|Posted by harpwriter on March 29, 2010 at 8:06 PM||comments (0)|
I eat 5k’s for breakfast.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I eat breakfast for breakfast, wait a few hours, then go out and run/walk a little over three miles. I’m training for a running event in May, hoping to beat the time I made on my first 5k last fall. I get outside three days a week and give my running shoes a nice workout. It’s good to spend a little time away from the keyboard, taking in some fresh air and watching the seasons change.
Ah, but the world isn’t always as it is this spring, dynamic and blooming. The winter landscape was sad study in monochrome. Aside from the occasional adventures afforded by ice and snow, my exercise runs were dismal and boring. Tromp tromp tromp. How many footfalls can a person endure through a monotonous landscape before going bonkers? The big race seemed too far away to take seriously but if I were to hang up the running shoes, I would surely end up regretting it.
Looking around online for inspiration, I stumbled upon the sport of joggling. The term was not entirely unfamiliar. I had heard of it in my college days, and could even lay claim to a bit of experience. An avid juggler in my college days, I would practice while walking to school, a useful kind of multitasking to improve my skills during what was otherwise wasted time. Of course, this was all done walking. I never jogged in those days, but felt a certain kinship upon hearing of the sport. Invented by the International Juggling Association, it is essentially juggling while you jog. It’s a whimsical take on fitness and sounds vaguely silly. Just the thought of it made me smile.
A few decades later, looking for something to break the monotony of my 5k training, I smiled again. My juggling was getting a little rusty anyway, and as a part time clown, I needed all the practice I could get. Besides, it’s still the ultimate in multi taskin, a chance to practice my juggling skills while also honing my athletic ability for the big run and burning a few extra calories to boot.
So off I go with three beanbags added to my equipment and the morning run is a little more entertaining these days, not only for me, but the neighbors as well. I was a bit self conscious at first, but no one is throwing tomatoes yet, and the garbage collectors and cable guys who prowl the neighborhood during my run all grin and wave. Joggling may be a nerdy sport, but no one seems to mind and I’m having fun with my exercise
Ultimately, that’s the goal. It isn’t supposed to be a punishment after all. Exercise should be fun. If I can have a good time while getting my body in good shape, it’s a win win.
|Posted by harpwriter on February 22, 2010 at 10:27 AM||comments (0)|
This writer wants to get ripped. No, I’m not talking about the destruction of manuscripts, I mean getting in the peak of physical condition. Building a little muscle and cardio health and losing some weight just seem like the thing to do..
It isn’t that I’m a complete couch potato. I’ve been an on again, off again moderate exerciser most of my life. Following suggested workouts in diet books, walking, taking belly dance classes, training for and actually running a 5k are all things I’ve done. I’ve practiced yoga, swam laps, experimented with weights and resistance bands, and studied ballet, jazz, and tap dancing. Despite all the above activities, my weight is not where it needs to be for my best health.
There’s a popular misconception that overweight people lie around watching TV and eating all day. I’m sure there are some who fit that stereotype but there are plenty of us who don’t. The usual advice to help people lose weight generally leaves me frustrated. I’ve been following most of those “easy weight loss tips” since high school. Drink eight glasses of water a day. Switch out sodas for diet soda or water. Eat your fruits and veggies. Dodge the fried foods, and desserts. Park your car on the far end of the lot and walk a little further. Lead an active lifestyle. Been there, done that, for the most part these are a way of life to me. Sorry folks, I don’t fit the stereotype and there’s no “easy way” this weight is coming off.
Some years ago I weighed sixty pounds more than I do now. I have no illusions as to how that poundage accumulated. I was eating all wrong and received the consequences in the form of about a hundred and ten pounds. My body was a very unhappy thing to live in at 260 pounds. Losing sixty pounds improved things considerably. I am physically a lot better off and have probably done a great service to my health.
Getting weight off and keeping it off for years is quite an accomplishment and I am proud, but it would be nice to improve upon that. Less obese is still overweight and holding off 60 pounds is not enough. There are still thirty to fifty extra pounds that I really don’t need, weight that stresses out my frame and puts extra strain on my heart, that increases my risk of cancer and slows me down at running events. I want it off me.
