Dashing Disaster(s)

I haven’t updated in some time, so to anyone who checks this regularly, I apologize.

So, what’s happened since February 6 and why have I been remiss in updating?

I’ll start with the heavy first and end on a lighter note. My father was born the last of 10 siblings. Everyone had kids. When I was growing up, that meant that there was around half of a decade where there was a wedding every year. Sometimes several weddings in a year.

Fourteen years later, we find ourselves going through a series of funerals. It’s heartbreaking to watch to watch as the siblings lose one more. They were all extraordinarily close, and given that my father is nearly twenty years younger than his next surviving sibling, for me, it was like growing up with extra grandparents. On February 11, we lost my aunt who was in hospice. Several days before that, my cousin and his wife lost their baby who had been born premature in December. It’s a tough time, not just to experience the feelings of loss, but to watch your loved ones who are still here suffer.

Okay, that’s as heavy as I plan on getting.

Since I’ve last updated, I also managed to nearly sever not one, but TWO, fingers using a mandolin while slicing bell peppers. My middle finger on my write hand (right hand, get it? ūüôā ) is the most eff’d up. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve cursed after bumping that finger into something, I could buy myself a new handbag…or dog!

Wait – I did buy a dog!

I know, I know. Trust me, I know.

But I felt bad for poor Theo, he needed to have some company, so on a whim one day, I called a local breeder and asked if she had any morkie pups. As luck would have it, she had one left, so we drove to Crosby, TX to go take a look. I brought Theo along because I wanted to see how they’d get along. In the car, the entire way, I waxed poetic to my brother about how I wouldn’t buy the dog if it didn’t get along with Theo because that was really important.

My brother tells me now, that flew out the window the second the puppy scampered onto the porch. I barely listened as I watched him, fascinated. I only heard pertinent things, like his shots were up to date, he seemed to have no issues, he was weaned…I only asked if his parents were okay and all of his littermates.

The entire time, the puppy ran in circles with another one of the breeder’s dogs and Theo, who was enjoying new smells. Theo didn’t growl or seem to mind the puppy, so in my head, that meant they got along. I then whipped out a wad of cash and cradled my new puppy as the breeder filled out paperwork and gave me his records. When we were trying to decide on a name, the breeder told us she’d been calling him Marko, but that didn’t seem to fit his personality.

We named him Dash.

I should have named him demon…or tazmanian devil. Two point eight pounds of delicate bones and fluffy fur, this puppy is a serious humper, biter, explorer, and general ball of mischief. His only saving grace is that he sleeps nearly 18 – 20 hours a day, and I’ve been crate training him and his potty training seems to be going well so far. But seriously – this dog has made me lose my breath on several occasions.

He disappears under the furniture, he likes to wind himself through the bottom interconnected part of the coffee table, squeeze himself behind couches, etc, etc. It’s like there are twenty of him because the nano-second I turn around, he’s somewhere else. The other day, I found him UPSTAIRS. He’s not even the height of a single step, and I didn’t think he could get up the stairs, but he managed it while I searched the entire downstairs of the house for him. Getting up is fine, but if he tried to get down, he’d end up breaking his skinny neck.

He licks everything off the floor, so I’m constantly cleaning because the tiles in our house get dusty fast. He wants to jump off of everything and is annoying as hell, especially to poor Theo, who just barely tolerates him, but…

It’s totally worth it.

This little miscreant has me wrapped around his tiny paw. So freaking cute, I can’t stand it. Here are some pictures:

theo3 dashcapri dash2

In case you’re wondering, those are both giraffes in the picture above. The yellow one on the left is his favorite thing to hump. It’s just a little hysterical.

And how’s the writing going?

The finger slicing was a perfect excuse, but I’m now back into the full swing of things. I have to finish this third manuscript, getting ready for the re-release of new versions for my first two books, and I’m eager to get started on something new once I wrap up this novella.

Acute vs. Sustained Stress

So I’m going a little out of my mind here.

And the thing is, I’m¬†less stressed.

Let me explain.

My gray hair is coming in much more slowly, the lines on my face have seemingly softened instead of deepening, and I’ve lost a few sterling. I’m spending less, eating less, and drinking less.

But I’m annoyed for what feels like¬†all the time.

Whereas, in my previous existence, my grays were coming in faster than Walgreens could keep my L’Oreal Feria color in stock so much so that I stopped dying my hair. Every morning, I’d wake up and see a line that wasn’t there the night before. I had the liquor store across the street on speed dial and the old man who ran the store¬†knew my name, face, and address.

