Wednesday, December 16, 2009
What is writing-stupidity? It’s basically when so much time and concentration has gone into a writing project that the brain’s thoughts have been squeezed out of it like toothpaste. The first words to go are names, then adjectives (which is almost a benefit), then verbs (which is not), until before you know it you’re asking your sweetie if he wants to eat a “ummm… you know?… that food that goes in the toaster… with squares and the sugar sauce?” for dinner. (When it gets really bad I cut the word pizza into my arm Memento-style so I won’t starve when I’m away from home.)
But all that’s behind me now. The sweet, beautiful English language is back in my brain, and I can summon the words I need at will! Like, cantankerous! Or crinoline! Or persnickety! Or prestidigitation!
On second thought I hate all those words, but I have lots more to choose from!
Now that my brain is back, I can take a clear-eyed look at what I actually wrote in November. For the first time in the four years I’ve been participating in Nanowrimo, this year I sat down and re-read what I had written. Folks, it was surprisingly not terrible.
It’s true that the timeline makes no sense whatsoever, the science is sketchy at best, minor characters change gender with a frequency Mrs. Doubtfire would envy, and one side character is surprised over and over again to learn that hookworms can cure his asthma, but if you overlook those small problems, the book is not garbage. Not garbage is a big jump up from my prior Novelling attempts. (And before you get all optimistic and ask me how I know the other books were garbage if I never read them, let me assure you that I know. I know the way a mother gerbil knows which of her children to raise and which to eat. Those books were losers.)
The best part of having a draft that’s not garbage is that I now have something to edit. Now the purely creative side of me that’s been slaving away for the past month can go take a nap while the internal editor gets to work. The purely creative part has been LAZY all these years, so the internal editor’s never had a novel to work on before. She’s psyched.
To be honest, the next step will involve a little more writing, but now I’ll have the big picture to show me what needs to be written and how it fits into the wider whole. My goal for December is to have an outline of the book with a list of scenes I still need to write. I also want to do some reorganizing to make sure that the dramatic action falls in the right places. That means no hard core writing until I have the outline straightened out. Hooray for a few more weeks of tv!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
In case you’re wondering, I’ve decided on a tiered system of backups to make sure I don’t lose this book if the new hard drive fails. I’m writing my novel on Word and saving it in a file on my desktop. Once it’s saved there, I upload it into Scrivener and put it into a file by chapter (not for backup purposes, but to make it easier to edit later). Then, I email the file to myself from my yahoo account into my google account. And, I’ll also be putting the entire desktop word document file onto my backup hard drive once a week. Flying by the seat of my pants was fun while it lasted, but for the foreseeable future I am going to be one of those nutso-super-backed-up people. (I draw the line at printing anything out, though.)
One question that’s been hard for me to answer -- Am I rewriting the immortality book? Yes and no. I decided to use some advice from Carolyn See’s book to create a better version of my novel. Basically, I made one list of everything I love to read, and another list of everything I hate to read. Now, I’m adding all the things on my love list to my novel and dropping the topics I hate. This is actually harder than you’d think. Those hateful things have a way of making themselves sound necessary. Such as children, victims, and descriptions of houses. blah.
One thing I realized when I was making my lists was that I was a lot more excited about the first chapters I wrote a year ago, even though they had less literary merit than the latest ones, because those chapters centered on the elements I'm excited to read about. There was mystery, intrigue, excitement, and a lot less brooding. It’s just so much fun to write about the handsomest man and woman in the world alone on an island with a bunch of deranged mutants and a mad scientist. I mean, come on! I’d love to believe that farther into the process I can edit it into a smart commentary on interpersonal relationships in the modern world or something, but for sanity’s sake I think I owe it to myself to just write the pulpy first draft that I want it to be. (And also apparently write the phrase “gave the appearance of” twelve times on every page, because I am completely o.o.c.)
Anyway, I won’t be posting much on the blog in the coming weeks (why start now, right?). I don’t want to waste my writing energies on posts that aren’t required by my employer or the NaNoWriMo rulebook. So have a nice early November and I’ll talk to you around Black Friday.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
One week until Nanowrimo and everything has changed. Remember that part of my last post about how if my computer crashed I would lose everything? Well that happened. And in the middle of my first back-up! Thursday night I took my laptop to the Genius Bar and they confirmed that not only was the hard drive dead, but nothing had been transferred to the back up hard drive before it died.
So after hours of soul searching I’ve decided to devote Nanowrimo this year to writing a rough draft of the story I’ve been working on for the last 13 months. I’m afraid that if I spend the next month thinking about a different story, I’ll lose all the ideas I have for the immortality book, and won’t ever come back to it. I’ve just done too much work to let that happen.
Is it crazy to sign up for a month of compulsively working on a project I’m already burnt out on? Am I completely nuts to think a draft written in a month will be anywhere near satisfying after I spent a year carefully crafting the lost work I did on this book? And, am I putting myself at serious risk of failing Nanowrimo by taking this on? Probably, probably, and certainly, but at least it’ll be a good challenge.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
A quick update on the Work in Progress: I’ve been working on my immortality book for 13 months now, and am seeing the characters and plot lines coming together. The shape of the book has changed a lot, and what I used to envision as the first half or third of the book is now more than enough to cover the entire novel. The climax is still the same – boy becomes immortal! – but I’ve done a lot of work on characterization and world building, so I have a better idea now of what the tone of the book should be.
