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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.

Memorial Day & Writing Schedules

Happy (?) Memorial Day. I’m never really sure if the proper salutation for such a somber occasion should be “happy”, but it works well enough, I suppose. I am happy to have the day off from work, so there’s that. And I’m grateful, of course, for those who have fought/died for this country.

In any case, yesterday was my brother-in-law’s birthday, so I went celebrating with the family instead of doing my Sunday chores. Which means today I am doing mundane tasks like laundry and vacuuming and meal prep and taking the garbage out. I am also writing blog posts (ahem) not only for this blog, but if I have time, for my two alter-ego blogs as well. My goal for the next few months (along with working on the drafts I have in progress) is to clean up a couple of stories – one for each alter – that are drafted and just need revisions/editing to get to a publishable state. When I burnt out/took a break from writing back in 2015, I’d just finished both of those drafts, but neither “worked” as I wanted them to and I just didn’t have the mental energy to even look at them again – until now. With my head in a much better space and writing at the forefront of my hobbies again, I’m ready to go back and make them what they need to be. Excited about it, even.

I’ve been trying to establish a daily/weekly writing routine that sort of runs with my natural mental “energy” depending on what day it is, and I’ve almost got it right. There’s so much experimentation that goes into creating a routine that will work for a long period of time, but I’ve found it’s generally worth the effort. At the moment, I have an hour, hour and a half Mon – Thurs from 11pm – 12/12:30am for writing, and sometimes half an hour after I walk the dogs between 8:30pm and 9pm. That early half-hour is a great time for poetry, or working on a flash fiction writing prompt, and then the latter hours have been breaking down like so:

Monday: Revise/edit old work
Tuesday: *Jury’s still out – trying to use for new words, but not working.*
Wednesday: Weekly serial story and typing in poem
Thursday: Serial story (finish)

Tuesdays are my “long day” at work…which is a misnomer since the hours are the same, just shifted, but I have to be there an hour earlier than normal for a weekly staff meeting, which means I have to get up earlier and move more quickly in the morning. Not being a morning person, it makes the day feel strained and rushed, but because I can leave around 5:30pm instead of 6 (yes, I could leave at 5pm, but traffic at 5 sucks, so I prefer to avoid it), I keep “rushing” myself after. I pick up tacos on the way home, rush through dinner with the dogs and hubby, and then head out to the archery range to shoot arrows and clear my head (it’s surprisingly therapeutic). After that, it’s time to hurry home and get back into my normal evening routine of walking the dogs, TV with hubby, and chores before my normal writing time.

Needless to say, considering all the social time and mental energy expended on Tuesday, I really should not be expecting any new creative work from myself that night. Monday would actually be better for new words, but the change from weekend to workday seems to be just enough that I find it easier to ease into the week with revisions than trying to draft new words.

By Wednesday, my head is used to the increased social demands of workdays again, so it’s much easier to be creative during those writing times, but by then I’m feeling the pressure of the Friday serial chapter weighing down, though not enough to actually power through and finish the whole thing. So I generally start it out of guilt/pressure, but don’t finish it until Thursday, spending two nights on what could easily be done in one. I really should just leave the whole serial chapter for Thursday and use Wednesday to work on the new novel I am *dying* to write, inspired largely by the tattoo sleeve I’m getting on my right arm. So inspired, in fact, that I have the entire subplot already worked out, a good chunk of the main plot (that relies very heavily on the subplot – story within a story type of thing), and I even know the ending, which is incredibly rare for a “pantser” like myself.

So this week, I think I’ll try something more like this:

Monday: Revisions for one alter
Tuesday: Revisions for the second alter
Wednesday: TMOMM (new book) draft
Thursday: Rattlesnake Falls draft (serial draft)

And then of course my poetry and prose prompt pieces will fit into the 30 minute chunks I have here and there in the early evenings. Would it be better to have more time for new words? Absolutely. But when you work full time, and a job that’s often mentally demanding at that, you do what you can while still staying mentally and physically healthy. I mean, sure…I could find more time to write, but it would mean giving up either time reading (aka “refilling the well”), or time being active, which isn’t healthy short or long term. Writing faster isn’t worth giving up either of those things from my perspective, so I do what I can do.