Don’t even get me started on how much I spent on Seamless each month which inversely correlated with the amount of sleep I got each night (the numbers are not ideal).

But I smiled more. I think I laughed more too. I remembered those times with fondless¬†while doing math homework with my seven year old nephew who was wishing his attention was on Minecraft or Lego Marvel instead of my how many pennies Julie had to begin with after she was left with thirteen but sold a record for five cents. Let’s just say¬†that experience had me wishing I had grays to pull out or an adult to put into his or her place.

ASIDE: Math homework writers, seriously, you guys are STILL constructing problems about selling their wares for pennies and profit??! How about dollar bills or credit card balances or gallons of fresh water left for starving countries? Or what about volunteering materials for habitat for humanity and needing to figure out the cost of the lumber? No wonder each generation grows up to be more isolated, self-deserving, selfish, and worldly yet ignorant at the same time. Sheesh. Okay, end rant.

So here is my hypothesis:

Previous existence: Stress level was high but so was my level of Patience — because it was required to be! I couldn’t explode, become overtly frustrated, although trust me I did skirt the line there. I had to be the face in the calm of the storm, the voice of reason. (Again, don’t know how well I did in that regard.)

So: Stress High, Patience High because it’s superficially inflated, physical and mental toll high

Here: Hakuna Matata. Anything goes. If I’m feeling pissy about something, I make my feelings known. I’m sure my seven year old munchkin was breathing through these arithmetic problems I forced him to go through with the new Sponge Bob movie at the end of the tunnel (we’re going tomorrow). I can get cranky with each of my siblings, and you know what? They avoid me. They know my temperature so they know when to get me…and when they don’t get it, the beauty of it is that I can shout “Hey I’m feeling cranky, leave me alone!”.

So my feelings of stress are acute, I have less patience to deal with them, which means they get dealt with and I move on and I think this has a more positive experience on the aging of my body which is transitioning from sustained stress, forced patience, and vibrant exposure to people, places, and cuisine.

Go freaking figure.

Anyway, my eyes are crossed all over the place after thousands of lines of editing (i HATE HATE EDITING) tonight. I need to get 1 weeks worth of work done for my FABULOUS VALENTINE SURPRISE – Re-release of 2 books plus one previously unpublished! Yay!

I now leave you with this gem from tonight. I can’t help it. This is what it’s turned into. I’m the only one home so I’m constantly cleaning and then five savages traipse through and disrupt all my hard work while I’m in the middle of the study arguing and yelling at my heroines for being dumb. Then I exit the study, examine the disarray, ingest one healthy glass of Syrah (8% alc vol.) before I start to go batty on the post its. Like these:

IMG_0214In all likelihood the toothpaste culprit is 7, but he needs to learn sometime.

Adult Things

I found a new general practitioner!

This is great, because I normally take a long time to get to things like that, but one of the up(down?)sides to living in the same home as your mother is that things that formerly took a while to do (writing not included) get done.

(Although, for the last week, she’s been bugging me to see if I’ve finished my 3rd book yet. I haven’t.)

Anyway, it was a sort of a general visit (the webs don’t need to know all of my health issues), and as I was giving her my general health history, I started to tear up when we got on the topic of my much former, slimmer weight. We had a good discussion about some things I could do, but then I had a nasty reality check after a routine EKG, so to be safe they’ve also scheduled a follow-up Echocardiogram.

The good thing is, I’m young and I can take steps to un-wind the damage my last few years of unhealthy living have caused. Bad news is it will be a long salt-less, alchohol-less, dairly/cheese-less filled journey.

I definitely did not imagine having this conversation with my doctor at 32. It always seemed on the periphery of reality like a wedding or a baby or buying a house…one of those things that seemed slated to occur on the normal timeline of this thing we call life, but it’s not necessarily a sure thing.

Anyway, it happened. Nothing to do but move forward. I’m going to take advantage of all these delightful little green belts, put on some tennis shoes, and listen to Michel Buble and the Eagles and hope it all¬†melts away.

Baby Steps

I know I’m always ailing, so I wont’ bore you with my latest malaise, however tomorrow morning the sun¬†will shine, I will get my ass out of bed no later than 8 AM, brew a yummy southern pecan roast for my carefe, and then I’m fleeing the house.

I can’t write at home. Someone always needs something, someone always wants to talk to you, someone is always talking to someone else about a topic on which you are itching to intervene and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to tune them all out.

