Articles By Jamie DeBree

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 31

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 31

Twenty-four long hours later, Shelley walked into her apartment and bolted the door behind her. Tossing her keys on the table beside the door, she kicked off her shoes, went to the couch and collapsed into the soft cushions.

It all seemed so surreal now – like she’d laid down for a nap and dreamed the whole crazy week, and now she was just waking up and waiting for the nightmare to fade. She glanced around the living room, saw bits and pieces of Tabby’s life strewn about, and almost thought maybe she’d just walk through the door any second, plop down on the couch beside her and hand her a cup of that too-expensive coffee-shop tea she brought home when she’d gotten herself a tall latte.

They’d talk about Shelley’s crazy dream, about meeting some hot guy speed-dating and how Tabby ran off up a mountain with another guy and ended up with her leg cut off and how Aunt Jane disowned Shelley and that hot guy’s ex was really a stalker who he’d ended up shooting in the end…

And then they’d laugh, and Tabby would punch her arm and tell her that she’d just this morning set up a speed-dating event for a local bar next week, and would Shelley please, please come with her because it would be so much fun and maybe Shelley would meet that hot guy after all?

Groaning, Shelley laid down on the couch. Her ribs still hurt, but now that she was sitting and alone, everything else was starting to hurt too. As much as she might want to, she couldn’t deny that everything she remembered had actually happened, and now she was alone, her body beaten up and her spirit not in much better shape.

Nothing would ever be the same again, and she was tired. So tired.

She’d just about drifted off to sleep when her phone rang. Jerking upright and then wincing from the pain, Shelley grabbed her cell off the coffee table and answered.

“Shelley – thank God! I wasn’t sure when you were getting back, but we could sure use you around here, if you’re up to coming back a day early.”

She sighed. “I guess I could do that.” She looked at the clock, tick-tocking at her from across the room. Life goes on. “Give me an hour – I need to clean up first.”

Disconnecting, she rubbed her face with her hands and forced herself to her feet. The warmth of the shower felt good sluicing over her body, and she lingered longer than she should have, but what the hell. She’d get there when she got there, and they’d be grateful. She was still technically on vacation, after all.

She did her hair and makeup and got dressed, all the while feeling like something wasn’t right. It was all just so…shallow. So mundane.

So lifeless.

Her phone rang – the ride service she’d ordered was waiting. She’d have to call the insurance company too, see what she could do about a new car. Tomorrow.

Four hours later, she was back in front of her apartment building, staring at the front door as if it was her arch-nemesis. She didn’t want to go in. Didn’t want to be reminded of everything she’d lost.

The door opened and Dillon came down the stairs toward her, slowly.

“I was hoping you’d be back soon,” he said, his lips quirking up in a small smile. “I was worried when you weren’t here, actually. Are you okay?”

She stared at him for a moment, and then shook her head, the tears starting to fall.

“No. I’m sorry. I’m trying, but I’m really…not.”

He nodded, took another couple steps forward and pulled her into his arms. She laid her head on his shoulder and let the tears fall.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 32!

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13/20, Rich Food & Plans

Thirteen years – that’s how long my husband and I have been married as of yesterday. A very nice number, if I do say so myself. Also kind of fun considering we started dating twenty years ago this coming Halloween. I’m not sure whether or not we’ll get to do a big Halloween display this year, due to the potential for hubby having to work, but if we can, maybe we should do a “test your luck” theme of sorts…mirrors that break when you walk by, ladders to walk under, black cats crossing paths, etc.

As for our anniversary…it feels like I’ve been with my husband forever, and also like no time has passed at all. Which is exactly how it should be, methinks.

We went out to dinner to celebrate, as people do. And I haven’t had gastric issues as bad as I did last night in too many years to remember. Wow. Thank goodness for ginger ale (the real stuff, with actual ginger, not the “light ginger flavored corn syrup” version). It could have been much worse (and was headed that direction) without it.

I’m sure the food was fine, it’s just I’m not used to eating such rich food, since that’s not what I cook. And honestly, it’s becoming really hard to get a good chicken-fried steak here in town. They’re fried in weird oils, smothered with far too much gravy, and are far bigger than they need to be. Give me a small steak breaded and cooked up in butter, then topped with a *circumspect amount* of white gravy (not an ocean-full, thanks), and I’ll be happy as a clam.

