Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Break Stay-cation

There was a moment yesterday when I realized that I needed to cull the chaos of my life and bring it down a notch before I had a mental break. One of those things involved a Spring Break trip to Big Bear: a week without internet or television, two dogs in limited space, people who would be bored out of their skulls, and me with lots and lots of work to do.

I made an executive decision to cancel it. I told the kids that we’d have a stay-cation instead where they would have limited rules (obey, don’t fight, and no eating in the bedrooms — Bekah hates the not eating in the rooms rule is still being enforced) but other than that, they can pretty much do what they want. I won’t monitor what they’re eating (as a matter of fact, there are items currently in the house that I do not normally purchase: cookies, chips, and other crappy junk), they won’t have a bedtime, they don’t have to get dressed or showered at all if they don’t choose to, and I won’t force them to leave the house unless it’s voted on (majority rules).

We did however tell them that they have to spend family time with us every day (movies, board games, etc) for a minimum of 2 hours. And that the world goes back to normal on Thursday when Steven goes back to work so that their sleep schedules can get back on track. Plus they’ll probably stink by then and I’ll be going nuts about it.

Bekah: So that means that if I’m on my iPad at 3am, I won’t be grounded?

Steven: As long as you don’t wake me up, we won’t have a problem.

Bekah: And I can eat cookies and ice cream all day?

Me: There is real food to make for lunches like sandwiches or ramen, and we do have dinners planned, but it’s mostly easy stuff like hot dogs and hamburgers. We also bought some steaks. 

Steven: Grilled stuff.

Bekah: This is going to be the best vacation ever! Better than Hawaii!


Seriously? Staying home and not getting dressed for a week, eating sugar 24/7, and never sleeping is a better vacation than Hawaii?! Who knew this would make my kids so happy? I could have saved THOUSANDS of dollars on vacations over the years! What the heck?

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Spark Notebook

The Spark Notebook has changed my life. I love it. It’s a planner-like notebook with weekly self-reflection prompts, calendar, goals (yearly/monthly/weekly), achievement progress, and weekly/daily tracking. I don’t use it for a planner because it’s bound (hardcover, like a book) which makes it impossible for me to utilize it in that capacity (I use the HappyPlanner for actual planning), but you could if that’s what you wanted.

I decided to use the Spark Notebook for my 2016 writing journal. Jotting down all the shiny new ideas I have, noting anything I think about involving characters and plot, big epiphanies I have about structure and content, keeping track of my daily/weekly/monthly writing goals, etc. It’s become a journal where I tuck everything that’s loose in my brain so it has a place to be.

I have kept writing journals for a while and they don’t tend to do me much good because I can’t stand anything unstructured. Especially when it’s ANOTHER blank page to fill. ZZZZ. But in this case it’s easy because I only have to fill in one block. And if I need, I have several per day.

It’s been excellent for planning my month ahead, and then breaking it down to work on small bits of it per week. I’ve found that the weekly self-reflection pages have helped to put me in a more focused mindset to write or edit.

I thought about the other applications I personally could use it for:

A daily journal.
Keeping track of fitness/weight loss goals and progress.
Photography ideas/shoots


I’d share pictures of mine but it’s morphed into a personal glimpse of my thought process. I didn’t realize how much having a structured book could become so much more for me than a blank journal.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A New School Year

The question that keeps rolling in my mind for the last week is: What helps prepare kids to get their best start in life?

I’ve suffered a lot of anxiety over the decision to opt my kids out of accelerated classes this year. Except for accelerated math for Bekah.

Accelerated classes for middle school in our district works like this: it’s the exact same class except they are required to do more homework/ projects. Except for math. Math is based on your skill level. For instance, Bekah is in accelerated 6th math, which is pre-Algebra. Next year (in 7th) she’ll take Algebra. By the time she hits freshman year she should be in Algebra 2. That blows my mind because… geez. Algebra 2 as a freshman?! She must have gotten those math brains from her father.

She can handle it. Plus, she’d do just as much homework in a lower level math class anyway. The decision to opt them out of the other classes is based on homework, not function level. If all the other classes were higher level courses verses more homework for the same exact class, then that would be a different set of circumstances. I would probably come to a different decision.

Once you opt out of math, you can’t opt back in. 

