On Loss, Health & Moving On…

**This will be somewhat long, and kind of maudlin, but as of next week, I’ll be using a different format for these posts that will be more interesting/varied and hopefully provide something useful in the form of links and quotes and such. Stay tuned…**

Rest in Peace, Lucy.

                   Rest in Peace, Lucy.

As you may have guessed, things did not keep going well after Lucy’s surgery. Last week, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Mast Cell Cancer, and given around 3 months to live. Rather than getting better, she kept getting worse, and we made the decision to euthanize her this past Saturday because we simply couldn’t keep her comfortable any longer (the diabetes made giving her pain medication complicated). She’s the fifth dog I’ve made that decision for, and it really never does get any easier. And then there’s that huge hole in your life they leave behind when they’re gone…

In Lucy’s case, she left behind a bit more of a tangible footprint than most dogs, simply due to the special needs her chronic conditions required. For the past six years, my kitchen has been organized largely to accommodate making her meals ahead of time (and her raw food for many of those). For the past seven months, I’ve had her glucose meter and strips, plus insulin syringes and a record book in one of my utensil drawers (near where I prepped her meals). I have extra dishes and pill boxes and utensils just for her, along with an entire shelf in the fridge and a section of fridge door specifically for storing her food, supplements & extra insulin. Every time I use the kitchen, her things are right there, right where they should be. Waiting.

My morning, evening and late-night routines all revolve(d) around her care. I got up early to feed and medicate her, and that’s the first thing I did when I got home from work. I set up the routine to clean the kitchen at 10pm specifically to go with mixing and incubating her food for the next day (and a third meal for both dogs up until just last summer). Due to her insulin and mealtime needs, there was little flexibility in our routines, which makes her absence that much more evident.

I will eventually adjust, and so will my routines, but it’s going to take some time.

The thing about the death of a pet is, I’m inevitably left wondering if there was anything I could have done differently to prevent whatever escalated and prolong their life. Heck, when Lucy was diagnosed with EPI years ago, I wondered if it was something I did, and when she went blind from diabetes last summer I felt insanely guilty for not having read the signs earlier and gotten her help before things got so bad. I think that sort of thing is inevitable when you take on the responsibility for another living being. Everything that goes wrong is a guilt-inducing event, whether it should be or not.

The fact is, there’s no real point in beating myself up about whatever I didn’t do (and there’s a genetic element that might very well have trumped everything anyways), but there is some value, I think, in trying to do better going forward.

In light of that, and that many of her issues had a basis in the immune system, and also the fact that one of the best and easiest things to do in order to keep the immune system functioning well is to *move*, I took Mica-dog for a walk yesterday.

We have a large backyard, and a neighborhood wherein the few times I’ve walked my dogs, it seems like we always run into at least one dog that’s escaped or allowed to just roam loose. This is a problem, as it’s likely one of the dogs will get hurt (last time, Lucy pinned a little French bulldog who ran up wanting to start a fight – luckily she didn’t hurt him, but she could have, easily). So to avoid both stress and liability/potential vet bills, I’ve eschewed walking the dogs, and opted to just let them get their exercise in our yard & playing in the house. As you might imagine, that apparently works about as well for dogs as it does for humans (maybe better for small dogs, I suppose).

So one of the things I want to work into our new routines is a daily walk. We’ll have to work up to it, since we’re relatively out of shape, but it’ll be good for us both, and hopefully strengthen our immune systems by getting the lymph flowing once a day or so. I’ll also have to find a time when we’re least-likely to run into loose dogs.

Yes, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to loss, but in this case, it can’t hurt, and may help. Right now I’m in the perfect mindset to make it a habit before time passes and I inevitably fall back into a more complacent, comfortable place, so I’m going to take advantage of that.

