Archive for Life


Time Off

It turns out that book 1 in this series is in reasonably good shape. I should manage to finish this round of revisions tomorrow, and then since there’s a holiday this weekend, I’m going to take a bit of a vacation. Not that I’m going anywhere. But I think I need a mental vacation. I may do some brainstorming and work-related reading, but I won’t try to write. So, I probably won’t be posting here the rest of the week.

My kitchen seems determined to annoy me. Last week, there was the refrigerator saga (still no word about it being delivered). Then over the weekend my toaster oven died. The top element stopped working, so it wouldn’t toast or broil, and having it on “bake” meant the lower element overachieved to try to reach the right temperature, so the bottom of things burned. But Target had the current equivalent of this one, which was at least ten years old, so all is well and I’ll be able to have toast again. Really, during the summer I do a lot of my cooking in the toaster oven so I don’t have to heat up the big oven. I use it for broiling fish, baking potatoes, heating up things that I want to be crisp. I thought about getting something really fancy, but I decided I don’t really have the room for that, and I’d want to do more research. It sounds like when you get one that does too many things, it doesn’t do any of them well. Right now, I just want to be able to make toast, heat up baked goods, and broil fish.

My weekend fun was learning all about the Black Death. Amazon was offering the Great Courses program about that as a free preview this month, so it’s expiring Tuesday, and I realized after I got started that there are 24 episodes. They’re only half an hour each, but that’s still a lot. I really liked the lecturer. She even mentioned that The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis is one of her favorite novels (me too!) and confessed that she has a contingency plan for if she gets sent back in time to that time. So I was binge-watching the Black Death this weekend. These were all filmed several years ago, so she had no idea what would be happening now, but it’s interesting how little human behavior has changed in all that time, even though we know a lot more about how disease works now. I am looking forward to moving on to cheerier topics once I finish this. Some of my friends are watching it, too, so we were discussing it on Facebook. This is probably one of those “you know you’re a nerd when …” things.

I’m going to have to figure out what I want to write next — do I do the third book in this mystery series, start working on this fantasy series I’m developing, take another look at the book I wrote last year that needs to be rewritten, play with the women’s fiction idea I’ve had brewing? That’s part of what I’ll be figuring out this week.


Enjoying Summer

I’ve really been trying to adjust my attitude toward summer, to not just look at it as something to endure, and it might be working.

I decided that I will celebrate the first 100-degree day of the summer by having ice cream, and I even bought a pint of ice cream. Wouldn’t you know, there isn’t a temperature over 95 in the 10-day forecast. Not that I’m complaining. I just find it amusing. Will that pint of ice cream sit uneaten in my freezer all summer? If we don’t get a 100-degree day by Labor Day, I’ll make a peach cobbler then and have ice cream. If we do get a 100-degree day, then I get ice cream, so win-win.

Because it hasn’t been too hot, I’ve been able to sit out on the patio and read in the evenings. I generally have enough light for reading until about 8:30. That’s something I can’t do the rest of the year.

I love summer fruit. They had watermelon on sale last week, and I picked out one that had all the signs of being good — and, boy, was it. It’s so sweet that it’s like eating candy, and it’s huge, so I still have half of it to go. Then there are blueberries, strawberries, and peaches. I’ve got plenty of dessert stuff in my freezer, but with all this fruit, I haven’t wanted it.

Normally, I enjoy the swimming pool in the summer. We have a community pool that’s quite nice and usually not too crowded, depending on the time of day, but I’m not sure I’m going to use it this year. The kids don’t have a lot of other things to do, so they really need the pool, and I don’t want to be there while there are crowds. Maybe later in the summer it will quiet down some, and we’ll see whether they have in-person school in the fall. I tend to get the most use out of the pool after school starts in August, and it stays warm enough for swimming until late September.

