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Kitchen Organization & Irony

If I were to sum up this past weekend in one word, it would be: “whew”. I’m tired. I was almost happy to be back at work today, except my muscles had more time to try to stiffen up as I sat at my desk. I used quite a few this weekend that I haven’t used in quite a long time. A couple trips up the stairs and back down plus morning yoga seemed to keep the stiffness down a bit though.

Saturday I had a good time book shopping with a friend met on Facebook, and then the work began. We loaded up our two couches, took ’em out to the dump, and then it was off to the furniture store to pick up our new sectional. Back to the house, I vacuumed while hubby freed the new furniture from its packaging, and then we hauled everything in, put it together, and man…it’s a very nice sectional. Not too big, looks great, plenty of room for me and both dogs, and room enough for the rare guest too.

Hubby took a shower and headed out for a night with his brother, and I set out to clean off/out the refrigerator for our next project: fixing a leak in the water line that popped up and ruined the kitchen floor a week and a half ago. I cleaned off old appliances and such that had been living on top the fridge – just tossed ’em, since I don’t need them or they didn’t work any longer. Dusted, took off the magnets, cleaned all the old food out, and…decided to go ahead and replace the water inlet valve, which we suspected was the leaking culprit. I was on a roll…didn’t feel like waiting for hubby to help on Sunday.

I replaced the valve, turned the water back on, and…turned out there was a pinhole leak in the water line. Dammit. Taped up the leak, pushed the fridge back, and called it good for the night (around 10pm).

A good deal of Sunday was taken up with going out to get the new line, snaking it up with the old line, not having the right connector fittings (so another trip to the store for hubby), and then finally getting it fixed late in the afternoon. After that, I finally got to my normal weekend chores – vacuuming, garbage duty, recycling, laundry, and grocery shopping (which I normally do Saturday afternoons now, but I didn’t want to fill the fridge again until we were done moving it around).

I’ve been thinking a lot about my kitchen lately (I tend to do that when stuff breaks and/or doesn’t work like it should), and wanting to make a few changes with how things are organized. So cleaning out the fridge/freezer this weekend was a good start, and also a good way to really take stock of my counters and how I want to rearrange them to accommodate the appliances I need/use.

Cleaning off the top of the fridge also gave me storage for appliances I use, but only once a week or less – like my yogurt maker. I’ll use it tonight, and then it will sit again for a couple of weeks, so instead of having it in front of my crockpots (in the way), I’ll put it on top the fridge between uses. It’s one of those things I have no problem actually reaching for when I need it. Same with extra pitchers/etc for my Ninja blender (that I mostly use for smoothies). Right now, they tend to “float” on the crockpot trio just because I’m out of cupboard space. Those can live up on the fridge as well.

I’ve ordered a smaller microwave, which may or may not end up being a mistake, but I’m tired of the huge one we have taking up 2/3 of the countertop where it lives. It’s a beast, and we’ve been getting occasional “door not closed” errors on the display, so it’s time to replace it anyway, but the one I ordered is half the size and wattage (only 700watts!), so…we’ll see. The new one is much cuter – a retro look, and it will leave enough room on that counter for my dehydrator, which currently lives by the stove. Then the few cookbooks I refer to on occasion can move to that tiny counter, leaving room on the other side of the stove for the toaster oven I want to get later in the month.

I don’t use the microwave for cooking, only defrosting/reheating. I’m hoping this smaller one will do the job. It does have excellent reviews. And I’m hoping to eventually use the toaster oven more than the microwave or larger oven. At least until I can buy a new convection oven, maybe even one with two separate cooking zones…because I love kitchen gadgets just as much as I love other electronics, and because there are only two of us, so it’s not like I need a whole lot of space to make dinner most nights, and it would be nice not to heat up an entire large oven for just a single pan of veggies (or 3 slices of toast on the weekend).

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

I need a new oven (one burner on my stovetop doesn’t work, and the oven itself doesn’t heat evenly), and I’d like a new fridge, but those are going to have to wait awhile. Crazy how much appliances cost, isn’t it?

I’m always looking for ways to make my little galley kitchen more efficient…and I freely admit I have too much stuff packed into it already. But, I use it daily, and use most of the appliances I have on a very regular basis, so it’s not like I’m just collecting a lot of stuff I don’t use. Aside from baking dishes. Because I rarely bake (calories!), but when I do need them, at least I have them.

