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Re-calibrating

While a good portion of my Facebook friend list has been baking their way through this pandemic thing (something my waistline really can’t afford), I’ve been doing the Animal Crossing New Horizons (ACNH) thing, which is fun, relaxing, and easy on the blood sugar. But…hiding in video games comes at a cost too, and as in all things, there comes a time when healthy boundaries become necessary. While I may not be gaining weight, I am dealing with neck soreness, pinched nerves in my back, and eye strain that’s threatening to become more serious if I don’t get away from the screen more often.

That’s not to say I’m giving up ACNH. Not at all – I love the game. But it’s time to re-calibrate and start moving forward again.

I’ve started writing again, which is one of the most important things. A few sentences at a time, longhand, but whatever works is what I’ll do. The weather is getting nicer, so I’m getting out to walk the dogs instead of sitting on the couch all evening (good for my neck/nerves, and also for my eyes if it’s not windy). I dyed my hair, because after waffling for a few days about whether to do so or just let it go natural since I can’t get it cut, I’m just vain enough to not be ready for the salt & pepper look yet.

I trimmed my bangs up out of my eyes – I’ve always had bangs, because I have a high forehead and can’t stand not having it at least partially covered. So that’s not a drastic change for me, it’s just general maintenance, no matter what length my hair is.

I changed my earrings (the clovers were a bit “over”), did curbside pickup for my comic book pull list, and created some new routines based on my projections of “life going forward”. I realize I have that luxury because my job is the same as it always has been, and I’ve been working all along, so my life really hasn’t been impacted nearly as much as others have been.

I do see less people now, but honestly? That really doesn’t bother me. I see my husband, of course, and the two people I work most closely with at the office. Other than that, I see a few random strangers that I automatically give space to like normal (I have a huge personal space bubble, pandemic or no), I still walk the dogs late to avoid all the people walking dogs earlier (normal), and I talk to my mom on the phone once a week or so (I’m not a “visit/talk to mom all the time” kind of daughter – I need my space). I have no issue with being home in the evenings, and not having anywhere to go. That’s my preference by default, so…I feel for the people who are itching to get out and do stuff, but I’m not that person. I’m perfectly happy with this state of being. If I didn’t want to pick out my own produce, and the dogs didn’t love going for a weekly ride so much, I’d have my groceries delivered too and see even less people.

Alas, it’s good for me to interact with strangers in person at least once a week, because the biggest issue I have with this whole staying home thing is getting “too” comfortable. I have to force myself to be social on normal days, and I have to keep interacting with people at a certain level regularly in order to be comfortable with it. So being “allowed” to not be social is a bit dangerous, in that the longer I get to do that, the more uncomfortable I’m going to be the next time I have to be around more than one or two people, in person, again. That will actually be far more stressful for me than staying home and keeping to myself. Not due to fear of a virus, but simply the stress of social interaction. So that bit of re-calibration is going the wrong way, but…it can’t be helped at the moment.

Next week, we’ll get back to the new blog format again. I haven’t been taking many pictures, and honestly, I’ve just been playing too much and being lazy about things. But I’m working my way into a “new normal”, with new, more productive routines, so…stay tuned!


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Discipline, Habits and Sleep

I used to be in the habit of being disciplined, so to speak. I had my routines and followed them strictly, and got a lot done. Now it seems like I mostly just whine about how disciplined I used to be, while not actually taking the steps needed to…you know. Be disciplined again. Discipline is just prioritizing one thing over another throughout the day – it’s not rocket science.

So, no more whining about it. It’s time to just “do or do not” – but I’m determined to “do” this week. If I can be disciplined enough for long enough, then habits will form that don’t require as much discipline to maintain, and that is where I want to be.

Most of the habits I need to create are writing/publishing-related…but those have some dependencies on other habits like going to bed on time (willpower is often rest-dependent, I’ve found) and making sure the rest of my day stays on schedule so that my writing & editing times are “protected”. I can’t always do that (because, life), but I certainly can a majority of the time. It’s just little decisions here and there, like opening a game to play for “just a few minutes” at the wrong time, not having my laptop in the living room in the evening, or not starting my day with the right combination of things so that my head is in the right space for both work and taking advantage of commute times for dictation.

It’s really not nearly as difficult as I often make it. It’s more a matter of priorities and deciding what’s more important: a few minutes of escapism, or a few minutes of story. There’s time for both, of course, I just need to manage my time and routines more efficiently.