I want to become stronger too. They say weight lifting increases your muscle tone, which makes it easier to burn calories and lose weight. I’m all for that. More importantly for me, it helps you keep your bone mass. I’m allergic to dairy, and every calcium supplement out there swears that all the others are ineffective, so anything I can do to give myself an added edge in this area is a plus. As a female, I won’t develop big muscles, but in my days at the factory packing rotors I used to have great muscle tone. It could happen again and wouldn’t bother me to look more like an Amazon woman or Rosie the riveter and less like a couch potato.
So off I go, upgrading my training program. Signing up for another 5k in April. Investing in a bar to install over my office door. Pushup, pull ups, and stronger morning runs. Writing down everything I eat. Slowly the weight is dropping and hopefully the muscle ratio is going up.
New Years isn’t the only time to make a new start. It can happen at any time of the year. As it says on the old fortune cookie advice I taped to my computer monitor, “ The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
|Posted by harpwriter on January 24, 2010 at 10:07 PM||comments (1)|
I’ve missed a few posts, due to a writing assignment that got out of hand. I attempted to write my first murder mystery and developed a great deal of respect for the art form. It took much longer than planned and I found myself lying awake nights trying to work out the intricacies. This isn’t something that can just be cranked out. It takes a keen mind.
I don’t consider myself very keen minded but I am persistent. Despite having bitten off more than I could easily chew, I stuck with it, submitted an excerpt of what was rapidly becoming a novella, and continued the story to completion The excerpt will appear in the VisionCon 2010 program book. The entire tale is being posted in segments on the story section of this website.
What’s on the agenda for 2010? Some lucrative work, I hope, and plenty of fun besides. Like anyone else this time of year, I have plenty of ambition, no shortage of resolutions, and all manner of excitement for the year ahead. Really, though, life’s what you make it, so it’s up to every one of us to go out and pursue our dreams.
Here’s hoping your pursuit goes well as the year unfolds.
|Posted by harpwriter on October 18, 2009 at 7:00 PM||comments (1)|
October is one of my favorite months. I have a vast collection of Halloween songs, decorations, and costumes. I love to dress up anyway, but in October the whole world keeps me company. When I was young and single, if I didn’t have a party to attend, I would go to the mall to see all the little kids trick or treating with their parents. A few years later, living in a regular house rather than a dinky upstairs apartment, I was happy to bring in a supply of candy and welcome the trick or treaters that came to my door. Then I had children of my own. Like my mother before me, I helped my kids come up with elaborate costumes and took them around the neighborhood to beg for candy. Often, at my children’s urging, I even dressed up myself.
These days my kids are teenagers and go out with their friends to parties while I stay home with my husband (who likes to answer the door in a grim reaper costume) and wait for the doorbell to ring so we can see the latest crop of little monsters.
I like monsters. I collect plush versions of them. At the coffeehouse, I often sing a little song called “Monsters Lullaby.” In my DVD collection are plenty of old black and white movies of giant lizards, spiders, gorillas, and space aliens rampaging about, tearing up Tokyo or kidnapping pretty girls, cute kids, or maybe even Santa Clause. I enjoy these, especially the ones with robots in the corners making snide remarks about the bad special effects, but if they aren’t available, most members of my household are happy to stand in for them.
Occasionally, I even write a monster story. Vampires, space aliens, mad scientists, warped wizards, these are a few of my favorite things. I grew up reading Edgar Allen Poe, graduated to Neil Gamen, and thus have a fascination for things that go bump in the night. I like to read and write dark fiction. Not the sort of action slasher stuff produced by the movie industry this time of year, but the more thoughtful explorations of the dark side of the human psyche.
I do clowning when I’m not writing or harping, and it’s an interesting experience. Quite a few people are scared of clowns. That’s understandable. We’re brought up to be wary of strangers and there’s nothing stranger than a living cartoon character coming down the street to talk to you. I try to be as non-threatening as possible and give those who are frightened lots of space. I‘m there to entertain, not to terrorize people, but clowns are a common phobia.
