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Feed Scrolling & Getting Things Done

I’ve noticed something about myself…something some of you might have noticed about yourselves too. I tend to scroll my social media feeds long after I’ve ceased being entertained or amused by them. Even after I’ve commented on what I want to comment on, liked, reacted, or otherwise interacted with people and posts, I keep scrolling. It’s like an automatic Pavlovian response – I don’t get rewarded often, but it’s often enough to keep me hoping for one more little connection somewhere.

It’s a waste of time, is what it really is. And I’m about over it.

Understand – I love social media, even when it makes me crazy, because it’s one of the few ways I can comfortably interact with people I like and/or find interesting while ignoring everyone else. When I need to disconnect, I just do…no fanfare. And then I reconnect again and it’s all good.

But, after I’ve put in whatever meaningful commentary I feel like contributing for the day, I tend to feel like I’m going to miss something if I don’t check back later for replies/comments/reactions/etc. Which is stupid, because every single social media account I have will *let me know* if someone is virtually talking to me. I mean, my cell will buzz at me, or at the very least put a little notification icon up in that left corner. And obviously I’ll reply to notifications as I have time (and a full keyboard, in many cases) – no need to limit that, as I don’t get terribly many.

I don’t have to keep checking back unless I have something to share, or unless I want to check for news, and I only really need to do that a couple times a day – takes 10 minutes or so.

Why do I feel compelled to scroll mindlessly through my social media feed when I could be doing something productive with that time…like writing, or writing a blog post, or watching TV or crocheting, or…well, any number of things, really? I mean sure, sometimes it’s just to relax the mind, and I have no problem with that, but when I feel compelled to scroll through just as I’m sitting down to write or crochet?

Yeah. That’s not a “break”. It’s procrastination coupled with the irrational fear that the world is going on without me and I’ll miss something big if I’m not constantly connected.

I don’t quite “get” why I care what I miss, really. Or even why I feel like I’ll miss something. There is really *no way* to miss something important happening in this day and age if you’re even a little tiny bit connected, and I’m far more connected than that. I couldn’t miss something happening in the world if I *tried* – and often I do try to avoid hearing about certain things with rather mixed results.

Seriously. It’s kind of ridiculous.

I need to just stop. But how? If you said “discipline & redirection”, you’re right! If you said anything else, you could be right too, but those are my personal go-to habit-breakers. I need to decide on a couple of times to check my feeds per day, and then what to redirect to when I feel compelled to scroll outside those prescribed times.

There’s really no need to check my feeds before work – I have other things I need to do with that time (workout, write, *get ready for work*). I may start doing a daily post for my feeds just as a personal accountability writing-goals thing, but I don’t need to scroll to do that, just post. And I normally don’t scroll during the day while I’m at work, so that’s not a problem (too busy, with the occasional lunchtime exception). So once after work and maybe once late at night should be plenty. Then on the weekends if I want to go all-out “zombie-‘netzian” and I have the time (which I often don’t), I can go nuts with the mindless scrolling.

I normally scroll feeds while we’re eating dinner, which is a good time for it, since we’re just watching TV – though I can’t really reply all that easily since I’m generally using my cell. So that will be my main scroll time. The late night time will be dependent on how much writing I get done right away. If I finish the evening’s minimum word count goal (say, 500 words) with time left to spare before bed, then I can use the remainder of time to scroll and reply. Otherwise, no scrolling for the night. That just might be good motivation to settle in and write right away instead of screwing around (ie, scrolling feeds *ahem*) first, actually. Especially if I have comments I need to reply to that evening.

Redirection is easy enough. If I find myself tapping a social site in the morning, just have to redirect myself to whatever I’m supposed to be doing just then (my morning routine is pretty tight). If I find myself tapping over in the evening after my walk, it’s put the cell down and get the yarn. And of course if I’m supposed to be writing, I need to close the browser and write. Discipline plus redirection.

Less mindless scrolling. A good thing, methinks.

Do you scroll mindlessly through your social feeds? Does it bother you, or are you fine with that behavior (which is a perfectly fine/valid perspective, of course)?