Now I just need to focus on finding a new “normal”…

On Dog Ears, Speculative Fiction, & Plot Control

For those of you following Lucy-dog’s ear amputation saga, the surgery went well last week, and she’s recovering nicely. I think once she gets past the inevitable itchy-healing stage, she’ll be much happier with life in general (and I’m quite sure she’s already more comfortable than she was, even with the pain and stitches). I’m home with her for a couple more days just to make sure her painkillers are well meted out, her blood glucose is as regulated as it can get with the drugs, and that the itching is kept to a minimum so she doesn’t pull her stitches out.

I’m relieved, personally – just making the decision on whether to amputate or euthanize was incredibly stressful, and the last thing I wanted to do was cause her more discomfort if there wasn’t going to be a long-term benefit. We’ll have to wait for the lab results before we know more about that, but things are relatively optimistic at the moment.

Which means I can turn my non-work-related focus back to more fun things to ruminate on, such as my current novel draft and how the heck to categorize it when I’m referring to it. I’ve been struggling to actually write anything for the past several weeks, but my brain likes organization and categorization, and I do actually want to try to sell this novel when I’m done writing it, which means it needs a genre/category. Yes, I know – write the book first, categorize later. Great advice that is just going to stress me out, because I love having things all neat and tidy in my head.

In any case, I went browsing for genres and definitions this weekend, and I’ve decided after much hemming and hawing that Donteneoux’s Dragon fits best in the Speculative Fiction (Spec Fic, for short) genre. It’s not fantasy, it’s not sci-fi, it’s not horror, and it’s not dystopian, but contains a pinch of this and a dash of that from those various genres that together make up the spec fic category.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but just having that set in my head is a relief. And happily enough, spec fic is a pretty broad term/category that encompasses many things, so slapping that particular label on my draft isn’t limiting in the least – it just defines the plot I already have laid out.

One other thing has been bugging me about DD, and that has to do with plot. I was writing along last week (I have gotten a few words in here and there recently), and the plot took an unexpected turn, and as a serial writer, I’ve sort of trained myself not to see this as a bad thing, but it is something that will affect the entire plot of the novel going forward in all sorts of odd and somewhat unsettling ways. It’s raised a few questions that I’ve been pondering since last week, trying to decide how the story logic will work given these new developments, and how I might steer the character along the storyline I have in my head. My poor logical/critical brain has been trying to “fix” the story, when really it isn’t even broken, it just took an unexpected turn.

The thing is, I’m not normally a writer who tries to control her characters…I let them do what they will, and that’s largely how I “discover” the story. I don’t tell the characters who to be either – I let them tell me who they are. That’s what makes writing fun for me – I don’t write the story myself, per se, I “hear about” a story in my head, and then I ask the characters to tell me how it “really” happened. But the impetus to keep the story on what I think should be the right track has been strong lately, and I think that’s what’s been holding me up with the writing more than anything.

But with the Lucy situation stressing me out and things at work being remarkably busy, I’ve been grasping for any little bits of control that I can get, no matter where that happens to be, because feeling like I have control of any little thing, no matter how small, alleviates some of the mental pressure from other areas of my life (call it a release valve of sorts – other control freaks will understand). It’s spilled over into my writing, and that is exactly the wrong mindset I need for discovering a story.

Thankfully, the other stresses I’ve got going on are slowly easing up, which gives me more of that illusion of control I seem to need. And I think I can finally go back to my draft now, and let Peraine continue telling me his story without trying to meddle and “fix” what isn’t broken.

I love that. Because I really, really want to know what happens next, and the only way to find out, is to write it.

Odds ‘n Ends

Yesterday, I turned 41. It was a rather uneventful day, really…and I spent most of it trying to decide whether to get my normal Sunday chores done then, or put them off until today (since it’s a federal holiday, I have today off work). Needless to say, I put most of them off (except for what really had to be done, like laundry since my hubby has to work today), but I didn’t really do anything else either, so…I kind of squandered my “free time”. It’s almost better when my birthday falls on a weekday, because I always take the day off, which means I don’t have anything that has to be done so I can just do whatever without guilt.