Some people blame the movie “It,” but I’ve never bought into that notion. Stephan King recognized a common fear and played with it in his story. He did an excellent job, that’s why he makes the big bucks. I could probably learn a thing or two from him, but Pennywise wasn’t the first scary clown that walked the earth. The Joker in Batman came before him. There are plenty of even earlier examples. The tricksters in mythology could be hilarious, annoying, or downright scary. I suppose they were an acknowledgement that comedy has it’s shadowy side. What we find funny can often be viewed from another angle as cruel, mean spirited, or violent. Amateur comedians can inspire dread in those around them. Most people don’t really want to be the butt of anyone’s jokes.
Yet humor is often courage in the face of fear. We laugh at our human foibles, making fun of what is wrong in the world to hold off fear and despair. It is no coincidence that so many comedy greats emerged during the great depression. People needed a laugh to bolster their spirits during such a difficult times.
Halloween is said to have gained it’s spooky reputation from a dread of winter’s approaching hardships. The harvest was in--would it be enough food to get the household through winter? Was there enough firewood? Would the house be strong enough to hold out the weather? These were life and death questions with no certain answers. The weight of such worry could crush a persons spirit.
People are remarkably resilient. Sneak up on someone and yell “boo!“ They will usually jump, then giggle. A scare and a laugh are both an adrenaline rush. There’s a relief after the scare that it’s ok, we’re still alive and nothing really bad happened. It happens a lot in life. We are frightened, but we survive. In Mexico this time of year, they remember their dead but they also celebrate life. Laughter is one of the best celebrations. What would life be without a little fun?
Here’s hoping you have a wonderful Halloween. Please add a comment to this blog to let me know what your plans are. Will you be staying home? Going to a party? Ignoring the whole thing? Will you be in costume and if so, what will you be dressing up as? Do share before you go forth into the night...
|Posted by harpwriter on September 16, 2009 at 11:48 PM||comments (1)|
There's nothing like committing plans in writing to summon up Murphy's law. Last month I began my blog by saying "It's official now. I'm running in the 'Fight to be Fit' 5k in Cabot." The truth is I was in the process of filling out the paperwork, which I intended to send in right away.
A funny thing happened on the way to the post office.
I had a last minute question and went online to verify some information. It was at that point I discovered that all reference to the 5k in question had vanished from the internet. There followed a frantic search, several telephone calls and the realization that the event had been cancelled.
I looked at the Arkansas Runner calendar to see what other options were available and found an event in North Little Rock called "Walk Like a Pirate Day." Held in celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day, it's a 5K with a pirate theme, costume contests, and family activities.
It actually sounds like more fun than the original plan. Perhaps fate has intervened to show me a better time. My registration has been sent in, so this time it's officially official. I'm getting my costume together and looking forward to the event, which takes place September 19th. Yarr!
Dressing up as pirates, going to see pirate movies, and talking like a pirate have all become popular in the past several years. They've been turning up regularly at science fiction conventions, Renaissance festivals, and history groups: all manner of pirates as well as variations--pirate ninjas, pirate monkeys, etc.
This brings to mind a genre I've never explored, pirate stories. For me, one of the purposes of writing short stories is to take advantage of such opportunities. It's a chance to try my hand at something new, imitate the styles of other writers, and briefly escape the bigger projects for a little fun. It's good for a writer to seek out new adventures.
Or is it? Am I merely pandering to current trends? Should an author explore the latest thing, or do you think it?s crass commercialism? It's a good question for discussion and I'd like to open the floor and hear what my readers have to say. So what do you think? Are popular trends something to be plundered or am I stealing someone else's treasure?
I look forward to your replies.
|Posted by harpwriter on August 19, 2009 at 11:49 AM||comments (0)|
It’s official now. I’m running in the “Fight to be Fit “ 5k in Cabot on Saturday, September 15th. Actually, I’ll be in the walking division. Not because of the training, which is actually going quite well. It’s more a matter of caution. My morning runs still consist more of actual walking than running. I’ve done a great deal of homework on runners training websites. Most of them suggested BEGINNING with ten minutes of running. What a joke. A 46 year old couch potato like me? No way!!!