In light of that, I’ve made myself a new schedule, and set some boundaries, as well as some new goals and reminders. I feel good about this, mostly because I’ve set myself up to think about what I really want, both now and in the future. With my priorities straightened out, I think it will be easier to remember why I’m respecting those self-set boundaries, and why I’m reaching for those goals.

Interestingly enough, I think the majority of my success rests on the habit of going to bed on time. Getting enough sleep is vital to making good decisions and moving forward with my main priorities rather than just zoning out and telling myself, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” or “I’ll catch up later”. Being overly tired seems to be my kryptonite more than anything else, so that routine of going to bed on time and getting enough sleep is probably the most important one I need to establish.

Ironically, the reason I normally break it is because I get enough sleep, and then I feel good enough to press past the late-night fatigue to work longer the next day, and then I don’t get enough sleep, and I’m in that bad cycle of wanting/needing to catch up because I’m not working as fast or efficiently as I could be because I didn’t get enough sleep. It’s a ridiculous cycle to be caught in, all because I don’t respect the fact that my body needs 6 hours of sleep a night, even if I’m behind, or feel like I want to keep working to get ahead.

Of course the one day per week that throws me off the most is Tuesday, because I have to get up an hour earlier for work, which means I get less sleep than I need if I go to bed at my normal time, and I end up being overtired and making poor decisions. This is really the biggest issue I have for not getting enough rest, and I know what I need to do to “fix” it, I just…don’t want to. I need to go to bed earlier *every night* and get up earlier *every day*, so that my weekday sleep schedule is the same every day.

Of course that shifts my entire evening routine earlier, which makes it more difficult because I’m trying to get more done while the household is awake, rather than waiting until everyone is asleep to work. This hasn’t generally worked well for me in the past, but maybe it’s time to try again. Shifting everything up by half an hour in the evenings and getting up half an hour earlier Mon/Weds/Thurs/Fri, and half an hour later on Tuesdays would give me the “regular” schedule I need…as long as I can shorten my Tues morning routine to fit.

Life would be so much easier on us night owls if there weren’t so many morning people running things.

In any case, that’s the plan for this week. Shift some things around, respect boundaries and sleep requirements, and hopefully get more done since I’ll theoretically be awake/alert enough to follow my own schedule.

I think it’s gonna be a good week. Or enlightening, at the very least.


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Reflections & List Items

As I write this, I’m sitting on the couch with my tea and two sleeping dogs on a welcome day off from work. It’s Veteran’s Day here in the states, a day to honor those who have fought for our country in years past. There are a lot of political statements that could so easily be made at this point, however, I’ll do as I always do and leave those to others who mind less (and seem to have more energy for) the unwinnable arguments that such topics bring about online.

Needless to say, I am reflecting, as one is supposed to do on such days. About veterans, politics, and also the insanely long list of things I’d like to get done while I’m not at work today. It would be impossible to do them all, unfortunately, and the all-or-nothing thinking that tends to go hand in hand with having an impossible list keeps beckoning from the edges of my mind.

I can’t do it all, so no point in doing any of it. Might as well watch movies or play games all day.

Alas, I know that would leave me feeling far worse than completing at least a few things on the list, so here I am, taking advantage of the dogs’ normal morning naptime to write this blog and cross one thing off the list. Once they wake up, we’ll have to keep moving anyways. They’re not big fans of laying around all day if someone is here to keep them busy.

It’s bitterly cold out today, and snowy – the snow not necessarily odd for this time of year, but the near zero temps are definitely out of character. This past weekend we were almost at 60f, plunging into the single digits yesterday. Tomorrow we’re supposed to be up near 50f again. No fall, but definitely a weather roller-coaster this year.

I’m still struggling with my routines. I’ve been dictating fiction on my way to and from work, and man…that works really well for getting a rough first draft down. But the transcriptions need to be edited into a true draft, and that takes time at the computer, and I…well, I need more time, and also more discipline. I don’t like my laptop, which is part of that, but I’m also trying to do that editing late at night when I’m tired from the day and my willpower is weakest. I need to either figure out how to boost my brain one more time before that last editing push, or how to fit in some time earlier in the evening. Which is difficult, as the house is noisy before 11pm. There has to be a solution, even if it’s just changing the venue in which I’m editing or starting my late night routine earlier or…something. I just need to find it. At least if I’m ever going to publish another book.

I will figure it out, eventually.

Now, it’s time to schedule this post and move on to the next item on my list. Ever forward, right?