Then there’s my patio garden. I didn’t plant anything this year, aside from planting a couple of morning glory seeds, but I’ve got a bunch of flowers. It seems that the packet of “annual cutting mix” seeds I thought were duds last year, when only a few things sprouted, really kicked off this summer. I’ve got all kinds of strange things growing. The one plant from that packet that did grow, the celosias (coxcomb), seems to have spread seeds like crazy. They sprouted from every pot on the patio. I’ve had a bit of a problem with squirrels digging things up or stepping on things and caterpillars eating everything in sight, so I’ve started bringing the pots in overnight (when the pests seem to cause problems). For the morning glory, I’ve been spraying it with garlic spray to discourage caterpillars and putting peppermint oil on cotton balls around the pot to discourage squirrels, and it’s put on some new leaves that haven’t been eaten. When I’m sitting out and reading, I like looking at my plants and noticing the little day-to-day changes. Since all the summer events have been cancelled, I won’t be traveling, so I won’t have to worry about how to make sure my plants don’t die without water while I’m gone.

So, those are some things I love about summer. I can get some of the fruit year-round, but the rest are things I can’t really do at other times of year, so I’ll enjoy them all while I can.


The Wolves Are Eating Me!

I had a nice, relaxing holiday weekend. It rained a lot of the time, which I didn’t really mind. I had just enough patio reading time, plus plenty of time to sit inside and listen to the rain.

One thing I’ve been doing during the lockdown is studying Norwegian. Part of my family came from Norway, and I’ve always been a bit fascinated by the place because it hits a lot of the things I like, with mountains, forests, and lots of water. A couple of years ago, I’d thought about taking a trip there, but that was when all the medical stuff hit and I didn’t want to make advance plans at that time. Now as I’ve been building a fantasy realm to write in, I’ve found myself modeling it on Norway. It has all the elements I need, along with some cultural things that I can work with. I’d been thinking of taking a research trip later this year, and then the pandemic happened, so travel isn’t likely for a while. But I figured that gives me some time to prepare for when I can go, so I got on Duolingo and started learning Norwegian.

I don’t know if it’s the words and sentences Duolingo chooses to teach or if there’s something I should know about Norway, but it’s starting to look like Norway might be the Australia of the north. One of the first words they taught was “spider.” Then we learned about wolves and bears. We learned how to say “The wolf is eating me” and “The bear is eating him.” We learned all that before we learned how to order in a cafe (which was one of the first things I learned in German).

What are the tourist brochures not telling us about life in Norway if you need to learn to say “The wolf is eating me” before you learn to say “A cup of tea, please”?

Annoyingly enough, I can remember how to say “The wolf is eating me” better than I can remember how to ask for a cup of tea. In fact, “Ulven spiser meg” is about the only sentence I can say in Norwegian off the top of my head. I’m not entirely sure how effective the Duolingo learning model is. I get most of the quizzes right, but I don’t know how much I actually am learning and remembering. From what I understand, “Norwegian” is a fairly recently constructed language, mostly based on Danish with a few touches of old Norse, and isn’t actually all that widely spoken. Most areas have their own dialects, and what we think of as “Norwegian” is mostly used as a written language and for things like national television broadcasts. It may be useful for reading signs and newspapers and getting around the country, but in a lot of places, people might be more familiar with English than with Norwegian when it comes to conversation. They start learning both languages in school around the same time, and they may watch more American television and movies than they do Norwegian television and movies.

Still, it’s good to know at least a few words. I like to know how to read things like signs and restaurant menus, and with my name it will probably be good to be able to understand what someone’s saying to me when they assume I speak Norwegian (I had that issue when I was doing PR for Ericsson). My library also offers a language learning system that’s more based on conversation, and I may try that one after I’ve picked up more vocabulary and sentence structure from Duolingo.

One thing I’ve learned is that the letter “d” is mostly silent in Norwegian. My whole life, I’ve been having to tell people that the “d” in my last name is silent, since it’s really hard to pronounce it if you try to sound it out. It turns out, that’s actually the proper Norwegian pronunciation. The family in Norway spells it with a “v” instead of a “w,” though. That got changed somewhere in the journey to America.

I may have to rely on YouTube travel videos instead of a research trip for now, but someday I hope to make use of my language lessons. The ordering in a cafe and getting around the country part, not the being eaten by wolves part.



The serial book is now over, so I guess we’re back to normal operations. I don’t have any more novels just hanging around. Everything else I’ve got didn’t make it to the point of submission, so it would take a lot of work to get it ready for people to read. Most of those things, I do hope to actually revise and do something with them in the future.