With the others at the end of the year they take your child’s proficiency, combined with the child’s test scores, and the teachers then make a recommendation to place the child into accelerated classes for the following year. My children always hit that benchmark and are put right back into the classes the next year.

I think opting out was the right decision for our family. For this year, at least. It’s a decision I don’t regret making when I’m in my most logical frame of mind.

The downside is that it comes with a lot of guilty feelings. Things that I ask myself on a loop, like, am I stunting their ability to excel in high school? Will they test in again (because they’re always a chance they won’t)? If they don’t, that means they won’t be in honors courses in high school. If that were to happen, will it be a factor for acceptance to the college they want?

I feel like people who hear what I’ve done think this decision is momentously stupid (they don't say as much, but their looks of horror say otherwise. LOL!). As if the only way to succeed is to get into the advanced classes. Because the thought process is: more homework equals smarter kids.

I can’t get onboard with that thinking.

THEY’RE ONLY KIDS. 6th and 7th grade is way too young to be piling on that much pressure.

School is important. Learning is important. Getting a higher education is important. However, there is so much more to consider:

  • The mental health of the child. Are they getting enough downtime? Time to explore creativity? To read a book for pleasure? To bike ride? To paint a picture?
  • They only have one opportunity in life to find and focus on what makes them insanely passionate. And I don’t want to take that opportunity away.
  • Is more homework making them smarter/ better students? I question the validity of this when they consistently test into the accelerated program at the end of each year.
  • I don’t want their only memory of childhood to be of doing obsessive amounts of homework. Especially sobbing till nine-thirty at night, only to be woken up the next morning early to finish what hadn’t been completed.
  • I need to jealously guard the time given to them to become unique. To find own their individuality. Childhood is where you set those boundaries and start the framework for how you think/ feel/ act in life.

Even though I know I made the right decision for my kids, I still struggle with it. I question if I did the best thing. I won’t know until they’re older.

The decision doesn’t affect me, that’s what bothers me the most. I’ve done something that’s affects their lives, not my own. I can live with the consequences of my decisions, when the consequences are directed at me. I can’t can’t stand the thought of screwing it up for them when they didn’t have a choice.

These questions were too much for me this week. I’ve not been able to work. Thursday and Friday my anxiety was pretty bad. I needed to chill. To read. To stay away from everyone. I needed time to come to the place I’m at today.


Which is resigned to follow this path.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Is Almost Over

There’s an insistent part of my brain tells me (daily) that I need to write a blog post. The thing is: I’m behind in everything in my life and blogging comes last.

Except for writing. I’m on track with that.


***
Paris was wonderful. I’d show you pictures except I haven’t edited any of them. I’m lucky they’re on my computer to begin with because shortly after I downloaded them I lost my camera cord.

Which brings me to my next point: I’m out of practice with photography.

I had a friend visit a couple weeks ago and we set out to photograph Freemont Street.

I captured utter drivel. It was depressing. I couldn’t see the shot in order to compose anything. I mean, there were naked people on the street (no joke) and my internal dialog was: this place is booooooring.

My friend encouraged me to, “Shoot through it.”

Because, yeah, that’s what you have to do. Like anything, it’s all about practice. Shooting a bunch of crap before you start to see things.


***
I have been writing. A LOT. There was a point this summer where I became frustrated that my current manuscript is not finished so I set a crazy working pace for myself. Because… OMG. I haven’t been this in love with a book in years.

I was also distraught because I backtracked at about 50K to rewrite it from 3rd to 1st.

That was a GOOD decision, BTW. Yet frustrating because couldn’t I have figured that out to begin with? I would have saved myself months of effort. It’s not like switching tense is simply a matter of changing pronouns. Sooooo, yeah.

I made myself a laborious schedule so that I can finish this manuscript soon-ish. “Soon-ish” currently looking like a November timeframe, and “finished” meaning edited a couple of times.


***
My one-year-old puppy has lost her mind. She ATE A HOLE in my brand new carpet. Not in a normal sized room either. I’m not thrilled, as you can imagine.  I could also point out that she was not in my care at the time. Both dogs behave when they’re with me because I watch them. A concept my children have yet to understand.

And then there was yesterday when that same puppy ran into the plug under my desk and shut off my computer while I was using it. I lost large sections of my novel.

