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A Story of Adaptation


As I mentioned in my resolutions post, I’m focusing on short and micro-fiction so far this year. I’m also working on creating a daily writing habit, so 50 words per (week)day is my minimum. I’m quite enjoying it even though most of the daily words aren’t going anywhere, and others need to be fleshed out into longer short stories.

But I have written a few things that I really like as micro-stories, and those, I’m turning into exclusive bookmarks and cards for my new online shop. I wouldn’t sell them as just a single tiny story, of course, but packaged into a handy bookmark (I love the prototype I’ve been using) or a card to give to someone else? That seems like the perfect use for these bite-sized bits of fiction.

As a bonus, it allows me to explore my love of paper crafts and it’s starting to make me more excited about sharing my stories with the world again.

To start this endeavor, I used a little story I call “How it Ends/How it Ended” to create a batch of simple bookmarks with a cover, two pages, and a back cover bound by a grommet at the top that allows the pages to swing out for reading. It took a bit of finagling to get things formatted and positioned correctly, but I’m really quite pleased with how they turned out in the end, and I’ll be making more bookmarks with different micro-stories throughout the year.

While I was making those, I had an idea for a card to go with the story. I think we’ve all been in a position at one time or another of seeing or running into a person within our normal sphere of life that we never quite talk to or chat with, but it feels like we know…or should know them.

Well, “How it Ends” is one of those “missed connections” stories. So I’m creating cards that read “I Think We Should Meet” on the front, and then when you open the card, you’ll read that little story, and then under the story on the right side of the card, it simply says, “Hi”. A little gift to tell someone that they’re someone you’d like to know – or at least like to talk to once in your life.

I love this on several levels…it’s self-publishing at the smallest denominator, it allows me to create both a story and a physical, hand-crafted object, and it’s something I think some people might actually find both entertaining and useful. I’ll be playing with different types of bindings and formats over time, which will be a lot of fun.

It’s allowing me to write, finish, and publish on a micro-level, using the smaller bits of time and mental energy I have available after the intensity of the day job.

Adapt and change – that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? With my current day job, I simply don’t have the mental capacity to write and publish larger works on a regular basis (though I am still working on them when I do have more energy). By changing how I work and what I’m working on, I’m enabling myself to still do what I love, on a different scale, and when my circumstances change again (eventually I’ll be able to retire), I can change up my focus and processes again.

An important life-lesson for me to remember, as I tend to think that if I can’t do exactly what I want, how I want to do it, then I should just not do that thing.

I need to be more flexible, and this is a great step in the right direction, methinks.

Have you adapted a process in order to continue doing something when your circumstances changed, just in a different way? Share your story (here, on social media, or if you’re reading via email, feel free to hit “reply”)! I’d love to hear it!

Oh! And while we’re on the subject of change – the Brazen Snake Books site has a completely new look! I’m working on incorporating a store there, so there are several links that don’t work simply because I haven’t built the store out yet. But it’s coming! Check it out if you’d like, and let me know what you think (or if you run into anything that doesn’t seem to work).

That’s it for this week! If you have a favorite thing to share, or want to recommend a book, TV show, video or podcast, comment below, email me at jamie@jamiedebree.com, or catch up with me on Facebook or Instagram.


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All the Things…Except NaNo


Creativity Calling
It’s that time of year again, when the big Thanksgiving family gathering is just a few short days away (one, by the time this posts), and the gift-giving-est time of year looms larger. Needless to say, I have been doing everything *but* writing lately, and I’m actually okay with that. If I were focusing hard on writing 1600 words a day, I wouldn’t have gotten my dad’s birthday gift done on time (I nearly didn’t anyways), and I wouldn’t be anywhere near ready to put my advent calendars together (which I’ll have done by the time you read this) so they can be distributed and to their rightful recipients before December 1st.

I wanted to make things to include in the calendars this year (instead of buying all of it), and that takes time. So I spent the time, and enjoyed it a lot, and I’m really not sorry I prioritized that. I honestly think that being creative in these other ways is helping me want to get back to the writing. And making things always makes me feel a connection with generations past, which is the mindset I need to be in to write the story I’m currently writing.

