Healthy Alternatives to Torture

“I suggest surgery, but I have to warn you, the success rate of this procedure is not…perfect. And there could be complications.”

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I blinked at the doctor sitting across from me with a pasted-on smile that said “I’m trying to be polite, but let’s hurry this decision. I have to make up time today.”

“I think I’ll discuss this with my husband, and let you know asap,” I muttered. My heart thumped a crazy beat.

What did I expect from a surgeon? I exited and never went back.

I’d been through many doctors, massage therapists, and physios with little or no relief to my back issues. I was desperate. Let’s face it, what does a writer or an illustrator do when sitting is out of the question for longer than ½ hour? Longer would have been torture, and it’s hard to concentrate on being creative in that state.

I know, I know, you’ve heard me expound upon my glorious stand-up chair.

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But the picture of relief isn’t quite complete without the full treatment regime.

For all of you who are determined to relieve (or avoid) back issues due to constant sitting, here’s what I’ve found after years of constant pain in my lower back and investigations into avoiding said pain. Every back is different but this is for lower back pain, around the sacroiliac region.

Enter a different physio. What surprised me the most was the vast difference between physios (and chiropractors for that matter). You have to go through a few, unfortunately, before you find one that works.

This fellow took me past my instinctive guarding in my movements and insisted that I was too young to have this lack in range of motion. I of course argued that he needed to know my history a bit better. However, I thought I’d humour him just this once. His approach was logical enough, to strengthen the tissues around the area to take the strain off the bones, while increasing my range of motion.

But here’s the kicker. If you are as determined as I am to not feel like an eighty-year-old yet, you have to put in the effort. Not much, but there it is. Or you can face the pasted-on smile doctor I mentioned above.

Here are some exercises and stretches that work for me. I couldn’t find the exercises on the internet to show you, before I had to remind myself that I CAN draw. So please refer to the below, rather unprofessional sketches for visual reference. (Especially if you are anything like me – totally visually oriented) Before you start, exercise to warm up the muscles. I go to the gyn and hop on the elliptical or go for a vigorous walk.

Strengthening exercises for lower back:

Lie on your tummy. Stretching your arms ahead of you and legs straight, raise your left arm and right leg for a second or two. Then the other side. Do about 30 to begin and work up. This is really good to strengthen all those itty bitty muscles around the spine.

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Do a plank. On your tummy again, raise up on your elbows and toes holding your body straight. Hold for 30 seconds to begin with. Then work up.

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The horrible clam exercise! Lie on your side with an elastic around your lower thighs. Open your knees against the restriction. Do fifteen at first and work up.

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Stretching exercises for lower back:

Knees folded under you on mat, bow down arms in front reaching. Go into cat stretch. Hold for about 10 seconds. Repeat about 10 times. (I use this many times a day while writing/illustrating. Go into crouching position illustrated below, and feel the stretch on your lower back.

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On a mat, fold right leg in front of you, foot under left hip (or pointing that way at least) Lean over your leg. Don’t push it, just feel the stretch on your butt. Hold for about 15 seconds. Work on the other leg the same.

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Lie on your back with legs up, bent at knee. Swing them from side to side holding the stretch for about 10 seconds.

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And there you have it! Not too hard right? It takes me about 10 minutes after I’ve warmed up. I do it 3 times a week or so. (The cat stretch I do many times a day because it feels good!)

 

So, do you have any exercises or stretches that enable you to sit for hours in front of a screen?

 

 

 

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Confessions of a Social Addict

 

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“… It is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others” Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)

I feel like I’m raising my hand in front of people, having to admit I am addicted to being social. And that is a problem when my job, whether it be writing or illustrating, requires me to be completely solitary for at least 5 hours a day. I’m sure, back when I was a young mom, the very thought of being by myself for long periods of time someday would have been second only to heaven. However, I realize as a social creature my mind goes stir-crazy without the constant interaction. (Think Tom Hanks in Castaway – “Wilson!!!”)

A friend of mine recently just returned from her winter away in southern climates. The weather was, as you would expect, gorgeous, and sunny. Palm trees and beaches galore. But she told me about having to wrestle with depression from being away from her normal friends. I can totally relate!

