Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo: My Thoughts Going In

I’ve spent about the last week planning for NaNoWriMo and can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve felt an exhilarating amalgamation of anticipation, nervousness, excitement. Here are my thoughts leading in to NaNoWriMo as a first-timer:

1. I'm totally pumped!
I’ve always wanted to write a novel, for better or worse. I also always had trouble coming up with an idea. Knowing that I will be a part of something larger has helped force me into brainstorming and now I have an idea I am really excited about. It’s been all I can think about for the past week.
2. I’m a bit nervous. 
But only a bit. The excitement is definitely the dominant force, but I’m also wondering how I will have time to even write 50,000 words. What happens when I get to the middle of my book and hit writers block? What if I hit writers block before the middle of the book? I have been reminding myself that ~1600 a day really isn’t all that much; I’ve written papers that long in only an hour. This won't be easy, but it's not impossible.

3. NaNoWriMo fuels good/bad stress. 
I expect to be pulling my hair out by the end of the month. Yes, I will make it to the end of the month. Because I am a bit insane, I’m going to be writing this while writing several research papers. If only my upcoming 3000 word papers could go toward the 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo. Clearly, stress is inevitable. It’s also a good motivator. It’s a necessity. I would not have had the push to brainstorm, outline, and create character biographies had it not been for the positive stress of NaNoWriMo. I’d still be sitting around thinking, "I want to write a book someday, but I have no idea where to start.”

4. What is there to lose?
I’m happy to be a part of a bigger group. The NaNoWriMo community is very welcoming and I’ve already learned a lot of useful writing and life tips. It’s the chance to better myself and feel like I've done something worthwhile. By the time November is over, it will be impossible to look back and regret trying.

If you are also participating, feel free to add me as a writing buddy. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fog, Forty Degrees…Fantastic?

Ok. Maybe not so fantastic. This morning was a test for me. I woke up at 7:35 still sore from Sunday's run and saw that temperature was a bitter 40 degrees Fahrenheit. So, I reminded myself that I do, indeed, love to run and coaxed myself out of bed.

I'm following a training course through the Runkeeper app, which is a great service by the way. On Sunday it suggested a light 1.5 mile jog and today I was told to run intervals. Intervals, such a dreadful word, but I begrudgingly ran them anyways. I started off with a half mile warmup and felt pretty great. After stretching I started the eight 1 minute intervals split with a minute and a half of walking. Doesn't sound so bad, right?

WRONG. The pain that I managed to escape on Sunday did not stray today. But I kept reminding myself that I promised I will run through the pain. It will be worth it. Guess what? It was. As I explained before, the pain goes away as soon as I finish running (except the standard soreness). So, all I had to do was finish as past as possible. Unfortunately, I'm not so fast right now, but I pushed through and am so glad I did. I've been in an awesome mood all day and I got to see the beautiful sight in my picture above. Worth it? Yes.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Am a Runner

In my about me for this blog, I didn't describe myself as a runner. But the truth is, that's the one thing I'm most likely to call myself. Back in high school, it was one of the only things on my mind. I made my best friends through running and I thought obsessed about running constantly. I ran 5Ks outside of cross country season and worked up to running 8 miles, one of my biggest accomplishments. I even had a goal to run a marathon someday (still do!).

Unfortunately, running didn't come without it's set of pains. And I don't mean the normal kind of soreness you get from a hard workout. I LOVE that soreness. It means I got to run. Starting in my sophomore year of track I felt a pain in my shin. I went to the ER and several doctors and kept being told to take three days off and ice my shin splints. Fearful of a stress fracture, I did just that. But the pain didn't go away. Some days were good, others were bad. The better the shape I was in the less it hurt. So, I ran as hard and fast as I could and by the end of my junior cross country season I had a great new PR and tolerable-to-no pain.

I kept running after the season and a week after reaching 8 miles, I sprained my ankle. I was going to have to take six weeks off and then work my way back up. It was heartbreaking, but not a death sentence. My ankle healed up and I began training again during track conditioning. The pain in my shin was back with a vengeance. As I said, it stopped hurting when I got into better shape, but I was a horrid runner at this time and being told to run much farther than I should have had to start over with. The season didn't go well but I was never a fan of track so I didn't think much of it. Truth be told, track was only a way for me to get in better shape for my true love, cross country. Running in circles isn't very appealing when you get to run beautiful courses through the woods and by the lake. It doesn't even compare.

