Tag Archives: eternal overachiever

Little Black Backpack

This is Percy, all piled with leaves to keep him warm. I don’t know why Bob named our fig tree (is it really a fig tree when it’s this small?) but now I drive up and I think, poor Percy is just some sad little sticks.

One of the good things about driving home from the coast was I got to drive along Highway 101 between Eureka and Crescent City which means I had some beautiful ocean views and drove through the redwoods. I know the world is filled with amazing beautiful things and places but there are few places or things that can compete with the redwoods in NW California. One of my very favorite places to be.

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I made an off-hand remark a couple of days ago that I was considering giving up all non-essential Internet for the month of January. I can’t really give it up completely because I use it for work and streaming exercise classes and certain kinds of research and apps for writing.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I have unsubscribed from almost everything. I cleaned out my feed reader and left only friends and work related. I took Instagram and Twitter off my phone. I’m keeping a list of what’s allowed and what’s not. I am making an exception for Timbers and NCAA gymnastics — which starts NEXT WEEKEND. Here’s a link to my case for watching NCAA gymnastics.

Bob asked what I was going to be doing to fill the void I was creating and I’m like: getting my brain back. I let myself get so distracted. Hopefully I will do more reading and writing and learn new stuff.

My brand new backpack, which is not little or black. Did I ever write about what a hassle it is to find a new backpack? I started looking two years ago but it was like looking for a car with all the different kinds and configurations. Last year I found one to buy — it was nothing special but had nice colors and would carry my crap to and from the office every day and was reasonably priced. But the first three comments said: don’t even think about using this backpack in the rain.

Clearly, that wouldn’t do.

Then I started looking at waterproof backpacks which weren’t pretty and said things like, “Mt. Everest compliant.” I need to keep my stuff dry while I walk from the bus to the office. I don’t need to keep it dry in a monsoon.

Finally I found one I liked and bookmarked it and when I went back the company was out of business.

Then I found this one and it was not cheap but I figured, I have a big girl job, I can treat myself to a nice backpack that I will use and enjoy every day. So I bought it immediately, months ago. I opened the box to make sure it was the right thing, then I gave it to Bob to give to me for Xmas. I have been counting down ever since.

I can’t wait to use it. It’s from Waterfield. I bought several laptop sleeves and a laptop bag from them. I have never been disappointed.

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This post is kinda all over the place but I will conclude with some podcasts I listened to while doing so much driving lately.

My favorite is Gymcastic which is for gymnastics nerds. I love the hosts – they are shameless fan nerds, they are extremely knowledgable, and they are funny but have covered the criminal abuse case with dignity.

My Dad Wrote a Porno — I feel like I might have mentioned this one. SO SO FUNNY. I haven’t listened consecutively but you can drop into any episode and get a good laugh.

My friend Tina does a podcast Toasted Cake which is spec flash fiction. I like that the episodes are short so if the story doesn’t work for me, it’s over quick, and I get to hear so many different writers.

I especially like long car rides for listening to writing podcasts because during my regular life if I have time, I’d rather be writing than listening to a podcast.

I like Writing Excuses because they keep it to 15 minutes and almost always hit something interesting even if the topic isn’t something related to what I’m doing.

Finally, I recommend with reservations, Narrative First. This one discusses stories using Dramatica which is story theory that I love. It is not for everyone. It takes some effort to learn. Narrative First works hard to make it more accessible but it isn’t something you study over the weekend and then get. Recommended only for deep story study nerds.

I will try to post once a week going into the new year. I’m still getting my bearings on my manuscript after my trip down south. As soon as I get a grip, I will start posting my word counts. I’m way behind where I want to be but I think I’m further along than I realize.

Happy New Year.

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Super Spies

These are the last of the last. A few of them were sun ripened. Most of them were underdone and pulled off the plant either before heavy rains or before I finally yanked the plants out of the ground. I’m enjoying them while I can.

A few weeks ago I noticed what looked like drywall dust on the floor under one of the electrical outlets at the office.

Naturally, I assumed we’d been bugged.

I dug around to find a screwdriver so I could look inside. Colleague saw me going about this and asked what I was doing.

When I explained he said, “Move. I know what bugs look like. I’ve seen them on T.V.”

Under our careful examination, it appeared to be a regular electrical outlet. So either the bug or other secret hidden item was well disguised, or there’s nothing weird going on in our office.

Wednesday starts NaBlo which I don’t think is even a thing anymore. Way back in 2006 when all the kids were blogging someone started National Blog Posting Month and then eventually handed it off to another organization that has since rebranded and so I think it’s purely independent study at this point.

Almost every year since I’ve manage to post every day in November and even though I’m perpetually frazzled within an inch of my life *and* can barely post something halfway coherent once a week *and* I’m working on another book that I plan to write 36K words in the same time period, I’m going to give it a shot.

