Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

#FridayFlash 66: Glitter and Tears

Star light, start bright, first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish, I wish tonight

A child’s rhyme, uttered by a lonely, slightly intoxicated, barely-adult woman.  It had never occurred to me that the magic of childhood didn’t actually end at age 18, and that my starlight wish just might have the power to come true.   What did I wish for?  Money?  Health?  Love?   No, those would’ve been useful.  I, I wished for a fairy.  You know – fictional fluttery creature that farts glitter?  Yeah, that’s what I wished for.

Now before you get all judgemental on me, let’s insert a moment of realism here.  Starlight wishes don’t come true and fairies don’t exist.  So there is no way in which I should be held accountable for what happened next.

Absolutely nothing. 

At least, that’s what I now wish had happened.  Alas life, I have learned, is not, in-fact, always fair. Because ever since that day, I have had the questionable privilege of having my own fairy.  I kid you not.  Instead of a cat or a dog, I share my life with a magical, winged, glittery creature who can be seen by others only if she wants to – which I’ll give you a hint, never happens.

Okay, I could live with the questionable sanity – I never claimed to be normal to begin with.  But the problem is, my fairy is unbearably, well… Fair.   In every sense of the word.  She spends nights primping while I sleep and is physically ill whenever she sees someone she deems less than fair.  So no, I don’t have an obsession with glitter.  It’s fairy vomit.  Ugh.

But worse than living with an insanely vain glitter ball is the realization just how unfair the world is. I’ve spent years trying to balance the scales – helping the homeless and under privileged, fighting social injustice.  It’s not because I’m a good person or socially motivated; it’s because since before I finished uni, I've lived my life with a little fairy who throws a tantrum every time she sees something unfair.  Because of her I have this reputation of being a much better person than I am.  I should appreciate it; I can certainly acknowledge the personal growth and social awareness she’s raised in me, but the reality is that even my closest friends look at me oddly now when I say or do things that the real me believes.

Most of my friends managed to outgrow their youthful errors in judgement, but it seemed mine was destined to influence my life forever.  Until one day, after yet another relationship was ruined by the brilliant combination of my obsessive commitment to ridding the world of inequality combined with my occasional “hallucinations”, I finally snapped.

“It’s not fair!” I glared at the bane of my existence, fingers balled into fists, ready to throw a toddler-level tantrum of my own.  “It’s not fair that I’m stuck with you!  I didn’t know fairies were real when I said that.  Why do I have to pay for that ignorance forever?”

Her eyes grew wide as her wings drooped and her ever present sparkled dimmed.  “You’re right,” she whispered as her eyes shifted down and away from me.

Before I could apologize, feeling instant soul-destroying regret for snapping at her, she was gone.  

And I learned how unfair life really is.

Procrastinating? No... I just wait till the last second, because I will be older and therefore wiser.

Well I'm running out of January, and yes, in fact, this blog post is procrastination while I try to think of anything to write for Friday Flash.  I have one story, but I'm not thrilled with it, so would really prefer another.  Consider yourself forewarned, tired, stressed, and desperate does not usually lead to my best writing ;)

In the interim, I *did* get my "one thing" done for the month -- the cd's are, in fact, all uploaded.  Woohoo!  Can't say gold start to me cause, well, no flash yet ;).  But bronze star maybe?

The fitness games continue -- I get new videos starting either this weekend or next week.  IF I'm allowed to continue.   Why wouldn't I be?  Right, more surgery.  Yeah -- found out on Wed, there's too much scar tissue so they're going in on Mon to try and remove it.  I was less than thrilled.  Wish me luck.

