Storytime: The Dolls of Rosewater Hill

Welcome to Storytime Friday! Unless otherwise noted, everything posted here will be largely unedited draft work, just for fun.

This week’s excerpt is from a story I started last year. It’s a little different from what I normally write, but I’ve had fun with it, and the draft is nearly finished. Meet Adam and Carrie:


Adam couldn’t remember the last time he felt so out of place, standing in the little shop, surrounded by a horde of porcelain dolls, all dressed in various outfits, most elaborate with big fluffy hats and puffy skirts.
Never in a million years had he imagined that he would end up in a place like this. And yet here he was, desperately needing to find three specific dolls.

He approached the glass counter, housing all manner of miniature furniture, tiny dolls, and bits and baubles to go with. No one was standing behind the counter. He tapped the bell beside the cash cash register, wondering how much traffic a shop like this actually got. It must be a terribly boring job to work in such a niche store. Although maybe these dolls were more popular collectibles than he gave them credit for.
The woman who came from the back room didn’t look anything like the coiffed and elaborately dressed dolls on show. Her mousy brown hair was thrown up in a bun with strands sticking out here and there as if she hadn’t had the time or energy to worry about making it smooth. Her eyes were partially hidden behind glasses that could have been cat-eyes but fell just short, and her dress was casual – jeans, a simple light yellow sweater and a white cardigan over the top.

She looked a little agitated, as if she didn’t appreciate being interrupted.
“What can I help you with?” she asked, looking at him as if she felt the same way he did – that he didn’t quite belong. “Are we shopping for a gift today, perhaps?”

Adam shook his head.

“No. I need to find some dolls. Three specific dolls, I mean. I think someone might have brought them into your shop last week. Do you happen to remember buying three dolls from an estate sale? It would have been last Wednesday or Thursday.”

She didn’t even have to think about her answer. “The Rosewater Hill dolls, you mean?” She raised an eyebrow. “They came in last Thursday, and sold on Friday and Saturday. I can get the name of the person who brought them in if you’d like. I can assure you I gave her a fair price. I can get the receipt for you as well, if you’re a family member. I was so sorry to hear of Greta’s passing. She was a good customer with a beautiful collection, but a good friend as well. Do you know what happened to the rest of the dolls?”

“Greta was my grandmother, and I’m sure she’d appreciate your kind words. The will was just read yesterday, and I inherited everything, but my aunt Bernie sold those three dolls. I really need them back. Is there any way that you can help me find out who bought them so that I can offer to buy them back?”

The woman tilted her head and looked at him as if he were a little off kilter.
“What’s so special about them? Which dolls were they, that they’re so valuable?”

“They’re special to me, and I need them back. That’s really all you need to know. Can you help me or not?”

She paused for a moment, and then nodded. “I might be able to. Let me go check in the back. But I won’t be able to give you the information for anyone who’s bought them. All I can do is promise to contact them for you.”

She disappeared through the door behind the counter before he could protest. He waited, tapping his fingers on the glass case. She didn’t understand. No one would understand. But the dolls had something that he needed. Something that would decide the fate of the entire Rosewater Hill estate.


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Thanksgiving & Historical Hair

I’m not sure if “Happy” is the correct word to put with “Thanksgiving” this year. I think many of us are so tired, beaten down, depressed or angry for one reason or another that while we’re thankful to have survived this far, a lot of us probably still aren’t all that “happy”.

That said, we have survived this far, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel, so while it may be a ways off yet, we can make it. We just have to keep slogging along, and do the one thing that seems to be the most difficult for humans to do – stay away from each other for a little while longer.

Admittedly, I don’t really have an issue with that like a lot of people, so it’s really not a hardship for me to eschew family gatherings and such. Honestly, it’s kind of a convenient excuse. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with just my husband this year, and making a nice dinner tailored to our own tastes. Nothing to complain about as far as that goes.

In other news, I’ve recently become fascinated with historical hairstyles/styling. The thing about growing your hair out is, if you don’t focus on the goal, you are pretty constantly tempted to chop the whole thing off again during the awkward “in between” stages of growth. I’ve been buying fun hair accessories and even pony tail holders in anticipation of my hair being long enough to use them, and one day a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel of a historian demonstrating how to care for hair during…the Edwardian period, maybe? I can’t remember really, but it started my spiral down into the world of historical hair care and styling, and I’ve been watching similar videos every since. Here’s a different hair video I watched this weekend…fun and fascinating, methinks!