I think the last place I had really good chicken fried steak was at JB’s before they closed down. There’s a Starbucks in that space now (depressing). *sigh*

In any case, I’m better this morning, thank goodness, and planning out the next four days of my vacation. I kind of slacked off yesterday even though I wasn’t planning to, but there’s still plenty of time left in the week.

Today is all about “obligatory” weekly writing…the serial chapter for Friday, the two writing prompt pieces (short story and poem) for BSB, and I’d like to get something done for my buddy Carol’s writing prompt this month. If I can get all that done, and a read through on one of two drafts I’d like to revise while I’m home, I’ll consider it a very productive day.

Of course my new Galaxy Note 8 is scheduled to be delivered sometime today. Which will be distracting, to say the least. I’m really excited to get it and get it set up though, after the whole Note 7 debacle last fall. But it will take awhile to transfer my files/photos/etc over, so not really an excuse not to get my writing projects done.

And because I can’t sit all day (well, I could, but it’s not good for anyone to do that), I’m going to start cleaning off the third counter in my kitchen as well. The other two have been cleaned and rearranged several times in the last month with the new appliances, and if I can get this third one done, that will be a huge organizational help. So I’ll be working on that around writing projects this week.

Tomorrow I want to do revisions on one of those drafts plus some planning for the next book I want to write, Thursday more revisions plus some writing on a different draft in progress, and Friday finish up whatever revisions I’ve got in progress, plus another chapter for the serial novel so I’m a week ahead again (novel idea, I know!).

It’s gonna be a good week…and a nice break from the norm! Now, another cup of tea…and then it’s time to write!

Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 30

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1
Chapter 30

It took every ounce of discipline Shelley had not to run to Dillon’s cabin after those shots. She forced herself to wait, pacing anxiously in front of the main building until the sheriff pulled up and parked his cruiser.

“Thank God,” she mumbled, rushing to meet him as he opened the door. “I just heard shots from the cabin – Dillon went up there to confront his ex about ten minutes ago! Maybe fifteen!”

The sheriff nodded, reaching back instinctively to lay a hand on his holster. “I’ll go check it out, but I need you to stay put, okay? Don’t go up there. It’s not safe. Just wait.”

“I…” She wanted to argue, but he was right. “I’ll stay here.” There was no time to argue. Dillon could be laying up there bleeding to death for all she knew. But one way or another, he needed help and the sheriff needed to get there now. “Do you know the way?”
He nodded and then he was gone, jogging up through the trees. Shelley paced for another two minutes before she finally gave in and followed.

Careful to stay back in the brush, Shelley approached the cabin cautiously. The Sheriff knelt beside the stalker’s body, his fingers wrapped around her wrist.

But where was Dillon? Staying hidden, Shelley peered all around the clearing, but didn’t see him. Was he hurt? Had he run off for some reason?

The cabin door opened, and she let out the breath she’d been holding as he stepped onto the front porch. He was wrapping a bandage around his forearm, but he was on his feet and not dead and she ran out from the cover of the trees, her only thought to get to him.

Then she stopped short and raised her hands when the sheriff whipped around, his gun aimed square at her chest.

“You have no idea how close you were to getting shot, young lady.” He shook his head and lowered the weapon. “I thought I told you to stay back at the main office.”

Shelley lowered her hands and shrugged. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted…” she glanced at the woman on the ground, and then at Dillon before focusing on the sheriff again. “I needed to know Dillon was okay.”

The man in question had come down from the porch and was headed her way. She went to meet him, looking pointedly at his poorly-wrapped arm. “What happened? Did she shoot you? Are you okay?”

He chuckled. “I’m okay. She grazed me a little – nothing too bad. But I could use a little help getting it wrapped up, if you don’t mind.”

“I can do that.” She reached for his arm, but he turned so it was just out of reach. Looking up, she saw mischief in his eyes, and raised an eyebrow of her own.

“First, this,” he said. Pulling her close with his uninjured arm, he bent to meet her lips with his and she leaned in gladly, holding him close, celebrating that he was alive.

The sheriff cleared his throat behind them, and she pulled back as far as Dillon would let her, her face warm and probably beet red. Dillon grinned at her before he looked at the sheriff.

“I’ve got an ambulance on the way to pick up the body. I’m not a forensics expert and they’ll have to do an autopsy, but I’m not sure how she died considering your shot hit her so high up on the shoulder. I don’t suppose anyone else at all saw this go down, that you know of?”

