Articles By Jamie DeBree

Best Laid Plans…and a Whine.

I feel like all I’m doing lately is planning. Revamping routines. Trying to figure out how to do things more efficiently and get my day-to-day life under enough control that I don’t feel so…adrift.

It’s my way of dealing with the stress of this crazy year. Control as much as I can ahead of time so that when the out-of-my-control issues hit, I’m more mentally able to deal with them. I’m telling you right now…it’s only partially working. I still feel like I’m in a constant state of adrenal overload, and when those other things hit, it’s just one more thing on the all-stress, all-the-time channel.

Most recent on the “more stress” report (or maybe just more disappointment, for this one), we got a ton of snow this weekend (the “broke records/up to my knees” variety). It’s not going to be melting anytime soon either – cold and more snow are forecast for the whole next week. We normally get snow in late October, and often on Halloween (it rarely even sticks), but this is early, and the record we broke for the snowfall amount was set in 1949.

I like snow, and it’s really not that cold, but our landscaper was going to try to get started on our front yard mid-October…which is now. Or next week. Regardless, they can’t work on the yard (or dig it up) if it’s covered in snow. Unless the weather is really nice in November, we may be looking at spring before our landscaping project gets done. Dammit.

And of course we’ve done zero decorating in the yard for Halloween, because…landscaping. We can’t do any decorating until the landscaping is done, or until it’s officially pushed back to spring. So we’re too far behind to do anything big in the decorating realm, which is about the most annoying thing ever with Halloween actually being on a Saturday with a full moon this year.

We will still be handing out candy bars (full-size) to anyone who comes to the house, but the decorations may be extremely sparse because…2020. Yes, we’ll be wearing masks and gloves.

*sigh* Two and a half more months. Will things start looking up at the turn of the new year? One can only hope, but I’m betting more on next July.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here futzing with plans and tweaking routines and working to find something to blog about other than plans, lack thereof, and the cyclone that is this entire year. There has to be something more thought-provoking I could share/opine on.

In fact, that will be my next planning challenge. More interesting blog posts from now until the end of the year.

Though I can’t promise no planning posts in mid-late December. Because…resolutions.


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Painless Physical Productivity – the Next Frontier

Sometimes, when a person has let herself get really out of shape, and then decides to…do stuff, it hurts.

A lot.

Okay, okay. It’s not *that* bad, but I do have some serious aches and pains going on, and it’s largely the fault of my lack of physical fitness. I mean, it’s also partially because I fell over the Murphy-dog in a dark hallway the other morning (yes, he’s fine, but I twisted myself up making sure *not* to smash him), but even that wouldn’t have been as bad if I’d been in better shape overall.

I do yoga, and I walk when the weather’s decent, but I don’t do nearly as much lifting or weight-training as I should, and it is painfully evident after moving straw bales, taking a metal arch down, and working on a plumbing problem for the better part of a day (it’s partially fixed – but still needs work).

There was a time when all of this wouldn’t even phase me physically. Just another weekend, no biggie. I’ve gotten so much lazier as I’ve gotten older, and it’s not serving me well in the least.

This does seem to be the year of painful change, doesn’t it? And as much as I love sitting on my butt, I need to get off of it and…well, move. Not only do I have things to do that requires me to sit, I also have things to do that require me to move, and it really, really shouldn’t be painful to be productive. That just makes me want to…not be productive.

I think this every time I do something that should be painless, and then hurt the next several days. And then I think I’m going to fix it, but I have to wait so long to heal (another “perk” of getting older) that my good intentions get lost in the healing period, and the cycle continues without me getting stronger.

That’s just stupid.

So, since I’m embracing the “year of perpetual change” in so many other ways, might as well add this to my list too, right? Walking the dogs and yoga are both great ways to work out, and I need to start chasing Pokemon again for an afternoon workout, but there’s one other thing I need to do, and that is to add a weight training element in two to three nights per week. Twenty minutes is all it would take to raise the level of my strength exponentially. Two upper body and one back/abdomen workout would give me some pretty dramatic results in terms of strength and stamina. Walking/climbing stairs is sufficient for my legs, though I do have ankle weights I could walk with to give that a boost too. Might have to dig those out. But definitely the nightly weight training sessions. That would help more than anything else.

And that would almost undoubtedly improve my motivation for getting off the couch, and getting stuff done.

So, a workout calendar seems appropriate. Nothing pre-filled or anything like that, but a calendar to record workouts on. Give stars for. Something fun to look forward to completing, just because.

