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Sherry's young adult novel is a quirky story set in an eating disorder unit of a metropolitan hospital. The main character “Bones” is a male teen with anorexia. He falls desperately in love with an aspiring ballerina who becomes his next deadly addiction.
The novel was inspired by a short story Sherry wrote years ago, “Iris and Jim.” It appeared in print eight times worldwide. Her agent kept encouraging her to expand “Iris and Jim” into a novel. Easy for her to say!
* * *
Wednesday Writing Workout
Tell It Sideways
by Sherry Shahan
During the first draft of Skin and Bones I stumbled over a number of unexpected obstacles. How could I give a character an idiosyncratic tone without sounding flippant? Eating disorders are serious, and in too many instances, life-threatening.
Sometimes I sprinkled facts into farcical narration. Other times statistics emerged through dialogue between prominent characters—either in an argument or by using humor. Either way, creating quirky characters felt more organic when their traits were slipped in sideways instead of straight on.
There are endless ways to introduce a character, such as telling the reader about personality:
"Mrs. Freeman could never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point." — Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People."
Or by detailing a character’s appearance:
"The baker wore a white apron that looked like a smock. Straps cut under his arms, went around in back and then to the front again, where they were secured under his heavy waist ." —Raymond Carver "A Small, Good Thing"
The art of creating fully realized characters is often a challenge to new writers of fiction. As a longtime teacher I’ve noticed:
1.)Writers who use short cuts, such a clichés, which produce cardboard or stereotypical characters.
2.)Writers who stubbornly pattern the main character after themselves in a way that’s unrealistic.
3.)Writers who are so involved in working out a complicated plot that their characters don’t receive enough attention.
In Skin and Bones I let readers get to know my characters though humorous dialogue. This technique works best when characters have opposing viewpoints.
Consider the following scene. (Note: Lard is a compulsive over-eater; Bones is anorexic.)
“I’ll never buy food shot up with hormones when I own a restaurant,” Lard said. “Chicken nuggets sound healthy enough, but they have more than three dozen ingredients—not a lot of chicken in a nugget.”
Bones put on rubber gloves in case he’d have to touch something with calories. “Can’t we talk about something else?”
“That’s the wrong attitude, man. Don’t you want to get over this shit?”
“Not at this particular moment, since it’s almost lunch and my jaw still hurts from breakfast.”
Lard shook his head. “I’m glad I don’t live inside your skin.”
“It’d be a little crowded.”
Exercise #1: Choose a scene from a work-in-progress where a new character is introduced. (Or choose one from an existing novel.) Write a paragraph about the character without using physical descriptions. Repeat for a secondary character.
Exercise #2: Give each character a strong opinion about a subject. Do Nice Girls Really Finish Last? Should Fried Food Come With a Warning? Make sure your characters have opposing positions. Next, write a paragraph from each person’s viewpoint.
Exercise #3: Using the differing viewpoints, compose a scene with humorous dialogue. Try not to be funny just for humor’s sake. See if you can weave in a piece
of factual information (Lard’s stats. about Chicken Nuggets), along with a unique character trait (Bones wearing gloves to keep from absorbing calories through his skin.)
I hope these exercises help you think about characterization in a less conventional way. Thanks for letting me stop by! Sherry www.SherryShahan.com
Hi Everyone, The clock is ticking! If you haven't entered for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) yet, see the link at the end of this post. The giveaway ends on Friday!
We're hosting the 2015 CWIM giveaway this month to celebrate the publication of my article in it: "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers')." The article contains advice and insights from four award-winning authors known for writing books that appeal to reluctant readers: Matt de la Peña, Lenore Look, David Lubar, and Steve Sheinkin. Today, I'm pleased to share a guest Wednesday Writing Workout from one of those authors: Lenore Look!
Here's Lenore's bio, as it appears in the 2015 CWIM: Lenore Look recently released the sixth book in her award-winning (and boy-friendly) Alvin Ho chapter book series: Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions (Schwartz & Wade). She is also the author of the Ruby Lu series (Atheneum) and several acclaimed picture books, including Henry’s First-Moon Birthday (Simon & Schuster), Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding (Atheneum), and, her newest, Brush of the Gods (Random House), a historical fiction account of the life of Wu Daozi, China’s most famous painter. Lenore taught creative writing at Drew University and St. Elizabeth College in New Jersey, and frequently speaks in schools in the United States and Asia. She has also co-presented the Highlights Foundation workshop "Writing for Boys" with Bruce Coville and Rich Wallace. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, and blogs frequently at lenorelook.wordpress.com.
Here’s the sixth book in the beloved and hilarious Alvin Ho chapter book series, which has been compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is perfect for both beginning and reluctant readers. Alvin, an Asian American second grader who’s afraid of everything, is taking his fears to a whole new level—or should we say, continent. On a trip to introduce brand-new baby Ho to relatives in China, Alvin’s anxiety is at fever pitch. First there’s the harrowing 16-hour plane ride; then there’s a whole slew of cultural differences to contend with: eating lunch food for breakfast, kung fu lessons, and acupuncture treatment (yikes!). Not to mention the crowds that make it easy for a small boy to get lost. From Lenore Look and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham comes a drop-dead-funny and touching series with a truly unforgettable character.
Sounds like a fun read! J
For today's WWW, Lenore shares a great exercise in beginnings.
Wednesday Writing Workout: Finding the Best Beginning by Lenore Look
When I worked as a newspaper reporter, the first thing I learned was how important the “lede” or beginning of the story is. The first sentence is crucial. It’s called the “hook” because it snags your reader and reels them into your story. Without a strong hook, your reader will get away before you can tell them the five Ws and H – who, where, what, when, why and how.
