Category Archives: health

James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Coupeville Edition

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The look on Grinfinn’s face when I grab his collar and my Jeep keys is priceless. He always does this little dance when he knows we’re going for a Jeep ride, and it’s the only time he bolts out the door as fast as his one inch legs can carry him.

This past weekend we travelled to Coupeville, Washington on Whidby Island, a town of approximately 2,000 people. I travel to Whidby Island a lot, and have blogged about it on more than one occasion. The town of Langley is a favourite travel destination that you can read about here. This historic site still has that frontier look from the 1900s when the town incorporated. Its history as a settlement from the 1850s is a fascinating one, and well worth the read.

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Beautiful, friendly, and peaceful, this was the perfect spot to go after a particularly rough week. There is something therapeutic that happens on road trips, kind of an erasing of the emotional cache that leaves me fresh for the following week. As always, Grinfinn was the hit of the town with lots of people stopping to take photos, pet him, and ask what kind of dog he is.

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Grinfinn and I wound up spending our time on a bench overlooking Penn Cove. Thanks to the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, there was free wi-fi so I had a great spot to rest and write. There was also a hot dog stand where I was able to get my lunch.

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I managed to grab a cup of java from the Knead & Feed Bakery before they closed. (They literally locked the door as I entered the building.) They have a great place to sit outside that overlooks the cove, and once while passing through I had stopped for lunch here so I can say the food is delicious.

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During our walk Grinfinn became enamoured by this statue of a dog. It had me laughing out loud, and when others saw what was making me crack up they also laughed.

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My theme song for this post is Dare by Stan Bush. I’ve been digitizing my LP collection at my library, and now this is one of the many songs I have to play on my road trips. It’s from the 1986 Transformers movie.

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Port Townsend

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Did I ever tell you about the time I stayed in a haunted hotel and time travelled to Victorian era America? True story.

March 31st I had decided to take a roadtrip to Port Townsend and found a hotel online that looks like a castle. The Manrea Castle in Port Townsend has quite a history,  even claiming to be haunted according to one website. It seemed like the ideal place to stay for a writer.

I took the Chuckanut Drive just south of Bellingham towards Whidby Island, passing through one of my favourite places for lunch: Edison. The Slough had been closed my last few stops (the owner takes a well-deserved vacation) but this time it was open. I always have their soup of the day and grilled cheese sandwich as it never disappoints.

I can’t say that I wasn’t warned to book ahead for the ferry. Not only was it on the hotel’s website, but there are a million signs posted along the highway telling you to book ahead. I didn’t listen, because I figured it couldn’t possibly be that busy on a Friday afternoon. It can, and it was.

I arrived at 2pm and was told if I wanted to wait I might make it onto the 6:30pm ferry. My other option was to book for the 6:30pm ferry, leave for a few hours, then return. My thought process: I had some writing to do, there was a cafe there, and really a few hours was no big deal. Reality: A few hours is a really long time.

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Keystone Cafe was good for what it was: a cafe by the ferry. If there were choices, it would not win out. However, they did have ice cream so that was good. I spent the afternoon writing for a few hours, thinking, took a nap, ate some ice cream, drank way too much coffee (like there’s a such thing), watched two ferries arrive and leave without me (the 2:30pm and 4:30pm ferries), and finally the 6:30 ferry arrived. I was the final vehicle to make it onto the ferry. Barely. At that point, I think the ferry staff actually felt sorry for me because I was the only one being polite with them and not shouting curses.

Port Townsend is a very beautiful place. It wasn’t my first time here, but it was my first time to spend time exploring the city. I had passed through before on my way to Forks a few years ago.

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As I had arrived late in the evening, there wasn’t much open so I went straight to the castle and checked into my room. At this point, I hadn’t read any of the lore regarding the haunting, but later that night I would swear to hearing footsteps on the ceiling where there should have only been an attic. As well, that night I had one of the worst allergy attacks of my days that could only have been brought on by a ghostly spirit (or the gorgeous flower gardens in bloom around the castle).

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As a place to stay, I’d recommend Manrea Castle. It was comfortable and reasonably priced. However, because my room had a window on my door light from the hallway kept my room from getting dark enough to let me sleep. I did mention that to staff, but you may want to make sure they’ve corrected it before you book. And book ahead for the ferry. Just trust me on that.`

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And apparently I time travelled. The next day there were people wandering the streets dressed in Victorian-era garb, which I would learn later was because of a Victorian Festival that happens every year. These were the townspeople and not actors just out enjoying the amazing place they call home. (I learned this after asking a few people if I could take photos, and one couple asking me, “You know we all live here, we’re not actors or anything, right?” No. No I did not.)

I ventured over to Point Wilson Lighthouse, which has an interesting history from when it was a working lighthouse. The lighthouse is in Fort Worden Park, which itself was a beautiful, pleasant walk. The day was sunny, and warm — and in one of the photos below, you can see the glimpse of an otter scampering from the lighthouse through the rocks to the ocean.