Once I get those two stories revised, I should have the Rattlesnake Falls draft done, and I can spend one night of revisions on that, and then possibly use the other night for more new words, if my head will cooperate.

And that is largely what I’m thinking about today and working on this week.

First Quarter Observations

Yes, this weekend I wrote & scheduled my first quarterly newsletter for BSB. I need to get my author newsletters going again too, but…babysteps. This year while I’ve been working to get back on track with the writing (with some success), I’ve also been working to get back on track with the business side of things. Stuff like updating the web site regularly, scheduling promotions, checking sales (my books actually sell better on iTunes than anywhere else – who knew? I do now!), keeping in touch with readers, posting writing samples on the site…and supposedly keeping my accounting up to date so I can get my taxes done (um…yeah. Babysteps, like I said.).

You know. Actually *running* the business, instead of just letting it limp along on its own until I need something from it. Novel (so to speak) idea, eh?

Time is an issue, as you’re aware, but the whole Friday late-night business hours thing is actually working really, really well. I kind of feel like Tim Ferriss (he’s the guy who wrote that 4-hour work week book, right?) would be proud. I start around 11pm, and work until around 3am, and that time is dedicated completely to taking care of business/BSB tasks. It’s not quite enough time, granted, because I still generally end up doing blog posts on Sunday night (just did that before hopping over here), and I don’t have a good workflow figured out yet, so I spend too much time deciding what to work on, instead of working. But that will come in time, and if I can eventually hook up with someone who’s marketing-graphics inclined, that will save me a bunch of time too (I currently make all of our marketing graphics – it’s very time-consuming). But…babysteps.

The cool thing is, stuff is getting done. Books are getting marketed (thanks to the marketing assistant working with me), updates are being done, things are moving forward.

And I’m writing regularly again too. Still need to work on priorities and time management, but Monday through Thursday nights, I am in my booth no later than 11pm, and working on a piece of fiction. I may get a few words in or a lot, but nearly always something. I will have at least one, and possibly two or three new books of my own to publish by the end of the year. That feels pretty darn good.

I’m also reading regularly again (at night, after I write and before sleep), and I’ve taken up archery (I did indeed buy a bow), and this past weekend we got a really good start at turning our backyard into a “lawn” again. It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but all of these things add up to good progress on the things that felt like they were just completely out of control and out of reach altogether just a few months ago (well, aside from the archery – that’s just a new hobby on a whim, but a good addition, methinks).

Things are good. Life is good. And I hope it will just keep the next curve ball to itself for a little while longer, because I’m really enjoying this little interlude from the conflict that tends to plague us all here and there.

Mental Flotsam

Lots of things going on in my head lately – I’m still dealing with the mental “fallout” of that whole midlife crisis thing I’ve recently
crawled out of. I’m still not ready to do a full-blown blog on that, but I will say that it’s been a real roller coaster, and as enlightening and…liberating, I guess, as it’s been, I hope I don’t have to go through another one anytime soon. I go through self-assessment periods every decade or so, where I’m just not happy with…”whatever” in my life and need to make some adjustments, but this…this was different. This was more of a total re-examination of all the major life decisions I’ve ever made (and some of the minor ones too), which causes some major cognitive dissonance that has to be worked through before one can move forward. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable and now that I’m on the tail-end looking back, I can totally see how some people end up hitting the “reset” button completely during this time in life (which a rather large percentage of us go through whether we want to or not). Weird, wild, and wacky stuff.

