Category Archives: NANOWRIMO

NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner!

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

Just a quick post, as I have finally hit 50 thousand words tonight – before midnight.  I am not sure when I will post this – I have got to edit it before I do – not much else is edited on my National Novel Writing effort.

My writing projects are not yet done.  I have got a crap load of editing and additional text to write.  I have made a start, though.  I may certainly keep up a writing challenge for my self monthly.  I found the daily word count challenge helpful, as I would inevitably sit in front of my monitor and be blank.  Just like the page.  I had nothing.  I would  hammer out the first five hundred words and then thoughts, ideas, both awesome, and crappy, started flowing.

Will every word of mine be useful?  Mmmm, no, but they are still like gems to me.  The cloudy chaff had to be unearthed so the sparkling clear gems could be found.

I am kinda proud of myself. Now I just have to turn my scrivenings into something that is accessible for a reader. Oh, and finish them. So, the best thing I did this month was start a habit.
Now…I’m signing off, and doing my best to head to dreamland.  I’ve got some writing to do tomorrow.

November Awesomeness – 50K words in 30 Days: #NaNoWriMoFTW

 

Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes

I’ve been extremely quiet online recently.  I’m sure you all noticed.  I haven’t been idle though!  I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo 2014.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write fifty thousand words in thirty days, during the month of November.

No, I am not crazy, and I am in good company.  Three hundred, ten thousand, and ninety five people started NaNoWriMo in November of 2013, and more started this year.  Participants are from all over the world.  Even though I write in my own home, or at a coffee shop, and am writing my own bit of magic, I know that I am in good company, that thousands of people, all over the world are joining me in my quest of writing fifty thousand words in one month.

It does sound impossible, especially if you do not have a regular writing practice, or have never done anything like this before, but the thing is…every one has a story.  It could be your personal story.  It could be a story you have had rattling around in your brain pan for years, it could be a story you heard and that has captured your imagination.  Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, romance, science fiction, mystery, space western with vampires and tentacle creatures, or even a family history.  It could be a combination of all of the above!  Who the heck knows, except you.  It is your story.

Still, it sounds like a lot of pressure to do in one month, does it not?  The only real goal for NaNoWriMo, is that you write, type or chisel out fifty thousand words.  They do not have to be the perfect words.  They do not have to be good words.  They just have to be words, and fifty thousand of them.  No editing is allowed during the month of NaNo November.  Editing is for December.  You will notice that I am padding my word count by writing out the words for numbers and not using contractions.  That is allowed, and is not cheating.  (You can not see me, but I am shaking my head emphatically.)  It is written in the rules!

What do you get when you hit the fifty thousand word goal?  You get to say you win.  You get to be in awe of your own self, because you set a crazy mountainous goal of writing fifty thousand words in only thirty days.  You get the “prestige” of doing something that another person would be too intimidated to do.  You get to prove to yourself that you can do amazing things, when you devote your time and effort.  You also get your manuscript to edit and perhaps turn into a printed or published book.

If you want to know what I’m writing on…it is a dual project.  I am mainly writing a first draft on applying project management processes and tools to planning a sabbatical.  Really! It is pretty interesting and will spawn a couple of workbooks as well.  Once I get a final draft edited and hammered out, I’ll be posting it on Amazon.  I am challenging myself to get something out there by the first half of 2015.

At this point I am about thirty five hundred words behind, so every bit counts.  The good news is that that is only about two days worth of writing that I missed so far this month.  The not so good news is that I have to catch up on it before the end of the month.  I am going to reach my goal of fifty thousand words, that is for sure.  This post is adding about six hundred words to my word count.  🙂

Toilet Training the Western Adult: The importance of the Squat

roses
Pretty flowers for you!

Ah, Squats.  That is an interesting word.  Not exactly lovely.  Not exactly poetic.  Just a description/name of an activity that is essential for health and longevity.

I’ll be honest.  The main reason that I joined Crossfit, besides needing to improve my overall fitness very quickly, was to intensively work on my squat.

