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A Really Good Day & Retirement Goals

I had some vacation time to either use or lose by the end of the month, so last Friday I played hooky from work. It was a fun and productive day, and I found myself wishing I could have more days like that, which is pretty odd for me with vacation days (I often end up wasting them).

I went to the archery range first, and…well, I didn’t do so well with the targets *and* ended up making my shoulder sore, which means my form was way, way off. I’m blaming it on the fact that it was morning, and I don’t generally do much of anything well in the mornings (aside from sleeping, anyway). It was still a lot of fun though, and nice not to have to worry too much about what time it was. In fact, I didn’t put my watch on once last Friday.

After that, I hit the tattoo shop (Ghosts of Grace Tattoo Collective), and while my tattoo artist wasn’t in yet, the new piercer was. I ordered some expensive but really high quality titanium bars for my industrial piercing (which will take four weeks to get in, so I’m glad I got them ordered now), which I’ve been wanting to do for awhile (I have rather small ears, so the shorter bars I need are hard to find online or off). Once those come in, Nicole can custom color them for me, which will be great fun, and I can get some matching sets of bars/hoops/curved bars for my various gauged piercings.

While I waited for Andrew to get in, I ran over to the grocery store to buy some frozen cut green beans for the dogs (I use them as treats, and we were out). It amused me to just buy the one bag of frozen veggies with cash. Apparently people don’t do that often, because the cashier looked at me a little strange. She could have asked, and I would have solved the mystery for her, but she didn’t, so she’ll just have to wonder…

Then back to the tattoo shop (we’re talking maybe three blocks away here, so not a long trip) to chat with Andrew and schedule my next session for late April. A reward for getting my taxes done (not that we ever get any money back to spend – we break even most years). He seemed excited to continue working up on my sort of Victorian skull cameo/lace arm, and I’m really excited to see what he comes up with for the upper half. It’s odd to think that in a few months, I’ll have a full tattoo sleeve (two to three more sessions). It’s an odd thing, to look at a blank piece of skin and know that soon, it will bear a piece of permanent artwork and will never be truly “bare” again. I absolutely want it, but it’s still sort of an odd thing to really wrap your brain around.

After that, I headed home, had lunch with my husband and walked the dogs. And then while the dogs napped, I sat down with my laptop in our nice quiet house (construction down the street notwithstanding), and worked on a short story until it was time to feed the dogs and make dinner. I really enjoyed writing that story. I was in the zone, and it was flowing, and while it needs some clean-up work, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. You can read the draft version (under  one of my pseudonyms) on the BSB blog, if you’d like.

It was a really good day.

This is something like what I imagine retirement to be like. Wake up slow, maybe run some errands (or work on some household stuff), have lunch, get out and walk the dogs, and then sit and write for a few hours before dinner. Glorious!

When I was in high school, I always wanted to be in college, and I took a lot of time for granted. When I got to college, I just wanted to get out because I was working three, sometimes four jobs to pay my way through and taking several classes every semester. I barely slept, ate on the run, and could not *wait* to have a normal, 9-5 job where I could just go home in the evenings and crash.

Now I have my 9-6 job, I have my evenings for dinner, hobbies, working out and even a little writing, but I’m greedy. I want more time to be “mine” again. And that won’t happen until I’ve paid my dues and finally reach the golden age of retirement.

It’s good to have long-term goals, don’t you think?

Until then, I’ll try to have as many of these “really good days” as possible. I mean, I like my job, don’t get me wrong. But finally being able to set my own schedule is my “Eleanor” (or unicorn, if you prefer).

Hand in hand with that, I need to remember that while having a stockpile of vacation days is good, it’s kind of like collecting nice dishes and then only using them on special occasions. If you have something, you may as well use and enjoy it, rather than waiting for some special event or date.

More random vacation days, perhaps?

That Could Cause Cancer, You Know…

…and water is wet, and the sky is blue.

