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  1. This challenge is all about cultivating the quiet strength of balance, and I can’t think of a better time to set that intention than at the new moon just before the Autumn Equinox. I’m focusing on the core elements that sustain me and bring me peace, security, and the quiet strength to be who I am in the world. Heal as I can, when I can. Eating Wellness Wednesdays Sometimes the gym Do not give in to despair. Writing (Dissertation is 12, 343 words as the challenge opens) Classwork Connections Allow no one to choose combat for me Sleep, regularly but also often Schedule as little as possible by the clock and calendar. Meditation, including small bits of sitting throughout the day.
  2. 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:
  3. My name is Rhovaniel. Once, I was a pawn, an unthinking Empire pawn. Some months ago, I woke up, and sought my freedom as a Ranger, a member of the Rebellion. For that, I was imprisoned by the Emperor, Lord Morgulon, who wants all living things held under his dominion, held under the sway of sugar and processed poison under a tasty and addictive guise. I resisted his attempts to reclaim me, and with the aid of another Ranger, Callan, I escaped. Callan brought me to a healer’s house some leagues from the Capital, on the fringes of the Empire. But still they found me. The healer who sheltered and nursed me was murdered, her daughter gravely wounded. Injected with a strong dose of sugar syrup and succumbing to Empire chocolate, I face now a greater challenge. Protect the healer’s daughter. Resist the onset of sugar cravings. Grow in strength and endurance. Prepare for my next encounter with the Emperor’s agents. And there will be a next encounter. I have to know why the Emperor wants to reclaim me so badly. Why he did not have me killed. I’m starting in Week Zero, but I do anticipate that my History weekend away (this weekend) and the funeral coming just after that will mean I won’t be able to complete some of these. I’ll just try to keep my food choices as good as possible, since at the Lodge, I won’t be in control of what food is on offer, or if there’ll be space/time to do a workout (it’s a shared room with another student) and I can’t dictate what I will eat with my Dad and the day of the funeral, and I’ll also have to get the train back home after. To track, I will use the symbols Tank uses: C = Compliant, T = Travelling, V = Variance. For workouts, X will mean I did not complete that workout, will mean I did. The Lay of the Land: - This challenge, I run. Only once a week to start myself off, but later on I hope to increase this. Minimum 5 km each week. ZR tracks my times and pace, so it should be relatively easy to track. In addition, I will aim for one other cardio workout, probably swimming. Walking 10,000 steps or more will also count as a cardio workout if I have no other option because Life Happened. 2 cardio workouts per week: _ _ /_ _/_ _/_ _/_ _ The Strength to Fight: - Demons don’t just attack the mind. Illness, aches, pains, injury. They prey on the unfit body. So, I work to defend against this, and become… anti-fragile. 3 strength workouts per week: _ _ _/_ _ _/_ _ _/_ _ _/_ _ _ To Hunt or Gather: - Nutrition has been and remains my biggest struggle. So, this challenge I’m going to re-try paleo, since I still dislike MFP as much as ever. With the exception of wholegrain rice, because I cannot live on sweet potato alone. Baby steps till I fully figure out how to cook properly. 4 variances (non-paleo, or unhealthy food) per week. Shamelessly stealing Tank’s code for tracking this. Eat Paleo with 4 variances per week: _ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _ Into the wild: - I must face the unknown with courage. My comfort zone offers safety but not growth. This one is more of a Life challenge, but I’ve got to kick a few bad habits here. Confidence, calmness in the face of adversity (read: stressful situations). For this, I will do one thing every day to either boost my confidence, push myself out of my comfort zone, or otherwise teach me to be more resilient and calm under pressure. I will research how to help that. Meditation maybe, or perhaps online tutorials on problem solving, etc. Anything that will boost my confidence in my ability to face pressure and responsibility. One action daily to boost confidence and resilience under pressure: _ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _/_ _ _ _ _ _ _ Rewards: I’d like to add some rewards into this challenge, as an incentive to stick with it, especially in weak moments. I’ve noticed that when motivation is low, I feel the need to have an incentive to push on. The problem is, I have no idea what they should be. I will hopefully get these in place before Week One and the official start of the challenge. EDIT: Each week that I get 90% or more overall completion of my goals, I get a movie night. Weeks 1-3 will be (performance dependant) Lord of the Rings extended editions. I may or may not allocate a variance to said movie night.
