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Holidays, Book Inventory, Sleep, & Tattoos

Today is a federal holiday, which means I am not at work. Call it Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day as you like (or Thanksgiving in Canada – Happy Turkey Day, Canadian peeps!) – I’m happy enough to stay home either way.

I have some editing I want to get done…on paper, no less. So that will take up part of the day. I need to catch up on the food prep I didn’t get done this past weekend too. Breakfast burrioes, yogurt & dog treats all need to be made.

I also want to start inventorying the books in my office bookcases. I have three tall bookshelves at the moment, but my husband is building me a really nice wall unit that will have four bookcases on top of four sets of drawers below, and in the middle (two on each side) a charging station/small desk area where the new printer and all chargable devices will sit to juice up.

I’d like to put all of the books into an inventory program I bought for that specific purpose, and moving them to new shelves seems like a good time to reorganize and clean out the copies I don’t want any longer. It’ll take me longer than a day, so might as well get started while I have a little extra time. I need to clean off all the little knick-knacks that accumulate in front of the books too (just me? Really?), and find another place for my porcelain doll collection (currently on top of the old bookshelves). Some of that is on the agenda for today as well. I can’t sit all day, but I can’t be in constant motion, either, so having different tasks will satisfy that need for variety.

On sleeping: as it turns out, getting more sleep does leave me clearer-headed. Unfortunately, it does not make me want to move any faster late at night when I should be extricating myself from the couch/cuddling dogs to get the kitchen cleaned up and get to my office to write.

But, new habits and routines take time, so this week, I’ll just plug along trying to stick to the same routine. Hopefully it’ll click eventually if I just keep going. I did okay getting to sleep on time for the first few days, but by the end of the week, I was reading later and sleeping later and not hitting my targets, or feeling rested. It’s been hard to stay asleep too – I’ve been waking up earlier (at my “old normal” time), and then going back to sleep. Though this morning I woke up closer to the “new normal” time, so…progress?

At least I’m getting more sleep than I was, so hopefully it’ll turn into more deep sleep one of these days.

I did get some new words in on my novel drafts last week, and bought a new printer so I can edit on paper. This week’s writing update is over on the writing blog, if you’re interested in more details on that.

And I stopped at the tattoo shop this past Saturday to show my artist how the smoke-filler in my sleeve turned out, and he wants to add some more (I was hoping he would). So I have an appointment for Thursday at 1pm. Can’t wait to see how it looks after this next session! I think the extra filler will really make it look more “complete”.

After that heals, I’ll get a video/pictures of the whole thing. And then we can discuss the different pieces/parts, and how they ended up plotting the backstory of the novel I’ll be working on starting next month, for those who might be interested.

Now it’s time to make another cup of tea, throw open the blinds, wave my husband off to work and get going on the first editing session for today…

13/20, Rich Food & Plans

Thirteen years – that’s how long my husband and I have been married as of yesterday. A very nice number, if I do say so myself. Also kind of fun considering we started dating twenty years ago this coming Halloween. I’m not sure whether or not we’ll get to do a big Halloween display this year, due to the potential for hubby having to work, but if we can, maybe we should do a “test your luck” theme of sorts…mirrors that break when you walk by, ladders to walk under, black cats crossing paths, etc.

As for our anniversary…it feels like I’ve been with my husband forever, and also like no time has passed at all. Which is exactly how it should be, methinks.

We went out to dinner to celebrate, as people do. And I haven’t had gastric issues as bad as I did last night in too many years to remember. Wow. Thank goodness for ginger ale (the real stuff, with actual ginger, not the “light ginger flavored corn syrup” version). It could have been much worse (and was headed that direction) without it.

I’m sure the food was fine, it’s just I’m not used to eating such rich food, since that’s not what I cook. And honestly, it’s becoming really hard to get a good chicken-fried steak here in town. They’re fried in weird oils, smothered with far too much gravy, and are far bigger than they need to be. Give me a small steak breaded and cooked up in butter, then topped with a *circumspect amount* of white gravy (not an ocean-full, thanks), and I’ll be happy as a clam.