There’s a lot going on in general, but also a lot shifting in my head at the moment, and I think it’s a good shift (at the tail end of several not good shifts). I’m not sure where everything will end up, but considering I’m not dealing with constant pain and anxiety any longer, it seems like it’s flowing into a more productive and creative state of mind.


Writing News
I’ve actually written less this month than I did last month, and now I’ve completely lost the nightly writing habit, too. Needless to say, I’m not going to win…or even finish NaNo this year, and I’m fairly certain this will be the last year I attempt it. I love the idea and the philosophy, it was a great help to me for several years, and I think it’s a fantastic way to get that first novel finished. But, it’s not for me anymore


Even though I’m bowing out of NaNo, I’m not abandoning the story I started. It comes first in the series I’m already working on, and I think writing it first is still how I want to tackle the whole thing. Madeline is the family matriarch, and her story is at the heart of all those that will come after. So I’m going to keep working on her story a little at a time, and move into the rest of the series from there.

But first…it’s almost time to send out Christmas cards, and I always send out a flash story with my cards. I have this year’s story written, but I need to edit and polish it up a bit, so that’s what I’ll be working on for the next week or two.


Recommendation(s)
Whether you’re in the US celebrating Thanksgiving or somewhere else just celebrating a normal Thursday, I found this recipe while looking for traditional sweet potato casserole recipes, and I’m going to try it, with the small change of using both strudel and marshmallows on top, in stripes (my MIL will really want the marshmallows). I’ll let you know how it turns out, but I suspect it’s going to be incredibly good!

The recipe is by Jenn Segal. Check it out here: https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/sweet-potato-casserole.html

That’s it for this week! If you have a favorite thing to share, or want to recommend a book, TV show, video or podcast, comment below, email me at jamie@jamiedebree.com, or catch up with me on Facebook or Instagram.


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Filling the Creative Well


Creativity Begets Creativity
Have you ever felt like you have to justify a purchase, even just to yourself?


If you’ve ever wondered if Facebook ads are effective, I can tell you right now – they certainly can be. Not because I run FB ads (at the moment), but because I can’t even count how many times I’ve bought something based on a good FB ad. Books, clothes, tools, plants, and most recently, craft items.  I didn’t need *any* of this, but there’s very little I regret.


I will say though…the crafting items I bought recently? I really, really didn’t need them, don’t have a place to store them, and don’t currently have time to do anything at all with them. I just really, really love pretty papers and stickers and all manner of scrapbooking/journaling items (even though it’s been ages since I made a scrapbook, wrote in a journal, or even printed out a picture).


While my husband is kind enough not to say anything when these things are delivered, I still felt the need to justify my completely frivolous purchase to myself, because I really could/should have used that money for more pragmatic and responsible things. So, I decided I would have to *make* time to use at least some of the items, and preferably a fairly large chunk of it. I thought about what might be the best use of my time, since it will have to be a day off work, and I just started looking for papercraft ideas online.


That’s when I came across art and junk journaling (you know, when I was looking up card-making ideas). A lot of the layouts are far, far too busy for my taste, but I still looked through pages and pages (and pages) of them, noting techniques, cool new tools that weren’t available the last time I made cards, and pretty soon my brain was just swirling with ideas. I even found myself wanting to journal again, and trying to come up with ways I can work that into my schedule along with creating journals and things for other people.


And that’s the interesting part. For awhile now, I’ve been thinking that I needed to rest my mind because I use it a lot for problem solving at work, and I often feel completely drained mentally when I get home. I thought the “cure” for that was to rest and just “take in” entertainment, where my mind wasn’t having to work so hard.


But looking up all those ideas for crafts, and then deciding what I wanted to try, what might work for me, what I might be able to do with limited time, and just thinking about all the creative possibilities…that actually energized me, and made me feel more like crafting and being creative overall!


Apparently the cure for “day job brain” isn’t “resting”, but rather gleaning ideas for creative endeavors. Who knew?


In any case, I now have plans (and a plan for making time as well) for plenty of fun gift crafts that will use up a pretty big chunk of the supplies I bought, and keep me creating into the future as well. I was so inspired that I got out the needle felting stuff while watching TV last week, and started making small items for the advent calendars I do every year. I’ve now scheduled set nights for needle felting and crochet projects, and I have several days set aside for paper crafting in the near future.


his has helped my writing too, because when I’m focused on creating things at night (or even just finding ways to be inspired), when I get to my writing desk, my mind is in “creative mode” and it’s easy to just start writing.


