It was a totally crappy Mari D, BUT STILL! I was so surprised! I was just moving through seated and thought, I wonder how far my hands are these days? I actually shouted in surprise when my fingers touched. Sophie rushed over and snapped a couple of super blurry documentary photos for proof….
Look! Actual finger to finger contact!
Now, I know I’m hunched over something terrible, and my arm is barely hooked on my knee, and oh, my god, please ignore the mess on the floor behind me.
But fingers! Are touching!
For comparison, here is beautiful example of Mari d, not me, obviously…
I would never have thought it possible that I could be in this pretzel shape. Ever. Never. My fingers have made a 4.5 year journey to get around my back to each other. There is still a ways to go before the pose actually looks good, and I can only do one side…but, but, I did a freaking Mari D!
Maybe my plateau isn’t as completely plateau-y as I thought.
Sandra Tayler is an amazing example of a mother/artist/business woman managing to keep a dozen plates spinning in the air with grace and creativity. She’s the publisher and editor of the hugely popular, Hugo-nominated comic Schlock Mercenary, created by her husband, Howard Tayler—and yeah, that means she’s managing to be both wife and business partner, a situation that has felled many a fine marriage and/or business. Plus, she’s the mother of FOUR kids. And she writes children’s books. And essays. She is super nice, and oh, and there’s that award winning blog…. Sheesh, there is just more and more to add to this list.
Basically, she’s up there with other mother/writers I know who seem to do the impossible, women like Martine Leavitt—SEVEN kids! nine award winning novels!—or Donna Jo Napoli—five kids, over fifty novels and picture books….plus she’s a freaking linguist! I heard Ms. Napoli speak once and she had this great bit where she was introducing herself, listing out everything she does, each accomplishment more impressive as they piled up, and then she finished up with, “And you can eat off my kitchen floor……for a week. And not go hungry.”
Yeah, I know the feeling.
But seriously, I’m so impressed with these gals. I aspire to be like them when I grow up! Although, realistically, I struggle with getting out of my pjs a lot of the time….
So, without further ado, let me welcome Sandra, who is ready to give us the secret to her super busy life. How DOES she do it??
Hi Sandra! I am so impressed with the fact that you are this full-on business woman, plus mother of four, plus having your own creative projects like the Kickstarter you are currently running to fund your next picture book. Can you say anything about how you do it all?
The quick answer is “practice” I’ve been parenting for 18 years and running a business for 10, but that answer doesn’t help anyone who is on the front end of trying to figure out how to fit all the things into one life. I’ve actually given presentations and written about it.
The solutions will be different for each person and the solutions will change over time. For example, when my kids were little, it was critical for me to keep all the business work in our house as much as possible so that I could be with the kids while working. Now I find that separating out business tasks from family things is the best way to keep sane. I use the school schedules to give structure to my days, much in the way that I used to use nap time.
Also there are lots of things I don’t do. My kids don’t have many activities outside of school and church. We eat far too much frozen pizza. And my house cleaning would not stand up to inspection. Also I live in fear that I’m going to fail at all of it, particularly the parenting. I’m always second guessing my priorities and wondering if I should be doing something different.
Oh, yeah, I know that fear. I bathe in it regularly. How do you try to balance your personal creative life with running a full-on business?
One trick is to give the two things different physical spaces in my life. My accounting and design work happens at a desktop machine in my office. My own writing happens upstairs on my laptop computer. The shipping and convention work happens over at the warehouse. The parenting happens everywhere, because parenting is sloppy like that. This way when I sit down with my laptop I can easily access that portion of my brain that has been storing writing thoughts. When I close the laptop, I fold away the writing thoughts so that I can focus on something else.
That’s interesting, using structure, both time and physical space, to draw boundaries around the different tasks. I’m terrible with this, the kids and I have these totally UNstructured lives which somehow make it super hard to feel like I’m getting anything done. I can see how structure might help keep everything running.
But I’m often jealous of your unstructured life, Maya. Some of it is the natural effect of parenting younger kids, but your unschooling approach to parenting is fascinating and alluring.
Daww. Well, I suppose there are pros and cons to every lifestyle….
Okay, so with Howard putting out a daily comic and you running both the business and the household, tell me how do you wedge your own creative life into that already bursting picture? What’s it like to live in a home with two writer/storytellers?
Interesting, fun, and challenging. Because Howard and I are both creative, we understand the needs of creative processes. If I peek into his office and I see that he is writing, I know to shut the door and come back later. If he is drawing, I can walk in and talk. Similarly, he respects my need for creative time.
The challenge comes because any creative career requires a support structure to form the business side of the equation. Somebody has to keep the books and make sure that there are groceries in the fridge. I end up doing lots of these support things. In part this is because I am more temperamentally suited to them, but also in part because his creative work pays our bills. We can afford to have my writing time interrupted, we can’t afford it if Howard’s is. We are very conscious of the imbalance in creative time and do our best to address it. Sometimes we succeed, others we don’t. I sabotage myself more often than not.
There is that classic image of being the woman behind the more famous husband/artist, the un-sung (or less sung) power behind the throne sort of thing. The wife/artist trying to do her own thing but it gets pushed aside for practical reasons, mothering, husband’s work etc….can you say anything more about finding yourself in that role, good or bad?