In any case, there are other things on my mind these days too, including:

  • Archery – I *loved* my first time on the range last week, and will have to post more about it later. Suffice it to say, I liked it well enough that I’m going back to the shooting range this week, and hopefully once a week after that as well. I’m planning on buying a bow kit and arrows, and taking a few lessons. It’s been awhile since I’ve been that drawn to something out of the house!
  • Love Triangles – I was surfing TV channels Sunday night, and got sucked into an episode of “Victoria” on PBS Masterpiece Theater. Ended up watching two episodes, and the relationships therein really got me to thinking about love triangles in fiction and real life, and how there always is one, whether we’re aware or not. It’s fascinating and uncomfortable, and I’d like to explore that phenomenon more.
  • My neck – which is kinked up again. Stupid thing. Or stupid drivers who rear-ended me twice in as many years. I never had problems with my neck before those…
  • BSB Advertising/marketing, and how effective it is/isn’t. Also, getting the documents together for that to do my taxes. Ugh.
  • The ring in my rook piercing, which I want changed out for a bar that will be so much less of a pain to deal with, because it won’t stick out at all like the ring does.
  • The drones in Warhawk, the James Rollins book I’m reading. Yikes!
  • New crochet/knitting patterns I want to try out, now that I’ve finished the dog sweater I was working on.

Never a dull moment, eh?

What’s on your mind lately? Care to share?

Back with a New Groove

I have to say…last week was one of the best “staycations” I’ve ever had. I didn’t over-schedule myself, but I structured my days and the week as a whole, got a lot done, never felt any real “pressure” as far as time/deadlines go, and at the end I was relaxed and had a new, much better perspective on life in general.

I did a lot of thinking, planning and preparations for working on and sticking to my resolutions for the year. I did some cleaning that I never have time to do all at once on the weekends, which feels good because now I have a good chance at being able to maintain those areas of the house in less time. Without that extra prep time, it would have taken me quite a bit longer on the weekends for awhile just to catch up to a place where I could maintain, so I’m really glad I could get that done.

I also finished a project that’s been on my dining room table since October – a miniature haunted dollhouse that comes in 5 mailings with each mailing having not only pieces to the dollhouse, but also more clues to the mystery. That was a wonderful way to spend my birthday, even though I did give myself a serious kink in the neck working on it all day (still not healed, but worth the discomfort). It’s still on the table in need of finish work and a permanent home, but I have that all worked out too, I just need to take a Saturday afternoon and get it done.

I had several really good writing sessions, after the dogs had been walked (thank goodness for warmer weather!) and the house was completely still. By that time, I’d been away from work long enough that my head was clear and creative again, underscoring just how much of a drain my job is on my mental energy. It’s a good job, don’t get me wrong, and I love doing it, but it does seriously limit my creativity. I started thinking about some ways I could deal with that and make sure that I have time to rest mentally between the time I get off work, and the time I need to write. I have some things to try this week, so we’ll see how that goes.

Motivation has been an issue for me lately too, with the writing, I mean. So when several good book sales payments hit my account, I splurged and bought access to a “Motivation” lecture by Dean Wesley Smith. I’d watched the first video on YouTube (it’s free there), and decided that whenever I had a hard time sitting down and writing last week, I’d watch one of the videos in that lecture series to hopefully “motivate me”.

The first time I decided to watch, I got as far as video number three, and had an epiphany that forced me to stop right there and re-evaluate my writing time. For the curious, you can read about how I did that on my writing blog later this week. Suffice it to say, it involves some important realizations on my part, and some serious routine/chore shuffling. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the videos.

The BSB site rebuild is pretty well finished, the two February releases formatted and nearly ready to go, and a new blog posting schedule started over there on Mondays. My Friday night “office hours” are still going swimmingly. Hooray for that!

In other news, yes, I will finally be posting to the dog blog again next week. It’s the pictures that get me. That blog kind of needs them, and it’s extra time/effort to get pics, and then edit/upload them along with the post. But I think I’ve finally got that sorted out. Hopefully.

I’m kind of mystified at the fact that since January 1, a bunch of people have “liked” the Nail Art Tuesday Facebook page. Where did they all come from? Did they not notice that before last week, I hadn’t posted there for a couple of years? Is there a serious nail art trend happening right now that I’m just not aware of?

