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  1. This round is a foray into the Way of Wisdom, making soulful, good choices and making space for those choices. The key to this challenge is to take my time, slow down, and remember that there is no pressure. It's time to make time as well as take time. In this Way, all the dots are connected and all the details are in order. Classwork is the success matrix, but there’s a lot of life that is going to happen along the Way. Intelligence: This is the key, and there are a lot of details, but not nearly as many moving parts as there were last round. I came back from NY and was very disengaged, and I’m glad to note that spell passed, but here we are with me taking a very sharp-eyed look at how much I put on my plate this term; it was a lot. It was, in fact, too much, and I’ll not be repeating this (see Wisdom) Strength: Go to work; edited to add a bonus of paying off debt, since this has shifted into the stregnth category. Wisdom: Tuition payment; not signing up for everything under the sun next term. This is a season of focus. Constitution: Eating well; resting often. Bonus: sauna & Steps. I have a fancy MRI during Zero Week to figure out what is going on with my insides. Also, I started gym time twice a week in the pool with Kat and Mikayla and I’d like to continue that. Dexterity: A double helping of dexterity was needed last round. I’ll likely need some dexterity for this challenge too, and I need to make the space to let that happen. Stamina: Anton Chekov wrote, “Any idiot can handle a crisis; it’s the day to day living that wears you out.” Wisdom can help. Opening Stats Con 9 Str 8 Int 12 Dex 12 Wis 11 Cha 11 Sta 4
  2. aka "how the hell do we still have over 40 days of school left in this year?!?!?!" Okay, it's only 41. So sue me. But 40 is Biblical for "a really fucking long time" for a reason. Other things happening during this challenge: the end of my grad school semester is barely after this challenge ends (May 2nd) IVF transfer #2 is (hopefully) next week, pending tomorrow morning's test results. My son's kindergarten enrollment night is tomorrow but it's been kind of a big deal around the house because he is absolutely terrified of the transition to elementary school. The boy's soccer and baseball seasons are now officially in full swing, which means 3 practices and up to 4 games every week. My youngest niece will have her 1st birthday party, which is always a bit painful (you know, with the whole infertility thing) but should also be fun - her mom is one of my favorites, so that will help! At the changing of the month, we will be at my husband's curriculum meeting out of town (long story short, our state government is passing stupid laws so now government teachers across the state have to re-do their curriculum and he managed to get on the official committee to lead this which is both super awesome and slightly annoying). And the state camping season opens back up on April 1st so we are heading out for Good Friday-Easter Saturday, as has been our opening tradition for the last few years (though might die next year with a slightly-too-early Easter...we'll see!) Quests for this challenge! Quest One: Movement Dropping the yoga and running for purposes of the transfer, but I do have... 1. walk at least 91 miles total before the end of March 31st (the first check in for my year-long challenge) - I am currently at 79.2 miles 2. Continue the 1+ miles per day (kinda) by the end of the challenge with 29 more miles on/after April 1st I'd like to add a third one, but we'll see. I get really nervous around transfers (when high impact and/or twisting movements become No Good At All) and last time, the injection med made me stupidly angry - and not only am I still on it this go around, but I'm on a much higher dose of it, so...we'll see what I'm even mentally capable of by that point Quest Two: Nutrition I am under no delusions that I'm doing great here. 1. I've started increasing my caffeine consumption again (bad for my overall health and Super Bad for the transfer). This was partly due to exhaustion, partly due to hot coffee/cold soda being comfort items for me during a tough time, and partly because my husband cut down on his coffee consumption but is still making the same amount of coffee every day. To combat this, I am increasing my required daily water to ~24 ounces (3 mugs, more or less) and will be going on a hard caffeine limit after the transfer date. 2. When stressed, I also tend to turn to highly processed boxed food. Frozen garlic bread, pasta meals in bags (or just straight up boxed mac and cheese! I LOVE Annie's white cheddar shells...), lots of sugary cereals, pop-tarts and snack crackers like cheez-its...so my goal is that at least 3 times during this challenge, I will go an entire day without any of that. No boxes, bags, or other packages of highly processed stuff - ingredients that come in packaging are of course okay, like we eat a lot of canned beans for example. This will include non-homemade desserts like Easter candy though! Would like to think I can do this more than 3 days, but let's start low to be safe. Quest Three: Work/Languages Oh, my old friend. How I love and hate this quest. 1. keep up with the weekly department Instagram posts - I think I've said before that this really isn't a "proper" quest anymore, but I keep on forgetting about it when I delete it so here it is again! 2. Rock out in Reckley's class - I have a bunch of tareas and discussion boards left, 2 exams (one opening tomorrow!), 1 essay, and a final project. Currently working on tarea 4 where I am 7 questions deep (out of 17); I also really need to knock out discussion board 3 and 4 ASAP, preferably today/this week 3. Spanish 2 Unit 6 - Putting my curriculum stuff on here seems to also help me get it done, so...let's rock it out. The order of units are changing over the summer but for right now, it's unit 6 (the sports unit). Units 6 and 7 are also a bit shorter due to needing to cut about 8 days from the quarter for finals at the end of the semester, so that should help a little bit too 4. Write ER quizzes up to #45 - I got to #28 last challenge, but the books are getting more complex, so 45 feels like a good start. (Refresher note - these are comprehension quizzes for all the Spanish-language books in my personal classroom library to better support my extensive reading program next school year) 5. Maya Erikson y el misterio del laberinto - I'd love to say I'll finish this during this challenge, but that feels like A Lot. So let's just start with finishing chapter 4 and go from there. Currently on page 77 and chapter 5 starts on page 95, that should not be a huge deal at all (especially considering one of my top reading times is Wednesday night, so I'd love to come on here tomorrow and tell you all I already have to bump it up!) 6. Grading - I don't really have a specific goal here, honestly, because it fluctuates so flipping much, but Lord knows I just need to get on this and hopefully by putting it here, I will start plowing through it a bit better. Currently behind on 3rd and 6th hours the most. Quest Four: Home and Hobbies My other favorite quest to hate because I usually do terribly at it, hahaha. 1. log cabin quilt - I finally got the top (and back!) done during last challenge. I decided it's not worth the cost to send it to the longarmer, so I'm hand-tying the thing. This, however, takes forever and a year, especially given that I am tying it at only 1.5 inch intervals because I might not love the design but I want it to be super durable for camping purposes. Currently about 117 knots in and my goal for this challenge is going to be to get to 450 knots, which will be approximately 1/4 of the overall quilt. 2. dog toys - fix at least 2 of the dog toys 3. garden/yard - I bought some seeds already (for our herbs/annual flowers) but I still need to buy some sort of grass or clover seed and decide how I'm going to move a maple tree seedling...we need to finish cutting down two dead trees, so I want to keep it if I can to help replace those, and then figure out what else I'll find or buy to replace the other one. I also want to at least price out some simple fountains or maybe a bird bath instead? And maybe a garden statue, I really want one of Artemis but that's probably too specific for now given our very tight budget. And my hummingbird feeder broke over the winter too...depending on our weather, some of this might happen at the end of this challenge, but a good bit of it is really just preparations for May.
  3. Yeah, I suck at titles, but with Imbolc officially behind us, I am very much looking forward to spring slowly getting underway! Anyway, this is not a hugely exciting challenge for me - mostly just keeping up momentum, honestly - but it is an important one. A few of the big things happening during this period: 1. my first and second grad school essays and exams (out of three of each, so a good chunk of my first grade is in these next six weeks!) 2. hopefully 🤞🤞 my first attempt an IVF transfer 3. my first Foreign Language Leadership meeting 4. the birth of my nephew (due Feb. 28) which will stir up some strong emotions, mostly due to point #2 5. presentation to district admin to begin laying groundwork to offer Seal of Biliteracy testing/honors So let's get to it: Quest One: Movement This is very prone to change depending on how the IVF stuff goes, but right now my goals are: 1) Get my 2023 walking/running total to 78 miles or more. Current total: 33.3 miles 1a) run at least a mile. Total. I can run probably two miles in one go if absolutely necessary, but it's uncomfy as hell. My hope is to start slow, even if that's just a 1/4 mile at a time. 2) do at least two yoga workouts 😂 Progressing from my singular one last challenge! Quest Two: Nutrition I did surprisingly well here last challenge, and also my Diet Coke addition feels pretty darn broken, so it's time to add: 1) eat at least one produce-y thing at least every other day. That sounds dumb and basic as hell, but I default to protein + rice + sauce a LOT. Like last night's dinner was pork and ginger meatballs with sticky rice and cilantro sauce, for example. Or, if I'm stressed/busy, it's just quick and easy carbs. Fruits and veggies are super underrepresented a lot of the time, but I feel like if I say every single day, I'll panic and flounder. So we'll try for every other. Not even worrying about measuring out a certain amount, any inclusion at all is a good place to start. 2) drink at least 16 ounces of water a day. Especially during weekdays, when I don't get many pee breaks, I have my morning coffee then typically abstain from any drinks at all until an afternoon soda or hot chocolate. I do tend to have water at dinner, but I'm not 100% sure how frequent that actually is, so let's track it! 3) keep cooking - let's try for 3 recipes this challenge Quest Three: Languages This is partly a quest and partly just me tracking what I need to get done anyway, honestly. 1) keep up with the weekly department Instagram posts 2) watch 6 Dreaming Spanish videos (intermediate or advanced) OR Spanish-language TV show episodes - I've been really into Iron Chef Mexico lately 😆 3) keep up in Reckley's class: 2 essays, 2 exams, theoretically 4 homework assignments (though she's been really behind on assigning these compared to what's on the syllabus so we'll see what I actually get), and 3 discussion board posts + responses 4) finish Maya Erikson y el misterio del laberinto - it's only 7 chapters, but 157 pages. Currently on chapter 2 (page 29). 5) get extensive reading program quizzes off the ground with at least 20 made (I started an extensive reading program this year, but my students tend to spend the time just flipping through pictures before writing super shitty reflections, so I'm implementing simple 5 question, multiple choice comprehension quizzes to encourage them to actually engage in the text itself at least a little. The downside for me is that I have probably a hundred books in the library for them to choose already...that's a lot of quizzes to write!) I have the first 3 done 6) finish Spanish 2 Units 4 and 5 curriculum - Unit 4 is nearly done (just needs standards selected and listed by lesson arc) Quest Four: Home and Hobbies This is the challenge I always suck at because it's just so easy to push off! Let's start simple this time: 1) Sew at least one seam on the damn log cabin quilt every week. This should be stupidly easy, but I managed to go all last challenge without doing anything more than looking at it, so every stitch helps. 2) Patch the dog toys. He has five that he has ripped open to the point where we had to take them away. I have stitched up two of them so far and both seams have held so far. (Obnoxiously enough, he did re-rip one of them but in a totally different spot. I have already mended that new rip as well. ) I am hoping if I can keep on top of these, we can avoid having to spend so much money constantly buying new ones or replacing things that he chewed that he's not supposed to...like my kid's shinguards. Again. 😠 3) Download the ridiculous amount of free quilting/block patterns piling up in my personal email because I'm on far too many mailing lists!