A few weeks back, I was sitting with my 97-year-old mom watching one of BBC’s nature series. A clan of chimpanzees was being spotlighted, and it showed how complicated their social system is, with it’s hierarchy and security in packs. It was entertaining, but startling at how similar we are in so many ways: the same need for friendship and acceptance, the same resourcefulness to gain the latter, and the same desperation when separated or rejected from their clan.

So much of our daily routines involve others, whether it is from direct interaction or contact on a myriad of social networks. That is why the social networks have literally taken hold of us; it is just another way of being with friends. Indeed, we are addicted to them, and most quite simply can’t be without their phones, or their computers. A lot could be said about being addicted to screens, however that is another blog post. 🙂

I find reality shows on tv are another example of how we need to watch others in various ‘real’ situations, so we can get close to their plight and empathize with them. It isn’t enough that we have many around us to watch and get involved with, we need more!

So what do I do when I’m trying to get through the solitary hours? I need to take a break, physically, mentally and socially. I will check on my FB friends, so a couple of texts, exercise, and give my eyes and mind a rest from the concentration. My social break is just as important as my physical and mental breaks.

And I need many different groups of friends. Other than my immediate family, I have walking buddies, coffee buddies, internet contacts, writing and illustrating colleagues and past school friends that I can’t do without. Now, looking at that list, you might think that I’m meeting them all the time. Not at all, certainly not as much as I’d like. But we all support and need each other at some point.

So I’m quite happy to admit to being a social addict. That’s the way God made me, and most days I start with meeting Him, then get to my day.

I will leave you with another quote…

“There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. The first is ‘where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’” Howard Thurman.

(Thanks Scriblerians for your support and friendship!!)

So I have a couple of questions:

  • Is there such a thing as too much social interaction?
  • What are your social vices?
  • Do you have a basketball named Wilson that you are particularly fond of?

 

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From a Word Processor to Paint Brushes

“And the winner of the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s YA Category is… Loraine Kemp!”

I was dumbfounded! But over-the-top-excited!

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My writing goals seemed to be forging ahead with two contest wins and acquiring an amazing agent in the same year. There was little doubt in my mind about where God was leading me and what my future had in store.

How completely wrong I was. At least for the next few years.

After a year of working with the agent and sending my novel in various directions, lukewarm responses were the result. I felt deflated and confused. “But, but God, I thought…”

That’s when a completely new direction was literally dropped in my lap.

I’ve always been an artist (I’ve provided illustrations for 3 novels to date) but when my buddy Karen Autio asked her publisher to offer the job of illustrating her historical picture book Growing Up In Wild Horse Canyon to me, I couldn’t say no, and signed a contract soon after. With my writing goals not being realized, I had some time on my hands.

To say I was overwhelmed by this illustration project would have been a gigantic understatement. I hadn’t painted for years and the book is an advanced picture book with 28 full-colour pictures that needed to be designed and painted. Not only was there research involved with making this historical fiction come to life (Karen had already done a mammoth amount already), but I also had to take many pictures in Wild Horse Canyon, which was a two-hour hike from our city.

In 2003, a wildfire devoured most of the trees in the canyon, so I had to rely heavily on my imagination to construct the illustrations that took place in the canyon.

I was also deeply worried that I wouldn’t physically be able to illustrate that huge a project under a deadline. Just thinking of it, my back cringed, as sitting for hours on end sent my back into spasms.

I felt strongly that this was a test of faith and that I had to trust God was with me on this one. As grace would have it, I now own the ideal set-up for illustrating: a stand-up chair with many positions available and an adjustable-height table. So far so good.

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To start the process, a year and a half ago, Karen and I talked about each illustration. Normally illustrators and authors don’t work together, but Karen’s historical knowledge was invaluable. Tiny rough drawings of each scene (thumbnails) were finished first, and approved by the publisher. Then came the full-size drawings, again approved by the publisher. Then last fall I began the process of scouring through my thousands of photos (scenery, horses, other animals, and local students posing as historical characters) and painting the illustrations.

To show you all the different stages, I will take one illustration and walk you visually through the steps.