But! I’m not waiting until the end of the calendar year to start, I’m starting right away. It’s going on my schedule. We’re doing this. At least one workout, this week.

Only I have to wait just a couple more days, for a couple of the “injuries” I sustained just yesterday to have a little more healing time.

Dammit.


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Weariness, Planning, Hair, & Granola Culture

I think it’s safe to say we’re all tired of the pandemic. I’ve heard from more than one person lately that they’re just tired of it all, tired of thinking about it, tired of the mask thing, tired of staying away from people. They’re ready to throw in the towel and go back to just living life normally, letting whatever happens, happen.

We humans do tend to have a painfully short attention span, unfortunately.

I’m tired of thinking about it too, and tired of masks, and constantly analyzing whether my sneezing fit is caused by smoke and fall allergens, or if it’s the dreaded Covid monster. I’m not really tired of staying away from people, but I am tired of having to think before going to dinner, or planning a night at the movies three weeks in the future – will our infected rates be going down or up by then?

But, I’m not going to stop taking precautions just yet. Yes, we have some very promising treatments, and the mortality rate has gone down quite a bit. We are less likely to die from it now than we were a few months ago, just because doctors and scientists are more informed, and have several really good treatment options they can employ right away.

Thing is, they still don’t know what causes some people to react worse than others to the virus, and the long-term effects are still a possibility for anyone. And frankly, I’d rather not put my body through that if I don’t have to. So as tired as I am of all of it, I’ll keep masking up inside and around large groups of people. And I’ll keep evaluating case loads and numbers before I decide whether or not to do something. Because it seems like the responsible thing to do, both to avoid getting sick, and to avoid giving it to someone else who may be affected badly by it.

If you think that’s “living in fear”, well, sure it is, to a point. I’m allowing fear to make me cautious. And in this case, I’m okay with that, because the potential threat is still largely unknown. That’s what our innate fear response is for – to keep us safe. I’m merely listening to mine, because it seems logical/practical to do so.

Last week I posted about focus and planning, and I’m happy to report that on that front, really good progress was made. Every night, I took 15 minutes and made to-do lists for work and home, and then I scheduled all the things I needed to get done (and could reasonably expect to do) for the next day. Not only did that make my entire day a lot easier and less stressful, I was far, far more productive, even with a million different interruptions. It felt good, and I’m definitely going to keep that up. It was so…refreshing to be able to just know what I wanted to work on when, and be able to kind of just put the rest of it out of my mind because I *knew* it was already scheduled, and that I’d left plenty of time to work on it, so it would get done and I didn’t need to stress about anything.

I did, however, fail to do any planning whatsoever for the weekend, and…that kind of hosed me up as far as productivity goes. I’ll be more mindful of that for next week, and actually schedule those planning times on my to-do list so that maybe I can have a little more control over my weekend as well.

As for my hair-growth project…it’s kind of stressing me out. It’s at the point now where it’s just going to be difficult to manage for the next few months, and my confidence is waning. I’m having trouble with the idea that it might affect the way I’m treated, both at work and in other social situations. I’m excited at the prospect of having more versatility again, but there’s this voice in the back of my head that’s afraid to just ignore what people obviously respond well to (my short hair, in this case), just because I want something different.

I just remember how things changed for the better when I cut it off, and I’m afraid all that will revert as my hair gets longer (especially in this stupid grow-out stage when it’s just going to be unruly).

We’ll see, I guess. I can always chop it back off, if I find that I just need that coiffed-pixie look again. When I cut it off before, it was mainly for other people. Now I’m growing it out for me, but I’m keenly aware of the perks that come with keeping it short. It’s…difficult to do what I want when I know that the option that serves me better both socially and in the workplace is something different.

I guess it’s like my tattoos all over again, in a way. And I maybe just need to keep reminding myself that once it gets past my shoulders, I can just wear my hair up whenever I need that “short-hair” boost, and then be free to leave it down for myself evenings and weekends.

Am I superficial for spending so much brain power on my hair? Sure, I guess. But honestly? I’d rather worry about that right now than all the other more serious things I could be anxious about.

For my next personal change of 2020 – I plan on buying some flannel shirts, and re-embracing the granola culture I spent my college years in. Not because I want to go back to college (definitely not), but because it’s comfortable, and it feels more like “me”.

I can’t decide if I’m “devolving” or “evolving” given that I’m basically going back to who I was in my 20’s. I guess the real question is, do I care? The answer right now is, not enough to stop. We’ll see what happens as the months go on.

