Serial Story: Live With Me, Part 11

This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) form. Each installment will be available for one week, and new installments will be posted every Friday. Miss one? Joining in late? Email me and I’ll send you the previous installments. Enjoy!


Live With Me

Part 11

“I have been trying to get a hold of you all day, dear. Are you avoiding me?”

Candace stifled a sigh and leaned back in her chair, wishing she was at home so she could put her feet up and have a glass of wine. Except Emmett was there, so there was no escape. Apparently she wasn’t getting out of talking to his mother either, though her packed schedule had been a boon in that regard. If she’d had the energy to get out of there as soon as her last client left, she’d have missed this call too, which would have at least bought her a few hours of the my-cell-phone’s-dead excuse.

“I’m sorry Angela. It’s been a really busy day, and I’ve had back-to-back sessions until just five minutes ago. Is something wrong?”

“You do sound tired, dear. I’m sorry you’ve had a rough day, but I was wondering if you’d do me a favor. A small one, this time.”

The last thing Candace wanted to do was…well, anything that didn’t involve taking off her bra and her heels, not necessarily in that order. But she couldn’t really refuse Emmett’s mom, and she did her best to keep the exhaustion out of her voice when she replied.

“Of course – what do you need?”

“I left a package with a girl at the library for Emmett, only I told her it was for you so she wouldn’t know. Would you be a dear and pick it up on the way home from work, and make sure Emmett gets it?”

Candace checked her watch. “It’s five-thirty. Can I pick it up tomorrow when it’s not rush hour traffic?” The library was on the other side of town, and she’d be stuck in traffic for at least an hour if she left right now. It would be after seven by the time she got home, and there was still dinner to make and whatever Emmett needed. The thought of him needing anything from her made her cheeks flush, and she remembered he was also waiting for the password. She really had to change it before she gave it to him, if he hadn’t already guessed it.

“Well, I guess, but I was really hoping—”

“Never mind – I’ll go now. Do you want me to have him call you later?” Candace closed her eyes, held the handset away and let the sigh escape.

“Yes please!” Angela was suddenly chipper as a lark, which inexplicably grated on Candace’s nerves. “Thank you so much, dear. I knew you’d take good care of him.”

Refraining from pointing out that every hour she was away from the house, she was by definition not taking care of Emmett, Candace ended the call and grabbed her purse, ignoring her protesting feet when she forced herself to stand up again.

As soon as she was in the car and ready to go, her cell rang. She checked the number, and sighed again, then mentally chastised herself for being a drama queen.

“Emmett. What do you need?”

“Your lovely body, sitting across from me so we can eat this absolutely scrumptious dinner I made. I’m not even being cocky either – I tasted it. It’s good. I just have one more thing to finish, and I wanted to make sure you’re leaving so it can be done at the right time.”

Emmett had made dinner? She didn’t even know he knew how to cook. She forced herself not to think about the potential state of the kitchen.

“I’m in the car, actually, but I have to run an errand. I’ll be about an hour.”

“What errand? Can it wait?” The excitement and relaxed tone disappeared, and she could hear the effects of what was probably over-exertion. She felt like she’d just kicked a puppy, but what was she supposed to do?

“Your mom dropped off a package at the library for you. She wants me to go pick it up before I come home.”

“The library’s on the other side of town. Let it wait. Come eat with me.”

There it was. That deep, chocolaty seductive tone he used to seduce and conquer. She wanted to let him, just this once. Go home, have a nice dinner made by a guy who was into her, for some reason, and let herself just see where it all ended up. People did that, right? Normal people? People who weren’t afraid to let themselves fall in love…

“She was insistent.” Candace started the engine. “I promise I’ll be home as soon as I possibly can. It just depends on the traffic.”

“I see. Well drive safe then. I’ll keep a plate warm.”

“Emmett—” She stopped, hearing the line go dead in her ear.

The idea of getting a hotel room for the next two weeks flitted through her mind, not for the first time that day.


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Talkin’ Books, July 1, 2015

The print TBR pile - The Blue Labyrinth is on top only because we just bought it. The hubby will read it first.

The print TBR pile –  or part of it, anyways (I have plenty of books sitting in my office waiting to be read as well).The Blue Labyrinth is on top only because we just bought it. The hubby will read it first.

 

Books Finished:
Still The One by Jill Shalvis
Ruby by Anna Skye
Her Imaginary Husband by Lia London
White Fire by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Instant Temptation by Jill Shalvis
Instant Gratification by Jill Shalvis

Kindle Books In Progress:
Enter Ruinland by CJ Anderson
The Indie Author Power Pack  (Write, Publish, Repeat)

Print Books in Progress:
The Kill Switch by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood

Comic Books:
Silk #1
Harley Quinn #15
Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special
A few other issues of different series that I didn’t keep track of before archiving them

I know, it’s been awhile, but time’s been in short supply for the past few months. Or I’ve been lazy about blogging. Probably both.