More amusing are my Spanish lessons where I'm now decidedly at the point where a little bit of knowledge is a bad thing ;).  How so?   Well before I was forming the simplest of sentences, always in present tense, and never more than a couple words.   I'd also, more often than not, immediately repeat it in the form of a question in English to see if I'd said what I thought I'd said.   hahaha but now I'm starting to have, still very simplistic, conversation.  And I can only imagine it is painfully brutal to listen to because I am SO slow.  Sometimes syllables of words become their own words because they're so spread out while I try and determine what the ending of a word should be.  But I am actually able to have very simple conversation -- to a degree (google or my teacher sometimes have to feed me a word or seven).   However, this can lead to all kinds of confusion.  Most of which stems from when I create a sentence that is grammatically and logically correct, but doesn't actually say what I meant to say ;).    For instance, I'm going to Granada in March with my husband (true fact!) became I'm going to Granada in March with my brother.   hmmm not so accurate.   Or I'm going to my parents' for dinner became my parents are coming to my place for dinner.  This lead to all kinds of confusion as he was asking me if they'd be staying over and I'm thinking 'it's their house, of course they're staying'???   lol.   These kind of random completely confusing things happen probably 50% of the time.   And at least once after taking like five minutes to form one sentence and needing help with every third word I ended it with "I give up" and finished the sentence in English.  To be fair to me -- said particular topic was way beyond my current abilities.  Let's be honest -- most topics are ;-P

Hey maybe I should write my flash in Spanish -- then it wouldn't make any sense to anybody; whether you speak the language or not!  It'll be a master piece *g*

Alright -- that's enough babbling.  I have just under an hour and a half to go write my first story in what? About a year?   Wish me luck!

If you think a minute goes by really fast, you've never tried planking

Five minutes.   They took the time to make a five minute workout video.  That in itself had me concerned; the fact that it was titled "Core on the Floor" didn't help.  Okay so this is a supplementary video done after the Strength workout.  I really dislike the strength workout, so for a couple weeks I just skipped it.  Then I realized it was actually necessary as there's no upper body workout in the rest (or very little).  But that didn't make me enjoy it more, so my solution is to sub in P90X3's Eccentric Upper.  Which is technically harder than the Core do Force Strength workout, but I like it better and get more out of it, sobeit.   Eccentric Upper isn't nearly as good without a bar as it is with, but was still a solid workout.  And then stuck in the follow up workout.

Right, so the entire workout is done in plank or variations of it.  It starts with a normal plank but you rock forward and back.  Then the others are a bit of a blur -- there were side planks, normal planks on one leg, normal planks with feet moving in and out, side planks lifting hips up and down, and side planks with a twist.

Suffice to say I landed on the ground a few times; at least it's a short drop!  But, in my defence, I also kept getting back up and trying the next one.

Do you know how much braining it takes to make the words go?

In continuing the unending name-change challenges, I found the most ridiculous one yet.   Tangerine/ING Bank.

I had to call them about something else and mentioned the name change as well.  "Oh, well we'll need you to send us your marriage license and your driver's license".  A bit of a pita, but okay.  Tell me where to email or upload and I'll scan them in.

Well no.  They need to be faxed or snail mailed.  Ummm wtf?   A bank whose entire premise is based on no bricks and mortar buildings is not set up to accept electronic documents?  Absolutely ridiculous.  And since I don't have a fax and am not inclined to spend money to accommodate their lack, I told them not to change the name and some day when I have access to said archaic technology, I'll take care of it.

Okay all good right?   And then a week later, I get a call while I'm at work that goes to voice mail.  "Please call us, we need to update your account."   So I call, and get put on hold with a 15 minute wait time.  No.   Sign in and my account is frozen.  Lovely.   Try the chat window -- that took about 10 mins rather than 15 -- slight improvement.

"Well there's a change request filed and we can't complete it until you fax or mail us the documents."  You have got to be kidding me.  Cancel the change request, unfreeze my account, and some day when I accidentally end up in the 90s, I will fax you information and you can do the change then.  Finally got it resolved (as in, they left my name at Cude the way I told them to last week when they let me know what was required to change it -- not as in it's actually updated) and account thawed.

Previously I've found them to be great to deal with, but this was a complete fail.

As for the subject line -- shamelessly stolen cause it made me laugh.   And I am very aware of how few Fridays are left for me to get out my Jan Friday Flash ;).

Today's exercise brought to you by the letters W, T, and F.

So the plan today was to come home from teaching and exercise.  This is the habit I got into last week and seems to work for me as I'm generally pretty high when I'm done teaching.

