cut out red meat and chicken and highly processed food. Eventually, ideally, the experiment would mean eating only fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Oh wow, look, that's not terribly revolutionary.

I don't think I would ever be a 100% vegetarian or an ethical vegetarian, but for the sake of losing weight and going off medications, I'm willing to be an 80% occasional flexa-pesca-lacto-ovo-vegetarian transitioning to an 80% vegan eventually.
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Saturday, August 1, 2009


Cape Cod beach at sunsetImage via Wikipedia

It's now only 3.5 months until the half marathon and I have seriously backslid in my training. It feels like I am starting over, but the difference this time is I have more confidence than I did a year ago. I know if I will just put in the hours I can get to the point of going 13.1 miles without dying.

Nick and I will go to the park in the morning for some walk/run time. That could actually be appealing if I weren't typing this at 2 a.m. after trying to fall asleep for 2 hours. I guess I damaged myself by sleeping til noon today, but it was my last official day of summer. Yes, it's back to work on Monday, though the girls don't start back until Aug. 17. HOWEVER, we will leave next Thursday for our vacation, a week in Cape Cod with Nick's family. It's my first time to experience a New England beach, but for Nick it was a childhood annual event. They say the water is cold. Guess how great cold water sounds when you've endured a few months of 100+ temps in San Caliente, Texas? In fact, it was 94 degrees at 11 p.m. tonight. That's our cold snap.

I'm going to try one more time to read a few pages and fall asleep. If it doesn't work this time, I'm going to get up and have breakfast and start the day.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009


notebook metamorphosisImage by bklyn down via Flickr

Markedly less depressive now that I was a few days ago! Man, I just have to keep control on my schedule and stop using caffeine in place of sleep. Insomnia has always triggered the crazies for me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Brown cup of coffeeImage via Wikipedia

I've not treated myself so well these last few days, not sleeping enough, living on junk and caffeine and anxiety. It's an awful cycle to get jacked up on junk, not be able to sleep, need more caffeine to function, never sleep, take pills to sleep, get more tired but too anxious and still awake.

So these last few nights when I was finally too tired to brain my school work, but too tired to sleep, I've been caught in this nasty loop of contemplating my infertility. THUD <-- (the sound of people who suddenly stopped reading and closed this page.)

I guess it flared up a few days ago when I heard some asinine comment about gay people not having valid marriages because they can't reproduce. I take that personally because, obviously, the same logic invalidates my marriage, right? I don't think it's too uncommon for women with infertility to get their self-worth all wrapped up in not being able to perform this very very basic biological function. Then you can throw God in the mix, and forget about it. God clearly felt me unworthy to reproduce, if he was involved in the process at all.

The facts of life are I won't partake of any more medical fertility treatment, and I've gotten cold feet about adoption. Adoption is awesome and noble, isn't it? People get so excited about it. I get excited because I always always knew I would do it. But suddenly I resent having to pay $20,000 for a baby. I resent it because I'm still mad I can't make one for free like everyone else. And I resent it for all the people who can't afford to spend $20k on a baby and therefor don't even have that option.

And then there's the truth of it. I don't want to get all deep in the process and then get rejected because there are too many things wrong with me.

The later it gets, the more indulgent my self-pity.

I'm starting to tell myself kids are too much trouble anyway. They would cut into our travel and I wouldn't be able to do all the "me" things I like to do. And they are messy. And geez, I'm 33 -- it would be forever before they'd be out of the way.

But then my in-laws would never be grandparents and who would wear the box full of baby clothes my mother-in-law has been knitting since Nick and I got married? Who would get our stuff when we die? Who would Nick teach about baseball? Who would I mess up with my neurosis so she eventually has to write a book about the years she spent in therapy? Oh oh, when we're in our 60s, who will spend holidays with us?

It's pretty pathetic, the idea of being the end of the line. Seems like you're supposed to leave a legacy of ideas or accomplishments to make up for it.