I’ve also been doing a lot of research. No one would mistake me for a scientist, but I certainly have a better grasp on the basic principles of genome mapping, dna manipulation, and where “aging” happens. All science and no play makes Kayleigh’s project a dull book, so in addition to banging my head into every information wall I can find, I’ve also done a lot of fun reading, including Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, some recent issues of Tin House, and Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life. Now I’m finally reading Frankenstein, which falls somewhere between research and fun reading.
Despite the progress, I’ve been feeling pretty burned out lately. All my documents and notes have become unwieldy, and going back through the early chapters when my characters had completely different names and backgrounds is utterly demoralizing. I must’ve written 20 “first chapters” and none of them are going to be the real one. I think it’ll be good to have a month off to regain some perspective, and also some time when I’m not reading about the free radicals that are building up in my cells, busting up my mitochondria and making me look old (not pleasant).
So, as November 1 and a sweet vacation from sci-fi approach, I’m gearing up for a month when the only thing that matters is word count, and nobody gets that glazed look in their eyes when I start chatting about telomerase (because I will not be discussing telomerase, of course). I will be a lean, mean, word typing machine and by November 30 I will have a complete story – beginning, middle and end!
Here are a few of the preparations I’ve made in advance of Nanowrimo:
1. First, I downloaded Scrivener to organize my book. Scrivener is a great little program that’s very intuitive. It organizes chapters, notes, and even source documents, and makes rearranging novel section or getting word counts effortless. During Nanowrimo, they’re offering a free trial subscription that goes now through December, and then 50% off the cost of the application to nano winners. After that, I
2. Bought a backup hard drive. Finally. What made the decision for me was seeing my old novels neatly organized in Scrivener and realizing I would lose ALL OF IT if my computer crashed. Luckily I found a great deal on MacMall for the one I’ve had my heart set on. Thus secured, I
3. Reread No Plot, No Problem. A great pep talk and excellent refresher on the nanowrimo rules. Now all that’s left is
4. Stocking up on easy-to-prepare foods and candies. I’m also going to need a sizable chunk of money for ordering Pizzas and Chinese food. Yes my diet will suffer, but there's no gain without pain right? But wait, I'd also love to
5. Get some more nanowrimo buddies. If you’re reading this and by some miracle your name is not Julia or Ryan, you can get in on the novel writing action at nanowrimo.org. My user name is Kayleigh and I’d love to have some more people to race to the finish line. See you there!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Today’s a big day for me. A book I’ve had my eye on for a few months is finally coming out in paperback; Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life. In truth, I have a “to read” pile two feet high, so I shouldn’t be buying any more books for a while, but I’m sure I’ll scoop it up in the next two weeks.
As I’ve probably mentioned here before, I’ve been reading a lot of science lately. My current writing project is a science-fiction novel, and I’m trying to keep it as realistic as possible. It’s set in the very near future and addresses issues of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. While I don’t necessarily expect everything in my book to come true, it’s important to me that anything in the book could happen, so it won’t require too much suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader.
Now, my educational background is not very heavy on science. I can remember high school biology nearly bringing me to tears with concepts like Eukaryotic cells and the Kreb Cycle. And the curriculum at my college (COM) was so light on the sciences that it was affectionately known around the University as the “College of Optional Math”. (At the time I was feeling smug for being clever enough to choose a major light on memorization, but now I wish I’d challenged myself more when my brain cells were young and absorbent.)
So, all this is to say that I require a certain level of accessibility in science texts. When the greek symbols and tiny letters show up, my eyes cross and the book (or magazine) goes back on the shelf. At the same time, I’m skeptical of the popular-science self-help genre that spends the first 30 pages relating hard science about the brain and body, but then throws it all out the window in the rest of the book explaining how we can meditate or concentrate away what ails us. (Michael Paul Mason’s “Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath” includes an excellent take-down of this phenomenon in Malcom Gladwell’s books) The search for an informative science book can be daunting given these limits, the short shelf-life of “current” science, and especially with the average bookstore’s protracted science section (the downtown Boston Borders' alphabetized science section is the worst - astronomy mixed in with evolution, mixed in with chemistry, mixed in with archeology)
But, in spite of the challenges, I’ve been lucky to discover a few sources that consistently inspire and inform. Here are four off the top of my head:
WNYC’s Radiolab - while I think they focus a little too much on style over substance, Radiolab does a great job of raising interesting questions and pointing listeners in the direction of experts in a variety of scientific fields. They use innovative sound manipulation and music to make science fun and welcoming to the general audience.
Carl Zimmer - (as mentioned above) is prolific and terrific. Check out his site: http://www.carlzimmer.com/ . It’s worth viewing for the collection of science-themed tattoos, alone. While Zimmer’s articles can sometimes be a little dense for someone (me) not familiar with whatever topic he’s discussing, they’re worth taking an extra swig of coffee and applying yourself. They’re written with a playful excitement that makes formerly boring subjects interesting, and you never for a moment doubt that every word is backed up with cold hard facts and a deep understanding of the forces at work.
Michael Paul Mason – as far as I know he only has one book out, but it’s a gem. “Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath” explains the brain through the stories of people who’ve experienced its limitations. This book is equal parts informative and emotionally intense.
