Serial Story: Live With Me, Part 25

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 25

Candace gasped and yanked her hand away from his, lifting it to her mouth. She hadn’t even thought about it until just this second, but…

“Does your mom know what happened? How I got here, I mean?” She frowned, interrupting when Emmett started to speak. “No, not how. Why. Does she know why I’m here, Emmett?”

He made a show of rolling his eyes, recapturing her hand in his big warm paw. “She knows you fell in the shower – that’s all. I didn’t figure she needed any more details than that.”

“More details about what, dear? Something you’d like to share?”

They both turned to see Angela coming back in, a nurse holding couple of small plastic cups and a plastic spoon right behind her.

“Nothing, Mom. We were just chatting. I see you found a snack for Candy?”

“Candace,” Candace corrected automatically as the nurse set the cups down on a narrow table and rolled it to her side. “Thank you. I’m…pretty hungry, actually.”

The nurse gave her an indulgent smile. “I’m afraid you’ll have to make due with this for now – the cafeteria is closed, and the doctor will need to okay solid foods. How are you feeling? Any pain?” She tore the foil top off one of the cups and stuck the spoon in a slab of green jello. Candace took it gratefully.

“It hurts, but I can handle it. Much less than the last time I woke up.” She took a bite of slime, surprised that it actually tasted pretty good. “It’s been a really long time since I had jello.”

The nurse nodded. “We get that a lot.” She pointed out a button attached to a cable that was clipped to the sheet. “If you need anything, or if the pain gets worse, just press that and I’ll be in shortly, okay?”

“I will. Thanks.” She watched the nurse walk out while shoveling another spoonful into her mouth, glad there was another cup at the ready.

Angela sighed, and smiled, and looked from Candace to Emmett and back to Candace again. “Now that you’re feeling better, and eating, and have had a chance to wake up, I want to know exactly what your intentions are toward my son. Because you’ve spent years of your life avoiding him, and now he hasn’t left your side since he came into this room. So spill.”

Candace about choked on her green stuff, acutely aware that both Emmett and his mom were staring at her intently. When she could breathe again, she met Emmett’s gaze.

“You’re not going to say anything?”

He shrugged, mischief sparkling in his eyes. “I would, but I’m kind of interested in the answer myself.”

Candace put the empty cup on the table and set the spoon beside it, suddenly not hungry anymore. “Well, I don’t have an answer for either of you. I know that’s not what you want to hear, and you can be disappointed or offended, or feel sorry for me or whatever it is you want to feel, but that’s the truth. So if you don’t mind, I’d prefer to be alone for awhile.” She laid her head back on the pillow and closed her eyes, unable to physically escape, but intent on shutting the world out however she could.

“We’re not going anywhere, Candy, so you might as well open your eyes. I have something to say to you.”

She rolled her head side to side, wincing at the pain but refusing to look at him. “Just go, Emmett. We can talk later. Let me rest.” She reached up and pushed the call button for the nurse, hoping it wouldn’t be long, and thankful when the door opened almost immediately.

“What can I do for you? Is the pain worse?”

Candace opened her eyes. “I’d go for some ibuprofen, if you have it. I’d also like to be by myself for awhile. Is there somewhere these two can wait if they don’t want to go home?”

“I told you, we’re not leaving.” Emmett’s voice was nearly a growl, but Candace refused to look at him.

“Come on, Emmett,” Angela moved to his side. “You need to put your knee up anyway, and it’ll be good for Candace to rest. You can talk to her later, like she said.”

Candace met Angela’s stare. “Thank you.”

Angela nodded, and handed Emmett a set of crutches, staying at his side as they finally left.
The nurse pulled two pills out of her pocket and handed them to Candace. “Here you go. I’ll make sure they’re comfortable until you wake up.”

Candace shot her a grateful smile. When the nurse was gone, she tossed back the pills and reached for the second container of jello.

What were her intentions toward Emmett? As murky as they’d ever been, unfortunately. But whatever they were, it was between her and Emmett, and they weren’t going to have that talk in a damned hospital room, or with his mother present.

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Of Concerts, Ballasts & Bread

Two things about the concert I went to Friday night:

1. If your voices can’t hack it anymore, and your harmonies don’t harmonize, just bow out gracefully and find something else to do. Seriously. Don’t go touring and ruining your own songs. It’s just…sad for those of us who love your music.

2. I’ll totally pass on any events held at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman. Not quite bad enough for me to stop whining about our Metra, but when you’re touching the stranger next to you because the seats are just that close together and there’s no way *not to*, it’s too close. Way too close. He was nice and didn’t creep me out or anything, but still. Awkward!

I spent a good chunk of Sunday in my kitchen this past weekend. Actually, we spent a good chunk of Saturday there too, but that’s because the ballast in my last working florescent light fixture finally bit the dust, so we had to fix that or I’d be stuck with only the light over the kitchen sink, and the light over the stove to work by. Candlelight, basically, which is good for power outages and romantic dinners, but not so much for keeping digits intact while chopping vegetables.

