Saying Yes to Exercise and No to NaNo

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Dizzy, Exercise, Health, Hobby, No Whining, Work

It’s National Novel Writing Month, which is a program that tries to get folks that want to write a novel motivated enough to put aside excuses and start writing. There are a few general rules, but it boils down to solo writing a minimum of 50,000 words of a new story in 30 days. It’s held every November and you can find much more information and still join at www.nanowrimo.org. And don’t fret about already being behind. There’s no such thing as being ahead or behind, in my opinion. It’s too easy to catch up or fall behind to either beat yourself up or take it easy. Just keep writing and don’t stress about word counts.

It’s a fantastic program, with tons of support, tips and advice available on their forums. I participated in 2008 and 2009, having won in 2009. By the way, winning simply means that you were able to write 50,000 words. I cannot recommend this adventure highly enough. Many write to have a novel to publish or podcast, but mine was purely cathartic. I will never show the novel to anyone other than my hubby, but it is still something I’m extremely proud of having written. It healed some uglies on my inside, which was the point.

This year, between college courses, doing freelance work for Patrick McLean, managing my health issues and a household, my schedule is very tight and I’m very behind on everything. That is why I decided over a month ago that I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo. Then I got this idea for a story that has been tinkling in the back of my mind, nearly constantly. I decided to try NaNo, even though knew that I wouldn’t win. There’s just not enough time. I figured any words I got down by tapping into the collective community support would be a win in my situation. Besides, I won last year when I was just starting down the path of finding out what my illness was, so why not?

Why not? Well, in my time calculations, I left out exercise. My work outs take a big toll on my day. The exercise time itself isn’t so bad, but the recovery time after I exercise is the big time suck. I’m dizzy, migraine-y and extremely fatigued so I just grab a tall cool drink and relax until the extreme symptoms pass. It can take anywhere from half an hour to two hours for this to happen before I can resume my day. On rare occasions, it doesn’t pass and my day is shot, other than being proud of myself for the workout.

My total exercise time includes stretching, anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour on the street or up to 90 minutes on the recumbent bike (when I’m too dizzy to run, I just hold on and pedal), stretching after, the Hundred Push-Up Challenge, core stretches and 100 or more crunches. This is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. After class on Tuesdays and Thursdays I take long neighborhood walks (3 mile minimum), do arm weights and floor work (stretches/crunches/core work). I try and do a long walk at least one day on the weekend, but that rarely works out with our busy schedule of late. If anything is planned for the afternoon or evening I just can’t risk having to cancel if my symptoms don’t clear up.

I follow this schedule as closely as I can. On average, I have to cancel a workout a few times a week because of a migraine or dizziness that has me nauseous. Last week, I only worked out four days instead of the planned six. Because of the unpredictable variable, I give my all when I work out, reminding myself that it may be the last one for several days.

I am nearly ALWAYS dizzy after a workout, sometimes leading to a migraine and/or extreme fatigue and sometimes not. This is the reason I gave up going to the track. It’s not safe to drive after I exercise because of the dizziness, so I only do neighborhood workouts now.

Now, I did attempt some writing on Monday, which was the start of NaNoWriMo. I spent most of the time researching my naming convention for my characters but did manage to get a little over 200 words down. I was happy for that, as I needed to get the image down before I forgot it. Migraine had me put it away at that point.

Yesterday was extreme dizziness and migraine, so I missed class and skipped exercise. No words written as any amount of time on the computer and the bright glow from it spiked the brain pain and the meds were completely useless. I was starting to stress over getting even my reduced goals met. It occurred to me that I could regain some time for writing by cutting back on exercise. When I realized that was the only way to find writing time, I knew it was time to walk away from NaNo this year. Exercise is the only thing that brings me any sense of normalcy right now. Even though it has gotten to extreme levels of illness, my doctor fully endorses it and believes as I do that improving my overall health will make my life better.

I still have some writing to do before I put it away. There are some scenes that I’ve got to get typed up before I forget them. And I would like to name all the characters, as I think that will help give them flavor as I give the story itself time to simmer away in the back of my mind.

As I planned a few months ago, I’ll likely pick a month in the Spring as my own personal NaNoWriMo. November is hell for this type of thing, in my life anyways, with the holidays so close that you can taste them. And plan for them. And clean for them. And decorate, and stress, and… you get the idea.

Reply in the comments if you’d like to write along with me in the Spring. April has thirty days, right?

