Monday, March 18, 2019

Hey there, watcha doin?

Curious Meeko and Panther. Photo by Robin Hartz

Friday, March 15, 2019

Forgot to Show Off My New Books

I forgot to show what I bought at FogCon last weekend. I knew I wouldn't be buying as much as I wanted since the budget is what it is right now, but here's what I went home with:

I'd already read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and enjoyed it a lot, so I knew going that picking up the next book was part of my plan.
I've wanted to read In Calabria for awhile now, so when I saw a signed copy available I snapped that up (Peter S Beagle was not at FogCon as far as I know, but there was a bookseller there with lots of signed books from lots of authors).
Then there were a ton of things I saw that were already on my TBR (To Be Read for anyone who doesn't do book lingo) list, plus I started a whole new TBR list as I listened to panels and got interested both in books the presenters had written, and ones they recommended or quoted or talked about. Picking was tough. Then I also sort of had in my head ahead of time that I'd like to get something I didn't know anything about before attending. Something new to me. That's where Defrag came in. I piked it up in the dealer room because of the cover art and the thin size I thought it might be a graphic novel, and my daughter might like it. No, it's just a short-ish book, but I still love the cover art, and the blurb sounded interesting, so it's my 'new thing to try out'.
Then I made the good financial decision to not go back to the dealer room again. I still have my list though, so I am all set on reading material for a nice while.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

FogCon 2019

I've wanted to attend FogCon since I first learned about it, maybe 4 or 5 years ago. I have trouble spending money on myself, and on the years I wasn't in the hospital, it always fell on a weekend I had to work. If I was uncomfortable spending the relatively small membership fee for something just for me, I was doubly so about taking time off work to do it. Maybe I was just afraid to go alone to a place where I would know no one. That was probably a bigger part than I'd like to admit to myself.

Lucky for me, I have the most supportive husband in the planet. When I sighed, alas, FogCon was again on a weekend I worked, he just looked at me, and said, "Then take time off." He encouraged me to buy my membership early and ask for the time off. So I did.

I only took Saturday off though, because I didn't realize how much happened on Fridays. Still I attended the panel on "Life in a Closed System" on Friday night. It was great. Saturday there were some tough choices, but I ended up going to "Decolonizing Space" about colonialism in our world and in fiction, "Science to the Rescue!" about how science and scientists are portrayed in fiction, "Sense of Place" about worldbuilding, "Creating with a Day Job" about what it says - this was super encouraging and so what I needed to hear at times even if I didn't get anything specific to use that I'm not already doing.

By that time I was pretty exhausted and there was a dinner break for 2 hours, and I decided I wouldn't come back since I had a big day of family events on Sunday. I did sneak in one last panel Sunday morning, and I was proudly on time for it even with the time change. It was "It's Never too Late to be a Writer" and again, nothing really actionable to take away, but lots of encouragement and inspiration, and I always need that.

I regret not making it to any readings, but there was just so many panels I wanted to attend.

The idea of going to a multi-day event like this alone was daunting, but since I was primarily sitting in an audience, listening and taking notes it was manageable for me. Everyone I spoke to - usually to ask a question since I was new and didn't know how things worked or where things were - was very friendly. If I can schedule things to go again next year, maybe I'll work my way up to being more social - attending the lunch banquet or visiting the Con Suite or something like that. Maybe not though. Not if I would miss an interesting talk.

I'm so happy I got to go.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Decision Fatigue

I'm trying to remember where I heard the term 'decision fatigue'. I believe it was in the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It's a great book that I highly recommend. The point though is that I realy love that phrase, decision fatigue. It resonated with me so much the first time I came across it. If I remember correctly, the point the bookmakes with this term is that habits allow us to prevent decision fatigue. By having things we do routinely, without thinking, it lets us save all that decision making energy for other problmems.
I frequently find myself exausted from making decisions. When I work weekends, my husband handles dinner. He will sometimes ask if there is anything special I want. I usually answer something along the lines of, "I want to not have to think about it." Then he gets takeout and we are all happy.
When I was recovering from my many surgeries, I had a lot of anxiety about a lot of things. I didn't feel I was coping all that well, and I was supposed to be carefully watching my weight and following so many other instrutions I wa getting overwhelmed. I took advantage of a program my insurance provided to do phone coaching for things like weight, stress management, etc. Some of the problems I discussed with my councler/coach person were very small everyday things, like the stress of figuring out what to do for dinner all the time. She helped me come up with a system to plan ahead weekly so I knew what I needed to do each day. It seems so simple, but at the time I just couldn't make any more decisions. I was seriously fatigued. Even better, small things like this really helped. Way more than I expected them to. To have a plan for everyday things leaves what little decision making energy I have availble for decisions that come up that can't be planned for.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Peloton Classes

As a sort of Christmas bonus, my husband's boss gave him a Peloton bike and class membership. I'll admit, I wasn't enthusiastic about this, and thought that if the man had ever seen our tiny home he might have realized what an impractical gift this was. At the same time, it was also wildly generous, as anyone who has priced those bikes might attest. My husband accepted in this spirit, and found a place for it in the family room (where I had hoped to put a small sofa, but alas, it was not to be).

