Archive for Life

Life

Another Anniversary

When I recognized my anniversary of starting to write the Enchanted, Inc. books, I realized that there’s another anniversary around this time of year. It’s not directly related to writing, though it did sort of pave the way toward where I am now.

Around this time twenty years ago, I was working at a PR firm and got invited to lunch by a former client. It turned out that she’d gone to work for a different agency, and she’d been working on an account I used to have. We’d been working with a division of a large company, but the large company decided to consolidate all their public relations into one firm, and it was that other agency. Now that they had my former client, they wanted to hire me to work on the account.

I was really unhappy in my job, and I’d enjoyed working on that account. The client had become a friend (we’re still friends, and she helped me find a lot of work when I went freelance). An interview later, and I had the job. I set a start date for the beginning of November, figuring that would give me time to work out my notice and have a bit of a break, and it would be after most of my new office would be coming back from a trade show (since there wasn’t much point in starting a new job while all my coworkers were out of town). But when I gave my notice, they made me leave the next day. That wasn’t too surprising because people tended to just disappear at that company. The surprise was that they let me have that next day so there could be a going-away lunch. More often, the person giving notice was made to clean out their desk that evening — under supervision, so they couldn’t take anything relating to their clients with them — then walked out the door. Their office door was kept shut until a meeting was held the next morning to announce that they were gone (usually with what we’d later learn were lies about why they left — everyone was always supposedly fired because they just weren’t working out, but when I ran into those people later I learned that they took another job). I’d anticipated something like this, so I’d cleared most of the stuff I wanted out of my office before I gave notice.

But this meant I had a three-week break between jobs, during October, which is my favorite month. It was wonderful. I took a trip to Austin to meet up with some college friends. I took a few day trips around the area. And I took a lot of long walks around my neighborhood. I did some writing, finished unpacking (I’d moved into this house that summer), and read a lot. It was wonderful, and it was hard to go back to work when it was over. I remember thinking then that this was what my life would be like if I could ever just be a writer and not have to have a day job.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve lived up to that ideal. I don’t really take advantage of my freedom in a positive way. When you have all that time, it’s easy to waste it. Of course, there’s far more work than I was doing then. I was just playing around with some story ideas, not writing on a deadline. I wasn’t having to blog or maintain a social media presence or stay on top of sales numbers, or anything like that. But it would be nice to get back a sense of that freedom that I had then, making the most of the time I had and enjoying all the moments. Every year, I keep saying that I’m going to try to take the fall off to enjoy it, but I always end up with deadlines. Maybe next year. Or maybe I can do better at striking a balance, getting the work done and using my spare time on things I enjoy instead of refreshing Twitter or looking up random things that have popped into my head.

Life

A New Start

I finished my edits on Friday and will be getting them off to the copyeditor today, and then I’ll start work on the new book I just sold to Audible. It feels like the first day of school or the first day of a new year, a time to reset and try to start again with new habits, or reviving the old habits.

I even set an alarm this morning. I had been using sunrise to wake me up, but they put a really bright LED bulb in the lamppost in front of my house, and that meant it was essentially as bright as daylight all night long. I kept waking up in a panic, feeling like I’d overslept because it was so bright outside, and then I’d look at the clock and see that it was two in the morning. So, I had to put up light-blocking curtains on my bedroom window. That let me sleep, but then it made it harder to wake up because the room was still dark even after the sun came up. I needed to set an alarm if I wanted to get up at a reasonable hour, but I hate waking up to an alarm because I wake up startled but still groggy.

Then I got the bright (pun somewhat intended) idea of trying one of those wake-up light alarm clocks. Instead of waking you with a sound, they gradually brighten a light, which replicates what I was doing with the sunrise. Most of them are pretty expensive, and I couldn’t see spending $90 on an alarm clock when it’s not even critical that I get up most mornings. But then I found a $20 version on Amazon and thought I’d give it a try.

