Writer’s confessions. (Writing updates!)

I looked back through my planner and verified that I’m overdue for a writing updates post, as one of you wonderful and helpful readers and NOT AT ALL smart-ass people (who may or may not attend Tuesday/Thursday BodyPump) pointed out to me earlier this week, though not in a smart-ass way.

Hence, this is a writing updates post.

As for the post that was going to happen today: I shall regale you with the latest on my minimalism journey somewhere in the first week of November. I do have minimalism updates!

The writing, then. It’s been trucking along. The end is nigh. I’m spending more time than usual strategizing before I put proverbial pen to paper. This last week, in particular, has been a challenging one… the process of writing has felt like an arduous slog through mud. I haven’t had blank-page syndrome, but it’s been difficult finding my groove.

The great thing about this is that I realized why; this is useful for future reference.

We’ve had houseguests. When they all went to lunch without me one day, I got some good writing done, and I had a mini-epiphany: I need to be alone in order to talk to myself, and I need to talk to myself in order to find my writing groove. I’m sure some of you fellow writers can relate to this.

I have a big ol’ chart with ever-changing notes jotted all over it, but in my head I’ve got a mental flow chart of variables that’s always better than any I could scribble out, because my thinking is a million steps ahead, always, and not lateral, as is the nature of thinking. It helps to pace around and talk myself through it.

(Mind you, I’m not complaining about the houseguests.)

In related writing and minimalism news, I found this t-shirt at Target. It was an impulse buy, but I couldn’t pass on it. It’s minimalism news because when I got home, I pulled another shirt out of my closet and put it in the Goodwill pile. Replacing, not accumulating.

 

When you knew better than to expect otherwise.

 

Right?! But mostly, the shirt had me at the font.

 

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Lingering: A Ghost Story. (Non-review movie review!)

A Ghost Story isn’t a horror film, but it’s haunting nonetheless. It’s haunted my thoughts since we first saw it last week.

 

 

Why do some spirits choose an afterlife of haunting?

A Ghost Story  raises a multitude of questions. I might as well start with that one.

As far as haunted house movies go, I’ve never been compelled to consider the fate of the ghost, or how lonely it must be for a ghost tethered to his place of haunting. But then, I’d never seen a haunted house movie from the perspective of the ghost.

It’s a despondent ghost who’s unable to leave his place until he gets his answer, or achieves his goal, whatever that may be. Time glides endlessly and the ghost goes along with it. It’s the only dimension he can traverse.

Watching this movie was a profound cinematic experience.

We begin with a married couple, but we never learn their names. I suppose this is because the humans in their physical bodies are more or less props, there to set in motion a possibly infinite journey. In the middle of the film, another nameless person passes through to hold forth at a social gathering. The scene ends and we never see him again, but we’re left thinking.

We fall deeper into introspection. What does it mean to be alive, to exist? What does it mean to be not-alive?

We witness the pain of grieving, but we feel the ghost’s pain more than the pain of the one still living. It’s the bereft ghost whose story we follow.

A Ghost Story is a ghost’s story, yet the ghost is not the protagonist. If the film has a protagonist, it’s the place to which the ghost is fixed. Or it’s the universe. Or it’s time.

If the ghost has a voice, it’s the sheet he wears, its movement, folds, and appearance; even the shape of its eye-holes as they seem to alter with his emotion. That’s the thing about this ghost: he’s emotional, even to the point of throwing the occasional tantrum. The ghost’s sheet is his voice, and Daniel Hart’s exquisite musical score – the most sorrowful voice in the film – makes it devastating.

Thus, the driving forces of A Ghost Story are inhuman. And yet, in this inhumanity, we perceive the timeless plight of humanity. This is brilliant writing. It’s poetry.

In my humble opinion, writer and director David Lowery succeeded with his experiment in mixing mediums to tell his story. Film as poem, or poem as film? When a work of art is effectively both, it doesn’t matter how you assign its primary medium.