Since it was in such a prominent position in our home, and since it was all paid for, of course I gave it a try. The first few rides were hard on rear, but my Google research assured me that this would go away after a few more rides, so I keep on, and Google was right. I thought - hoped? - it might be a good cross-training exercise for me to do on the days I wasn't jogging as I worked through the Couch to 5K program, and I think it has been very good for that.

The classes are all challenging for me, even the beginner ones, but I'm seeing progress as I keep on going. The instructors are fun, and I'm finding a few favorites. I also recently discovered their online classes for things other than using the bike. I guess they also make a treadmill, that we don't have, but I can do the classes on the treadmills at the gym using my phone. They also have outdoor running and walking classes I can listen to on my phone, and well as yoga, meditation, and some strength classes.

Since I've finished the Couch to 5K program, I've liked having the treadmill and outdoor running classes to guide me along sine I'm not really sure what to do for my jogging now. I can't usually keep up with the paces they are using, but since they aren't live classes, and no one can see me or know how slow I'm going, I just do what I can, the best I can manage, and it's been fun. They throw in general running/jogging tips that are great for me since I'm such a noob to the jogging thing and don't really know much.

They also have 'achievements' the program keeps track of like, how many classes you've taken, how many days in a row you've exercised, how many miles you've ridden the bike, and that sort of thing. I've maybe gotten a bit obsessed with my daily streak. It goes up to 60 days, and I've been determined to make it there. I actually don't have that far to go. Thank goodness, it will count any class you do. When I was sick last week, I just took a meditation class (and fell asleep - oops, maybe I need more work there too). Tonight, I was so sore from my jog this morning, and trip to the gym for weights, that I didn't think I could handle riding the bike tonight, so I did a 10 min yoga class, and my streak is safe.

We never would have had the money to consider buying something like this for ourselves. Is it worth the cost though? Since we didn't pay the cost, it's hard for me to say. It's pretty darn nice to have though. I'm very attached to the thing for someone who was resistant to letting in the house in the first place.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Creating a Writing Habit

While I enjoy writing, it had always fallen into the category of 'fun thing to do when I have the time'. Even when I'm trying to be more serious about my writing, and create a daily habit, it seems to be the thing on the schedule most likely to be pushed off until later when things are busy. And let's face it, things are ALWAYS busy.

A month ago or so, I finished the audiobook for The Power of Habit: Why We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It gave me some insight as to why, when trying to establish several new habits, I had done so well with doing my exercising every day, and so poorly with trying to write every day. I learned that an important step in the habit loop, or in the creation of a habit is the trigger, or cue. The thing that tells us it's time to do the thing.

For exercising, my husband had declared that we would go to the gym together on Tuesdays and Thursdays as soon as he was home from work and Sundays first thing in the morning. Those are weight lifting days, so I decided I would jog first thing in the morning before I could be distracted by other activities on other days, or on work days when I can't get up early enough, I would ride our exercise bike or take a walk after dinner. So even though the cue varied from day to day, I had several cues ready, and even a back up cue - if I had an appointment or something else that kept me from jogging in the morning, I had a plan to bike or walk after dinner. Having a back up plan is also mentioned as a key to success in the book. Without knowing the steps to habit formation, we had set ourselves up for success with exercise, and we have been more regular in our workouts for the past six months than we'd been in years.

For writing, my plan was - do it in the evenings, when there's time. Obviously, that isn't as good a plan. Now that I understand more about how habits work, I am completely unsurprising that this master plan has mostly failed. Also, before reading The Power of Habit, I tried making a more detailed plan for myself. I would blog on this night, I'd work on fiction these other two nights, I'd work on the staff newsletter for work on another night, and the work blog the other night. Not only could I never remember what I was supposed to be doing on what night, this also failed because I still only had a vague - do it sometime in the evening when there is spare time - cue and that just didn't work for me. There is always something I need to do. So the writing got pushed aside. Again.