My senior cross country year wasn't bad, but I was never able to get back to what I reached my junior year and the pain kept getting worse. It was like a knife being stabbed into my shins with every step I took. I did some research and I knew I didn't have shin splints. My pain always ended as soon as I started running. Shin splints hurts continually afterwards. So, I went to another doctor and gave him my idea. In my research, I came across a condition called chronic exertion compartment disorder, commonly mistaken for shin splints due to its rarity. He explained that the test to check for this was long and painful and the only option to fix the issue was surgery; however, he said if I could tolerate it I could continue to run.  Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory, could help with the pain (I was already regularly taking four at a time at this point). Coupled with this and the herniated muscle on my shin, I wasn't feeling very optimistic. So, I finished out my senior year but haven't been able to tolerate the pain since.

This has weighed heavily on me for nearly five years now. I feel as if I've lost myself. Certainly I have other interests, but running was my life. And I can't be without it any longer. Yesterday, my fiancé ran his first 5K. He has been training for several months and I've jealously stood by and watched. Of course, I am insanely proud of him, but it is no replacement for running myself. Watching him run yesterday, well from what I could see of the course, I became inspired to start again. Yesterday I bought myself a pair of good supportive aasics (my favorite!) and ran a mile and a half. I'm feeling fantastically sore today, but my shins didn't hurt! Yesterday was only the beginning. No amount of pain will stop me this time. I want to be myself again. I will be me again. I am a runner.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Can't We Just Agree That All Body Types Exist?

Many people complain because Hollywood portrays (mostly) thin builds. This has created seemingly unrealistic expectations for a lot of people. I recently read this article on xoJane perpetuating the idea that the only way to be thin is to carefully monitor your intake and work out excessively. Sure, this may be true for a lot of people, but not for all. Some people may still not reach what they consider ideal and some of us are thin without it. The idea that someone has to follow a specific standard of rules to have a certain body type goes against the idea that we should be accepting of all types. I gorge myself in carbs just to keep my weight on. I tend to feel my best when I am at 107 lbs (I am only 5'3"). I spent last week eating healthy because better food gives me more energy. Unfortunately, I cannot eat healthy and fit into my size 0 clothes. In doing this I dropped to 100 lbs in a mere three days. Then I tried to eat unhealthy for a few days. Three days later, my pants are falling off and I weigh 98.4 lbs. So no, not all of us eat carefully and work out. I don't work out at all.

I tend to feel pretty confident in my own skin and I haven't dealt with the body issues I hear others speak of. However, now I am starting to be able to relate. Even appearing as what some would call ideal, I have to worry that people are going to spread the stereotype that I am a liar. That article suggests that models who say they eat poutine everyday can't possibly be telling the truth. Maybe they are, I don't know. Go follow them around for a week and find out, but don't suggest that their body type and diet can't go hand in hand. It only reinforces the constructs that the same people want to get rid of. Instead of saying what body types can and can't exist, let's embrace that all body types exist and with those types people eat a variety of foods, some work out and some don't and not all of us spend two hours getting ready to feel good in the morning.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Day in the Mind of an Introvert

You probably know the differences between an introvert and an extrovert by now as it has been a huge topic of discussion. If not, this is a great article that explains the distinction and clarifies that most people are actually in the middle of the spectrum. I classify myself as more of an introvert than extrovert, though I do have some extrovert tendencies. Example, I get really outwardly excited about even the littlest of things. This only increases when my fiancĂ© doesn't express enough excitement, so I have to be excited for him. Howver, apart from my overly large levels of excitement, I tend to keep most things on the inside and I prefer to keep it that way. I share in the many stereotypes of what an introvert is seen to be. So here is what it's like to be in my brain for a day:

Today was day three of the new semester and I am taking five English classes: two literature classes and three writing classes. I've always enjoyed English because it lets me think to myself as I read and I can put my thoughts on paper (or screen) rather than out loud. Communicating verbally has never been one of my strong points. Unfortunately, it would seem that the English department does not share in this opinion of mine. On my first day of class, we had to introduce ourselves in two of my classes. I, of course, did not enjoy this. I thought I was off the hook with the other two classes of the day. Unfortunately, I thought too soon because today my professor (same for both classes) decided we should "get to know our classmates so we can have good discussions." Cue eye roll. We were told to take five or seven minutes to get to know or neighbors. I immediately began thinking about what I would talk about for that seemingly endless amount of time. The first class went okay. I had a very chatty neighbor, so she did most of the talking. Then we had to introduce our partner to the class. The worst part of this is that not only am I being forced to talk to the class, I now have to remember all of the details of the person I just met. And while I was speaking with this person, I had trouble memorizing her life story because I was too busy thinking about how I could contribute to this unnecessary small talk. The third class (with the same professor) went about the same in my head. It was the same activity and same frustrations, so I won't bore you with details.