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Audio Posts and Making Room to Edit

I’ve been thinking about making these blog posts available in audio format as well, since I’m recording them anyways. I’m dictating them basically so that I can transcribe them back. But as we were discussing earlier, some people prefer to listen rather than read. So I was curious if there’s any interest in me making these available as audio files as well.

I don’t have the time or the inclination to do any editing on the audio files (or making them “pretty”). So it’s just going to be raw audio with all my hemming and hawing and rambling and occasional double sentence structure. It’s not going to be like a professional podcast by any means, though I did download Audacity so I could cut out the long silent beginning to the recording. I typically start the app recording before I start driving, and then don’t start dictating until safely out of my parking space and on my way. Safety first!

But if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to post it, so you can listen to my ramblings rather than reading them if you prefer. I’ll post this file (see above – it’s an mp3, so should play on pretty much anything), and you can let me know if you listen to it. If you prefer to listen to the blog posts instead of reading them, please try to leave a comment somewhere – Facebook, Twitter, on my blog, whatever. Let me know if it’s something that you find useful, or if it’s just extraneous.

One more quick note – I’m speaking slowly due to wanting the transcription process to be as accurate as possible. So it’s much slower than I’d normally speak. You might want to speed it up a little for listening. 😉

In any case, last week, you may have read my ultra whiny blog post about my frustration with not being able to do as much as I would like to do. And that is a huge issue for me. But more so when I’m really tired. And last week, as I said, I had a couple of nights where I made bad choices. I got to bed late – really late. And I got very little sleep.

I’m not used to that anymore. I guess until I started getting 6 hours of sleep a night, I never realized just how how much my brain was not actually processing as well as it could have been on four and a half hours of sleep. It’s kind of one of those, “you don’t know what you’re missing until you get it” sort of things. In any case, being tired makes me whiny, frustrated and a lot more pessimistic about everything, really.

So I got some sleep.

And I checked out my schedule and did a lot of math. Well, I didn’t do the math – I used a calculator, because that is still one of the premier functions a computer can do, so I don’t have to. Anyways, I did some math – added up some word counts and some dictation counts. I looked at the time I have available, and I rescheduled a bunch of my routines. I made a scheduled plan for my dictation times, because they’re pretty set in stone, for the most part: going to work in the morning, going home from work at lunch, going back to work after lunch, and then going home at night after work.

So unless I have the day off work, I have four 10 to 15 minute segments where I can dictate something. That leaves my late night writing times free for editing or scheduling blog posts or doing social media stuff or formatting books or whatever.

I will need more time to edit, because I’m writing a lot more with dictation, but it requires more editing as well. I’ve been doing my budgeting on Friday nights, and I usually don’t get started until around midnight. It takes me a couple of hours, because I don’t just budget – I also pay bills and plan for the future by doing more math (because I love it. Not!).

But the thing about the budgeting is, I can do it amidst distraction. I have it set up now in a program, and I’ve got recurring payments scheduled and my bills all in there. It’s highly automated now, so I can do it with distractions – I don’t necessarily need that hyper-focus I needed in the beginning. So what I’m going to try is doing the budget earlier on Friday nights, after I walk the dogs. And if I can get that done before 10, 10:30-ish, then I will have that late night time on Fridays free. I’m going to schedule out three hours from 11 o’clock at night till two o’clock in the morning, just for editing fiction. I’ll go through the first edit of just cleaning up the transcript files and making them into a first draft, basically.

I guess you could argue that I could write during that time too, and not have to clean up so much. The thing is, it’s harder to be creative late at night when I’m already tired from the day. I’m tired, and my brain isn’t working as well as it should be at that point in time. So it would take me longer to write from scratch than to just clean up a wonky first draft. Also, I can’t type as fast as I can dictate. But I can edit pretty quickly if the words/ideas are already “on paper”.

I’m going to try that, and then my late night time will be for editing and scheduling blog posts, and working on formatting, cover and publishing minutiae. We’ll see how that works for a couple weeks.

It’s gonna take me probably two weeks to get into the new groove. But I’m excited that I have a plan. And if it doesn’t work, I have a couple other options that I think I can try that might be effective.

I think it’s gonna work out pretty well one way or the other.

Now if I can just figure out how to clean my dining room table off so that I can use it for something other than storage. But that will be my next project. I need to get this writing stuff figured out first.

Thanks for joining me, whether you’re reading or listening!


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Introducing Athena & A New Keyboard

Wow. I’ve been trying to get a post written for nearly a month now, and things have just been so busy that every time I start working on it, it’s late and I’m tired and I just don’t have the energy to finish, much less post. Which really just goes to show you how routine-driven I am, and what happens when those routines are disrupted for an extended period of time, as they have been this summer. July and August have been busy months, and I’m just now (as in, for one whole week) getting back into my regular routines without random sidetracks and distractions throwing me off.