  4. Woohoo! It's almost here - 2022!! The magical year of so many promises. Looking for a new house, graduating from graduate school, starting IVF (the doctor is giving us just under an 80% chance of being pregnant by the end of 2022 based on our current test numbers, which we feel really good about, so let's pray that he's right and our time has finally come!!). It could be a doozy but it should, hopefully, be the year where Things Are Finally Starting To Look Up. Especially given my now-only-newish job going so well thus far, it's hard not to be at least a little optimistic even if I'm so far in the weeds right now that it's not something I spend much time or energy expressing. Plus I always love New Year's Eve/Day anyway - it's such a sense of the blank page for me. Literally anything could happen! The possibilities are open and endless! You never know what might be in store for you down the road and I find it very exciting 😄 With that said, I am still in the weeds until December 17th, which is the final day of the semester for both my workplace and my grad class. But while I did a terrible job of posting last challenge, I honestly surprised myself a little bit at how well I could follow my super simplistic challenge, so I'm going to keep the same basic idea but turn it up just one single notch for this short follow-up: Quest 1: Eating Eating not-box food didn't do as much for my weight as I was hoping it would, though it certainly didn't hurt either. The other big change my doctor suggested was eating more chicken, cheese, and potatoes, but I honestly already eat a good amount of chicken and cheese, so I'm choosing to focus in on potatoes. This should be especially easy because I have probably 8-ish pounds of potatoes in my pantry right now (my husband misunderstood how many I wanted for the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and bought just over twice as many as I expected), along with leftover mashed potatoes anyway because the recipe claimed it made 8 servings, which I thought would be great for 6 adults and 2 little kids, but holy bajesus everyone had a good sized serving and there's more than half the mash left... So my goal is going to be to eat potatoes at least once a week every week between now and New Year's (5 weeks). New recipes are welcome but not required. Also potatoes don't have to be the centerpiece of the meal but they do have to be reasonably present - like roasted root veggies with a burger would count since our "roasted roots" is usually a little more than half potato anyway. Also, as a side note, this morning's weight was up to 132! Not enough for me to celebrate yet, considering that's still well within my range of normal fluctuations, but I'm mildly hopeful. Quest 2: Exercise This will actually probably be the hardest one for me. A combo of anemia (which leads to low energy), a crazy schedule, and sheer inertia makes this daunting as heck, and honestly I was scraping the bottom of the barrel last challenge for passes here. With that in mind, I'm going to keep my original goal of "literally anything even slightly extra physical once a week" and add in at least one yoga session - should be easy if I tell my husband to bother me into doing at least one with him at some point! - and at least one weights session. By which I mean "probably just one or two sets of something, probably tricep rows (I think is what they're called?)". I'm not a weightlifter by any means but I do want to increase my archery draw weight and running likely needs to wait a bit longer anyway (needing to gain weight + arthritic knee that doesn't like cold = not a great idea right now unless something changes), plus that wouldn't take terribly long or a ton of energy. So I think those are both doable, even if I shove them in after the 17th. But you'd best believe I'm letting myself double dip and count the yoga and weightlifting as my "thing" that week if I need to! Quest 3: Life Same base idea as quest 2, I'm just repeating last challenge and barely bumping it up a tiny notch: Literally anything at all once a week (probably going for being social on here - I'm unofficially going to try to start responding more to folks on here, which is a struggle for me - working on my son's quilt, baking Christmas cookies, or watching amusing YouTube videos) plus getting to at least row #7 of my son's quilt. I'm about halfway through row #4 so this shouldn't be too difficult I think and my kid is super impatient/excited for it so I want to make sure I'm at least making reasonable progress on it to show him. Again, I'm totally allowed to double dip here - I get to count quilt work time as my "thing" that week when needed. Trying to "start" today to keep what tiny bit of momentum I have going, though I wouldn't expect any kind of useful update tomorrow (toddler ninja class + grad school deadline tonight = probably just going to work and go to bed). Wish me luck!!
  5. THE SILVER ARCHER: BOOK THREE Chapter 4: Chrysalis There was frost on the etched glass of the window where I sat, my arms wrapped around my knees, watching students hurrying through the light cold rain to classes. My stiff new uniform vest dug into the soft skin under my arms, but I didn't move, because I didn't mind. This uniform had been tailored just for me, as opposed to the straight-cut, hand-me-down uniform I was wearing; and once it softened up with use, it would be much more comfortable than what I had before. My fingers came up to touch the silver arrow pin on my right chest again. Just over a week ago, my mentor, Mistral, had teared up proudly as she pinned it on my brand-new vest and whispered "Well done". My time of study in the Temple Academy was almost complete. When I first received my powers of healing and clarity from the Silver Bow, I could only channel them to the arrows I fired from the Bow; but even though I quickly realized that the power flowed through me and I could both generate and control it, the guidance I had received from Mistral and others during my studies had greatly increased what I could do. For my final examination, I had demonstrated my understanding of my studies by creating a visual representation of the theories and practices they had taught me - all by pulling and generating the powerful light into shapes and movement that they could see. It was more than I ever dreamed I could do. And when Mistral pinned that arrow on my chest, she was finally telling me that I was ready - I was sufficiently prepared to leave the Academy and go out into the world. I hugged my knees tighter into my chest and rested my forehead on them. I had been lulled for a week into thinking this was all over - I went to the tailor in town to get my new uniform; I bought new white shirts and bloused trousers, and indulged in some new dark skirts and dresses; I spent several days lavishly buying gifts for my family, for the upcoming celebration of the King's birthday; and since I didn't have to report to my committee, I spent many of the days sleeping well past daybreak and staying up to read or play long into the night. But the truth was that my work was far from over. The list of things I had to complete before I could receive the rest of my insignia and be formally discharged was long, and many of the tasks required deep thought and many days of work. I only had three weeks left to complete them. The younger mentors who weren't far removed from the Academy themselves had warned me that it was easy to lapse into this mindset when the examination was over - and that I would regret it if I gave in. I turned my head to look out the window again, and rested my hand against the glass to watch the fog slowly puff out around it. I had no motivation to get up and go back to my room to start writing or diagramming. All I wanted was to sleep. I had been sitting that way for nearly ten minutes when a soft alarm began to rise in the back of my mind and I frowned. Something was wrong. The frost - the frost was now inside the window. But - I looked outside and it was still raining, still above freezing. The temperature in my little alcove was dropping faster than the temperature outside. With a gasp I jerked my hand back and looked at it; and sure enough, delicate traces of frost had begun curl around my fingers and etch themselves into my palm. "No!" I spun around and grabbed for my Bow, but I had left it back in my room; and sure enough, in the deserted hallway before me stood the ghostly apparition of the Dark Elf, my nemesis, Caranthir Aranwas, his white hair spilling gracefully down his back and his silvery robes cascading around his slender body. He had returned. Before I could move he had lunged across the hallway and slammed my throat to the glass with one of his graceful, ice-strong hands. "What's the matter, Eldarwen?" he murmured, his breath a wintry wind against my neck as he drew near, probing my eyes with his pale blue-white ones. I struggled against his grip but felt his power slowly locking me into place as he calmly, gently traced the edge of my face with his other hand, leaned back to gaze at my new uniform and smirked as my breath thinned to a gurgle. "You are surprised to see me in this place, my beloved? Well, you shouldn't be. When you think I'm far away in the forest I'm right beside you. I hear your thoughts as you hear mine. We are more -" he rested his other hand at my waist "- intimately connected than you admit to yourself." "What do you want?" I choked, trying to kick at him and gagging in frustration as he easily swept aside. "Why here? Why now?" "Why not now?" he arched his eyebrows and shrugged lightly. "You have completed a great feat, Eldarwen, and I commend you. But your training is not yet complete - you are not a fully fledged archer of the Movement. You are so much more vulnerable in these days than you realize. You feel safe and powerful and do not realize that you are like a fragile caterpillar in your chrysalis - changing, growing, becoming something beautiful and strong; but you aren't there yet, my beloved." He tightened his grip just a bit more so the edges of my vision began to fade. All I saw as I fought to suck for air was his long, slim face close to mine, slack and passive, but burning behind with desire and hatred. "If I take you down now, you will forever be a half-blown dream, a glimpse of greatness never realized." A bit of his apathy slipped away and a cruel smile rose to his eyes. "Come with me now, beloved. Come to the forest and let me give you rest. You've poured your soul into these silly assignments, this system with all its rules and shame, for far too long. You were born to be free, to rule, my queen. Come with me. Let all this go. Leave it behind and come, take your rest. I know you, Eldarwen, and I see the exhaustion in your eyes. I will free you from all this. Just let go, come with me, come to be my queen, as I've always wanted. Do you hear? I have always wanted you. Come with me." My consciousness was fading ... I had to ... do something ... find a way to pry his hand from my throat, I realized sluggishly, struggling to keep my eyes open. My hands were still free - yes, both of them; they were still free. I could - Thought faded but instinct took over. Clumsily I lifted a hand as if to grab his wrist; but when he feinted away, my other hand shot up and connected with his neck. He cried out in agony as the white-hot power pierced his neck and seared his flesh, stumbling backward and releasing my throat. I hung on, bringing my other hand up to hold his shoulder and support myself as I gasped for air, and summoning all my strength to pour the light into his body. He gripped my arms with his own powers but I held on despite the icy hot pain. "You have no power over me, Caranthir Aranwas," I snarled, bringing my own face close to his. "Your words will not sway me from my purpose and your seduction will not lure me from my duties. I am the Silver Archer, the Arrow-Healer. Even in this, even in these last few days between my past and my future, I am more than you will ever be and I am stronger than you will ever know. I am bound by love to protect my people, to free the helpless from your power, to bring the captives back home. I will not allow you to stop me and I will not allow my weakness to become your power. I will defeat you and I will succeed!" I let go of his neck and he sagged to the ground, bleeding, great drops of his mercury-blood splashing and sizzling to the floor. But I knew he was not vanquished, only weakened; and as he rocked back and lifted his hands to fire a blast of ice and fire at my heart, I smashed my hands against his and forced my own powers down his arms, watching his terrified face with grim satisfaction as the light illuminated him vein by vein, traveling back to his own heart. "No, stop, have mercy," he cried; but I did not stop. "When have you shown me mercy?" I cried. "When have you tried to help me? To protect me? No, Aranwas, I will assert my power over you at every turn and remind you every day of my life that you do not control me, you will not conquer me, and you will bow to my will and my mission!" With a tremendous effort, he tore his hands away from me and fell backward just before my powers reached his heart; and with a snarl and a cry, he stumbled to his feet, met my eyes for one glaring moment, then turned and vanished through the wall, leaving blood and a burning smell behind. I took a deep shivering breath and fell to my knees in the hall. The Dark Elf had returned. I was not safe. Now I could see the danger lying in wait for me during this silent, liminal time before I left the Academy. I was not free yet and I was not safe from defeat or failure. There were still powers waiting to attack me if I gave in to my fatigue and apathy. Setting my jaw, I got to my feet and went to retrieve my cloak from the windowsill. I was determined to complete this transformation and resist the temptation to sleep this time away. If I wanted to emerge prepared to take my place in the Movement, I had to keep fighting, keep practicing, keep pressing forward. I headed toward the stairs toward my room. I would not leave my Bow behind again.
