Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Music

Yes, it's almost the end of November! (I'd add an extra exclamation point there, except I hate exclamation points on principle. So perky and self-satisfied. Only when I am truly meeping about something would I add another, and while the expected relief of December would certainly constitute a perky, self-satisfied feeling, it is not quite as meepful as, say, Doctor Who. Or BBC's Sherlock.)

That was an awfully long parenthetically enclosed aside. But I don't care. Every inch is true. And it's Friday -- I deserve a few long asides. Of course, here in the U.S. it's Black Friday, but I don't go anywhere on this day of the year, so it feels like a normal Friday.

And to demonstrate my normal Friday feeling, there is this song. A perky, almost meepful piano rendition by Michele Mclaughlin called "the Clurichaun".

(See also by Michele Mclaughlin: Across the Burren, the Eternal City, and Carrowkeel.)

Have a blessed Friday.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Trying New Things -- Or, Eating Healthier

Things change very slowly, sometimes.

To be honest, my diet and eating habits are poor. I'm a secretive, inverted person by nature, and that translates into the way I eat: I furtively grab whatever is on the kitchen shelves, whatever is ready to eat and doesn't involve asking about how to cook it.

A double rainbow outside my home.

My typical day, in fact, ends up something like this: school mornings, skip breakfast. My stomach begins bubbling with hunger by about 2nd period (on even days; on odd days, that's 3rd period). My lunch consists of two items grabbed that morning, usually a small bag of chips (Doritos or Lays) and cookies or something. Both are usually processed foods.

Wait until I get home, and by then (while not super-hungry), I browse my kitchen. More chips. Chicken nuggets and french fries, sprayed with too much butter spray and cooked in a microwave oven. Butter popcorn.

In fact, the only meal I eat that isn't processed is supper, and I don't eat that every night. My dad cooks supper himself -- chicken or roast beef, with rice or potatoes. Last night it was spaghetti. Depending on what's cooking, I might choose to skip it altogether.

But lately, I've tried to change. My stomach protests the lack of fiber, the lack of nutrients and proteins. We're learning macromolecules and the digestive system in AP (Advanced Placement, or college-level) Biology, and I take the idea from our project on testing foods to fit a particular diet. We chose the Paleo diet, and tested chips and cookies for proteins and carbohydrates.

To do those tests, you need to crush the food with water in a mortar and pestle. And man, does chocolate chip cookie look nasty when liquefied.

The workspace above Mom's computer, which I'm using now.
 And, if I'm going to keep being honest, it has part to do with my friend. I eat lunch with her every school day. She eats things like seaweed, unbuttered popcorn, apples. Healthy stuff. While I eat Doritos and Oreos.

My diet has been a thing of shame for me. It's not that I'm fond of wrecking my body; I know processed foods are bad for me, I learned that stupid Food Pyramid in elementary school. But after a lifetime of bad diet, I haven't any courage or energy.

While of course, I'm not a scientist, I do establish a correlation between my diet and my lack of energy, my lack of will, my lack of discipline. If I cannot even reach the minimum number servings of fruits and vegetables every day, how can I keep myself to doing homework? TO being on top of my writing? To exercise at least once a week?

The change has culminated over the past few weeks. I drink more fruit juice and less sweet tea. I've been avoiding soda and milk for years, but now I've made an effort to cut out milk more effectively, in the foods I eat. We went to Wal-Mart over the weekend, and I took a deep breath and asked for apples, for gluten-free granola bars, and for oatmeal, as well as bottles of water. 

Today, I dither. It's Thanksgiving Break; I have the day off from school, as well as tomorrow and Friday, and I know I should attempt breakfast. A decently healthy one. It's after noon before I try, though.

Today, I asked my sister to help me make an omelet. Something that I've always been told is healthy, since it's of eggs, and that I assume is more healthy than chips, at least. She showed me how to mix the eggs with oregano leaves and a tiny amount of salt, how to wait for it to look somewhat like an egg pancake before I flip it over and add cheese (still a dairy product, but it's one of the only omelet toppings I know), then fold it in half.