I suspect that the difference between the $20 version and the $90 version is that the more expensive one really does light up gradually and changes color temperature to match the sunrise, so it does a better job of resetting your body clock and tricking you into feeling like the day has started. This one theoretically gets gradually brighter in the half hour before the wake-up time you set, but I honestly can’t tell much of a difference. Still, I find that I wake up five to 20 minutes after the light comes on, depending on how deep I’m asleep and which direction I’m facing, and I feel like I’ve awakened naturally instead of that startled, groggy feeling I get with a regular alarm clock. There’s a sunset feature that supposedly (again, I can’t tell a big difference) dims the light at bedtime before it cuts off, but since I read before going to sleep, I don’t have much use for it. That light’s not bright enough to read by, so it would mean having the clock light on for a while after I turn out the reading lamp, and then I’d be lying there with light on for a few minutes more until it cut off.

I’ll have to see how this works on an ongoing basis, and then I may keep an eye out for sales on the more expensive models that do a better job of mimicking a sunrise. Giving myself an extra half hour to hour of productivity a day (possibly even more in the winter) may be worth it.

And now to make use of that extra time …

Life

Change and Renewal

I’ve had a weird bout of restlessness and dissatisfaction lately, where I find myself feeling like I need to change something. I’ve thought about moving someplace else entirely, looked at possible jobs, pondered going in different directions with some things in my life.

It only occurred to me yesterday what’s going on: my army brat background is acting up again. I grew up moving every three or so years. Every few years, everything got uprooted — new home in an entirely new place, new school, new friends, new church, new activities. It continued to some extent even after my dad retired because although we settled in one place, I finished high school four years later and moved to a different city for college, then moved to yet another city when I finished college. From birth to about the age of 22, my life was totally changed every one to four years. I was used to constant renewal.

I’ve had a tendency to uproot my life every few years since then. Before I bought my house, I changed apartments every 2-3 years. I stayed in my first job nearly five years, but it was about three years per job after that. I’ve lasted longer in churches, but have generally found myself drifting from one to another every 5 years or so. I even seem to do a bit of a friend turnover every few years, gravitating from one group of people to another.

But now I’ve lived in the same house for 20 years. I’ve had the same “job” of working for myself for 16 years. I’ve been going to the same church for about 12 years. I’ve been hanging out with the same group of people for about that long. No wonder I’m feeling restless. The problem is that I don’t necessarily want to change these things. I would like a different house, but that’s a complicated process that will require a lot of work and saving more money. I really don’t want a different job. I like my church and the community I have there. I like my friends. How can I give myself that sense of renewal and change without actually changing things?

My mom deals with the itch to move by rearranging furniture. My house is small enough that there aren’t many functional options for rearranging furniture (though I did swap my bedroom and my office after a few years in this house, which kind of worked like a move). I don’t really want to redecorate entirely if I’m going to possibly be moving within a couple of years, but I think maybe doing the big decluttering project I have planned may feel like a move. I’ve been working on mostly the same series for a while, so maybe writing something entirely new might help. Maybe I could travel more, and that would give me the sense of relocating. I could start a new activity that would bring me around new people, letting me make new friends without losing the old ones.

Just identifying the feeling and its source helps. Now I realize that I’m not unhappy. I just have that itch to change something. I need some renewal.

Life

Garden Distractions

I didn’t last very long working on the patio yesterday before I was seized by the urge to get out the hedge clippers and trim the jasmine that invades the patio from the other side of the fence. And then the bare flowerpots started bothering me, so I found that I still had some seeds from last year. I don’t know if they’ll germinate, but I suppose I’ll find out in about a week. If they don’t, I can get more seeds or buy some plants.

I decided to move the morning glory trellis to a larger pot that I can put my plant waterer in, and I think I’m going to put zinnias around the edge, since the morning glories grow up and something needs to be around the base. That way, if nothing else survives any trips out of town, it’ll be the plant that matters most. The waterer is a slim terra cotta jar that you bury with just its top above ground and fill with water. The water seeps through the clay into the soil. Depending on weather conditions, it can keep plants alive more than a week. You start with a good watering, and the water only seeps through when the soil dries out, so the jar can stay full for a while until that last watering wears off, and then any rain will hold off on water coming out of the jar.