I. ABOUT. DIED.

I spent three hours reconstructing it from saved drafts. I don’t think I lost anything of value. Phew.


***
Three more weeks until school starts. It may be the very first time in history that I’ve ever said this, but: I’m not ready. NOT AT ALL. I can’t stand the horrifying amounts of homework, common core, and absolutely no time for the kids to read for pleasure, or draw, or paint. Kids need to stretch their brains with creativity too – but that’s a whole other ranty blog post. 


Ciao for now, peeps.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Focus

I have been so busy these last few weeks leading into summer break. Which is stressful, and overwhelming, and all those feels. But I’m also a lot more organized (I’m always organized, I’m just hyper-so now) than I’ve been in years, so it works out. All. The. Stuff. has really forced me to focus on what needs to be done at that particular moment.

Here’s the interesting thing: the word I picked as my resolution for 2015 was “focus.” So obviously the universe has been helping me out with that goal. LOL! Strange how that works, right?

With that focus, and all the things that I’ve checked off, I feel so much more accomplished. Which was my intent in picking that as my word for the year. 2014 was such a transition period that when it wrapped up I had a difficult time seeing the progress I'd made. I didn’t want it to be that way this year. I wanted to know where my time was being leaked. And boy, did I find it. 

One of the many things consuming my life at the moment is getting ready for vacation with my mom and sisters (sisters includes my sister-in-law, because she’s my sister too). I’m so flipping excited. Not only because it’s a trip to Paris (because, well duh, who wouldn’t be excited?!), but because I get to experience this trip with the girls.

It started out as a joke on Instagram. My dad is always taking a fishing or boar hunting vacation with the husbands and brothers. Us girls? We’re left in the cold. So I posted that it was okay because we were going to take a girls’ vacay to Paris… and well, it’s happening.

It really highlights the power of speaking things into existence. Not that you can make everything happen that you want in life, but until you know what you want, how can you make it a reality?

Anyway.

I’m a little introspective today thinking over the last two and a half years since my mom’s diagnosis. And the fact that I get to experience this with her now. Her numbers are really good. Stable. So that is amazing. But still, I can’t squander the time I’m given.

It’s so important to me to make memories with the ones I love. Both on daily scale, but also on a big scale.

My kids are upset and a lot jealous I’m going on vacation without them. Their Grandma and Poppy are coming to help my husband get them around town during their last week of school. And I’m sad to miss that, actually. I hope my husband will remember to take pictures for me. 

Then again, I’ll be in Paris, so I’ll just have to get over it. Ha!


It might be a few weeks till I post again. Until then: je m’en vais, peeps.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Be Interesting

This morning I had a big gut-check moment as I drove my daughter to school. She sat beside me flipping through one of her many art books. She opened to a page and turned it toward me, showing me a drawing while explaining the intricacies of it.

The sketch was a bit odd and surrealistic. Quite well done. Arresting to look at. I wondered to myself where a 10-yr-old would come up with that idea.

Me: That's interesting. 

Bekah (with an eye roll): Of course it's interesting. I'm interesting

It was one of those statements that when I heard it, it hit me like a chest punch.

Her work is interesting because she’s interesting.

I spent the entire drive home dissecting that statement. Do I find myself interesting? Honestly? Yes, I do.

Then what keeps me from living it like I mean it?

For example:

I attended the WPPI conference last month with photographers from all over the world. I really love that conference, and highly recommend it if you’re at all interested in photography. It’s very inspiring.

However.

There’s always the inevitable shmoozy moment where someone asks about your business. I don’t have a business, nor do I care to ever have a photography business. I’m in it for the art. I love taking pictures.

The dismissive reaction when I said as much (really, the succinct version: I don’t have a business) was heartbreaking. In some cases the photographer would literally turn their back on me and move on to someone who was “serious” about their craft. It didn’t matter that I’m as good a photographer as anyone else. That I’ve worked HARD to learn my craft.

I’d thought I hadn’t let it get to me, but obviously it did. Because I haven’t picked up my camera since that weekend.

And then there’s writing.

Oh, writing.

When did it become necessary to have a major publishing deal to be serious about writing? To know your craft? To invest your soul? To be taken seriously?

