Archive | January 2014

Getting into Shape: End of Week 14

Just ducking in. Before I give you this week's news, I have one comment.

Snow! What a surprise! We never get snow around here!

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Okay. So onto this.

Beginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 1-28-14: 207.7
Total: 16.1 pounds LOST

Weight Watchers on Initial Weigh In: 224
Weight Watchers on 1-28-14: 210.2 (an overall gain of .2 for the week)
Total: 13.2 pounds LOST

Hey, this seems remarkably the same, doesn't it? After a trip to Vegas, it's good, baybee, it's good.

What's behind the scenes: Today I gained 2 pounds on the Wii. Woah. So next week's numbers might be up a bit. We'll see. There are several possible reasons: increased exercise, perhaps Vegas catchup (note how I didn't gain weight when I got back. Could I be paying now?), perhaps female events (thanks to thyroid pills, I do get a period every once in a while, and I can count on a weight gain of around two pounds), stress (yesterday was worthy of my old attitude toward relaxation. There was no down time at all, and I fell asleep during my writing period. Crap. Cortisol, that's all I'm saying.) or my personal favorite, acid reflux disease (sometimes things get, well, stoppered.) I'm still on program, but I have been using some of my flex points, so it could be as simple as too many flex points in too short a time. Although nothing like that has happened yet, it could happen.

So, we'll see what we have tomorrow. I expect a dip. Just how much of a dip we'll see. The drama! The drama!

Gotta go. Gotta have some lunch, I teach in another hour, and I still have a boatload of fire science work to do.

Spa, Write, Talk, Repeat

And so, late Thursday night I arrived in Las Vegas.

Thursday: An early morning breakfast with Ada Brown and Miranda Suri at Mon Ami Gabi. Loved the food, and next time would recommend the brioche and the giant bowl of coffee as enough food. I kid you not. A bowl of coffee, like it was a Japanese tea ceremony.

Spaing was next on the agenda. The Aria has a great spa. I was particularly fond of the Eucalyptus Steam room which roiled a cloud at you a la Stephen King's The Fog, the shiyo salt room, and the warm stone beds we could just relax on. My Thai Fusion massage did wonders for my joints and lower back. I want one of those again, but I don't think they can be found in Iowa.

We spent Friday afternoon writing. On this day, I wrote 2300 new words, pretty much all crap. There was a break for a Napoleon and an Americano.

Friday night a delicious sushi dinner, some drinks at the Chandelier bar, and an early night for this tired Iowan.

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Saturday I was up very early, so I had a healthy breakfast and an hour walk. Then, more writing, a healthy lunch, and more writing. What we wrote the day before, we made legitimate, and I was very happy overall. Lisa Morton, Ada and I spent some time watching the J-Pop countdown on NHK as we glammed up. Then we had dinner and good conversation at Sage.

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It was a simple retreat. Time to talk, time to chill, time to write. The vibe was low key and we all were motivated by each other to work on projects. It's great to talk to other writers who are about at the same stage, and just work.

I find myself thinking about the value of the critique workshop. I need readers, but I have good readers I can rely on who are useful and who get what I need. I'm not sure that my best travel dollars are spent getting away to a workshop where I don't write, since I do my best writing and critiquing at home. However, I do like to relax and write with other writers and a group in a nice setting.

Here's a write up from Miranda Suri, where she says pretty much loads of things about the retreat that I agree with, and I'm lazy enough just to link. 🙂 I'd like to thank Danielle Burkhart, Lisa, Ada and Miranda for a nice weekend. Let's do it again.

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At this point, I do not plan to go next year, as I am limiting myself to one workshop a year, and I believe next year's is settled, unless something changes. But I will miss it.

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In related news, believe it or not, I lost 0.5 pounds. Yeah, that should not have happened. And I got back to Iowa just in time to drive home in another blizzard. No school today, and we're trapped inside with dangerous wind chills. But what would be worse? Being stranded on the road. So, I'm grateful.