Not So Deep Year-End Thoughts

I can’t believe it’s December already…and also, I can’t wait until December is over. I’m not big on the holidays, though I do have quite a bit more holiday spirit this year than last. Not having to stress over decisions for a very sick special-needs dog helps a lot with the whole attitude thing. I may even get Christmas cards out this year (that’s the plan for next weekend, anyway, and I still have the box I bought last year unopened, so I don’t foresee anything derailing me from that).

I had this great idea for yard decorations this year involving our beloved skeletons, but I didn’t have the time or motivation to actually execute it, sadly. Ah well. Maybe next year. Considering some idiots went trashing Christmas decorations in a couple neighborhoods this weekend, it’s probably for the best. Our skeletons are tough, but I’d hate to have to replace them.

I’m nearly done proofreading one of the books I’m working on publishing, and it’s fabulous, and I can’t wait to read the last little bit late tomorrow night. Seriously…between that one and the short story I proofed last week…there’s some good reading coming your way, ladies & gents. I’m not sure when yet, as I’m still working on cover art for one, and the other has to be sent back to the author for final edits, but by January/February, for sure. Completely different stories, and yet each very unique and engaging in their own right. I’m really happy/honored that these writers are publishing under the BSB (Brazen Snake Books) umbrella.

It’s motivating, too – working on these two books. I have a marketing assistant (or BSB does, I should say). And she’s very good at what she does, including pointing out things I should clean up with regards to sales pages, books that are available here and not there, or in this format and not that, or whatever she happens to see that might look a bit “off” to her. She’s made about a ton of very logical, good suggestions, and I’ve not had time to actually put any of them to use. Which is on me, but still – I’d like to. And then the other night when she had me looking up some info on one of my earlier books, I realized that the BSB web site is more screwed up than I originally thought (I…was an idiot, and in a hurry, and installed an update without backing up first, and you should never, ever do that).

In any case, I have a list going of all the things I need to fix and/or work on with regards to my much neglected publishing business, and I’m going to start scheduling weekly calendar time to work on those problems (or in the case of that web site, an entire long weekend to just bomb the whole thing and start over). I need to get my book sales records in order for next year’s taxes anyways, so I need to establish regular weekend “business hours” like I was doing awhile back. Just…maybe not at 6am. Because I am not, and never will be a morning person, and there’s just no reason to get all masochistic on myself like that.

I also decided to change calendars/to-do list apps last week. I’ve been using ToDoist, but I really wanted a more “full-service” calendar/to do list/menu planner/grocery list type of program, instead of having separate apps/programs for each. I’d tried Cozi in the past, and it wasn’t robust enough as far as notifications and offline use as I needed it to be, but when I visited the site again last week, I noticed they’d improved all of that. So I downloaded the free version to my cell, and reset the password for my account on their site, tried it out, and I think it’s going to work for everything I need, finally. I’m trying out the “gold” version now, and will probably pay for a year of that in a week or so. It’s either that, or renew my ToDoist subscription, and Cozi is not only cheaper, but more robust. Cozi seems to be the clear winner for this next year, at least.

Which of course means I’m re-doing all my lists/routines…something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile now, and new software is a great reason/time to actually get that done.

So…a few little changes that could have a big, positive impact for the coming year. Here’s hoping, anyways.

Later this week…back to writing! Finally.

Swirly Thoughts

So many topics to choose from given last week’s more-social-than-normal obligations, and as I sit here late Sunday night trying to convince myself that I should have written this post earlier instead of watching that movie, I’m having a hard time deciding what to blog about. Writers of all kinds are often asked how they get their ideas, and the answer is always the same – ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. The trouble comes in distilling them down and deciding which are actually worth pursuing, and which to leave lying about for someone else to pick up as they go by.

The issue of appearances came up several times last week in a few different contexts, and that always makes me think. How we present ourselves both physically and intellectually is something I’ve been fascinated with since I was very young, and social conventions regarding that topic are varied and complex enough to analyze for years.

And then there’s entertainment and media, which I partook rather lavishly in last week (and enjoyed every minute of it). So much food for thought, both on screen and in print…it was a very creatively rich week, and inspiring as well.

There’s also the fact that I started using my Alphasmart Neo to write with again, and started a brand new romance draft that I feel really good about, and also really odd about, but the important part is, I’m writing again, regularly, and I really, really want to keep that going because I love it.