Speaking of mediums, I’ll touch again on the expressiveness of the ghost’s sheet, because its authority is so striking in its simplicity. I was fascinated by the way the ghost stands or sits still and turns only his head to look to the side or back, so the folds of his sheet twist with the turn. The effect is dramatic, and that is the point. Facing forward, but looking elsewhere, the ghost’s sheet conveys that he inhabits temporal realms in a transcendence of future and past. We can perceive the enormity of this by merely looking at the drape of a sheet.

A Ghost Story is a highly visual film. It’s maybe 80% silent movie, if not more so. As the ghost lingers, there’s lingering in the silence; we linger on what there is to see. There’s lingering in the sustained notes of the musical score.

There’s more I could say about the significance of music in this film, on how it helps to speak for the ghost, and why, but I’ll hold back. In this aspect, though, A Ghost Story calls to mind The Piano. In The Piano, the instrument serves as voice for Ada, who can’t speak. Also silent, Ada expresses herself through her music.

Watching A Ghost Story, tears collected in my throat early on, and they stayed there until the end, the aforementioned musical score by Daniel Hart partially responsible, I’m sure.

Callaghan was mesmerized, too. When A Ghost Story was over, we looked at each other at the same time that we both said, “I want to see it again.” And we did see it again. I would see it yet again.

A Ghost Story is a beautiful film, a story to ponder and discuss. It’s an elegant study in the philosophical discipline of metaphysics, and it’s a poem. Maybe more than a moving picture, it’s a moving poem with pictures.

 

What I ate on Monday. (Full day of eating!)

To those of you who’ve asked to see this: here’s a full day of eating. (And to anyone else who’s interested, of course.)

May I just say that it was strange spending the whole day stalking my own food with a camera?

I chose Monday so I could track a rest day (no gym).

First:

  • Yes, I normally eat five to six times throughout the day.
  • After dinner, I don’t eat again until later the next morning (unless I’m going to the gym). I like a good fast before I start my day of noshing.
  • I love food and only eat what I enjoy.
  • Other than two cups of coffee in the morning, I only drink water.
  • I’ve cut down on processed foods, but I do eat more of it on the weekends. Even then, I try to keep it minimal and nutrient-valuable to some degree. I avoid deep-fried foods, sugary foods, and empty-calorie foods.

Before I get into the dirty details, I should add that:

  • I take meds and supplements, but the only one I’m mentioning here is my thyroid medication, because that explains why I wait 30 minutes before having coffee in the morning.
  • I drink water all day long, so I didn’t bother to include it in these pics.

Onward, then!

 

Monday, October 9, 2017

5:30am: Alarm. Get up. Take thyroid medication (for Hashimoto’s/autoimmune hypothyroidism) with a full glass of room-temperature water.

(Wait 30 minutes because of the thyroid med.)

6:00am: Coffee (Sumatra is my favorite!) with plain, unsweetened soy milk and a teaspoon of organic coconut palm sugar. (x2 – I have two cups of coffee)

9:30am: Two slices of Dave’s organic thin-sliced 21 whole grains and seeds bread, toasted and topped with creamy natural peanut butter (lots of it!), banana slices, organic hulled hemp seeds, cinnamon, and a light drizzle of organic light agave nectar. Raspberries on the side.

 

Toast with natural peanut butter, banana slices, organic hulled hemp seeds, cinnamon, and organic light agave nectar. Raspberries on the side.

 

1:10pm: Whole wheat pasta with olive oil, fresh sauteed garlic, sea salt, a sprinkle of organic hulled hemp seeds, and a lot of nutritional yeast, aka nooch. (Maybe too much nooch. My blood tests always show that my vitamin B12 is “borderline too high.” B vitamins are fat-soluble, so there’s such a thing as “too high.”) Broccoli on the side. An orange.

With pasta, I like veggies on the side. I’m not the biggest fan of veggies in my pasta.

 

(plus olive oil and sea salt)

 

Whole wheat pasta with olive oil, fresh sauteed garlic, sea salt, a sprinkle of organic hulled hemp seeds, and a lot of nutritional yeast. Broccoli on the side. An orange.

 

After lunch: A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar stirred into a tall glass of cold water.

I’m inexplicably hooked on this. I drink it twice a day, every day, after lunch and again after dinner. It’s weird because I don’t necessarily like the way it tastes, but I love it and look forward to it. It makes no sense. I’ve been drinking it for a year now.