I feel like this is kind of a game-changer, honestly. I love making things, and I’ve wanted to do more crafting, but felt trapped by the fact that my job is often very demanding mentally. It never occurred to me that I just needed to switch gears to something oriented more toward being creative than constant problem-solving to get a second wind. I like it. It’s working for now, at least. Hopefully it keeps working long enough for me to get some gifts finished!


Writing News

I wrote a story last week. A whole flash piece, start to finish, that will go with my Christmas cards this year (I always send a story with my cards). It needs editing and some revision, but overall, I’m happy with it, and even happier that I actually started and finished a writing project – something I haven’t done in what feels like *ages*.


Even better, my new writing setup is working perfectly – I go back to my office, I don’t even open my laptop, I just open the Freewrite and off I go. My writing output has increased in five days from 150 words per night up to nearly 300 words in the same time frame. Things are going really well, and I feel good about that.


This week, it’s back to working on a short story for my alter-ego. I’m holding off on MS for a bit, since I’m trying to work out something with the plot, and also, I’m going to be doing NaNoWriMo this year with a backstory story to MS that will undoubtedly help with the main plot. So…short story. Maybe I can even finish it in time for Halloween, which would be great fun!


Recommendation

I really enjoyed watching this Easy Envelope Journal Tutorial on YouTube. What a great idea, and a great way to repurpose old envelopes too (she uses new, but considering they’re all covered up, I bet used would work just fine)!

 

That’s it for this week! If you have a favorite thing to share, or want to recommend a book, TV show, video or podcast, comment below, email me at jamie@jamiedebree.com, or catch up with me on Facebook or Instagram.


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Back to Variety

On My Mind
‘Tis the season of change, again. Seems like we’ve had a lot of those in the past year or so. Just when we get comfortable with whatever changed, everything changes again. I don’t do well with such things – I’m programmed for routines, but I like to think I’m keeping up as well as I can. Still, all things considered, I’m ready for some routine sameness for awhile. A long while, preferably.

In the spirit of constant change though, I’m trying a new format for the blog again. Will it stay? Will it change? We shall see! Either way, thanks again for reading. I’m trying to get back to my “variety pages” roots.

Make It
I haven’t really made anything lately, because…big puppy = crafting stuff all put away. But the general temperature of the office I work in for the day job has been pretty frosty lately, and has me wanting some warm fingerless gloves for typing. I may well dig out some yarn and a crochet hook this week, considering the dogs are now crated during the day, and it’s safe to figure out where I hid all of that.

Eat It
I have rhubarb and peaches in my fridge this week. I’m thinking about boiling the rhubarb with sugar water (cranberry-style), and then adding some sliced peaches right at the end. Seems like that would be good either on top of or underneath a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Play It
Pokemon Go community day was this last week, and Gible was the Monster of the Hour(s)! I played for only a couple of hours (things to do on a Sunday, dang it), but got two shiny Gibles, one of which I traded to my hubby for another shiny Gible. We were lucky friends, so that gave us each a shiny lucky Gible with pretty darn good IVs. It was a good day.

I haven’t been playing much Animal Crossing lately. I fired it up once last week, but that was it. Might try just once a week for that. I love it, it’s relaxing, but…I have other things I want to do in the evenings too. So we’ll see.

Bling & Things
Forgive me wallet, for I have ordered more hair things. Specifically, flexi’s from Lillarose, and barrettes from Amazon. I can finally pull my hair back (it requires pins and a lot of hair spray, but I can, and that’s the important part), so I’ve been celebrating/keeping myself motivated to let it grow and wait to cut the color out. Buying bling, especially things that will look really nice with the new silver hair color, is a good/fun way to do that, if somewhat more expensive than it would be to just keep it cut/dyed. Pics when I get them!

My nail polish this week is named Daredevil. I’ll eventually get pics up, but it’s a very pretty green holo polish that is definitely making me feel more “daring”.