But we’ll get to my rant on supposedly well-intentioned cancer warnings in a minute. First, a bit of blog news:

If you were/are a fan of my blog serials, I have good news! I’m around 6 chapters into my next romantic suspense novel, and I’ve decided to serialize it again. One chapter every Friday, right here on the blog. Keeps me motivated and accountable, even if I know there are only two people reading. And since I rarely look at my stats (too lazy), I can pretend there are at least two people reading, which keeps me writing. Ignorance/fantasy is bliss, you know.

So, if you’re interested, stop back on Friday for Chapter 1 of…hmm. That’s a pickle. I should probably pick an actual title for this book, eh? I’ve been calling it Rattlesnake Falls Book 1, because the series will be Rattlesnake Falls, and this is the first one (I know, so logical). But I haven’t come up with an actual title for it yet. I’ll think on it, and hopefully have one by Friday.

I currently have subscription options for either “all posts” or “non-fiction only”. I’ll have a “fiction only” option as well by Friday, so those who prefer to get each chapter (but not these rambly weekly posts) via email can do so.


Alrighty then. Admin business done, now back to the rant o’ the week:

As I understand it, cancer isn’t really a disease so much as a cell mutation, and the things that turn it on/off are varied and individual to specific people depending on their own genetics and lifestyle. Cells mutate, and those mutated cells spread through the body and left unchecked, it will eventually kill us. Odds are incredibly good that a high percentage of us will eventually be killed by cell mutations (cancer) at some point (hopefully very late in life when our bodies are worn out, but that’s if we’re lucky).

Why am I thinking about this, you ask? Because I was challenged about my tattoos twice last week, and one of the arguments used was “tattoos can cause cancer, you know – and especially lymph node cancer”. The reason that last part was tacked on, obviously, is because Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma runs in my family, and it was an attempt at emotional manipulation. Scare tactics. Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate it, nor do I respond to such things all that well.

There are a *lot* of things out there that can cause (trigger, really) cancers. And we have a lot of warnings all over the place alerting us to that danger. The main cancer that runs in my family is genetic, and has a tendency to hit the same oldest (or only) child of the family in the same place on the body (lymph nodes at the side of the neck) at the same time in life (one week before a 50th birthday). It’s been very predictable for at least three generations on my dad’s side, and I’ve lived a great deal of my life knowing that one week before my 50th birthday, a lump will probably appear on the side of my neck, and it will be my turn to get radiated/chemo-ed/poisoned/whatever-the-current-treatment-happens-to-be in order to keep my body from killing me in the process of turning into a giant mass of monster-cells.

We humans are nothing if not hopeful, though, and to that end, I’ve done and continue to do a lot of things in order to reduce the risk of my genetic switch from “flipping”, or at least to prolong the process. With the occasional lapse, I workout fairly regularly and do my best to keep my weight under control (all previous generations where the cancer triggered, the “victims” were quite overweight). I eat as healthy as I can stand to, which is pretty healthy and includes a high-fiber, low carb diet, I stay away from most extra sugars, all artificial sweeteners, and I try to keep my indulgences to a minimum. I drink the equivalent of six cups of tea per day, no sugar added, and I do my best to get a proper amount of water for good hydration.

I read labels religiously, do my best to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in skin care, makeup, soaps/cleaners, household cleaning products, and personal care items. I use herbal-only hair dyes, and my nail polish is all “big-three-free” (which means it has less toxic chemicals, but it’s still not perfect). I don’t use plastic water bottles or storage containers if I can help it – everything is metal, glass or ceramic. I stay away from commercial drugs as much as possible, and use herbal/holistic remedies whenever I can.

You’d think I’d be confident in my ability to prolong or circumvent my family’s genetic curse, but honestly? I have no idea whether or not any of it will even help. And there’s a very good possibility that nothing I can do will stop that genetic mutation from triggering in my body in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time as my dad, and his mom, and her dad before that. Even if I can prolong it, there’s no guarantee that it won’t trigger differently, maybe at some other time, in some other place. That’s the thing about cancer. If the genetics are there, there’s no guarantee that anything we do differently will ever be able to stop it from actually manifesting.