Regardless, it made me consider whether it might be worth posting to my Nail Art blog again. Not full “this is what I did and how I did it” tutorials like I used to do, but quick, weekly pics of my manicures wouldn’t kill me. Nor would bi-weekly pics of my pedicures, and occasional photos of my other body mods. Of course that would require changing the name of the blog to Nail & Body Art Tuesdays, I suppose. Doesn’t really have the same “ring” does it? But I have been getting more interested in expanding my jewelry collection since getting those new piercings last month, and there are two more piercings I’d like to get next weekend, if possible, which will give me even more jewelry options. It would be fun to have a spot to share those with people interested in that sort of thing…

I haven’t decided one way or another on that yet. No hurry, really. This week’s manicure went a little sideways anyways, so nothing postworthy just yet. People are still “liking” my Tea on Tap page too, but I don’t drink enough of a variety anymore to bring that back, and while I would love to do some gong-fu brewing, I’d have to really schedule that into a weekend slot, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Bummer, but until I retire, I have limited hours to work with. Such is life.

I tell you what…I already have so much to do in my retirement years that I’d probably better plan on not dying until I hit at least 100. It’s gonna take me that long to get through my “to do” list! 🙂

So…great vacation, new perspective, and I’m ready to get back into the normal swing of things.

And away we go…

New Year, New Resolutions

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than a year, 1) hey thanks! and 2) you know I’m a pretty devout New Years resolutionist. I like goals and plans and being at least somewhat organized mentally as well as physically. Last week I went over last year’s resolution list and how I did with that, so this week, I’m sharing this year’s list, and a brief-ish breakdown of how I’ll go about making them happen.

I made 8 resolutions this year – 3 personal, 3 writing, and 2 work-related (which will not be listed here for what should be fairly obvious reasons). It was actually kind of hard writing these out this year, because I had trouble narrowing them down (I only allow myself 3 per category, max). It was also quite difficult making sure that none of them could reasonably be hijacked by outside forces (because if they can, then they don’t qualify as a resolution – only things I have complete control over qualify).

But, I managed, and while I may have cheated a bit and included more than one item in a couple of my goals, I think everything is very achievable and will add significant value to my life for the long run.

So then – jumping right in, here are the new goals:

Personal
– Finance: Pay off at least two major credit lines and get one month ahead on all utility/household bills.
– Physical Health: Add strength training to my weekday routines and a pedicure to my weekly routine.
– Household: Add weekly cleaning routines for kitchen, bathroom, jewelry and makeup table

Writing/Publishing
– Write three novels/novellas and three short stories.
– Use Friday late nights for “business hours” every week
– Get newsletters (quarterly, min.) going again.

As you can see, finance is one of the biggies for this year. I make decent money, but I’ve gotten pretty lax on managing it, and that is…well, not good. It’s time to get serious about paying off debt, not letting the utility bills pile up just because I don’t remember to pay them, and getting some savings built up. It’s going to require some serious buckling down, planning/budgeting, and self-control, but I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. And need to. So that’s highest priority for the year.

As for physical health, I really need to add some muscle mass to my frame. I do yoga most weekday mornings and when the weather cooperates, I walk the dogs every night. I also climb the stairs at work. But I’ve been neglecting the strength training side of things, and I need to work that back in for both a metabolism ramp-up and just because it’s healthier for both my immune system and my bone mass to keep my muscles strong.

My feet are kind of the bane of my existence The nails are hard to care for, both feet are callused and have dry patches, but my right foot is drier than the Sahara, and really needs some serious help. I don’t have a clue why it’s just my right foot and not my left, but bodies are weird. I’ve been avoiding pedicures because I do my nails late Sat. nights, and honestly, my feet get cold! I’m going to solve that by crocheting myself some open-toed socks. Then I can put thick salve on my feet, put on my socks to “marinate”, and take care of my stupid toenails. I really need to be putting Wool Wax on my heels every day, but once a week will be a start, at least.

