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Archive for the tag “Kellie St. James”

Brain Dump

So, it’s brain dump time–we blog about everything rattling around in our heads. So, if you read further, please don’t expect a lot of coherence or cohesion. In addition to fighting with ADD, I’m also too tired and depressed and stressed out to try to do much beyond dump. So…here’s the unloading.

I’m tired, depressed, and angry. Lately, it seems the only news is bad news, and it’s not just bad, it’s catastrophically bad. It gets harder and harder to see hope beyond the latest horrific shitshow members of our “government” are pulling.

My house is a wreck a mess–too messy for the houseguest I’ll have Sunday, but trying to get everything organized seems almost insurmountable at this point. I know she’s coming to see me, not judge my house, but as I look around, I’m still freaking out about it.

Honestly, I’m stressed and sad about literally everything from school  issues to job issues to this country’s rapid slide into fascism. And if I actually take the time to write out all the thoughts I’m having about these things, I’ll probably end up in a fetal position in the bathtub.

So, I’m going to move on to other random thoughts in my head.

I really need to get rid of the rest of the wedding dress that was the base for the new wedding dress I made.  It’s ginormous box is taking up too damn much space in my house and my brain.

My feet are ugly and my toes need to be painted desperately.

I have two audio preps that I need to finish this week for a client.

I really want to finish the chapter of my book that I’m writing.

I wrote over 10K while on vacation and still managed to do family stuff.

I’m sick and tired of being the one who has to decide what stays and goes in the big house purge.

I really want some popsicles, but we’re out.

In five more sleeps, I’ll be driving to the U.P. to pick up Jess.

I still need to write my blog about this year’s writer’s retreat.

Jess Jarman, Jenny Trout and I are going to be at the Rust City Book Con during the first weekend of August, and I still need to do ALL THE THINGS for that.

Jen and I are going to go see Billy Joel in Chicago in a few weeks.

I have awesome people in my life who make me realize how lucky I am to have so many people who love me.

I need to remember to bring fabric and scissors when I babysit my niece Saturday so I can use their table to cut out tops after I put her to bed. It’s the perfect height. and I don’t have to fight with cats there.

Cutting out fabric with cats is a nightmare.

I still want popsicles.

Sometimes, I feel like I hate everything, and that makes me feel like a terrible person.

I’m tired of constantly feeling like I’m trying to swim upstream and getting nowhere.

I’d like to go to bed right now, but I have too much to do.

I bet that Gwen, Kellie and Jess have heads full of better thoughts. You should go read theirs.

Top 10: Lessons I Learned from My Parents

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I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all learned things from our parents–some intended and some…not so much.

10.) If you want a piece of machinery to work better, you need to swear loudly and profusely at it. I’ve seen this demonstrated with boat motors, tractor engines, combines, arc welders, and gas grills. I’ve used this technique myself with cars, computers, and sewing machines. Dad was right. Machines respond better when they know who’s in charge.

9.) Knitting is cheaper than therapy (unless you buy really, really nice yarn, and then you probably still break even). I don’t know that this bit of wisdom was ever verbalized, but it was certainly demonstrated on the regular. Thanks for teaching me the art of therapeutic knitting! (Full disclosure: sometimes I swear loudly and profusely at my knitting, too.)

8.) You can always use a good piece of rope. This is one of those things I remember hearing all the time as a kid. Literally all the time. And my dad always had various lengths of rope or baling twine to fix stuff. And he wasn’t wrong about that advice, either. This is a link to a thing I wrote for his retirement party a few years ago…involving a good piece of rope.

7.) Do what it takes to follow your dreams. This is one of those double whammy kind of lessons that I got from both sides–from both the parent who did and the parent who didn’t. My dad grew up on a working dairy farm and he was a journeyman welder and did maintenance on the kinds of machines you find in metal fabrication factories.

My mom grew up on a small sustenance farm and became am OR nurse. However, she realized really quickly that wasn’t what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. So she went back to school and double majored in psychology and philosophy and graduated at the top of her class. Then, she went on for her master’s in psych and her her doctorate. She ended up becoming a psychology professor and a leading expert in child development.

Just a few years ago, I found out that what my dad really wanted to do was teach history and write westerns. I wish he would have. I think he would have been happier.

