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Seven Ways I am Rediscovering my old Normal

Since starting my new job, I’ve made strides toward reclaiming my old “normal” life:

  • I was able to resume my 7:30 to 4 shift for three days out of the last five, a schedule I have preferred since my military days.
  • I am not juggling the roles of product manager, scrum master, software designer and requirements analyst all at once. I am only a requirements analyst, albeit a senior one. How refreshing.
  • I bought a novel! Even though I once read Robin Hobb’s ASSASSIN’S APPRENTICE, I bought it again on the recommendation of my sister, who has read the entire series. I never read any of the other books, so this will give me a fresh start. In return, I recommended Karen Azinger’s SILK AND STEEL SAGA.
  • I practiced my violin a lot. It’s addictive. And I definitely brain better when I play. My work requires a lot of braining.
  • I have not written much. Ok, so I have not written at all. Not really my old normal, but it’ll pass. One possible reason is one of my books is being beta-read, and I usually take a break during such times.
  • Instead of writing, I’ve been playing a computer game. I think I’ll review it once I’ve finished battling the final Big Bad, which should be this week. Yes, it’s another game that’s probably older than some of you are, but not as old as this one.
  • I’m sleeping better. Accidental timing? I think not. Also, I’m less wiped out when I get home, and my husband says that I am more patient.

Looking forward to seeing what the next week brings!

Back From Unplanned Hiatus

Lots of changes over the past month. The biggest was a job change. I started a new job on Monday. This is the first time I have voluntarily changed jobs since 2004. I usually make companies make me leave.

In this case, I could not blame my boss, who was wonderful. My co-workers were wonderful, and I definitely felt appreciated. Our clients liked and trusted me. I had a lot of influence. 

But our company was in way over its head and had a policy (unofficial, of course) of hiring the least number of people they could get away with, and then squeeze them dry. Even the HR director (who I trusted) was frustrated about the slow pace of hiring. Our QA people regularly worked weekends. So did the release team. I did not. I set the expectation early that I would not, and I stuck to it, and only worked extra hours when it was truly warranted. However, due to its minimal staffing, the company was constantly in a crisis.

So when a company found me on LinkedIn and pitched a position to me, I perked up because it seemed like a good fit. It was. As I left my last interview with them, I reflected that the company would be hard-pressed to find anyone more qualified than I. I had a job offer in my inbox the next morning. Early.

So after trying my best to leave my previous employer in as good shape as possible, I started on Monday. It is very promising.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been. After working (at my old job) I was too zonked to blog. After my last day, I zipped down to Melbourne to visit my mother because it will be difficult getting time off for a few months. However, that trip was a bit much, and I probably should not have done it. Today, I am catching up on some email/computer/website tasks, and I need to pick my new job benefits.

I am hoping this job not take so much out of me, and to maybe start doing more of my old activities. So far, it is pretty promising because they are hiring!

Finishing the Danged Books

I have what I think is a good reason for not blogging lately. I have just been finishing the danged books.

It seems that I put up this new website last year, and once I got that accomplished, I pretty much devoted almost all of my writing efforts to my books. I guess that isn’t a bad thing. But it’s terrible for my social media footprint.

First, I decided to rewrite one of my novels in third person. I had been waffling on that for a few months, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Then, a recent news story really helped me strengthen one of the main conflicts. I finished that rewrite and polished and considered it “query ready” by January. I rewrote the synopsis, and polished up the query.

But then what did I do? I dove right into my other novel, which was in the midst of a rewrite as well, and now I am finishing up that one. I have been having rewrite fever.

I have not even been reading much this year. The number of books I’ve read this year has been tragically low.

Oh, and I also started writing what I consider to be the space epic I have always wanted to write. For years I have been writing little snips and setting them aside, knowing they weren’t quite what I wanted, and looking for that big idea. Well, it all came together, and I’ve started the opening scenes in Scrivener, which I purchased a while back. I am also incorporated many of those old ideas, and am pretty happy with what is coming together.

But that’s a side activity while I finish this rewrite.