In any case, it will only take me a couple of hours to get my chores done today, so I’ll still have plenty of time today for reading & writing. I won’t have time to binge-read an entire novel like I was planning (not if I still want time to write, anyway), but I have a (smallish) stack of comic books waiting, including the latest Harley Quinn and I Hate Fairyland issues. That’ll be a nice segue between cleaning & writing, methinks.

As far as drafts go, I’m currently working on Donteneoux’s Dragon, a medieval/steampunkish sort of fantasy/sci-fi story. It’s not nearly so convoluted as it sounds, but I’m not sure how else to describe it, since it will *seem* fantastical to the reader but there is no magic involved, and all will be explained logically…eventually. It’s got me intrigued, even though work on it has been slow, but I’m enjoying discovering the story as I go.

The second draft I’m working on is a still title-less short origin story/myth to complement my first young adult adventure story that will hopefully be coming out this spring. There will be several novels in that series, and I plan to write an origin story for each of them, to be sent out with quarterly newsletters throughout the year. I think it will be fun, and also add a little more depth to the main stories as they come out.

Hopefully, I’ll get a little work done on each today, to start the week off right.

In other news, this Wednesday Lucy-dog goes in to get her ear amputated to remove that monster-tumor and to have a lump just behind it removed. Whether or not that’s the “right call” is anyone’s guess, especially since my husband and I both thought we felt more swelling on the side of her throat this weekend. But, we’ll see, I guess. I’ll drop her off at 7:30am with food, insulin, syringes & care instructions, and hopefully they’ll give her back in somewhat better(?) shape around 48 hours later. Luckily work’s been busy lately, so I should have plenty of distractions on Weds/Thurs. And there are certain projects I need to get done so I can take this Friday, as well as the following Mon/Tues off to make sure she doesn’t pull out her stitches, and to monitor her blood sugar with the meds she’ll be on.

Fun times, I tell ya.

Now, I should probably get my butt in gear and get to work – time’s a-wastin’! Right after I make another cup of tea and maybe eat a leftover piece of angel food cake…

Off to a Rough Start

Last week was a rough week. It started off okay, but Tuesday and Wednesday I ended up down with some sort of weird stomach illness, couldn’t sleep Weds night (probably due to all the sleep I needed the previous two days) so Thursday was a big blur of trying to stay awake, and Friday was busier and more stressful than I’d have liked. Saturday we took Lucy-dog to the vet, and if we don’t get one of her ears amputated due to the cancer that’s pretty much eating it alive, we’ll have to put her down soon. There really aren’t any other viable options, which sucks.

Nothing like being sick *and* stressed out all in one week. Needless to say, my normal routines were up-ended, my diet was totally screwy (can’t be picky when you’re sick – you eat what your body wants/will handle), and I spent a lot of time worrying about the dog (which I’m sure affected the everything else adversely, or my perspective of them, at least).

I need to get more information on that surgery this week (have already emailed a list of questions to the vet), so we can decide whether or not that’s what we want to do. Whatever we decide, we need to move fairly quickly, because that ear is really uncomfortable, and I don’t want Lucy to suffer any longer than necessary. Which means this week is going to be difficult as well.

I haven’t been doing terribly well with the writing, though I did go through my notes on the steampunk/medieval/fantasy draft (Donteneoux’s Dragon) and got reoriented to the story. I need to go back and add a few things in before I write forward – things in my notes that didn’t make it to the draft, but I like them well enough to want to add them in now before I go too much farther. I also planned out the eight short stories I want to write this year in general terms, and I’m hoping to start one of those next weekend, since the 18th is a holiday/day off work for me (Martin Luther King Jr. Day).

I have been doing really well with the reading, and I finished The Kracken Project by Douglas Preston last week. Fun thriller that asks the question, “What happens when AI becomes sentient, and then gets loose?” I enjoyed it a lot, though I’m not sure I agree completely with how it ended. It was certainly intriguing, though!

