Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Christmas Happy Collapse

I'd like to say I've had a chance to start looking over my plans for 2012, but that'd be a nasty lie, and it's rude to write lies outside of fiction. (And occasionally within fiction when not executed properly.)  Quite honestly, though, I don't care.  I'm quite happy about the events that unfolded this week.

It's been a lovely whirlwind of a week, though.  Two Yule parties, one of which I had the honor of guarding the Solstice flame all night while baking cookies with a new friend (mother of another friend).  After that, my overtired quota was hardly filled—it was like being in college again!  Seeing the sunrise by choice is much more magical than when you are not expecting to see it (my usual state of sunrise viewing: Oh crap! I'm still up?!).

Christmas Eve has changed; we spent it with good friends as Scott's aunt has moved to Maine.  It was a wonderful dinner where we made excellent strides in corrupting our friend's 17-year-old daughter.  We came home, I finished a few more batches of cookies and baking while Scott finally put the decorations up for the family coming over in the morning… er, later morning, as it really wasn't until about midnight that we started hard-core last-last minute prep.

Now, as Scott will be traveling, we had gotten – or so I thought – all our own presents to each other done early.  He wanted & needed a kindle and a laptop that could be used for both gaming and his job-related stuff.  I had wanted an Outback coat that I could steampunk up, but found another I liked, with another pair of riding jeans and a pair of riding boots that were also fashionable all for the price of originally desired coat.  Ta-dah! Presents accomplished.

So, while I had nothing to sneak into the pile of family presents, I felt bad leaving him to finish his part of the wrapping and cleaning when I finished mine around 3AM-ish, so I started putting together and wrapping the stuff for my side of the family. As it was now into Christmas as opposed to Christmas Eve, I was oblivious that his grouching for me to "just go to bed" was anything more than him likely being overtired, too.

Eventually, I did go to bed before him.  When I was getting my coat to pick up my Mom-In-Law, I learned of his sneaky machinations.

"Dear, before you go, can you grab me the box out of the living room?" he asks as he was getting ready to start the griddle for our traditional Christmas Breakfast.

Grumble, grumble… I zip up my fabulous new boot and tromp over to the living room.  I'm late picking up Joyce.  I bee-line for the pile of empty Amazon boxes that we've collected over the past few months.  "Which one?!"

"The big one.  In the middle of the table?"  I hear him coming in my direction.

"Huh… Oh!"

There in the middle of the collection of family presents is a Kuerig coffee machine with green streamers on top!

He laughs.  Because, y'know, I walked right by the big, unwrapped box and didn't notice it. 

"Thank you!!!"  I'm getting teary.  I totally don't have any surprise for him this year.  I wasn't planning for it at all!  I'd been thinking of getting one of those for a while, especially for when I'll be the only one drinking coffee for some time.  I'd complimented friends on it, but I don't remember mentioning it more than once, maybe twice.  He really does listen to me!

But, wait!  There's more!

He slips one more wrapped box out from under the pile and hands it to me.  Two sniffles from desperately needing a tissue, I unwrap the box and… it's my own Kindle!

About a week ago, when I started going through the slush pile and editing for Spencer Hill Press, I had told him, something to the effect of, "Damn, I should have just had you get me a Kindle, too, when they were on sale.  I didn't think I'd use it then… but now I see how I could really use it."  It was a lament, though… I hadn't expected anything.

And now it was in my hands!

Yep, needed the tissue… and kept going through them all the way to his mom's apartment.  (Shush – I was also PMSing, so totally logical reason for me to be all weepy!)

If that wasn't enough to garner another Husband-of-Awesome award… after hosting an excellent Christmas Breakfast, after spending a good day with my family at my mom's house, he stayed at my mom's house until 12:30AM fixing her computer that we calculated as being 8 years old. 

Yep. :)  Husband-of-Awesome. 

I'll get work done later.  Now, I just want to appreciate him!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Week!

I baked nearly all my cookies last week… but I didn't finish or frost the ones that need to be frosted.

I still need to finish up my year end reviews for tutoring, too…

Oh, and I need to get back to the Spencer Hill Press Slush pile…

Needless to say, I'm behind on my plans from this post.  le sigh.

Also, outside of the Blizzard Hallowe'en, we haven't had any snow.  Not that I'm complaining (Dear Mother Earth, I am TOTALLY COOL with no snow!), but that means no cute winter snow pix of Calico.  I may be able to get a Santa hat picture of her tomorrow, but we'll see how behind I'm running to my lesson and how much light I've got.

So, you have some cute pix if the indoor animals. 

Now, I have to get back to that whole catch-up on work.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weight is a Class Issue

As I embark on yet another attempt to lose weight - I gained this year, a total step backwards in that part of my 2011 Goals - I'm reminded that, really, trying to lose weight requires a certain amount of financial privilege.