Rest assured that whatever happens, I will never wear socks with my Birkenstocks. And I don’t even own crocs. I do still have *some* standards.


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Finding Focus

I’m sitting here on my ottoman, a whole list of things I want to get done, not doing any of them (at least not until I started writing this blog post), and wondering why I spend so much time thinking about what I want/need to get done as opposed to actually *doing* it. I do this everywhere…though I am somewhat more focused at work when I can be (which isn’t as much as I’d like, because…other people).

That said, even here at home, by myself (well, just me and the dogs), I am…unsettled. Unfocused. I know what I want/need to do, but I can’t decide what to do first, or for how long, or what to do when I get interrupted, or…well, you get the picture.

Part of the problem is that I’m interrupted so often (even here at home), that I have trouble getting into anything because it seems futile. I know that happens a *lot* at work, and here at home with the dogs too. I’ve gotten so used to that, and it’s so disruptive to being “in the zone” with anything that I often just don’t even try. I pick at things, piecemeal, afraid to get too deep since an interruption is inevitably just around the corner instead of really focusing. It’s far less efficient and less satisfying than being able to actually put my head down and work steady for a good couple hours on the same project, but it’s often all I can do to actually make progress on anything.

Even just now, writing this post, I had to get up to let the dog in, but when I sat back down, I checked my email before coming back to this. Is there anything else that needs my attention? Do I need to shift focus again? Is it okay to try to get back in the zone for another twenty minutes or so?

I’ve trained my brain to be like this, to just work shallowly around all the interruptions throughout my day, and I get stuff done, but not nearly as efficiently or satisfyingly as I could if I were able to actually focus, even for just a full hour at a time.

Thing is, I probably could, it’s just that I hate being pulled out of the focus zone so much, and it’s happened so often, that the fear (or certainty) of it happening again keeps me from allowing myself to really delve into anything at all. And I’ve trained myself to give into that fear, unfortunately. Which means to “fix” it, there are a couple of things I really need to work on.

The first is planning. I’ve gotten lazy about both keeping track of projects and scheduling the smaller parts of the whole. The only way to be able to focus on anything is to first know what it is I wanted to focus on in the first place. I have a ton of projects to keep track of for work, and also a bunch for both the house and my writing. Today I wasted a ton of time just trying to decide whether to clean first, or write this blog post, or do some editing, or rearrange furniture…and that’s only four different things! If I had a running list of to-dos, and then either late last night or first thing this morning, I looked at that list and my day and actually scheduled when I wanted to do what, I wouldn’t have wasted all that time. I would have had a plan to follow, and even if I was interrupted or thrown off the schedule, I still would have been able to pick it back up from the last undone thing, and could have continued from there.

I have the tools to do this. I have a main calendar program and a list program that is easily used for automated reminders and scheduling. I also have a digital paper tablet that I can hand-write on (which often works best for me when making initial lists before they get scheduled into the automated one). The only thing I don’t have? A routine habit for maintaining the system.

The second thing I need will arguably be more difficult, and that is to somehow get over the fear of being interrupted, and learn to get into the “zone” of focused work more quickly so that even when I am interrupted, I don’t lose so much time. Part of that is knowing what I need to do when, but the other part is just retraining my brain so that when the interruption has been dealt with, I just check my list, figure out what I’m supposed to be working on next, and then just slide right back into it. That is a discipline thing, and it’s going to mostly involve using my to-do list to “trigger” my brain into focus-mode. It’s going to involve a lot of willpower.

I’ve been employing that throughout writing this post. Whenever I feel myself losing focus, I close my eyes briefly, remind myself that I’m writing a blog post, and then continue. I think what I’m going to do after I’ve finished this is to rearrange the screens on my cell phone so that my to-do list is the only thing on my home screen. That way, after any interruption throughout the day, I can unlock my phone, my to-do list will be right there, and at the top will be whatever is scheduled for the day and not yet checked off.

I think doing these two things – maintaining a to-do list/calendar and using it to trigger/ground my focus after every interruption, I can alieviate at least a little stress from my life, and hopefully spend more time actually focused on tasks rather than wondering what I should work on next or picking at things piecemeal throughout the day.

Next up on today’s impromptu to-do list: Update the actual to-do list, and schedule a time (either late night or early morning) to pick the priority items for any given day.

This sort of thing is why I should take vacation days more often. I have a hard time stepping back, looking at what’s causing me stress, and figuring out how to fix it when I don’t have time and space to just be quiet and think. Evaluation/re-evaluation days are important.