Ray Kurzweil - you didn’t think I’d leave him out, did you? I read the entire “Age of Spiritual Machines” with my jaw on the floor. What Kurzweil lacks in beautiful sentences he more than makes up for in audacity. By the end of the book you’ll not only believe your body will be replaced by a machine, you might even be looking forward to it! (ok, maybe not, but you might accept it at least)
(Pointedly absent from my list: Matt Ridley, Douglas Hofstadter, Oliver Sacks. Enough said.)
Of course I'm always looking for more "True Science" to read, so if you know of a good book on DNA, genetics, or neurology then please clue me in! I still have a long way to go on this novel, and haven't discovered a way to create immortality, yet.
Monday, July 13, 2009
It started on Saturday with Flour in the Fort Point area. Greg and I were downtown for the Tall Ships. Our original plan was to find a nice seafood or Italian place to walk in to, but when we reached the waterfront we discovered 2 million people ahead of us in line.
Luckily, we’re savvy locals and I knew that Flour – the studio 54 of downtown lunch spots that I'd never had the time to visit during the workweek -- was around … here …. somewhere…
Success! The inviting café was open, fully stocked, and empty on a weekend afternoon! Our lunch – hearty, inventive sandwiches with chunky kitchen-sink style cookies for dessert – was so delicious it instantly sparked my foodie synapses firing. Not even halfway through my sandwiches I was already figuring out when I could come back. And, of course, when I could get to Myers and Chang.
How did I make it through Sunday? Who knows! But here we are at Monday night, and I’ve got my M&C leftovers
In the boxes :
- Red curry cauliflower
- Lemony Shrimp dumplings*
- Thai ginger chicken salad
- Tofu steak w/ buckwheat noodles
- Brown rice
- Green tea*
- Bittersweet coffee cake, Vietnamese coffee sauce*
- Lemon-ginger mousse coupe, homemade fortune cookie*
*ok, these ones are in my belly.
We feasted like emperors! Myers & Chang offers date night Sunday – Tuesday. $40/ couple, with 5 or so different combinations of foods around a theme. (We chose “healthy date”) The food was heavenly. I couldn’t stop closing my eyes while I was eating – drifting off into the flavors. Every ingredient’s flavor came through. Each dish had its own architecture of tastes. lemony, gingery, noodley, thingsI'veneverhadbefore-y... I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed a meal this much. Believe the hype - this restaurant is wonderful.
After dinner we walked back to the bus, and passed Flour on the way. We stopped in to pick a few more snacks for the fridge -- more of those amazing chocolate-oatmeal-pecan cookies, and a few other treats. Hopefully these stores will get us through the rest of the week. I hear Myers & Chang does dim sum on the weekends.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I decided to remove the post, which means the comment went with it. Also, I've decided to enable comment moderation, so know that if you comment about free cinnabon giveaways your comment will not be approved. Wouldn't want to offend my anonymous reader!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Yesterday Greg and I came home to find a note on our door that service had been done in the apartment during the day. Apparently our shower head was spraying water onto the wall and it was leaking into the apartment below ours. (I had noticed it was getting a bit erratic) The management company came to check it out, and when they found the source of the problem they replaced it with a brand spanking new shower head. And it’s a good one! I’m continually impressed by the speed with which they respond to complaints and the high quality of the workmanship and fixtures they use. It’s especially impressive considering the number of properties they oversee.
If you are thinking of renting around Arlington, consider a property managed by Brattle Realty. They are the Boston area’s best.
Friday, March 20, 2009
First of all, Pollan is a tremendously gifted, engaging writer. If he were writing phone books, then phone books would be one of my favorite genres. He’s one of those writers who takes a subject that seems boring or one sided, and he just researches the hell out of it and then gives it back to you like an expose so you walk away thinking wow, this is obviously the single most important issue today and I need to do something about it. (Michael Lewis is another).
I can honestly say The Omnivore’s Dilemma changed my life, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should go do so right now (I’ll even lend you my copy). But with Second Nature I’m just looking for a little food porn. I want to read about bunnies and deer, and the first lettuces of spring. And so far that is exactly what I’m getting.
After my first visit, I’m over the moon! I’ve had some bad experiences with Boston area dentists in the past, but Dr. Davis and his staff made me feel comfortable and confident in their abilities. The location couldn’t be more convenient, the office was clean and welcoming, and everyone there was personable and able to answer my questions.
I was especially impressed with their reaction to one issue I’d been worried about for a while. When I was younger I had braces to straighten my teeth, but I’ve noticed over the years my lower teeth are pushing forward and starting to crowd together. My old dentist assured me that it’s normal for teeth to move forward as people age, and she offered to give me the name of an orthodontist if I wanted to have a retainer made to stop it from getting worse. But, I was concerned about the cost and going to the trouble of making a series of appointments with an orthodontist. When I brought up the issue with Dr. Davis he was able to quote me a price for the retainer right then and there. I said I did want to go ahead with having one made, and he was able to make the mold for me at the same appointment, and send the mold to the company that makes the retainers. I really appreciated that he was knowledgeable and proactive about my concern. Now I just have to wait 2 weeks for the retainer to come in.
I’m happy to check “Get New Dentist” off my 2009 Resolutions, and would definitely recommend Dr. Davis to anyone else out there looking to switch.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Here’s one more for anyone counting “Signs of Spring” in Boston. Today on my way to work I saw workers taking down the Christmas Wreaths from the old Filene’s building.