 

Glass of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

 

3:25pm: A pear.

I have fruit four or five times a day. Since I quit eating sugary sweets about a year ago, fresh fruit has become an ecstatic experience… especially the fruit I eat in the afternoon. Somehow, that one piece of fruit in the afternoon makes my whole body feel energized and alive. It’s amazing.

 

Bartlett pear

 

5:15pm: A bowl of mixed nuts and sunflower seeds (somewhere around 3/4 cup).

I also eat nuts and seeds every day. Sometimes I throw raisins in there, too, but raisins are sweet, and let’s face it… nuts and seeds are wonderful vehicles for salt. They’re also wonderful carriers of trace minerals that we need in our bodies, not to mention other nutrients, a little protein, and a lot of healthy fats.

Examples of trace minerals: magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, iron, copper, etc.

(I’ll never say “no” to raw and/or unsalted nuts and seeds either, though. I do like them. It’s just that salt is my one vice.)

Walnuts! I prefer unsalted walnuts. Anyway…

 

Mixed nuts and sunflower seeds (roasted and salted)

 

8:00pm: We’ve been eating large salads for dinner four to five times per week, and cooked meals for dinner on the remaining nights. On Monday, I made our salad with red leaf lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, thinly-sliced mushrooms, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and cracked black pepper.

I love red wine vinegar on salads, but my favorite thing these days is just to press some fresh lemon juice over the salad already drizzled with olive oil. With lemon juice, I can really taste and appreciate the flavors of the lettuces and greens.

I didn’t get a pic of the finished salad, but here’s the main ingredient:

 

Red leaf lettuce

 

8:30: Small bowl of blueberries.

 

Blueberries

 

After dinner: A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar stirred into a tall glass of cold water.

There you have it… a smattering example of what I eat on an average weekday rest day.

Let me know if you’re interested in seeing a full day of eating on a gym day, or a full day of eating on a weekend day when I eat more processed foods!

BOB’s first time. (Garage Gym workout!)

First garage gym workout of fall 2017!! I tried out our new Body Opponent Bag (BOB) last Friday. We acquired it just when it got too hot for the garage this year, so I’m glad the long delay is over.

Here’s what I found out about BOB: he’s taller than I remember him to be.

Here’s what I found out about me: I’m shorter than I remember myself to be.

Which I knew, actually. That’s right, Surly Measurement Guy. I stand corrected. (Pun not intended.) The V.A. recently confirmed that you were right: I’m 5′,4″ now.

[For reference, I’m 5′,4″/114.2 lbs – weight as of yesterday]

At his shortest setting, BOB’s got a couple of inches on me. I experimented with the height differential as well as with distance.

Punches are no big deal at his height, but because of his wide base, I’ll have to take matters into my own hands to properly train elbow strikes, as they’re mostly inside-fighting techniques. As evident in the pics below, I didn’t do well with elbow strikes just standing in front of him. I’ll modify for this in the future.

The work-out: I mostly practiced upper-body strikes. I worked in a few kicks, but I didn’t really train lower-body this time. For my cardio warm-up, I ran in place, alternating sets of high knees and those jumping toe-taps (?) (whatever they’re called) on BOB’s base.

This was a 45-minute work-out. I didn’t wear shoes because the mats had been cleaned, but my feet still turned black. Eh. Desert dust… a small price to pay for living in paradise!

 

Superman punch

 

First height observation: My superman punch puts me a couple of inches in the air, so my straight-right lands almost perfectly on BOB’s face.

 

Straight right, aka cross (orthodox)

 

Straight-right (aka cross, if you’re right-handed) from standing.

 

Punch to body

 

Going for a punch to the body. Self-critique: I’d drop my stance a little lower to get my head out of the way. Most people like to hit back when you hit them. If BOB could trade punches, he’d clock me pretty easily in this position.

 

(between rounds)

 

See how I’m kind of knock-knee’d? This is why my lunges suck. I’m always trying to modify the position of my feet in order to get my form right and maximize the benefit of the exercise, but I still have a hard time with range of motion in lunges.