Honestly, for a while last year when I was going through a period of fragile health, I wondered if I had lost that writing spark. But it is difficult to keep the writing spark when you cannot sleep more than 5 hours a night and your immune system is recovering from powerful antibiotics. Once I fully recovered, I not only started writing again, but I am playing my violin consistently as well.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Hope everyone has been well!

 

An Amused Shopper’s First Ikea Experience

Thomas, the oh, so proper British voice on Waze, got the pronunciation wrong.

“Turn right. Then, keep right. Then, Eekaya will be on the right.”

“EEkaya,” I said. “Is it EEkaya, or Eyekeeia?”

“Eyekeeia,” my daughter said.

“I think you’re right,” I said as I kept right. I had heard it pronounced by my sister, who had told me about Ikea, and who would know such things. “But I like EEkaya better.”

Just then, the trees to my right parted, and the incredible blueness of the Ikea building came into view. It was the second time I had seen the building. I had forgotten about the blueness. This picture, carelessly shot with my phone, does not do it justice. It is bluer than my Air Force Blues, and about as blue as my Nivia bottle. It is about as blue as blue can get and still be blue, and not, say, purple. And the only thing that out-did the blueness was the goldness of the single contrasting color. I asked my daughter if it was yellow or gold, and she opted for yellow. I thought it was gold.

It was a great, square Lego of a building, not a window to be seen, although I would soon discover that I was wrong about that. The windows could have only been on one side that had been obscured by trees, so as to not disrupt the overpowering experience of that first blue impression.

I eyed a cop standing near the entrance, and wondered if something had happened, or it he was part of store security. I found a parking spot near one of the wide sidewalks that run between some of the rows of cars, and we got out.

By the time we made the short walk to the front of the store, the cop was gone. We dutifully went into the entrance. A couple of young associates gestured vaguely as we went in the only possible direction that one could go in. We found ourselves in a stream of people winding about the store. It was not crowded, but one definitely did not want to go upstream. I took a picture of an illustrative corner (which turned out poorly), and opined that the only thing that was missing were arrows on the floor.

That’s when I noticed the arrow on the floor. I took a pic of it as well. There was something unusual about the arrow. It was oddly luminescent. It nagged me for a short while before my daughter pointed out that it was not painted on the floor, but projected.

We tried out a wing chair, and then rejoined the river of people.

“We’re being herded,” I said.

 

My daughter had no comment.

The furniture was true to the catalog that Ikea had sent to my home some months ago. A preponderance of white and steel, pale wood and modernity, except the odd wing chair or other enduring classics. Some of the couches looked very comfy. I pointed out a dinette set and said, “I like that, but it’s way too short for you.”

I live with tall people. At 5’6″, I’m the shortest one.

Most of the furniture did seem a bit short. I spotted a corner desk for $168, that looks very similar to the one I am using now, and which I paid $199 for. It looked equal in quality to mine. But, it seemed a bit short. I didn’t bring a tape measure, so I can neither prove nor disprove this impression.

At a kitchen display, we spotted something we wanted. It was a tablet stand, of pale bamboo, perfect for my iPad, and perfect for our (tall) kitchen table. When I decided I wanted one, my daughter said she wanted one as well.

There was only the one tablet stand visible. On it was a tag that indicated that I could pick one up in the Kitchen Showroom. I looked around. Was I not standing in the very definition of a Kitchen Showroom? I spotted a little back room and went in, but it was apparently a Pantry Showroom. There was nothing in there that did not have a similar blue tag.

 

There was no help for it. I would simply have to remember the tablet stand when I reached the actual Kitchen Showroom. Or maybe there is an App for That? Turns out, there is. And the introductory description even addresses the very need that I encountered just then. “The IKEA Store app is here to make shopping in the store smooth and simple. From planning your visit to remembering everything when you get there …”

So there. That’s what I did wrong. I neglected to plan my visit (at all), and I failed to download the app. I have also been neglecting to properly capitalize IKEA.

