Running is Good for Hoarders

A lot of people have been stopping me lately and asking me where my obsession for running 5Ks suddenly came from. I have never been an athlete and I can only do Jillian Micheal workout dvds when distracted by Netflix because I find exercising incredibly boring.

Regardless, the moment for running happened like this – I was about to make a car purchase (the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought in my life) and decided to ask the dealer about this “athlete rebate program” from Subaru.  “Oh, that’s for athletes!” he said dismissively, “sign your name here and the car will be yours!” “But I know friends that run!” I sputtered. The salesperson rolled his eyes, “Well, contact the website, we’re a dealer, I don’t know anyone who’s done it.”

Subaru is a brand known for encouraging drivers to become rugged wilderness adventurers and there are rebates available for athletes, ski instructors, golfers, new grads and people needing to modify cars for disabled passengers. The only category applicable to me is the athlete rebate, aka, someone willing to do either a triathlon or run two 5K races.  Incidentally, I was conversing with author Vincent Ternida about this and I was the third Asian person he knew who was running for this rebate…sigh…

Regardless, I hate it when people say I can’t so something, so I ended up running two Subaru sponsored races to qualify for this rebate of $750 (though I still have to mail in forms before end of the year). My husband refused to participate, but while I do my runs, he hikes 15-20 km instead. He has been encouraging me to run every month so that he can go hiking. It’s a win-win for us I guess, to spend some time in the car before we separate to do our activities!

I thought I would hate running. Instead, I was surprised when my hoarding instincts came out after I started collecting the medals at the finishing lines. So nice and shiny! And heavy! I can’t remember the last time I got a prize for something. Probably it was a science fair ribbon in high school.

My mom is pissed at me now after I told her I registered for “The Chocolate Race” in the 5K category because at the end there is a chocolate buffet. “OK, so the first two races was for money, which I support. But why the heck are you paying to run now? Just run around the block!”

Everyone wants to exercise and get fit and live longer. But often excuses outweigh the motivation! I think the combination of getting a medal and feeling pretty good after a 5K run is doing the trick for me right now. I don’t know how long this will last, but I have committed to walking 5K with a work colleague for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon because they seem to have really nice medals. There’s a run at the Toronto Zoo too which sounds fun too because it’s at the zoo! A co-worker came by my desk this morning to tell me that I’ve motivated her to run again. She used to be a runner but stopped due to an injury and then it was too hard to go start again. It was very nice of her to tell me this, I never expected to inspire anyone, except for other potential Subaru owners! Another co-worker advised me that I had joined a cult and welcomed me since she was a runner as well!

I’ll never be a competitive athlete (top times are 15min for 5K runs), but for now I will run for medals and will be looking forward to the chocolate buffet at the next run! The healthcare benefits are a bonus!

 

 

 

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Feeding The Kraken Children cookbook out!

Feeding the Kraken! is a toddler/children cookbook I made in 2016. It was a successful Kickstarter project and it features over 50 recipes as well as parenting advice. I had hoped that my father (a chef) would be around to test recipes with me, but well, he died.

This book is a big lesson about me being too creative without thinking ahead. I used up a lot of time to make it look pretty and had lots of beautiful nautical graphics in it…which doesn’t translate well in e-book format. In fact it looks really crappy because the coding is very difficult and to make the book commercially viable I have to strip out most of the graphics.

I procrastinated about this for over a year.  Good thing I’m not depending on books/writing to pay bills because I would be starving and dead by now!

In the end I decided to put up the original book as a pdf with all artwork intact on the Dark Helix Press website as a download. Since the reader has to do extra work, instead of the usual $4.99 price point, I have dropped it to $3.99. I also didn’t realize that paypal took a cut per transaction, so I learned about being dinged for fees too.

In the future I will make an e-book but it won’t be as nice. As for print book, I have InDesign, but haven’t taken the time to learn it yet. There is a high learning curve, but it is the gold standard for printing software. The print book can have most of the artwork intact but will be expensive to print due to color ink.

Anyhow, if you have any krakens (children) to feed, I think this is a great cookbook to look at. My child actually asks for the healthy red lentil muffins listed in the book! A cookbook is only successful if you use recipes more than once!

Here is the link, bon appétit!

http://www.darkhelixpress.com/yachildren/feeding-the-kraken/

 

Trump Book Almost Finished!

Apologies for not updating this blog as of late.