I have been reading though, as you can see. Lots of romantic comedy (ala Jill Shalvis, my favorite), catching up with my comic books and working away on my print TBR pile which is growing by the week.

There are even a couple romances up there I’d classify as “new adult” – romances for the late teen/early 20’s set. I’m not normally into those, and I can’t say I am now either, but Ruby was surprising in that it’s written in first person (which I really don’t like) yet it held my interest to the very end. And then I was just annoyed at where it ended – not a cliffhanger, exactly, but the story isn’t finished, it’s just in a sort of “lull” with no real resolution. Not my cup of tea – it makes me feel manipulated into buying the next book (which I haven’t, and probably won’t). Plenty of people *do* like that sort of serialized novella format, so if you do, and you like new adult romances, I’d certainly recommend it – the writing is great and the story engaging.

Her Imaginary Husband is another young/new adult romance, though light on the romance, and more of a “coming of age” sort of story. It’s well-written, but the reasons for the central plot (a non-existent husband) seemed a bit overly dramatic/angsty for me, though true to the age/maturity of the character. Mostly it just seemed “young” in every way, which makes me feel old. LOL

There’s a reason I’m really not into the new adult romance trend – mostly that a lot of the plots and decisions seem silly and overly dramatic and could all be solved with a healthy dose of honesty and confidence/backbone – but they did when I was that age too. I’ve always been an “old soul” (and a very direct one at that), so the genre as a whole really just doesn’t do it for me.

Then we swing about 180 degrees in the other direction, and you have White Fire, by Preston and Child, my favorite adventure/thriller duo. It’s not as much of a page-turner as some of their others, I’m sad to report, but it’s still a good read, with a rather engaging mystery at the core.

And in yet another direction entirely, I’ve just started Enter Ruinland, by CJ Anderson. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale with a central theme of sociopaths being genetic “mistakes”. The writing style is quite different than the normal “mass market” fare, and it took me a bit to get into it, but the story itself is very intriguing so far, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

Next up from the print pile is the latest Tucker & Kane novel by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood – The Kill Switch, which I just started, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy because…Tucker & Kane. Tucker is the rugged and oh-so-manly guy Army Ranger who finds/extracts people and “stuff”, and Kane is his dog. Who also finds things, and protects Tucker, and is incredibly intelligent, handsome and pettable. My kind of guy. 😉

And of course Jill Shalvis and Tawna Fenske both have new books out this week (more romantic comedy – yay!), but I’m trying to convince myself to wait and see if they go on sale later. Yes, I know, I should support my fellow authors, but…well…I’m still kind of cheap when it comes to books (because I buy and read quite a few, probably).

That’s what’s going on in my reading world…if you’re so inclined, feel free to share what you’re reading as well…

On Sulfur, Anxiety & Other Fun Stuff…

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try sulfur (MSM) eye drops for my corneal degeneration condition (the drops my eye doc recommended started making my eyes hurt). I did some initial research (because I’m sensitive to a lot of things in ways other people aren’t), and found lots of information on how good it is for you primarily because it opens cell walls and allows them to heal and function better. The side effects listed on medical sites seemed mild, so I started the eye drops, and then a couple days later, started taking a very small dose (a quarter dose once, instead of twice per day…like I said, I’m sensitive and thus leery) of MSM powder too, thinking maybe it would help heal from the inside out (and also do something for my arthritic hand – MSM is often used for joint pain).

The week I was taking that stuff was one of the worst I’ve had in a long time, and I didn’t realize why until I first stopped taking the powder (just got lazy/apathetic), and then finally stopped the eye drops (which allowed it to completely flush out of my system).

Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I was a hot mess, and in doing some very targeted research after my brain snapped back to normal, I found out that in some lucky individuals (including myself, apparently), MSM/sulfur can cause anxiety – like, major anxiety, and insomnia (I hadn’t been sleeping well either – because my mind was spinning). That post last week about seasonal angst? I wrote that while taking MSM & using the eye drops, and my mind was going 24/7 with constant worry, paranoia, anxiety, and obsessive/compulsive thinking. It was bad, and thank goodness I’m an introvert with few actual friends, because my best buddy had to listen to all the nasty stuff via email, and it also aversely affected my attitude and actions at work. I was still able to function and do my job without breaking stuff, but it was a serious struggle, and staying away from people as much as possible became my main goal because I *knew* something just wasn’t right with the way I was interacting/relating to others (severe paranoia along with the anxiety – warranted paranoia, as it turned out).

So. Not. Good.

Note that in order to find other people with that same reaction, I had to dig pretty deep into discussion forums and such, because when things cause mental side effects like that, the medical community tends to ignore them, or brush them off as some other problem. Same thing happened when I tried to use Splenda and it made me crazy-angry all the time, or when I tried to take extra Vitamin D (because none of us get enough, right?) and it screwed with both my head and my hormones until I stopped taking it.