I found an old bunker that looked to me like the scene from a zombie apocalypse. Blame my fascination on zombies for that, and probably the book I wrote on the zombie apocalypse.

As road trips go, Port Townsend is one I will do again. It has an interesting history, a friendly town, cool architecture, and next time I’ll make sure to plan to attend the festival.

My theme song for this trip is Clannad’s Robin Hood even though Robin Hood was medieval and not Victorian.

How to Live Longer and be a Better Writer/Librarian/Whatever

It’s about that time of year when all those New Years resolutions start to fall apart. The diets, the workouts, the promises to take better care of yourself. Maybe you tried a fad diet or workout program and after a few weeks, when the promised results didn’t happen, you felt like a loser and chose to give up. Or you paid for a gym membership and all the regulars sneered at you or made comments about you being a “resolutioner crowding the gym.” Whatever the reason is that you gave up, I want to encourage you to try again.

Last semester, I took a class where the instructor had us read articles that he’d written throughout his career as a librarian. His views on library work are inspiring, but what I really noticed were the snide comments he made about himself in terms of being out of shape and how that was expected because of his chosen profession. I grew tired of his body shaming, and at one point I wrote a paper on why staying in good health was actually a health and safety issue for a librarian. Putting yourself at risk for a heart attack or Diabetes isn’t comedic, it’s disrespectful to both yourself and to those who love you.

Writers also tend to put themselves down for having out of shape bodies, and pass it off as though that were the most natural thing. But honestly, you’ll be a better writer if you’re healthy and you’ll have the chance of a longer lifespan and a bigger body of work to leave behind. Some of my favourite authors and illustrators have found ingenious ways of staying in shape. Arthur Slade and kc dyer use a treadmill desk. Don Tate swims and does yoga, while Tyner Gilles lifts weights.

We don’t have to look like a Hollywood A-lister with bulging biceps and a six-pack. We’re all different sizes and shapes, and “healthy” is going to look different for all of us. What’s more, is that you should understand that to some people, no matter how healthy you get, you’re always going to be the overweight, short, skinny, wiry, individual that they’ve always seen you as. I’ve come to understand that no matter how long I work out for, strangers will always start conversations with me by saying, “I knew a guy once who was even shorter/thinner/smaller than you.” Makes me want to gasp and say, “Impossible!”

But I don’t, because now it no longer bothers me. I know what I’m capable of and what my goals are. I’m meeting my goals, and that feels amazing. I once got through an entire workout with a guy (stranger, never met before) constantly smirking and rolling his eyes at me as I walked on the treadmill because I wasn’t going fast enough. When he got off the bench press and I increased the weight by 20 lbs for my workout, he stopped sneering. I thought I’d won his respect. But later in my workout when I started doing abs, he made a rude comment to me — twice to make sure I heard it over my headphones. If anything, my being able to lift more than him just made him dislike me more. These people exist for one reason and one reason only: to shame you into not trying so that they can feel better about themselves. Don’t let them win.

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January 2016. (Yes, that is a Tardis t-shirt.)

From last June until this year I didn’t work out regularly. I was sporadic, mostly because I had started a new job and was adjusting to a new schedule. It would have been easy to just never go back to the gym and to quit altogether. But this is the most important thing I have learned: You are allowed to fail. You are allowed to miss a day, and start again. You are allowed to miss a week, and start again. You are allowed to get back up every time you fall down.

There are no fads that are going to offer you a real quick fix. No 30 day diets are going to change your life forever. No shortcuts that are going to make the world notice what an amazing person you are. Only one thing is going to change your perception of yourself and your life and it is believing this: I have value. You know that exercise is the greatest factor in stress relief and disease prevention, no one is going to dispute that. Find the program that works best for your goals, and you can’t lose except if you quit for good.

And if you are on the verge of quitting for good after attempting to go to the gym or start a diet I want you to join me in this challenge: Three days a week, we’re going to exercise for 30-minutes a day. I don’t care what you do: walk, do pushups, sit-ups, leg lifts, yoga, whatever. At this point, don’t change your diet. Don’t do a cleanse. Just concentrate on that three days a week for 30-minutes exercise.  Make it low-impact. Don’t concentrate on results, just on that 30-minutes.

In a month, we’ll check in with each other. But at this point, if you’re just starting, or if you’re starting out, what I want you to keep in mind is that your goal is to create consistency. To create a habit. It’s going to be hard for the first few weeks. Your mind, your psyche, and maybe even the people in your life, will discourage you. But you need to push past that, because once the habit is formed it’ll feel strange not to do it.

One last time because it is worth repeating: there are no 30-days to a better you programs that will work. But maintaining a consistent workout schedule with realistic goals will change your life in unexpected ways.

You can do it. So go do it!