24 Mar

The Power of “I”

The universe is speaking to me loud and clear today.

I spent the weekend at a fairly intense personal growth workshop. It’s one that I’ve done before but going back was not what I expected it to be. Last night, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed by that. I could see the places where I hadn’t done what I set out to do for myself, where I hadn’t gotten what I wanted, and it was frustrating. Did I want it to be magic? Yep, I did, and it wasn’t.

Even in the midst of my frustration, though, I could see that maybe I’d learned some things, even if they weren’t the ones I was hoping to learn. And I could also be proud of myself for having given it my all. I worked hard. I did exercises that I hate, that scare me, and when I failed, I tried again. Go me. But it still didn’t feel good.

Then I went to yoga. Maybe — well, probably — it was that I was in the right space to hear this message. Maybe the time, the place, the work I’d been doing, all added up to an openness to receive something that I should have heard eons ago. But Lisa, the wonderful yoga instructor, started the class with a few words, as she usually does, and her words today were about “can’t” vs “can.” She spoke about how we think we can’t do something, we’re right, and when we think we can, we’re also right. My inner skeptic grumbled immediately — I’m pretty sure that telling myself I can do twenty push-ups is not going to miraculously make that happen. But she told us that for today, when our thoughts wandered, as they would, she wanted us to bring them back to positive, powerful thoughts and she threw out a few suggestions, “I am amazing, I am powerful, I am strong, I am happy.”

I’ve tried positive self-talk before. (If I hadn’t, I would have had some pretty bad therapists, given how prevalent it is as a cognitive behavioral therapy technique.) But I’ve always used “you” messages, words in the second person POV. Using first person totally changes the impact, the feeling inside. “You are powerful, you are strong” — it sounds like an instruction and it feels like a lie. “I am powerful, I am strong” is a lot more compelling, especially when I’m thinking it while I’m balanced on one hand. It felt great.

In further universe messages, it’s easy to feel invisible when struggling with depression. Easy might not even be the right word — it’s a symptom, like sleeping too much or not enough. Sometimes it’s feeling like glass; fragile, see-through, unnoticed. But I came back from my weekend away to multiple reminders that my existence is noticed, from online friends and real-space friends. (Thanks, Judy!)

I’ve been trying to focus all my writing energy on the stories I’m working on. Instead of writing blog posts and writer’s pages first, they get to come after I’ve finished my fiction word count for the day. Unfortunately, that’s translating into not writing enough words any day. Last night, I was still eking the words of the story out at 10:30 and I came nowhere close to my 1000 word goal. But I persist. Today I’ve been beating myself up over this short story, so I’m taking a break from it right now and finally finishing this blog post that I started writing last week. Yeah, it’s now 10 days since my workshop. Time flies when you’re not writing enough, I guess.

Good stuff happened, though. The weather was nice enough to go swimming twice, making March 16th the first swim day of 2015. I am pretty sure that’s the earliest ever, which is ironic, since the winter has been miserable. Also R came home and we had Peruvian food (delicious!) and Avengers watching. And now… back to short story writing. I keep reminding myself, just tell the story, but alas, I keep worrying about the words. Maybe I should be listening to more music from Frozen.

04 Mar

Depression Checklist

There are many depression checklists in the world. Most include questions about sleeping, negative thoughts, life events, motivation, joy. My personal depression checklist should start with this: do I care if objects are out of place?

I brought home something last week, can’t remember what, took it out of a black plastic bag, crumpled up the bag and set it on the end table next to the couch. I probably had some reason for that, but I have no idea what it was. And there the bag sat. Every time I walked past it, I thought I should get rid of it. Recycle it, throw it away, fold it up for re-use — lots of options, but definitely something other than let it sit on the end table indefinitely.