I think I’m going to go to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule of posting for now, though I may adjust that later. I plan to put out a newsletter next week, so if you haven’t yet signed up for that, you can do so here.

The weekend was pretty much perfect for me, weather-wise. Saturday, it rained all day and into the night. It was a perfect time to bake and read. I started with blueberry muffins for breakfast, then in the afternoon I tried the DoubleTree cookie recipe that Hilton posted. It was pretty close to what you get when you check in to the hotel, perfect for having with hot tea on a rainy afternoon. When I wasn’t baking, I spent most of the day reading. I didn’t even do a movie night because I was enjoying listening to the rain.

Sunday was nice and sunny, so I spent much of the day on the patio. I got the best of both worlds for reading conditions. Now I’m geared up for a busy work week. I want to finish revising this book, and I’m getting my house in order for taking an at-home “vacation” for the holiday weekend.

I’ve decided to pretend my house is a hotel. I may even go somewhere Friday afternoon so that I can come back and get the sense of checking in (and get my cookie when I do). I figure that since there probably won’t be a real vacation for a while, I can play a little at home. I’m trying to make weekends and holidays feel different from weekdays. I’ve always tried to do that while working from home, but it’s more important now that I don’t have any of my usual weekend activities.

My church is probably going to continue doing online only services through June, since this metro area still has a pretty high case count, and it may be a long time before we get back to doing in-person choir, since it turns out that singing in a group is probably the most dangerous thing you can do right now. Singing projects droplets farther in the air, and then the deep breathing you do when singing can bring potentially virus-laden droplets deeper into the lungs. We’ve done a couple of “cell phone choirs” where we record our part at home and it all gets edited together, and I’m joining in an online choir project one of my former choir directors is doing. I’m getting used to singing into a camera by myself.

I figure this summer will be a good time to really buckle down and get a lot of writing done. I still have a book to write in my mystery series before I’m ready to launch, and I’m developing a new fantasy series. I’ve also been kind of itching to play with a fantasy/paranormal romantic comedy, though I don’t have any ideas at the moment. It’s just something I want.


The Brave Little Tailor

I had some craziness in the house over the past few days. It started on Thursday when I had the patio door open with the screen door shut because it was nice weather. I noticed a giant fly sitting on the inside of the screen door. I figured it got in the house when I was coming and going from the patio, and it flew outside when I opened the door. I’d barely turned around, and there was another one. I swatted that one. Then there were more.

Friday, it was even worse. Every time I turned around, there were several flies on either a window or the patio door. I noticed some holes in the screen door and patched them. An hour or so later, there were more flies. Fortunately, they were really slow, and they mostly stayed around the patio door and the front window, so they were easy to swat.

I did a little research online and figured that they must be cluster flies. These are large flies that tend to lay eggs inside walls. Apparently, they usually make their appearance indoors in the winter when they mistake the warm indoor air for summer weather and come out. In my case, I suspect it has something to do with the construction work done on my house this winter. They found a hole in the outside wall, which would have allowed the flies to get between the walls, but they patched the hole, so they couldn’t get outside that way anymore. They then came into the house through the little gaps between the new interior walls and the windowsill or around power outlet plates, etc.

I spent the weekend chasing down flies. I had some Brave Little Tailor (“Seven at one blow!”) action going on — literally, because when I wasn’t hunting flies this weekend, I was sewing. It was rather distracting. I started seeing flies out of the corner of my eye, even when they weren’t there. The slightest movement, and I’d start hunting. There were a few times when it turned out I was hunting a strand of hair that I saw out of the corner of my eye. Every time I passed a window, I’d study it, looking for flies.

The onslaught seems to have slowed a bit. I only got four yesterday, and there have only been a couple today so far. When I have a day without a new one, I’m going to caulk around the window where they seem to be coming in (I’d rather not seal them up inside the wall). It’s a good thing I’ve been at home all day. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I’d been gone all day and had come home to find a swarm of dozens of giant flies. It would be like something out of a horror movie.

And now I need to figure out how to incorporate some monsters that are big fly-like creatures into a fantasy novel. I think they might be enemy spies.