Hubby replaced the ballasts in *both* light fixtures (the main one hadn’t worked in over 5 yrs…we’re lazy like that), and we went ahead and put LED bulbs in them as well. My kitchen is now insanely bright, and while I can certainly see a lot better, I can also see just how dirty the place is (I suck as a housekeeper – always have). This is going to require some serious cleaning, like soon.

Anyways, on Sunday I took the time to do a little reorganizing (not as much as I’d have liked, but again, lazy), and a few food prep things for the week that I think will benefit us in the long run, if I can make it a habit. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a breadbox, because I think my pantry is keeping bread too warm/moist, and a yogurt maker to replace the one I tossed a couple of years ago.The reorganization was to fit the breadbox where I wanted it (and it’s perfect there). Now if I could just figure out where to put the FoodSaver machine it ousted…

I’ve been wanting to get more probiotics in, and I’m not terribly fond of the yogurt choices in the store (didn’t want to just take a pill, either), so it seemed like a no-brainer to go back to making my own. Yogurt is crazy-easy to make…scald milk, cool it a bit, add plain yogurt or starter culture, and keep it warm for the next 10-12 hours (which is what the yogurt maker is for…basically an incubator for bacteria cultures). Voila, yogurt. Easy peasy. I bought some granola and I have jam, honey & real maple syrup available for sweeteners, so that will make a great after-workout snack. My first batch is already in the fridge.

I’m kind of tired of plain hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on Thursday, and I’ve been thinking about making some egg/omelet muffins to freeze, but I haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. Hubby suggested I make pickled beet eggs – hard-boiled eggs pickled with beet juice, and I thought that was a great idea for something different. I found a recipe online, and on the same site there was a recipe for curried pickled eggs too, which also sounded intriguing. So I made a batch of each yesterday, and they’ll have to sit in the fridge for a few days before we can even try them, but hopefully by Thursday, they’ll be all tart & pretty. If it works, there’s our Thursday breakfast for three weeks or so. Very nice.

The last thing I did was to mix up a batch of Soft American Style White bread dough from my Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes A Day book. The whole premise of the book is that you can keep a wet version of bread dough in the fridge all week, and then only take out and bake what you need for any given day (need hot dog buns, take enough out for that, shape them, let them rise, bake them, and leave the rest of the dough in the fridge). It’s a way to have fresh bread whenever you need it with very little hands-on time involved. There’s really no reason I can’t do this, if I can find the right dough styles that my husband will like. And this will solve my problem of having to buy too much bread and throwing a bunch of it out every week…I can just bake what we need the night before we need it. No more waste, no more plastic bags, and it’s healthier too.

It does require some advance planning, but I can keep it loose, which is more my style than a hard & fast menu for the week. I can designate a couple baking nights per week (say, Monday and Thursday? AKA: nights when there’s nothing on TV until 8pm), and decide that day what kind of bread I need for the next day or two’s meals (homemade bread should be okay for two days or so). Then Saturday I can bake up whatever dough we have left for the weekend (if any), and mix a new batch on Sunday.

You’d think the decision to try this would create more stress, trying to fit one more thing into my schedule, but honestly, it’s kind of alleviating stress. I really wanted a solution for all the bread we were wasting, and this seems like it really could be “it”. I’m excited to try, in any case. I can always go back to buying bread if I need to.

As you might imagine, this gives me the urge to make other things at home that we currently buy for the convenience of it (because believe it or not, I enjoy doing the homemaking-thing as a general rule)…but we’ll see. I tend to take on too much, burn out, and backslide to worse than where I was before, so I’m going to just coast with this for awhile and see how it goes. Or try, anyways.

For those of you who might be so inclined, some links to pertinent info:

Homemade Yogurt Instructions (cooler edition, but the idea is the same)
Pickled Beet Eggs (and three other pickled egg recipes)
Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day

It’s been awhile since I made bread, and my first batch of dough is a bit on the dry side, but I’m gonna see how it bakes up anyways, and it’s raising on the stove now. Cross your fingers…

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Of Menu Plans & Jury Duty

I spent a way-too-big chunk of my weekend trying to create a menu-plan. Why? To prevent so much food waste, and also to avoid wasting time trying to decide what to make for dinner when I need to actually be making it. Because good TV is back, and not much motivates me to get dinner done quickly like good TV starting at 7pm.

I know, I know. The life of a TV junkie.

In any case, I was not successful at creating a menu plan. I did, however, figure out why I have such a hard time with them, and part of it is, I don’t know specifically what I’m going to buy until I’m at the store, doing my weekly grocery shopping. It isn’t until then that I know whether beef or pork roast is the better buy, or if the fresh mushrooms look like they’re melting back into spores, or if the kale is yellow, but the asparagus actually looks great. No sale price will get me to buy beef that doesn’t have the right marbling (to my eye). You get the idea.