On the household goals, I suck at cleaning. I mean, I *can* do it, but there are so many more exciting/interesting things to do on the weekends! Thing is, the cleanliness of the kitchen, bathroom, and my jewelry and makeup can directly affect our health. So I really should set some of my weekly cleaning time aside for those. It’s not even that it will take that much time – cleaning goes pretty quickly once you just start. Alas, I’m lazy. But I need to be a little less lazy this year.

Part of why I’m lazy with the housework is the thought that I should be working on my writing/publishing business. Things like blogs and web site updates, bookkeeping…all the boring things that come with running a micro-business. And I really do need to spend more time on that, but it’s difficult to find time when I need to be able to focus and not be interrupted for awhile. I tried doing morning sessions on the weekends, but I really do suck at mornings, and rarely got anything accomplished because I was just trying to keep my eyes open and wake up my brain. It didn’t last long, and that’s what happens when you fight your natural biorhythms.

So this year, I’ve set aside Friday late nights (time I’d normally be writing) for BSB business tasks. I started last week (why wait?!), and it went much better than any early morning session ever did. I think that because I’m already naturally awake at night, this will be something I can sustain over a long period of time. Since I don’t need to be up for anything Saturday mornings, if I get caught up in something I can stay up until it’s finished if need be. That’s the kind of freedom I need to get everything organized and moving forward again.

Taking writing time for that isn’t optimal, but there are only so many hours in the day, and not taking care of BSB business is stressful and also ruins my motivation for other things. So it needs to be done, and it’s a good time investment once a week, methinks. It will make it easier to do housework without guilt, and even though it’s less writing time, I think I’ll get more writing done.

My other two goals are pretty self-explanatory. I added up how many words I could potentially write in a week at my normal speed (around 800 words an hour), and it looks like I could comfortably write a book and a short story every four months. Which equals three novels/novellas and three short stories. That’s so much more than last year I’m giddy just thinking about it!

And newsletters, of course, are just smart for keeping in touch with readers. I’ve let mine go for way too long now, and it’s time to get them going again. Just quarterly…I think that’s often enough to stay in touch, and not so often as to be annoying. I hope.

There are a lot more things I want to do this year, both personally & writing-wise, but these are the ones that made The List. I’m hoping these won’t be too terribly difficult to implement fairly quickly, but no way to tell without just jumping in.

So…here’s to the new year, and new goals, and keeping things moving in a forwardly direction. I have a good feeling about 2017, and I’m gonna take advantage of that for as long as possible! Or at least long enough to set up some good new routines.

Are you a resolutionist? Care to share your number one goal for the year? Inquiring minds, and all that… 😉

Odds n’ Ends

Oh look! Another odd week on the horizon. Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the States, so we work Mon-Weds, have Thursday off, and I’ll work Friday too. Which is fine…I actually like working Black Friday, because everyone else is either out shopping, or blurry-eyed from getting up early to shop before work. Either way, it tends to be a quiet work day, and a good one for getting things done.

Thursday should actually be a pretty quiet day too, since the hubby and I aren’t expected at my brother-in-law’s until around 5pm. Which is nice, because I spent a good couple hours this weekend cleaning off part of the dining room table specifically so I could explore a haunted-dollhouse-by-mail that I subscribed to back in October. There are five boxes/mailings total, and I have four, only one of which I’ve opened so far. So while I have some publishing-related things to do that day as well, I fully intend to open the rest of those boxes and start figuring out the mystery in miniature contained therein.

In entertainment news – we finally watched the movie Spectre this weekend, and it was everything a Bond movie is supposed to be, of course. I’m bummed that Daniel Craig doesn’t want the part anymore, but I can understand too. I wonder who will take up the mantle now?

I also finished Season 2 of Vikings this weekend, and man…I tell you what. I finished the 8th episode while doing my nails Saturday night/early Sunday morning, and then Sunday evening I blew off a few things to watch the last couple episodes because I just *had* to know how that storyline was going to resolve. Ugh! I’m glad it ended the way it did, and next weekend I’l start on Season 3.