Now I'm thoroughly sleepy. I need some real rest to get up and do smart stuff tomorrow. Get my head screwed back on straight and be less depressive.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adventures in Library School

Transom at UNTImage by ¡Viva la Cynthia! via Flickr

A bit of background: this summer I started my first semester toward a master's in library information science from the University of North Texas. The two classes I'm taking -- Intro to Information Professions and Intro to Information Organization -- start with several days of lecture, and the rest of the semester is totally online.

So I left for Denton (near Dallas) last Wednesday. I really had no idea what to expect, but I took a stack of magazines and books a foot high because I'd be reading a lot, right? Nope, didn't crack a single one. For five days, I was in lectures from 8 to 5. Then I was back at

Runners participating in the 2004 US Marine Co...Image via Wikipedia

the hotel trying to grasp the Everest of assignments I'm expected to do in the next month and a half.

It was like we were all dumped at the start line of a marathon, expected to sprint to the end and then, btw, you can train for all this after we're done. I spent first 10 miles going, omgwtf???? Why did they ever accept me to this program I will never keep up!!!! Maybe I was smart 10 years ago at Auburn but here I am only old and dumb!!!!!! But I broke through the wall on day three and hit that familiar space where the class material and assignments were just blurs as I sped past them. I GOT it.

Now I'm back home in the real world where my calendar is covered with due dates and I have a few hundred pages of readings to get through everyday. But it's all fun!! How did I go 10 years before going back to graduate school???? This is my favorite thing in the world!
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

remember this

July 4: Alice/WonderlandImage via Wikipedia

two upcoming themes for Somerset Studios: aubergine and Alice in Wonderland.
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Saturday, May 30, 2009


a CherryImage via Wikipedia

I am so addicted to food, I am panicking at the thought of not eating anything but fruit today! So far I've had juice, cherries, cantaloupe and apricots. It's making me grouchy, but I haven't cracked yet. Still, I'm wishing Nick would not be supportive of this challenge and would instead take me out for a steak and fries. mmm.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

detoxify detoxify kick a hole right in the sky

Local Fruit and VegetablesImage by Carol Moshier via Flickr

After two hell weeks at work and lots of junky food during the off hours, it's time to clean up my act. I thought it would be a good idea to start the summer with a 9-day detox. It starts tomorrow with all fruit for a day, then all fruits and vegetables for a day. Then the next seven days, only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and fish. Also, exercise and yoga everyday, plus some hydrotherapy and massage. I'll try to write about it the whole way through to keep on track.

Also, we are starting tonight and watching all of Lost straight through from the beginning.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

We don't need no stinkin luck

Horse on Carousel, Princes Street Gardens, Edi...Image via Wikipedia

Right now, Nick is 30 minutes into an all-day test, a major career-defining moment (no pressure, babe.) This stinking test, which is the brass ring at the near-end of a 6-year carousel ride, has eclipsed everything for months. When he doesn't have to study for hours a day, I might get to see what my husband's hobbies are.

That's why after it's over today, we are going to Austin to celebrate for a few days (celebrate the test being over and Nick's 32nd birthday.)

But now, I have to get ready for work.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


HALLATROW, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 12:  Seco...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Earlier this year, I held a contest challenging students to read (and write about) books on the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list. The sad truth is I've only read about 10 of these books myself. Today I was inspired to change that.

Does anyone else want to give it a try? I also want to read more from the nonfiction list.

This is also a fantastic list.

If anyone wants to informally read from these lists and talk about the books, I will create an online book club! But not where we pick one book and everyone has to read it. Totally informal, just reading what you feel like and talking about it.
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Maybe a new era

Let me tell you about the last two 5ks I did before yesterday. They were in November 2008 and 2007, both at my husband's workplace, a gorgeous wooded compound not far from where we live. Both times I ached and hobbled all the way to the end with very little running.

Both times I had frequent moments of cursing myself for thinking I could do anything so fit or active. And at the heart of it I felt ashamed for being so weak. The physical pain and emotional insecurity made them unenjoyable, made me unable to even feel proud when they were over. I just felt frustrated that I couldn't do better.

