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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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Work, Home, & Writing Changes

It’s weird how some things make your brain stutter. Last Tuesday, for instance, after my new title of “Database Coordinator” was finally made official at work, my old job as “IS Internet Specialist” was posted for people to apply for. They posted it before anyone told me the new job was official, so for a little while there, I had this vague sense of being in “job purgatory”, even though I knew they wouldn’t post my old job if the new one wasn’t official.

And then of course the realization hit that my self-appointed title of “Webmistress” didn’t actually apply anymore (well, not as far as pertains to the day job, anyways…obviously I still have my own sites to care for). That was weird too. No, my day job isn’t how I define myself as a whole, but it definitely is part of who I am (I mean, I’ve been the “webmistress” for 15 yrs or so now…that’s a long time to lay claim to a specific “label”). And now I am the DBA, which means I *am* that person that I’ve had some…uh…biases & preconceived notions about when dealing with others who wear that label. So that’s gonna take some getting used to.

My focus is a bit different now, and as with any new job, there are a lot of things to learn and become proficient in. And as I mentioned last week, I have to be at work an hour earlier on Mondays, which isn’t on the “pros” list, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to switching jobs in this particular case.

So. Lots of changes going on at work. For the better, I think.

We’ve been making changes at home too. Motivated by my dad’s cancer recurrence, my husband and I have started doing twice-daily workouts, morning and night. I was already doing yoga in the mornings, but slacking off at night. The hubby decided he wanted to get up and get moving earlier, so I’ve been waking him up before I hit the showers, and he does his cardio on the treadmill in the morning. At night, we head downstairs about nine, and I do my cardio and he uses the Total Gym for resistance training, and I do my resistance training after. It’s been good for both of us, I think, and we motivate each other. When neither of us is motivated at night, we have a show we can only watch while we’re working out (we’re currently working on the second season of The Transformer on Netflix), and that generally gets us down there, at least. Just showing up is often all you need to start doing the thing that needs to be done.

I’m pulling off pounds, slowly but surely, which is good. I need to lose around 10-15lbs to be at a comfortable, healthy weight. It’s a little higher than what the docs “say” is good for my particular frame/height, but whatever…it’s the weight I’ve always felt best at, so that’s where I’d like to be. The body knows better than the docs, methinks.

We’ve also been working hard on getting the yard and gardens back in shape. I’ve been meaning to buy and plant bulbs for spring color for years, and last week, I finally did. Or I started, anyways. Every time I look at the bags in the basement, waiting to be planted later this fall, I think I need more. I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding to our bulb collection before we even get them in the ground. Which means our gardens should explode with a riot of color next spring. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

Some of the changes we’ll be making to the backyard this fall and next spring are going to be a little confusing for the Lucy-dog, which is unfortunate, but I think ultimately, a few of them will make things easier for her as far as getting around by feel rather than sight. So hopefully we’ll be able to guide her through adjusting to them without too much anxiety on her part.

As for the writing, I’ve been thinking about retiring one of my pen names next year. It’s difficult keeping up with three genres at once, and I actually have more that I’d like to work in. Writing in that particular genre has grown a bit tiresome, but at the same time, there are other people invested in that name and I have an obligation to work at sales for that reason. The best way to sell more books, of course, is to write and publish more (and get better). So…I’m not sure what I’ll do about that just yet, but I’m leaning toward at least a partial retirement for that name. Maybe just a year-long break? I have until January to decide.

I freely admit that when I finally started writing seriously, I had dreams of selling a bunch of books and being a full-time writer. It’s such a seductive dream to have, but the fact is, the thing that makes good writers stand out from the rest of us is…well, something that really can’t be defined. It’s a certain voice, a unique way of telling a story, or a combination of the two that grabs the attention of enough readers all at once to create buzz, and then they do it over and over and over again.

