Monthly Archives: September 2013

Blabbing about WorldCon 2013

So WorldCon happened four weeks ago in San Antonio, and I’m just now blogging about it. (Life with a baby makes for good excuses.) It had its frustrating moments, but overall it was still fantastic. I didn’t have a novel ready to talk about so I knew I was going simply to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. Strangely, that helped decrease the pressure when meeting anyone.

So I left for San Antonio Thursday morning after teaching a couple of private Pilates lessons, and I’ve got to say, Roslin was a total champ. I fed her right before we got on the road, and she slept for all 3 hours of driving time, only waking up just before we got to the hotel. We arrived a little after 2PM, which gave me time to check into the hotel and pick up my WorldCon badge before picking up my aunt from the airport. (My aunt had graciously offered to come watch Roslin for the weekend so I could attend more of WorldCon. She didn’t have to come spend her weekend in a hotel with my daughter at all, and I’m thankful she came.)

In line at WorldCon Registration.

In line at WorldCon Registration.

So we entered the convention center briefly, where Roz was quite sweet towards the registration volunteers. (By the way, the volunteers were very kind and helpful, and I give all of them major props for helping out!) Then we ran back to the car and went to pick up my aunt from the airport. Her flight was delayed by almost an hour but she showed up eventually, and we picked up fresh fruits and vegetables for her to eat over the weekend from HEB.

By the time all that was done, it was time for dinner. It took a bit to arrange, but me, Roz, my aunt, and my friends Megan and Gama went to one of the Mexican restaurants down on the Riverwalk. It was pretty tasty – I do love shrimp fajitas.

My aunt and Roz went back to the hotel room, and I met up with some friends from the Writers of the Future forum, and we had dessert at Denny’s. It was great talking to everyone in person! I’d met half of the group in person at conventions last year, and it was great to meet even more of my online friends in the flesh.

After much conversation, a few of us visited the room parties on the party floor – I think they were all bid parties. Most of them had died down by the time we arrived, but we still had a good time chatting.

As you can see, Helsinki would have been an awesome host for WorldCon 2015.

As you can see, Helsinki would have been an awesome host for WorldCon 2015.

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When we made our way down to the bar, we met up with other friends. Lou Anders stopped by and we had a good chat about his upcoming children’s series, as well as some of the books that Pyr has or will be publishing.

And then it was time to crash.

Friday morning was the Codex breakfast, and I got to meet even more online friends in person. Roz wasn’t feeling super awesome – she was running a slight fever, among other things, and so she wasn’t her usual sunny self. Over the wailing, though, I managed to have a few conversations, and no one seemed terribly annoyed.

I managed to attend the Creating Anthologies panel, Wesley Chu’s reading, and the Writers of the Future panel. Megan and I were determined to go enjoy the Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chao, and I’d like to think we succeeded. We ate the heck out of that place. (But what Brazilian steakhouse doesn’t serve glazed pineapple? This one, apparently.)

A large portion of Friday night’s party time was spent at the Writers of the Future party, which I helped host, and it was a blast.

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I also got some time in at the Tor party, and finished up chatting at the bar.

Let me just emphasize how many sodas and waters I had this weekend. I don’t drink, and it is definitely cheaper that way. Apparently it’s just not worth it to bartenders to charge for a Sprite. Can someone explain that to me? I’d get my wallet out to pay, and they’d tell me to not worry about it. Not at the hotel bar, of course, but at Ernie’s Bar.

On Saturday I attempted to sit in on the Wiring the Brain presentation, but a few minutes in Roz decided that now would be a good time to create a ruckus, and continued doing so until I gave up trying to sneak back into the room and just grabbed all our stuff and sat outside. She recovered by Dave Farland/Wolverton’s reading, and along with several other friends we had lunch with Dave, which was really fun. I’ve been waiting for years to have a chance to chat with him. We booked it back to make it to our Kaffeeklatsch with Patrick and Teresa Nielson Hayden, and then it was time for breakfast/dinner at Denny’s  and more parties!

Say hello to my steampunk baby.

Say hello to my steampunk baby.

