Get Fit for Disney Plan

Ok, if you arrived at this page because you are a serious athlete wanting advice for the Disney races like the Princess Run or the Star Wars Marathon (which to me is watching episodes 4-6), you want to go here.  We applaud you, but this is for the average couch person who wants to survive taking their kids to the parks.

You can enjoy the parks even if you have mobility issues, but that would be someone else’s blog.

Couch to Mount Everest

Evaluate your current level of fitness.  If you have a step tracker, what are your average steps in a day?  Do you work out?  If you don’t, start out slowly, the last thing you want to do is injure yourself.

If you average 5,000 steps a day, add 500 steps, and increase your step goal gradually to get to 10,000.  At Disney, our average step count was between 15,000-20,000 a day.

Encourage your kids to walk with you.  This will help you train for stopping, starting, complaints, and sudden requests for potty breaks.   If you bring along your undisciplined dog, that will help you train for unexpected tripping hazards and being stepped on.

Maybe you’re more of a treadmill person.  If so, vary your speed.  At intervals, increase your speed to “getting across the park before your fast-pass expires” or slow down to “everyone leaving after fireworks”.  Studies have shown that interval training is more effective than staying at a steady pace.

The mall can be a good place to work out.  Get a map of the mall and hold it in front of you.  Pick a store and label it as your favorite ride, then pick another store at the opposite end of the mall as your second favorite.  Get to store 1 and store 2 within a 15 minute period, reward yourself by visualizing having a great time for 3 minutes.  Bonus points if you end up in a Disney store afterward.

Determine the weight of any children you have between 1-9 years of age.  Work your way up to deadlifting them and sustaining the hold for 30-40 minutes.  Your actual children may not want to volunteer for this until tall people stand in front of them during fireworks.  Either put on their favorite tv show, or get a stand in.  (Note, your dog will probably not volunteer for this either).

You can work out at the office too!  Stand up at your desk to simulate standing in lines.  Add squats to increase leg muscle strength.

Wear the shoes you plan to wear at the park- do NOT bring new shoes.  Follow this plan, and you’ll be ready to have a great vacation.   Good luck!

*Dreaming of my next trip… and Dole Whips.


Boston! Games!  Fish!  Frostbite!

It was a very bitterly cold weekend, but we managed to have a good time in Boston.

If you are planning where to stay, hotel location is important.  Check the maps to see where the nearest subway station is.  Parking is expensive, so make sure your hotel includes parking with your stay (ours charged us $40!). We were a mile away from the subway, which didn’t seem bad until we had a -10 degree wind chill factored in.  So we used Lyft.

We went to the New England Aquarium in the morning. I thought it was crowded, but a woman remarked to me that it was usually worse on the weekends.  They have some wonderful exhibits, including a giant tank with a spiraling ramp around it.  I think it would have been more enjoyable if I wasn’t chasing my son or dodging people shoving in front of me to see things.  (Yes, lady, you have a fancy camera, however, I was here first.) I would say an average family walking at normal speed could see the place in about 3 hours.  It was interesting to see staff people maintaining the penguin area and main tank.  The signage was great, and most of the buttons work (ask me how I know that).

From the Aquarium, it was a quick (FREEZING) walk to Quincy market, which is a huge hall full of food booths, a food court Valhalla, if you will.  A perfect place for picky eaters and foodies to both get what they want.  Seating is an issue, it is a busy place.  I would recommend going early or late for lunch, and assigning one parent to secure a spot while the other gets food.  There was live music, a trio of fiddlers, making it an enjoyable lunch.

By this point my son, who had been running at turbo, suddenly shut down, demanding to go back to the hotel.  My husband and I discussed it later- we think it was the cold that exhausted him more than walking around.  We attempted a bit of shopping.  Newbury comics, which is in a building on one side of Quincy market, is huge and full of interesting pop culture stuff, not just comics (but they have that too).

If we had been refreshed by our lunch, we would go to the Boston Science Museum, but we all wimped out and went back to the hotel.  If you do decide to do two or more places, make sure you look up package tickets- you could save 20-30%.