You could say my cats are inspiration, as well.

I take a glass of juice -- 100% cranberry-blueberry-blackberry juice -- and sit down to try a bite. It tastes different. Sort of rubbery and chewy in my mouth. Bland, with a hint of that boiled-egg taste that I somewhat remember from a childhood with hard boiled eggs on weekend mornings. My stomach begins a slow burn, as if now that I've so abruptly decided on healthy, it wants to purge the processed food immediately. I'm almost afraid to use the bathroom, because I know that stomachache will only get worse, and so I stay and eat a few more bites. I take sips of juice after every bite. The juice tastes weird, like artificial blueberry flavoring mixed with just a little bit of other-juice (I've never had cranberries or blackberries to know the taste). But at least it has the consistency of normal juice. The texture of the eggs in my mouth is so foreign.

Especially Za-Zoo, who steals anyone's food.
Is it one of those things where, if I eat it often enough, I'll acquire the taste? With sweet tea, I gagged it down every morning for two weeks before I grew to like the taste. Is that how it'll be with omelet? I just need to eat it more? Or do I truly not like the taste, and no matter how much I eat it, it will be too bland and rubbery for me to like it?

Those are the sorts of thoughts that run through my mind. My eating habits seem to take over my life sometimes, worrying about why I can't make myself eat healthy, or why healthy stuff has so many acquired tastes, and that always-insidious voice that tells me that, like every other time in my life, I will simply turn back to junk food within a few days. This is not a permanent change; I cannot keep anything up; I am too weak, too undisciplined to make a real change.

Sometimes, I wish my thoughts revolved around something else. Like my writing. Or school. Or some boyfriend/girlfriend. Something normal, that normal teenagers do. Normal teenagers tweet casually about what they eat for breakfast. I try to avoid letting anyone see me eat at all.

Even writing about it here is a stretch out of my comfort zone. I worry you'll post mean comments; I worry you won't post comments at all, truly uncaring about any of this. I mean, if you don't care, is it because I'm not communicating effectively, is my writing shoddy, or perhaps you'll think this really is my strange way of casually tweeting what I had for breakfast? My hands shake thinking about what other people about my eating. But I'm sick of staying silent, of furtively taking bites of ready-made food, and swallowing it because it looks like an unbreakable pattern from childhood.

So, I told you. Perhaps I shouldn't publicize the fact that despite my skinniness, I really am of poor diet. Perhaps I should be shamed into eating healthier. But perhaps I need to tell it to make it real.

Sincerely speaking,
JDM -- a girl who loves thinking words and hates thinking food.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Small Update

I am really busy with my writing. Currently at around 28,000 words -- 2k less than where I should be. On the other hand, I can't really regret my trip to the library today. (And I only got 10 books this time. That's a good step down from 15 books, when I'm trying to write instead of read!)

In other news, I have trawled through many Wikipedia articles. Some of the ones I have up right now:

I do not consider this to be a waste of my time. It does, however, provide me with a lot of distraction and Shiny New Ideas. I mean, tell me -- which of the above could possibly not spark off an idea in the creative brain?!

There's not much else to tell. I've barely finished a book. Too busy writing. Too busy balancing schoolwork/homework with that writing. Not much else to tell.

Have a blessed Monday and Tuesday. :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Confessions and Comfort

Yes, it's Saturday. I meant this post for yesterday, but my laptop is still out for the count. I'm using my mother's laptop, and she's getting her master's degree online from Liberty University. So, she's on pretty much... always. She's asleep right now.

As you might know from my previous couple posts, I'm participating in Nanowrimo. Or was, until 5k words were lost and I had to switch to using the laptop of a busy woman. But it's not just that, is it? I can't write very well.

Why not? One laptop is as good as another, right? That's the mindset of pretty much everyone around me. But I can't get the words out. At best, I've managed about 1,300 words a day. Closer to 1,000 words, or none at all. In Nano, your target word count per day is 1,667 words.

So, why can't I do it? Why won't the words come? Well, as you can tell from the title of this post, it has to do with my comfort spot.