We’re working our way through the third season of Penny Dreadful as well, and man…that show is seriously intense. I love it. It’s a crazy ride, and just when I think it’s getting predictable, it takes another twist. Excellent writing, in my opinion.

I mentioned last week that I was going to start limiting my social media “scrolling” time…and toward the end of last week, I actually did. And it made a pretty big difference in my productivity (she says, surprising exactly no one). I got more done, I stayed more focused, and I realized just how addicted I am to simply watching people. Clearly, I missed my calling as a sociologist/anthropologist, eh? Alas, I need to quell the addiction, but it has served me well as far as understanding people in general.

Along with limiting screen time, I also picked up the paper planner again. And along with scheduling out my priorities and loosely scheduling my day in the morning before work, I also started writing a short synopsis of where I left off in whatever draft I plan to work on later that night. So all day long, my subconscious is chewing on that, and when I finally sit down to write at night, I have a good idea of where the story’s going next, and better yet, I’m excited to write it because it’s been in the back of my mind all day. I’ve only done it twice so far, but both times had the same result. I’m hoping to keep that up this next week…seems like an incredibly easy and useful “mental manipulation” to have in my personal toolbox…

I’m not 100% back up to speed just yet, but I feel like I’m finally on an upswing. Here’s hoping momentum continues in that direction…

Self-Sufficiency in a Loom

Last weekend, I went to a Fiber Festival here in town (the first one I’ve ever heard of). No, it didn’t feature prunes, beans and high-fiber foods…we’re talking textile fibers. Alpaca, yak, sheep and various blends of wool, plus silk, bamboo and other fibers that people who work with yarn like to turn into clothes, blankets, bags and other fun stuff.

In any case, there was an overwhelming amount of beautiful handspun and dyed fiber there (and raw fiber too, for those who spin), and I brought home several skeins of wool and one of cotton, and left a silk and bamboo blend one there that I really wish I’d picked up too. But it was expensive, so probably just as well I didn’t nab it. *sigh*

Anyways, at one of the booths where I bought some wonderfully thick and soft black handspun, the woman had a small “lap” weaving loom for sale. I thought about it, and thought about it some more, and ultimately decided not to buy it. And then I kicked myself for leaving it there the whole rest of the weekend. I even mentioned to my spinning/knitting friend at work that I couldn’t stop thinking about this loom, and how much fun it might be for the thinner lace-weight yarns I have but don’t want to knit or crochet with (I prefer thicker yarns – the small hooks/needles hurt my fingers).

As it turned out, my friend knew the woman selling the loom, and contacted her to see if it was still available. It was, and long story short, I sent a check, and the loom was delivered to my house this past Saturday. An hour, maybe 90 minutes later, I’d learned a whole bunch of terms I didn’t know before, and had woven my first inch or so of fabric from some recycled silk yarn I had in the closet.

My first weaving project - some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

My first weaving project – some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

I was actually kind of surprised, to be honest. The method described in the instructions made the motions far less tedious than I thought they might be, and I found the whole experience very relaxing. I spent another hour weaving another couple of inches yesterday, and again, found it a very calm and restful activity. It does take a lot of time, especially with the thin yarn I’m using, but it’s relatively mindless, and will result in a gorgeous piece of fabric.

While I ran the threads back and forth, I thought about why I was so drawn to get the loom and learn to weave. Or why I’m interested in any of the fiber arts I take part in – crochet and knitting, mainly. I mean, I do them because I enjoy the work, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only do I feel a sense of connection to the past when I do these types of crafts with my hands, but it also gives me a feeling of self-sufficiency.

I’ve always been a very independent person (too independent, says my mom), and I’ve also always been interested in homesteader-type activities. Crochet was one of the first hobbies I learned as a child, and it feels good to know that I can make both warm and useful things with just some yarn (or whatever) and a hook. I started knitting just because I think knit stitches are better for clothing (tighter), and weaving will broaden what I can make even more, in terms of household items and possibly even blankets and scarves.

