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ArmadilloCon, a retrospective

In 2011, I had just moved away from the arid desert climate of Idaho into the most miserable summer heat I had ever, ever experienced of Texas (yes, THAT miserable summer).

I had completed my bachelors degree in English, and had attended a well-known writers workshop the year before, but still felt like I knew next to no one in the writing world, knew less than a handful of short story markets to submit to, and had never even realized until it was too late that there were conventions I could have attended in Utah.

In moving, I had left all of my dance, yoga, and Pilates jobs in Idaho, and knew that my paychecks would be slow to build to anything substantial, as often happens when there’s a gap between leaving successful setups in one location and moving to another.

In the midst of this, I knew that what I needed, even though it HURT to spend the money, was to go to this event that I’d somehow stumbled across online called ArmadilloCon. I was hungry for friends, I was hungry for knowledge, and I knew that my “can-do attitude” had taken me as far as it could on my journey to being a writer.

So I showed up to ArmadilloCon, not even knowing where I was going to sleep because I knew that I couldn’t afford the convention hotel prices.

And then the convention started. An hour or two in during Meet the Pros, I met someone that is now my best friend (and was very gracious about letting me share her hotel room that weekend -thanks again, Megan!)

I met more friends over the weekend, and formed my first writer’s group with some of them.

Between all these new friends and the informative panels, my eyes were opened to DuoTrope, to other Texas conventions, to new short story markets, to writers I needed to be reading, to OTHER wonderful friends, to ideas that had been hitherto alien to me.

I’m sure there are other things I was introduced to that have greatly improved me as a person and as a writer, but can’t remember them now because memories are slippery things.

All in all, it’s safe to say that ArmadilloCon 2011 was hugely influential.

But the best part is that wasn’t a one-off experience. ArmadilloCon is always awesome (although the years where I was juggling a baby or toddler are… perhaps lower on the list, for reasons).

This year was just as rejuvenating as my first, though obviously in different ways. I reconnected with old friends (some of whom are those first friends I made in Texas, thanks again, guys!), I made new friends, shared my Pilates passion with a roomful of fellow fans and writers (thanks again for coming, guys! Go forth with your Couch Potato Pilates knowledge and conquer!), sold a couple books, had a blast in panels and readings, brainstormed novels, and hopefully didn’t say too many stupid things or talk too much.

There are wonderful people at these conventions, y’all. People with beautiful stories to tell, talents and knowledge to share. I feel privileged to have been among them and, hopefully, give someone a much-needed boost in some aspect of their life.

Thanks to all the volunteers for helping out so we could all come and participate in a Weekend of Awesome. You are The Best, and I salute you. To all the people I chatted with, waved at, taught, gave candy to, thanks for being you. I hope you had as good a time as I did.

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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?