I know I’m projecting. That it’s probably all in my head that I feel treated this way.

But I can't count the number of times someone has given me that pitying look after they realize I’m still trying to get published. Then they suggest, “You should put your book on Amazon.”

As if that would make me legitimate.

I don’t have anything against self-publishing. I just don’t want to do it. Much like I have nothing against owning a photography business, it’s just not for me.

When did these things become the yardstick by which we measure success?

You know what? My work is interesting because I’m interesting.

Of course the flip side of that is that I have to BE INTERESTING. I have to make art (photography, writing, drawing, painting…) every day. I have to live life and enjoy it. Seek out what only I can see and interpret.


And stop letting other people decide for me what success is or isn’t.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Blank Page

I’ve spent this last week figuring out some plot structure in my current manuscript. Which means that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about “the blank page” or “writer’s block.”

Keep in mind this discussion is different than not being able to write because of anxiety, depression, or life issues. Not having a reserve for creative things when your world seems to be falling apart is a real conundrum. One that I haven’t yet mastered. I think we creative types are more sensitive to our emotions, so it can be a real bummer when it affects our productivity.

Not being able to write because of the emotional place we’re in and not knowing what to write are vastly opposing problems.

Because I’ve spent a lot of time plotting this week, it’s meant that I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube as well. How else would I waste my time? Ha!

I’m fascinated that 100% of the advice (or so close that percentage that whatever differing suggestions are lost) to dealing with a blank page or writer's block is to “just keep writing.”

“Just keep writing” is useful advice if you can’t write because of anxiety, depression, or life issues, but it’s not great advice if you’re stuck within the story. If you keep pushing you’re liable to make more of a mess than what you had to begin with. The choices you make with the plot when you push yourself tend to be the most obvious, and well, it’s just not thoughtful or surprising.

In my mind, a plot is like a spiderweb. In order to create a web, a spider makes a starter thread connecting the end points of the web onto which the rest of it is built. That’s your main plot.

From there, the spider creates a few more dissecting threads. They do not have to have a linear progression, their job is to stabilize the web. These are your other plot points: it’s how your characters interact with one another, what they want, what they’re willing to do to get what they want, etc.

Then the spider begins to circle the web, connecting the stabilizing threads together and constantly circling around back on the web.

This is where most writers (me!) get stuck, in the huge tangled complication of how to weave together all the different plot points.

When I start writing I know at least my starting thread. Most times I know several other threads as well (though, that’s not always the case). But there comes a point in every story, that while I know where it’s heading and every scene that the story needs to get there, I have no idea what to write within those scenes.

That’s where brain mapping comes in.

For me, brain mapping is simply the act of getting all those little bits of information floating in my head into a space where I can see them and make use of them. That’s it. Because I believe that we all intuitively have the answers to the story already. — That’s where the “trust your gut” advice comes from, and the reason why when you edit, you find that you’ve already placed things within the story that work for the new idea.

Any way you can get the information out of your brain and onto the page in a way that works for you, is the key. 


The first thing I do is identify the problem.

I’m talking the obvious thing here: I don’t know what character A is supposed to do. Or characters B and C have a conflict but I don’t know what it’s supposed to be about, etc.

Write that problem down in the center of a blank piece of paper.

The second thing I do is identify the issues I have associated to the main problem. There’s not going to be many of them, three to five maybe.

Write those issues connecting off the main problem.

Then I ask myself questions about those issues. How they relate to each other. How they influence the plot and characters. How they change the situation my character finds him or herself in.

Write these questions down, but also write the answers that come with it. ALL the answers. This is not self-editing time. It doesn’t matter if I go in a wrong direction, I just make a new branch and start with a different thread of answers.

It will look something like this:



Much like that spiderweb, I know I’ve reached the end of my brainstorming when my idea points begin to circle around the paper, connecting to each other. Meaning: the issues start linking to the answers in the threads of other issues.

At this point, I still don’t have the answers to my plot problems. What I have is a map of the ideas floating around in my brain. Now I turn them into a linear list in order to get some writing done.

This is where the magic happens.

Start with blocking out the issues in headers. Not the problem, but the issues that offshoot from the first central question.

Under each issue header, I construct a plan to fix the issue by looking my brain map and putting the ideas into bullet points. Write it out.