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While chatting at the Baen party, Bud Sparhawk sparked a new short story idea for me and I need to make sure I finish it in the next couple of weeks so he doesn’t write it instead. 🙂

Sunday I made it to the Literary Beer with Ellen Datlow, and that was all. Sunday was a hard day, especially since I got some kind of food poisoning during dinner, which began to take effect around 10 or 11 PM (though up until then chatting at the bar with writers like Myke Cole, Carrie Vaughn, Brian McClellan, Kevin Hearne, Gail Carriger was really, really fun), I struggled to enjoy the night since this was the last chance to chat with so many great authors (and the occasional editor/agent/assistant/fan/etc), but I gave up completely at 12:30. It just wasn’t happening.

I did, however, manage to steal some cuddle time with Ken Liu's Hugo.

I did, however, manage to steal some cuddle time with Ken Liu’s Hugo.

My second cousin once removed, who happens to live in San Antonio, offered to give my aunt a ride to the airport Monday morning, which gave me plenty of time to miserably lie in bed. I eventually checked out of the hotel and made it to Jo Walton’s reading, which was as lovely as her reading at ConDFW. Her upcoming novel (with Tor) sounds fantastic, and I can’t wait to read it when it comes out.

Meeting up with Jo again, one of the loveliest people in the world

Meeting up with Jo again, one of the loveliest people in the world

On my way out of the convention center I met up with Jeremiah, Tina, Marina, Andrea, Martin, and Austin one last time and we snapped a quick Writers of the Future forum picture:

Tina, Marina, me, Roz, Andrea, Austin, and Martin

Tina, Marina, me, Roz, Andrea, Austin, and Martin

And then I drove home, still feeling crummy, with this sweet scene in the backseat:

Cooed herself to sleep.

Cooing and reading herself to sleep.

So there’s my very long update. (I didn’t even begin to name all the amazing people at the convention but this post is far too long as it is.) I’m glad we went, but I’m not entirely sad that I’m not going to London next year. For how difficult it was balancing time with a 3 month old, I’m not sure that running around with a louder, larger, more mobile 15 month old would be any easier. We’ll save our terrorizing for local cons, and hopefully be ready for Spokane in 2015.

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Long days (and nights) in the Cherry household

So Roz is growing up lovely and fine, but it’s a bit disheartening that she went from sleeping almost through the night – usually 4-6 hours between feedings – to every 2 hours. I feel a bit betrayed by all my friends-who-are-also-parents.

“Once they start sleeping through the night, it gets so much easier.”

Does it? Does it? Because the last couple weeks have not been all that easy.

But it’s fine. I am, as they say, as healthy as an ox, and my ‘schedule’ for sleeping (or doing just about anything besides my laid-in-stone commitments) is about as well formed as the scribblings of a toddler. So I can deal for quite a while with sleep deprivation before I start hallucinating.

My other big surprise of the last couple weeks is that Roz has developed an extreme need for bouncing. I have discovered, after about a week and a half of wondering where the screaming banshee came from, that if my baby is upset and it’s not that she’s hungry, it’s that she wants to bounce. Or have her legs pushed up to her chest repeatedly.

So with the crazy nighttime feedings and the bouncing, my baby is asking for way more attention than a couple of weeks ago. Lest I deprive her of attention (and teach her that Mommy has more interesting, important things to do – like staring at a bright white screen – rather than play), I’ve spent a great deal of time bouncing and jiggling my child. We’re achieving relative peace in the house once more, though I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she changes again. And again. She can roll from her tummy to her back (though only occasionally, as Tummy Time is akin to torture), so the Potted Plant stage of infancy is almost over.

Alas.

So the writing isn’t streaming out of me right now in great floods, but I feel like I have more ideas to work on. I find myself developing and working on several short stories, as well as continue work on The Novel.

While it’s certainly never much at a time – the biggest chunk I’ve written in a single day lately was about 1000 words, while many other days it’s between zero and 200 words – it’s still creeping along, and all the ideas I’m working on make writing that much better when I actually do get time.

And progress is still progress, so I’ll take it.

Shape Up Saturday: Head check!

Welcome to Week 3 of Shape Up Saturday, where you get a little tidbit to work into your daily routine. My goal, as always, is to help everyone achieve a better version of themselves, one small change at a time. Today we’re talking about posture and how to start improving it.

Stop and observe yourself right now. How are you sitting? (Or standing, lying down… whatever.) Chances are your head is jutted past your shoulders as you read on your laptop, tablet, smartphone, what-have-you.

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Like this good man here.

Do you know how much weight you’re supporting right now? The average human head weighs somewhere between 8-12 pounds, but when you’re leaning forward the pressure increases so it’s more like you’re holding up 32 pounds… OR MORE.