What I'm trying now: I downloaded a habit tracking app that lets you set a reminder alert. You could just use whatever alarm timer you already have on your phone I suppose. I first tried setting it for 5:30, thinking it would just remind me to write sometime tonight when I found the time. Just keep the idea if writing more forward in my mind. That didn't fly. I'm usually just leaving work, or planning dinner, or in the middle of something at that time. I glance at the reminder, but quickly move on. So I thought about when I'm most likely to be able to stop what I'm doing and actually write. I reset the timer for 8:30. I might be finishing up on the exercise bike, or grading school work, or doing laundry, but I'm just as likely to be playing a game. I decided that the timer would now mean - finish up what your doing in the next few minutes and start writing. I also decided that I would only expect 30 minutes of writing. That way if I really did have important things to get back to, 30 min wouldn't hurt that, and if I didn't know what to write, I could flail for 30 min without too much stress.

Has it worked? Not perfectly, but much, much better. I was writing maybe a night or two a week before, despite feeling like I'd like to do more. Now I'm hitting 4 to 5 nights easily, and usually once I've sat down and started, I go way past 30 minutes. I'm definitely on a better track. It's been about two weeks with this new system, and it seems to be getting easier over time. I'm looking forward to my writing time instead of stressing about it - like how I actually look forward to my jog. Who would have thought that could happen? So we'll check in in another month or so and see how the habit has come along.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Online Classes: Lynda.com

A friend recommended Lynda.com to me for my daughter who was interested in digital art and possibly design classes. It looked interesting, but I didn't want to spend the money at the time. Then I learned that we have access to the Lynda.com classes through our local library. We just use our library card number to log in.

She has taken some Adobe Illustrator classes, and is interested in some about Photoshop. I was looking around and found some about website design. I've been wanting to create an author website for my work, something in addition to just his blog, so I'm taking some classes as well. If I learn enough, look forward to my website hopefully in the not terribly distant future.

I'm also interested in classes there for creating a email list, and other marketing ideas. This is all brand new stuff for me. I've been writing, for myself anyway, for as long as I can remember. But branding, and marketing, and all the other stuff that goes into actually selling what I write - that's all outside the scope of my previous experience. I know some would advise to hire out the stuff you aren't personally experienced at, and there is wisdom in that advice. When you are just beginning though, and have a budget of zero, and are willing to take the time to learn some basics then that's what you do instead. At least, I hope you do, meaning, I hope I can. It's very possible, I'll take these classes, and still not have the skills to create my own website. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. On the silver lining side, I don't think any new knowledge is wasted. Learning new things is always good. If I learn that I need help to make my website, I'll have at least learned enough to better understand what I am looking for in that help.


Monday, February 11, 2019

I Have Finished Couch to 5K

Well, sort of finished it anyway. The app I'm using goes by time, not distance. So what I've actually finished is Couch to 30 Min of Jogging. I'm slow, and can't finish a whole 5K in those 30 min. But- darn it - I'm still super proud of this accomplishment. Since the final session in the program, I've been trying to work my way up to jogging for the full 5K distance. The last jog I did, I went for 34 min. Let me tell you, there were days along the journey that I didn't think I'd ever be able to jog non-stop for 30 min, let alone more.

At 34 minutes I still didn't quite hit 5K (3.1 miles), but I'm getting close. When I use various apps or my fitness watch thing I usually start them going as I begin my warm up 5 min walk, and I don't turn them off until I get home, so that includes 10 or so min of cool down walking as well. Some of the programs are easier to separate the walking from the running than others. My pace varies between 11 and 12 min/mile, usually about 11:30ish (I told you I was slow). So I figure if I can jog for 36 min I should be hitting the 5K by then. I suppose one of these outings I should wait to start tracking as I actually begin jogging, and stop when I start my cool down for a better, or at least more precise measurement.

I've been reading articles on advice for newer runners who have just finished C25K about what to do next to continue their training. Most advise against just running your 30 min every other day and say you should vary your distance, your speed, etc. to continue to improve. I've tried following a couple audio type classes that do a sort of interval speed work to help get faster. It's been a bit of a joke, because I'm really going the fastest I can right now, and any slower is a power walk - not a jog at all. I'm not sure an outside observer would be able to detect any difference in my 'fast' intervals vs. my 'easy' intervals. These classes like to talk about going at you're 'race pace'. I keep thinking, "My what now?"

Oh well. I have to start somewhere, right? I didn't know for sure I could jog for 30 min straight. Maybe someday I will amaze myself again and have more than one pace.

I girl can dream.