Today (January 13) is my 62nd birthday and strangely enough, I feel younger than I did 20 years ago. My face might be more lined and I have a few more gray hairs, but I’m learning new tricks and trying new things and happy that I’m still around.
It’s never too late to try something new. Here are a few things I learned this past year.
- Improving my Photoshop skills by using a pen tablet. I don’t know why I didn’t try this earlier, but drawing with a mouse or on a touchpad while holding it down with another finger is so antiquidated. But it was all we had twenty years ago, and that’s what I learned on. Who remembers mouses with those balls underneath on spongey mousepads? I remember using AmigaDraw with my Commodore Amiga computer to make simple graphics. How time consuming was that? So last year, in 2021, after a prolonged session of Photoshopping using the infamous Lenovo red button resulting in painful index finger and wrist pain, I bought a Wacom One Drawing Tablet. It’s about the size of a small laptop. It has an electronic pen and it fits on my lap while plugged into my computer. Night and day! Now, I can draw shapes and select objects with no problem. I can connect dots, do those Bezier curve handles, and ink in sketches as easily as using pen and paper. As for signing my name? Piece of cake. Why did I wait so long?
- I finally converted to using Scrivener writing software. For years, I was a Microsoft Word gal. After all, before Word came out, I used LaTex, a non WYSIWYG word processing solution and “vi” to create the files. After my Amiga died, I got an MSDOS machine and have been with Word forever and never took the time to learn any of its advanced features. When Scrivener first came out, I bought a license but it was too complicated so I put it away. Early last year, Scrivener sent me a survey and while filling out the survey, I wondered if I could get more organized by using it. After all, I was constantly revising my writing AND saving off copies of my drafts. Up to 20 drafts with dates appended to the filename. Scrivener made it easier to organize my deletes. I can now simply create a folder for each chapter’s deletes and copy over deleted text with a note on why I deleted something. This way, if I ever want to resurrect that text or storyline, I only have to drag it back to the manuscript and insert. I’m sure there are a hundred more reasons why Scrivener is useful, but for me, keeping track of all my “deletes” makes it worth using.
- Intermittent Fasting. This is an “old” thing that is becoming “new.” Back in the day, before microwaves and trail bars and snack-sized treats, we ate three square meals with no snacks and nibbling in between. If we were hungry between meals, we went outside to play instead of sneaking into the cookie jar. Snacks were not a thing. They would spoil your appetite. Parents thought nothing of sending misbehaving children to bed without their dinner. No one would starve by skipping a meal, at least back in the days before microwaves and juice boxes. In the late eighties when the price of microwaves dropped enough to be commonplace, people started eating all the time. Snacking became a thing, and families stopped eating together at the dinner table. Along with all the eating came the massive increase in weight gain. I, too, joined this eating pandemic as my weight crept up steadily during my thirties, forties, and fifties. We just believed it was part of getting older. Little did I know that snacking constantly, especially on so-called healthy snacks like trail-mix bars, smoothies, and flavored yogurt, that I was putting myself on a constant elevated insulin state. My body was always in “grow” mode, where sugar enters the blood. Insulin comes in and mops up the sugar, stuffing it into cells, and the cells store the extra energy as fat. Because I was snacking and eating continuously, I didn’t allow my body to have a chance to burn off any energy since it was always available. It turns out that fasting, or not eating for a long stretch allows your body to go into “burn” mode where insulin is no longer in control. You don’t enter this state until 4-6 hours after your last meal. Once you are in “burn” mode, glycogen is depleted first. After about 20-36 hours, your body switches to fatburning mode. If, however, you feed yourself at anytime before entering fatburning mode, you are instantly back in “grow” mode, where food is mopped up and stored for future use. The problem with eating all the time is that the majority of time, your body is in “grow” mode and eventually, if you fill your body with too much sugar [even excess protein gets turned into sugar], you will become insulin resistant. It isn’t the fact that you don’t make enough insulin [assuming you’re not a type 1 diabetic], but the fact that your cells are FULL of sugar and they are barring the gates to more sugar entering them. This excess sugar ends up in the blood, floating around looking for a home and the end result isn’t pretty. [Note: I’m following Dr. Jason Fung who wrote several books, among them, The Obesity Code, The Diabetes Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting. He’s also on YouTube with many videos explaining intermittent fasting and the science behind it.] What I learned to do this year is to stop snacking and eat only at set times. I started intermittent fasting with a 18/6 schedule where I would eat only between 10 am and 4 pm. After I got used to it, I would go on a 24 hr fast two days a week. Go from 10 am to 4 pm as usual, and the next day, not eat until 4 pm. Resume the following day from 10 am to 4 pm. Eventually, I want to get to 42 hours where I can go from 4 pm, skip an entire day, and resume at 10 am. But I would only do this once or twice a month. I’ve already dropped all the weight I gained over the holidays, and I only wish I’d known about this technique earlier. Of course, I’m not sabotaging myself by overeating during my eating windows, and I’m not eating sugar or junk food because I don’t want to stimulate insulin. But I’m glad I’m going back to my roots. No snacking and no nibbling. I want my body to swing between “grow” and “burn” mode evenly, the way God designed us to be.
Well, these are the new things I tried out last year that worked for me. I hope I didn’t bore you, but I will continue to live and learn as long as the good Lord allows me to.
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Rachelle Ayala is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it’s within the pages of a book.
Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, Christmas Stray received a 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, and Playing for the Save got the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in Realistic Fiction.
She is also a writing teacher and founder of the Romance In A Month writing community. She lives in California with her husband and has three children and two birds.