Instead, there it sat. One day, then the next, then a couple more, while the weather was gloomy and oppressive, and the demands of the house (paint me! trim my trees! take out the garbage!) felt like a mountain too overwhelming to climb, and mostly, I just wanted to sleep or read or stare into space while pretending to either sleep or read. Well, wanted is the wrong word. I didn’t really want anything at all. Except maybe for the endless churning wheel of time to just let me off for a little break.

Yesterday, I saw the bag sitting on the table and without even thinking much about it, grabbed it and got rid of it. And then I put the headphones that had been hiding underneath it away. While I was at it, I straightened up the shelves, moved some dirty clothes into the right laundry baskets, decided to do a load of laundry, and hey, maybe fold some of the clothes that had been sitting around since last week’s load of laundry. And then, finally, I realized — I feel okay again. After really not feeling okay for several days.

I don’t know why I dropped into the pit or why I came out of it so quickly. At most, that was ten days or so of depression. But I also don’t know why I couldn’t recognize it as that while I was experiencing it. Note to self: tired, unproductive, gloomy, unwilling to make a smidgen of effort to live in a neater space = depression.

Today, though, the sun shone. I walked the dog and admired flowers (azaleas, I think, but I could be making that up) and felt summer in the air. My characters stirred in my brain and maybe even started chatting. And it’s March, which means February — almost always the worst month of the year for me — won’t be back for another year. Fingers crossed that the same is true for the part of me that lets empty plastic bags sit on end tables for days on end.

21 Feb

Eating the rainbow

It’s 1PM, and I’ve eaten a salad and stew today. Vegetables (and fruits) included, in rainbow order: red onion, strawberries, beets, cranberries, carrots, sweet potato, onion, avocado, arugula, spinach, cucumber, celery, white radish. Probably not entirely in the obvious order — the strawberries were in the salad and the cranberries were in the stew, plus the salad was for breakfast and the stew for lunch — but I am so tempted to run to the store and buy some blueberries just so my rainbow could include blue. I suppose it doesn’t really include purple, either, but red onion could count as purple.

Yesterday I wanted stew, so I went out and bought stew meat but I didn’t read any recipes first. I got home and started reading but I didn’t have all the ingredients for any stew that sounded interesting, so after looking for a while, I got annoyed and decided, eh, stew. Isn’t the basic premise of stew — you know, in a historical romance novel sort of way — to soften tough meat while making limited food stretch to feed many? It can’t really be all about the rules.

So I made stew. I browned some beef in a little bit of bacon fat, and while it cooked, I chopped vegetables. Carrots, celery, onion — but then, hey, I had some beets to use up. And I need to eat more sweet potato, I know the nutrients are good for me, but I’m tired of the taste, so stew’s a good way to hide it. Two cups of chicken broth, a half cup or so of balsamic vinegar, a couple teaspoons of Italian herbs, a couple pressed cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, some salt, dump everything into the crock-pot and walk away. Until about a hour before it ought to be done, when I added a bunch of spinach, purchased at the farmer’s market on Wednesday, and a handful of frozen cranberries. Why cranberries? Because the most interesting recipe I found — which I couldn’t follow, because I didn’t have the other ingredients — was for a stew with cranberries in it.

beef stew with cranberries

It was delightfully weird. I’m not sure what made it quite so pink, whether it was the beets or the cranberries or maybe it was both, but it had a sweet tanginess that went so well with the taste of meat. The dogs got a tiny taste of it last night and today, when I was eating lunch, Zelda kept putting her paws on my knees as if to remind me that she should not be forgotten. I let her lick out my bowl while I gave B a little bit of the broth in his own bowl and both dogs licked their bowls until every last speck was gone, plus three more licks on each spot, just to make absolutely sure.

Even the contrast of textures worked. The sweet potatoes got mushy, of course, like they do, but the beets stayed solid and the carrots were somewhere in between. Combined, it was a little of everything.

I think I’ve made myself hungry again. I’m really not, though — I just want to go eat again because it’s such a fun meal. So instead…well, I ought to go write.

