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…

Sometimes All You Need…

…is a little “flip”!

Bonus points if you know the movie I’m referencing with the title & first sentence (whether I’m quoting exactly or not is up in the air, but if you know it, you’ll know it).
As you can see, I finished my writing office rearrangement last Tuesday, as per the plan. I can’t even tell you how much just having a clean, well-organized office has helped with the writing. Moving the table to the back wall insulated me from latent noise and activity in the living room, which made a big difference in focus, and just having a much cleaner, larger “open space” on the floor has made the whole room feel much bigger/less closed-in. The armchair is a very welcome addition, and I even used it a couple times last week for both reading and journalling. I think this is going to work very well for a long time. And the hubby is going to build bigger, nicer bookshelves for the “book wall” as well, so that will be much more organized in the near future too.

I also changed my morning routine last week, as I said I was going to. I got up early, played a few simple games to get my brain moving, had my matcha, did my workout, and then two mornings out of three, I had a full half-hour to write before I needed to jump in the shower and get ready for work. And I was awake enough to make productive use of the time too. I’m really going to try to keep that going this week. It was so nice being caught up by the end of last week, instead of behind!

One of the other two notable things that happened this week were that I got another piece of my right arm tattooed, which means I only have one more session, and this arm will be done. It looks great, and as with all the other tattoos on this arm, the new piece has inspired another part of the story I’m just itching to start writing. Soon, my pretties. Soon!

And the last thing is, I got my hands on a public beta of an android app for the first writing software application I ever used, and still compare every other piece of writing software to: yWriter. This allows me to use yWriter on my PC at home, and access (or even edit, though I doubt I’ll be doing much of that on my cell) all my notes and drafts on my cell when I’m not at home. It’s a game-changer for me, and I’m going to switch back to this software for all my writing. I may be posting more about that on my writing blog one of these days.

So, really great week last week. Here’s hoping I can keep the new schedule going this week…

You Say You Want A Revolution…

Keep in mind that I did warn you a few weeks back that summer is the “pensive season”. Deep thoughts, though Dear ol’ Jack Handy would probably twist them into something vastly more entertaining for us…but you’re stuck with me (if you keep reading, that is).

This week is all about changing my perspective – both figuratively and literally. I’m staging a mental revolution, and fighting for freedom from entrapment (of myself, by myself, for myself).

I’ve been pretty doom and gloom about writing lately…not the actual writing, but the fact that I finally got past the “OMG I suck and should just quit” battle only to fall into the “Why do I even try when I have so little time, and the time I have is the wrong time when my brain won’t work and I’m out of the habit and I’m never going to be able to write all the things I now want to write?” Poor-Me-Black-Hole-Of-Despair (TM?).

Honestly. Sometimes I make myself sick with the stupid pity-party crap.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. No, I can’t do *all the things* (human, no super-powers, etc), but I can write. And I can absolutely carve out just a tiny bit of extra writing time if I want it badly enough. I can also make my writing environment more conducive to getting things done so that when I do have time to write, I’m not as likely to waste it. I mean, I have options here.

There are always, always options. I may not always like them, but they are there, and I can choose to take advantage of them or not. If I know they are there, and choose not to take advantage of them, then Pity-Party Mode is not allowed. Those are the (my) rules.

And this past weekend, my dog pointed out an option (quite by accident) that might help my word count, and last week, I became aware of another option (again quite by accident) that also might help both my word count and my editing/revision progress. I’m still not sure they’re happy accidents, considering the amount of work involved in setting these options in motion, but hey, it’s either that, or…keep on as I am but drop the Pity-Party Mode anyway due to refusing open options.

Tricky, isn’t it?

Since I have to leave the attitude behind either way, might as well try the options, I say. Which in this case means two things: cleaning out and rearranging my home office, and getting up half an hour earlier every morning.

Long story about Murphy-dog and my desk and power cords (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen a pic and read about it), but having to clean out under my desk so Murphy can use that space as a “den” got me to thinking. If I move my desk to the other side of the room, where I can’t see out the office door, and am less likely to hear random noise from the living room, I’m more likely to feel like I’m in a writing “bubble”, which will make it easier to get in the “zone” at night. Also, having a less cluttered office will be less distracting/oppressive. So I started cleaning out my office Sunday, and will finish cleaning/rearranging on Tuesday. I’ll also be adding a sitting area where I can read or write by hand. And I think that will help me make the most of my late night writing hour. Yes, Murphy will still be able to sleep under the desk if he wants.