When writing fiction, your hook is not just the best way to snag your reader, but it’s the place from which you will hang the rest of your story. It’s THAT important. For me, the beginning is the hardest part of the book to write. I’m faced with all my research, my characters, what I want to say, and a few ideas for scenes. It’s overwhelming. Where do I start? I pick something and have a go at it. It’s a mis-start, or a scrub, as they call it at NASA when a launch is aborted. I have many scrubs. When I find the spark that will finally launch my rocket, there’s more trouble. Often I will agonize over the first sentence for days, re-writing it, tweaking it, throwing it out, starting it over, again and again. But when I finally get it right, it’s blast-off! And the rest of the book seems to write itself.
Here’s my top-secret recipe for finding the strongest beginning, and I hope it helps you find yours.
How to Find the Strongest Beginning to Any Piece of Writing. 1.Sit down. 2.Open your writer’s notebook. 3.Ask the following questions: a.Who’s your character? b.What’s your setting? c.What does your character want? d.What are the obstacles in her way? 4.Summarize the story you’re telling in one sentence. 5.Write your summary sentence in the center of a blank page. 6.Now surround your summary sentence with your answers to the questions from #3. Some people call this “clustering,” – if you draw circles around each of your sentences/ideas, it begins to look like a cluster of grapes. I don’t bother with the circles, instead I make lists, and surround my summary sentence with lists that answer the questions. 7.Add your research as they fit under the different questions in #3. 8.Step away. 9.Eat some ice cream. 10.Stare at the sunset. 11.Call a friend. 12.It’s important to start the next part with fresh eyes.
How to Find the Strongest Beginning, Part II 1.Look at your messy page(s). 2.Find the smallest, most simple detail that captures your entire story. 3.What you’re looking for is the KEY to your house. Keys are small. A small detail will open the door to the rest of the house, which is your story. All the rooms in your house are the different scenes that make up the story. 4.Study carefully the beginnings to books you like. 5.Using the detail you found in #2, and the inspiration you found from #4, write the most compelling beginning you can. 6.Let it lead you into the first room of your story. 7.Finish off the ice cream. 8.Stare at the sunset. 9.It may be the last sunset you see for a while. 10.Writing a book takes a long time. 11.Cry. 12.Cry your eyes out. It’s only the beginning. You still have the middle and the end to tackle!
Thanks, Lenore, for this terrific exercise! Readers, if any of you try today's WWW, do let us know how it works for you.
And don't forget to enter for a chance to win your own copy of the 2015 CWIM, where you'll be able to read additional helpful tips from Lenore. See my last blog post for details. The giveaway ends October 31.
Have you ever thought that your body movements can be transformed into learning stimuli and help to deal with abstract concepts? Subjects in natural science contain plenty of abstract concepts which are difficult to understand through reading-based materials, in particular for younger learners who are at the stage of developing their cognitive ability. For example, elementary school students would find it hard to distinguish the differences in similar concepts of fundamental optics such as concave lens imaging versus convex lens imaging. By performing a simulated exercise in person, learners can comprehend concepts easily because of the content-related actions involved during the process of learning natural science.
As far as commonly adopted virtual simulations of natural science experiments are concerned, the learning approach with keyboard and mouse lacks a comprehensive design. To make the learning design more comprehensive, we suggested that learners be provided with a holistic learning context based on embodied cognition, which views mental simulations in the brain, bodily states, environment, and situated actions as integral parts of cognition. In light of recent development in learning technologies, motion-sensing devices have the potential to be incorporated into a learning-by-doing activity for enhancing the learning of abstract concepts.
When younger learners study natural science, their body movements with external perceptions can positively contribute to knowledge construction during the period of performing simulated exercises. The way of using keyboard/mouse for simulated exercises is capable of conveying procedural information to learners. However, it only reproduces physical experimental procedures on a computer. For example, when younger learners use conventional controllers to perform fundamental optics simulation exercises, they might not benefit from such controller-based interaction due to the routine-like operations. If environmental factors, namely bodily states and situated actions, were well-designed as external information, the additional input can further help learners to better grasp the concepts through meaningful and educational body participation.
Based on the aforementioned idea, we designed an embodiment-based learning strategy to help younger learners perform optics simulation exercises and learn fundamental optics better. With this learning strategy enabled by the motion-sensing technologies, younger learners can interact with digital learning content directly through their gestures. Instead of routine-like operations, the gestures are designed as content-related actions for performing optics simulation exercises. Younger learners can then construct fundamental optics knowledge in a holistic learning context.
One of the learning goals is to acquire knowledge. Therefore, we created a quasi-experiment to evaluate the embodiment-based learning strategy by comparing the leaning performance of the embodiment-based learning group with that of the keyboard-mouse learning group. The result shows that the embodiment-based learning group significantly outperformed the keyboard-mouse learning group. Further analysis shows that no significant difference of cognitive load was found between these two groups although applying new technologies in learning could increase the consumption of learners’ cognitive resources. As it turned out, the embodiment-based learning strategy is an effective learning design to help younger learners comprehend abstract concepts of fundamental optics.
For natural science learning, the learning content and the process of physically experimenting are both important for learners’ cognition and thinking. The operational process conveys implicit knowledge regarding how something works to learners. In the experiments of lens imaging, the position of virtual light source and the type of virtual lens can help learners determine the attributes of the virtual image. By synchronizing gestures with virtual light source, a learner not only concentrates on the simulated experimental process but realizes the details of the external perception. Accordingly, learners can further understand how movements of the virtual light source and the types of virtual lens change the virtual image and learn the knowledge of fundamental optics better.