What, you didn’t notice they were still up? Those wreaths were looking as tired as the construction pit of doom on the other side of the wall.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This March 17th finds me engrossed in the Night Watch series of books – a great series that’s gotten me thinking about my favorite series of winters past. Without much ado, here are 10 of my faves:
10. His Dark Materials (3) by Philip Pullman. I wasn’t crazy about the plot of these books -- in fact at many points I lost interest in what it was the characters were running to or from – but the elements Pullman got right made the whole series worth reading.
9. The Twilight Series (4) by Stephenie Meyer. I didn’t think this series would be for me, since it’s billed as romance, but after I saw the film I couldn’t wait to read the books. Admittedly, the first few are a little slow, but in the end all my questions were answered and then some. What I love about these books is that they’re not above admitting that yes, living forever and having superhuman abilities would be pretty freaking awesome.
8. Harry Potter (7) by J. K. Rowling. Reading the Harry Potter books, at times I wished I could push Harry out of the way and just explore the world the books were set in, without Harry, Ron or Hermione. In every book there were new inventive characters and locations, completely absurd yet completely believable. The world is so vivid 100 more books could be set there without Mr. Potter needing to make an appearance.
7. The Foundation Books (7) by Isaac Asimov. One of my first forays into sci-fi reading, these books have a special place in my heart. It’s hard to believe the original book - Foundation - is 50 years old!
6. Frankenstein’s Children (?) by Richard Pierce. I loved these books in 8th grade. About a young girl who will do anything to bring her boyfriend back from the dead.
5. The Vampire Chronicles (?) by Anne Rice.
4. The Fell Books by M. E. Kerr. Another of my 8th grade favorites. Part Dickens, part Salinger. What public school kid doesn’t love reading about a mysterious private school?
3. Peanut Butter and Jilly (?) books by Dorothy Haas. These came in my book-orders when I was a kid. They’re about two best friends with coordinating nick names. In my favorite book in the series they have a Halloween party with foods that feel like body parts (spaghetti for brains, grapes for eyes, etc.)
2. Coffeehouse mysteries (7) by Cleo Coyle. These one-sitting cozies include recipes for fancy coffee drinks.
1. The Night Watch Series (4) by Sergei Lukyanenko.
What are you favorite book series? Feel free to leave them in the comments, or post to your blog.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Usually, I get the "perfect oatmeal" with nuts. It's made from a sugar free instant oatmeal mix, and the containers Starbucks uses do a good job of steaping the oatmeal, without leaving it too runny or too dry. I consider this a so-so breakfast for healthy eating. It doesn't have sugar and does contain protein and fiber, but instant oatmeal is more processed than whole oats, and I don't feel as full as I long as I would with other breakfasts.
This morning, knowing I'd have a lot to get done at work, I wanted more protein. I decided to try one of the new breakfast sandwiches. They smell terrible, I have to admit, but I did like the sandwich overall. I had egg and turkey bacon on english muffin (the english muffin seemed to be whole grain, but I havent' been able to verify). It was head and shoulders above Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwiches, in taste, value and nutrition. I wouldn't say it's better than home made eggs and bacon, but in a pinch I would absolutely get this again.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
We started with an early dinner at Pops Restaurant. Pops had terrific truffle fries and perfectly done brussels sprouts with garlic, so it pains me to say I just can't get behind this restaurant. The service was weird -- from the cold bread they delivered to us by bringing out a special towel covered basket and taking one piece out for each of our plates before returning the whole basket to the kitchen (why was it cold? why bring a whole basket full of bread and just give us one slice each? why serve the butter in that weird little candle snuffer?), to the lack of salt and pepper on the table, to the odd man at the front who asked me "and how was everything?" when I left the bathroom. Then the food. While my sides were delicious, my burger was disgustingly undercooked. I asked for medium and what I got was a cold, wet mess. Wet chunks of raw meat fell out of it when I cut it in half to better manage (one thing they've got going is big portions). but overall, yech. I'm happy with a burger anywhere from medium-rare to well done, but this was rare rare. Except on the outside. Well done on the outside, raw on the inside. That is nobody's ideal burger. The menu also had some very odd choices -- Kobe meatloaf? and what is french feta? Sorry, but for the south end in a lousy economy, this place is not cutting it.
After dinner we headed to "Shecky's Girls Night Out". I'm going to give this a thumbs up. The vendors were mostly jewelry or unusual Renaissance Fair princess clothing, but my ticket came with a free bag of goodies, and 5 free drinks tickets. Not bad for a Tuesday night in the cold black heart of winter.
First, the drinks: At the front there was a miller light or coors light booth (whichever has a new line of fruit flavored beers). I've tried these citrus beers before and they're not my thing so I skipped it. Next up was Bacardi with their silver soda pop tasting drinks. Alicia had, I think Raspberry, and I had a pomegranate one. It was good, pretty much like those alcoholic frescas always taste. Next up was mixed drinks -- I started with the grossest drink I've ever had (besides the fruity miller light), a midori margarita. midori, sour mix, lime and tequila. yech. I told Alicia it tasted like a margarita served in a dirty glass. And finally, after the three bears I found my goldilocks -- a pink grapefruit flavored drink. It was refreshing and light and delicious, so I had two. booyah.