It bothers me sometimes to be the wife/supporter of a more famous husband. I don’t like being so cliche. On the other hand, Howard’s work is brilliant and worthy of support, so I’m not going to abandon it out of my desire to avoid being ordinary.
Also the supportive work I do is why Howard’s creation is able to support us. Without my support, it would fall apart because Howard doesn’t have the time to do all the business things and still create.
Howard and I talk about the creative balance in our marriage and we’re always consciously aware of the times when something of mine gets put on hold. We maneuver and create space for my projects, even when it makes far more financial sense to focus our efforts on the proven intellectual property. Sometimes the kids sacrifice for my projects too. The point of a family is to provide a growth space for all of the people in it. This includes the mother, even though the common narrative about mothers is that they are static, nurturers who just support everyone else.
So you’re on your own on your laptop, getting some of your own work done…can you describe your writing process? Tell us something about how you write.
It depends greatly on which sort of writing I’m doing.
I guess my process for blogging is to observe my life as I live it and then to think about it out loud and try to frame it in a way that will be useful or interesting to others. I’ve been blogging almost daily for ten years, so the process has become something that I don’t have to think about much. I just do it.
My fiction writing process is somewhat fractured because it is constantly shoved aside for all the other things in my life. I know that I am happier revising than drafting and that I struggle with creating conflict in my plots, probably because I don’t like conflict in my personal life.
The picture book process is almost always because I am seeking an answer to something that my child is struggling with. I know that the child needs a story, so I try to figure out what story might lead that child to a place of empowerment where they can solve their own problems. So far this has always involved a visual metaphor which can be turned into lively pictures by an artist. Once I have the concept I hang it on the 32 page picture book framework. Pages 1-5 to introduce the character and problem. The next few to create complications. More complications for the middle, then things have to come to a climax about five pages from the end so that it can all be resolved. There is lots of refining and trying to figure out how I can tell the story using fewer words. Picture books are boring if they are wordy or preachy.
Has it all ever gotten too hard? Have you ever thought of giving up writing, or had writer’s block?
Yes. I gave up writing twice. The first time was long ago before I started my blog. I was mired in the middle of the truly hands-on era of parenting where all my children were small. I was also dealing with some significant health issues. I looked around at everything and decided that I really should let go of the dream of being an author. It was a childhood thing and I was a grown up now. I was done. The next day I had a creative outpouring of words that lasted more than a week. The second time was a similar situation and a similar result. I gave it up and it came back.
Since then I’ve had lots of times where writing felt like one thing too many. There have been times where I consciously put it down, knowing I wouldn’t be back to it for a long time. Writing has always waited for me. Writing is patient when life gets to be too much. And, like riding a bicycle, I don’t forget how.
Okay, tell us what you are working on right now. I know you’ve got a Kickstarter cooking along….
Yes, the big project right now is running the Kickstarter so that I can fund the printing of my latest picture book The Strength of Wild Horses. Running a Kickstarter is definitely a project in itself, but soon I’ll get to do the layout and design work for Strength of Wild Horses. I love that part, because then the words and pictures start interacting with each other. I’m always able to fine-tune the words so that everything works together. It is a joy because Angela Call, the illustrator for the project, creates such beautiful images.
Of course, I have other projects, four children, for example. Parenting is a huge and ongoing creative project that takes up a lot of my time. In the business, we spent lots of time this past month setting up a warehouse to store and ship the books full of his cartoons. He just opened pre-orders on his annual calendar, so I have the project of tracking all of those orders and shipping things to customers. The holidays are coming and they always become a project unto themselves. I’m always writing my blog, but that hardly feels like a project. It is just part of how I live. Then there are house projects, of course. My life is always an ongoing mess of interconnected projects.
Isn’t that the truth. Well, thank you so much, Sandra! Best of luck to you and your many projects!
Please visit Sandra’s Kickstarter page or stop by her blog for more on her complicated, busy, amazingly productive life.
Sandra Tayler is a writer of children’s fiction, speculative fiction, and blog entries. She has sold stories to anthology markets, including DAW. In February 2009 her blog won an AML award for online writing. Sandra spends much of her time as the publication and distribution half of the Schlock Mercenary comic business. Sandra’s publication work and her writing are frequently pre-empted by the needs of her four kids, who alternate between being incredibly helpful and incredibly distracting.
We did it! We built a freaking computer! Let it be known that if a not-very-tech-savvy woman of modest intelligence, an eight year old, and a nearly ten year old can figure this out, ANYONE can do it. On the other hand, maybe we have buckets of heretofore unaknowledged geek bad-assery that we drew upon to face this challenge. Whatevs. We did it. See our build here at pcpartspicker.com, a totally awesome site that anyone building a computer should make use of. Other resources we used are at the bottom of this post.
But first, some pictures.
Because if you don’t blog it, it didn’t happen.
Here is the elaborate tool kit we needed for doing this epic task.
See, we decided to build a computer this morning (“why not? we’ve got all the parts and it’s raining today….”) and then at the last moment realized we had no idea where Paul keeps the good tools. This was the only screwdriver we could find. But it totally did the job. You really don’t need much to put these babies together.
The other very important item necessary for for computer building?
Strawberry Pocky. Food of the Gods. Good thing we went to the Asian Market yesterday.
So that was it. We were ready. Time to unbox the motherboard. And away we go!
This is me taking pictures of Luc, 8, who is taking pictures of the motherboard. It’s all very meta.