Our body movements have the potential to improve our learning if adequate learning strategies and designs are applied. Although motion-sensing technologies are now available to the general public, massive applications will depend on economical price and evidence-based approaches recommended for the educational purposes. The embodiment-based design has launched a new direction and is hoped to continuously shed light on improving our future learning.
The only way to be a writer is to write, right? This is the advice we give at WD, online and in the magazine. If you want to write, you must write. But sometimes getting started is difficult. Perhaps you have a fully-formed character but no idea what to do with him. Maybe your idea is a great plot, but you don’t know who the woman who must live it will be. I would argue that getting started—the actual act of sitting down and beginning something new—is the most difficult part of writing. (Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me, this is the hard part.)
Imagine my excitement this morning when I encountered the following paragraph as I read That Would Make a Good Novel by Lily King on The New York Times:
When I teach fiction I often start a workshop with one of my favorite exercises called Two Truths and a Lie. I tell my students to write the first paragraph of a short story. The first sentence of the paragraph must be true (My sister has brown hair.), the second sentence must be true (Her name is Lisa.), but the third sentence must be a lie (Yesterday she went to prison.). … The lie is the steering wheel, the gearshift and the engine. The lie takes your two true sentences and makes a left turn off road and straight into the woods. It slams the story into fifth gear and guns it.
Although this extremely useful exercise is not at all the point of King’s article, I think it deserves its own post here for those of you who, like me, have trouble with beginnings. So let’s do an exercise! This one is three-pronged:
1. Write the beginning of a story—three full sentences—using the Two Truths and a Lie method. The first two sentences must be true, and the third sentence must be a lie.
2. Carry that story out to at least 500 words. Write more if you’d like. Go wherever your lie takes you. Be ridiculous or be introspective. Whatever suits you.
3. Post your story on your blog, and leave a link here (with a title and your first three sentences to avoid being trapped in our spam filters) so that the rest of us can read it.
BONUS: Tweet a link to your story, too! Use the hashtag #WD2Truths1Lie so we can all see your efforts.
Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @a_crezo.
Cognitive impairment is a common problem in older adults, and one which increases in prevalence with age with or without the presence of pathology. Persons with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have difficulties in daily functioning, especially in complex everyday tasks that rely heavily on memory and reasoning. This imposes a potential impact on the safety and quality of life of the person with MCI as well as increasing the burden on the care-giver and overall society. Individuals with MCI are at high risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s diseases (AD) and other dementias, with a reported conversion rate of up to 60-100% in 5-10 years. These signify the need to identify effective interventions to delay or even revert the disease progression in populations with MCI.
At present, there is no proven or established treatment for MCI although the beneficial effects of physical activity/exercise in improving the cognitive functions of older adults with cognitive impairment or dementia have long been recognized. Exercise regulates different growth factors which facilitate neuroprotection and anti-inflammatory effects on the brain. Studies also found that exercise promotes cerebral blood flow and improves learning. However, recent reviews reported that evidence from the effects of physical activity/exercise on cognition in older adults is still insufficient.
Surprisingly, studies have found that although numerous new neurons can be generated in the adult brain, about half of the newly generated cells in the brain die during the first 1-4 weeks. Nevertheless, research also found that spatial learning or exposure to an enriched environment can rescue the newly generated immature cells and promote their long-term survival and functional connection with other neurons in the adult brain
It has been proposed that exercise in the context of a cognitively challenge environment induces more new neurons and benefits the brain rather than the exercise alone. A combination of mental and physical training may have additive effects on the adult brain, which may further promote cognitive functions.
Daily functional tasks are innately cognitive-demanding and involve components of stretching, strengthening, balance, and endurance as seen in traditional exercise programs. Particularly, visual spatial functional tasks, such as locating a key or finding the way through a familiar or new environment, demand complex cognitive processes and play an important part in everyday living.
In our recent study, a structured functional tasks exercise program, using placing/collection tasks as a means of intervention, was developed to compare its effects on cognitions with a cognitive training program in a population with mild cognitive impairment.
Patients with subjective memory complaint or suspected cognitive impairment were referred by the Department of Medicine and Geriatrics of a public hospital in Hong Kong. Older adults (age 60+) with mild cognitive decline living in the community were eligible for the study if they met the inclusion criteria for MCI. A total of 83 participants were randomized to either a functional task exercise (FcTSim) group (n = 43) or an active cognitive training (AC) group (n = 40) for 10 weeks.
We found that the FcTSim group had significantly higher improvements in general cognitive functions, memory, executive function, functional status, and everyday problem solving ability, compared with the AC group, at post-intervention. In addition, the improvements were sustained during the 6-month follow-up.
Although the functional tasks involved in the FcTSim program are simple placing/collection tasks that most people may do in their everyday life, complex cognitive interplays are required to enable us to see, reach and place the objects to the target positions. Indeed, these goal-directed actions require integration of information (e.g. object identity and spatial orientation) and simultaneous manipulation of the integrated information that demands intensive loads on the attentional and executive resources to achieve the ongoing tasks. It is a matter of fact that misplacing objects are commonly reported in MCI and AD.
Importantly, we need to appreciate that simple daily tasks can be cognitively challenging to persons with cognitive impairment. It is important to firstly educate the participant as well as the carer about the rationale and the goals of practicing the exercise in order to initiate and motivate their participation. Significant family members or caregivers play a vital role in the lives of persons with cognitive impairment, influencing their level of activities and functional interaction in their everyday environment. Once the participants start and experience the challenges in performing the functional tasks exercise, both the participants and the carer can better understand and accept the difficulties a person with cognitive impairment can possibly encounter in his/her everyday life.