I’d also really like to keep a running inventory of the fridge, freezer, pantry, and deep freeze, in hopes of using things up on a more regular basis (instead of buying too much and wasting food). Alas, that’s a project I’ve been trying to get going for years, and still haven’t managed. But maybe this next weekend I’ll be able to finally get a good inventory entered into an app of some sort. I’m taking this coming Friday off work, and the plan is to give the pantry and deep freeze the same “clean it out” treatment I just gave the fridge. Which would be a good time for inventory…if I were so inclined….

Better efficiency and inventory of course doesn’t just mean better food management. It makes it easier to cook and eat healthier. Which makes it easy to manage weight and stay healthier overall.

Ironic thing number one this past week: We switched to whole grain breads in order to be healthier with our carbs. Neither of us have ever particularly cared for the taste, but I did find some that are at least passably palatable.

The irony is, for years I’ve been struggling with how to keep bread from molding without keeping it in the fridge. Apparently, whole grain bread keeps better than white – not one roll or bun molded last week in the breadbox on the counter. So apparently, healthier is actually heartier, in the case of bread at least. Who knew?

Ironic thing number two is that all weekend, my SHealth app was pestering me because I “wasn’t as active” over the weekend as I normally am on weekdays. The truth is, I was far, far more active, but I tend not to put my cell in my pocket when I’m doing things like…moving couches, cleaning out and moving refrigerators, pulling new water lines, vacuuming, laundry, etc. I mean…why would I have my cell in my pocket for all that, when it could get lost or broken or whatever? Duh.

In any case, new couch – check. Working refrigerator – check. Plan for the kitchen this weekend – check.

Energy/motivation to get all this stuff done…well, let’s wait and see what I’ve got by Friday.

Exercise, Focus, & House Names

I tend to think of my brain as the “command center” for my body – I think we all do, at least to some extent. And in a lot of ways, it is. But as with so many things in life, it’s more of a symbiotic relationship than I generally like to admit. If something’s wrong with the body, or the body as a whole isn’t getting what it needs, then the “command center” won’t function properly. The only way to ensure optimal “processing power” between the ears is to make sure everything below the neck is in good functioning order as well.

The command center only works as well as the body allows it to. Which is why I should not be surprised (but somehow always am), when taking better care of my body results in more focus and disciplined decisions coming out of my brain.

I started last week like always, trying desperately to find my way back to more disciplined, focused writing sessions morning and night. And failing to really focus well, though I did get some writing in. Then cooler weather hit mid-week…cool enough that I could walk the dogs a decent distance in the evening, and it was like a switch flipped in my head – when I sat down in front of the laptop later that night, it was much easier to just ignore the browser and email client, open my writing program and start typing.

Incidentally, I also work out in the mornings right before I do my half-hour writing stint, and just after a workout, I’m alert and focused, and find it much easier to resist the temptation to scroll.

We got a walk in the next night as well, and once again, opened the writing app right away and got to work, no fuss. This week, I’m going to start doing a small set of squats and/or crunches mid-way through my late night writing time, and see if that helps boost the focus even further.

I’ll admit, I did cut out my crochet time in favor of “screen time” as well (cell and TV), so I didn’t feel so much like I was “missing out”, which undoubtedly contributed (crochet will just have to be a weekend activity). And I also made sure to get my kitchen chores done early so I could have a full hour late at night. But I’ve done both of those before and still had a hard time focusing on writing rather than just surfing…the activity was the only real difference last week.

I’m still not losing the weight I need to lose, and neither is hubby, so we may shift back towards a low carb diet and replace white breads for wheat/whole grain for at least a little while and see if we can’t break the plateaus we’re on. That will be a gradual change over the next few weeks. I’m betting it will help even more with the focus and discipline issues. I’ve always done far better on a very low to no-carb diet, which sucks, because it’s kind of boring, but if it’s what my body needs, then so be it. There will be more probiotics in my immediate future too. A daily dose of yogurt isn’t something I really notice eating, but my whole body notices when I stop for even just a few days. Details, details.

Because while I do worry about my body, my genes, and triggering latent cancer cells, I also really want my brain to work as well as possible for as long as possible. And the health of the brain is largely determined by the health of the rest of the body, inconvenient as that is.