I hired a part-time promotor for Brazen Snake Books this weekend on a trial basis, which includes a whole lot of mental conflict on my part but also some extraordinarily long-term planning, which is not something I do well or often. But neither is promotion, and I’m already seeing good things happening in that arena, so I’m anxious to see what she can do for both myself and Carol, my best buddy and the other writer who publishes under the BSB umbrella.

That got me thinking about longer-term plans for writing, my pen names, the BSB business, and my day job too. Not conflict, necessarily, just potential progressions of work and life.

Friday was tattoo day, and not just because I finally got the grasshopper/ladybug tattoo I’ve been wanting for the last few months, which took care of the last large open space on my lower left arm. I thought a lot about coverage and perception and appearances (see above) and living in the moment rather than in the future, and my next appointment (which I made after Friday’s tattoo was done).

There’s a lot going on in my head, obviously – which isn’t a bad thing. And I’m not stressed, which is odd, frankly. Normally having this much swirling around at once would be pushing me close to the edge, but I’m surprisingly relaxed. Hopefully I can keep it that way.

Next week, I’ll tease out a topic to go into more depth on. For this week, I’m content to let ’em swirl around unfettered in my brain for awhile yet. They’ll eventually sort themselves out, I’m sure.

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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On Food, Cooking & Meal-by-Mail Services

Ooo…that last one got your attention, didn’t it? Meal-by-Mail, you say? What the heck is that?

Allow me to enlighten you…

I love food. I love eating, and cooking, and fresh ingredients that are local when I can get them or fit it into our lifestyle (note: we live in Montana, so if we *only* ate local, our diet would be pretty limited/boring after awhile, especially in the winter). I’ve mentioned that I hate menu planning, and I’ve finally made peace with the fact that I’m never going to just sit down and plan out a full week’s worth of menus the week before. And definitely not before going grocery shopping – how would I know what produce looks good on any given week if I don’t go to the store first?

Oddly enough, I like to grocery shop (about the only kind of shopping I actually enjoy). When you enjoy grocery shopping, and don’t enjoy menu planning, it’s kind of a recipe for regular budgetary indiscretion and seriously overstocking the fridge with perishables.

I should probably mention I’m not all that fond of budgeting either. Though I am rather fond of paying off debt…but that’s a whole ‘nuther post. The fact is I *can* budget, but I often don’t unless I’m working to pay off or save for something specific.

In any case, I spend a lot more on food than I need to, and considering there’s only two of us, I end up wasting a lot more than I should. Fresh produce, mainly – meat never goes to waste since I can pop it in the freezer, but fresh fruit/produce often goes bad before I can freeze it (and some can’t really be frozen with good results, obviously). No, I don’t have a good composting solution in place. That’s a whole ‘nuther post too.

Enter companies like Blue Apron, Home Chef, and a plethora of other new/trendy “meals-by-mail” services. The geniuses who started these companies decided they could get people cooking and fix the problem of too much food waste all while making restaurant-style profits for themselves. They basically do the meal planning for you (like any of several meal-planning services out there), but they take it one step further and send you all the ingredients – exactly the amount you need for each meal depending on how many people you’re cooking for – and charge you an average of $9.99 per meal to do so. You get the box with the amount of meals/recipes you signed up for, follow the recipes, and voila! You’re cooking at home, eating healthy (depending on what you get), and paying…well, quite a bit more than you would buying in bulk for the same meal, but without the potential wasted extra food from bulk.

As I said, it’s around $10 per meal, per person, so it’s not cheap, but it’s no more than going out to eat either (less in many cases). I wish one of these services would have it set up so that you buy the meat, and they just send everything else, as I prefer to buy/eat local meats (Montana = excellent home-grown meats). And there are the ever-present philosophical arguments about supporting your local stores over a mail service, carbon footprints for having things shipped in (if I were going to worry too much about that, my Amazon Prime membership would be the bigger issue), and the extra packaging for the bits and drabbles of things sent with the orders. All of which are good arguments, but I think sometimes depending on your personal situation, things even out in the end.

Typical three meal Blue Apron delivery.

                       Typical three meal Blue Apron delivery.