  6. THE SILVER ARCHER: BOOK III Chapter 2: Return to the Temple The barracks halls were crowded and noisy with laughing, jostling young students, excitedly rushing to their dorms with crisp new folded vests and shiny weapons or carrying armloads of papers and books under their arms as they pushed their way to the library. The windows' dingy red curtains had been taken down for cleaning, flooding the dusty building with bright sunlight and raising the temperature in the halls, so the smells of sweat and damp clothing gusted to and fro on the bustling breeze. I had only been in the hall for a few minutes before I realized that my black mask and hood were alarmingly out of place in this safe, festive atmosphere, so I slid my mask down around my neck and pushed back my hood as I slowly made my way upstream toward the upstairs exit. I was not in any particular hurry to see Mistral, my mentor, but I felt uncomfortably out of place back in the study halls and dormitories of Temple Island. The memories of my night watches, sunrise skirmishes and long conversations with older fighting peers around the nightly campfire were still closer to me than the older memories of writing in the library or attending archery practice. I was different now. I had been gone less than three months, but in just those few weeks I had become much older than the carefree Temple students. I had seen what it was like to watch and learn and grow outside lecture halls; I had made friends who begged me to stay. Temple Island felt rigid and suffocating. When I finally pushed my way through the dorms and out the back exit that faced the library, I felt somewhat better, breathing the clear air. Still, I lingered, walking slowly through the grounds between the two buildings. I wasn't sure what I would say to Mistral. She had not wanted me to go fight with the Movement to begin with, and I had only heard from her once during my time there. I was not certain whether she would be pleased with my growth or frustrated with my absence. As I curled my left hand idly into a fist while I thought, my fingertips connected with the callouses that had formed on my palm over the summer - hard, sturdy spots where my Bow had slapped against my palm again and again, where the skin had torn free as I swung it with all my strength to beat off attacks, where my bare hands connected with tree bark and rocks and gravel and walls as I climbed higher to get a better view. The callouses were the proof that I had fought old enemies in new ways and not only survived, but gotten stronger and braver. What was one person's approval or disapproval compared to the lives I had touched and the smiles and hearts that had touched me? What was some temporary misunderstanding compared to the exciting missions that lay ahead in my future? I reached out with my right hand and a swirl of shimmering light leaped to life from my palm. I hadn't used my healing powers much over the last few months - that needed to change. I rested my fingertips softly against my own forehead, allowing the reassuring warmth to calm my anxious thoughts. This was just a different kind of test - to see if I could satisfy Mistral's expectations just like I had satisfied Walter's, Irvin's and Aubron's. Once the test had been passed and I had completed the Temple training, then I would unlock many years of new experiences, connections and missions. I could return to Middle Earth as an independent fighter and go back to protecting my own people. All I had to do was remember my strength and remember my purpose, and not let her cryptic communication and shifting expectations distract me from where I was going. I squared my shoulders and began the walk up the hill. I could do this.
  7. THE SILVER ARCHER: BOOK II Chapter 4: A Different Path I paused outside Mistral's office to adjust my bracers and tug the strap of my quiver tighter. The Dark Elf's infiltration campaign had been gaining momentum in recent weeks, and it was time for me to take my work in a different direction - up to this point I had watched and listened around the school, seeing signs of his work in harried students and absent faculty; but I needed to go deeper. I needed to go out into the forest and search for him where he lay hidden. My hands were almost fully healed and my powers were growing stronger the more I used them. It was time to see what I could do. I had dressed in my full uniform to speak to my mentor, so she would know I was serious and prepared for this - my snowy-white tunic belted snugly over my loose white culottes; my bright red archer's vest fastened tight to my chest and criscrossed with my quiver and bow; my red leather sandals laced around my winter-white legs and my mother's silver bracers clasped around my wrists. Even my wispy hair was pulled neatly back from my face. This as a very important meeting and I needed her to know that I had given this a lot of thought and preparation. When I entered the room, Mistral was sitting at her paper-strewn desk, writing. The windows were open to let in the chilly spring breeze and ambient city sounds, and she was deep in concentration and did not hear me approach. I cleared my throat softly. "Mistral, could I talk to you for a few minutes?" She looked up, saw my uniform and met my eyes in surprise. "Now isn't a good time, but it looks serious." "It is serious. I've decided to leave the academy." Mistral sucked in her breath sharply and slowly set down her pen. "Sit down. What do you mean, you've decided to leave?" "I mean that I can't properly pursue the Dark Elf and find out why he's building his army unless I have the freedom to set out on my own. I don't have room in this place to seek out his lairs, his tactics. I need to go out and meet him where he is." Mistral folded her hands. "Sky, we've discussed this. You're not ready to go out on your own. You need to stay here and finish the academic part of your training before you're ready to try this alone." I shook my head vigorously. "The academics are slowing me down. I know what I need to do and I know how to use my gifts. You've shown me how to use my powers in new ways, and I've been working with other teachers while you've been gone who have shown me how to do new things, too, like -" "Wait, stop there. You've been working with other teachers?" Her violet-hazel eyes began to gather storm clouds and her brows lowered. "I thought we'd discussed the proper channels for your training. I am your mentor and you're supposed to primarily learn from me." It took a lot of strength to keep my voice even. "We did discuss that. But I couldn't learn from you because you were never here." Her mouth went slack and she sat back in her chair. "I've tried to work with you and learn from you, but you've never seemed interested in teaching me," I continued, breathing deeply to keep my voice even and calm. "You promised Ayre that you would take over where he left off and prepare me to be a Protector, but you've been too busy with your own work and your own concerns to pay attention to mine. Yes, I sought out other teachers to help me with things I knew you didn't have time to teach me. Master Gregory taught me how to control and aim my powers when I throw them; Titus has helped me make them stronger and increase my power to heal. I've been competing in archery tournaments you didn't even know about. I've taught myself, Mistral, and found the resources I needed. If I don't seem ready to you, maybe you haven't been keeping up with my progress very well. I am ready. I know what I need to do and it's time for me to do it." Mistral was angry - dark heat began to rise in her thin cheeks as she folded her hands and sat forward to the desk. But I had fastened my vest tight for a reason - it held my back strong and straight. I was prepared for whatever she was about to say. "You should have come to me sooner and told me you were considering this," she said, her own voice straining against calm. "I've made plans for things I wanted you to learn next semester. This - announcement - of yours will change everything for me." I kept my chin up and my gaze clear. "I'm sorry to hear that. I'll do whatever I can to put my affairs in order before I leave." "You can't leave." Her voice was flat. "You're not ready and I need you." I slowly stood and rested my fingertips on the desk, looking down at my teacher. Everything about this felt wrong; but I knew in my heart that it was right. "I am ready - I told you that before. And the work here at the Temple isn't my primary responsibility. I have a mission of my own that I have to pursue. I was given the title of Silver Archer before I came here to the academy; it's something I have to follow even if it leads me away. It's time, Mistral. I'll help you get your work ready before I go - I'll do everything you ask me to do. But I can't stay. My mission lies out there and I have to follow it." Mistral's eyes were expressionless as she stared up at me; her jaw worked back and forth slowly for a long moment. The silence was heavy, but I waited. She had the right to say her piece, too. "I'm disappointed in you," she finally said quietly. "I'm disappointed that you didn't feel you could trust me. You're wrong that I didn't want to teach you - ever since I took you on as my student, I've tried to understand you and find your heart, but you kept it to yourself and didn't confide in me. I would have helped you with those things you went to other teachers for, if you had asked me, but you never did." I didn't know what to say. Guilt started to gnaw at my resolve. Maybe she was right - maybe this was my fault for not talking to her the way I talked to Ayre. Maybe if I had listened to her and followed her instead of seeking my own path, things would have been different between us. "I'm sorry," I stammered, and had no other words. "I'm sorry too." Mistral pushed back from her desk and stood, once again taller than me. I almost - almost - fell back into my deferential, guilty manner as I looked miserably up at her - but my spine connected with the stiffness of my vest, reminding me of everything I had decided before coming into this room. I couldn't pursue the Dark Elf here - I couldn't do my best work here. I felt in my heart the call to leave and to follow my mission into the forest, to whatever people and experiences lay out there. Yes, it was unfortunate that my time at the academy hadn't turned out the way either of us thought it would, but that didn't change the fact that I needed to go. I stood up straight and looked up at my teacher. "You've taught me more than you realized," I said quietly. "I will take you with me in my heart as I follow the Dark Elf and try to hunt him down. I hope you'll be proud of me one day." Mistral was surprised; her eyebrows lifted slightly. "Sky," she said, "I am already proud of you. I don't understand you, and I don't think you're doing the right thing, but that doesn't mean I don't respect you and think you're a gifted archer and healer. I'm interested to see what you accomplish." Impulsively, I reached across the table to give her a hug, which she received stiffly. "I can't promise to accomplish anything great, but I can promise to do my best, no matter what happens; and that is a promise you know I will finally keep!"
  8. THE SKY VOYAGER Part 2: Away Mission I had sat quietly all through the briefing, occupying my usual corner of the conference room table and doodling on my PADD. By now I was used to my usual assignment: Before the mission, use the Federation database to compile a report on their relevant cultural and physiological specifications, if they existed in our data; accompany the away mission, taking field notes on any unique behaviors, speech patterns, phrases, mannerisms, and cultural preferences that I observed; then, after returning, compare my notes with the previous information and add my observations into the database. I was getting good at the routine and enjoyed getting to travel with the away crews, without having too much responsibility. “... and Ensign Elvenword, I want you to lead a second away team to the rural areas outside the capitol.” It took me nearly three seconds to realize that my name had been called. Wait - did she say lead an away mission? I sat up and blinked at Captain Janeway’s face, which wore just a shadow of a smile. “Captain?” “I want you to take a team into the rural areas and prepare a report,” the captain said, striding slowly across the room with her hands on her hips. “I want a report on the geology of the land and the people’s living conditions, housing, habits, political opinions - give me a nice overview of how rural people in this country live and what they think about their government. This is a post-warp civilization so you don’t have to be secretive with your technology. Give me tricorder readouts, written reports, holophotos - whatever you think we need to know. We’ll be here for three weeks if all goes well.” My heart fluttered like a malfunction in the deflector shield as my mind began to race through personnel lists, what equipment I would need, what sections I should include in the report - all while trying to compose my face as Captain Janeway stopped in front of me, her eyebrows raised and one corner of her mouth twisted upwards. “Think you can handle that, Ensign?” I felt the eyes of the bridge crew on the back of my head, so I sat up straight and folded my hands in my lap. “Yes ma’am!” Janeway nodded shortly and reached out to brush her fingers across my shoulder. “Excellent. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.”