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Know Your Limits

This is not the current scene. This is from a couple of years ago. This weekend we got a light dusting with some freezing rain on top.

I tracked down all of my blog post idea lists. I have one in google docs, one on an electronic stickie on my computer desktop and one on a piece of paper that I printed out at least a year ago that had only two crossed-out items. One about papaya and one about lists. (ahem) I didn’t merge the lists, just made a note that I had three and where they are.

One of the items on the printed list was Goals for 2016. That’s not a typo. That’s because the list has been sitting here so long. Grabbed a sharpie and crossed that off.

This is why I don’t do a bullet journal. A bullet journal is a written journal where you write all your lists and stuff to do and ideas and supposedly it’s super organized and intuitive and handy and people love them. (More here.) That article says a bullet journal is great for people who have millions of lists and like paper to-do lists and like goal setting. Sounds like this was made for me.

Here’s where the wisdom of old age comes in. I know I would spend all my time making the bullet journal. It would be all pretty and organized and color coded and take up a giant chunk of time that I could use to actually do things. Plus it would never be quite right so I would fart around with it, thinking and rethinking my organizational strategy — so I could get really efficient with it. But then I’d be afraid to cross things out and I would get weary of transferring the same to-do things over and over and over and over. The only thing I would ever cross off my list would be “organize bullet list.” Then after a few weeks I would fail at that too.

My best organizational system is the poor one that I am implementing now. I keep a giant list. And lots of sub-lists. I have one in Google Docs and various lists on my computers. I name them things like: “OMG Save Me! Another List” and “Neverending List of Doom”

I print them out. I break them down and write them on index cards. I put them on colored index cards and fasten them with fancy paper clips.

I don’t need any new systems. Plus I thought all the kids today wanted everything on their phones. I’m still trying to remember to put things on my phone. How long has the iPhone had Reminders? I *just* learned how to use those. (Aside: I saw a blog post from a year ago that said I was on page 42 of my iPhone book. The post-it that reminds me what page I’m on in my iPhone book still says page 42.)

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Happy New Year

We made it to 2017. Hooray.

I made some ambitious writing goals so you can expect much more of the half-assed content you’ve grown accustomed to. (Or would that be much less?) I keep finding notes for posts stashed everywhere — on Mac stickies, in Evernote, on my phone, on regular paper. I don’t know why I fail between that step and pasting it in right here.

I’ve had a good winter break. I always wish it were a little longer but I’m well-rested and more or less on top of my list. Less, actually. Perhaps one of my 2017 goals will be to let more things slide. Don’t tell Bob.

This time of year I clean off my bookshelves. The idea is to take books away to make room for the new books. I give the old books away or sell them back. Very rarely, I will throw a book away. A number of years ago I read a book that was beautifully written, wonderful characters and the worst story. This poor lady was a good, decent person trying to do something and everyone was against her and in the end she had nothing and was run out of town.

WHY EVEN WRITE THAT BOOK?

One less copy exists now. You’re welcome.

In the process of going through my shelves I always come across books that I forgot I had or that I still want to read. I found one such book and opened it and the purchase receipt from 2004 fell out. I still think I’m going to read it.

Keep your feet warm.

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Size Matters

During the dark months I like to have string of xmas lights in my room. Sometimes I can get away without using the overhead light and it’s cheery.

If you’ve used these lights, you know they are super crappy and don’t last long. The string I had up developed a short and would blink on and off so it was like living in a David Lynch movie.

The store doesn’t sell lights year round so I’ve been keeping an eye out. I didn’t think they would be here in October, but I was poking around the Halloween stuff in case there was something I could use.

The holiday lights are out now.

We went to Bob’s Red Mill this morning, and I picked up another giant bag of flour, even though I still had flour left from my last bag.

I had a lot of trouble moving the last bag around, and obviously, the most logical conclusion was that my aging body isn’t as strong as it used to be. I was also surprised that I hadn’t managed to use it up yet.

I brought home a new giant bag today (the one on the left) and I noticed the problem:

I still don’t have new romance novel news. Unfortunately, there are forces beyond my control causing delays. Trust me, if they were in my control I would be controlling them. I will update the minute I have something to update.

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Kansas City Sports

The rest of my vacation coverage is going to be spotty since other than the giant plates of meat I ate, it’s already a blur.

This photo reminds me that during our time in MO I saw more empty parking spaces than I’ve ever seen in my life. Everywhere you looked there was some massive parking lot, often with zero cars in it. Or just a few. Or a fence around it because dang it, just because there are parking places doesn’t mean you can put your car there.

If only there were a way to export parking places.

My note about the title is that I would say 4 out of every 5 people you see are wearing some sort of Kansas City team attire. Those Missouri folks love their sports teams.