Needless to say, the wait for long enough hair to braid (or “plait”) again is even more excruciating while I watch because I want to “play” too, but also something I’m really looking forward to. A few more months and I should be able to do quite a bit more with my own mop.

I got very little writing in last week, and that’s something I’d really like to change. So along with a really good ham, scalloped potatoes & sweet potato pie dinner this week, I’d like to get some words in consistently. With any luck, I’ll hit four mornings out of five, and have another fun something for Friday.

Until then, I do wish you the happiest Thanksgiving you can possibly have.


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Storytime: The Reset Button (excerpt)

Welcome to Storytime Friday! Unless otherwise noted, everything posted here will be largely unedited draft work, just for fun.

It’s November, and National Novel Writing Month, so today, I thought I’d share an excerpt of the novel I started for that challenge. I’m not going to make the challenge, but I will keep working on the story! Here’s the beginning. Enjoy!

The Reset Button

Lexi sat on the edge of the old Heberly railroad bridge, her feet hanging over the edge to flirt with the swirling eddies in the Meadowlark river below. A wireless electric razer buzzed in her left hand as her right followed it over her scalp and collected the long black tresses as they fell.

        She’d been thinking. That’s what had started this whole chaotic night, and she knew she should stop and find someone to talk to, but it was too late. She’d done too much, said to much, and tomorrow, everything would be different. She’d pressed the reset button on her life, and there was no going back.

        The buzzing stopped and the last of her hair fall into the black, turbulant water. It wasn’t her hair though, not really. She’d been dyeing and cutting it for so long she couldn’t even remember what her natural color was, much less if it was wavy or straight.

        All that stopped now. Tonight.

        “Need some help?”

        “No. Leave me alone.” Lexi twisted just enough to see a woman in designer-torn jeans, purple converse and a black leather jacket stop beside her. Her long blond hair was curled and styled, and her makeup was impeccable.

        None of which matched the distinctly male voice that had offered “help”. She frowned, and then looked the other way, wondering how the normally deserted spot had suddenly gotten so crowded.

        That same male voice chuckled, and Lexi turned to see the woman…or was it man…grinning.

        “I get that look a lot,” he or she, or was it they, said. Lexi wasn’t sure what to say, so she said nothing.

        “It’s ‘he’, if you’re wondering, and I’m not gay or transgender – not that there’s anything wrong with anyone who is, I just like makeup and think women’s clothing is so much more interesting and fun than men’s. Don’t you?”

        “I guess. I never really thought about it that way. Clothes are…” just another thing I don’t want to think about, she finished in her head. “I really don’t want company right now. Please leave me alone.”

        “I can do that, but can I just-” he tentatively reached out a hand toward the electric shaver. “You missed a hard to reach spot back here, and I can finish it for you, if you’d like.”

        Lexi ran a hand over the scratchy stubble she’d created to the back of her nape, where she could feel the offending section still attached. Without a word and half expecting him to cut her head off, she handed the razer over and tilted her head forward to give him better access. The buzzing started again and she felt him gently grasp the leftover hand and use short, quick strokes to clean up the back of her head.

        “There now.” He turned the shaver off and returned it, along with the last hank of hair. “Have you shaved your head before?”

        “No.” Lexi could sense he wanted more, but she wasn’t feeling much like sharing.

        “Well, my name is Max Harris. I own a salon and boutique over on 5th and Madison, called The Harris Experience. If you need help or a touch up, come in and ask for me personally. I’ll be happy to help, and I’m a good listener too. And now I’ll leave you alone, but do me one favor – don’t jump, so I don’t have to feel guilty about walking away.”  

        “I’m not going to jump.” Lexi stared out into the night. “I’m just hitting the reset button. I’ll be fine.”

        “Good for you. I think we all need to do that sometimes.”


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Words…Words…Words…

When I got the nifty little writing machine I’m typing this on now (The Freewrite Traveler, which I mentioned a couple weeks ago), it was right before NaNoWriMo. I haven’t won NaNo in years, and only jump in occasionally now, but I thought, ” What the heck? Jump in. See what happens.”