I did eventually get to work and got more than my word count quota done (though I was doing a lot of copying and pasting from the previous draft). Today, my arms and shoulders are complaining about those hedge clippers.

It seems to be a bit cooler and windier today, so I may have to work indoors. That may be good because who knows what gardening would distract me today.

Life

Garden Time

I’m still making forward progress on the book and have reached a point where I can incorporate stuff I’ve already written, so I should really make my word count today. It may be a patio office day, since it’s warm but not too warm and it’s not too windy. I always seem to get a lot done when I work outside.

It’s also getting to the time of year when I can start playing with flowers again. We’ve had some freakishly cold snaps the last few weeks, so I’ve hesitated. I’m also going to be out of town for nearly a week next month, and I don’t want to have to deal with figuring out watering while I’m gone, but I’m getting itchy for having my “garden.” I had zinnias and morning glories last year, and the morning glories brought me a great deal of joy, so I want to plant them again.

I never thought of myself as a garden-type person, but I’m discovering that there’s something about a garden that sings to my soul. I’m happy surrounded by plants and flowers. I also never thought of myself as an “outdoors” person, but as long as the weather’s nice, I could pretty much live outside. My patio becomes another living room. A good outdoor living area is on my wish list for my dream house.

So, it may be time to head to the garden shop and see what I can plant because the patio is looking awfully bare right now and I have a lot of empty flowerpots.

Life

Spring Fever

Fall is my favorite time of year, but I’m developing an appreciation for spring, as well. I’m enjoying seeing the trees leafing out and the flowers blooming. I like weather that’s warm enough, but not too warm, for being outside while the nights are still cool enough for comfortable sleep. Now, if only we could do something about that wind.

The change in seasons brings with it a change of habits, but it’s a transitional time, so both habits might apply at the same time, or neither might apply. This came up in a conversation I had with the checker at the grocery store the other day. The winter fruits and vegetables that I had been buying for the past few months didn’t look so good, and summer fruits and vegetables were starting to be on sale. I’d had to mentally adjust my menu plans and shopping. Meanwhile, I’d had to give up making homemade yogurt during the winter because it was too cool at night to maintain the necessary temperature without more specialized equipment, and it was hard (or expensive) to get the berries to eat with it, but I got into bread baking, so my standard breakfast became homemade fruit and nut bread instead of yogurt and fruit. Now berries are coming back (without having to be imported from Chile), and it may soon be warm enough for yogurt, while being too warm to bake bread.

At this time of year, I start waking up earlier and getting sleepy earlier, so my schedule shifts. I do more walking (when it’s not so windy that it blows me off my feet). I’m even a bit more social (I went to a party this weekend and a get-together with the church women’s group on Monday night).

The down side is that during this time of transition, I tend to get restless and unsettled, and that makes it hard to focus on writing. I really ought to take a look at my productivity throughout the year and graph it, and then if I ever feel like I’m caught up or am in a position to plan my working schedule, I can plan to write during certain times of the year and focus on other things during the times that are less productive.

But I’m not there yet and I have a book to finish, so I guess I can’t indulge in spring fever this year.

Life

Ice Dreams

I had a very small children’s choir group last night because it was cold and rainy, and I suspect the parents didn’t want to drag themselves and their children out of the house. I don’t blame them. I might not have been there if I hadn’t been obligated. The weather we’ve had this week is made for staying home, making soup, and reading.

Which is what I’m doing today, though substitute writing for reading this afternoon and watching figure skating for reading tonight.

I’ve always been fascinated by ice skating. I remember the Ice Capades coming to town when I was a small child. They had a Peanuts theme one year, and Snoopy came to my kindergarten. We then took off our shoes and “skated” around the room in our socks. The first time I remember seeing competitive figure skating was watching Dorothy Hamill in the 1976 Olympics. I had our old black-and-white TV that only picked up one channel in my room, sitting on a table with a shiny laminated surface, so you could sort of see a reflection of the TV on it. I remember putting my Barbie in her ballet costume and putting on her short boots and making her skate along with Dorothy Hamill, following her reflection on the table. I also wanted that haircut, but it doesn’t work with curly hair.