We had one day tickets to PaxEast on Sunday.  PAX is a series of video game conventions held by Penny Arcade.  It includes video games, computer games, board games and device games, and all the big companies and small independents show up to see what’s new, play demos and get swag.  I read through the list of panels, but didn’t see any I desperately wanted to go to, so the family spent the whole day on the show floor.  The place, about the size of two football fields, was packed with booths from places like Nintendo, X-Box, Blizzard, Dell, and more.  The whole convention felt like BookExpo mixed with NY Comic Con, in that it seemed that the fans were all over the place but it was designed for business insiders (store owners, reviewers, peer-to-peer networking).  Even big name fan vendors like Thinkgeek or Jinx were mostly advertising their companies instead of selling merchandise. There were tournaments for different games.

Twitch was one of the sponsors, and they were filming live.  They had  a lounge which was sort of like a green room, and gave out water and snacks.  In one of the side halls, rows upon rows of giant pillows were laid out for people to lounge on (provided by Yogibo, I think). I didn’t take pictures because it seemed a bit invasive.

I know we barely scratched the surface of this convention.  I’m more of a sci-fi and fantasy fan than a video game enthusiast, but I found many cool things on the show floor and I would have enjoyed the board games if I had gotten into them.  My son enjoyed playing Minecraft, but the highlight of his day was being able to play a demo of the upcoming Kingdom Hearts game, the one that the family is planning to upgrade to PS4 to play.  He played all the way through the earlier games, twice.

Then off we went home, leaving all the snow and ice behind us… well,  so we thought.

“I need a better tool for keeping track of all my to-do lists,” I said to my husband, explaining I had tried out two apps.
“Oh, you mean project management?” he said.
I guess I did mean project management.  At work, I’m keeping track of everyday tasks, long-range projects, event planning, reoccurring monthly or quarterly duties, and overall goals.  At home I’m tracking chores, family appointments, health goals, a construction project, writing goals, craft projects and fun plans. Having all of this in one app would be great.  So far I’ve haven’t found the perfect solution, but I’m still looking.

I thought about what I wanted in my App before searching.  I discovered that’s like deciding what kind of boyfriend you want before dating.  It can cause unrealistic expectations.

What I was looking for:

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Quick access
  • Create to do lists with deadlines
  • Make sub-tasks under main tasks, with separate deadlines
  • Both web and mobile interface
  • See full list in one place, expand or contract
  • be able to share list or export

The Apps I tested:

Remember the good old days, when you bought software and then you used it indefinitely?  Now you rent it, per month or per year.  Basic services are free, sometimes with a free trial of the expanded services to get you dependent on them.  Expanded services add features.  Some of these added features are frivolous, some are fundamental.

I glanced at Smartsheets– it looks very useful, but the $168 a year for individuals (after a trial period) is out of my planned price range for basic to-do list management.  If you work provides it (or other software like it), check it out. Trello also got my attention, but it looks like it has a learning curve, and I don’t know how robust the free service is.

Reminder is the basic thing that comes with Apple devices.  This means it’s on my computer, cell-phone and tablet already, and is already set up to share on iCloud.  You can create multiple lists with deadlines, but each list is its own, without sub-tasks.  I like the checkboxes, that is satisfying.  You can share your list with family sharing (but that only helps if they are using reminders too).

In Todoist, deadlines are a premium feature.  It pesters you with emails of the things you haven’t completed.  It already has project categories to get you started.  I didn’t like the interface or the nagging, so dropped this one.

Wunderlist is very handy to make a grocery list, or a daily to-do list.  You can make a pretty background (some free, most not).  You can add subtasks to projects, but you only see them for one project at a time. Premium service allows for assigning lists to others, attaching files and other pluses.

I am actually thinking of paying the premium ($25/yr)for G-queues so I can get it on my phone.  I’m finding it very useful, since I’m already using  other Apps from the Google overlords that it integrates with, such as g-mail and calendar.

I could make my own system using a basic document that I share in my own cloud. Then of course, I could use a notebook and pen.

How do you organize your projects for home and work?

I am part of a creativity group called Inspirators (by the way, friends, we need to meet again soon! Contact me!) and one of the main things we talk about is getting our act together to be more productive.  Creatives who are selling their art need to keep track of projects, clients and money.  Creatives who are making art for the enjoyment of it need to manage their free time effectively.

I’ve read a lot of books and been to lectures about being organized and productive.  I know two big things.  First, everyone has a different style that works best for them, and a lot of creative types would go nuts trying to follow a style that works perfectly for someone with a more linear, analytical mind.  Second, you can have the best system in the world, but if you don’t know what you really want to accomplish, what’s most important, you’ll drown in the sea of everyday inconsequentials and never get the big picture stuff even started.