6.) Life is too short to stay married to someone who isn’t right for you. This right here was a huge gift. I was sad that my parents divorced, but it was truly the best gift they could have given us kids and themselves. Everyone was happier, and I learned that it’s crucial not to sacrifice your happiness for anyone else and not to allow them to sacrifice theirs for you.

5.) It’s possible to be so tired that you can do some really fucked up stuff when you’re exhausted. That shit will become family legend. My mom once washed a load of clothes with maple syrup. She also once made quiche with spearmint instead of parsley. It was the literal. worst. (My brother Tim still ate about it, but he bitched the entire time.) I shaved a big chunk of hair off the top of my head thinking my razor was a comb.

4.) Wildly inappropriate lullabies are the best lullabies. My mom rarely sang us traditional lullabies. We got a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, Beatles, Carly Simon, Carole King, and John Denver and the occasional Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. I kept up the tradition with my kids with a lot of Dar Williams, Tori Amos, Kate Rusby, and other fantastically morbid Celtic folk songs.

3.)Once upon a time” are four of the most powerful words in the world. Both my parents were (and are) huge readers. And my mom always read to us. I loved story time, and I loved it even more with my own kids. Some of my favorite memories involve cuddling up with my kids and books.

2.) There’s no such place as “away”. Stuff doesn’t magically disappear when we get rid of it or throw it away. Donate what’s still useful and recycle everything you can. Yeah, mom was/is a bit of a hippie. And I’m okay with that.

1.) Unconditional love is everything. It’s the best thing my parents taught me, and I hope that it’s the best thing I’m teaching my own kids.

What kinds of things did you learn from your parents? I can’t wait to check out the rest of the parental lessons, and you can too by clicking on the bloggers’ names. Jessica, Jess, Kellie, Paige, and Deelylah.

What would the title of my memoir be, and why?

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Please Note: If Kris Norris ever abandons me, this is how shitty my future book covers will look. *makes plans to bribe Norris with Tim Horton’s tea*

I feel like the “why” of this title can best be summed up by potential chapter headings comprised of things I’ve said in text messages.

1.) If I don’t answer for a bit, it’s because I’m driving home from the motherfucking store.

2.) I’d run away and join the circus, but I have no marketable circus skills. And also clowns.

3.) Yes…I ignored that little voice in the back of my head that said that person was batshit crazy. Again.

4.) Math is hard, yo.

5.) I cannot possibly people today.

6.) I’m sorry my cat hates you.

7.) Look, I just need some cheese.

8.) Is it wrong that I’m proud of my four-year-old niece for using “What the fuck” properly in a sentence?

9.) I don’t recall becoming a bigamist, but at the same, time, my brain has been nothing but cracks, lately. So…maybe?

10.) The hold music is static-y soft jazz. I am in hell.

11.) Excellent. I feel like the more people we have spreading the accelerant, the quicker it’ll be over.

12.) Filed under bad ideas: Don’t look at fabric you made your kids’ clothes out of. Especially not while you’re ovulating.

13.) I’m gonna need bail money. There’s a neighbor kid out there somewhere blowing a goddam gym whistle.

14.) But in Clue, aren’t you just supposed to murder people with the candlestick? Or are we lighting candles to celebrate afterward?

15.) I feel like we won’t be able to have our podcast if I’m in jail, though.

16.) I have zero of popsicles. And also zero of patience.

17.) Never look a gift moodswing in the mouth.

18.) I am a font of random information.

19.) Fuck that. I’m putting on my ruffle-butt undies and my ruffled bonnet. And we’re gonna go Pollyanna the fuck out of everything.

20.) ADD Powers ACTIVATE! Form of Squirrel!

That’s it for me this week, be sure to check out the other bloggers’ memoir titles. Jess, Jessica, Deelylah, Gwen, and Kellie.

Top 10 Things I Avoid

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I think we all have things we avoid in life–at least, as much as we’re able. Here are a few of mine.

10.) Clowns. (I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. They’re creepy AF.)

9.)  Wet paper. (I don’t know why, but it makes me gag.)

8.)  Large warehouse stores like Home Depot, Best Buy and Ikea.  (They stress me right out.)