With our current "War on Obesity" TM in this country (because we get things accomplished by declaring war on them. Just ask the DEA!) growing in power and ferocity, such as taking obese kids from parents, I'm reminded of John Scalzi's "Being Poor" and "Point of Privilege" posts.  In the former, he discusses food options, such as buying the Ramen noodles that are 12 for $1 as opposed to 10 for $1; in the latter, he says,

"The vector of privilege these days is not physical items, but how well one is cared for, or can care for one’s self and family: Whether one has adequate health care, whether one has access to healthy food, whether one’s housing and transportation costs are a not-onerous percentage of the household income, whether one has day care for children, whether one is free of high-interest consumer debt, and whether one can afford to save any money for the future."

Focusing just on those two first things in his list, Scott has what per most health care debates would define as a "luxury plan."  In this luxury plan, this year, I was able to deduct up to $150 in exercise program costs.  Now, my sister-in-law and I scoured the area for places.  For the cheap ones, that would cover sign-up and a month.  Maybe.  We picked the Y, which was the cheapest.  It covered sign-up (which I had a coupon for), and two months.  For the rest, I have to dish out $40 per month.  Someone who has to play the "which bill can I skip this month so I can feed my family" certainly can't cover that.  We won't even discuss the exercise plans where the $150 wouldn't even cover a single month.

Now, this is just exercise; it doesn't go into eating and all that.  Many of the health clubs have that for an added amount.  My hospital also offers a plan.  UMass happens to be one of the best hospitals in the nation for weight loss.  Is their plan covered?  Nope, absolutely not.  That's another few hundred out of my pocket!

Mind you, this is after many other attempts on my own, through programs, and whatever else I've tried that I can't even begin to list.

Exercise should be easy, right?  Um. No.  More and more cities are losing sidewalks; it's not safe for anyone to walk anywhere.  (We won't even get into Stranger Danger and all that fear.)  Bikes are targets.  The aggressions between cyclists and cars continue to grow in my area.  Motor vehicles won't yield to bikes; bikes have to basically break the law to get where they're going.  Most people don’t have jobs they can walk to.  Many people continue to have to take working lunches, so no walks after lunch.  After spending 8-12 hours at your work, honestly, do you want to stay any longer just to use exercise equipment?  No.  You want to get home and be exhausted with your family.  With extended hours, people get less sleep, so they are less motivated to exercise.  It's a fight just to get enough sleep in a night.  And it's not like people are really able to negotiate with their jobs right now; shoot - we're happy we have a job!  And we're constantly reminded of this.

For the sake of brevity, I will only make the passing point that stress, anxiety, and fear cause the body to retain weight.  And we live in a culture still ruled by fear: fear of losing work, fear of what the media tells us to be afraid of…

Add to that the cost of food.  Just take a walk around your local supermarket.  What's more affordable?  The store brand pasta made with refined flour or whole grains?  85% ground beef or lean turkey or whole cuts of meat?  Canned vegetables or fresh produce? Store brand fruit juice with high fructose corn syrup or the organic, low sugar juice?  Which children's cereals are most affordable?  All the unhealthy stuff.  When it's food or no food, you buy what you can afford so your family doesn't go hungry. Period.   Moving even further down the income chain, what kinds of foods are available through welfare, food banks, and WIC?  Is it the whole grain, organic, fresh-therefore-perishable stuff?  No.  So how can anyone dare say it's the parents' fault if their child can't eat healthy?

It's not like the schools are helping.  After all, a serving of pizza can cover the vegetable portion due to the 1/8 cup of tomato paste per slice, despite being mostly made up of a thick crust of refined flour and covered with cheap cheese.  Because, also, evidently, we're also still following the Reagan logic of tomatoes being a vegetable.  There are plenty of other fascinating figures on how schools are failing students with sub-standard lunches for anyone who cares to look them up.  Unless you can afford to pack your kid an awesome lunch that they'll want to eat and is also healthy for them, you're stuck with the school lunch. 

For poor students, school lunch may be the closest thing to a well-balanced meal they get; Mom or Dad had to buy the 12 Ramen for $1 so that they could use some of the grocery money to pay rent or electricity or fix the car so they could go to work--because public transportation won't get them there on time, if at all.

So, starting in childhood, people who can't afford the best food have their bodies conditioned to subsist on crap.  To hold onto fat because one never knows when the next meal will be, or if groceries will run short because electricity will be shut off otherwise.  Or, even to hold onto fat because the poor food causes a stress/anxiety reaction in the body.  Trained to finish your plate and not waist a crumb, the habit and guilt follow an individual into adulthood, where they finish off the ridiculously portioned meals from restaurants.