Dillon shook his head, his expression serious. “No, but I do have a security camera recording from the porch. I’m not sure of the angle, but that might have caught something usable.”

The sheriff nodded. “That would really help a lot. If you tell me where the files are stored, I’ll retrieve them. You’re going to want to call your lawyer. And you’ll both need to come in to the station so we can get a statement on record.”

Dillon nodded. “Anything you need, Sheriff. I really didn’t mean to kill her. I just didn’t want her killing me.”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 31!

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Movin’ Along, Vacation Time & Essential Oils

So…how about that eclipse?! After hearing stories about what those in the path of totality saw, I kind of wish I’d made the drive (only a few hours), but we did have around 94% coverage here, and I have to say, it was fun going up on the roof of our building to watch, and seeing everyone else on rooftops and the top floors of parking garages all checking out the sky in the late morning hours. It felt very…unified, and given all the issues and divisiveness (*ahem*) our country has been dealing with lately, it was a welcome break to hear everyone talking about one subject that we could all agree on and enjoy together.

As for the rest of the week, I got both my new microwave and toaster oven Monday and Thursday, respectively, and they’re both in and working great. My kitchen looks better than it has in years, and I just have one more counter to clean/reorganize before I’ll be done with that huge job for awhile. That will have to wait a week – I was pretty lazy this past weekend, and got very little done.

My analog/low digital plans for writing last week never happened, and as a result, I ended the week far behind and really frustrated with myself. I was up too late pretty much every night getting distracted by everything but writing (installing the new appliances/cleaning counters, online shopping/bill-paying, researching things that should have been left for later, etc). It was…ridiculous, really. My brain was jumping all over the place, and instead of reigning it in, I just went right along for the ride. Stupid.

Part of this is work-related, and without going into too much detail, I need to manage my…uh…”introvert needs” better. Too much interaction with people throughout the day without any way to balance it with quiet time leaves my head in a bad state, and until I get that quiet time it stays unbalanced and affects my focus and mood and a whole bunch of other things. I need to figure out how to make sure I get the recovery time I need from having to be social at work (taking my breaks instead of spending them at my desk is probably a good place to start), so I’ll be working on that this week.

And of course part of it is just my own discipline issues. I’ll work on that again this week as well.

I’ve requested this next Friday off, and the whole week after Labor Day. I need a vacation, and that’s one of the few weeks this fall where my being gone shouldn’t affect too much (if anything) at work.

I plan on doing a lot of writing/editing next week, with some minimal housework to break up the sitting times. But mostly, just spending time alone, doing what I want to do for awhile. I think that will be incredibly helpful/restorative.

I’ve also been doing some research on essential oils, and how to use them for both mental focus and relaxation. I use them in my face creams already, and the occasional lotion attempt, so I’m not a complete stranger to them (chamomile and valerian root are great for skin issues & relaxation). Murphy-dog has been using essential oils for his anxiety since he was with his foster family, and it’s pretty amazing how much his mood changes depending on whether he’s had his sprays for the day or not. I wanted to get some for his leg (to hopefully help with healing), and while I was looking up which ones would be safe, useful for that, etc, I also found information on some oils that might help my own focus/alertness at night. I did one experiment last week with surprisingly good results (honestly, I really didn’t expect it to), so I’ll be plugging in one of my many unused diffusers in my home office this week, and diffusing peppermint, lavendar and frankincense at night – that seems to work surprisingly well for keeping my head where it needs to be, and keeping my mind from wandering.

Yes, it could still be a placeabo effect, but really, does it matter? I think not…whatever works. I’m totally willing to psych myself out if it means I get more words in/more progress on my drafts. I’ll post an update after I get the starter bottles I ordered, and have experimented with them a bit for those who might be interested.

No, I didn’t buy into an MLM company or anything like that. Just a small company focused on selling high quality oils at a reasonable price. Sometimes smaller is better/more consciencious.

In any case, busy week, but I have four days of work this week and then…vacation!

Vacation is good. 🙂

The Eclipse, More Kitchen Organization & Writing Discipline

Got your glasses, film, or cardboard viewer ready? Or your favorite internet/TV channel for viewing things like, say, a solar eclipse?

I’m lucky enough to live in the path of this year’s eclipse – we’ll get 93% coverage here, which is pretty darn close to total. I do have a pair of clip-on eclipse viewing glasses that are so dark you can’t see a single thing through them except the sun (seriously – you couldn’t walk around with them on…you’re blind) – they’re in my desk at work so I can catch the view out the window (or take a break) at the darkest point. It will last through my lunch hour, so I’ll be able to sneak peeks here at home as well…should be much more fun than your average Monday.