7.)  Fluorescent lights. (They make me twitchy and give me headaches.)

6.)  Aspartame. (It gives me migraines.)

5.)   Cilantro. (Because it tastes like soap.)

4.)  Spicy food. (Because I have baby mouth.)

3.)  People who use others to try to get ahead in life.

2.)  People who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions (or inaction).

1.)  People whose version of the truth changes depending on who they’re talking to and what they want from that person.

So…what do you try to avoid? Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts to see what they avoid. Jess, Kellie, Deelylah, Torrance, Gwen, and Kris.

Wordless Wednesday – Winter Where I Live

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This winter has been weird, yo.

Normally, this is what winter in West Michigan looks like.

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The back of my house.

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My garage.

However, this year, there’s some weird shit going on. We’ve even had 50 degree days in February. This is not normal. This is what it looks like today.

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I just went outside without a coat on to take this picture. It’s like spring out there.

Check out the other bloggers’ posts and see what winter is like where they live. Gwen, Deelylah, TorranceKellie, and Kris.

Top 10 Ways to Hook Me as a Reader

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It’s time for another Top 10 List!

Okay, so like most people, the best way to hook me as a reader is by writing a good book. And when I say a good book, I  mean the premise and the actual writing, too–some books are strictly a one or the other kind of thing. I want the whole package. Because I’m demanding. And picky. And a limited amount of time available to read. That’s why I usually read the first few pages to see if the author’s voice and I are going to get along.

I’m not sure these are actually in any kind of order, cover art aside, they’re all pretty crucial.

10.) Okay, so I’m going to start out here by being utterly shallow. I love a good cover. I’m not saying it’s crucial, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t play into whether or not I was attracted enough to a book to pick it up.  I mean, there are books I’ve loved whose covers I hate, and I secretly think to myself that it deserved a better cover.

9.) I want to see as little telling as possible. Show me what’s happening in the story, don’t tell me. What does her anger look like? How does it affect her and the other people in the scene. Do her fists clench? Does her scalp pickle? Does her face get sweaty? Does her eye twitch? What are her her specific thoughts?  I don’t want to read, She was so angry she was ready to scream. I want to read, Rage-fueled lava flooded her veins, and her hand tightened into a fist. If that horrible orange man got any closer to her, she’d punch straight through his saggy, fleshy throat. 

8.) I need me some character growth. I don’t want to read about static characters–I want evolution. I don’t want to read the story of a person falling in love and being  the same person they were when the story started. Everyone we interact with, every experience we have, changes us it some way. It makes us look at things differently. Even if it’s something as mundane as standing behind a hipster at a coffee shop. Fucking hipsters. But damn, that really is a cute plaid. Maybe I don’t hate plaid as much as I thought. The same is true for characters. No, they might not discover a latent appreciation for plaid, but if they fall in love, they’re going to change in other ways. Well, I suppose they could fall in love with a hipster and plaid.

7.) I need the story to be believable. I don’t care if the book is about a race of land-dwelling purple squids who time travel through portals in stairwells of municipal buildings. Does the plot of  a story about land-dwelling, time traveling squids make enough sense with enough familiarity that I’m willing to suspend disbelief in the laws of reality, possibly physics, and known biology of aquatic animals? If yes, good for you, writer. You’ve got yourself another sale.

6.) I need you to make me care about these people–or land-dwelling, time traveling squids. Can I identify with these people? With these squids? With their struggles? Are the squids holding up some kind of mirror to me that I see at least some portion of myself or someone I love amongst their tentacles and ink? Or something relatable in the life of this washed up actor or soldier suffering from PTSD?

5.) I also need you to not bore me. So, let’s talk conflict–is it helping to drive the plot? I’m talking both internal and external, here, but I’ll be honest, I’m far more moved by internal conflict. We all experience it–it’s a regular state of being for many of us. So, what do the characters what that they can’t have? What’s thwarting them? What’s keeping them apart? What’s at stake? Are the stakes high enough. That doesn’t mean that the stakes in every book need to be at the level of world-ending nuclear annihilation. However, whatever the conflict is in your character’s life needs to feel like it is. So that boy who desperately wants the lead in the school musical so his mother will finally be proud of him, being cast as an ensemble member is going to crush him. That conflict can be just as interesting, if not more so, than the fear of world-ending nuclear annihilation.