I’m just starting The Sixth Extinction by James Rollins, which I dare say will be incredibly good (his always are). And next weekend, I fully intend to binge-read either the latest by Tawna Fenske, or another one of Jill Shalvis’s rom-coms. Next Sunday is my birthday, so it’ll be a – dare I say well-deserved? – treat to just sit and read for the better part of a day.

I wish you a better week than the one I’m about to have…

2016: The Year of Threes

I have a lot of things I want to accomplish and improve on in the next year. And when I first wrote out my list of resolutions, it was pretty long. I looked at it, and decided to distill everything down into three sections (personal, writing, and work), with just three goals each for the year. Anything I accomplish or change outside of that is just gravy, so to speak. And I have, in fact, already made some changes not on my lists that mean (among other things), that I had more time on Sunday to get this blog post written and scheduled.

I’ve also started changing my attitude towards certain aspects of my life – it’s a process, but since I’ve started that shift (with my vacation in mid-December), my head has been a lot more clear, and life in general has felt much less overwhelming. My main goal for 2016 is to keep it that way as much as possible.

Leaving out the work list (because it just doesn’t need to be public), here are my personal and writing resolutions for this year:

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

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

Last year, I was so focused on meeting my writing obligations that when I was on vacation and tried to remember the last time I’d picked up a book, I couldn’t. Reading is my escape, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. It’s one of the few things that pulls me out of my own head, makes me stop thinking about my own life, and forces me to live in the mind and life of someone else for a little while. And I underestimated the importance of that to my mental well-being. Ever since my vacation, I’ve made a point to drop everything – even writing – by midnight and go to bed so I can read for half an hour before sleeping (the only time I’m guaranteed to get). And my mental state has improved significantly just by making that one little change.

One other thing I found I was doing was making hobbies into “mini-jobs”. Whether it was crochet/knitting, or comic books, or stamp collecting, I was getting to where I felt guilty for not making/finding time for them, but also guilty if I *did* indulge because I should be doing other things – stuff for the writing business, or writing, or housework, or whatever. So I felt like I “should” work on them, but always felt bad when I actually did. Not healthy.

This year, I’m going to engage in my hobbies guilt-free. It’s healthy to explore a variety of interests, and I don’t want to stifle that just because I feel guilty that something else has to wait. My hobbies will all have a weekly spot on my schedule where I can work on them if I want (or not, if I don’t feel like it that day). No obligation, and no guilt.

I should note that for priority purposes, my writing is going to “major hobby” status in my brain this year, rather than “second business”. I’m done feeling guilty for working on other things because I “should” be writing (or working on something regarding writing/publishing). My writing doesn’t have to pay the bills, and since I like my job, there’s no reason to saddle my writing with the responsibility of making money. It’s fun, and that’s why I want to do it. It’s okay to write as a hobby. It took me awhile to be okay with that attitude.

Writing does help to keep me mentally healthy though – I get a bit angsty/anxious when I don’t write. So writing is a higher priority hobby, and has a set spot in my schedule Monday through Friday. But business is not fun for me, it’s work, and worse, work I don’t want to do. Writing is great fun. I have no need to make writing pay, therefore I’m going to pay far more attention to what’s “fun” than what’s not.

My writing goals are there more to give myself limitations, rather than give myself deadlines. I love writing so much and have so many ideas that I tend to tackle way, way too many projects all at once, which is part of why I was in such a pickle with it last year. It ceased to be fun, and became just another obligation. My three resolutions are there to rein myself in, so I keep it fun, rather than trying to do too much.

As far as engaging in more analog/tactile activities – it all started with a pack of Harley Quinn cards my husband gave me last month. I decided to play a game of solitaire with them – and found it the most relaxing few minutes I’d spent in a long while. Played a game of solitaire on the computer to compare…and it wasn’t nearly as relaxing. Even though I have a touch screen, there’s still something about being physically engaged with an activity – turning over cards or puzzle pieces, turning pages, writing by hand – that is …well, just so much different than interacting with a computer for the same tasks.