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Time for a Retreat

I don’t know if it’s the year, or just the fact that I’m getting older, but I’m starting to have trouble keeping track of things. Work projects, personal projects, health stuff…things I really need to keep track of and could easily just track in my head previously. Call it age, call it pre-menopausal brain fog, or just the stress of the “Year of Constant Change”, but I feel like I’m catching up instead of keeping up more than usual, and I’m not gonna lie – between that and politics, I’m stressed out.

Stress isn’t good for us. Constant stress, even less so. And when I was looking at the top of my growing-out hair the other day and found that my natural part line was quite a bit wider than it should be, I did what any sane woman would do and freaked the heck out.

I did that quietly, because my husband is nearly bald, and there’s really not much to be done for male pattern baldness (that I know of). So I am trying to be sensitive to that, but whether we like it or not, society judges women more strictly than men on their looks, and hair is a big part of that.

Naturally, I went searching WebMD and YouTube for pics and information (I consider WebMD to be pretty reliable, considering I’ve sat in a doctor’s office and watched them look stuff up there on numerous occasions). And I found that my widening part is called female pattern baldness, it’s either Type I or II (hard to say from the pics) and while it can sometimes be genetic, there are several other things that can cause it – mostly internal health issues like thyroid problems, anemia (which I tend towards), illness, and *stress*. Best of all, most of those things can be treated and the hair loss reversed from the inside out.

Last spring I was very sick for an extended period of time. I got sick shortly before the pandemic became a “thing”, and was ill for over two months. I was in the middle of a very stressful work project when I got whatever it was I got (I don’t think it was covid, but who knows), and I didn’t start getting better until four weeks in when the project was finally finished (recovery was incredibly slow). But during that time, there was a day or two where I noticed actual clumps of my hair coming out in the shower. So I’m wondering if that’s when this slight baldness started. Maybe it was worse then – I wasn’t going to the hair dresser or dying my roots then, so I wasn’t really looking at the back/top of my head much, and I expected to get it cut again, so I wasn’t too worried about hair health.

I haven’t noticed any major hair loss since then, so hopefully I just need to get “de-stressed”, make sure my iron is up, get my thyroid checked (will happen automatically with our required wellness blood check for work this fall), and make sure I’m giving my adrenal glands what they need.

The medical stuff is all well and good, and all things I’ll definitely take care of and monitor. But the stress…man…this year, keeping that down to a managable level is nearly impossible.

*Nearly* being the operative word. I can do this, I just need to be very mindful of it.

I need to stop paying so much attention to the news…and FB is the worse place for that, I’ve found. Facebook just shoves it right in my face, so to speak – it’s hard to ignore or get away from it there. So I need to really limit my FB time, and when I am there, I need to ignore that little red dot on the “News” icon telling me there’s new stuff to scan. I know everything is currently running at near-apocalyptic levels without FB telling me every single hour of the day. I need to focus on my immediate life, and the day-to-day that I’m having trouble keeping track of. I’m hoping that not letting the news cycle get to me as much will also help me regain some focus both personally and professionally.

I know who I’m voting for, both at the federal and local levels. The pandemic is what it is, and I’m taking the precautions I feel the need to take while not panicking too much about it. I don’t need constant input or news for either of those two subjects – I just need to keep on keeping on. Stay the course, so to speak.

I also need to take some time off and regroup. Do something for me. Something that will overshadow everything else, and allow me to just focus inwardly for awhile. So I’m going to do just that Thursday of this week. I’ve scheduled vacation days for this Thurs-Fri, and next Mon-Tues (that tends to work better than to take one full week…I get called less by work if I’m not out for a full 5 days of any given week for some reason).

Thursday at 2pm, I have an appointment at the tattoo shop to start a full back piece that will require at least four, maybe five sessions over as many months coming up. It will be a huge project, and will require me to focus on my own body, staying healthy, healing properly, and taking good care of the artwork.

For those of you sputtering, “but…the pandemic!” Yes, I know. Really. I truly did weigh this decision against the health risks quite heavily before deciding to schedule it. And part of the reason I have six days off is so I can isolate myself completely while the wound is fresh, and not be anywhere other people are until it’s healed enough to seal over. I have everything planned to where I won’t have to leave the house from Thursday night all the way through the following Weds, except to walk my dogs at night (I don’t come into contact with others while doing that). I can focus solely on taking care of my skin, and more importantly, keeping my stress levels down while I figure out how to get back on track and *keep myself there*.