  9. THE SILVER ARCHER: BOOK II Chapter 3: Boundary Defense Mistral was standing by the window, absorbed in reading a thick stack of documents, when I walked into her office and softly closed the door behind me. "I'm sorry to be a bit late, Mistral. I left my training as soon as I received your message." She glanced up and waved a hand at her desk. "It's all right. Sit down." As I sat down in the chair, she tossed the papers onto the desk in front of me. "Titus has let me know that there is some kind of infiltration campaign going on here in the Temple. It seems the Dark Elf is trying to recruit some of our archers and warriors into his forces, using a variety of seduction and coercion techniques. He is still incorporeal, as far as we know, so we don't know yet whether he is visiting them himself or sending agents, and we don't know whether he has infiltrated Temple Island or is contacting people out in the town. What we do know is that a small number of students and even teachers have already left, and others have reported considering leaving as well. None of them will say how they were contacted. We suspect they have been threatened." I frowned at the stack of papers, which were personnel files. "Are these the students who have left?" "Yes." Some of them were names I recognized, and my stomach sank. Why was the Dark Elf trying to build his army? What was he planning? A moment later, I realized why Mistral had summoned me, and I closed my eyes in a grimace just before she said, "I need your help to track him down and drive him away from the Island." I had not told Mistral or anyone else that the Dark Elf's presence had been very close with me for many weeks hence - usually he hovered just outside my consciousness, a chilly detachment from my tasks and a quiet apathy. But the week that Mistral had left to visit another training temple on the mainland, he had appeared in my room one night as I was sitting at my desk, catching up on some reading - I spun around with a gasp when I felt his icy fingers trail down my cheek, and he was standing behind me, gazing down at me with a face that filled me with revulsion at its mixture of hatred and desire. "Get away from me," I cried without thinking, bolting up so fast the chair hit the ground, hands raised to block my face. "Get out of my room!" He raised his eyebrows gracefully and took a step backward, the sweep of his frozen garments swishing like softly falling snow across the floor as he unfolded to his long, slender height. He wore a long sky-blue robe and white jewel-studded cape that swirled lightly across his thin shoulders and arms, and a simple, frosty circlet rested on his snowy white brow. He spread his palms in a defenseless gesture. "Now, Sky. Haven't you killed me enough times already? Won't you consent to talk for a change?" I reached behind me for the sword propped in the corner, but when my hand connected with the handle, a shock like ice water shot up my arm and I had to drop it. "Silly girl," he murmured, beginning to move across the floor. True panic burst in my stomach and I leaped onto my pallet, pressing my palms against the wall to be ready to leap off in any direction; but I could barely breathe as he paused on the other side of the room and looked steadily at me with a slightly injured air. "I'm here to protect you, Sky. You're in great danger and I'm here to help you escape." I stared at him as those foreign words jangled like alarms in my head. "You're what?" "I know things you don't, and I can see things that you can't. You are in terrible danger that I alone can see. You must come with me now. Your life is at stake." Why was I even listening to him? Why was I beginning to hesitate under the strangely earnest gaze of his blue eyes? "I - don't believe you," I spat, spinning to one side to snatch up my bow and quiver and fit an arrow to the bowstring in one swift movement. I aimed directly at his forehead and fired - but to my horror, the arrow passed right through his incorporeal frame and ricocheted off the wall behind him, narrowly missing my own head in its return flight. His face split in a wide, beautiful smile that stunned me so my hands went slack. His face almost shone, like the moon just rising on a wintry night. His eyes sparkled like starlight on a snowy path. "Ah, Eldarwen," he sighed, shaking his head, "how little you still know me. What could we be if you would only learn to trust me?" But with only one swift step, he had lunged across the room and his hand closed cruelly around my throat, slamming me so hard against the wall that I saw stars. Ice shot through my veins and he leaned close to my face, all the merriment replaced by deep, total hatred. I could feel his cool breath against my cheek as he leaned close and pressed his glassy forehead against mine - and a terror unlike any I had ever known spread from that contact point throughout my body, paralyzing me, convulsing me into a blind panic that screamed for escape and safety. "You will come with me," he breathed against my face. I gagged and clawed at his merciless iron hand on my throat. "You are mine, Eldarwen. The time is here at last. Together we will rise." Darkness was closing around the edges of my vision and I could see nothing but his blue eyes piercing mine, controlling me, forcing my consciousness of the room and any other thought out of my mind. He was here for me. He would carry me away where he would - away from whatever danger he saw. If I did what he said, he would release me from the terror exploding down my spine with every half-choked breath. I never heard the sound that made him spin to look over his shoulder and release his hold on my throat, but he heard something in the hall and turned quickly to look, letting me go. I collapsed onto the pallet bed, violently sucking in air and scrabbling off the other side to crash onto the floor. "Get out," I gagged, for the first time remembering that the injuries on my hands were probably healed enough that I could throw my powers again. Still gasping and retching, I got up on one knee and crossed my wrists in front of me, opening my scarred palms toward him and praying to summon up the white-hot light from deep within. I felt it begin to glow deep in my belly and I lifted my gaze to his, all his hatred replaced with dread - but when I tried to throw the heat across at him, it only exploded from one hand; and the blow glanced off his shoulder. He grabbed his wound with a cry and ran toward the window, where he threw one baleful, curled-lip gaze at me before melting away into the night, leaving a trail of silvery blood-drops behind. He was gone. But as I sagged against the bed, all the ice and panic still coursed through my veins, leaving me shivering and sobbing in pain on the floor. Yes, he was gone, but I did not feel victorious. I looked down at my palms - the left one still glowed with the residual heat of my healing powers; the right one, the more severely injured one, was cold, and blue frost filled the white scar across it. For a long moment, abject despair and helplessness swirled up in me. How could I ever become a Protector if I still couldn't defend myself against the Dark Elf's attacks? How could I be trusted to lead others and heal them when my own injuries still left me vulnerable? Was he right after all - was I doomed to be chained to him for the rest of my life, unable to predict when he would appear, unable to do anything but impotently try to ward off his increasingly aggressive attacks? But as I looked down at my two hands - the one glowing and warm, the other still bearing fresh scars, and now marred even more by the frost filling its lines - a vague inspiration struck me. Taking a deep breath, I pressed my two palms together. And sure enough, the healing warmth from my left hand flowed across into my right, and the frost began to melt. The Dark Elf is not part of me and he does not define me, I whispered to myself, breathing deeply as the power of the King circled slowly through my shivering body, relaxing my clenched muscles and slowly warming me to life again. I do not belong to him, and I did not give in to him. I am the Silver Archer, the Arrow-Healer. Those titles were given to me and I have claimed them. I was chosen to be a Protector, and I know that my King and my teachers will teach me how to be ready for that day when it comes. The Dark Elf cannot stop me from achieving my destiny, and I will not live in fear of him, because I learn each time he attacks how better to stop him. My scars make me stronger - someday when I am a leader, I will be ready to defend my followers from his attacks because I've seen them all. And I refuse to believe his lies that I am less worthy because I am doomed to fight him. Worthiness is irrelevant - excellence, faith, determination, hope, and love are essential. I will fight his lies with truth, I will defend myself from his anger and hatred with love and light, and I will protect others from his pride and greed with humility and hope. In Mistral's office, I slowly opened my eyes and looked up into her face, quietly nodding and taking up the task I knew was mine to complete. "I will do whatever it takes to defend this place and these walls. This is our home. He has no place here."