Well. What’s happened so far is a whole lot of not much. I barely have 2k words so far, and I’m struggling to even write 500 words in a session, much less 1667 in a day (The amount normally needed to “win” at 50k words for the month). I haven’t made the time or found the headspace to be disciplined about it at all.

But, it’s okay. This morning during my normal writing time, I opened up the story, took a look at where I was, and decided I needed to know a couple of key things before I moved forward again. I often start writing with just a character and a scene, and “learn” what happens as I write. This time, I started the story with a girl – Lexi – in serious distress, and I really wanted to know what might have caused it, and what, ultimately, she was looking for. I don’t need to know the details just yet, but I needed to know the base motivations so I could make some sort of sense out of what was happening.

So I spent my writing time this morning (and part of my shower time, because the best place to think is often in the shower) working all that out. And now I know what she was doing before, what happened to send her into the spiral where I first met her, and what she’s ultimately looking for in life.

I feel good about this. I still have no idea where the story is headed, really, but I know Lexi well enough that she’ll tell me the rest of the story if I keep writing, and it’s probably going to be kind of a wild ride.

The most important thing is, now I’m hooked. I want to know what happens next, and the only way for me to find out is to write it. To give Lexi a voice. Am I up to the task? There’s only one way to find out.

I think maybe it’s time for the return of Fiction Fridays, considering I haven’t published anything in…well, a long while. Interested? Come back Friday. We’ll both see what happens.


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New Tool, New Focus

For anyone who missed the news on FB, my covid test came back negative, so yay! I’m back at the office for work (well, not today, since it’s a federal holiday, but generally speaking), my friend is also back at work, and…life goes on.

Today is undoubtedly one of the most important and pivotal elections in US history, so I hope if you’re a US citizen, you have voted or will vote. Yes, I did vote, early and absentee, as I always do. It’s convenient that I work at the county courthouse, so I just have to bring my ballot to work and drop it in the box.

Being a government employee does have its perks, one of which is getting Federal Election days off. So I have today off, and fully plan on *not* watching any election news or results. I’d planned to finish fixing the toilets, but…with the way my day started this morning (not exactly “good”), I decided to scuttle that until the weekend.

Instead, I spent the morning emailing a friend and frittering too much time away on Facebook. I also finished taking the rest of our Halloween decor down. And after I finish this post, I shall grab my new, beautiful writing tool, the Freewrite Traveler (which I ordered off a Kickstarter campaign around 2 years ago – it just arrived in the mail yesterday), and get a belated start on a NaNoWriMo novel. I haven’t done NaNo in a few years (not seriously, anyway), and I’m not terribly serious about it this year either, but I need something to grab my focus and hold it for awhile. Something that’s not work, and not politics and not covid and not…well, any of the other “2020” themed chaotic rabble.

The whole reason I ordered the Traveler is because it has something my laptop will never have – an e-ink screen. Like a traditional Kindle or Nook and my reMarkable tablet, the Traveler doesn’t have any backlighting at all to burn my already-stressed corneas out. I can stare at the screen for hours, like a print book, without any discomfort (other than, you know, that general “eyes need sleep” thing).

It also has a beautiful full keyboard that I do wish was a little more “clicky”, but it’s better than average, and it’ll do the trick. I also really wish the keyboard was pretty much any color but white. The oils in my hands are going to make that look dingy very quickly, unfortunately. But, as long as it works well, I’ll be happy. I wrote 56 words on it before bed last night, and it was comfortable, for the most part, so…I’m excited.

This year has been one of the oddest, most chaotic years I’ve ever lived through, and I find myself with the perspective that since everything is in a period of change, I should take this opportunity to make some personal changes too. From how I look (I mean…hair!), to what I wear, and how I structure my days, it feels like it’s time to just sort of flip everything into a giant Yahtzee cup and shake it up. Some things will come out the same, and other things will be vastly different, and this year, that feels okay. Maybe that’s exactly what’s needed.