ISSUE 1
Character A feels disconnected. Has social issues. Doesn’t have friends.
He also feels ….
Problem he faces…
The catch…
Solve this by…


In this process, I’m not afraid to challenge the ideas on my brain map. Don’t be afraid to say: “That’s interesting, but what if…” It’s there to guide me, not to keep me imprisoned. Sometimes I hang my map on the wall for a few days so I can let the connections between the ideas soak in.

Once I have these ideas worked out, I then decide how I will implement them into the plot.

This is not a drag and drop. For instance, in my example I wrote “Character A feels disconnected,” I now have to decide how to show this within the framework of my novel. Where in the plot (perhaps in several places) can this be highlighted?

And just like that, I’m back in business writing again.

Best part? I won’t have a hot mess of a plot to fix at the end of the draft. I’ll still have to fix stuff, it will just be less painful.






Thursday, April 23, 2015

WHY NANO (AND CAMP NANO) DOESN’T WORK FOR ME

~I need to write a disclaimer on this post. Nanowrimo works for a lot of people, just not for me. The writing experience is unique. The way I write a book is not the way everyone writes a book, or even the way I’ll write in ten years. Writing is an evolution. These are thoughts on my current one.~


How many times have I participated in nanowrimo and failed? You’d think I’d learn by now that this format is not for me. I had myself convinced that if I participated in Camp NaNo (in April) that I would have a different outcome. That picking a much more reasonable goal (30K instead of 50K) would make a difference.

If writing a novel was only about words on the page, I’d be able to do it. The thing is, I can’t convince myself that quantity verses quality works. I have a problem with pushing ahead and wasting my time.

Yes, I believe that getting words on the page matters, no matter what those words are. And I also know that first drafts are crappy no matter what.

But. — And this is a huge BUT.

I’m not going to let myself write into a direction that I’m going to scrap.

When I get stuck, or rather, slow down on word count because I’m never actually “stuck,” it’s always because there’s a reason. There’s something that I don’t understand about the character’s interaction or their decision making. Or I don’t understand a nuance of how a specific detail in the book works. Or perhaps, though I know what comes next, I’m completely clueless as to why that is.

I am not speaking to the individual scenes and how they flow together. Those are always plotted very early on, if not before I begin a new project. That’s why I’m never stuck on knowing what comes next, or even skipping ahead and writing a scene out of order.

But just because I have an outline does not mean I understand anything about my book. It’s why I don’t understand when panters say “I like to experience my book as it happens,” like having an outline makes that go away. Because I experience it when it happens too, just in a more structured — will get me to the answer faster — kind of way.

Understanding what scenes need to happen in what order and knowing the underlying subtext of those scenes, are two different things. Every character wants something. I have to know and understand the motivation of each person (even though I may never reveal it) in order to create the full picture.

I refuse to push ahead for the sake of words if I’m not 100% aware of the reasons my characters are doing what they’re doing. I’m in control of them, not the other way around.

Plus, it’s incredibly easier to edit a book that has a strong structure than one cobbled together without rhyme or reason.

Things that I find easier to fix than structure:

Personality changes: My 1st draft characters always have a bit of a morphing personality. That’s because I learn about them as I write. I might know who they are as a list of descriptions on paper, but I’m not yet aware of their nuances. I always have to go back in subsequent drafts to make their personalities even.

Minutia: It’s relatively easy to go through the forest and draw out all the trees that point to the path. It’s much easier to see it once the draft is finished.

Pacing: No matter what, pacing needs to be fixed. So I never worry about this in early drafts.

What I find impossible to fix in later drafts — or rather, near impossible because while it can be fixed, it’s an entire rewrite — is fixing plot. If you write without an eye to stake, and without a sense of what drives your characters choices, there WILL be a significant rewrite. At least half, if not all the book will be reworked at that point. There should be no action without impact, or conversation without meaning.

That is why I find myself surrounded by printouts of my notes, hand written stickies, and two mind maps that keep morphing larger and larger as I glue on paper to expand them, asking myself: “What is going on with all these characters? Why are they reacting this way? And if they do, what is the consequence?”

Small questions that will save me MONTHS of rewriting.