Now, the goody bags. According to the website, the good bags were supposedly worth $100. If that's true I'd say it's probably $25 retail value + $75 surprise factor because there's no telling how they came up with this random assortment of stuff. In total I had:
- 1 box splenda mocha flavored coffee sweeteners
- 1 huge full size hair spray
- 1 nail polish remover pen
- 1 entire tube of toothpaste
- 4 goody ponytail holders
- 1 full size Nexxus anti-frizz hair spray
- 1 sample size dial body wash
- 1 sample size black shoe polish
- 1 coupon for bogo entree at Blu restaurant
- 2 OB tampon packs
- 1 smudgees eye makeup remover
- and my favorite -- 1 full size bottle of Carrot body spray
- also 1 embarrassing bag with MIDORI in huge print on the front
Monday, March 2, 2009
The blizzard this weekend was perfect for staying indoors and with movies and snacks. One of the movies we caught was "First Daughter" starring Katie Holmes. It was passable, but I'm glad I watched it because it tuned me into a delicious snack Katie and her crush enjoy at a movie theater -- popcorn with m&m's mixed in.
Seriously, you have got to try this. It tastes a little like kettle corn, or the special chocolate chunk popcorn from Dale and Thomas.
You want this.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Next up -- a matching hat.
Today, two blogs I read regularly and that are linked in the column at the right -- May December and Mennonno sapiens both titled their posts "Home again, home again, Jiggity Jig". Elsewhere, Julia recently posted her notes from a Boskone panel on Fairy Tales. And, more locally, I just ate half a bag of mini cadbury eggs and am feeling a little like a pig.
So, giving in with the theme of the day, here's a little mother goose:
To market, to market, to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.
Friday, February 6, 2009
I took the bus into Alewife (too cold to brave the walk) on time and finding the train mostly empty, settled into a clean seat to read my book. I guess passengers continued to stream in, until after 10 minutes or so of waiting, when the conductor announced the train on the opposite track would be leaving the station first. I hadn’t noticed a large crowd gathering, but as I grabbed my stuff and crossed to the other track people were running ahead in a mass to get good seats. Fortunately, I somehow popped in through an door with an empty seat right beside it. Feeling lucky, I inspected the seat for gum, and was turning around to sit when suddenly a woman rushed in UNDERNEATH ME and sat in the seat! She gave me a shove with her arm and hate lasers shot out of eyes. I said something like “Whoa!” and backed away before she could whip out a knife. She continued to stare at me, like a ferrell animal ready to bite. The odd thing was the train car still had plenty of open seats – including two directly beside the one she’d just pushed me for.
Now, I’m not going to say I’ve never encountered hostility over an open seat on a train, but 8am is a little early in the day for violence. And we’re talking about the first stop on the train here, with plenty of still open seats. This is not Park Street 5:30pm with the weekly medical emergency/broken train/schedule shenanigans; there’s no call for that kind of anger. Besides, it’s Friday. Whatever happened to TGIF?
So I ended up opting out of not just that car, but that whole train. Who knows what she’d do by the time we got to Harvard Square and the car was really packed? There's a "medical emergency" or sure. Instead I went back over to the other, now empty, train for a more comfortable ride and a few extra minutes with my book. My heart rate was back to normal by the time we reached Davis, and the rest of my commute was easy peasy, but I still find it really disturbing that she had the nerve to shove me. What gets into people?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Here’s how I’ve done at following my own guidelines for staying mental-healthy:
Waking up 30 minutes early to journal in front of a full spectrum light
At first this was really difficult because I was having trouble getting to sleep at night, and then didn’t want to lose that half hour of sleep in the morning. But, this week I’m doing better and I find the headstart does help the rest of my day. (5/10)
Going to the gym 5 days a week
I’ve done really well at this. I take a gym bag to work with me and then just stop on my way home. Tuesday I even stopped on my way back after having dinner with a friend. (10/10)
Avoiding carbs and eating plenty of proteins and vegetables
This one I’ve only done so-so with. Breakfast and lunch have been ok most days, but for dinner I’ve almost always had something sugary or carb loaded. For a few days I was eating almond butter right out of the jar with a stick of dark chocolate. You can’t even imagine how delicious that was. But healthy? no. (2/10)
Making sure to take a break from work between 10 and 2 to get natural light
I’m about half and half on this one. This week has been a stressful one at work, and I don’t want to be away from my desk in case a last minute item shows up and has to be uploaded to our system. Next week things should slow down though. (5/10)
Taking a muli-vitamin every day
Getting full 7.5-8 hours sleep each night (but no more)
Most nights it’s been either 7 hours or 10. I need to watch this one more (3/10)
Making at least 2 plans each week to get together with friends
Taking a walk each weekend –
No weekend walks, but I have started walking to the train station instead of taking the bus in the morning. That means a 20 minute walk outdoors every day when I need it most. I’ll give myself half credit for that. (5/10)
Total 50/80 = about 63%
But is it working? Here’s how I’d rate my symptoms currently (Symptoms as according to FamilyDoctor.org, a website that I’ve never used before, and basically am only citing because they conveniently listed the symptoms with bullet points so I didn’t have to read the whole article, so don’t judge me if it turns out they’re a front for scientology or something):
A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
I haven’t been craving sweet or starchy, but I’ve been craving greasy pizza every day. SAD score - 7/10
No weight gain per se, but I have been going to the gym 5-6 days a week and haven’t lost weight, so maybe that counts. SAD score – 5/10
A drop in energy level
Not too much of this so far. I think this is where the gym visits and forced daylight are coming into play. SAD Score - 1/10
Today I’m coming down with a cold, but the fatigue isn’t any worse than my usual cold/flu sleepiness. SAD Score – 2/10
