20 years down. Forever to go.Today is Santino’s fifth birthday; somebody must have known, since a neighbor we haven’t yet met delivered a huge, candy-cane shaped chew to our doorstep with a sweet note and the bow of a gift. Yesterday was the celebration for my employer’s sixteenth anniversary since founding. And Friday was our twentieth anniversary. According to people who claim to know, the traditional gift for this many years of being married is china. Given how much of that is in my family already, I’m glad nobody thought to get us more. These milestones have had us in a contemplative space. And busier than usual.

Together, we’ve shared peaks and valleys, but when I stumbled across Susan David’s TED talk, I realized part of our emotional resilience together has been based on looking pain in the eye and sitting with it. Not hurrying past life-long wounds means we’re able to grapple with the new ones as they arise, apparently. The talk rings true enough I thought I’d share it for anyone else who is looking for a way to be more centered and present, despite whatever shitstorm is pending on the horizon. A completely different angle on the strength of our relationship came from reporting on findings out of studies done at Google regarding high-performing teams: Trust makes great things happen.

On the other end of my reading spectrum, I discovered reporting on a study that found men to be intimidated by smart women. The author of Radical Candor, which I read a number of months ago, wrote an opinion piece based on results of a linguistic analysis of women’s performance reviews. It gave both research-based and anecdotal evidence of how women thus face systematic resistance to success–we can’t be assertive without being called abrasive, and that hurts in bottom line results. Then there was the male reporter who described the efforts he undertook over the course of two years to ensure he had gender parity in his reporting. All of these things represent big and ongoing hurdles as I pursue any career. I’m at least glad there are people who have invested the effort to prove it’s not just an individual experience–and that I finally have landed in a place where there is awareness of and pushback against these norms.

I also found a new author. Unfortunately for me (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Courtney Milan is a prolific writer, and the series that introduced her to me has seven books in it. The prequel novella is free, and sucked me in so thoroughly that I have now read all of the Brothers Sinister books. It was lovely to find an author writing historical romances that overturned a huge number of tropes: Some of her female protagonists were trying to avoid getting married, none of them were the Most Beautiful Of Them All, and they were all deeply intelligent in a variety of ways. If you want your romance with a dash of feminism and an image for how love can heal some profound wounds, Milan is your gal.

The biggest slap in the face, though, came from an article purportedly about time management. The key quote: “Energy and attention are more scarce than time.” The conclusion was: We need to focus on limiting what we prioritize because we will never have more than twenty-four hours in a day, and there will always be periods in those 24-hour segments in which we do not have the energy or attention to actually be productive.

I don’t know why that slight rephrasing caught me so off-guard; I’ve always hammered on time scarcity and the importance of prioritizing. But understanding that the corollary to these limitations is that there are concomitant limits to energy and attention… it’s a visceral realization.

And explains why my editing has fallen off the bandwagon again.

Even our average step-count over the past two weeks has drifted down toward 3,000 again.

At least my first audiobook is starting to show up at some retailers: Nook Audiobooks, ScribdeStoriesPlayster, Libro.FM and Downpour. I’ll be curious to see how much longer it takes to get into Audible and iTunes, though I’m anticipating availability there by the end of this week.

We’ll see whether, now that I’m past the social whirl, I’m able to find the energy and attention needed to dive back into edits. In the meantime, here’s the link to my fellow ROW80ers, and I’ll be reporting back again next week with results.

Another Passing

"Only in silence the word, only in Dark the Light, only in Dying Life: Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky." -Ursula K. Le GuinTwo more voices from my youth left the earth plane this week. Ursula K. Le Guin and her Wizard of Earthsea trilogy have faded into the mists, but not before having made a profound impression on my growing up self. Her writing style, in my mind, is almost high journalism: It tells layered stories in details and makes the reader consider for themselves what the ambivalence in the world means. And she was a forthright individual who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself, her sex, or her genre.

On the opposite end of my youthful entertainment spectrum, Mort Walker, who I remember most for Beetle Bailey, but also for coining the term grawlix, passed soon after.

The eulogies for both spoke about how prolific they were. Somehow that jostled something loose in me: For the first time since September, I made progress on my edits. I still have more work to do for my day job than can be comfortably handled in the standard forty-hour work week, but this week I started leaving my laptop at the office and was able to switch gears when I got home. It’s a good start. As you might have noticed from the progress bar in the right side-bar, I’m creeping up on the 20% percent mark. If I can keep up with my ten pages per day rate, I might even make a deadline that’s floating in my brain: Release book three of the Red Slaves trilogy on the sixth anniversary of the release of book one.

That puts me outside of meeting my Round One goals (Round One ends March 21), but doesn’t feel as frenetic or stressful as sticking to my first impulse.

While I consider the implications of that, a few other thoughts stuck with me from this week’s reading. Memories of stories and related entertainment apparently fade faster than I’d ever thought. The idea of a tapestry of influences reinforces what I was pondering last week–that our acculturation is subtle and difficult to pin to individual words and phrases and stories. And may be why I’ve embarrassed myself a few times by buying the same book as I’d read years before without intending to stock duplicates in my personal library. On the topic of conversation and collaboration, then, Psychology Today posted about the death knell of the Yabut.