In other, writing-related news, I was alert enough last week that I actually caught up on several other blogs as well, so if you’re so inclined, go check them out (links below). My “theme” for the week was named houses in fiction, inspired by this article I read early last week: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/29/pemberley-manderley-howards-end-real-building-fictional-houses

I’m working on changing my own perspective to see settings in fiction as “characters” rather than just window-dressing for the characters, and starting with something very solid and normally tangible made sense to me. And the more I thought about it, the more of an “a-ha!” moment it became, and it feels like something has finally clicked into place that I can actually use in my writing. A very good feeling indeed.

You can check out the other blogs for more in-depth info (and an example) at these links:

Alex Westhaven (one of my alter-egos – you’ll recognize the name of the town where this fictional manor sits)
The Writer’s Desk (my writing blog)
Snake Bites (the BSB blog)

Yes, three. So I get a little excited when I figure something out. Also, themes make writing all those posts easier. I may just do that every week, at least when I can… 😉

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)?

Sometimes All You Need…

…is a little “flip”!

Bonus points if you know the movie I’m referencing with the title & first sentence (whether I’m quoting exactly or not is up in the air, but if you know it, you’ll know it).
As you can see, I finished my writing office rearrangement last Tuesday, as per the plan. I can’t even tell you how much just having a clean, well-organized office has helped with the writing. Moving the table to the back wall insulated me from latent noise and activity in the living room, which made a big difference in focus, and just having a much cleaner, larger “open space” on the floor has made the whole room feel much bigger/less closed-in. The armchair is a very welcome addition, and I even used it a couple times last week for both reading and journalling. I think this is going to work very well for a long time. And the hubby is going to build bigger, nicer bookshelves for the “book wall” as well, so that will be much more organized in the near future too.

I also changed my morning routine last week, as I said I was going to. I got up early, played a few simple games to get my brain moving, had my matcha, did my workout, and then two mornings out of three, I had a full half-hour to write before I needed to jump in the shower and get ready for work. And I was awake enough to make productive use of the time too. I’m really going to try to keep that going this week. It was so nice being caught up by the end of last week, instead of behind!

One of the other two notable things that happened this week were that I got another piece of my right arm tattooed, which means I only have one more session, and this arm will be done. It looks great, and as with all the other tattoos on this arm, the new piece has inspired another part of the story I’m just itching to start writing. Soon, my pretties. Soon!

And the last thing is, I got my hands on a public beta of an android app for the first writing software application I ever used, and still compare every other piece of writing software to: yWriter. This allows me to use yWriter on my PC at home, and access (or even edit, though I doubt I’ll be doing much of that on my cell) all my notes and drafts on my cell when I’m not at home. It’s a game-changer for me, and I’m going to switch back to this software for all my writing. I may be posting more about that on my writing blog one of these days.

So, really great week last week. Here’s hoping I can keep the new schedule going this week…

You Say You Want A Revolution…

Keep in mind that I did warn you a few weeks back that summer is the “pensive season”. Deep thoughts, though Dear ol’ Jack Handy would probably twist them into something vastly more entertaining for us…but you’re stuck with me (if you keep reading, that is).

This week is all about changing my perspective – both figuratively and literally. I’m staging a mental revolution, and fighting for freedom from entrapment (of myself, by myself, for myself).

I’ve been pretty doom and gloom about writing lately…not the actual writing, but the fact that I finally got past the “OMG I suck and should just quit” battle only to fall into the “Why do I even try when I have so little time, and the time I have is the wrong time when my brain won’t work and I’m out of the habit and I’m never going to be able to write all the things I now want to write?” Poor-Me-Black-Hole-Of-Despair (TM?).

Honestly. Sometimes I make myself sick with the stupid pity-party crap.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. No, I can’t do *all the things* (human, no super-powers, etc), but I can write. And I can absolutely carve out just a tiny bit of extra writing time if I want it badly enough. I can also make my writing environment more conducive to getting things done so that when I do have time to write, I’m not as likely to waste it. I mean, I have options here.

There are always, always options. I may not always like them, but they are there, and I can choose to take advantage of them or not. If I know they are there, and choose not to take advantage of them, then Pity-Party Mode is not allowed. Those are the (my) rules.

And this past weekend, my dog pointed out an option (quite by accident) that might help my word count, and last week, I became aware of another option (again quite by accident) that also might help both my word count and my editing/revision progress. I’m still not sure they’re happy accidents, considering the amount of work involved in setting these options in motion, but hey, it’s either that, or…keep on as I am but drop the Pity-Party Mode anyway due to refusing open options.

Tricky, isn’t it?