Getting in Shape: End of Week 13

Beginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 1-22-14: 208.1
Total: 15.7 pounds LOST

Weight Watchers on Initial Weigh In: 224
Weight Watchers on 1-21-14: 210.2 (an overall gain of .2 for the week)
Total: 13.2 pounds LOST

What this means: I am now at my Viable Paradise 2009 weight. There are so many variables here I'm not sure what is working or if this is everything in tandem. Here's what's changed: stress reduction, healthier eating, more exercising, indulgence without excess, and levothyroxin.

In the past, I have been frustrated because I have worked hard and nothing's happened. This time I'm working on it, but letting the results be the results, and this is happening.

Off to Vegas, then. In smaller pants.

ps I have officially lost 5 percent of my body weight, the first Weight Watchers goal. The next goal is 201.6, which is the 10 percent goal. My immediate goal after that is Onederland.

My Thoughts on Zen; Classes Start Tomorrow

REALLY BIG BLANK WHITE SPACE

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There. You can tell I've read Katagiri now.

Honestly? I think John Denver might be a zen master when he said, "Life ain't nothing but a funny, funny riddle" in Thank God I'm a Country Boy.

Also, a link to John Scalzi's baseball analogy for writing. Katagiri suggested that you can't look at others. The story you write is your own. So, today, Scalzi too gets to be a bit zen.

***

The semester starts tomorrow, and Tuesday is going to be a BIG, BIG day. Four hours of teaching, lots of students, and beginning my firefighting class. I suspect I'll be back Wednesday.

Meanwhile, we finish our directorship interviews, so I must away now to participate in that last interview. Tomorrow begins the first day of writing for an hour at work. Woot.

Viva

And speaking of Las Vegas, at this time next week, I'll be in glorious Las Vegas for the second all ladies writers retreat. We go to Vegas, we spa, we eat, we see a show (this time, a very classy Zombie Burlesque Review that will probably rival the theatrical values of Bite, the topless vampire musical), and we write.

The first group writing retreat I went to that was privately organized was in Vegas. I thought that the organizers were crazy. You know, I snobbishly thought of writing retreats as taking place in ivy-covered brick buildings. I went because there were awesome people to see, and new people to meet. AND, by God, Vegas is a great place to have a retreat.

You see, not much happens in Vegas during the day. What an awesome way to spend your day, writing in Vegas. Of course, Vegas has some of the most decadent spas in the world, so by having a retreat where we write, rather than where we critique, we can fit that in. And then, the nightlife. Shows, shopping, restaurants, bars. It's easy to get out and have fun, whether you want to gamble, see a show, have some wine, or hang out with friends.

Now, I kind of wish all my writing retreats could be in Vegas. I know what you're thinking, that I'd prefer a retreat at Disney. I would not. I would be aggravated that I could not go to Disney. I know this. I've been to conferences in Orlando twice, once on property, and once off, and all the time, I wondered why I wasn't at Disney.

But Vegas is perfect. I don't gamble, I've done the basic sightseeing, and so I don't envy the time I'm not doing Vegas. I really get tired of getting hit up for deals, or expanding my collection of prostitution cards, so I'm happy to stay inside until the vampires tourists come out and I can be one of them. And then, after a long day of writing, we have some fun.

I already know I'm not going next year. I'm limiting my retreats to one a year, and I've already promised myself to another one next year. Yet, I certainly enjoy this interesting mix of decadence and work.

On the plus side, at least next year I won't miss the local Scottish society's Robbie Burns birthday blowout. This'll be the second year I've missed it. I'm a bad Scot.

Venice: Becoming Las Vegas

While I wait for my student interviews to begin this morning, I will try to dash off another entry about Venice.

You might remember that Venice was an incredible force to be reckoned with. The navy was a scourge to other areas, they aggressively protected their trade routes, the city supported innovation, and they were sort of pirate baron thief kings. Yeah. A trading empire. Yeah.

