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Resolution Six-Month Checkup

I had to break one of my resolutions for the year (the one easiest to keep at the top of my mind), so I figured this would be a good time for a six-month “checkup” of sorts to see how I’m doing. As a quick reminder, I did make a long list of goals for the year, but only three actual resolutions:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

Needless to say, things aren’t going well. *sigh* Until a last week, I’d been fudging the 6 hours of sleep thing for a few weeks, pushing it later and definitely not getting to bed on time, which makes my mornings suck (not to put too fine a point on it). Granted, some nights this year I just haven’t slept well. That’s partially because we bought a new, much firmer mattress that my husband loves, but it’s taken me a good couple of months to adjust to, and partially because the weather was so weird for awhile, and finding the “sweet spot” for the A/C with all the humidity we’re really not used to was very much a trial and error thing. Another issue was gallbladder discomfort, which I’ll get to in a bit.

But part of it is that I’m just trying to do too much at night, and not getting it done frustrates me, so I stay up later to try to compensate, and then get up tired in the morning which means I’m even more tired/less productive the next night, and it’s a cycle that hurts me more than it helps. I just really need to scale back on the things I want to do and take care of myself by…getting to bed on time. I’ve done that very purposefully the last several nights, and woke up rested, before my alarm, and ready to start the day (except Sat night, but that doesn’t count).

So, I’m relaxing and reorganizing my late night schedule, admitting that I can’t actually do eveything I want to do, and getting to bed on time. Because it’s important.

The Sleep Resolution stands.

I mentioned gallbladder discomfort above…it’s been worse than normal this year, and I couldn’t figure out why after it’s been so calm for several years. I was almost resigned to finally going to the doctor, but still dragging my heels, so to speak.

I decided to try Chanca Piedra again (stonebreaker herb), which worked great last time I had issues. I was also reading up on intermittent fasting for health, and stumbled on a research study that found that eating more than three eggs a week was highly likely (ie, happened in 93% of the test group) to cause gallbladder discomfort.

I’ve been eating 10-13 eggs per week since January, faithfully, per my resolution. And my recent gallbladder issues have been going on pretty much exactly that long. *sigh*

I finished off the eggs I’d already hard-boiled for last week with the help of my husband (egg salad sandwiches are yummy), and cut myself back down to only having eggs occasionally. *One day* after I quit eating eggs daily, my gallbladder inflammation went down and the discomfort all but disappeared. It’s been five days now, and the discomfort is still there (because the eggs probably caused more gallstones to form over the months), but barely noticeable. I think a round of chanca piedra to break up the gallstones will probably get me back to where I need to be in regards to gallbladder health. If it doesn’t, I will go to the doctor, but I’ll definitely try this first, since it worked so well the first time.

So – The Egg Resolution is dead. Turns out the one resolution I was actually keeping was hurting instead of helping. Dang it.

As far as the third resolution goes…well, I think it’s probably obvious that I have *not* been checking in with my goals list once a week, and I’ll be totally honest and tell you that at least several of them have been either ignored or derailed by other things. Which isn’t good. But, I have six more months to work on that, so I’ve set an alarm for myself on Monday nights to do that weekly check-in, and a few other check-ins I need to be more diligent about as well (things like budgeting, meal planning, etc). Right at the first part of the week.

Way back in the “dark ages” before digital assistants were phones, the whole reason I started using one (palm pilot!) was to keep track of my schedule and remind myself to do things. I still do that, but not as much…and it’s a great tool to keep me moving in the right direction. I need to make better use of that particular feature again.

The Goals Check-Up Resolution stands.

I think I need to make one more resolution so I’ll still have three to work on (because every creative person knows that odd numbers are better than even). In that light, I’m adding another health-related resolution:

The Push-Up Resolution is a goal to do a minimum of 1 push-up per day/6 days per week for the rest of the year. Yes, it sounds insignificant, but much like the dead egg resolution, the purpose isn’t just to do one push-up, but rather to do one healthy, resistance training thing per day which most days will end up being 5 push-ups, or 1 push-up plus 10 bicep curls, or 20 push-ups, or 10 push-ups plus 10 squats…

You get the point. Taking the time to do 1 push-up per day will force me to think about working out, and if I have time to do one, I can probably do five or ten, or even twenty, or if I’m downstairs by my weight set I might decide to do a few other exercises just because I’m there. Or, I might be busy or sick or just not feelin’ it, and I’ll just do one push-up to satisfy the resolution and that will be that. It’s still something, and something that will affect positive change in the long run.