Summer Hygge?

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been delving into the Scandinavian concept of hygge, or kos, which loosely translates to something related to coziness. To a large extent, it’s a coping mechanism for cold, dark winters. While it’s cold and dark outside, with very little daylight, they create a light, warm space inside with candles, fuzzy blankets, socks and sweaters, and warm beverages with hearty meals.

I am all about that kind of stuff, but around here, it’s just a way to celebrate cooler weather. There’s seldom any “coping” required to get through winter. That’s the time when we can go outdoors without bursting into flames, when we can walk in the woods without worrying about snakes. The time of year when we need a contrast with harsh weather outside is during the summer, when we face a few months of temperatures so hot that it’s not even safe to go outside in the daytime. We’re huddled inside with our air conditioners the way the Scandinavians have to retreat from harsh winters. That got me started thinking about what our seasonal brand of something like hygge would look like.

Probably blinds or curtains to shut out the harshest sunlight, whenever that happens. My windows face mostly to the east, so I need to block out morning sun. Fans are essential to create a cooling breeze. That would be the summer version of candles for creating atmosphere. Instead of a blanket, you’d have cotton slipcovers on the furniture to make it feel cooler. Instead of socks, bare feet. Instead of a sweater, a cotton sundress. Iced tea or other cool beverages, and salads and ice cream to eat. Fresh summer fruit served cold, like watermelon.

The social aspect would remain the same, with similar indoor activities like movie nights, games, or puzzles, just with cool foods instead of hot beverages and soups.

Maybe I should write the “Hygge, Y’all” book.

I have my own little rituals for welcoming cooler weather, like buying some kind of cozy clothing during the end-of-season sales and putting it away with my sweaters so I have something new when I get out the winter clothes, and I declare the first cool, rainy day of the season to be a holiday, a day to spend reading and drinking tea. But I don’t really need anything to get me excited about the coming of fall. I need some kind of celebration to make me excited about warm weather.

The trick is that we get warm weather scattered throughout the winter. There aren’t many days when you can’t go outside at all, so there really isn’t a “first warm day” to celebrate. I’ve spent afternoons on the patio in January. I could buy a sundress or a summer nightgown at the end of season sales and put it away with my summer clothes to have something new to look forward to. I could “celebrate” the first 100-degree day with ice cream (I don’t have ice cream often). I have a few dishes I only make during the summer, and I do enjoy having watermelon all the time. I don’t know if the swimming pool will be open this year, since they’ll be discouraging gatherings (we have a community pool), and I don’t know about the Friday fireworks at the lake because those draw crowds. It will depend on how things look by then. This really is likely to be a summer of huddling indoors. Since I’m at pretty high risk for complications (and the more we learn about this virus, the more it looks like no one can be entirely certain of getting through it unscathed), I’m going to be playing it safe for some time to come.


Socializing (or Not)

The irony of the current stay-at-home situation is that this year, I was really planning on being more social. During the holidays, I was reading about the Danish concept of “hygge” (or, if you’re Norwegian, kos, though there are slightly different connotations). A lot of it is about coziness, a way of making dark, cold winters feel more pleasant by creating a contrast — candles, blankets, fuzzy socks, etc., while it’s cold and snowy or rainy outside. But there’s also a social element, getting together with a few good friends for dinner, games, puzzles, or just conversation. When it’s not winter, the same concept applies, but for hikes, cookouts, campfires, picnics, etc.

Reading that made me realize that it’s not that I’m anti-social. It’s that most of my social life is built around activities I don’t really enjoy. They involve big groups of 10 to as many as 30 (sometimes more) people getting together. Smaller conversation groups form, but that means there are a lot of simultaneous conversations going on so that the environment is noisy and chaotic. These are generally geeky folk, so they tend to be very passionate, and sometimes loud, about their interests. I literally have nightmares about being in this kind of environment. It’s no wonder that I flee fairly quickly, am utterly drained afterward, and dread the next gathering.

One-on-one get-togethers can be equally draining in a different way, depending on who the other person is and what the relationship is like. You have to be “on” the entire time instead of being able to sit back for a moment and let other people interact. According to the hygge book I read, 3-4 is considered optimum, and that makes sense. With that few people, there’s only one conversation going on at a time, so there’s less chaos, but the social interaction is spread over more people, so it’s not as draining as being with just one person and having to be more “on.”

