Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Hallow's Read Free Story- Maybe It Will Be Enough

I always try to put up free stories for Halloween as a way to honor Neil Gaiman's tradition of All Hallow's Read.  I hadn't done a dragon story in the past and this felt like the right mood for this year, so here is "Maybe It Will Be Enough" along with an ink illustration. If you're looking for more disturbing, gory, and scary, check out Literary Dust's "Bride of Glass" on Amazon here for free today, and you can get the first book in the series for 1.99 here

Enjoy your Halloween,  and don't forget to share your scary stories, and your candy, and your zombie teeth. 

Maybe It Will Be Enough

      To be chosen by a dragon, you had to give up part of your soul.
      They had to be fed. Fed a still bleeding, fresh human body. Dragons ate all meat they could, but only an offering of the highest sacrifice could make you a companion.
      And Tahann had cheated.
      She brought her friend. And some of his blood had to be drained from the pieces. She could not risk it soaking through the bag and touching her. Coming to the mountain wearing blood meant you were food. Every footstep and handhold was careful. An open scrape marked you as an offering in this place.
      For added insurance, her body had been dusted in the soft purple lavender powder, so much that a heavy breath made it visibly float off into the cold air. It masked the scent of carrying the dead, and the color was meant to show the dragon something calming. Tahann had never seen a dragon up close and had no idea if any of this mattered or if any of it was true.
     Her friend, Dahy, had died peacefully. More of poverty than the illness itself, which could have been cured with three expensive bottles of little round pills. The plan had always been this, but Tahann felt guilty still. Many had probably done this, or far worse, for the chance to befriend the creatures that snaked on the edge of the world’s darkness. Everyone wanted this. Dahy, too. It made her feel worse that fortune had ended his life and given her the chance. But this was always the plan.
She hoped it would be enough.
     It was almost midnight before she found one sleeping. Young, a male probably, as the horns were longer than she’d expected. He was coiled up, and even in the dark, what light her torch carried picked up his brilliant blue scales. His eyes opened. Tahann put down the torch to the ground and she could still see his gaze on her, gleaming in the shadows.
     Slowly, very slowly, she took the bag off of her shoulders. She put her friend down to the ground. Barely breathing, she pulled the string, one inch at a second, until he was in the open air again; a mess of limp and red wet pieces. His face no longer resembled what he was in life. It no longer resembled anything she’d ever seen.
     It was the arm the dragon moved to first and sat down with it, like a dog with a bone, and began chewing, sometimes stripped the skin and fat and muscle off to swallow. Tahann just watched. She had known this part, this gap between the sacrifice and the reward, would be torture. But it hurt so badly that she stopped caring if she was eaten tonight as well.
     Unable to stand it anymore, she reached out and touched the top of the blue dragon’s wide head. He was warm, unbelievably warm, just like the books said he would be. He paused for a second.
He went back to finishing off Dahy’s arm.
     Tahann touched his head with both hands. He did not shake her off but moved to caress his horns on her palms.
     It was enough. 
     They had done it.
     Tahann hoped Dahy could see, not from the dead closed eyes he’d been limited to, but from somewhere and something else. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

SVT and the Gift of Seasons.

For the last three years, I lost my favorite seasons.

Autumn and Winter literally change the landscape of Texas, making the 100-degree landscape of baked greenery into something more hospitable, and that gives our holidays some real magic. 

I didn't (and still don't) understand the connection between cold weather and SVT. I'd thought it would be easier as the weather chilled because ice baths to the face are in the bag of tricks for getting out of an episode. But, no (one of my MDs thinks it's the dry air of the heaters that messes with tachy patients, and he might be right). Not only were my episodes longer and stronger in the cold, but my body began to ache like I was being pulled apart any time I felt a chill. Add to that the breakout high heart rates experienced with any respiratory virus, and it made Fall and Winter something to dread. 

We now have our first real cold front. 

And I'm not in any pain as the sun rises to the chilly mornings. 

I'm not going through sleepless nights of endless heart rates 160 and above during an illness. Three different respiratory infections and the only episode of SVT has been one after a jog that was more grueling that it should have been. 

This is better. 

I'm getting better. 

I get to enjoy our seasons again. And since my EP had declared me a bad candidate for ablation, I didn't know if this was ever going to happen. We were all only hoping, because that and trying some lifestyle changes are all you can do in these cases, that I would be one of the ones where the heartbeat improved over time. 

I'm not sure if it's luck, or age, or time, or being more careful with my stress level, or exercising. But getting better is the best seasonal gift ever. And it's motivation to keep trying to fight to get on top of this condition. I was warned to start with that even if I did everything right, it might get worse. Because sometimes this kind of supraventricular tachycardia just does. And I was told we'd keep trying new medications to get it under control if that happened (which, while reassuring, is about as much fun as a tick circus). 