You might think that joining a gym for a specific motion like a squat is a random thing to want to improve.  Well, I’m planning on spending some extended time in South East Asia, and I will at some point have to excrete waste products.  Liquid elimination isn’t such a difficult thing, as any of my female readers have all probably performed the hover maneuver.  It is the solid waste products, the poo, if you will, that poses a challenge.

I have been to Thailand and Laos, and have had to go into a public rest room and had to rethink my whole process.  The process became a “plan of attack”.
Why attack?  A hole in the ground, with places indicated for the waste eliminator to put his/her feet – right next to said hole is called a Squat Toilet.  That is a threat (to my shoes and lower garments), and, when you aren’t used to the process, it seems like an aggression.  You have GOT TO “GO”, and don’t have the accustomed tools to get the job done.

I try to only post photos that I have taken. I didn’t get a photo like this while I was in Thailand, as I was slightly traumatized by the experience.  I did not take the photo that the following link will show, but this is what many of the Thai Squatty Potties were like.

Note the furnishings.

  • The potty is actually porcelain or perhaps plastic.  I was not going to touch it to find out for you.  Some were visually identified as stainless steel.
  • You can observe the foot positions on either side of the “basin”.
  • Also there is a spicket, with a large bucket/basin of water, and a small scoop/cup.

Note the lack of Toilet Paper.  One can not or should not “flush” toilet paper down them.  The toilet paper has to be disposed of in the trash can, which is usually in the back corner.  Happily, the used toilet paper bin is not depicted in the photo. The bin isn’t usually full, as the public rest rooms do not supply the toilet paper.  You must bring your own.  Be prepared.  I also recommend bringing some wet wipes, but that is just me.    I’ve found suggestions on the web to use a long piece of twine, thread it through the center of a toilet paper roll, and tie the ends securely, and hang the combination around your neck, like a toilet paper necklace.  Etsy, here I come!

If you already don’t do so, perhaps change your diet while on your trip.  I recommend a healthy amount of fiber in your diet.  Consider restricting food items that cause loose eliminations.  Just sayin.  Moving on…

Most of us have become accustomed to the Western Toilet.  I know I certainly have.  So I did some research on how to make the process of elimination via squatty potty as graceful as that function could be.  According to the info I found, elimination via squat is the original way we humans eliminated waste.  Makes sense, right?  Physiologically, it is also anatomically correct position for efficient and easy elimination.  Things just move smoothly, if you catch my meaning.  That all supposes that one can assume the position.

Here is one of the best descriptions I’ve found on line.  With instructional images!

Basically, the process goes like this:

  • If you are a newby to this method of elimination, you should probably remove your garments from the waist down, and hang them out of splash range. Keep your shoes on, for the sake of all that is Holy.
  • Place your feet on the textured foot prints, and assume the position thusly.
  • Do not fall over.
  • Perform your waste elimination function.
  • Remember that basin of water and cup? These, my friends and readers, are the tools used for what we in the West call the “wiping” function.  Except, in the Squatty Potty process, it is more of a splash/rinse function.  Your LEFT hand will perform a wipe motion.  Yes, you will be touching your own anal area, and most probably your own poo.
  • Once you are traumatized by the touching your own ass, you will then use the scoop to rinse the basin of your excrement, three to five times.
  • Hopefully you brought hand sanitizer with you.
  • Re-clothe your nether regions with the garments previously removed.
  • Remember to eat with your RIGHT hand.

Prior to Crossfit, I tested out my squat motion, and found it significantly lacking.  I always thought of myself as flexible person, hip wise.  Well, I could get down there, but it wasn’t pretty, or comfortable, or steady.  One requires a steady squat, to avoid tipping into and touching bad things.  So, for two months I’ve been practicing my squat, in conjunction with the other activities that require good strong steady squats.  I have a good position now, but luckily, I have another month or three to, shall we say, get it down.

But wait!  THERE’S MORE!