Geist by Philippa Ballantine

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Friends, Health

New Zealand author and dear friend Philippa Ballantine has her new book launch TODAY! My husband Chooch read a pre-release copy and says that it’s his favorite of her books to date! Our copies are en route and should arrive today. If you haven’t already, rush out to your local bookstore and buy it or simply order from Amazon!

Geist

Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists…

Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse.

But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows.

And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to?


Take a moment to watch the cool trailer created by Tee Morris in support of Geist.

Too Long to Tweet, Number One

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Friends, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter, Twitter/Facebook, Work

There are so many stories of Patrick McLean’s  that make me mutter “Brilliant,” even on the 10th hearing/reading. But this one gives me shivers, too.

“What I do see is the guy with the gun walking up next to my car. Or more precisely, the gigantic black hole that is the barrel of the gun. If you’ve ever had a gun pointed at you, you know what I mean. The barrel seems huge. And why shouldn’t it? It has to be big enough to swallow your whole life.”

-“Getting Shot” from Stories I Told Myself and The Seanachai podcast.

You may consider me biased, but come on. That is a fierce string of words.

Welcome to my shortest post ever.

Review of "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day…"

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Chooch, Cooking, Firsts, Health, Soulful

I’m finally getting around to writing a review of the book I used to make my first ever pizza dough in my “Firsts” series of posts, most of them during Labor Day weekend.

A weekly meal routines we’ve fallen into over the last eight or so months is “homemade” pizza on Friday nights.  I would purchase a whole wheat pizza shell (Boboli-type) and we would top them ourselves with our favorites. It’s healthier (whole wheat) and much cheaper this way, since the shells run about $5 and the results are individualized.

As is my usual luck when I find something I love, the store next door stopped selling the whole wheat pizza shells about two months ago. I wanted an alternative other than buying at a store I have to drive to, so I started looking at whole wheat pizza dough recipes and although not terribly difficult, I just … didn’t wanna…

Then I came across this book while zipping around in Amazon and was immediately hooked. It’s title “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I read the product description and was curious as to whether or not any whole grain recipes were included. Then I noticed another book by the same authors Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients. The description there really had me excited, so I put the book on reserve at my library and checked it out the next day.

I opened the book to skim it while I was still in the library parking lot, and decided to grab the few items I would need to make my first multi-loaf batch. I’m unable to afford all the recommended tools (pizza peal, baking stone, 5 qt container with lid) for a whimsical attempt, so I instead used their suggested substitutions. Very quickly I had my dough mixed and set aside for the two hours as instructed, and later that night used some of it to make whole wheat pizza dough. It was delicious, although the texture was a bit gummy.

Undeterred, I attempted two or three loaves from the remaining dough and was happy with the taste but not texture. Naughty Bear loved it and ate several slices, but neither Chooch nor I really dug in and I ended up tossing it.  (As Ramona says, “Bread makes you fat,” so I only eat REALLY tasty bread.)

I hit the troubleshooting chapter, which is pretty extensive, and found that different brands of whole wheat flour can cause variation in the results. I followed the recommendations and made another batch, resulting in much better pizza crusts (Friday to Friday). Due to insanity here, I didn’t get another loaf made from that batch, but am entirely sure it was improved based on the difference between the two pizza batches.

As for the process, it’s different from traditional bread making. Annnnd lookit, I’m not going to go into a huge explanation of the science. If you know me, you know my opinion of science (It’s great! But better left in someone else’s hands.). And you are correct if you guess that I read it all, but didn’t bother retaining much of why the system works. But even I can explain the system itself:

You make one huge wad of dough by quickly and simply mixing dry ingredients with wet ingredients in a 5 quart or larger bowl/container/whatevs. Then you park it loosely covered somewhere that your dog/kids/drunk uncle won’t knock it about. After two hours, during which time it has miraculously risen, you move it into the fridge still loosely covered. Now, depending on which dough you mix, it will happily reside in the fridge for up to 5 to 14 days, ready for your use. I have not tested the outer limit on that, but after a little over a week on one batch of the 14 day Master Recipe I question the claim.

Once it’s been refrigerated for … a while (who can remember, that’s what recipe books are for) you use a serrated knife to chop off a chunk and follow the provided steps to make a loaf of artisan dough, pizza crust, baguette, cinnamon rolls, or whatevs. The loaves I’ve made require an additional rising period of 90 minutes or so, but the pizza crust is rolled out and baked immediately.

To date, I’ve made the Master Recipe for pizza crusts and “artisan loaves” and the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread Recipe with a very tasty loaf. I’m testing it out for pizza crust tonight to see if we like it better than the Master Recipe. This will be my last test batch, and if successful I’ll buy the book, pizza peel and baking stone (I’m already pretty happy with my container situation).