That is why I will always fail at NaNo. My first drafts don’t have to be close to perfect, but they do have to be thoughtful. And while some people can write thoughtful fast, I can not. Often when know there’s a snag, and while I want to push for an answer right then, it takes my brain a few days to catch up.

In the meantime I’m not staring at a blank screen. I’m working the problem. Brain dumping. Writing out the questions. Trying to find answers. They all lead to the fix… eventually.


NaNo wasn’t a entire loss. I did get a significant amount of words written and I’m in a much better place in the book. “Winning,” though? I guess that depends on how you value winning. No, I’m not close to my word count goal, but I’m very pleased with my progress.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Mini-Me

Bekah (10yrs) started writing a new novel yesterday. She told me about it in the car on the way home from school (yes, she started it at school instead of paying attention. Which I’m not happy about, but is par for the course. She’s way too involved in the things she wants to do — reading and writing— and not so much on the “boring stuff,” i.e., education).

She told me how she started with an “inciting incident” (I love how she gleans nuggets of really good info amidst her not paying attention in class. Again, it had to do with something she loves, so that makes sense). She said the last line of her prologue was really “hooky.” — Ha!

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the inciting incident doesn’t have to appear on the first page or even in the first chapter. As long as it’s before the end of Act One, you’re golden. But hey, it’s better than Seth’s theory that if he starts with blowing up something, it HAS to be a good book.

I didn’t have a chance to read it when we got home. You know, life happened.

After dinner the subject of Bekah’s book came up.

Bekah: Papa read it. He didn’t like it.

Me: What? Why?

Nana: He thinks it’s really dark and didn’t understand why.

Me: Dark? Why is it dark?

Bekah: (eye roll) Well, she wakes up and she’s tied to a chair and has no idea where she is or who put her there.

Me: Holy crap!

Bekah: (shrugging) It’s gotta be exciting. You have to make the people want to read it.

Me: … Uh, okay.

Bekah: I want to read one of your books.

Me: I don’t know. You’re a little young.

Nana: She could read the one you just finished. There’s nothing bad in that one.

Me: Are you kidding? There’s drug references all over the place.

Bekah: (getting excited) Drug references aren’t a big deal. Do people die? 

Me: Of course people die. And you’re not reading the book I’m writing now, for sure.

Bekah: Why not?

Nana: Your mom’s new book is psychotic. She’s gone off the deep end.

Bekah: (grins) So that’s where I get my ‘darkness.’

Me: (frowning)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Writery update

I gave up last night. I went to bed at 9pm frustrated about my edit. There are parts that are just not working. I'm supposed to be at the rereading and turning it back in stage. But. Yeah.

If anything I've learned to trust my gut over the years and my gut says it needs more work.

So I hit the pillow a few times, tried to reason out what I could cut to make the pacing work, and eventually went to sleep.

When I woke up, I was at the point of accepting that I need to rewrite at least one chapter (maybe more, we'll see). It's a difficult place for me to get to sometimes. One pep talk later I'm ready to get to work.

Well, maybe. I'll need more coffee first, I think.

I probably shouldn't be trying to get back on the vegan-wagon while editing (I fell off because had a little holiday love affair with pie). I'm having a sugar craving like you wouldn't believe. I could get in my car and drive to Whole Foods and get some vegan cookies, but really, I don't need the sugar.

My sisters are on a get-skinny-for-Paris kick. One one hand I don't feel the need to join, but I don't want to look like the shlump in the pictures either. It doesn't help that I associate edits with stuffing my face full of snacks.


Wow, this is kind of a non-update. Ha.

Meh. I have such a difficult time thinking about anything else when I'm editing. So. I get what I get.

Until later, peeps!



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I May Never Wear Contacts Again

I’m plodding along on my edit. I want to demonstrate how that’s going (the fact that my life is impeding me at every turn), but couldn’t figure out the vehicle to frame what that looks like. And then yesterday happened.

I knew yesterday would be a long day before it started. I had a lot on the agenda. I was determined to get it all done and work on my edit. Because I’m a conqueror with thousands of Life Points. RAWR!

*Cough*

The night before I didn’t sleep well. Bekah’s science project is not working. Why can I never have a single science project work? I tossed and turned all night trying to figure out how I can redo the experiment and get ANY results (not just results I wanted — I’ll take anything).

