Archive for Life


Stormy Night

I’m a bit groggy today because we had some excitement last night. A nasty storm blew through, and just after it passed me, it spawned a tornado that tore through a major part of Dallas. I was listening to the radio when they broke in, telling people in the area east of me to take cover. I turned on the TV to see the weather coverage. The damage seems to have been pretty extensive. Then not long after I finally got to bed after figuring the danger had passed, my phone’s weather app alerted me of a severe thunderstorm warning as a front came through. That kept me up for about an hour. The wind was howling, there was thunder and lightning, and the rain was pretty hard — at least, it sounded loud on my tile roof. As soon as I got back to sleep after that, the app sounded again with an extended thunderstorm warning, as yet another wave hit. Where I am, the line seemed to have been wider but less intense, so it took longer to go through but didn’t do as much damage.

Some of my patio plants got knocked over by one of the storms, but that seems to be the worst of the damage around me. I was very fortunate, though, because if that tornado had formed just a few miles earlier, it would have been nearby.

Up to the storms, the weekend had been pretty good. I even went out Friday night. A group from choir went to a chamber music concert in a park in a nearby town. It was one of those perfect October evenings, just a touch cool, so it really felt like fall. I brought a flask of hot spiced tea, and it was just about perfect, sitting outside with friends and listening to good music.

And I just realized that it might have saved me. There was another concert I’d been thinking of going to on Sunday evening that I didn’t go to because I’d gone to this one, and it was near the path of the tornado. I’d have been on my way home probably about the time the tornado went through that neighborhood, and I’d have had to cross the path of the tornado to get home. Though I probably wouldn’t have gone when I looked at the radar. The weather forecast was a factor in my decision about what to do for the weekend.

I had been thinking about visiting a nearby botanical garden today, since it really is a lovely day, but there’s a chance that they’ll be cleaning up after the high winds. So maybe I’ll try to get some writing done, which might be a challenge, as groggy as I am after all the sleep disruptions last night. When you’ve been watching tornado damage, you don’t rest easily during the next storm.


Shrinking the TBR Pile

Earlier this year, there was a huge outcry from book people about a misquote/misinterpretation from organizing expert Marie Kondo. It seems like someone heard about something she said on her Netflix show, made a meme, and that got spread without questioning. They claimed she said people should only have about 30 books. I don’t know what she said on the show, but in her book she said that was the number she settled on for herself, but that number will vary for each person and will probably be a lot higher for writers. The key point for her is only keeping the things that spark joy. She’s not a big fan of the to-be-read pile because she figures that if you really were interested in that book, you’d have read it when you got it rather than letting it sit around.

To some extent, she has a point, but she may not realize that writers also get given free books. I don’t have many books I’ve bought in the to-be-read pile (unless I was buying books to support writer friends rather than buying things I really wanted to read right then). My pile was almost entirely books I was given at conferences.

I did a big bookcase purge starting last year, really trying to follow Marie Kondo’s principles and keeping only the books I love and know I’ll want to re-read someday. That cleared a lot of bookcase space, as I realized I was just keeping everything I’d read, even books I didn’t like.

Meanwhile, I tackled the to-be-read pile. I sorted out the books I’m pretty sure I’ll never read because they aren’t the kind of books I like. I don’t have time to read all the books I want to read, so why feel obligated to read something I’d never have chosen for myself? I got rid of a lot of the books I got at romance conferences. I’m not a big fan of historical romances, so unless there was some particular reason a book intrigued me, it went to the Friends of the Library for their book sale. Ditto with anything about vampires or werewolves.

The TBR bookcase, full of books I need to read.

The next thing I did was make it more likely that I’d actually read these books. I’d been stashing them on a bookcase in my office, where they were mostly out of sight, out of mind. Instead, I cleared out the small bookcase in my bedroom, where I usually am when I’m looking for something to read. That bookcase is actually an old stereo cabinet that had been left in the basement storeroom associated with one of the apartments we had in Germany, and I’ve had it ever since. It’s deeper than the usual bookcase, so the books are about two deep in there. I’ve filled it with as many of the TBR books as I could fit, so now when I need something to read, I grab something from this bookcase. If I can’t get into it or don’t really like it, I allow myself to put it in the donation bag. As I empty spots, I add more books from the boxes I have stashed upstairs. I’m down to three book-size boxes, plus the bookcase. That’s a lot, but it’s so much better than it was. I’ve read so many more books from my own collection this year than I have in decades. So far, I must confess that I haven’t moved anything from the TBR bookcase to the keeper bookcase. I haven’t necessarily disliked anything, but I haven’t loved it enough that I know I’ll want to re-read it.