Moving right along, here is Luc installing the RAM.
He was so nervous!
Henry, on the other hand, was totally relaxed. He slept through the whole thing.
Here is Sophie, 9, installing the mobo into the case. My first panicky run-to-google moment was when I didn’t know what the standoffs looked like. Was it this tiny, black, screw-like thing? Or this one? Or this one? We are newbs, all the way. The blind leading the blind, baby!
Second tricky moment: the screw holes didn’t line up well with the standoffs. You don’t want to use brute force when installing a motherboard!!! But we did, a little bit. It was okay.
Sophie plugging in the front panel connectors….
Etc, etc. When all the components were in, we broke for lunch. It had taken about an hour and half to get that far…we went slowly and followed along with this excellent video (also in the resources section below).
After lunch came plugging in the power supply, mostly me at this point, although Sophie helped. Several tricky moments there…what does this plug into? I can’t get it to go in! What the fuck is this cord for???? [pant pant pant]
But in the end, we had this:
Although, I feel like we could have done better with the cord management, and I’m not sure we’ve got enough cooling in there. *chews nails*
But, of course, we were miles from done because, although everything was in, it still might be just a giant, black, brick. If we pushed the power button, would it sit there, still and lifeless? Where and how would we find the problem if it was broken?
Moment of truth. No more stalling, it was time.
Sophie pressed the button.
IT CAME ON!!!
We cheered! Henry, startled, barked. The BIOS screen came up, all blue and texty. It was goddamn beautiful.
An hour later I had Windows installed and was putting in the drivers, which I had already downloaded onto a thumbdrive, thanks to the tip on the Newegg video below (the part 3 vid). And here is the new computer, mid installation, my yellow tablet of notes from various sources, ready to be referred to, as needed, plus the Windows 7 magic key box….
It took about two hours to work through all the drivers and updates and virus software, yada yada. This was the hardest part, especially for the kids who were bored and hot to play the new machine. I only had an upgrade Windows 7 disk, so I had to do some work-arounds to get it to give me a clean install, plus adding the virus software, 133 Windows updates, and Java (for the all important Minecraft!). Thank the gods for google or none of this would have been possible.
And that’s it! It’s up and running. Luc is playing Minecraft LAG-FREE as we speak. Here he is at the very first Minecraft moment, showing the screen to his bestest Miinecraft buddy through Facetime on his ipod.
Super exciting! And dang if this machine isn’t crazy fast! At least compared to our old rig. And the visuals are super pretty, plus the rendering seems nearly instant. A tremendous improvement over our six year old Gateway system. Six years, that’s like a hundred in computer years. That thing was practically wood-burning.
We spent time reading Building a PC in Easy Steps by Stuart Yarnold out-loud over breakfasts. It really helped us understand the components inside a computer and the state of the computer world. Books are pretty much outdated the minute they are published, but this one had just, just, come out, and I found it jibed with most of the bleeding-edge stuff I read on Tomshardware. Lots of great pictures and a solid overview for the kids, especially.
I already mentioned Pcpartpicker.com which lets you put in your very own parts list, and it will tell you the cheapest price for each item (including current rebates, etc), as well as telling you if your list is compatible. Amazing! Plus a little graph for showing how that combo of components would have priced out over time. I put in our build list (once we had come up with it) and then watched the prices, waiting for it to drop before I pulled the trigger. You can also look at other people’s builds, and read a TON of reviews. A great site. Indispensable.
I used this page to do a clean install of Windows 7 from an upgrade disk.
And the videos. The first by TechReport was the one we watched as we did the build. It did a great job of walking us through each step, and used AMD parts as well as Intel, plus several cooling options, so we could watch the bits that applied specifically to our build and fast-forward the rest. Thanks TechReport!
This Newegg series was terrific. Here is part 2, on the building. I used part 3 for the Windows and drivers installation. Super helpful.
This is a great vid from EasyPCBuilder, excellent for brevity, clarity, and just giving us another view of the process.
Finally, this video, over at PCpartpicker, was the first one we watched and made it all seem doable. Luc and I watched this one together and decided that, yes, we could do it, and from there it all got started.
But wait, no, it was Polykow who inspired me to even try all of this when she told of building a computer with her son. Her unschooling enthusiasm is infectious.
And a huge thanks to Grandma for helping to fund our project! It would have taken a lot, lot, longer to get here without you. xoxoxox
Get this: the kids are building a freaking computer. Like the total badass geeks we are. Well, I mean, we’re watching a load of videos on Youtube—the place where the early 21st century thinking person goes to learn anything these days—and are soaking in the geeky goodness therein. After months of research, we have (1) selected our build and (2) purchased the parts (shout of thanks to Grandma for helping fund our little project!). We are very nearly ready to go. Can you believe us? I can’t. But you should hear my eight year old talking about DDR3 RAM and whether we should get an aftermarket cooler. Should be an adventure.
What’s with the breasts on that video card box???
But whoa, slow down—because before we can build a new computer, we have to have a place to put it. No small task in a 700 sq ft yurt. So today, in preparation for the upcoming build-party we are cleaning out the old filing cabinets, yeah, the ones we brought over from the pre-yurt farmhouse we lived in pre-babies, that’s over eight years ago, FULL of crap….and also long forgotten treasures.