Post Round-up
If you deduced from this heading that I’m going to try keeping up with multiple blogs again, you’d be right. I don’t have that new content up just yet, so no links this week, but that’s the plan. Stay tuned!


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Self-Sufficiency in a Loom

Last weekend, I went to a Fiber Festival here in town (the first one I’ve ever heard of). No, it didn’t feature prunes, beans and high-fiber foods…we’re talking textile fibers. Alpaca, yak, sheep and various blends of wool, plus silk, bamboo and other fibers that people who work with yarn like to turn into clothes, blankets, bags and other fun stuff.

In any case, there was an overwhelming amount of beautiful handspun and dyed fiber there (and raw fiber too, for those who spin), and I brought home several skeins of wool and one of cotton, and left a silk and bamboo blend one there that I really wish I’d picked up too. But it was expensive, so probably just as well I didn’t nab it. *sigh*

Anyways, at one of the booths where I bought some wonderfully thick and soft black handspun, the woman had a small “lap” weaving loom for sale. I thought about it, and thought about it some more, and ultimately decided not to buy it. And then I kicked myself for leaving it there the whole rest of the weekend. I even mentioned to my spinning/knitting friend at work that I couldn’t stop thinking about this loom, and how much fun it might be for the thinner lace-weight yarns I have but don’t want to knit or crochet with (I prefer thicker yarns – the small hooks/needles hurt my fingers).

As it turned out, my friend knew the woman selling the loom, and contacted her to see if it was still available. It was, and long story short, I sent a check, and the loom was delivered to my house this past Saturday. An hour, maybe 90 minutes later, I’d learned a whole bunch of terms I didn’t know before, and had woven my first inch or so of fabric from some recycled silk yarn I had in the closet.

My first weaving project - some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

My first weaving project – some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

I was actually kind of surprised, to be honest. The method described in the instructions made the motions far less tedious than I thought they might be, and I found the whole experience very relaxing. I spent another hour weaving another couple of inches yesterday, and again, found it a very calm and restful activity. It does take a lot of time, especially with the thin yarn I’m using, but it’s relatively mindless, and will result in a gorgeous piece of fabric.

While I ran the threads back and forth, I thought about why I was so drawn to get the loom and learn to weave. Or why I’m interested in any of the fiber arts I take part in – crochet and knitting, mainly. I mean, I do them because I enjoy the work, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only do I feel a sense of connection to the past when I do these types of crafts with my hands, but it also gives me a feeling of self-sufficiency.

I’ve always been a very independent person (too independent, says my mom), and I’ve also always been interested in homesteader-type activities. Crochet was one of the first hobbies I learned as a child, and it feels good to know that I can make both warm and useful things with just some yarn (or whatever) and a hook. I started knitting just because I think knit stitches are better for clothing (tighter), and weaving will broaden what I can make even more, in terms of household items and possibly even blankets and scarves.

Making things with my hands using simple tools gives me a sense of connection to the past that very few other things do. These crafts have been passed down for generations on to the next, and there’s just something that feels very important about keeping the hand-made version of them going as people cycle in and out of life. Not just because there’s value in knowing how to take care of ourselves without the technology of mass-production, but also because of that feeling of self-sufficiency that comes with knowing how to take raw materials and turn it into something useful and practical (as well as beautiful, in many cases). The more self-sufficient I feel, the more confidence I have, and that applies to all areas of my life, not just my homesteader-style hobbies.

Which is justification enough to learn how to spin my own yarn one of these days too, right? Although we may need a bigger house…

But I draw the line at raising sheep outside an actual apocalyptic-type situation. I helped a friend with 4-H sheep in high school. They’re cute, but stupid. I’m not a fan.

Alpacas have personality, though…

Vacation Report

This whole “not planning” thing is crazy hard for me. Even now, I have my planner beside me on the arm of my couch like a security blanket, just in case I decide I can’t stand it anymore and must make priorities, a list and a schedule for the day before I can possibly go on. I have to wonder if I’m doing myself any favors by fighting it so hard, or if it might be better to just give in and schedule my afternoon so I can stop worrying about *not* having a schedule/getting things done…

It may happen yet. I’m not really relaxing if I’m stressed over trying not to be stressed. How ironic is *that*, anyways?