The point of Marie Kondo’s method is that if you get rid of the stuff you don’t love, you have more room in your life for what you do love. I think purging the TBR stack made it possible for me to actually read from it instead of feeling overwhelmed by it. I’m not sure I’ll ever entirely finish this exercise because new books keep coming in, but if I decrease the backlog, I’ll be more likely to read them on a more timely basis. It’s a pity to read an advance copy of a book five or more years after it was published.


Fall Holiday

I have a policy (it’s even in writing, so it’s official) that the first cool, rainy day of fall is a holiday. Today is that day. A front came through last night, so this morning was rainy and cool. I celebrated with a leisurely breakfast of cinnamon rolls (the refrigerated kind) and tea. Now I have a lentil soup simmering on the stove for lunch. I’ll bake some cookies this afternoon, and I think it will be a movie night tonight. There’s a neighborhood movie night in the park, but I’ll have to see how cool it still is by then, and I’ll have to decide if I want to watch The Addams Family in the park or stay home (and warm) and watch something else. I’m also getting to wear my new cozy at-home outfit. Last spring, at the end-of-season clearance sale, I bought this soft, fuzzy tunic/dress from the loungewear department (so I guess it’s kind of pajamas, or just something comfortable for wearing around the house). It was already too warm for that sort of thing, so I put it away with my winter clothes. Today is the perfect weather for it, worn with fleece leggings (though by later in the afternoon the fleece may be overkill and I may switch to regular leggings). There may also be some reading, possibly even some writing, but I’m not making myself write. Today is all about enjoying the change of seasons and doing all the things I haven’t been able to do for months, like light candles. I can’t really have candles when I’m running the ceiling fans, but I can enjoy them today.

And then next week it’s warming up again. Ugh. We don’t get seasons. We get days, randomly scattered around. But I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts.

The weather and the fact that it’s Texas vs. Oklahoma weekend reminds me that it’s around the time of one of my life milestones. It was around this time of year back in the late 90s when I unexpectedly got a chance to sample the kind of life I’m living now. I was working for a public relations agency, and I got recruited by a former client, who’d gone to work for a competing agency. She was running the account for a company that was also a client I’d worked with in the past, and they wanted me for their account. The last time I’d changed jobs, I left one job on a Friday and started the new one on Monday, without a break, so this time around I wisely gave myself a week of down time after my two weeks notice when setting my start date. But then when I submitted my resignation at my job, they walked me to the door rather than letting me work out my notice, so I suddenly had three weeks off, in October, my favorite time of year to enjoy. I treated it as a chance to live the freelance writing life I’d dreamed of. I took long walks, did some writing, got my house in order (I’d moved into this house during the summer but hadn’t completely unpacked or organized everything), and even did a little traveling. I hated to go back to work, but it was a good incentive to keep up the writing so that one day that would be my regular life. And now it is! I have to remind myself of that every so often when I get discouraged or frustrated by the publishing business. I’m living the life I always hoped to have, and while I’m not wealthy, I do have enough to live on. I get to do silly things like declare the first cool, rainy day of fall a holiday, something I doubt most employers would be all that open to.


Travel Planning

I’m more than halfway through my copyedits, so it looks like I’ll have that project off my plate before the weekend, and then I won’t have any deadlines or obligations. Whee! I won’t know what to do with myself.

I’d been thinking about taking a little road trip vacation early next week. We’re still having summer weather, so it would be more like a delayed summer vacation, only with weather not quite so miserably hot as it actually is in summer, than like a fall trip. There’s a town on a lake about four hours from here, and there’s a hotel actually on the lake. I’ve been thinking about heading down there, going to one of the state parks nearby where they have cavern tours, and generally just relaxing. I know that if I stay home, I’ll probably just end up falling into my usual routines and habits, and I’ll feel like there’s something I “should” do. The timing is good, since there’s no children’s choir this week, so I wouldn’t have to worry about lesson plans on the day I return. The choir isn’t singing the following Sunday, so I could even skip choir entirely and take a night off (though I’d probably go and go to the dinner before so I wouldn’t have to cook on the day I return).