So, my plan for the year was to cultivate more relationships and smaller groups or to do other social activities that work for me. I had a list of upcoming events I was going to try to get groups together to do. It’s the season for outdoor concerts and festivals. There were classic films at the old movie theater in a nearby town that would have made a good girls’ night out. I was getting my house in order so that I could host a few people at a time. I’d even reached out to a friend to go attend an event together. I was making progress.

And then the world shut down, so I’m back to my normal mode of not going anywhere or doing anything. I suppose when things start to ease up, those quiet evenings at home with a few friends who are also taking a lot of precautions will be about the only things we can do. It will be a long time before we feel safe in restaurants and movie theaters, and big gatherings of more than 10 people will be a bad idea for a while, but we might be able to manage a dinner and movie night at home. I’ve even found myself interested in games, and I’ve never been a gamer of any sort. By the time that sort of socializing becomes an option, I’ll have my house and patio really in order for hanging out with a few people.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the solitude, with the occasional phone call or video chat.



My county is now in “shelter in place” mode, so we’re only supposed to leave our homes for outdoor exercise (maintaining a six-foot distance from others), to buy food and other household supplies, and for medical treatment/medicines. All “non-essential” businesses are closed, and all elective medical procedures are cancelled. The main impact for me right now will be that the library is closed. They were allowing you to request books and pick them up at the drive-by window, but even that’s closed now. I have plenty of reading material, so I’ll be okay, but I’m limited to what I have on hand or can get online rather than being able to get what I want. I may actually burn through some of the to-be-read bookcase.

I was already doing this. I’ll have to venture out next week because I have a prescription that needs to be refilled, and by then I’ll need to restock on some food items. For now, I’ve got everything I need except for garlic. That was on my list last week, and the store was totally out of it. I’m down to two cloves, so I’m planning meals around that. I’m good for this week, so I hope they have some by the next time I leave the house.

I’m trying to limit my online time. That’s my main connection with the outside world right now, but at the same time, it’s easy to get sucked into zombie-like clicking around rather than actually doing stuff. I’ve set specific times to be online, and the rest of the time, I’m trying to do other things that are more productive and enjoyable.

I’m fortunate in that this doesn’t disrupt my life that much. My job was already working from home. I don’t know if people will be buying books right now. My sales seem to be more or less what they typically are, which isn’t great, but it’s still money coming in. I don’t know whether or not releasing new books later this year will help, but I’m lucky that I wasn’t trying to launch a book right now. I didn’t have to cancel any book events. I have money in savings that I can live on if things get really bad, or that can help pay for medical treatment if I get sick. I know that so many other people may lose everything. Small businesses are in big trouble. I wish there was more I could do to help. I eat out maybe once a month and never do takeout, but I may get some takeout from some of my favorite local restaurants, just to help them. I’ve seen the call for making masks, but I don’t have a good fabric stash, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone’s life at stake with my sewing skills. I may try making a mask for myself, just to see how it works and then so I’ll have one if it comes to that. I toyed with the idea of fostering a shelter pet so I wouldn’t be so alone, but I’m not sure how my allergies would cope with having an animal in the house. I know I come down with bronchitis when I spend a night in a house with a cat, and I don’t know how I’d deal with a dog. This is probably not a good time to stress my immune system or risk inflaming my asthma. I’m not an eligible blood donor (lived in the wrong part of Europe for too long at the wrong time, so I’m considered at risk for transmitting mad cow disease). So the best thing I can do to help is to stay home and entertain people. I’m looking at some ideas.

Everyone stay safe and healthy out there!


Hunkering Down

I ventured out yesterday to get milk and a few groceries, and now I’m ready to hunker down for a couple of weeks. I think I’ve easily got enough meals I could make with what I have on hand to make it that far. I’m cooking some things I can freeze to have handy later in case I do get sick, whether it’s coronavirus, the flu, or just bad allergies and a case of the don’t wannas.