So, creating a menu plan ahead of time is pointless (and impossible), given the way I shop. I need to plan after I shop, which means I needed a different sort of app than what I was trying to use, so I spent a good chunk of Sunday setting that up…

What I’m basically saying is, I spent my whole weekend not doing stuff I needed to get done, in order to not-do something I thought I needed to do. And aside from a glucose curve for Lucy, some vacuuming and clean clothes to wear, this past weekend was a pretty huge disappointment. I hate it when that happens.

Today, of course, since it’s the least convenient time *ever* for me to take time off work, and because I have plans to leave town on Friday, I’ve been summoned to appear for Jury Duty. I normally like jury duty – I’ve served twice now, and both of the cases were interesting and I found the social interplay fascinating to watch, both in the courtroom and the jury room. I’m quite sure this trial would be no different.

However, the news helpfully pointed out tonight that the trial will be approximately 2 weeks long. Two. Weeks. Long. So if I get picked to sit on the jury, I’d have to cancel my Friday trip, and since I’m the only one who does what I do at work right now, I’d still have to keep things going at work while serving on the jury (no, work can’t/won’t ask me to, but I can’t just let everything fall to ruin because there’s no one else to pick up the slack right now – it would make things exponentially more difficult for me along with everyone else). It would basically boil down to some long days and missing out on the trip we’ve been planning for six months. Just a short trip, granted, but still….

So for the first time in my life, I’m hoping not to get picked to serve on a jury. And I feel bad about that, because it’s a civic duty I really usually have no problem fulfilling, even if it is a little inconvenient. Right now it’s just…a lot inconvenient, and it will be a nightmare two weeks (longer than that, actually, considering I’ll be that far behind with my projects) if I end up having to serve.

Menu planning and jury duty. Scintillating Monday discussion, eh? I do wish the caffeinated mints I just reordered were here. Sadistic people in the courts won’t let me bring my tea into the courtroom, and jury selection starts at 8:30am. Dang it.

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Of Stretch Marks, Cold Medicine & The Apocalypse…

I think I might be the only woman on the planet who looks in the mirror after a shower, and celebrates new stretch marks. It means I’m losing girth around my stomach/hips, which means I’m losing fat, and that’s far more important than whatever number the scale happens to say. Sure, they’re not the prettiest things in the world, but it’s not like people actually see my stomach/hips (aside from my husband and he’s contractually obligated not to care about how they look).

In any case, fat lost, skin shrinking, good stuff. Motivation to keep working out, walking the stairs and watching portion sizes/carbs.

If only eating (mostly) healthy and working out were all it took to keep from getting common ailments like…say…a cold. Friday night, I felt a sore throat coming on, and it even swelled up a bit, almost like an allergy. Except all the normal stuff I’d do for an allergy didn’t work. Finally late that night, I made up a batch of my favorite cold medicine, which includes a big dollop of honey, a couple dashes of apple cider vinegar (the real stuff with live cultures), a pinch of turmeric and a bit of fresh ginger all mixed up in a mug of warm water. It doesn’t taste all that great (but better than chemical-laden meds, IMO), but it seems to knock stuff out quick, and it did take care of my sore throat by the time I woke up the next morning. Had another cup later in the afternoon when the sore throat threatened to come back, and I was fine all day Sunday. One more cup late Sunday night/early Monday morning, and I should be good to go. Fingers crossed!

I’ve been watching several sci-fi shows online lately – most of which are set in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ve watched as many free episodes of “Defiance” as there are available on Amazon Prime, I’m anxiously awaiting the return of “The 100” on the CW, and I’m working my way (quickly) through the second season of “Falling Skies” on Amazon Prime. All of these shows tend to make me think about what I would need to survive (minimally) in those types of environment, what I would want if possible to carry it, and perhaps more importantly, who I’d want to connect with and who I’d want to avoid. It’s a valuable thought-exercise, I think…moreso than the ubiquitous “if you were stranded on a desert island” question. I think it’s valuable too to think about what kind of skills you’d want to have in that situation – things a lot of people don’t cultivate any longer, like seed-saving, and a working knowledge of what kind of plants are poisonous vs. edible in different environments. Suddenly people who do certain types of crafts like spinning and soap-making from scratch are people who might be on that list of people to connect with in case of an apocalypse…

…and maybe those would be good connections to foster before some sort of major crisis happens. Just like some of those skills you might need might be good things to cultivate in advance, just in case. The odds of something happening to send us back to the dark ages is pretty remote, but…maybe not as remote as we’d like to think.

Seems kind of fitting to be thinking apocalyptic thoughts on a Monday morning, eh?