I should warn you that this process will take up a big chunk of your fridge space. You should really think this part through before making any investment. You may be able to get around this if you cut the recipes in half and use smaller containers.

Also, mixing the dough is a bit messy if you don’t use a 14-cup food processor or other machine (which I don’t have), but it’s still extremely quick and easy. I mix and store it in the same bowl, so the only thing I have to wash is measuring cups, a whisk and a wooden spoon. And let’s not forget, it’s bread making we’re talking about here. You’re supposed to get messy!

As for the expense, it’s waaaaay cheaper than a bread machine and I’ve essentially already paid for the book with the savings from 4 pizza crusts (I’m already counting the one I’m making tonight). The other items? We’ll call those an investment for the home.

Review of Ender's Game

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Chooch, Kaylee, Sci Fi, Soulful

Chooch chose this book to share with me, as I shared the play Cyrano de Bergerac with him a few years ago. We decided back then to turn off the TV at bedtime, and we would take turns reading books to each other. For reasons that escape me, we fell out of the habit after that first book, and only recently started it again. Chooch has a great love for this book, as was evident while he read it to me. We just finished it last night and I’m grateful (while still heartbroken) that he shared it with me.

I realize this sounds extremely corny, and I can picture some that may read this are rolling their eyes now. But it is something that we look forward to every night, and it has certainly strengthened our bond. I can’t remember where he got the idea to do this, but I’m so grateful to have it as a part of our (almost) daily life now.

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Ender’s Game is an utterly compelling book written by Orson Scott Card that was published in 1985. It was released in at least two other forms, including short story in 1977 and as an updated novel in 1991. There were also sequels to this tale of Ender Wiggin but having only read the 1985 version of the book, I will not address the other iterations.

This is not an easy book to read, particularly if you have male children, as the author crafts an extremely cruel “childhood” that is forced on Ender from the very beginning. There are various circumstances causing him to not have a childhood in the way that we think of it, and it is heartbreaking to witness. Not surprisingly, I thought of our three boys and this naturally made Ender’s story even more difficult to experience. We do learn that Ender has an old and wise soul. Whether it was nature or nurture that caused this is not clear to me, as his two siblings are also more mature in thought and behavior than would be normal. They are all three extraordinary in their own ways, from the very beginning of the story.

Ender and his slightly older sister Valentine are constantly terrorized by their frighteningly calm older brother Peter. He is a terrifying character, in that you can easily imagine now how someone like Jeffrey Dahlmer might have been during childhood. One of the cruelest after effects of Peter’s influence is Ender’s fear of being like him in any way. It literally haunts him for a large part of the book, as he struggles with difficult decisions.

Ender and Valentine are bonded together out of sibling love, but also as I imagine war buddies would be. Their parents are allegedly unaware as to just how dangerous Peter is and also the depths of his cruelty with his younger siblings, so do very little to protect them. Being left to fend for themselves is one of the reasons they are so close and also able to handle so many of the trials they face. This is very nearly standard in stories where extraordinary children do extraordinary things.

The fact that Ender and Valentine are so lovingly devoted to each other is the single most beautiful aspect of the book, and one that makes it worth reading as Ender leaves his traumatic childhood to enter another terribly cruel existence. And as a silly aside, as Valentine’s character in the book developed, I stated how gratified I was that our pup Kaylee has “Valentine” as part of her name. While it was for a different reason, I love the fact that this other Valentine is out there, even if only in a fictional sense.

The author deftly created a vision of the worlds and experiences in Ender’s world, to the point that I actually shed tears very early in the story, and if memory serves it was even in the first chapter. I find it amazing that you are made to care so much for he and Valentine almost instantaneously. His use of imagery was right on target as well, as I could easily picture the battle room and Ender’s unusual experiences after he was sent up to the school.

There is a very rich and well detailed story here of how Ender, being determined to be one of the most gifted children in the world, is sent to a school to train with other similarly gifted children. This was deemed necessary as their world was seeking what would be equated to the savior of the human race. Twice before, Earth had been attacked by an alien race called “Buggers” and it was anticipated that another war would take place soon. An elaborate testing and training system was developed, to ensure that the children matured and trained quickly to protect the human race from extinction. There is a lot more to this, but I leave it to you to discover if you haven’t already read the book.

I highly recommend Ender’s Game whether you enjoy this genre or not. I hate to only categorize it as Sci Fi, because there is so much beyond that going on here. If you have already read it, in any of its forms, I’d love for you to share your thoughts via comments.