But at the same time, there’s a big dose of inertia going on and a reluctance to make the long drive. Once I’m out of the metro area, it’s not so bad, but to get to the country part of driving, I have to cross most of the metro area. The weather isn’t entirely cooperating. There’s a good chance of rain on part of the day I’m planning to do most of my outdoor activities there. Then again, it’s been so long since I’ve seen rain that it might be worth it to travel just to see rain. And every time I check the forecast, it changes.

My problem is that I love planning trips, but taking them is often less fun than the planning process. Maybe I should have been a travel agent. I could plan trips all day for other people and not have to actually go on them.


The Minutiae of Life

I got the book done and away, so now it’s time for a little regrouping. My housekeeping habits slid in the last week or so, which means I desperately need to tidy up and clean. I also have a few business tasks to deal with. I do have a small writing project I need to wrap up, and there are some promo things I’ve been wanting to do.

But other than that, I want to do some relaxing. I’m even thinking about taking a vacation.

It’s funny, when I’m in the final days of finishing a book, especially when I’m on a tight deadline, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’ll do when I have free time again. Those things sound so wonderful and tempting at that time. But when I have time to do them, they’re suddenly a lot less interesting.

It’s tempting to spend a day or so relaxing before tackling all that stuff, but I think if I dive in while I’m still in work mode, then when I take some time to relax, I can really relax without worrying about things.

At least, that’s the plan. So, off to deal with the minutiae of life.


Looking for Fall

I am so ready for fall, and the weather here isn’t cooperating at all. I love fall. It’s my favorite time of year. I love cool, gray days, when I can enjoy sitting with a cup of hot tea and reading (or writing) a book. I love the sunny days when there are crisp, cool mornings and just slightly warm afternoons that are good for spending outdoors. I love taking long walks in the woods, enjoying the colored leaves, and coming home with cheeks tinged red from the chill in the air to have a hot cup of tea. I love sitting on the patio with a shawl around my shoulders. I even love the fall thunderstorms. I love sweaters and blankets, hot soup and fresh-baked bread.

But we haven’t had a high temperature below 90 all September. We should at least be in the 80s by now. Instead of sweaters, I’m wearing tank tops. It’s a bit too warm to go walking even in the morning. I guess we’re being punished for our summer starting later and not being very intense until August.

I keep saying every year that I’m going to travel to a place that has real fall. If I ever have the money, I’m going to do a grand fall-chasing tour — start in August in Scandinavia or Alaska and work my way south, coming home around Thanksgiving, when we finally get fall-like weather. And then maybe I’ll go to Australia in the spring for their fall. Either I’ll get it out of my system or I’ll be even more dissatisfied once I know what I’m missing. Some people move to climates where it’s summer-like year-round. I want to find a place that has a good, long fall, starting maybe with a cool-down in late August and lasting until December (but preferably without a harsh winter). I’m not sure such a place exists. We get the beginnings of a slight cool-down in late September but don’t really get what I’d consider “fall-like” weather until late October. The fall-like weather might last until early December, but it’s on various days, not really a season.

On the bright side, for once I shouldn’t have a big deadline in October or November. There’s stuff I’ll be working on, but it won’t be so urgent that I can’t declare a day off whenever we get one of those perfect fall days.

In the meantime, I do have a big deadline Monday, and I’m behind where I hoped I’d be because rewriting the ending took me most of the day yesterday. I love what I’ve done with it, and it’s so much better, but it’s all taking more time than I planned.


Season of Change

My summer break officially ends fully today, with children’s choir starting again. That’s my “back to school.” And it may be part of why I’ve been getting the itchy wanderlust thing. We usually moved during the summer, so I started the school year in a new place, and so it feels strange to start a new school year in the same old place.

The changes continued yesterday. There was more shopping, as I found a lovely throw pillow that fits with the new duvet, and I got a body pillow to use as a kind of headboard replacement to prop the pillows up. Now my room really does look like a hotel room. And I found a floral shower curtain that somewhat coordinates with the new bedroom stuff. The jury’s out on that, though. It may be more pattern than I can really deal with. I may end up going with something plain and white — continuing the hotel theme, I guess. The shower curtain fabric is pretty much what I’d want for re-covering the old dinette set chairs I have, so even if I bail on it, it’s not a total loss. I’d even considered buying another one just to have that fabric.