I was really young when the last eclipse passed over our place here…just three or four. But I actually do remember my mom making a pinhole viewer out of a cardboard box so we could watch it, and it was absolutely fascinating to me.

In other news, I spent a lot of time working on my kitchen this weekend. Cleaning, rearranging, planning how to rearrange a few other things on my countertop to accomodate a toaster oven (which I’ve never had, but really want), and just moving things around to make things more efficient.

I think I have a working plan, but we’ll see. My new microwave should be here today or tomorrow, and I’m apprehensive because it’s so much lower wattage than my current one. But it looks so much nicer (goin’ retro, baby!), it takes up a lot less space, and as long as it will heat up leftovers/lunches and defrost meat, that’s really all I need it for. Fingers crossed!

I get paid tomorrow, and I’m planning to order the new toaster oven then. I found an inexpensive one with really good reviews with a retro look that will be much more fun than the normal boring white or black box, so I’ll order that, and wait anxiously until it gets here (hooray Amazon Prime!).

I also found an app this weekend that I’m pretty excited about – Grocery Tracker. I’ve been wanting to keep better track not just of what I need, but of what I have in the pantry, plus have a way to automatically take things out of the pantry when I use them and put them back on the grocery list. This app will do all of that, from menu planning to inventory (of the fridge, both freezers and the pantry) to automated grocery lists. It’s incredibly robust, so there is a learning curve, but I didn’t find it difficult to get started with at all (and the barcode scanner works very well too – less data entry is good!). I spent a fair amount of time taking inventory of food I have in the house this weekend, but it’ll be worth it in the long run (and once something’s in the database, it doesn’t have to be added again, just scanned, so much easier).

In other news, I’m updating my writing blog again, so if you’re interested in what I’m working on, head over there for this week’s post. The new writing schedule is working out…okay. Not perfect, but that’s mostly because I’m so tired late at night and easily distracted. I think this week I’ll either write by hand late nights, or use my Alphasmart Neo, just to avoid internet-distraction & wasting time.

It’s all about discipline, really, and when I’m tired, I have none (or very little, anyway). Which leads to being more tired because I stay up later, get less sleep, and do the same cycle the next day. So this week, analog/low-digital writing options for late nights, and getting to bed on time. Fingers crossed…

Kitchen Organization & Irony

If I were to sum up this past weekend in one word, it would be: “whew”. I’m tired. I was almost happy to be back at work today, except my muscles had more time to try to stiffen up as I sat at my desk. I used quite a few this weekend that I haven’t used in quite a long time. A couple trips up the stairs and back down plus morning yoga seemed to keep the stiffness down a bit though.

Saturday I had a good time book shopping with a friend met on Facebook, and then the work began. We loaded up our two couches, took ’em out to the dump, and then it was off to the furniture store to pick up our new sectional. Back to the house, I vacuumed while hubby freed the new furniture from its packaging, and then we hauled everything in, put it together, and man…it’s a very nice sectional. Not too big, looks great, plenty of room for me and both dogs, and room enough for the rare guest too.

Hubby took a shower and headed out for a night with his brother, and I set out to clean off/out the refrigerator for our next project: fixing a leak in the water line that popped up and ruined the kitchen floor a week and a half ago. I cleaned off old appliances and such that had been living on top the fridge – just tossed ’em, since I don’t need them or they didn’t work any longer. Dusted, took off the magnets, cleaned all the old food out, and…decided to go ahead and replace the water inlet valve, which we suspected was the leaking culprit. I was on a roll…didn’t feel like waiting for hubby to help on Sunday.

I replaced the valve, turned the water back on, and…turned out there was a pinhole leak in the water line. Dammit. Taped up the leak, pushed the fridge back, and called it good for the night (around 10pm).

A good deal of Sunday was taken up with going out to get the new line, snaking it up with the old line, not having the right connector fittings (so another trip to the store for hubby), and then finally getting it fixed late in the afternoon. After that, I finally got to my normal weekend chores – vacuuming, garbage duty, recycling, laundry, and grocery shopping (which I normally do Saturday afternoons now, but I didn’t want to fill the fridge again until we were done moving it around).