Right, except last lesson of the day, in both the jumping and the flat phases, I had to stop teaching about ten minutes before I could get the rider to brilliance.  And she was SO close.  Frustration not with the rider (who was doing an awesome job with a spun horse) but with the situation -- crowded tiny arena with mostly novice riders.  Entrance of ponies meant we had to stop jumping when she was so close to a major lightbulb.  It actually hurt me to tell her to stop, but you have to in that kind of environment.  And another lesson being booked overlapping mine (I'm not even kidding!) that while I didn't end early for it, I also felt I had to stop right on time.  And I don't teach to time usually, I teach to what the horse and rider need.  Some days that's half an hour, some days it's an hour and a half.  It's one of the things I love most about teaching only private lessons.

Anyways, so end result, through no fault of horse or rider, I left the barn frustrated.  Which meant I got home cold, tired, and slightly grumpy.  Can you guess where my ambition went?  Yeah -- I'm pretty sure the school pony stole it.   So I tried the usual pep talks -- you always feel better (or at least never worse!) after a workout.  Long term goal is worth it.  Etc etc.  But grumpy side won.  Book, hot chocolate, and bubble bath it is.

Except that when I undressed for said bath, I happened to look in the mirror.  Mirror motivation is the worst motivation -- because it doesn't even have to say anything.  Ugh.  Dig out bra and shorts and turn on today's Core de Force.

Side note -- I'm now skipping the strength video.  I didn't work out for four days because that was the next one up and I didn't want to do it.  Then I clued in, I don't actually *have* to do them all.  Skipped that one and went with the next and we're good to go.   Which meant today was the first day of *two* videos.  I'm not even kidding.

So the first one was Shred -- which we met in the last post.  It's a decent workout; I just make sure to do the second half of each set with the opposite side of my body leading.  I think I might've wrecked my neck and shoulders doing it today *sigh*. I get a little too into it ;).  But I like this one because it has a good balance of upper and lower body, as well as a good mix of fighting stuff and pure cardio.  By about half way through my heartbeat is up and staying up through the moves, so that's good.   And I finished stronger than last time, so that's always good.  I also managed to avoid punching myself, kicking the dog (who really isn't sure what the game is but is pretty sure she wants to play), and getting discombobulated -- a whole series of good!

Critical to finish in okay shape today though, because "finish" just meant stick in the next video: Core Kinetics.  Does anything about that name sound good to you?  Because it definitely didn't to me.  16 minutes of core. Okay -- I have several intermittent years of Pilates, and decades of sitting trot, I'm sure I can do 16 minutes of core.   Right.  I haven't ridden seriously in almost two years, and it's been even longer since I did Pilates.  My core muscles are currently surrounded by a nice coating of cinnamon rolls.  A realism check might've been a good plan.  But hey, you're not new here, when have I ever let realism interfere with my plans?

Right.  First exercise is leg extensions.  On your back, basically bring both knees to your chest then circle them together (as if you were riding a very reclined bike, but with both legs together not one at a time).  Harsh, but doable.

Second exercise.  Start in elbow plank position.  Nothing good ever came of those words.  You think a minute is a short time?  Spend that minute in elbow plank and see how you feel ;).  Then alternate bringing one knee up to the elbow at a time.   Right.  I got about four before I gave up and went to the modifier.  Now I realize the modifier is there so that everybody can play, and it's still a good workout, blah blah blah, but I want to be able to do the full on workout.  At least in things I'm usually good at -- like core.   Pushups, I care less about ;).  But today even the modified version felt like work!

My notes tell me step three was hip lifts.  I don't actually remember that one.  I remember I didn't modify it, and it was entertaining but almost destroyed me, but that's about it.  I think my brain is trying to protect me by blocking the memory.  It will have been a lying down one because they alternate back and plank position each time, but other than that...  Nope, complete blank.

Step four was hip drops (you know, after you went to all the effort of lifting).  This is basically start in elbow plank and twist so your hips drop down to one side, then back to plank, then drop to the other.  This one was okay.  Still brutal, but in the grand scheme of things, doable.

