A Girl with a Book

"Extremists have shown what frightens them most: A girl with a book." -Malala YousafzaiI seem to have lost a week… I know I’ve managed to stay on top of an editing freelance job and been productive at the office, but without specific deadlines for school papers hanging over my head, and with hubs fighting a terrible flu… I think every day was a Monday, until it was the weekend, and I woke up in the middle of the night last night thinking today was going to be Monday, too, and I’d forgotten to set my alarm.

This is not boding well for my NaNo dreams. It doesn’t help, either, that NetGalley recently made Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage Finishing School series books 1 and 2 available for reviewers. Carriger sucks me in every time, but in light of Malala Yousafzai’s historic achievement earlier this month, I’m not sure my kind of being a girl with a book quite measures up–even if the age groups do match up.

;)

I love the sentiment of her quote, regardless. I could certainly match extremists for rage, should anyone try to pry books out of my hands, or words from my grasp.

Tomorrow I find out for sure what the requirements are for my capstone project. I halfway suspect the unknowns of that are part of what stressed me out this week. So last night, rather than do anything productive, I curled up with hubs and watched our first movie selection from the backlog of the past two years: Men In Black 3. We’d started it because we’d figured it would be the same kind of light-hearted sci-fi silliness its predecessors had been, and were surprised by the depth of the ending. If you want to see an example of how a franchise adds emotional weight to the story arc its characters have followed over the course of a series, this is a great example. Naturally, that meant we sat up half the night watching the extra features, too. No wonder I’m leery of movie nights: with those bonus elements… a 2-hour movie can turn into a 5-hour marathon. Still worth it.

Because of weather and illness, we also only managed three walks for 7.4 miles this week. Not bad, but not my goal, either.

So, we kick off a new week, my final week of new coursework requirements, and the final week before NaNoWriMo begins. I’m trying to help Gayla meet her Friday release deadline goal for Frost and Bothered, so I’m not sure there will be any fiction writing again for me this week, which means I’ll be jumping into November’s start cold, if I do. Strangely, I have a good idea about the structure and even how I want to start my NaNo offering… Maybe that’s my excuse for not working on my other WIPs–I seem to do best if I focus on one thing at a time. Either way, I’ll report back next week on my progress, and hope you check out my ROW80 cohorts‘ successes until then.

The End – Part 1

"It's your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you." -RumiIt’s an interesting challenge, coming to the end of an overly long slog: The finish line is so close you can taste it, but the weariness of having crossed all the previous hurdles makes it difficult to actually dot the last I. Over the weekend, I discovered that this semester my “end-of-week” due date has actually been Monday at midnight rather than Sunday at midnight–as it had been for all previous classes. Given that general sense of mental fatigue, and the fact that I have actually completed three of my four assignments, and have mostly completed my final paper… I’m going to count my schoolwork goal as having been met once again this week. For the penultimate time. I’m so grateful that a couple more pages of a strategic plan and a capstone project are all that remain of this 2+-year death-march to an MBA. It’s been my road for long enough, I’m grateful there have been people who’ve tolerated my presenteeism, so Rumi’s quote this week spoke to me.

Apparently I need a few weeks of indulging my fictional escapism, or maybe a few movie nights with hubs to clear my palate of this academic bloviation.

:D

Not that that is going to happen. Marking these milestones off the calendar means we’re that much closer to picking up our puppies. Going from a 2-dog to a 1-dog to a 3-dog family in the space of two months is something we’re all going to have to adjust to. At least Natasha is enjoying the return of the cooler fall weather, and has figured out that the whippet next door will chase her up and down the length of the fence between our two back yards for at least some kind of canine interaction. She’s more than ready for the new furbabies’ arrival.

And November is right around the corner. I’m still not entirely sure I’ll have the mental capacity to turn on a dime from academia to scifi, but I have such a shiny plotbunny, I have high hopes. Plus, even though it’s been one of those mentally exhausted weeks, I did manage 429 words on Jasper’s Tale. I know doing NaNoWriMo the way I’m supposed to (new story, from scratch) means I’m leaving two others half-done, but I figure if I can harness that inner competitor who likes to compare progress against others to re-establish a daily writing habit, I will finally reach the end with those stories sooner than later as well.