I don’t have that…yet. I’m not a bad writer, but I could and will be better, with time and practice. I think one of the reasons that writing, unlike so many other things for me, hasn’t fallen by the wayside is because it’s not easy, and I’m not nearly as good as I want to be at it. I generally lose interest in things pretty quickly after I get them figured out, and I’m not even close to figuring out how to tell a good story just yet. Maybe I never will be…in which case I’ll die trying. There are much, much worse ways to go.

But it’s not just that either – you have to get your books in front of people, and get them to read them before they can even find out if you have that…certain something…or not. And that’s not just something self-published authors have to do, it’s what all authors have to do, no matter how they’re published. It’s also not something I’m willing to put all that much time and/or effort into, because there’s a point at which you have to decide whether to go “all in” with writing (which generally means giving up a serious day job in favor of more part-time type work in order to have more time for the writing part). The thing is, I like my job, and all the things that come with it like a steady paycheck, and a retirement fund, and free health insurance, and stability. I like not having to make my writing pay at any cost. I like being able to take whatever time I need to figure things out.

Will I ever figure out that “thing” that will draw people so deep into my stories they won’t want to come back out? Maybe. Maybe not. Thing is, it doesn’t really matter. I enjoy writing, and I’ll just keep on doing it in my spare time, and if something eventually comes of it, great. If not? No big deal – I spent a lot of very pleasant hours making up stories and writing them down. It’s a win-win, really.

It’s been such a year of change already (exhausting!), and there are more on the horizon. Hopefully by the time we hit December the good will outweigh the bad…


 

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On Sulfur, Anxiety & Other Fun Stuff…

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try sulfur (MSM) eye drops for my corneal degeneration condition (the drops my eye doc recommended started making my eyes hurt). I did some initial research (because I’m sensitive to a lot of things in ways other people aren’t), and found lots of information on how good it is for you primarily because it opens cell walls and allows them to heal and function better. The side effects listed on medical sites seemed mild, so I started the eye drops, and then a couple days later, started taking a very small dose (a quarter dose once, instead of twice per day…like I said, I’m sensitive and thus leery) of MSM powder too, thinking maybe it would help heal from the inside out (and also do something for my arthritic hand – MSM is often used for joint pain).

The week I was taking that stuff was one of the worst I’ve had in a long time, and I didn’t realize why until I first stopped taking the powder (just got lazy/apathetic), and then finally stopped the eye drops (which allowed it to completely flush out of my system).

Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I was a hot mess, and in doing some very targeted research after my brain snapped back to normal, I found out that in some lucky individuals (including myself, apparently), MSM/sulfur can cause anxiety – like, major anxiety, and insomnia (I hadn’t been sleeping well either – because my mind was spinning). That post last week about seasonal angst? I wrote that while taking MSM & using the eye drops, and my mind was going 24/7 with constant worry, paranoia, anxiety, and obsessive/compulsive thinking. It was bad, and thank goodness I’m an introvert with few actual friends, because my best buddy had to listen to all the nasty stuff via email, and it also aversely affected my attitude and actions at work. I was still able to function and do my job without breaking stuff, but it was a serious struggle, and staying away from people as much as possible became my main goal because I *knew* something just wasn’t right with the way I was interacting/relating to others (severe paranoia along with the anxiety – warranted paranoia, as it turned out).

So. Not. Good.

Note that in order to find other people with that same reaction, I had to dig pretty deep into discussion forums and such, because when things cause mental side effects like that, the medical community tends to ignore them, or brush them off as some other problem. Same thing happened when I tried to use Splenda and it made me crazy-angry all the time, or when I tried to take extra Vitamin D (because none of us get enough, right?) and it screwed with both my head and my hormones until I stopped taking it.

I do have minor anxiety issues if I stop taking fish oil (to a far lesser extent…I’ve never experienced anything like this sulfur-induced craziness). So I may well be prone to those problems anyways, but the fish oil (brain food!) keeps me on a nice, even keel, and the MSM just basically threw me off a mental cliff and into a seemingly endless free-fall. I truly thought I was losing my mind.