Speaking of restaurants, here's a little more number crunching for anyone who wants to lay guilt on poor people for eating fast food.  If one takes the time to calculate, and depends on schools to provide breakfast and lunch for the kids, a family of four can eat for $10 or less a night from fast food.  Carefully mixed with cheap pasta, hamburger, ramen, mac & cheese, and canned vegetables, that can actually bring down the grocery bill and steal just a little more family time before Mom or Dad or anyone else has to run off to their second job.

Am I saying this is good?  No.  I'm saying our culture doesn’t support a healthy lifestyle, and the poorer you are, the less ability you have to live a healthy lifestyle--even just eat healthy food!

If this country does decide to make this another official "War on…", I'm afraid it will - like most every other war declared - just end up being another war upon the heads of the poor.  Until then, those of us who are overweight actually have a chance of dropping weight.

Now, if only we could be inspired to do so as opposed to shamed… but that's an another post for a later time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 2011: Faith and Fear

12-2011BroadPod.mp3 Listen on Posterous

In our December 2011 podcast, we have the snowy chill of Fear and the blanketing warmth of Faith.  Justine Graykin introduces our readers:

Jennifer Pelland shares a sample from her new novel, “Machine”, about the loss of faith in love.  In which body does the true heart of Celia lie? 

 In Tracy S. Morris’s “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” four now-grown girls from four different children's stories wrestle with the fear that they may never return to fairyland and may instead be stuck in the mundane world. Some lose faith, while others keep hoping.  

Kelly A. Harmon, takes us “On the Path” with Tan, an unusual farmer, who embarks on a strange adventure when his unconventionally powered plow breaks down. 

Bonnie Lee introduces us to the eerie world of replicates in an excerpt from the novel adaptation of her screenplay, “Crazy Eyes”.

Kim Vandervort reads from “Northern Queen”, the tale of a young woman who must choose between faith in a mysterious old crone and her fear of the unknown. 

Light a candle against the December darkness, and listen to these Yule-tide samples of the story-telling art.


Posted via email from The Broad Pod posterous

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tis the Season for Year End Self-Evaluation and Business Records

Wow!  It's freaking December already!

This week, I must:
Complete most of my Broad Universe Actionable Items.
Submit a Pub review
Meet with weight consultant
Meet with Promotions & Advertising Coordinator for Broad Universe
Exercise at YMCA on Wednesday and Friday
Exchange Calico's Blanket
Review the Spencer Hill Press Slush Pile

Before Christmas, I must:
Finish tutoring evaluations
Bake cookies
Finish Calico's present (wood burnt name plaque)

By year end, I must:

Write yearly letter for Broad Universe & finish rest of Actionable Items.
Review & evaluate my 2011 plans
Create a Novel Friend business plan for 2012
Sit down with Scott to discuss a household business plan for 2012

Basically, aside from a few hours I might be able to use at Annie's Book Stop and at the coffee shop before my riding lessons, creative writing endeavors are on the back burner.

Sometimes you have to run triage as a freelancer and really focus on what needs to be done the most and leave other important things, or the pretty, shiny things you want to work on, by the wayside with promises of coming back and picking them up later.

An important part of freelancing is continually reevaluating, prioritizing, and reorganizing projects.  I do a big, formal thing of it every year-end/year-beginning, but I'm re-doing it every month, every week.  What needs my attention now because it's due?  What needs my attention now because the story won't leave me alone?  What needs my attention now based on where I physically am?  (For example, if I'm at an artsy coffee shop, I should make the most of the free-flow of creative juices; if I'm somewhere without WiFi, write stuff that doesn't require research.)

Being a fiction and poetry writer also influences these things.  First of all, we are always, always, always getting new ideas.  And sometimes these new idea are things that need to addressed immediately because they will make current work easier, are a limited time opportunity, or are so shiny that ignoring them will drive you mad.  Actually, if we don't get creative releases on a regular basis, most writers, poets, artists, etc. get pretty damned cranky and certainly less productive.  Sometimes ignoring the creative muse has a negative impact on the business end of work, so a balance has to be struck.  "Look, I'll write a synopsis or a scene right now, but then you gotta leave me alone so I can get this stuff done that helps me stay housed, alive, and in good enough shape to continue your fabulous story, ok?"

Figments of imagination can be just as demanding and aggravating as bill collectors—really!

Scheduled for next week, though, I'm having a sit down with my friend Vikki, with whom I'm sharing a few projects, and I'll make a fiction/poetry list of priorities and potential deadlines.  I also need to touch base with Christy on our novel, and I need to catch up with other people I'm working with on other projects.

It's no surprise though, and I'm hardly alone in the insanity that is December.  Who else is rearranging their life and priorities with the end of the year and holiday season?  What are your favorite ways to get it all done?

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