The last few days haven’t gone well on the writing front. The combination of yoga every day, walking every day, writing every day, sticking to AIP every day… on Thursday, I hit my limit. I was tired, deep-down, had-enough, fed-up-with-everything sort of tired. I went off the diet, ate things that I wasn’t supposed to, didn’t do yoga, didn’t write, and then yesterday, surprise, was really quite sure that I was coming down with something. Today I’m feeling okay, though, so I am trying to get back on the plan.

It may be that the morning pages were the instigation. They’re supposed to unleash your creativity, inspire you to let the words flow, but I’ve used them this week as self-analysis, my own internal psycho-therapy and … ha, my old therapist would be pleased that I just caught myself intellectualizing. I wanted to say that it’s interesting, but that’s not how I feel about it. I feel… I think hurt is the right word. I keep letting the words go and I’m so damn mean to myself. Seriously, I would never talk to another human being the way I talk to myself when I am just spewing forth. I think I’m getting worthwhile discoveries from it, but I seriously need to cover my walls with positive affirmations to counter the unkind self-talk that simmers just under the surface. Or — and this is probably really what I need to do — work on where all that negativity is coming from and see how I can heal it. That, however, sounds like a huge life project, so perhaps I’m just going to go back to doing yoga and writing every day. Including the writing sprints, which truly fell by the wayside in the past week. I should be somewhere in Week 3 of my Write Plan, but I haven’t even reminded myself of what week 3 includes. Oops.

Wow, this blog post really wandered away from my rainbow topic. Oh, well, it’s words, it’s writing, and now that my fingers are warmed up, I think I’ll go stare at one of my files for a while. This morning, half asleep, Meredith started talking to me, so maybe the short story is going to come first. I think it really is starting to get somewhere. I hope so, anyway!

18 Feb

Lost words

Why is it that the words we lose always feel like the best words? Those words that disappear into the mists of the ether were definitely great words, not the usual run of the mill mediocre words. *sigh*

I guess I’m getting over it already. But I am definitely including those now disappeared and almost forgotten words in my word count for the day.

Today marks the end of the second week of my Write Plan. It’s not gone so well. Oops, I guess I’m on the wrong blog for writing about writing. All right, I will not post that update here. Instead here, yoga thoughts!

A year ago, I was sure that I was never doing a side plank. (I promise, when I’m in a side plank, my expression is nothing like the one that woman is wearing. I’m probably not nearly that high off the ground either.) So, obviously, I was wrong about never doing a side plank otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it, but actually, two things interest me about the side plank.

The first is how a little change, a tiny piece of advice, can make a huge difference. C and I were talking about it, me still on the “ain’t never going to happen,” but with a recent try-and-fail to my name, when she said, “You have to lift your hips.” Hmm. Interesting thought. I tried again the next time it came up in my yoga podcast and bang, there I was. I can’t really explain the dynamics — I don’t have the vocabulary for kinesthetics or motion — but in all the different ways instructors described how to do side plank, the idea of lifting hips high was either never included or never sunk in. And what a change. The lower your hips go, the harder the pose is to hold. The energy of holding your body up like that is coming from your core and side, not your arm and feet. I’m not going to say that it’s made it easy, but today I held side plank on both sides for the full count (or almost) which would have been unthinkable a while ago.

Which brings me to the second thing that’s interesting to me about side plank — how quickly one can go from “impossible” to “routine.” School was always easy for me. I never had the moments of struggle with a problem I didn’t understand or a thing I couldn’t learn, but as a parent, watching R try to read, I had this faith that he could get it, would get it. It wasn’t irrational, but his learning disabilities looked so dramatic that I had been warned that it wasn’t likely. Well, he did get it, and now reading is routine for him. But that move, from impossible to routine, it’s awesome. I want to describe it with a miracle synonym that doesn’t have any religious connotations, but the ones the internet gives me aren’t right at all. But it’s like life achievement points, leveling up in the game of yoga or school or whatever your challenge goal is. I’m thinking about this because on the one hand, I think it’s ridiculous to find such a sense of satisfaction in my body being able to do something that it has never, ever, ever *needed* to do — it’s not like mastering brain surgery and saving a life! But on the other hand, leveling up is leveling up and it’s gratifying, even when the end goal is trivial.