Call it a personal, literal retreat.

The fact is, I need to do something drastic. Something that will get my focus off of everything for a few days and allow me to reset my mind in a better place. And I know from experience that getting tattooed gets me there. It’s a form of therapy for me – not just getting the tattoo (which requires focus and discipline to deal with varying levels of pain for hours on end), but healing it afterward. It’s what I need right now. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Are you stressed out or overwhelmed with the year? What are you doing to take care of yourself and “get centered”, so to speak? When’s the last time you “took time” to retreat from the world?


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Body Talk

Ah, the human body. It’s only as high maintenance as we make it, I guess, but just doing whatever without taking the effects on the body under advisement can lead to…well, a much shorter, more difficult life in general. Too bad that realization doesn’t really make the constant attention to maintenance any less annoying.

With that in mind, a few things from the past week:

– The bathroom scale is now registering high enough when I step on that I was forced to face the fact that my experiment with adding more bread and cookies back into my diet is a complete failure. I’ve started imposing restrictions again and am already seeing downward movement. Call it bloat or “water weight” or whatever you’d like, the fact is, my body does not process breads and flour-based foods well. Moderation is a *must* – no getting around that. I need to plan better for next week so I have alternatives ready, and can easily limit both calories and breads/pastas/flour-based treats.

– Still on the subject of food, I tried not-snacking in the afternoons to limit calories, but the brain drop is severe enough to stifle productivity, and it wasn’t helping with the weight issue anyways. Tried nuts again, still not as helpful as I wanted. Then a co-worker shared a single thin mint (girl scout cookie, for those poor unfortunate souls who don’t know), and the chocolate/slight bit of sugar definitely seemed to help. Tried it again the next day (with a single dark chocolate cashew-butter cup), and same thing. In the meantime, the scale is still moving down (inching, but not going up, which is the important part). The nice thing about this is, I don’t like chocolate well enough to sit and eat a whole candy bar or pack of chocolate (it’s not like…say, Pringles or gummy worms, both of which I will consume the entire can or bag of before I even consider stopping). I really don’t like milk chocolate, but I like dark in small doses, and just a very small piece is plenty for one day. So I got some Bark Thins in this week’s grocery order, and I’m going to try one in the late afternoons for the next week. If it works the way things have been working, that’s a total win for me.

– I dyed my hair this week, but unlike previous times, I did the roots first, and then the rest of my hair for less time. Because I’m growing my hair out, I’m worried that dyeing my whole head like normal will result in the lower part becoming much darker than the roots, because they come in white, and henna is permanent (so it doesn’t wear out, and I’m not chopping the length off anymore). It went okay, though I still ended up with lighter roots than I was hoping for. I’ll have to experiment a little more, I guess. One person who also uses henna just does her whole head all the time, and doesn’t have a problem with the roots blending (or not). So maybe I’m making it more complicated than it needs to be? We’ll see. It will be about 6 weeks before my roots start bugging me again. We’ll see how it looks when this dye job has grown out that far, and make a decision then.

– When I dye my hair, it’s a three-hour project (because that’s just how long it takes for natural pigments). I have to take my earrings out first, which is another hour or more project after just choosing a theme and putting all my jewelry back in. Saturday nights are nail nights, so that’s another three-hours (remove polish, cutting, filing/shaping, buffing, polishing). And Friday nights are foot-care night, which is an hour for filing, soaking, and moisturizing. Plus random eyedrops & hand lotion – because…dry is bad.

So all in all, I spent a full workday or more just on physical maintenance this weekend. I don’t do that every weekend, of course, but…it just struck me as a lot of time spent just…maintaining. Obviously I choose to do that, and none of it is strictly necessary, though all of it makes my life easier in various ways. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing or it just…is.

I don’t think I want to make any different decisions at this point, but…it is a lot of time spent.


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The Princess Bride & Editing

I am very nearly finished reading The Princess Bride (finally). I’m quite enjoying it in most ways, and only semi-enjoying it in another. That is to say, my copy is a beautiful hardcover collector’s copy that my mom bought me for Christmas, and while I adore it, it’s also kind of a pain in the butt to deal with in my lap (there’s no way I’d be able to read it in bed).

I love how the pages look, and the color and fonts throughout, and even how it feels, but it’s hard to get it at the right angle with my bifocals (“progressives”, whatever – which admittedly, need updating), and also difficult to juggle it with my teacup as I settle in my reading chair without spilling the tea or dropping the book (or both).