I think the last place I had really good chicken fried steak was at JB’s before they closed down. There’s a Starbucks in that space now (depressing). *sigh*

In any case, I’m better this morning, thank goodness, and planning out the next four days of my vacation. I kind of slacked off yesterday even though I wasn’t planning to, but there’s still plenty of time left in the week.

Today is all about “obligatory” weekly writing…the serial chapter for Friday, the two writing prompt pieces (short story and poem) for BSB, and I’d like to get something done for my buddy Carol’s writing prompt this month. If I can get all that done, and a read through on one of two drafts I’d like to revise while I’m home, I’ll consider it a very productive day.

Of course my new Galaxy Note 8 is scheduled to be delivered sometime today. Which will be distracting, to say the least. I’m really excited to get it and get it set up though, after the whole Note 7 debacle last fall. But it will take awhile to transfer my files/photos/etc over, so not really an excuse not to get my writing projects done.

And because I can’t sit all day (well, I could, but it’s not good for anyone to do that), I’m going to start cleaning off the third counter in my kitchen as well. The other two have been cleaned and rearranged several times in the last month with the new appliances, and if I can get this third one done, that will be a huge organizational help. So I’ll be working on that around writing projects this week.

Tomorrow I want to do revisions on one of those drafts plus some planning for the next book I want to write, Thursday more revisions plus some writing on a different draft in progress, and Friday finish up whatever revisions I’ve got in progress, plus another chapter for the serial novel so I’m a week ahead again (novel idea, I know!).

It’s gonna be a good week…and a nice break from the norm! Now, another cup of tea…and then it’s time to write!

Movin’ Along, Vacation Time & Essential Oils

So…how about that eclipse?! After hearing stories about what those in the path of totality saw, I kind of wish I’d made the drive (only a few hours), but we did have around 94% coverage here, and I have to say, it was fun going up on the roof of our building to watch, and seeing everyone else on rooftops and the top floors of parking garages all checking out the sky in the late morning hours. It felt very…unified, and given all the issues and divisiveness (*ahem*) our country has been dealing with lately, it was a welcome break to hear everyone talking about one subject that we could all agree on and enjoy together.

As for the rest of the week, I got both my new microwave and toaster oven Monday and Thursday, respectively, and they’re both in and working great. My kitchen looks better than it has in years, and I just have one more counter to clean/reorganize before I’ll be done with that huge job for awhile. That will have to wait a week – I was pretty lazy this past weekend, and got very little done.

My analog/low digital plans for writing last week never happened, and as a result, I ended the week far behind and really frustrated with myself. I was up too late pretty much every night getting distracted by everything but writing (installing the new appliances/cleaning counters, online shopping/bill-paying, researching things that should have been left for later, etc). It was…ridiculous, really. My brain was jumping all over the place, and instead of reigning it in, I just went right along for the ride. Stupid.

Part of this is work-related, and without going into too much detail, I need to manage my…uh…”introvert needs” better. Too much interaction with people throughout the day without any way to balance it with quiet time leaves my head in a bad state, and until I get that quiet time it stays unbalanced and affects my focus and mood and a whole bunch of other things. I need to figure out how to make sure I get the recovery time I need from having to be social at work (taking my breaks instead of spending them at my desk is probably a good place to start), so I’ll be working on that this week.

And of course part of it is just my own discipline issues. I’ll work on that again this week as well.

I’ve requested this next Friday off, and the whole week after Labor Day. I need a vacation, and that’s one of the few weeks this fall where my being gone shouldn’t affect too much (if anything) at work.

I plan on doing a lot of writing/editing next week, with some minimal housework to break up the sitting times. But mostly, just spending time alone, doing what I want to do for awhile. I think that will be incredibly helpful/restorative.