A tendency to oversleep
Saturday and Sunday I’ve been sleeping in LATE, but during the week I’ve managed to get up on time or early and to get to work on time. SAD Score – 3/10
Here’s the biggie, and despite my best efforts every day I get more distracted. SAD Score – 8/10
Irritability and anxiety
I haven’t been especially anxious, but I have been snappish and irritable. When I’m alone I feel fine and good moodish, but I can tell by the walking-on-eggshells voice Greg has been using with me lately and the way that somebody on the bus inevitably ticks me off on every commute that there might be something going on. SAD Score – 7/10
Increased sensitivity to social rejection
This one surprisingly not too bad. Despite the poor economy and the frequency with which people in my industry are being laid off, I feel fairly confident at work and like my coworkers like and respect me. SAD Score – 1/10
Avoidance of social situations and a loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy
Why is it that all summer skiing sounds like a blast, but when the season actually comes it just sounds like a lot of work? Oh yeah, because of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have been making a point of getting together with friends, and I always have a good time, but lately I do find myself dreading socializing for a few hours before I see them. I just never feel like I'm going to have the energy to interact and be interesting. Also, I've lost interest in tv which is probably a good thing, but is out of character for me. SAD Score – 8/10
Total 42/90 = about 47%
1. Change to a new doctor and dentist – no progress yet. I contacted the doctor I’d gotten rave reviews about but he’s not accepting new patients. I definitely need a new one, since my current PCP doesn’t have any open appointments until August! Dentist – I still need to make an appointment, but I won’t need another check up until March so I still have a few weeks.
2. Visit a new city – no trips made yet, but plans are in the works for an April trip to Washington DC and a May trip to Atlanta. Wah-hoo! I’d also love to make it out of the country sometime in the Fall.
3. Remember to send birthday cards for immediate family + aunts and uncles. (total of 17 to remember.) – No cards sent. This has turned into a resolution to set up a gmail calendar so I can have access to it everywhere and sync my phone to it. Haven’t gotten around to it yet though.
4. Visit vocal therapist -- need to visit doctor first to get a referral.
5. Increase payments on student loans – nope.
6. Start regular contribution to new savings account for house/condo/whatever someday – YES!! Finally a resolution I’ve followed through on. $50 a week has been earmarked for a house/condo/whatever someday.
7. Complete the final The Artists Way book – haven’t started the book yet, but I have gotten back into my morning pages and walks outdoors.
8. Learn to knit – Sort of done this one. I picked up a couple Knifty Knitter looms and made a hat and a scarf. Pretty impressive for me, actually.
9. Take beginning Greek 2 class – hasn’t started yet.
10. Finish draft of book – oof. Not even another word written since January 1.
11. Write and post 100 blogposts in 2009 – 15/100 completed.
Ok, so not so much progress made on the resolutions yet, but we’re only a month into the year. Hopefully February will be a little more productive.
Monday, January 26, 2009
According to Astrology.com, here's what's in store for monkey's like me in the year ahead:
This year offers the Monkey some opportunities to go far with your talents. The Monkey's generous nature may leave you stretched in several different directions, so it is important to stay focused in order to achieve the goals you have set for yourself this year. You will be given the opportunity to impress the right people both in business, as well as in your personal life. Don't hold back this year, for this could be one that will leave an impression over the course of the next few years.
49% (4 favorable and 5 neutral and 3 unfavorable months)
Great strides can be made in your career this year. Timing is everything and in your case, time is on your side. You will be in the right place at the right time to impress the decision makers in your career. The steady Ox rewards those with strong work ethics and the Monkey will surely reap the benefits of your labor. Don't hesitate to do anything that will aid your skills and benefit your position.
This could be a busy year for you domestically. Look to your family for the encouragement and support you need. On the same token, it is important for you to listen and heed the advice of those who care. Your social life is active filled with plenty of opportunities to make new friends. Don't forget the ones that have been with you through the rough times, as it is just as important to offer your time with your existing relations.
Take note that there are several high points to your year. With such a busy social year, you may stretch yourself thin with your health. Be aware of your energy levels throughout the year, as you may need some added rest to counter your affairs. It would be wise to take an active part in your health, taking up a new form of exercise that follows your interests: martial arts or dancing are two good possibilities.
This could be a great year for the Monkey financially. You will possibly make great gains in this area throughout the year. Due to your generous nature, you may have a difficult time refraining from giving to others. Be mindful of this and make sure you give to yourself every once in a while because you deserve it.
Find your own: http://shine.yahoo.com/astrology/chinese/
Friday, January 23, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
According to the World Wide Web SAD usually doesn’t strike until “young-adult” age, but I’ve been suffering since I was 8 or 9. It was especially bad for me in those days because in addition to the general malaise and lack of energy, I used to have manic swings of energy and insomnia. Like most parts of my life, the winter blues have gotten easier as I’ve gotten older, but they’re still no picnic. I get the typical bout of listlessness, distractability, anxiety, and ennui starting in late January and my symptoms are usually worst by the end of February, lasting through March or April. It’s a low grade depression, I never feel suicidal or bad enough to go on medication, but I’ve been known to throw a few elbows on public transportation and my consumption of coffee goes way up. And God help the person who drips toothpaste in my sink.