The evolution of the ipod! Sophie took this—the last two are the current crop, Luc’s 4th gen and my 5th gen iTouch. Ipods and pre-ipods (hard to even remember those days, it’s so novel to look at an actual walkman now), audio devices forgotten and lost, left on the roadside of life, stashed in the back of the filing cabinets and still full of whatever I was listening to the last time I booted them up. There are actually a few devices missing, like that old Rio mp3 player that Audible.com used in its early pre-ipod beginning. I was a total Audible.com early adopter. I wonder what I did with that little Rio?
Man, these cabinets are full of tons of crazy stuff, cords from things we cant identify, old photos, my husband’s long braid from he he was a hippy and had hair down to his waist. (I miss his hair! Sob!) Then there are the paper files on our various interests back from the days pre-internet when you couldn;t just look up whatever the fuck you wanted. Plus the usual mountains of receipts and taxes from a decade or two ago. Into the burn pule with all of it!
The kids think it is all bizarre and hilarious, like excavating ancient history, artifacts from before they were born, from before the world was as it is. Hell, I found dream journals from when I was in high school. (I’m keeping those. I don’t know why. Nostalgic purposes.)
I can’t believe this shite has been clogging up our tiny house for all this time. It’s damn fun to let it all go. I feel like a whole new person! Makes me want to tackle other parts of the house like…the bookshelves.
(No! Run! The horror!)
Stay tuned for our Thanksgiving Computer Building adventure.
Hopefully it will not be a report of how we burnt half the yurt down.
I’ve been watching this every day for the last week like it’s a medicine of which I’m needing a daily dose. If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend. It’s only a couple of minutes. Sweaty, beautiful, inspiring (to me, anyway) minutes.
It’s all so true.
Also, Richard Freeman is a rock star.
As a person with long-time back issues, I was instantly interested when I heard about the Lumoback, a posture-sensing wearable device that promises to buzz you when you slump.
Backstory: lordosis (too much curve in the lower back), kephosis (too much curve in the upper back), mild scoliosis (sideways curves)—I’ve got it all, as documented by several full body x-rays taken over time when I was a teen-ager. Lucky me! I always knew I was twisted. I don’t look like a hunchback (yet), and I never wore a brace or anything, but I do have terrible posture, always have. And to go with it, I’ve got back pain.
Thus, the yoga.
Seriously, Ashtanga yoga has cured my back pain 95%. No shit. I highly recommend it.
So that rocks.
But while yoga has definitely improved my pain levels as well as my spinal range of motion, it hasn’t made a dent in my day-to-day posture. I slump. I have a sway back. And no amount of “stand up straight!” from my well-meaning female relatives has done any good. Sigh.
With all that in mind, you can see why the Lumoback got my attention. So I decided to try it out.
Short version: I’m conflicted. For specific applications, I think the Lumoback is brilliant. I’m just not sure it’s there yet. Or that its for me.
Now for the long version.
Okay, so I strap on this stretchy elastic band around my hips and an accelerometer tracks my body posture, buzzing me (gently)(and discreetly) when I move out of the target zone.
The band is super comfortable by the way. No problem there.
More importantly, the little guy helps with calibration, showing in real time what the sensor thinks my body is doing (which isn’t necessarily what it’s really doing).
Turns out, calibration, and recalibrating, is very important. It’s not something you do once and you’re done—it’s more something you do each time you put on the device, maybe more than once, showing the Lumo specifically what you want buzzed today. It isn’t a big deal, it just takes a second, but it definitely makes wearing the Lumo an active process, not a put-it-on-and-forget-it thing. Which brings me to….
Lumo as an activity tracker
As a side-dish to the posture-buzzing, the Lumo folks have packaged their sensor as a general activity tracker, including steps, sleep, sitting/standing/walking time, and number of stand ups. Didn’t you hear, sitting is the new smoking? Lumo wants to help counter certain death by sitting with all this data. Cool! I was all kinds of on-board with that. But…it didn’t work out for me. Here’s how it shook down.
The Lumo doesn’t actually track your sleep, it tracks your body position while you sleep (like most activity trackers), which is highly correlated with various kinds of sleep—when you are in deep sleep, for example, you don’t move. Unlike most activity trackers, the Lumo offers information about what position you sleep in, which could be cool if, say, it helped you discover the reason why your left shoulder hurt all the time (because you sleep six hours a night on it).
But 1) the Lumo said I spent a great deal of time sleeping on my front, which I know isn’t true because that is a super painful position for me. I never sleep on my front. So I couldn’t do much with the “sleep position” information.
Plus, the way they graph the sleep data just makes no sense to me. Instead of a time line, there are these bars color coded to show what position I was in, but I can’t tell from that how much deep sleep or how many wakings…I don’t know, maybe I’m stupid. I’m just not getting the way they presented their data.
PLUS, I like to read in bed, so the Lumo tracks all my “reading in bed” time as “sleeping” because I’m lying down. Which makes “total sleep time” pretty useless.
Which is to say, the Sleep Tracking function did zip for me.
Time spent sitting
Well, I guess it was interesting to know how much time I was sitting (less than I thought). Although the Lumo didn’t recognize when I was driving (more on that in a moment), so it lumped driving and sitting together, which I guess is technically correct, but was less than satisfying, especially since my driving was tracked as “sitting and slumping”. Humph. I’ll call this one a tie.
My primary job, being a homeschool parent, requires getting up and down a million times a day. So this number didn’t really do much for me. I can see how it would be more valuable to someone who works at a desk all day and really needs to get up more.
