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

earthish

== 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

Meditation

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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Farming

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
Link: http://nettiesramblings.blogspot.com/2007/07/seven-ways-to-generate-plot-ideas-from.html

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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.

Steps


  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.


Tips


  • 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?



Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Plot a Story. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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

Yahoo! News Story - Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address - Yahoo! News

Anna Beyer (annaleebeyer@yahoo.com) has sent you a news article.
(Email address has not been verified.)
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Personal message:

Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address - Yahoo! News

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090120/ap_on_go_pr_wh/inauguration_obama_text

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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:

Anna,
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.

--Jen

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

Anxiety

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.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

surreptitious Microserfs reference

The other day one of my favorite English teacher-poet-coworkers and I were having a conversation about how Kafka wrote The Judgement in one long, intense session. I am, in fact, fascinated by the work habits of writers. For example, Hemingway started his work early every morning, standing up at a typewriter.

It takes a special discipline to direct yourself to write regularly everyday. I had no problem with it when it was my job, and I had publication deadlines. On my own, however, I could do 36 loads of laundry and dishes before I forced myself to write a sentence.

But this conversation about Kafka kind of inspired me to try such an intense session, to see what would bleed out onto the screen. Masterpieces happen, right? I could have the occassional intensive creative days/weekends when I shut myself up in my office, only coming out for coffee refills and bathroom breaks, while Nick pushes my food under the door. Why not? My slacker job has so many days-off built in. At worst, I would have a nervous breakdown from the intensity. But that's really just something else to write about.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shhhhhhhhhh!

Part of my job is to maintain order (and silence) in the library -- no small challenge in a room with 60+ teenaged girls. I feel like such a goob every time I hear myself say "Giiiirls, be quiet!" I just want to come up with more creative ways to convey that message. I do try to mix it up a little:

"Girls, cut it out."
"Be quiet, guys."
"Let's get quiet."
"Girls, settle down."

and my favorite, "Shhhhhhhhh!"

I just don't know how to phase the douchery out of having to say those things over and over.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Naomi Shihab Nye

It was Super Happy Joy Day at work yesterday when two giant boxes of new books were delivered. Today I started to process (fondle) all those new books, which really means examining them really slooooooowly and thinking about how I am going to read them all.

One of the new books is Naomi Shihab Nye's A Maze Me. I got lost in this daydream about Nye coming to the school to read to the girls and talk to them about the life of a poet. Later my boss came through, and I told her about my little daydream.

"I know her," she said.

You know her?! Seriously, imagine. This amazing poet who lives here in San Antonio and is just crazy brilliant. To know someone like that. I turned purple.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The gallery is open

One little project for this weekend was to hang this gallery in our living room.

Some rearranging was necessary, mainly because of this large painting from my grandmother. Painted by Heather's dad in the 1970s, it shows my dad (on the tractor) trying to beat a storm.
I also framed some of these Cabinet of Natural Curiousities prints last week.

Link

The Cabinet of Natural Curiousities is a giant book I've coveted for a few years. Instead of that hulking masterpiece, I found a slim book of prints from the original on the Barnes and Noble clearance table last week. One day I hope I have my own cabinet of curiousities. Oh! We saw a fantastic cabinet of curiousities in the art museum in Hartford over Thanksgiving. My cabinet will have to be cat-proof, of course.