  4. Hermione was an excellent muse for me last challenge, so it seemed wise to continue in her footsteps. There are some big changes coming up for me. I'm moving half way across the country in 3 weeks to an entirely new place for the next phase in my training. There is a lot of packing, orienting, and studying that need to happen. I do not want to use that as an excuse to lose all the momentum I have re-established, but I also do not want to slip into my perfection-or-total-failure, black-and-white mindset. My health is a long journey (like studying magic) that I will continue to pursue despite the distractions that are bound to come. In the fourth book, the students of Hogwarts must continue their studies while the excitement and challenge of the Triwizard Tournament distracts them. Hermione is able to focus and succeed at both, as well as campaigning for the rights of house elves. I aspire to that level of resilience! Main Quest – Resilience 1) Defense Against the Dark Arts Constant vigilance against Mindless Eating! Last challenge I completed a whole 30 in order to break my carb addiction, again. It was quite successful (I have not even weighed myself yet). However, already I am slipping back into old ways and overeating at social events for no good reason. I want to focus on the "slow roll reintroduction" described in Dallas and Melissa Hartwig's new book Whole 30. The basic idea is to continue eating according to the whole 30 rules except when you encounter something that you think is "worth it". Try not to mix a bunch of different types of food (dairy, gluten, and tons of sugar seems to be a danger for me). Stay mindful! I need to pay particular attention to my psychologic response to various foods, since I am lucky enough not to feel horrible when I break paleo. 2) Charms Kettlebell Workout Twice Per Week I want to work dedicated strength training back into my routines. My challenges with it in the past have been complicated regimens that have tons of reps of the same thing and get boring. I think kettlebells may be an antidote to this. Pavel's Simple and Sinister workout is attractive to me. I want to ease into it though and make sure that I have a focus on good form, since these movements are mostly new to me. I plan to start with 5x10 swings with my 20lb bell and 5x1 Turkish Get Ups with no weight (!) for the first week. Then, as long as I am feeling ready, I will add 10 swings and make one of the TGUs weighted each week. By the end, I may be ready for a new heavier bell! 3) Transfiguration – Mindfulness Formal mindfulness practice every day. Mindfulness lets me change my perspective and approach to my thoughts. I want to return to more rigorous daily practice with the headspace app. Triwizard Tournament For these tasks (side goals), I'm going to try some good old fashioned shiny object chasing! I will work on yoga throughout the challenge with my goal to complete and post each of these poses by the end. Remember, progress not perfection. First Task - Dragon Pose Second Task – Mermaid Pose All right! Let's do this!!
  5. I've started two challenges and am yet to finish one. This time around, I'm going for the smallest of baby steps to keep me on track to getting fitter and eating healthier. Step one: walk to mordor! Walk one kilometre every day. That's it. One measly km. every day. I'm tracking this on runkeeper, where I have a goal set up with 2,846 km—the distance to Mordor and back, from the Shire. ATTRIBUTE POINTS: STA 3 CON 1 Step two: yoga every damn day I want to get as flexible as I was when I was younger. Well, not quite. I want to be better than I was then. I want to be able to do a proper handstand. I want to do the things I see on my Instagram feed. (I follow a lot of yogis). So my goal is to do yoga every day for at least ten minutes. ATTRIBUTE POINTS: DEX 3 STR 1 Step three: paleo central I was a vegetarian for eight and a half years. I recently got back to eating meat (a personal choice) but I want to do it the healthy way. I want to eat real food. I'm allowing dairy for this challenge because I'm fairly sure my digestive system is okay with that and also because it's my way of easing myself into the new way of eating. I'm giving myself a score out of ten for every day, depending on how well I eat and how I feel physically and mentally about it. ATTRIBUTE POINTS: CON 3 Extra motivation My life quest is to be a better person. I know this isn't a quantifiable goal so I'm using the medium of SuperBetter to express it—I want to get more resilient. SuperBetter is a game designed to help you level up in life. You can power up at any time, fight bad guys, complete quests and make allies to improve your resilience and get happier. My resilience started at 280 and, based on the max points you can gain in a day, my goal is to get 470 points, so up to 750 at the end of this challenge. Some of the power ups and quests will be a part of the goals I've already outlined, and some will be extra credit. ATTRIBUTE POINTS: CHA 2 WIS 2
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