Archive for October, 2009

Thirty Days

This last month I’ve been driving past a church sign that read, “How would you live your life if you only had 30 days?”

I’ve been meaning to write about that; it seems especially appropriate on the eve on NaNoWriMo, where I will devote 30 days to writing.

It seems to me that the 30 day constraint does two things for you, as a mental and emotional exercise. You stop focusing on the long term, and you start focusing on the big things, the stuff that matters most. As I know all too well from this year, none of us are promised tomorrow, only the present moment, and it’s up to us to live it to the fullest.

What’s my day normally like? I’m really, really boring. I get up, work out, work, hang out with the family, write, rinse & repeat. On weekends, I try to schedule one day for adventure – a hike, an outing with friends, or something fun – and the other day is for chores.

If I were eliminating those things which are no longer important, if I only had 30 days left, I wouldn’t need my job anymore. That opens up a whole universe of time! And, I wouldn’t necessarily need to exercise any more, it’s a long term activity, but I think I’d hang onto it for the mental health and energy benefits. I’d waste less time online and spend more time face to face with people.

What would I do instead? I’d try to spend time with those I love – my family and closest friends. As much as practical, I’d try and do the things I love, visit places I’m deeply connected to. I’d definitely write, I’d like to leave something behind that would survive me.

Would I try to make sure my paperwork and personal effects were in order? On one hand, I’d like to leave things organized – but on the other, who wants to spend precious minutes filing?

And back to the original sign: if I only had 30 days left, I probably wouldn’t spend them attending church. I would certainly try to make my peace with my Creator and my doubts and questions, but organized religion itself wouldn’t be a compelling attraction in that sort of urgent, limited time scenario.

Posted on Saturday, October 31st, 2009 by Jeri
Under: inspiration | 2 Comments »

Fit Friday: Exercise & Illness

This week, I’ve been under the weather with some sort of flu-like respiratory crud. I doubt it’s the dreaded H1N1 virus – but if so, I sure got off lightly.

This raises some questions for my exercise addiction. Should I exercise when I’m sick? And how does exercise play into immune response? I did some research and found great answers.

Exercising when Ill. It’s important to be attentive to your body’s needs when evaluating whether or not to continue an exercise routine when feeling ill. Many experts recommend that if your symptoms are above the neck and you have no fever, light to moderate exercise is probably safe.

If you are already ill, you should be careful about exercising too intensely. Your immune system is already taxed by fighting your infection. Additional stress could undermine your recovery; it will only make things worse and likely extend your illness.

However, if there are symptoms or signs of the flu or more serious illness, such as fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, swollen lymph glands, or bronchial symptoms, then many sources indicate more time should be allowed before you resume intensive training. In such cases, online resources are no substitute for consulting your doctor.

In my case, I did have a low-grade fever, a cough, and enough exhaustion that I didn’t try to exercise through it. Now that I’m back to nearly 100%, I’m going to ease back in, to make sure I don’t overtire myself. I wanted to start back today but work demands were prohibitive; that’s probably a good thing as I’m still coughing a little. Tomorrow, though, I’ll be at the pool mid-morning,

Regular Moderate Exercise Boosts Immunity. Moderate, consistent exercise has been proven to build a strong immune system. It’s been linked to a positive immune system response and a temporary boost in the production of macrophages, the cells that attack bacteria. In addition, when moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis, the cumulative effect can build a long-term immune response.

Too Much Exercise May Decrease Immunity Conversely, there is also evidence that too much intense exercise can reduce immunity. This research is showing that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session.

Intense exercise seems to cause a temporary decrease in immune system function.
Cortisol and adrenaline, known as the stress hormones, are produced during intense exercise, raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels and suppress the immune system.

Ultra-distance training should include enough rest and recovery days to allow the body and immune system to recover. Feeling run-down or displaying other symptoms of overtraining–heart rate changes, irritability, general heaviness or fatigue–may indicate the need to reduce duration or frequency of workouts.

I am really bad about taking my regularly scheduled rest day because I find the mental health benefits of the workout outweigh the rest and recuperation value of a own day. I may have undermined my own immune system. I’ll have to watch that in the future.

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: health | Comments Off

Self-Rescuing Princess

I finally ordered myself a t-shirt I’ve been meaning to get for some time, since the UCF got one for amazon warrior woman Tania for her birthday earlier this year.

c3d2_self_rescuing_princess_classiccut

T-shirt available at ThinkGeek.

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: humor, inspiration | 3 Comments »

SF Book Cover Carnival

Tech guru and fellow SF fan Shawn tweeted last week about how his taste in SF is sometimes influenced by cover art and sometimes not. I thought that was a great subject for a blog post!