Step five -- on your back, shoulders off the floor (45ish degree body angle), one leg straight out, foot hovering above the floor, other leg doing essentially a bicycle movement.  Yeah -- I got in like one and a half.  Frig.   Okay -- modification is that instead of straight floating leg, you have a bent knee with that foot on the floor.  That one I could do easily so made it to the finish.

Step six -- this was a fun twisty toe tap thing.   I wasn't particularly coordinated about it and it's one I've seen before, but it was moderately amusing and I made it through (although I will admit my form was, ummm, questionable at best; however not once did I end up in a toppled over pile, so I'm deeming it a win).  Basically you're in plank (who's surprised by this?) and you drop one hip and send that leg through the line created by your alternate foot and body, and tap it with the alternate hand.  It combines a plank with a crunch and requires both balance and coordination -- pure evil really.

Step seven is the guarded square -- which tbh is nothing more than a variation of a normal crunch but remarkably effective.  Or at least it is after all the previous steps ;).  And it forces more attention on the move than normal crunches, so encourages less "sub"conscious cheating.

Step eight -- are you ready for this?   Repeat steps one through seven.  I'm not even kidding.  I also, was not even capable.   I freely admit I turned the video off at this point.   So, in summary, if you want a good short core workout, this video for the win.   It assumes you've already done something else so no warmup.   Someday when I make it to the end I'll let you know if there's a cool down ;)

But today is not that day.

On the plus side, the little voice that was trying to convince me to workout before the mirror stepped in and made its case was right -- I do feel much better now.  I'm not sure tomorrow me will, but today me is now relaxed and happy.   Well, except my poor crying core.


How does one get fit without horses?

So as some of you know, I’ve spent some time over the last year on a quest for a way for me to stay fit that doesn’t involve four legged creatures that cost half a month's mortgage to keep…

The first of these options was a standard gym.  Why not?  Clearly works for some people.  Well I discovered you have to actually *go* to said gym to see any benefits.   Who knew?  And I used to go regularly after work, so why not this time?   Well it turns out, as energetic as I may be after work, after the 1.5h commute, I’m done.  There will be no gym as long as I have that commute regularly.  Turns out the only way I can do the gym is if I have a trainer and, well, that cost as much as my horse’s board.  So no.

Then I found P90X3.  Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while may remember that adventure ;)   Those who have not – it’s a 90 day program that I think I wanted done before we went away in Feb, so check out blog posts starting November-ish…  It was intense, entertaining, and effective.  I debated repeating it that spring, but well – life.  

Life in that we moved, which is a workout and a time drain all in its own J

Then the weather got nice – okay, that I can do.  There was cycling most of the summer, playing with Sasha, and when I got really desperate, I trained and ran a half marathon.  Yeah – surprised me too ;)  And cycling is high on the list for next summer too.  (some of you might note, running is not ;-P)

The problem?  We’re now back to that awful part of the year known as “not summer”.   The next thing I tried was climbing, which was a ton of fun.  I really enjoy the puzzle – knowing there is, in fact, a way to the top; I just need to figure out how.  Well that, and be physically able to execute it.   That was fun and entertaining, but has a few down sides – first it requires a buddy.   Steph was game and came along with me, but coordinating two busy schedules is a challenge.   Secondly, due to the aforementioned commute, I can only go when it’s packed.  Which would be okay, except that both Steph and I are novice and there are only so many routes we have a chance of making it up.  And then there’s the fact that while most climbers I know are very fit, this – at least the way we were doing it – is not going to get us there anytime soon.   Steph at least has riding and other fitness opportunities, but for me not so much.  

And then I ate enough cookies for a girl-guide troop over the Xmas break.   Oops.   Being pretty much out of ideas for fun ways of getting fit (why is there no adult gymnastics or circus school near me?!?!) I was considering P90X3 again.  They have different programs – last time I did the Lean one, and I’d be interested in doing the Classic.  However, my absolute favourite part of those workouts is the chin-up bar.  What can I say?  I was a jungle-gym kid.   But my bar doesn’t work in the new house.  Booo.   And while the program does provide alternative exercises, every time I have to use a stupid band instead of a fun bar I get really aggravated.   This does unfortunately, makes it highly unlikely I’d stick to the program.