I do have minor anxiety issues if I stop taking fish oil (to a far lesser extent…I’ve never experienced anything like this sulfur-induced craziness). So I may well be prone to those problems anyways, but the fish oil (brain food!) keeps me on a nice, even keel, and the MSM just basically threw me off a mental cliff and into a seemingly endless free-fall. I truly thought I was losing my mind.

In any case, one day last week (Tues, I think) after I became too lazy (or anxious – whatever) to worry about something so trivial as eye drops or extra supplements (because I was obsessing constantly), I had a horrible headache all day, but I could *think* again. All the anxiety/paranoia/obsessive thoughts just completely disappeared, and my mind was calm and rational again – like a switch flipped, just that abruptly. The headache went away after a day, and I’ve been fine ever since – mentally peaceful and focused. The only thing I changed when the anxiety shot up was taking sulfur, and the only thing I stopped when my mind cleared was the sulfur, so I’m sure that’s what it was.

The bummer of the whole thing is, the sulfur was working well for my eyes – they actually felt better than they have in over a year when I first started the MSM. But, I’ve found some other eye drops that work okay and don’t make me nuts, and I vastly prefer being logical/rational even if my eyes are a bit worse off. So no more MSM for me.

I have to say, it did give me a renewed respect for what people with clinical anxiety go through every day. I couldn’t have handled it much longer without doing *something* to stop it, because it was just completely crazy…I felt totally out of control and the lack of sleep certainly didn’t help. Dealing with other people was nearly impossible between the paranoia and obsessive thoughts, and I just wanted to go crawl into a cave far away from everyone. I never want to experience that again.

Needless to say, that took up a good chunk of last week and the week before, and since the haze cleared, I’ve been working like mad trying to catch up on all the stuff I didn’t get done as far as the writing/writing related stuff goes. I think I’m pretty well caught up now though – all the newsletters should be hitting inboxes sometime today, my serial scenes were all posted last Friday, and I can start this week with a clean slate.

On another happy note, Independence Day is this coming Saturday here in the states, which means I have Friday off work. Three-day weekend, and I do believe I’ll spend the time catching up on some much needed updates to my personal web sites, including the BSB site. I’ve been thinking about adding a mini-social network to the BSB site so I might play around with that, and I also have a book (not by me) that I need to get edited and sent back to the author, so I’m hoping to get that done this weekend as well.

Believe it or not, I even have a reading post done and scheduled for Wednesday. Don’t get too used to that – it’s more of a time issue than anything else and I have seven drafts to keep up with right now, but hopefully I can at least make it a monthly thing.

Alrighty then. Here’s to a good, level-headed, mania-free week. And hopefully a quick fix for our A/C, which isn’t working yet again just before the hottest day of the year so far…

But hey. Good excuse for a late-night ice cream float, eh? 😉


 

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On Seasonal Angst & Being Content

I don’t know what it is about summer, but it always seems to bring out my angsty/philosophical side in a major way. Or put more basically, I over-think things even more than I normally do. It’s irritating, and frustrating, and I generally end up annoyed with myself and my life for a good majority of what, for most people, are the best months of the year. I know. It’s messed up.

What can I say? I’m a fall/winter girl.

In any case, I’ve been over-thinking, over-analyzing and generally driving myself *insane* for the past few weeks, and it needs to stop (it’s starting to spill out of my head and affect other people, which really isn’t acceptable). I have nothing to be unhappy or discontented about, and in a seriously screwy plot twist, most of my angst comes from having too many “good options” on all fronts – so many that I’m frustrated that I can’t take advantage of them all no matter how I try to work it.

My mom always pounded it into our heads that we could have/do/be anything we wanted to – no limits. It’s a great sentiment that builds confidence and optimism for kids, but ultimately, she was wrong, damn it. There’s a yin-yang balance to life that automatically kicks in whether we want it to or not – and part of that is, whenever we get something, we give something up, and vice versa. I spend way too much mental energy on the things I can’t have due to choices I’ve already made. And my practical/logical side wars with my creative/emotional side far too often for my own comfort (hint: it’s easier – and probably better for the long run – when I let Logic call the shots. Just not as exciting).

Ironically enough, a lot of times when we’re able (or we decide, rather) to be content with what we have, things click into place that allow us to have more than we thought we could. It’s all about state of mind in so many cases – and mine has been spectacularly bad lately. Mea culpa! An unfortunate side-effect of my control-freak nature colliding with my constant desire for variety in all areas of life.

For me, part of my problem is hormones (say/think what you like – but in my opinion/experience they affect more aspects of our lives than we generally want to admit – for both women and men), and the other part is a choice of focus…that is, focusing on the wrong things. I’m getting better at managing the hormonal element through exercise & diet, and the choice of focus…well, that kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it?