Yes, I need a small table by my chair. I’ll get to it eventually, but for now, I have the armrest, which is where I perch my teacup.

In any case, I’ve very much enjoyed the story, as well as the way Goldman went about skimming over details and scenes without actually “writing” them out. The ultimate “screw you” to the old “show, don’t tell” adage…he does exactly the opposite with his little faux abridgements. The rebel in me who hates editing and sometimes wishes I could just tell the story instead of “showing” the story adores that he actually does just that.

Honestly, I’m jealous that he both figured out a way to get away with it, and at the same time wrote something that turned into “Something” and became beloved by so many people, myself included.

Seriously. Genius.

At the same time, I have been trying to both edit, and figure out why I hate editing so very much. I think what it mostly boils down to is that writing – “creating” is fun. Editing (and revising) is serious work that requires reading the same thing over and over. I find it incredibly tedious and boring. I love writing, even when it requires work and extra thought or the odd bit of research. I don’t love editing. Not at any stage. It’s just…boring.

I need to become okay with that, and I need to adjust my perspective, employ self-discipline, and make the time to get it done.

I’m not really sure how to do that, other than to first make time, and then just…do it regularly. I need to prove to my brain that it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and to do *that*, I need to edit.

Alas, finding/making the time has proven more than difficult. I have fifteen minutes of writing time every morning, and I’m using that faithfully for new words. The rest of my day is spent either at work, or at home in the company of my husband and dogs, aside from half an hour I take at the end of the day to read before bed. And that’s it. That’s my day. Even my late half-hour gets encroached on occasionally by a chatty husband or needy dogs. The only way to really get more time would be to stay up later, but then I’m sacrificing sleep. And I’m trying really, really hard to get 6 hours a night whenever possible, to protect against mental conditions and diseases later in life.

So. That leaves weekends. I don’t schedule my weekends well at all. My late nights are routine, because I have complete control over those. The days tend to be more of a free-for-all, compounded by the fact that the TV is on all day because my husband likes noise. When I’m home by myself, no problem, but I fall into that “sit in front of the TV” trap while he’s here, and then I end up not getting anything done until he leaves and I can turn the TV off – at which point I need to get all the other stuff I didn’t get done, done (housecleaning, dog food, etc).

I need to just get up and go to the office, or get up and do housework while the TV is on and he’s here, so that once he leaves, I can have that quiet time to edit and work on writing stuff. There is no schedule for that though, which always throws me off. I don’t deal well with a lack of routine. I tend to do nothing (obviously). Not good.

So that’s the goal for this week. Instead of trying to find a time during the week to shoehorn in some small amount of editing time, I’m going to do my best to get my housework and domestic chores done while the hubby is sitting around during the weekend, and then when he’s gone (normally Sunday evenings), sit and use that time for editing.

Another week, another time experiment. Wish me luck!

And I’ll have to pick a new book to read too. What will jump off my TBR pile this time? Hmm….


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Hair Everywhere

I don’t really have a clue why my hair is so much a part of my personal identity, but it is.

My short hair/pixie cut.

Nearly twenty years ago, I cut it all off to start wearing it short, and stupid as it sounds, I actually had a major identity crisis for a good several weeks just over having short hair (or not having long hair, whichever way you want to look at it).

But it goes back even farther. When I was a young child in Girl Scouts, we went to a beauty school for a tour. My mom was the only parent there who could consent to a cut for her child, so she did. Neither one of us realized that the stylist/student would cut *all my hair off*, and leave me with a buzz cut (literally shaved at the back and sides).

I cried (and I very, very rarely cried, even back then). I vowed not to let anyone other than my mom cut my hair again (and never short), and I didn’t, until I was nearly thirty and decided it was time for a major change. My hair was waist-length at that point, and I cut it in stages, up to my shoulders, then into a bob, and then into the pixie I’ve been wearing ever since.

Here’s the thing that I found interesting after I got over the whole “OMG! What have I done?!” shock:

Women complimented me more when I had long hair. Men seem to find me more attractive with short hair.

I’d experienced that occasionally before when I had long hair, as I often wore my hair up for work and going out (especially as I was getting ready to cut it), and I definitely noticed a difference in how those two genders reacted to the different hairstyles. But after I actually cut my hair, women rarely mentioned it at all, and I swear, men expressed a lot more interest in both passive and far bolder ways. I honestly wasn’t really equipped to deal with that sort of male attention, having always just been the girl-with-guy-friends rather than the girl-guys-wanted-to-date. I was engaged anyways, so it was a moot point, but it was a weird feeling, that just changing my hairstyle could make me that much more physically attractive to men.