The economic bottom fell out in 1453. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks and lands were lost to those forces, the Portuguese had opened up a new trade route around Africa that ate into Venice's business, and the Catholic church powers challenged Venice. Venice had a few small comebacks, but overall her empire and power were in decline.

So, in the 17th and 18th century, Venice was the party town of Europe. As decay continued, many people came to Venice to play. What happened in Venice stayed in Venice. This is the time of Cassanova, and some of the most disparate behavior in the city. Napoleon shut the party down in 1797. That's the part I know about the most, because I've set my story about that time frame, so we'll talk about it next time.

Dust, My Bitter, Bitter Enemy

I did not make any big deal out of my recent battles with dust. I might have mentioned that I visited a doctor and took some steroids to try to get rid of some low level headaches, because we thought the crazy weather differential (outside -40F windchill and snow, inside 70 and dry) might have caused some sinus issues. Well, no real difference in the long run. I was having trouble with headaches, eye aches (lots of screen fatigue, and kind of a creaky, clicky right eye sometimes for mobility.) Sometimes I had congestion or a runny nose, some sneezing, some coughing. Classic ENT issues. And a little dizziness and nausea which I blamed on the headaches.

So I put off returning to the doctor for a couple of reasons:

1. I was busy at work and didn't want to schedule it.
2. I figured they'd just tell me I was old and I would have to live with it (which is pretty much what I've been told about, oh, lessee, 4 or so maladies now. Yay.)

But Bryon was insistent I go, and honestly, I planned to go. There'd be egg on my face if I didn't go, and I had some sort of tumor or growth or something. Not that I was too worried about that, which shows you how much my paranoia is ramping down these days.

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With great glee, I can proudly report that this is something I don't have to live with! I am, in fact broken.

I need an illustration. Hold on.

turbinate

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Getting in Shape: End of Week 12

Thanks to the superb staff at Direct NIC for solving our little website problem. Without further adieu, yesterday's post.

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Now it's time for a little weight report. This was a frustrating week for me. I dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's. For the first time in several weeks, I evened out. Every point I consumed was on program, or exercised for. As such, here are some interesting stats for you.

Beginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 1-7-14: 211 (an overall loss of .4 for the week)
Total: 12 pounds LOST

Weight Watchers on Initial Weigh In: 224
Weight Watchers on 1-7-14: 214 (an overall gain of .2 for the week)
Total: 10 pounds LOST

And so, I thought, we enter the plateau season, when your body has to get used to the new you. So, I was not exactly down, but not exactly happy.

This is not Pam's, the Weight Watcher leader, thoughts. Rather than supporting the plateau theory, there were three of us this weekend that lost tiny amounts, or even gained a little. Our common issue was increasing our workout. The idea is that our muscles are catching up to us, and this gain is the muscle thing, but overall that's good.

Was Pam right? This morning's Wii Weight was 209.7, which takes me down 1.3 from Tuesday, so Pam's theory looks viable. We'll see.

Working out: I've been working out a lot more. We have company coming this week, so I've been cleaning (and that'll be the next entry, believe it), plus we just bought the Wii Fit U, and I've been playing with the new dance studio and the luge (loves me some luge). So, yes, I have been exercising a lot, and having fun. I suspect that the workouts will pay off.

When I saw my doc yesterday, she was thrilled. My blood pressure looked great, and I owe it all to exercise. Also, according to her records, I've lost 15 pounds since April. Well, you know, sometimes you weigh with your shoes on. So happy glowy happiness. Oh. Except for the dust problem. Next entry...

Writing is a Joyful Pursuit in the World

I have finished Wonderbook as of Sunday, and for me, it was a very liberating experience. I was reminded of some of the things I'm doing right, but mostly it made me think about the things that needed thinking about.

When I began sending out Abby Rath, I hoped that it would be good enough and commercial enough to sell. It wasn't. I think I understand now that while you need to hope that some day some of your work might get out to other people, that in the end the reason you create is because you have something to say and you want to work hard to say it. You're trying to forge your ideas into something worthwhile and interesting...for yourself.