I’ll talk about goals in another blog.  I am also checking out some productivity apps- G-queues, Reminder, Wunderlist, and RemembertheMilk.

Books I recommend about time management and organization:

My Goodreads list keeps growing, too- good thing one of the things I have decided to do is set limits on my internet time so I can read more!




Gather Your Party

voyager crew

If you’ve ever thought that achieving a creative goal was a solitary endeavor, you should look at the acknowledgement pages of a book or listen to the acceptance speeches for a prestigious award.  They didn’t achieve their goal alone.

acknowledgements 1  acknowledgements 2

Gamers, especially table-top roleplaying gamers, know it’s a good idea to gather their party, to have a diverse group with many skills before setting out on an adventure.  If you’ve ever tried a campaign with just one type of character, you might have noticed how messy that can get.  You need a wizard, a fighter, a thief and a archer.  Or a hacker, a con-man, a martial arts dude and a language specialist.  Or a Jedi, a rogue, a rebel leader and two droids.  Or a captain, an engineer, a science officer and a doctor.  You get the idea. Even “chosen ones” gather a team.  Think of a heist movie.

Get support from your friends, and reach out to make new connections.  Maybe you need a wise advisor, or a fighter.  The cool thing about teams is not only are you getting help, you are giving help.  Sometimes when you give help, you solve your own problem by seeing something from a different perspective.

Imagine if you could make a dream team of anyone, imaginary, historical or real.  Imagining that team rooting for you can be helpful.

My dream team:
  • my friends
  • the Doctor- a zany, creative, nonviolent problem solver with a time machine
  • Captain Janeway- never gives up, never takes crap
  • The Librarian- ook
  • Lois McMaster Bujold- multiple award winning author
  • Dragon- wise, able to eat people, fly and breathe fire
  • Jarvis (the A.I.) because helpful self-aware computers are hard to come by
  • The Tick- he’s nigh invulnerable and makes rousing speeches
  • My future agent- someone who will land me a deal and work with me to improve
  • Merlin- we need a wizard.  (I’m thinking T.H. White Sword in the Stone, not that weird kid)
  • Minions- to do the boring stuff

What about you?  Put together your team.


December 27, 2015

My husband and I have a tradition.  Just before New Year’s eve we decide what we want the next year’s theme to be.  There’s been the year of adventure, the year of love, and the year of challenge.  This year?  The year of Improvements.  I just started playing Superbetter, which is a game system for healing and improving your real life.  This is similar to what I’m trying to put together with my roleplaying game style book, Weight Loss for Dragons.  I hope the other Jane doesn’t mind me calling 2016 the Superbetter year.

Every year, of course, we  come in determined to start fresh.  This is the year we’ll become perfect, enlightened beings.  We’ll lose weight, declutter our house, get paid doing what we love, kick bad habits, have brilliant, well-behaved children, become famous, travel, connect with our loved ones, and learn new skills.  All of it.  I’ve had many a year where I started with my head down, running at ramming speed, and get surprised when I hit a wall.


“I have a big head, and little arms.  I’m just not sure  how well this plan was thought through.” -T-Rex,  Meet the Robinsons

So this year, I will make my first goal to keep up a slow and steady momentum of improvements throughout the year.  It’s no good making goals that depend on other people to achieve, like getting a book deal.  I should focus on my side of it, which would be creating and submitting my writing.  I will gather support instead of slogging along alone.  I will take the time to make a map of where I’d like to be, and question if what I’m doing is the way to get there.  I will see who I am now, not who I used to be, or what society thinks I should be.

Just updated the website, tell me if you see any glitches.  Let me know if you are interested in being my ally on Superbetter (no, autocorrect, that’s not super heater).



Here’s my cover for the book- what do you think?

I was going for “uncovered ancient book of knowledge.”

Character Classes for Weight Loss for Dragons

A class isn’t the same thing as a profession, it’s more like a… vocation.  It encompasses not only your specialized skills, but also your outlook on life and your goals for the future.  What if you want to do everything, or at least a combination of things?   There’s a class for that.


Adventurers are doers, people who go out in search of new experiences, new ideas and interesting things to do.  They push past the fear of the unknown to live life fully.

Sub-classes of Adventurer: Traveler, Naturalist, Explorer and Socialite.

artist class


An artist lives to create.  They want to share their view of the world, in one medium or in many.  They find creativity in their daily lives, not just in their creations.