That gets us back to three resolutions for the rest of the year.

How are your own resolutions (if you make them) going? What about just basic goals? Have you done your own check-in lately?


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When I Grow up…

There’s a meme going around social media to the effect of, “When you grow up, no one asks what your favorite dinosaur is anymore.” Which is true, sadly, and an indication that adults have more weighty things to think about than extinct creatures, I guess. Still, I loved dinosaurs as a kid, and triceratops was always my favorite, for the record. Still is. I think they are the cutest, and I love their armor. That big shield is just an awesome sight to behold, even if only in museums now.

When I was a kid, we used to go to the drive-in theater occasionally too, which was always fun. At the one we used to go to, the screens would face each other, so us kids could lay in the back of our huge boat of a car and watch whatever was on the back screen while we were supposed to be sleeping, and the parents watched the front screen (with sound, of course). There were lots of rides to play on, and benches out in front of the cars where you could sit too, and with a speaker for each car window, you could easily hear the movie outside the car.

Movies had intermissions then, and singing hotdogs, and that’s when you’d get up, stretch your legs, get a treat and see who else had come out for the night. It was a great time, and a special night out.

So it’s fun to go out to our local drive-in now, as an adult, and see that though much has changed, so much hasn’t too. We went and saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this weekend, mixing dinosaurs, complex ethical dilemmas and the overall drive-in experience. A natural progression, it would seem.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately too…the craft itself, specifically, and how I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 16 or so. When I was young, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up (another thing no one asks anymore), and for a long time, I would answer “an astronaut”, because I was obsessed with space, space travel, and convinced that there was a scientific way to make Mars inhabitable (Issac Asimov may have had a little to do with that belief).

When I got to high school and actually looked into what was required of astronauts, I was pretty disheartened to learn that fighter pilot experience was a big plus, and I would never qualify with my incredibly poor eyesight. Not for fighter pilot school, and not for an astronaut program. So I started thinking about what it was I really wanted to do with my life, and the only thing that ever truly appealed to me, an avid reader, was writing. Writing fiction, specifically.

My parents are inherently practical people, and upon hearing my new vocational goals, they both promptly asked, “so what are you going to do for money?” and when I frowned and said “I’m going to be a writer,” they both looked at each other, looked back at me, and said, “you need a backup plan, because you need to be able to take care of yourself in case you can’t get published.”

Back then, self-publishing wasn’t an option. Ebooks weren’t even around yet. And when I said I’d publish my books myself if no one would publish me, my parents reiterated how important it was to have a job that would pay the bills because writers are “creatives” and they’re always poor.

I never really wanted to be anything else, but when I went to college and took my first formal english classes, I failed to see how those would help be become a better fiction writer. I decided to get a history degree, because I enjoyed my history classes more than anything (other than philosophy classes, which I discovered later), and I figured I could teach (until I took a semester of student teaching), or I could go get a law degree (until I looked into exactly what it would take to go on to higher education).

Long story short, I have a history degree and an inherited proficiency in IT. The latter ended up being more useful in the long run as far as supporting myself goes. But of course I was so busy in college working to pay for it that I didn’t write – I thought about it all the time, but never had the time or energy. After college, I dabbled in writing, but by that time, I had bills and a house payment and writing is, unfortunately, not one of those things that I’m just inherently quick at picking up.

You would think I’d have given up on writing by now. I have a good job that I like, and I’m pretty decent at doing it, if I do say so myself. Writing is hard, it takes a lot of time that could be spent on other things, and my brain is naturally skewed more toward the technical/realistic worldview rather than a fictional/dramatic/”creative” one, so writing is always going to be a challenge, and I’m constantly trying to figure out what’s missing in my stories (which is extremely frustrating, though I do take a baby-step forward here and there). My life would be a lot simpler and less stressful if I just gave it up, honestly.

Thing is, I’ve tried. I’ve stopped writing for months and years on end, and I always come back to it. I can’t stay away – there’s something magnetic about it that I just can’t resist, even though it slaps me down and frustrates the heck out of me on an almost daily basis. Maybe that’s why – maybe it’s the challenging aspects of it that draw me in. Or maybe it’s just that I can’t help thinking I’ll be able to “crack the code” one of these days, and end up writing something people want to read (even if it’s just by accident).