 

Spin punch chamber

 

I practiced some spin-strike techniques; this practice makes for a great exercise in judging distance. Here, it looks like I’m taller than BOB. Optical illusion.

 

Up elbow

 

This is ridiculous. I landed these upward elbow strikes, but you can see that I’m open to all kinds of pay-back shenanegans. BOB’s wide base keeps you from getting inside where elbows are the most useful. I’ll find a way to correct for this.

 

Back elbow chamber

 

This is slightly better; with a back elbow, it’s easier to jump in to close the distance. Back elbows are useful when you want to get out of a close situation you’re losing, though. Like when people elbow others out of the way to get through a tight crowd.

 

Standing stretch

 

I used BOB as a stretching apparatus. I stretched on the floor, too.

 

Stretching (and selfie)

 

Multi-tasking: stretching and mugging for the post-workout selfie.

 

Walking back

 

The walking-back pic. I’m still doing them, I guess!

A word about food: I used to include a post-workout food pic at the end of these posts, and once again, I forgot. There will be lots in the way of food pics this Friday, though, as I’m going to do a food-centric post.

 

Now you see it, now you don’t. (Minimalism, post 3.)

Starting with a side-note: I just ate after coming in from my first garage gym workout of fall 2017! It was 70 degrees out there and perfect. You know I had to document the occasion. Look for that post on Tuesday, fitness fans!

Today’s topic: an update on my minimalism journey.

Two weeks in, all I have to say is that I’m rolling in the wealth of nothingness, and I’m not even finished yet. I wish I could describe how good it feels to have as close to nothing as I’ve ever had in my adult life.

Development 1: Callaghan caught the minimalism bug just by watching me burrow through my things. I would never ask him to get rid of his things, and he loves his things, so it took me by surprise when I saw him hauling boxes of his stuff into the dining room.

He said what I’d been thinking: “I can’t believe we paid so much to have all this crap shipped from France!!”

Hence,

Development 2: The whole rest of the house is next.

When we’re done weeding out our personal belongings, we’re going to focus on everything else, starting, probably, with the kitchen.

Callaghan is even more into it than I am. I started on this journey with no intention of disturbing our decor, which we don’t have a lot of, anyway. Callaghan’s talking about donating things like the huge mirror that covers about a third of our living-room wall. It’s a simple mirror with a thick, distressed black frame. It’s beat-up and austere. I’m quite fond of it.

He’s been schooling me in minimalism with his questions.

“Do we really want that huge mirror?”

“I like it.”

“Are you sure?”

If minimalism is a game, he’s winning… but I’m all in. Maybe I don’t really want a big-ass mirror taking up all that wall-space.

Realization: I love that he found the mirror in a discard pile near his work and brought it home. I think that finds like that are the best… but minimalism means that my dumpster-diving days are over. It’s okay. Now that I’m used to the idea of a bare wall, I’m looking forward to naked walls all the way around.

Categories of things I’m not minimalizing:

  • survival gear
  • books (as you know)
  • socks

I don’t wear most of the socks I own, but I did when we were living where it’s cold. You never know. The last thing I want to have to do is buy socks should we find ourselves living in a cold climate again. In my mind, cold-weather socks fall in the “survival gear” category.

As far as things to which I’m emotionally attached, I’m keeping just a few relics of yore. One of these is this porcelain cat I received as a gift when I was 16. This cat has been with me for over three decades. This cat has survived jaunts all over tarnation.

You’ve seen him before if you’ve been reading here for a while, but I took a selfie of us the other day. “The glass eye.”

 

With the porcelain cat I got in 1984.

 

Our dining room is empty again after hauling away the results of our first big sweep. We have house-guests coming in at the end of next week… and they’re staying for over a week… so we’ll dig in for the next big sweep somewhere in the third week of the month.

 

Opening windows, letting in fresh air. (September Favorites!)

Are we ready to talk about the little things I found to love in September? I mean, ready already?

I’m not complaining that it’s already. I’m loving October.