Furthermore, we need to aware that the task demands will decrease once the task becomes more automatic through practice. The novelty of the practicing task has to be maintained in order ensure a task demand that allows successful performance and maintain an advantage for the intervention. Novelty can be maintained in an existing task by adding unfamiliar features, and therefore performance of the task will remain challenging and not become subject to automation.
Dr. Lawla Law is a practicing Occupational Therapist for more than 24 years, with extensive experience in acute and community settings in Hong Kong and Tasmania, Australia. She is currently the Head of Occupational Therapy at the Jurong Community Hospital of Jurong Health Services in Singapore and will take up a position as Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the University of Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia in August 2014. Her research interests are in Geriatric Rehabilitations with a special emphasis on assessments and innovative interventions for cognitive impairment. Dr. Law is an author of the paper ‘Effects of functional tasks exercise on older adults with cognitive impairment at risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a randomised controlled trial’, published in the journal Age and Ageing.
Age and Ageing is an international journal publishing refereed original articles and commissioned reviews on geriatric medicine and gerontology. Its range includes research on ageing and clinical, epidemiological, and psychological aspects of later life.
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Image credit: Brain aging. By wildpixel, via iStockphoto.
We are failing to deal with one of the most important issues of our time – in every country we are getting fatter. Although being fat is not automatically linked to illness, it does increase dramatically the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other so-called non-communicable diseases. We are starting to see very high rates of these diseases in some places, sometimes affecting 50% of the population. Even in some of the poorest parts of the developing world, where such disease itself is not yet common, we nonetheless see warning signs of its arrival. There is great concern that it may soon outweigh the burden of communicable disease such as HIV/AIDS. The humanitarian and financial cost of this non-communicable disease in such parts of the world will be unbearable, and made even worse because the risk is passed across generations, so children born today and tomorrow will have a bleak future.
It seems that we don’t know how to tackle this problem, because current attempts are obviously failing and obesity continues to increase. Governments, doctors, and even NGOs seem to have adopted the same strategy – to focus on our sins of “gluttony and sloth” and to transfer the responsibility for slimming down to each of us as individuals. Of course it’s true that we can’t get overweight unless we eat more than we need to, and the wrong types of foods, and get too little physical exercise. Our biology did not evolve to protect us from obesity and its consequences in today’s sedentary world with such easy access to food. But why is it that we find it so hard to lose weight and, if we do shed the kilos, it seems very hard not to put them back on again?
What we are missing is a focus on our early development. We’re just not adopting the right approach to the problem. And it seems that the generals who are leading us in this global war on obesity and disease have adopted the wrong strategy, and they stick resolutely to it as if they were wearing blinkers. They blame us for the failure to win the war, for our greed and laziness; they blame parents for letting their children get fat; they blame the food industry for peddling unhealthy food, and so on. As if we choose to be fat. It’s important to realise just how limited this way of attacking the problem is on a global scale. Does the little girl force-fed before marriage in Mauritania have any choice in her life? Does the 12-year-old child bride in rural India have any choice when she becomes pregnant and drops out of school? Does the little toddler in Detroit have any choice when his mother feeds him French fries? Does the little boy from Tonga whose mother had diabetes in pregnancy have any choice about developing obesity? Does the little girl in Beijing have any choice in being an only child? And yet every one of these scenarios, and many more, sets that little child up to be at greater risk of becoming obese and to have non-communicable disease.
But new research is uncovering many things that will give us new tactics and strategies for the war against obesity and non-communicable disease, and so we’re hopeful. We now know that we will have to give much greater focus to the mother and unborn child. We may well have to give emphasis to the lifestyle of the father as well. And most importantly of all, we’re starting to realise that behaviours such as propensity to exercise, or appetite and taste for certain foods, which we previously thought to be based on individual choice, have a large constitutional component – in part based on inherited genes, in part on epigenetic changes to gene function in response to the developmental environment, and
SCENES FROM LIFE: A SHORT PLAYETTE PLAYING IN THE POOL
SCENE: A SWIMMING POOL FILLED HALF WAY WITH FEMALES
INSTRUCTOR We have a lot of people in the pool so spread out and give each other room
AQUA FITNESS PARTICIPANT (AFI) Sorry - didn't mean to bump into you
AQUA FITNESS PARTICIPANT II (AFII) No problem. Not much room to move around. Maybe some of us should go in the deeper water
AFI Not me! I swim like a rock. Don't wanna be a headline in tomorrow's paper. "Woman drowns in deep end of pool during aqua fitness."
AFII We're like sardines here!
AFI Don't let me stop you from moving out further
AFII Um...I'll just stay here
INSTRUCTOR (jumping in water Okay ladies - it's time to rock
AF1 (looking around) Rock, huh... Okay...let's rock. Should we snap our fingers, too?
AFII You don't have to do anything with your fingers. It's all in the leg movement
AFI Actually that was a joke - obviously a weak one. You know...rock'n'roll music... Snap your fingers?
INSTRUCTOR 'Okay - left jog...center jog...right jog. Now cross-country moving forward...now backward...'
AFI Don't know about you but I'm having trouble moving backwards while cross-country-ing facing the right...
AFII Do what you can
AFI I can't see her legs. Can you see her legs?
AFII You don't have to see her what she's doing. Just follow her instructions
AFI Maybe it's me but I have to see in addition to hear. Why doesn't she do exercise outside the pool on the deck?