Sub-classes of Artist: Painter, Sculptor, Musician, Chef, Crafter, or Textile Artist.


Athletes work hard to hone their bodies to achieve great things.  They train daily, through discomfort and setbacks, to constantly improve their performance.

Sub-classes of Athlete: Runner, Swimmer, Dancer,  Cyclist, Martial Art student, Lifter, Team-mate or Crosstrainer.


A champion is driven by a need to right wrongs.  They see injustice in the world and they campaign to make positive change.

Sub-classes of Champion: Altruist, Protestor, Volunteer or Politician.

mystic class


A mystic finds true purpose in the spiritual realm, either in a chosen religion or a self-directed inner search for truth.  They use their faith and balance to help others with counsel or support.

Sub-classes of Mystic: Devoted, Soul-Searcher, Listener or Caretaker.


Scholars have a thirst for knowledge, to learn and grow every day of their lives.  They search for answers to how, what, where, and especially why, and they don’t take things as given.

Sub-classes of Scholar: Scientist, Linguist, Student, Writer, Researcher, or Inventor.

If you read over the descriptions and want to do more than one, you can.  It’s called a multi-class.  So you could be a Scholar-Artist or a Athlete-Champion.  Don’t want to be pinned down?  You are a Polymath or a Renaissance Soul.  This is your life.  You can make up your own class as long as you can define it for yourself.

Some ideas for specialized classes:

  • Social Justice Warrior
  • Food Explorer
  • Diplomat
  • Documenter
  • Happiness Expert

What do you think?  Any classes or hybrids you want to suggest?  What would you assign to yourself?


Creating a Weight Loss for Dragons Character Sheet:

When you are playing a roleplaying game, you start by creating a character.  In this book, that character is you!  Instead of rolling for your stats, you need to determine them.

NAME: well, if I have to spell it out for you, then it’s G-U-E-S-T.

LEVEL: One.  If you’re level 20, why are you reading this?  Go get in your helicopter and sit at a beach on your island or something.

CLASS: we’ll discuss this later, right now you’re all “Novice”

ALIGNMENT: choices- lawful good, chaotic good, neutral good, lawful evil, chaotic evil, neutral evil and neutral neutral.  If you go online, you’ll find some memes that will give you examples from movie or tv characters, and quizzes.

BMI: Body Mass Index.  Your number on a height and weight chart that indicates whether the medical community classifies you as overweight, obese or morbidly obese.  Healthy BMI range- 19-24, Overweight- 25-29, Obese, 30-39, Morbidly obese- 40 and up.  BMI calculators can be found online.

BMR: Basal Metabolic Rate- this is the amount of calories you body should need to run while lying in bed all day.  Note the should.  Sometimes your body is better at its job (which makes sense! Famine survivors were able to keep going on little food).  It’s a starting point.  You then account for burning some calories with daily activities (unless you really do just lie in bed all day).

SPEED: Here’s the first “gotta get off your butt” part of this endeavor.  Speed is how long it takes you to travel a mile if you had to.

To test your speed, go to the start of a measured mile, or use a treadmill. Time yourself. How long does it take you to get to the end of that mile by either walking, running or a combination of the two? (use a wheelchair? go ahead and put in your speed for manual)

  1. I can’t walk a mile
  2. I would have to rest, so about 2 hours
  3. about an hour (1MPH)
  4. about 30 minutes (2 MPH)
  5. about 20 minutes (3 MPH)
  6. about 15 minutes (4 MPH)
  7. about 10 minutes (6 MPH)
  8. about 5 minutes (12 MPH)

I’m not going to measure over 8 in speed.  PLEASE, if you are out of shape, don’t overdo it!  You can increase your speed, but only if you haven’t hurt yourself.

Statistics: For your stats of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, you need to honestly evaluate yourself.

  • Poor- 5
  • Average- 10
  • good- 15
  • astonishing- 20

Strength: your ability to use your muscles.  Not just how much weight you can lift, but your ability to carry, push, pull and hold yourself in a position like a plank.

Dexterity: your balance, agility, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.  Also your flexibility in stretching and yoga poses.

Constitution: Endurance. How fragile are you?  Do you get sick easily, pull muscles, get migraines, or have trouble maintaining mental health?  How well do you bounce back after physical or emotional trauma?