However, the company that sells P90X3, also sells a variety of other programs.   “22 Minute Hard Corps” I’d been considering.  The trainer is the same as in the P90 series (and I find him amusing, so was okay with that), and the workouts are short, which makes odds of happening before work greatly increased.  But Nicole has done it, and from what she described to me it would not be a good fit (mostly because it’s very repetitive, which to me equals boring).   So I went online to browse the others; I read and debated and googled and eventually decided I would try Core de Force.  It seemed to be based on various martial arts – and the kind of fighting where your only opponent is a shadow, which I really enjoyed that one in P90X3 (lol went back and reread that post -- turns out there's some impressive foreshadowing there).   Wasn’t sure I’d want a whole training program focused on it, but meh – worth a try.

My lovely DVDs arrived and the first thing I noticed was, unlike many of the other programs, these are not half an hour.  Routines range about 35-50 minutes, not counting warmup and cooldown.  And looking at the calendar – some days you do two!?!?!  Right – we’ll get there.  Right now I’m only on week one and here are first impressions.   The first video, MMA Speed, was a moderately entertaining coordination challenge.  I liked the layout of the exercises (roughly a minute of exercise followed by 30 seconds of cardio.  Repeat twice.  Rest 30 seconds.  Rinse and repeat with both the exercise and the cardio changing).   I was slightly disappointed that they don’t do a good job of working each side of the body equally, but easy enough for me to alter once I figured out the system.   I was also slightly disappointed that it didn’t seem nearly as impressive a workout as P90X3.  Yes I was tired and dragging a little by the end, but not the lying-on-the-floor extreme of P90X3, and I’m significantly less fit now than I was then.

And then I woke up the next day and couldn’t get out of bed.  Like literally throw one leg out and let gravity do the rest because sitting up was just not an option.  Core de Force.  Core.  Did any of you catch that part?   Hahaha cause I definitely did not.  Right.  Made it through the day somehow but by dinner even breathing was a challenge.  Okay, day two can skip a day.  Core de Force for the win.   The next day I tried the next video – this one was strength rather than fighting and I did not enjoy it at all.   Evenly divided between upper and lower body, but the upper body section is almost entirely variations of pushups and I am simply not strong enough for that.   They do have a person doing modifications – so sometimes I did those, and sometimes I picked up random free weights and used those instead, but yeah.  Less fun.  And very frustrating.   The lower body part I was able to do no problem, again didn’t seem like that big a challenge, and again I felt it the next day ;)

So you get to repeat those – all good.   Then a new one "MMA Shred" – this one it looks like replaces the Speed video for the remainder of the month.  It follows the same concept – fight some shadows, do some cardio (running away from the shadows?), rinse and repeat.  Here though, however, there are some new moves.  If you try this and have zero martial arts training, keep it slow.   Please trust me on this.  I, as you may have guessed, did not.  There’s one move where you slide your hand (open palm) along your cheek (think as though you were running your fingers through your hair), this is to bring your elbow up so you can promptly use it to destroy the person in front of you in a sharp out and down strike (moderately good stress relief this ;).  All good right?  Except when you get going fast, and this move is combined with others that involve twisting, it becomes ridiculously easy to instead of running your hand smoothly past your face, in fact either smack and/or punch yourself.   Sadly I am not kidding.  Keep it slow and structured folks – the people on the TV have done it a few times ;-P

So the next morning my core wasn’t as toasted – although it’s possible I didn’t push *quite* as hard being
that I wanted to be able to breath at work.  But I definitely did feel through my back and shoulders, so still impressive even while guarded.   I have the icky strength video again tonight and then an “active rest” day – we’ll see what that’s about.  Next week there’s at least a couple entirely new ones; should be entertaining, esp as judging by the description both the difficulty and the complexity goes up significantly.   And assuming I don’t critically injure myself in a shadow battle, I’ll let you know how it goes!