Here is the small thumbnail sketch of the ‘First Contact’ illustration where the fur traders are meeting the native first nation’s band, the Syilx. It is about 3″ by 5″.

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Then came the full size drawing. After some research I added a fish drier in the background. The below illustration is about 8″ X 10″

 

first contact full size

 

Now you will have to forgive my bad photography of the painting steps, as my camera wasn’t good at the time. But you will see that I start in one corner and progress.

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I found out that the pinto, (brown and white horse) needed to be changed to an appaloosa, a much coveted horse by the band. The coat my fur trader wore wasn’t going to work. So out came the white paint and the changes were made.

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In addition, the western saddle was not used. A lower, more close-to-the-horse-but-very-uncomfortable saddle had been used. After I spoke to a consultant, I decided that the clothing should have been more what you see below, plus I needed to have an elder overseeing this meeting. (Penciled in below) I had to move the woman and her kids next to the fish dryer to accommodate the elder.

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Almost done. However the rolled blanket on the horse’s saddle is one from the Hudson’s Bay company, not the Pacific Fur Company. Out came more white paint. Plus I completed the rest. I’d had many more tries to get it right than you see here. In all, probably four more changes were involved.

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And just for fun, here are a few more pictures from our book. You will see even more on my website, http://www.lorainekemp.com and look under my portfolio. Or go to my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lorainekempartist. Our book will be out this fall and you will see much more on this site about it. It is for kids and adults alike.

The below is a young Syilx man on a vision quest, sort of a ‘coming of age’ occurrence for every young man. Here he is painting the rock faces.

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The below is all about the beginnings of the young in Wild Horse Canyon, a ponderosa pine,  and the wild foal jumping over it.

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Now don’t think for an instant that I am going to get rid of my word processor. I have some ideas for novels that I want to expand on that will need some illustrations as well. I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself and the strengths that I have through this complicated process that I would never have found out if God hadn’t pressed me in this direction. My plans were derailed for something else God had in mind for me, and I’m happy now with that, though admittedly I was not in the beginning. I’m still also a writer, and will always be. I just needed to be open for God’s new gifts for me.

One thing I’ll be eternally grateful for, is that during the contest mentioned above, I was taken on as a Scriblerian. They rock!

Have you ever been sure of your directions and then had the rug pulled out from under you to reveal a new direction?

 

The Best Pain

“No Mike.” I smiled at my older brother. “You don’t toss away your daily devotionals at the end of the year. You merely turn back to the first page again.”

Mike has had about 35 years of debilitating health issues, including deteriorating liver, liver transplant, stroke and more recently, constant seizures. Even though his faith has remained strong, Mike has become like a confused child again. But nonetheless, he is my spiritual inspiration and the reason I kick my own butt when I feel life gets tough.

I showed him my devotionals that had a few pencilled stars beside the text where I’d found some particularly appropriate points or scriptures. I explained that each year different things popped out at me depending on what I was going through.

“Oh… whoops!” He grinned at his own dog-eared leather-bound books that had parts completely highlighted and underlined, with notes written in pen in the margins.

“No worries, Mike. You can still use them. And here’s another I think you’ll enjoy! Merry Christmas!”

His devotion to his devotionals was inspiring. Every day he started out communing with God. No matter what he was doing or what day it was, he still made the time.

My devotionals had a conspicuously reduced number of pencilled stars from about November on to the beginning of January. Even though Christmas was the time I should be drawing closer to Jesus, I seemed to drift from my routine of pulling Him into my day.

But here I am once again, humbled, and seeking strength and guidance for upcoming projects and family issues for 2016. As much as I hate to admit, most of my growth doesn’t come from when I’m on the mountain tops where everything is going well, it’s in the valleys where I’m struggling.

My brother’s constant health issues have been the reason for his spiritual walk. He knows he can’t do it alone, and he knows God is between him and his problems.

Of course, this morning I put a star on my devotional that reminded me that my path will be of multiple failures and stresses along with some hopeful successes. But each failure is followed by a spiritual growth spurt and my increased reliance on Him.

So, the best pain? That’s easy, it’s when I am overwhelmed and at a loss of where to turn next. And I find Him there waiting for me as always. In addition, I seek out quiet places, turn on music, jump in my hot tub, go for a walk, and just rest in His grace.