It seems like a small victory, but just last year I was left in tears as my heartbeat soared to 200 just because it was Winter, and I woke up. 

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go twirl around in the cold wind and red leaves like a damn lunatic. 


Sunday, October 7, 2018

October is made for Scary Games

One of our favorite traditions in early college years was getting a group together and playing scary video games. It was hilarious, I once got hit in the eye with a controller, and semi-often most of us ran out of my best friend's giant game-friendly room in sheer fright. 

A lot of that has been replaced in our busy lives with infrequent get-togethers to battle video game zombies and defend each other, and I sort of miss being that scared as a group while still in the comforts of home. Playing online has made this easier, but it's missing the actual togetherness and many of the scariest horror games force the player to go through the experience alone, so if you've never had a group-play of a scary game, it's totally worth it. 

I'm a huge fan of scary books, (Happy All Hallow's Read, btw), but I'm also a huge fan of all things horror gaming. Here are some of my favorites, old and new. 

Visage is one of the newcomers to the area and holy @#$%! I have never had ghosts creep me out like that before. They move like real people, they sound real, but the absolutely terrifying dance macabre they do is going to drive you batty. This is another game like Clocktower or Haunting Ground where you can kick your own ass by getting too scared and losing sanity points, which is made worse by your always dark haunted house. It's a mad scramble to keep things lit as you unlock increasingly gory and scary clues to what happened in this place before you got there. In addition to the spooks looking real, the game feels real. You get the very palpable unease of someone going slightly out of their mind by being exposed to this stuff continually. Visage is a sad nightmare of the best kind and it was made for any horror fan. 

Fatal Frame as a series is my next pick, but you're going to have to go through some hoops the play the earlier games (the first one being the best, in my opinion) but you can find 3 on the PlayStation Network. It deals a lot with survivors guilt and guilt in general, and we get to see Miku again as a friend to the main character, Rei, who is dealing with losing her love to a tragic accident she feels responsible for. This is a heavy plot,  and the ghosts are obviously not as hyper-real as the newer Visage but the creepy moments are nailed here. Nothing is in the room with you, but for only a second a person-shaped blur appears. Your phone rings with ominous calls. Mysterious objects left in places you know they weren't in a moment ago...The little things make a big difference and altogether this is a good scary game. 

My last pick is the short but creepily gorgeous Year Walk. It was made by a Swedish developer and loosely based on the Swedish tradition of, you guessed it, the Year Walk. So there is this cool folklore feel to the world and the creatures. It's a puzzler, but as you are making your way around the haunting clues to unlock the future, it just feels more like a beautiful and scary experience. 

*credit to Haunting Ground, too- Idk where you'd find a copy to play but if you like horror games and dogs, then this was amazing.*

I love that we get new and memorable horror games every year, and October is a great time to try some old ones you may have missed or grab the latest and greatest title. Being scared, and the act of braving being terrified is crazy important to us as humans. So, go be brave and have fun. 

And watch for flying controllers, I guess. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I Told You I'd Talk About a Book About Walking...a Review of Walking Magazine The Complete Guide To Walking, by Mark Fenton.

First, this version is a dated book. It's still one of the better exercise books I've found, and if that doesn't say a lot, not sure what will...

Anyway, a book on walking is about as simple as it sounds. There are regimens to build your stamina (just walk further each day, then go faster, done) and added workouts that either you can try for weight loss or strength training. 

And that's why I actually liked this book. 

It's simple. 

And shows you the research on things like how runners are way more likely to hurt themselves than walkers but the benefits are so similar, and that walking really works for our bodies as far as exercise goes. 

It's literally how we were designed to get around our world. Which, if you think about it, is kind of cool. And I get why that's a calming experience. It's also great because this will work for a wide variety of people. 

I don't know for sure (I walk in either sandals or freaking canvas shoes, I know shit about footwear) but people have told me the portion dealing with shoes is super outdated but most everything else is at least decent. They (Walking Magazine) has a newer edition, but for the two different prices, I think this one works fine. Because it's a book about walking. 😃

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Review of This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide, by Geneen Roth and why a lot of diet books suck ass.

This is my first Geneen Roth book, and I grabbed it because it popped up in my diet research at the library. I thought it was some kind of weird mistake because the title and description don't look anything like those other books. 

Which turned out to be a great thing. 

Several days and several attempts at the under 1200 calorie keto diet just resulted in migraines where I lost most of my vision in my left eye and rigorous SVT. I "gave up". I don't know for certain what the answer to my health is, but it's not being in a such a bad state that I have to decide whether or not to go to the hospital.