Intelligence: Your ability to read, compute, remember and analyze facts, figure out puzzles, get organized, find information, follow complicated instructions and make calculations.

Wisdom: Common sense, life experience, big picture thinking and self-mastery.  Noticing changes in your environment and people. Knowing what the best path is and making good choices.  (being intelligent is being able to make a giant self-aware robot, being wise is knowing that’s a bad idea)

Charisma: being a people magnet.  Having lots of friends, online followers, celebrity status or notoriety.  Having influence over others.  It doesn’t necessarily mean beauty or talent (note the reality tv stars).

Armor Class- how well can you stand up to attacks?  For this we are talking about emotional and mental defenses, not actual armor.  When someone criticizes you, do you give up or keep going?  How do you handle insults, people ordering you to do something else, guilt trips, accusations of wrong-doing or rejection?

  • 1- collapse in a heap at the slightest disapproval
  • 2- sensitive
  • 3- hurt by others but able to keep going
  • 4- only certain types of attacks effect me
  • 5- F ‘em all, I don’t care what they think.

Gear: list any equipment you have that is important to your goals.  Put in parentheses anything you want to get but haven’t gotten yet.

Goals: How are you supposed to know if you’ve gotten somewhere if you don’t know where you are going?  Write down your goals in increments.  What do you want to achieve in three months?  six months? a year? Five years?  Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, realistic and timely.  Don’t be vague, don’t be extreme, and only put down goals you are willing to commit to.

Skills: fill in the bubble of anything you know how to do.  If there is a blank line, fill it in with applicable information.  Put any bonuses to the right of the skill.

  • Kinda-sorta- no bonuses
  • pretty good- +2
  • impress your friends- +3
  • impress a television audience- +4
  • impress experts- +5

I bet half the people decided this was all too hard. If you kept going and filled it all in- congratulations!  You now have character…  sheet.

Disclaimer: The author is not a medical expert.  Consult with your doctor before undertaking anything advised here.  This blog is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.


Enter the Lair

The adventurer raced through the driving rain, keeping just ahead of her pursuers on the muddy trail.  She could hear the orcs’ shouts as they called to each other to cut off her escape.  There was little time left, she didn’t know if she had the energy to get to safety.  Her lungs burned, her muscles ached.  There it was!  A small crack in the rock.  An orc appeared behind her, swinging an axe.  She could see his teeth gnash as she slipped into the tunnel.  It was almost too small for her, and she scraped her skin as she pushed through, the buttons on her vest coming off.  The orc roared, too big to follow her, trying to stab at her with his axe, then she was on the other side and the passage opened up.  It took her a long time to catch her breath. She ran along in the darkness, stumbling and feeling her way.  It was warm in this tunnel, surprisingly so.  

When she reached the end of the tunnel she almost fell out into the massive cavern.  Gold gleamed in a dim light from high above.  She caught her balance, taking a step back, for she saw, in the darkness, a massive shape curled around the gold.  One golden eye opened a slit, and she tried not to breathe.  It was a dragon, with blue and green scales, reclining on a pile of gold.  

“Well, I know you are there.  Tell me why I should not kill you.”  The dragon opened both eyes, slowly raising her head.

“Oh great one, I beg your mercy.  I have come here to see you, to talk with you.  I hear that you are wise, that you know the secrets of the universe.”

“Flattery.  You are here to steal my gold.  I have no use for smoke blowing.” The dragon suddenly whipped her head around, stopping inches from the adventurer.  

“No, truly!  The treasure I seek is knowledge!  I want-“ the adventurer stopped, embarrassed to go on.


“I want to be like the great warriors of old.  I want to know how to become powerful.” The adventurer said softly.  She looked down at her body, sighing.  She knew her muscles were soft, her belly round.  She knew that she could not have lasted five seconds fighting off those orcs if they had caught her.  She had almost gotten killed because she had been too big for the tunnel.

The dragon pulled back her head, eyeing the adventurer thoughtfully. 

“Hmm.  Well, I was feeling a little bored, and this could be interesting.” she said, repositioning her wings.  A small cascade of gold tinkled down as she shifted.  “ I reserve the right to kill you, if you prove to be insincere.”

“Yes, great one, I promise to follow your guidance!”  The adventurer clasped her hands together in delight.  Finally someone would help her!

“We shall see.” The dragon said, chuckling. “I often find people don’t like the wisdom I impart.”

enter the lair


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