Yearning for Simplicity

Life was simpler when we did things "Just Because".I’m sick of emergencies and bad news. This week we learned a cousin has stage 4, inoperable, metastasized cancer, and one of mom’s dogs had to be hospitalized with extremely enlarged lymph nodes that were resulting in explosions from both ends–initially also diagnosed as cancer. So there have been more, long family phone conversations, and even less time for writing. Not to sound too self-centered amidst the tragedy… but, honestly, a weekly emergency/big-deal-event of one dire kind or another for the past four months will wear a gal out. And make the latest seem comparably less important since a body only has the capacity to respond with urgency to only so many “sky is falling” messages.

I may have reached that calloused/jaded space where I’m going to start telling people to get in line, because I need me/quiet time.

Yes. I’m a horrible person. Or an introvert. And once again have the sore, scratchy throat and green snot that tell me I’m getting sick. Again. Probably from lack of down time.

:(

It’s a vicious cycle. I’m considering contributing to the iTest Indiegogo funding round to get access to a neat tech tool to keep track of these personal health challenges. Or jump in mud puddles “just because” it’s fun to splash. (Thanks, Zen to Zany, for the smile!)

On the other hand we walked every day last week, for a total of more than 8 miles (including some inadvertent splashing that meant doggie clean-ups were necessary…). I submitted my qualifications for the PMP certification as that necessary first step. Even if we haven’t gotten a chance to watch a movie or a show, with all the necessary discussions about family disasters, I do feel like I’ve at least gotten quality time with hubs. And while I didn’t get 5 days of writing, or make the days’ goals when I did, I still added 1,184 words to Red Slaves 3. And discovered my mentor has personal recollections of North and South Korea that are pertinent to my fiction, so gleaned some of those details from him. (And added The Aquariums of Pyongyang to my TBR book case…)

So I’ll celebrate baby steps, take a deep breath, and hope for better this week. Hubs gave me hope for the new year starting with the Chinese New Year (Feb. 19) that the energetics will shift to something more closely aligned with my needs (home is, indeed, where the heart is!). He’s also so attuned to me, that he forwarded me a reminder of things to do for me to … de-whelm myself (if you’ll forgive a coinage). Even if you find “empath” or “sensitive person” too woo-woo as a description of the people for whom these practices are a good idea, I submit anyone benefits from the grounding recommended. And for introverts, “me time” is critical, regardless. So my biggest gratitude of the day is for hubs and my furbabies, and the fact that they help me connect to the most important parts of my life.

So I’ll once again urge you to check in with the other writers of the ROW80 crew to see how they’re doing on their goals… and return next week, I hope, with less to be overwhelmed by.

Constant Change

"The only thing that is constant is change." -HeraclitusI’ve always loved this quote from Heraclitus for its clever play on words to expose a profound truth. And it seems this week has been a reminder of the need to retain the bigger picture while understanding that sometimes, there’s just no way around the adjustments life is forcing you to make. It’s just slightly more challenging as an INFJ, because “HAZ GOALZ!”.

Basically, we were back to errand-running and social and family obligations that meant I didn’t get to write as much as I’d planned. The family news oddities also kept on coming, making life in Wisconsin seem even more like one tragedy after another. Somehow, even the weather conspired to keep us mostly house-bound–which meant a lot of muddy pawprint clean-up, too. So I’ve re-edited Red Slaves 3 and added another 651 words. We took a handful of walks, but didn’t meet that goal, either.

On the other hand, I got both a stay-at-home date night, and some reading time. We’re all caught up with Agent Carter, and I have to say… it’s gripping in some unexpected ways. Carrie Vaughn had blogged about the preview of this almost a year ago exactly, which I had mostly forgotten in the meantime, but I feel like this TV mini-series does an amazing job of highlighting the tension between being good at and qualified for a job, and being relegated to second fiddle just because of one’s demographic status. The British snarkisms are on par with Doctor Who, and the characterizations these actors are achieving are nuanced and engaging. Even the blockheads’.