The Lumo seems extremely accurate for counting steps. If you’re a step counter and into the whole 10,000 steps a day thing (I used to be, the kids and I had some great experiments with a pedometer a few years ago) then the Lumo will serve you well. It didn’t really do much for me, I have to admit. Not the Lumos fault, it just wasn’t a metric I cared about. I could take it or leave it.
All of which added up to me not really being interested in any of those components after the first 24 hour novelty period wore off.
Okay. So, Lumo is not an activity tracker for me. Moving on to the main event.
My take is that the Lumo is at its best in tracking posture while the wearer is sitting at a desk in a fairly static situation. In other words, if you work at a computer all day, the Lumo could totally help you. It might also help you get up more, with it’s general tracking info.
For me, however, it…hasn’t been going so well.
1) I only occasionally sit at a desk. My big computer-use time (writing and surfing) is spent on the sofa with my legs crossed and my laptop in my lap, a position the Lumo can only track as SLUMPED. So I have to turn it off for that.
It did help me sit up straight when at a desk, no question.
However, because of where it is worn, the sensor is much better at tracking pelvis position than shoulder slumping. For the times I WAS at a desk or in an upright chair, I did find that my body unconsciously kept the buzzer from going off by holding my pelvis in the “safe zone”…which was straighter than usual, while continuing to slump my shoulders. Hmm. It certainly kept sitting up straight more in my awareness than usual, resulting in more slump-free time.
But, on the whole, using it while sitting was only partially successful for me.
2) I was not very good at getting the Lumo to buzz me when I slumped when standing. I tried calibrating it this way and that way, wearing the strap higher and lower, adjusting the sensitivity levels, all with limited success. I could pull off a pretty good collapsed chest and swayed lower back and not trigger the sensor. If it got really spectacular, it would buzz me. But middle of the road slumping/hunching, nope.
On the positive, it did buzz me sometimes, which got me improving my posture more than I would have without the Lumo. So that was good. It just wasn’t as often as I WANTED it buzz me.
3) On the flip side of that, the Lumo buzzed me ALL THE TIME for things that I didn’t want to be buzzed for.
For example, driving. As I mentioned, it wouldn’t recognize “driving” so it saw me as “sitting and slumping” and would buzz me non-stop every time I got in and out of the car (doing errands requires a lot of this). In addition, although it would stop buzzing when the car was in motion, it would buzz me continuously whenever the car was still, that is buzz buzz buzz at every stop light. Obviously, I needed to turn off the buzz before I drove anywhere, but that had me turning it on and off constantly when I was out and about—or just not using it except when I was at home.
Second example, bending over to pick stuff up. Something I do a million times a day. Buzz! Buzz!
After a few days of this, I was ready to throw the damn thing away.
Time to start experimenting!
Because the Lumo WAS getting me to stand up straight more than anything else I’ve ever tried. Just… not as well as I had hoped it would.
So I tried strapping it to my chest. Don’t try this if you are uber-endowed. Under the bazooms, nothing, no buzz, not even on the most sensitive calibration and severe shoulder slump. But above the breast, with the sensor in front, now I could get some serious posture feedback. I could calibrate the Lumo to buzz me when I rounded my shoulders and collapsed my chest (although now, of course, it couldn’t give feedback on the lower back sway). Still, very useful!
Also super conspicuous—the buzzing on your chest, not to mention the lump of the sensor, is VERY noticeable here. Definitely not a wear-all-the-time solution.
But that was okay, because once I get away from the “activity tracker” idea (which involves wearing it all the time so it can track your data) I was starting to see the Lumo as more of a training device. As in, wear it for an hour and work on posture for a bit, then take it the fuck off and get on with my day.
This seems to work. An hour or two of getting buzzed has an effect on the rest of the day. My unconscious self tends to try to keep my body in the “safe zone” (safe from being buzzed) even if I’m not wearing the Lumo. This effect wears off, but with regular training sessions, it might eventually stick. I’m not sure.
This might be where the Lumo can be brilliant. As a training device. I actually think to do it right I would need two of them, one for the shoulders and one for the pelvis—would I need two iphones? I don’t know how that would work. As it is, I’ve been wearing my single unit for a bit in the morning on my chest and a bit in the afternoon on my hips. Don’t look at me like that, I’m not a freak! It’s fun to experiment, you know? I also drink a serum at night that transforms me into a monster, but hey, who else am I going to experiment on? The kids. No. They’re too young.
Anyway, I’m definitely seeing results. What I don’t know is how lasting they will be. Maybe periodic zapping will be required to keep the unconscious mind trained? I also don’t know how long I want to keep this up. It’s not…pleasant. Although standing up straight looks fantastic, and feels good (until the out of balanced muscles start aching, that is). Want to magically appear ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter? Stand up straight. Not to mention the reduced wear and tear on your joints and the aforementioned back pain. Will the benefits outweigh the effort and discomfort? We shall see.
1) Unless you’re going to turn off the buzz for long periods during the day, you’re not going to want to wear this thing all day for the activity tracking stats. It’s too aggravating. I think the wear-all-the-time idea with the Lumo is just a no-go.