Let me describe to you the very different rooms of my house in which I find myself:

  • My room is the size of a closet. In the corner, stuck between the door -- which actually hits the desk when opened far enough -- and a large, wooden dresser, is my desk. My bed, which takes up most of the room, is just far enough from the desk to make typing while sitting on it very difficult, so there's a small stool jammed between it and the desk, in order for me to not have to balance my laptop in my lap. Strewn across my desk are notebooks, embroidery thread, papers, and a couple of small bottles of paint.
  • My mother's workroom, which was my childhood room, has pink and yellow walls, with Winnie the Pooh stickers and crayon scribblings all over them. Probably your average-sized bedroom, and my mom has collected what looks like thousands of crochet magazines over her lifetime. They're everywhere. Her desk is stuck between a bookshelf of Mom's religious reference books and a side table. There's a fish bowl with one of those little beta fish* and a clean mug (also, coincidentally, Winnie the Pooh) that contains all of her pens and pencils, along with a couple of those green Barnes and Noble straws poking out of it. Oh, and let's not forget to mention the hundreds of crosses that now decorate the wall.

I realize that was a pretty solid chunk of description, so let's get down to the main point: the two rooms are as different as night and day. My small, messy room with the furniture looking too large, compared with Mom's very religious-looking room whose walls haven't changed much since I was five years old.

Of course, since Mom has her Master's classes and likes to have her laptop in the same room with all her reference books, I can't just pick it up and take it to my room. Which is a problem.

To put it bluntly, the hundreds of crosses staring at me make me uncomfortable. The many, many Bibles** do, as well. And the reference books, which all have names like How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart) and Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People (Schraam/Stjerna).

I told you -- A LOT of crosses.
It's not that I'm not religious. I am. Quite so. (Very hard not to be, especially when my former preschool doubles as my current baptist church.) It's just that... well, I'm too religious.

I know it's insane. Completely irrational. But during the summers of my childhood, I spent a week in the Pentecostal camp where my grandad lives. And they'd like to tell people that Harry Potter is evil, that fantasy is evil, because it worships magic and witchcraft or whatever.

And... even more beside the computer.
Which makes it kind of hard for me to write fantasy now, in front of an insane number of crosses. Even though I'm a Baptist and I believe that if God gave me the imagination, He probably wouldn't mind my fantasy. And anyways, evidence: C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were both Christian writers, who wrote fantasy, and their stuff is legendary. Pretty mainstream fiction, not the Christian fiction you find only in your typical Lifeway Christian store.

But I can't help feeling it. Feeling this irrational need to avoid fantasy, even though I love it, because when you put it that way...

I know God loves me. I know He wouldn't judge my fantasy writing -- sometimes I even get the hope that in Heaven, He has a giant library with every book in the world, and some of my books will be there, too. It's make-believe, imagination, a tool He gave humans for the purpose of imagining new worlds.

Perhaps, one day, I will write a book in which I suggest thematically that creating a real world, or at least one that feels real, should probably be left to God. Because right now, my world feels realer than the one around me, and I worry when I see those crosses. They remind me of the world around me, that my imagination is not everything here, and that, perhaps, magic needs to be subtler than spells and potions and spontaneous explosions, out here in the real world. I'm almost sad, at that. Like we've constrained something to a small box, to a subtle little area inside of our minds.

Perhaps this is why power goes to your head, when leaders create their own little world, their own society, when they rip down the old society and put up their own. 

This sort of commentary reels through my mind. I get antsy, can listen to music and swivel in the little swivel chair, and I can't write. Because it is truth unwrapped from its gauzy layer of fiction. And it doesn't make sense. Truth doesn't make sense. It makes feelings. And that's why it needs its little coating of fiction, because fiction does make sense, and it can keep the truth in its place.

I need my little comfort spot. I need the peace it brings, how it sets aside those antsy feelings and truth and lets my fingers stop shaking long enough to write.