We rejoined the flow and after a short walk, I did find the Kitchen Showroom, which contained neat stacks of stuff, all clearly identifiable and packaged in white. After a brief search, we found our tablet stands and rejoined the flow.

At this point, I began to look around for a restroom. There was a one-dimensional map of the store that depicted all the various departments with large dots, arranged in a row rather than a representation that showed all the turns and twists. It reminded me of subway maps. No attempt to be realistic, other than what is ahead or behind. I discovered that the restroom was near the store restaurant, which was only a few stops ahead.

“We’ll have to check out the cookies when we get there,” I said to my daughter. She agreed. I had heard all about the delicious cookies from my sister–the same one who had provided the authoritative pronunciation. We found the restroom, but since I had neglected to grab a shopping cart on the way in, we had no where to put our not-yet-our iPad stands. I had no convenient husband around to act as my merchandise holder, so I broke a strict shopping taboo by bringing the tablet stands into the bathroom. We did our business in the spotless bathroom, and then went in search of cookies.

The restaurant area is the lone part of the store that had windows. it had a cafeteria-style serving area, cash registers, and plenty of tables. We beelined for the dessert section, and looked around for the fabled cookies. And while I saw plenty of other delicious-looking desserts, such as cupcakes and sliced chocolate cake, there was not a cookie in sight. Perhaps I should have looked near the cashiers. While there, I looked at over dinner menus, which looked quite nutritious and delicious. I was tempted and speculated that my daughter might find find something she likes here. She informed me that she would prefer McDonalds.

We left the cafeteria and found ourselves in another Kitchen Showroom. This one had lots of dishes and cookware. I thought I saw a cast-iron frying pan, so I headed there, as I am always in search of the perfectly-sized cast iron frying pan. I found a frying pan, but no cast iron.

My daughter expressed a wish to check out, so I inspected one of the subway signs. I noticed that there were a few shortcuts indicated, and one led to the exit. I found the indicated shortcut, which is a narrow passage between sections, sans arrows. Think of it as a tributary in our river metaphor. We did have to swim upstream a short ways to get to said tributary, but no one gave us any dirty looks.

Ahead of us, there were only other Showrooms visible, so I asked one of the ubiquitous sales associates, who wore blue and yellow striped shirts, where the checkout area was. She indicated (without using so many words) that if I were to continue to swim downstream, I would find myself there.

And I did.

As we headed toward the cash registers, I, at last, spotted the cookies. I picked up a box.

“They’re tea biscuits,” my daughter said.

And that’s exactly what they were, except I thought they were more like animal crackers, each shaped as an I, a K, an E or an A. I had been envisioning a delicious chocolate chip cookie, not animal crackers, no matter how delicious they were reputed to be. I put it back. My daughter made no objection. We were checked out with the perfect blend of efficient and friendliness. On the way out, we passed a “Wrapping and Inspection” table. There was no Inspector about, so I wondered what that was all about.

And we were done. Our first IKEA experience was in the bag. Without a bag.

We hit a McDonalds on the way home.

My Summer. And Fall. And Winter …

Hi, everyone, and Happy New Year! A very belated Happy New year. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Music

I mentioned that I had taken up the violin again. It’s been a good twenty-five years, but I two years of very good lessons (in the early 90s) to draw upon, and YouTube has turned out to be a fantastic resource.

It is helpful to have a commitment when doing something like music. My daughter is singing with the church choir, and I promised her that I would be playing with the choir by Christmas. I was able to keep my promise. I am not very good, but I seem to be good enough. Catholic music seems very well suited for violin because so much of it is a slow tempo in a minor key.

Playing music is a bit more of a challenge than it was when I was twenty-five. I’ve had to overcome a bit of arthritis and regain my finger flexibility. It is still not quite back yet. I have trouble with some of the reaches, as well crowding my fingers together in order to play half-steps in tune, such as from F# to G on the E string–very difficult for me. It was once trivial. I also now have vision problems, and the music stand needs to be a good three feet away in order to avoid hitting it with my instrument. It helps that I have a pair of reading glasses that are a few years old, so they are actually pretty good for reading at a bit of a distance.