  10. THE SKY VOYAGER Part I: Strange New Worlds I was writing the concluding paragraph of my weekly report when my comm badge buzzed and interrupted my thoughts. "Ensign Elvenword to the bridge, please." To the bridge? I froze and stared at my screen, my fingers motionless over the keys. That sounded like Lieutenant Tuvok, the chief of security! Me to the bridge? What for? I was only a junior-grade ensign on my first mission - what was I needed for on the bridge? "Ensign Elvenword, please respond." I jumped and slapped my badge. "Yes sir - on my way, sir!" My heart raced as I fumbled into my uniform jacket and paused at the mirror to adjust my tightly braided hair with trembling fingers. I had been stuck with the rest of the crew on Voyager for almost a year after we were flung into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker, but my position as a communications intern - later upgraded to "assistant science communications officer," which meant I was responsible for proofreading and compiling the science officers' weekly reports into an archived brief - never brought me into direct contact with the bridge crew. During the last six months, I had been independently studying Starfleet Academy language materials from the computer database and practicing speaking in the holodeck, in hopes of being allowed to go on an away mission someday; but I had not told anyone besides my roommates about my work - had one of them mentioned it to a bridge officer? The ride up to the bridge felt exceptionally long - until the turbolift glided to a stop and the doors opened up into the brightly lit space. There was Lieutenant Tuvok at the security station, silhouetted by dozens of brightly colored lights and buttons, and Ensign Kim at Operations; and down in front, I could see the backs of Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay's heads as they looked at a small star system out the massive viewscreen - so much larger than I imagined it! Everything smelled like heat and metal, but it was not hot, only very bright; and every officer's face was composed, focused, and occupied. Lieutenant Tuvok glanced up as I hesitated at the open doors, his fingers never stopping their graceful, efficient movements over the touchscreen. "Ensign, it does not take fifteen minutes to make your way from your quarters to the bridge," he stated, more of a factual observation than a rebuke. I hesitated, uncertain how to respond. "Yes, sir," I finally said lamely. "Did you wish to see me?" "Yes." He moved aside from his station and gestured for me to join him. I squared my shoulders and tried to look confident as I strode across the open space (feeling very small) and climbed the small step up to the security station. "Ensign, the next part of our journey will bring us into contact with several diverse alien cultures," Tuvok said, his voice measured and matter-of-fact. "The captain has asked me to select an additional crew member to function as an assistant on our diplomatic missions, preferably someone with exceptional interpersonal communication skills and combat experience. I have reviewed your performance during the rescue mission aboard the U.S.S. Ranger as a Starfleet cadet, and found it exemplary. I have also reviewed your progress studying the Academy language curriculum on your own, which indicates that you have initiative and a desire to expand your current role, which you have performed punctually and accurately for the past eleven months. Although you lack the Starfleet experience that some of your older crewmates possess, I believe you have promise, and that the training and experience you will receive as a diplomatic adjutant would enhance your career significantly once we return to the Alpha Quadrant." He raised an eyebrow. "Does this opportunity interest you?" I fought to keep my face from betraying the scream of joy that was bubbling up in my stomach. "Yes sir, it interests me greatly. What would I have to do to get started?" Tuvok reached under the console and handed me a PADD. "I have constructed a plan of study for you to continue your language studies, using additional data on Delta Quadrant species that you do not have access to in the Academy database. These lessons include language, culture, and protocol components. Additionally, I have arranged weekly meetings with five senior officers, to familiarize you with bridge and away mission protocol. Each of them will likely have additional training assignments for you to complete. You will continue your weekly duties as science communications assistant, but you will also be assigned a duty station on the bridge, which you will be expected to man whenever you are summoned, day or night." "Yes sir. Will I be further instructed on my duties at my new station?" "Yes. After one month, you will meet with the captain, and she will assess your readiness to assume your new duties. At that time, you will be officially designated a Diplomatic Adjutant and instructed in the duties of your new station." I took the PADD and stood as tall as I could. "I understand. I will begin my studies as soon as I complete my weekly report." Tuvok nodded gracefully and turned back to his station. "Very good. The five officers assigned to be your mentors will contact you to schedule your weekly meetings - their names are listed in your first lesson. Please see me or one of them if you have additional questions. You are dismissed." "Yes sir." As I stepped off the station platform and walked back toward the turbolift, I snuck a small peek over my shoulder at the captain's chair - and my heart missed a beat when I met Captain Janeway's eyes, already turned in my direction. Her stern face cracked into a slight smile and she nodded briefly. "We look forward to seeing you on the bridge, Ensign," she called across the room, her voice businesslike but pleasant. "Study hard and I'll see you in a few weeks." Dear Dad and Mom, I wrote in my letter that evening. Today was quite possibly the biggest day of my life - I have been chosen for promotion! After only a year out of the Academy! Can you believe it? I was summoned to the bridge this afternoon by Lieutenant Tuvok - yes, I finally got to see the bridge and the bridge crew! It was amazing! - and he said that the officers were looking for an assistant to specialize in diplomacy and language, to accompany them on away missions as a Diplomatic Adjutant. Because I've been studying languages on my own for the last few months, and because he read about my work on the USS Ranger, I was chosen! Over more than a hundred other people! What it means is that I will be given extra homework by five of the senior officers, in order to get ready - my weekly mentors will be Neelix, Lieutenant Tuvok, the Doctor and Kes, and Commander Chakotay; and once a month, I will also meet with Captain Janeway, to keep her informed on my progress. I don't know any of the bridge officers personally, but one of my roommates spent a couple of months as a navigational assistant on the bridge, and she has told me lots of stories about all of them, so I think I have an idea what to expect. When I was on the bridge, I tried to sense their emotions, but I'm not as good at that as you are, Mom. They all mostly just seemed busy and focused. When the captain greeted me she did seem sincere, though - I have so much admiration for her and I want her to be pleased with my work. As I may have mentioned once or twice, I hope one day to be a starship captain just like her. I love you both and miss you more than I can say. I heard a rumor today that some of the new species we'll be meeting soon might be able to help us get home faster ... I tried not to listen, of course, but of course I did anyway. I hope my new job won't take up so much time that I can't write to you every day - but even if it does, I'll keep good logs of everything I do, so I can tell you all my wonderful stories of data entry and report-writing when I get home. Maybe spiced up with a few alien encounters now and then, I hope. Talk to you soon. Lots of love, Sky
  11. THE SILVER ARCHER: BOOK TWO Chapter 2 Banish the Shadow Mistral was sitting at a library table with her back to me when I slowly pushed open the heavy door and stepped inside, my mud-caked boots making jarring sounds that ricocheted off the polished marble floor and high stone ceilings. She did not stir or turn, and I carefully pushed the door shut, then stood with my back against it, gathering up my will to hide the crackling stiffness of my battered joints and the throbbing, infected pain of the wounds on my hands and arms. I should have cleaned up before coming, I realized, and glanced quickly down at my palms to be sure no blood was oozing through the hastily applied wrappings. "So." Mistral's voice was chilly, and she laughed slightly under her breath, still without turning around. "You decided to return." I swallowed the tightness in my throat. "I did." She sat in silence, but I offered no explanation. I was in pain and in no mood to explain myself or apologize for doing what I had to do - I just wanted this to be over so I could go wash the mud, clay, blood and sweat off my aching body. After a heavy moment, she spun around abruptly and faced me with eyes blazing under furiously knit brows. "Do you care to explain yourself?" she roared. I opened my mouth, but she continued: "Do you think you're entitled to this training? Do you think you can just attend when you feel like it and skip off when you don't? I have bought this opportunity for you with my own labor, because I knew you had potential to become one of the greatest archers I have ever trained - but for the year we have been together, you have been unreliable, emotional, irresponsible, and childish. I lose when you decide to refuse my authority and go your own way, Sky Elvenword - I lose, not just you!" She angrily took in my torn, dirty homespun garments and slack posture, and angrily snapped a hand at me. "Since you are clearly able to take care of yourself and decide what you should be doing, Miss Silver Archer, how about you just take off into the world and see how that turns out for you!" Drawing a deep, tired breath, I pushed off from the door and walked over to the desk, where I looked quietly into her face for a moment, then lifted the heavy sack of gems from my shoulder and threw it onto the table with a crash that rattled the library. The sack spilled open and the crystal-blue elven gems rolled out, as big as her hand, ten perfect gems mined from the dark mines of the eastern lands of Middle Earth. She stared at them in wonder for a moment, then snapped her gaze back to my face. "Sky, you didn't ..." I leaned on the table and looked steadily into her face, too tired to summon anger. "In the time I have been away," I said quietly, "I went home to help Ayre and Aki fight off an attack that nearly cost Ayre his life. I stayed with them at the Guildhall to help Aki nurse him back toward health, and as I worked alongside her, I developed an infection in the life-wound on my forehead - the Elder poisoned me when he filled me with the Burning, and I became very sick. The Kallanas and I had to care for each other, according to the doctor's instructions. As I began to heal, I met a traveling warrior from the West who was sent to find me by a strange prophecy - I was supposed to bring him back with me to the Temple, but we were separated during our journey through the mines. We met a balrog and had to fight him together." I paused for a moment as a flood of painful memories washed over me, and I bit back the crying words that nearly tumbled out of my chest. "I couldn't find him after the battle. I was trapped and wounded in the bottom of the mines, so since I could not move quickly, I began to extract these gems on my way back toward the surface. I carried them with me because I knew they would help pay for the next part of my training - even though I was wounded and the weight and roughness of the sack kept the wounds in my hands from healing. I don't know when I will be able to throw my powers again because they were so badly torn and infected." I crossed my arms under my cloak and looked at my teacher through heavy eyes. "I do value my training, Mistral. That's why I came back. I wanted with all my heart to stay in the mines and look for my friend, or to stay in the Guildhall with the Kallanas - or most of all, to wander off into the woods on my own and never return. But I didn't. I came back. I am here, bloody, wounded, tired, and sick, because I vowed to learn how to use my powers as the Silver Archer and as a Protector. And that vow is more important than what I feel, or what I want." Mistral slowly rose to her feet and looked down at me, her forehead creased and her gaze urgent and uncertain. "You've changed, Sky," she said quietly, and her eyes grew misty as she reached out to gently take my head in her hands and press her forehead to mine. I closed my eyes and felt her quiver slightly with emotion. "You are noble and brave, my young friend. I didn't realize that you are no longer the frightened halfling whom Ayre asked me to take under my wing. You are a true warrior, and you have the heart of a Protector. Your body may be small, but one day you may be the strongest of us all." All the emotions of my terrible journey started to churn up inside me and I felt hot tears flood my eyes, but I pulled away from Mistral and shook myself hard to force them back down inside. I looked up and met her eyes firmly. I would be strong - I would channel the horrors of the balrog, the anguish of reaching out for Tristan and finding empty space, the ripping pain of the gems weighing against my bruised shoulder; and I would use them to strengthen my hands and my heart. But to my surprise, Mistral broke into my thoughts by pressing two fingers firmly to my forehead and frowning into my eyes. "Not that way, Sky. Not that way. Don't press all the sadness and anger down inside and let it turn your heart to steel. I promised Ayre I would help you stay sensitive and gentle, so you could feel the pains and hopes of the world; and I will keep that promise. Before you go back to your training, the first thing you must do is to feel all the darkness you have kept inside all these weeks - then, together, we can banish the shadows from behind your eyes and allow you to shine your light once again." ----------------- Challenge goals:
  12. Welp. I was going to wait until the 5th to post this because that's my 3-year Nerdiversary but patience has never been a thing for me. My life is sort of imploding right now, so simple goals are the way to go. Ideally these should all be done every day but like last challenge, I'm not setting a hard goal in terms of how often I have to meet them. I go all-or-nothing way too easily. So instead I've tightened it up and outlined when or how long to do these things because they're harder to put off. I'm still going to go the route of reminding myself that I'll feel better doing any or all of these things rather than yelling at myself that they have to get done. Meditate when I wake up every morning with the Stop, Breathe, and Think app. Repeat my damn mantra in the mirror five times every morning. Avoid dairy at all costs. Clean for 5 minutes every day. Journal for 5 minutes every night before bed. Tracker here because I like pretending I can use Excel. I want to Do All the Things but staying sane is kind of a bigger priority at the moment. There are a few smaller/easier to rebuild habits I'm trying to establish outside of the challenge but they're not worth adding here and cluttering things up or overwhelming myself. Idk if we've going to have a Guild Leader this time so if any newbies have questions, feel free to reach out here or PM me. Old-bies: let the cat gifs commence. Here, I'll go first:
  13. Hello!! Ah, it's getting tough these days. Steve's new article about maintaining momentum through winter is so apt right now. This challenge, I'm going to focus on doing the things I've gotta do, while attempting to maintain what I outta be doing (balancing the urgent and the important). Here are the battles I've been fighting lately: 1. Graduate school applications. My first application is due Dec 15. Grad school has been on my mind since August. I'm soooooo close to the finish line! 2. Research paper. My advisor has set a tentative Dec 9th deadline for a draft. Gosh, I feel like I've been working on this for forever as well. Mostly in a "binge and fast" fashion. :/ It's not good, but I'm glad this will be over soon too! Then it's just revising and hopefully submitting the paper by the end of the year! 3. Money probz. Usually my finances are on-point, but this season's got me stressed. I have a really big family, so gifts add up. I don't want to NOT send out gifts, but between the holidays, car stuff, travelling, and application fees, I'm really feeling strapped. I suppose there's not much I can do about it, but it's something that I've been dealing with lately. For these upcoming weeks, I'm going to do some of the usual challenges and also attempt to complete some NF Academy Quests: Main Challenges 1. Floss (X/7) - Dental Hygiene FTW 2. Drink a cup of water in the morning (X/7) - I'm trying to stay better hydrated through the day. Maybe this will help me get kick-started. Academy Goals (one per week in addition to the ones above): Week 1. Pack a lunch for work (X/5) - a true challenge now that I have officially run out of Thanksgiving leftovers. xD Week 2. Keep a food log (X/7) - I'm bad at daily accountability. I already even have an instagram for this. You can find me at punch_tonic. Week 3. No junk food (X/7) - I think I decided that dessert is acceptable. Week 4. No unplanned snacking (X/5) - There's so much candy in my house....so yeah this is pretty important. Bonus points! (+1% ea): Read before bed Exercise* Avoid Carbs (1 point/meal)* Loot I'm trying this thing where instead of a specific item, it's a "coupon". I'm pretty strict with my money, so I think giving myself "permission" to spend frivolously will be motivating. Maybe it won't! We'll see! 100% (high success) - $60 80% (medium) - $40 60% (low) - $20 <50% (consolation) - $1/bonus point with a star Are y'all excited for the end of the dumpster fire that was 2016?!?!?! Gotta finish strong!