In my second class we had already done introductions on Monday, so, I expected to be able to sit content and listen to the discussion about Robert Frost, only contributing when I had an opinion. Wrong. Today, my professor decided instead of starting off with a structured class discussion (which I'm totally okay with), that we should chat with our neighbors and see what their thoughts are on modernism and the poems we read. I hate these activities because it forces me to think about how I will carry on the conversation, not about what I am learning in class. To make matters worse, my professor said (in quick the joking manner) that he supposes if some people are for some reason tired of people they could think about the poems to themselves. This should ease my mind, but it didn't. The rest of the class laughed at the this joke, I suppose, because why would someone not want to talk to people? For me, it is because I am in this class to learn about 1900s American Literature and not to have superfluous conversations and "get to know my neighbors." I have a very nice group of friends whom I am now too mentally exhausted to spend time with because I spent the day being forced into small talk.

The large amount of group work and forced conversations in my classes do not help me understand the material better. It only causes me to worry about having time try to understand the content while at the same time trying to navigate social situations. It's too much at once. My classes were over by four o'clock and I have plenty of homework to do but am now stuck trying to gain my mental energy back before I can start.

If you read articles in order to understand introverts, or perhaps you are one too, you hopefully realize that introverts don't hate people. They also don't hate conversation. Actually, I quite enjoy a good stimulating conversation that I choose to have. What I don't like is being forced into a small talk on someone else's terms. I don't like showing up to class physically exhausted because I was up late doing the reading and then being forced to expend my mental energy because the professor thinks all students should be chatty. I am there to learn how to think about literature and how to write, not how to have a conversation loosely related to class. Perhaps these things make some people feel comfortable and ready to discuss, but they isolate others. Today, in the midst of too many people, I felt alone. Sadly, this is not the only part of society which caters to extroverts and excludes introverts. Professors, students, and people need to consider all personality types, not just their own.

Making Mistakes in the Overachiever's Generation

My generation has been taught two very conflicting views: that it is okay to make mistakes and that if we plan to succeed we need to be overachievers. As we are constantly reminded, the job market is lacking, so we need to be able to set ourselves apart from the others. Now, at first it makes sense to be able to make mistakes. We need mistakes in order to learn. As the saying goes, we are only human. But is that what we are expected to be? I recently made a small mistake, but am facing extremely harsh consequences. Does the punishment fit the crime? Not so much. If teachers do not respect a student's ability to make mistakes, they are fostering not only overachievers, but perfectionists. This is very unhealthy. So here I am, just getting over the fact the I used to be a huge perfectionist, coming to terms with the idea that it is okay to make mistakes, when my teacher decides to fail me for one.

Here's the story: I worked my butt off all summer for a class. I didn't turn in a single assignment late and I was maintaining a B average. I used to be upset with a B, but as I said, I am learning to come to terms that doing my best is enough. I had been putting in my best effort and this is what I deserved. Then, despite some procrastination, I worked very hard on my final paper for the class, hoping to keep or improve my B average. Unfortunately, I mixed up the due date with another class of mine and turned it in two days late. I emailed my professor and explained the mistake. Keyword here: Mistake. We all make them, but new zero-tolerance policies do not allow us to. Now, had I made a habit of this I would expect to be treated like a lazy student who has no disrespect for due dates. But that is not me. I work hard and even on the occasions that I procrastinate, I never turn in late work. So, expecting that my professor would understand and likely just lower the grade I would receive on the paper, I explained the situation to her. Unfortunately, she was not as understanding as I had hoped and she refused to even look at the paper I put so many hours of work into. So, then I sat frustrated because not only did I just waste a lot of time, I was going to fail the final. Then, I did some math and realized that even if I fail this paper, I can still pass the class. I wasn't happy at my lost efforts, but I could live with it. A few days later, I received an email that grades were posted. I received an F. She choose to give me a 0 for a class that I put months of effort into, just for a SMALL MISTAKE.