On the bright side, the skill has come back quickly, and I continue to hear improvement every week.

Writing

I finished a major revision on one of my completed novels and I dove right into finishing up an in-process revision of another. I know I should just start submitting and/or self-publishing the first one, but I can’t seem to stop myself–the writing is just going too well. My sister wants me to start releasing my time travel novel a chapter a week on this blog. She has heard of other writers who have had success with that, but before I commit to such a thing, I would need to research exactly what those other authors did (I have names) and try to guess how successful I might be.

Work

Work has been crazy. I often end up drained by the end of the day, to the extent of which I may have some decisions to make. So that’s all I have to say about that. I have been thinking about doing some business analysis blog posts, and posting/linking them on LinkedIn, under my professional account (not my writer account). I even have some articles ready to go, many of which I wrote years ago for the benefit (and amusement) of my teammates. If I decide to do that, I’ll build another WordPress site for the blog and an online resume, similar to what a lot of user interface developers do. It will definitely have to be something easy.

Goofing Off

Yes, I do get time to goof off. My daughter and I also took up beading, but until she gets better at crimping, we only do that sporadically. My eyes just are not up to it. I can come up with some pretty patterns, and if I lay it out for her, she’ll bead it up. If I don’t lay it out for her, she seems at a loss as to how to imagine a pattern. But that should come in time. We’ re going to do rearranging on our spare room, and part of it (the sunny spot) will be a beading station.

One thing I haven’t been doing a lot, is reading. I think, this year, I have read fewer books than in my entire reading life. Something had to give, I guess.

~*~

What have you been up to? Do you have any good rousing adventure stories to recommend, to get me out of my reading rut? I’m in the mood for a rousing adventure epic. Genre is flexible–either a space epic, a fantasy, or even something historical (if it’s adventurous).

New Web Home! For Real This Time!

Well, I had a few hiccups, but I have finally completed my move into my new web home. This last step–which required intervention by the folk at wordpress.com, was to bring my WordPress subscribers over to this site by way of Jetpack. Woo-hoo, no more double posting!

Regarding this theme–expect it to change. I am not in love with it, and have so far, been unable to use my banner with it. So I’ll have to either make a new, ridiculously huge banner, or find another theme.

When I haven’t been doing this (which has not taken a great deal of time) I have been busy re-POV-ing a novel and taking up the violin again after 25 years. I think both topics are worth a blog post. I’ve also been using Scrivener for my new stories, and I have a mostly-written blog post on that as well.

I have not been reading a lot, which I miss, so I’m on the hunt for a new, meaty, epic fantasy to read. Any recommendations?

Quick Update

Unforgivable. I have not posted since May. And with a brand-new website, too!

But I’ve been writing. A lot.

I like to have two things going on, so while I am drafting a new novel, I am also revising one of my existing novels. In this case, I am converting an entire novel from first person to third, and I am adding another POV character. It’s a big job, but I’m over halfway finished.

When I finish, I’ll repolish the query and synop, and begin sending it places while I turn my attention back to my new project.

In other news, my health is finally improved. I finally feel over the dreadful antibiotics that I had to go on this time last year, and which, I swear, wiped me out for a solid year. I figured out some of my sleeping issues (absolutely no sugar or milk products after six) and it is a wonder what enough rest can do for you.

Finally, I got Scrivener, which is a writing tool specially suited for large projects such as novels and screenplays (and, apparently, legal briefs), and I have started a software review. I’ll try to finish that up soon.

So I had the good fortune of losing my Fitbit …

Why was that a good thing? Sometimes good things come in roundabout ways.

  • Problem: I couldn’t sleep through the night.
  • Solution: I bought a Fitbit One to help me track my sleep (and activity).

Fitbit gave me a lot of raw data. I was either “awake” “restless” or “asleep” in tiny slices throughout the night, oftentimes each slice only one minute long. All this raw data was hard to make much sense out of, but one thing I did know: on a good night, I only get about 6 hours of sleep. Enough to not be a zombie, but not enough to sustain my creativity. At the end of a workday, I was always wiped out, and I certainly did not have enough creativity left in me to do things like writing or blogging.