In my tweens, Tai and Randy were the big deal. I’m not sure how much I actually saw them skate because I was living overseas at the time, but the tween pop culture magazines were full of articles about them. I made my parents take me to the Ice Capades to see them skate in person when we were back in the States and they were on tour.

Then there were the 1984 Olympics, and I started having these crazy daydreams about how if I got in really good shape and had all the other elements in place, if I started taking skating lessons when I went to college and was in a place that actually had a rink, I’d turn out to be a prodigy and would have a shortcut to the Olympics. After all, the one time I’d gone skating at a mall rink, I’d managed to stay upright and even got to the point where I could glide on one foot and use the edges of the blade. If I could do that in one time, figuring it out for myself, what could I do with actual training? I’m a little ashamed to admit how much time I spent in my room doing exercises, stretching, picking out my music, and designing my costume. The exercise was probably good for me.

Since I was living in a city with a skating rink after the 1988 Olympics, I did actually go skating a few more times, and those crazy dreams resurfaced. I took a ballet class because I thought that would be handy. Reality started to sink in after that, especially when I had knee surgery on the leg that would be used for landings, but then the retroactive daydreams kicked in — if I had started training way back then, where would I be now? My ambitions switched over to ice dance later (though I think there were still some daydreams in which I first won a gold medal as a singles skater, then switched to ice dance and won again, as the oldest woman to win a medal in figure skating).

I did finally admit to myself that it was never going to happen and never would have happened, and there wasn’t really even anything I could have changed about my life to make it happen. We didn’t live anywhere near a rink, so there would have been no way of figuring out if I had the aptitude at an age when I’d have had a chance, and I’m not sure I would have had the drive it takes to get to the top. There are too many other things I enjoy doing. I probably don’t even spend the time I need to really make it in writing because I also spend time on music, knitting, and other things. My music lags because I spend too much time on reading, writing, and other things. Even the music suffers because I’m trying to sing and learn multiple instruments rather than focusing on one thing. So maybe I’ll never have a “gold medal” equivalent in anything, but at least I’m well-rounded. I’m reasonably accomplished at a lot of things, and I think I like that better than being the world’s best at something but lacking in everything else (in my PR days, my firm dealt with an Olympic skater as a spokesperson for something, and she was utterly useless, as she had no thought in her head that wasn’t about skating).

This year, I’m able to just watch without wanting to be there. I haven’t even been mentally choreographing my programs (though if any ice dancers want hints on good music, I have ideas). I’ll confess that I have been exercising a bit more while watching, mostly because watching them use their knees the way they do makes mine ache, so I remember I need to do my therapy exercises.

I’m also kind of looking forward to it being over so I can get back on my regular schedule. These late nights are killing me.

Life

Television Options

I’ve spent the last couple of months learning way too much about television service and the various ways of getting it. I’ve pretty much always had cable during my adult life because it was provided as part of every apartment I had, and then when I bought a house, it was provided as part of the HOA fees. I did finally break down and get a DVR, which cost extra, a couple of years ago, but otherwise, I didn’t think much about it. I just watched it.

Then in December, buried in the HOA board meeting minutes that were e-mailed, it was mentioned that our contract with the cable company was expiring in February, and they had voted not to renew it. They listed what it would cost for each homeowner to get the same service — and they weren’t lowering the HOA fees. I was a bit astonished at the cost. I’m lucky that I could afford it, if I wanted it, but then I started thinking about how much (or little) I watch TV. I did a calculation of the things I regularly watch on cable that I would actually miss, and it would come to more than $10 an hour. I don’t want to watch more to make it worthwhile. I could take a lower-tier package, but the cable networks I watch most are only on the high-level tier, and it’s not that there are any particular shows I’m invested in there. That’s just my best sources of history documentaries that I tend to use as background noise or something to watch when there’s nothing else on. Almost everything else I watch is on regular broadcast TV.