One Memorable Day

My friend Em posted a link to One Memorable Day with a comment about New Year's Resolutions.   So my mind immediately went to doing one memorable day / month -- in my mind, memorable being exciting, emotional, fun, etc.   But what it actually talks about (here's to reading the article and not just the title ;) is setting aside one day a month to get something done.  Something just for you, that you've been wanting to get done for ages.  And it has suggestions -- learn a new skill, finish an unpleasant task that's hanging over you, volunteer, etc etc.  You have the link, you can read it if you wish ;)

My first thought was -- that's an awesome idea.   My next thought was, most of those suggestions won't work for how I try to live my life.   I'm pretty good at getting things done that I want done, and there aren't too many things I want to learn (read any) that I believe can be learned in a day.   So then I started thinking well what *do* I want to do?

It turns out there are a few things I want done that are not:
- what CDs I still have (all my favourites disappeared from my car several years ago) I'd like to get uploaded to iTunes.  I got half way through and the stack remains sitting on my desk, annoying me every time I see it.  Finishing that - while probably only a couple hours of work - would be wonderful.  And preferably before I get my new computer that will likely not have a CD drive ;)
- I wrote two or three novels several years ago that I never did anything with.  While I'm not certain I have any interest in publishing them, I would like to at least edit them.  A solid day dedicated to each would go a long way.   And at this point, it's been so long since I wrote them that'd I'd be coming at it almost cold -- far more effective really ;)
- My bathroom is still PINK.  This is very much against my religion and the only thing that really makes me cringe in my little portion of our house.   Now to be fair to me, it's still pink because we intend to make other changes that would require repainting afterwards.  But someday, hopefully someday soon, the pink has to go.
- Friends.  I miss my friends.  So many of them were connected to me through the barn that without the barn I never see them anymore.   Reconnecting would be a definite plus!  Not sure I like the idea of that being on the list though -- while it definitely has the feel-good effect said article is suggesting, it's in no way a chore like the other tasks.   So iffy on that one.

Other than that though, most of the things I want to do -- and there are many! -- either require significantly more than a one-day commitment, significantly more money than I have at my disposal, or both (can we say Africa???).

So while thinking this through it occurred to me that the one thing that I'm not doing that I really miss is writing.  Hence this post.  But more importantly -- I'd like to start Friday Flash again.   I'm not even sure the community I used to write with even exists anymore (although a few of its earliest members I'm still in contact with through the power of Facebook!)   I can quite honestly say my novel would never have been written, much less published, were it not for that group.  I don't think I've written anything I've liked since starting at the bank -- apparently corporate life really does kill creativity *sigh*.   Yup just went back and checked -- the last story I wrote that I'm moderately proud of was within my first month there.   Sheesh.   So I'm going to set a goal -- not a new years resolution, partially because they always fail and partially because as far as I'm concerned the new year is an individual thing that starts on ones birthday.  But a goal of one flash per month.  While once upon a time it was a flash a week, at the moment after about a two-year dry spell of writing, one a month seems more of a challenge than running the half marathon was!

It also occurs to me that one memorable day / month -- in the literal sense -- is actually a fairly ambitious life goal.  I'm trying to think of 12 last year...  Can you do it?   Let's see, for me, in no order beyond how I think of them:
1. Moving day
2. New car day
3. Half marathon
4. Surprise promotion call
5. Waterpark adventure with Chris
6. Thanksgiving at Linda and Jamie's new (almost) cottage
7. The night Chris brought home surprise cheesecake after we hadn't seen each other all week (it's the little things in life :)
8. Girls' night with Mieke, Aileen, and Emily
9. Steph and I failing our unexpected knot tying test (remember the snowman...)
10. First Spanish lesson
11. Winning the gold star at work
12...   Ugh.  So close.  Oh wait -- riding Cal and giggling like a little kid on her first pony ride!

I'm actually fairly pleased at that :)   When I started the list I had serious doubts I'd make 12 -- I wasn't sure 2016 was all that memorable a year (at least for positive reasons!)   Admittedly there are a couple there that I had no say or influence over, but hey - they still occurred!

So on that note I'm off to sleep and dream of what can make 2017 memorable to me.