;)

This all has me thinking in other ways about feminism and the things the movement achieved since the 40s, which also inform my own work. Pile on with the article earlier this week about the study of what kinds of questions lead to deeper intimacy between two strangers that enhances the likelihood they’ll fall in love, and I have some interesting thoughts brewing on my protagonist. In fact, I just uncovered a plot twist earlier today, which appears to be helping me move through the midpoint of my story.

I don’t know whether next week will be a whole lot better, despite the bonus of having tomorrow off for a Federal holiday, but I should at least have my PMP application submitted for review. Work is gearing up for a busy few months, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have the mental energy to pick up the pace on my writing to keep up with my goals despite having been derailed this week. I also have review fodder for further down the road on the blog, to meet that goal.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check on the other ROW80ers and offer them kudos or support as needed. I’ll be back again next week with another update.

Working Hard

"Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion."When I set my goals last week, I worried whether I’d manage the 500-word bar but didn’t think I’d have a problem with the walking or the at-home date night. It’s interesting to see that even with the major headache of nightly course work and weekly papers off my plate, life still has a way of adjusting the goals and priority we set for ourselves. In my case, I’m now at 26,431 words on Fire to Dragon, so managed all but 70 of the words in my goal.

The weather, on the other hand, offered us snow and ice and Wisconsin-like temperatures, so while we still walked the dogs, we were lucky if it was a mile each day. With the prediction for freezing rain tonight, that’s likely to persist a few more days, because it really is surprising the number of people who don’t shovel in Virginia… making for a scary number of icy sidewalk hazards for those of us trying to stay fit.

The other big miss was the other one I’d thought easy: A stay-at-home date night. When I get home at 7, and it’s dinner time, then writing time, that doesn’t leave much time for cuddling in front of a show or movie. On the other hand, we did celebrate my brother’s birthday at an entertaining Teppanyaki restaurant, so left our furbabies at home alone for the longest stretch yet. Apparently two hours apart means KouKi is shrieking and frantic by the time she sees us again–though she didn’t destroy her crate or anything in it, so maybe, eventually, she’ll be as chill as Santino was about the experience. I hope so, because Natasha was at the other end of the house to stay away from the racket, and I hate to see a puppy that upset.

Of course, it couldn’t have helped that we discovered Friday that she had a major infestation of roundworms. Those parasites could explain the issues we’ve had with diarrhea from her, though it seems, too, we caught it early enough that her growth and general vitality has not been significantly impacted. She’s already at 22.5 pounds and still playing daily. Regardless, I had the gut-churning “joy” of receiving a text from hubs with pictorial evidence that the medication was working. All I will say, for those of you with visual memories of Star Wars, episode 6 (version 1!), is … Sarlacc pit. </gag> We’ll find out whether she needs another round of treatment next week, and are planning on getting the other two tested as well, since, as the vet said, this is an environmental hazard here.

Odd that in almost two decades of dog ownership, though, this is the first we’ve run across the issue, given the wide geographic range we’ve lived in. It looks like I will finally be investing in Panacur, which my mom (a Berner breeder) swears by.

The most interesting part of my week was the persistent sense that I was missing deadlines. Almost like the schoolwork was a phantom limb, teasing me with remembered stress. So when I saw the quote above drift past on my Facebook feed, I had to consider the difference between stress and passion. I’m feeling significantly less stressed in some ways, but have started setting up deadlines for my writing that will add to my stress, given the amount of work I anticipate investing in that process. In fact, I discovered a critique group accepting new members this week and submitted an application. Another writer friend had posted an article debunking the 10,000 hours to mastery myth, prodding me further down the road of looking for someone(s) to poke holes in my story telling. Which, ironically, will make the hard writing work more stressful, but I hope ultimately leads to an affirmation of my passion.

We’ll see. As it is, writing book three of a series has enough challenges that this story feels more of a slog to tell. I really hope that makes for effortless reading on the other end. Once again, time will tell. But I’m starting to operate as if March will be my release month, since I feel hopeful that the pace I’ve set is both realistic and achievable.