Here’s one thing I discovered in September: two of my go-to, ride-or-die product brands – Organix (shampoo and conditioner) and Burt’s Bees (my lip products) – are no longer cruelty-free. I had to go on the hunt for replacement products, and that’s fine… I’ve had it in mind to go completely vegan with products, anyway, as up until now, I’ve only been partially there. Organix’ and Burt’s Bees’ decisions to start selling their products in China (therefore abandoning their ethics – testing on animals is mandatory in China) gives me a long-overdue push in the direction of finding vegan replacements for any non-vegan products I’ve been using. And find them, I did. They’re on the list below.

Other than these products, I’ve got a great movie to share, a T.V. series we’re particularly enjoying, and some noms, as well and as usual.

 

1). What the Health

 

 

This excellent documentary about health and how we can manage it with success is informative, and, in our opinion, surprisingly fun to watch (for what it is). What the Health is available on Netflix. I highly recommend it!

 

2). American Horror Story: Cult (T.V. series)

 

American Horror Story: Cult (season 7)

 

We went into this season of AHS with a degree of skepticism. After watching the pilot, we were still somewhat skeptical, but intrigued enough to watch the next episode. We ended up hooked despite our initial misgivings. After the last episode (4), we decided that “Cult” is our new favorite AHS season, with our former favorite (“Asylum”) down to second-place. Let’s face it, though: we love the gruesome, over-the-top insanity of AHS no matter what the story.

The great thing about AHS is that since it’s an anthology series, you don’t need to have watched any previous seasons.

 

3). Kite Hill cream cheese style spread (both plain and chive).

 

Kite Hill cream cheese style spread (chive)

 

In the world of plant-based cream cheese spreads, Kite Hill makes my favorite, so far… and that’s saying a lot, because I really like Tofutti’s Better Than Cream Cheese. Kite Hill makes their product from almond milk, and they do it wonderfully.

A 1 oz serving of the chive variety has 78 calories, 3g protein, 6g fat (0 saturated – 0 cholesterol), and 3g carbs.

 

4). Gardein Beefless Ground.

 

Gardein Beefless Ground over a layer of vegetarian refried beans (with hot sauce and Daiya cheddar-style shreds) (Side salad not pictured.)

 

Gardein makes a delicious plant-based ground to replace ground mammal or bird. We love using it in red pasta sauces, or simmering it in taco seasonings to use in tacos (as in the pic above). This would also be great in Hamburger Helper-style meals, to make them healthier and just as tasty. We’ve seen Gardein Beefless Ground at most of the grocery stores we frequent (Sprouts, Fry’s, Whole Foods, Safeway), but we get ours at Target, where it’s $3.99 for the 13.7oz bag.

A 3/4 cup serving has 120 calories, 18g protein, 2g fat (0 saturated – 0 cholesterol), and 8g carbs (4g fiber).

 

5). Alba Botanica Hawaiian shampoo and conditioner Colorific Plumeria. (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Colorific Plumeria shampoo and conditioner

 

I’ve long been been a devotee of Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Pineapple Enzyme facial cleanser and facial scrub, so when I went looking for new hair care products (to replace my products from now-sold-in-China Organix), I thought I’d try Alba’s shampoo and conditioner from the same line… the Colorific Plumeria is formulated for color-treated hair. I’m thrilled to report that I like these products better than Organix’! They smooth out my hair and leave it super shiny and smelling so good. I don’t have to use any after-products, either.

 

6). The Body Shop vanilla eau de toilette. (cruelty-free… and vegan?*)

 

The Body Shop Vanilla Eau de Toilette

 

I loved Pacifica’s gardenia scent during the summer. The last time I put it on, though, I couldn’t stand it and tried to remove it as much as possible before going out. I’m not sure what happened… why it suddenly offended me so much… maybe something about my chemistry changed so the fragrance just went bad on me? But I was inspired to find a different sort of fragrance altogether.

The Body Shop’s vanilla eau de toilette is a lovely, updated 90’s vanilla scent with a spicy-sweet, musky dry-down. That’s how it works on my skin, anyway. It’s perfect for now. I absolutely love it.

*I put a question mark after “vegan” because when I did a “vegan” search on The Body Shop’s website, this product came up on the list… and it still does… but when I search for “vegan” as a sub-category under fragrances, it’s not on that list. Since it appears on the main vegan list, though, I’m thinking that it just got left off the sub-category list.