I ordered boxes from both Blue Apron and Home Chef, so I could compare the services. I have to say, I’m impressed with both of them. Blue Apron is more of a “foodie” service…they’re not so concerned with health as much as good, tasty meals (though they are very concerned with sourcing things responsibly, and they’ll take all packaging back for recycling too, which is excellent). I have to say, I’ve made four meals from them so far, and the only one that was just mediocre included couscous (which I’d never made before), which neither of us had tried, and it wasn’t bad tasting, it just sat really heavy on the stomach. Everything else has been very good, and they pride themselves on never repeating a recipe in a year. That’s a pretty big departure from my limited weeknight repertoire. Their smallest order is three meals for two people, but of course you can order more for larger families.

We’ve gotten just one Home Chef box so far, but both meals were simple and very good. The packaging is a bit nicer with Home Chef, as everything is packaged together for a meal rather than separate plastic bags for each item – which means less packaging waste. Also super-easy to find in the fridge – just grab the bag marked with the meal you’re making, and the meat (if there is any) and you’re good to go. Blue Apron’s ingredients are a bit more segregated, but still, no big hardship to grab, by any means.

Home Chef two-meal delivery.

                             Home Chef two-meal delivery.

Home Chef’s smallest order is two meals for two people which is nice (though you will pay shipping for anything under $50), but they also offer a smoothie-per-week add-on that’s $5 per person, and a breakfast option as well, which is kind of fun (haven’t tried that yet – might later though). Our first box was just the 2 meals option, but I added the smoothie pack on for the next orders, as that will be a nice change for one breakfast per week.

Both companies send big, full-color recipe cards that not only have pictures of each step of meal preparation, but also includes the nutrient and calorie information. We’ve been keeping pretty careful track of our calories lately (and losing weight – hooray!), which requires a lot of math and estimation when figuring out the calorie count for homemade meals. So it’s a huge time saver to make a recipe with everything already measured out, and know exactly how many calories are in it without doing all that extra work. Saves me a good 15 minutes reading labels, making lists, and adding/dividing numbers. Plus, I don’t “cheat” with the portions just to avoid wasting leftover food, because with these pre-portioned meals, there is no waste.

Every week, each company lets you know when the next menu is ready, and you can go in and choose from several different meals if the ones they choose for you aren’t to your liking. But the selection is still limited enough that it’s not something you’ll agonize over, and you can only get certain combinations. That works great for me, because it forces me to just glance over it, substitute one or two meals if there’s something included we don’t like, and leave it at that. Both services also let you skip weeks, so you aren’t locked into the weekly thing – you could just do once a month as a fun thing if you wanted.

I’m really enjoying them at the moment – it’s fun to add new dishes to the mix without having to buy, say, a whole bottle of fish sauce or black bean paste just for one new recipe. And it’s nice to have several meals already planned and shopped for with an incredibly small amount of effort on my part – takes a lot of the “what do I feel like eating/cooking tonight” stress off without the added stress of sitting down to actually menu plan. My husband will be gone for the last week in July, so I’ve already skipped that week in the Blue Apron account, but I’ll go ahead and get the Home Chef delivery which will give me four meals since it’s just me, and two smoothies – and I’ll still get fresh produce for the week, where I wouldn’t be able to buy that in such small quantities just for myself at the grocery store without wasting a fair amount.

These won’t be for everyone, obviously, and who knows how long I’ll subscribe, but at the moment, it’s a fun, stress/hassle-free way to try a bunch of new things and keep track of calories more easily. If nothing else, by the time I’m tired of it or these companies go out of business, I’ll have a bunch of new recipes and cooking styles/methods/taste profiles in my wheelhouse (In one and a half weeks, I’ve already tried several things I’d never cooked with before, and used a couple of cooking methods I hadn’t used before as well). That’s a win-win, I’d say.

Now I’m hungry…

On Planning & Entertainment

A more or less typical Sunday...

                 A more or less typical Sunday…

I mentioned a few weeks ago about my detour into planner-land one Sunday night while I was supposed to be writing a post for Monday. And my realization that the best planner in the world wasn’t going to solve my problem, which was simply being too lazy to use a planner.

Long story short, I went ahead and started planning my days in the morning, using a blank sheet from the back of one of my planners. Three main goals to start, any meetings scheduled, a few extra “if I have time” goals, and then a timeline of the day wherein every hour (even just watching TV) was listed, hour to hour.