That’s some incredibly inefficient weightlifting. Look at the strain on the neck, back, and shoulders of the man in the center and on the right. All that pointless work is probably going to do a number on the jaw too. You’re also decreasing your ability to take oxygen in easily, and there’s no easier way to get stupider than to deprive the brain of oxygen, right?

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Forward head syndrome. Ow.

The truth is that in this Age of Technology we all use bad posture at least sometimes. We NEED to stop abusing our skeletal structure, though, because bad posture begets pain with begets tension which begets even worse posture, and so on.

The most obvious way to stop the pain is to just stop sitting like that. I know that we’re creatures of habit, though, so that’s going to take some time.

In the meantime, while you’re on the road towards practicing better posture, let’s look at another example of painful posture.

Sometimes, in an effort to not push our heads forward, we simply slide them back, like so:

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This good man is probably experiencing a great deal of pain standing like this!

While you may not exaggerate as much as this guy, I HAVE seen this show up a lot. I find that teaching correct posture is much easier when we talk about LIFTING the head.

And that lift comes from the bump behind your earlobes, called the mastoid process.

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Behold, the mastoid process.

The head FLOATS above the shoulders, just as the ribcage should float over the hips. The neck shouldn’t have to strain to hold the head up, and when we focus on gently floating the head up (starting with the mastoid process), we are well on our way towards better posture.

Of course, previous postural abuse to our body may have tightened muscles, making it difficult to achieve easy, effortless good posture.

One way to start relieving the pain is to use the stretch I demonstrated last week.

Another is to stretch the chest:

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Collarbone lifted! Note the position of the ears over the shoulders.

If your shoulders are/have been injured or you’re just too tight to do the stretch clasping your hands, you can still get a nice stretch by sitting tall on your bed/couch/floor and reaching your arms behind you in a low V, walking the fingers back until you get a nice stretch through the chest/shoulders/biceps.

Here’s one last exercise you can add into your stoplight-sitting routine: the cervical nod. It’s a simple nod of the head.

The skull should feel like it’s sliding easily up and down – the less you strain to do this, the better.

Behold, another ridiculous Vine clip:

https://vine.co/v/hru3uTaQmjM

https://vine.co/v/hru3TQJwOvm

Note how soft the muscles in my neck are – no strain.

So that’s it for this week’s post. I just feel silly making these Vines, but if you find them helpful, I’ll keep making them.

Just for you.

Yes you.

So what are you hoping I’ll talk about next week?

Shape Up Saturday: Shrug Off that Tension!

Welcome to Week 2 of Shape Up Saturday! This week we’re talking about letting go of all that ridiculous tension in the neck and shoulders.

Out of all the strange and painful things that people unconsciously do to their bodies, I find the stress in the neck and shoulders to be the most interesting. Nobody wants to have all that tension up there. And yet when we’re trying so hard to do a plank, drive in crazy traffic, or spend a few hours on Facebook on the computer writing or studying, our neck and shoulders get tight and we mess up our posture.

Why do we keep hurting ourselves like this?

My opinion (freely and frequently stated during my Pilates classes) is that we have all this energy constantly running through our bodies. Even if you don’t feel particularly energetic, the potential for energy is still there. Anytime we tighten a muscle we’re directing a small amount of that energy to a particular part of our body.

The problem is that we don’t always use our energy efficiently. That plank you were holding? The work should have been more like this:

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Shoulder tension can’t save you now!

 

And driving? Sitting at the computer? If you think about it, hunching your shoulders does nothing. Those jerks that cut you off and those trolls on Huffington Post feel nothing when you tense your shoulders. You are the only one that feels that pain.

IT DOES YOU NO GOOD. Your stomach doesn’t get stronger from tensing your shoulders – in fact, it makes it harder to properly target the correct muscles for whatever you’re doing. You’re taking this beautiful skeletal structure and unnecessarily lifting it up.

So let’s transfer that somewhere a little more useful… like our abdominals. We want the energy to go into the muscles that can actually help us with our task, and we want to send the bad feelings away from us completely. Right? Right.

So.

I took it upon myself to set up a Vine account yesterday when it occurred to me that Vine would actually be a useful tool for quickly showing the proper positioning for the exercises I’ll be recommending throughout my Shape Up Saturday series. Because I’m awesome I asked my husband to video me demonstrating this neck stretch – and because I’m lazy you’ll see me with no makeup. Yep.

