Because I should be writing

Here are some pieces I’ve stumbled across in the past week on tightening up your writing. Good for both writers and editors, as well as anyone who thinks words are fun.

Just me?

Ahem. Anyway.

Clamp Down on Unhelping Verbs

297 Flabby Words and Phrases That Rob Your Writing of All Its Power

And here’s a fun article about editing, for those people who think we are the comma police: The Book He Wasn’t Supposed to Write

There. That’s a few tabs down. My browser can breathe a sigh of relief now. (It’ll feel even better once I sort out the size of the wedding cake and we fix the vacuum cleaner.)

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You spin me right round, baby

Because it’s Sunday and I’m stealing this time to blog before we go out for the day…prompt time.

Also because Anya is listening to “You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby, right round round round” on a loop three feet from me and I cannot concentrate enough to say anything deep and meaningful.

Loving:

It is fall. I love fall. I love fall more than I love Christmas, and I love me some Christmas. As I usually spend most of fall sick with allergies and various other sinus complaints, I can’t really explain why I love fall so much. It is simply the best of the seasons.

Now if the weather would get with the program, I’d love it even more.

As I have taken to honoring the seasons with home decor, I have swapped out the front door wreath and the kitchen tablecloth/flower arrangement. This week I will wash up the throw blanket. And I swapped out our “what we love about summer” pantry door decor with the “what we love about fall”:

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When the seasons change, I save these scraps of paper for the scrapbook I fully intend to put together someday.

Reading:

This past week was crazy on the work front, so…nothing other than kids’ books. But there have been a fair amount of those. Both of my kids are asking to be read to these days, and it warms my little word geek heart.

Watching:

I’m going to admit it: I was not a huge fan of the animated Beauty and the Beast movie. It was all right. But it didn’t hold as dear a place in my heart as, say, The Little Mermaid. I related to Belle as a character, obviously; good on Disney for finally grokking that brainy misfit brunettes need love too. But the whole Beauty/Beast scenario was a bit too Stockholmy for me. I wasn’t a fan in any of its many incarnations. But I love the live action movie — more so than my daughter, who adores it because it’s one of the first she saw in the theater. I have watched it 10 times already, easily. And I don’t watch TV much, or care for musicals.

Listening to:

The other day I spent half an hour hunting down a song I heard on Kai’s Baby Einstein video because I want to play it at the wedding. (Pachelbel’s Canon in D, if you’re curious.)

Working on:

This week I am going to work on turning the pile of craft supplies in the office into wedding decor. My dress comes back from the cleaners, and I will go in for a fitting. (Undergarment shopping might also come into play, depending on the miracles the tailor can bring about.) Engagement pictures will, weather permitting, also take place. I really need to get off my arse and print the invites so we can find out who is actually coming to this shindig. And I need to start scoping recipes for the food.

Wedding stuff. That’s what’s happening.

Anticipating:

Cooler weather. I am tired of my arms; I would like to trade my short-sleeved tees for long-sleeved tees for a while.

Making me happy:

Surprise flowers.

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He buys the prettiest just-because flowers.

Dealing with derailments

Before I even got over my sinus infection, I started my period. And it’s the period I expected to have after 90-some days. (I appreciated being let off easy last month, but I knew I’d pay the piper eventually.) So September’s kind of a wash. At the start of the month, the house was clean, I was on track with all my goals, and everything was running like clockwork. Now it’s just chaos.

I’m working on learning to better deal with derailments such as this. I read an article on the topic earlier this week, something about things like this being the down side of relying on routines. But because of the aforementioned chaos, I have lost the link and cannot find it back. You’ll just have to take my word for it: Sometimes routines fall apart, and they take the whole house of cards with them.

The first thing I’m working on is forgiving myself for the lost progress. So far I am not kicking myself too much for the blow to my workout plan; the fact that I actively miss working out means I will take it back up again just as soon as I am able. And that’s really what I am aiming for with these challenges — not to do some weird stunt for a month and then quit, but train myself to exercise each day, just as I brush and floss and clean my contacts each day. I’ve done it before; I can do it again.

Speaking of brushing, I bought a Quip toothbrush, and it’s got me brushing twice a day. I have been trying for years to get into a morning brushing habit, and never managed to pull it off. But I enjoy brushing with the Quip so much that once a day just isn’t enough. It’s amazing what a comfortable toothbrush can do. It takes some of the sting out of failing in all these other areas to have taken on a habit I’ve been trying to cultivate for over a decade.