I was a little chagrined to realize that this only took me 5, *maybe* 10 minutes in the morning. I honestly thought it would take much longer, but really, I know my routines, I know how my days mostly go, and I mixed work and personal on the same timeline just because it’s all part of the bigger daily picture. Five to ten minutes, and I started the day with a *plan* (complete with set and flexible goals) and predictably enough, I was much more calm and far less stressed than I have been in a long time. Even better, I finished all three of my main goals for the day. Prioritizing and focusing really does work.

Naturally, I remembered a planner I’d seen on my foray down the planner-rabbit-hole that night that I’d passed on by because it was boring, had undated pages and an un-timed timeline. I went back through my Amazon browsing history (too, too convenient!), found the Emergent Task Planner (ETP), and ordered one right then and there. It was exactly what I was doing, only slightly more organized than having only my messy script on the page.

I’ve been using it for half a week and even through the weekend (Sunday is pictured above), and I have to say – this is perfect. It’s exactly what I needed. Fully flexible so my day can start and end anytime I want, and just a super-simple outline for each day. Plus a spot to keep track of exercise and menu planning for the day (I’m keeping close track of calories at the moment, so the page pictured has my calorie calculations for the breakfast burritos I made yesterday).

So no, the planner didn’t fix my problem. But it did facilitate my fixing the problem by making it easier to do so, which is just as good. When I have a plan, I have at least the illusion of control, and that eases my personal stress level in a pretty major way – even if the plan has to change along the way. Odd how that works, isn’t it?

Now for something completely different. If I’d shown you Saturday’s page, you’d see several time chunks at night blocked out for “GOT”. Last week, I signed up for a one month free trial of HBO Now, so I could see what all the fuss was over The Game of Thrones. I watched the first episode last Wednesday night, and it was a little confusing (which is odd, considering I’d actually read that particular part of the books), but intriguing enough to watch a second. So Saturday evening when my husband was gone (he’s not interested), I watched several more episodes through the evening (I think I’m on 7 now, if I recall correctly). It’s very intricate, with so many different players and each with different motives and desires. I can see why people are so glued to it – and now that Tyrion shirt I got in last month’s Geek Fuel box makes so much more sense.

The hubby and I also decided to try Six Feet Under while we were there…and I have to say, that is one delightfully wacky show. I just adore the dark humor in it, and we’ve only watched a couple episodes so far. Luckily, hubby says that one’s on Amazon Prime, so we can watch that even if I don’t continue with HBO Now – though I dare say I will have to keep it until GOT is done. Which kind of sucks, because it’s one of the more expensive stand alone subscriptions at $14.99 per month. But I could just catch up now, and then cancel until next season too. Did I mention the HBO Now app sucks?

I also really want to watch Penny Dreadful, which is a Showtime…ah, show. But that’s an $8.99 add on subscription to our Prime membership, so…entertainment is getting a bit expensive here. Then again, we rarely actually go to the movies, and we did watch a couple of movies on HBO Now this weekend (The Intern is so good!). So…we’ll see.

Too bad they don’t have a sci-fi channel add on. I’ve been waiting for the latest season of Defiance to go free for Prime members *forever*. *sigh*

Yes, I watch too much TV. No, I don’t feel bad about it.

Now, however, it’s past light’s out and nearly to should-be-sleeping time, so I bid you a happy(ish) Monday and an organized week.

A Memorial Day Writing Assignment

It’s Memorial Day here in the US, and last night, I looked up the origins of the holiday. Apparently Decoration Day was the day established after the civil war to remember those who had lost their lives in battle – literally fighting for freedom. It was the day to decorate graves and remember the ultimate sacrifice that so many paid for others to be free. I have no idea how that actually worked back then, as the Confederate soldiers were actually fighting *against* freedom for their slaves, but somehow the holiday was established and eventually morphed into Memorial Day. It’s kind of ironic that the government decided to move the date so it would always be a convenient three-day weekend, and there is a movement afoot to get that changed, so the holiday has a more proper “focus” (rather than just the long weekend that marks the official start of summer for so many). I’m sure it will never happen, because people do like their long weekends, but that would be a better way to put the focus on the holiday itself, rather than the BBQ’s that are so prevalent on this particular weekend…

In any case, I got to thinking about what it would be like to be “in the trenches” so to speak, and know that your last breath could be any moment now without some sort of miracle. Would you think about why you’re there, why you’re fighting? Would your life flash before your eyes? Would you pull out that picture in your pocket and say a quick goodbye? Would you even have the chance to think or process that you’re going to die?