In any case, more on that later (along with a rant about appliances and my new microwave). Until then, don’t forget to vote, be polite and civilized to those you interact with during and after, and be kind. The world (or our country, at least) could use a return to kindness and civility at the very least, in my opinion.

Now, a story is calling me….


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And Then…Quarantine

I suppose it was bound to happen at some point, but the fact that I’m currently in quarantine and awaiting Covid-19 test results speaks directly to the fact that while I’m extremely introverted on a good day, I’m not quite introverted enough.

A friend of mine from work tested positive last week, and she happens to be the only person aside from my husband that I spend an appreciable amount of time with unmasked and probably 5ft instead of 6ft away from (we both still have fairly wide personal space bubbles, pandemic or no). I stay well back from everyone else in my office, wear a mask whenever I’m out of my office, and also whenever I’m around people when not at work. I keep interactions outside of work brief, and we haven’t been to a movie or eaten in a restaurant since cases here started spiking a few weeks ago.

So when my friend got sick (her role requires her to be around a lot more people than I, unfortunately, and we’re pretty sure we know about where her armor chink would have been), she went home right away, but I’d been chatting with her just the night before, which made me a “close contact”.

I didn’t think too much of it, but I did make sure to be extra cautious in keeping my distance from co-workers and while doing my errands that weekend. Then Monday late, my throat started getting sore, and I told my boss the next morning that I needed to work from home for awhile, just in case.

My friend’s test results came back Wednesday, she called me to tell me, and I went and got tested Thursday, because while my throat wasn’t all that sore by then, I’d still had a cough and some pressure in my chest here and there, and a headache that had been flirting here and there. No point in waiting, and better to know one way or the other, I figured.

When you get tested here, they tell you to quarantine for 14 days past the day of your last contact with the positive person if you’re a close contact, whether your test comes back positive or not. If you have symptoms, you have to stay quarantined for at least 10 days past when the symptoms started, provided your symptoms are resolving and you’ve had no fever in the previous 24 hrs.

My ten days are up as of this Weds, so as long as I feel better and haven’t had a fever in 24 hours, I should be able to break quarantine on Thursday. If I do test positive, I have a pretty light case so far, as long as it doesn’t worsen over the next few days. I’ve been throwing a lot of turmeric and garlic at it, along with some other herbal remedies. Surprisingly, the one thing that seems to help the most is honey in my tea. I prefer my tea unsweetened, but whatever works at the moment. I consider myself extremely lucky not to have gotten any worse thus far.

My friend, not so much. She’s had to deal with pretty much every bad symptom in the book, and I’m quite worried about her. She’s had ups and downs and muscle pain and no taste and taste and no smell and felt better for several days then plunged to no energy whatsoever…it’s been a serious roller coaster ride of illness, and it’s not over yet.

I hope I’m negative, and that I can get back to the office Thursday. Little things like doing a Costco run are also on my list of “to-dos” for when I can leave the house again. I will say that working from home hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, but…I do really miss my bigger monitors, standing desk, and ergonomic keyboard. I also miss the demarcation between personal and work life that going to the office and coming home provides. I know plenty of people have managed to figure it out while they work from home this year, and I’m sure I could eventually too, but I’m not all that good at it yet.

So…just another weird week in 2020, I guess. Fingers crossed that things can get back to the new relative normal soon, and if you can spare some good thoughts, prayers, rituals or spell-chanting for my friend, all would be appreciated.


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Best Laid Plans…and a Whine.

I feel like all I’m doing lately is planning. Revamping routines. Trying to figure out how to do things more efficiently and get my day-to-day life under enough control that I don’t feel so…adrift.

It’s my way of dealing with the stress of this crazy year. Control as much as I can ahead of time so that when the out-of-my-control issues hit, I’m more mentally able to deal with them. I’m telling you right now…it’s only partially working. I still feel like I’m in a constant state of adrenal overload, and when those other things hit, it’s just one more thing on the all-stress, all-the-time channel.

Most recent on the “more stress” report (or maybe just more disappointment, for this one), we got a ton of snow this weekend (the “broke records/up to my knees” variety). It’s not going to be melting anytime soon either – cold and more snow are forecast for the whole next week. We normally get snow in late October, and often on Halloween (it rarely even sticks), but this is early, and the record we broke for the snowfall amount was set in 1949.