I didn't know until yesterday's Race for the Cure was over how much better it would be. I wanted to run. And when it was over I wanted to run some more. (Not at that moment, but you know, in the future.)

That desire to run in the future will be important for that little ol' half-marathon in November, see? Right now my desire is to run twice a week and weight train four times a week. I see myself running about 2-4 miles. It's a major breakthrough to imagine doing that without dread or fear of failure.

Over the next seven months, I will shrink so many lbs. it will be easier to envision 5 or 10 miles within myself.

Thanks to my running buddy Nissa's inspiration, I picked up this little gadget today:
This will make it much more realistic to drag my ass more than one mile.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pump Me Up!

A complete weight training workout can be perf...Image via Wikipedia

I visit my endocrinologist every three months. I got through all the labs (I have one vein that's gone pro from all the sticking), have my vitals updated and talk with the Doc about adjusting my wellness program.

I almost always approach these visits with great shame because I haven't lost weight (except that one awesome time I had lost weight!) This morning I almost skipped it, so frustrated with thinking I've done all the right things and have no results to show for it. Let this serve as a reminder that no matter how discouraged I get, my doctor always sets me back in the right frame of mind.

Today I unloaded on him about how I want to be an athlete! but this body is trying to kill me and it won't respond to anything. wah wah wah desperation HELP!!!!

But like a miracle, he always has another trick up his sleeve. Or a few tricks.

  • Weight training -- he wants me building muscle up to 5 days a week. Hells yeah! I love weight training! I thought I was supposed to only worry about cardio. Well, Ni

    The Holistic Approach of Alternative Medicine ...Image via Wikipedia

    ck and I are going to shop for one of those super weight benches with all the attachments and stuff. I love to be strong!
  • Adjust my insulin-sensitizing medication -- I've been on a low dose because of side-effects, but I'm going to try a time-release version and double my dose.
  • Go back to the nutritionist -- I haven't see one in about a year. I should be doing this regularly just to stay on track.
  • Finally, he thinks I should get a smart phone to track my calories. That might be a stretch, but I like the idea!!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Future Librarians Club

Smaller libraries can sometimes be found in pr...Image via Wikipedia

Last Fall was full of family worry and stress because my Grammaw was sick and then dying. Boy, what a way to start a post! The point is I put off applying to graduate school because it was just too much. And every time I've thought of it since the first of the year, my head just goes back to those worrisome months. It was a hurdle for me to get over to just be willing to think of applying, and the first step was checking the application deadline for Summer.

Once I did that yesterday, I started to feel the excitement again! Today I looked back over the course catalog and these are the classes I'm most excited about:

  • Economics of Information
  • Development of Libraries, Publishing and Communication
  • Serial Publications
  • Special Collections
  • Preservation
  • Rare Books
  • Publishing
Yeah! I could work in a museum library or something! Like at the McNay! I love going to the library at the McNay.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Being Ernest

So I decided on Thursday that a new kitten would cheer me out of this week-long funk I've been in. It wasn't a monumental decision because we have three cats and are always on the verge of getting a new one. Oh, it didn't hurt that I went to Adoption Basics class this week and had a lot of time to think about babies and the absence of my babies and the absence of anything sweet and tiny to cuddle.

Also, there was the whole mess of Solaris the Cat being dead and then undead last week. That got me started even thinking about a new cat for real.

Nick and I meant to meet at the Humane Society after work yesterday, but then I had a brain storm. We had just been to this bookstore we love called Nine Lives Books. It is a used bookstore (plus) and cat sanctuary (double plus plus). I called them to inquire about kitties. I know there are scores of perfectly lovable grown cats out there and I wish we could have them all, but I worry too much about them disrupting our purr-to-hiss ratio at home.

So they told me they had two orange baby boys at the sanctuary and I told Nick our after work plans had changed!

Later at the bookstore, I found little Ernest napping with his brother. When I picked him up to cuddle, he automatically started purring. SOLD! Plus he laid all limp in my arms, which is exactly how I like my cats: malleable.