I have tattoos. One of the few things I indulge in knowing full well that it isn’t the healthiest thing for my body, and that some of the pigment particles *will* settle in my lymph nodes. And I fully plan on getting more tattoos. Because I love them, and because no one can guarantee me that any of the things I do to keep my cells in line is actually going to work against my base genetics. I could live as pristine a life as possible, and still end up with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma one week before my 50th birthday. Or, the curse could mutate differently in me, and manifest as some different sort of cancer at some different time of my life too. Earlier, later…impossible to say. The potential is there, dormant (hopefully) for now. The possibility that something will eventually trigger it is high. If not my tattoos, it will be something else.

At some point, you have to just stop worrying so much, live your life, and deal with things as they come.

Well, you don’t have to, I guess, but it’s sure a lot more fun/less stressful than constantly worrying about every single thing that could go wrong and trying to control things that really are pretty much out of your control.

I’m keeping the tattoos and nail polish, thanks. My two main unhealthy vices, and the nail polish has been one since I was a young kid, way before they thought about things like avoiding toxic chemicals (nail polish is derived from automobile paint, you know, and then there’s polish remover, of course…), so I’ve certainly absorbed my fair share of those along with all the tattoo pigments.

Yes, I know tattoos could/may trigger cancer, thanks. I’ll take my chances.

Holiday Tidings & Looking Back

Everyone have a merry/happy holiday this weekend (even if just celebrating “the weekend”)? If you’re reading this, you probably survived, at the very least, so congratulations to all of us on that!

As usual, I’m glad Christmas is over, and today I will be taking down our tree, putting ornaments away, and returning our house to it’s normal state. Maybe even cleaner, though that might have to wait until next weekend. I’m all about leaving the past in the past, and moving forward to whatever possibilities lie ahead, and that includes leaving Christmas in 2016, and having a nice calm, clean(ish) environment to bring in 2017.

It’s not Feng Shui, by any means, but it works for me.

I’ve been thinking about the past year (as I generally do this month), and while much of it can be summed up simply as “good riddance”, it was definitely a year of personal growth as well.

Last year, I distilled my resolutions into sections for Personal, Work, and Writing, and just three goals each. The goals I made public (ie, not work) are:

Personal
– Read *every day*, even if just for 10-15 minutes.
– Treat hobbies with the respect they deserve.
– Engage in more analog, tactile activities

Writing
– Write three novels in 2016
– Write eight short stories: two per quarter for each pen name (just writing under two this year)
– Focus on just two drafts at any one time (one novel, one short)

I wasn’t perfect on any of these (naturally), but I did pretty well with the personal goals. I don’t perceive my hobbies as “second jobs” any longer, I’ve done a lot more analog/tactical things on the weekends, and some months have been better than others, but I do normally get some reading in at the end of each day. So I think we can call the personal goals a success.

The writing goals are a whole ‘nuther story. Pretty much all of those were a complete failure, and that’s because I was off in a totally wrong direction which pretty much killed any motivation I had to write. It sucked, put bluntly. I’m finally writing again, but only after getting to the point where I could drop the “wrong direction”, do a 180 degree about-face, and start over with writing things I actually *want* to write. It was a rough year in writing, but again, a learning experience. At least I’m writing again now, and that’s all that matters.

On my work goals, I managed to complete one (big) goal, I did well with another until half-way through the year, and the other one is still a work in progress. So…we’ll just call those a “draw”. Which isn’t bad, considering all the upheaval/change that went on in my workplace this past year.

So I got a win, a lose, and a draw for the year. Realistically speaking, I think that’s pretty good.