I started out walking for half an hour instead, running a few steps every ten minutes. Gradually the number of running paces has gone up. It’s exhilarating, which sure beats exhausting and heart attack provoking. Each week, I walk further, carving my own little track through the mazes of surrounding neighborhood. I’m walk/running for an hour now and am pretty sure the three mile mark has been met. In the next week or so, I hope to get a pedometer and try to work out a better estimate of distances, just to make sure I‘m not kidding myself.
It’s a challenge, training in an area with very few sidewalks during the month of August. I’m out of the door at seven in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. It’s fairly cool this time of day, but the sun is already shining through the mist and things begin to heat up as I go. I wear sunscreen and carry water, start out slow, and remind myself that I LIKE saunas. My first tentative running steps are smoothing out into a nice even jog as my legs get used to the idea. You can’t rush a body my age into a high level of fitness overnight, but I’m making steady progress and having fun. I hope to continue my training over the winter and participate in another event next Spring. It would be a fine thing to actually run a whole 5K. Here’s hoping I can make it happen.
Summer has, once more, been less productive for writing than I would have liked. There is something about the kids being home that sabotages my work ethic. That excuse, if it is one, will soon expire as the kids return to school and the autumn winds commence. The long, hot days of summer have been nice, but fall will be a welcome change of pace.
New challenges await in the coming months along with high hopes for improvement. I plan to become more productive, better organized, crank out some stories, and change my lazy summer habits.
It’s the perfect time of year to get started. What better season is there than Autumn, which offers every opportunity to turn over a new leaf?
|Posted by harpwriter on July 23, 2009 at 1:40 PM||comments (0)|
I like writing. The trouble is, it involves a great deal of sitting at a desk. My body was not built to spend hours at the keyboard, it was designed for walking, running, and other physical activity. To keep it in good working order, I have to take time from my sedentary schedule to get some form of exercise. Over the years this has taken many forms including yoga, belly dance, fencing, bicycling, and various structured workouts with or without weights or bungee cords. If I remain a bit dumpling shaped rather than the svelte ideal, it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
Walking has always been my most consistent form of exercise. I didn’t get a drivers license until my thirties, so for years feet were my most reliable means of transportation. To this day, I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of putting on a pair of shoes and strolling down the road to run errands and incidentally get in my unit of exercise for the day.
Lately though, I’ve been feeling lazy and bored. Fitness seems a vague and esoteric goal, hardly an excuse to push myself when there are easier alternatives. I need an exciting aim to motivate me. Something I’ve never done that I can
realistically hope to achieve with proper training.
Happily, there is a 5k race coming up this fall. It’s something I’ve never done before, which makes it rather exciting. I’m pretty sure I can achieve the distance, having walked a three mile fund raiser only a few years ago. Another half mile makes it more interesting and the prospect of running even a little is a novelty for me as well. As a child, I enjoyed running footraces with friends and aspired to be on the track team. I don’t expect these days to be able to run like the wind, but it would be fun to run a little, maybe at the start and finish.
Yet, even if I can do no better then walk the entire way, it’s still alright. My goal
is to complete the course. Let someone else take home the trophy, I’ll be happy to wear the t-shirt showing that I made the effort. The exercise I get while training for the event will be my best reward. That and the fun of doing something different.
After all, having a little adventure now and then is what life’s all about. Every artist needs inspiration, and I am no exception. I like to think that my writing improves with every novel experience.
|Posted by harpwriter on June 15, 2009 at 11:39 PM||comments (0)|
I'm not talking about the movie. I'm describing Cabot. Since this month marks the one year anniversary of my move here from Springfield, Missouri, it's a good time to give a description of my area of residence, something a bit more detailed than the weather. I've been saying "Gorsh, it's wet!"* for most of the past year. Now that summer is kicking in and the rain has slowed to a trickle, I?m looking around and remembering there is more to describe.
