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Rappelling Off City Hall (in Three Days and Counting)

Jana and I went by City Hall today to stare down our opponent (the taller building, the one on the right). Twenty-eight storeys is ... tall. Really, really tall. It's one thing to know intellectually that yes, a twenty-eight storey building is going to present something of a challenge. It's another to stand there at the foot of the building, and stare up, and up, and up, and up. To imagine one's self at the top of that height, with nothing but some ropes and a climbing harness to keep from succumbing to gravity.

Rappelling from a twenty-eight storey building? We must be crazy. But it's an awesome sort of crazy.

I have never done anything like this in my life. I'm not the sort of person who naturally gravitates towards activities such as lowering one's self off the side of tall buildings with a rope. I hate rock climbing. I am generally cautious, even hesitant. I do not tend to pursue activities that might risk my life and limbs, because, well, I'm rather fond of them.

And yet from the very moment that I first read the announcement that City Chase was going to be holding a rappel from City Hall, I felt the desire to be that person -- if not the daring, adventurous sort, then at least someone who can recognize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and pursue it. Someone who can do something awesome, amazing, memorable -- not without fear, but in spite of it.

So here I am. Jana and I (aka Writers With Day Jobs) made our fundraising target with the help and support of some truly amazing people. ($2,500 in a week and a half -- and here we thought it impossible.) Three days to the rappel, and counting.

I am genuinely terrified of this prospect. True fear. Last week I had a few days where just thinking about it was enough to make my appetite vanish, and give me trouble sleeping. When I think about what I'm going to do, my stomach tightens like a fist.

I believe that the moment where I have to go from standing on a solid building to hanging over the edge with 300 feet of empty air beneath me will probably be one of the most frightening things I'll ever choose to face. I fully expect that before I start, I will be trembling hard enough that I'll have difficulty standing -- and that when I reach the bottom, I won't be able to stand at all.

But as afraid as I am, I feel excitement in equal measure. No, that doesn't even quite cut it. Joy, perhaps. Something bright and thrilling. It's ... it's going to be totally amazing. Unforgettable. And I'm not going to let the fear keep me from that.
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(On second thought, maybe I should have stuck with the bobsled thing ...)

I have barely been online for the better part of a year. I haven't read LJ in nearly as long, and manage perhaps a few hours to peek at Facebook during the week. I don't know what's happening in non-local friends' lives. My Christmas cards are still in their packaging. I am so hopelessly behind on email correspondence that I don't know where or how to begin new conversations or repair relationships. I don't have time do to all that needs doing.

But, y'know ... the Olympics start today. I do so love the Olympics, and as I will probably want to say something about something related to the Olympics over the next while, I thought it might be better to say something than simply break my silence with "Okay, what the hell was up with that last bobsled run?! Come on, people! You have two jobs: running on ice, and NOT FALLING OUT OF THE SLED."

So where have I been? Briefly:

Working (which I'm not much inclined to talk about, neither the good nor the bad).

Writing. I finished the draft of my still-untitled first novel in May of 2009 (or perhaps the very beginning of June ...?) and am working on some very large rewrites. 126,000 words. One day I hope to recruit some critiquers to help me with this thing, which I love and despair of in equal measure.

Dancing. In the summer I was (very unexpectedly) asked to join Toronto's first (and I believe most awesome) American Tribal Style (ATS) bellydance troupe, Shades of Araby. Was I remotely ready? Well, no, but one member was pregnant and moving away, and they figured they could kick me into shape within a reasonable timeframe, so there we were. So a great deal of my time has suddenly been going to lessons, troupe practice, making costumes, and yes, performing. (Danced my first solo the other week, in a rather crowded -- and intimate -- public venue. Terrifying and fun at the same time.)

But the big thing? That's been the food. Food has taken over my life.

Since May, I've been on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, designed for people with Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis and other such lovely things ... and, apparently, people like me with impossible-to-diagnose digestive problems. I truly can't say enough about this diet. It has given me my life back. But it has also taken over a significant portion of every single day just in food prep. In short, I'm not eating complex carbohydrates in any quantity -- no grains, no sugar or sweeteners (except honey), no starches. There is nothing at all pre-prepared that I can eat, and I spend about three hours every day, minimum, on food prep, eating, dishes ... and I had three jobs for much of the last year. I've had to learn to cook, and yes, I still feel like a culinary genius when I make hollandaise sauce and mayonnaise and all the rest (perfectly, I might add).

Sometimes, being on this diet can be hard, and I would not give it the massive amount of time and energy it requires if it didn't work. In fact, I've called it miraculous. It won't be forever, but it will be for a good long time as I heal, and so I have officially become the most difficult person to feed or eat with. Unless, of course, you're serving steak and lots of it. (I am, by the way, very open to discussing the diet, food in general, recipes, etc. -- questions, comments, whatever -- but please know that my choices in this regard are not open to debate.)