  14. Hello everyone I've been an assassin for my last several challenges, but I am here to work on getting a steady diet of iron in my workouts. Main Quest: I'm getting married in July and I would like to fit into my wedding dress. Steady relationship weight and the holidays have not been kind to me and I need to get into some sustainable habits that will allow me to hopefully drop some body fat before the big day. I think 20 lbs is not unreasonable. Quest 1: Go to the gym & lift weights 3x a week. I have some trainer appointments to use up, and then my fiancee and I are doing Stronglifts 5x5 on the other days. The plan is Monday, Wednesday, & Saturday and we've done pretty well the past 2 weeks so far. Quest 2: Track food. I'm aiming to track every day, because I overeat when I'm not keeping track of what I eat. The focus this month is on compliance only, not calories or macros. Quest 3: Find and record at least 10 comforting activities that I can do whenever I feel sad or stressed out. I am the world's worst emotional eater, and I need non-food alternatives to big macs that I will be willing and able to substitute when I feel sad or lonely or anxious. LUYL: I have one class left in my grad school program, and it ends on January 31st. If I can get through it, I will be done with my MS. That is all I want for this month.
  15. November is always a difficult month for me. This year I'm taking on more responsibility at work, trying to finish my masters degree, and planning my wedding, on top of the usual November difficulties. Luckily, if I can make it to Thanksgiving, it will be pretty smooth sailing. So, getting through this reminds me of getting through a ... Dungeon! Quest 1: Keep my health bar up (+3 CON, +1 WIS) In order to make it through the dungeon, I am going to have to watch my health bar. I have to keep up the heals, because if I let my health get too low, I'm a goner. For this quest, I will take my meds every day, + a multivitamin. Week 1 and 2: +1 CON Week 3 and 4: +1 CON Week 5: +1 WIS Week 6: +1 CON Quest 2: The grind (+2 DEX, +4 STR) As tempting as it is when you're tired and your party is flagging to pass monsters by, the only way to be successful in the game is to keep leveling up. For this quest, I am going to build my strength by going to the gym at least 3 times a week (gymnastics or regular gym). Week 1: +1 DEX Week 2: +1 DEX Week 3: +1 STR Week 4: +1 STR Week 5: +1 STR Week 6: +1 STR Quest 3: Saving the game (+1 STA) Everyone knows that if you go too long without saving, you're bound to regret it sooner or later. For this quest, I will record my food intake in myfitnesspal at least 5 times each week. Quest 4: Treasure Hunter (+2 WIS, +1 STA, +1 CHA) I'm not usually a completionist like some people I know, but I do have a few treasures in this dungeon I really want to pick up along the way. READ plans +1 WIS Report Cards +1 WIS APTT Conferences +1 CHA Action Research class +1 STA At the end of the challenge, I will have an additional: +4 STR | +2 DEX | +2 STA | +3 CON | + 3 WIS | + 1 CHA I plan to post photos. If I can manage it, I will try to do that after work today.
  16. Hi folks, My Main Quest is to become more fit; which is to say I want to: Lose 3.5 inches from my waist at the end of 6 weeksWalk at least 75,000 steps each week (I have a Fitbit which tracks for me)Bike 30+ minutes three times per weekThe reason why I I want to become more fit/active, in short, is because I miss it a lot. I played a lot of sports until the end of high school where I was hit with a chronic illness that made life really tough. Once the illness absolved itself some, I developed severe osteoarthritis, which resulted in 3 major surgeries in 3.5 years. Now that I'm "recovered" from the most-recent surgery (a total wrist fusion in November) I want to start doing at least some of the stuff I used to. I also know that I need physical activity as part of my well-being: I'm working on my PhD exercise helps me sleep better and contributes to stress relief. But there is the caveat: even though I'm "healed" and the surgery was considered a success, I'm still in some level of pain all the time. Some days are worse than others ( = I need narcotics to "function"), but there are days when doing "normal" everyday adult things are really tough: as much as I want to do things my body cannot. I am what you call a spoonie. There are also a lot of activities I cannot do because either it requires wrist movement (lots of yoga and body weight exercises) or my wrist/arm needs to bear weight (which causes pain). I have a follow-up with my surgeon in early May to figure out my "next steps," but I am still figuring out what I can and cannot do, which changes on a day-to-day basis (weather/pressure changes impact my pain levels, as does my activities in the previous days, the amount of sleep I get, and things I'm still figuring out). Despite the caveat, I want to be healthier, and I want to survive grad school. I'm just not sure how much I will be able to accomplish. Thus, the motivation for my second challenge, is that every day is a fight. I will calculate how well I did (or didn't) at the end of each week, and post the result on Sunday. Beginning Stats: Weight: 179.8lbs Waist: 38 inches Week of April 6-13 I walked 86,477 steps Week of April 6-13 I biked 0 times (I was moving places...and yeah). I wanted to add as well that my Life Quest is to be done my conference paper (being presented on June 1) by May 25th. I want an initial draft written by April 27th, a second draft written by May 11th and then the last draft by the 25th.
  17. challenge 02 : Achaedia masters the elements book one: air The sun feels warm against the dark leathers Achaedia now wears. It has been a week since she became a full member of the Assassin's Guild, since she left the rebel camp and started out on her own to continue her journey; still, the new clothes feel stiff and strange. She has reached the edge of the forest, and the trees are rapidly thinning overhead. At times, she longs to dart back into the cool comfort of the forest, but she knows she must continue on if she is to have any hope of someday defeating an elder dragon. She has struck out alone toward the mountains, which house one of the artifacts that will allow her to overpower and defeat the dragon. She knows not what it looks like: only that it is called the Air Attunement, and that it resides in a temple, unguarded by anything living. To reach it, she will require the strength and dexterity to climb the mountain and take what is needed. She will need to study what has been written of the temple in the old texts. She will also need full command over herself to undertake this arduous journey. She hopes she will not need anyone else. She misses the pack, but she is a lone wolf. Leaving was the right thing, even if it meant giving up everything she'd known before. Still, every now and then, she hears a rustling in the brush behind her. When she turns, she sees what might only be shadows, but what might also be the blur of quick grey fur or a glimpse of a wet black nose. If it was indeed what she thought, couldn't she smell it? Though, perhaps she's been living with humans too long. 01: Achaedia Practices Mindfulness [+3 CON, +1 WIS] This is a food goal. I will pay attention to everything I eat over the next 6 weeks, and will try not to go over on calories (according to MyFitnessPal). This challenge will be graded as follows: A [+3 CON, +1 WIS]: Recorded 100% of food eaten and remained within calorie goal 80% of the time or more. B [+3 CON]: Recorded 80%-99% of food eaten and remained within calorie goal 80% of the time or more. C [+2 CON]: Recorded 80%-99% of food eaten and remained within calorie goal 50%-79% of the time. D [+1 CON]: Recorded 50-79% of food eaten and remained within calorie goal 50% of the time. F: Recorded food less than 50% of the time, or remained within calorie goal less than 50% of the time. 02: Achaedia Runs with the Pack [+3 STA, +1 DEX] Because I am signed up for 4, 5, and 6 mile runs in the next few weeks, I need to sort of practice in order not to die. Therefore, I resolve to run at least once a week. The other 6 days, Valentine and I will go outside and enjoy the fresh air for a minimum of 5 minutes, at least once per day. Due to weather, the dog-walking portion of this challenge has been cancelled. Now it's only me running! Probably on the treadmill! A [+3 STA, +1 DEX]: I ran, on average, 1 day a week or more, and walked with Valentine 6 days a week or more. B [+2 STA, +1 DEX]: I ran, on average, 0.75 days a week or more, and walked with Valentine 5 days a week or more. C [+1 STA, +1 DEX]: I ran, on average, .5 days a week or more, and walked with Valentine 4 days a week or more. D [+1 STA]: I did not run other than on race days, but I walked Valentine 4 days a week or more. F: Did not run other than on race days, and walked with Valentine less than 4 days a week. 03: Achaedia Pulls Her Own Weight [+4 STR] This goal is pretty simple. Over the next 6 weeks, I will gain the ability to do a chin-up. I plan to roughly use this progression (starting at level 3A) on days other than those when I do Gymnastics Fundamentals or Shoulder Prehab. This one will be graded Pass/Fail. Pass [+4 STR]: chin-up achieved! I am able to lift my chin above the bar using only my own strength! Fail: Chin-up not achieved 04: Achaedia Studies the Ancient Tomes [+3 WIS] This is a continuation of my life quest from the previous challenge, because I still feel like the grad school is a struggle (and does it ever not feel this way?) Anyway, once again, I could not comfortably allow myself to change my focus to anything else, as this is still my most important extracurricular activity. For this challenge, I will no longer be holding myself to an unfair standard. I get accommodations for a reason, and I won't penalize myself for completing work within the accommodations I get. So I really only want to get my first discussion posts in by Friday, my two other discussion posts by Sunday, and my critical thinking assignments by the following Sunday. I am making this one Pass/Fail because I think I can do this, but I reserve the right to change my grading for this challenge part way through. Pass [+3 WIS]: All assignments complete and turned in by the deadline Fail: 1 or more assignments missing Continuing Habits: While I no longer consider these "goals", and will neither track them nor reward them as such, they are still expected to be accomplished every week: Work out at least 5 times a weekStretch after (or during) workouts Rewards: 1x Air Attunement 1x Souvenir Clothing 5x Health Potions Money: 3s4c Before Photos & Measurements Shoulders | 41" Chest | 38.5" Bicep | 11" Waist | 34.5" Hip | 44.5" Thigh | 23" Calf | 13" Weight | 164.8 Pant Size | 14
