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Year in Review – 2020 (Ugh)

I kind of feel like we’re all at the same point with the year right now…which is:

“Goodbye and good riddance. Go ahead and let the door hit you on the way out – you deserve it.”

Something most of us can agree on in a mostly disagreeable, disjointed, and socially schismatic time…yay!

Personally, my year started pretty well. I had a plan, I was ready to go, I was writing regularly, reading again, and feeling good about things.

Then I got sick (like, sicker than I’ve been in a long time) at the end of Jan/early Feb. Work was crazy, I couldn’t get rested, I wasn’t writing or doing anything else…and then just when I was finally starting to recover…pandemic! Civil unrest! Election year! Seriously. The crazy just wound right up and spun out of control and that was that.

Needless to say, many of my resolutions were pretty much left in the dust with my personal motivation and focus this year. Which sucks, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. I have been starting to claw my way up from the rubble, and I feel like I’m in a pretty good place at the moment. I have some health issues to address in the new year, and some book business decisions/issues to address, but nothing that seems insurmountable, at least not at this point.

Some good things actually did happen this year though, including a new fridge and stove, curtains instead of blinds for the living/dining room windows, and the promise of new, easy-care landscaping first thing in the spring. I’m writing again, and I’m taking a writing class at the moment which I think is really helping me to improve as a writer, so that’s exciting.

I’ve discovered new ways to grocery shop, including our local food hub, which is great. I discovered a few more local shops that have become favorites, and I started using Instacart, which doesn’t work for everything, but does work for main grocery shopping and saves me a lot of time each week. I will probably have to go back to shopping for myself next summer, just due to the amount of box and bag waste that not taking my own reusable bags creates. But at the moment, I’m enjoying having that time to do other things. If reusable carrying media was an option, I’d probably keep getting my groceries delivered indefinitely.

I’ve gotten a much better handle on my finances, and feel pretty good about being able to control them going forward. That was one of the goals (in a more specific way) that I did meet, and arguably one of the more important ones. I am stalwart in my weekly budgeting now, which is a very good thing. There are a few other things I need to get to that point with as well. One thing at a time.

All in all, aside from ten extra pounds I don’t need (and five more I should lose just for good measure) and the aforementioned health issues, I don’t feel like I’m in too bad of shape going into the next sun-cycle, but…time will tell, I suppose.

I’ll be setting my goals for next year later this week, and will post them next Monday to start the new year off on a hopeful note.

Until then, I hope your Christmas was bright and merry, and that the first day of the new year will bring feelings of peace and hope.


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Skirts? More 2020 Weirdness

It’s been a very long time since I last wore a skirt. I honestly can’t even remember when that was. I’m guessing I was around 15lbs lighter though, and had a lot more hair. I stopped wearing a lot of things when I chopped my hair off, but that’s a whine for another day. I’ve never worn skirts all that much though, or dresses either, for that matter.

Regardless, I actually do like skirts. I just find them largely impractical for everyday wear. I find it bothersome to have to worry about whether said skirt is flapping about or too far up, a problem fixed by wearing a more fitted skirt, which is then more restrictive for movement. Also, having to make sure it’s positioned properly when I sit, and sitting in a “ladylike” fashion…it’s just a lot higher maintenance than a pair of jeans or slacks.

Recently I’ve been considering skirts again, though I’ve yet to buy any. There are three I’ve seen online recently that I thought would be nice to have (and ModCloth has a bunch of cute/funny and vintage-style skirts that would be fun to wear), but…there’s the question of whether or not I’d actually wear them. And if I wouldn’t wear them, why give them the closet space?

Add that to the fact that few women in IT wear skirts, so it’s outside the normal/unspoken dress code, and…I might have one skirt in my closet at the moment. Two at most. Skirts that fit, anyways. My job is a desk job, so I’m not crawling under desks or carrying equipment around (mostly), but still. It’s always weird to change up your style of dress, or dress differently than the people around you. I’m not the kind of person who will ever see skirts as an “at home/knock around town” piece of clothing.

I have none of the various accoutrements for wearing skirts anymore either – I have no idea what I would have done with my slips (though these days skirts seem thick enough not to require them, which is nice), nor do I currently own any nylons (I know, bare legs are in, but I’ve never been all that fond of bare legs under skirts and I hate tights and leggings). I have tattoos that may or may not look okay peeking out from certain types of skirts. I’d have to try it and see. Or buy a couple pair of those stylishly tall boots to cover. Not that I’m opposed to that for all but 3-4 months of the year.

I think perhaps I’m just that unsettled. Changing things up in order to find relief from the stress and tedium of the year, and also just boredom with the same type of hair and wardrobe for nearly twenty years now. My hair grow-out has been a long time coming…I was bored with it several years ago, and just afraid to change things up (all the piercings were in part an attempt to make my pixie cut less conservative/boring, which I think worked well). It stands to reason that a wardrobe switch-up is also in order. I did finally buy a couple flannel shirts (one of which I really love), and a fuzzy coat that really wouldn’t have looked as good with the pixie hair, but works fine with my current length and will look great with longer hair.

Will I buy a skirt or two? Remains to be seen – I’m still very much undecided. If I buy one, will I wear it? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

I will note that if I had a nice A-line or swing skirt that was work-appropriate, it would be a lot looser after a food-heavy holiday (say…Thanksgiving) than my jeans currently are. So there’s that.

We’ll see. Variety is the spice of life, but change is…difficult, to say the least.


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New Tool, New Focus

For anyone who missed the news on FB, my covid test came back negative, so yay! I’m back at the office for work (well, not today, since it’s a federal holiday, but generally speaking), my friend is also back at work, and…life goes on.