Cabot is a town in Arkansas, about twenty-five miles from Little Rock. It has a reputation as a sort of bedroom community for soccer moms and parents of high academic achievers. Having once lived in the kind of small town that consists of a gas station and a post office and a few farms, I hesitate to place this one in the same category. With a population a little over twenty thousand, a mere fraction of Springfields 154,000, Cabot has fields, woodlands, and farms close enough at hand, but plenty of amenities from the civilized world as well. There is no shortage here of restaurants, mini malls, golf courses, gyms, or even places you can go to pick up a "caramel hazelnut soy decaf latte extra sweet" and listen to some local Celtic music or a harp solo. **
A little over a year ago, I was living in Springfield MO in a busy complex of townhouses. There was constant noise through the walls on either side. Open a window and you could hear an ongoing barrage of crying babies, shouting kids, arguing adults, roaring cars, ice cream trucks, sirens, and trains. When my husband found a place for us to live in Cabot, I asked him on the phone what it was like. "Quiet," he said. By comparison, I suppose it is.
We have a nice big house in a sprawling, wooded neighborhood. There are people living all around but they're less crowded together and muffled by the trees. The busy main street runs through Cabot not far from our house, passing over the highway within easy walking distance. In another direction is the railroad track. Our trains are not the slow, patient ones in Springfield. These rumble through town at high speed several times a day. If it's true what they say, that a tornado sounds like an oncoming train, it's good that we have storm sirens. Otherwise we might dismiss every funnel boring down on us as the nine-fifteen.
Besides the cyclonic roar passing through Cabot every few hours, we have a different kind of rumble from overhead. About 10 miles down the road is the Little Rock Air Force base, "Home of the Herc" as they proudly declare on their signs. These C-130J Hercules Transport Tactical Aircraft (Translation- humongous cargo planes) fly overhead throughout the day and night, along with an array of other aircraft which come and go throughout the year. The local base puts on a free yearly show for the civilians and it's pretty impressive to see those amazing vehicles up close and to watch the pilots and paratroopers show off their skills. It gives the local civilians an appreciation for what they do, which is probably the idea.
This may sound like a great deal of noise and it is, but seems somehow such a part of the landscape as to be filed away with the birdcalls and the wind in the trees. In truth, the area is so wooded that all the noise is muffled slightly, and it really is quieter than the apartment complex. At the moment from my office, I can hear birds singing outside and little else at the moment. Much of the sound is intermittent: a dog barks then is silent, a car passes and is gone, a train whistles and roars, then subsides in the distance. It has all become rather comfortable and familiar, a reminder perhaps that there is a world outside the home office in which I sometimes isolate myself. There is a lot of work to do at my desk, but maybe later I'll go to the store or do some gardening. It isn't good to be a hermit all the time. Besides, the cupboards are getting bare, the lawn needs tending and the mosquitoes are hungry. Who am I to neglect my responsibilities?
*A quote from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" I like to use when it"s raining.
** Shameless self promotion alert!
|Posted by harpwriter on May 28, 2009 at 10:15 PM||comments (0)|
The last four weeks have been crazy, fun, and quite productive. I clowned around at the Cabot Strawberry Festival. I played my harp at a Mother's Day Brunch at Stompin' Grounds Coffee. Best of all, I broke a long spell of procrastination and rewrote a short story for this website.
I hope you enjoy "Uncertain Disaster." Like all good stories, there's a tale behind it. It was written during a time when I was driving an old wreck of a car and feeling rather fatalistic, not unlike the main character. Among other problems, the vehicle was plagued with radiator leaks. The daily commute to work, twenty miles away, was an ongoing adventure of uncertain outcome. They say to write what you know, so I imagined a space pilot with similar problems and was up and running.
I was experimenting with different genres at the time. My husband pointed out that I had never written a "Bug Eyed Monster" story so I began setting up my character to encounter the obligatory BEM. But what should it look like? It might be a stereotypical genre, but I wanted something more original than your standard little green man from Mars.
I got up and paced the floor in frustration. My footsteps led brought me to a shelf piled with every stuffed animal I have ever owned in my life. Among the old bears and rag dolls sat just the right monster for my story. Can you find him?