Making things with my hands using simple tools gives me a sense of connection to the past that very few other things do. These crafts have been passed down for generations on to the next, and there’s just something that feels very important about keeping the hand-made version of them going as people cycle in and out of life. Not just because there’s value in knowing how to take care of ourselves without the technology of mass-production, but also because of that feeling of self-sufficiency that comes with knowing how to take raw materials and turn it into something useful and practical (as well as beautiful, in many cases). The more self-sufficient I feel, the more confidence I have, and that applies to all areas of my life, not just my homesteader-style hobbies.

Which is justification enough to learn how to spin my own yarn one of these days too, right? Although we may need a bigger house…

But I draw the line at raising sheep outside an actual apocalyptic-type situation. I helped a friend with 4-H sheep in high school. They’re cute, but stupid. I’m not a fan.

Alpacas have personality, though…

On Notes, Ink, Postcards, & Peace Camp

Funny how the first three title subjects have something to do with writing, and yet for the purposes of this post, it’s the most tenuous of threads…

The Note(s)
My Note 7 showed up on Wednesday to brighten up a rather gray week, and it is everything I hoped it would be and more. I love it, and though I still have a few things to get working correctly (like photos saving to Dropbox, etc), it’s functioning mostly like the Note 3 did. I factory-reset the Note 3 for my husband, who is actually using it to make lists and such, which is impressive. So we’ll see if he gets as much utility out of such a handy device as I do or not.

Note7

The screen is especially beautiful and clear, and the camera is pretty awesome too. Great low-light photos…they weren’t kidding!

It took the better part of an evening to get everything transferred over, and then part of another to get all my passwords put in (and I’m still not sure I have them all yet). Then there’s tweaking the settings for things, and turning notifications on and off, and figuring out the blue-light filter (which is awesome, because it makes the screen so much easier on my eyes). I can, indeed read on this screen with the filter on, which is awesome.

Fun, fun, but time consuming. Between that and work, the rest of the week flew right by.

The Ink
Saturday I got one of the two tattoos planned…there wasn’t time for two, but Andrew did a really amazing job on my barn spider in just an hour and a half. Meet Earl…Charlie’s new “arm-mate”:

Earl

Isn’t he cool? He’s still a bit swollen (takes 3-4 days for the swelling to go down), but I can’t wait to see how he turns out once he’s all healed. I’ll go back in two weeks to get my grasshopper/ladybug on the upper side of my wrist, and then I’ll let this arm heal for several months before doing anything else with it.

One more tattoo on the inside of my other forearm, and that will be it for this year. Fun stuff!

The Postcards
Then Sunday, I finally sat down and got several postcards ready to mail out. One for my own postcard exchange, and seven for Postcrossing exchanges. Apparently there are a lot of postcard collectors/swappers in Russia, because every one of the names I drew this time are from there. Hopefully next time I can draw a better mix? Not that it matters too much, I suppose…I sent them all a small bit of Montana.

8_29_2016

Peace Camp
So when I sat down last night to write this post, I had the TV on for noise (the dogs are used to it being on in the evenings, so they settle better when things are “normal”). I turned the channel to PBS World, figuring it’s normally politics and world news, so there wouldn’t be too much to grab my attention. Alas, I should have left it on a stupid sit-com or something, because it ended up being a documentary on this Peace Camp that brought together a group of girls from different parts of the middle east and basically worked with them on learning how to communicate, and how to respect other people’s beliefs even when you know you won’t agree, and how to be okay with that in a non-violent way.

It was fascinating, and it followed the lives of these girls for quite a few years after and how some of them struggled to keep in touch, and never gave up trying to communicate and come together. I couldn’t help but think that we all could use more of that – face-to-face time in small groups of people who believe differently, moderated so no one group can gang up on the other, with exercises that make us admit to/acknowledge the “human-ness” of the people on the other side of the wall, so to speak.

Kids need this. All kids, in my opinion. These were teens when they started, and I think that’s the perfect time to really instill that respect for other humans, especially those who disagree with our personal beliefs/philosophies.