One would think, given the last set up at my beloved former job, that this would be easy peasy.

It’s not.

I now have a lengthy list of places where I can escape and write.

Clear Skies and creepy webs

I talked to some of my NYC peeps today (big YAY) and I’m relieved everyone seems to have fared well through this last brutal winter storm. As I read reports and watched the news, this was definitely one of the moments where I was¬†not missing the Big Apple.

Instead, I spent my time outside in my backyard, enjoying the breeze and clear blue sky with Theo. Tonight when we went for a walk, the bright blue sky turned into a deep indigo. It was still clear–better than HD, and the inky background was punctuated only by the stars. I felt like I could see each and every breathtaking one. I wish I knew more constellations, because I’m pretty sure they were all out tonight. As it stands, I can only tell the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, and Orion’s Belt. I’m certain¬†my nephew knows more about them than me.

I digress.

It never fails to amaze me how much a clear sky (day or night) helps to clear my mind. It happens to be one of the things I don’t take for granted–every time I look up at it, I’m reminded that it’s not always like this, that sometimes you look up and all you see are barriers and dirty stone structures and there isn’t anything but¬†slight glimpses of blue in between the gray. No proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps that’s why my Texas sky does wonders for me.

I’m able to see beyond.

The reason this is important tonight is because I had a major breakthrough in my writer’s block!

There are lots of terms for things, writing lingo if you will, that I’m now learning. New labels assigned to old behaviors or feelings previously unidentifiable.

I must say it does help this whole business feel less abstract.

Again, my tangents…anyway, in writing lingo, there are Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters outline meticulously and you guessed it–everything is plotted out. They’ve just got to write the story.

Pansters fly by the seat of their proverbial pants. (Now that I’m not working in corporate America and I’m working from home, mine happen to be of the pajama variety, yay!)

I’m a pantster.

I love when the story comes, it flows out of my brain through my veins into my fingertips which then fly over the keyboard. It’s exhilarating, scary, and wonderful all at the same time. With this last book (i.e. current), I tried to become a Plotter. I went through my writing software (Scrivener, a real writer’s Godsend), and I thought out the entire story (six weeks ago).

Then I started to write. And write. And write.

And then I got blocked.

It didn’t make sense to me. Honestly, how could I be blocked when I knew what I was going to write? I had blurbs and mini-blurbs and bullet points galore, but I was still stuck.

I knew Liz and Mark (my protagonists) were moving into the next stage of their relationship and finally getting to admitting their feelings, and I even had a bar scene planned out, but I couldn’t write it. It was frustrating to say the least. I didn’t feel connected to my story any longer.

So I stopped and over-analyzed (as is my wont). Then I really stopped. I stopped analyzing, stopped thinking about the story, and just let my brain breathe. I stopped stressing and focused on recovering from these damned infections which had lain me low…and something else happened–the weather got warmer.

This meant I was outside more, walking around, lounging in the deck, always staring at the sky…and then it hit me! What I needed to do in order to bring my characters together…

It completely deviates from the plot I’d had written out, but I’m energized and once more enthusiastic about what I’m writing and that’s what is most important to me. Long story short, I’m definitely a Pantser, although I do think it might be helpful to outline incrementally as I go.

So once again enthusiastic…and that’s a big part of this game. My heart has to be into it for me to love what I’m writing, and if I don’t love what I’m writing, then I’m writing crap.

In summation, I love clear skies and I’m a Pantser.

Also, the internet is a creepy place. In my last post I blogged about refurbishing an old Banker’s Chair.

Guess what images now pop up for advertisements on Overstock.com on 50% of the webpages I visit???

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 1.34.12 AM

Can I barbecue an apple?

7762384-The-Singing-Cowboy-on-Times-Square-0

Four minutes from when I’ll have started writing this post will mark the 24th day of my residence in the Lone Star state.

I knew leaving the Big Apple would be hard, but for some reason, today has been especially heart squeezing for me, and that’s what’s prompted me to start the blog–a way of documenting my memories, my new journey, and hopefully keeping those who care abreast of my activities.

When I lived 1500 miles away, I missed my family something fierce. By the time I’d decided to leave to pursue this writing business, I knew it was the right decision, but I also knew I’d be homesick for NYC.