So I started researching antennas. It seems I’m in a tricky area where I’m not too terribly far from the transmission towers, but I’m under a hill, so I don’t get line of sight. That means I’ll need a more powerful antenna. I tried a cheap “rabbit ears” and managed to get in the PBS stations fine, and a couple more, depending on the angle, but I didn’t get the station I watch most, especially for local news. Apparently, that station is more difficult to get.

My first real cord-cutting purchase was a Roku stick, and that may solve a lot of my dilemmas, as my local station has an app that allows you to stream the news live. Since a decent antenna should give me all the other local stations, that just leaves my ability to snark about Once Upon a Time in real time up in the air. ABC is weird about allowing streaming of their shows. Even though it’s a broadcast network, you have to have an account with certain cable companies to stream new episodes for the first week. Almost everything else, I should be able to either bring in with an antenna or stream. I’ll miss some of the stuff I watch on SyFy and the various Disney channels, but my library gets the DVDs when they come out, or there’s Amazon Instant Video, where it’s cheaper to buy a full season of a show than to get one month of cable service. I may eventually get Amazon Prime, which has a lot of video available in addition to the shipping, and they get Doctor Who, plus you can add an HBO subscription.

The other thing I’m looking at is what to do about a DVR. For a truly cheap option, I can get a digital converter box and hook it to the antenna and to a VCR, but you can also apparently hook a hard drive up to one and use it as a DVR. You just have to program it like a VCR in the old days rather than clicking on a program guide. There’s a fancier thing that’s supposed to be available a little later this year that seems to be a midpoint between the Tivo and this thing. And there’s an over-the-air Tivo, which might be overkill for me. I can’t imagine needing to record four things at once. I mostly use the DVR for time shifting when something is on late, recording something that will be on while I’m out, or for archiving a series that I’d like to binge watch or rewatch. My local PBS station often shows interesting things in odd time periods, and it’s nice to be able to record it. I’m not sure the Tivo is worth that. Then again, it costs what about a year of the DVR and DVR service from the cable company costs.

And I’ve probably more time to researching all this than I spent actually watching TV in the last couple of months. I don’t watch that much these days, and I’d like to either watch less or focus on watching things that are worthwhile, that I choose to watch rather than just looking for something that’s on. I’d rather spend the time reading or writing or doing other things.

Then I need to come up with ways to force myself not to waste so much time online goofing off or obsessively researching things that aren’t immediately critical.

Life

The Summer of Therapy

I haven’t been posting much lately because I’ve been trying to stick to that “blog when I have something to say” rule and because I’ve been otherwise occupied.

This is definitely the Summer of Physical Therapy. That’s taking up a lot of my energy. There are the twice-weekly appointments where I go and have them put me through all kinds of torture. I start with ten minutes on the exercise bike to warm up, and then there are fun things like pulling against resistance bands, balancing on foam blocks, and playing catch while standing on one leg. I have very specific issues with this knee that mean there are some seemingly simple things I struggle with, even while I’m in very good shape otherwise. I can stand on one foot on foam and keep a Body Blade moving. I can play catch while standing on one foot. I can stand on one foot in an arabesque position and lower my body while holding a weight. But stand on a 2-inch platform and lower myself (like going down the stairs) on my bad leg? Very difficult. I graduated to four inches today, and that was a struggle. Oh, and getting in and out of a chair with my good leg on a square of foam (so it can’t really do the work). That’s incredibly hard.

Because they’re using weights to make balancing and moving more difficult, I’m also getting an upper-body workout. In fact, my shoulders are still sore from Wednesday’s session.

And then I have to do a lot of these exercises every day at home. You’d think I’d be losing weight from all this, but I’m not. I do seem to be trimming up a bit. My jeans are fitting better. I guess I’m putting on a lot of muscle.

However, all this activity leaves me very tired. I’m getting my writing work done, but not much else.

I’m still battling the book I’ve been fighting for months. I think I finally found the right mix of concept, tone, and plot, but now I’m at the point where the plot is going to have to diverge from what I originally wrote, and that means I have thinking to do. I’m determined to finish this book this month. Then I already have my next project lined up and planned.