In any case, one day last week (Tues, I think) after I became too lazy (or anxious – whatever) to worry about something so trivial as eye drops or extra supplements (because I was obsessing constantly), I had a horrible headache all day, but I could *think* again. All the anxiety/paranoia/obsessive thoughts just completely disappeared, and my mind was calm and rational again – like a switch flipped, just that abruptly. The headache went away after a day, and I’ve been fine ever since – mentally peaceful and focused. The only thing I changed when the anxiety shot up was taking sulfur, and the only thing I stopped when my mind cleared was the sulfur, so I’m sure that’s what it was.

The bummer of the whole thing is, the sulfur was working well for my eyes – they actually felt better than they have in over a year when I first started the MSM. But, I’ve found some other eye drops that work okay and don’t make me nuts, and I vastly prefer being logical/rational even if my eyes are a bit worse off. So no more MSM for me.

I have to say, it did give me a renewed respect for what people with clinical anxiety go through every day. I couldn’t have handled it much longer without doing *something* to stop it, because it was just completely crazy…I felt totally out of control and the lack of sleep certainly didn’t help. Dealing with other people was nearly impossible between the paranoia and obsessive thoughts, and I just wanted to go crawl into a cave far away from everyone. I never want to experience that again.

Needless to say, that took up a good chunk of last week and the week before, and since the haze cleared, I’ve been working like mad trying to catch up on all the stuff I didn’t get done as far as the writing/writing related stuff goes. I think I’m pretty well caught up now though – all the newsletters should be hitting inboxes sometime today, my serial scenes were all posted last Friday, and I can start this week with a clean slate.

On another happy note, Independence Day is this coming Saturday here in the states, which means I have Friday off work. Three-day weekend, and I do believe I’ll spend the time catching up on some much needed updates to my personal web sites, including the BSB site. I’ve been thinking about adding a mini-social network to the BSB site so I might play around with that, and I also have a book (not by me) that I need to get edited and sent back to the author, so I’m hoping to get that done this weekend as well.

Believe it or not, I even have a reading post done and scheduled for Wednesday. Don’t get too used to that – it’s more of a time issue than anything else and I have seven drafts to keep up with right now, but hopefully I can at least make it a monthly thing.

Alrighty then. Here’s to a good, level-headed, mania-free week. And hopefully a quick fix for our A/C, which isn’t working yet again just before the hottest day of the year so far…

But hey. Good excuse for a late-night ice cream float, eh? ūüėČ


 

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Monday Musings: On History, Ignorance, & a Challenge…

13thBirthday1987

I spent my 13th birthday at¬†Hershey, Pennsylvania. Looking at that web site (something that didn’t exist back then – whoa), I don’t remember even half of the things they have now. In fact, it was a dreary January day, and we were practically the only people there. I just remember that we took a tour of the factory and bought some¬†souvenirs¬†in the gift shop…including that shirt I’m wearing above. This was the only photo of myself I could find from that day – flattering, no? Incidentally, after looking through my old photo stash, I’ve decided I didn’t start actually having good hair days until I grew mine out long in high school. Even then, it was iffy…but I digress (regress?).

The reason I spent that particular birthday surrounded by chocolate (ironic, since I’m not actually a huge chocolate fan), is because we happened to be living on the east coast for six months that year. My dad had a contract for computer work with a copper company out there, so my mom, sister and I packed up and drove across the country to join him. We spent half a year exploring every state within driving distance of our rental in Pasadena, Maryland (a suburb of Baltimore – or it was then, I have no idea about now). The¬†Chesapeake Bay was quite literally right in our backyard…which was a lot of water to someone from a landlocked state. Honestly, the only thing I really remember about the water was that it smelled bad.