Today is undoubtedly one of the most important and pivotal elections in US history, so I hope if you’re a US citizen, you have voted or will vote. Yes, I did vote, early and absentee, as I always do. It’s convenient that I work at the county courthouse, so I just have to bring my ballot to work and drop it in the box.

Being a government employee does have its perks, one of which is getting Federal Election days off. So I have today off, and fully plan on *not* watching any election news or results. I’d planned to finish fixing the toilets, but…with the way my day started this morning (not exactly “good”), I decided to scuttle that until the weekend.

Instead, I spent the morning emailing a friend and frittering too much time away on Facebook. I also finished taking the rest of our Halloween decor down. And after I finish this post, I shall grab my new, beautiful writing tool, the Freewrite Traveler (which I ordered off a Kickstarter campaign around 2 years ago – it just arrived in the mail yesterday), and get a belated start on a NaNoWriMo novel. I haven’t done NaNo in a few years (not seriously, anyway), and I’m not terribly serious about it this year either, but I need something to grab my focus and hold it for awhile. Something that’s not work, and not politics and not covid and not…well, any of the other “2020” themed chaotic rabble.

The whole reason I ordered the Traveler is because it has something my laptop will never have – an e-ink screen. Like a traditional Kindle or Nook and my reMarkable tablet, the Traveler doesn’t have any backlighting at all to burn my already-stressed corneas out. I can stare at the screen for hours, like a print book, without any discomfort (other than, you know, that general “eyes need sleep” thing).

It also has a beautiful full keyboard that I do wish was a little more “clicky”, but it’s better than average, and it’ll do the trick. I also really wish the keyboard was pretty much any color but white. The oils in my hands are going to make that look dingy very quickly, unfortunately. But, as long as it works well, I’ll be happy. I wrote 56 words on it before bed last night, and it was comfortable, for the most part, so…I’m excited.

This year has been one of the oddest, most chaotic years I’ve ever lived through, and I find myself with the perspective that since everything is in a period of change, I should take this opportunity to make some personal changes too. From how I look (I mean…hair!), to what I wear, and how I structure my days, it feels like it’s time to just sort of flip everything into a giant Yahtzee cup and shake it up. Some things will come out the same, and other things will be vastly different, and this year, that feels okay. Maybe that’s exactly what’s needed.

In any case, more on that later (along with a rant about appliances and my new microwave). Until then, don’t forget to vote, be polite and civilized to those you interact with during and after, and be kind. The world (or our country, at least) could use a return to kindness and civility at the very least, in my opinion.

Now, a story is calling me….


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And Then…Quarantine

I suppose it was bound to happen at some point, but the fact that I’m currently in quarantine and awaiting Covid-19 test results speaks directly to the fact that while I’m extremely introverted on a good day, I’m not quite introverted enough.

A friend of mine from work tested positive last week, and she happens to be the only person aside from my husband that I spend an appreciable amount of time with unmasked and probably 5ft instead of 6ft away from (we both still have fairly wide personal space bubbles, pandemic or no). I stay well back from everyone else in my office, wear a mask whenever I’m out of my office, and also whenever I’m around people when not at work. I keep interactions outside of work brief, and we haven’t been to a movie or eaten in a restaurant since cases here started spiking a few weeks ago.

So when my friend got sick (her role requires her to be around a lot more people than I, unfortunately, and we’re pretty sure we know about where her armor chink would have been), she went home right away, but I’d been chatting with her just the night before, which made me a “close contact”.

I didn’t think too much of it, but I did make sure to be extra cautious in keeping my distance from co-workers and while doing my errands that weekend. Then Monday late, my throat started getting sore, and I told my boss the next morning that I needed to work from home for awhile, just in case.

My friend’s test results came back Wednesday, she called me to tell me, and I went and got tested Thursday, because while my throat wasn’t all that sore by then, I’d still had a cough and some pressure in my chest here and there, and a headache that had been flirting here and there. No point in waiting, and better to know one way or the other, I figured.

When you get tested here, they tell you to quarantine for 14 days past the day of your last contact with the positive person if you’re a close contact, whether your test comes back positive or not. If you have symptoms, you have to stay quarantined for at least 10 days past when the symptoms started, provided your symptoms are resolving and you’ve had no fever in the previous 24 hrs.

My ten days are up as of this Weds, so as long as I feel better and haven’t had a fever in 24 hours, I should be able to break quarantine on Thursday. If I do test positive, I have a pretty light case so far, as long as it doesn’t worsen over the next few days. I’ve been throwing a lot of turmeric and garlic at it, along with some other herbal remedies. Surprisingly, the one thing that seems to help the most is honey in my tea. I prefer my tea unsweetened, but whatever works at the moment. I consider myself extremely lucky not to have gotten any worse thus far.

My friend, not so much. She’s had to deal with pretty much every bad symptom in the book, and I’m quite worried about her. She’s had ups and downs and muscle pain and no taste and taste and no smell and felt better for several days then plunged to no energy whatsoever…it’s been a serious roller coaster ride of illness, and it’s not over yet.

I hope I’m negative, and that I can get back to the office Thursday. Little things like doing a Costco run are also on my list of “to-dos” for when I can leave the house again. I will say that working from home hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, but…I do really miss my bigger monitors, standing desk, and ergonomic keyboard. I also miss the demarcation between personal and work life that going to the office and coming home provides. I know plenty of people have managed to figure it out while they work from home this year, and I’m sure I could eventually too, but I’m not all that good at it yet.

So…just another weird week in 2020, I guess. Fingers crossed that things can get back to the new relative normal soon, and if you can spare some good thoughts, prayers, rituals or spell-chanting for my friend, all would be appreciated.


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Best Laid Plans…and a Whine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Weariness, Planning, Hair, & Granola Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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