So. That's me, and this is a warning that if I manage to be around more in general (as I hope to be), I will generally be talking Olympics and food. I know better than to make promises, but ... well, we shall see.
green shore nebula

A Week of Quality and Distinction

This past week was fabulous, though I remain busy enough that writing about all the excellent things has to wait until odd hours. That's okay, in a sense: I do like making my actual life and the people around me priorities over time spent on the internet.

Monday

Monday's my bookstore day, and lo, what did I find on the new releases shelf upon my arrival but the anthology Ages of Wonder, which contains my story "Written in Smoke". Go story publication! (And yes, as far as I'm concerned the story should be a novel, but I've already got a novel I need to finish, and the amount of research to write the novel version is downright frightening, but hey, a published story's a published story.)

Tuesday

I cut my hair -- a joyful event worthy of note because A) couldn't afford a good haircut since August, and B) I got bangs! Which, according to everyone to give me feedback thus far, was a really good move.

Odd side effect: people also think I dyed my hair, but no, it's been this shade of mahogany since I hennaed it last in January.

Also, Tuesday was tribal bellydance class. It is joy.

Wednesday

... Nothing happened on Wednesday. Poor Wednesday.

Thursday

... But Thursday made up for Wednesday's lack, by being awesome in two ways:

1) I worked from home. I cannot explain to you the joy of being able to write this documentation in my own lovely quiet apartment rather than in a busy office. Productivity was at an all-time high.

2) I received notification that my grant application to the Canada Arts Council was successful.

Let me say that again. I got a grant. From the CANADA ARTS COUNCIL. (!!!)

Better yet: so did Jana.

And then we just about died of shock. Because, really. Professional Writers' Grants. From the Canada Arts Council. This wasn't open to just local folks; this was the whole freaking country and they gave money to Jana and me! I applied just because it's a thing you do, like people play the lottery without actually believing that they'll win.

And oh, sweetness abounds, and the Year of Possibility continues to live up to its name.

Friday

Friday was a Friday, with all the joy that such days contain, and Leah and I went out and discussed novels and ate a ridiculous amount of Japanese food, and that, my friends, was my week.

Good times.
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Status Update

In short, it goes like this:

(Existing bookstore job + extra shifts to cover absences) + new on-site technical writing job + existing contract proposal writing obligations = all work, all the time.

Ah, how familiar.

However, things will balance out to something more sustainable shortly. In the meantime ... I remind myself that I like being able to pay my rent and buy food, and this will allow me to continue to do both. (Also, I get this Saturday off!)

That is all.
No Drowning

Vitamin D: A Public Service Announcement

I've been preaching this gospel for two years now, and it goes something like this: Do you live in a place where there's winter? Do you have a job or lifestyle that requires you to be inside much of the time, and/or work at night? Please, please consider taking vitamin D supplements.

Why? Because taking vitamin D not only combats Seasonal Affective Disorder -- hugely important to those of us in northern climates, who see so little of the sun half the year -- but there is some evidence that it may also help prevent cancer and reduce your risk of heart disease, and has recently been linked to a lowered incidence of MS. I will let the CBC tell you more. (And Google can lead you to piles and piles of articles, study abstracts and press releases on this topic.)

Of course, I cannot speak to such claims. What follows is only anecdotal evidence, but it’s mine, and what I’ve experienced is enough to make me preach vitamin D to friends and acquaintances and random passers-by -- enough to make me type this rather than working on my book as I should be.

Physically, I do not respond well to cold temperatures, short and dark days, or winter in general. For years, I experienced symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder -- without really knowing or realizing that that's what was happening. It never occurred to me that the fact that I became convinced each winter, every winter, like clockwork, that I was a poor excuse for a human being, with no one who loved or cared for me, etc., etc., was a sign that something was wrong.

I have spoken in the last few days to friends who have also started taking D regularly (including one who works nights), and their experiences are much the same as my own: it feels like a miracle. I type to you now in early February, a time in years past when I often had trouble forcing myself out of bed at all, felt slow and heavy and lethargic, had trouble laughing or smiling -- had trouble at times even remembering that there were things worth smiling about. Now, with my 1,000 IU a day? I feel fine. Bloody cold, mind you, but not feeling as if I'm an inherently worthless person.

And that, dear readers, is so totally worth the $6.00 I paid for the vitamins.

I'm all for bright lights, and sit (or stand blissfully, like a spaced-out moron) in the sunlight whenever it's here. I'm not saying don't find or use a full spectrum light (unless you’re at particular risk for skin cancer, in which case be careful); I'm saying even if you use a light, take the supplements too. If you're drinking more milk to get the added vitamin D, or eating lots of salmon and eggs for the D there -- yay, smart plan! Still take the supplements.

Vitamin D supplements are very small, cheap, and easily swallowed or crushed. They also sell vitamin D drops these days, which can be added to food or drink. Supplements are easily and widely tolerated, quick to take, and rather difficult to overdose on.