On the other hand, we have gotten back into the swing of things with our walks. We took four, for a total of 8.3 miles. I think part of this is because hubs found an article about the important components of self-love. That whole finding a happy place? If I’m not reading, taking a walk and watching Natasha’s antics as she thrills to the sniffs she finds out in the neighborhoods and parks we traverse are an important piece of my peace of mind.

Part of making sure I’m taking care of myself stems from a life-long view of body as temple, but almost 20 years ago I ran across the experiments Dr. Emoto was running on the impact of what I’ll call “intent vibrations” on water. His book and pictorial evidence painted a profound image for me of the power of our words. I was very sad to hear of his passing this week, and hope there will be others who carry on something many may consider a fringe branch of science, but for me, underlined yet another component of my inner call to writing and words.

Until next week, consider the impact your words have on yourself and those around you, and visit some of the other ROW80 participants’ blogs to see how they’re managing. I’ll be back then, to report on my own progress.

Lessons

Sometimes you have to be really honest and ask yourself: How many times do you have to learn that LESSON Missy??Arriving home Tuesday night after last week’s fun with Gayla kinda threw off my rhythm for the week–and the long day of airplanes and airports means I’ve been battling something that’s trying to be a cold ever since. It also means that what could potentially have been a productive weekend has been mostly about sleeping… and being distracted by excited about the shiny reality that we’re going to end up with TWO new Huskies in November, rather than just the young puppy we had been planning for. In an odd and unexpected way, this has stressed us out, as we consider all the escapist tendencies Huskies are known for, and try to mitigate for our current yard’s fencing weaknesses well before they might be tested.

All this means: I was down to the wire on school work, even though I know how much better my school weeks are when I finish those assignments at least a day before they’re due. So this week’s Zen to Zany image struck my funny bone, and was entirely too appropriate. Pushing my bedtime later is no way to get over my incipient cold, either.

:P

Given that I flew through Dallas, where the one Ebola death the U.S. has seen so far occurred, hubs and Gayla’s family inundated me with both jokes and warnings about protecting myself from that infection. Interestingly, I found out about an effort to collect and aggregate Ebola resources into a wiki once I got home. It will be interesting to see whether this effort yields any useful analysis in the long run, but in the meantime, it is feeding me further plotbunnies of the Big Brother kind… Not something I really have time for at the moment, but I can feel those eyes on me…

As for my goals… well… that head cold stuffiness has held me back, though I did manage 386 words on Jasper’s story early this week. I also only tracked two walks, though chasing through airport terminals should count, too. Either way, not enough exercise, really. Mostly I’m grateful the annoyance of the stuffy head and scratchy throat haven’t materialized into anything serious, and I’m down to the final week’s worth of assignments for my final MBA class. I’m also laughing up my sleeve at the possibility of pulling an academic prank like the one I read about today. I’m just… getting anxious about what the requirements might be for my capstone project, now, and wondering whether, between that and the new furbabies, I’ll be able to make any significant headway on NaNoWriMo in November. I’m still crossing my fingers on that one.

I’ll be checking out what my ROW80 counterparts have managed one week into the new round, but have to recognize I’m still in baby-steps mode myself. We’ll see whether next week is any better, given I have both a final paper and a case study paper due.

Friends

A true friend reaches for your hand and touches your heart.I have the honor this week of posting from Gayla’s again. We’ve just spent the evening eating too much and laughing too loud, and tomorrow’s my last day here… so I’m going to keep this short to go to bed… soon.

:D

For once I managed to keep up with my long-aspired-to goal of turning in all my schoolwork on a Saturday, so last night we could write fiction. We only managed 150 or so words before we were dozing in front of our screens, but I have to say, her family’s implementation of a covered porch on a cool, Texas evening… is ideal for long conversations and creative spurs. Even if I do have a permanent lap attachment in her mini-chihuahua, Zeus.

Since we spent today working on food, and are now worn out with over-worked stomachs, I’m down to a last-chance writing effort tomorrow, but I can’t even be upset about it because we’ve had so much fun. I even got to ride Solo this time. My visit has distracted me from grieving–even though when we planned this visit months ago that was not even on the radar as one of the reasons for it. Yesterday, hubs forwarded the link to an article about lifestyle factors that contribute to depression, and this trip affirms the importance of friends in helping counteract that inclination. So while I’m missing hubs and Natasha (who apparently decided yesterday she’d had enough of family leaving, and escaped to look for us, giving us all heart attacks until she was safely recaptured and returned home), changing up my routine once more has served as a welcome reminder about things that don’t change. And brings me to the quote the heartmath.org folks sent around on Facebook this week. I’m grateful for the set of people in my life who offer the hands (or shoulders, when necessary) who affirm the importance I sense of these heartfelt connections.