I woke up tired. Then I ran all over creation to get my passport renewed and did a few other things that were time sensitive. It was one of those days where people were not in sync with me. Like going to the post office and waiting an hour in line, then when I got to the front, four out of the five employees went on break.

Finally I made it to Starbucks. At this point I had about an hour left before I had to pick up my daughter from school. I was thrilled when I walked in and there were only a few people inside and it was quiet. That never happens. EVER.

I bought my coffee and got myself comfortable. I’d completed an entire page of edits when a group of people came in, sat down next to me, and proceeded to interview for the next hour.

I mean, really? Can’t you do that at your office?

Right. No big deal. I could salvage the day. I went to pick up my daughter. Then we came home and started a fresh science experiment.

Somewhere in the middle of that I pulled a ligature (or maybe a muscle?) in my hip. I have zero clue how I did that. All I know is that I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t walk.

Bright side (I thought): If I can’t walk, I’ll used this time to edit. Right? Perfect solution. I was exhausted by this point anyway. Even though it was barely 3:30pm.

I limped up to my room. Got out my laptop. Then stopped to take out my contacts so that I could be comfortable.

But.

When I went to take out my contacts there was this sort of pop-snap and then the contact was in my eyelid. It’s hard to describe the events because the whole experience had never happened to me before. All I knew was: the contact was in my eye, it hurt like hell, and I couldn’t see.

I tried EVERYTHING to get that sucker out. I went through a full bottle of contact solution. Tried several eye washes, Steven even tried to get them out. Nada.

It was nearing 8pm by this point. That horrific contact had been lodged in my eyelid for over four hours. I didn’t know if I could sleep with it in. It hurt SO BAD.

My sister asked why I hadn’t gone to the eye doctor before they’d closed. Honestly, I thought that I’d be able to get it out! What contact never comes out? 

She convinced me to go to urgent care (by telling me that I’d be permanently blind).

I sat in urgent care from 8pm till about 10:30pm when the doctor finally saw me and got around to extracting it. Let me tell you, this doctor was a hundred and fifty if he was a day. Deaf. And suffering from a bit of Alzheimers and/or dementia. It was bizarre. I’d say something and he’s repeat something totally different. Then I’d repeat the original statement and he’d say something crazy again.

I wasn’t the only one with issues either. Two other patients yelled at him (one in the middle of the triage area, and another so loud I heard the whole thing behind two closed doors). It was craaaaaazy. On one hand, it’s Vegas. On the other, DUUUUUUUUUDE.

Doctor’s licenses should be like driver’s licenses: there should be mandatory testing after a certain age to make sure the doctor is competent. You know what I mean? I don’t think many people can see reality when their mental capacity starts to break down.

I thought to myself: Do I want this guy sticking a Q-tip in my eyeball? Is it worth it? Can I wait until the morning? Because I may be blinded by this procedure and not from the contact stuck in my eye.

I let him proceed. Mostly because I was in pain. I just wanted it OUT.

He poked around. “I don’t see it.”

“I’m telling you, it’s there. I can feel it.”

“I don’t see it.”

I said, my voice bordering on very strong, “IT’S THERE.” I’d been waiting for two and a half hours by this point (over seven hours since the contact got lodged). I’d let a crazy person stick a long pointy object in my eyeball. GET. IT. OUT.

He found it. Took it out. Thought he was done.

I looked at it. The piece was tiny. “This isn’t the whole thing.”

He argued at first, then fished around again. Extracted another piece.

Me: “It’s still not all of it.”

Several pieces later…

Somehow when I was removing my contact (a soft lens, BTW) it broke into several shards. How does that happen? I’ve never, ever had that happen to me in the twenty five years I’ve been wearing contacts. It disintegrated! There’s no way I would have been able to get the pieces out on my own. 

Side note: these contacts expire mid-2016. It’s not like I used old contacts.

Freakiest thing ever.

I think he got it all out. I don’t feel pain anymore. Though my eye is sore today, and I woke up with a blinding headache.

So yeah… I managed a whole seven pages of edits yesterday. Go me! LOL.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Life Organization

I’ve been on a Life Organization kick. I’m not sure how or why this started, but I’m certainly glad it did. It’s made me more productive.