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Of Newsletters, Future Plans & The Writer’s Desk

First, I should apologize for the lateness of the latest newsletter. I got more than a little backlogged this summer, and also a little too stubborn for my own good about how and when things should be done vs. when they could be done. It’s a bug, not a feature, and I’m working on it. In the meantime though, the next installment of Shadow in the Stacks is done, and should be in your inboxes by tomorrow morning. Thanks for being patient.

Part of avoiding issues like late newsletters and such is making better plans and sticking to them. Plans that leave me a lot of leeway to get things done and still live my life. I’ve been pushing too hard, and for what? I have no intention of leaving my job (because I like it, and steady paychecks), so my books don’t need to pay the bills, and aside from some audiobooks that I have an obligation to do what I can to sell, there isn’t anything that says I have to hurry up and write as many books as possible and make a bunch of money or build the biggest newsletter list or whatever. I am my own worst enemy here, and relieving the stress I’ve put on myself is really quite simple – I just need to slow down.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what I write, and what I want to write. And my focus next year is going to be quite different than it has been. I’m going to take a break from contemporary romance and romantic suspense for awhile, and my erotic romance pen name will be stepping back as well. Instead, I’ll be focusing on a youth/young adult action/adventure series, the steampunk-style-fantasy novel I have in progress, and more work for my suspense alter-ego.

I’ll be writing just three books next year (as opposed to the 7 drafts I have in progress at the moment), and any leftover time I find myself with will be spent editing and doing the business-y stuff that comes with (or should come with) publishing and selling books. I’ve neglected the business side of things for too long, and that’s a source of stress as well, so I will leave myself plenty of time to work on that next year.

Just coming to that decision has been a major stress-reliever for me. I still have to finish the drafts I’m working on, but once they’re done, the pressure’s off (those drafts are what I’ll be editing/publishing next year). I feel good about that.

There are some other things I’m still waffling about, but I’m happy with this decision to slow down overall, and just focus on a few key genres.

The other thing I’m going to do, starting right away, is to update my writing journal every weeknight before I go to bed. I’m also going to go over my daily schedule/plans for the next day before bed, which is something I should be doing anyways, and I tend to be lazy about. My writing journal, for those who don’t know, is called The Writer’s Desk, and I’ll be starting the nightly updates late this evening (like, really late – between 11pm and midnight). I’ll be including my daily word count (or excuses), what I was working on, and whatever other notes I feel like sharing (quickly – they’ll be short entries). I already so this with a friend via email, but I think it’ll be interesting/handy to have it available as a public reference.

So…lots of changes coming, but good changes, for me anyways. Ironically, getting to bed by midnight for a reading session before sleep is one of those changes…and one I’ve failed at miserably just to get this blog post done (it’s just after 1am as I finish this up). Better planning/use of time next week, eh?

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One Thing at a Time

I’ve been pretty overwhelmed/stressed out lately – work, writing, personal stuff, you name it. I have a bad habit of overestimating my…not abilities, exactly, but rather the amount of stuff I’m able to get done in a specific time period. I knew it was out of hand, and that I was pretty much just past the “burnt out” line, but it was really driven home during a trip to our local art museum this past weekend.

We went to see one of Monet’s Iris paintings, which is here until December. You have to understand, I love moseying around museums and such, so I knew I was in trouble (generally speaking) when upon entering the museum, I was so focused on our goal that I was ready to skip the permanent collection and go see what we’d come to see, and then maybe make a quick pass at anything else that looked interesting.

I was in hyper-efficiency mode, which is the mode I have to operate in most days just to get everything done that I want and/or need to get done. Not the appropriate mode for a trip to the museum, and certainly not the mode I want to be in for looking at/appreciating artwork. I was annoyed with myself for immediately jumping to the most efficient way to complete our goal when we didn’t even need a plan at all other than “go enjoy the museum”.

We did go through the permanent collection, which gave me time to relax and remember that we could enjoy the whole museum and still meet our goal without getting all “control-freak” about it. Just take it one exhibit at a time, and eventually we’d see what we came to see, and a whole lot more besides. We had the luxury of not being on any sort of schedule whatsoever, and while the Monet piece was exquisite, the other exhibits were amazing as well. It would have been a travesty to skip them, or even to see them yet not be “in the moment” enough to truly take them in.

Near the end of our time there, we were browsing through the “for sale” gallery and I was sort of mentally bemoaning the lack of ability to afford some of the work I’d have liked to bring home, and I noticed that one of my old art professors had some work up for sale there. “Mindfulness” is becoming trendy again, and I remember that about him – he was always teaching mindfulness – be in the moment, every moment. Don’t focus on the past or future, just be present here and now.