 

7). Method nourishing hand wash (in Almond Flower). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Method nourishing hand wash in almond flower

 

Callaghan chose this hand wash for the kitchen; since it’s called “almond flower,” I wasn’t expecting its vaguely spicy scent, so that was a bonus. Maybe almond flower actually is spicy. I don’t know. Whatever the case, I’m enjoying this product. I love its scent, and I love the fact that it’s indeed moisturizing. We get our Method products from Target, and all of their products are cruelty-free and vegan.

 

8). Pacifica Bali Coconut Natural Lip Balm. (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Bali Coconut Lip Balm

 

Luckily, I found replacements for Burt’s Bees lip products that are not only cruelty-free, but vegan, as well… and it turns out that I like them better than Burt’s Bees’. I had to replace a plain lip balm, a tinted lip balm, and a lipstick.

Pacifica’s Bali Coconut lip balm is silky and softer than the Burt’s Bees lip balm I’d used for so long, and it feels more hydrating, too. I don’t have to use as much of it, and I don’t need to reapply it as often as I did the Burt’s Bees, either. Love this product!

 

9). Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick (in Natural Mystic). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Devocean Natural Lipstick in Natural Mystic

 

I didn’t think there was a lip color I’d like better than Burt’s Bees Redwood Forest, but here’s Natural Mystic by Pacifica to prove that wrong. Again, think 90’s: Natural Mystic is an updated 90’s mauvy-brown shade, hinting at Bordeaux. The Devocean formula’s creamy softness feels wonderful, and the color is highly-pigmented. In comparison, the Burt’s Bees lip crayon was drier, and the Redwood Forest shade had a slightly orange undertone rather than the purple undertone of Pacifica’s Natural Mystic. I like it better all the way around.

 

10). Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint (in Sugared Fig). (cruelty-free and vegan)

 

Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint in Sugared Fig

 

Last, but not least, I found Pacifica’s tinted lip balm in Sugared Fig to replace my Burt’s Bees Red Dahlia lip balm. As with the lip color above, I like it even better… and for the same reasons. It’s creamier and more hydrating, and its undertone is cool, rather than warm.

[Sidenote about Pacifica: I ordered these lip products from Ulta online, since I couldn’t find their cosmetics in the store. From what I’ve seen, stores only carry Pacifica’s skincare.]

 

This brings us to The End. I’m happy to be in the Octoberness of now. I hope you are, too.

Friday mental health meditation.

It’s been a hard week.

With chronic, clinical depression, you live with a continuous mental health ebb and flow. It’s usually unpredictable. When I feel the ebb, it’s easy to dwell on factors that might be feeding my mental state into the darkness.

Because while the low points usually come from nothing in particular (such are the vagaries of compromised brain chemistry), there are also times of stress responses to factors I can identify.

I recognize the counterproductive nature of dwelling on those factors, but still, it’s hard to avoid gnawing at them sometimes. This is why I constantly enumerate the things for which I’m grateful. When I catch myself going over the negative stuff, I can fall back on my long-standing practice of counting my blessings throughout the day, every day.

When I’m down, I try to dwell even more on the positive.

In other words, actively practicing gratitude amounts to depression damage control. I have other forms of therapy. Working out consistently is therapy, literally: exercise frees the body’s endorphins to help the brain make you feel better. Creative endeavors such as writing are therapy. Loving on (and being loved by) my cat is therapy. Eating well to avoid poisoning my body is therapy. I try to laugh a lot. I try to maintain a lifestyle that can help others, rather than hurt them. Now, minimizing my life is even a form of therapy. I see a shrink and take psych meds, as well, but in the daily course of living, it’s these other actions I choose to take that help the most.

I’m grateful to have the unwavering support of Callaghan and my parents, but I try to manage my mental health without leaning on them too much. I’d never take them for granted, but I don’t want to be needy, either. It’s helpful just knowing that they’re there. I have to take responsibility for myself, because what if they’re not there one day? I can’t allow myself to become dependent on others for my mental well-being. This is a survival instinct more than anything.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a selfie I thought would be amusing to take (the other day):

 

Yet another awkward mirror-selfie attempt, but hey. Hi.

 

There’s always another day, and next week will be a new week.