As far as personal growth goes…the whole writing debacle was a big learning experience. It’s difficult to distill it down into words (ironically enough), but I learned a lot about who I am, what I want to do with my writing, and what I don’t want to do, and I had to come at that from a creative/artistic headspace rather than a logical one (which is my default). Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but it does feel like a much different mindset to me.

Of course that means that the logical, business side of my writing suffered a bit, but I’ve had to admit that I just don’t have the time/energy to keep both the writing and the business moving forward by myself at this point in my life (when I retire from the day job, it will be a different story). So I hired some help, and I’ve learned to let go of control on a lot of things I would have taken care of myself before. That’s alleviated a lot of stress for me (granted, there’s stress involved in having someone else help out too, but not as much). I plan to continue doing that next year, and focus on the writing, rather than the business side of things.

One other major area of personal growth for me is in body modification (tattoos and piercings). I suppressed my desire for more tattoos and piercings (more than the well-hidden tattoos and piercings removed for professional perception) for many years for several reasons, and this year, I finally decided to stop “normalizing” myself and start indulging in the mods that make me happy and express outwardly who I am inside. I’ll do a longer post on this eventually, but it was a pretty major turning point for me – something I started a couple years ago, and finally had the “guts” to go all in with this year. Not everyone in my life is all that excited about it, but it makes me happy, and more importantly, it’s me being true to who I am and what I like no matter what others think. The whole world gives lip service to that from the time we’re young. It’s taken me awhile to work up the courage and confidence to actually start living it.

I had some major personal growth periods at work too – mainly in deciding and solidifying what direction I want my career to take, and what kind of work I do and don’t want to do. It was kind of a rough growth point because once again, I did the complete opposite of what nearly everyone close to me (and some not close) thought I should do, and it’s always hard to feel like you’re letting people down or turning down good opportunities. But hindsight/perspective is always clearer, and several months later, I’m 100 percent certain that I made the right decision, hard as it was at the time. I like my current job, I like what I do, and I like where I’m at in my career and the direction I’m going.

So…a very stressful, growth-filled year. I’m hoping that 2017 will be a little easier/less stressful all around – I could certainly use a little break, methinks.

Next week, I’ll share my goals/resolutions for the new year. I do love a nice, fresh starting point, and January 1 is a very convenient and “logical” one. 😉

Catchin’ Up

Well then. I kinda got behind on this whole blogging thing, didn’t I? I’m sure the few of you reading along out there were probably busy enough with your own Halloween celebrations (or hidey-hole stocking, for those who don’t participate) that you didn’t even notice I was gone. I should probably do something about that…you know, something to make my posts so charming, so poignant, so completely engrossing that people wait with bated breath until the next missive comes out, but…that just sounds like work.

Save it for fiction, I say. Not that my fiction is especially stunning just yet, but I like to think it’s improving.

On the costumes, hubby and I went to the party as Bob Ross and a Happy Little Tree. It went over very well, thank you very much. The party was a blast…really fun seeing what everyone else came up with. Can’t wait to go again next year!

bobntree

The yard haunt went really well too, though I haven’t had a chance to transfer the pics from my cell yet. But they’re all over Instagram & Facebook, if you’re so inclined to follow/friend me on either of those. Not many trick-or-treaters, but lots of friends dropped by to chat, which is always fun.

In any case, Halloween is over, the bodies are back in the basement (well, most of ’em), and we spent most of this weekend taking the yard haunt down and just cleaning house in general. I may have even had a brief dalliance with a dust rag…but I don’t think that particular relationship is going anywhere long-term.