I’ve also been doing some research on essential oils, and how to use them for both mental focus and relaxation. I use them in my face creams already, and the occasional lotion attempt, so I’m not a complete stranger to them (chamomile and valerian root are great for skin issues & relaxation). Murphy-dog has been using essential oils for his anxiety since he was with his foster family, and it’s pretty amazing how much his mood changes depending on whether he’s had his sprays for the day or not. I wanted to get some for his leg (to hopefully help with healing), and while I was looking up which ones would be safe, useful for that, etc, I also found information on some oils that might help my own focus/alertness at night. I did one experiment last week with surprisingly good results (honestly, I really didn’t expect it to), so I’ll be plugging in one of my many unused diffusers in my home office this week, and diffusing peppermint, lavendar and frankincense at night – that seems to work surprisingly well for keeping my head where it needs to be, and keeping my mind from wandering.

Yes, it could still be a placeabo effect, but really, does it matter? I think not…whatever works. I’m totally willing to psych myself out if it means I get more words in/more progress on my drafts. I’ll post an update after I get the starter bottles I ordered, and have experimented with them a bit for those who might be interested.

No, I didn’t buy into an MLM company or anything like that. Just a small company focused on selling high quality oils at a reasonable price. Sometimes smaller is better/more consciencious.

In any case, busy week, but I have four days of work this week and then…vacation!

Vacation is good. 🙂

The Pensive Season

I don’t know what it is about summer, but warm, sunny weather always makes me pensive. I mean, I’m an over-thinker on a good day, but summer is when “what if” becomes almost a daily mantra. What if I choose this over that? What if I’d made a different choice 20 yrs ago? What would I do if this life-changing event happened tomorrow? Would my life turn out the same no matter what decisions I make, or do I actually have some control over fate/destiny/whatever you call it?

Yes, I know. Exhausting and in the end, pretty much pointless, but that’s how my brain works, and in the summer, it just seems to be worse. Not much I can do aside from indulging it for a little while, and then forcing myself into a different, more productive headspace.

I’ve always been a dreamer of sorts, which is kind of at odds with my otherwise very practical, logical nature. I remember very clearly laying on my waterbed in the basement as a teen, steno notebook and pen in hand, scribbling/lamenting about whatever guy I happened to be obsessing over at the time (bad habit of mine). I’d lay back, close my eyes, and lose track of time day-dreaming about different scenarios involving said guys and wishing I could just stay in that fantasy world forever.

Writing, of course, is a physical (digital?) manifestation of that sort of day-dreaming habit…when I write, I’m basically day-dreaming on paper, just not about myself anymore. Well, not always, anyway. 😉

And of course when I get in these ultra-pensive moods, I tend to slip back into “day-dream” mode more easily, and it makes me want to write more. Which is frustrating because I only have so much time to spend on that right now. Ideas/day-dreams keep piling up, waiting for me to exorcise them from my head by getting them down in book form.

The co-worker who backs me up when I’m out (and I do the same for him) is in and out of the office for the next month and a half. But after that, I do believe I’ll schedule a week off just for writing. Get some of these ideas out of my head and at least started on paper. Perhaps that will ease the pensiveness a bit.

Even if it doesn’t, it will be fun!

Back with a New Groove

I have to say…last week was one of the best “staycations” I’ve ever had. I didn’t over-schedule myself, but I structured my days and the week as a whole, got a lot done, never felt any real “pressure” as far as time/deadlines go, and at the end I was relaxed and had a new, much better perspective on life in general.

I did a lot of thinking, planning and preparations for working on and sticking to my resolutions for the year. I did some cleaning that I never have time to do all at once on the weekends, which feels good because now I have a good chance at being able to maintain those areas of the house in less time. Without that extra prep time, it would have taken me quite a bit longer on the weekends for awhile just to catch up to a place where I could maintain, so I’m really glad I could get that done.

I also finished a project that’s been on my dining room table since October – a miniature haunted dollhouse that comes in 5 mailings with each mailing having not only pieces to the dollhouse, but also more clues to the mystery. That was a wonderful way to spend my birthday, even though I did give myself a serious kink in the neck working on it all day (still not healed, but worth the discomfort). It’s still on the table in need of finish work and a permanent home, but I have that all worked out too, I just need to take a Saturday afternoon and get it done.