In any case, watching the movie this weekend actually got me thinking about this, because I found myself enjoying the show thoroughly, but also kind of pulling apart the story structure (which is normally something I refrain from doing) in order to see what I could learn and use to apply in my own writing later on. And I had an epiphany about structure and depth in plotting that made me very happy – not that I’ll be able to apply it right away (because figuring out how to apply it is often more difficult for me than just recognizing it), but it made me feel like another piece of the writer’s puzzle finally fell into place in my brain. A piece I’d been ransacking the whole house looking for for ages, it seems like, and this weekend I finally found it in a dark corner underneath a heavy piece of furniture (or pile of dinosaur bones, as it were).

And I wonder, as I muddle through this whole “learning to write” process, slowly, if it would have been easier to stay focused and learn these lessons when I was young. To worry less about money and more about learning how to do what I really and truly wanted to do professionally, instead of being so very practical. My life would have taken a very different path, to be sure, and I’m not all totally convinced it would have been a better one, but would I have become a better writer at a younger age? Would I have been able to make a living from writing earlier, instead of waiting until retirement (which is when it looks like I’ll have the best chance at being good enough to make money)?

No way to know now, I suppose, and I’m not unhappy that my life has gone as it has so far. But it does make one wonder. Or it makes me wonder, anyways…

So…what’s your favorite dinosaur? And what do you want to be, now that you’re all grown up?


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Nailin’ It…Slowly.

So far, its been pretty easy to eat an egg once per day (see this year’s resolution post if you have no idea what I’m talking about). Getting six continuous hours of sleep a night? Not so easy. Especially on Saturday nights, which is when you’d think it would be the easiest, since I can generally sleep in on Sundays. Alas, no matter how late I can sleep, I still have to be up by 7:30am or so to feed the dogs, so my 6 hours has to happen before then (anything that happens after is just a bonus, and one I often take advantage of).

This is because Saturday nights are “nail nights”, or more properly, manicure nights. So I wait until the dogs and husband are settled for the night around 11:30pm-12am, and then I get out my nail “stuff”, pull up whatever show(s) I’m currently watching, and start the process of removing my old nail polish, filing, shaping, buffing, and re-polishing. I also soak my feet and do a simple pedicure at the same time…re-polishing my toenails every 4-5 weeks or so. I generally get done around 3:30-4am, but then I have to wait for the new polish to dry before I can go to bed, which is another hour or so. Even then, I often end up with sheet prints in my polish or scrunched up tips just because the polish wasn’t *truly* dry.

In any case, I decided to try a new method of doing my nails this week, to see if I could speed up the process a bit, and even with a somewhat steep learning curve, I shaved an hour off my normal time. I still need practice, but considering I spent an hour or more just reading instructions, watching videos and being extra-careful, I think I can cut at least another hour, hour and a half off next time. And there are other things I can do to speed things up, like setting up my “space” and picking out colors, etc…earlier in the day, so it doesn’t take that extra half hour in the evening before I can even start.

Could I just skip all this and go to the salon for a couple of hours? Sure. But I really don’t like having someone else do my nails. I did once, because I got a gift certificate for a manicure, and I didn’t like anything about the way she filed, shaped or polished my nails. I didn’t like the touch from a stranger on my hands. And doing that every two weeks holds no appeal to me whatsoever, much less every week.

More importantly though, nail night is “me time”. Not “me and a stranger’s time” or even “me and a friendly acquaintence’s time”, but time for me to be alone, recharging my introverted little batteries, watching shows my husband has no interest in, and just generally enjoying having a few hours to myself. I still fully intend to take 3 hours every Saturday night to relax, do my nails and watch my shows. I’m just cutting that time down from 5 hours to take better care of my brain (such as it is) by sleeping more.

I think by mid-February, I should have it all down to a science of sorts, and I’ll be in bed by 1:30am on Sunday mornings. I dare say that will make Sundays more productive as well. Which would be really nice. We’ll see.

Now, back to the grind. But only for a week – I’ve got next week off work, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. Five more days…

Resolutions 2018: What Kind of Person Do I Want to Be?