I didn’t even try to deal with our remaining boxes, or to establish a study schedule for the PMP, but at least I seem to finally be past the cold/flu that has been so draining for the past month and a half. It seems someone’s Internet-posted remedy of honey water has turned the tide for both of us. So we’ll see whether I have more energy this week to be able to shoe-horn in more progress. Otherwise, check out how my fellow ROW80ers are doing, and I’ll be back next week to let you know if I’m any closer to achieving my goals.

House Blend: Introvert

"Anti-social behaviour is a trait of intelligence in a world full of conformists." -Nikola TeslaThis week I realized I’ve been fighting a heavier or lighter version of this &*%^$! cold/flu bug for the past five weeks. I’ve had enough of it. I’ve been dosing myself with every appropriate kind of Chinese herb and nutraceutical in our home pharmacy, as well as asked hubs for acupuncture (and gotten a treatment!), done the salt bath thing, etc., etc. I may have even finally turned the corner, considering I’m not coughing every five minutes nor honking into a tissue while I’m writing, and while the headache lingers, the furbabies let us sleep ourselves out today, and the past week has felt almost like a staycation for its very light work schedule and my ability to do the necessary without going in to the office.

All of which brought forcefully to mind Kait’s closing blog post for the previous round of ROW80. I’m starting to think my house blend is something related to my own introversion: The absolute need for a lack of social commitments so I can enjoy quiet time. As Kait noted, there’s nothing like being sick for enforcing boundaries and ensuring we take care of ourselves. It may also be related to Tesla’s quote at the beginning of this post (which is the closer tie to how that house blend plays out in my writing): We need that kind of distance to be able to ask intelligent questions of ourselves and connect with those inner directives that frequently go against the grain of what the larger society would have us do. I’ve been almost totally anti-social this week, and tonight was able to add 500 words to Red Slaves book 3 for the first time in months.

We’re still not fully moved into our house; the other side of our family is facing a new health crisis necessitating future changes; and I still have to work out a schedule to study for the PMP exam I plan on taking in a few months. But without time with just my immediate family, and including time to do the kind of binge-watching we’ve done the past few nights on Sherlock (which, OMG, FANGIRL!!!), I don’t have enough separation from the crowd to manage my need to be creative.

Which brings me back to that house blend theory again: My stories all seem to have that intellectually curious character who can come up with all the right questions, but has a hard time accepting whatever form of magic is providing the correct answers to them. I would say my personal catchphrase could be “I believe,” but I also like to think my mind is still open to those questions my characters drive me to ask. I suppose that means my stories will generally have an air of mystery about them not unlike what my new favorite TV show has–even if I’m not into writing police procedurals or detective stories.

So. It now being January 5th and the official beginning of the new round of ROW80, here are my goals:

  1. Study for and pass the PMP exam;
  2. Write 500 fiction words per day 5 days a week;
  3. Walk at least 2 miles per day;
  4. Carve out at least one stay-at-home date night with hubs per week;
  5. Post 3 more book reviews; and
  6. Finish sorting and settling all our stuff to be fully moved into our house.

I think that’s enough to be getting on with, and may be overly ambitious… but am not sure that will even get me to the end of the novel I’m working on, and it certainly won’t let me finish the other stories I have percolating. At a certain point, I still need to follow my own project management advice and recognize that there are only a very few hours available in every day, and we do ourselves no favors when we don’t schedule some slack to account for the necessity of that internal down-time also hinted at in Tesla’s quote. I’m sure it’s why I’ve struggled to get rid of this illness, too, and resolve to be healthier this year by acting on my known need for quietude. We’ll see how well I do at enforcing boundaries.

Feel free to check out the other ROW80 participants’ goals, and I promise I’ll be back next week to report on my own progress.

Holidaze

The best vacation from stress is a mind filled with happy thoughts. -Zen to ZanyAnd thus, the holiday season is half over. I’ve loved having a string of days at home, though, as usual, I overestimated how much I might actually successfully accomplish. None of the rooms I thought might be sorted are; neither did I do more at my computer than diddle around on social media sites.