So here it is. Try this the next time you’re sitting at a stoplight or waiting for a webpage to load:

In case using Vine was a terrible idea and I totally wasted my time and dignity posting that clip and you can’t view it, I’ll post pictures:

Sitting tall, exhale chin to chest (it’s less about tucking the chin to the chest and more about lengthening the neck while you’re down there):

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Inhale and roll head to one side, nose pointing forward, neck long.

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Exhale and roll head back down to the chest, still keeping the neck long.

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Inhale and roll head to the other side. The more you lengthen the neck the better the stretch will be.

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Repeat until the light turns green. I know this is a super simple stretch, but we all need to decrease the load on our shoulders, whether we’re writers, readers, or candlestick makers.

Did you try it? How do you feel? Did the Vine clip work for you? If you want me to cover a topic, let me know!

Shape Up Saturday: The Core of the Problem

Have you been pregnant? Yes? Cool. This post may be very helpful for recovering from pregnancy, even if it’s been years since you waddled your last waddle. If you haven’t been pregnant, guess what? This post is STILL for you. Don’t run away so quickly.

I’m kicking off my Shape Up Saturday series by talking about our core. This is something I CONSTANTLY talk about in my classes, so I’m sure I have a lot to say, but I’ll keep this as concise as possible.

Okay. So.

Our core can get soft and weak for so many reasons. To name just a few: pregnancy, busy schedules  back injuries that require weeks/months of rest, or maybe, just maybe, the computer chair is getting more attention than the yoga mat. Whatever our reason, it’s likely that the weak core will lead to back pain, neck pain, back pain, shoulder/neck pain, back pain, back pain, and other pains. All this pain can lead to damaged vertebrae, tense muscles, and crummy sleep.

And who wants to hurt all the time?

One way we try to fix a weak core is with crunches or sit ups. But if we are pregnant, postnatal, overweight, or even a body builder, we can end up with this:

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Diastasis Recti – not cool

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Diastatis Recti again – still not cool

That’s a Diastasis Recti. This occurs when the rectus abdominis, which is commonly known as the ‘six pack’ that everyone’s always trying to attain, splits. The abdominals as a collective muscle group can’t function well if it maintains this split.

You can determine if you have a split by lying down on your back and with your knees bent. Place your fingertips in the umbilicus and lift your head (not the shoulders) a few times as you press slightly deeper. Feel for the edges of the rectus muscles coming up. The number of fingers that fit in the space between the edges tells you how wide the separation is. A half a finger width indicates no diastasis. A finger or greater indicates there is one.

So what do you do? Suck your stomach in?

Abso-freaking-lutely NOT. Sucking your stomach in restricts your air flow (your diaphragm can’t move around properly in there), your ribcage, shoulders, and neck take on TONS of tension that they just don’t deserve, you don’t engage your deepest (and most helpful) abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis, and that’s Just. Not Comfortable. Save sucking in your stomach for those 10 uncomfortable seconds you have to squeeze past someone to get to your seat at Thanksgiving dinner.

What you do instead is start by relaxing your stomach, and breathing.

That’s right. Just breathe for a second.

And now take a look at this picture:

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A well-explained picture – note the direction each of the muscles move, especially the transverse abdominis.

As I mentioned earlier, the transverse abdominis is the deepest of the abdominal muscles, and can help heal diastasis recti. Below is a simple exercise to heal the split, called transverse pulses.

If you don’t have diastasis recti, this is still an important exercise to use when doing nearly any other exercise, as it will help properly support the spine. Try it and see if you can sense your abdominals better (you should also feel more relaxed!)

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, place your hands on your belly.

  • Inhale for 4 counts while letting your belly gently press into your hands.
  • Exhale while drawing your belly button slightly in and up to your ribcage (like you’re scooping ice cream), flattening the abdominal wall (TA) and imagining that you are pulling your two sits bones and pubic bone together, squeezing/lifting your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Inhale release the muscles half way out
  • Exhale and quickly draw them back in
  • Quickly repeat this small in and out motion 30 times
  • Repeat 2 more sets of the pulses

And that’s it! Sometimes you can’t find that deep awareness of the transverse until you’ve done a set or so. Having a good relationship with our bodies take time and attention, but it’s worth it.

Tell me how you feel after trying this! Also, let me know what part of the body you’d like to strengthen/stretch/relax next.