I’m still feeling sad about my lost words. They were good words, so maybe I’ll start trying to retrieve them. But first I’m adding a category for yoga, because apparently doing yoga every day means a lot of thinking about yoga.

12 Feb

Kayaking Day

I let myself off the hook for my 40-Day Write and Yoga Plan today, but I’ve been feeling vaguely guilty about it ever since I got home. Writers Write. Even when they’re tired, even when the day was busy, even when three dogs are demanding attention and wishing for walks. Writers write.

And so … today was a gorgeous day. I checked the weather this morning before hopping in the car and the report for Orange City gave a zero percent chance of rain. Zero. It amused me, because surely there is some teeny-tiny possibility of some freak weather system springing up out of nowhere?* But apparently, no, there is not and the weather people did not lie — the sun shone in a clear blue sky all morning long.

Orange City was the location for the kayak tour I impulsively signed up for last week. It was a winter manatee tour, and it was wonderful. My friend Lynda joined me, and we spent three hours or so with a small group of tourists and a very knowledgeable guide, paddling around the St. Johns river — the slowest river in the United States, I now know — including lots of bird sightings and a stop at the outside edge of the Blue Springs manatee reserve for some manatee sightings, too. We saw a wood stork, hawks, many ibises, great egrets, blue herons, anhingas, and some other birds I can’t remember. (Isn’t that always the way it is?)

A big alligator was so still it seemed potentially fake until we got so close that it splashed into the water and swam away. Poor guy, we ruined his sunbathing.

The manatees were mostly grey splotches under the water, with an occasional nose breaking through the surface, but at one point, we could watch the plant life being pulled down from a manatee munching on its roots. For some reason, that felt very mystical to me, but in an entertaining way. Like a metaphor for how something under the surface can affect what we see — interactions, reactions? — but in this case, it was a big, mellow, sea cow. It could have been scary, horror movie-ish — the leaves disappearing mysteriously, the hidden creature under the surface — but instead, it was this connection with nature that felt magical, like knowing something beyond what can be seen. I’m probably not making any sense. I’ll have to think more about it. But it was cool.

Also cool — the actual kayaking. I was asked if we wanted a tandem or single kayaks and even though I have never in my life been the sole person in a boat, I said ‘single’. It was terrific. The feeling of power when I started to figure out how to steer was so satisfying. It was very low-key, no real need to be strenuous about it, but I got into a really great rhythm a couple times, stretching my arms out in the push and pull and feeling very yoga-connected, breath and motion, working together. And then I’d splash myself or bump into another kayak and the moment would end, but even when I was just sort of bumping along, it was enjoyable.

St JOhns-Lyndaandme

Useful things I got out of it: the color of the forest right now is far more gray than I’d been writing it, mostly because of the Spanish moss. It’s still comparatively green (compared, say, to upstate New York at this time of year), but the shades are muted, tans and browns and amber, with splashes of deep green and sprinklings of light green, the light being new leaves just sprouting on the trees.

Kayakers paddle. They use paddles, not oars, and they use the word paddling. They also go kayaking, as opposed to rowing or boating or out on the water. They use tie-down straps, called sometimes tie-downs, to attach the kayak to the roof of a car. They use dry bags to keep their stuff safe and dry. That last is a nice one, because it’s the kind of question I wouldn’t even have known how to ask.

Great egrets have yellow beaks. Blue herons are white when they’re babies, but ibises are brown when they’re young. Ibises get anxious about red-tailed hawks flying by and when they’re anxious, they stay in the air. The easy-to-see birds (ie, the white ones) make quiet sounds, but the birds that can hide well have much louder calls, presumably because it’s harder for potential mates to see them in their well-camouflaged state.