And tonight, it’s hit me hard. I miss everything–the crazy days at work, the people with whom I worked, my really good friends, people watching, the smell of hot dog stands and roasted honey cashews on nearly every corner, the rude baristas at the Starbucks I used to frequent…

If I’m pushed hard enough, I might even admit that I miss the subways, buses, and fearing for my life every time I sat in the back of a crazy taxi driver’s cab (this was far too frequent according to bank records).

New York is everything and nothing all at the same time. A city mired in history but full of transplants and strangers. Prada in the Bloomingdale’s storefront windows on 60th street and the middle-aged homeless woman wrapped in nothing but dirty white sheets in the freezing cold on the corner of 59th. Every brilliant shade of every single color of the entire f’n spectrum…

So completely different from the cookie cutter neighborhood I’m in now. At Starbucks, I now go through the drive-through and the peppy, blonde high schooler scanning the payment app on my phone is a far cry from the disgruntled, overworked kids who schlepped in from Queens to make coffee for corporate America every day. I kid you not, I even wrote two, maybe three, letters expressing my dissatisfaction with the location at 59th and Lex a few times.

Somehow, I doubt that’s happening here.

Everything looks the same, most people dress the same, everyone drives a car. The elementary school my nephew goes to is a ten minute walk from my house, but either my brother or I drive the 15 minutes (there’s a shortcut with a walking bridge if you walk) to drop-off/pick-up. The¬†other day when I dropped him off at¬†school, there was an orderly line into the entry driveway and a¬†fifth grade school patrol guard was lined up in a collared shirt, khaki pants, and a¬†tie¬†to open the passenger door so my nephew could exit the car. The kid was ten and looked like he stepped out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue.

I guess the point of this long-winded post is that I miss New York. I really miss it.

In terms of my actual¬†writing I am sad to report that I am only 50% done (rough draft) with my current work. I feel the pressure to get it finished though, and quickly. Readers are fickle and especially in my genre, if they’re not consuming you, they’re forgetting you–essentially, this means authors need to be prolific. Feed the beast, so to speak.

So why am I behind schedule?

First, I felt the dire need to remodel the bathroom I’m using. Trust me, it needed it. I did the paint, re-finished the cabinetry, and even did the flooring all by my lonesome! It’s this pretty ice blue color, and I’ve selected accessories that are either sparkly, nautical, or black and white.

I also had to get my new writing space set up. I ordered this leaning bookshelf/laptop desk from Overstock.com and assembled it pretty much by myself. My seven year old nephew asked me if he could have one of the bookcases to store his stuff (previously it was on the floor of the game-room). I told him he could have half of a shelf, so he picked a few stuffed animals and figurines to help decorate.¬†He declared the other day “I really like your plans to decorate” (referring to the bathroom and my office space). He’s a great little helper, and tons of fun to be around, but now he’s said he needs his own “office” so I’m setting something up for him near my space.

image1

Here is what my new workspace looks like – lots of pictures and some Eastern and Greek inspired decor in addition to baskets to help keep things organized. Right now I’m using a standard office chair, but I’d like to find an old banker’s chair and re-upholster it in something cool. (BTW, it’s still a little disorganized because I’ve neglected to get something to organize my file folders).

Image-1Here’s another picture – you can see where my nephew has taken over his little shelf. He’s also plastered a battered Minecraft poster to the wall adjacent to the shelf (my ‘office space’ is in the game room, in case you haven’t yet figured it out.) For fun, the pic at the bottom of the collage is of these creepy dolls collected by my mother (seriously, ick) and our popcorn ceilings (ick again!)

I’m still working on getting my new bed–I’m building it in an alcove, how cool is that?¬†(Yes, I have been watching a ton of HGTV.)

This is a pretty lengthy update. It feels cathartic, but now I also feel guilty that I wrote¬†900 or so words for a blog and not my manuscript–which also reminds me that the¬†other¬†reason for my delay is that I’ve had a terrible bronchial infection+sinus infection. This has resulted in several days of staying in bed and doing one of three things: sleeping, reading, or watching backlisted Dr. Phil episodes on Youtube. Today I managed to drag myself out of bed, and I made some of this delicious creamy chicken noodle soup. I love this recipe from Gimme Some Oven and I’ve made it several times. Even my picky-eater nephew loves it too, and he only eats Domino’s or Chik-fil-A!

It’s now two minutes away from 1 AM CST. If I were back in my old apartment, it would be 2 AM CST and I’d probably be cursing the drunken revelers who’d woken me up with carousing and shouting in the courtyard¬†right outside my bedroom window.

Still miss you New York.