Articles By Jamie DeBree

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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A Kick in the Head

Things that have happened since I last posted:

– I’ve established a daily writing habit before work (I know, I’m as surprised as anyone to be writing productively in the *morning*)
– I have a fairly extensive mask wardrobe
– Two new tote bags that are lighter than my leather bag was, and I think it’s affecting my shoulder/neck issues for the better
– I’ve actually finished a draft, and started a new one
– I’ve been reading before bed again – finished two books and am working on another

I’ve written a bunch of posts since the “Toast” one, and deemed all of them unfit for whatever reason. Mostly because I felt like posting about mundane stuff might appear tone deaf or inappropriate given the state of things and all the civil unrest. I’ve been “escaping” in Animal Crossing and walking the dogs in the evenings, and generally just staying in my own little work/life “bubble”. Think of that what you will. It’s how I’ve been dealing.

But it’s time to get moving again, and my “kick in the head” came from a rather unexpected invitation by our local bookstore to do a virtual author interview. I agreed, and in prepping for the experience, I realized something important about my writing and myself that made me want to get out of my fog and back into productivity in my writing life (work life has been incredibly productive all year, but also incredibly draining, which hasn’t helped the writing life thing).

The thing I needed most was confidence. I got that – just a little shot, and it’s enough, I think, to get me moving again.

My main focus this week is figuring out the time aspect. I need time to update covers, update social media pages, update blogs, and do various publishing & maintenance tasks. But more than anything, I need time to edit and revise. I have several drafts in the edit/revise phase, and they’re “stuck” there due to my lack of making time to work on them. I could release all of those drafts as finished manuscripts within the next six months if I could just set aside some time for “marking up” and time for “typing in”.

So, that’s my goal for the week. Find two 20-minute time slots that can be “set” for each weekday and dedicated for mark-ups and type-ins. It’s really not all that easy, because I need quiet and headspace for those time slots. But, I’m determined. There has to be a way.

If I can do that early enough in the week, then my secondary goal is to set aside one more time slot for writing blog posts. Will I be successful?

You’ll find out next week!


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Variety News: Toast

Long time no blog! This is what happens when I decide I need to step up my game, and then don’t have time to step up my game. So, we’re back to the old “personal journal” style of blogging until such time as I…have more time/motivation to change it. I do what I can.

I was making a sandwich for lunch recently and as I stood there with two slices of toaster-thawed bread, I was frozen contemplating my options and the ensuing consequences. I want to lose weight, you see, and I know from past trial & error that my body does not process “processed carbs” well. Also, like a lot (most?) people, I eat way more calories than I burn. Which is why I was standing there contemplating toast for far, far longer than anyone really should.

If I made a whole sandwich with two pieces of bread, that would be far more calories than I needed, but also the wrong type of calories for my body to process. It would taste good and feel good while I was eating it, but I’d be dealing with the consequences for a lot longer.

On the other hand, throwing out a piece of toast is just wasteful, toast never really stores well, and cubing it and putting it in the freezer just means I’ll have the same choice to make another day as I contemplate whether to stuff my body with…uh…stuffing, or not.

My toaster does not do nice things when you only put one piece of toast in. It feels the need for parity, apparently, so defrosting one piece of toast isn’t really an option either. And we don’t eat enough to leave the bread out – it goes moldy and I end up throwing half-loaves in the garbage if I don’t keep it in the freezer.

The simple answer, of course, is to not buy bread, but given that I live with my husband, and he doesn’t have the same hang-ups about bread that I do, and also likes sandwiches, it doesn’t seem fair to make him abstain when it’s my body that has the issues.

And yes, normally I’d have cauliflower rounds on hand to substitute with, but I couldn’t find any at the store when I made my last grocery run. Being asked to wear a mask at the local store that sells them (cauliflower rounds, that is) tends to make me anxious to get back out as quickly as possible, so I don’t look around much if what I need isn’t where it previously was and easily visible.

So there I stood in the kitchen, contemplating toast, waste, waistlines, and sandwiches, pressed for time as always on my lunch hour. No matter what decision I made, there was guilt involved – guilt for wasting food, or guilt for derailing my own goals. Nothing a little planning ahead or creative thinking wouldn’t have solved before I even thawed the bread out…looking back, I could have just spread the guacamole on the ham, wrapped the whole thing in provolone and been perfectly happy. Pressure tends to kill creativity though.

I finally tossed the second piece of toast in the garbage, made myself half a sandwich, enjoyed every bite, and then emailed the new company I just signed up with to come get all my food scraps once a week to compost (since the hubby and I can’t agree on composting methods – I want worms under the sink, and he will only agree to worms if they stay outside). They use a fermentation method of composting, and can take meat and dairy, so if they can take bread as well…then my problems are solved and my guilt is assuaged. *Whew!*

*Note: Yes, the composting company – Swift Buckets can/will take bread. The perfect solution.

Needless to say, I’m trying to let go of the guilt I feel when making decisions to “do, or do not”. I often end up feeling guilty no matter what I decide, and I need to just knock that off.

On that note, no guilt about going back to the personal blog format with all text and rare pictures. This just…is what it is. That’s all it needs to be.


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Re-calibrating

While a good portion of my Facebook friend list has been baking their way through this pandemic thing (something my waistline really can’t afford), I’ve been doing the Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) thing, which is fun, relaxing, and easy on the blood sugar. But…hiding in video games comes at a cost too, and as in all things, there comes a time when healthy boundaries become necessary. While I may not be gaining weight, I am dealing with neck soreness, pinched nerves in my back, and eye strain that’s threatening to become more serious if I don’t get away from the screen more often.