On the other hand, yesterday I finally (almost two years after our Aquafarm arrived as a reward for having supported Back To The Roots’ Kickstarter campaign!) set up our tank. Unfortunately, my first experience with a new fish did not end well. While Bettas are supposed to be the easiest fish for rank newbies to handle, my first died within 6 hours of being installed in the new tank. This meant my morning was then occupied with researching all the ways the fish can die. I suspect the whole “does fine at room temperature” instruction was the root cause, so when I returned to the pet store today, it was to buy additional water conditioners as well as a tank heater to make sure hypothermia did not set in once again. Felix the 2nd appears to be thriving as I write tonight, so I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t have to handle another death in the family very soon.

Also, we’ve managed multiple walks per day for the entire week. Our newest schedule seems to be to get up around 8 to potty the youngest canines, bring them in for breakfast, and then take all three for a little more than a mile walk. When the weather’s nice, in the afternoon, we take another one ranging between 1.7-2.8 miles. We cap the day with a final, half-mile walk.

I don’t think I’ve been in as good shape (despite the lingering lung issues from the cold/flu of a week ago) in decades.

And we seem to have finally hit the age with KouKi that she’s letting us get more decent stretches of sleep–or we’ve walked her enough that she’s as worn out as we are.

:D

To sum, then… This round I did check off a few things: Finished my MBA! Posted three (of the four of my goal) book reviews. Got the exercise thing sorted. However, I did not finish Jasper’s Story, though I did start reviewing my work on Red Slaves book 3. I don’t think my brain has actually been awake enough to be creative in the past month, but as the youngest of our pack matures, this too shall change, so maybe next round I’ll finally get back to some decent word counts.

I will be looking forward to it, though I can see my social calendar here will remain busier than anywhere we’ve previously lived. I’m not terribly happy about that given how precious time has become, even though I enjoy spending time with family and extended family–and today I got to help with the holiday baking with my nieces, as well as enjoy the Packers clinching their division for the fourth year running. It will be an ongoing challenge for me, but hearkens back to the Zen to Zany quote that kicked off this post: Happy thoughts really are the best cure for stress. Sharing unstructured time with hubs; watching Felix cavort through the water, or the furbabies chase each other through the house; or relaxing with good stories… definitely happy-making experiences. I feel¬† those cramped neurons unfurling in my brain.

While the next round technically kicks off January 5th, I’ll be spending the week considering what my goals should be to report for my next check-in, as I balance family and work needs with my own creative drive. Meantime, consider visiting the other ROW80 writers to see how they’ve met their goals.

Book Review: Fluency

FluencyThis was the second of my binge reads last weekend, and actually deeply impressed me for the strong female voice of the protagonist. I had picked it up over the summer while it was on sale, thinking I might have time to treat myself to a break with a book by a Twitter buddy (@Jenthulhu, you should follow her, too, since she shares very kewl science news & geek links on a regular basis)… but… it sat in my TBR pile for longer than expected. It didn’t let me go once I started reading, though.

Given my own love of languages, the protagonist’s vocation made her immediately appealing to me on the one hand, while her self-control allowed her the appropriate distance to maintain productive professional relationships with her colleagues:

“This isn’t how it’s supposed to work, you know,” he said, with a sly smile. She resisted smiling back.

“What?”

“You’re supposed to be the damsel in distress. We’re supposed to save you.”

She snorted and pulled her hand away. “Times have changed.”

“But what does that make us? Two dudes in distress? Pathetic.”

“Two colleagues in distress. Gender doesn’t matter,” she replied and let a hint of a sad smile cross her face.

Even more welcome was the fact that this was a mature woman who was learning and growing through her experiences. (I may be slightly burned out on the YA/NA craze these days, since it seems my Harry Potter fandom has put me in the marketing cross-hairs for a whole lot of juvenile characters…) Wells finally shares some of the reason for Jane’s self-contained distance late in the story in a way that will allow her to springboard to even greater growth in future installments, too, so it was a welcome development to find a character who didn’t bore me with her own inner stagnation.

I was sucked into the adventure of exploring a derelict spaceship and learning about alien races both from the human and alien perspective. The horror of discovering additional, unexpected hazards to space travel, and the Easter Egg bonus of a Smoking Man reference did a lot to cement my geek-heart happiness with the story. In fact, it felt like there were several homages to various scifi classics woven throughout, so I smiled at regular intervals not only from the banter among the characters but also at an author having fun with tropes.