(female climbs stairs to leave pool)
INSTRUCTOR (smiling) 'Hey - where you going? This class ain't over!'
EXITING LADY I have an appointment...
INSTRUCTOR 'That's what they all say! You're gonna miss a lot!'
AFI Like...that is soooo embarrassing! I mean, maybe she really did have an appointment
AFII Oh she's just kidding! She always acts like that1
AFI I dunno...
INSTRUCTOR 'Okay now we're gonna work on our upper thighs...'
AFI Maybe it's me but I can't for the life of me figure out what she means
(turning to person on other side)
(Cont'd.) Do you mind if I watch your feet? I mean, I don't want you to think I'm a pervert or anything. I just can't follow the instructor
(woman ignores her)
(Cont'd) Ohmygawd - I'm exhausted. Maybe I should stop here...don't wanna tire myself out or anything... Yup. That's what I'm gonna do...
(Aside to AFII): 'Nice aqua-ing with you. Maybe we'll aqua fit together again'
(AFI starts to climb pool stairs)
INSTRUCTOR Hey - you there! You're leaving me too? They all leave me in the end
AFI (to herself) Maybe there's a reason for that...
INSTRUCTOR Did you say something?
AFI Look - I have to pee. We have a choice here. If I stay as you want me to and continue exercising, you can use your imagination as to what might or could happen. So now you make the choice. Do I stay or go?
INSTRUCTOR Don't let us stop you
AFI Thought you'd see it my way. 'Bye all. Remember to always keep your head above water'
After a month-long break, I'm baaaack! Did you miss me, mis amores? Yes, yes. I know you did. I know you cried everyday, missing my charm...my voice...my wit.
Hey a girl can dream, right?
Anyway, the month of June will be my challenges month. I'm challenging myself in three areas: physical, writing, and reading.
Physical: I've been inspired by a close friend of the family. Last month, she challenged herself (and those who wanted to participate) to do 5,000 crunches in one month. Everyday, she did 167 crunches. This month, she's doing 5,000 squats. Since I missed last month's challenge, I'm doing both crunches and squats this month. Everyday, 167 crunches and 167 squats. Lord, help me! My body is already sore. Oh, but when I see the results, it'll all be worth it. And to celebrate my success, I'll be treating myself to the Pitbull concert in Dubai on the 29th. Who am I kidding? I'm going to see Pitbull whether I'm successful or not. But seriously. Failure is not an option. I will be successful. And getting to see Pitbull will just be the icing on my low-fat cake. Hehe!
Writing: I've gotten behind on my writing again. So, for this month, I plan to dedicate an hour everyday to my novel. Right now, I'm back to the planning stages. The actual writing will start sometime this week. I have to be done with this novel before the year ends. I'm talking about finished with draft #1, sent in to a professional editor, and back to draft #2 or 3 by the end of this year. I can do it. There's no doubt in my mind. Especially since my first year as a teacher in Abu Dhabi is practically over. Things will be a bit easier for me. Prayerfully.
Reading: I've gotten behind in my reading, also. Shocking, right? My family would think so since I'm such a book nerd. But alas, tis true. I've only picked up books (or my Nook) sporadically these last few weeks. Soooo, I will catch up on my reading. Ten books. That's how many books I will complete by the end of this month. More if I can swing it. Anyone who truly knows me, knows that I can read waaaaay more than that in one month. If the book is good enough, I can finish it in one reading. But this whole year, I've been too drained (physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally) to even think of reading. Or writing. Or anything fun.
So, there you have it. My personal challenges. Of course, cos I know you all are so interested in my life (heehee) I will keep you updated.
Este bichito nació de un ejercicio que estoy haciendo. Dibujé todas la letras del alfabeto y a partir de sus formas básicas ilustré personajes. Este es el primero y está basado en la letra A. Eventualmente tendré una familia completa de bichitos raros.
This creature was born from an exercise that I´m doing. I drew all the letters in the alphabet and from their basic forms illustrated characters. This one is the first and it´s based on the letter A. Eventually I´ll have a complete family of weird creatures.
On Monday, Forrest and I drove to Silver Falls for a little hiking adventure.
It was beautiful, and it was so nice to spend some uninterrupted time with this fella…
I will say this about hiking, despite the beauty of nature, I think I get tired a lot quicker these days. Is it any wonder when I’m carting around an extra person?
However, Forrest is the best encourager in the world.
“You can do it!”
I think he is going to be a pretty spectacular labor coach when the time comes, don’t you?
At one point, we were able to walk behind the waterfall you saw in the first picture.
So far, baby and mom are doing great. I had a doctor appointment on Monday, and it was one of the best appointments I have had so far.
First of all, getting my blood pressure taken is always an ordeal. I’m always so stressed out by the hospital environment, and the numbers always reflect that. This time, my favorite nurse was on duty (yes!) and she let me sit in the exam room for a few minutes before taking my blood pressure. Then, I focused on my breathing, and my b.p. was the best it has been.
Midwife, husband, and everyone involved were extremely happy.
Then we talked to our midwife about some labor stuff, and it was all so positive.
I was worried about not being able to eat during labor, but my midwife said that as long as baby’s heart rate is good I can definitely eat!
I would like to be able to sit in a tub in order to relax during labor, and Kaiser has two tubs and virtually no waiting to use them.
Then, I really want the baby to be put directly on me as soon as he/she makes his/her entrance, but I had heard that some hospitals take the baby right away to do whatever they need to do. But, my midwife said that as soon as baby comes out, he/she will be placed on my belly and Forrest can announce the gender.