That’s not to say I’m giving up ACNH. Not at all – I love the game. But it’s time to re-calibrate and start moving forward again.

I’ve started writing again, which is one of the most important things. A few sentences at a time, longhand, but whatever works is what I’ll do. The weather is getting nicer, so I’m getting out to walk the dogs instead of sitting on the couch all evening (good for my neck/nerves, and also for my eyes if it’s not windy). I dyed my hair, because after waffling for a few days about whether to do so or just let it go natural since I can’t get it cut, I’m just vain enough to not be ready for the salt & pepper look yet.

I trimmed my bangs up out of my eyes – I’ve always had bangs, because I have a high forehead and can’t stand not having it at least partially covered. So that’s not a drastic change for me, it’s just general maintenance, no matter what length my hair is.

I changed my earrings (the clovers were a bit “over”), did curbside pickup for my comic book pull list, and created some new routines based on my projections of “life going forward”. I realize I have that luxury because my job is the same as it always has been, and I’ve been working all along, so my life really hasn’t been impacted nearly as much as others have been.

I do see less people now, but honestly? That really doesn’t bother me. I see my husband, of course, and the two people I work most closely with at the office. Other than that, I see a few random strangers that I automatically give space to like normal (I have a huge personal space bubble, pandemic or no), I still walk the dogs late to avoid all the people walking dogs earlier (normal), and I talk to my mom on the phone once a week or so (I’m not a “visit/talk to mom all the time” kind of daughter – I need my space). I have no issue with being home in the evenings, and not having anywhere to go. That’s my preference by default, so…I feel for the people who are itching to get out and do stuff, but I’m not that person. I’m perfectly happy with this state of being. If I didn’t want to pick out my own produce, and the dogs didn’t love going for a weekly ride so much, I’d have my groceries delivered too and see even less people.

Alas, it’s good for me to interact with strangers in person at least once a week, because the biggest issue I have with this whole staying home thing is getting “too” comfortable. I have to force myself to be social on normal days, and I have to keep interacting with people at a certain level regularly in order to be comfortable with it. So being “allowed” to not be social is a bit dangerous, in that the longer I get to do that, the more uncomfortable I’m going to be the next time I have to be around more than one or two people, in person, again. That will actually be far more stressful for me than staying home and keeping to myself. Not due to fear of a virus, but simply the stress of social interaction. So that bit of re-calibration is going the wrong way, but…it can’t be helped at the moment.

Next week, we’ll get back to the new blog format again. I haven’t been taking many pictures, and honestly, I’ve just been playing too much and being lazy about things. But I’m working my way into a “new normal”, with new, more productive routines, so…stay tuned!


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Variety Pages: March 29, 2020

The State of Chaos

I like order. Routines, schedules, and knowing what comes next are staples in my world, and I generally resent anything/anyone that gets in the way of those things.

As you might imagine, my brain is struggling to keep up with the near-daily changes and drama we’ve been thrust into with this whole pandemic thing. Schedules are changing constantly, rules for even simple things like grocery shopping are changing and often different from store to store (which is really, really disorienting and stressful), I can’t get a haircut because the salons are closed, and work is in a constant state of flux.

Add to that so many things that need to be handled by phone now (I hate talking on the phone) or by video meeting (still do not get the whole video thing – why isn’t audio enough?!), which I’m pretty sure is just for everyone to convince everyone else that they really are working from home, and not just slacking off (pro-tip: if your job is getting done, no one will question whether you’re working or not).

I am not working from home (and won’t unless they force me), but there are challenges inherant to that as well, and the daily rush of trying to get as much done as possible before they actually do kick me out and I have to deal with dogs and neighbor kids and even more phone conversations I don’t want to have during the average work day.

Yes, I am grateful to have a job I won’t lose, and to still be drawing a paycheck…but I still reserve the right to complain. Because sometimes complaining is the only way to de-pressurize the stress.

Hopefully the world will settle into a “new normal” soon, and sometime after that, maybe I’ll feel comfortable establishing some new routines again. But for now, I need to take what’s thrown my way as calmly as possible, and do my best to muddle through, hoping that my diminished mental capacity due to having to constantly adjust and do things differently day after day after day doesn’t impair my abilities to much.

I love less traffic, less people all over, and stepping out my back door at night to peace and quiet, rather than the constant hum/roar of traffic and noise. I love getting personal space without asking for it most of the time.

Everything else is driving me insane.

Puppy Pic(s) of the Week

Excerpt of the Week

The Pact

Michelle sat on the old, cold stone steps of the abandoned building, arms propped on her knees, head down, stringy blond blond hair covering her face. A black beanie hugged her head, damp from the rain.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there. Hours, certainly. This was the address she’d been given and she couldn’t leave. Not yet.

There was a big clock tower in the center of town. It was old and simple, made of rough hewn stone blocks, with big copper bells that tolled on the hour, as they were doing now. Two pm.

She lifted her head and looked at the chipped address tiles again. Twenty-two hundred Barnaby Street. Just as her note had said. It had been 10 years since they’d made the pact. He probably wouldn’t even remember, but she didn’t have anywhere else to be, and this…well, this could be her chance. Maybe the only one she’d ever get.

If he showed up.