Wells even managed to wedge in some lessons on women’s experience trying to pursue professions in science that helped underline the character’s tenacity while shining a light on the continued disparities between the sexes’ ability to advance credible careers.

My one nitpick was that the ending was a rather obvious cliffhanger, asking the reader to hold on for the ride (very much in the style of Contact, “wanna go for a ride, little girl?”), but having to wait for book 2’s release. While the arc and adventure were complete for this segment of the saga, I’m seeing more series authors closing with a brand new opening, rather than a sense of quiet satisfaction that allows the reader to savor the world without that gnawing sense of missing all the MOAR that is over the horizon. It’s becoming a larger frustration each time I encounter the issue, and detracts, in this case, from a competent debut.

Regardless, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Miles Vorkosigan stories, the X-Files, or even the Katarr stories (to plug my own publisher’s multi-author series). I am looking forward to the adventures foreshadowed for book 2 (Remanence), and am anticipating (along with what appears to be a robust fan base) its release sometime in the near future.

Checking In and Checking Out

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." -William JamesI thought I would check in last week. Had all kinds of plans about hitting the ground running once I’d turned in my final assignment. But it turns out travel is no less stressful than it’s ever been; getting to finished on that final assignment was every bit as stressful as you would have expected; and trying to see All The Family (and some friends) over the course of four days… Well. You get the picture. I ended up with a nasty flu I tried to ignore for a couple days–and you know how well that works out.

At least I was feeling well enough that I could start working on some of the book review posts I had promised for this round by the end of the week.

And today… I actually started a re-read of what I’d written so far on book three of Red Slaves. It wasn’t too bad. I may get myself into enough of the swing of things to start churning out fiction again by the end of the year.

:)

This, after I had one of those conversations with family who’d noticed… I’ve lost weight this year that I didn’t need to lose. The exact words: “You look drawn.” Nice way of saying all that stress… Yes, it does take a visible toll. Even if I was choosing my thoughts with care through most of the things we’ve had to deal with. Even though I’d known there would be a crazy amount of pressure with all the changes we signed up for.

I don’t see we had many options, but I also see a few extra white hairs I didn’t have last year.

So I’m grateful the year is winding down with a little leeway for some rest. Even though the puppies are conspiring to mostly only let us sleep for no more than 3-4 hours at a shot, we discovered that we can drop them off after their breakfast so they all spend the day at playtime… and we get some uninterrupted rest. God Bless Affectionate Pet! The end-of-year slowdown and actual days off should give me the mental space that lets me face the new year with new energy. On that note, some dear friends have created a beautiful new song for the season that should get us all focused on how our thoughts contribute to the greater Light in the world around us.

I hope you join me in finding gratitude for the little things that move you forward–and in visiting my ROW80 cohorts who are also dealing with the stresses of the season. While I will continue my weekly check-ins, I’m planning on being mostly checked out from responsibilities and stressors for the next two weeks.

:)

I wish the same for everyone else who is feeling like the past year has added too many challenges to the balance due side of the ledger.

Book Review: Lovers and Beloveds

Lovers & Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom (Book 1)As you may remember, one of my goals this round was to post more book reviews… since that was, ostensibly why I started this blog. As I faced the final countdown to the end of my MBA capstone project, all the backlog of my frustration with being kept from my beloved fictional worlds boiled over into a few days of binge reading… when I really should have been focused on other things. Nonetheless: I’m officially done with the MBA, AND I now have time to write about what I’ve read. In this case, a high fantasy novel written by MeiLin Miranda–the woman who’s helped Blurb Doctor some of my own work. Since I discovered she set the first in her series perma-free, and she never requested a review, the fact that I have worked with her may or may not make you think I’m biased about what I’ve read–by way of disclaimer, anyway. In my case, it gave me much greater patience with the first few chapters of the book, when I found it disconcertingly easy to put the book down.