I’ve been thinking a lot about my kitchen lately (I tend to do that when stuff breaks and/or doesn’t work like it should), and wanting to make a few changes with how things are organized. So cleaning out the fridge/freezer this weekend was a good start, and also a good way to really take stock of my counters and how I want to rearrange them to accommodate the appliances I need/use.

Cleaning off the top of the fridge also gave me storage for appliances I use, but only once a week or less – like my yogurt maker. I’ll use it tonight, and then it will sit again for a couple of weeks, so instead of having it in front of my crockpots (in the way), I’ll put it on top the fridge between uses. It’s one of those things I have no problem actually reaching for when I need it. Same with extra pitchers/etc for my Ninja blender (that I mostly use for smoothies). Right now, they tend to “float” on the crockpot trio just because I’m out of cupboard space. Those can live up on the fridge as well.

I’ve ordered a smaller microwave, which may or may not end up being a mistake, but I’m tired of the huge one we have taking up 2/3 of the countertop where it lives. It’s a beast, and we’ve been getting occasional “door not closed” errors on the display, so it’s time to replace it anyway, but the one I ordered is half the size and wattage (only 700watts!), so…we’ll see. The new one is much cuter – a retro look, and it will leave enough room on that counter for my dehydrator, which currently lives by the stove. Then the few cookbooks I refer to on occasion can move to that tiny counter, leaving room on the other side of the stove for the toaster oven I want to get later in the month.

I don’t use the microwave for cooking, only defrosting/reheating. I’m hoping this smaller one will do the job. It does have excellent reviews. And I’m hoping to eventually use the toaster oven more than the microwave or larger oven. At least until I can buy a new convection oven, maybe even one with two separate cooking zones…because I love kitchen gadgets just as much as I love other electronics, and because there are only two of us, so it’s not like I need a whole lot of space to make dinner most nights, and it would be nice not to heat up an entire large oven for just a single pan of veggies (or 3 slices of toast on the weekend).

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

I need a new oven (one burner on my stovetop doesn’t work, and the oven itself doesn’t heat evenly), and I’d like a new fridge, but those are going to have to wait awhile. Crazy how much appliances cost, isn’t it?

I’m always looking for ways to make my little galley kitchen more efficient…and I freely admit I have too much stuff packed into it already. But, I use it daily, and use most of the appliances I have on a very regular basis, so it’s not like I’m just collecting a lot of stuff I don’t use. Aside from baking dishes. Because I rarely bake (calories!), but when I do need them, at least I have them.

I’d also really like to keep a running inventory of the fridge, freezer, pantry, and deep freeze, in hopes of using things up on a more regular basis (instead of buying too much and wasting food). Alas, that’s a project I’ve been trying to get going for years, and still haven’t managed. But maybe this next weekend I’ll be able to finally get a good inventory entered into an app of some sort. I’m taking this coming Friday off work, and the plan is to give the pantry and deep freeze the same “clean it out” treatment I just gave the fridge. Which would be a good time for inventory…if I were so inclined….

Better efficiency and inventory of course doesn’t just mean better food management. It makes it easier to cook and eat healthier. Which makes it easy to manage weight and stay healthier overall.

Ironic thing number one this past week: We switched to whole grain breads in order to be healthier with our carbs. Neither of us have ever particularly cared for the taste, but I did find some that are at least passably palatable.

The irony is, for years I’ve been struggling with how to keep bread from molding without keeping it in the fridge. Apparently, whole grain bread keeps better than white – not one roll or bun molded last week in the breadbox on the counter. So apparently, healthier is actually heartier, in the case of bread at least. Who knew?

Ironic thing number two is that all weekend, my SHealth app was pestering me because I “wasn’t as active” over the weekend as I normally am on weekdays. The truth is, I was far, far more active, but I tend not to put my cell in my pocket when I’m doing things like…moving couches, cleaning out and moving refrigerators, pulling new water lines, vacuuming, laundry, etc. I mean…why would I have my cell in my pocket for all that, when it could get lost or broken or whatever? Duh.

In any case, new couch – check. Working refrigerator – check. Plan for the kitchen this weekend – check.

Energy/motivation to get all this stuff done…well, let’s wait and see what I’ve got by Friday.

Exercise, Focus, & House Names

I tend to think of my brain as the “command center” for my body – I think we all do, at least to some extent. And in a lot of ways, it is. But as with so many things in life, it’s more of a symbiotic relationship than I generally like to admit. If something’s wrong with the body, or the body as a whole isn’t getting what it needs, then the “command center” won’t function properly. The only way to ensure optimal “processing power” between the ears is to make sure everything below the neck is in good functioning order as well.