Our hotel was downtown and new with amazing service. The room was terrific except it was like a meat locker. Even Bob was cold. I turned the fan down. I turned the thermostat up. I was afraid to turn it off because that seemed like something that could backfire.

I hated to do it but I asked about it at the desk. They were super nice and they said they adjusted something but we eventually broke down and turned it off. Also the A/C unit had a bright blue light on it. I am relaxed about light sources when I sleep and even I was astonished that no one had put tape over it or carved it out of the unit. Since I already complained about the A/C and the staff was so attentive, I didn’t want to ask about the blue light.

Also, my tea was never hot enough. I didn’t have a decent cup of tea the entire trip. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence or if it’s because it’s 1000 degrees there and they don’t like their hot drink truly hot.

Isn’t that great how I these are the details of the trip I remember?

Our first night we were ready to go check out the BBQ but couldn’t find anything within walking distance of the hotel. The desk clerk was kind enough to recommend a restaurant that was in walking distance but it was a chain and we have one in Portland and it’s one of those places that thinks it can disguise the fact that they have mediocre food by having a giant menu.

I wasn’t about to waste a vacation meal on that place so we broke down and tried a ride sharing app. The desk clerk understood our change of plans and was happy to help us figure out which bbq to try.

I forgot to mention earlier but we took the train from St. Louis to KC. It was a pleasant way to travel but it was a tad disappointing in terms of scenery. Most of the time the train is in its own little trench so we saw lots of green trees and only a few nice views. But mostly I read my book. I read 4 books on vacation.

Getting back to dinner, we’d been traveling all day so we were hangry by the time our ride dropped us off at Q39. It was 4:30 and the line was going out the door. We had to wait in line to put our names on the list. We never would have done it except we had no car so we put our names in and then went for a walk and found Thomas Hart Benson’s house (artist) which was closed but we could walk around it and the neighborhood was pretty.

The food ended up being amazing. Super amazing. We both ordered platters where you try different things and tried everything. It turns out I can eat a lot when I’m motivated.

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Beg-A-Thon Week #3 Progress Report

This week I did just over 11,000 words. I remain on target for my goals.

From here on out it makes no sense to measure by word count. I need to tidy up about 24K per week to get the draft to the beta readers by July 28th.

Now that I look at it like that, it seems impossible. Oh well. I’ll do my best.

So I wrote a complete (not pretty) draft since starting on May 20th. That’s pretty incredible. I’ve always considered myself to be a slow writer.

I had a fairly substantial outline to work from but I need to remember not to let myself get too gummed up at the beginning because I figure out a lot of stuff as I go along.

One of the things that makes this possible, like I said before, is letting everything else slide. This is agonizing for me but when you want one thing you have to sacrifice something else. Bob is out of school so he picks up more of the chores. I also (oh so painful) gave up about 90% of my reading time. I had time to power skim the New Yorker and that was it. I used my time on the bus to work out the next bits I wanted to write.

So if my outline says “woman discovers she’s really an alien.” Then while I’m on the bus I’ll write notes about how she figures out her craving for raw meat and the strange appendages she has growing out from behind her knees aren’t normal so she goes to the science library to do research but realizes she’s being followed by a purple Cadillac…

And so on like that so when I sit at the computer I’m ready to roll.

I try to preserve my back and neck and wrists by regular breaks.

I do any number of these things:

Shoulder Stretches with a belt.

Wrist and forearm work (This is a class preview. It might sound technical but watch the demo. These are great.)

Foundation training back exercises. I am generally the type to be put off by branded exercise systems but I’ve been doing the basic exercises regularly as part of my recovery from the back debacle of 2015 and I think it’s helped a lot.

Those are my secrets to writing a whole bunch in a short time. Although to be honest I’m not as confident in this manuscript as I was in the last one.

Thanks again to all my terrific sponsors. My report showed over $10K in donations already. Not for me but for the whole thing.

It’s not to late to donate.

This is what the tomatoes are doing. I’m going to put the cages up this afternoon. I did a half-assed job of throwing them out there and have ignored them ever since so probably not going to be a big tomato year. (Again.)

A couple more links.

I’m not a big pork eater but I’ve been anxious to try out a new recipe and this Cuban Roast Pork caught my eye. Right now the house smells amazing.

For a huge portion of my career I worked with the Metlakatla Indian Community in SE Alaska. This is a terrific article and photo essay about basketball in the Community.

That’s this week’s update.

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The Whole Potato

I decided to enjoy the sunshine and read outside. I put on a sunscreen that says “for your face” right on the tube and it is burning my eyes right now. Who invents facial sunscreen that burns if it gets in your eyes? You’re in the sun. You’re going to sweat.

I took this photo of our apple tree because of the pretty designs that I’m sure mean something is eating it. I noticed a branch that looks kinda iffy. I think I’m going to have someone come over and whack it so it doesn’t fall down and ruin something.