To that end, my mission this week is to focus on being content with what I have, and to not be so fatalistic about the things that seem out of reach. One never knows what will happen in the future, but being content with how things are now ensures that I’ll be in the right frame of mind to take advantage of opportunities later.

Life is strange and constantly changing. Trite as the saying is, attitude really is everything.


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On Beautiful Things

I took some pictures late last week to illustrate today’s post, and then decided at the last minute (12:12am, to be exact), not to use them. The fact is, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and the things I think are beautiful, you may or may not, and if you do, it may well be for an entirely different reason than mine.

I started thinking about things I consider “beautiful” and why when I was admiring some pottery at our local renaissance fair a week ago or so. I was thinking about how the different artist’s work affected me differently, and some “spoke” to me more or less than others. I have some theories that still need to percolate before I try to express them, but the overreaching truth is, it matters who handles the clay. And that’s not to say any of it is better or worse than any other piece, but merely to say that what makes a piece of pottery beautiful to me personally is more than anything I could actually describe satisfactorily.

I have been trying for days to put words to what called me to the tiny little brown pot/vase that now sits on my desk at work. I could tell you that it’s the lines of the piece, the gentle curve that leads gracefully up to a longish neck, or the glaze that somehow came out in the subtlest of pinstripes that give the piece dimension and movement. I could even tell you it’s the imperfections, the little mistakes that maybe happened during firing or when something was jarred in transit and marred the glaze.

The fact is though, it’s all and none of those things all at once that I find attractive about that tiny little pot. There is a quality about it that maybe wouldn’t draw the attention of anyone else, but every time I look at it, it’s almost mesmerizing to me. Does it have that effect on other people? Probably. But certainly not all.

This past Saturday, my mom and I were perusing the local Strawberry Festival vendors, and there was an older lady there selling her tole painting pieces. Most of it was stuff that…looked to me like most other chairs and tables and platters and such, but then on our second pass through, I saw a wooden box that for whatever reason, I found incredibly, undeniably attractive. There’s really nothing special about the pattern or painting, but I find it soothing and restful to look at, and it puts me in a calm, relaxed state of mind just to see it. I bought it, of course, and my mom brought up the fact that sometimes, we just have to surround ourselves with things we find beautiful, even if we have no other practical use for them (like my tiny pot – I’ll use the wooden box for stamps).

I don’t really have a point to all this, but it did make me think about what we perceive as “beautiful” or “attractive” vs what other people see. The filters we all bring to the table with us are so incredibly complex that it’s amazing any of us ever agree on anything as far as beautiful and/or attractive.

In any case, I’ll be writing a book this fall where beauty and what it is is the central theme, and I can’t help but wonder whether my character and I will agree on what is beautiful and what is…not. It should be a very interesting and intense journey we take together…


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On Discomfort, Journeys, & Authorship…

This post being late? Side effect of both summer (wherein there’s too much to do outside to get everything done inside too) and high temps coupled with our A/C being out. Basically, I’ve been spoiled by central air for the last 10 years, and sort of shut down when it gets too hot until we can get the house cooled down again. Repair guy’s coming June 18th…it’s gonna be a long week!

Gotta remember my eye drops tonight too. All the extra time outside is making things a bit blurry… *memo to self*

I’ve been thinking a lot again lately (too much time in my head), and last week, I read a couple of blog posts that did a great job not only of distilling the gist of what I’d been pondering, but also raised some great points and a few important questions as well.

The first one is titled False Summits by Hugh Howey. The basic premise is not to wait for things, not to let yourself become stagnant, and to always be confronting things that are uncomfortable (baby steps) as a way to keep learning and growing and *doing*. Hugh is the same age I am, and he’s done an incredible amount of moving around and had some amazing experiences all because he refused to let himself get too comfortable in any one place or or situation (go read the post – it’s okay, I’ll wait).

Good stuff, eh? Now, my personality is such that the life that Hugh has chosen would have put me in the looney bin in short order (for anyone new who might be reading, I’m a 100% introverted INTJ with an almost obsessive need for daily routines in order to stay sane). But, I completely agree with the philosophy behind his choices – keep pushing that comfort zone, and don’t let yourself stagnate, because it is *so* incredibly easy to do just that. For some of us, that means changing jobs and/or cities, traveling to lots of places and just generally keeping moving to avoid getting too comfortable.

For others of us, it’s smaller things. Last year, one of my resolutions was to do something social every month, and I did, and it was more fun than I thought. I experienced new things and people and environments, and it was a good way to remind myself that I actually can handle “people”, at least every once in awhile. I also learned that I can get a little too carried away with the social thing as well, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story that really requires more alcohol…

This year, I’ve been slacking on that (and everything social, online & off), but there have been some changes at work that required a lot of mental/emotional energy, and I only have so much of that to go around. So I’ve been pretty high on the introverted scale, not even really interacting much on social media, but rather trying to conserve/recharge my energy for whatever comes next. And there are more changes on the horizon – I’m in a lull (mentally speaking) at the moment, but it could come at any time.