Trying to finished the Trump book has been a priority (oh and that toddler creature needs to be take care of too) and we just finished signing our 30th author (Timothy Carter, who sent in a fantastic story that made me laugh loudly) that will be featured in the book. The stories selected are pretty fantastic and unpredictable. As a writer I don’t like reading things in which I know how things will end. The publishing date we set is November 31, 2017 for the e-book and January 2018 for the print edition.

By the way, I am a horrible person to go to the movies with!

Jen Frankel has come on board as the second editor of the book and she has been fantastic to work with. There was another editor that came and went – lessons learned was to always keep communication open and to be organized, since things get hectic with 30 stories! Also parting amicably is a good thing because one never knows what the future may bring!

Labor day weekend (Aug 31-Sept 3) Dark Helix Press was at Fan Expo , a scifi/fantasy/horror/sports convention which brought over 100,000 people to one place. As a not very famous author, it was a loss financially, but I made some new contacts on the creative front. My husband couldn’t understand why I was exhausted every night. “You just sit at a table!” he said. Well, sitting at a table from 7am-8pm and talking all day is really tiring. Especially when you are not a natural salesperson. But if people don’t know about your book, they won’t read it, so you have to put a piece of your heart out there and let it get stomped on usually! There were a few people that heard me speak at other conventions so it was really nice to meet these people that have similar passions!

Recently I couldn’t find too much information about a device which I splurged hundreds of dollars on called Ovusense, so I will do a future post about this device and how it helps women with PCOS who are considered infertile. Time is passing for me, so I am hopeful, but trying not to be in case I get disappointed (Baby Shadows, an essay I wrote a long time ago explains more).  I wish that my husband could have the baby because I seriously hate labor and recovery.

For those bugging me about the second International House of Vampires book, I am working on it, really. I know people are waiting and I have to get it done. I hope to have a draft by December, then find an editor in Spring 2018. This one is about mankind spewing too much garbage into nature and the consequences of that. Have you watched Plastic Ocean on Netflix? Birds and whales among other animals all starve to death because  of plastic junk they swallow! The ocean has become a trashcan. Just one example of how horrible we are. Although if any other species took over the planet I’m sure they would do similarly destructive things…

On that cheerful note, have a great weekend!

 

World Building On A Road To Hell

The following are some thoughts which I will be sharing at Anime North on May 27/17 at the World Building for Authors panel.

Recently I was looking up some ideas on what to talk about at this world building when it suddenly occurred to me that I have been doing it every day for almost a year now. Last June, after my father died, I got into a huge fight with my family.

Elderly relatives (especially one over 100) was not allowed to know that he died. People believed that they would die from shock from hearing the news. I was the outlier and eventually caved because of a group vote.

In Asian culture, one is not supposed to share bad news. I am the one banana (yellow on outside, white on inside) who feels that bringing out the truth is the best so solutions can be discussed. Well, in case of death, there is a stigma against any discussion, usually people just don’t talk about it. When an aunt died of cancer last year, I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral either because I was on maternity leave and weak, therefore, spirits from beyond could harm me. During her time of illness, no one in the extended family knew. She wanted to die in secret and didn’t even want a funeral. When I fought to let people know my father died, I was fighting not just family, but the Asian culture as well.

Anyhow, my father was a devoted family man and visited these elderly relatives every day. After work he would drop by to cut up grapes or prepare other snacks for the ones in nursing homes. For immobile relatives in wheelchairs, he would take the time to drive them out for dim sum and groceries every weekend. Now that he has gone I haven’t been able to fulfill even half of what he did for these people while he was alive.

Since he disappeared, I have been asked questions everyday:

Where is your father? they would ask. Sick, not feeling well, I would say. Why isn’t he visiting? He hurt his leg. What is he eating? I’m cooking and freezing meals (technically true as I was dropping them off at the house to feed mom). Why didn’t he come to my birthday party? He was busy.

Indeed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

In the beginning I felt a lot of pain whenever I spoke to them because I felt guilty about lying. I had many breakdowns during the first few months and would start crying after I left the nursing home. None of these elderly people have dementia and their memories are better than mine.

Over time I started to construct a world for them and me in which dad was still alive, but just sick and in bed. We do have relatives that get sick and disappear for twenty years, so this was the most plausible explanation. No one talks about it, pretending that it’s normal, but I suspect it must be due to chronic depression. After I explained that dad is probably experiencing the same thing as the “other relatives” there were less questions.