Here's the problem, many teachers will certainly deduct points for late papers, but it is this kind of professor that is causing problems in our generation. How can we accept that it is inevitable and acceptable to make mistakes if we are so heavily penalized for them? This pushes us into perfectionism which is not healthy. Of course, in many cases this state of perfectionism and constant need to avoid mistakes both leads to anxiety and causes us to miss out on valuable learning experiences that come from making mistakes. However, the only learning experience from this situation is that mistakes are unacceptable and that is a lesson that should not exist.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dealing with the Unexpected

In one of my last posts I wrote about how I have learned many strategies to cope with anxiety. I have learned a muscle relaxation technique to use if I feel either the slightest bit mentally or physically anxious. I also practice cognitive behavior therapy to correct any negative thoughts I have. I used to regularly think I didn't have enough time and I had to teach myself to think, I can handle what I need to in the time that I have. I learned to let go of what I cannot have control over. This was certainly one of the most difficult parts. Nonetheless, these techniques have kept me panic attack free for a couple of months.

Unfortunately, these techniques are harder to apply if I have unexpected anxiety. I don't have the time to mentally or physically prepare myself. Typically if I know I will have a stressful week or day ahead of me, I think about what I can do for myself. Because I cannot use those techniques, I am trying the last one I know: writing about it. If I get the thoughts out of my head and am forced to reason with the words written in front of me, I will hopefully start to deal with this better.

Yesterday, I was burdened with some very unexpected stress. I won't discuss details because it is not my situation; however I am very worried for a family member of mine. They are in no danger; it's nothing health or safety related. However, I felt as if I was taking on a lot of the burden, not that I mind since I care for my family, but it was the first night in months that my anxiety kept me awake. I've had many different moments trying to deal with this since we found out the problem. I've felt anger, sadness, guilt and helplessness. I've tried to tell myself that I am doing all I can to help, but I can't let myself feel this kind of pressure over a situation out of my control. This is very difficult when the anxiety is already deeply rooted, because I didn't have the chance to prevent it. This has all been a helpful reminder that coming to peace with my anxiety is a marathon and a journey and will never be over. While I have been doing great, I have to learn to expect the unexpected. I cannot always be prepared, but I can learn when I no longer have control. Rather than feeling helpless, I can be empowered by knowing I have ways to cope.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hiking in Hocking

So, I finally convinced my fiancee to go hiking with me again which means I got to take a bunch of photos. Per usual, I found a bunch of mushrooms, got rained on, and got lost. A successful hike, I say. Nonetheless, instead of rambling, I'm just going to share the awesome sights I got to see. There are  more photos posted on my Flickr as well.





Hocking Hills: Cedar Falls

Friday, July 5, 2013

Getting Started

I've written about some of my interests (books, photography, gaming) but I haven't touched on one of my more personal issues. For the past few years, I've had to deal with a difficult anxiety problem. I've spoken to those that are close to me, but I always find it hard to explain and I still haven't quite figured out how. Someday, I will find a way to put it into words. But if that is my only problem, life is good. Luckily, in recent months I have learned how to manage and overcome the physical and mental pains of anxiety. I feel confident and I can deal with stress much better.

I've been taught many techniques to deal with stress, but one of the hardest things to learn was how to avoid procrastinating. Some people might not believe that I procrastinate at all because it goes against everything I believe in, but sometimes my anxiety forces me to procrastinate which is extremely frustrating. I despise lateness and not having a plan, but anxiety makes me lose control of my organization. It makes me focus on all of the details so that I am unable to force myself to get started. Of course, this makes me even me anxious.  However, after getting the stress to a manageable level, I have learned that if I just make sure I get started before I get too stressed, I will be able to handle it. Sometimes when I am stressed I can't prioritize and I think of the long list of to-dos, but the best advice I was given is to just pick what is first. It means I am getting something done.

So, I am doing just that. Thankfully, I was reminded by a friend that I've not been writing and I had to admit to myself that I just haven't been feeling motivated. For some people that is okay, but for me it means that I need to get started right away or I never will. So, this is a promise to myself that I will do my best to do whatever it is I need to. In this case, I need to write about the awesome time I had at Origins Game Fair, the food I've been cooking and the books I've been reading.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Don't Be Lazy in the Kitchen: Intro