Luckily improving my squat will provide much more in the way of life long benefits.  I actually just spent time with a personal trainer to improve my squat.  If you are in the Manchester NH area, Dayne Johnston at Granite State Crossfit is great to work with on Mobility.  In fact, all of the coaches at GSCF are awesome, and I’ve learned from each of them.  (Love you guys!!!!)

Squatting is not just a lower body exercise.  Think of it as a whole body exercise, especially for your core and hip muscles.  I’ve done a crap-ton of squats in my short time, so far, with Crossfit, and while I haven’t worked specifically on balance, abdominal, back, foot, or ankle strength…all of those have amazingly improved.   My posture has changed, and I feel like I walk differently.   Granted, I’m always a bit sore, but once that discomfort passes, I am actually stronger.  With all of the benefits above, wouldn’t that make other activities of daily living easier? I think so!
According to my research, squat lifting heavy (tailored to you) weights trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone.  Both of these hormones help in muscle growth.
Stronger muscles burn more fat, and flexible muscles help with general mobility. Squats prevent injuries by strengthening the stabilizer muscles, and improving your flexibility.
Here is a good article that I found doing a quick search on the benefits of squats.

For anyone interested in learning some stretches to help improve their squat, definitely check out anything by Kelly Starrett, who is a doctor of Physical Therapy, and the founder of Mobility WOD.  Most in the Crossfit world know who he is, but here is another cool article singing his praises, and includes some links to some of his videos:

Here is a great link on stretching for squats.

Thanks for reading!  I leave you with this blessing:

May all the water you drink be potable, and may all your moves be smooth.

Travel Money: Bank and Credit Card Travel Notifications

Waking up on the road
Waking up on the road

Imagine that you are just arriving to your dream destination, out-side of your home country.  You are so excited, and you can’t wait to get yourself some food and settled before you go exploring.  It is a totally awesome feeling…until you realize that you can’t take any money from an ATM, because your bank thinks you stole your own bank card.  Gah! That is awful!  Well, at least you have your credit card, right?  But, that is a big negative, as your card is declined the first time you use it.  Oh NO!!!

You forgot to notify your bank and credit card company that you were traveling out of country.  You just also have traveled to a country that has been blocked by your financial institutions.  You now have to call the phone number for each, or you would if you had cash to buy a phone card, and actually had the international phone number….

What a nightmare that would be!

While you are still state-side, call your bank and credit card company!!!  They may also have an on-line way of submitting a travel notification, as well.    I just did this, tonight, for my upcoming trip to Costa Rica.

If you are planning on doing more world travel, consider looking into a credit card that has a chip, and pin combo.  Last year my credit card company automatically sent me a card with a chip that can be used in Europe.  I just have to set up a pin code.  I’ve been to Paris three times, and each time I used my old card, I had to explain that it has to be swiped.  I just annoyed the heck out of the shop clerk.  Yay.  Now, when I go back in 2014, I’ll get to feel a bit more European when I spend my money.  Ha!

Sure, you could bring US dollars, or American Express Traveller’s Checks, but you get really bad exchange rates.  The rate will never be in your favor when you exchange cash at a bank, hotel, or hostel.  Forget about the airport.

Using your bank card to withdraw cash, will usually give you a better rate of exchange, as your domestic bank usually take the best rate of the day, and apply it to any transactions done that day.  Keep in mind that your bank may charge a foreign transaction fee.  I think mine charges three percent.  I usually take out an amount of cash that will last me a while, for things that I can’t use credit cards.  I also don’t take out so much that it would ruin me, if it was lost or stolen.

I try to use my credit card as much as I can.  My card does not charge any fees, and protects my purchases, as well as protecting me against fraud.

All this talk about money, I actually sound like I’m rolling in it.  Not so, but what I have, I plan to use sparingly and wisely.

I’ll be posting, within the next few weeks, about budgeting for long-term travel as well.  So stay tuned!