Yes, I know, this is all very maudlin, but considering the people who have died (and continue to die) in service, it seems only right to explore those questions and try to empathize with what they might have been feeling, at least to some degree. We can never actually be in another person’s head, but we can imagine what it might be like if we spend some time in that head space. I think we owe them a little time thinking about it, in any case. They did give up their lives, after all.

In light of that, I’ve given myself a special writing assignment that will be in effect on all Memorial Days from here on out, starting today. I need to write a scene wherein an officer is near death while serving in some capacity. It doesn’t have to be a full story, but it does need to explore the head space that my fictional officer might be in given whatever circumstances he or she happens to end up in that will ultimately result in his/her death. This is how I explore things – how I learn what others might be experiencing or feeling – I create a character, and then let them tell me their story.

I may or may not share these with anyone – after all, it’s really more of an exercise in empathy for me. No two characters ever end up alike (I don’t script my characters…I let them tell me who they are, so it all comes from my subconscious, not my conscious mind), so it should be someone different in completely different circumstances every year.

This will be a challenge for me, as my conscious mind sort of rebels against military service, even though I understand the necessity and strategy behind the “machine”. But this is one of the big reasons why I write – because it helps me understand and empathize with viewpoints that are sometimes dramatically different than my own. A way to expand my perspective, so to speak.

And yes, we are having ribs for dinner. It is a holiday, after all…

Gone to the Dogs: Dapper Pups

New boots for Murphy...

                       New boots for Murphy…

Murphy sez: Hey Mica, did ya see my spiffy new boots?! When do you think I get to try them out?

Mica sez: I don’t know, Murph. J seems to think they’re a bit too tall to work with your leg all messed up like it is, but maybe this weekend. They sure are fancy, with all that tread on the bottom. You’re gonna have some serious traction on the road, my friend.

Murphy sez: It’s gonna be cool, right? No more sore paws! And when those rascally rabbits jump out of the grass *right beside me*, I’ll be able to grab ‘em easier. I wonder if I could climb trees in those boots. I mean, rabbits are fun to chase, but I really wanna catch one of those high-falutin’ squirrels. Always chattering down at me from those tree branches, thinkin’ they’re all that…

Mica sez: You might want to think about how you’re gonna get out of the tree first, Murph. Seems like not such a good spot for a dog to find himself in, you know? I’ll stick with going after those pesky ducks. All that quacking makes me drool, I tell you what.

Murphy sez: Ducks are kind of boring. Except those ones we saw kind of molesting the third one on our walk a few weeks back. That was interesting. I kinda wanted to break it up. They didn’t seem to like us walking so close to ‘em. J says we did our good deed and gave the girl duck a break.

1st crocheted legging for airflow.

                          1st crocheted legging for airflow.

Mica sez: I really could have evened up that fight if she’d let me have one of the males. Talk about the ultimate squeaky toy, eh? Speaking of toys, I don’t think we’re supposed to know this, but I think I heard J saying she ordered us both a box of toys in the mail. That sure sounds like fun. Yours might even have treats in it! I hope you share…I mean, it’s only polite.

Murphy sez: New toys? And treats? I might share, but depends on what it is. You can’t have, like…*anything* with that sensitive stomach of yours, dude. But if there’s something without grain or dairy or fish in it, you can try a bite. If you share some of your toys. Fair is fair.

Mica sez: Fair enough, Murph. I might have to wear some of your socks soon – J’s been threatening to put the longer, skinnier ones on me since I lick more than you do at night. I think that’s a horrible idea, but she seems to think the licking is a bad thing. I don’t know why I do it…I just do. And I can’t seem to stop…but it’s not like my legs are bleeding like yours does.

Second iteration of mesh crocheted sock.

                   Second iteration of mesh crocheted sock.

Murphy sez: Yeah, me neither. Licking is…ka-thar-tic, or however you say that.

Speaking of leggings, aren’t the new crocheted ones J’s making me cool? They’re meshy for the daytime when I’m coned up, so they protect my leg from cone bumps, but still let it get lots of air for healing. I’m not sure if I like them or not…they’re loose too, so no elastic to slow circulation, but they kinda feel weird when I lick ‘em. But J says I’m not supposed to lick them, I’m supposed to be a good doggie and leave my leg alone. Clearly she’s never been an addict. Sheesh.