Will I use all of that? Probably not. Grace could know a random fact or two about the birds, but I don’t really see her as a bird-watcher. But then I didn’t know she was a kayaker until that kayak mysteriously appeared on top of her car, so perhaps I’ll learn more as I write. And I’ll be well-prepared either way!

Ugh, just looked at the clock and it’s almost six. Where did my time go? Time to take care of dogs. But what a wonderful day it was. I am feeling so fortunate, so lucky, tonight. A sunny day outside on the water is good for the soul, I think. Mine is feeling refreshed and peaceful, and looking forward to a good writing day tomorrow.

*Ding, idea for a fun Tassamara power. Control of the weather. But I think it would have to be some sort of technology that someone had developed, because Tassamara, to date, has been all abilities that some people actually believe in, and I’m not sure anyone believes that someone else can control the weather. But still, it could be really cool. Weather change could happen via some sort of manipulation of energy, I suppose? Another idea to think about!

10 Feb

The Tropics

I was cold while walking the dog this morning. I hurried her along, impatiently encouraging her every time she paused at some neighbor’s trash can for more than a second or two. “Cold, Zelda, cold,” I said. “Walk faster!”

Possibly I should have worn socks? Or maybe a jacket? Instead, I had on sandals, a sweatshirt, and a light scarf. About halfway through my walk, Zelda gave me a plaintive look, and I had to laugh at myself. And take a picture.

a banana plant

This was dangling in front of me. Bananas. Or plaintains. I don’t have any idea how one tells the difference and I’d look it up, but then I’d wake up to discover that three hours had passed while I was looking at plant pictures on the internet and I don’t have time for that today.

Anyway, it was a potent reminder that while I don’t generally think of where I live as tropical, it’s pretty darn close. Palm trees and hibiscus and bougainvillea that grows like a weed and bananas… yep, tropical.

In other news, the kitchen is close. So, so close. The microwave still needs to be put up and there are wires sticking out of the walls that are destined to be connected to lights under the cabinets and I need to do a tile backsplash and repair some paint, but it’s nearly there.

It’s strange how I feel about it. I’ve been trying to separate myself from the house for the last unknown number of months, facing the reality that I cannot afford to live in a three-bedroom house with a lawn and a pool, and if I want to keep trying to make it as a writer, I should be planning a move to a studio apartment instead. Those are mostly not bad thoughts for me — I don’t feel like I need much, and I’ve been content in a studio apartment before. But the kitchen is mine now, in a way it wasn’t before. I want to not love it because then it will be harder to give it up, but there’s a deep-down core part of me that wants to stand in it, saying, “Mine, mine, mine,” like the seagulls in Finding Nemo.

The one sort of big thing left to do, post house-disaster, is to turn my office back into my office. It was where the flood was worst, and I wound up moving everything out of that room. For the last month, it’s where all the kitchen stuff has been stored, and before that, it held the Christmas tree, but now it’s empty, so I can again turn it into my work station. I appear to be reluctant to do so, however, because it makes such a great yoga space. Lots of room, great light, no distractions. Still, I’ll get on that. Maybe this weekend.

On Friday, in honor of Friday the 13th and because I like the juxtaposition of Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day, A Lonely Magic is going to be free for the first time. I feel like I should spend today searching for ad sites that might be able to run an ad for it with that little notice, but if I did that, I’d be being a sensible business person. Instead, I’m going to go back to tweaking this same stupid chapter of A Gift of Grace and see if maybe I can get Noah and Grace back in the same room. Or same place, since literally, it’s the forest, not a room.

02 Feb

Monday morning randomness

I didn’t watch the Superbowl yesterday, because I don’t have anyone in my life who would make watching the Superbowl enough of a priority that we would have figured out how to make it happen. My television is only connected to the internet, so it would have meant caring enough to go somewhere to watch it. I don’t care enough (surprise!), but it is always sort of weird when most of America is having a certain kind of party, with the grocery store filled with the foods for the occasion, to just not do it. Instead, I turned on the butterfly lights in the backyard and lit the torches and ate steak and asparagus on my great-grandmother’s china.