Still, I’m stretching, reaching, pushing my brain through those uncomfortable things and dealing with them as I can. The industry I’m in is nice, because I don’t have to change jobs to be mentally stimulated – there is always some new technology, new programming language to learn. More than enough stuff I don’t know to keep my brain engaged for many years to come.

This summer, there are a bunch of social/community things going on, and the next two Saturday’s I’ll be out and about with hubby. More people, more experiences, more missed chances to be at home writing and working on the business of publishing books… (*sigh*). But, it’s good for me to get out and remember that “life” exists outside my personal little bubble, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

Another way I keep from growing stagnant is by having many interests. I have several hobbies, all of which I wish I could devote more time to, and all of which are challenging mentally, physically or both. I love them, and I want to spend more time doing/learning/growing, but there’s a downside to that, which leads me to the second post that sort of said basically what I was thinking this week:

Lessons from #life drawing #6 by Toby Neal. Toby’s taking art classes, and in this latest installment about the growth she’s experiencing as a result, she wonders if she can ever do anything “just as a hobby”, or if there has to be a purpose behind it. Whether or not she can ever be happy with mediocrity and just enjoy something for the journey itself, rather than constantly focusing on the end point.

Unlike Toby, I have no problem with that particular issue in most cases. However, my writing is a different story (so to speak). And while I’ll never quit writing, and I’ll never quit striving to be better, I also am limited by the fact of my humanity as far as how many things I can pursue at once, even at a hobby-type level.

The fact is, while I have the drive to keep writing and keep constantly enjoying the journey of discovery that goes with that, I really don’t have what it takes to be an “Author”, like Toby and Hugh. They both work incredibly hard not only to write the best books they can, but also to get the word out about those books, and to connect with fans and people in general. I don’t know Hugh, but I “know” Toby a little, and I know they both have a serious drive not only to bring their stories alive on the page, but also to make sure those stories have the best chance possible at getting out into the world.

I thought I had that drive once, but I really don’t. And before any of you try to come to my emotional rescue, I’m okay with that. The thing I’ve been working through in my head, is that while I have always and will always have the drive to write and share what I write with others, I have zero interest whatsoever in doing much of the work required for actually making money from my writing. I like having it as a side-business, and I have marketing obligations I intend to meet, and I will do a certain level of connecting, but I have no desire whatsoever to ever do a book-signing, or a conference, or a launch party, or vlogging, or…well, any of the actual “work” involved in selling books and being a successful Author. I also have no desire to make a bestseller list or be recognized in any way as an Author. I’d love it if people would eventually talk about my books, but leave me happily in the background writing the next one.

It’s the act of writing that satisfies me – the first draft, where I dig in to a story and discover what it is. I also get a certain amount of satisfaction in working to make my books better for those who might read them…because storytelling is a skill, and one I’d like to get better at. I do want to entertain people, but with my words, not my oh-so-sparkling personality.

It’s a hard view to take, surrounded by writers who all want fortune (or at least to make a living) and fame (or at least one bestseller list). Everyone’s always talking about how to market your books, how to write the best blurbs and design the best covers. How to get the most reviews. It’s easy to get caught up in all of that, and to start thinking that’s the important part – the part where we sell our work and convince people to read it.

And I’m sitting there thinking to myself, I hate this, I’d rather be writing. I have a good job, I don’t need the money, and there’s absolutely no reason to push myself to do something (selling books) when I really have no drive to do in the first place. I thought I wanted to be a full-time writer at one point, and eventually, when I retire from my job, I will be (because I can’t see myself ever actually retiring…). But for now, all that time I “should” be spending marketing? That’s not just time away from writing, but time away from the other hobbies I love and learn from as well.

Yes, I’m aware that plenty of people do both. I don’t have the drive to do what they do. And I’m learning to be okay with that, at least for now.

Toby’s post asking the question about whether she could ever be okay with mediocrity struck a chord because by basically doing the absolute minimum where sales are concerned, I’m settling for a mediocre writing “experience” – and it is a bit unsettling to actually do that when it seems like every other writer out there is dreaming of turning their hobby into a career, and most writing conversation revolves around that very thing.

I still don’t know exactly where that line is for me, and as I mentioned, I have obligations to meet, so there is that.

Deep thoughts for a hot summer week, eh?