Yesterday really drove home the need to practice regular self-care. I had just nursed Kai to sleep when I felt a sharp pain in my chest that quickly moved to my back and radiated out to my side. I ordinarily brush these things off, but I’m 43 and a former smoker with a heart murmur and a rotten cardiac family history. I felt I should rule out heart attack before I grabbed the heating pad.

I was home alone with a sleeping Kai; Anya was with my parents. I debated my options. Ask my father, who can barely walk due to an ankle injury, to bring Mom’s SpO2 meter to me, or to watch Kai so I could go to his house and use it? Wake Kai and take him over there? I didn’t think I could safely carry him. Finally, the obvious occurred to me, and I asked Mom to send Anya over with it. My levels were, as always, stellar, so I did some stretches and got on with my day.

Later on, it became obvious to me that the pain was due to stresses from my current work setup (tablet at the kitchen table) and from carrying Kai’s ever-increasing weight. Yoga and time will fix it. And if I continue doing the yoga after my back feels better, the pain likely won’t recur. But I have to make the time to do the yoga.

At the beginning of this month, I’d decided to do yoga on the days I can’t jog, but then I came down with this sinus infection. Derailed again. However, the stretches I need to do for my back do not require me to hang upside down; I can do them even with a head full of crap. So step two in my derailment management plan is to modify the plan in the face of speed bumps. No, I can’t run, or do downward dog, or do crunches. But I can, and should, do some cobras and cat/cows and half moons.

Fall is my favorite season, but it’s also the one most likely to disrupt my progress. This fall, I’m going to work on dealing with those setbacks — forgiving myself for not being able to uphold the promises I made to myself, and modifying my goals to accommodate the snags. I may not get where I wanted to go as quickly as I had planned, but so long as I do eventually get there, what does it matter?

Everything is sticky

Kai’s sippy cup is apparently not for toddlers. Though it only has two small holes — one in the straw/handle and a teensy one in the top for ventilation, he managed to pour an entire cup of juice all over my kitchen floor. While I was baking a cake and working (yes, I multitask), and while Angus the Roomba sucked up the Cheerios Kai had dumped on the floor not five minutes previously. I didn’t notice the juice until Kai started slip-sliding in it, by which point Angus had already tracked it to the other side of the kitchen. Yesterday was kind of a freight train, though, so I only had time for a cursory mop. And today I am sticking to the floor.

There is not much that annoys me more than stuff being sticky — the floor especially. I would love to scrub the floor by hand, but that’s not in the cards.

Kai has been especially two today. He woke angry (I woke him up and changed his poopy diaper first thing; he hates being changed), and has vacillated between rage, impishness, and heart-melting affection ever since. I broke down and bribed him in the grocery store: A treat of his choice if he would just let me shop for five minutes. He chose ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls.

I just discovered icing in my hair, and I didn’t even eat one.

I’m cool with letting things get a little dusty. And you really don’t want to see my bathroom sink right now. But I cannot deal with sticky.

And neither can he.

You can hear the sticky.

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Do you 10Q?

This year’s 10Q is gearing up again. If you’ve not heard of it, 10Q is an annual site on which you store the answers to 10 questions; at the end of the 10 days the answers go to the vault, where they stay until the following year. Shortly before the next year’s 10Q session begins, the site sends you your answers from the previous year, so you can review them before answering those same questions again.

10Q is an amazing tool for self-reflection and goal setting. I have participated for the past five years, and look forward to doing so again this year. I have learned so much about myself through this exercise — the areas in which I get stuck, what really matters to me, how current events color my experiences, and how, much to my surprise, I do have my own brand of spiritualism. I recommend 10Q to anyone interested in digging a little deeper. You won’t be disappointed.

Here are my answers from last year. I’m pleased to say that I have, in fact, made tremendous progress in several of my problem areas over the past year. To correct a pattern, first you have to recognize it exists. I’m so excited to answer the questions again this year.

Day 1: Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

I got laid off.

It has had a major impact on my life, for obvious reasons, but it’s also made me truly examine how I spend my time, how I view myself, and how I approach life. And it has inspired me to re-evaluate my priorities. So while I won’t say I am grateful, I cannot see it as entirely a bad thing. (But that’s easy to say when there’s money in my bank account and food in my belly.)

 

Day 2: Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?

I have made many positive changes in my life over the past year. I am not “there” yet, but I am moving in the right direction. Most days, I am doing my best. And really, that’s all anyone — including me — can expect from me.

 

Day 3: Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

This has been an eventful year. My mother retired. I got laid off, and for the first time in nearly 20 years do not have a job. My daughter started school. We have collectively undergone a major paradigm shift, and it hasn’t been without its growing pains. But I feel we are doing well. We are learning how to adapt to our new normal, and slowly starting to thrive.