My neighbors seem to be a little confused as to the season – most of ’em took down their Halloween stuff and put out Christmas wreaths and flowers and things. I put out a nice autumn leafy-wreath on the door, some faux leaves and squashes in the door basket-decor-thingy by the steps, and another leafy wreath and some fall-leaf garland in the front window. Because as far as I know, Thanksgiving still comes before Christmas, right? And it’s still fall, not winter…

This weekend was also “fall back” to Standard Time, and I love that. I wish we could just stay in standard time year-round, but I like the dark, and I have no problem at all with it getting dark early in the evening. Judging from my facebook feed, I’m in the minority on that one, but at least people are whining about something other than politics for a change.skullcameoroseandlace

I got the second part of my right forearm (outside) tattooed last week too – a bit of lace and a big rose that ties directly in with my skeleton cameo (inside forearm). It turned out just amazing. Once it heals, I’ll try to get a quick video of the full forearm piece. That’s the last tattoo for this year – I need to pay some bills and do some budgeting work, and I also need a break from the itchy-healing process. It’s a really nice one to end the year with though. And the last one that’s really visible on a daily basis, at least until I get a few smaller bees/moths on my other arm to sort of fill in little open spaces.

I have a couple of goals I need to meet before I can get my next tattoo…I’ve decided tattoos are an excellent incentive/reward for completing goals. For the next one, I need to pay off one line of credit (completely) and lose (and keep off) the 5lbs I’ve put on over the last month or so due to bad eating habits and blowing off yoga in the mornings (ironically, part of that was due to healing tattoos, but still…).

I think I can accomplish both of those by next February, so hopefully I’ll be getting my next tattoo then. We shall see…

In the meantime, my husband decided to do NaNoWriMo this year (National Novel Writing Month), and I couldn’t very well let him do it by himself, so I decided to jump in again too. I’m woefully behind on word count already, but I have three days off this next week (Tues and Fri are holidays, Weds I’m taking a vacation day), so hopefully I can make up some wordage during that time.

As to the story I’m writing – I got the idea from my skeleton cameo tattoo. About three days after I got her done, she started talking to me, telling me a story involving a woman on the run, a voodoo priestess, a guardian talisman and a mystery waiting to be solved. Incidentally, her name is Misty. So I’m writing the Mystery of Misty for NaNo this month, as well as trying to get The Time Stone (Book One of The Stone Scavengers – a young/middle-grade story) edited and formatted for release in December. Busy busy!

So then…I think we’re all caught up now. Next time, remind me to tell you about a very cool stamp app the USPS just released this summer. Hopefully by next week I’ll be caught up with my postcard exchange as well, which has been on hold (along with everything else) due to Halloween madness.


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Patience, Grasshopper

Grasshopper_Ladybug

Patience isn’t an easy thing for most of us. When I was young (say, elementary school through high school), I always wanted time to move faster. I couldn’t wait to get out of high school and get to college. And then in college, when I realized I still couldn’t really relate to people my age for various reasons, I wanted *that* time to move faster, so I could move out of my parent’s house and get a single, glorious job that would cover all my bills and still leave me free in the evenings to…you know, watch TV and sleep. Then I graduated, and got the job, but had to stay with my parents for two more years before I finally had enough money saved up to buy a house. I got a better job on the same day I got the house, and life was finally good. I’d finally reached the point where I wasn’t constantly wishing things would hurry up and move faster.

Nowadays, I’m less impatient with time itself, and more impatient *with* myself. Every time I have to learn something or figure something new out for my job, I think I should just be able to automagically access the data and apply it like a pro – like a digital download to the brain, Matrix-style. And with writing, I feel like I should be able to learn new concepts and apply them perfectly right away, instead of constantly botching it up, trying again, getting a little better, trying again…etc.

Of course I can’t…I have to figure out what I need to learn, and then read about it, and then apply it, and fail, and try again, and fail, and go through the same process everyone else does. Which is absolutely logical/normal, but with writing especially, I wish I could grab those relatively abstract concepts and apply them without so much floundering. Database stuff is far more logical than writing (which surprises no one, I’m certain).

It’s all ego, of course – thinking I should be able to just learn new things with a simple “make it so” command. Knowing that doesn’t make me want it less though, and I’m constantly repeating the phrase from the old Kung Fu TV series to myself:

“Patience, grasshopper.”