Huzzah again… again!
Anyway, it was all so encouraging, and it made me feel more confident about a hospital birth and thankful that I will have a midwife.
(I’m purposefully leaving out some other “huzzah” moments so that some of my readers will not be grossed out and then be forever horrified by my blog. If you are interested in those “huzzahs” let me know and I’ll message you!)
Now, I am focusing on my final two weeks of grad school (say what??) and nesting and reading and crocheting.
Also, I have my first shower tomorrow afternoon, and I feel blessed beyond measure by my church family for celebrating baby’s life with me.
I’ll post pictures and stories about it next week.
Quotes…They’re everywhere! You see them in magazines, art, motivational posters, greeting cards, knick knacks, movies, clothing… and anywhere else words can be stamped. Quotes have become trendy accessories for our social media personas and maybe even our identities. So what is it about these little nuggets of wisdom (or not) that are so intriguing?
These tiny little micro blurbs pack a big punch! They resonate with something inside of us that we can’t quite find the words for ourselves or have forgotten about. Quotes give us a voice to express our true essence.Most of the time we like to borrow quotes from other people, but I wonder…have you ever quoted yourself?
You don’t have to be a movie star or historical figure to have a quote… just be YOU! Most quotes come from beliefs, insights and experiences. What are you passionate about? What do you strongly believe in? What message do you want to share with the world? Or with your peers?
Your quote is about you. It doesn’t have to be motivational or all knowing – it just has to come from your authentic self. Turn your interests into words or stand up for something you believe in. Your quote can be simple, complex, funny, interesting, quirky or maybe it won’t make much sense at all. Get creative and have fun. That’s what it’s all about!
Is there a quote brewing inside of you? It may take a while for the right words to reveal themselves, but once you have that perfect combination – one that expresses your uber-awesome-self – be proud of it!
Share your masterpiece with friends. Stick in on Facebook under “favorite quotes” and encourage others to create their own quotes, too. There’s something really neat (and inspiring) about seeing your words between quotation marks and a “~” before your name. Embrace your awesomeness! You never know who you might inspire with your words.
I have never been the world's best dancer, but I like to think I make up for it with enthusiasm. Witness my dancing childhood self, at right, all gussied up for a dance recital.
These days I don't do any recitals, but I still love dancing, especially for fitness. At home I'm hooked on Dance Central and the Zumba X-Box games, and at the gym I like Zumba. But what I LOVE is Body Jam.
Body Jam is a group fitness class that I've heard people compare to Jazzercize, conceptualized by fitness megabusiness Les Mills. It has a set routine to current music--a lot of dance and house music, plus some pop and salsa--that every teacher must teach in the same way. You do the same routine, or "cycle", for four months (I wish it were three!). So at first pretty much everybody in the class is a total mess, missing half the moves. But by the end of the fourth month, if you squint, you could pretend that you're all in a Glee number. I mean, if you REALLY squint.
The feel of Body Jam is a lot more "street" than any Zumba class I've taken. A lot of that comes from the music, but also from the moves, which can include a lot of body waves, sassy snaps, and hip swirls.
Zumba is a lot of fun, but the quality of the class depends on the instructor. I've been to classes that barely lifted my heart rate, and others that wiped me out--all at the same gym. But with Body Jam, the instructors go to special classes to learn how to teach, and they are tested pretty rigorously. They get very detailed videos and tip sheets with each cycle, showing them just how to teach the class. I find this means you get a much higher quality of instruction.
I also find that Body Jam is a lot better workout than Zumba. It's carefully mapped out to keep your heart rate up, but it also offers breaks just when you need them the most.
You can search the Les Mills website to find a Body Jam class near you. If you try it, be sure to tell me how you liked it! I'll be the one in the front row, flailing and jumping and grinning the entire time.
And here's a teaser video for one of the recent releases:
So this #summeroffitness is off to a good start — and I’m tired! My goals this summer? Get healthy. Lose weight. Get in shape. Within those goals are smaller goals to help me focus on success, so I don’t get discouraged. Here are a few: 1. Work up to swimming a mile, 3 times a … Keep reading →
I have been doing a little running reconditioning program lately, because I'll be running the Parkway Classic 5K in early April. So running is definitely on my brain.
I do best when I listen to music when I run. Headphones are controversial, on race courses--organizers worry that runners won't hear race instructions or other runners coming up behind them. But I keep my music low and do a lot better with it. Besides, it covers up the sound of my gasping!
My favorite music is at 140-180 Beats Per Minute--that lets my synchronize my footfalls to the beat of the music. I run faster and longer when I've got BPM music.
While I'm getting ready for the race, I'm listening to the free JogTunes podcast. It lasts for 30-40 minutes and starts out with slower music that eventually ramps up to a full-out running pace.
Then, once I'm running my face, I'll make my own BPM list with some of my favorite music. Here's the playlist I used for my last 5K, on Thanksgiving:
Hey Na Na by Katie Herzig
Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis
Hey Ya! by Outkast
Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliot
Girlfriend (Pied Piper Remix) by B2K (warning... FAST)
Loser (Glee Cast version)
Footloose by Kenny Loggins
Helen by Helen Austin
Steve McQueen by Sheryl Crow
Time Warp (Glee Cast version)
Know of some great running music? Please share! April 10 is coming up fast.
Steve Ettinger is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Personal Trainer. He currently runs his own private training company in New York City. Originally from Southern California, Steve has always enjoyed staying active. Forever an avid soccer player, he has earned several coaching certifications and has spent years working and volunteering in youth sports and physical education. He began training clients while earning a psychology degree from Boston University and worked as a children’s behavior therapist before deciding to dedicate himself to fitness full time.