I had several really good writing sessions, after the dogs had been walked (thank goodness for warmer weather!) and the house was completely still. By that time, I’d been away from work long enough that my head was clear and creative again, underscoring just how much of a drain my job is on my mental energy. It’s a good job, don’t get me wrong, and I love doing it, but it does seriously limit my creativity. I started thinking about some ways I could deal with that and make sure that I have time to rest mentally between the time I get off work, and the time I need to write. I have some things to try this week, so we’ll see how that goes.

Motivation has been an issue for me lately too, with the writing, I mean. So when several good book sales payments hit my account, I splurged and bought access to a “Motivation” lecture by Dean Wesley Smith. I’d watched the first video on YouTube (it’s free there), and decided that whenever I had a hard time sitting down and writing last week, I’d watch one of the videos in that lecture series to hopefully “motivate me”.

The first time I decided to watch, I got as far as video number three, and had an epiphany that forced me to stop right there and re-evaluate my writing time. For the curious, you can read about how I did that on my writing blog later this week. Suffice it to say, it involves some important realizations on my part, and some serious routine/chore shuffling. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the videos.

The BSB site rebuild is pretty well finished, the two February releases formatted and nearly ready to go, and a new blog posting schedule started over there on Mondays. My Friday night “office hours” are still going swimmingly. Hooray for that!

In other news, yes, I will finally be posting to the dog blog again next week. It’s the pictures that get me. That blog kind of needs them, and it’s extra time/effort to get pics, and then edit/upload them along with the post. But I think I’ve finally got that sorted out. Hopefully.

I’m kind of mystified at the fact that since January 1, a bunch of people have “liked” the Nail Art Tuesday Facebook page. Where did they all come from? Did they not notice that before last week, I hadn’t posted there for a couple of years? Is there a serious nail art trend happening right now that I’m just not aware of?

Regardless, it made me consider whether it might be worth posting to my Nail Art blog again. Not full “this is what I did and how I did it” tutorials like I used to do, but quick, weekly pics of my manicures wouldn’t kill me. Nor would bi-weekly pics of my pedicures, and occasional photos of my other body mods. Of course that would require changing the name of the blog to Nail & Body Art Tuesdays, I suppose. Doesn’t really have the same “ring” does it? But I have been getting more interested in expanding my jewelry collection since getting those new piercings last month, and there are two more piercings I’d like to get next weekend, if possible, which will give me even more jewelry options. It would be fun to have a spot to share those with people interested in that sort of thing…

I haven’t decided one way or another on that yet. No hurry, really. This week’s manicure went a little sideways anyways, so nothing postworthy just yet. People are still “liking” my Tea on Tap page too, but I don’t drink enough of a variety anymore to bring that back, and while I would love to do some gong-fu brewing, I’d have to really schedule that into a weekend slot, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Bummer, but until I retire, I have limited hours to work with. Such is life.

I tell you what…I already have so much to do in my retirement years that I’d probably better plan on not dying until I hit at least 100. It’s gonna take me that long to get through my “to do” list! 🙂

So…great vacation, new perspective, and I’m ready to get back into the normal swing of things.

And away we go…

Goals Report & Vacation Days

The frustrating thing about goals is not being able to just jump in and get the changes done all at once.

That being said, I’ve taken some pretty big strides in working towards my resolutions in the past couple of weeks, and considering pretty much everything takes more time to organize the first time than it does to keep up, I think I’m doing pretty well.

Of course I’m behind on my normal stuff (*ahemthisblogandthedogblog*), but once I get the initial set-up done and the new routines in place, everything should go a lot more smoothly. I’m pretty confident in saying it will, actually. I’ve thought it through and broken it down so that I know exactly what steps I need to take for success, so the only thing standing in my way would be…me. As usual.

Sometimes this overclocked brain does come in handy. When it’s not driving me nuts, anyways.