I like snow, and it’s really not that cold, but our landscaper was going to try to get started on our front yard mid-October…which is now. Or next week. Regardless, they can’t work on the yard (or dig it up) if it’s covered in snow. Unless the weather is really nice in November, we may be looking at spring before our landscaping project gets done. Dammit.

And of course we’ve done zero decorating in the yard for Halloween, because…landscaping. We can’t do any decorating until the landscaping is done, or until it’s officially pushed back to spring. So we’re too far behind to do anything big in the decorating realm, which is about the most annoying thing ever with Halloween actually being on a Saturday with a full moon this year.

We will still be handing out candy bars (full-size) to anyone who comes to the house, but the decorations may be extremely sparse because…2020. Yes, we’ll be wearing masks and gloves.

*sigh* Two and a half more months. Will things start looking up at the turn of the new year? One can only hope, but I’m betting more on next July.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here futzing with plans and tweaking routines and working to find something to blog about other than plans, lack thereof, and the cyclone that is this entire year. There has to be something more thought-provoking I could share/opine on.

In fact, that will be my next planning challenge. More interesting blog posts from now until the end of the year.

Though I can’t promise no planning posts in mid-late December. Because…resolutions.


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Painless Physical Productivity – the Next Frontier

Sometimes, when a person has let herself get really out of shape, and then decides to…do stuff, it hurts.

A lot.

Okay, okay. It’s not *that* bad, but I do have some serious aches and pains going on, and it’s largely the fault of my lack of physical fitness. I mean, it’s also partially because I fell over the Murphy-dog in a dark hallway the other morning (yes, he’s fine, but I twisted myself up making sure *not* to smash him), but even that wouldn’t have been as bad if I’d been in better shape overall.

I do yoga, and I walk when the weather’s decent, but I don’t do nearly as much lifting or weight-training as I should, and it is painfully evident after moving straw bales, taking a metal arch down, and working on a plumbing problem for the better part of a day (it’s partially fixed – but still needs work).

There was a time when all of this wouldn’t even phase me physically. Just another weekend, no biggie. I’ve gotten so much lazier as I’ve gotten older, and it’s not serving me well in the least.

This does seem to be the year of painful change, doesn’t it? And as much as I love sitting on my butt, I need to get off of it and…well, move. Not only do I have things to do that requires me to sit, I also have things to do that require me to move, and it really, really shouldn’t be painful to be productive. That just makes me want to…not be productive.

I think this every time I do something that should be painless, and then hurt the next several days. And then I think I’m going to fix it, but I have to wait so long to heal (another “perk” of getting older) that my good intentions get lost in the healing period, and the cycle continues without me getting stronger.

That’s just stupid.

So, since I’m embracing the “year of perpetual change” in so many other ways, might as well add this to my list too, right? Walking the dogs and yoga are both great ways to work out, and I need to start chasing Pokemon again for an afternoon workout, but there’s one other thing I need to do, and that is to add a weight training element in two to three nights per week. Twenty minutes is all it would take to raise the level of my strength exponentially. Two upper body and one back/abdomen workout would give me some pretty dramatic results in terms of strength and stamina. Walking/climbing stairs is sufficient for my legs, though I do have ankle weights I could walk with to give that a boost too. Might have to dig those out. But definitely the nightly weight training sessions. That would help more than anything else.

And that would almost undoubtedly improve my motivation for getting off the couch, and getting stuff done.

So, a workout calendar seems appropriate. Nothing pre-filled or anything like that, but a calendar to record workouts on. Give stars for. Something fun to look forward to completing, just because.

But! I’m not waiting until the end of the calendar year to start, I’m starting right away. It’s going on my schedule. We’re doing this. At least one workout, this week.

Only I have to wait just a couple more days, for a couple of the “injuries” I sustained just yesterday to have a little more healing time.

Dammit.


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Weariness, Planning, Hair, & Granola Culture

I think it’s safe to say we’re all tired of the pandemic. I’ve heard from more than one person lately that they’re just tired of it all, tired of thinking about it, tired of the mask thing, tired of staying away from people. They’re ready to throw in the towel and go back to just living life normally, letting whatever happens, happen.

We humans do tend to have a painfully short attention span, unfortunately.