4.) Chemistry – it’s not just for high school teachers and meth labs. This goes back a bit to showing vs. telling, but I need to see the chemistry between characters. This goes for all characters, but it’s especially true of romance. I need to see how they affect each other. It’s not enough to know that each of the pair finds the other the hottest person in the history of ever. Finding each other attractive doesn’t equal chemistry. Characters who sex with one another also doesn’t equal chemistry. Show the reader specifically what makes the characters personalities spark when they’re together. When that’s absent, secondary characters commenting on the chemistry between the main couple doesn’t make it true, it just makes it author intrusion.

3.) Please don’t give me a story where the plot just happens to the characters. Those kinds of stories seem to grab the protagonist like a riptide and drag them farther and farther from shore and instead of acting on the plot–making choices that change the course of the story, the character is constantly stuck in reaction mode, trying to deal with whatever the plot is throwing at her, but not making any moves of her own to affect the storyline. Even if the character make some stupidass choices, and ultimately makes things worse for themselves, at least they’re victims of a runaway plot.

2.) I’m a sucker for emotional angst. I want to feeeeeeeeeeeel all the feels, and yeah, I usually want to cry about them, too. That’s not to say that I’m looking for melodrama, but I am here for the intense emotion and also the catharsis that comes from experiencing those emotions through the eyes of well-written characters.

1.) I can forgive a lot of writing sins in exchange for awesome dialogue. (Looking at you, Buffy and Firefly.) I love language. I love listening to the way people talk to each other–how we communicate. I’m focusing on English speakers here, because it’s the only language I speak fluently, but we’re all using the same 26 letters. We’re all (mostly) using the same collection of words. We’re all saying many of the same things to one another, but phrasing is everything. Some authors have such a way with dialogue that it not only sounds completely natural, it’s so delightful (and sometimes awful) to the ear that the reader has a visceral response to it. Some people write such great dialogue, you almost want to read it aloud. Well-written dialogue is at its best when it works to reveal the individual characters and their personalities. I read a book recently, and I found myself getting frustrated because while there were all these great lines, all  of the characters were saying them–even when what was being said was completely out of line for those particular character’s personality. That great dialogue lost all its impact.

What are the ways authors hook you as a reader? Share!

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ Top 10 posts! Deelylah, Jess, Gwen, Kellie, and Kris.

The Worst Place I’ve Ever Been Stuck – What Happened

Suggestion: If you’re reading this post and are stressed out by current events, I suggest skipping to the last paragraph where there’s a link to something just weird enough to be distracting and possibly amusing. 

So, this post…I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’ve been having trouble narrowing my focus. Look…I have a lot of options for an open-ended topic like this. There have been a lot of places I’ve been stuck that have super sucked, and I could blog about them, but honestly, I’m in a shitty place right now, and maybe it just feels so bad because I’m in the middle of it? I don’t even know anymore.

The place I’m stuck right now sucks ass. I’m currently stuck in a near-continual loop of almost paralyzing fear. The months prior to the election, I’d have a political/policy-related nightmare once a week or so. Since the election, I’m having nightmares multiple times a week–sometimes a couple times a night, and well, they’re all variations on a theme. A very orange-y nightmarish, rights stripping, nuclear code having theme.

The fear doesn’t go away when I wake up, either. I think of all of the horrific, soul-crushing scenarios that could possibly happen to the people I love, to the people I don’t know but who are far, far more vulnerable than they were even a month ago. I constantly come up with new and terrifying scenes to torture myself with, and let me tell you, my imagination is fucking vivid. I never used to have panic attacks, but boy howdy, I sure do now.

So, I guess the worst place I’ve ever been stuck is my own mind…and what happened? I don’t know. It probably involves using more inhalers than I should and fighting harder–both my own imagination (which if it’s not going to help me write books needs to sit down and shut the fuck up, already) and the things that are going on in reality.