The command center only works as well as the body allows it to. Which is why I should not be surprised (but somehow always am), when taking better care of my body results in more focus and disciplined decisions coming out of my brain.

I started last week like always, trying desperately to find my way back to more disciplined, focused writing sessions morning and night. And failing to really focus well, though I did get some writing in. Then cooler weather hit mid-week…cool enough that I could walk the dogs a decent distance in the evening, and it was like a switch flipped in my head – when I sat down in front of the laptop later that night, it was much easier to just ignore the browser and email client, open my writing program and start typing.

Incidentally, I also work out in the mornings right before I do my half-hour writing stint, and just after a workout, I’m alert and focused, and find it much easier to resist the temptation to scroll.

We got a walk in the next night as well, and once again, opened the writing app right away and got to work, no fuss. This week, I’m going to start doing a small set of squats and/or crunches mid-way through my late night writing time, and see if that helps boost the focus even further.

I’ll admit, I did cut out my crochet time in favor of “screen time” as well (cell and TV), so I didn’t feel so much like I was “missing out”, which undoubtedly contributed (crochet will just have to be a weekend activity). And I also made sure to get my kitchen chores done early so I could have a full hour late at night. But I’ve done both of those before and still had a hard time focusing on writing rather than just surfing…the activity was the only real difference last week.

I’m still not losing the weight I need to lose, and neither is hubby, so we may shift back towards a low carb diet and replace white breads for wheat/whole grain for at least a little while and see if we can’t break the plateaus we’re on. That will be a gradual change over the next few weeks. I’m betting it will help even more with the focus and discipline issues. I’ve always done far better on a very low to no-carb diet, which sucks, because it’s kind of boring, but if it’s what my body needs, then so be it. There will be more probiotics in my immediate future too. A daily dose of yogurt isn’t something I really notice eating, but my whole body notices when I stop for even just a few days. Details, details.

Because while I do worry about my body, my genes, and triggering latent cancer cells, I also really want my brain to work as well as possible for as long as possible. And the health of the brain is largely determined by the health of the rest of the body, inconvenient as that is.

In other, writing-related news, I was alert enough last week that I actually caught up on several other blogs as well, so if you’re so inclined, go check them out (links below). My “theme” for the week was named houses in fiction, inspired by this article I read early last week: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/29/pemberley-manderley-howards-end-real-building-fictional-houses

I’m working on changing my own perspective to see settings in fiction as “characters” rather than just window-dressing for the characters, and starting with something very solid and normally tangible made sense to me. And the more I thought about it, the more of an “a-ha!” moment it became, and it feels like something has finally clicked into place that I can actually use in my writing. A very good feeling indeed.

You can check out the other blogs for more in-depth info (and an example) at these links:

Alex Westhaven (one of my alter-egos – you’ll recognize the name of the town where this fictional manor sits)
The Writer’s Desk (my writing blog)
Snake Bites (the BSB blog)

Yes, three. So I get a little excited when I figure something out. Also, themes make writing all those posts easier. I may just do that every week, at least when I can… 😉

Of Couches & Habits & Things That Are Old

A week ago last Saturday, I ordered a new couch (sofa, whatever). I like couches. Recliners never seem to fit me well, and I like being able to have my dogs laying with me when they want to. A good couch and ottoman are my “necessities” for comfort in the living room.

When we got married and moved into this house nearly 13 yrs ago, we bought a couch and loveseat, but we each had a bunch of other furniture to “merge” as well. So the couch got put downstairs in the “TV/Workout room” (where it still resides) the loveseat was mine, and we had a couple of extra chairs in the living room. The one chair that survived all those years is my reclining armchair, which my parents bought for me when I first moved out of their house. I love it, and now it’s my “reading chair” in the office.

The thing about a loveseat is, there’s really only room for me and one dog. Or one dog stretched out. It was never really an issue before, because I had dogs that never really wanted to be on the couch at the same time, or were only up there together when I wasn’t so they could look out the window. Now I have two dogs who would both be happy cuddling with me on the couch in the evenings…and who get jealous of each other if one is up and the other is not.

