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.


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 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.


(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)

(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!

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.


"Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you." -RumiSomehow, I’ve made it. I just turned in my final assignment for the penultimate class for my MBA. We unpacked enough stuff that we were able to host our nephew and his girlfriend as they undertook a classically crazy college break road trip. I’ve made a good start at catching up on some of the sleep I’ve missed this month in the mad dash to pack and move, and we’ve hit our stride with our walks.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have reached this point.

I’m not even feeling particularly twitchy yet about having lived amidst boxes and dishevelment for … over a month, considering the time in Milwaukee as well as the time since our arrival. Since I now don’t have anything due for school until after Labor Day, all of a sudden I have TIME. I’m imagining that I can finish unpacking, organizing, and arranging by the time I have to return to work after the holiday weekend. I’m not sure that’s realistic, either, since I’ve also committed to completing a freelance editing job, but I think at least the living spaces and my husband’s acupuncture/Oriental medicine treatment space should be suitable for general public viewing sometime next week.

However, the quote in today’s image still speaks to me. While sanctuary is most often considered in terms of its physical ability to shelter us, and I tend to view my home space as my own private retreat, finding peace is only possible to the extent that we are able to accept access to it from within. Once again, hubs found an article about “living happier” that addresses this process directly. We were already pretty good on a lot of these elements, but have made a much more conscious effort at finding daily–even hourly–gratitude since we’ve moved, and it feels like that has contributed to lightening the load this move put on our shoulders.

For the print and design geek in me, hubs also found a plug-in that lets me preview fonts in my browser. It’s the little things that make me smile these days.


Because of the time constraints of the freelance work and allocating all the stuff that currently remains in boxes, I don’t think I’ll manage any fiction words this week again, but I’m definitely that much closer to it having finished with this class. I’ll grant myself a clean slate after Labor Day, but in the meantime invite you to check on the rest of my ROW80 cohorts’ progress.

The Rainbow at the End of the Light

The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.Even though I skipped last week’s check-in, this week’s will have to be short, too. I’m barely recovered from the madness of … The Worst Move, EVER. We went for about a week averaging 4 hours of sleep per night. And not the kind of 4 hours that a good nap gives you, but the kind where you wake up worried about the things you’re forgetting, and weaving as you walk even though you know there won’t be rest any time soon. This is the third time we’ve pulled a cross-country move, and it seems each time is worse–probably because even though we make every effort to live lightly and purge before packing… we still have More Stuff.

I’m insanely grateful that I have The Best Brother EVER, who flew into town Thursday 10 days ago with his wife (who’s also an angel, BTW!). They made sure we left Milwaukee that evening… a mere 10 hours later than intended.

I only had enough time off from work to be completely away from that for 4 days, so after we collapsed into bed our first night in our new home, and made some half-hearted efforts at re-arranging boxes last Sunday, it was back to the office for me. I still need to catch up on two weeks of problem sets from the past two weeks of class, but I did manage to stay on top of all of this week’s deliverables and turn in my mid-term paper. I even managed to unpack half a dozen boxes each day this week. The house is starting to look… livable. We also started finding our way around our neighborhood, and managed four walks for a total of 5.4 miles.

Not having a deadline for putting things away is quite helpful for feeling like limitations are falling away. And gratitude for losing those difficulties makes the light at the end of the tunnel feel like a technicolor rainbow.

Having a husband who recognizes when he’s melting down or otherwise being irrational in the face of troubles (and turns to me for support) just reinforces why he’s My One. In fact, he shared a link with me today that made me all melty titled 10 Signs You’ve Found The One; we both hit all 10 for each other. And having just squeezed through what felt like literal Hell together reinforces how lucky we are with each other and how happy we are to be on the other side of this edition of the moving experience. So I’m taking a deep breath and looking ahead with hope again. In the meantime, check out how my ROW80 cohorts are doing with their goals; come back next week to see how we’re all doing.


You can believe in misery or miracles, it is entirely up to you. You Choose.This week has been as intense as I worried it might be. I just watched the deadline for one of my class assignments fly on by–albeit with my professor’s acknowledgement and support–but … there just aren’t enough hours in the day to pack up my entire house, work, and do the crazy amount of homework he has required.

The thing that’s keeping me at least halfway sane is that we’ve been diligent with taking our walks: we took 6 for a total of 13.4 miles. I also kept up with the other assignment due and the full week of work. And I sorted, threw away, packed, ran errands, and worked out the legalese to let our renter move in. We’ve been averaging 6-7 hours of sleep as we try to say our goodbyes as well as take care of all these logistics. It doesn’t help our ability to stay focused or be particularly effective.

We still have about half our household to sort, toss, or pack by Wednesday morning, when we have movers showing up to load our stuff into trucks. I’m having a hard time imagining what would happen should we miss that deadline, and yet the hours are dwindling. I’m choosing to believe in a miracle at this point, since we do have help emerging from the woodwork, and, worst comes to worst, I suppose we don’t have to be quite so careful about boxing things up for transport…

I’m also guessing that hubs shared the link to 10 practices to increase peace of mind and happiness as a reminder that once we get past this madness, we’ll need to spend some time reorienting to that perspective. That’s probably a good idea, but a week of sleep sounds good, too. Unfortunately, I won’t have that luxury, either. Somehow I have to hold on until the Labor Day weekend to get an extra day of sleep. Until then, I’m as likely to be a zombie as a human, but don’t kill me just yet… I have PLANS!


Hold your breath with me until next week, when we should be settled in Virginia. And check out my ROW80 cohorts are doing; be jealous with me of anyone who’s feeling more awake than I.

The Mirror Shows Me Stress

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.My post title sums it up, but to add some clarity: I worked 40 hours this week, and spent 27 hours on homework. I got NO packing done. I snuck in 100 words on Jasper’s Tale night before last because I realized that deadline is sprinting my direction, too. Last night I had to talk myself down from a panic attack, because movers will show up on the 30th, and nine years’ worth of accumulated stuff on top of the stuff we’ve already schlepped across country a few times will need to be ready to be loaded into trucks. Or unceremoniously dumped.

I love being home with hubs and my girls–most particularly because we support each other in this kind of difficulty, but also because we have the good habit of walking almost nightly. This week, we took five walks for 10.9 miles. I suspect that’s a big reason I’m still holding myself together. It also helps that my prof responded to my frantic email about due date timing quickly and with some understanding.

Strangely, hubs found an article this week listing six traits of peaceful people. While I would say our current existence is fraught with the turmoil any move will add to a person’s life, I still recognize our choices in the characteristics outlined there. So I will take another deep breath and remind myself that while this is a difficult road, the home I’ve found us in Virginia should allow us to find calm and beauty again.

In the meantime, I’m massively grateful hubs has the Chinese herbal pharmacopeia and nutritional knowledge to manage our collective cortisol levels and allow for some decent sleep–which helps me remain steady within the stress and manage some productivity. Rinse and repeat. Check back next week to see whether I manage this for the next two weeks. And check my ROW80 cohorts to see whether they’re making progress on their goals.