 Anyone who knows me has heard me say I despise cooking. People tend to say the best food has the most heart, soul and passion put into which is a great explanation for why mine tends to be terrible. However, anyone who knows me, also knows I love to eat. This can be a problem on a college student budget. Going out to eat or making sub-par TV dinners can become expensive, so this summer I'm enacting the "Don't be lazy in the kitchen" rule for myself. My fiancee has been haggling me to start meal planning for over a year now and something always prevents this. Likely, my own laziness. But because I adore him so very much (and having money in my bank account) I've started meal planning this summer. I bought a cookbook about a week ago because I currently only know how to make grilled cheese or pasta from a box. We took about an hour to go through it and pick out things we like (surprisingly a lot!) and then on Sunday we planned out our meals for the week. For two weeks we have managed to stick it out and the food actually tasted good. I dare say that I may be convinced.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Anxious Hearts

I just finished reading Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw. I wanted to like this book. I really did. The first thing that stands out about this is that it is two stories in one so the chapters alternate between the two. The characters and story are based on a poem called “Evangeline.” Having not read it, I can’t say how closely this plot follows it. I can say; however, that this book really did nothing for me.

It is about two romances that take place two hundred years apart. Trying to connect two stories either works beautifully or, like in this case, it fails miserably. Yes, the stories were similar. The characters had loosely similar struggles, but I felt that the constant switching back and forth hindered the development of all of the characters. Had the author chosen to modernize the poem and focus solely on one of the stories, it could have been a great book. I can honestly say by the end, I didn’t care what happened to them.

 I rated this book a 2/ 5. I think the where the characters and plot lacked, the writing was quite lovely so I wouldn’t give it a 1. That said, this isn’t a book I’d recommend.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Music Makes (or Breaks) a Movie

Last Friday I went to see The Great Gatsby. As you probably know, it's based off of the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Being the English nerd that I am, I was very much looking forward to it. Though admittedly, I always have low expectations for books-turned-movies. Much to my surprise, this movie started off well. Then the first big party at Gatsby's place began. The movie, despite taking place in the 1920s, was playing rap music from the 2010s. Filmmakers are supposed to create an environment for the viewer to feel immersed in the setting in order to make a story believable, but it was not possible with modern music playing. The party-goers were dancing to rap music in flapper dresses and even relatively danced as they would have in the 1920s which only made the music feel more out of place. Bottom line: music can make or, in this case, break a movie.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver

Summer’s here! That means I finally get to read books that I choose. Last summer I read the first two books in the Delirium series and have since been (impatiently) waiting for the release of the final installment, Requiem. 

Requiem is set up with the chapters alternating between Lena and Hana’s viewpoints. This causes the plot to go quite slow which I didn’t particularly enjoy. Most of the book consists of the Resistance planning a way to grow and eventually infiltrate. The Resistance has grown since the first two books and the government has started to recognize this. They must now avoid Regulators in the Wilds. The members of the Resistance don’t necessarily want to fight, but they know they must in order to gain their freedom. While Hana’s plot was somewhat tedious to read, I found her insights regarding her change after the surgery fascinating and her plot-line helped set up the ending wonderfully.

Lena’s story was much more fast-paced than Hana’s but most of the story still doesn’t pick up until the last few chapters. She is unsurprisingly caught in a love triangle between Alex and Julian. Usually I would roll my eyes at this “necessary” inclusion, but I think this book warrants it. It shows that there are both good and bad sides to love. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a disease as the government in the book does; however, being stuck in that triangle suitably reflects the quote “And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose. We are even free to choose the wrong thing.” The resistance is not unaware to these downfalls as the government might assume. They merely want choice.

One of my favorite parts of the story was the reference to Solomon. It tied in well with the events of the book (I won’t give spoilers) and also made me think. The Book of Shh tells a revised version of the story while Lena later learns the real version. By having a story so famous told and enforced in a new way, I can’t help but wonder if this has ever been done to us. Need I say, I read to many dystopian novels?

After finishing the book, I could guess that many people would be unhappy with the ending, but I was content. I didn't get as much enjoyment reading most of the book as I did with the first two, but liked the way Hana and Lena’s stories were able to connect at the end and give the reader something to contemplate. I will warn that if you dislike vague endings, you may not think as highly as I did of Requiem's resolution.

I  give this book a 3.5/4 out of 5 star rating and I certainly recommend reading the series.

What did you think? Have you read any of this series?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Hi, I’m Shaila. I’ve reached the ripe old age of twenty-two, meaning I’m ready to share my abundant knowledge. Ok, maybe I don’t have so much experience. I’m still getting to know myself and I’m hoping writing will help to further that process. I have plenty of interests and I’m ready to share. If anything I say helps someone in the process, well that’s awesome.