So, I decided a sectional would both solve that problem and make the room look a little more “put together” than the mis-matched pieces we’ve had for all these years. Hubby still has his recliner, of course (needs a new one, actually…soon), and we got an old worn out couch free from one of the neighbors last month just to make sure having a sectional wouldn’t make the room look weird/too small. When the new sectional couch comes in, both my old loveseat and that old couch will head to the dump. It’s pretty exciting, really, considering how long we tend to keep furniture. I can’t wait until it gets here…later this week, perhaps?

In other news, breaking my scrolling habit has been…difficult. I need to refine the times I’m allowed to to scroll, because the times I set just really aren’t working for actual interaction, and part of the goal is to be productive while I’m online – not just on Facebook, but on Instagram and Twitter too. I need to set aside time when I can scroll *and participate*, not just scroll. The scrolling is the time-wasting part. So that will be this week’s goal – to find the best time to do that.

As for the “Things That Are Old” part of the title, well, it’s my husband’s birthday today, and he’s 11 yrs older than I am, which makes him “Old(TM)”. LOL And I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind him occasionally throughout the day/year. Because that’s what good wives do. Or what this one does, anyways.

I love older men – I always have, and this one especially (of course). Happy 53rd to the most important man in my life. Like a puerh tea-cake, you’re aging to perfection!

Feed Scrolling & Getting Things Done

I’ve noticed something about myself…something some of you might have noticed about yourselves too. I tend to scroll my social media feeds long after I’ve ceased being entertained or amused by them. Even after I’ve commented on what I want to comment on, liked, reacted, or otherwise interacted with people and posts, I keep scrolling. It’s like an automatic Pavlovian response – I don’t get rewarded often, but it’s often enough to keep me hoping for one more little connection somewhere.

It’s a waste of time, is what it really is. And I’m about over it.

Understand – I love social media, even when it makes me crazy, because it’s one of the few ways I can comfortably interact with people I like and/or find interesting while ignoring everyone else. When I need to disconnect, I just do…no fanfare. And then I reconnect again and it’s all good.

But, after I’ve put in whatever meaningful commentary I feel like contributing for the day, I tend to feel like I’m going to miss something if I don’t check back later for replies/comments/reactions/etc. Which is stupid, because every single social media account I have will *let me know* if someone is virtually talking to me. I mean, my cell will buzz at me, or at the very least put a little notification icon up in that left corner. And obviously I’ll reply to notifications as I have time (and a full keyboard, in many cases) – no need to limit that, as I don’t get terribly many.

I don’t have to keep checking back unless I have something to share, or unless I want to check for news, and I only really need to do that a couple times a day – takes 10 minutes or so.

Why do I feel compelled to scroll mindlessly through my social media feed when I could be doing something productive with that time…like writing, or writing a blog post, or watching TV or crocheting, or…well, any number of things, really? I mean sure, sometimes it’s just to relax the mind, and I have no problem with that, but when I feel compelled to scroll through just as I’m sitting down to write or crochet?

Yeah. That’s not a “break”. It’s procrastination coupled with the irrational fear that the world is going on without me and I’ll miss something big if I’m not constantly connected.

I don’t quite “get” why I care what I miss, really. Or even why I feel like I’ll miss something. There is really *no way* to miss something important happening in this day and age if you’re even a little tiny bit connected, and I’m far more connected than that. I couldn’t miss something happening in the world if I *tried* – and often I do try to avoid hearing about certain things with rather mixed results.

Seriously. It’s kind of ridiculous.

I need to just stop. But how? If you said “discipline & redirection”, you’re right! If you said anything else, you could be right too, but those are my personal go-to habit-breakers. I need to decide on a couple of times to check my feeds per day, and then what to redirect to when I feel compelled to scroll outside those prescribed times.

There’s really no need to check my feeds before work – I have other things I need to do with that time (workout, write, *get ready for work*). I may start doing a daily post for my feeds just as a personal accountability writing-goals thing, but I don’t need to scroll to do that, just post. And I normally don’t scroll during the day while I’m at work, so that’s not a problem (too busy, with the occasional lunchtime exception). So once after work and maybe once late at night should be plenty. Then on the weekends if I want to go all-out “zombie-‘netzian” and I have the time (which I often don’t), I can go nuts with the mindless scrolling.

I normally scroll feeds while we’re eating dinner, which is a good time for it, since we’re just watching TV – though I can’t really reply all that easily since I’m generally using my cell. So that will be my main scroll time. The late night time will be dependent on how much writing I get done right away. If I finish the evening’s minimum word count goal (say, 500 words) with time left to spare before bed, then I can use the remainder of time to scroll and reply. Otherwise, no scrolling for the night. That just might be good motivation to settle in and write right away instead of screwing around (ie, scrolling feeds *ahem*) first, actually. Especially if I have comments I need to reply to that evening.