I’m tired of thinking about it too, and tired of masks, and constantly analyzing whether my sneezing fit is caused by smoke and fall allergens, or if it’s the dreaded Covid monster. I’m not really tired of staying away from people, but I am tired of having to think before going to dinner, or planning a night at the movies three weeks in the future – will our infected rates be going down or up by then?

But, I’m not going to stop taking precautions just yet. Yes, we have some very promising treatments, and the mortality rate has gone down quite a bit. We are less likely to die from it now than we were a few months ago, just because doctors and scientists are more informed, and have several really good treatment options they can employ right away.

Thing is, they still don’t know what causes some people to react worse than others to the virus, and the long-term effects are still a possibility for anyone. And frankly, I’d rather not put my body through that if I don’t have to. So as tired as I am of all of it, I’ll keep masking up inside and around large groups of people. And I’ll keep evaluating case loads and numbers before I decide whether or not to do something. Because it seems like the responsible thing to do, both to avoid getting sick, and to avoid giving it to someone else who may be affected badly by it.

If you think that’s “living in fear”, well, sure it is, to a point. I’m allowing fear to make me cautious. And in this case, I’m okay with that, because the potential threat is still largely unknown. That’s what our innate fear response is for – to keep us safe. I’m merely listening to mine, because it seems logical/practical to do so.

Last week I posted about focus and planning, and I’m happy to report that on that front, really good progress was made. Every night, I took 15 minutes and made to-do lists for work and home, and then I scheduled all the things I needed to get done (and could reasonably expect to do) for the next day. Not only did that make my entire day a lot easier and less stressful, I was far, far more productive, even with a million different interruptions. It felt good, and I’m definitely going to keep that up. It was so…refreshing to be able to just know what I wanted to work on when, and be able to kind of just put the rest of it out of my mind because I *knew* it was already scheduled, and that I’d left plenty of time to work on it, so it would get done and I didn’t need to stress about anything.

I did, however, fail to do any planning whatsoever for the weekend, and…that kind of hosed me up as far as productivity goes. I’ll be more mindful of that for next week, and actually schedule those planning times on my to-do list so that maybe I can have a little more control over my weekend as well.

As for my hair-growth project…it’s kind of stressing me out. It’s at the point now where it’s just going to be difficult to manage for the next few months, and my confidence is waning. I’m having trouble with the idea that it might affect the way I’m treated, both at work and in other social situations. I’m excited at the prospect of having more versatility again, but there’s this voice in the back of my head that’s afraid to just ignore what people obviously respond well to (my short hair, in this case), just because I want something different.

I just remember how things changed for the better when I cut it off, and I’m afraid all that will revert as my hair gets longer (especially in this stupid grow-out stage when it’s just going to be unruly).

We’ll see, I guess. I can always chop it back off, if I find that I just need that coiffed-pixie look again. When I cut it off before, it was mainly for other people. Now I’m growing it out for me, but I’m keenly aware of the perks that come with keeping it short. It’s…difficult to do what I want when I know that the option that serves me better both socially and in the workplace is something different.

I guess it’s like my tattoos all over again, in a way. And I maybe just need to keep reminding myself that once it gets past my shoulders, I can just wear my hair up whenever I need that “short-hair” boost, and then be free to leave it down for myself evenings and weekends.

Am I superficial for spending so much brain power on my hair? Sure, I guess. But honestly? I’d rather worry about that right now than all the other more serious things I could be anxious about.

For my next personal change of 2020 – I plan on buying some flannel shirts, and re-embracing the granola culture I spent my college years in. Not because I want to go back to college (definitely not), but because it’s comfortable, and it feels more like “me”.

I can’t decide if I’m “devolving” or “evolving” given that I’m basically going back to who I was in my 20’s. I guess the real question is, do I care? The answer right now is, not enough to stop. We’ll see what happens as the months go on.

Rest assured that whatever happens, I will never wear socks with my Birkenstocks. And I don’t even own crocs. I do still have *some* standards.


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Finding Focus

I’m sitting here on my ottoman, a whole list of things I want to get done, not doing any of them (at least not until I started writing this blog post), and wondering why I spend so much time thinking about what I want/need to get done as opposed to actually *doing* it. I do this everywhere…though I am somewhat more focused at work when I can be (which isn’t as much as I’d like, because…other people).