I’ve always been a list type person. My normal MO is to start with a “brain dump” system using a spiral notebook that sits on my desk — and this won’t change. I do need somewhere for whatever I’m thinking to “land.”

Where my process has morphed is in how the information is applied after the initial “dumping.” 

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that if I want to be productive, my lists have to reside on my computer(s)/phone. That’s where I look all day. That’s where I go to find junk. And my lists are constantly reprioritizing. If I write them down on paper, I’m constantly rewriting, etc. And do you know how hard it is for me to remember to bring the lists I’ve made when I run out of the house? Impossible.

Plus, forget bringing a huge binder/organizer with me. I already carry my camera, as I’m sure most people don't. I really don’t want to add on any more weight to my purse.

My organizing re-vamp focused on what I’m doing (because that obviously works for me) and tweaking it to make it better.

It started with collecting the items that come into my life. In an accessible place so that I can quickly refer back to things without too much trouble. I wanted a place to gather: calendar, email, receipts, journal entries (because I’ve always been a big journaler, but I found that I’m much more likely to journal if I’m typing. The quickness of putting the thoughts out there and such), blog posts, notes from the kids’ schools, every other piece of paper that “collects” in my office. Plus I needed to organize the notes on my phone: The To Do lists, bits of quotes that I’d like to think/reflect on, links etc.

I looked at several different programs and nothing fit what I wanted. Those that came close were expensive. And I’m cheap (let’s face it). If it’s not exactly what I want, I not going to spend the money.

I kept saying: I need something like Scrivener, but for my life. And then, after checking out hundreds of programs, it hit me: just use Scrivener. I already owned it, first off. And second, I know how to customize it to do everything I want.

Yeah, I wasn’t too swift with that lighting bolt idea. Ha.

Side note: Scrivener is AMAZING. I honest to god don’t know how anyone manages to put together a novel in Word. I used to do it, used to love it, and now after switching to Scrivener… yeah, impossible.

The organization kick started with making a Scrivener file where everything could land. I have the daily section (organized by month) where every day gets a new page that I can journal on. Hooked to that are things that happen each day (PDFs of important email, blog posts, status updates, notes from school, kids grades, receipts that need to be saved — everything is scannable), so that I can look back and/or reference them later.

I split the screen for my daily To Do. So it’s always there on the right side of my screen. On my To Do I have today’s list as well as sections for “future,” and other areas like “house projects,” “office,” or “random.” Things that have to get done at some point, but not today. That way if I have a little bit of time, I reference it. Works great! I’ve knocked some long-term items off already. And others stay on my mind so that I’m planning towards them.

Inside the binder portion (outside of the daily), I have sections for things like: copies of past calendars (I do look back to reference stuff — and my calendars are all synced online. I have one calendar with Steven so he can put anything on his phone and it auto updates to my computer), blog stuff, any notes that are not needed on the go, like copies of field trip notices, tax stuff, or random ideas.

Scrivener also has the ability to create collections. Collections. Are. Awesome. Both in a general sense that if you’re writing a book it’s great to be able to look at, let’s say, one specific timeline instead of the whole novel. Using a collection when you have a daily journal allows you to collect highlights, or things you don’t want to lose, or pretty much anything for easy finding.

Seriously, why did I not do this a long time ago?!

I also created a separate scrivener file for my book ideas. I had always been pretty organized with those. They were categorized. But creating a Scrivener file allows me to flip through them without having to open individual files. I also can store all the photographs that inspire ideas there (either attached to the page, or in a separate picture section). I can scan and store all the doodles I make in this binder too. Or collect news articles that inspire an idea.

There are notes I want access to all the time. Things like grocery or store lists, or furniture ideas with measurements (for some reason I need to know the measurements of certain areas in my house a LOT). I also collect a lot of links in my notes because I see an article online and don’t have time to read it right then.

For those things I started to use Evernote. I opened up an Evernote account in 2009 and then promptly did NOTHING with it. That wasn’t my brightest moment. I know that now that I’m actually using it. It’s an amazing program! And you can set up the clipping feature to auto save the links to web pages you want to come back to. Seriously fantastic.

People. My desk is clean. My phone is clean. EVERYTHING IS CLEAN! And I know where all the information is when I need it. ;)

Score.

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