Fortifying Friday – Calluses

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I first started learning guitar in grade 12. We had a course we could take and get credit for as part of our high school diploma. My then boyfriend was also taking it and class was slightly uncomfortable once we broke up, but I enjoyed it regardless. I had a blast performing with the class. I was supposed to sing too, but singing performances and I are like that Buffy episode “Nightmares” where Willow ends up singing with Pavarotti and can’t utter a word only weird screechy noises… Yeah. Put me in a car with friends and I’m fine. Shower? You betcha. In a musical or band performing in front of people. Nope. Unless I’m just one of the choir and not alone. I did make it through an O’ Canada performance with only two other people one time in high school, though. All our strongest choir members were at another performance and the football team needed singers. Us three thought there would be more, but nope. I’m off on a tangent again, aren’t I? The point I was trying to get to was that my learning of guitar was put on hold, not because of the failed relationship, but because it hurt my fingers too damned much to play the thing.

I hadn’t built calluses yet.

Calluses are a pain in the ass. There’s no way around it. You have to play until it hurts and play a little bit passed that, but not so far passed it that your fingers bleed. Bloody fingertips mean cut fingers and downtime from playing while they heal. We don’t want downtime because we need to build our calluses.

I’m to the point now where I can play for a whole hour before it hurts. My calluses are coming along. Those fingertips feel almost like leather.

They’re frail, though. I have to play every night to ensure they get strong.

I’m not sure what the writing equivalent to calluses is in this digital age. Few people write by hand enough to get writer’s bump today. But I’m not talking about a physical callus. Could it be learning to accept rejection? We build up a tolerance to it and it hurts less each time we are told no. Perhaps it is learning to edit? We get better at killing our darlings as we collect experience. But that may only be some of us. I know I’ve begun asking myself what I’m aiming to accomplish with a sentence, paragraph, or chapter and I’m getting better at cutting when it isn’t accomplishing the objective.

Perhaps calluses are really just visible experience markers and as we write more, we can see the progress in the quality of the words on the page. In which case, we should challenge ourselves with stories that make us uncomfortable to write. Stories that push our own boundaries and force us to reach for something beyond our current skill level.

I know, at one point, I was playing guitar and it was all just noise. Now it sounds a lot more like the song I’m playing. I’m not playing with the recordings yet or at the right speed. I’m going to soon, though. In fact, my guitar teacher gave us special versions of the songs we wanted to play that used easier chords because we couldn’t play the advanced ones at the time. If I had the time and the cash, I’d take more lessons from her. She was pretty cool and skilled.

In writing, my work last year felt like a mess of scenes that didn’t necessarily link together. Now it’s got a flow and looks like a novel. There are things like foreshadowing. There are climaxes and there is setup, etc. There’s more to do to make it the best it can be but it’s coming along really well.

I’ve now been playing guitar for over a year. Lately, I play every day. Sometimes only a song or two. Other times I lose track of how long I’ve been playing and suddenly it’s bedtime. I used to have to stop after a short amount of time. Especially songs that used my ring and pinky fingers as those are often on the two thinnest strings. The strings that hurt the most. Now, those fingers have the thickest calluses. They have come farther than my other fingers.

In martial arts, I began barely able to hold the sword in the right direction. Which was the blade’s edge again? Swinging it straight down the center line was hard to do. Harder still was the horizontal cut. Sensei would say things that had deep meaning to someone who wasn’t me. I eventually got the basics to a level that we can now build on the physical skill as well as the mental understanding. Each class I learn something. Often Sensei told me about it last year or perhaps even the year before, but I am only able to understand it now.

Calluses are a mark of experience and while I have a long way to go before I can be called good, I’m moving in the right direction.

I’m targeting my fitness callus next. There will be extra challenges for me with food allergies, exercise-induced asthma, and tendon pain. I discovered I was already in the right weight range for my height and frame size, so my current goal is to tone. I made up my own HIIT routine to help focus on the areas that I use in martial arts. What I enjoy about HIIT is that it is scaleable and you always just do your best. Instead of counting the amount of pushups you did, you just give it everything you have for the duration. I never feel like I suck because I did 20 instead of 25 of something. However, my original goal of doing HIIT twice per week was ambitious because my fitness callus had not been built.

I’m also working on my French callus. Language learning works well a little bit each day. Too much and you overwhelm your brain. Besides, you didn’t learn your first language that way. You saw a thing you wanted and mom or dad told you the name of it. You gradually learned to then describe its appearance, texture, etc. Then you learned to speak full sentences instead of fragments. They were simple at first. “Clifford is a big, red dog.” It’s easy to put too much pressure on oneself to know something after a short amount of time. So I immerse myself a little at a time. I get a library book in French and work through it with a dictionary nearby. I don’t use translation app because that doesn’t force me to use my brain and map the neural connections that will build the callus.