Which reminds me, of course, that there are steps to learning, and no shortcuts, and the “journey” of learning something is often a lesson in and of itself. So might be said of the journey of simply waiting for something to happen – or to see if something will eventually happen.

Life itself is more about the journey than any particular destination, methinks.

And that is why I had a grasshopper tattooed on my forearm a little over a week ago. The ladybug is for luck, which…is a philosophical discussion for another day.


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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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“Pretty-Shinys” and Crow-Like Behavior

Luckily for me, crows are also very smart birds, so comparing myself to one isn’t completely derogatory. But my love of bright, shiny things is a serious issue sometimes. I have such a hard time resisting the pull…

I’ve been lusting after the new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 ever since pictures started to leak months ago. For those who don’t know, I’ve been using a Galaxy Note 3 as a data-only device since shortly after my beloved Palm Pilots went obsolete (I had a brief dalliance with a small tablet, but the pocket-sized format is just so much more portable). In order to “hack” the cell system and get data-only, I got a Verizon Jetpack Hotspot from Amazon with a data plan, and once it was activated, I put the sim card into my Note 3. Voila! Data only cell connection. Works great!

Why data only? Because I’m not all that fond of phone conversations, and I don’t want people calling me when I’m out and about and expecting me to…you know…answer. It’s odd, but when you have a landline and don’t answer, people just assume that you’re out or busy. If you have a cell and don’t answer, they tend to take it more personally. Stupid, but true.

I do respond to texts and Facebook messages pretty quickly for the most part. So it’s not like I’m a total miscreant when it comes to being accessible.

In any case, Samsung’s devices are not cheap, and while I bought my Note 3 outright (an unlocked version used off Swappa), I didn’t really want to spend nearly $1k up front for a new Note 7. Since I have no plans to leave Verizon anytime soon (very reliable around here, though expensive), I figured I’d just buy the Note 7 from them on a monthly plan, and add it to my current data-only plan.

Alas, Verizon is too smart for that, and they would not let me buy the phone without “upgrading” to a new smartphone plan. Dang it. But the pull of the shiny was too strong to resist, and after talking myself through the logic that I could just turn off the call ringtone and not answer actual phone calls (unless I really, really need to for some reason), I went ahead and capitulated like the gadget-loving-crow I am. *sigh*

I figured I could at least keep the data-only plan for my old Note 3, and give that to my husband so he’ll have data and texting too. But Verizon was not playing around, and they went ahead and just upgraded my current sim card to a secondary smartphone line (probably because it was in my Note 3 – I should have put it back in the JetPack before starting this process). So now I have (or I will, when my Note 7 gets here next week) two smartphones with unlimited talk (which will be severely underused, given how little my husband and I actually use the phone) and text (which I’ll use, but I doubt my husband will much, if at all), and 4 GB of shared data for about double what I was paying before with data-only.

And all I really wanted was two smartphones with data-only (texting with Google works just fine for free). I don’t understand why that’s so difficult. No different than a wifi hotspot. Though now both phones do work for that too, which will be handy when Charter goes out here at the house (handier than having to take the sim card out of the cell and put it back in the hotspot, I mean).

I suppose I could call my hair stylist again to set up appointments if I want. Her cell number is her only phone, and it’s long distance, which I don’t carry on our landline (because we never need it). But texting her works well enough, so I’ll probably continue doing that.

I wonder if I can set up specific ringtones just for a few numbers, and then have all the rest silent? Anyone who uses a cell phone know? Immediate family and a couple people at work are really the only people who might ever need to get a hold of me while I’m out and about. I could set ringtones for them (those would be rare calls anyways), silence everyone else, and have the best of both worlds.

In any case, I will soon have a lovely new Blue Coral Galaxy Note 7, and it will be useful in all the ways my Note 3 is now for organization, email and internet “stuff”, and it will have an even better camera, and improved note/stylus functions, and those are the most important things to me. Exciting, I tell ya. So shiny it almost hurts. 🙂

It’s too bad I’m not fond of reading on a backlit screen, because the Note 7 curved edges would provide a nice frame for e-reading. Maybe I’ll try it again. I have a kindle backlog like you wouldn’t believe, because I’ve been reading predominantly print lately.