It’s a good way to live, overall. Obviously some planning is not a bad thing, but I tend to get rather attached to my plans, and then when they don’t go the way I’ve envisioned (which is often), it creates more stress. And I’ve been relying so heavily on my plans going the way I want them to that I over-schedule (or rather, just pack things in so tight that there’s no room for deviation), which creates even more stress. None of which allows me to live in the moment, because I’ve created a lifestyle where I am always behind, and can’t hope to ever catch up – it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

There is no room for being mindful and living in the moment when you’re always three steps ahead in your mind, and five steps behind “on the schedule”.

The natural thing then is to step back, clear out the calendar/to-do list and start over, leaving room for deviation and enjoying life moment-to-moment. One thing at a time. Ironically, that also stresses me out, because there really isn’t much on my list that I genuinely don’t want to do. On the contrary, I have many varied interests that cover all aspects of my life from work to writing to hobbies to personal stuff, and I want to *do them all*. Which is why my schedule is so tight in the first place – I don’t want to give anything up, so I try to cram as much stuff in as possible.

Alas, I have to choose. Prioritize. And realize that there is no way I can possibly ever do and experience everything I want to in life, but especially not all at once. I can’t learn and do everything I want to for work projects all in the space of a few weeks, or even a few months. I can’t write all the books I want to write in the space of a few months or years. I can’t work on all the hobbies I want to within a week, or a month, or maybe not even this year.

It’s a little depressing, and a lot annoying, but there simply isn’t time. And trying to do “all the things” is just going to drive me crazy and stress me out. Knowing I can’t do all the things, and that I have to pare down and prioritize stresses me out too. It’s a major source of angst in my life, and I wish I could say that I’ve figured out a way to make it easier, but I’m still working on it. Letting go of something we really want is difficult, especially when the only thing holding us back is the other stuff we want to do. A rather glorious dilemma, when you think about it.

One thing at a time. One. Thing. At. A. Time.

Today is Labor Day here in the US, in honor of the labor unions who fought for safe working conditions and fair wages back when there were no laws against working your employees literally to death for pennies. My situation isn’t nearly so dramatic (obviously), but it is kind of ironic that I’m basically acting as a slave-driver to myself, pushing hard enough to hurt my physical and mental health while not paying myself nearly enough to offset the damage.

I have a few things I need to work on today (since it’s a holiday and I’m at home), and more than a few that I should work on, but one of the things I’m definitely going to make time for is going over my to-do lists and the calendar and revamping my plans into something more manageable on all fronts. Something that leaves time for being in the moment, even when things go awry and my plans are pushed aside for other things. I won’t be able to alleviate all the stress right away due to various obligations I have to others, but I can at least start to take some of the pressure off.

One thing at a time.

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Silk & Snail Mucus

“Oh man,” I can hear you thinking as you read that title. “She’s really gone off the deep end now…”

And you would be right, but that’s not what we’re discussing today. Although I have to admit, I nearly didn’t use this title on this post, because as soon as I typed it, I thought, “That would actually make a great book title…” I still might use it, actually. The deep end, indeed. Join me?


I was recently reading Jezebel (yeah, I know – judge all you want), and one of the regular features is a beauty box run-down. You know, those monthly delivery boxes that are all the rage these days? I have been getting a tea box that has just now been discontinued (sad, but I was having trouble making it through that much tea in a month – I’m seriously backlogged and I drink a *lot* of tea), and I still get a monthly yarn box from my favorite eco-friendly online fiber shop, Darn Good Yarn. Their claim to fame is recycled silk yarn…the factory remnants from making silk saris in India, and they also sell said saris as well as oddball yarns made from things like banana fiber (which is seriously soft and silky, let me tell you).

I’ll be honest, the yarn isn’t the easiest to work with, but it’s funky and fun and I love it. And I love getting that monthly “surprise” of sensory deliciousness too. For a not-so-touchy-feely-person, I cannot resist the feel of silky or fuzzy fiber across my fingers. Mmm, mmm, good.

I used to have a couple of real silk shirts (short-sleeved button-downs). I loved, loved, *loved* the feel and drape of them. Sadly, I am really not good at caring for things that require hand-washing…

In any case, back to Jezebel and the Beauty Boxes (sounds like a somewhat risque band, eh?). In this particular round-up, one of the things our intrepid blog reporter was most excited about was…snail mucus.

Apparently, it’s a “thing” over in Korea to collect the slime trail from snails (the snails are supposedly not harmed), and use it to make concoctions that are supposed to heal small wounds and blemishes faster – like pimples. According to said reporter and several people in the comments, this actually works. Who knew?

What I want to know (really!) is…who was it who thought it would be a good idea to put snail slime on your skin? On purpose, I mean. Did someone study the chemical composition of snail slime and think, “hey, this would work great for getting rid of pimples!” Or was someone just laying out in the garden (do they have gardens you can lay in in Korea?) when a snail crawled across their face and instead of jumping up and flinging the snail off and getting all grossed out (you know, like a normal person probably would – ohm…), they just stayed still and let the slime sink in, and then later realized, “OMG! My skin looks great! It must have been that snail that crawled across my face! I should tell everyone!”