Much as I hate to say it, those things have overwhelmed what should have been the biggest change this year: R and I got engaged. I even forget we are engaged sometimes. Whereas when I was engaged to my ex, it was all I thought about. I don’t know if the difference is because I am 42 instead of 27, or if it is because this will be my second marriage. Perhaps it’s the fact that we have already been together for nearly a decade. Or that we have two kids. At any rate, I wish I were more excited; I kind of feel that he’s getting shortchanged somehow. But we are hardly blushing kids anymore.

 

Day 4: Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

The refugee crisis tears at my heart. All the dying babies. For what? Will we never as a species stop inflicting such pain on each other?

 

Day 5: Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

Breastfeeding my son during the requiem mass at my great-aunt’s funeral. Mass was held in the church my mother attended growing up. My parents were married there. I was baptized there. I remember going to church as a small child, laying on the knee rests when I got bored and looking up at the amazing Gothic architectural details (it’s a gorgeous church). Feeding my son there felt like coming full circle, somehow. Life alongside death. A meeting of generations. There hasn’t been much of that in my life. It was a humbling experience.

 

Day 6: Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

I want to be financially stable. I know I keep saying that, but it’s because I continue to be financially chaotic. I would like to have a steady income, decent insurance, and less debt. Ideally, I would like to have enough left over at the end of the month to start saving again. And if I’m really going to shoot for the moon here, I would like to have a new car and at least be moving towards buying a house. I’m tired of worrying about money. Tired of the debt game. Tired. Just tired.

 

Day 7: How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

I want to establish a routine so that I can accomplish all I want and need to accomplish. Doing so will help me be better in all I do, and also to be less cranky while I do it.

Eliminating the unnecessary is a good start. I have begun spending less time on social media, and unfollowing those whose posts cause me inner turmoil, because I would rather spend my time doing productive things than by getting bent out of shape over things I cannot control. And, dare I say, I have been happier for it.

Conversely (I know, I know), I would like to make at least one close friend in the coming year. Someone local. Someone I can hang out with. Preferably someone with kids near the age of my own! I have no idea how to do this.

 

Day 8: Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in the coming year?

Education. Specifically, how to engage my children in learning. I am already beginning to see the resistance to new experiences in my daughter, and want to nip that in the bud. My son is currently fascinated by learning, and I want to figure out how to keep him interested.

 

Day 9: What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

Financial ruin. I allowed that fear to keep me in a thankless, dead-end job for over a decade. I’ve allowed it to lock me into jobs I disliked, felt uninspired by, or actively hated. I allowed it to suck up my entire adult life, leaving no time for my wants or needs or dreams. In the coming year, I will actively focus on attracting work I love, that I am adequately paid to do and respected for doing. I will seek to do work that allows me enough time for myself and my family. I will make us my priority, not money. We can live without money. We cannot live without us.

 

Day 10: When September 2017 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you’ll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you’re at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?

This year, I was amazed at how much of what I said last year still rang true. I am hoping to have accomplished at least some progress in the coming year, so that next year I can grouse and worry about new things.

 

Day 11: What are your predictions for the coming year?

Optimistically, I hope that my recent revelations regarding the recurring patterns in my life allow me to make sweeping changes and take my life to new, greater heights.

Realistically, I will probably plod on as I have been, making tiny but significant steps forward.

I suppose so long as I am moving forward, it’s all good.

My son is a crayon slayer

Which has nothing to do with the content of this post, but it’s far more interesting than any of the titles I was coming up with. And he is destroying crayons as I type this.

This week we lost a fish when it got sucked up into the filter of the fish tank: RIP, Bubbles; we hardly knew ya. Anya had her 6-year checkup, and both kids got their flu shots. Kai hurt his arm, but happily it healed quickly. He and I suffered sinus infections (still have mine); we’ve collectively burned through 6 boxes of tissues since Sunday.

My kids both made strides towards big-kid-dom this week. Anya volunteered for her flu shot, and didn’t so much as clutch my hand when she got it. She is so afraid of needles that she freaks out when someone else gets a shot, so this is huge. And Kai can apparently “sing” an entire song now — he randomly started reciting the lyrics to that annoying “Johnny Johnny/Yes Papa” song that’s all over YouTube. (You can Google it; I’m not opening that can of worms just to link it.) He can string phrases together, and memorize and repeat several lines of text; at his age, his sister called everyone “Dada.” Which means a) I can officially relax about him sharing her speech issues, and b) I need to get him watching some of the alphabet videos Anya’s teacher has recommended — he just might pick some of it up.