Okay, so this wasn’t the most cheerful or uplifting post. I apologize. As what will hopefully be a peace offering and distraction, I thought I’d share an older post about the time I was trapped at the tire place with the guy who was telling me his life story and also quizzing me about John Denver, the Rocky Mountains, and the UP. That wasn’t a great place to be stuck, but in retrospect, it’s a fuck of a lot more fun than here. I almost miss that dude.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts: Gwen, Kellie, JessicaDeelylah, and Paige.

Promptly Penned: Bruises and Glitter

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Prompt: S/he showed up at his/her door, soaking wet, bruised and covered in glitter.

Alex stood in line of the grocery store clutching the last bouquet of slightly wilted roses they had and red plastic shopping basket filled to the brim with all of Izzy’s favorites. He set the flowers and everything else on the conveyor and grabbed one of those reusable cloth shopping bags. She was always bitching about plastic bags. She’d probably appreciate the cloth bag. Hopefully.

“What’d you do?” the cashier asked.

“Huh?”

“Fancy wine, three different kinds of chocolate, and flowers.” He nodded knowingly. “You fucked up, bro.”

Alex pulled his debit card out of his wallet and as he finished swiping it, the other guy grabbed his wrist. Alex yanked his arm away. “What the hell?”

“Dude. Look at all that glitter on your arm. You can not go from the strip club straight into apology mode. Chicks hate that. Trust me, on this. Personal experience talking, here.” He nodded sagely as he handed Alex the bag. “Personal experience.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Alex squelched quietly to the car. Well, he tried, anyway. It was hard to be unobtrusive when his clothes were so wet he could probably wring out enough water to fill a kiddie pool. And how was it the cashier noticed the glitter but not the fact Alex had created a puddle in front of the register? Douche. 

With a sigh, he sat on the grungy beach towel he’d found on the floor in the backseat, hoping against hope it would protect his seat from the worst of the water and glitter. Putting the car into gear, he drove the few short miles to Izzy’s and forced himself to march up the steps and ring the bell.

The porchlight switched on, and he squinted in the glare.

“Alex! What happened?” She ushered him into the foyer. “You’re soaking wet! Are you okay.”

“I’m stupid. And I was so, so wrong.”

She brushed at his cheek. “Is that…glitter?”

He sighed. “Yeah.”

She lifted his hair off his forehead. “And a bruise?”

He shoved up his sleeve and showed her his arm. “Bruises.”

“What–”

“I promise, I’ll tell you all about it. But first I owe you a huge apology.”

Izzy’s eyebrow rose. “Oh?”

He shoved the flowers and goodies at her, waiting until she took them before he spoke. “I am so, soso sorry I ever said your job was a piece of cake.”

Her lips twitched. “Actually, I believe you said my job was a cakewalk.”

“Oh, it’s a cakewalk, all right. A cakewalk in the seventh circle of hell filled with tiny, demonic, soul-sucking monsters with voices so shrill I’m pretty sure my eardrums are still bleeding.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’m the worst little brother in the world for not believing you. Please say you’ll forgive me.”

She stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment, until all at once, an evil smile lit her face. “You got assigned to a preschool room for student teaching, didn’t you?”

He nodded miserably as she laughed so hard, tears slid down her cheeks.

“Help?”

The only answer he got was more laughter.

That’s it for me this, week. Be sure to check out Deelylah, Jess, Gwen, KellieKris, and Paige‘s stories.

Nostalgic Notes: Toys

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It’s time for another Nostalgic Notes were we look back at the stuff we’re…you know… nostalgic about. Some of these will be from my childhood and some from my kids’ because nostalgia – I’m rife with it.

Lemme introduce you to my childhood. I feel like the revelation that my mom was a great big hippie will come as no surprise as we look at items one and two on this list.

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In case you’re wondering WTF, this is the Sunshine Family – Stephanie, Steve, and their baby, Sweets. Sadly, there weren’t a lot of clothing options for Stephanie, Steve, and Sweets. They were too small and too normal-bodied for Barbie clothes. But, I liked them. You could also get the grandparents and extra babies. (The extra babies were very important if you were me.) And I did like that they also made a black Sunshine Family. Granted, their features were the same as the white dolls, but I guess, at least, Matel was trying for inclusion in the 70s?