We dropped him off at home to be sniffed by his new brothers while we went out for dinner and to buy Nick pants (unrelated). Meanwhile, I was trying to come up with a name. I wanted something literary. So far our cats all have rock and roll names: Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, Siddhartha Vicious. For the new kitten I was considering Chuck Bukowski or Ernest Hemingway. And Nick suggested (Raoul) Duke. I just couldn't settle on one. While we were waiting for our table at Logan's Roadhouse, I thought, "Maybe our waiter will have a cool name and that will cinch it."

And then the hostess said, "Ernest will show you to your table." Ha! That's it.

Ernest had a bath earlier and has been trying to nurse on Nick's elbow.

Is it weird for that picture above to show him nestled in Nick's chest hair? I didn't know how weird that would be for other people, you know?
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Sunday, February 1, 2009


The jog path/walkway along the Kukkarahally lakeImage via Wikipedia

I don't even know if I can call what I've done "running". For the few minutes I do it, it must look like a slow-motion version of someone who actually runs very slowly.


I can really see the future when it's more something I do than something I wish I could do. And I'm committed to getting there, however humiliating the interim is.

I may have mentioned I started a group for beginner runners. We meet every Saturday, which I expect to keep me committed. The tough thing is that no one I the group so far is quite as "beginner" as I am. At yesterday's meetup, I was so embarassed about my inability. I just don't want people to think I'm lazy or dumb.

BUT! Yes, I know I have to tackle that fear on my own, and likely most people don't stop worrying about themselves long enough to judge me. It will just be an emotional process of adjustment for me, and I look forward to that as much as the physical process.
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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Feeling strong!

Close up of the black-eyed peaImage via Wikipedia

Just to update on how I feel after one week of no refined sugar or carbs...

  • I have had no fits of raging-moody hunger, and these were daily occurances before.
  • I had no trouble avoiding a buffet of lasagna, bread and sweets at work yesterday.
  • Juice is so sweet it almost gags me and I have to dilute it with water.
  • I have had no temptation for dessert, a daily craving before. No bread/carb cravings either.
  • Less need for snacks throughout the day.
  • When Nick and I went out for a celebration dinner last night, I did eat several pieces of bread. It was the first time all week I felt so full my pants were busting. (I don't regret it though! That was good stuff. And I'm allowing that one special meal each week. But I might find I don't even want the bread at my special meal.)
  • I'm excited about trying all manner of dried beans! We regularly eat red, black, lentil and black-eyed peas, but I want to try some less familiar ones. Picked up Christmas lima beans yesterday.
  • Nick just got me a new digital weight/body fat/water scale for Valentine's Day! I hugged him in the middle of the store for thinking of exactly what I wanted. With how screwy my hormones are, I am never sure how much water affects things.
Bottom line: I'm feeling great so far!

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Thursday, January 29, 2009


== Summary == Universal recycling symbol outli...Image via Wikipedia

I would have been ashamed to admit this before today, but now that the situation is rectified, I can tell the truth.

We just joined our city recycling program. Yes, it took us more than 18 months to do it. And all it took was a phone call to request the bin. We wasted a year and a half worth of good recyclable stuff because we couldn't get around to making a phone call. I know, it's shameful.

But now we're in business and I don't see how one bin will hold all of our refuse. Lucky we have trash pickup twice a week.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Our time is nowImage by Kounelli via Flickr
After the final no there comes a yes,
And on that yes the future world depends.
----Wallace Stevens

No matter how many failures there have been in the past, there is always the possibility of success. Oh wow, that sounds a little like Tony Robbins. Whatever. I just wanted to make the point, to myself, that all my past failures at particular things don't predict infinite failure. There will at some point be a "yes" and it's just as likely to be today as any other day.
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CSA 2 (145/366)Image by 427 via FlickrI may have mentioned we joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) this month. Let me just explain what that means. There is an organic vegetable farm about an hour from here. Instead of selling their crops to a grocery store, they sell shares to regular people like me. You buy your share and for 12 weeks (the winter/spring growing season) you get a box of vegetables every week.