This week, the next round of ROW80 kicks off with our goal-listing requirement for the round. This one ends December 25th. I’m happy to list mine:

  1. Finish MBA! (final class ends 12/17)
  2. Finish Jasper’s Story
  3. Walk three times/week, at least two miles each
  4. Post four new book reviews on this blog by the end of the year (long overdue!)
  5. Participate in NaNoWriMo…?

That last is very much a stretch goal, since trying it last year was such a massive fail with the school requirements in place at that time. I have no idea what my final class’ requirements entail at this point, other than I’m assuming a capstone project is just a long paper. If that’s the case, and I can finish it early, I think my celebration will be to get drunk on fiction words.

;)

We’ll see how well I do given the anticipated distraction of welcoming a new puppy (or two?!) into the house in November, but I’ll keep you posted weekly here, regardless. In the meantime, take a minute to let your friends know how they’ve touched your hearts.

Surrounding Myself

Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don't see it yourself.I just turned in my midterm. Despite massive change, personal loss, and general upheaval, the conclusion of this round still sees me on top of my school goals. I’m even on top of my work goals (which I don’t include here, but remain important to support my family). Exercise… well… that’s fallen off again. And we’re still adjusting to being a 1-dog family in ways that bring frequent reminders of our loss.

So hubs and I keep revisiting the post with 15 quotes to ease depression. And cuddling. And finding quiet and calm–despite what turned out to be a full social calendar this week.

In fact, that won’t end any time soon: We’re looking forward to the Bryan Ferry concert tomorrow night. And I travel to see Gayla for what seems to be becoming an annual event on Wednesday. She’s shaming me with all the cleaning and home improvement efforts she and her family are investing in preparation for my visit. We finally placed the order for a well-recommended electric broom to deal with the hardwood floors of our new place tonight, so the benign neglect since we moved in almost two months ago may finally resolve into not only neatness but also cleanliness sometime while I’m away.

:D

(Yes, I’m sneaky like that!)

So while I want to kick myself for having had to let go of those goals that are most important to me, I’m very lucky to have family and friends who remind me that I’m doing fine to achieve what I’ve managed with everything on my plate. My purpose in posting today’s image: To pay that support forward to the rest of the ROW80 group. Sometimes it’s hard not to focus on the misses, but having goals, reaching for possibilities, is the only way we make any progress. I’m reminded of the motivational quote: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I’ll be hoping for a little more fiction productivity next round, as well as a return to more regular walks, though I also recognize that adding a puppy to our plans in November could disrupt my rhythm again. This time, in a happier way. I will keep you posted.

Keeping Faith

Always pray to have eyes that see the best, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith.It’s been two weeks without Kyra now. Sometimes it feels like forever, and sometimes it feels like she’s still with us, just waiting to peek around a corner. Today, for some reason, was another day to grieve–even though we got to spend the day enjoying ourselves with friends. Hubs and I had a great day together yesterday too, and, yes, the house almost looks like we are not still in transition. But I keep thinking: Kyra would have loved all these little cuddle spots. And I worry for Natasha, who’s still looking for her friend and second mother, and seems sadder and more serious than her normal, playful self. None of us has really found that emotional balance yet.

All this means that the picture that floated past on Facebook today spoke to me, so I’m sharing it with you, too. It feels remarkably similar to a Buddhist teaching on “no self” hubs forwarded yesterday, and underlines last week’s injunction to be at home within yourself.

I suspect part of my difficulty stems from a week of an intensive exam prep class on top of regular school work and everything else going on. I face months’ more study time if I hope to pass the PMP certification, but I also hadn’t realized how much overlap there would be between what is covered in MBA classes and that certification, so feel at least halfway more prepared than I’d expected. It still left me exhausted.

It also left me feeling rather more decrepit than I would have expected. We only managed two walks this week, and my back has been punishing me for my laxity. Maybe a return to my regular work schedule will help remind us that after dinner is a good time to stretch our legs. Maybe some calendar distance will also help us avoid the inevitable “the last time we walked this way, Kyra was with us.”