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Can you tell me what you do when life dumps on you?

 

 

What is it about Star Wars?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The title alone is enough to stir excitement in even the most complacent person. This Christmas season we are treated with the much awaited addition to the popular franchise!

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As a science fiction/fantasy writer and Star Wars obsessor, I’m fascinated with what is causing the masses to flock to the theatres to take in the newest instalment in the franchise. Even after a couple disappointments with a few of the earlier Star Wars movies (Jar Jar Binks? Seriously?), I’m as loyal as any other Star Wars Fan. I have booked my seat for this Sunday and will be spending outrageous amounts for popcorn and a drink like everyone else.

Let’s take a look at the new captains at the helm.

J.J. Abrams (born in 1966) was a very impressionable 11-year-old when the first Star Wars movie came out. When he became a movie producer, his love for action and science fiction was obvious, taking into account a few of his movies in the past: Armageddon (1998), Mission Impossible (2006) and the Star Trek movies (2009 and 2013). He was also the co-creator of several t.v. drama series including Lost (2004 – 2010), and Fringe (2005 – 2013). He was nominated for seven Emmy awards, winning two for Lost. A rather successful young man, to say the least.

Then there’s Disney, no less! They bought the franchise from Lucas Films in 2012, and have thrown millions to promote this blockbuster, which Lucas Films and J.J. Abram’s company, Bad Robot, produced. Already the movie has received high ratings: Roger Ebert – 3.5/4. Rotten Tomatoes – 97%. The film is predicted to rake in over a billion dollars!

What I like about it is that J.J. Abrams took the same recipe that made the first movie incredibly popular, reshaped it a little, then added a few new faces who are similar to our first beloved characters. You have the resistance-affiliated droid (BB 8) carrying important information, stranded in the desert destined to meet the ‘nobody’ character (Ray) who is also jedi-obsessed. Instant chemistry, right? The galaxy is in disarray with two growing armies, the resistance and an evil army, headed for a war. There is non-stop action, a smattering of swashbuckling humour, and even our favourites, Han Solo, Chewie and Leia are there, ready to take us on a ride again!

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So, aside from the fact that the guys in charge are worth their salt and are using the same time-tested formula again, you have a movie with many popular elements that have been used forever (mythology/hero’s journey, epic characters, inspiring futuristic sci/fi). Stunning CGI from beginning to end, glues you to your seat, and an equally amazing orchestral score from the genius, John Williams, provides more for the senses to submerge you into the atmosphere and story. Complex and thought provoking issues like totalitarian rule, segregation, slavery, racism, gender equality spice it up.  And then you get a happy ending where the good guys win despite the incredible odds against them. We have also been long fascinated with the possibility of life beyond our stars, and here it is, with crazy creatures, liveable atmospheres on many planets and ways to get there and back in a nanosecond. What’s not to like?

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So why am I over-the-top excited about this movie? It takes me back to being a kid again, and who doesn’t love that? I’m eager to jump back on the emotional and visual roller coaster I’ve experienced in the past and will likely go back to see it again a few times, (more than my kids, I’ll wager).

So… are you going to the new Star Wars movie? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Musher

… And a top skiing instructor, and an extreme landscaper, and a backcountry horseman (in the 1940’s when most women did NOT do that).

Yes, of course, this is one and the same person – my mom!

As mentioned, in the 1940’s, when most of my mom’s friends were learning the fine art of sewing, doing kitchen duties and catering to their husband’s every need, Mom was kicking around on her horse in the B.C. backcountry when she wasn’t teaching gym to kids. She wanted to visit family in Vancouver 300 miles away approximately, so off she went (in her twenties) on her horse without a second thought, with some grain for her and her horse to eat, beef jerky, and a general idea of how to get there. Did I mention there were no roads? Seven days later she and her horse wandered into Vancouver no worse for wear, visited for a few days, then turned around and went home again. No problem!