I love this setup for so many reasons. It's local, organic, personal, healthy, random. I'm ecstatic that we finally are doing this after talking about it for a long time.

I got an email today about working on the farm too! Spend an afternoon there and you get a voucher for free vegetables in the next growing season. Even without the voucher, I love the idea of getting our hands dirty and taking part in our food production.

My secret(public) dream is one day my family will be doing this on our farm in Alabama! It's not up to me in any fashion, but I dream of being to take my kids to work on the farm in the summer time. Even if we're not doing it in Atmore, I suppose we'll be doing it at whatever CSA we happen to belong to.
Cover of Cover via Amazon
Not about CSAs, but my favorite Locavore book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Read it!
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Monday, January 26, 2009

4 p.m. Dilemma

Re: Eating Healthy

I have always had this problem with controlling my junk food urges late in the afternoon. I can plan the perfect meals and snacks for the entire day, but around 4 p.m., I snap.

It goes like this: I start to get a little hungry and extremely thirsty around 3 p.m. This is also about the time I start to lose my patience at work. That last hour, my nerves are raw and I get snappish. I'm also usually too busy to stop for a snack or some water. Then at 4 p.m. I leave work, with only my little healthy snack to see me through until dinner at about 6.

And I start to think I deserve a treat. I will only be satisfied, if I fill up on sugar, salty snacks and soda. If I have any legitimate excuse to stop at a store, I will pick up a candy bar, chips or a diet soda, or all three. As I'm typing it now, it sounds so weak, but in that 4 p.m. period, I can not reason with myself. Once I've had my fix and gotten into that emotional space of needing to feel better, it's very hard to convince myself to get some exercise.Twix bar Purchased March 2005 in Atlanta, GA, USAImage via Wikipedia

I still don't know a solution to this issue, but I know if I don't get control of it, I will sabotage every effort I make at losing weight.

However, there is a coda to this post. Today, my first full day low-carbing, I had no moments of great hunger, no cravings. Seriously. I did not expect it and I only just realized it a few minutes ago. There was no 4 p.m. dilemma when I left work today. I had my snack of string cheese and a few almonds and I didn't think about eating again until dinner. I even made a trip to Starbucks and I wasn't the least bit tempted to get a sweet.
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nettie's Ramblings : Seven Ways to Generate Plot Ideas From Magazines

Anna has sent you a link to a blog:

More good story ideas.

Blog: Nettie's Ramblings
Post: Seven Ways to Generate Plot Ideas From Magazines

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Some basic tips I found while working on my exercise

How to Plot a Story

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Have a basic idea for a story, but don't know what to do now? There are a lot of articles telling you how to write once you have a plot, or how to expand your plot once you have the skeleton. But what do you do if you have nothing but the idea? This article will help you plot out a story from beginning to end, whether it be a children's picture book or a seven-part epic series.


  1. Get an idea. If you have one lurking somewhere, great! If not, brainstorm, or mind map, or do one of the numerous other thought-generating exercises that can be found on the web. You don't need to make it a story just yet—but you do need a vague idea. It can start with anything: a phrase, a face, a character, or a situation, just so long as it's exciting and inspiring to you.
  2. Turn your idea into an idea for a story. This is the high-level arc of the story. If you're familiar with the Snowflake Method, or other top-down methods of idea production, then you'll be familiar with this step. So, how do you turn a vague notion of a girl with dark eyes into a story idea? First, understand that stories are about two things: characters and conflict. Sure, there are other things in there, like theme and setting and POV and whatnot, but at the heart of every story, there are characters with a conflict. So let's take our dark-eyed girl. Now we start asking ourselves questions, with the goal of creating a character with a conflict. Who is she? What does she want? What is standing in the way of her getting it? Once you have a character with some sort of conflict, you have a story idea. Write that idea down.
  3. Turn your idea into a story plot. Now, here comes the hard part. You have a high-level idea for a story, but how do you turn that into a plot? You could, of course, just start writing and see where it takes you, but if you felt any inclination to do that, it is doubtful that you'd be reading this article in the first place. You want your plot. So here's what you do: you come up with the ending first.
    • Yes, that's right, the end. Does our dark-eyed girl get her man? Or does she lose to the rich chick? Come up with your ending first, and if that doesn't spark a few plot points in and of itself, then continue reading on.