 

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On Mornings, Gardening, & Priorities…

I’m not what anyone would call a “morning person”, but my husband recently decided a change was necessary to our morning schedule, which bumped my alarm clock up another 15 minutes on weekdays (he’s getting up about half an hour earlier than before). I was getting up around 5:45am so I’d have time to fit my morning yoga workout in without fail, no matter what either of us had going on that particular day, and now he’s decided to fit in a morning workout as well, so I need to be up at 5:30am to ensure that I have enough time for my particular routines before I need to get him out of bed.

So far, there have been three “side effects” of this for me – one good, one bad, and one the jury’s still out on:

– I now have writing time in the morning before work (15-20 minutes…enough for a few hundred words, thanks to the new laptop that boots up and shuts down in about three seconds flat).

– I crash earlier at night, simply due to my body needing a certain amount of rest. It’s bad because those quiet late nights are some of my most productive times, but I can’t make use of them if I’m so tired I’m constantly nodding off.

– I can’t sleep in much past 7:30am on the weekends anymore, or I’ve gotten too much sleep and feel groggy/unmotivated for the rest of the day. This would be a good thing, except even though I’m awake, my brain still just doesn’t function all that well that early, so I don’t really get much of anything done until a more normal “awake” time for me (around 8:30-9am – it’s about 8:30am on Sunday as I’m starting this post).

I was thinking about this the other day, and honestly, the only reason I need to get up so early on weekdays is because I simply move slower that early in the day, so it takes more time for me to do anything. If I were able to follow my natural biorhythms, I’d probably go to bed around 3 or 4 in the morning, get up around 10 or 11am, and theoretically, I could shave a good half hour/hour off my whole current morning routine just because that’s a more natural waking/alert time for me. Which makes no sense, because theoretically every “hour” of the day is just another hour, and we should be able to train our bodies to run the same way no matter what time of day it is as long as we get optimal sleep. Alas, there’s something odd about the human body/brain and how it reacts to all sorts of things like light levels and noise and stimulus that makes it impossible to do for some people (there have been scientific studies proving that, it’s not just my opinion, but I’m too lazy to go look them up – Google is your friend).

Weird stuff, I tell ya. It would be so much easier to be able to “get up and go” in the mornings instead of having to take the time to let my brain catch up with my body.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is yardwork and gardening. Mostly because the weather’s getting nicer, and I’ve spent a few hours each of the last two weekends doing “spring clean-up” in the backyard (and before that, wishing it would stop raining so I could get said yardwork done). My husband and I are kind of opposites when it comes to gardening. He tends to prefer a more manicured, polished look, and I prefer more of a natural, haphazard look, which makes it a bit challenging for us to work on yard/garden planning together. But we both enjoy it to a point…just not the point of where we’re ever going to reach that polished look he’s going for (it takes way more time/motivation than I think either of us is willing to give it for that). Eventually we should be able to find a happy medium, but at the moment, I think we’re just looking for a way to keep up with what we’ve got, and fit a little extra in where we can. Eleventh year is the charm, right?

Once again, everything comes down to priorities. We’ve all heard it before – everyone has the same number of hours, yadda yadda yadda, but it really is difficult to narrow down priorities to what we can actually accomplish comfortably without burning out. It’s a frustrating thing, but at the same time, I think it’s a good problem to have in some ways, because it means we have a lot of varied interests and we have plenty of different things we can choose to spend time on. A far better/healthier thing than being hyper-focused on just one or two things all the time, methinks.

Of course it sucks when we just can’t possibly find a way to fit everything we genuinely want to do in, which is the position I’m often in. But things change, life changes, and odds are good that if I can’t get to it now, there will be an opportunity later. The trick is deciding what can wait, or what you’re willing to wait for.

Well, and time/project management is important too. I just downloaded a trial copy of My Life Organized (MLO) again, and I plan to play with that this next week. It’s one of the most comprehensive project/time management programs available, and it’s undergone a lot of improvements in the past year (I was waiting for Android updates, which they have now). ToDoist is working for me, but there are some more advanced features I’d like that it just doesn’t have, and MLO does. So we’ll see. Automated daily and weekly to do lists are the cornerstone of my productivity, both at work and at home, so it’s worth finding the “best” program for the job.

Yes, I sometimes procrastinate by organizing, but at the same time, having to break projects out into smaller and smaller chunks forces me to sort of reverse-engineer them at the same time, and that actually gives me a better understanding of the whole thing at the same time, so I can work more efficiently. Again, applies to personal projects, writing/publishing projects and day job projects all the same. So it’s all part of my process.

And with that, I’m going to go break down some projects. Maybe I’ll start with our yard renovation project…


 

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On Short Weeks, “This City”, & Wet Socks…

Monday was a holiday here in the states for many of us, or a day of remembering, in any case. There were still plenty of people who had to work, but I was off, thus my laziness in getting this post up and out.

I actually don’t care much for four-day work weeks, to be honest. Everything just seems that much more…immediate, which means the whole week feels hectic and strained. If they were the “norm”, then I’m sure we’d all adjust and having three days off every week would be really nice (though with IT, there’s always a chance of having to work – nature of the 24/7 beast). But since our current norm is a 5-day week, the shortened ones just feel to crammed with stuff. To me, anyways.