Magic Contract

San Francisco
San Francisco

Back in 1993 I had started to think that I had to make some kind of change in my life.  I had to shake things up.  Slap some life into my existence.  I had recently purged some toxic friend-ships, and realized that I needed to get to know myself a bit more.  I had read a book about Scotland, and was interested in yoga, so I had to decide between a 3 month yoga retreat, or backpacking across Great Britain.  I chose the back pack.

I remember hearing people ask why one had to travel to “find” one’s self.  Before I had thought of that trip, before I discovered my own motivation, I wondered the same thing.  Why would you have to find yourself, you are right there.

I was feeling like I was just going through the motions, that every day was the exact same.  I wasn’t growing.  Not true, though – I have always been type A, an eternal student, and multiple job holder, but that was how I felt.  I felt like I was in a rut, and kind of numb in the head.  I kept going from thing to thing, trying to find what made me happy.   Perhaps the trip was initially just one more of those things to go onto, at first.  But almost immediately, it changed it’s purpose, and my experience of it.

From that first moment, when I had to convince my Grandmother to take me to the bus station, so I could get to the airport, I had to exist in the moment.  There was no more auto-pilot for me.  I was alone, I had to be alert.  I had to advocate for my wants and needs.  Heck, I had to figure out what I wanted.  I no longer had the creature comforts that I had become accustomed to.  I was surrounded by strangers.  That, in itself is liberating.  I got to recreate myself, and how I wanted to be seen and known.  To do all that, I had to really think about who I was, what I liked, how I wanted to respond to situations.

It became a very zen experience.  I am hungry, I need to get food.  I am exhausted, I need to get to where I will sleep.  Where can I buy food.  Where can I find a bathroom.  How do I make sure my bag isn’t stollen on this crowded train.  There was little time to get lost in my own head about things that didn’t matter.  If a town or hostel was quiet, or if I had a longer than usual hike to a destination, I might get a little lost in my head, but not for long.  Everything was new.  Everything was a bit of a challenge to feel at home.  I felt the challenge to become comfortable in each moment.

So, yes.  Being on the road is a way to find one’s self.  I found my own direction, I found my own way, I found my own peace, I found adventure, history, experiences.  I found and developed my confidence, and my sense of self became more defined.

Not long after I returned from that first extended trip,  I moved, decided to go to school to become a massage therapist.  (No one believed me about this either.  During the first week of classes, one of my work mates yelled at me for not showing up with out calling to let them know I was going to be out.  I had told them that I was going back to school and they had agreed to the change in my work schedule.  They just didn’t believe me.)

There were several years that I pretty much went with the flow.  Always working more than one job at a time, occasionally going back to school for something.

2003 was the year I started to experience another major life shift.  I had just had major neck surgery, and really had to reevaluate how I lived my life.  I had deeply identified myself as a massage therapist.  It was who I was, and all my self value was wrapped up in being a massage therapist.  Who was I, if I wasn’t that?  I felt like a whole lot of nothing.  Cue Angst & gnashing of teeth.  Also, copious amounts of tears.

I then tried a number of different things, for about three years, until one weekend I sat down and created a plan, or contract, of what I wanted my future to be like.  I wrote it as if it was already happening, and I was experiencing it already.  I described how I wanted to feel, that I wanted to travel for free, and to have a bank account that money always flowed into, more than it flowed out.  I declared that this was what I wanted, and what would be.  I thanked the universe, and put the letter away.  Earlier this year I found the ‘contract” again, and realized that everything I wrote in that contract with myself has come to pass.  It seems like magic, right?

I really just changed what I was focusing on, and ignored what wasn’t going to give me what I wanted.  I don’t like quitting, but I am totally into moving on when I have accomplished all I can where I am, and want to do something different.  I took chances when it was something that sparked my interest.  I trusted my gut, and took some chances.  Somehow I ended up in Information Tech.  I never thought I’d work with software and computers, but the way my life and career evolved, and by being clear about what I wanted, I was able to see opportunity when it presented itself.  I grabbed that opportunity, and each opportunity after that first one.  I paid my dues.  I worked my way up.  I learned that if I could do this, I can do more.  I had learned about consulting in healthcare IT, and BAM.  That was the ticket.