We’ll see. I also need to find the time to get back to fiction writing. I’m starting to feel like there could be some catharsis in finishing Jasper’s Story… but I also ran across an old journal with an enticing plot bunny while I was organizing my office this week. So there are writer’s cogs churning again.

The lifehack tips keep coming, too. Hubs found one with a few cleaning tips I really need to implement (squeegie doggie fur?!), as well as some ways to optimize buying organic veggies.

While my life still feels challenging, I also have to remind myself that next Sunday at this time I will have turned in my final mid-term, and our house really will be settled (since it’s likely we’ll be hosting guests once more). I also have some fun just over the horizon with a visit to Gayla coming the first of October. So I’ll keep attempting to reach my non-school/non-work mini-goals, hoping that my forward progress generates some momentum. And I’ll encourage you once more to check out how my ROW80 cohorts are doing with their goals.

Letting Go

"One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it's guilt, anger, love, loss, or betrayal, change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go."This week was as challenging as I’d anticipated, but I have to be grateful that I still managed to meet all my commitments. While I’m still working on the “letting go” challenge the unknown author mentions in the image I found in my archives from RawForBeauty, I have to be even more grateful that I have mostly regained my emotional equilibrium and can laugh at the memories of Kyra as a puppy, when she used to get the zoomies, or kanga-poo us, or make those distinctive, commanding noises somewhere between a bark and a howl that were unique to her. I suspect half of that is because I now know I’m on the waiting list for a puppy who will be born later this month, who will be able to join us in November. Puppy therapy–even in anticipation–is not to be underestimated.

In the meantime, hubs created an excellent montage of the many faces of our girl:
Kyra: The sweetest angel

Otherwise, I ran across an article about Bill Murray this week that was a fascinating reflection on how some people–despite living in the public eye–manage a mental/emotional balance that is almost Zen. I’m with the author of that piece for letting his words stand on their own merit:

So what’s it like to be me? You can ask yourself, What’s it like to be me? You know, the only way we’ll ever know what it’s like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself: That’s where home is.

Despite the pain of losing Kyra–our first Husky, the one who was our wedding gift to ourselves, and the third one who’s died after many years in our care–I’m still happy to be at home in myself. I like being able to share interesting things (like a set of life-hacks about healthy habits I ran across this week) and to put together compelling words to convey deeper meaning. I like finding the quiet beauty of tree leaves brushing the moonlit sky, or the goofy grin of Natasha (whose fourth birthday is tomorrow!) as she finds another canine playmate who will follow her meandering lead. There are moments to cherish even as your heart aches.

So for next week, maybe we can finally settle the last of our household. Maybe I’ll be able to write some fiction. I know I’ll manage my schoolwork, and I’ll be interested to learn what the experts consider necessary to earn the PMP certification. It’s also likely we’ll continue meeting my goal of at least four walks in the week. I’m taking it easy on my personal goals for the moment, even as I recognize there are things I must accomplish. So, once again, I encourage you to visit my fellow ROW80 cohorts to see how they’re doing, but mostly… find that inner sense of being at home in yourself. I’ll be back again next week for another round of reflection, regardless.

Book Announcement: Stalking the Demon

Stalking the DemonSTALKING THE DEMON ~ Advance Review EBOOKS by @CiaraBallintyne #HighFantasy #FREEBIE
Available for a limited time
FREE Advance Review ebooks (Review Copies only)

STALKING THE DEMON
(Book 2 in the Seven Circles of Hell)
by Ciara Ballintyne

Date of Publication – 22 September 2014
Genre: High Fantasy (Adult)

About the Book

Alloran lost his hand to thwart his renegade friend–but the world is still going to hell.

Six months after Ladanyon’s defeat, Gisayne is fading away from a baffling illness. Alloran is desperate for a cure, but he has a secret–the seven circles of hell are unstable. His worst fear is that the terrible mirror spell cast upon Gisayne has wrought some connection between her and the demon dimensions.

As everything Alloran loves races toward destruction, he does the unthinkable and refuses to obey the council of wizards. The only people who can help him are the two research assistants assigned by the council–but he knows he can’t trust them.

All the answers are locked away in the last place anyone wants to go: hell.