This is also the path that I've chosen regarding my teaching. Of course, there are students, but I'm always trying to improve my ability to get that information to them in a large part because I believe in what I'm doing. My job is service, but I'm trying to live my life and career so that when I look at them, I can say, "Yes, I did what I wanted, and I'm satisfied with the job I did."

Yes, I did what I wanted, and I'm satisfied with the job I did. So, let's make some bold statements about writing. First of all, from here on out, I'm not counting words. I'm shaping a story. I'll be visiting subtexts, writing scenes about what I need to have background for, looking at inspiration and different ways in, revising outlines, doing whatever it is I need to write a story. It'll be like my thesis. We wrote and wrote and revised and wrote and had readers and suddenly, one day, it was done.

I'm already limiting myself to one writing trip a year for critique. I believe that might be a step in the right direction. I touch base with some friends on Thursdays, but times I'm not writing, and just talking about writing are times I'm not creating and moving toward the goal of writing. I need input from others, but I also need to be in touch with my vision for work, much less tentatively than I have been in the past, when I've been putting my work out there to see what people think. The only way I can figure out what I'm doing is to do it and look. Certainly, other people can help, but I need to know if they see what I want, and then if they do, to use their advice to enhance what I want. So, I'm working on getting that core of readers that really get me.

Mostly, I believe that my writing is a joyful pursuit in the world for me. I'm getting off the doggedness train, and back on the delight train. I'm tired of hearing people talk only about hard work and not about imagination, and I hear that a lot in writing circles. I want to fly and imagine, and I was so glad that Wonderbook went there, rather than trying to reduce technique to solid math and slog.

So...this book? I'm working on it. I'll be ready for some readers eventually, and I'll ask readers that I think will give me some good feedback. And then, we'll go back and do what it is we want to do, with honest open eyes. I will endeavor to not think of this as a job or a status or anything like that, because that's the surest way to kill my interest in it.

I am in pursuit of the best work I can write.

Getting in Shape: End of Week 11

Let's start with yesterday's stats!

Beginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 1-7-14: 211.4
Total: 12.4 pounds

Weight Watchers on Initial Weigh In: 224
Weight Watchers on 1-7-14: 213.8
Total: 10.2 pounds LOST

What's going on: There was some weight lost between the morning and the afternoon, so Weight Watchers has me down for a modest 0.6 pound gain over the holidays. Which suits me just fine. 🙂

Today's Wii Weight is even more encouraging--210.5 for a total of 13.3 pounds lost.

The goal now is to eat the points of exercise and extra that I have during the week, and no more than that. I'm also trying to mix up the exercise. For example, my first hour of the day today was spent cleaning my office, which is more of an arm activity than the mall walk yesterday. I've already worked out today, which is good, because I have a facial after school (yay) and my last Mindbridge set of meetings tonight, so I'm booked.

As I move forward, I've set my sites on my next goal being "onederland," which means I want to dip below 200. That's 10.7 pounds on the Wii. After that, my hope is for the Wii to start telling me I'm overweight, instead of obese, and that will occur after 186.5 pounds. I'm not looking any farther ahead at this time than "onderland," and I've mentioned before that I think I can get there around the first of April. I don't want this to happen too fast. I want these changes to be slow, steady, and this time, lasting.

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In other exercise news, Bryon and I just decided to buy the Wii U. I'm not buying a cell phone, so there's the money right there. A new version of Wii Fit is coming out, and we want it, plus Bryon is enthused about Disney Infinity, and our current system can only play that in a limited fashion. The new Wii U only requires us to buy a new box and a memory card. All the rest of our Wii system transfers, and all our old games and workouts will still work. We'll think of it as a gym membership. I think it works so well for us, because we tend to anthropomorphize the cartoon characters and the talking Wii board. If you think of the Wii as a person, it won't end up gathering dust like that Nordic Track that needs to go away.

If I can lose a pound next week for Weight Watchers, I will have lost five percent of my body weight. That'd be great.