  18. For weeks, Achaedia has traveled alone through the winter forest. She has grown used to the solitude, to the chittering of the birds overhead and the shuffle of rats underfoot. At the same time, she cannot shake the feeling that she is merely waiting for something to happen. Finally, something does. Crouched at a spring where she dips a hand into the water and drinks, she hears voices. She stands, shaking the water from her hand, and begins to make her way toward the sound. Before long, she comes to what appears to be a camp in a wide clearing. Tents are set up, banners and flags wave in the breeze, and people of all shapes and sizes engage in what Achaedia presumes could only be training. She stops someone walking by with a hand on her arm. "What is this place?" she asks, her voice husky from underuse. The other looks somewhat amused. "This is The Rebellion." "The Rebellion," Achaedia repeats, and takes another glance around the camp. "What are we rebelling against?" Suddenly, overhead, a great winged beast soars over the trees. It beats its great wings once and lashes its tail. Achaedia's gaze lifts to follow its course across the sky. She isn't the only one whose does. "A dragon," her companion remarks in reverent tones. Meeting Achaedia's expression, her mouth quirks in a wry smile. "Elder dragons are the source of all the corruption in the land." "And that was an elder dragon?" Achaedia asks. "No." Her companion glances into the sky. "That was only a minion." Appearing to shake herself off, she smiles over at Achaedia once again. "You, of course, aren't ready to face even a minion, if that's what you wish to do. You must train; become strong, both mentally and physically." If this isn't precisely what Achaedia has been waiting for, it is something. Meeting the eyes of her companion, Achaedia nods once. "Okay," she says. "I am ready to begin." *** Challenge 1: Become The Warrior I basically just want to become stronger, more flexible, more badass, and more fit in general. So to that end, here are my quests for this challenge: Quest 1: Consistent Training (+3 STA) It's easy to prioritize workouts when I'm off work, but I struggle with fitting it into my schedule when I work. So I am going to work out at least 5x a week, but preferably at least SOMETHING every day. Ideally, I will do weights 3x a week, cardio 2-3x a week, "rest" (yoga or archery) 1-2x a week. A: 5+ days/week B: 4 days/week C: 3 days/week F: <3 days/week Quest 2: Choose A Specialization (WIS 1, CHA 1) My friends who have successfully gotten more fit & have lost weight have found an activity that they love to do. I like to lift weights, but I can't do that every day, and I sort of hate cardio, so I need something else that I want to do, to motivate me to be active on days when I am not lifting weights. So for this quest, I am going to try kickboxing, parkour, and whatever else I come across in the next 6 weeks. I have already gotten groupons for both parkour and kickboxing, and I have had my first kickboxing class. A: 6 classes attended B: 4-5 classes attended C: 2-3 classes attended F: 0-1 classes attended Quest 3: Improved Balance & Flexibility (+2 DEX) If I want to be a martial artist or assassin or whatever, I need better flexibility, and my balance is horrible. For this quest, I am going to do balance/flexibility work (most likely in the form of yoga) every day after each workout, or (on rest days) just yoga. A: 7x/week average B: 6x/week average C: 5x/week average F: <5x/week average Life Quest: Masters Mastery (+2 WIS) There are a lot of things I need to work on in my life, but right now, I feel like my masters degree program has to be my main priority. I am a little less than halfway done, and I need to make my coursework more of a focus so that it isn't such a source of stress for me and so that I don't feel like I am constantly on the brink of failing (Note: I have a 3.5 GPA but I suck at school so it always feels tenuous). There's nothing standing in my way at this point. I have disability accommodations. I have Adderall and citalopram. I am at a point where I just need to do it and get it done. For this quest, I am going to pledge at least 1/2 hour on Thursdays and 1 hour on Sundays to my coursework, with additional time as needed to answer discussion post replies, complete assignments and get them in on time (aka within a day of their due date, which is per my accommodations). A: Assignments are, on average, 0-1 days late. B: Assignments are, on average, 2-4 days late C: Assignments are, on average, 5-7 days late F: Assignments are, on average, 8+ days late Assuming I do everything awesomely, at the end of this challenge, I will have: STR: 3 | DEX: 2 | STA: 3 | CON: 3 | WIS: 2 | CHA: 1 Before Photos & Measurements: Neck | 13.5" Shoulders | 41" Chest | 39" Bicep | 11.5" Waist | 34.5" Hip | 45" Thigh | 24.5" Calf | 13" Weight | 172.7 Pant Size | 14 Now back to your regularly scheduled music video from the year I was born. It has dance fighting!!!
  19. Hi all! I'm Caprette, your local friendly woodland creature. I've been lurking around these forums for a while, but I've decided that it's time for me to actually join a challenge. I've never been super-athletic, but I've always enjoyed outdoor activities like hiking in the woods, long walks in the city, camping, and skiing. Right now I'm in grad school, which has led to a more sedentary lifestyle (and a lot more beer and pizza), so my weight has crept up more than I want it to. ETA: quest measurements/grades, in the interest of having concrete measurements for SMART goals. I will allocate attributes later once I have all that figured out! Main quest: Go from size 10-12 pants (my current size) to size 6-8 pants (my size from 3 years ago). Quest 1: Rock climbing. I've climbed casually in gyms a few times and it was always super-fun, but until now I haven't lived close enough to a gym where it made sense to go on any kind of regular basis. I plan to sign up for the belay and intro to climbing class and climb with a partner or boulder at least 1x/week. I won't be able to start until next week, so this covers 5 weeks of the challenge. A: Complete belay technique class, go to gym 5 times (1x/week) B: Complete belay technique class, go to gym 1-4 times C: Complete belay technique class but don't go to gym again Quest 2: Eat (mostly) Paleo. The thing that matters most for me is eating whole foods and avoiding starchy and sugary foods. I'm not going to make a fuss about small amounts of gluten or soy and I am totally fine eating dairy. I cook almost all my meals from scratch anyway, which makes this easier, but on a grad student budget it's harder to fight the urge to stretch a meal with a pile of rice or couscous. I will make an exception for beer--I am allowed to have up to 3 beers per week for the sake of my social life. The hardest part will be this weekend, because I'm going skiing for 3 days and will be eating only restaurant meals, but I'm going to do my best to stay on track. A: 6 or fewer total "cheat" meals (other than the exceptions above) B: 7-12 total "cheat" meals C: 13-18 total "cheat" meals Quest 3: Work out regularly. Most importantly, the workouts must be FUN. Examples include a trip to the climbing gym, a hike, a yoga class, or a day skiing. I plan to do some combination of these 3x/week. A: 18 workouts B: 12-17 workouts C: 6-11 workouts Motivation: Have energy to play hard. I'm in an environmental science master's program, and lots of the other students are into sports like hiking, kayaking, climbing, and skiing. I don't want to have to say "no" when someone asks me if I want to go to the mountains for the weekend because I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up. Life quest: Be awesome at grad school. I'm in a master's program now, but I want to get into a Ph.D. program afterwards. That means I need to go above and beyond and really impress my professors. There's a lecture series on Fridays that is highly related to my area of study, but last semester I always overslept and never went. I want to attend at least 3 of these lectures over the course of the challenge. If I can't attend for one reason or another, an alternative is to read 2 articles or 1 book that have not been assigned for any of my classes, but are related to my area of interest. A: 3 lectures (or article/book equivalent) B: 2 lectures C: 1 lecture
  20. "My daddy's smarter than Einstein, stronger than Hercules, and can light a fire with a snap of his fingers! Are you as good as my daddy, mister? Not if you don't visit the Gatherer's Garden, you aren't!" Aaaand I'm back! Grad school's been hella busy (did I seriously just say that?), but I'm ready and excited to start my first 6WC as a n00b assassin. I've decided on a Bioshock theme this time around, since I've recently been thinking about the games (thanks, Timehop). Who's ready to evolve?? Main Quest: Slim-Down Okay, so this wasn't actually a usable gene tonic in the games, but it was certainly advertised! My long-term main quest is to decrease my BF% from 24-26% to 14-16%. Let me go ahead and restate that it's a LONG-TERM goal, just to remind myself that patience is a thing that will serve me well here. Fun Fact: In Rapture, you could choose to receive either the Slim-Down or Telekinesis plasmid for free with a root canal. I've had 2 (or is it 3..?) root canals already, and I've yet to get a free plasmid with the procedure... ='[ Quest 1: Extra Nutrition, Fountain of Youth (+3 CON) Rapture probably isn't the best place to grab a snack, seeing as the edibles mainly consisted of things like alcohol, potato chips, and canned goods. Thankfully, I'm in Athens and have access to grocery stores. For this challenge, I'll be cutting out grains and limiting dairy (super loose, "paleo-my-way" type), as well as intentionally drinking more water. Should be attainable, seeing as I already don't eat many grains/dairy, though the local bakery (Fluff) is constantly calling my name, and I've got one hell of a sweet tooth. Drinking enough water during the day is more of a struggle for me than I generally realize, but it's nothing I can't fix with a bit of determination. I'll be tracking my meals/water on TwoGrand, which my friend will be using for added accountability. Goal: Drink all of the water and stick to no grains/limited dairy 90-100% of the time; I don't expect perfection--my best will do just fine ;] Quest 2: Sports Boost (+3 STR, +3 STA) While this technically is more about speed, I'm tailoring it to be a bit more broad (does that mean I also have the Clever Inventor tonic? I'm going with yes.). The goal for this quest is to work out 3-4 times a week, likely doing more than that when possible. I just bought YAYOG, so I'm going to look into that in the upcoming weeks, hopefully checking out the program tomorrow morning (I generally start my week--and therefore my challenge--on Sunday). I'll be typing up a more specific program tomorrow when I'm not dead tired. Goal: Work out 3-4x per week; I'm a hero! Quest 3: Armored Shell, Human Inferno (+3 DEX) This goal is all about injury prevention and maximizing potential, though I wish I were actually going to be a human inferno. I'll be working on flexibility and mobility, therefore increasing my body's defenses (injury prevention) and offenses (maximizing potential). Similar to the role of water in my life, I've tended to neglect this area of fitness, so I've decided to make it a main part of this challenge. Goal: Perform mobility routine once a day (add some simple stretching through the day), 5-7 days a week; I'm going to shoot for every day, but I realize that habits aren't formed overnight. Life Quest: Brain Boost (+3 WIS) Another gene tonic that's only sort of mentioned in the games. I've just past the halfway point in my first semester of graduate school, and I've been doing really well in my courses. With only a bit over a month left, I'm determined to keep that trend going and kick ass for the rest of the semester. I've got a couple projects and a presentation left to do, so I'll be focusing much of my brain power on those. Goal: Finish the semester like a boss because I'm awesome ;D ---------------------- Well, now that I've finished my novel, I think it's bed time. More on this tomorrow, my friends.