I didn’t have any of these dolls. Only the original family, and this amazing piece of hippiness. That’s right, people, the Sunshine Family had their own fucking  CRAFT STORE! (Side note: I wonder if this is why I’ve been obsessed with all the crafts for as long as I can remember. Probably not. But, I still find this delightfully hilarious. Also, the entire craft store smelled like new baby doll. (I still love that smell.) Because vinyl. Probably not the best material to make a counter culture doll store out of. But, you know, mass production.

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Next we come to my original Star Wars figures which I no longer have because life and younger siblings can be cruel. But I had Leia, R2D2, 3PO, and a couple jawas. One of my brothers had Han, Luke, Ben, Chewie, Darth Vader a couple stormtroopers and some sand people. I was always jealous of his Han Solo action figure.

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Now, on to some of my my kids’ toys. I used to do daycare. It was, most days, an awesome job, but I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes other people’s kids in addition to my own. (Unless the kids are like The Young Prince. I’m not having that shit.)  Anyway, this was one of the games we’d often play (after everything else was picked up and the clean up song had been sung – “Put it Away” to the tune of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give it Away”) because no one wants legos embedded in their feet while playing Elefun.

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Captain Kitty and KittyBestFriend were my kids’ favorite stuffed animals. They have oversized, almost hydrocephalic looking heads that are hollow and there’s a ball, or maybe balls, inside that rolls around and makes them sound like they’re purring.

Corwin and Captain Kitty and Killian and KittyBestFriend

Speaking of Captain Kitty, I’m super nostalgic about this Captain Kitty costume I made Corwin so he could match Captain Kitty (we played a lot of dress up, so costumes are toys) and the giant Mega Blok castle that was Corwin and Captain Kitty’s lair.

Corwin Captain Kitty and Castle

Both of my kids were fascinated by pirates, but Corwin was especially so. So, for his birthday, one year, he got the S.S. Argh. The company that made these ships had a thing where you could get whatever you wanted printed on the sail. Their example photos said things like Captain Peter’s Ship or the S.S. Brandon. I like to think they giggled when they got our order.

Next up, in the Toy Nostalgia Parade are these blocks. My kids loved the troll blocks and the tree blocks.

And no nostalgic toy list is complete without my daughters obsessively huge Harry Potter Lego collection. (This is just one set.) Also not pictured are the Star Wars, LOTR, Pirates of the Caribbean, and a zillion other sets.

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And her Harry Potter costume. killian-hp

What were some of your favorite toys? Oh, and be sure to check out the other bloggers’ lists! DeelylahGwen, Kellie, and Paige.

Finding the Balance – with Writing and Everything Else

Yeah…this week’s topic?

This is pretty much how I’m feeling about it.

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And also this.

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And some of this.

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With a whole lotta this.

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Okay, so it may not be apparent, but I’m having a little trouble with the whole concept of balance. I don’t feel like any area of my life is anywhere near balance.

Probably because it’s not.

I race from one thing to the next. It’s either all writing, or all client edits, or all coaching (writing–not sportsball), or all family stuff, or all sewing, or all knitting, or all cross stitching, or all cleaning. But  no matter what it is I’m throwing myself into, I’m super far behind on everything else.

I started using a planner and a bullet journal. They help keep me on track, but right now, there’s just more that needs doing than I seem to be able to manage right now.

Part of the problem is that there’s a lot of external stress going on in my life at the moment, and none of the things are  not anything I can do something about. I have to wait them out like everyone else.

Unfortunately.

I’m great in an emergency. Gaping head wound? I’m your girl. Tire blowout on the expressway? I can steer that car though traffic and get it safely to the median. Broken limb? Mental health crisis? I got you. Now, granted, I’ll fall apart once the crisis is past, but mid-crisis? No prob.

But this long term stress stuff?  Nope. I suck at it. And it seems like the longer it goes on, the more out of balance I feel.

Right now, I know I can only get done what I can get done. So, I write everything down in the journal and the planner and check off as many as I can each day. And I try to remember to make time for self-care. It doesn’t always happen, but I’m trying. Tonight, it was watching Drunk History.

Maybe we should revisit this topic again next year. Perhaps, I’ll have figured out the secret by then. BTW, I’m totally open to suggestions if you’ve got any.

I’m gonna go check out Kellie and Jess‘ posts. Maybe I can pick up some pointers.

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