And there’s the geocaching callus. Currently, I have a high DNF rate (Did Not Find) and it’s frustrating. I’ll keep trying, though. I know it’ll get easier at some point. I installed a GPS app on my phone to hopefully get a little closer to the caches than a 13-foot range. After that, it’s honing other skills. I have to train myself to see the single grain of white rice in the salt shaker.

Whatever you’re working on in life, you’ll face tough parts and you have to push through it to build those calluses. Challenges help us build calluses and prepare us for greater things ahead.

Ciao,
R~

Oh, here’s my 7.5-minute HIIT workout in case you’re interested. I just modified one that I found online so it was more martial arts focused. Change the time as needed to scale it to you:

30s Jumping Jacks
30s Push Ups
30s Lunges
30s Punches (alternating left and right)
30s Jumping Jacks
30s Side Kicks (alternating left and right)
30s Front Kicks (alternating left and right)
30s Lunges
30s Push Ups
30s Crunches
60s Obliques (30s each side)
30s Squats
30s Leg Raises
30s Stretches (or as long as it takes you to stretch things out)

Merry Monday: This Relaxation Thang

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Image created using Bit Strips.

It’s weird “relaxing”. I’m interspersing it with getting things done around the house.

I’ve hung a bunch of things on my walls such as art, medals, and diplomas. I’ve learned not to trust any “damage less” hanging things. Everything I’ve hung up lately in that way fell off the walls on Saturday. It was really annoying. I felt like everything I had worked on had been pointless, but I switched to nails to fix it for good. Really, nails don’t make large holes anyway. I’ve done almost all of my laundry and I’m working through the dishes.  I’ve planted peas, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, scallions, flowers, kale, dill, and basil. I’ve organized my guitar sheet music.

I’ve played hard too. I watched the Martian and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, it was the first new movie in a very long time that I wished hadn’t ended. Conversely, I also watched the new Captain America and was bored and disappointed by what has been done to the character. I’m catching up on Bates Motel. Norman has finally cracked and I’m wondering when the next season will come to Netflix Canada. I’ve also been playing a variety of video games. The list includes Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360), Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3), and Final Fantasy X HD Remaster (PS3). I’ve enjoyed playing Uncharted the most. I’m not generally a first person shooter gamer. Indeed, I often prefer games like Mario, Lego Harry Potter, Little Big Planet, etc. Uncharted has a good amount of non-shooting play time and a great story that has me coming back to it. Confession: I actually like shooting games; I’m just terrible at aiming with a thumbstick. Take me back to the days of Duck Hunt and Virtua Cop where it was a gun pointed at the screen.

I’ve played guitar nearly every day. I’m going to start playing along with videos to ensure I can play what’s already in my repertoire at the proper speed. I want to get an amp for my guitar and a case. The case I need before winter, so I can store it properly with a humidifier to prevent neck twist. I’m getting better at techniques like pull-ons and hammer-ons. They’re fun.

I’m also working on my French learning again. I will speak that language. I’m more stubborn than it is difficult! I have too many French family members to give up. I’ve told myself that I need to remember I wasn’t born speaking English fluently either.

On Sunday, my sensei pulled off a delicious BBQ despite the nobs melting off his BBQ. We cut mats (tameshigiri) with live bladed swords. I will remember to take my socks off in the future as they didn’t provide me with the best footing on hardwood floors. That sword was either much lighter than those used in previous years, or I’m stronger than I used to be. I hit the floor once with it. I need to get better at stopping the blade.

I learned that while I seem to be able to eat most gluten-free foods OK now, cider is not my friend. I’m still ridding myself of a headache that drinking it brought on. Oh well, I’ll just stick to vodka.

I’m already feeling the pull to work on my other novels. This relaxation thing seems to be hard for me. I’m spending a lot of time knocking other things off my to-do list. I suppose it’s because I’m my father’s daughter.

31 days to go.

Ciao,
R~

Funky Friday: Oblivious?

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Image created using Bit Strips.

I’ve not paid much attention to the news this week. I’ve been focused on getting things done in my life.