However, the payoff was more than worth it. I kept wondering to myself if this book could be classified as New Adult, since it deals primarily with the stickiness of the coming of age of the heir to the throne of Tremont. Prince Temmin is rightly described by one of his father’s advisers as “callow” early on, which, I suspect, was part of my difficulty in connecting with the first part of the tale. He’s naive to the point of stupidity as the story starts, and even though his arc is satisfying in the end, it’s difficult for me to feel much sympathy for one who is stubbornly caught in the victim-of-circumstance mode, while at the same time not questioning the society that has forced him into that mold.

As an example, it’s his flirty sister at his coming-of-age ball who points out:

“Tem, look around,” she whispered as he offered her a proud arm and they proceeded through the genuflecting crowd. “Notice anything?”

“What am I supposed to be noticing?” he whispered back.

“The young men! Look at them. They’re all trimming their beards to look like you–moustaches and sideburns and no chin whiskers!”

He wonders a few times that his older sister, widely regarded as the most intelligent of the siblings, is not herself a candidate for the throne, and comments that she would be better suited to the job. The interesting thing about the way all this is layered in is the unthinking sexism and unconscious power structure it illustrates as backdrop to the greater and deeper theme of empowerment versus disempowerment.

That motif was what hooked me–and disproved the “young” element of the story. The book evolves into full-fledged eroticism of all stripes and a frank and honest look at all the different reasons people can and do have sex. Playing on some of the real-world “debate” about homosexuality, the conversation about why men would choose to be with men or women with women was a useful counterpoint on the one hand, but a strange perspective that sex with the same sex could still leave you virginal.

The other thread, the almost-immortal Teacher who uses a magical book to instruct the heir on the hidden history of his kingdom–and in particular, the story of one of its previous queens–was a unique use of the frame story technique, that (for me) had the subtext of illustrating how powerful well-written stories are in their formation of our intellectual and emotional selves.

Finally, the cast of characters is compelling–and large. The book closes by bringing back to the fore a minor character from the early chapters, and seems to presage another personage facing similar trials to Temmin’s. However, in this case, it also left me vaguely frustrated that the story would end with her rather than the protagonist. I do give the author the leeway of kicking off a series of books in this volume, but wasn’t pleased to feel left at loose ends.

Overall, I would recommend this to those who enjoy high fantasy that focuses on political machinations and coming-of-age tales–but from a very adult (really, almost erotica) perspective. The couple of weaknesses I saw were more than compensated for by the compelling world-building, intriguing magic, and complex individuals relating to what it means to be an adult making one’s way through a layered world. I will be reading Son in Sorrow when I get the chance, which is perhaps the strongest indication of how much I enjoyed my foray into the Greater Kingdom.

School and Life

"The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson." -Tom BodettI’m dragging myself across the finish line of my MBA program this week. The euphoria of adding the two puppies to our household has been counterbalanced by several weeks of way too little sleep, too much laundry from too much puppy poo and pee, and too much other scrubbing from those puppy poo and pee mistakes that don’t hit the blankets and beds we’ve spread around the house for our furbabies–on top of my requisite schoolwork. Work got super-busy in the wake of the Thanksgiving break, and this week we’re flying back to Milwaukee to celebrate a niece’s wedding. In other words, I’m being tested both in school and in life, in both the ways Bodett outlines in this week’s quote.

I couldn’t necessarily recap the whirlwind within these experiences other than to say that while my heart continues to glow at the small accomplishments our furbabies are managing, I am obsessively counting down the now seven days until I turn in my final coursework. (Kou, this morning, actually barked to let us know she HAD to go… unfortunately, that seems to have been limited to the first morning eliminations and all the rest were back to guesses and waiting games.) After 27 months without a break, the end of what have felt like pointless class requirements is an almost unfathomable release from what still feels like a ridiculous burden.

However, the lesson I’m choosing to accept from this schoolwork experience is that I have the perseverance and capacity to organize my daily existence to achieve things I never expected. While I wasn’t able to manage the cross-country move, the long-distance relationship, work, AND school this year to also allow for fiction-writing time on any kind of reliable or consistent basis, eliminating the third of those four barriers in the next week (and allowing for some decompression and recovery time!) should mean I’m able to retake the reins of my writing career in the new year and meet the goals I choose to set for my passion projects.