My personality did change a bit, though not until I made peace with the new ‘do. I always had my hair to “hide behind” before, and when I cut it off, it was like cutting off a security blanket. I definitely ended up more confident, and relatively more outgoing. I say “relatively” because I’m still not all that outgoing – the fact that I’m an introvert isn’t going to change no matter what my hair looks like.

So…why am I thinking/posting about this now, those of you who aren’t Facebook friends with me might ask?

Recently, the hair stylist I’ve been going to for nearly as long as I’ve had short hair moved away without a word. She ghosted me – when I texted her for an appointment, she just never texted back. I called the salon, and they said she moved to the other side of the state. Cue my panic and anxiety at the thought of finding another stylist, especially *this* year in the midst of a pandemic.

I’d been considering growing my hair out again since last spring, and while I made an appointment with another stylist at that salon for two weeks out, I had an uneasy feeling about it. I thought about it for a week and a half, and then in the shower one day, I made a decision.

Time to go long again.

It will take awhile, as growing anything always does, and I need to start taking better care of my hair now that I’m not going to cut it off every 6-10 weeks. I also need to figure out how to dye just my roots to keep my color up. That…could be interesting. We’ll see. But, I’m committed to growing my hair to at least the middle of my back before cutting it off again. I will eventually do that – cut it all off again, if nothing else just to cut the colored part off when I decide to stop dying my hair. I think it will be easier to cut it off again now that I’ve done it once, and I’ll have gone through the growing out process as well.

Sometimes finding the courage to do something is just a matter of doing it once, and living through it. It’s always easier the next time around.

It helps that my hair grows very quickly. As I write this, I’m nearly a month out from when my last haircut should have been to maintain the pixie cut, and the lowest layer is already down to the middle of my neck. I will probably find a stylist to maintain the layers at some point, because my hair is also naturally very thick, and I really did enjoy the layers of the pixie cut keeping it thinned out a bit.

Having different lengths of hair is a complete change in lifestyle, and I’m kind of ready to go back to the lower maintenance of having long hair. Not having to wash it every day just to style it for work (yes, that is necessary with a pixie cut, or my preferred one, anyways), and being able to style it different ways (there are no variations with a pixie – you just always look the same) will be a nice change of pace. I miss braids and pony tails and pretty/fun hair clips and ties, so it’ll be nice to have those options and shiny baubles again.

In any case, it’s been fun having short hair, and having people interact with me the way they do with that cut. I feel like I look sophisticated and chic with a pixie cut. But when I had long hair before, I really didn’t take care of it or maintain it much (or at all), so this time, I think I’ll make more of an effort to keep it layered and styled and looking more…well-groomed. We’ll see how it goes.

Anyone interested in hair-growth pics? If so, I’ll post monthly photos of my progress (or rather, my hair’s progress, as it were). Let me know if that’s of interest – comment on your soc. media platform of choice, or right here, whichever you prefer.


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The Grill Pan

I have exactly one cast iron pan.

It’s a grill pan – the kind with the little ridges in the bottom to make those cool “I grilled this but not really” marks in your hamburgers and steaks (and also to hold whatever you’re cooking up and out of the grease while it drips off, but that’s boring, since there’s no fire underneath to flare up at every drop of fat that sizzles into it). I bought it when we upgraded our range this past spring to one with an induction cooktop, which if you’re not familiar with, uses a magnetic field to excite and heat up the metal rather than heating coils (so the stovetop doesn’t actually transfer heat to the pan, it just excites the metal in the pan until the pan itself gets hot). I wanted to try something in cast iron on it, and since our patio is far too warm to use for actually grilling in the summer (never mind all the yellowjackets looking for a handout), a grill pan seemed like a good choice.

I’m not normally one to want to fuss with maintenance on anything, including pots/pans and dishes. I make very few exceptions – pretty much everything in my kitchen needs to be dishwasher safe, or it doesn’t stay long. The grill pan is one of those exceptions though, and I have a love/hate relationship with the extra care it requires.

My stainless steel all just goes in the dishwasher and gets nested back into the cupboard until I need it again. Easy peasy, no effort on my part.