The food choices were because I still don’t have a kitchen sink and so I’ve been grilling a lot. A steak can last me for three meals, so is more economical than it seems. The china was because I do have kitchen cabinets, ones with enough room that I unpacked all of the dishes that have been in boxes in my garage for the past five years. The lights and torches were because it still gets dark early and the kitchen table is packed with stuff that should be sitting on kitchen counters that I still don’t have. All practical reasons, but it amused me to be feeding myself a romantic fire-lit dinner on the patio. I should do that more often, because it really was lovely. Not having company shouldn’t mean not appreciating an enchanting evening.

Anyway, I’ve decided to use the china, because otherwise R is going to wind up needing to make the choice to get rid of it. (Or have a huge kitchen and maybe lots of kids.) Someone is going to be breaking this china, and it might as well be me. The very first use I made of it, somewhat accidentally, was as a temporary water bowl for the dogs. The story behind that is boring, but it was just a convenient thing to do. I had a moment of wondering if my great-grandmother would be horrified — and then I almost heard her laughing at me. She wouldn’t have minded. I only knew her really at the end of her life, when she was in her 80s and 90s. For the last decade, she never had any idea who I was, but she didn’t care. In a wheelchair, in a nursing home, memory shot to hell, she was cheerful and happy and joyful, always positive. I will probably not think of her every time I use her china, because eventually, it will just start to feel like dishes, but I hope it’ll serve as a reminder of her for a while.

I should post kitchen pictures. It’s… getting there. Kitchen cabinets are in and refilled with my kitchen stuff, but I have no counter-tops and no sink. It’ll be, at best, the end of this week before it’s done. More likely sometime next week. I have had moments of great uncertainty. Picking out cabinets, a color, hardware was remarkably stressful. There are so many different styles, so many colors, so many choices. So far with this house, I’ve bailed on even the most basic of choices. I thought when I moved in that I would paint everything colorfully, but nope, not so much. I’ve been too worried about making a bad choice to do anything more than the same off-white that most rentals have. But with the kitchen, not making choices was not an option. I’m sort of at a halfway point, where I can how my choices are turning out, and so far, so good. I went with this cabinet style with these handles. Simple but polished. My kitchen is small — not a galley type, but basically a one-person room, so I was worried that the cabinets would be overwhelming, but I think they work.

It does make me wish I’d had money for new appliances, though. It would look so good with black, instead of the mismatched white and off-white that are in place. Someday, maybe. It depends, I suppose, on my priorities. What do I want most in life?

Hmm, that’s getting very philosophical for a Monday morning, warm-up-the-fingers blog post, but I have been thinking about my goals lately. It’s the January new year’s thing in action — what do I want, where do I want to be, etc.? Last year, I should have started looking for a job in January. That was always the plan. Quitting my job, taking two years to finish grad school and internship, finding a job in 2014. Instead I quit my job, dropped out of grad school after a year, spent a year writing a book and then… eh, started my own business and wrote another book.

So I have deviated from my plan and there’s a new plan in process. And I know that would make a lot of sense, in this new plan, to minimize my expenses dramatically. Do I really need to own a house? Having a lawn and a pool and a spare bedroom — those are all expensive choices, not really suited for the start-up entrepreneurial mentality. And yet… I want to keep my house. So, yes, goal-thinking — how do my plans serve my goals and what are my priorities? Sadly, we’re into February and I still haven’t figured out my answers.

When I decided to go for it on the kitchen — my cabinet choice was not the most economical — it was with the knowledge that if I was going to sell the house, a good kitchen would add value. But now that I (almost) have my kitchen, I’m even more reluctant to give it up. On the other hand, do I really want to make job-life choices in order to have a nice kitchen? Maybe.