2) If you use it for periodic training sessions —and by this I mean, go about doing whatever you’re doing, only with this added buzzing thing going on— the Lumo is powerful. A little goes a long way. (And it is a huge relief to take the thing off.) But my posture, and my daily awareness of my posture, has definitely improved. Which is not something I can say about anything else I’ve tried, even enlisting my friends to tell me when I’m slumping. Long term results, however, are not clear. I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing it and I don’t know how long the effect will last.
3) If you sit at a desk a lot you might be able to wear it for longer periods and get more effect. Indeed, the Lumo seems optimized for desk-sitting. However, it’s exhausting to use your muscles in a new way! You will need breaks.
What I think would really work: some kind of body suit with sensors in several places that could track a more complicated postural picture and therefore buzz a couple of different variables: shoulders slumping, pelvis arching, etc. Not a device you would wear all the time, but for short training periods, maybe 30-60 minutes a day. I would totally try something like that, after this experience.
Changing posture is really hard. Anything that makes a difference is good. Even if it is super annoying. But super annoying is not something you want to do a lot of. I’m still playing with it. We’ll see.
My favorite painter also happens to be related to me. My aunt, Carroll Lassiter, makes beautiful paintings of the rural North Carolina landscape and the vanishing old barns and buildings that dot it. I just love her work. Looking at her paintings makes me happy, even when they make me sad. I don’t know, there is something lonely about some of them, or at least that’s how I feel seeing these old, abandoned buildings in their fields and forests. A sweet, sad feeling, like looking into the past.
Here are some shots from a recent show. Carroll is also a welder and welds the burnished metal frames for each painting.
My photos are crap! Crooked! How could I not have noticed?? But the paintings are still lovely. They are just what it is like to drive down back roads and empty stretches of North Carolina highways, views I spent many, many hours of my childhood watching slide by the car window as I went from Mom, to Dad, to Grandma’s place.
Some places I recognize, like this from near Edenton, where my grandmother lives…
Or this one, a painting I adore, my Grandaddy’s old barn where he fried the fish he caught and made wine from the grapes he grew. And as my cousin said, “The Jack Daniels was out there. Everyone hung out out there.”
The barn is empty now that he’s died. A feeling of loss is in the painting, too, the insides dark.
Other paintings I don’t know specifically, but they look familiar, like growing up here has made these views part of my DNA….
The outer banks! My favorite place in the world. Why do I only have one of these? She’s done whole series of the marshes and waterways….
In addition to landscapes, Carroll sometimes paints tools, giving them personality.
She did one, a series of trowels, big, medium, little—I wish I had a picture of it—called “The Trowel Family.” That one was bought, quite happily, by a family who’s last name was Trowel. Too perfect.
I’ve done a few posts on Carroll over the years, here is one, and here is another. My photos are crap compared to the real paintings, some of which can be seen at the FRANK gallery in Chapel Hill, NC. Or you an contact Carroll through her website here.
And here is how to make Carroll’s perfect 7 minute cake from scratch. Besides being a marvelous painter, and a welder, Carroll is also the Cake Whisperer. She is a woman of many talents.
I was drinking coffee and doing a little Japanese study this morning, as is my wont as of late, when a small, cute, Luc-shaped zombie came over, crawled into my lap, and sucked out my brains with some vivid slurping noises.
“Mmmm,” he says. “Tastes like kanji.”
For years I had no trouble writing every day, doing my yoga practice, and eating well, but this last year all three have gone into the toilet. So much so that I now look back on those times when I religiously got up at 5 to write, or had a six-day a week yoga practice, as some kind of mythical Time Before and have no idea how I ever achieved it. Indeed, I only know those times actually happened because here is a (surprisingly popular) post I wrote in 2009 about how to how to get up and write at five in the fucking morning, and here is my (also surprisingly popular) 2012 post on my yoga practice after three years of near daily Primary series (including through times of injury!)(with before and after photos!).
In contrast, for the last year, writing has dropped to 3 or 4 times a week in the afternoons, and practicing yoga has dropped as low as 2 times a week, and then post-hamstring injury this fall, to spotty once a week trials.
Facing this debacle, I have been trying to figure out WHY, and more importantly, how to get my bulletproof habits back. Or if that is even possible. This post is about me clawing my limping way back through tracking. Maybe. I think.
In exploring WHY, my first thought was to blame my manga habit. Because, basically, the time my morning habits (writing, yoga) went to hell coincides with the time when I started staying up really late to read—which led to sleeping in later in the mornings, which ate up my usual writing/yoga time, both of which never seemed to adequately get rescheduled. It also seemed to nix my morning kale/orange juice in favor of something caffeinated to help me wake up after my sleep depletion. It’s all manga’s fault!
But, of course, I’m not giving up manga. Duh. Instead, I focused on how to get up early, something I used to do as a matter of course. That had to be the solution! PROBLEM: turns out I LOVE sleeping in, something I discovered when I was able to give up the murderous 5AM wake time because the kids had gotten older (it’s complicated). I love it, the lying there all dreamily thinking, drifting, cuddling, warm and relaxed…I don’t want to give that up!
Okay, so it turns out that trying to get up early makes the hardest moment of my day—that of trying to get up when I want to keep sleeping—the very first moment of my day, when I am weakest and most prone to blowing off my larger goals. Trying to get up early also pits me against myself. And since I suck at it, it makes me feel like a failure first thing in the morning. As a result, my effort towards doing it regularly crash and burn, or, more typically, failed to even get off the ground. Depression and guilt, how I loath thee. (How did I ever do it back i 2009? Amazing.)