Or was it one of those bets in a bar one night – you know, one of those “hold my Redd’s and watch this” sort of things (do they have Redd’s Apple Ale in Korea? Or hard apple cider? Things that make you go hmm…)?

“Bet you wouldn’t let this snail crawl across your face!”
“You’re on – gimme that!”
“Hey, your skin looks great! We should market this! Think if we eat the snail, it’ll cure tomorrow’s hangover, too?”
“I don’t know…any French people here we could ask?”

I’m gonna get crap for that one, aren’t I? Yes, Americans eat escargot too, but the word itself is French, so…

Yes, I know. Google could probably hook me up with the right answer on how snail-slime-as-beauty-treatment was discovered in a matter of milliseconds, but sometimes it’s still fun to ponder and pretend that we don’t have all the knowledge we could possibly ever want (and plenty we really don’t) at our fingertips. Don’t you think?

No, I’m not planning on trying snail mucus for my complexion (or anything else) anytime soon. And I’m not having escargot for dinner either – I have a pork roast in the crockpot, thanks. But I may sign up for one of those beauty boxes. Ironically, the one that appealed most to me was one mentioned in the comments – Goodebox. Because…goodies. In a box. What could go wrong?

Aside from snail mucus, I mean…

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Mental Calisthenics

A modge-podge of things this week, because my brain’s been bouncing all over the place this weekend. That’s what happens when I manage not to stress or obsess about anything – my poor mind doesn’t know what to do, and starts looking for something to focus on/obsess over. It doesn’t really handle “free time” too well…

Something I have been sort of obsessing over in the back of my head for quite some time now (years, in fact) is summed up very nicely in this blog post at Brain Pickings:

In Praise of Missing Out: Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on the Paradoxical Value of Our Unlived Lives

Yes, the title is a mouthful (eyeful?), and if that intimidates you, you probably want to skip the article. For those interested though, it basically talks about how we’re constantly thinking about the paths we didn’t choose – ie, when we choose one thing, it means we don’t choose another…and humans generally give at least some thought to the “Option B’s” we leave behind (or don’t, in some cases). I know I often think about the “other lives” I’d live if I’d made a different choice at once crossroads or another, and in some cases, I struggle with it. This post actually kind of made me relieved that it’s not just me…and I ordered a copy of Phillips’ book which I’m very much looking forward to reading.

I also loved this post by KD Sarge this weekend, because it’s just…so very, very true:

Procrastination Bites

Also, I’m really not fond of cupcakes. The cake part is generally okay, but I really am not big on frosting (or anything that sugary), and it seems like most cupcakes are all frosting. Way too sweet for my taste.

Amusingly enough, KD’s post made me feel like I should clean my shower this weekend (a couple mentions of pulling hair out of the drain), but in a hilarious twist, I didn’t actually do that. Instead, I procrastinated on that particular project by reorganizing two drawers in my kitchen. Because that makes perfect sense, right?

An interesting post by the always funny Perry Block shed some light on why my husband’s attitude on tattoos has always been…lukewarm at best (he was born in the 60’s, which Perry explains was still the wild-west of body art:

Tattoo Breakthrough

When I got my first tat, they were just starting to become more trendy, but they were still a sort of “badge of rebelliousness” and a tribute to how tough you were, and I’ve always been sort of a laid-back rebel. The kicker with tattoos is (and anyone who has one will tell you this), they’re very addictive. You get one, and all you can think about is your next one. I stopped after the fourth for awhile out of respect for my husband’s dislike of them, but I still thought about what I’d get next. It was a good decade until dear hubby put me out of my misery and encouraged me to go get that next one, and I knew exactly what I wanted, and where. I’m already planning my next appointment, probably sometime in September.

And finally, this enlightening post gave me an epiphany about my attitude towards phone calls:

Phone-Reluctant Introvert 

I don’t hate them like this person does, but I struggle with them, and this post does an excellent job of explaining why. For me, it’s not even the intrusion so much as the fact that I simply cannot communicate well when my auditory system is the only one involved. I do hate calling people when I know it’s a cell phone, for precisely the fact that I know people will feel obligated to answer, and I hate the idea of interrupting people while they are shopping or working or…not somewhere it’s convenient to take a call. With landlines, I know if they aren’t home, they’re busy and I can just leave a message and it wasn’t an intrusion. With a cell, I’m always afraid they’re doing something else, and I’m butting in on whatever that is, and the sense of manners and politeness that was drilled into me as a child is just completely mortified by that knowledge. So I rarely call cell numbers outside of work (and then only when people tell me to call them there) – only when I have absolutely no other choice.