She got me a new donut-type cone too, but hasn’t had time to blow it up yet. I think it’s too big, like the other plastic cone she bought, but I guess we’ll see. My old cone is wearing out though, so she’s gotta replace it with something soon. She said she’s going to try the donut cone this weekend, and then cut down that new plastic one so it’s shallower if the donut doesn’t work. I appreciate that, because I like playing with my toys even if I have my cone on, and my nose is short. You’d think they’d have found a better solution to cones by now.

Mica sez: Well, if you’d stop licking/chewing on yourself, then you wouldn’t have to wear that lampshade while they’re gone. But since you need it, maybe we should decorate it. They’re so boring, just plain plastic like that. We could put stickers on it – it’ll be a new fashion statement – you could start a trend, Murph!

Murphy sez: Let’s not get too excited about this, Mica. I mean, next thing you know, you’ll be telling me I need a sweater for fall, and a coat for winter…

Mica sez: Oh, it’s coming, buddy. Our J likes to crochet and knit, remember? I guarantee you’ll have a nice sweater like mine by fall. But I bet it’ll match those snazzy boots!

Mica's green & white sweater.

                        Mica’s green & white sweater.


Tune in next week for more Murphy & Mica! Or subscribe to get us in your inbox – use the subscription link in the right sidebar and pick “Gone to the Dogs”. Like these posts? Consider a donation to our favorite charities – the shelters that helped us when we needed it most! 

Murphy’s shelter: Donate to The Rimrock Humane Society
Mica’s shelter: Donate to Help for Homeless Pets

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On Mold, Health & Charity

So I went to taste my new jars of sauerkraut last Wednesday and…they smelled like mold. Dammit. I knew it was a risk, because I was using cabbage that had been in the fridge for a few weeks, but I had hoped I’d gotten to it soon enough. Not so, apparently. I tossed those jars out, and bought a couple more heads of cabbage, and will try again one night this week.

No, I’m not giving up. Homemade sauerkraut is good stuff, and good for you – it’s got a lot of great vitamins & probiotics. I also bought carrots and fresh garlic – the very first batch I made included both, and was really fabulous (though the hubby wasn’t fond of the garlic). I plan to start two jars again – one with carrots/garlic, and one just plain. Fingers crossed…

Ironically enough, as I sit here typing late Sunday night, I’m not sipping my normal cup of green tea to go with my standard late-night yogurt/granola/maple syrup snack. No, tonight I have a glass of grape soda at my side, and I’m savoring every sip. Made with cane sugar, of course – because I’d like to breathe when I go to sleep tonight, and corn syrup does really bad things to my sinuses anymore. I used to be able to handle it just fine, but the healthier my diet’s become, the more I pay for the decision to have a standard glass of pop while I’m out and about (I buy Mexican Coke for that occasional at-home craving…made with cane sugar, so no allergy issues).

Truth be told, I really don’t even crave soda much anymore. I’ve been substituting with tea and water and the occasional pineapple juice for so long that one glass of pop will kill the craving for weeks before I want another “hit”. Which is pretty good considering I started drinking pop several times a day before I even hit high school, and kept that habit up until a good year or so after I graduated college.

Thing is, I’m highly motivated to avoid change and inconvenience – both for myself and to avoid creating it for other people. So the cancer avoidance thing is big with me. Obviously.

Last weekend I started making something called “Golden Paste” (seriously – they couldn’t just call it “Turmeric Paste”?) for the dogs. Murphy has a big open wound under the legging he wears most of the time, and I wanted to see if giving him turmeric with his meals would help that to heal faster. Turmeric needs oil and black pepper to be bioavailable, so golden paste is basically just turmeric cooked to a paste in water, and then blended with oil (I use coconut, because – healthy!) and black pepper. I started giving it to the dogs morning and night, and they both seem to be doing really well on it. Murphy’s wound seems to be healing faster – though I’ve tried several other things that I think might be helping to speed that along. I even put turmeric paste right on the wound for a night. It looked much better after that – and a honey/turmeric paste treatment this weekend seemed to hurry the healing up a bit as well.