All right, my fingers are warmed up and it’s almost yoga time. Writing this afternoon will be all about Noah. For the first time in a while this morning, I actually had snippets of conversation happening while I walked the dog. A good sign!

27 Jan

Yoga and dogs

Yesterday was a seriously tearful day. It’s been a while since I grieved so fiercely, but for the day — ugh, and now this morning, too — I missed my mother so intensely that the tears just kept flowing. It has gotten easier — I used to have days like that all the time and this was the first one in months — but the hole doesn’t go away.

That’s not what I wanted to write about, though. In yoga last week, when the wonderful yoga instructor was giving instructions for wild thing (camatkarasana), I … followed the instructions. And did the pose. A year ago, wild thing was one of those poses that I scoffed at. Ha, ha, yeah, no way. No way was my body ever getting into that position. Not going to happen. Not in a million years. Or, you know, as it happened, one year.

Yoga, for me, has been a little about the exercise but mostly about the mindfulness, trying to be in the present, trying to breathe and let myself feel. If it had just been exercise, I wouldn’t have lasted more than a few weeks, because I’ve never really cared that much. Most exercise has seemed pointless to me. Run three miles? Why would I want to? But I was so satisfied last week, so pleased with myself. I want to remember that feeling.

Last night, both dogs were being snuggly. Zelda hates it when I cry — well, or possibly she likes it, because she is passionate about trying to thoroughly clean my face if there are tears rolling down it — but Bartleby was, if anything, worse. For Z, once the tears are stopped, it’s over. She heaves a sigh of relief, and goes back to chewing on a toy or sleeping or doing one of those doggie investigations of the backyard. But Bartleby appears to think that tears mean he should put his entire body on top of me and stay there indefinitely. He’s like a cat. Well, except that I don’t think most cats care if their people cry. But he was not going away and he was not getting off and that made Zelda worried, too. I finally wound up lying in bed with a dog on each arm, completely cuddled up next to me, their heads by my shoulders. And then they went to sleep. And both of them started to snore! Not in the same rhythm. Crackle-wheeze, crackle-wheeze, crackle-wheeze. I felt, in that moment, supremely blessed and very lucky. Also, eventually, ridiculously stiff. I finally slid them off my arms and rolled over to sleep myself, where I dreamed that Christian Kane was my personal trainer and that running felt like flying. It was a good dream.

Sushi with rice, wasabi, soy sauce (gluten-free), and white wine yesterday — four things I am not allowed to eat. I feel okay today, though. Okay enough to go stare at my file and wish I remembered how to write.

26 Jan

500 Reviews


It would be very long and tedious if I tried to thank every reviewer — plus there would be a lot of “Amazon customer” in the list — but I want to say thank you, anyway. Ghosts hit a milestone this morning. Five hundred reviews. For some reason, it makes me want to cry, but I’m going to take myself out to sushi tonight instead.

Maybe the crying is just thinking back to three years ago, to where I was when I posted it on Amazon? Oh, no, I got it. It’s about missing my mom. Because it feels like bragging to post something like this online (although obviously, I’m doing it anyway) or actually, even tell anyone in real life, but it wouldn’t have felt like bragging to tell my mom. Or it would have, but she wouldn’t have cared, and she would have been happy for me. I would have called her right away.

I suspect German has a word for the sensation of something lovely that makes you grieve, but I don’t know what the English equivalent is. But I am simultaneously today very happy and very sad.

Also very grateful to everyone who has taken the time to write a review. If that’s you, thank you so much!

23 Jan


I have done many good and useful things this week. Few of them involve writing books, unfortunately, but in my (weak) defense, my kitchen is under construction and it’s vastly distracting. It turns out that for me, it’s easier to do my taxes while people are smashing things in another room than it is to write. Live and learn, right? But hey, at least my taxes are basically done. I’m still waiting on forms, but the hard part is over.