The grill pan though…I have to scrub the larger bits loose with a scraper, then use a finer scrub brush to loosen the rest of the gunk, and then wipe it out with a dish cloth and rinse several times before it’s clean (yes, I know if I cleaned it shortly after using, it would probably be easier, but I’m not that person and never will be, so it’s not going to happen). Then, after it’s clean, per a web site on “easy cast iron care” I read, I rub a tiny bit of oil all over the inside, heat it back up for 10-15 minutes, and then leave it to cool overnight to keep the seasoning strong. It’s either that,or re-season it long and slow in the oven every so often, and I can guarantee you I will never remember to do that. And if I did by some chance, I’d never actually make the time. I know this about myself.

Needless to say, on nights I reach for that pan, I sometimes hesitate a few seconds, wondering if I should just use a stainless steel one instead so I don’t have to worry about the care ritual later that night. And I always find myself grudgingly placing that pan on the stove, knowing I’m going to be annoyed by having to care for it later, but still inexplicably drawn to…well, something about it.

It’s not even the cooking, really – sometimes I can finish what I start in it on the stove, but with thicker or still-somewhat-frozen steaks, I have to finish them in the oven (the grill pan is small enough to do that, but it is heavy, and then I have to move things around, etc). The grill marks and searing are nice, but that’s hardly worth the effort. And yet…I still reach for that pan several nights a week, even for things like grilled cheese that is going to seep into those grooves and make the cleaning process even longer.

I think a lot of it is the aesthetics. I like how it looks, and I like watching food cook in it. Basically the same reason I use actual bone china teacups for my late night cuppa, even though they also require washing by hand. Also, it’s the only pan that requires that kind of care. If I were using several cast iron pans for different things and had to scrub and season all of them every night, that would probably make me rethink my options. Though this one in particular is harder to clean by default solely due to all those ridges. A flat pan would take far less time to clean and care for.

And it would also be far less interesting.

I often find myself standing at the sink, scraping gunk out of the pan ridges, and trying to decide whether I’m enjoying the meditative task, or just enduring it for the joy of actually using the pan. I still haven’t decided, honestly. Maybe it’s a little of both.

I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

The Grill Pan

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Confidence Amidst Chaos

Something very interesting has happened this year, amidst the chaos and change. I finally reached a fascinating milestone that I’d heard some women hit in their 40’s, but others don’t, so I wasn’t sure if I would or not.

That milestone? Not being so self-conscious of myself. Literally not caring what other people think of me, just because I am who I am and I don’t need to make any apology or excuses for that.

For example: before this year, I would have been extremely nervous about people seeing the interview our local bookstore did with me recently. I may have shared it, but with apologies for any number of things I did or didn’t do, and I would have shared it at some obscure time of night so less people would see it, etc. When I was interviewed by our local paper quite a few years ago, I did exactly that. I wasn’t happy with how my picture looked, or how it turned out, and that was all just a lack of self-confidence and extreme anxiety about being in the public eye.

This year, totally different. Were there things I could have done differently? Sure. Am I worried about them or how they affected the final product? Not at all. Because this year, when I’m watching the video, I just see me. That’s who I am, and who I would be if people ran into me randomly on the street. So it’s all good. Some people will relate, some won’t, and it’s no big deal. I wasn’t nervous for it to come out, and I’m happy to post it here for anyone else who wants to catch it. It was fun! Which isn’t something I would have said even a year ago.

Something else happened last week while I was preparing for the interview, and it was something I’ve needed for a long time. I’d chosen to feature The Biker’s Wench, because while it isn’t my latest book by any means, it is available in print at the bookstore, and it’s also just a fun escape, which I think we could all use this year. I opened a copy to a random spot just to refamiliarize myself with it, and…I got sucked in. I wanted to keep reading. It was entertaining and engaging and rather than finding a million things I wanted to pick apart and redo, I just got pulled back into the story and kept reading longer than I had planned.

This may not sound like anything major, but it really, really is. I often suffer from confidence issues with my writing – “imposter syndrome”, as it were. I often feel like I’m a “talentless hack”, so to speak. So getting sucked into a book I wrote quite a few years ago was a really affirming thing for me. I *liked* it, and I was worried I wouldn’t (that’s a more “normal” reaction when reading older works, and not just for me, for a lot of authors).

I needed that, and it infused me with a fresh motivation not only to produce, but to start publishing again. I’m still fighting with my schedule to find time for editing, but I’m determined, and I have a renewed sense of purpose when it comes to my writing that I haven’t felt in quite a long time.

It feels good. Really, really good.

So strangely, this chaotic year has been one of the better ones for my writing, and my perspective on it.

I suppose that makes sense, in some karmic-balance sort of way.


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