Since I have to leave the attitude behind either way, might as well try the options, I say. Which in this case means two things: cleaning out and rearranging my home office, and getting up half an hour earlier every morning.

Long story about Murphy-dog and my desk and power cords (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen a pic and read about it), but having to clean out under my desk so Murphy can use that space as a “den” got me to thinking. If I move my desk to the other side of the room, where I can’t see out the office door, and am less likely to hear random noise from the living room, I’m more likely to feel like I’m in a writing “bubble”, which will make it easier to get in the “zone” at night. Also, having a less cluttered office will be less distracting/oppressive. So I started cleaning out my office Sunday, and will finish cleaning/rearranging on Tuesday. I’ll also be adding a sitting area where I can read or write by hand. And I think that will help me make the most of my late night writing hour. Yes, Murphy will still be able to sleep under the desk if he wants.

As for getting up in the morning…I realized last week that I’ve been calculating my sleep cycles incorrectly, and instead of getting up at 6am when I am asleep by 1am, I should be getting up at 5:30am (three 90 minute cycles). I figured that out accidentally when I had to get up at 5:30 one morning, and actually felt way better than when I get up at 6am (which promptly ruined my mood for the day).

Thing is, if I get up at 5:30am, that gives me an extra half hour four mornings a week (I have to be at work early for a staff meeting on Tuesdays) in which I could write before work. I mean, after I’m caffeinated and half-way awake, anyways.

But…5:30. AM. *sigh* Really?! (Shush, morning people.)

Yes, really. Apparently. At least if I’m going to go to bed around midnight and read until 12:30 or so, which is my preference.

So I’m creating a writing “bubble” by rearranging the office, and changing my entire worldview (okay, a small part of my perspective, but still) by getting up earlier to have writing time before work as well. Best case scenario, I’m more productive overall, since I have writing time both late night *and* mornings now.

Worst case scenario, I still can’t mentally wake up fast enough in the morning to actually write, but I have a clean, organized office to work in at night, so the status quo gets a tiny bit better and I can have my pity-party back (if I want it) because I did at least try the options that presented themselves.

We’ll see what my little mental revolution brings about fairly soon, I’d think.

The Most Frustrating Thing

If you’ve been reading here long-term, you’ll know that a few years back, I burned out on most everything due to “stuff” going on that just made all the stuff I wanted and needed to do so overwhelming that I just sort of dropped everything unnecessary, including writing, and did the bare minimums to get by while life was all crazy-like. Part of it was changes happening rapidly and all at once, and part was a mid-life crisis that I’m only now really able to acknowledge for what it was (because no one wants to admit to something like that, really).

Thing is, I persevered, got through it without embarrassing myself too terribly much and without causing to much havoc, and now find myself in a much healthier state of mind (still very pensive and “what if?” centric, but that’s normal for me). And suddenly wanting to pick up where I left off, but with new priorities that keep me from just diving in head first (and also keep me physically/mentally healthier, so they need to stay).

There are so, so many things I want to do. My main source of frustration in life – the thing that beats me up more than anything else in this world, is that I simply cannot do everything I want to do, all at once. Not even a little at a time, because there are just too many “little at a time” things to schedule. It’s just not physically possible.

So I try to prioritize, and that sort of works, but there are still too many things on my “priority list”. And pretty soon I’m only doing one or two things, and fantasizing about doing the other things, and knowing that there just isn’t enough time or energy to fit it all in.

It’s damn depressing. And it’s also the ultimate unsolvable puzzle. Which makes my whole brain just cringe, because that’s what it *does* all day, every day, at work, at home, and everywhere else. I solve problems. I fix things. I find a way to make whatever needs to happen, happen.

But I can’t fix this.

I can’t fix the fact that I’m human. That time and space are limited. That I am interested in way too many things, and far too curious for my own mental health.

Even if I were willing to change my current priorities, I still couldn’t fit everything I want to do into my life. And even as it is now, with the few things I’m prioritizing, I don’t feel like I have enough time to give them. I want more writing time. More reading time. More workout time. More cooking time. More organizing and cleaning time.

But in order to do even that many things, I have to compromise, and give all of them less time than they really need just so they get “some” time.

There’s no happy ending to this, I’m afraid. No diagrams or schedules or 30-days-without-sleep cleanse that could solve this particular problem.

And that, for me, is the most frustrating thing about life.