In any case, I went nuclear on the Brazen Snake Books site a couple of weeks ago, and I just finished rebuilding all the book pages and getting the newsletter sign-up back online. With any luck, there will be a new blog post up over there later today as well, and I need to make some new graphics next for marketing. It’s not difficult, just time-consuming, and I’m organizing a couple of book launches for authors working with BSB as well, so there’s a lot to be done. But I’m happy to report that my Friday late-night office hours are really paying off, and I think it will be completely sustainable for the long run, which is a relief. There’s a lot of business-y stuff I’m behind on, so it will take awhile to catch up, but those dedicated hours every week are going to be a godsend. And they save me some free time on the weekends too, so I don’t have to stress over what BSB stuff I should be doing when I *need* to clean the house and have some down time. The BSB site will be easy enough to maintain after all this clean-up/reorganization, as long as I keep up with it. Which I’ll be able to with the Friday night scheduled hours. I wish I’d thought of that years ago.

As far as my other goals go, I plugged several new tasks into my weekend routines, and it’s going well. My feet have been pedicured twice now (and are in much, much better shape already), my makeup brushes are clean and soft for the first time in…well, longer than I care to admit, the inch-thick layer of makeup/dust has been removed from my makeup vanity, my kitchen sink is clean on one side, and my tea center is cleaner/more organized as well (and getting better maintenance). I’ve also started doing push-ups, sit-ups and squats just after my nightly cleaning time and before I sit down to write. This is a twofer, really, because I’m building muscle mass, and also waking my brain up just a bit, which makes it easier to write that late at night. Major win there!

I’m taking this week off from work – today is a federal holiday anyways, and tomorrow is my birthday (which I always take off, because why not?). And since I’ve already discovered that unstructured staycations do not work well for me, I’m planning my days out to get the rest of my “prep work” done for my resolutions so I can just move forward with the new routines from then on out. I’m also planning some extra writing sessions to jump-start the drafts I have in progress and get back into the daily writing “zone”. It’s gonna be a good week, and so far, it’s off to a great, relaxing start.

And yes, I have some hobby-stuff I plan to work on this week as well. Like finally finishing the Haunted Dollhouse miniature mystery I started before Christmas and never quite got back to. That will be my main project on Tuesday, and I can’t wait! Then there’s my TBR comic book pile, and the US Postal Service has a new cataloging app for stamps that I intend to download and start putting my US stamp inventory into. About time they came out with an app for that!

I got some new Smurfs for my birthday, so I need to do some organizing in the blue realm as well to find spots for them. We’ll see if I get to that or not.

I’m planning writing sessions in the afternoons as well as my normal late-night sessions in hopes of making great strides on my current fiction draft, which is pretty exciting too, and should also help me get that daily writing habit well established again.

So, lots to do, but all stuff I *want* to do, and rarely have time for. Onward!

Back to “Normal”

What did I learn on my summer vacation? A few things:

1. Just don’t. I’m really not a “summer vacation” kinda girl. I don’t like traveling in the summer due to the crowds of people, and there’s too much stuff to do outside that makes me feel guilty for not getting it done. A day or two here and there for a single project? Sure. A whole unplanned week to be home by myself? Nope. Bad idea. Works way better in the winter for me.

2. I do best with planned vacations if I’m staying home and just taking a break from work. Vacation to write? Sure. Vacation to clean out my closet or read non-stop for several days in a row? Nice. Vacation with no plans and a conscious effort not to plan anything at all? Major fail. I mostly just stress about not doing anything – not even the fun stuff I want to do. “Aimless” is not a good thing for me…I need a plan, even if it’s just to relax (in a structured way). Just my personality.

That said, I did get a few things done, including starting a new blog for the dogs at LeashCandy.dog. It needs a lot of work yet, and that will probably have to wait until the weather gets colder, but it’s up, and that’s where you’ll find the Friday posts from Mica and Murphy now. I still need to move the subscriptions over there for those who are only subscribed to those posts, and put a subscription form on that site for those who want to keep following their posts, but I’ll have all that done by the end of this week.

I also reworked my morning routine to give me some time to write before work four days a week. It’s not a huge amount of time, but even if it’s just a paragraph or two, it gets the story I’m working on for the day sort of “primed” in my head, so my subconscious can work on it while I’m doing other things throughout the day. I’m hoping this will translate to an easier writing time late at night when I have time to get back at it before bed. We shall see.