While I have zero intentions of giving up my computers/gadgets/ebooks/computer-based job, I did notice a definite mental downshift when playing solitaire with an actual deck of cards on my ottoman, or working on a jigsaw puzzle laid out on our dining room table. There’s something about the tactile experience that forces me to focus, to engage more with the task, and to let go of all the other things swirling about in my head. Crochet/knitting are similar, along with my stamp collecting hobby, or reading print books/comic books.

More tactile activities seem to keep me out of that overclocked-overstimulated frame of mind that is so deadly to my daily outlook and attitude. So I plan to make a point of setting the screen aside more in the evenings/on weekends, and doing more analog/tactile tasks, even if I’m just “playing”. Good for the brain. Also, good for dexterity. Win-win!

There will be challenges this year, and things I don’t want to deal with, but I think sticking to these few basic “ground rules” will keep me on a mostly even keel no matter what I have to deal with. And that should provide a good basis for the other changes I want to make as I work my way through another calendar (and planner).

2015 in Review

Normally today’s post is when I’d go back to my 2015 resolutions and see how I did (okay, normally I’d have done that Monday, but last weekend got away from me yet again – funny how they do that). I’m posting the link there so you can go back if you want, but the year got derailed almost as quickly as it started, and just spiraled right out of control from then on out. I had challenges in pretty much every part of my life, and I’m annoyed but not too proud to admit that I didn’t deal with them nearly as well as I should have. In any case, I’m not going to go back point by point on last year’s resolutions, because it seems…pointless, given the year I’ve had.

But, water under the bridge. I learned a lot, made some pretty significant changes, and kept going, which is ultimately all any of us can really do.

I also started three serial novels in newsletters that are not, and will not be finished. To those who may have actually been reading along, I apologize for that. It was a great idea, poorly timed, that got caught up in an existential writing crisis of sorts, and while I could go ahead and force myself to finish those stories, I’m not going to. In fact, I’m leaving behind serialization altogether in the new year, as well as several other writing projects that I was working on for the wrong reasons.

As a matter of fact, I don’t plan to publish any of the stories I wrote in 2015. They weren’t wasted, by any means – in fact, all three are very significant in the fact that each of them revealed something very important to me about myself as a writer and the direction I want to move in as far as storytelling goes. Some hard decisions came with those realizations, but I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

I kicked off last year with a new tattoo – my first in 13 yrs or so. You wouldn’t think you could learn much from getting an image inked into your skin, but I got two more tattoos as the year went on, and I actually did learn a lot about myself, and who I have been vs. who I want to be in the process. The last one especially was very…defining for me, and even a relief, in a way.

My job has changed over the past year too – “evolved”, if you will. I make a point not to talk much about specifics of my job or the people I work with online (for obvious reasons), but as difficult as it was there for awhile, I end the year very contented/satisfied with what I’m doing and the environment I’m in.

In my personal life, I did a lot of things wrong last year. But the biggest “sin” was putting my obligations (most often self-appointed) above my personal needs. I spent a lot of time resenting all sorts of different things, and way too much time trying to decide how to deal with it all rather than just…well, dealing with it all. It took a week-long “vacation” just this past month to get my head screwed back on straight, and as annoyingly enlightening as it was, it really clarified things for me and allowed me the “reset” I desperately needed. Hopefully I can carry those lessons through the next year and not let things get so mentally “out of hand” again.

Surprisingly, the key to prioritizing/managing my personal life has simplified itself through the menu “plan/system” I adopted this past fall (the only one I’ve ever managed to follow for more than a week or so). Odd how inspiration comes from the strangest of places, isn’t it?

In any case, the year is basically over, and I’m ready for the new one to start. Onward to 2016!

On Rest & Enlightenment

As you read this, I’ll probably be back at my desk at work, and happy enough to be there. My vacation week wasn’t all that productive, but it was both restful and enlightening. I had a lot of time to think, and I needed that, though I wouldn’t say it was always the most comfortable head space to be in. Navel-gazing with a purpose is often uncomfortable, especially when the whole point is finding “points” at which to change things in one’s life.