I’ve been pondering the way adults react to fall. There’s been the usual mix of “yay, pumpkin spice season” and “ugh, all the pumpkin spice stuff” posts online. I think pumpkin spice is really as much a symbol as it is a thing in and of itself. Because of the association with back-to-school, fall is a season of fresh starts. It’s about new clothes and school supplies, new friends, and trying new things — only, without the school part (unless you’re a teacher). It’s all the good things about fall without having to go back to school. Since we don’t have to go back to school, we look to other things to cue the season, and pumpkin spice works.

Plus, those spices are things we associate with warmth and coziness. They make us feel loved and safe.

I don’t actually drink coffee, so I’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte and don’t care to, but I get the feeling. I’m more likely to put those spices on apples or bake them into muffins (I do have a wonderful pumpkin spice muffin recipe). I enjoy seeing the pumpkin spice hype because it means cooler days are on the horizon. I can fantasize about sweater weather and coming in after a brisk walk on a crisp, cool day to a cup of spicy tea and a pumpkin spice muffin. For now, though, we’re still getting 100-degree temperatures, alas.

And I’ve pretended to move by redecorating my bedroom and bathroom.


Making Minor Changes

I had a reasonably relaxing long weekend, though I did work a little (some proofreading, some brainstorming). I’d planned to do a lot of sitting and thinking, but that didn’t really happen because I started doing stuff. I ended up doing a lot of shopping.

One thing I bought was a new duvet set. I’m hoping that might help some with the itchy feet from wanting to move or change things. I’d had the same duvet cover since 1995, when I moved into the apartment I had before I bought this house. I finally found something I liked, and for a really nice price. It’s not a drastic difference. The old one was white with a pale blue floral pattern, and the new one is white with a pale blue embroidery trim around the edge. Basically, it looks like something you’d find in a hotel (and I believe it was from a “hotel collection”). I’m going to have to figure out what to do about the pillows, since one issue with the adjustable bed is that a headboard is a bit of a problem, and even if you have one, the pillows won’t rest against it when the bed is raised, but it looks rather naked and flat with just the two pillows lying there. With the old setup, I had some old pillows with pale blue pillowcases with Battenburg lace shams (with the blue showing through the lace) used to prop up the pillows I use (also in Battenburg lace shams). The lace doesn’t look good against the new white, and the blue is wrong. I’d thought about just putting the shams on the old pillows and putting the ones I use behind those, so there’s less to undo when getting in bed at night, but I discovered that the old pillows are a weird blue pattern that shows through the shams. I’m considering getting a body pillow to use as a “headboard,” or else buying some cheap white pillows at Ikea to put in the shams. And now that there’s all that white in the bedroom, I kind of feel like I need some color in the bathroom, where the shower curtain is Battenburg lace (and is looking kind of dingy after about 20 years).

I guess it’s the usual redecorating issue where you change one thing and then you have to change everything else to match it. Or maybe I was hungrier for a change than I realized.

I also bought some art supplies and did a little painting. Not that I’m trained at all in art, but I’ve been thinking about playing with it ever since I watched the kids painting at Vacation Bible School and thought that looked like it would be fun. And then I read a quote somewhere about how creativity is part of the human soul, how we express ourselves, but somewhere along the way we got this idea that adults should only do creative things if they’re good enough to be professional. I did check a book out of the library to learn a few techniques, but I’m having fun just dabbing watercolors onto paper in pretty patterns. And I’ve found that it’s actually good for brainstorming because while playing around with paint, I came up with ideas for my writing. It seems to keep my brain in a creative zone while not forcing myself to actively think about writing, so good stuff bubbles up in the background when I’m not trying hard to think of ideas.

And now the holiday is over, so back to work. This is going to be a lower-intensity week because I’m letting a book rest for a final round of revisions. I plan to do some writing for promo things, maybe draft a short story, and maybe outline something.


Restlessness and Roots

I’m close to finishing a draft, actually getting the ending right (I hope), but it’s been tough going because I’ve had a bad bout of restlessness. It seems to be an attack of what I call Military Brat Syndrome, in which every few years I get itchy to change something in my life.