I have more to say on the matter, but will wait until I can distill it into a less chaotic set of thoughts in my own head and give it a separate post. The documentary really made me think though, and gave me hope for future generations even in the midst of such unrest. I’m glad I got distracted by it, even if it did make this post late.

The Plan
Sneaking in one more section here – I’ve been seriously slacking lately. Too much unproductive time, which just leads to more unproductive time and less productive thinking. It’s a bad downward spiral that I really want to spin the other way. So I’m working on not just being more productive this week, but also giving certain projects less time. Which sounds counter-productive, but the less time I have to work on something, the more focused I am while I’m working on it and in a lot of cases, I get more done because of that.

So the hope is to get more done on the projects I need to get done during the week, leaving more time on the weekends for stuff I do just for enjoyment (without the guilt). Call it an experiment. Hopefully a productive one…


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Health as an Investment Plan

I’ve been thinking a lot about health lately, what with hyper-focusing on calories and portion sizes and all the “stuff” one needs to pay attention to in order to lose weight. It’s also been on my mind due to the nightly walks I take with my dogs…time spent in the hope of longer good health for all of us as our bodies age (theirs faster than mine, of course).

I was also thinking about shares and stocks last week as I was purchasing shares in a local bookstore co-op, and looking at my finances in hopes of being able to invest more in the stock market soon. I’ve had a moratorium on investing for the last couple of years because our debt was just too high, but one of our bigger debts will be paid off in full next month, and while I’ll be rolling most of the money that no longer needs to go to that towards reducing other debts, I’d like to take a small portion and start investing more again. All with an eye toward retirement, of course. It’ll be quite awhile before I’m ready to retire, but I’d like to be at least somewhat comfortable when I do. My husband is eleven years older, so he’ll be retiring sooner, and it would be nice to have some extra money in the form of dividend income at that point as well, just to help take care of unexpected expenses and such. If you know me at all, I’m sure you’ve guessed that I’m a pretty conservative investor, which takes a bit more time than the high-risk sort of investing, but I haven’t lost anything yet either. Knock on wood…

In any case, I was feeling overwhelmed last week and trying to figure out how I could do more of the things I want to do by moving things around in my schedule, and also wondering why I don’t seem to have as much time for those things now as I used to, and while it’s partially due to social media (I spend entirely too much time just watching other people’s lives go by), it’s also partially because I’m spending more time on health-related activities. My first inclination was to try to figure out how to cut back on some of that so there would be more time for other things.

But from an investor’s point of view, that’s exactly the wrong way to look at it. Much like making smart monetary investments can be a boon for the bank account years down the road, investing time wisely in health-related pursuits can also pay off very nicely in the long run (we’ll all get sick/have issues as we age, but an overall healthy body will deal with those things more quickly & easily). I need to keep that perspective in focus, rather than focusing on how longer dog walks in the evenings or hours of food prep on the weekend or even just getting more sleep means less time for other things I’d like to do.

And I guess more than anything in light of my recent head-space, I need to acknowledge that I’m consciously choosing to make these things priorities. They aren’t being forced on me (though the dogs would have some serious things to say about cutting out their walks), they’re things I choose willingly as a long-term investment in health. And allowing them to cause me stress merely undermines that investment – stress is a killer, and distinctly unhealthy in most cases.

To that end, this week I’m going to seriously cut down on backlit screen-time outside of work hours. My corneas have been getting worse lately, so I need to do that anyways for health reasons (to avoid the sort of serious flare-up that had me on steroids when my eyes were watering 24 hours a day a couple years ago), but I think it will help me work out a better balance for other things as well, including writing (which I’ll do most of on my Alphasmart instead of my laptop, at least for this week).

Priorities change as we go through life, and at the moment, my main three need to be health, marriage maintenance, and work. Anything else I want to do (writing, crocheting, reading, etc) have to come after and fit in around those three things.

If I can hold on to that perspective, I think everything in my life will run a lot more smoothly. Or with less stress, anyways (healthier!).

Maybe I should put a buck in savings every time I do something healthy. Hmmm…