Hello, my name is Sandy.

Month of fitness check-in

March Month of Fitness has been going well. In the last two weeks, I've upped my backpack weight to about 5kg (double what I started with!). This puts me a third of the way to my goal, and halfway to my next milestone.

The days after backpack training, I've noticed I wake up relatively pain-free. As in, I don't start the morning with my usual shoulder and upper back aches. Not sure what that's all about. I've read rucking can help with relieving back pain, but I'm not sure how reliable this information is. Must remember to ask my physio next time I see him... though I hope I won't have to see him for a long time yet!

Getting fit through play seems to be the emerging theme of this month-long campaign. Here's what has counted as exercise over the last 12 days:

  • 1 Mar: Ruck walk (1hr @ 4kg)
  • 2 Mar: Ruck Jacob's (4 laps @ 4kg, 1 lap w/o)
  • 3 Mar: Stretching in front of the telly
  • 4 Mar: TKD training, Ninja Academy
  • 5 Mar: Indoor football
  • 6 Mar: Sailing a catamaran on the Swan River
  • 7 Mar: 30 pushups, 30 situps
  • 8 Mar: Ruck walk (90min @ 5kg)
  • 9 Mar: Ruck hill walks of Mount St (3 laps @ 5kg)
  • 10 Mar: Indoor skydiving
  • 11 Mar: TKD training with sparring
  • 12 Mar: Indoor football

The most boring workouts have been the pushups and situps, but they're the quickest and easiest after a long, busy day.

There's a 2-hour karaoke session that belongs in there somewhere too. Singing (shouting) like you mean it seems to be physically taxing. I'm counting it as a workout for core and aerobic fitness.

It's been good to focus on something without worrying whether it's useful to anyone else. That facet of creative guilt — wondering whether the things you create deserve to exist — is tiresome. Exercise, so far, has been a nice, justifiable indulgence. :)

Two weeks (and a bit) to go. Wish me luck!

Rucking heck

I haven't blogged much lately because I've been spending heaps of time wrestling with my writing. My novels, my gigs, all that stuff. Turns out, when it comes to fiction, I'm a slow ass writer.

But I'm not here to complain about my word rate. No one needs to hear that. I'm here to complain about how sore I am after my first bouts of "rucking" this week.

"Rucking" is when you train with a weighted backpack. Military folk do it, I think some police folk do it, and apparently it's a social thing too. I don't know much about all that. This came about because I was talking to a mate about hiking and he told me to expect an all-day 15kg load. So... yeah, #goals.

I'm not so hardcore that I'd run a mile with 20kg strapped to me (yet?). Just started with 2.5kg at Jacob's Ladder. That's two 1.25L bottles of water in a backpack while alternating single steps, double steps and jogging singles between flights. I can't decide whether that sounds hard or not, but doing it was certainly a challenge!

my 2.5kg rucksack

Oddly, I didn't notice the extra weight. I just felt tired and very short of breath. If I didn't know I was wearing a weighted backpack, I would have just considered myself unfit. It got me thinking about fighters who deliberately put on weight so they can fight in a higher weight class. From what I've heard, they feel slower, say it's harder. I never understood that til now.

My recent-ish trip to Brunei and Singapore sapped a lot of my fitness. I did attempt to keep up my training, but the humidity-induced fatigue and the laziness from constant eating got the better of me. I did manage 20 pushups 3 times a week, but that's not much compared to what I should be doing to hit the level of body health and fitness I want as I approach my late 30s.

watercolour of the Singapore merlion

Anyway, I've been feeling the loss of cardio fitness this month, so you can imagine how my first run of Jacob's must have gone, even with a small amount of extra weight.

It was a temperate day with a cool breeze. I managed 3 laps with the backpack on, plus 1 extra lap without. Piss poor effort, and my legs are still jiggly a day later, but I'm proud I gave it a go. Followed up the next day with the same pack on a 1-hour walk around the neighbourhood. Things started hurting, then stopped hurting not long after. :) I've been wanting to try exercise with extra weight for a while, and hope this breaks the seal for me.