This year, it’s not about what I do, but who I am. Am I the kind of person who puts things off and lets them go just because the time isn’t optimal, or due to rigid social/societal structures? Or am I the kind of person who treats life and time as fluid and finds creative solutions in order to meet her goals and stay mentally balanced and healthy? I’m sure you can guess which kind of person I’d rather be…but I’ve been slipping on that a bit lately. Or a lot. I’ve let a lot of good habits go by the wayside just because I can’t do them on the schedule I want to or because I’m tired and not making good use of my alone-time to recharge, and I’ve let some stumbling blocks in my daily life completely derail me from things I really want to do.

I’m a creative thinker. The things that have been derailing me just…shouldn’t, because I’m perfectly capable of figuring out different ways of getting things done. I’m also perfectly capable of finding a compromise point when necessary, and that’s where the flexibility comes in. Often to get things done or change a schedule, the only person I need to compromise with is myself and my own rigid thoughts and routines.

When it comes to resolutions, I’m changing my thought patterns a little this year. I normally have a fairly long list, with several resolutions and then a detailed plan for how I’ll accomplish each one. A “resolution” for me is just a very strong goal…something that I really want to focus on and work at making happen. The thing is, I don’t remember those long lists, so I end up only accomplishing one or two things instead of a good chunk of the list. And I’m not good at remembering to check the lists every so often and remind myself what I’m supposed to be doing, which is something I need to work on.

So, this year I’m doing something different. I still have my longer list with the detailed plans, and I’m going to put monthly reminders on my calendar to look back, take stock and see what kind of progress I can make on that list. That’s the yearly “Goal List”, and those items are important, but they take a back seat to the “Resolutions List”.

The Resolution list is the highest priority, has three items on it, and only a few ideas on how I could possibly implement these “major goals”, rather than a detailed plan that may or may not work. This is to leave my mind room to work on creative solutions so I can find the one that will work best with what I’m trying to do through trial and error, rather than locking myself into something that may prove untenable in the long run.

The resolutions are deceptively simple, but will require a ripple of changes to multiple routines, schedules and mindsets to meet them on a regular, daily basis. They’re seemingly small things that will have profound impacts on my life…hopefully for the better.

So, my resolutions for this year are:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

And that’s it. Those are my three hard and fast priorities for the year – the things I want to do no matter what else happens. Why these three in particular?

Sleep is something I hate wasting time on, but it’s incredibly important for a lot of things, not the least of which is overall long-term brain health. I read a study last fall (and mentioned it here, so apologies for the repeat) on how if you get less than 6 continuous hours of sleep per night, your brain can’t properly perform basic “cleaning functions” it needs to keep the pathways clear of amyloid deposits (among other things). These deposits have been linked to causing dementia and Alzheimer, and the more often you go without that minimum amount of sleep, the more your brain actually loses the ability to perform those important “scrubbing” tasks no matter how much sleep you get.

So why make it a resolution? Because for me, sleeping for 6 continuous hours means completely redoing both my night and morning routines, and becoming more efficient at what I need to get done before and after work just so I can have 6 hours free to do…brain maintenance. This resolution affects a very large swath of my life, and while I’ve been working on it for a couple of months now, I tend to “fudge” the schedule here and there, and I’m still working to find a good way to handle my manicure nights on Saturdays (when I’m often up until 4-5am doing my nails).

Focusing on getting 6 hours of sleep will force me to adjust and change (improve?) a plethora of other things in my life, which makes it a good resolution, methinks.

As for the eggs – I’m working on getting healthier (a constant thing). Losing weight, getting strong, eating healthy. Lots of recent studies have de-villified the egg as a cholesterol issue, and they contain a lot of really great vitamins and minerals that support healthy thyroid and metabolic function. Plus, good protein! And very versatile/easy to incorporate into daily meals.

Focusing on eating one specific food every day will force me to think about my meals in advance, and also keep me in the mindset of eating foods that support my overall goals of getting healthier and getting back to a healthier weight.

Lastly, the checking in on my major goal list once a week will help keep those fresh in my mind, and give me a weekly opportunity to think about what I could do to make progress on them, or go over what isn’t working and adjust the goal accordingly. This also will require that I adjust my weekend routines to make time for this weekly check-in. I’ll probably need an hour, at least.

So, that’s the resolution list and plan for this year. I’ve already started moving things around in my routines to get to bed on time, and planning out how to fit a daily egg into my diet (this week, cupcake-sized egg muffins for breakfast…made this morning and cooling for the freezer). Just need to figure out when I’ll do my first goals check-in next weekend, and I’ll be off to a good start.