What influences me most? Either an author whose work I know and like, or the recommendation of a friend with similar reading taste. If I’m browsing online, I’ll take a look at the book description and read random reviews. If I’m in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I’ll read the cover blurb, flip through the book and read a sample paragraph or two, and then finally look at the cover art.

Good cover art can make me pick up a book, and bad cover art can cause me to leave it on the shelf, visit after visit. I realize good and bad are subjective, but I tend to avoid overly cliched or prurient cover art, excessively romantic art, and am annoyed by covers where the author’s name is bigger than the book title. I also pretty much avoid books where the publisher thinks the author is too special to print a blurb on the back anymore.

Here are some random examples of books I have picked up because the art was excellent – and books I have not picked up because the art is so unappealing or downright annoying.

Books I’d Buy Books I Wouldn’t
wicked
Wicked

by Gregory Maguire
Cutout-style graphics are striking, colorful, bold and related to the story – subtitle use is excellent.
whiteassnow
White as Snow

by Tanith Lee
She’s a good author who I haven’t read in quite some time, but this cover seems insipid, pale & florid.
redmars
Red Mars

by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Mars series has one of the best hard SF cover designs I’ve seen. I admit; bought the books because of it. Nice use of black and color, great font choices & sizes.
windsoffate
Winds of Fate

by Mercedes Lackey
This cover tells me it’s a hyper-cliched sword and sorcery romantic fantasy, with bonus pretty ponies! Plus the swirly purple background is annoying.
green
Green

by Jay Lake
Great thematic cover art, the unconventional upside down warrior woman is compelling, and the cover shouts “adventure” at the reader.
shadowlight
Shadowlight

by Lynn Viehl
Neither toned pecs & abs, Fabio hair, nor mesmerizing eye closeups do much to sell a novel to me. (Although Ms. Viehl writes a heckuva blog: Paperback Writer.)
fistfulofsky
A Fistful of Sky

by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Utterly lovely color art that’s relevant to the story, great font choices, very compelling title – very innovative contemporary fantasy cover.
midnightsdaughter
Midnight’s Daughter

by Karen Chance
Enough with the butt shots of paranormal fantasy heroines – this is only one of many such. Plus, the author’s name overshadows title.
sunriselands
Sunrise Lands

by SM Stirling
I’m a total sucker for the iconic hero or heroine riding off into the sunset. This cover executes it well. Yes, the author’s name is too large. :(
gamethrones
Game of Thrones

by George RR Martin
This cover is plain to the point of being blah. I will admit: I own and enjoyed this book, it’s Martin!

Click over to Cracked.com for a really hilarious read on bad fantasy and science fiction book covers; most of the art is badly dated but the commentary is priceless.

Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: reading | 7 Comments »

Homecoming 2009

Last night was Zach’s senior homecoming. He went, of course, with his beloved Emilie. Inspired by Grace’s family last year, we decided to have a big dinner party here at the house for his friends.

Zach and Em at dinner

It grew by leaps and bounds from “a few friends” to SEVENTEEN teens at my house for a sit down dinner. I am a big believer in the more, the merrier, and this used both my dining table and my big patio table as well as every plate I had in the house. :)

Dinner Table

I actually really enjoy cooking for company, I find it enjoyable and relaxing. We had chips, salsa and guacamole for an appetizer, while the early arrivals played Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I made enough food for a medium army: smoked, spice rubbed brisket, grilled silver salmon, mashed garlic potatoes, rice pilaf, baby peas, a ranch salad and sourdough rolls, with different varieties of sparkling and fresh pressed apple cider in wine glasses with dinner. For dessert, a couple of moms brought brownies, pumpkin pie, and a fruit bowl.

Dinner Table 2

My master bedroom and bathroom were taken over by the girls who were getting ready at my house. I don’t have daughters – this was foreign territory to me, and quite fun! With some combination of twelve girls prepping for a semiformal dance, I think my bedroom was drawing enough power to brown out my region of Poulsbo.

Stairs

The kids – young adults, really – were awesome guests, polite, thankful, positive, articulate and affectionate and supportive with each other. They toasted both Zach and me for hosting the event, which was very sweet.

Zach and Emilie clean up very well, and looked adorable together, as usual.

Zach and Em

I’d like to thank Brandi and Ann, fellow moms, who stayed the whole time. Not only were they great company, they shared my serving and cider steward duties and were dishwashing heroes.

I’m grateful Zach was willing to share this milestone with me in our home – it was great fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: family | 10 Comments »