Although there’s another disruption coming, as we have to replace our shower surround this weekend. Hopefully it will only take one day though, and we can still have a “normal” weekend with Labor Day tacked onto the end.

The biggest news since my last post is that we adopted a boxer puppy (2-3 yrs old) named Athena. She’s adorable and spunky and was obviously mistreated at some point in her young life, but she’s brave and curious and has made herself right at home with us. She’s also white, and shedding like crazy at the moment – getting rid of an old, malnourished coat and growing in a much thicker, healthier one. So, we have little white hairs all over everything, including ourselves. I ordered lint rollers last night, along with a shedding glove, and am going to get some conditioning shampoo for dear Athena this weekend. I just can’t make myself buy lighter clothing. LOL

In any case, Athena is young and full of energy, and she’s already getting the Murph off the couch more often (I don’t think he necessarily appreciates that, but it’s good for him) and he’s walking a tad bit farther with her at his side. Of course she needs a much longer hike than he does, which means we go with him, take him home, and then Athena and I go for part two, which is a good half-mile to a mile at the moment, and we’ll work up to a couple miles most nights in moderate weather. So I’m getting more exercise too, which is perfect (and much needed). It’s always easier to walk with a buddy, IMO.

Writing has been hit or miss, a lot more “miss” unfortunately, but as the routines get back to normal and I don’t have to think so much about every little thing I do during the day, I have more energy and headspace available for creative endeavors. I have gotten a little lazy about using the Neo though – mostly because uploading to the laptop requires plugging the Neo in by cable and then transferring the keystrokes into my writing program (yWriter). I tried working directly on my laptop again, but between hating the keyboard and having distractions so readily available (I forgot to order this! I need to post that! Was that an important email that just came in?) it just doesn’t work for my flighty brain.

So last week, I ordered a bluetooth keyboard (full-sized, with scissor switches) to pair with my cell, and I can use that to write directly into yWriter from my lap. The size of the phone screen really doesn’t lend itself to switching apps often (so less distractions) and my yWriter files live in my Dropbox account, so I can get to them from both my phone and my laptop – no transfer needed.

I think it’ll be a good solution…we’ll find out at the end of this week. The keyboard I really wanted with Cherry MX switches and a really nice “typewriter” look was two hundred bucks, the one I got was thirty. Maybe I’ll splurge on the nicer one if the solution works well enough to finish a novel by Christmas.

So, moving along. Getting back on track. Putting the things I can back on auto-pilot, so I can focus more on things like writing. It feels good. I hope things will stabilize for awhile now. My brain could use the rest.

Next week…a resolution check-in.


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Alternate Reality: Preview Mode

Tomorrow, it’s back to work after 5 days and a weekend off. No major catastrophes, no major outlay of “vacation” time for work issues…I think we might be on to something with this whole “taking partial weeks off” thing. Or it could just be the time of year, too. Whatever works, I say.

I was mostly productive, though not as much as I thought I’d be. But that’s to be expected, so I guess that makes it a wash between expectations and reality. I got some extra cleaning done, I learned how to create my own print book templates properly and reformatted the book I’ve been wanting to for months now. I still need to create another template and reformat the cover again for a mass market version to distribute, but that will be much easier now that I’m not fumbling around with the formatting in general, and know how to set and use styles in Open Office. Sometimes all it takes is the proper tools.

I caught four shiny Treeckos for Pokemon Go community day, and evolved one plus a couple “normal” into Sceptiles who are supposedly the best grass-type fighters for raids (we’ll see). At the same time, I didn’t play much Pokemon Go on account of the whole “go” thing, which I didn’t do much of aside from daily dog walks and the normal weekend errands. I am, at heart, a homebody. I’m perfectly content to stay home for days on end without seeing anyone but the dogs and my husband.

I did get back to Batman: Arkham Asylum for a night. One of the battles I had to fight was *intense*, and I was actually a little sore the next morning from tensing up during the five or six (maybe more?) times I had to try before I finally got through it.

I also subscribed to Starz for awhile so we could watch American Gods and Gnomeo and Juliet. The initial episode of the former is trippy, the latter is hilarious. I never did make it through the American Gods novel…gave up – it’s a doorstopper. But the show has me intrigued enough to watch a few more episodes, at least.