Ottawa

  1. Excited: Comiccon starts today! It feels like I’ve been waiting forever. There are lots of fun panels I’m attending, a geek orchestra, Q&As with Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) and John-Rhys Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings).
  2. Relieved: I finished a project at work yesterday, so now I am truly unburdened. The actual project is a couple of weeks away from full completion, but my regular role for it is old hat compared to what I was put on to help finish a worrisome chunk.
  3. Happy: My Xbox 360 breakaway cable arrived yesterday and I was able to play some Rocksmith. I bought that game over 3 years ago and I couldn’t play it because I had a guitar with a twisted neck that couldn’t stay in tune, so advancing in the game was impossible.

Ontario

  1. Worried: There’s another wildfire burning around the Ontario and Manitoba border. While that’s not super close to me, there’s also been fires in my hometown 4 hours from here. There’s just a lot of fires all over Canada right now and we could really use some rain everywhere.

Canada

  1. Impressed: I’m impressed with how Trudeau handled the fire situation in Alberta by listening to what the firefighters, a.k.a. experts said. He didn’t go out there for photo ops and instead continued handling the rest of his duties while on standby should the experts decide it was time to call in extra help. Oh, and he didn’t put Canada at risk for being invaded. Autonomy is a great leadership quality. He followed protocol.
  2. Upset: I was attacked on Twitter for tweeting to the PM that he did a good thing working with the UN to eradicate preventable diseases. As such, I no longer allow people who aren’t my followers to see my tweets or interact with me on Twitter. I have no need for trolls in my life or people who try to disguise disrespectful behaviour as “debate”. They made me terribly sad that such rampant hatred exists. I don’t think I’ll ever understand such people.

World

  1. Proud: I’m proud that Canada is helping with the efforts to eradicate tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS from the earth. I’m not sure on the actual dollars that have been committed to it, but I hope there’s part of the budget that already speaks to this. The UN is predicting really bad things if more isn’t done to get rid of these terrible viruses.

Well, I have a few things left to do to prepare for Comiccon. It doesn’t start until 2:30 PM, but I took the full day off. I intend to put Spirited Away on while ironing my costume and cutting up veggies for my snacks.

Ciao,
R~

Merry Monday: A Challenging Day

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Image created using Bit Strips.

It’s one of those Mondays where I’m having trouble being positive.

I took today off after Ad Astra to recover from the last two weekends of heavy socialization, a head cold, and a lot of learning. I was doing OK and might have stayed so had I got out of bed before 10AM. You see, I lounged about and let my schedule get all wonky. Normally I do this on weekends, but I remember to get my medication into me.

Oops.

I didn’t realize I hadn’t taken my morning dose until I was in line at Walmart, which I was only there because I was looking for an Xbox 360 breakaway cable. Mine went missing and I can’t play Rocksmith without it as the guitar cable needs that piece to plug into the USB port. I was hoping to play it today. Instead, I got pain and fatigue.

At least I got pho today since I had just missed out on it last night when I arrived back in town.

I can’t seem to get the mall security to email me back despite sending them a copy of my receipt as proof that I was shopping there and not parking and riding. Where I could’ve gone in an hour on OC Transpo and actually come back, I have no idea. I wonder if there’s any hope in getting it canceled.

As I’m editing my book, I feel like it’s never going to be as awesome as I want it to be. I read the first bit of Ed Greenwood’s Hellmaw: Your World is Doomed and was astounded by the immediate transportation into another place. I want to be able to do that! I know I should definitely not compare myself to such a prolific writer, but damn it’s solid and wonderful. I should find his first novel and see how that one compares to what he is writing now. Everyone starts somewhere after all.

I’m still coughing. Been doing so since around the 22nd. I’m wondering if that will ever end as well.

I had planned to get so much more like laundry and dishes done today also. All I managed was getting a few things from the store and editing a chapter and a half.

So I don’t really know if I have a point here. The week has started off pretty crappily. I suppose that means it should get better from here?

It’s 9PM and I have yet to eat supper. I should probably fix that. Maybe I’ll have something light given the time.

Do I have enough clothes to get me to Wednesday night? I play this game way too often… Maybe someday I’ll be on top of that. I might edit some more while I snack and watch something on Netflix. Or I’ll play some guitar. I was really hoping to play Rocksmith. The cable is going to take a couple of weeks to get here.

Oh, hey I have dairy free chocolate pudding. The day is looking up 🙂

Ciao,
R~

Funky Friday: Progress, Protests, and Politics

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Image created using Bit Strips.

This week in the news in my life, Ottawa, Canada, and the world.