And perhaps this all sounds a little out there, a little dreamy, like my mind's come untethered and I'm sending you images from the clouds. But I think a comfort spot is more than just comfort. It's a necessary break from the real world. The real world reminds me that there are people who think God wouldn't like my work. My comfort spot lets me know what I think in the matter.

I hope this makes sense to you.

Have a blessed day.

[EDIT: I hand-counted all of them. There are 113 crosses in my mother's workroom, give or take a couple. Still, a formidable number of crosses, wouldn't you agree?]

*Yea, his name is Jeffrey. After my Uncle Jeff, even though Uncle Jeff is from my Dad's side of the family.
**Let's put it this way: my aunts have seventy pairs of shoes and a Bible between them. My Mom has seventy Bibles and one pair of shoes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Not Impressed.

Hi, guys. My laptop crashed. Not at all impressed.

What I lost by my laptop breaking:

  • The first 5,000 words or so of my nanowrimo project.
  • The first 10,000 words of my Spike novel (as I dub it. I keep switching between calling it that Spike novel and WR.)
  • My entire bookmarks tab on Google Chrome. I use the bookmarks tab as a sort of placeholder for all the articles and blog posts I haven't gotten around to reading. And for the articles I find helpful, such as the link to the Amazon collection of coloring books from the lovely, honest blog, A Little Dose of Keelium. 
  • Assorted poems, Microsoft word docs, and wordpad notes on everything from random names and plot devices to a dictionary of weird words (which I have since moved to a spiral notebook, which is in no danger of crashing and deleting itself.)

As you can probably tell, I am a bit upset. So, here is the song I've been listening to over and over. (If you're wondering how I'm writing this, the sad fact is I've borrowed my Mom's laptop. Which is a 2013 laptop and looks TOTALLY DIFFERENT from my laptop made in 2010.)

Have a blessed Wednesday. And, here's hoping your laptop doesn't throw a fit and delete all of your stuff, along with preventing you from even turning it on! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Dia de Los Muertos, and Happy Nanoing!

Hi! It's Friday, it's the First of November, and you know what that means. It's Nanowrimo. It's the Day of the Dead. And it happens to the start of what hopefully is a great month.

First off, Nanowrimo -- writing a novel in a month. Yes, I'm participating. (Q: What should I be doing write right now? A: Not writing blog posts!) My idea is weird, and involves rebellions, other worlds, and Mozart. It's titled "The Wolfgang" for right now. I might be referring to it obsessively over the next month, and shall usually abbreviate it to WG.

Now, yea, I haven't finished my other draft. I'm decently sure I can keep up 3k words a day -- 2,000 words for WG, and 1,000 for WR. ("Wretched Roads". Mages, healers, and curses, if you care to know.)

As for Dia de los Muertos... It's a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, honoring dead loved ones. I've written about it before, a couple weeks ago. So instead of a long rant on something that has little relevance, here's a list of Spanish words:
  • Calaveras -- skulls. Also, there are calaveras de azucar (accent on the u), which are sugar skulls. 
  • Calacas -- skeletons.  From what I know, these are very popular, like Halloween skeletons are popular: toy skeletons on the altars or for the children, cloth/plastic ones on poles that they parade through the street, etc.
  • Altar -- well, an altar. Not too hard to figure out. The table on which they set offerings of food, flowers, and photographs to the dead loved one.
  • Cempachusil (accent on u) -- marigolds. They put these "flor de los muertos" (flowers of the dead) on the graves or altars of loved ones. 
  • El pan de los muertos -- bread of the dead. Literally, bread they leave on the altar for their loved ones.

November is a grand, brown-ish, most-definitely-autumn month. It generally means cold, lack of sleep, picking up the academic pace, and writing a novel for me. But it's also full of colorful leaves, and days off from school for Thanksgiving, and snuggling under five or six different blankets without feeling stifling-hot.

So, here's to dead people, writing too much too fast, and a brown month full of leaves and cold. Who says a little cold is bad for you, after all? It clears your lungs from all those words that scratch at your ribcage, ready to crawl out.

Have a blessed Friday and weekend!