This is why I don’t have a voice cell plan either – my cell only has data, and I use Google voice for free texting. If people want to call me, they have to call my landline, and if I’m busy or out, I don’t answer, and if they don’t leave a message, I assume it’s not important and they don’t need a call back. When I am talking on the phone, I’m pacing and moving and “doing things”, as the blog post author writes. It helps me focus on the conversation, which really is interesting, I think.

Email, text, or some form of social media is generally the best way to communicate with me, though I understand that not all people are like that, and I do try to accommodate others when I can…or at least meet them half-way on the way they like to communicate best. I certainly don’t expect everyone to just cater to my needs, but it’s still fascinating to know that my communication style is probably inherent to my personality.

So there you have it…just a few of the things that have caught my attention recently. Never a dull moment in the gray matter, I tell you what…


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Work, Home, & Writing Changes

It’s weird how some things make your brain stutter. Last Tuesday, for instance, after my new title of “Database Coordinator” was finally made official at work, my old job as “IS Internet Specialist” was posted for people to apply for. They posted it before anyone told me the new job was official, so for a little while there, I had this vague sense of being in “job purgatory”, even though I knew they wouldn’t post my old job if the new one wasn’t official.

And then of course the realization hit that my self-appointed title of “Webmistress” didn’t actually apply anymore (well, not as far as pertains to the day job, anyways…obviously I still have my own sites to care for). That was weird too. No, my day job isn’t how I define myself as a whole, but it definitely is part of who I am (I mean, I’ve been the “webmistress” for 15 yrs or so now…that’s a long time to lay claim to a specific “label”). And now I am the DBA, which means I *am* that person that I’ve had some…uh…biases & preconceived notions about when dealing with others who wear that label. So that’s gonna take some getting used to.

My focus is a bit different now, and as with any new job, there are a lot of things to learn and become proficient in. And as I mentioned last week, I have to be at work an hour earlier on Mondays, which isn’t on the “pros” list, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to switching jobs in this particular case.

So. Lots of changes going on at work. For the better, I think.

We’ve been making changes at home too. Motivated by my dad’s cancer recurrence, my husband and I have started doing twice-daily workouts, morning and night. I was already doing yoga in the mornings, but slacking off at night. The hubby decided he wanted to get up and get moving earlier, so I’ve been waking him up before I hit the showers, and he does his cardio on the treadmill in the morning. At night, we head downstairs about nine, and I do my cardio and he uses the Total Gym for resistance training, and I do my resistance training after. It’s been good for both of us, I think, and we motivate each other. When neither of us is motivated at night, we have a show we can only watch while we’re working out (we’re currently working on the second season of The Transformer on Netflix), and that generally gets us down there, at least. Just showing up is often all you need to start doing the thing that needs to be done.

I’m pulling off pounds, slowly but surely, which is good. I need to lose around 10-15lbs to be at a comfortable, healthy weight. It’s a little higher than what the docs “say” is good for my particular frame/height, but whatever…it’s the weight I’ve always felt best at, so that’s where I’d like to be. The body knows better than the docs, methinks.

We’ve also been working hard on getting the yard and gardens back in shape. I’ve been meaning to buy and plant bulbs for spring color for years, and last week, I finally did. Or I started, anyways. Every time I look at the bags in the basement, waiting to be planted later this fall, I think I need more. I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding to our bulb collection before we even get them in the ground. Which means our gardens should explode with a riot of color next spring. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

Some of the changes we’ll be making to the backyard this fall and next spring are going to be a little confusing for the Lucy-dog, which is unfortunate, but I think ultimately, a few of them will make things easier for her as far as getting around by feel rather than sight. So hopefully we’ll be able to guide her through adjusting to them without too much anxiety on her part.

As for the writing, I’ve been thinking about retiring one of my pen names next year. It’s difficult keeping up with three genres at once, and I actually have more that I’d like to work in. Writing in that particular genre has grown a bit tiresome, but at the same time, there are other people invested in that name and I have an obligation to work at sales for that reason. The best way to sell more books, of course, is to write and publish more (and get better). So…I’m not sure what I’ll do about that just yet, but I’m leaning toward at least a partial retirement for that name. Maybe just a year-long break? I have until January to decide.

I freely admit that when I finally started writing seriously, I had dreams of selling a bunch of books and being a full-time writer. It’s such a seductive dream to have, but the fact is, the thing that makes good writers stand out from the rest of us is…well, something that really can’t be defined. It’s a certain voice, a unique way of telling a story, or a combination of the two that grabs the attention of enough readers all at once to create buzz, and then they do it over and over and over again.

I don’t have that…yet. I’m not a bad writer, but I could and will be better, with time and practice. I think one of the reasons that writing, unlike so many other things for me, hasn’t fallen by the wayside is because it’s not easy, and I’m not nearly as good as I want to be at it. I generally lose interest in things pretty quickly after I get them figured out, and I’m not even close to figuring out how to tell a good story just yet. Maybe I never will be…in which case I’ll die trying. There are much, much worse ways to go.