I’ve made some decisions as far as my priorities go, which I’m not entirely happy about, but they’re compromises I can live with, at least for now. Things like buying bread instead of making it myself, and only making dog food for one dog, rather than both of them. Certain hobbies will be relegated to weekends only – things like comic books (which should be read the same weekend I pick them up – and my pull list is small enough to do that and I pretty well caught up with my backlog last week) and stamp collecting and polymer clay, which I’d like to do more with in the new year.

Top “hobby priority” is my writing, which will still be late at night, just not as late. I need to make a point of being back in my office no later than 11pm, and focused on writing by 11:15pm, which gives me half an hour to write before I need to be getting the dogs settled and myself shut down for the night. I can write 800 words or so in 30 minutes when I’m focused, so that with extra time on the weekends should be sufficient for the three novels I want to write next year (yes, only three).

Bedtime, as of this week, is midnight. Not for sleeping, but for 30 minutes of reading before sleep. I’ve been neglecting reading for a long time now, and as it turns out, it’s important to my mental health. Don’t ask me how that works, it just…does. Kind of like how I get crabby if I don’t get any writing time in.

Crochet/knitting are also weeknight hobbies…I can do those while I’m watching TV. And I need to be downstairs by 9pm for a workout too. Mental and physical health, thank you very much.

I’m also going to do my best to take 15 minutes four mornings a week for journaling (one morning a week I have to be at work early for a meeting – I don’t do anything aside from get myself up and out the door on those mornings). I think it will both help me wake up, and help me keep the brain “clear” of clingy thoughts/stress. Sort of a cleaning/cleansing exercise, so to speak. Right after yoga and before my shower will be the perfect time for this, methinks. I may wait to start this for a couple of weeks – but it will make a nice resolution for the new year. More on that later…

There are a few other smaller habits/routines I’ll be cleaning up, and my wardrobe definitely needs a makeover with the new tattoo (well, it needed one anyways – but now it’ll happen sooner rather than later). I love the new ink, and I’m not too worried about displaying when it’s just my co-workers, but I do want to have long sleeves most of the time so I can keep it from being distracting around people I don’t see often, the public during work hours, or during meetings. Seems like the more professional thing to do.

I have a few routines to clean up with regard to my workday as well – simple things like making sure I take daily breaks, and have a certain structure to my “normal” days (ie, days when things aren’t crazy or weird for whatever reason).

None of these are particularly big changes, they mostly just require discipline. Nothing will radically change the structure of my day, which makes it more likely I’ll adhere to them. I just need to…well, do it. Them. You know what I mean.

Next vacation, I’m headed out of town to visit an art exhibit I want to see in our old state prison. I’m fairly certain that will be a far less “in my own head” break…but I’m really looking forward to it.

For now, back to reality…


Hittin’ the Reset Button

It’s been awhile since I took a vacation from work – over a year, as a matter of fact. I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been a seriously crazy year both personally and professionally, and I’m taking the whole week off just to regroup and get my head back on straight. Or as straight as it ever is, anyway. Murphy’s Law being what it is, there are a zillion things I could allow myself to be dragged into and distracted by, but I’m holding firm, and declining any obligations or invitations other than what I truly *want* to do. Honestly, I may not leave the house Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday at all.

Wednesday afternoon I’m giving myself a Christmas gift – a new tattoo. It will be on my left forearm, which means my week is naturally sort of dividing itself into “things I want to do before my arm is swollen and sore” and “things I can do without using my left arm much”.

Needless to say, the first half of my week will include a bunch of crocheting I’d like to get done (and some movies, while I’m at it). The second half will include reading my way through my comic book backlog, finishing off a novel and starting another one. I have some writing and editing I’ll work on the first half of the week as well. Maybe even the second half, if the swelling isn’t too bad.

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a lot of different interests, many of which I really want to pursue “right this second”. I used to be able to get away with spreading myself pretty thin, but things change, “life” changes, and priorities have to change along with everything else. It’s just the way things go. I’ve been doing a *great* job of stressing myself out with all the things I want to do, vs. the things I need to do, vs. the things I feel like I need to do for health or other “noble-sounding” reasons.