I spent some time watching workshop videos by Dean Wesley Smith, and I really need to make time for a few of these a week. I’m going to work it into my schedule – possibly on the weekends, and I think it’s going to help immensely not just with the writing itself, but with my confidence and motivation as well. It already is, truthfully, and I feel more motivated than I have in a long time to get some books finished and out there. Hooray for *that*!

All in all, it wasn’t a bad week. I did a lot of reflecting, and a lot of thinking, and a lot of learning, and it may not have been the most pleasant week in the world, but it was mentally very productive. Now I’m going back to work with a clearer head and better focus, which is going to be very important with some big changes happening there over the next few months (starting this coming week).

So…back to “normal” I go. A very comforting thought after a very non-routine week.

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…

Just Saying No…to a List-Driven Vacation

In four more days, I’ll be “on vacation” for a week. My vacations are often spent at home – I don’t travel much because I’m mostly a homebody (though I do enjoy myself on the rare occasions I leave the city – but I hate the prep it entails, and need a fair amount of recovery time when I get back). My husband will be out of town on his own vacation (playing pool in Vegas), so the dogs and I will be left to our own devices for seven whole days.

It’s gonna be great. 🙂

Normally when I take these vacations, I get excited about all the stuff I can get done. Household projects we never seem to get to, “resets” on things that have just gotten out of hand, or stuff I’ve been working on, but never seem to make any headway with. I make a huge list, and plan every day out to the hour, and by the time the week is done, I’ve gotten quite a bit done, but never as much as I thought I would, and I’m just as tired and in need of “recovery” as I would be if I’d traveled.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing the very same thing. I need to get to “this” – but I’ll wait and do it during my vacation. I really should do that, but since I have vacation coming up, might as well do it then. Need to make this and this and this appointment – I should just make them for that week I’m already off work. You get my drift. And see the problem too, I bet.

This weekend I was really gearing up, and sat down to make a list, and…that’s when it hit me. My vacation week does not have to be “pre-loaded”. And it’ll certainly be way more fun and relaxing if it isn’t!

When my husband and I travel, we don’t make big plans for what to do once we are wherever we’re going. Unlike a lot of people, we might have an idea of things we’d like to do, but we pretty much just play it by ear – do what we feel like on any given day, depending on how energetic or tired we feel, we sleep in, and stay out late, and generally have a great, relaxing time. It’s draining for both of us to be around a lot of people for any length of time and my husband loves to just be spontaneous, so we leave the routines behind and just “go feral” for the time we’re gone.

It occurred to me that my “stay-cations” would be far better if I did exactly that. Treated them like an “away” vacation, where I just do what I happen to feel like doing on any given day, and don’t set a strict agenda or force myself to try to get a bunch of things done. If I get stuff done that would normally have to wait, that’s great. If I don’t, well, no big deal – if it’s important, we’ll find time to get it done eventually, and if not…then it’s not important enough for me to bust my butt getting done on vacation time.

If I feel like spending an entire day reading a book (not that the dogs would let me, but just go with it), I do not have to feel guilty in the least for doing so. If I wake up one day and decide I want to clean and reorganize the bathroom, I can do that too – but not because I feel obligated to work on my “list of things that never get done that need to get done while I have time off”. If I wake up and decide to watch three more episodes of Game of Thrones, and then decide I’m tired of sitting so I may as well clean out the shed on the patio – no problem. Maybe I’ll decide an hour later that sitting was way more fun, open a draft in progress, and write until the dogs remind me I need to feed them, and should probably feed myself while I’m at it.

I’m a planner by nature (obviously), and very routine-driven, and the idea of not planning out every second of my vacation for maximum gain strikes me as somewhat irresponsible…maybe even wasteful. So it’s uncomfortable for me to adopt this “just go with the flow” attitude. But I know I’ll be glad I did when my vacation is actually restful and stress-free, rather than busy and packed full of expectations that I can’t possibly meet, ensuring a heavy dose of guilt at the end before I go back to work.

I’m just saying “no” to a list-driven vacation. Which means I should probably think about working the stuff I’ve been “saving up” to do during said vacation into the confines of my normal routines, eh? No reason/excuse to procrastinate now…

A Memorial Day Writing Assignment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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