I have no medical background or expertise, but my own experiences and those of my family and friends are what let me say: just try. Perhaps you'll find it's a miracle too.
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F-R-I-E-D. Fried!

So how fried is my desktop computer's hard drive?

So fried that it would not listen to a boot CD or disk for Windows, Linux or DOS. So fried that when my father attempted to make it a slave drive in a absolutely fine computer, it fried that one, too. (Oops.) So fried that the once it managed to boot to DOS (days and countless attempts later), all it would say is that all the files that once graced it are now gone, gone, gone.

So. That could be better. Also: it seems I'm unnaturally hard on hard drives. I'm at three dead computers over the last few years.

Anyway, so it goes.
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Novel 2, Computers 0

My novel has claimed its second victim: this time it's my desktop computer.

The poor thing was (is) getting a bit old and sludgy, so it wasn't entirely surprising when it decided not to boot up. (Inconvenient, yes; surprising, no.) Luckily, when it went down, it only claimed 1,271 words of novel, and I have great hope that once I'm able to get my hands on a boot disk, I can get it to start up long enough to save those words and a few other files that didn't have external backups (like, say, a half-finished novel critique). And, with any luck, if I can get it to turn on again, I can repair the hard drive sufficiently that it'll live for a little while longer. (We can also see that recent modifications to my food plan are indeed helping, as I'm oddly unfazed by the whole thing.)

I think I have about 20,000 words still to write; hopefully the Curse of Computer Death will spare my dear secondhand laptop at least that long.
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Naming Another Year

The Year of Transformation truly lived up to its name.

I know that 2008 was hard for many people, but oh, how I loved this past year. Over the course of those twelve months, I managed to make changes that took me from being a very unhappy, overstressed, exhausted and overwhelmed person, constantly angry as anger was the only thing that kept me from breaking down crying, to someone who is truly, honestly, and unequivocally happy.

In 2008 I left my day job. I wrote about three quarters of a novel; ignoring all the deleted bits and spare files, I have a book that is currently 84,000+ words, and which is beginning to rush full-speed towards its ending. I received a writing grant. I had time and energy to read more than a book a week. I started learning tribal bellydance, and haven't stopped dancing in the kitchen since. I took vacations with friends, to their cottages and mine. I was staff at Alpha (and was conscious for it this time around), and took various trips to the States. I began taking freelance proposal writing contracts. I took the first steps towards dealing with ongoing health problems, with noticeable results. I spent time with family and friends.

The clouds in my brain have parted, and I can think again. I can laugh without the edge of hysteria, or bitterness, or exhaustion; and sleep without waking in a panic over all the things needing to be done. I can create. I like being this person so much better.

And hopefully she can stay. I've named 2009 the Year of Possibility. From fabulous success to bankruptcy and ruin, and everything in between, I feel like anything can happen. The very thought makes me smile.
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Evidence of a muddled thought process

You know you're not thinking clearly when your thought process goes something like this:

Damn, I'm cold. A bath would be good, a really hot bath. But I'm still supposed to write this evening. Good thing I have a laptop -- nice and portable. I'm sure I could rest it on my knees in the bath.

Even more proof: thinking, even momentarily, that this plan is brilliant.
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The Wall

I am writing a book, yes? Stupid beloved stupid book. I am currently convinced of the following things:

- That this story is not going to pull together into a coherent ending. That, despite the fact that things have been connecting nicely, I’m going to drop one of the main threads and/or mess everything up, and end up with a conclusion that is in no way worth reading a whole book to reach.

- That there is not enough tension or conflict, and that my attempts to increase tension and conflict only manage to increase the silliness of the plot, and will likely ruin readers’ suspension of disbelief.

- That no one will want to read about these characters for so very many words.

- That the tone and narrative voice is intrusive and annoying. Alternately, that the prose is dull, and no amount of polishing will make it shine.

- That my economic magical system is fatally flawed and/or silly.

- That I am in the process of creating a trite, post-apocalyptic, novel-length version of Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” merely leaving out the bit where people walk away (except readers, who shall abandon the book in disgusted droves).

In short, I have spent a month trying to deal with the fact that my book is terrible, horrible, no good and very bad, and that the more I write the more I mire myself in the stinking quagmire of suck. And then I remind myself that no, it is more likely that I have reached that wonderful middle of the book milestone where everything seems awful.

Yes, it’s the Wall. Stupid Wall. I kick it.

And what it means is that I’m now going to have to dig deep and rely on one of my strengths, a blessed family trait: blind, pig-headed stubbornness. Forget all that stuff about “permission to be bad,” etc; my perfectionist sub-conscious immediately rejects that as ridiculous bullshit, and the conscious brain nods sagely in approval. I’m going to be awesome if it’s the last thing I do, and if awesome is seventeen drafts and hundreds of thousands of words from here, then dammit, that’s where I’m going, one awful chapter at a time.

Time to put my head down, and trudge into the trenches with the muck and the suck and all those words waiting to be written. Time to get to work.