I know, I know, why not write and do yoga some other time? Seems so simple. But, as most thing, not so much. Afternoons are no good (kid activities) and evenings are husband/family time—if any goal is more important to me that writing and yoga, it is kids and family. So what about late night? I’m too wiped. Plus the kids and husband are all capable of staying up WAAAY later than me.
So, it’s got to be mornings. What to do???
It got so bad that I started questioning my identity. As in, I thought I was an “unschooling, novelist, vegan, yogi,” but really I’m an “unschooling, middle-aged woman, getting chubbier all the time, who likes to read.“ At least I got to keep the unschooling part.
There was actually something quite relaxing about downshifting my self-picture. Lower standards for the win! No more struggle to attain difficult goals! Let’s watch tv and eat chips!
But no, that wasn’t going to work. I really do love writing and my yoga practice, etc. Lowering the bar is a good vacation but not so great on my long-term self-esteem.
I know! I just needed a spiffier alarm clock! Some vibrating thing that wouldn’t wake my co-sleepers, one that would read my sleep-cycle and wake me at an optimal moment of light sleep rather than groggy deep sleep (they have alarm clocks that can do this!). Maybe something with an app. Yeah, that was the ticket. I just needed to purchase something.
Which dropped me right into the explosion of fitness trackers, Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Amiigo, Lark, because many of them have this fancy vibrating sleep-tracking function—God, I had no idea there were so many now!—
Which led me smack into the Quantified Self movement, where curious people track various things about themselves and then learn stuff from the analysis of their data. That link goes to the Quantified Self page, a sort of virtual headquarters for an international movement…but the main thing is all these cool videos of people talking about their experiments with tracking various things, health, fitness, reading, where one has walked, eating, mood, etc. Very interesting!
I had no idea there were other nutty people who love to track weird data like I do! This is me, jumping up and down and saying Hi! I’m a nutter, too!
For example. Before there were apps and trackers and ipods, there was paper and pen, and I used actual graph paper and a thermometer to track my morning basal body temperature for eight years, data I used successfully both as birth control and then for getting pregnant when I chose to. During that time I experimented with correlating various things with my hormonal cycles, such as mood and libido, and for just a single, silly, example, I found I reliably had a day of worrying about money three days before my period started each month. I could set a clock by it. I’d think I was having money troubles, but no, I was just having PMS.
This still cracks me up. So much of what we think is our personality, our Self, is just chemicals.
A second example. When Sophie was first born she cried all the time. Colic is something evil people invented to torture mommies and babies. It was awful. Hearing from my doctor that it could be related to what I was eating (and passing to her through breastmilk), I cut out everything from my diet (I think I could eat rice and turkey?) and started adding things back in one by one, tracking what I ate as well as keeping detailed charts that plotted Sophie’s mood in color-coded, 30 minute increments of “sleeping” “crying” or “screaming.” You can get an idea of how bad it was because it didn’t even occur to me until later that I needed a color for “awake and happy,” because she never was. (I chose blue.)
Over the weeks that I did this, gradually the charts went from lots of red (screaming) with some pink (crying) broken by merciful sections of green (sleep), to some pink, swaths of green, and blooming blue sections that made me want to weep with relief. I also found I could reliable create red by eating various things (caffeine—no chocolate!!! horror!!!—was a big one), and so was able to stop the red altogether and seriously diminish the pink.
Maybe baby Sophie just grew out of it. Maybe my charting just gave me something to do to feel some sense of control in a terrible situation. Or maybe there was something to it all. I don’t know.
But the point is…I love tracking! And there is this whole pile of people who are into it, too, how cool is that?
I find there are all these interesting devices these days, too, step counters and heart rate monitors, sure (I’ve played with both, fun!), but also sleep trackers, mood trackers, money trackers, reading trackers, glucose trackers, posture trackers, blood pressure trackers, exercise strackers, GPS locational trackers, etc etc.
It’s so interesting. I know, I’m such a geek.
But, hey, aren’t we paying just a little too much attention to ourselves?
On the other hand, there is something so freeing about looking at this stuff as DATA rather than, say, a statement of morality, as in, if I’m a good person I’ll make good decisions, so if I’m making bad decisions I must be a bad person…
No. Maybe these decisions are an effect of triggers, patterns, and habits that I can’t see without taking a closer look. Maybe it is a lot easier to change habits by changing the environment than by trying to change myself through sheer willpower. Looking at one’s data as a kind of self-scientist, investigating for clues, is judgement free, and can lead to behavior change through increased awareness and a sense of choice that has nothing to do with will power or being naughty or nice.
So, what about the habits I once had of writing and yoga?
I already do a bit of tracking here on the blog with my page-count widget, as well as my “daily practice” mini-blog over there in the sidebar. Those are both there for me, more than you readers (sorry), but I’ve been fairly lackadaisical about upkeep. I would like to track in a more granular way—sorry, I just really wanted to use that word, Quants love the world “granular”—so, I’m looking for some method that is super easy and fun to get the habit tracking part of all this in place.