As for getting up in the morning…I realized last week that I’ve been calculating my sleep cycles incorrectly, and instead of getting up at 6am when I am asleep by 1am, I should be getting up at 5:30am (three 90 minute cycles). I figured that out accidentally when I had to get up at 5:30 one morning, and actually felt way better than when I get up at 6am (which promptly ruined my mood for the day).

Thing is, if I get up at 5:30am, that gives me an extra half hour four mornings a week (I have to be at work early for a staff meeting on Tuesdays) in which I could write before work. I mean, after I’m caffeinated and half-way awake, anyways.

But…5:30. AM. *sigh* Really?! (Shush, morning people.)

Yes, really. Apparently. At least if I’m going to go to bed around midnight and read until 12:30 or so, which is my preference.

So I’m creating a writing “bubble” by rearranging the office, and changing my entire worldview (okay, a small part of my perspective, but still) by getting up earlier to have writing time before work as well. Best case scenario, I’m more productive overall, since I have writing time both late night *and* mornings now.

Worst case scenario, I still can’t mentally wake up fast enough in the morning to actually write, but I have a clean, organized office to work in at night, so the status quo gets a tiny bit better and I can have my pity-party back (if I want it) because I did at least try the options that presented themselves.

We’ll see what my little mental revolution brings about fairly soon, I’d think.

The Most Frustrating Thing

If you’ve been reading here long-term, you’ll know that a few years back, I burned out on most everything due to “stuff” going on that just made all the stuff I wanted and needed to do so overwhelming that I just sort of dropped everything unnecessary, including writing, and did the bare minimums to get by while life was all crazy-like. Part of it was changes happening rapidly and all at once, and part was a mid-life crisis that I’m only now really able to acknowledge for what it was (because no one wants to admit to something like that, really).

Thing is, I persevered, got through it without embarrassing myself too terribly much and without causing to much havoc, and now find myself in a much healthier state of mind (still very pensive and “what if?” centric, but that’s normal for me). And suddenly wanting to pick up where I left off, but with new priorities that keep me from just diving in head first (and also keep me physically/mentally healthier, so they need to stay).

There are so, so many things I want to do. My main source of frustration in life – the thing that beats me up more than anything else in this world, is that I simply cannot do everything I want to do, all at once. Not even a little at a time, because there are just too many “little at a time” things to schedule. It’s just not physically possible.

So I try to prioritize, and that sort of works, but there are still too many things on my “priority list”. And pretty soon I’m only doing one or two things, and fantasizing about doing the other things, and knowing that there just isn’t enough time or energy to fit it all in.

It’s damn depressing. And it’s also the ultimate unsolvable puzzle. Which makes my whole brain just cringe, because that’s what it *does* all day, every day, at work, at home, and everywhere else. I solve problems. I fix things. I find a way to make whatever needs to happen, happen.

But I can’t fix this.

I can’t fix the fact that I’m human. That time and space are limited. That I am interested in way too many things, and far too curious for my own mental health.

Even if I were willing to change my current priorities, I still couldn’t fit everything I want to do into my life. And even as it is now, with the few things I’m prioritizing, I don’t feel like I have enough time to give them. I want more writing time. More reading time. More workout time. More cooking time. More organizing and cleaning time.

But in order to do even that many things, I have to compromise, and give all of them less time than they really need just so they get “some” time.

There’s no happy ending to this, I’m afraid. No diagrams or schedules or 30-days-without-sleep cleanse that could solve this particular problem.

And that, for me, is the most frustrating thing about life.

Transplants, Notes, Tattoos, Robots & Grape Ice Cream Floats

I had a post half-written for this week about talking to people (strangers), getting to know them, working to understand their personal motivations and connecting on a deeper level through quick, “shallow” interactions. I was feeling all community-oriented after a few interesting/nice encounters with strangers on the street, and all pensive about what basic, daily interactions like that could do for us as a society.

And then, between the time I started the post, and this weekend when I planned to finish it, I watched several transplants from out-of-state chatting in different interactions on social media about us native Montanans with the typical dismissive cultural divide dialogue that goes something like: “They do things all wrong here and don’t act how we think they should, they hurt our feelings and they’re just not friendly. We have no idea why they’re so bitter toward us – what did we ever do to them?!”. Needless to say, my warm, fuzzy feelings for community blending/deeper connections cooled quite a bit. I could rant and address those oh-so-common-complaints, but we’d be here all day, and I’m still a bit too annoyed. Maybe some other day.

Quick ProTip: Moving into a culture different than your own and complaining that the way they are and the way they do things is “wrong” or offensive because it’s not “normal” *to you* is not a great way to endear yourself to the people who grew up & still live there. No matter where “there” is. 