When an author builds a world for their readers, they have to think about many things. There are physical rules, society structures, the characteristics of their environments, food, clothing, relationships, etc. All the things which we adhere by and use on a daily basis. I have written fantasy and science fiction with such worlds I built for readers. I have edited stories and criticized other authors for breaking their own rules or writing nonsensical science.

Nothing however, compares to the world building I have to do now. It is a fragile world I have constructed because I am not the only author. I have siblings, aunts, cousins and other relatives that have the ability to destroy this world if they say the wrong thing. They usually run from questions asked about my dad and I told them that this is unacceptable. If you all agreed to keep the truth from her, at least keep your end of the bargain with me on speaking about dad as if he was alive.

I can speak all I want, but I know I can not control other people and can only do my part as best as I can. Many people have stopped visiting the nursing home for fear they will say the wrong thing, which is very sad. The only thing I can do is keep up with this mirage the best I can until it breaks.

Thinking My Way Out of Depression

“I don’t understand why you are like this. He’s dead, life goes on. Why are you wasting your time?”

It’s great that the rest of the family can move on with life while I sit around and lament about the death of my father, the lost future with him as a grandpa and how life just sucks. I always thought I was adaptive to change, but obviously it’s not true when it comes to life changing events. The docs tell me I have PTSD due to my looping of the last day before his death over and over again, along with major depression which makes it hard to do anything. Even calling up a friend feels like the energy will drain out of me and I’ll collapse.

Many pushed anti-depressants on me, but given I get stoned on allergy meds, I decided I’m not sure if I want something that could rewire my brain. Instead, I am trying something called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (CBT). Basically I’m trying to think my way out of depression by going to counselling and doing lots of thinking homework every week. The idea is that CBT will help you stop the thoughts which are spiraling you into depression.

In my case, one thought that comes back over and over again is that “I could have saved my father.” This consists of all the would/could/should have scenarios which contains millions of possibilities and endings. Then guilt and sadness enters into the equation and I end up lying in bed, being very depressed and not being to do much as I fall into this deep well of horrible thoughts.

This is a classic case of complicated grief in which the brain is rewarded with feeling closer to the deceased while suffering and in pain. A Neuroimaging study done by the University of California shows how complicated grief rewards the brain which makes adapting to the reality of the loss more difficult.

This week, by filling in worksheets with my situation (similar to ones found here) I find evidence for/against if the thought is true and what is the cost of the thought. For the “I could have saved father” thought, the scenarios could have or not have worked out and by doing this looping, it has a high cost of neglecting my family/work but at the same time I am rewarded by feeling like my father is still alive (glimpse of hope). Taking a step back, the situation is the same – father is dead, so no matter what I think I could do, it is useless since he is gone.

Ideally,every time the looping about saving him starts, I need to be mindful and respond to myself by thinking “Yes, I could have done more, but it’s too late. Father would want me to take care of the rest of the family now and carry on his legacy.”

George Micheal’s “Praying For Time” lyrics come to mind:

Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

A lot of this mindfulness stuff is based on Buddhism, but with the religious component stripped out and scientific methods applied. Asians are such practical people, sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me. I am such a failed Asian…

In a way I’m starting to do what the rest of the family has done by forging ahead into the present/future. Instead of forgetting the past though, I think it`s valuable to learn from it. I’ve written an article on how to handle healthcare crisis in the family (sent off to magazine publisher but no response yet) and thinking about writing a book which may help others.

These quotes struck a chord with me and I find them comforting:

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”
~ Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

I know I can’t wallow too long in depression or else I’ll drown in the puddle. CBT has helped me quite a bit, but I know the road for recovery still has a while to go for me…

Curing the Living Dead…With No Sugar Added!

“How are you even alive?” The Chinese doctor looked at me and sighed. “You barely have a pulse, do you eat anything at all?” I told him that I have been trying to eat more vegetables, exercise, etc. “Is there a problem with meat?” “No, I just thought I was eating too much.” “Well, you need protein for your cells to repair and function.” At this point I was flabbergasted.  He knew cell biology? He was a Chinese practitioner with 35 years of experience and worked in HK, Taiwan, and Canada. But I guess I had a stereotype that people usually chose one culture’s scientific knowledge over another.

It’s been 30 years since I have seen any Chinese doctor after the last one my parents dragged me to did some “bone reconfiguration” after I sprained my ankle.  So now I have two “ankles” on one foot due to a misalignment somewhere. “It’s not like you are crippled!” my mom yelled back when I told her why I was afraid of Chinese medicine.