That comes from spending my childhood moving every few years. When I was a kid, I sometimes resented having to move so much. I’d just have things going well, with a group of friends, knowing my way around at school, my room fixed just the way I wanted it, and then it would be time to move. I desperately wanted (or thought I did) to just stay in one place long enough to feel like I really belonged there, to put down roots. My dad retired from the army just before I turned fourteen, but then four years later I went off to college, then four years after that I got a job in a new city, and then I moved apartments every two to three years for a while, so I didn’t notice the restlessness. But then I bought a house.

While I’ve enjoyed the stability, I find, looking back, that I’ve tended to need to change things every few years in the 21 years I’ve been living in the same place. After a few years in this house, I flipped my office and bedroom, moving the office upstairs and bedroom downstairs. Then I lost my job and went freelance, which was a big change. A few years after that, I started going to a different church and found a new group of friends. Then I dropped out of some organizations I was in and found new ones to get involved with.

I’m getting that restless itch again now, but my problem is that I pretty much like my life the way it is. I’ve been going to the same church for nearly 13 years, and I like it better than anything else around here. I’ve been in the choir about 11 years and am going into my 10th year of directing children’s choir. I’ve been hanging out with the same group of people for more than ten years, and I like my group of friends. I don’t really want to change these things.

I would like a different house, but that’s not really feasible at the moment. Since I am hoping to move sooner rather than later, I don’t really want to get new furniture or redecorate because I’d rather wait to get things to fit the new place. This place is so small and oddly arranged that there aren’t too many ways I could shift furniture around. I may have to look for smaller things I can do to make it feel different. I’d like to get a new duvet cover, since I’ve had the same one for about 25 years, but I really like it and haven’t found anything I like better (or even as much). I’m planning to redo my office, which may help, but that will have to wait until it cools down more because it gets too hot up there to work. Maybe taking some short trips during the fall will help.

I do have moments of dreaming of going somewhere entirely different. As much as I complained about having to move when I was young, I also enjoyed getting to make a fresh start with a clean slate in a new place. I’m not crazy about the climate and geography where I live. I want four seasons, forests and hills, being able to be somewhere different with less than four hours of driving. But that kind of move would require either getting a day job that takes me elsewhere or making a lot more money. I caught myself looking into a grad school program that would move me into an entirely different career field the other day, just because it would give me an excuse to move, though I don’t really want a regular job.

So I guess I’ll get a new kitchen tablecloth, maybe a new bedspread, try some new activities, and take some day trips and hope that settles me down for a little while. Realizing what’s going on has helped. Some of the changes I made in the past when I didn’t know what I was going through tended to be a bit self-destructive, metaphorically burning things down just to get that sense of change. Now I recognize that and don’t do anything that I might regret later when the urge passes.



We’ve been having unseasonably cool weather the last few days, cool enough for me to eat breakfast on the patio and even sit outside in the afternoon and evening. Normally in July, the heat is nearly unbearable, and I stay huddled indoors during July and August.

As I was sitting outside this morning, I found myself wondering what it is about sitting outside that I enjoy so much. It doesn’t seem that different from sitting indoors, aside from less temperature control and more bugs. My patio is fenced, so it’s like being in a small room with no ceiling, but then there’s the umbrella that provides a partial ceiling. I have plants indoors (though not as many as I have outside). But still, if I can be outside, I find it far preferable to sit outside than inside.

I think there was a stand-up comedian who did a routine about eating outside and why we like it (I think he was talking about how women like it, in particular) — wanting the outdoor table at a restaurant, thinking of picnics as romantic or fun. I’m not sure why I like it. I just do. It feels like a treat to have a meal outdoors. I have breakfast outside whenever it’s at all comfortable. I’ll generally choose an outdoor table at a restaurant if the weather isn’t utterly miserable (and if that isn’t where all the smokers congregate). I’ve even been known to sit at an outdoor table in the rain if they have a big enough umbrella over the table (I highly recommend doing that on the San Antonio Riverwalk). I love packing a lunch and going on a long walk, eating outside.

Maybe it wouldn’t be special and fun if I did it all the time. I do like the change of scenery, the sense of connection with nature — even on my patio. I like the fresh air. I like looking at the sky, watching the clouds drift by.

I’m afraid that we’ll soon be going back to a normal summer, so the taste of outside I got this week will have to last me until maybe mid-September. By then, my flowers should be blooming, so outside will be even nicer.