Transplants, Notes, Tattoos, Robots & Grape Ice Cream Floats

I had a post half-written for this week about talking to people (strangers), getting to know them, working to understand their personal motivations and connecting on a deeper level through quick, “shallow” interactions. I was feeling all community-oriented after a few interesting/nice encounters with strangers on the street, and all pensive about what basic, daily interactions like that could do for us as a society.

And then, between the time I started the post, and this weekend when I planned to finish it, I watched several transplants from out-of-state chatting in different interactions on social media about us native Montanans with the typical dismissive cultural divide dialogue that goes something like: “They do things all wrong here and don’t act how we think they should, they hurt our feelings and they’re just not friendly. We have no idea why they’re so bitter toward us – what did we ever do to them?!”. Needless to say, my warm, fuzzy feelings for community blending/deeper connections cooled quite a bit. I could rant and address those oh-so-common-complaints, but we’d be here all day, and I’m still a bit too annoyed. Maybe some other day.

Quick ProTip: Moving into a culture different than your own and complaining that the way they are and the way they do things is “wrong” or offensive because it’s not “normal” *to you* is not a great way to endear yourself to the people who grew up & still live there. No matter where “there” is. 

No, not all transplants to our state are like that – as a matter of fact, there are several I’m rather fond of (mostly from the East Coast, oddly enough). And the good interactions I had last week were quite possibly with transplants or tourists too (one more than likely, the other…hard to say). Still, the negative tends to overpower the positive, and I need to let all that negative stuff go before I can finish the “mutual understanding can fix a world of ills” post. I’m sure you can see where the conflict is there.

So instead, some other positive things going on that have nothing to do with other people:

– I’ve been using handwritten lists on my Note (cell), with a lot better luck than using digital to-do lists. I still use digital calendars for appointment reminders and recurring events, but there is something about handwriting lists every morning that really make the items stick in my head, and then crossing them off throughout the day that is more satisfying than ticking a box. And with my Note, I’ve got the best of both worlds – digital notes, handwritten on the screen (so no paper to keep track of.

– I’ve also been using my Note 8 tablet for handwriting both prose and poetry, and I have to say, I’m kind of amazed at the difference between drafting on the computer and drafting by hand on the tablet. It’s weird, but again, satisfying. Maybe because I can’t write nearly as fast as I type, so I have to slow down and really pay attention to what I’m writing. It gets frustrating sometimes, but overall, I think it’s a good thing.

– I got another tattoo done last week, on my upper right arm. One or two more sessions, and that whole sleeve will be done. The journey of getting this whole arm tattooed, and the story developing along the way has been eye-opening to me in so many ways. Non-tattoo people are rolling their eyes right now, but I’m ignoring people for the moment, remember? Positive only, and this experience has given me not just pretty patterns in my skin, not just a whole “story behind a story”, but also several epiphanies about who I am as a person and a writer, and also what I need to focus on to make my fiction better. It’s about so much more than a bunch of images and pigment. More than anyone but me will ever understand – which is perfectly fine, because it’s not for anyone else, it’s for me. And I’m glad I didn’t pass up on the experience just due to social constraints/censure.

– Someone has invented a weed-killing robot, and I want them for all of my gardens. These people should get an award, because if those robots work half as well as they claim, they’re my new heroes. Seriously. I hate weeding. Hate it. This could solve my bindweed problem just by working all the time. I *need* at least one in my life, but they aren’t shipping until next May. *sigh*

This commercial made me laugh this weekend…enough that I ordered trial boxes of three of their products. I so hope the products work as well as the commercial is funny…

– We had grape soda ice cream floats Sunday night. Seriously. Yummy. Try it.

– We watched Trolls this past weekend. So adorable they about gave me a sweet tooth. I’m thinking gummy trolls with cotton candy hair. Who’s with me?

Until next week…

Visiting the Past, Sunscreen & Written Lists

Our local Renaissance Festival was this past Saturday, so my husband and I headed out to ZooMontana to partake in the festivities. It’s always fun to watch everyone wandering around in period dress, take in a jousting match, watch the sideshows and do a little shopping at the vendor booths. I’m not one who would really want to live in that time period – I’m quite happy with indoor plumbing and near-daily showers, thanks – but I love the celebration and romanticism that comes with a ren faire. And one of these days I’m going to splurge for something chain maille…

Anticipating this event, I actually bought sunscreen for the first time in years. Last year I burned, and this year I have nice tattoos that I wanted to protect. So I spent far too much time researching natural sunscreens and ended up with naturally bug repellent sunscreen on my legs, and a natural odorless sunscreen on my arms. I put makeup on, since my powder makeup is a physical sunblock like zinc oxide, and off we went.