No, not all transplants to our state are like that – as a matter of fact, there are several I’m rather fond of (mostly from the East Coast, oddly enough). And the good interactions I had last week were quite possibly with transplants or tourists too (one more than likely, the other…hard to say). Still, the negative tends to overpower the positive, and I need to let all that negative stuff go before I can finish the “mutual understanding can fix a world of ills” post. I’m sure you can see where the conflict is there.

So instead, some other positive things going on that have nothing to do with other people:

– I’ve been using handwritten lists on my Note (cell), with a lot better luck than using digital to-do lists. I still use digital calendars for appointment reminders and recurring events, but there is something about handwriting lists every morning that really make the items stick in my head, and then crossing them off throughout the day that is more satisfying than ticking a box. And with my Note, I’ve got the best of both worlds – digital notes, handwritten on the screen (so no paper to keep track of.

– I’ve also been using my Note 8 tablet for handwriting both prose and poetry, and I have to say, I’m kind of amazed at the difference between drafting on the computer and drafting by hand on the tablet. It’s weird, but again, satisfying. Maybe because I can’t write nearly as fast as I type, so I have to slow down and really pay attention to what I’m writing. It gets frustrating sometimes, but overall, I think it’s a good thing.

– I got another tattoo done last week, on my upper right arm. One or two more sessions, and that whole sleeve will be done. The journey of getting this whole arm tattooed, and the story developing along the way has been eye-opening to me in so many ways. Non-tattoo people are rolling their eyes right now, but I’m ignoring people for the moment, remember? Positive only, and this experience has given me not just pretty patterns in my skin, not just a whole “story behind a story”, but also several epiphanies about who I am as a person and a writer, and also what I need to focus on to make my fiction better. It’s about so much more than a bunch of images and pigment. More than anyone but me will ever understand – which is perfectly fine, because it’s not for anyone else, it’s for me. And I’m glad I didn’t pass up on the experience just due to social constraints/censure.

– Someone has invented a weed-killing robot, and I want them for all of my gardens. These people should get an award, because if those robots work half as well as they claim, they’re my new heroes. Seriously. I hate weeding. Hate it. This could solve my bindweed problem just by working all the time. I *need* at least one in my life, but they aren’t shipping until next May. *sigh*

This commercial made me laugh this weekend…enough that I ordered trial boxes of three of their products. I so hope the products work as well as the commercial is funny…

– We had grape soda ice cream floats Sunday night. Seriously. Yummy. Try it.

– We watched Trolls this past weekend. So adorable they about gave me a sweet tooth. I’m thinking gummy trolls with cotton candy hair. Who’s with me?

Until next week…

The Pensive Season

I don’t know what it is about summer, but warm, sunny weather always makes me pensive. I mean, I’m an over-thinker on a good day, but summer is when “what if” becomes almost a daily mantra. What if I choose this over that? What if I’d made a different choice 20 yrs ago? What would I do if this life-changing event happened tomorrow? Would my life turn out the same no matter what decisions I make, or do I actually have some control over fate/destiny/whatever you call it?

Yes, I know. Exhausting and in the end, pretty much pointless, but that’s how my brain works, and in the summer, it just seems to be worse. Not much I can do aside from indulging it for a little while, and then forcing myself into a different, more productive headspace.

I’ve always been a dreamer of sorts, which is kind of at odds with my otherwise very practical, logical nature. I remember very clearly laying on my waterbed in the basement as a teen, steno notebook and pen in hand, scribbling/lamenting about whatever guy I happened to be obsessing over at the time (bad habit of mine). I’d lay back, close my eyes, and lose track of time day-dreaming about different scenarios involving said guys and wishing I could just stay in that fantasy world forever.

Writing, of course, is a physical (digital?) manifestation of that sort of day-dreaming habit…when I write, I’m basically day-dreaming on paper, just not about myself anymore. Well, not always, anyway. 😉

And of course when I get in these ultra-pensive moods, I tend to slip back into “day-dream” mode more easily, and it makes me want to write more. Which is frustrating because I only have so much time to spend on that right now. Ideas/day-dreams keep piling up, waiting for me to exorcise them from my head by getting them down in book form.

The co-worker who backs me up when I’m out (and I do the same for him) is in and out of the office for the next month and a half. But after that, I do believe I’ll schedule a week off just for writing. Get some of these ideas out of my head and at least started on paper. Perhaps that will ease the pensiveness a bit.

Even if it doesn’t, it will be fun!