Present day, I’ve been consulting for almost four years.  Gone from barely above poverty in 2004 to “a goodly amount” in 2013.  I own my condo and car outright.  I have retirement – some, but could always have more.  I also put aside enough savings to live frugally for a year.

I like what I do for the most part.  I’m good at what I do.  I’ve been feeling that I could do more, or live a more meaningful life.  It is time for creating a new contract with myself.  Time to create with intention.

Early this year I started to flail around again, and was starting to angst about how things were going to happen.  I tried creating a strict road map, but that is hard to do when you aren’t exactly sure about what you really want.  Now I am focusing on the what, and letting the ‘how’ take care of itself, since that was what worked for me the first time around.  Focusing on the present moment, and taking the step that takes me closer to what I want to experience.

Part of my goal is to write daily, and discover my voice.  Write about my adventure, the people I meet and admire.  Explore my intentions.  Write every single day.  So the first opportunity I am grabbing is to do NaNoWriMo this year.  That is National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November.  The goal is to write fifty thousand words in thirty days.  They don’t have to be good words.  There just has to be fifty thousand of them.  Quantity, not quality.  December is for editing.

Costa Rica Countdown…6 days away!

One of my many flying photos...
One of my many flying photos…

Saturday I fly out from Boston, with a layover in Atlanta to ultimately end up in Costa Rica.  I’m going to a surf camp for 7 days and nights.  Yes, forty-three year old me is going to learn how to surf.  Luckily there are two surf lessons a day.  Hopefully I’ll get up on the board at least once.  And they get a picture of it.

How did this trip come to pass?  Way, way back in August of this year, I had to commit to a certain week for a vacation.  Several friends  only had nice things to say about Costa Rica.

I knew I wasn’t yet to do an extended trip, but I wanted to do something that I could do to gain a sense of  be in awe of myself.  A friend, who I respect and admire, tried out surfing off of Jeness Beach in Rye, NH.  Another friend, who I respect and admire, as well as several others only had glowing reviews of Costa Rica treks and yoga retreats.

I initially checked out Airbnb.com, for inexpensive places to stay, that were close to the beach.  I pretty much just wanted to relax on the beach.  There were some great options.  Then I started to think that if I was going that far away, I should actually learn something.  I can sit around someplace a little less expensive to get to.

I started looking into the many, many retreats available in C R, and Blue Surf Sanctuary rose to the top.  They had interesting packages, and fantastic reviews.  Billabong sponsors this camp, and it looks clean and safe.

I had to make sure I scheduled the trip for after the rainy season, as the flights don’t go, if rain washes out the landing strip.  Yes, it will be a very, very tiny plane that takes me from San José to the Tambor airstrip.  The flight is only forty-five minutes, but the bus ride would be about six hours.  On badly maintained road ways.  Then Blue Surf Sanctuary arranges a taxi to take me from the air strip to a ferry.  Then perhaps a ATV ride.

About a month ago, I got my flight from Boston to Costa Rica, and just today I found out Delta upgraded me to first class all the way to Costa Rica.  I am so excited!  Before you say, “It must be nice!”.  I will let you know – It really, really is nice.  I also earned it by flying up to Platinum last year.  This year I was lucky to reach Gold.  Next year, I will maintain Gold, but since I won’t be a high mileage flyer with Delta, I will probably lose my status, if I don’t get a new contract that requires weekly travel in July.  I am going to enjoy the benefits of status for as long as I can.  You would too!

Anywho, the flight into San Jose, CR will get in at about eight in the evening, local time, far to late to catch a flight to the coast.  The next flight out to Tambor airstrip isn’t until the next morning, so I am spending the night at the San Jose Intl Marriott, on points.

Once I board the tiny, tiny plane, I have no idea what to expect for the rest of the seven days.  I may only be sitting on a surf board.  I’m hoping not to get hit in the head with the board as I inevitably wipe out.  I’ve watched many videos.  And should probably freshen up my watching.