What does that have to do with soup? Not much. Except the aforesaid kitchen issues means that at the moment, I have no kitchen sink, no stove, no oven, no dishwasher. And a very restrictive diet that does not permit simply settling in for delicious take-out for the next couple weeks. I thought feeding myself on this diet was already taking too much time — little did I know how much more challenging it might get.

However, I think I’m also just maybe being a little crazy about it? Yesterday, I decided to throw a chicken in the crockpot. I chopped up an onion and a lemon and threw those in, too, and then sprinkled the whole thing with Italian seasonings and garlic salt. Then I ignored it for eight hours or so.

When I finally went back to it, the meat was falling off the bones so I spent a pleasant fifteen minutes pulling all the meat out, ignoring the plaintive eyes of the three dogs clustered at my feet. When I was finished, I looked at all the bits left in the crockpot — bones and skin and onion and bits of meat too small to get — and thought, ugh, how am I going to clean this without a sink or a garbage disposal? Much to the dogs’ sorrow, I did not think it would be safe for them to do the job. But I also realized, hmm, this might make a nice broth.

So instead of tossing the whole mess into a garbage can, I covered it with water, plugged it back in, and left it alone all night. This morning, I spent another pleasant quarter hour carefully filtering the liquid from the rest. When I was done, I had two Mason jars full of chicken/onion/lemon broth.

Well, broth means soup, right? But this was weird broth, plus no kitchen. I do have a barbecue, though. Unfortunately, it looked like it might rain. So of course I did what any sensible person would do — I went rummaging around in the refrigerator/pantry to see what I had that could be turned into soup, without violating the rules of my crazy grain-free diet. No rice, no noodles, no orzo… but I had artichoke hearts. And parsnips. And spinach…

I chopped up some onion, put it in a saucepan on the grill, sauteed it for a while, added some chopped-up parsnips, kept sauteing, added some chopped-up artichoke hearts, kept sauteing, added the broth, threw in some chicken, brought the whole thing to a nice simmering boil, tossed in the spinach, and took it off the fire when the spinach was still bright green but wilted. It needed salt, but otherwise… yum.

Of course, my dish problem has not gone away at all — in fact, I made it even worse. But it still looks like it’s going to rain, so I’m thinking I’ll line up the dishes in the grass for a first rinse. (Kidding. Sort of. The bathtub is probably a lot more efficient.)

But it made me think about soup. I want to say that it’s hard to ruin soup, but I have, in fact, ruined soup more than once. It’s very easy to ruin soup if you add too much of something — too much salt, too much hot sauce, too much of an overpowering flavor. It’s also easy to ruin soup if you start with a bad base. I’ve made bone broth before that for whatever reason turned out disgusting. Disgusting broth makes disgusting soup. (I think it was because I forgot about it and let it boil. Also garlic in broth can be very overpowering.) But if you start with a broth that tastes good and you add ingredients that taste good and whose flavors complement one another, then even if its weird — and let’s face it, parsnip artichoke spinach chicken soup isn’t showing up on any gourmet restaurant menus anytime soon — it works out okay.

And all of that is a really good metaphor for writing. I’ve lost track of how many unfinished projects I have going on. I need to start trusting that my broth is okay and my ingredients are at least interesting, so my soup is going to be fine, and stop second-guessing myself all the time.

I’ve been reading a lot this week, too — telling myself that as a writer, reading is practically part of the job description, while playing WoW is not. (Every time I play a little WoW, a part of my brain does a rebellious, back-of-the-brain, lecture about how WoW is story-telling and I could be learning from it and how it’s actually stretching my creativity, but the rest of me knows that’s BS.) Anyway, if I get ambitious tomorrow, and/or stuck on the current story again, I may write about the things I’ve learned from watching successful writers break the rules, because I have been thinking about writing, even while not doing it. Meanwhile, though, I think I’ll go eat some more soup. And contemplate the dirty dishes.

Making home-made soup, entirely from scratch, with no sink or stove or oven — I think that ought to be a metaphor for something, too. I’m just not sure what. Or maybe it’s not a metaphor, just a symbol.

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