I also asked for help to my other medical providers (the restrictive diet was recommended by my lung specialist) and was able to get the contacts and appointments I needed for things like a dietician. Because I still need help figuring all of this out. 

Our entire culture may need help with it.

I remember the absolute agony of my premie reflux baby, who would not gain weight. Not even with high-calorie formula. Even when she had pumped breastmilk, it was topped with formula. We started solids early, we went without sleep to keep feeding her. It didn't seem to change much, we were able to keep her well enough to avoid a feeding tube, but she barely made enough progress to call it a win. The gastroenterologist confessed to me that he sees this every day, all the time. He said that on the same calorie diet, one child will gain too much weight, one will remain underweight, and one will be just right. And we are not 100% sure what factors control all of that. We're just doing the best we can with what we know.

I had no idea until we were fighting for our underweight kiddo how hit and miss the science of nutrition, not just infant nutrition but human nutrition, actually is when applied to the diverse composition of our bodies. 

Diets don't seem to work over the long term. Not even the best ones. Losing weight and then gaining more over the long run is not an option for me. 

It feels like the only thing left is to just try to make better choices and time to take care of myself with exercise. And I am dubious I will get a lot of body change composition with that, but maybe with the help of a medical team, the difference can at least make me healthier and stronger than I am now and focusing on that has to be what matters. 

That's where this book comes in, I guess. It's a self-help book, but kind of loosely one, in that the truth is you probably don't need to be fixed. That magical day when your stars align and you suddenly have all your shit together isn't coming. It's not a thing and doesn't have to be. 

Relationships with food are spoken about in several chapters, with the most important take away for me to listen to what I'm feeling when I'm eating. And to not get hung up on "my life will start when I'm _______". It starts now, and the body I walk around in now is what I've got. 

The book also talks about the entities residing in our heads (no, don't get creeped out and run off, just hold on...) like the know-it-all-aunt who is your inner belittling self, and the phenomenon of "ghosts in the nursery" (you need to address your childhood trauma, or it's going to hang out with you in the scariest way possible). It's a great way to break some serious cycles. 

And, you know what, I'll probably read more by Roth, and that would be where I'd recommend people looking for a "diet" book go first. 

The honesty of it, the examination of your relationship to yourself and the world and your food...well, it's just the best reading material. I went ahead and picked my favorite passage out of the book to share on here, too;

 "On diets, we are still relying on the big powerful other to know what's best and to save us. And whether it's a good daddy or a good diet that rescues us, we remain victims and food our perpetrator." (page 60). 

In comparison, I found two other books about dieting. One written by two relatively rich guys who somehow got larger when they made more money and told people to just suck it up and be hungry and stop eating out with their friends and they will lose weight. That sounds about right. And the other read like a massive scientific journal about the pros of eating more vegetables. Which, okay, they do seem to be right about that. 

But neither addresses why this might be hard, say if you're stressed, or pressed for money or suffering from a chronic illness. That's not as helpful as books like this that might help you tackle some of the issues with food and your body. It's just not. Yes, we all know we need to eat avocados, but teaching someone to exercise joyfully or eat without bingeing is on a different level. 

**I totally did find a super helpful guide on walking as a workout, and I'll review that one once I can work through it a bit more.**

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Easy Warframe Crafts

Happy Video Game Day. 

If you liked games like Destiny (or the idea of them, anyway) then you're probably already playing Warframe, or you should be. It's free, multiplayer, and written with a fantastic storyline. 

I don't have time or interest for most multiplayer games, it requires just...too much. Too much time, money, investment, too much everything and as a parent I just don't have enough of any of that. With Warframe you can play just a little in a week and make progress, which was important to me- and the community is genuinely pretty supportive of one another. Those are things I haven't found anywhere else and I really do think this is a great game. The plot is pretty heartfelt as well, with some powerful moments in it as you go. Give it a try, you won't regret it, and it's updated regularly always. You can download it on the website here and I believe it is on Steam as well. 

If you're already a Warframe fan like my husband and myself, I put together a few fandom crafts you can do with just a few supplies.

Kubrow Pumpkin and Warframe Lanterns

I just grabbed a plain foam pumpkin from Dollar Tree along with some leftover summer lanterns, but any of the little Halloween lanterns would work, too. The main thing you are looking for is that you can paint the surface if you want to. 

You will need, in addition to your blank pumpkin and lanterns;

-printed pictures of Warframe characters you like (or printed pictures of whatever you want) 
-craft or acrylic paint in your choice of colors
-glitter paint (optional)

First, put a coat of paint on your pumpkin, you may have to let it dry and put on a second coat if you are having trouble with your coverage. 