This month has been busy but unfocused. Again, I blame that on the trip overseas, and having many things to do and think about.

Next month, however, is my Month of Fitness, featuring at least one bout of exercise every day. Should be a nice sequel to last year's 4-week fitness thing. This is my small promise to track and share as I go.

If anyone else is focusing on fitness in March, hit me up on twitter and we can complain about being sore together. :)

Creative guilt

Over the holidays, I was chatting with an artist, and mentioned in passing that I often felt guilty for making crap art because of how much garbage ends up in landfill. He remarked that this seemed like a very self-deprecating thing to say.

I thought nothing of it at first, but then someone else said the same thing to me later that evening. It got me thinking about how I approach creativity and my own creative output.

I struggle with creative guilt. It strikes me at every turn, usually shaping up in one or more of these forms:

  • This story is too farfetched. Just don't.
  • You're never going to get this. Why bother?
  • This is drek. Stop wasting time.
  • Your lines are wonky. Give up now.
  • Your technique sucks, just stahp!
  • Why are you taking up space with your crap art?
  • Don't watch tv, go make something, you lazy cow!

It's a rock and a hard place. Especially with that last one in the mix. It all sounds harsh when written out, but I swear it's placid and conversational when I hear it in my head. I'm not crying the corner or anything.

Feeling insecure about my work doesn't stop me, but it does suck some joy out of the process. It's like trying to swim with clothes on. The extra weight makes me fatigued and I experience reluctance when it comes to trying again. It makes everything feel 10x harder than it needs to be.

Anyway, I've decided to reprogram my brain where this is concerned. Not for all the art I might make. I'm still getting my head around this landfill issue. And honestly, I found the 100 days of teacup a bit upsetting cos I just plain didn't like some of the art I made. :|

But I've wanted to invest a bit of time in drawing and watercolour for a while, so I'm re-thinking my emotional response to the learning process. I decided not to feel guilty for producing shit drawings and paintings.

You know, as if guilt is a tap you can just turn on and off. But for something like this, let's say it is. It takes extra mental effort, but it's worth a shot.

So, it was odd at first, but I'm enjoying it now. And I'm really happy with the progress. Here's what the last week of swimming naked (not literally) has been like:

watercolour anime girl

watercolour collage with cat, goldfish and mountain town

the top of a church in ink and watercolour

vanishing point perspective of a row of shops with a disembodied eyeball floating overhead

war memorial at Kings Park

urban scene in Venice

Of fun times and fresh starts

The sun set strongly on the year. We spent Christmas week in Sydney, with most of the days down at the farm. I've never been there in the summer, and it was remarkably green versus what I was expecting. We spent the days eating and drinking and giving each other shit, then kicked off the evenings with tranquil hill views.

This is the first Christmas I've been away from my folks (not counting the year we went to Japan cos we still had a family Christmas a couple days before) and I missed them terribly. But I can't complain too much. I have three families now, and they're all pretty rad. Getting to hang out with the family with brothers was a rare treat I'm so grateful for.

rifle targets set up along a fence

We played with an air rifle on Christmas day. I bloody loved it. I have great plans to visit a gun range sometime this year and learn the art of marksmanship.

And I played heaps of Avernum: Escape from the Pit. It was exquisite to sink my head into a game and decompress - and get a strategy RPG fix to tide me over until my next D&D session. It was a bit surreal playing computer games and surfing the net at high speed in the sticks.

You know what was awesome, though? Writing. I only did a bit, but did it under a tree surrounded by birds and nature sounds. Is it the most productive way to write? Probably not. But wow, it felt good and I hope to make writing holidays a more regular thing.

a street performer squeezing herself into a tiny box

Back in the city, we saw a contortionist squeeze herself into a little box. I don't usually stop for busker shows, but I couldn't help it for this one. It was odd and unique, and kind of amazing to see what the (someone else's) human body can do.

giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit

Also saw a giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit, which, after spending the last few months following @forest_fr1ends, was utter perfection. Merry Christmas, tw*ts.

planner, notebook and pen

Aaaaaaand now we're home and ready to start 2017 with a bang. Already, I've been rock climbing (bouldering), geocaching, karaoke-ing and gaming with friends, and it's only been two days.