Theoretically, I should have a little extra free time, since all my activities have been canceled indefinitely, but things are really starting to happen online, so there’s actually more stuff to do, and more distractions. There’s a virtual convention happening on Facebook. Last night I went to a virtual Irish pub St. Patrick’s Day party with a live online concert by a Celtic band (the new endeavor involving a musician I used to follow at the local Renaissance festival). This afternoon, famous choreographer Debbie Allen is teaching a live online dance class. There are virtual museum tours, concerts, and classes.

This is a good time to explore new things and do those things you’ve always wanted to do — unless you’ve always worked at home and your life shouldn’t be all that different. Still, I find that it’s difficult to concentrate, and even though I’ve always been rather solitary, I’m craving connection. It shouldn’t make a difference whether I’m streaming a recording or a live event, but there’s something about knowing that I’m doing something with other people that helps. I like looking at the comments (for once, a comments section that doesn’t get toxic!).

I started re-reading my first mystery, making sure everything I’ve set up is consistent with the second book and hoping I get some title ideas. I’m really liking it so far.

I may also play with doing something just for fun that I can get out quickly and amuse people. I might even try doing some videos of readings.

Otherwise, I’m trying to do more things that I’ve been saying I wanted to do. I’ve been playing the flute, and I’m trying to keep up with singing since I don’t have choir practice. I’m creating a sense of “event” around some of my daily activities. When weather permits, I’m taking walks. Getting outdoors really does help.


Today’s Ideal Life

The movie nights I’ve been having lately are the result of some thinking I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing a lot of long-term planning, which starts with thinking about what your ideal life looks like. After all, if you don’t know exactly what you want, you can’t make plans for getting it. But there’s a downside to spending a lot of time imagining some ideal future. It tends to make you unhappy in the present, especially when that future is a long way down the road and depends on things that aren’t entirely in your control. There’s a really fine line to walk. You tend not to grow when you’re comfortable and content, but it’s also bad to be unhappy in the present because that’s where you live. You need to find happiness where you are while you aim for something even better.

I decided to do some of the same exercises, but about the present. What would my ideal life look like in my present circumstances — in this home, with the career and income I currently have? And what could I do to get that ideal life now? In doing that thinking, I realized that I’ve inherited my grandmother’s tendency to “save it for good.” In her case, it was saving nice things like the good dishes for special occasions. In my case, it’s a weird manifestation of my perfectionist streak in which I tend to avoid things I enjoy unless the circumstances can be ideal. I’ve nearly let gifts of things like food or bath products go bad because I waited for the ideal time to use them. I don’t watch movies I’ve wanted to see or that I want to rewatch or read books I’ve anticipated until I hit some magical combination of mood, weather, timing and occasion, which means it never happens. I’ve got a ton of spa-type items, like massagers, foot tub, facial sauna, and various products that I never get around to using because I save them for some idealized spa day that never happens.

So I’ve started making a point to do the things I like to do without having the ideal circumstances. If those circumstances come up, I can always do it again. Thus, the regular habit of movie nights. I do like to fit movies to my mood and often the season or weather, but if I want to watch something, I watch it without getting too caught up in a sense of the ideal. I still try to make a special occasion out of it, with candles (both electric and real) to provide some mood lighting so I can turn the lights out and carefully chosen snacks. I’m also trying to use the spa stuff as part of regular life. The facial sauna has come in handy when my sinuses were blocked. It’s starting to get warm enough that I can take the foot spa tub out to the patio. I can do a thing or two that feels good without having to turn it into a fancy spa day — or I can do a fancy spa day.

The other thing I need to do is finish getting my house organized and then maybe take a look at my decor. I’ve been in a holding pattern for so long in which I was hoping to buy a new house and move but couldn’t, so I may be here a year or two longer. I don’t want to buy all new furniture, but I can fix things up with what I have. I really want to get my office back to where it’s pleasant to work in because that will allow me to have better work/life balance if I generally leave my computer there. I need to be better about working during working hours and then switching it off, especially when it comes to things like social media or the impulse to do research every time a thought strikes me. Having a good office that I go to for work has been a big part of my visualization of my ideal life, and I can do that where I am, to some extent (though maybe not with the secret recording studio behind the bookcase door).