  • New Problem: I lost my Fitbit. I wanted to replace it.
  • Solution: I looked for a new sleep tracker. Preferably something better.

I had two qualifications:

One, it had to have good reviews for sleep tracking.

Two: it had to share data with my Apple HealthKit app. The fact that Fitbit did not share such data was a huge strike against it, and was a mistake I did not intend to repeat.

I wanted to get a tracker for my daughter as well, because I suspected she had sleep issues, and another one for my husband, because he was holding his Fitbit Charge together with superglue. Literally.

So when I saw the Misfit Charge had great reviews, communicated with HealthKit and it was only 20 dollars, it was a no-brainer.

Why is it so cheap? Turns out, the Misfit Charge is also being marketed as a smart button, and Misfit really wants them to be useful enough for you to want two or three of them. So I did buy three of them, one for every member of the family, plus I bought a five-pack of wristbands.

And thus, the reason why the loss of the Fitbit was a good thing: thanks to the improved sleep analysis of my Misfit, I discovered that I am a light sleeper. That should have been obvious, I guess, but the raw data from the Fitbit was really difficult to analyze. Once I realized that miscellaneous outdoor noises were waking me up, I started playing with white noise apps, and my sleep problems are almost over.

Oh, I still get the occasional stomach ache and headache, but I can hardly blame my Misfit for that.

As for my creativity? Well, over the weekend I wrote almost 5000 words for an entirely new story. And tonight, I wrote this blog post.

I’d say it’s back.

This Danged Growing Older Thing!

So a few years ago, it was bifocals. Now, for the second time after an x-ray, I heard the A word.

Arthritis. So.

On the one hand, at least I know what is causing this new, unwelcome pain.

On the other, it’s chronic. I gotta learn to live with it.

On the one hand, I also have arthritis in my shoulder, and after some therapy, I have learned to live with the pain, and most of the time, to avoid experiencing it in the first place. When the pain strikes, I know what to do.

On the other hand, in order to get to that point, I gotta have that therapy. For which I must wait.

In the meantime, it’ll take gentle back stretches, heat packs, anti-inflammatories, and time. Oh, and Aspercream. I may also look into tai chi.

There are some other things that might be contributing to this issue, one that can be somewhat controlled with diet (and which I manage to control most of the time) and the other which may be fixable with surgery. Maybe in the next year. Not now. I’ll try the therapy first.

So, now that I know what’s going on, and now that I know that the painful act of sitting is not actually causing any damage (even though it feels like it is), I am going to attempt to resume my usual activities. And, with a little discipline, I hope for that to mean that I resume a more regular blogging schedule. 🙂

A Walk in the Woods – a Picture Post

There are few simple activities that I enjoy more than a walk in the woods. I’m fortunate in that in this part of North Florida, we have some pretty nice woods–not too swampy most of the time.

Today, I wanted to take a walk in the woods, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. Therefore, I thought I’d post some pictures of my last walk in the woods just a few short weeks ago.

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The Shadowy Ones — my daughter and me

It’s just a simple park–really, a woody spot that run alongside a highway, where no one would have build anything, anyway.

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Note the highway beyond the trees.
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After another bend in the path, or two. Seems like hours had passed, but we were only there thirty or forty minutes.

In the next few photos, I’m trying to be artsy.

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I love taking these dizzying “up” photos.
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And I try to frame things.
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This up photo has a more prominent subject.

And finally, a small field and a swamp … er, a pond.

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This is probably the biggest field in the woody part of the park. (There’s also a soccer field and a playground, but I don’t count those.)
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A swamp that tries to be a pond.

Dig those lilly pads!

I must admit that I do miss the more vibrant–and less buggy–woods of Northern Arizona. And I have some fond memories of wandering in some woods in Northern Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Northern England. Each had their own charms.

Do you have a favorite outdoors spot?