Nudging me in that direction, hubs this week emailed an article with tips on how to manifest reality from your visualizations. I’ll be practicing as soon as I’m not exhausted by my responsibilities.

;)

In the meantime, feel free to visit my ROW80 cohorts, and bear with me as I face the biblical fat man through the eye of the needle experience this week. I’ll catch you on the flip side–likely next Monday instead of next Sunday, since I don’t think there will be wifi for our last night in Milwaukee. Wish me luck–and sufficient sleep to remain coherent.

Finding Love Again

Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.The watchful among you will have noticed I missed last week’s update… An 18-hour day will do that. A week ago yesterday, we drove 500 miles one direction to the breeder who had sold us Natasha four years ago to pick up KouKi and Santino. We got home at midnight, after hitting the road at 6AM. Because Kou is now only 9 weeks old, we’ve been having to deal with short hours of sleep and general discombobulation as she lets us know (or doesn’t!) about what she needs and when she needs it. It was lucky I had a short and slow week at work to be able to help settle in the two new ones as much as I did.

But let me tell you… There is no focusing on anything other than the adorability of new furbabies (and their messes). For anyone considering adding the love and joy they bring, please also remember:

  1. You will only sleep in no more than 4-hour chunks while they’re growing up;
  2. You will look like a prize fighter on the wrong end of the battle from the needle-sharp puppy teeth and claws;
  3. You will be cleaning up pee, poo, and vomit from off of all your most prized possessions;
  4. You will need to disrupt your social calendar to make sure someone is always available to take care of your babies;
  5. You will have to invest in baby gates, crates, toys, chews, and vet visits–and still be anxious about whether they will be as healthy and happy as you can help them be;
  6. You will watch all that preparation be tossed aside in favor of destroying your clothes, shoes, and furniture while they learn what’s right and appropriate to chew;
  7. You will lose your heart to each and every one of them, even after you’ve lost your favorite possessions to their growing pains.

All of this to say, when I saw the picture above, the caption resonated. For as tired as we are, we’re keeping up with the baby, and even Santino’s zoomies have so far been contained either in our back yard or the circular path through kitchen, dining room, living room, and entryway. They’re both OK with being in their crates while we’re around and they can see us, and they’ve learned to “settle” while we’re eating dinner, so they can become the same kind of refined Hunines as we’ve raised in the past. And the way Santino comes looking for me or hubs when we’ve left the room just melts my heart. Even Kou comes running, wiggling her whole body, when she’s at the end of the extendo-leash and done with her explorations, and is ready to rejoin her pack. The love they’ve brought us truly is a sacred reserve of energy, and has evolved our family in all the best ways. We’ve been taking regular breaks to play and laugh and walk–though most of the time I don’t have time to set up my app anymore to track exactly how much we’re doing. For the ones I did track, I know we walked at least 5.9 miles over four days, but I suspect that’s about half of the actual total. And it doesn’t even matter much to me what the numbers are, because it’s just a time of happiness. And counteracts the Disease of Being Busy, as so eloquently stated by Omid Safi and shared by a Facebook friend who struggles as much as any of the rest of us with not overcrowding her calendar.

Especially this week, when we were in the mad rush of preparation for family visitors for Thanksgiving, and as we’ve had to again take one of our own to the emergency room, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities we’ve taken on and face the challenge of not over-scheduling. So I keep reminding myself, at least for me, some of those responsibilities will fall off my plate in the next few weeks. By the end of the year, I can return to the “normal” of “merely” working my day job and writing at night. But I have seen too many examples of burnout and breakdown in the past year not to take to heart that post on the disease of being busy. I’m thinking my goals are going to have to evolve to include just heart-to-heart sacred time, veg-out relaxation time, and actual unscheduled time. While I work that out, feel free to visit the other ROW80ers to see how they’re progressing on their goals.

And the fitting postscript for those of you who want the awwww moment of seeing our new pack’s configuration:

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Natasha, KouKi, and Santino