If you want glitter, you can let the paint coats dry and brush that over the pumpkin as well. This step lays the background colors down, so have fun and make sure you let everything dry.

Cut out your printed pictures and coat them with Modpodge to stick them where you want them on your pumpkin. 
I slather the back of the picture first and use my paintbrush to flatten it out as best as I can before putting at least two coats of it over the image. Some people prefer the foam brushes for this and they even have specialty ones at craft stores to help you get the air bubbles out, but I've never found any of that super necessary. 

Let everything dry one more time and you have your specialty theme pumpkin to show off your fandom for Autumn. 

For the lanterns, depending on what you pick, you won't be able to get a flat color. The ones I chose were a pretty deep bronze, but they reminded me of some of the aesthetics found in Warframe, so I took them anyway. I picked two paint colors for each lantern so I could do a gradient, and it's only slightly noticeable, but that works perfectly. 

For these, I just applied my acrylic paint with a brush in one coat. That's it. Just paint them what you want.

I found that I liked that bronze color showing through, so don't be afraid of the original object bringing its own color palette.

Once that was dry, I brushed on a coat of clear glitter craft paint, and they were done. If you don't want glitter, obviously omit that step, but who doesn't want glitter. 

Warframe Shoes

For the shoes, you will need

-Some canvas shoes, any brand
-paint markers, I used Liquitex but there are other choices-and this is optional because you can paint your design with a small brush if you'd like. 
-acrylic paint

I laid down a coat of Modpodge over the tips of my shoes where I would be painting. Once it was dry, I painted the background colors. 

For the design, I used paint markers to freehand a Tenno theme and a machine pattern, but you could freehand something with a paintbrush as well. Just make sure your original layer of Modpodge and your next layer of paint for the background are dry and go to town with whatever you'd like. It does take some planning because this is a small space, so I recommend doing a sketch about the same size first, but that's the awesome thing about painting stuff-if you don't like it, paint over it. 

Once your design is done and dry, I'd go ahead and seal it in with one or two coats of Modpodge over it. I've had these painted for over a month and so far it's holding up okay and I totally credit those layers with that. 

You can also use glitter paint over this if you'd like, it doesn't fleck off the way you think it would during everyday wear. 

Happy crafting and happy gaming. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Exercises in Futility.

Working out and eating better is part of the regimen to help regulate my arrhythmia. Trying to actually make it a part of daily life is harder than it seems like it should be-even if life isn't getting in the way. 

I tried several different workout types. Most were complete failures. 

If you have an irregular heartbeat, you have to watch out for abrupt changes in position. It's why you might pass out just trying to get clothes out of the damn dryer. 

Salt and water help, but you still can't do it on repeat. Which is why things like Yoga made me want to throw up and die (sorry, Yoga, I still think you're cool) and even with the regular cardio or kickboxing videos I found that I had to just skip segments because there is no way I can go down to the floor and up again that quickly. 

Weightlifting has been alright-if I keep everything above my waist. I'm also new at that, so just using tiny 3lb. weights, and by itself, it won't retrain my heart. That's cardio's job for the most part. 

Walking never makes me feel bad, but finding the time to get in enough of it to make a difference has been an uphill fight, although this and tiny weights have made it into my regular called upon rotation. 

What surprisingly has helped and made me feel okay is a handful of ballet workouts. I realize I'm not going to be a dancer, but the workouts and stretches are not super fast into any position changes (at least in the beginning, maybe that gets worse or faster, I have no idea) and it has helped me think of my cardio as a calming routine versus something I was dreading. So, yeah, my tachycardia peeps...ballet. I was surprised too. But it is helping me feel stronger. 

Eating better has also been incredibly hard. I struggle with this far more than being active because at least being active can be enjoyable. Passing up cake doesn't make most people happy. I'm also an emotional eater. That really sucks and is hard to break. 

And I don't seem to be able to do any of it right. I had trouble with low blood sugar before, and Metoprolol for my heart rate has made that a more frequent battle. Cutting calories landed me with the ocular migraines that popped into my life during the worst of my SVT episodes, so I wonder if low blood sugar is the culprit. But I figure if I'm getting what I need or spacing it out better, I can beat that. I just haven't figured out how (or even if that is the cause) and probably need a dietician, because I can't deal with being in that much pain that often. It almost broke me last week, and I just can not again.  

It's hard to try to be healthier. And it's hard when being chronically ill makes it a crummier uphill slog. You have to worry about things that will never cross most people's minds. 

But I know that, like everyone dealing with a health issue, I have to just keep trying and modifying things until they can work for me. 

*I've posted it on here before, but I also still use and totally recommend Zombies, Run! Yes, you can do it at any pace, so no worries.*

credit to the photographer for the original imageunsplash-logoGaelle Marcel