About the illustrator:
Pete Proctor graduated from Baker University with a degree in Elementary Education. He is a former middle school science teacher and current freelance illustrator. When not busy painting active animals, he enjoys music, fishing and travel. Pete is a Kansas City native where he still lives with his wife, Jennifer, and two kids, Ben and Sarah.
About the book:
Wallie is mostly a wonderful dog, but his super-laziness has become a problem. So his boy convinces him to go on an adventure to get fit. With a little help from a big friend, Wallie learns how to exercise. Will he enjoy the change from pudgy pup to healthy hound or will he return to his lazy ways? Learn important fitness concepts while following Wallie on his hilarious journey to get in shape. A special section with more information and original exercises (performed by Wallie) will get every kid (and pup) excited about exercise.
My take on the book:
Wallie Exercises is a wonderfully engaging and fantastic book for young children! Steve Ettinger’s catchy rhymes had me laughing out loud, and I had a blast reading it aloud to my daughter. Here’s a little sample:
Again Wallie worked without much success,
“Guys, I think I’ve had enough.
For an out-of-shape pup with a big ole gut,
This stuff is all way too tough.
While I was captivated by the author’s rhymes, my daughter adored Pete Proctor’s bright, boldly-detailed illustrations (complete with a fantastic centerfold illustration of Edwin the Exercising Elephant. Seriously, a must see!!!) which matched the action in the story brilliantly.
I think preschool and young elementary children will truly enjoy this light-hearted look at a pivotal issue for our young children today: obesity and fitness. With a little help from his friends, Wallies comes to the conclusion that exercise is fun and good for him. He reaches this conclusion without being lectured too or force-fed exercise regimes. Instead, Wallie sees for himself that exercise can be fun and something he enjoys. I
In the New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds posed the question, “Does exercise really boost your mood?” There is a clear, clean answer to this question – yes! In fact, the evidence that regular, moderate exercise can boost your mood is overwhelming. From population-based studies to well-controlled clinical trials – exercise is associated with better mood. Specifically, exercise is linked with less depression and improved well-being, decreased anger, decreased anxiety, and greater feelings of social connectedness. Exercise also improves brain functioning, and has dramatic effects on overall health. These findings have been documented repeatedly in both human and animal studies (in animal studies, depression and anxiety are assessed by behavioral responses to specific tasks). So if the evidence is consistent, why question the effects exercise has on mood?
The motivation behind this question was a recent paper from German researchers that investigated the effects of a 3-week intense running schedule in mice. The mice really were churning it out on the running wheel – pawing their way to an average of 12 kilometers (over 7 miles) each day. But apparently they were not feeling cheery; the mice showed an increase rather than a decrease in anxiety behavior. It is not clear what to make of these findings, and they don’t parallel findings in humans. Even among marathon runners, who put in long distances similar to the mice in this study, the effects of exercise on mood appear to be positive.
This is not to say that exercise will always improve mood. For example, over-exertion and worries about physical appearance are great ways to sap motivation to continue exercise. Also, feelings during exercise are highly variable, especially when the intensity of exercise is vigorous. The beauty of exercise for mood is that you don’t have to run yourself miserable to get the mood benefits. Moderate exertion is enough to help you experience the desired mood benefits after exercise.
Yet the real challenge of exercise for most Americans is actually doing it. Focusing directly on the immediate mood and stress-reducing effects of exercise can help with this challenge. Instead of drudgery directed at a distant goal of a fitter, slimmer you; exercise can be used to achieve the immediate goal of a happier, less-stressed you. But still people need to learn how to manage the thinking and procrastination patterns that can derail good exercise intentions. Motivation has been well researched, and there is an increasing role for psychologists in aiding the physical and mental health of Americans by helping them understand and change the many factors that can sap motivation. It is now timely for Americans to take advantage of this accumulated wisdom for their own direct benefit, on or off the running wheel.
All last week I was on holidays! And it was awesome. Spent the week at a cottage at Grand Beach, MB. Strangely, we had a heat wave at the beginning of the week, and then it cooled right down and it was cold! I really can't complain cuz the charming, warm weather has returned, although not at the heat wave magnitude. Not sure how I feel about that… =)
I don’t know how many people know this about me, but I love to run. And I woke up every day on my holidays at 6:30 a.m. just so I could beat the heat. My running route was along the water on the beach. I love running on the beach. There’s nothing like it.
I’m back at work this week, but working towards yet another week of holidays, next week. Très sah-weeeet!
So I have discovered that I am truly crazy about Twitter and have become a wee bit addicted. Okay, okay, I’m a lot twaddicted. Wow, it’s worse than I thought… Anyway, tweeting is always on my mind now. Everything I do, or see, or hear, or say, is fodder for my next tweet. My friends may wanna keep that in mind. Hee hee. =D
So my new writing exercise is based on my thoughts around the fantasy genre image I chose. It was really difficult to go in only one direction, cuz my mind was buzzing with this image. Check out the exercise and enjoy!
Using my phone drawing software (Magic Brush) I came up with another fun sketching activity. I guess I’ll call it Seismosketching.
On a long, bumpy van ride from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia into the Gobi desert I wanted to to pass the time drawing on my phone, but the road was just too rough. I decided that instead of fighting against the bumps and jostles I would use them to draw. More accurately, I guess you could say I let them use me to draw.