Tomorrow will be a short day for me too, because I have two hours in the dentist chair to look forward to at the end of the day. I need to leave work by 3:30pm, and then I’ll be in the chair from 4-6pm while the dentist preps two of my teeth for crowns. I know, I know. The excitement just never stops with my teeth…

Good winter TV finally ran out, and we’ve been watching Daredevil on Netflix – actually, we just finished the first season. It was good…dark and bloody, but exactly the kind of hero I like who’s constantly wrestling with that line between good and evil, and occasionally stepping over it out of necessity. I like Arrow for the same reason, and The Flash for different reasons entirely, but there’s one thing that absolutely drives me *nuts* about these shows, and it’s kind of a trademark thing.

The phrase “this city” just bugs the crap out of me every time I hear a hero or villain utter it (and yes, all three of the aforementioned shows are guilty).

I think it’s because it’s overused. It’s such a constant thing that I just get tired of hearing it. It sounds cheesy and limiting and just…too narrow-minded for a person with such weighty philosophical concerns and that requisite hero…uh…complex.

Or it could just be that it’s horribly overused and I get tired of hearing it spoken in what seems like every other line. I feel like I’m getting beaten over the head with the mantra…it’s wearisome.

In other news, I finished my first knitted sock this week, and I’m pretty proud of it. I need to figure out how to make the ribbing tighter, and I could use a little work with the closing, but other than that, I’m very happy with how it turned out, and looking forward to making a second to match.

And then I need to remember to take my nice, hand-knitted socks off when I venture out into the kitchen. My dogs cannot seem to keep the water in their bowls contained to either the bowl or their mouths. It’s crazy how much of a swimming pool the kitchen floor is near their bowls, and that happens to be the main thoroughfare to the back door and into the rest of the kitchen. Since I often wear socks in the house (it has to be incredibly warm for me not to), this means I generally have damp socks on my feet throughout the evening.

I changed socks twice tonight just because I was sick of them being wet, and then one of the dogs needed out again not five minutes after the first change.

Yes, I should get some good slippers, which would solve that problem. One of these days, I might even actually do that…

Here’s hoping the short week treats you well…or at least somewhat gently!


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On Quirky Tech, TV, & Lifestyle Check…

It’s been a little over a week since I got my new laptop, and I’m very nearly finished “moving in”. As with every piece of tech I’ve ever bought, this one’s not without it’s quirks, but I’m getting to know them and how to work with and/or around them (as we do). The backspace key still trips me up until I’ve been typing awhile, but I’m getting there. I finally found instructions on how to deal with the trackpad online, and turning off the “tap to click” function saves me from deleting paragraphs when my thumbs travel across the trackpad while I’m typing.

I did suffer a bit of confusion when I plugged in my external DVD drive and it wouldn’t autoplay the disc. Windows has included a media player by default since…well, since I was in college, I think. As it turns out, they stopped doing that with Windows 8 – apparently they expect everyone to just download all entertainment now? I still like to own media here and there, thank you very much. In any case, a quick search of the internet turned up several freeware options for DVD player software, and my problem was solved in about 5 minutes, thank goodness.

So, just one more thing to get installed/working, and I think I’ll be good to go. The only other thing I need to do is crochet a sleeve for the new laptop, as I’ve already scratched the aluminum case carrying it in my bag, and the top of my bag is open, so it needs a little extra protection from the elements. I’ll probably put a skin on it as well – at least on the wrist rests, because as much as I love the all metal chassis, it’s cold to rest my hands on. A polyvinyl skin will make it feel a bit warmer.

Speaking of new tech, we finally replaced our basement TV this weekend. We were still using an old analog square monstrosity down there, and the picture was getting quite fuzzy. We found a nice LED flatscreen to replace it with, and the digital tuner in the new TV is way better than the box we were using with the old TV (we don’t have cable – just a rooftop antenna). Needless to say, the picture is so much nicer…it’s really quite nice. And now I have one less excuse to get my butt downstairs in the evenings and do a half-hour workout.

Which brings us to a recent “lifestyle check” I’ve been doing. I need to pull things back into balance, as they’ve become a bit skewed – though oddly enough, it’s not the day job that’s the culprit this time. I’ve actually been incorporating bits of the day job into my personal life, not enough to be overwhelming, but enough that it just feels like any other part of my “whole” life, rather than a distinctly separate entity, and I have to say, it’s actually less stressful to have it that way than it was when I was very rigid about keeping them separate. I know it seems counterintuitive for a lot of us, but after reading several articles making the argument for letting the lines between personal and professional blur last year, I decided to give it a try. And I have to say, I’m happier and more satisfied with my job having done so. It’s weird, but whatever works, you know? Obviously that can be taken too far, but I think I’m keeping a healthy-enough boundary in place. For now, at least.