The stressing out needs to stop, and the only real way to make that happen is to decide what’s most important to me, set the rest aside (even if it’s just for now), and make sure that what I keep doesn’t exceed the time and mental energy I have available. Easier said than done, in some cases, but I’ve already made some progress on that this weekend, so I’m optimistic.

I also need to get back to regular daily workouts. I’ve done well with keeping up the morning yoga, but my nightly workouts (and daily stair-climbs) have been completely tossed aside. And I wonder why the stress is getting to me…

Now, for my first stress-free, Monday vacation act, I shall sleep in (it’s around 1am as I type). And it will be glorious.


Serial Story: Live With Me, Part 33 (Final)

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 33

Three weeks later, Candace hurried home after work, dropped her purse and keys on the kitchen counter, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and kicked off her heels on her way past the dining room table. Dropping onto the couch, she pointed the remote control at the TV and stabbed the power button, propping her still-nylon-bound feet up on the coffee table.

“Come on, come on,” she muttered under her breath while the screen slowly came alive with a bird’s eye view of a busy stadium. The scoreboard still read nothing to nothing, and Candace relaxed back into soft cushions, tipping her bottle up for a drink.

It had become a ritual of sorts, the mad dash to get in the door before Emmett’s game started. He’d played several times since that night he’d left, and his knee seemed strong and steady. He made points – a lot of them – and she had no doubt that without his contributions, the team wouldn’t be doing as well as it had been. He always looked so happy and focused when the camera zoomed in. It was obvious to anyone he was doing exactly what he was meant to.

Watching him was bittersweet, a sort of mental torture. More than anything, she wanted him to be happy and strong and doing what he loved.

More than almost anything, she wanted him by her side on the couch, chastising her for staying at work so late and not bothering with anything more than beer and snack foods for dinner for the past…well, several weeks.

Food was overrated anyways. She took another swig of her beer as the camera panned the players waiting on the sideline. She didn’t see Emmett, but he was probably out on the court warming up. As if they’d heard her, the cameras panned up and out, giving her a sideline view of the court and more players, but he wasn’t there either. Candace took another drink and then leaned forward, nearly squinting at the TV.
“Where are you, Emmett?” she murmured.

“Right where I need to be.”

Candace jumped up and gasped, only dimly aware of her drink as it flew off the table and cold liquid soaked through her nylons. She swiveled to see the man himself standing just inside the front door, duffel bag in hand and a wide grin on his face.

“What are you doing here?” She pointed at the TV. “What about the game?”

He laughed and toed his shoes off, padding over to where she stood and leaning in to place a long, hot, slow kiss on her lips. She was pretty sure that if he hadn’t grabbed her arms, she would have melted into the puddle of beer at her feet.

“The game will go on without me,” he said when he finally pulled back, one arm still wrapped around her waist. “I missed you.” He kissed her again. “I needed to see you.” Another kiss. “Touch you.” Another, longer kiss that about made Candy’s head spin. “I love you.”

Candace pulled back then, one hand in his chest as she gave him a sideways look. “I don’t know if we’re quite there just yet…are we?”

Emmett pulled her closer and kissed her neck, his breath deliciously hot on her skin.

“You don’t have to be there, but I am. I love you, and you’re going to hear it a lot, so you might as well get used to it.”

Candace thought about that for a minute – or tried to. He was kissing the other side of her neck and she was having trouble concentrating.

“Okay,” she said finally, tilting her head to the side just a bit more. “I can live with that.”

He growled playfully, his fingers dancing lightly over her ribs as she squealed.

“I bet you’ll say it back before the night is over.”

She laughed as he swung her up into his arms and started walking toward the bedroom.

“I’m not taking that bet.”