Gnomeo and Juliet is just adorably cute, and now that we’ve seen that (and agree we need an army of garden gnomes to make our yard look better), Sherlock Gnomes is up next on our movie “to-watch” list.

It’s interesting how quickly I settled into a routine of sorts this time. Most of my vacations are unorganized because I have so much to do, and I plan my time so tightly that it’s overwhelming. Either that, or I have a vague idea of things I want to do, and then plan nothing, so I do nothing. This time, I had a few concrete goals/priorities, but kept them limited by design, and the rest was just “if I get to it, great, if not, great”. I settled into a nice routine of working in the mornings (on my book stuff and then cleaning when I needed a break from sitting), walking the dogs after lunch, and then errands or more work/cleaning trade-offs in the afternoon. A loose, comfortable routine that I could maintain indefinitely if I had the chance.

Someday (20 yrs down the road, *sigh*), this will be my life. And it will be good.

Alas, tomorrow it’s back to the hustle and bustle of the day job/work-week routine.


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Recalibration, Spring, and Dreaming

I don’t know if this works the same way for everyone, but every time I make a plan, I end up being surprised at how much longer things take than I expect them to. Occasionally I’m surprised the other way, but for the most part, I think I’ll be able to fit more in than I actually am. Which is why I’m constantly recalibrating.

It’s kind of annoying, honestly.

Of course there are always those tasks that take longer initially, and then I get more efficient the more I do them, so I can shave the time down some. And I hate to say it (because I hate sounding like a whiner), but a lot of the time my “allotted time” gets encroached on either by my own laziness, or the dogs, or other humans/plans going on around me that I have to be flexible for. That annoys me too – mostly when I have a nice routine going and finally have all the things in a time slot perfected to fit there, and then…the routine has to change. And that just blows my fragile little mind for some reason. I don’t know why I can’t just adjust and recalibrate to keep moving forward “on the fly” so to speak, but I can’t. My mind needs time to process the new order of things, and re-do my routines, and then settle in again and then…usually something happens to change it again.

I wish magnesium (or any of the other supplements I take or could take) would fix that too, but unfortunately, it’s more a personality trait than a physical thing. There isn’t any “fix” for personality quirks.

So then I try to “proof” my routines by building in extra time, and that never really works either, so…I just muddle through knowing that I could be so much more productive than I actually am if only I could get into a daily routine and not have anyone change it on me for a good solid six months or more.

Yes, I know. That sounds horribly boring to most of you, but it’s heaven to me (and others like me).

In any case, I don’t have a “meal budget” this week due to routines being thrown out of whack this past weekend, I let my workouts get sidelined for most of last week, and I had to spend “business hours” (ie, 10:45pm – 11:45pm) working on the new book cover/uploading instead of the tasks I wanted to, because time is finite and that had to be done on deadline. I’m trying to just roll with it. I got a quick workout in last night, I’ll try to do a menu plan tonight and I started getting back on track with the business plan last night since the book is all done/uploaded/ready to go, but it still niggles in my head that I lost all that time.

In other news, the garden is waking up, and I love going around and checking out which plants have buds on them, what made it, what didn’t, and seeing all the potential for the beauty that is to come. Both of our maple trees have buds (thought we lost the little one!), all of my rose bushes have green on the lower canes and buds on the stems, and a couple rhubarb plants that I thought for sure were goners because I left them in a big pot on the patio last year are coming up as if winter never happened, which is pretty amazing for our climate (things don’t tend to overwinter well…or at all, in pots here). I’m getting the itch to go out with a rake and clean things up, and then get started on all the “beautification plans” we have for this year. Even if we only get a fraction done, it’s going to look so much better and be so much nicer than it is now…I can’t wait to see what it looks like by the end of summer.

We went out looking for a mailbox last Saturday, but not just any mailbox. We wanted a large, nice-looking, sturdy metal mailbox, with some decorative elements to it (ie, not a big box store “box”, so to speak), so we drove out to a specialty shop on the frontage road. Unfortunately, said shop has closed up business and is waiting for liquidation auction scheduled for early May. We decided to wait and we might go out to the auction and see if we can get a nice mailbox and a patio set, if there are any up for grabs. It’s really too bad we didn’t go sooner. But who knew they’d go out of business? It happens so fast, and always makes me wonder what happened.

The other thing that made me wonder recently was running over two things as I was pulling into my parking spot for work yesterday morning: a nail brush attached to a lid, and a polish bottle. The lid/brush actually fared far better than the bottle, so I can tell you the polish was black.

Things that make you go “hmmm….”