With reluctance after trying to have a damn munchkin for so long, I caved into to seeing a Chinese doctor after my Western doctor became too “busy” to see me. It was a difficult situation with a parent there, as she explained to him how she thinks it’s a stupid idea for me to have a child as children are bad karma creatures out to collect debts from the parents. The doctor smiled politely and said, “You’ve shared your experience with your daughter, now it’s up to her to make the final decision.” A former university colleague of my mother’s, he knew her personality well.

He spoke for about an hour about how to eat properly as it turns out I was malnourished.  With not enough nutrition to function, how did I expect to grow a parasite? He taught a minimal cooking technique for green vegetables to preserve as much nutrients in the food as possible: Add 2 slices of ginger to a wok, heat up; add vegetables which have been rinsed in water only; cook for 3-4 min; add a little olive oil and water if needed; use lid to cover wok; cook for 3-4 min and add a little bit of salt for flavor.

In regards to cutting vegetables, he recommended not using a knife if possible as just hand breaking them preserves the cells better. Also, what I can eat depends on my body type, so he had to take my pulse.

Looking at my left wrist, he shook his head as my non-existence pulse.  After feeling my right wrist he frowned and asked, “You should be experiencing abdominal cramps after meals as you have a bad digestive system.” How did he know this? It was true, I get cramps once in a while, especially when I’m super full.

Then he looked under my tongue; there were black colored veins and when I relaxed it, the tongue did not have smooth sides.  “Your veins are black due to bad blood circulation and there are lumpy sides from your teeth.  When the tongue becomes swollen, it presses against the teeth which is why it is lumpy when you relax it.”  My mom, the energizer bunny, had a super healthy tongue of course.

After another hour of teaching me how to better take care of myself, he started to set my prescription for the next five days.  I had a weak body (low energy, bad blood circulation, heat based), but if I had too much rich food, that would make things worse.  He said there is lots more to know, but didn’t want to overwhelm me at the first meeting.  I have to return in a few days and have another assessment, then my instructions might change depending on how my body is doing.

herb powder ss
From herbs to GMP powder

My instructions:

-powder Chinese medicine mixed 2x per day in lukewarm water (on empty stomach, can eat 1 hour after).

I was expecting to have to buy herbs to cook, but he said that his GMP certified powders were tested for toxins and guaranteed to be the correct herb, unlike random vendors.  This technique of manufacturing Asian meds had been perfected by the Japanese.  Also, people don’t know how to cook the herbs properly which may mess up the meds too.  There were about a dozen powdered herbs in one “dose”.

-can only eat until 7/8 full for each meal

-can not drink water or liquids during the meal, as apparently I’ve been diluting my stomach acids.  I can have half a bowl of soup/water before and after meal that is warm in temperature.

-3 meals: breakfast (something small, carb or protein), lunch (palm size meat with 2x vegetables and some carbs), dinner amount is same as lunch, fruit 2x

-meat = chicken, fish, pork; my body can not handle lamb or beef

-vegetables and fruit must be different if eaten in the same day

-no caffeine = tea, coffee

-no alcohol

-no pop, too much sugar

-speaking of sugar, avoid as much as possible as body can not digest this well

-ARH!  NO CHOCOLATE!  I might as well be dead!

-Vitamin C, 500 milligrams; taking prenatal multi-vitamin ok as much of it will be peed out anyways

-breathing exercises, no more than 5x each or I might damage something (no aerobics as I didn’t have enough energy for that)

-no spicy or fried things

-less soya, tofu due to hormones in them

-No eating of frogs, toads, quail spit, placentas (really?!)

-snacks can either be fruit or yoghurt (Apparently the Japanese have the best yoghurt which is not available in North America)

I had questions about my use of Western medicine and he said that I should not stop as it would be a shock to the system.  I told him it was too late as the doctor pulled me from all meds after my last failed baby attempt.  He said it will take a while for my body to recover, but my body wasn’t too terrible compared to other women he had seen with the same problems.

He told a few stories in which he knew what to prescribe, but held back as he was worried about lawsuits as there is not much confidence in Chinese medicine in the Western world since Western medicine dominated.  There was some communication issues, as my background in science had been taught in English and his in Chinese.  So there were some moments which was like a game as we tried to describe the cell part we were each talking about.

In previous meetings, my Western doctor had said that I was about to take the last step in how they can help me and if it didn’t work, there was no other alternative.  So, I guess, I’ll have to give this Chinese medicine a try as I’m not sure what to do anymore. I am feeling hopeful, which is always a dangerous thing. Wish me luck!