My daffodils looked better than they ever have, especially in the back. This is actually the front. They are all gone in the front but still some pretty ones out back. I put a note on the calendar to buy more bulbs this fall.

My great idea to leave notes in draft so I would post more has failed. It just turned into another mess I had trouble keeping track of. If you haven’t noticed this post will collect all the photos and notes I had lingering and consolidate them without any theme or point.

I remember when I was a teenager my entire goal for life was to be popular. I wish I could have all the time and energy back that I wasted on such a ridiculous goal. How did I even plan to measure that? At what point would I be popular enough to fulfill my dream? Which people would want me to be their friend? Who would invite me to what?

I always wished I would be invited to things. Please, please invite me to things.

Now I don’t like to be invited to things. I can barely hold things together just going to work and keeping the house from falling down. I like to stay home. And I do. I feel bad sometimes because I like visiting with people. But textbook introvert here. Need my quiet.

Here’s the garden. I finally mixed all the compost in and it was an extra challenge because I am terrified of hurting my back. I shoveled foul goo into a plastic bucket and carried over to the garden dumped it in. Back and forth. Back and forth. Weeded and raked.

I haven’t bought new seeds in a couple of years but I took a giant handful of olds ones and gave them a toss. Raked and raked. We’ll see what happens.

I’m guessing the usual — everything grows and we get overwhelmed and then compost it.

Cycle of life.

Speaking of cycle of life — that patch of green there? Potatoes.

I had rosemary in a different area and it died. I went without rosemary for several years.

This is kind-of a joke because whenever I need rosemary I’m always too lazy to go out into the yard and I get the little jar of Penzey’s rosemary from the drawer.

I finally decided to plant a new one one fall. I took home a little plant about the size of my index and middle fingers. I looked around and saw a corner with no plants and I threw it in there.

Then in the fall I realized D’OH! That was a tulip patch.

Oh well, it’s a sprawling rosemary plant now with tulips struggling beneath.

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My Secrets To Success

I’m seem to be locked in this pattern of taking a look at my life and coming up with an idea that might make some small part of it easier. Then, in the process of trying to implement this life-changing idea, I instead create a bunch of new problems to solve.

Like, (made-up example) I’m going to get this software that will take care of something that will make my life easier. I end up spending half of whatever free time I had for the weekend installing it — which of course necessitates upgrading some other software and downloading a widget and adding a gadget that needs a special cable that we used to have but it’s not in the garage, basement, laundry room or pile of boxes in the back of the closet so I have to go buy another one somewhere only that store no longer exists so I have to go to a different store with a terrible parking lot that is super busy and the parking spots are all one tiny squosh too small for any normal sized cars, and when I finally get inside they aren’t sure if they have the cable and why couldn’t I just buy it online? Oh, you want to take care of this dumb project today and not drag it out forever, I see, you’re going to stand there until I look around, Oh, look, I found one — then after I install all these various things I still have to configure them and troubleshoot them and get the stuff down to the business of actually making my life easier.

Then, as it turns out, I flubbed up a setting in there somewhere, and I can’t figure it out in the last 15 minutes I’ve allotted to this aggravating project so instead, every time I open my computer I now have to click on a box, and close another program plus a widget, then type in a password, then a number and then, suddenly, everything is easier, but disappointingly so.

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Wrong Turn

No big news. Just a few tidbits.

Holiday shopping has started and is proceeding somewhat successfully. I can’t brag about being done yet.

I thought about holiday cards but realized I was just creating a chore that I would want to avoid so no need to stand by the mailbox. I have a Mailchimp account now for pen name (Curious?) so I considered spamming my friends with a holiday e-newsletter but that would still create a chore to avoid, so don’t worry about more email newsletters.

Haven’t we agreed as a planet that there is too much email? That email is a never-ending battle? That our goal is zero inbox? Aren’t there endless hints and tips for dealing with email?

My favorite was the guy who said he never answers email. He also never receives phone calls. If everyone follows those rules the system falls apart pretty quickly.

So why is it that 99 out of every 100 websites I visit want me to sign up for a newsletter? I signed up for a newsletter that would have been helpful for work but for the first three consecutive days after I signed up they sent me a fundraising newsletter. Good-bye helpful newsletter. My author newsletter is only for new releases or huge news so in a record-breaking busy year a subscriber might get 4 emails. Or, given the current state of affairs, never. Those of you who subscribed to the inaugural issue may have a collector’s item on your hands.

I went to the eye doctor for the first time in two years. This is the first eye doctor I’ve liked in about 20 years. I was expecting him to tell me my eyes were aging so rapidly they will probably fall out any day now. Nope. They didn’t get worse. Hooray.

Long time readers might be wondering if I have my Star Wars ticket yet. Yup. Living Room Skybox. Although to be honest, I’m already kinda burned out hearing about Star Wars. But I still want to see it.

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