No, the two things I need to pull back into balance now is health, and hobbies. And the thing that has supplanted them isn’t even really a “thing” at all, but rather that insidious laziness that keeps me cemented to the couch after dinner at night, staring at both the TV and my computer screen, thinking I’m going to both relax (with TV) and get something done (either writing or marketing/pub stuff). In reality, I stare at the TV, ignore my computer for the most part, and pretty much do my best zombie impression until it’s finally time to get up and feed the dogs.

This sort of laziness isn’t really benign. I sit at a desk most of the day, and for the last month and a half or so, I haven’t even been taking a break and walking the stairs twice a day. I do still get a yoga workout in every morning, but that’s really not enough movement in general for the human body to stay in optimal condition. So it’s not just that I’m “doing nothing”, but that I’m actively sabotaging my own health. Not cool.

I have reminders for nightly workouts…I’ve just been ignoring them. I could get more creative with them, but really, it doesn’t matter. What matters is not ignoring them – getting up off the couch and actually working out. And not being lazy at work either – it only takes a few minutes to walk the stairs morning & afternoon.

I’ve been ignoring portion sizes too, so that’s another thing I need to pay more attention to. None of this is difficult at all, it just requires that I make the right choices. And I’m perfectly capable of that, honestly. I just…haven’t been. Getting back to making those right choices is at the top of my list for this week.

I have plenty of excuses, but none of them are valid at the moment, so…time to get back on the wagon, so to speak.

Anyone else gotten lazy with a healthy habit lately? Wanna join me? Brave enough to admit it?


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On Laptops, Orphan Black, & Stuff…

Laptops

This past Friday, I got my longevity check. Saturday, I went shopping. Long story short, I’m typing this on my brand new HP Spectre 360 laptop. It’s a 2-in-1/convertible model, so the screen will fold all the way back into tablet mode if I chose, or it works just like a regular laptop as well. The only thing that’s slightly concerning is that due to the hinge system, there’s a bit of screen wobble when I really get to typing away on it. But it’s not all that bad, and considering I have to stop and think more often than I’d like, it should be okay.

The other thing about this particular laptop that I’ll have to get used to is the backspace and enter keys are wide, but they don’t register if you just hit them on the side, so I’ll have to adjust my reach a bit. That’ll come with time (and errors, in the case of the backspace key, which I’m already hitting with far more accuracy just after these two paragraphs).

Old vs. New

Old vs. New

The key caps are metal like the rest of the chassis though, which I think will be good, considering the wear and tear I tend to put on keyboards. My old keyboard is pretty much on its last legs, as you can see. The new keyboard is backlit too, which isn’t something I really need as a touch typist, but it’s cool nonetheless. The keyboard is comfortable enough to type on…it’s a little more shallow than I’m used to, but considering how much I type, I dare say I’ll adjust quickly.

This laptop has Windows 8.1 on it, which really is just an amalgamation of Win 7 and an Android OS. It was a bit confusing at first, but after a couple days of use and customizing, I actually really like the tiled start page, and it’ll be especially handy in tablet mode. I’ll grab Win. 10 once it’s available.

As you can see from the photo, this machine is a bit smaller than my old one. I’ll need an external CD/DVD drive, but those aren’t too expensive. At 13 inches and seriously thin, this laptop is actually portable, which is something I really wanted in my next computer. Because being able to haul it around with me on a near-daily basis means I can write anywhere, anytime I have time. It’s also got a solid state drive, so it boots fast. No long waits to get working, which is nice.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with it so far. I’ve got all my files copied over, and I just need to install a few more programs and make a few more connections before I’m finally finished “moving” my digital life from one house to the other. It’s a lot of work, I tell you what. But that’s also one of the nice things about the writing program I’m beta testing. Just install the program, sign in, and voila! All your stuff right there and ready to be stored back in the database. Not that my Scrivener files were all that difficult to move.

In any case, that was most of my weekend – moving files and installing programs. The other thing we did this weekend was start and nearly finish Season Two of Orphan Black. That show is genius, really, and incredibly intense. The lead actress is simply amazing to play all those different parts at once, and so well! It’s one of the few shows that grabs my attention so completely that I really can’t do anything while I’m watching it. Excellent show, in my opinion.

This week should be a bit quieter than things have been lately, and my husband will be out of town for three days too. So I plan on getting a lot of writing in, as well as getting back to my knit and crochet projects. I thought for sure I’d have my sock done by now…alas, I didn’t get back to my knitting all week last week. Much more focus on relaxation this week, which will be very good for me, I think. Maybe I’ll even finally get a reading post up on Wednesday. Miracles do happen occasionally…

And with that, I’m off to bed. Happy(?) Monday!


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