It was during our time there that American revolutionary history really came alive for me. My sister and I were homeschooled, so we didn’t have the limitations of being in a classroom all week. So once or twice a week while my dad was working, Mom would take us…well, anywhere within driving distance. And most of the states are so small out there, there was a *lot* of stuff to see within that particular boundary. On the weekends, Dad would come with, and we’d go farther. We went places like the Baltimore Aquarium (a favorite of mine) or the Washington D.C. zoo, Ocean City’s board walks and beach, Annapolis (where I was beside myself to walk down real cobblestone streets – how completely romantic, and I thought that then too) and the outlet malls, of course (my mom loves to shop). We never went into New York City (my parents proclaimed it “too dangerous”), but we looked down on it from afar, and we did visit the Statue of Liberty, which was quite an experience.

But we also spent a lot of time at historical museums, preserved estates, the various monuments in Washington D.C., and The Smithsonian (which I could very happily wander for years if someone would just make sure I had food and water). Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Colonial Williamsburg and Gettysburg all still stand out vividly in my mind, as well as several places in¬†Philadelphia¬†and Boston. Not that I’d recognize any of it now – I’ve never been back and I’m sure much like Hershey, some things have changed. But I’d like to revisit now that I’m older and more…¬†philosophically¬†mature. Someday, maybe.

In any case, seeing the places our founding fathers lived and worked, seeing the original documents of ¬†the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and just being “steeped” in the rich history of the area…the story of those people’s fight to form their own nation stopped being just a story for me, and started to feel more personal. More like something I would have been proud to have been a part of at the time, and people I respected immensely for not just their thoughts and philosophies, but also their willingness to take the next step and break free in order to make their ideas on how to set-up and run a nation become reality. And they managed to do it, too – even with so many different personalities and ideologies involved, they came together and found a way to make it work.

It’s quite amazing when you think about it, and even moreso if you read the words of the men involved. I went on to study history in college (as my major), and my focus was the American Revolutionary period. I read countless documents from the men themselves – Thomas Paine, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, as well as a lot of lesser-known people of the day. It’s fascinating and enlightening, and also a little disheartening given the state of what they created as it sits today. Regardless, I’m always in constant awe of what they accomplished together, and that this country they started is still going all these years later, even if we have made a great many mistakes along the way.

I see a lot of political posts in my social media feeds these days calling for all manner of laws to either be invoked or rejected, as per the person’s beliefs. A lot of those calls to action reference the Constitution in some way, but it’s normally a vague reference that leaves me wondering if the person has ever read the document they’re referencing, or if they just assume it says what they think it says. Or what someone told them it says. Frankly, it makes whatever argument they’re trying to make weak, IMO. Because you can’t intelligently propose changes to a document you have not read.

I think that this week in particular with¬†Independence Day¬†coming this Friday, every U.S. citizen who is able to read should make the time to read through our government’s main governing document, whether we’ve read it before or not. It’s not actually all that long, though it does take a little time to “digest”. I’d even go so far as to challenge people to read our Declaration of Independence as well, but if you’ll only read one, make it the Constitution. Then if you’re going to argue for or against changes, at least you’ll know exactly what it is you’re arguing for or against.

Ignorance is not bliss, dear readers. I do believe it’s one of the main things responsible for a lot of the problems we have in our government today.

This is my challenge to you for the week: Make the time to read the U.S. Constitution, and maybe even the Declaration of Independence – I’ll be doing the same. Remember where we came from this Independence Day. Often the solution to a problems lies in going back to the root.

No skimming. I know that’s the way people read these days, but this…this is too important to skip words. Read them all. Get a dictionary if you need to. Discuss it with a friend or family member. Give it at least as much attention as you’d give to a good literary novel.

Read the Constitution of the United States (includes both original and amendments)

Read The Declaration of Independence

And if you really want to go information-crazy, read¬†The Bill of Rights¬†while you’re at it.

Have a thoughtful week…and Happy Independence Day to all my fellow U.S. Citizens.


 

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