That said, even here at home, by myself (well, just me and the dogs), I am…unsettled. Unfocused. I know what I want/need to do, but I can’t decide what to do first, or for how long, or what to do when I get interrupted, or…well, you get the picture.

Part of the problem is that I’m interrupted so often (even here at home), that I have trouble getting into anything because it seems futile. I know that happens a *lot* at work, and here at home with the dogs too. I’ve gotten so used to that, and it’s so disruptive to being “in the zone” with anything that I often just don’t even try. I pick at things, piecemeal, afraid to get too deep since an interruption is inevitably just around the corner instead of really focusing. It’s far less efficient and less satisfying than being able to actually put my head down and work steady for a good couple hours on the same project, but it’s often all I can do to actually make progress on anything.

Even just now, writing this post, I had to get up to let the dog in, but when I sat back down, I checked my email before coming back to this. Is there anything else that needs my attention? Do I need to shift focus again? Is it okay to try to get back in the zone for another twenty minutes or so?

I’ve trained my brain to be like this, to just work shallowly around all the interruptions throughout my day, and I get stuff done, but not nearly as efficiently or satisfyingly as I could if I were able to actually focus, even for just a full hour at a time.

Thing is, I probably could, it’s just that I hate being pulled out of the focus zone so much, and it’s happened so often, that the fear (or certainty) of it happening again keeps me from allowing myself to really delve into anything at all. And I’ve trained myself to give into that fear, unfortunately. Which means to “fix” it, there are a couple of things I really need to work on.

The first is planning. I’ve gotten lazy about both keeping track of projects and scheduling the smaller parts of the whole. The only way to be able to focus on anything is to first know what it is I wanted to focus on in the first place. I have a ton of projects to keep track of for work, and also a bunch for both the house and my writing. Today I wasted a ton of time just trying to decide whether to clean first, or write this blog post, or do some editing, or rearrange furniture…and that’s only four different things! If I had a running list of to-dos, and then either late last night or first thing this morning, I looked at that list and my day and actually scheduled when I wanted to do what, I wouldn’t have wasted all that time. I would have had a plan to follow, and even if I was interrupted or thrown off the schedule, I still would have been able to pick it back up from the last undone thing, and could have continued from there.

I have the tools to do this. I have a main calendar program and a list program that is easily used for automated reminders and scheduling. I also have a digital paper tablet that I can hand-write on (which often works best for me when making initial lists before they get scheduled into the automated one). The only thing I don’t have? A routine habit for maintaining the system.

The second thing I need will arguably be more difficult, and that is to somehow get over the fear of being interrupted, and learn to get into the “zone” of focused work more quickly so that even when I am interrupted, I don’t lose so much time. Part of that is knowing what I need to do when, but the other part is just retraining my brain so that when the interruption has been dealt with, I just check my list, figure out what I’m supposed to be working on next, and then just slide right back into it. That is a discipline thing, and it’s going to mostly involve using my to-do list to “trigger” my brain into focus-mode. It’s going to involve a lot of willpower.

I’ve been employing that throughout writing this post. Whenever I feel myself losing focus, I close my eyes briefly, remind myself that I’m writing a blog post, and then continue. I think what I’m going to do after I’ve finished this is to rearrange the screens on my cell phone so that my to-do list is the only thing on my home screen. That way, after any interruption throughout the day, I can unlock my phone, my to-do list will be right there, and at the top will be whatever is scheduled for the day and not yet checked off.

I think doing these two things – maintaining a to-do list/calendar and using it to trigger/ground my focus after every interruption, I can alieviate at least a little stress from my life, and hopefully spend more time actually focused on tasks rather than wondering what I should work on next or picking at things piecemeal throughout the day.

Next up on today’s impromptu to-do list: Update the actual to-do list, and schedule a time (either late night or early morning) to pick the priority items for any given day.

This sort of thing is why I should take vacation days more often. I have a hard time stepping back, looking at what’s causing me stress, and figuring out how to fix it when I don’t have time and space to just be quiet and think. Evaluation/re-evaluation days are important.


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