  4. Think about your characters. Now, you have a conflict, you have characters, you have a beginning situation and an ending situation. If you still need help finding a plot, then what you need to do now is think about your characters. Flesh them out. Give them friends, families, jobs, histories, life-changing experiences, needs, and desires.
  5. Build plot points. Now that you have your characters and the ending of your story, what you do to build plot points is basically play The Sims. You take your characters, put them in their world, and watch them interact. Be sure to take notes. Maybe one of them gets that big promotion. Maybe our dark-eyed girl competes in a swimming competition with the rich bitch. Maybe her best friend finds out that she's never given up on that crush. Just come up with ideas for what they could do to affect their world, and what their world could do to affect them.
  6. Fit your plot points into a story arc. Here comes the fun part. Now, some knowledge of story structure comes in useful here. For our purposes, Freytag's analysis is probably most useful. Stories have five parts:
    • Exposition - the character's normal life, up to the point of the "inciting incident" that pushes them into conflict.
    • Rising Action - the conflicts, struggles, and pitfalls that the character faces while trying to achieve their goals. In three act structure, the second act, and usually the meatiest portion of the story.
    • Climax - the most important part! The point at which all seems possible or impossible, and the character must decide whether to go for the win or take a graceful failure. The turning point of the story where the conflict comes to a head.
    • Falling Action - how things unfold after the climax, the hero wins or loses, all loose ends are tied up, leading to...
    • Denouement - a new balance, normal life once again, but different (or perhaps not so different) from the "normal life" of the character's exposition.

  7. Place those potential plot points you came up with somewhere on the arc, working either backward or forward. Your ending probably falls into the Falling Action or Denouement stage, though if you're good (or lucky) you may have come up with the Climax instead. If you don't have the Climax itself, think of the resolution you want, and think of the event that would be necessary to create it. All things leading up to that event from the beginning are Rising Action. All things resulting from that event are Falling Action. And all things that don't fit into either one of those two categories shouldn't be used in your story, unless it's in a side plot.
  8. Change around or redevelop your plot, as necessary. Now you should have a workable plot. It may not be intricate, it may not be pretty, but you have enough to start working with. Once you decide which scenes best illustrate the chain of events leading up to the Climax, you may decide that you want to change them around, or even change the Climax. This is okay. Writing is a creative process, and such things are never neatly cut and dried.


  • Remember, a plot is formed from your character's motivations. Put a lot of emphasis on the creation of your character before you plan on putting in any major event in your story. If you haven’t developed your character’s personality, how are you supposed to know how they will react to certain events in your story?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I connected the dots.

  • In the last six months, I've gone from exercising sporadicly to exercising every day, but I am gaining weight.
  • In the last year, I've gone from not paying much attention to what I eat to eating mostly natural foods, often organic, but I am gaining weight.
  • In the last two years, my diabetes has been perfectly under control, with my other labs (hormones, cholesterol, blood pressure) improving greatly, but I am still gaining weight.
  • Last year, I joined Weight Watchers, followed the plan, took 10 weeks to lose 10 pounds and then plateaued for the next 5 months.

I was thinking about these things today and wondering why it just doesn't work for me. Then the final dot came to mind, completing the picture:

  • (I'm so frustrated I couldn't find a scientific explanation for this, but still, it's been state again and again...) Insulin resistance causes weight gain.
I was diagnosed with insulin resistance maybe a decade ago, a complication of PCOS. Then when I was diagnosed with diabetes (another complication of PCOS) a few years ago, I was reminded of my insulin resistance.