**The End**

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Over-Stimulation & The Need for Silence

No post last week – if you noticed and missed it, my apologies. If not, well, it doesn’t matter now, does it? But it is relevant to this week’s post that last week’s never materialized.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve needed to be quite a bit more social than normal due to some changes at work. These are good changes, not bad, and the “more social than normal” thing is temporary (it was waning by last Friday, thank goodness) and was necessary. I knew this logically before it even happened (and I was aware it was going to happen). So I’m not complaining, but the fact is, I just don’t deal well with stuff like that…it’s a bug, not a feature.

Quick super-basic reference going forward, keeping in mind that these are sliding scales, and many (most?) people are somewhere in the middle:

Introvert: Someone who gets energy/recharges by being alone (I am on the extreme end of this scale/continuum, and always have been)
Extrovert: Someone who gets energy/recharges by being around others

I think a lot of us, whether we’re introverts or not, tend to discount just how much “down time” an introvert (like myself) needs to recharge. And by “downtime”, I don’t mean time not doing anything, I mean time to be alone in my head without anyone else there too (so devoid of outside stimulation like conversation, TV/radio noise, etc). I can very easily recharge while working on a project at work, so long as I’m working on it by myself with little or no input from others. At home, I can sort of recharge with the TV on, but not well…I really kind of need a few hours of quiet to myself, but I can be writing or blogging or cooking or whatever – I don’t need to be in some sort of meditative state, I just need time to think and process and not constantly be filtering outside stimulation.

It all sounds very narcissistic, I know, but it’s how my brain works, and when I don’t get that quiet time to recharge, I get crabby, and angsty, and even more socially awkward than I already am (which is not pretty, and can lead to some pretty big misunderstandings simply due to my lack of thought before speaking/typing/whatever…and that’s embarrassing, at best). I second-guess nearly everything I do and every interaction I have, and worry piles up in my head because I have no way to process even normal, daily occurrences if I don’t have that quiet time to myself to think.

Needless to say, between work and home and family obligations for the past couple of weeks…it’s been rough. I’ve been crabby, and anxious, and awkward, and constantly second-guessing myself, and unable to make decisions, unable to keep track of all the things that would normally just be a matter of course, and barely able to get my writing time in. One of the serials I just couldn’t even deal with – it was emotionally draining to write on a good day, and with everything else demanding every ounce of energy I had just to “act” somewhat normal from day to day, I just…couldn’t this week, so I ended the story on a not-so-satisfying note, and that was that.

And that’s why there was no blog post last week. It was all I could do just to maintain my normal daily life in the face of too much chatter and general “noise” all around me, with not enough silence to allow me recovery or processing time. The blog post and several other things just had to be let go, because I could not deal with “just one more thing”. Which is frustrating, but it is what it is, and I didn’t handle it as well as I could/should have.

I love being around the people I like, and I love a good conversation just as much as the next person, and I love TV and movies and music and all sorts of things that involve being with/ around people or stimulating the mind.

But I *need* silence. I crave it, but more than that, I can’t actually function for long without it. Which wouldn’t be such an Achilles heel for me if I could just learn to do one little thing:

When I need quiet, I need to ask for it. Or just take it.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? But like many women, I’m good at taking care of others and making sure their needs are met. Not so good at making sure I get what I need, especially if it means someone else won’t get what they need (not right away, in any case).

But considering I can’t function well without that quiet time, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I get it. And I need to keep that in mind when I find myself getting overwhelmed and anxious – that I will be more useful after a short break alone than I’d be without one, and that if I need to take a couple hours to myself at home to recover from a busy day at work, I shouldn’t be shy about just saying that. I just need to do it.

As I said, the work situation is leveling out, and things will be back to normal soon. I’ve got the prospect of a week off in the near future to look forward to as well – a really big reboot, so to speak.

I’m really going to try harder to make sure I get the quiet time I need on a daily basis from here on out. There will always be days where it’s just too chaotic and there’s no way to break free, but it’s rare that I can’t snag some time *somewhere* to rest and recharge.

Taking care of ourselves. Novel concept, isn’t it?

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