So far, I’ve done a pretty good job of taking it easy though. I visited with the guy who does my tattoos on Friday, and set up an appointment for Aug. 6th to get another couple of pieces done on my left forearm. The first forearm tattoo was a pretty big step – kind of a commitment to having visible tattoos – to being a “tattooed person”, rather than a person who has a few small tattoos in easily hidable places. I mean, I can still keep my arm covered, of course, but I tend to push sleeves up constantly – I’m not fond of fabric pulling around my wrists for any length of time – so the forearm tattoo was a pretty big step for me. I love it, and every time I look at it, I feel like it’s *supposed* to be there. Like that’s who I really am, and what I want my skin to look like.

The rattlesnake on my forearm.

        The rattlesnake on my forearm.

I realize that sounds crazy to a non-tattooed person, but that’s okay. I would never, ever try to convince anyone to get a tattoo…and no tattooed person I know would ever do that either. It’s very much a “make a wise decision for yourself” sort of community, because it is a permanent body modification, and no one should do that unless they’re absolutely certain it’s what they want. For me, tattoos are definitely part of who I am, and there are many more in my future.

I also finished a knitting project yesterday – a pair of fingerless gloves I’ve been working on for several weeks. I’ve been struggling with thumb gussets because though I’m right-handed, I knit left-handed (it just was more comfortable for me to learn that way – flexibility is a good thing), so I had problems translating that part of the pattern from right to left-handed techniques. And I can’t even tell you how proud of myself I am for having figured that out on the second glove. The gusset looks and fits much better, and it seriously took me a lot of youtube video help and reworking make 1 stitches to finally get it right. The harder something is to master, the more pleasure we get when we manage, right? It’s certainly true in this case, and while it was incredibly frustrating, I’m glad I stuck with it.

Just gotta clean up the ends on the last one!

                                  Just gotta clean up the ends on the last one!

I also started reading a new light mystery series this weekend themed around a tattoo shop. Tattoos on the brain, I tell ya. They’re quite addictive, and when you’re ready for that next “hit”, they’re on the mind a lot. I’m not sure whether I’ll finish this series or not (it’s four books), because it’s written in first-person, and I typically have trouble getting into stories from that perspective. But I’m working on writing a short story that’s first-person at the moment too, so who knows? Maybe that particular preference is changing for me. It would certainly expand both my reading and writing potential if it did…

The short story I’m working on is for a celebration of Frankenstein’s 200th birthday – a bicentennial “dare”. Kind of a fun little project that I need to finish by the end of the week, if I want to enter the contest. It’ll be under my alter-ego Alex’s name – this sort of thing is right up her alley.

I also registered a new domain name this weekend – spent an absurd amount of money for it, but it will be the home of my dog’s new blog & site, once I get it built. That’s on my mental list of things to do before Friday, and a fun project, methinks. More on that at the end of the week…

Now, I really need to get off my butt for awhile – I’ve been sitting too long already today. I need a yoga session, and then some housecleaning, methinks, before I sit down at the computer again.

Maybe I’ll just make a quick little list of priorities for the afternoon first…

Gifts, Knitting/Crocheting & Stored “Stuff”…

To all my US peeps, Happy Independence Day – a day late. I have to say, it was quieter this year than most, which was a really nice change. We watched a couple of loud movies that drowned out most of the smattering of neighborhood fireworks throughout the evening, and I gave Mica some of Murphy’s anti-anxiety spray. Between the two, the dogs came through without too much undo stress.

In any case, I’ve been thinking about Christmas(?!) and gifts lately, probably because I’m working on knitting a pair of fingerless gloves (a kit I got in one of my monthly yarn packages) and I got another package of silk sari ribbon yarn a few days ago that reminded me I want to crochet gift bags out of the ribbon yarn I’ve been amassing.

I wish I was a better knitter – I’d love to make sweaters for everyone one year. But I haven’t been knitting long enough to be very good at it yet, so it’s gonna be awhile before the sweater thing happens. I can crochet them, but the texture of crochet isn’t quite as nice for clothing (in my opinion). I just need to knit more…practice makes perfect, so I’ll keep working at it. In the meantime, I have some crochet gifts planned (that I dare not mention just in case) for this year – I just need to get started on them. And I’d really like to make a few more pairs of socks, just to get better at it. Learning different techniques might help too. You never know when you’ll come across one that just “clicks” and makes everything that much easier.