But honestly, since my diabetes has been totally under control, I thought i didn't have to worry about IR anymore. Then it clicked with me today -- even if my blood sugar is good, my cells are still resistant to insulin, causing me to produce more, leading to whatever metabolic mystery equals not losing weight even though I'm making significant effort.

So I'm dusting off those forgotten insulin resistance books, and books and probably going to kick it old skool, cutting out sugar and refined carbs. I'm going to study those books like they are the Bible and get this under control.

Neat and ordered

From Jodi Picoult's book Keeping Faith, which I just started reading today:
I do not like surprises. I live by lists.  In fact, I often imagine my life like a September loose-leaf binder -- neatly slotted and tabbed, with everything still in place.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

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Monday, January 19, 2009

She's crafty

Today I am sewing art aprons for a preschool teacher. It's kind of a benchmark for me to be known well enough for my sewing that people ask me to make things for them. My mom always had that reputation, but I never expected I would. Now that I think about it, it's been that way for a while. And because I love doing it, it feels weird to charge people for it. But I do, man, I do.

I'm also "crafting" a fat pot of ham bean soup today! Isn't that country of me? I left a lot of meat on the bone from the ham I made Saturday. I stuck it in the crock pot with a variety of beans and barley, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, green pepper, carrots, black pepper, red chiles, celery seed, bullion, and love. I would make corn bread if I had any stupid corn meal, but instead I think we will have grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with the soup.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Notes from the beyond

I was just in my office, about to crack a new book on writing when i dug into my paper stash for a bookmark. What I came up with was a note card from my days working at Progressive Farmer magazine. Inside, is this message:

Thank you so much for making this a great summer for me. I really enjoyed getting to know you. Thanks for sharing your poetry, beer, pizza and cigarettes with me. Thanks for being there to let me vent, and for opening up your life to me. In short, thanks for everything. Since we're both addicted to e-mail, it won't be hard to stay in touch. Take care of yourself and love without attachment.


I can tell from the context this was one of the interns I supervised, but besides that I have no memory of this person.

It's astonishing to me. We must have at the time had some great connection, but all these years later I can't recall the slightest thing about who this "Jen" was. Why didn't we stay in touch?

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I don't know if there are people who live without it. Anxiety, that is. Are there? I can't imagine that kind of life. For me it's like the kettle is always getting ready to blow unless someone rational pulls it off the burner.

I might fixate on a situation until I can't think about anything else and my heart is pounding and I'm sure I'm going to stress myself into a heart attack or a stroke and become an invalid so Nicholas is burdened with my vegetable-care and can never have a fulfilling life of his own. See? "Fixate" is a euphemism for "obsess." My favorite therapist used to say "I'm a little concerned about your tendency to obsess." She said it with extra calm and care as if using too-strong words might set me off. But it made me laugh.

I've been using one of her techniques to break my anxiety lately -- deep breath, hold it, count to five, release, repeat. It's a distraction if nothing else. Another thing I've tried is little meditations from a book I found in the library. But today I was so deep in it, I couldn't even comprehend the words. I just paced the library, flipping the pages and reading, hoping something would stick to my subconscious.

The best solution to breaking my anxiety is talking to a rational person. If I can describe the situation and hear them reframe it in sane-speak, I almost always settle down.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

getting educated

I went through our community course catalog today and decided what I'll be taking this spring.

  • Adoption Basics -- I hope we will be well on our way to hustling a baby by the end of this year. Sooner than later, I hope to find a T-shirt that says "Ask me about my infertility."
  • Introduction to Reiki -- I really don't even know what it is, but I love New Age holistic healing stuff. And I think I have some healing power in my hands.
  • Drawing with pastels, charcoal, and colored pencils -- I'm pretty excited about this one because I'm also getting a little into art journaling.
Speaking of art journaling, I bought this neat little thing at the bookstore last night:

I've gathered all of the creativity books I've been getting lately, and I may just lie down with them stacked all around me.