The worst part of having SAD is that while I’m suffering I can’t remember life ever having been different. My brain finds excuses for being depressed and angry all the time, and it feels like I’ll never get over feeling bad. Even though I know certain SAD-related habits are bad for me, I find myself slipping into them – staying inside all day to escape the cold, subsisting on carbs and sugar for the momentary pick me up, skipping the gym, and sleeping in late. I’ve been known to spend an entire Saturday eating cheese and crackers in bed with a book. Not in a book-nerd’s holiday way, just in an immobilized with lack of energy way.
So far I haven't gotten to that point. I'm mostly my normal self, besides feeling distracted at work, and some recent weight gain due to too many sweet drinks (remember those protein shakes I was raving about? Oops) and not enough veggies. But, before the worst month strikes, I’m taking some pre-emptive action to fight off whatever SAD affects I can.
From now until the end of March I’ll be:
- waking up 30 minutes early to journal in front of a full spectrum light
- going to the gym 5 days a week
- avoiding carbs and eating plenty of proteins and vegetables
- making sure to take a break from work between 10 and 2 to get natural light
- taking a muli-vitamin every day
- getting full 7.5-8 hours sleep each night (but no more)
- making at least 2 plans each week to get together with friends
- taking a walk each weekend
Besides that I like to have things around me to mark the passing of time. We have an Amarylis on our table that's partially in bloom, and another few to plant once this one's done. The flowers grow slowly, but they're so spectacular to see in bloom that it makes it worth the wait. I like checking every day to see how it's growing.
I'm always on the lookout for ways to brighten the darkest part of the winter, but even with all the precautions above I know I'll still be in a more introspective, quiet place than I am in other months. If I can cut out some of the worst affects of the dark months, maybe I can better enjoy the benefits of that quiet. So, in between the gym, vitamins and outings, I plan to do plenty of reading.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
BLAM BLAM BLAM!!
I’m looking forward to more Gossip Girl in coming weeks if this is what’s to come. It’ll definitely counteract some of my displeasure at the promised return of Georgina.
Sidenote – HIMYM also great this week. Thanks for not forgetting Stinbastky. Just 5 more days till more good tv…
Friday, January 9, 2009
I'll go out on a limb and attribute the cure to the Naked Protein smoothies I had yesterday and this morning. With 30 grams of protein and 300% of the rda for vitamin C, it seems like a good compromise between SBD and a juice-cure. And, it's really delicious. Sort of like a cross between an Orange Julius and Eggnog, but in a good way. It's creamy (it has a soy base, not milk, so no lactose), with a satisfying meal-supplement texture unlike the citric-acid-rotting-your-teeth-out-of-your-face mouth feel that orange juice has.
Anyway, after this week I'll go back to coffee, tea or water, because these smoothies do have a lot of sugar, but next time I'm sick I'll be sure to stock up. If you like juice, you should try one too. It could be a decent breakfast on the go or midday snack.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I think it’s gorgeous, but wish it was a little cheaper. $100 is too much for me to spend on a poster. I may chip in for some stickers or a pin, though. I’m also looking forward to the Boston ICA’s exhibit of Fairey’s work, which opens February 6th.
Love them or hate them, you have to admit the Obamas have a great sense of style and this poster is pitch perfect. It’s respectful of history while being forward looking and smart. I love the combination of the ornate, official seal laid over the retro propaganda poster image of Obama. In a way, the poster reminds me of one of my favorite local artists, Chris Speakman, (who does the Boston Sports Propaganda pieces), but layout wise the Inaugaration poster is more complex. At first glance, my eye is drawn to Obama’s face, but the bottom half of the picture reveals the true focal point – the crowds of voters celebrating below. Fairey’s images of Obama have become so ubiquitous recently (most recently on the cover of Time’s Man of the Year issue) that his face in this poster is more a representation of his Obama the candidate (notice his expression and the colors are almost identical to the HOPE poster), than of Obama the president elect. It’s a celebration of Obama supporter and voters being the change they wished to see in the White House.
There are many reasons I’m looking forward to the Obama presidency, most of them economic and political. But I consider it a wonderful bonus that we’ve elected a man (a whole family really) who will move our country forward culturally as well. I can’t wait to see what new artists and designers will be unearthed in the next 4 years.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Me and my bright ideas. So there we are deciding whether to go to the bookstore or dinner first when the bus speeds right on passed our turn, on under the highway and out into the heart of suburbia. Greg is checking something on his iphone and so doesn’t see my jaw drop as I realize I’ve made a mistake and there is something very wrong here. I’m furiously checking my bus schedule print-outs whilst doing my best to look like a casual bus rider still waiting for her stop (I’m sure my shifty, nervous eyes made me look like that something unusual the T advises you to say something about). Out beyond the highway, strip malls, and a used book superstore (tempting). Out beyond lakes and barns and over-sized unusually shaped houses that look ready to jump up and defend the town at the first sign of a Decepticon. The bus just keeps going and even though we know the smart thing is to stay on the warm bus until it turns around and goes back to Alewife, I’m starting to worry it might never turn around. Instead, it might just keep on driving and driving, the driver merrily pushing a button on the dash and turning the bus into a 3500 or a 30 or whatever bus there is out in western mass and we’ll get off several hours from now needing to find another way home from Leominster or Fitchburg or --god help us -- Springfield.