  21. Moving right along, footloose and fancy free Alright, so for the viewers just turning in.... I'm PrincessHeather and I'm one of the Warrior guild leaders. I was once a severe calorie restricter and cardio punisher, but I have since see the light and I try to eat a mostly clean diet (paleo/primal/WAP mix) and lift heavy things. I started with completing the New Rules of Lifting for Women program, and then as life got busy things have sort of gotten off track and I'm finally in a place to get things back on the road, so to speak. I have about 1 month to finalize all elements of my final grad school project (after some major hiccups), and will graduate before the end of this challenge. I have also been unhappy in my job for the past 3 years, and I just this week left that job and started someplace new, which so far is just awesome! And I'm pretty happy and comfortable and adjusted to life in Alaska now, it's like 35 degrees and I'm not even cold! So things have fallen into place after all being thrown into overdrive last fall, and my hope is that will new focus and routine and the weight of grad school lifting off my shoulders, I'm going to be able to get my health in check and be better equipped to handle whatever new stuff life throws at me. GOAL #1: SURVIVE FINAL MONTH OF GRAD SCHOOL This is pretty simple, its pass/fail, as in GRADUATE OR ELSE. Final presentation is on May 13th. MEEP! GOAL #2: Get into routine with fitness again. I need to establish a new routine, as my job is in a completely different part of town and I'm already learning a new commute and job routine. Its, the perfect time to get things established. I was NO good at planning my own workouts either, and if left to my own devices I completely neglect upper body work. SO, I have embarked on going through the New Rules of Lifting Supercharged program. I know that Stronglifts and such are far more popular on the boards, but honestly that method has alwasy devolved in me doing squats or deadlifts and then going home, so it's just not righ for me. Supercharged has "basic training" up first which is split up into A and B workouts. Goal is one A and one B a week. Summer is also approaching fast, which means that GOAL #3: Stop eating like a crazy person! When we moved, all my habits and meal planning and cooking routines sort of got ruined... moving across the country will do that. I got hooked on junky stuff while travelling, and I'm really only now being more discplined and/or deliberate in the things that are worth it in terms of junk food or less than ideal choices. I'm trying to meal plan for real now, since that should also mean having more leftovers around for lunches, and keeping our grocery budget in check in a place where produce is super pricey. Let the internet hilarity ensue, like Statler and Waldorf here! TL;DR Version: 1. Graduate, it's that simple. 2. Lift 2x/week, at least one bonus activity (hiking/zumba/yoga/etc). 3. Rough meal planning is a must, and eat well. Starting Stats TBD
  22. Heigh Ho! So last challenge was pretty bare bones, and I somehow managed to still not really do everything I set out to do. Why?! Because I set goals that are too much for the circumstances of my life right now, try to DO ALL THE THINGS and because I get distracted by shiny objects! So that means that I am going to simply do TWO GOALS. They are the two things that I think i can manage, in order of importance: GOAL #1: One hour of research project work, 5 days a week. In the interest of being honest and realistic, there will be days where I do not accomplish this, either because I'm tired, or need to get things done around the house, or something else comes up. But because my final capstone project for my grad degree is basically self imposed deadlines, I need to being working on it all the time. I've already procrastinated pretty badly on getting preliminary research done, so buckling down and doing it is all there is. "Nike that shit" as my husband so eloquently puts it. GOAL #2: Workout twice a week. Not even going to stipulate what those workouts are, though my preference will almost always be towards lifting. But if I'm inclined to do yoga, or run on the treadmill at home, or go on a snow hike, then those things all count too. Hopefully no self judgement, and just being as active as I can. Everything above twice a week would just be a bonus. Starting Stats Weight: 143 Waist (natural/belly button): 30/34 Hips: 40 Thighs: 23 each/37 around Calves:15 Biceps:10
  23. Okay, so maybe that's a bit dramatic. Basically, I'm continuing the simple goals from last challenge, with a bit of refinement. 1. Eat Well Hubby is doing Whole30 (voluntarily) (what?!?!?!) so I'm being supportive and doing it too. I do need to re-slay my sugar dragon anyway, since I went a bit off the rails over the course of December. I'm not going to be overly obsessive in completing a Whole30, since that way madness and self loathing lie (and I fought that pretty successfully last time), but I do see a lot of value in the program and attempting it is a good way to get back on track. So meal planning, no counting, no macros, just intuitive eating of only the good stuff. 2. Be Active Goal is 2 lifting sessions, 1 running session, 1 yoga session, and assorted mobility. I've been feeling just generally uncomfortable, and I really think its a combination of slouching, inactivity, and zero mobility for a few months has taken its toll. I feel like body comp is going in the right direction, despite eating all the (terribly unhealthy) things, so keeping active and varied with an emphasis on good solid lifting session is all I need for now. 3. Be Nice to PrincessHeather I'm about to start my final semester of my MPA, so I get to do a crazy big research project. I have the nonprofit picked out and the blessing of their executive director, and my project will center around gathering survey data of their clients (people with varying levels of developmental disability, from ages 6 months to elderly), and I will need to have a full prospectus of how I will proceed by the end of January. So the first part of "be nice to Heather" is to just hold it together, not panic, and get the first major chunk of this thing done. Part two of "be nice to Heather" is to continue job hunting. My work is making me nuts, it's a company wide systemic problem that we don't hold managers accountable for anything so turnover is attrocious and I just hate the merry-go-round feeling of being the poor HR schlub who tries to stop the revolving door. I've also become really convicted that my calling in life is to help the disadvantaged, and want a career that helps me focus that feeling into action. I've put in approximately 10 job applications at nonprofits around town and got my first interview call today, so I'm off to a good start I think. It's out of my control to a certain extent, but I would love to have a new job by the end of this challenge. Starting Stats Weight: Waist (natural/belly button): 30/34 Hips: 40 Thighs: 23 each/37 around Calves:15 Biceps:10
  24. Facing a new year that includes grad school, training for a new position at work, and very little numerical change in the six months I’ve been here (neither body fat % nor the scale have budged and inch), I’ve decided it’s time to rethink the angle I’m coming at this lifestyle change from. I’ve been pretty ambitious and hopped around from goal to goal, while also focusing on the things I shouldn’t do (and what better way to ensure I think about cake than to say DON’T THINK ABOUT CAKE STOP IT RIGHT NOW). This challenge, I give myself two simple, straightforward goals that will also enact significant change in my life. Food: Think Positive (+4 CON, +3 CHA) Rather than thinking about what I can’t/shouldn’t do, I’m going to focus on what I want to eat more of: eggs, vegetables, beans, and salads (yes, yes, salads and vegetables overlap, but let’s not be too big of a stickler here). I would certainly like to eat less sugar and carbs, and be more thoughtful in my eating to make sure I’m actually hungry and not just bored or emotional. But those are secondary concerns; if I am eating more real, nutritious food, by default that will start to push the processed crap of my plate. Win! Scoring: Simple tally of number of meals that include one of these items. Points stack, so I get a point for every one of these items that features prominently in a meal. Let’s see how high my score can get! School/Work: Put in the hours (+4 STA, +4 WIS) Ideally I’d love to put in a little time toward my new position and school work everyday, but realistically I’m probably going to end up doing a lot of this work on the weekends when I have time to put a dedicated couple of hours toward my work. I’m tentatively pulling a number out of thin air and claiming that I’ll need 7 hours a week to pass school and become competent at work, but this number will probably change once I start the semester and figure out how high the workload actually is. Scoring: A-F (90%-50%) based on number of hours worked divided by estimate of number of hours needed to complete work. Finally, I wrote out a few long term rewards for myself. Up to the point I’ve had difficulty really breaking up my goals, so these give me some checkpoints along the way to keep myself motivated. Complete a full pull up without assistance: buy a new workout outfit (mine was stolen just before Thanksgiving and I’m currently using basically PJs) Complete all Rebel Strength Guide Levels (approximately April-May): buy membership to The Academy (2014 Goal) Reach 22-23% Body Fat: Guilt free $50 Amazon shopping spree (books, kitchen tools, beauty supplies, etc) OR trip to clothes outlets to update my wardrobe Walking/Running to Mordor (cover distance to Mordor and Back): Pedicure and massage
  25. What better analogy for going to grad school after being out of college for several years than a school that is simultaneously wonderful, confounding, and possibly deadly? I’ve recently accepted a new main quest: Make it through my master’s degree without taking on debt. I started off thinking about all of the things I don’t want to do to get to that end point: I don’t want to lose all my progress in health and fitness. I don’t want to become a shut in. I don’t want to feel deprived and angry. But I decided that a better way to look at it is what I do want out of this time. Once I had my “do†list, I realized that there are three loose categories present, and I’ve picked a goal from each. Fitness Goal: Track calories eaten, everyday. (+4 CON) Last challenge I completed most of a Whole30 before finances got in the way, and I loved how it made me feel. Right now I’m eating what I’ve already purchased in my pantry/fridge/freezer, so I’m more a “freegan†than anything else. But it’s still important that I fall into the right range for calories consumed, so I need to track this every. single. day. Better to go over calories and be able to see it in the data than not track it and have no idea how much over I went. It should be noted that I will also be exercising during this challenge and posting about the workouts, but since I’m already averaging 4-5 workouts a week I don’t see a need to make a goal for it. Best case scenario, I’d keep doing what I’m doing; worst case scenario, I’d exercise just enough to make my numbers and then slack off. Grading: Days completed A = 40, B = 35, C = 28, D = 14, F = 7 Learning Goal: Spend 15 minutes a day learning. (+4 DEX - I’m calling this dexterity of the mind ) This one is intentionally vague. It might be listening to a TED talk, working on my French skills, doing some math at Khan Academy, whatever. I want to get my brain back into “learning†mode. Grading: Days completed 15 minutes (can not makeup days, to avoid fudging the numbers and making up all my hours in one fell swoop) A = 40, B = 35, C = 28, D = 14, F = 7 Confidence Goal: Complete full oral and facial hygiene routine everyday. (+2 CHA) http://i116.piczo.com/view/4/c/c/t/t/h/m/m/c/f/8/9/img/i252360260_70073_7.jpg I’m in my mid twenties and still have acne, and years of chugging energy drinks have left a bit of yellow in my teeth. I can earn ten points a day (one point for each part of the routine), with a bonus point available for not picking at my skin. I tested this one out during our week off, and it was really hard for me to keep up with. So instead of grading this, I'm going to take baseline data this challenge to see where I'm at. So if I'm only able to average, say, four points a day, I can grade myself on a curve based on that to slowly work up to doing all of the routine. Ungraded I loved my “mini-challenge†format last challenge, so I’m leaving a few points open for me to earn from those. A few ideas off the top of my head: master a new hairstyle (master = do not need to view instructions before being able to complete hairstyle within 15 minutes) (CHA) write down something positive about myself every day (WIS) try not to say “sorry†unless I actually mean it (e.g. instead of my boss saying, “Could you hand me that?†and me saying “Ooh, sorry!†just saying “Sureâ€) (CHA) finish lesson 10 of Coffee Break French while answering the questions before the “student†(format is teacher asks question, pause for me to respond, then student responds) (WIS) fill up a Pinterest board with at least 20 outfits I like (CHA) use ^ to put together a thrifted outfit suitable for work for under $15 (DEX - flexible thinking!) work up to a 60 second plank (first step to doing a handstand) Complete Zombies, Run! 5k training app (STA/DEX) Run three miles at 10 minutes per mile (STA/DEX)
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