  1. Accomplished: I figured out some major story revisions for The Page & The Magician and I’m looking forward to writing them into the current version. I’m on chapter 12 of 24 but need to go back and add some words to 11.
  2. Pleased: I finally got to a paint nite and painted a cherry blossom painting for my bedroom.image
  3. Ecstatic: I finally ordered the electric guitar I’ve been wanting for several years. I’m a 3/4 size player and the selection is small. It’s hard to find one that is decent. I read reviews and chose the mini strat based on things like musical style versatility and its dependability as an instrument for serious playing or in my case, Rocksmith. There wasn’t one in stock at Long & McQuade’s, but it should be here by May 1.
  4. Upset: I missed a neighbourhood rally about the violent deaths that have been occurring too close to my home.
  5. Confused: An Ottawa man was put in isolation for 18 months and had a psychotic break as a result. I’m not surprised, but I am confused as to why they isolate people if they know it causes problems like this. They’re supposed to go to prison to be rehabilitated, not to come out worse.
  6. Surprised: Apparently, there was a cock-fighting ring in Cornwall. I hate when cocks fight. It makes such a mess.
  7. Relieved: The city has green-lit Uber. Given how the taxi drivers have behaved in recent months, it’s no surprise to me. Besides, innovation was necessary. There are rules, though. At least we can probably stop talking about it now.
  8. Impressed: They’re actually trying to fix the overcrowding issue at the jail. Grammarly is telling me that should be gaol, which I’m aware is another spelling, but I don’t think that is Canadian English… Unfortunately, this has not helped some of the inmates as one committed suicide rather than moving to a different jail.
  9. Interested: Montfort is getting an advanced heart scanner . Sounds like something Cristina Yang would be excited about.
  10. Unsure: The Supreme Court of Canada has extended rights to Métis and non-status Indians. Is this a good thing? It seems the Métis are happy about it. Will it do anything to solve the major issues like what is happening in Attawapiskat?
  11. Happy: NDP finally voted out Mulcair. Maybe now they will get a candidate that has a chance?
  12. Funny: It appears spring has finally arrived for the raccoons.
  13. Indifferent: Vaping seems to have become a hot-button issue. I can see both sides. The vapour hasn’t been around long enough to know what its health effects are.
  14. Glad: door-to-door energy company is finally getting charged. It’s nice when the scam artists are exposed, though often comes far too late for the victims. I hear energy costs are rising again next month in Ontario. We have so much potential to be a great province, but our premier keeps making it hard to afford to live here. Can we vote her out, please?
  15. Excited: It’s Emma Watson’s birthday! That’s Hermione from Harry Potter, in case you somehow missed that. It’s also Emma Thompson’s birthday! That’s Sybil Trelawney, the Divination teacher, also from Harry Potter.
  16. Unimpressed: Justin Bieber is trying to ride the adult colouring book wave…
  17. Shocked: A fire caused by fireworks killed over 100 people in India. We normally don’t think of them as safe, but this is the first time I’ve heard of deaths that weren’t drunken idiots in their backyards.

Well, I’m off to relax. It’s been a busy week while covering for a co-worker.

Ciao,
R~

Wonder Wednesday: Determination

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Image created using Bit Strips.

I was upset to find out I had a useless guitar that I was trying to sell and spent much time wondering how to get rid of it. The neck was too twisted to be fixed with just a truss rod adjustment, which meant it couldn’t keep tuned. It was worth $200 new, and repair would’ve cost more than that.

So, I was bummed. I’m the anxious type and I’m also a planner. My nicely laid plan had just exploded. I was freaking out that I was stuck with a piece of junk, which also happened to be a rather large reminder of the past; a past I’d mostly rather forget.

Back to the drawing board, I went.

It was useless for conventional music, but there was that artist I saw a while back that made instruments from junk. I started searching for junk music players. As I was browsing, I thought about Steampunk Ottawa and posted there. There was some vague interest, but it was tepid.

Then I thought what about selling it for parts? I edited the ad, reduced the price, and got a number of responses. The guitar has sold and I’m happy. I feel as if a weight has been lifted. I had no idea it was upsetting me so much.

Soon I’ll buy a Squier Mini Strat in Torino Red. I almost have the cash for it. Then I can play Rocksmith and make progress because I will play the right notes. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is building fingertip calluses.

Anyway, the point is that I could have just given up and donated it. The thought crossed my mind. Instead, I started over and found another path. It ultimately led to success.

It’s an important lesson that can apply to writing. In my case, my novel was so full of spirituality, it was deep and heavy. I’ve taken out 90% of that to make it more relatable and more fun.

Speaking of the novel, I’ll get back to it tomorrow. I finally got into a Paint Nite, so I’ll be painting cherry blossoms tonight. I’ve been trying to get into a cherry blossom one for about a year, but they’re always sold out. I got a deal when I signed up and ironically one of the other Paint Nites has changed their painting to a cherry blossom one that is different than tonight’s. Funny how things work out sometimes.