But it’s not just that either – you have to get your books in front of people, and get them to read them before they can even find out if you have that…certain something…or not. And that’s not just something self-published authors have to do, it’s what all authors have to do, no matter how they’re published. It’s also not something I’m willing to put all that much time and/or effort into, because there’s a point at which you have to decide whether to go “all in” with writing (which generally means giving up a serious day job in favor of more part-time type work in order to have more time for the writing part). The thing is, I like my job, and all the things that come with it like a steady paycheck, and a retirement fund, and free health insurance, and stability. I like not having to make my writing pay at any cost. I like being able to take whatever time I need to figure things out.

Will I ever figure out that “thing” that will draw people so deep into my stories they won’t want to come back out? Maybe. Maybe not. Thing is, it doesn’t really matter. I enjoy writing, and I’ll just keep on doing it in my spare time, and if something eventually comes of it, great. If not? No big deal – I spent a lot of very pleasant hours making up stories and writing them down. It’s a win-win, really.

It’s been such a year of change already (exhausting!), and there are more on the horizon. Hopefully by the time we hit December the good will outweigh the bad…


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Perspectives & Time

It’s late Sunday night, but not terribly so as I sit here sipping a rather lovely oolong tea from a frog-adorned teacup. I’m waiting for Lucy’s dog food to finish “marinating” on the counter so I can go to bed, which makes this just like pretty much any other late night for the past 5 years or so.

I’m tired from a flurry of activity this weekend – our county fair started Friday, and my husband and I went to concerts both Friday and Saturday nights, plus did some shopping on Saturday. By the time we hit Sunday, we were both running on fumes and had pretty much zero motivation or energy left.

I keep thinking “It’s not that we’re old…” but the fact is, we are, comparatively speaking. When I was young, I practically lived at the fairgrounds during this week every year. I had a zillion 4-H projects on exhibit, and a couple of years I even exhibited small animals (rabbits). I went to every concert and night show I could with my work schedule, all three nights of rodeo, horse racing and bingo with my grandparents, and ate enough food sold along the midway to fuel my teen acne for months. My 4-H exhibitor status got me fair tickets for all seven days, so I spent quite a few afternoons there as well, when I wasn’t at work, anyways. After the night shows, it was time to trawl the midway and ride the rides, looking as good as teen girls can just in case we could catch the eye of a cute cowboy somewhere along the way.

Yes, I wore Wranglers and Ropers and crisp button down shirts back then. With a leather belt hand-tooled by my grandfather and a buckle with my initials on it. Giddy-up! Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but I still know all the words to “Fishin’ in the Dark” by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band…

The year I broke my arm, I had the cast put on a week or so before the fair started. And of course having a cast didn’t stop me – I popped some tylenol and rode all the rides, including the Gravitron, which spun around in circles until you were going so fast that the wall panel you were leaning against rose up to the ceiling. I’m fairly sure that ride helped realign the broken bones in my hand and wrist that year.

Now here we are, sitting at 40 and 51 respectively, and two concerts in a row is enough to knock us both back a day’s worth of energy. Not to mention the toll that eating concession food takes on the skin and body. I was all too happy to make a big salad for dinner tonight. I need my fiber, after all (or my gallbladder does, anyways).

I watch the crowds at those concerts, and the youngsters that look too young to be running around on their own (even though they’re certainly not), and I think of the people who are always wistfully saying they want to go back to that time when they were kids, and had all that energy and optimism for the future.

But I’m not one of those. I had a decent childhood, don’t get me wrong – nothing terribly traumatic or unbearable happened to me, but I’ve always been an “old soul”, and while I enjoyed my teen years well enough, I wasn’t ever really “present” in them. I was always looking to the future, wanting to hurry up and grow up so I could get on with life without the barriers of youth in my way. Even in college I identified more with the non-traditional students than my own peer group (probably because I was working every minute I wasn’t in class), so again, while I enjoyed my time in college, I have no desire to revisit it.

Getting my first real job (the job I have now, incidentally) and buying my first house (both events happened on the same day, which made that one of the absolute best days of my life) was the first time I finally felt like I was living in the present. Like I could slow down and just enjoy life as it came, instead of constantly looking toward the future. I had…arrived, I guess. And it’s been good ever since, despite the ups and downs we all have to weather sometimes.

I’m happy to be where I’m at, I guess is my point. It’s been a hard year this year, and I think we’ve still got more storms to weather before things clear up for a bit, but I’d still rather be 40 and dealing with adult problems than 18 all over again.

And now, the clock just struck midnight (literally), and due to some changes going on at work, I have to be there an hour early on Mondays starting tomorrow (today?). So a little extra sleep would be good, methinks.

If you’re feeling chatty…tell me – are you one of those people who’d like to go back and relive high-school/college again? Or are you just as happy to be an adult and enjoying life as it is now?

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