I have found one ipod app called Lift that seems fun, and fits with a lot of what the habit researchers have figured out about habit forming. Basically, you want to (1) choose only a few habits at a time to change/implement. (2) You want to make them specific and actionable. (3) You want to build up streaks, because these can be highly motivating—the more days in a row that you do your new habit, the more likely you won’t want to break you streak. (4) You also want to keep tracking simple, like a y/n binary, I did it/I didn’t do it check mark. Plus, (5) regularly review your results and adjust course as needed…or celebrate! Celebration is super important. In addition, (6) chaining habits is powerful—slot a new habit right after an already established habit. There is more about all of this in the videos below…
But listen: I have had one insight and one GIANT breakthrough.
The insight: the hardest thing (I thought), the bottleneck, about my goals was getting up early—but instead of focusing on the getting up early, I’ve started focusing on going to sleep earlier. This makes the hardest thing of the day the last thing I have to do, instead of the first thing. Better. Because I’ve got more resources to draw on when I’m in my “review my day” mode rather than “I’m half asleep and could give a fuck about goals” mode.
But the really juicy bit, the BREAKTHROUGH: in my quest to find a good alarm clock—because I kept thinking I needed one until I just started going to bed earlier, DUH, FACEPALM, this is embarrassingly obvious!!!—I’d been trying different apps on my ipod. But an ipod-based alarmclock put the ipod in my hand first thing in the morning…which often led to reading first thing in the morning. Which often nixed any other plans or goals.
Basically, if you give an addict their drug of choice first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is pretty much shot.
So, no ipod alarm clock. Instead, if my first goal is to get up to write, and the getting-up part was the hard part…
…why not put my computer in my hand first thing…and write in bed?
I’m a freaking GENIUS!
So, for a four days now, I’ve put the computer by the bed the night before, gone to bed early enough to wake up early enough that the rest of the fam are still asleep or half-asleep….and I grab my computer and get my 1000 words in before I even get up.
Then I track it and celebrate because I am awesome for thinking of this. And since I’m up, yoga follows breakfast-for-kids, as it used to. It all depends on getting to bed earlier (not toooo hard) and environmental support (computer by bed). Will it stick? I’ve got a four day streak, we’ll see….
Here is a super cool TED talk by BJ Fogg about behavior change through forming tiny habits, a great start to the whole habit thing.
Here is Quantified Self participant, Andrew Tarvin talking about tracking habits over time to create behavior change. He’s also funny, the founder of Humor at Work, a good, inspiring talk.
And for something different, here is data scientist, Rachel Kalmar, who has been wearing 20 different trackers for the last six months and has very interesting thoughts about getting, using, and keeping our data.
I really want a bunch of these trackers, I have to admit. So expensive though! Maybe I can pick just one for Christmas….what should I track? Hmmm….
Every year our country neighbors go ALL OUT in the Halloween decorations department and come up with yet another crazy taleau of scary goodness for all to see. This year was no exception! If this is your first time seeing this stuff, use the Halloween tag to go back to previous years, you will not be disappointed.
This year we have a lovely trip to university, Ivy League no less…
It’s hard to see but this guy has a never-ending stream of drool (water) flowing down his mouth, super gross, and the cat on the side there is wearing a graduation cap while it consumes the rat.
I know the feeling, guys.
Dorm living! And below is his roommate….
The Chem class was REALLY REALLY gross up close.
The whole house gets the treatment….
Yeah, I don’t want his job.
This gal’s name tag says “Recruitment”
Hard to see in the photo, but he bowls are full of ears and hands and and hearts. UGH.
I love the LOL on this guy. Such a friendly fellow!
This last fellow was about 10 feet tall!
upcoming book releases
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Creature of Dreams, now available on Amazon.
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The haunted and talented children of the glorious and terrifying...
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today's yoga practice
November 21, 2013 | 9:54 am
Primary to navasana.
November 21, 2013 | 9:54 am
Skip. Dentist again.
November 18, 2013 | 12:02 pm
Primary to uphivista konasana. Finishing never felt so good, I am so stiff today. Could the extra salty Chinese food last the culprit?
November 18, 2013 | 12:01 pm
Primary to baddha konasana.
November 18, 2013 | 12:00 pm
Primary to navasana.
- Archive for today's yoga practice »
a few greatest hits
- welcome to mayaland's virtual macabre crawfish feast of death!
- the amazing emu
- bikini power vs. the ratty sweater
- lucille ball moment
- flying kids
- the way of the bento
- 2 stories, 1 joke, and a song
- living the tie-dyed life
- butterfly house
- unexpected benefit of living in a round house #27
- the yip-yips do not cause childhood obesity
- the incredible hulk invades the yurt
- the source of my power
- remains of the play
- cool felt picture fun for kiddos
- diggers watch tv, too
- the TOOL shed
- spike and buffy got screwed--now with proof! (part 1)
- triple chocolate pudding goop, or, this way lies madness
- screen time for fun and profit
- "Dusi's Wings" April, 2003. . . . "One thing fantasy can do for us is to give shape to the mysterious in the world; another is to make emotional yearning concrete. The early sections of "Dusi's Wings" do just that...there was a strong grasping towards the spiritual in fantasy here that was very promising, and I look forward to reading more by Lassiter." --review, Tangent Online.
tagsadventures alternative building art author interviews on creative process backbends Bees birthday book covers books cats chickens Conjuring Raine creative process family featured funny kid moments geeklife goat milk goats guitar halloween Henry injury ipod japanese Luc manga movies Noah house play podcast podiobooks radical unschooling recipes recycled building supplies seasons Sophie swimming television tiny houses Unschooling video games yoga yurt raising yurts