So despite feeling slightly sniffly, I’m going to paint with wild abandon and hopefully, it will turn out okay. Then I just have to figure out how to get it home without it getting paint on Pixie’s seat.

Ciao,
R~

Merry Monday: Obstacles and Choices

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Image created using Bit Strips.

I’m not a stranger to people not wanting to take a chance on me. My mother had a heart attack after having boy number two and the doctors recommended she abort me as they felt it too risky to go through with the pregnancy. She told them no because she was sure I was her little girl she’d been wanting.

When I started school no one wanted to play with me. No one wanted to share toys either, so I went to the books and read to myself.

I didn’t have much in the way of friends until high school. I was bullied. I was also petite and not athletic, so I wasn’t wanted in gym class. I couldn’t understand why points mattered. They didn’t translate to marks after all.

I wasn’t quick to make friends in high school. The kids who gave me a chance were the oddballs. I found myself in theatre, choir, and band. I also got involved in various committees and helped plan events. I plan things for a living now.

After college, I had trouble getting a job. Despite doing a good job at a work placement, the Catholic school board didn’t want to take a chance on hiring me, a non-Catholic. It was a while before I landed a job.

But I never let obstacles stop me. I recognized that I was pretty horrible at the interview, if I got that far, and signed up for a government-funded course on resumes and interviews. I then landed a job on the corrections help desk.

The job following that, they only gave me the access I needed once my colleague couldn’t be there and things got into a bad state. They didn’t want to take a chance that I had the skills despite education, certification, and experience.

I chose to go back to school to upgrade because I was tired of terrible managers. That resulted in a job before graduating. A telecom company gave me a chance and I did good work until the government divested them.

I took a chance and decided to leave the stressful environment, despite how much it was like a family, then landed a job in Ottawa. The day job is going well and I enjoy the people there.

This week is starting less than great. Some of the things bugging me are minor. Small things are combining all at once into a ball of frustration.

  1. I’m trying to sell a guitar the ex-husband gave me because it reminds me of the past and because I want a 3/4 size since I’m 3/4 sized, but the neck is twisted and repairing that would cost more than buying a new guitar. It’s more twisted than a truss rod adjustment will fix.
  2. A benefits claim was only partially paid out despite 100% coverage. Their note suggests naturopathic claims are not reasonable, despite 100% coverage and that it was well under my yearly allotment for naturopathic coverage.
  3. Somehow my bank and condo got out of sync and I got an NSF charge. More money spent for no reason.
  4. I might be falling behind on NaNoWriMo and I’m really wanting to finish my editing this month.
  5. I tried to install Magic Duels on the weekend on Steam to improve my skill. The play button is there and it’s free. Problem is, I can’t add it to my library, so I can’t play it. Was just another frustrating thing.
  6. It’s so hard to find that person that gets me. I want someone to share my life with.
  7. My finances are a little tighter than I’d like. My own fault for buying a little more than I should have off Amazon.

So I’m choosing to focus on what is in my realm of control and what I can bring into my realm of control. Everything else is not worth stressing over.

  1. On the guitar, my action plan is first to try and sell it for parts. Next, see if the guitar shop will give me anything at all for it in trade, even $5, it’d be more than I can get anywhere else. Option 3 is to donate it to get it out of my life. My plan for buying the one I want is delayed now, but I have an acoustic and I should be writing anyway 😉
  2. I shouldn’t have to appeal this, but if I want to get the cash, I’ll have to jump through hoops. Really, they’ll probably lose more on my appeals than it would cost to just pay my claim.
  3. This has happened a few times now. The best course of action may be to either change the account it comes out of to the one with overdraft protection, or stop automatic payments.
  4. I guess I need to get my butt in gear. I took some time off this weekend to catch a breather and do some long overdue cleaning. I made my writing nook much easier to get into.
  5. I logged a support request. I should be writing anyway 😉
  6. Well, I bought 3 Paint Nite sessions. Maybe I’ll meet someone there? I’m also on Happn, but nothing has come of it yet. I hated OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish. Otherwise, I’m not great at opening up and getting to know others, but I’m trying to get better at it. Maybe I should hang out in the fantasy section at chapters or in the library (where books are free).
  7. Instead of buying my guitar, I’m paying off my debt. The family will be giving me money in a couple of months for my birthday anyway.

Perhaps not the merriest of Merry Mondays, but I’m trying. And one of my afternoon meetings got moved later in the week, so that’s a happy thing 🙂

Ciao,
R~