Redirection is easy enough. If I find myself tapping a social site in the morning, just have to redirect myself to whatever I’m supposed to be doing just then (my morning routine is pretty tight). If I find myself tapping over in the evening after my walk, it’s put the cell down and get the yarn. And of course if I’m supposed to be writing, I need to close the browser and write. Discipline plus redirection.

Less mindless scrolling. A good thing, methinks.

Do you scroll mindlessly through your social feeds? Does it bother you, or are you fine with that behavior (which is a perfectly fine/valid perspective, of course)?

Convenience vs. Privacy: Smart Speakers?

Amazon Prime Day was this past week (like the “Black Friday” of summer), and apparently their Echo smart home devices were the best sellers. Other companies took advantage of the day as well, and sold similar products (most notably the Google Home) at a discount too. So now we have a crazy number of households with these smart devices in them, all hooked up either to Amazon or Google’s databases, recording pretty much everything said and responding when the AI algorithms tell it to.

Now, I’ve never actually wanted to talk to my computer, Star Trek-style. I’d rather say hello to my dogs when I walk in the house and flip a light switch than actually tell the lights to come on. I’d be okay using an app with buttons to tap to turn the lights on, or schedules to input, but I don’t want to do any of that verbally – I want it all text-based. I am often “verbally challenged” – what I want to say doesn’t come out correctly. So I’m not keen on verbal commands.

*Quick note: as I’m writing this, Evernote keeps blip-ing and telling me it can’t save. This only adds to my conspiracy theorist paranoia…

ANYways. I don’t particularly want all of my appliances connected to one app or main control “unit”. It’s the same reason I still have a landline phone – and not a digital “landline” that travels via digital internet cables and is bundled up with your cable & internet, but a “real” analog landline – the kind that will still work even if all the power is out, internet is out and cell towers are down or whatever.

I don’t ever want a single point of failure for all of my stuff. Nor do I want a single point where someone could hack into my personal “mainframe” and gain control of my door locks, my thermostat, my lights, and my oven/washer/dryer/whatever.

Don’t get me wrong – I love gadgets and convenience as much as anyone else, and the very thought of controlling the whole house via one app is appealing on many lazy levels, I just can’t actually make myself “go there”, because I’m all too aware of how easily it could all turn upside down and work against me in a very short amount of time.

It also makes me uneasy to think that there’s something in my house always listening for verbal cues. Some would argue that my cell is always listening and my laptop probably could too (I should check if it has a built in microphone…probably does!), but I’m fairly certain the cell companies aren’t organized enough with their data to actually make anything of what it hears (I mostly know this because I’ve seen the kind of reports they run…they’re…antiquated, at best). Amazon and Google though? Conspiracy theory hat on again – they are ready, willing and excited to mine everything anyone says in a room with one of their connected smart-devices for every little bit of usable information they can get from it. Much like the whole smart TV fiasco…except those companies were listening without permission.

Amazon and Google have your explicit permission…probably laid out in those “Terms of Service” documents that no one ever reads.

I talk to myself when I’m home alone. I talk to my dogs. When my husband is there, I talk to him, sometimes saying things I wouldn’t say to anyone else. We have private conversations, like most couples probably do. I have private conversations with myself. And the last thing I want is for these discussions to be logged and tagged and cross-referenced and stored in some big data repository where it can potentially be used against me – either by the original collectors, or the hackers who steal it (eventually).

And no, reassurances from the company that they don’t, won’t, would never, ever do that are meaningless, because…well, once the data is out there, it’s out there, and you just never know what the government or other entities might do years after these particular people are long gone.

Understand, I’d still like my washer/dryer to text or message me when they’re done. And I’d like to be able to control the thermostat through an app. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind controlling some of the lights via an app, as long as some are left “dumb”.

I just…have very strong security and privacy concerns with this whole “connect all the things!” movement. And I’m kind of surprised that more people don’t, to be honest. But maybe I am just being all paranoid about nothing. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Do you have an Echo or Home device? Are you working on connecting all your “things” to one master controller? Is the convenience overcoming any skepticism you might have, or are you just not worried about what might happen?

Inquiring minds…