Is there really anything more fun than new gadgetry?

Tattoos may be a close second…and I have an appointment for two more smallish ones coming up this Saturday. So that will be fun too. Pictures next week…


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Elwood & The Art of Naming Things

Elwood the Horned Lizard <br>(still a bit swollen)

        Elwood the Horned Lizard               

Saturday was a pretty fun day (which was nice, considering last week felt like it was never gonna end). Hubby and I dropped in at a retirement party, and then I went straight from there to an appointment with the guy who does my tattoos, where “Elwood” was “born”. He’s a horned-lizard, colloquially called a “horny toad” (I’ve no idea why – they look nothing like toads), and like Charlie, the rattlesnake just opposite him on that wrist, his species is native to Montana.

Yes, I name my animal tattoos. Well, the ones that don’t already have names, anyways. I mean, my skunk isn’t just any skunk, he’s Pepe le Pew. But the snake on my ankle (the BSB logo snake) is named Erwin, the one on my shoulder is George, and the one on my wrist is Charlie.

Erwin

                 Erwin

I kept looking at my new lizard all weekend and thinking he was just so adorably plump (ahem), and the name Elwood just jumped out at me and stuck. Which is way better, in my opinion, than my buddy Carol’s idea of Sam. As in, Yosemite. Sheesh. No. Just no.

I have another appointment on the 27th to get a grasshopper and a barn spider on that same forearm (workin’ my way around), and those two already have names. But I’m not telling yet, because I might do a “guess the name” contest when they are done. I’m still trying to work out what to give away for that. I kind of think I need to come up with a tattoo story (yes, I already have several ideas – ideas are never in short supply around here).

In any case, Elwood, Erwin & Charlie are not named after or for anyone. Those particular names just seemed to fit the images in some way or another. I thought Erwin sounded somewhat “old school literary”, which is a great thing for the Brazen Snake Books mascot, eh? Charlie…well, Charlie is beautiful but deadly, and the name seems to portray that in a sort of “harmless-until-provoked” sort of thing for me.

Charlie

                  Charlie

Elwood…well, it just feels kind of antique and a little bit sneaky but mostly harmless and easy-going, as long as his daily routine isn’t interrupted. Which reminds me of someone, but not an Elwood. Who could that possibly be, I wonder? 😉

George is named for my husband, and I think he was a bit tickled by it, actually. I’d post a pic, but he’s on my shoulder blade and I don’t have the energy to try to bendy-twisty enough to get a decent photo. Maybe next time.

And no, I have no names actually tattooed in my skin, nor will I ever do that. Not my thing.

It’s funny, because I was thinking about names and naming things and characters after Elwood’s name came to me, and it’s odd how much perception can be skewed or manipulated merely by choosing one name over the other. Names tend to evoke a sort of emotional, pre-loaded response to the person on the other end for many of us, which is probably why some people have such a hard time naming babies and pets. Naming (or re-naming, as I usually do) a dog is no small feat. It requires days, sometimes weeks of thought, and about a dozen side-eyed looks at the husband for tossing out absolutely absurd options (as men generally do).

One of the few things that really gives me pause at the start of writing any story is…character names. Because the reader is going to have all these built-in perceptions of a person depending on what their name is, which makes it a vital early piece of information. But it’s not just for the reader – it’s for me too. Because I also have a whole bunch of perceptions attached to any number of names, not even based on who I may have met before, but also on how the name sounds and “feels” when I speak or hear it. And since I don’t consciously “write” my characters…I more just watch them live and transcribe that, the name gives me a whole bunch of information about the character too. Even better if that information turns out to be wrong later in the story…character twist!