I now have a navy blue Hobonichi Weeks and a cheapo little notebook to keep me on track, along with clear, achievable goals and some strategies for accomplishing them. I have felt like I could be doing more, working smarter, working harder... I wrote some thoughts about it in Soft Signal.

I've started asking myself, "What do I want to get out of this X?" Where X could be the day, the week, the month, the quarter. Let me share a couple of things I hope to get out of this week:

  • Working on my novel
  • Gaming with friends done 2/01
  • A crafternoon done 2/01
  • Working on my Pico-8 game
  • Visiting the Ninja Academy done 7/01
  • Visiting a shooting range (or at least finding a good one to check out)

What do you want to get out of this week/this month/this year? Find me on social media and let's chat about it.

Life begins when November ends

Nano is over for another year. I can breathe again. :)

Winner's certificate for Nanowrimo 2016

It's a humbling experience. For the second year in a row now, it's showing me how useless it is to be arrogant as a writer. I go in feeling ready to write well, only to get slapped around constantly by the 1700-per-day target. In the primordial stage of putting a story together, there's no point trying to "write well" - you just have to write. Revel in terrible phrasing. You can deal with it later in the edit phase.

Now I have another cacophony of words to work through. I'm not happy with where the last 1/3 of my story went, and will need to rewrite and rethink a lot of stuff. But I'm done. It's a hot mess, but it's something to work with, which is better than nothing.

Friends have been asking what I plan to do once I have my life back. My answer? SO MANY THINGS. But they'll all be slow things. Low commitment, low impact things I can just enjoy and put down.

Things like:

  • Playing with PICO-8, specifically the music part of it. I feel like making some ditties.
  • Making Christmas crafts and snacks!
  • Digging up WarCraft III and playing it again.
  • Finishing my reading challenge for the year.
  • And writing more short stories and experimenting and learning, etc.

I have lots of work scheduled for Thursday and Friday too. But today, I'm going to rest and recover and let my brain grow back.

Thank you to everyone who listened to my complaining, offered words of support and encouragement, and fed me and watered me (or beered me) this month.

Ahhhhh~~! ^___^

Postcards from Komaneka at Tanggayuda, Ubud

We went to Bali earlier this month, and despite everyone's recommendations for where to go, what to see, etc., we had our hearts set on a "writing retreat".

This meant no touristy things, no specky camera, and nothing that constituted being "busy", so we could focus on resting, recovering from stress, catching up on reading, and getting some Nano done.

We picked a private pool villa at Komaneka at Tanggayuda (Ubud) for a holiday home, enjoying all the perks and facilities (and getting some writing done). And here are the somewhat grainy, potatophone postcards to show for it...

one-bedroom pool villa

Our one-bedroom pool villa with a small sitting area, tiny dining table, bed, desk and bathroom. Oh, and the pool in the backyard. It was all very comfortable. I could live in a place like this if it had a kitchen too.

bathroom with stone bathtub and atrium

Very spacious bathroom/dressing room area. Note the stone bathtub and gorgeous atrium view. It had a pond too. We were treated to beautiful frogsong every bloody night.

stone bathtub with atrium view

Stone bathtub in all its glory. I was skeptical about how comfortable it would be to sit in, but it's actually quite nice. Yes, that's a cushion on one side. :)

small personal pool with deck chairs and a daybed

Here's our private pool. Most of the non-raining day time was spent out here pm the daybed, writing in fresh air and jungle ambience.

view of reception and boutique from the courtyard

The resort complex was just beautiful. You're surrounded by nature everywhere you go, and the manicured stuff blends in well with the wild stuff. There's grass, garden beds, trees and vines all over the place, along with the bugs and critters that go with them.