Add it to your Goodreads TBR.

eARCs may not be identical to the final published version and therefore may contain some minor editing and typographical errors prior to the final proofread. eARCs are expected to be available 2 weeks prior to the publication date. Interested? Sign up now!

Across the Rainbow

Kyra's final hoursWhere all my goals turn to ash,
where my throat is held up
  by the knives of your passing,
where my arms are emptied
  of your precious burden,
and where my feet drag
  to avoid walking past
  all the trails we forged
  that now echo with your loss.
-TMYC (2014)

RIP Kyra
January 26, 1998 – September 7, 2014

Even almost 17 years was not long enough to share her world. It was a shockingly fast, strangely peaceful, entirely unexpected, unearthly, and dislocating experience.

While Auden’s eulogy (made contemporaneously famous in Four Weddings & A Funeral) is where my heart is today:

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: ‘I was wrong’

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

-WH Auden

At the same time… My experience and soul tell me there is more, so Mary Frye’s words are a more appropriate memorial:

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!

-Mary Frye (1932)

Despite the tragedy, I still have to finish schoolwork, I still have to go to the office, I still have to take care of Natasha, and I still have to breathe, so you’ll forgive me if my goal this week is just to stop the leaky eyes and quit the headache from too heavy grief. We’ll see whether next week brings any emotional improvement. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit my ROW80 cohorts to see how they’re doing.

Treasuring the Day

"Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure." -Paulo CoelhoI made it through the class with homework assignments from hell. And the month from moving hell. I’m not only still standing, but finding more to treasure about having made all the necessary sacrifices in sleep and creature comforts to end up where we are. Primarily: no more long separations from hubs.

We’re only now starting to settle into something of a rhythm in the new house. Today, I finished unboxing everything labeled kitchen, and now have the satisfaction of having all my herbs and spices accessible. My spoon collection is back in the rack on the wall, where I can be reminded of each stop along the way that created a unique memory. The trivets are available again, so real cooking can commence… sooner than later. Let’s not get too nutty, here: I still have many other rooms to unpack and organize, so the likelihood that I have time and energy for anything elaborate is… slim to low. At least for the immediate future.

This week we also found another vet acupuncturist/chiropractor for Kyra. Nellie uses much bigger moves than Kyra’s Wisconsin vets did, so she was feeling bruised and sore enough to keep us up a few nights this week with her need for additional care and treatment; she’s back to her happy self today. We’ve found that in addition to the Chinese herbal formulas hubs has prescribed for her, the joint formulation available from NuVet is particularly helpful for her continued mobility. Natasha is in that melancholy space that tells us she’s missing her old Puppy Playtime buddies, so we need to find a congenial group for her happiness sooner than later. (If anyone in the northern Virginia area has recommendations to this end, please share them in the comments!)

We took it easier on the walks this week, for Kyra’s sake, but still got 4 in, for a total of 7 miles. We’d taken 4 the previous week as well, but went further, so this week feels like minimum effort to me. Even so, hefting boxes and other things has kept me on my feet for the past two days, so I’m at least getting away from the endless sitting at my desk that had been my previous pattern.

This weekend was the short break between classes, so that helped, too. It also inspired me to add 200 words to Jasper’s Tale. It’s still a long way from finished, but maybe I’ve broken the fiction word logjam that had me stuck for a few months. We’ll see. Mostly I think what drove me was Gayla’s release of Book 3 of her Discord Jones series. Editing it was another contributor to this week’s short hours of sleep, but I’m very proud to have had a hand in her ongoing success with this series.

:)

Otherwise, it’s been the week for hubs to send lifehack tips: Ones from 100 years ago that still hold up (that one about the eggs is especially interesting to me), and 22 others that apply to modern life (that elevator button trick is particularly useful). My final class begins Tuesday, so I’m close enough to finished with the MBA that I’m starting to imagine my life–and all the things I’ll be able to do with it–post graduation. I still have dreams of releasing two more stories this year to keep pace with my 3-a-year history, so I’ll need to really focus for the final ROW80 round to be able to accomplish all that. In the meantime, check out how my compatriots are handling the end of this round. I may not have made much of my mini-goals (turning the majority of assignments in on time is a key requirement for maintaining that straight-A streak!), but I am starting to feel much more human at this end of our transition. It gives me hope for the next round, since the three who hold the keys to my heart’s happiness are close at hand and good reminders to treasure each day and each step in our progress.