When we got home, I had a nice, deep tan on my exposed skin…except for the back of my neck. Which was bright, deep red.

Oops.

We had some shopping to do, so I took the opportunity to get myself a big hat with a brim wide enough to shade both the back of my neck and my nose the next time I find myself at an outdoor summer event (so…next Saturday morning). I’ll also be able to use it for yard work, so a good investment. Kind of a fun look too, if I do say so myself.

Yes, one would think I could just remember to put sunscreen on the back of my neck, but I never have, not once. And I always end up burning it. But I also always wear hats on the weekend (because I’m far too lazy to do hair/makeup), so this is just a matter of remembering to grab the right hat. Challenge accepted!

In other news, I’ve been making use of the Action Memos feature on my cell, and handwriting things like my daily to-do lists, writing schedule, and whatever else I need to keep track of. I still use digital calendars for repeating reminders and appointments, but there really is something about writing things out by hand that makes such a difference, mentally speaking. It’s weird, but for me, it’s working.

Which makes me want one of these “reMarkable” devices even more…but they’re on pre-order only right now, and not due to start shipping until next fall. I got burned for…a larger sum than I want to admit to last summer on a crowd-funding thing, so I’m really not keen on pre-ordering anything at the moment until I know someone else has already gotten one (or more, preferably). Naturally the price will go up once they start shipping, and I probably won’t be able to afford one then, so we’ll have to just wait and see.

Still, I think it’s very cool technology this company is developing, and a great way to combine the best of analog and digital especially when it comes to going paperless both at home and at the office.

And about the time I get one, someone will hit us with an EMP and we’ll all have to go back to paper anyways, right?

Viva la Renaissance! 😉

Memorial Day & Writing Schedules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Priorities & Forced Balance

Last week wasn’t nearly as bad as the week before in general, which is kind of odd since work was decidedly difficult. The difference is, I dealt with it much better, and while I didn’t stay caught up all the time, I did prioritize a lot better. It’s amazing how much just setting solid priorities can alleviate so much stress – and allow us to get more done than we might otherwise.

The poetry challenge was especially “challenging” this past week, but I managed to end Saturday caught up for the week (I’m behind a poem again as of right now, but I’ll catch up tonight). Poetry is all about “flow” and ironically, fitting it into my schedule has been exactly that. Looking for the proper flow, so I can slot it into each day at some point.

I think I mentioned that I was trying to use some of my nightly knitting/crochet/TV time to catch some of the overflow, and my body told me very quickly that it was just not going to happen. My eyes went downhill again, my brain refused to work, and pretty much every night sitting there with the computer on my lap, I eventually just gave up and shut it while I finished my hour-long TV show.

Incidentally, we’ve been watching Iron Fist and Wynonna Earp on Netflix. Iron Fist is entertaining, but I highly, highly recommend Wynonna Earp. So, so good!

In any case, that hour is very necessary down-time, and my body & brain were quick to correct me when I tried to use it for work. So…it would appear that time is just as sacrosanct as my writing time. This week, I’ll get the knitting back out while watching TV.

My neck is healing, but very slowly, and I’m kind of to the point where it feels like it just needs gentle stretching and then to build up the muscle around that nerve to protect it from being pinched again. I have to be careful, as it still won’t really “work” at several angles, but I’ve started doing light weight training in my shoulders/arms again. We’ll see how that goes, but hopefully it will be helpful. Stupid neck.

In any case, my writing output increased again last week, and no matter how much this poetry thing stresses me out, I am *loving* what it’s doing as far as just getting me back in the daily writing habit. That right there was worth the cost of the workshop (though I’m obviously learning so much more…).

And for those who have been following along weekly – yes, my taxes are done and will be in the mail on April 18th. I’m not efiling because I owe the feds money, and they can just wait for my check to get there, thank you very much. This coming Friday night, I’m adding some dedicated bookkeeping time to my weekly business hours.

I’ve been thinking lately of pulling a couple of shelved drafts out and reworking them for publication. The basic plot is sound enough, but they need revision/additions to work. I do believe that might be something to work on after poetry month is over. I’m excited at the prospect, and I hate revising with a passion. So there’s gotta be something there, right? We’ll see.

Serial story chapter coming Friday, and another week’s worth of poems Saturday. Stay tuned!