I set my cuddly friend on top of the computer and used him as a reference, carefully avoiding the sort of words normally associated with his scarier counterpart . "Fuzzy" ended up fuzzy because I was describing a plush toy. He may not have turned out terribly bug eyed, but still made a passable space alien, and it was fun taking artistic license with something familiar. Anything can sound scary if you choose your words with care.
It's funny when you think about it--some of the best stuffed animals are cuddly depictions of scary things. I grew up snuggling with lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!), moved up to the googly eyed Sesame Street monsters, and graduated to dread soul devouring elder horrors of the netherworld. Perhaps they are symbolic protectors against the scarier monsters in the closet, under our beds, and lurking in our dreams. If this theory is correct, the more fearsome my snuggly little pet, the fewer dread spectors will dare to challenge it. Maybe that's why I don't have many nightmares lately.
Then too, I may be over thinking the issue, using all manner of metaphor and psychobabble to cover up the real problem. There are fifteen stuffed animals displayed in my office, four of them variations on the Fuzzy theme. That's not counting the several in my bedroom, the ones boxed up with the holiday decorations, or the vast number belonging to my kids. If they were invading space aliens, the war would have been lost a long time ago. I have a dangerous vulnerability to fearsome creatures made of plush. They're so darn cute!
I don't imagine Uncertain Disaster will become the kind of famous tale that inspires a movie and merchandise, but should you ever feel the urge to get a cuddly Fuzzy of your own, you can find some pretty good facsimiles at www.toyvault.com I?m not affiliated with them in any way, I just like their work. There's enough of it in my office to inspire a dozen stories or drive away a thousand nightmares. It's a win win situation.
|Posted by harpwriter on April 22, 2009 at 11:03 AM||comments (0)|
Once a month, I can be found busking at Stompin' Grounds Coffee house. It's a great way to develop my solo skills at the harp. Each month, I work up a new set, sprinkled with tunes reflecting upcoming holidays and the current season.
One of my favorite Spring songs is "April Showers" from the Disney movie "Bambi." Naturally, I decided to tackle it this month. It seemed a good idea at first, but before long, I found myself attempting to play notes my instrument didn"t have.
Not every song translates well to harp. At first glance, there seem to be a lot of strings and it would follow that the harp is like a piano. One would imagine you could play anything. The unfortunate reality is the folk harp IS like a small piano but without the black keys. Those black keys are pretty darn useful. They are the sharps and flats that make it possible to take the music up or down a half step. "April Showers" takes full advantage of them, wandering up and down the scale with every new verse.
If I had a concert harp, this would be no problem as the pedals on such an instrument make it possible to change the scale with the feet as you play. Sharping levers, which are the folk harp equivalent, are nowhere near as efficient. They must be manipulated with the hands. Sometimes this can be done on the fly. There are, in fact, some amazingly acrobatic virtuosos who can flip a half dozen levers in the midst of a complex piece of music without missing a note.
I'm not one of them. Let them attempt "April Showers" with all it's little key changes. I decided after a few weeks of frustration to simply play the first verse and combine it with a few other tunes to make a Spring medley.
As if to reflect my musical efforts, the rain has continued to come down this month. It's warmer though, which means the yard occasionally has a chance to...hmmm, dry? Naw. Become less soggy? Yeah, that's it!
The neighbors have dug a fine ditch between our yards, which has given both of our lawns a chance to shed some water and become at least semi solid. About once a week, if three days go by without rain, we are now able to mow our lawns. We have to grab the opportunity while it's good though, because if it hasn't rained by the end of that third day, by golly, theres gonna be a toad strangler and a gully washer.
The nice thing about this time of year is I can hardly complain about the precipitation. With so many songs about April rain, there is little doubt it's precipitating everywhere this month. After the long winter, it nurtures the land, turning it green, bringing leaves to the trees and pretty flowers to every flowerbed and roadside. The whole earth seems fresh and newly dressed up. It makes me want to dress up too. Maybe I'll put on my Easter clothes after I spruce myself up a bit.
That last part should be no trouble at all. This time of year, getting an April shower is as easy as stepping outside.