And those gift bags. I have all this lovely sari silk ribbon “yarn” from Darn Good Yarn – a company that sources all their products from women in India who need work/money (so I’m happy enough to support it) – and it will make perfect gift bags if I just grab a large hook and get to work. They won’t even take that long – I just need to get to it.

Another thing that had me thinking about all of this recently is a project I’ve started to clean out our storage unit. It costs $100 a month to rent (a little over, actually), and a good chunk of the stuff in there is mine from when we got married and moved into this house. Nearly 12 years ago. I was using the storage unit as a “temporary” place to keep things while I packed up my old house and sold it, but somehow I never got around to actually bringing the stuff from storage to the new house. So there it’s sat for all this time, along with a bunch of other stuff from when hubby moved in. Which is pretty ridiculous, when you think about it.

For the foreseeable future, I’m bringing one box home from the storage unit per week. It has to be dealt with before Monday morning – so either I have to make room for the “stuff” at our house (preferably by getting rid of other things), or I have to get rid of the stuff in the box. And when I go get a box, I scope out the remaining stuff so I have an idea of what’s coming up soon, and can plan for how to deal with the next things I need to bring home.

Like a big batch of jigsaw puzzles, or…a huge tote or two of yarn that I inherited from my paternal grandmother when she passed away. I want to keep both – the puzzles I’d like to put together, and also the yarn, which is quite lovely and good quality fiber. And most of it was meant for use with a knitting machine (I inherited that as well, but gave it away), so it’s very thin, which makes it much better for knitting than crocheting. Another good reason to get better at knitting.

Also another good reason to get to work on more Christmas gifts and gift bags. All that yarn needs to go somewhere, and it can’t stay there. Which means it needs to come to the house, so I need to clean out my yarn stash to make room.

I was going to punctuate this post with pictures, but it’s late, I didn’t get around to taking them yesterday (or I’d have posted this then) and I need to head for bed about 15 minutes ago so I can get up for my favorite staff meeting tomorrow. So…pics will have to wait for another time. Stay tuned…

Fauna, Flora, & Priorities

I made a decision last week that feels much bigger than it really is. I decided to turn my now-empty goldfish tank into a terrarium rather than restocking with more fish. For many people, this sort of decision is like picking out which photo to hang on a wall – something to put some thought into, but nothing to agonize over. Alas…I am not one of those people.

I love fancy goldfish…and I’ve been keeping them since shortly after I bought my first house (so…15 yrs now?). At one time I had a 45 gallon tank stocked with four beautiful (and huge) goldies. Then I lost one in the move when I got married, and over the years the large tanks gave way to smaller as fish died, and this last one was 29 gallons with just two fancies (still slightly overstocked, so over-filtered to compensate). They’re beautiful fish – I love their tails and coloring and the way they beg for breakfast every morning like little wet dogs.

They’re also part of my little ultra-local eco-system…the water from the aquarium goes to the upkeep of my house and garden plants, for a completely natural fertilizer you can’t get anywhere else. I love houseplants, and I love roses in the garden (no cut flowers, please). Fish-water fertilizer is something all plants love, and it’s been my “secret” to beautiful plants for a long time.

In any case, I felt horrible when I lost these last two, and for awhile I thought I’d turn that tank into a community freshwater tank (because it really isn’t big enough for goldies, and any space I had for larger tanks before has long since been re-purposed). But I don’t really *want* a community tank. And being perfectly honest with myself, I have other things I’d rather prioritize on the weekends than aquarium maintenance at this point in my life.

So yesterday, I drained the tank, left the gravel in the bottom for drainage, bought some potting soil and ordered some charcoal. I also bought myself a new Rex begonia for following through with the “no more goldies” decision – I don’t think my husband thought I would (he reminded me that last time I said I was done with fish, we had two within the next month or so). I have a China Doll plant and a curly-leaf arelea that both want more humidity than my house currently has, so those three will be the main plants in the tank, and I’ll create a park for some of my Smurfs with the rest of the space.