I started an LLC, after nearly 10 years as a freelancer. And I finally added a small design portfolio to my company website. Everything in it is close to 10 years old, but I’m still proud of it. I suppose that’s saying something. I still don’t have a marketing plan, though. Baby steps.

I did not write. Except in my head, which of course you can’t read. But it’s good stuff, I think.

I cooked most dinners this past week. And had a smoothie each morning. But some days lunch was hummus and pita chips or cheese and crackers. I’m working on it.

I did not exercise, because sinus infection. Nor did I meditate. I took Benadryl and Sudafed instead. Sometimes together. You don’t get much more zen than that. Well, except for the part where I can’t breathe. Which was the other reason I didn’t meditate.

I had a dream I finished Anya’s blanket. Which reminds me: I really need to finish Anya’s blanket.

I believe I have mostly wrapped up the wedding/reception flowers and decor, and I have the invitations together. Now we need to decide upon a menu. And a guest list. Actually, we should probably do the latter first.

I also need to find flower kid baskets. I apparently misread the description of the ones I bought; they’re tiny. Too small for even one handful of fake flower petals. They are adorable, though, so I’m keeping them. I might give them to Anya for her dolls.

R and I need to take our wedding clothes in to be cleaned (mine) and altered (both). That’s been on my list for a month now.

We also need to have our engagement pictures taken, once we all get better and stop looking like Rudolph.

I also need to do another purge of these sales emails I’m accumulating. Everybody wants your email address so they can sell you crap, and that goes double for people planning a wedding. Even when you try your hardest, they find you and inundate you with spam. So much of the crap they’re hawking to brides these days is deeply, deeply stupid — they couldn’t have sold it to me 20 years ago, so they’re certainly not selling it to a wedding veteran like me. Though the fact that this stuff exists in such great volume implies that the younger generation is sweeter, simpler, and more optimistic than anyone gives them credit for. I hope their wedding days really are their “best day ever,” and that they live happily ever after — for at least the life of the sun hat proclaiming it.

Suffice to say that I’m not going that route. No matching shirts for the bridal party. No “Bride” robe, or “Mrs. Whatever” hanger (I’m not going to be Mrs. anything). Just a simple celebration.

But for a simple celebration, this wedding has taken up a lot of time and energy. I’m afraid I might be bored once it’s over. I will likely have to take on a new project, just to fill my time.

I miss having projects. I want to have something more interesting to talk about than work and exercise and the fact that I’ve finally managed to trick myself into consuming fruit.

Perhaps for my 44th year, I should create a list of 44 projects I would like to complete.

On letting go

(I still haven’t done the writing assignment from last week. And my sinus infection is hampering clear thought. So…bloggity blog blog.)

In my goals list is one of those maddeningly vague ones: Let it go. I had something specific in mind when I added it to my list, I’m sure. But that’s gone now. I can, of course, think of things I want to do that fit the goal. But what’s the point?

I don’t mean that in a teenage-angst sort of way. I mean, really, what is the point of letting go? The more I think about it, the more that I see it isn’t what I want to do. I don’t want to let things go; I want to let things in. It’s not that I want to strip my closet down to the bare minimum (though, admittedly, it is a fun exercise to boil my possessions down to only what I need — I enjoy it in much the same way I enjoy Twitter as a writing exercise); it’s that I want to use what’s in there. It’s not that I want to get rid of my old books; it’s that I want to make room for new books. It’s not that I want to cut people out of my life; it’s that I want to fill my life with good people so that there is no room left for the ones who, in some cases years after they left, continue to hurt me.

I’m feeling pretty isolated as of late. And Facebook, which all too often is the sum total of my social interaction, has been irritating me. Again. Which typically puts me in a flush-it-chuck-it-nuke-it mindset.

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Please tell me someone remembers this movie.

I let go is because letting go is easier. It is easier to toss it, to walk away, to retreat into myself than to reach out. It’s why I have resigned myself to having very little in the way of social support, as opposed to putting myself on the line and maybe actually making a friend or two. Or, for a less deep example, it’s why I keep patching and wearing these stupid bras that don’t fit rather than subject myself to an actual bra store that sells something small enough to fit my child-sized ribs.

It’s easier. And I don’t have to talk to people. That could be my epitaph.

But I’m not dead yet. Only the horse is dead. Perhaps I should stop smacking it? And, I don’t know, give Meetup another shot. Or at least go buy some new bras.