All I did was open the new file window and let the bumps choose a background color. Then I opened the brush color palette and let a jostle choose a brush color. Then I put my stylus against some area of the screen and let them both do their thing. I closed my eyes and left my hand loose. Every once in a while I would pick my hand up and move it to a new part of the screen. Other than that, there was no plan and no design on my part. By the last picture (the first one in this series) I tried multiple layers of color and let the drawing go on for a long time.
I think this will be a new ongoing experiment of mine because the bus and car rides here in China are often long and bumpy. Now instead of getting mad at the drivers and road conditions, I’ll team up with them and see what we can create together.
NOTE: I had the program setting on “Mirror” that is why the drawings are so symmetrical.
By Michael Otto
Dear First Lady Obama:
I am writing this letter in support of your Let’s Move campaign against obesity. As you well know, traditional recommendations for physical activity and good nutrition have met with failure in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, rates of adults who engage in no leisure time physical activity have been in the range of 20-30% for over 20 years. Moreover, over 75% of individuals do not
I was stopping myself from posting any of the nude figure drawing I’ve been doing this past year because this blog originally started as a place to talk about our books for children (it has obviously changed focus over time). I’ve come to decide that kind of thinking is totally ridiculous. It’s like saying you should not take kids to a museum because they might see a breast. I have more faith in the parents of the children that read our books, and I’m sorry I ever doubted them.
This is one of the pieces of artwork I’ve done in the past year that I am most proud of. I never attended art school and have had very few chances to do any figure drawing in my life. I now see the attraction of it, and have experienced the incredible learning that happens while participating in it. I look forward to doing more and I will share some here, now that I have come to my senses.
As a new YALSA blogger I should begin my first post with a short introduction. My name is Kim Anderson and I’m the Library Media Specialist at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, Illinois. I’m a two-time graduate of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois (MLS, CAS), and I received my National Board Certification in 2008. I’ve been in education for fifteen years, seven in the classroom and six in the library. I was thirty-something when I finally found my calling in the library and have not looked back once. I love my work. Love it. When I’m not working, reading or thinking about the library I enjoy doing yoga, P90, Insanity Asylum, and gardening. I recently decided I wanted to learn French and to play guitar. Wish me luck. Anyway, it is my love of talking and thinking about the library that lead me to start blogging here at YALSA.
At the beginning of each year our administration takes the JMS staff off campus for a retreat. I always arrive a bit early so I can walk out onto the docks and enjoy the peace of the lake while I think about where I want the school year to lead. The solitude is short-lived though since the peacefulness doesn’t last long once the rest of the staff arrives. The day is always full of lively discussion, laughter and inspiration. This year our discussion centered around the research of Dr. Charles Hillman of the University of Illinois. Everyone was inspired by the idea that getting students moving could improve their academic gains. (You can check out “A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind” if you want to read more). The question is, how can I, the school librarian, help increase student fitness? Last week the answer came in the form of two exercise bikes. In just under one hour we had two stationary bikes assembled in a corner of the library. They are battery operated (so no chords) and the wheels are completely silent.
The student interest was immediate. Now teachers just have to send their students to the library with a pass to read and ride. For now, the kids are enjoying a new place to move and I am happy to support a building-wide initiative.
My YMCA started offering a new class in January: Burdenko water walking. The schedule was perfect for me--right at my lunchtime--and it promised that Burdenko burned lots of calories. A girl with a cupcake habit is always looking for ways to burn off a little buttercream, so I decided to try it.
I'd never heard of Burdenko before, so I did a little research. Burdenko is a Russian therapist who designed a physical rehab program that includes water and land exercises. A number of athletes, dancers and figure skaters (including Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wiley) have done some sort of Burdenko program. The water walkers are a part of that program, as far as I can tell from their website.
At left you can see my water walkers. They cost $45. Think light-weight plastic boards that strap to your feet like sport sandals. My instructor suggested wearing socks with them, which may look dorky but it really helps to prevent them from slipping around your foot. As you can see, I have to pull the straps super-tight and even then they wiggle a little once I'm in the water.
You also wear one of those blue water flotation belts, strapped as tight as you can get it. The belt is supposed to help you align your core muscles.
The walkers take a little getting used to. They feel a bit like flippers, but they fight you a lot more. As the instructor says, the walkers want to float. But that's the point. Part of the workout is just keeping them from floating! Much to the disappointment of Little Dude, the walkers don't let you walk on TOP of the water. Sorry, kid.
The class takes place solely in the deep end of the pool. You start with five minutes of "thermal acclimation", which pretty much means gently moving in the water and letting your body adjust to the temperature. Since our Y keeps the indoor pool at a toasty 84 degrees, it doesn't take too long to adjust. Once everyone is warmed up, the instructor takes us through a series of exercises. Some are pretty familiar things you do on land, like walking and jogging. But others are completely new to me. Yesterday we did something called "hearts", which is basically like doing the breaststroke while sitting. The class lasts for a half hour.
The lifeguards, I noticed, had their eyes glued to our class. I couldn't decide if they were amused by our antics with the water walkers, or if they were convinced that any fool who straps big plastic boards to their feet might drown at any time.
Overall I like the class. It's a entirely different workout and I can tell it's really working my arms and shoulders. I can't decide if it really burns as many calories as the Burdenko website claims--20 calories per minute. If it did, I would definitely stick with it. But I've got limited time to work out and I want to maximize my buttercream burn! So the jury is out. I will definitely stick with the class for the duration of the Y's winter session. After that, we'll see.
If you're curious about Burdenko, I'd definitely recommend trying it out. See if the instructor will let you borrow some equipment for one class before you commit and buy your own. Wear socks. And have fun!