29GalStart

The difficult thing will be keeping myself from adding something “living” later on (as if the plants weren’t alive enough…). I love little critters – toads, frogs, lizards, etc…and it’s hard for me to have a terrarium without wanting to turn it into a vivarium. A little slice of the world right in my own home…but that would defeat the purpose of scaling back and turning my priorities elsewhere.

I do still have a 10 gallon tank with four cory catfish in it, and I’ll keep them until they die. Then that aquarium too is probably destined for terrarium-container-ship. It’s just…time, even though it’s kind of depressing, and I’m not really sure I want that part of my life to end. I feel like it needs to, though – a small, but significant difference.

In any case, I won’t wallow for long – I never do. The charcoal for the terrarium (between the drainage & soil layers as a filter) should be here by Wednesday, and when my husband is off playing pool that night, I’ll start working on the landscaping and planting. By next weekend, it should be a lovely little park for some Smurfs to play in, and where my humidity-loving plants can thrive.

And I’ll have an excellent excuse to visit the miniatures store again…

The New Normal, Creativity & Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut - fermentin'  away.

Sauerkraut – fermentin’ away.

I know…the Monday post has been all about dogs lately, because I tend to hyper-focus on whatever happens to be top billing in my life at the moment. And dogs have been such an important part of my everyday life since I was…12 or so, that losing one or adopting one is a pretty major life event. I can’t really move on from losing one until I adopt another one – I prefer to always have two dogs for a variety of reasons. And then there’s a new family dynamic to work out when another, different personality moves in.

But now we’ve more or less reached the new “normal”, so these posts will more often feature non-dog topics again, and you can find the weekly dog updates on Friday in the new “Gone to the Dogs” feature, as told by Murphy & Mica. Kind of a fun way for people who want to keep up with the dogs to do so, and a great creative writing exercise for me. Win-win! I’ll get the “Friday Only” subscription put up again by Friday, for those who might prefer to only hear from the dogs (hey, I understand!).

Speaking of creativity, I’ve been struggling with writing much of anything since early last December (maybe even late November). I don’t deal with long term stress or change all that well (which is something I should work on). But in the last week or so, since Murphy’s been settling in and we’ve been maintaining the status quo, I’ve finally been getting some of that writing “spark” back. The habit is still dead, unfortunately, but I’m working on that too. If you’re interested in how, there are more details on my writing blog.

It’s not just my writing that’s been affected – it’s all areas of my life, and as I sit here mulling it over, I’m kind of amazed at just how much I sort of “shut down” when dealing with core life changes so I can keep up with what I *have* to while I wait for everything to settle back down. I have a crochet project that should/could have been done weeks ago, I just haven’t had the motivation or energy to finish it (it will be done and out the door this week). There’s a jigsaw puzzle on my dining room table with barely any progress – it’s been there for a good month now. I’m behind on my postcard swaps (way behind), and my comic book reading (again)…it’s actually a bit crazy how much stuff I automatically just drop in times of stress or change. It’s just my personality, but it’s a little unsettling, because…life is change.

Needless to say, I’m relieved that my head is clearing up enough for me to pursue those “extra-curricular-activities” again. I’m a very logical, rational person at my core and that’s the part that takes over in times of stress, because that’s what I’m best at. But I really need those creative activities and hobbies to keep myself rounded and give myself an emotional outlet that I can’t really get any other way. We all need creative outlets, I think…a way to express ourselves that doesn’t require naked vulnerability.

Another creative outlet I’m getting back to is some weekend food prep – stuff I wouldn’t normally mess with during the week due to time constraints. Like making sauerkraut. I was getting into it several months ago and made a few nice batches, and then bought a crock, and…every batch I’ve tried to make using the crock has failed miserably. So this past Saturday, I got out a couple of glass jars and started some plain sauerkraut that already looks far better than anything I tried in the crock did (hence the picture – red and green cabbage make pink sauerkraut, by the way). I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see the liquid come up above the cabbage (like it’s supposed to) and bubbles forming on top…it’s gonna be really good.

My year got off to a really bad start, but between Murphy settling in here with far less trouble than expected, the creative part of my brain kicking back in, and now my sauerkraut looking good…I think the rest of the year has some really great things in store.

Of course, I still have to do our taxes…

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:

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

Writing
– 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).