In any case, turmeric is supposed to be good for a variety of healthy things for humans as well, and one common way to use golden paste for humans is to make “golden milk” (which sounds even worse, I know – seriously, what is *wrong* with just saying “turmeric”?!). Basically, a little golden paste mixed with warm milk and honey. I find it very tasty, and have been drinking just a small cup before bed. I have no idea if it’s doing anything good or not, but I enjoy that little treat while I’m reading before bed, and if it is doing anything good for my insides, all the better.

And that just got me thinking about which mugs I use, which makes me think about my teacups, and how I’m planning to do a post on the meaning of cups soon. Memo to self…

I did manage to get the taxes done this weekend too, and when Turbo Tax asked me about charitable contributions, it made me stop and think for a good long minute. I used to be good about donating here and there as money allowed, but I’ve been pretty tight with things lately. Maybe it’s time to loosen the purse strings a bit, and reinstate that zoo membership, and buy an art museum membership, and set up that ongoing contribution to our local PBS station. I’ll be paying off our second mortgage in another couple of months, so no reason not to put a little cash back into the community, eh?

In that same vein, I’m going to set up some donation links on the Friday Gone to the Dogs posts. People who like the posts and feel like doing so can toss a tip to the charity of either Mica or Murphy’s choice – the shelters that helped them both out when they needed a safe place to stay. Maybe we can give back a little that way too.

Now it’s time to go make my turmeric milk, crawl into bed, and continue reading The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver. Interesting stuff. Especially for those of us who are tattooed…

Blog Plan B, Trees, Organization, & Sleep

I may have been just a wee bit too ambitious with my “new blog schedule” a couple of weeks ago. Or a lot. But hey, I had good intentions. I just don’t really have the follow-through with some things (as in – things that aren’t absolutely necessary for a paycheck or continued breathing). By which I mean, I’m routinely lazier than I plan to be.

But hey, third time’s the charm, which means I have one more chance to fail before I get this right for the year. Let’s just assume I’m going to botch this, but here’s the new, improved, somewhat less ambitious blogging plan:

Monday: Whatever happens to come to mind.
Tuesday: Something about writing on the writing blog (crazy, I know)
Friday: Something on my alter-ego’s thriller/horror blog

And that’s it. Three posts, three blogs. But what if I don’t screw it up? The universe may well implode, I suppose. We’ll see.

In other news…it’s way, way too spring-like around here, which would be great if I wasn’t afraid that a March cold snap will eventually kill everything that’s starting to grow when it should still be sleeping. Like our baby maple trees. One tree survived the deep freeze last winter, and the other two were planted last summer. They have buds, but they shouldn’t even be awake yet! Stupid weather.

I did, of course, take advantage of said weather this past weekend and aired out the dog bed “innards” on the back patio while the covers were in the wash. Mica won’t use actual pillow-like dog beds…they freak him out for some reason. But assuming whoever joins our little pack next leans more toward “normal” canine behavior, I’m sure they’ll get good use out of these.

A lot of early spring cleaning went down, and while I was washing down walls and such, I also replaced the old dog bowl stands and bowls, and hung hooks on our coat closet door for leashes & collars. I do love good, clean organization. There’s something very soothing about having things all neat and in a “proper place”. Efficient, too.

One of my resolutions this year was to read daily. I’ve been doing that by making sure I’m in bed by midnight every night, so I can read for half an hour, and then be asleep by 1am. I’ve only missed a few nights this year, and I regretted it both times. It’s weird, but I really can tell the difference between going to bed at 1am, and being asleep by then, even though it never takes me long to actually fall asleep.

At first, I felt like I was “giving up” time I could be using to be productive. But honestly? I was never productive that late anyways…I just felt like I was because I was up and in front of the screen. Funny how we lie to ourselves, isn’t it?

I’ve actually finished off several books this year already, plus I’m more rested during the day, which helps me at work. I’m quite sure that if I could add another 60 minute sleep cycle in there, I’d be even more rested and productive. But…I can’t bring myself to go to bed *quite* that early. It just doesn’t seem right, night owl that I am. So until I can sleep later (retirement), 4.5 hours during the week it is (I sleep until around 9am on the weekends, which is glorious).

I see you yawning over there…we’ll just pretend you’re tired, and not bored, K? 😉

Oh – and Happy Leap Day!


 

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