As I’ve already mentioned, I’d finished my book before I even got on the bus, so when we finally did reach the blessed end of the ride into Burlington, I’d pretty much wrung the author bio and back cover dry too. Then it was 15 minutes before the bus turned around and started back. We finally reached the shopping plaza something like an hour later than we originally intended.
The worst part, after eating and hitting the bookstore and Michaels we got to the stop just in time to see the 8:40 bus home drive off. And the next bus due in another hour. This time Greg took over, finagling us a ride home with his mom.
The 350 to Burlington – it looks like a good idea, but somehow never is.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Various random places on my body are sore now (left knee, right thigh, right shoulder, neck) but the bruises are being very slow to form, not a good sign. If only I could have some of those werewolf healing powers. *sigh*
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Today I developed my pictures from Christmas time, including this striking one taken from the plane over Chicago. More than any of the other places I visited this year, 2008 was my year of Chicago. I visited 3 times – for a week in May to celebrate my sister’s birthday, overnight by necessity in September when I flew back to be with my Grandpa and couldn’t get a train ticket for the day I flew in, and again in December when my connecting flight was cancelled.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with Chicago. I grew up in Kalamazoo, a mid-sized Michigan city just 2 hours away, but I never felt I had a personal connection to the city or even a particular interest in visiting. Apart from a trip to the Science Museum with my middle school, and a weekend visit to a high school boyfriend taking a summer class at Northwestern, I’d never even visited before this year. Even in my college search, it just never crossed my mind. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston that I realized how strange it was that I’d never considered looking at schools in that city closer to home.
Partly, my aversion was due to internalizing my mom’s fear of driving there. My mother, who can navigate the twisty 7-street intersections of Boston with patience and courage to spare, has a special hushed tone she reserves for only Terminal Illnesses and Chicago Traffic. For the most part, unless someone else is driving, my mom’s not going to Chicago.
A second reason I’ve never cared to explore Chicago is that I’ve always felt there’s something a little “me too” about Chicago culture. No one could deny the cultural importance of Los Angeles or New York, but Chicago … it’s the city with a so-so version of whatever the big two have got. A film industry that never quite took off, a skyscraper that used to be the world’s biggest, and even the crime stories are mostly nostalgia.
But, this year I gave Chicago a fair chance, and I’m glad I did. Even a new East Coaster like me has to admit that Chicago could teach Boston a thing or two about pizza. And the architectural tour from the river beat the pants off “duck boats”. And Millennium Park is where Chicago really distinguishes itself from other cities. Cloudsgate (aka The Bean) is an undeniable crowd pleaser – an interactive sculpture that’s beautiful from every angle. And, Boston one-up’s New York by bringing its art museum right out into the public park. I love the intermingling of the museum grounds with the park space. We weren’t able to spend much time in that area, but the time we did spend was wonderful and gave us a real sense of the city.
I’m sure I’m not alone in giving Chicago another look this year. With a new Chicagoan president-elect, and a possible future Olympics on Lake Michigan in the works, Chicago is just beginning its latest turn in the public eye. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chicago will offer up. Especially if it comes in a deep dish.
This year there seem to be a few particularly bad strains of cold & flu making the rounds. I was knocked out of commission for an entire week last month, and Greg was sick for almost the entirety of his two week vacation around xmas/new years. Again, this morning, I woke up with the telltale sore throat and grumpy attitude that precedes illness.
I absolutely can't get sick again already. I refuse to! So today while my vacation pictures were printing at Walgreens, I stocked up on a few precautions for the coming days. I'm gonna knock this cold out before it can take hold. Also on my list -- lots of fluids, good fats & proteins, plenty of sleep, a minimal amount of sugar, and crossed fingers. Have I missed anything?
Friday, January 2, 2009
1. Change to a new doctor and dentist (I have new ones in mind, just need to do the work of switching)
2. Visit a new city (Washington, D.C. is what I have in mind, but as a backup I could count our May trip to Atlanta. Technically, I did visit when my Dad lived there, but we didn't go into the city or do anything more than hang out at their house so the city will still be new to me.)
3. Remember to send birthday cards for immediate family + aunts and uncles. (total of 17 to remember.)
4. Visit vocal therapist (hopefully I can get a referral)
5. Increase payments on student loans
6. Start regular contribution to new savings account for house/condo/whatever someday
7. Complete the final The Artists Way book
8. Learn to knit
9. Take beginning Greek 2 class
10. Finish draft of book (this one is the biggie)
11. Write and post 100 blogposts in 2009 (2 down, just 98 to go...)
This morning I’m taking a hatchet to my Netflix Queue. I know there’s some good stuff in there somewhere, but lately it just seems like bummer after bummer in a red envelope. Somehow my list of movies to rent has gone from a pleasure to a chore. I find myself watching the movies, in the rare event I can bring myself to, just to clear them out of my list and move on to one I’ll enjoy. There’s a marked disparity between the kinds of movies I want to watch –attractive actors and lots of comedy – versus the kind of movies I want to want to watch – drama, documentary, and “classics”. So, today I’m going to face facts and put the queue in line with my movie desires. Bye-bye Decalogue, any tv series that only lasted 1 season before being “tragically cancelled” in the early nineties, reality shows, and anything about Tom Selleck, Jimmy Stewart or surfers. Going into the list? Nothing but fun.