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As a small child, I assumed that every kid’s mom was able to man-handle 100 pound slabs of rock from the hills surrounding our place to put into landscaping. (She was only about 5’4 ) We lived on three acres that contained barns, horse pastures, fish ponds, huge multilevelled barbecue areas, ravines, and lake frontage to romp around in. Normal stuff, I thought.

Then, I remember, when I was about seven, skiing with family while mom taught others to ski. She’d started skiing when she was about 50, but as her indomitable nature dictated, she excelled quickly then was hired to teach at our local mountain. She has been hailed as one of the best teachers to have hit the mountain, even to this day!

Later, my parents, in their seventies, lived in a cabin by a small lake above our town. No running water, outdoor biffy, and bears for neighbours. My kids’ earliest memories were of tobogganing by the cabin in the winter, and fishing on the lake in the summer. Mom owned two siberian huskies that pulled her around on a sleigh in the winter. These dogs were obstinate pullers by nature, but were as calm and obedient on the leash as any citified dog.

How?

Mom twisted their leashes over their backs, around their middles and through their hind legs. So… uhm, pulling for these male dogs was not an option on the leash. Ingenious, right? This allowed mom to take them on lengthy strolls through the woods by herself.

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Mom has always had a quiet, get-things-done nature with no negative thoughts on her situation or other people. Don’t think for a second that our family has always been blessed with good health and prosperity. We have had our share of tragedies with finances, health and relationships, but with everything she showed a humble determination to simply work through obstacles, and when you couldn’t, you worked with what you had left. Let go and let God, was her steadfast motto. She introduced me to my faith and showed me where her strength comes from.

She is now celebrating her 97th birthday and is going strong.
Elsie Wilson is the ultimate hard act to follow!!

Love you to the moon and back, Mom!!!

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I Detest Fiction Fudgers!

 

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The horse stood calmly while the little girl leaped expertly into the saddle. Even though she’d never ridden, ever, she gripped the reins and sat in the saddle like a pro. She grinned while her grandpa pleaded with her to take it slowly to begin with. She was after all slightly handicapped, as well as totally inexperienced. But she wheeled the horse around toward the wide-open field and galloped off.

No problem!

I blinked. Twice. Oh really? The movie had also displayed a few rather ridiculous horse training methods (ie. describing to the horse in a stern voice what was required of it), but the UK countryside scenery and the gorgeous images of the horses held me captive. Until the episode with the little girl, that is. After that, I began to doubt the validity of the rest of the research done for the movie.

Seriously? Couldn’t Steven Spielberg have consulted just one horse-training expert before he made the movie War Horse?

This is exactly why I, as a child, steered clear of all horse books like Black Beauty, The Black Stallion and Misty. I had been raised with horses so I could smell an equestrian fiction fudger three paddocks away. Now I’m not saying these classics aren’t good books, I’m just saying that they cater most often to the general public and not to experienced horse people.

We all know that as fiction writers we must adhere to the rules we conjure for our setting. We may be writing fantasy, but as long as our world’s rules are taken into account, the sky’s the limit for composing stories in that particular setting. So why do even the best writers and movie producers still try to cheat  in their plots? Why do they spend the time and money producing stories that have plot holes? I just don’t understand.

Another favourite example of mine of fiction fudging is the use of knocking a character out. If a writer needs someone in their story to be out of commission for a little while, all a fiction fudger has to do is bop the character on the head and there you have it – instant time out for said character.

Now, I’m no expert, but as a hockey mom, I’m all too familiar with the side-effects of concussion. Even when someone isn’t completely knocked out, they can suffer often for months with debilitating repercussions from getting their ‘bells rung’ (as we hockey moms called it).

Over the thanksgiving weekend, my kids brought home armloads of movies to watch. One of them was Jurassic Park 3. There was a scene as they drew near to the jungle island in a plane, where the famous Dr. Alan Grant is adamant that they do not land on the horrifically dinosaur-infested island. A bop on the head and Dr. Grant is conveniently out of commission for about 15 minutes while they land the plane. Easy right? And he had no nasty side-effects in the least!

My brother was knocked out for about 30 seconds a while back and he took a year approximately to get back to normal (ish). So no one is going to put that little plot tool by me!

Am I the only one who detests these little plot cheats? Are there fiction fudgings that you detest as well?