Here’s to a year of focus, flexibility and forward progress!

2015 – The Resolutions Post

If you’ve been hanging with me long, you know I’m a pretty devout resolutionist (and if you didn’t, now you know). I don’t get all the backlash with regards to making resolutions…because resolving to do something is merely making a goal to do that thing, nothing more, nothing less. I’ll be successful with some of them, and some not so much, but even those I’m not successful at will give me something to think about at the end of the year, and help me to refine my goals going forward.

I spent the better part of December working on my list for 2015, mainly because I always over-reach, and while that’s fine, I wanted to really refine the list this year and only include things that are definitely doable. So I’ve been going back and forth among my daily/weekly to-do lists, my proposed writing/publishing schedule and my proposed resolutions, refining, re-organizing, paring back, and in some cases, adding in. It’s not something I take lightly – I ultimately want to give myself the best chance possible for success, and to do that, I need to make realistic goals that will fit with my schedule and the time/energy I have available.

At the same time, I do *want* to overreach a little, just to push myself and make it just a little challenging. If you’re not being challenged, you’re not growing…and stagnation is the enemy of life.

All that said, here’s the list I’ve come up with for this year, with a few explanatory notes added as to why/how I plan to work on certain items.


Personal 

– Journal weekly: To get anything I might be stressing/obsessing over out of my head, so I’m less distracted overall (mental health).
– Monthly mail exchange: To further my stamp collecting hobby, and rediscover the more personal connection of snail mail and short, hand-written notes.
– Go hiking (summer): For better health, and to broaden perspective/stay connected to the natural world.
– Dedicated weekly hobby time: I’ve learned to do this over the past year, but with the higher emphasis on writing/publishing this year, it needs to be on the list so I don’t let that part of my life slide. Important for mental health. 

Writing

– Write better books: By which I mean, keep working consciously to make my writing better with each draft I start (don’t let myself fall into a rut just because my writing schedule is quite challenging this year)
– Maintain a more disciplined writing/working habit: 2k words per day, 5 days per week, or at least 10k words per week, no matter how that shakes out (my normal output is around 800 – 1200 words per day now).
– Release a book or collection every other month: I had very few releases in 2014, and my sales reflect that. One of the best ways to stay visible is to publish often. 

Publishing/Sales

– Monthly newsletters: Often touted as the absolute best way to keep in touch with readers and keep book sales steady, this is something I’ve been incredibly lazy about, because I feel newsletters should have some content other than just “hey, I have a new book out – go buy it!”. Yes, this is perfectionism, but I think in this case, it has merit. So I’ve devised a plan to give newsletter subscribers new, original, exclusive content every month, which will add to my release list at the end of the year.
– Weekly blog posts for author blogs & writing blog: I’m already doing this for two of my author blogs (this one and my Alex alter-ego), but I’d like to get a weekly post going on the Trinity blog as well, and also at The Drafting Desk for writers/writing-related posts).
– Adopt the donation/patronage model for web site downloads for the whole of 2015: All books except new releases will be available at the BSB site for whatever price the reader wants to donate, or nothing at all. This is a carrot, both to draw readers to the BSB site regularly, and also to give those who may not be able to afford regular price for my books a way to get them for what they can afford, even if that’s free. Also, to entice people to try my work in the hope that if they like it, they’ll pay for the next one. This will be the *only* place to get my books for free or discounted prices, and I’ll be revisiting my pricing structure through the other distribution sites (ie, prices will probably be going up on the other sites). I’ll revisit this at the end of the year to determine whether it was a successful experiment or not. 


If you peeked at last year’s list from yesterday’s post, you’ll see that this one is quite a bit smaller…and that’s by design. There are more things I’d like to work on throughout the year, but only those that I’ve given top priority are actually included as resolutions. I have a few day job resolutions too, but those aren’t relevant here (and don’t need to be online).

So those will be my priorities this year…and with any luck (okay, more just a lot of hard work and focus), my book sales will be on the rebound by this time next year, and I’ll be a better writer, as well as in good shape physically/mentally. A lofty goal, to be sure, but certainly worthwhile.

Are you a resolutionist, or do you prefer to just see where life takes you and call it good? If you do make goals/resolutions for the year, what is your biggest one for 2015?