Speaking of wiping out, I also got trip insurance.  It covers injuries and emergency evacuations.  I’ll be as careful as I can possibly be.  I’m glad to be insured, but I don’t ever want to have to use it.  I went through a company called TravelGuard.  Look them up on-line, especially if you are going on a trip out of the country.  TravelGuard bases the policy on your age, where you live, your destination, and how long you are going.  Oh, and I think the total cost of your trip.  If you get the insurance within a certain period of buying your trip, you can also purchase “cancel for any reason” coverage for a small fee.  I was one day late.  Damn procrastination.

My back pack is still empty.  I have an idea of what I’m going to pack.  Much of my sun-protective clothing will be going with me.  My two spf rash guards, swim shorts, sun cover ups, a couple of bathing suits.  I may only use one, but I’ll keep the spare just in case.  Sunscreen in several different formulations, lotion, stick and cream.  Can you tell I’m afraid of the sun?  I don’t tan.  I burn. In fact, I burn in moon light.  There is no good reason for me to go with out protection.

I also need to nail down the down time outfits I’m be wearing.  Mostly, so I can decide what needs to be hosed down with this special bug repellant I got from Amazon that permeates the clothing, and repels bugs for up to 6 washings.  That is pretty awesome.  I also have to pack my deet spray.  I also don’t like bugs.

Yes, it is kind of funny that the girl who burns in moonlight, and hates bugs (long story, I’ll tell you some time) loves going to places that have strong sun and copious amounts of bugs.  Don’t worry, I don’t understand me either.

How much do you really want to do it?

How much do you want it?

Like magic, twenty years later, I am going to do it again.  Some how my life was easy, and I just made a snap decision to reclaim my youth of care free adventure.

Ummmm…. No.

I returned from that trip, went back to my old job – apparently they were harassing my family a couple of weeks before I got back, wondering when I would return to work.  A few months later I decided to change my career from Human Services to Massage.   I worked and taught in the field of Massage for twelve years, and then transitioned into working with the Electronic Medical Record.  Sprinkled in between all that, I bought a condo, had car payments, accrued and paid off credit card debt (tuition & two transmissions), and had major surgery (my head is literally screwed on tight).

You can travel inexpensively, and on some modest savings.  Before you do that, though, debt elimination is key.  It can’t be cheap travel, if you have to support significant living expenses back home.

It took quite a while for me to be able to do international travel again.  It took quite awhile to pay off the debt I had accumulated.  It felt like forever, anyway.  It took me about fifteen years to pay off debt, including car payments and my mortgage.  Yes, I said mortgage.  Why did it feel like forever?  I lived far below my means, and sent all additional monies towards paying off debt.  Not a whole lot of fun.  There is no short-cut.  There were years where I held my bills clutched in my fist, paced and cried.   I’d look at the bills, then at my nearly empty bank account, wondering how this was going to happen.  I would have a couple of jobs at the same time.  One was for food, the other was for debt.  Many years I made Christmas and birthday gifts, instead of buying things.

I’ve done my reading/research on the internet.  I have seen people doing the things I want to do, and others criticizing, or complaining, saying some of the following:

Well, it is easy for you, because:
•    You are getting support from another family member/mate
•    You have/had a great super well paying job
•    You don’t have any debt, you must come from money
•    It must be great to have a job you can take such a long break from, and get back into with no problem.

I can’t do it because:
•    I don’t have the money
•    I have too much debt
•    I can’t take that long off my job, and expect to be able to get back to the same work.
•    I have kids
•    I’m not in shape

How much do you really want to do this thing?  How much do you really want to do extensive travel?  Think of any major goal of your life.  What did you sacrifice to achieve that goal?

There is never a good time to do anything of importance.  If something is important, the best time to do it is now.  Identifying a goal, and then figuring out what you need to do to achieve it, and then DO IT.

 

Note: This is for NANOWRIMO, and will probably get edited later.