Above is a view of the reception area and the boutique from the courtyard. Below is a view of the courtyard from the steps.

view of the courtyard from the reception steps

wooden swing

A quaint wooden swing just next to the Batukaru Restaurant, where we took our included breakfasts and dinners. I think the trees on the left are banana, and the fruits on the right are pomelo. These weren't labelled, but some trees around the property were.

Like this one...

large jackfruit

A big ol' jackfruit, with a jerkfruit next to it for scale. :o)

restaurant bar level seating

The top floor of the restaurant is a bar area, though you could be forgiven for thinking it's just a lounge. We went up one afternoon to check it out. It was unoccupied and unmanned; we wouldn't have guessed it was a bar if we hadn't been told. We sat around on the many comfortable seats just enjoying the peace and the view.

restaurant bar level view of mountain over the jungle canopy

Looking over the canopy at a mountain.

stairs lined with ferns

They really go all out on making this place beautiful. This stairwell was just outside the entrance to our villa. Maidenhair ferns all over the place!

I took a few photos of fungi and bugs, but I'll spare you today. Will share those another time when I figure out what species they are.

salak, passionfruit and tangerine

We got to try some local fruit. The yellowskin on the left is a passionfruit, the greenskins I think are tangerines (though my mum called them "green skin orange" when I showed her this photo), and the gnarly ones on top are called "salak", or snake fruit.

Salak flesh looks like a giant garlic segment, but has a tarty-sweet flavour, a potato/apple-like texture and an astringent mouthfeel. So yummy. I wonder if we can get it here in Perth.

salak fruit, peeled

Balinese dancer

We got to watch a Balinese dance performance as part of a special BBQ event. They do one every month, where you feast on Balinese food and enjoy some culture.

offerings to the spirits

On our last day, we tried the afternoon tea: a daily event involving Balinese kueh (cakes). When we arrived at the teahouse, we saw a few of the staff preparing offerings. Spirituality is embedded in ordinary life. You'll see little offering 'bundles' like these wherever you go, most of the time with a bit of food on top, and maybe some incense too.

The staff kindly taught us how to make them using leaves, grasses and flowers from around the area. It made me wonder what aspects of everyday life at home could be made better by making offerings. Spirits aside, the ritual and reflection is sure to have some psychological and well-being benefit.

We had food for the stomach too. These are the very tasty pieces of kueh we got to eat.

sweet corn kueh, banana cake, black rice with palm sugar, sweet potato with palm sugar

From left to right: sweet corn with rice flour pudding, banana cake, black rice pudding with palm sugar, sweet potato with palm sugar. I much prefer Asian desserts to Western desserts I have these days, just for how tasty they are without being too sweet.

Things I didn't photograph:

The free yoga lesson.

Komaneka at Tanggayuda runs complimentary yoga classes twice a week, plus other times at their sister resorts in other parts of Ubud. I had no idea my body could bend that way. The instructor was a riot, and although our classmates weren't very social (I think everyone was a bit shy), it was nice having all of us beginners attempt things together.

The massages.

Mm, so good. Before we left, I scoured the net trying in preparation, but found nothing. So, here are some notes for travellers from Perth:

  • Expect Perth prices. Not quite dayspa massage prices; more like Chinese massage prices. Maybe even slightly more after adding the service fee and sales tax.
  • Disrobe and lie face down on the table. Keep your undies on, unless they give you disposable dayspa undies.
  • They'll most likely ask if it's OK to massage your head. This is a cultural thing. Balinese culture considers the head sacred, so the therapists check first.
  • The face massage is nothing special or exotic. Just someone rubbing your face. I recommend skipping it, so those minutes get used elsewhere.
  • You will be oily afterwards. It's fine.

The noises.

Being in the jungle, you'll be treated to a bevy of wild sounds. Don't be alarmed. Nothing will attack you unless you bother it first. But expect to hear these noises if you stay at this place: