23 October 2009

A Butterfly Story

We went camping at Lake Whitney State Park with a homeschool group a couple of weeks ago and were lucky enough to be a part of something pretty neat. On checkout day, besides the family with which we had shared a campsite, all of the other families had already left. We decided to explore the park with our campsite-mates for a bit before departing. We had been seeing a lot of monarchs passing through on their annual migration to Mexico, and that afternoon, even with its high wind gusts, was no exception. While searching the beach for interesting rocks, I saw a monarch take a nose dive and land pretty hard.

It wasn't moving very well and kept getting blown about by the wind. So I did what any butterfly lover would do: I let it climb onto my hand and kept it protected from the gusts. My son took on the post of second in command of the butterfly protection brigade.

Upon closer examination, I could see that this butterfly had taken a lot of wear and tear. It was missing a couple of legs, and it had what looked to be an injury at the top of its thorax. It was not moving very much, and we feared the worst. When the rest of the group wanted to go find a better spot for skipping stones, we had to figure out what to do with it. Bug Barn to the rescue! The Bug Barn was our first ever homeschool project three years ago. My son did most of the building, and I did the painting per his instructions.

With some help, we were able to coax the butterfly into its new temporary home. Even within the shelter of an enclosed space, it was not active at all. We drove a ways to another area that proved to be a prime spot for skipping stones, and the contest between the boys (the grown ones, that is) ensued. I kept an eye on our new friend, and it eventually started to climb around a bit. When it was time for us to leave, the butterfly had become quite active, having gotten a nice rest away from the high winds. It was time to send it on its way. It didn't want to come out of the front door, so we had to take apart the side of the barn to get it to come out.

After it crawled out onto my hand, it took a brief flight of a few feet. But just when we thought maybe it had not rested enough and were considering what to do, it took off. As it climbed higher and higher, another monarch came into view and tumbled around in the air with our friend as if to say, "Come on, this way!" We watched them fly off together until we could no longer see them, feeling our hearts swell with the beauty of nature and the end of a great camping trip.

30 September 2009

Epic Fail: EA Sports Active 30 Day Challenge

So, this happened a while ago, but you know me, grand procrastinator extraordinaire. At the request of a friend, and with the promise of a free video game, I took on the 30 Day Challenge.

I was very excited at first, as I really could do with some fitness in my life. Each day provides a different set of exercises, which is good for variety. And there are also programmed-in 'rest days.' Things went pretty well for the first week, though I had a little trouble with the 'running - long.' The 'running' has you jogging in place, and you have to keep up a good tempo or the game shows you walking instead of running and tells you (albeit nicely) to step it up. I began to notice that 'running' of some sort was on the menu for every workout day. When it was 'short' or of a specific type (like high-knees - which is more like walking briskly while raising your knees as far as you can), it wasn't too bad. But then I started having trouble with my ankles.

With sore tendons/ligaments in my ankles, it became tough to do some of the exercises. As I mentally examined what was happening, I realized that I was actually injuring my ankles because jogging in place is NOT a natural movement. You use the joint in a completely different way than usual when jogging in place as opposed to running or walking normally. With so much jogging in place, there was no way to avoid injury. I could have, of course, opted to not do that part of the exercise routine (you can uncheck any of the exercises before the start of each workout), but then you don't get full credit for the workout, and the total calories burned is much less. And since this is done in a game-type environment, you are subtly encouraged to do the most that you can so you can earn 'trophies.'

After two and a half weeks, I missed a workout because I was ill for a couple of days. Then I didn't feel motivated to make it up because my ankles were hurting so bad, so I ended up just quitting the whole thing. It took another two weeks for my ankles to heal. When I talked to my friend who had passed the game onto me in the first place, she reported having the same problem with her ankles, and had quit at about the same point I had.

Overall, I think the game is OK if you do not do the 30 Day Challenge. You can just turn the game on and choose which exercises you would like to do for a custom workout. I feel like EA somehow missed something when designing this game, even though it was done with the help of 'experts.' Jogging in place that much just flat-out should not be a part of a regular exercise routine in my opinion. It is an unnatural movement and ends up over stressing the joint. I may end up using the other exercises as part of a regular workout routine, but I figure I can just run/walk/jog 'for real' on our treadmill.

07 August 2009

Book Review: The Book of God and Physics by Enrique Joven

This is a fascinating story interwoven with history, astronomy, alchemy and intrigue. Centered around a Jesuit trying to decipher it, the reader learns about the Voynich manuscript (which today is housed at Yale) and the mysteries surrounding it. The pages are dotted with many "Greats" of science such as Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo. For good measure, we also have Edward Kelley, John Dee, and a host of Jesuits and popes. Included almost as a side story is the debate between religion and science, creationism, intelligent design and evolution.

This book is more well written than Ian Caldwell's The Rule of Four,which, even though it shares the subject of old cryptic books, was a chore for me to finish. I found the translation of The Book of God and Physicsto be a bit clunky, so it didn't read as smoothly as The Da Vinci Code,but overall I enjoyed the story and found it hard to put down.

28 July 2009

Book Review: FrameShifting by David K. Banner

More spiritual memoir than guidebook, FrameShifting: A Path to Wholeness takes you along on Mr. Banner's personal journey looking for enlightenment. Many of the concepts he talks about are already familiar to me, but I did find it a nice reminder of ideas I hadn't thought about consciously for a while. I felt my own 'spiritual seeker' nature being rekindled. It may be that others will not be as familiar with the theories and practices he encounters, so they could serve as a jumping off point for further research.

I was, however, disappointed that he didn't go into greater detail on some of the techniques, sometimes giving only the barest of summaries, and I found the lack of good editing in some spots a little distracting.
If the revised second edition I just noticed on Amazon corrects the editing issues, then this will be a much better book. On the whole, I believe this book could be inspirational to others on a similar spiritual journey.

30 June 2009

Traumatized by Twilight

***SPOILER WARNING*** If you have not read all four books of the Twilight Saga and intend to do so, you may not want to read this post.

I know my family has noticed that I've been acting strangely, but I haven't been able to bring myself to talk about it out loud just yet.

Reading about the relationship between Edward and Bella brought back memories that I had thought were long suppressed. Edward bears a striking resemblance to my first true love, *A*. At first, I only noticed the similarity in passing. But then, Edward used the same pet name for Bella that *A* used for me. Love. I was temporarily dumbstruck when I read it. Maybe it's because I don't read romance novels or something, but I don't recall ever reading this particular pet name before, even though it must be somewhat common. I almost couldn't continue reading. But only for a second. I mentally shook myself, called myself silly and pathetic and continued.

But the similarities just kept coming. Comparisons with Romeo and Juliet. Telling her he was no good for her, dangerous even. The over-protectiveness. And then he left her 'for her own good' and she sought solace with someone else. Later, a joyful reunion and an heirloom engagement ring. All of these things happened to me.

I know there must be scads of women out there who have had somewhat similar experiences in their lives. I don't see myself as special in that regard. It's not really the stories themselves that were traumatizing. It was that reading the books brought my old (17 plus years ago) memories back to the surface. But even that I probably could have dealt with. The memories may have resurfaced, but they were still blurry. Tempered by time. I spent spare moments marveling at my experiences back then. Many were unusual, which tied in nicely with the unusual nature of Edward and Bella.

But then my daughter asked me some questions about *A*. Simple questions really. Easy enough to answer. What was he like. How did we meet up again. But she was intensely curious. She's heard bits and pieces of this story over the years. After all, she's the product of the 'solace-bringer.' And he wasn't as understanding or as desirable an alternative as Jacob. She confessed that she'd always been secretly obsessed with the story. She seemed eager to hear more, wanted to see letters and keepsakes, though she said she would wait until I was ready to share.

Unable to help myself, two days later I pulled the box down from the closet. I read the letters, the calendar entries. Looked at the few photographs and the jewelry. And then I absolutely broke down. Luckily I was alone. You see, my story ended in tragedy rather than happily ever after. Now, don't get me wrong, I am incredibly happily married and have a wonderful family and my happily ever after now, but before that could happen, I had to live through hell. Because *A*, my first love, did not survive. After knowing each other for six years, he was gone a mere two weeks after I got that heirloom ring.

Looking through everything was possibly the worst thing I could have done. It's like the wound that had healed over with time was ripped open again. I've found myself absolutely raw with grief. Which has made it a tad bit hard to go about daily life. It's only been a couple of days, and I know it will get better. I'm just shocked at the depth of emotion that welled up out of me after all this time.

A positive that has come from this is that I've been able to recognize fully now the forces that have made me who I am today. I would not be who I am, nor would I have the interests I do, or feel so confident about my life's work if I did not live though all of it. The glorious AND the tragic.

13 June 2009

EA Sports Active 30 Day Challenge

A friend of mine asked me if I would like a free copy of EA Sports Activefor the Wii with the caveat that I try out the 30 Day Challenge. Why not? I thought - it's free and I could use a little exercise... Oh boy. I just finished the first workout and I'm still trying to catch my breath. Now I knew I was a little out of shape, but after that, I think I'm a LOT out of shape. I even chose 'low intensity' - and it was only a 20 minute 'let's get you started' workout. I hope that as I progress it will get easier. --That's the way exercise is supposed to work, right?

The game itself is pretty customizable. You choose what you look like body style wise (I was only a little tempted to be dishonest with that) and then of course your hair color and style, etc. You can even choose your workout outfit and shoes. There is also the option to not do some of the exercises if you have an injury or something that prevents you from doing it.

I had a little trouble with the leg strap at first (it's so you can drop the nunchuk in there for some exercises), but once I figured out it had to be all the way up on my thigh, it stayed on. And it was a little frustrating having the cord whack me in the face a few times while I was 'running.' There must be a learning curve here for how to hold the remotes...

The personal trainer character was encouraging during the workout without being too cheerleader-y which was a plus. And I even earned two trophies on my first day. One for completing the workout, and one for doing my first journal entry. You can enter your activities and food choices from the previous day in the journal as well as ticking off how you're feeling. This helps you track how 'healthy' you are, I guess.

The idea behind the 30 day challenge is to get you to do the workouts for a month (thankfully with two rest days per week) to help you get into the habit of exercising. I think there is also the supposition that if you are more active, you will make better choices with your diet. (It did ask me if I had any fast food yesterday...) So I guess we'll see how I feel a month from now... and whether my jeans fit any better!

02 May 2009

Facebook Pressure

I've finally succumbed. I've been refusing to get onto Facebook for months, all the while figuring out that practically EVERYONE I know is on. My husband joined a couple of months ago and has said he will help me get started. My refusals have had a lot to do with personal insecurities. I knew some of my family members were on as well as my friends. I only see most of my family on holidays, and I don't think that they really know that much about who I am the rest of the year. I wasn't sure if I wanted to open myself up to that. Then I found out that a friend who just got married posted her wedding pictures on Facebook. Did I really care so much about my insecurities that I would miss seeing pictures of a wedding I was unable to attend?

At this point I realized, Hey, I'm a grownup! I shouldn't be worrying about things like what people will think of me, right? So if you know me personally and do the Facebook thing, I've started up my profile. But for now, I will not be linking it to my blog or anything else I've done online anonymously. Baby steps you know.

06 April 2009

Book Review: My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

My Little Red Bookis a collection of true stories from women and teen girls about the experience of their first period. Reading this book is empowering. I've certainly never shared my personal story with anyone, but now I feel like it would be OK to do so. As the editor states, talking about periods, even just among women, is fairly taboo. One of the things I found striking is that girls' experiences could be so similar across the boundaries of time (from the early 20th century to the present) and space (from all around the world.)

I felt compelled to read 'just one more' of the stories every time I picked it up. Bravo to the editor for having the guts to share her story and then gather stories from others to share with the rest of the world. This book should become just as coveted by young girls as Are You There God? It's Me Margaret.

As a side note, when I was just about done with the book, my (newly adult) daughter asked me about certain cultural differences regarding first periods. I knew the answer only because of some of the stories. She insisted that she be next to read the book. I think I'll tell her MY story first.

17 March 2009

Lament for History Lost

I've just gotten home from a doctor's visit that accidentally resulted in an emotional detour on the way home. I normally see this doctor a little closer to home, but I needed to see him sooner rather than later, so I agreed to drive to his office in Dallas. Perhaps not surprisingly, I got a little lost upon leaving the office. I was close to downtown, so I knew that if I could find my way to Deep Ellum, I'd be able to get home, albeit by the long way. After turning a few times, I spotted Elm Street. I was home free.

But I had no idea what was in store for me. I spent a fair bit of time in Deep Ellum in my youth, beginning as a teenager when I served as an intern of sorts at my drama teacher's theater and leading to many nights spent club-hopping and afternoons browsing through eclectic shops. This was where I learned how to be cool. I had heard rumors that the area was dying, but what I saw was heartbreaking, the first thing of which was a faded announcement on the side of a building asking to save Deep Ellum and its 100 years of history.

The shops and clubs were almost all closed. The original signs were still there, but 'For Lease' or 'Rezoning Requested' signs hung on the windows and doors. I passed by the clothing shop, Moda, where these came from:

Articles, the home furnishings and unusual goods store was also closed. This was where an exclusive Christmas Party was held that I attended with my fiance two weeks before he died in a car accident on one of the highways leading into the area. I still have the invitation. And finally, the club, Trees, where I've seen many a band, and also where I lost my $100, custom made by a dental assistant, vampire teeth. Just a few weeks later it was the first place I went with my husband the night we met.

I don't know if anything will be done to save Deep Ellum. Maybe there are things underway right now of which I am unaware. I hope so. Perhaps its time has come though, as all things must pass eventually. I know I am not the only one who has had significant events take place here and has strong memories of this place. I've shared a little of my story in the hopes that it will at least add to the collective memory and keep the place alive in our minds.

03 March 2009

Happy Square Root Day!

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy Square Root Day! You know... March 3, '09? 3 times 3 is 9? Seems some people are celebrating with root beer. The next square root day will be April 4, 2016.

Can't wait until Pi Day...

17 February 2009

Book Review: The Fire by Katherine Neville

I was unfortunately a little disappointed by this follow-up to Katherine Neville's The Eight even though I wanted so badly for it to be good. I had been meaning to read The Eight for at least 15 years, so I finally put it to the front of the TBR pile when I received a review copy of The Fire.

I enjoyed The Eight immensely. It mashed up historical fiction, modern-day fiction, obscure history, esoteric lore and chess. I loved it. Oddly enough, even though The Fire has all of those things, it was just not as enjoyable. The historical plot line was done quite well, but the modern day plot line being told concurrently was a mess. I felt that the author tried to cram too much information into this one. Many times I found myself wondering if anyone without an interest in esoterica (like myself) could even follow what was happening. Usually an author will set forth enough of an explanation, either via dialogue or context, for things that are not mostly common knowledge. Not so in this case.

Characters coming to astounding conclusions from little information became another irksome factor. I had to assume that they had prior knowledge of which I, as the reader, was not privy. And then there is the character of Key. She has an annoying habit of spouting off aphorisms in what seems like every third sentence. This would maybe have been tolerable if the main character, Alexandra, didn't rattle them off for her in her absence: "As Key would say..."

Overall, I did like the idea of the story, and I liked the subject matters that were touched upon. But the ending was not an ending at all. Maybe that was the author's point, but I found it rather obscure and dissatisfying.

24 January 2009

Free Books!

A few months ago, I joined the Early Reviewers group on LibraryThing. You read a brief synopsis of a monthly batch of books and then 'request' those that spark your interest. They then choose members to receive each title, and the book is sent to them directly from the publisher; the only thing asked in return is that you read the book and post a review. I honestly didn't expect to ever be chosen since each title typically has 15-30 copies available, and people requesting each title is usually in the several hundreds, sometimes topping a thousand. So I was duly surprised when I got a message that I'd been chosen to receive one of the titles I'd requested. And then another. And another. I now have a short stack of books that have been moved to the front of the TBR (to be read) pile. I've finished the first one I chose to read, and I'll post my review in a few days once I've tweaked it a bit. Here's a picture of the books received thus far...

Well, not exactly true: I got a package yesterday with yet another book! Which I couldn't help but start reading as soon as I opened it. So I seem to have accidentally acquired another job - book reviewer. Well, I've always said that I wouldn't mind being paid in books...