Names are important, and have long-term implications. Isn’t that the oddest thing? But if you think about it, it really is true.

Now…about that redhead named Sam in a cowboy hat. I wonder if she’d be the tattooer, or the client? I think I might write her story and find out. Thanks a lot, Carol. There’s another book in my to-be-written queue… *sigh*

 

Vacation Report

This whole “not planning” thing is crazy hard for me. Even now, I have my planner beside me on the arm of my couch like a security blanket, just in case I decide I can’t stand it anymore and must make priorities, a list and a schedule for the day before I can possibly go on. I have to wonder if I’m doing myself any favors by fighting it so hard, or if it might be better to just give in and schedule my afternoon so I can stop worrying about *not* having a schedule/getting things done…

It may happen yet. I’m not really relaxing if I’m stressed over trying not to be stressed. How ironic is *that*, anyways?

So far, I’ve done a pretty good job of taking it easy though. I visited with the guy who does my tattoos on Friday, and set up an appointment for Aug. 6th to get another couple of pieces done on my left forearm. The first forearm tattoo was a pretty big step – kind of a commitment to having visible tattoos – to being a “tattooed person”, rather than a person who has a few small tattoos in easily hidable places. I mean, I can still keep my arm covered, of course, but I tend to push sleeves up constantly – I’m not fond of fabric pulling around my wrists for any length of time – so the forearm tattoo was a pretty big step for me. I love it, and every time I look at it, I feel like it’s *supposed* to be there. Like that’s who I really am, and what I want my skin to look like.

The rattlesnake on my forearm.

        The rattlesnake on my forearm.

I realize that sounds crazy to a non-tattooed person, but that’s okay. I would never, ever try to convince anyone to get a tattoo…and no tattooed person I know would ever do that either. It’s very much a “make a wise decision for yourself” sort of community, because it is a permanent body modification, and no one should do that unless they’re absolutely certain it’s what they want. For me, tattoos are definitely part of who I am, and there are many more in my future.

I also finished a knitting project yesterday – a pair of fingerless gloves I’ve been working on for several weeks. I’ve been struggling with thumb gussets because though I’m right-handed, I knit left-handed (it just was more comfortable for me to learn that way – flexibility is a good thing), so I had problems translating that part of the pattern from right to left-handed techniques. And I can’t even tell you how proud of myself I am for having figured that out on the second glove. The gusset looks and fits much better, and it seriously took me a lot of youtube video help and reworking make 1 stitches to finally get it right. The harder something is to master, the more pleasure we get when we manage, right? It’s certainly true in this case, and while it was incredibly frustrating, I’m glad I stuck with it.

Just gotta clean up the ends on the last one!

                                  Just gotta clean up the ends on the last one!

I also started reading a new light mystery series this weekend themed around a tattoo shop. Tattoos on the brain, I tell ya. They’re quite addictive, and when you’re ready for that next “hit”, they’re on the mind a lot. I’m not sure whether I’ll finish this series or not (it’s four books), because it’s written in first-person, and I typically have trouble getting into stories from that perspective. But I’m working on writing a short story that’s first-person at the moment too, so who knows? Maybe that particular preference is changing for me. It would certainly expand both my reading and writing potential if it did…

The short story I’m working on is for a celebration of Frankenstein’s 200th birthday – a bicentennial “dare”. Kind of a fun little project that I need to finish by the end of the week, if I want to enter the contest. It’ll be under my alter-ego Alex’s name – this sort of thing is right up her alley.

I also registered a new domain name this weekend – spent an absurd amount of money for it, but it will be the home of my dog’s new blog & site, once I get it built. That’s on my mental list of things to do before Friday, and a fun project, methinks. More on that at the end of the week…

Now, I really need to get off my butt for awhile – I’ve been sitting too long already today. I need a yoga session, and then some housecleaning, methinks, before I sit down at the computer again.

Maybe I’ll just make a quick little list of priorities for the afternoon first…