Further evolution in the #metoo story telling this week led to the publication of a profound article titled “The female price of male pleasure.”  One of the bits of information in that story that I knew, but hadn’t really processed: the definition of bad sex is vastly different for men and women. Women experience pain with intercourse on a regular basis, putting their definition of bad down at that level. (Medically, dyspareunia, vaginismus, and vulvodynia, painful dysfunctions of female reproductive systems, have only merited a collective 446 clinical trials, while erectile dysfunction, which is merely embarrassing as opposed to painful, has had 1,954 clinical trials.) Men, on the other hand, define bad sex as being “a passive partner or a boring experience.” The world that lives between those two perspectives goes a long way to explaining the current state of the conversation about inequality.

Similarly, one of the people I follow on Twitter posted a query about women who enjoy scifi. At latest count, her post has been liked 14,000 times, retweeted 2,500 times, and responded to 3,600 times. There are a lot of us out there, and it’s always useful to remember that Mary Shelley can be considered the progenitor of the genre with her story, Frankenstein. The oddly ubiquitous perception that geeking out on science and imagining some of the logical extensions it might bring into a future daily life, is limited to the male purview, really needs some reality injected into it.

As for my other goals, hubs and I stayed current with Star Trek: Discovery for our date night, and my phone says I averaged 4,565 steps per day–up significantly from last week now that we’ve had some nicer temperatures. We still haven’t figured out the yoga thing, and that might be a stretch goal at this point, if you’ll forgive the pun.

Otherwise, we’ll see whether I can build on the editing habit this week. There will be family visiting who I haven’t seen in probably twenty-five years, so the perennial distractions will be pulling me the other direction, but if I’m to ever reach the descriptor “prolific” I need to refocus my priorities. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye on my ROW80 buddies and will report back next week on my progress.

Life is Changing

The Cranberries - Dreams, The CollectionI suppose it’s natural that as we get older, our age-mates start to die. It was a shock, this week, though, that a woman whose voice underlined the pain and depression of my college years would pass. When someone who shares your birth year dies, and especially someone who’s achieved such a level of public recognition in the same span as you’ve been given, it gives you pause.

Oddly, at about the same time as that news came out, other news, about studies showing how our standard work week is killing us, was also released. Then I stumbled across an opinion piece on capitalism and the human inclination toward conformity. My think-reading week was capped by a fictional representation of being a woman and working in the tech industry. Somehow the intersection of all these pieces put me in a mindset to poke at my own sense of imposter syndrome. (Am I really a leader in my organization? Do I do enough to foster the skills and talents in the people I’m committed to supporting?)

The third point of my thought triangle of the week was the “backlash” against the #metoo movement. On the one-year anniversary of the first women’s march, there was a second, just as big. While on the one hand, it seems there is some power to being female at the moment, there are still hurdles for all of us to overcome. It feels particularly important to note that the pernicious myth of the “self-made man”–who never had a parent, or a teacher, or a society of any kind influence his work or support his achievements–has deep roots in American lore. Americans’ vaunted individualism, as pointed out by the writer on capitalism above, is significantly undermined by the hormones and cognitive biases that form humans’ biology and pushes us to conform–to gender norms, to expectations, and to beliefs.

So rather than do anything productive this weekend, I wallowed in scifi. There was an interesting article on space.com earlier this week that said astronomers are finding that our solar system is unusual because it has planets of such varied sizes. It put me in the mood for gonzo space opera. Jen Foehner Wells delivered in spades with her 4th installment in the Confluence series. I loved how she wove in timely cultural references in the vein of “meanwhile, back on Earth” with wildly imaginative descriptions of alien races and cultures. I’m back to thinking about my own space opera stories, and have ideas bubbling.

On the other hand, I STILL need to finish edits on my Red Slaves books. I did at least approve the final recording corrections for the novella in that series on Friday. It will be the first audiobook version of one of my stories, so I keep anxiously looking for links as an indication that it has gone live. I’m not sure how long the final compilation and release process takes for audiobooks, though one spot at Findaway Voices (the vendor helping me make this happen) indicated some places can take as long as a month to post new audiobooks. We’ll see how well I manage my impatience, but I can promise I will be sharing links just as soon as I have them.

As for my other goals? We didn’t start with yoga this week. I was lucky enough to get home before 10 most nights given projects that required my presence at the office until late. My phone says I averaged 3,666 steps per day, up from last week, but also reflecting the long hours at the day job. We did at least increase our meditations. Date night was keeping up with Star Trek: Discovery, and discussing the splash of that SPOILER.

This week should be slightly less intense on the day job front, though there remains all the work I couldn’t face doing this weekend. I’ll be taking baby steps forward and keeping an eye out for my ROW80 buddies.

New Year – Blank Slate

Interesting to be breaking a month-long radio silence for the second year in a row. This time, it was less intentional: My personal laptop took a crap the day after we returned from our second-ever just-us-alone holiday in the almost 20 years we’ve been married. In fact, our trip to paradise allowed me to cross off an item from my bucket list. We went whale watching. It was as thrilling as I’d ever imagined. We experienced at least seven different sightings of groups of either two or three whales as they made their annual return to the Sea of Cortez to have and make babies. We were also in what amounted to glorified dinghies with speed boat motors attached, so our experience was up close and personal, and something like a roller-coaster as we hurtled across the waves. Crossing off bucket-list items is highly to be recommended.


While we were traveling, and later, while I was cussing out intransigent hard drives, I didn’t end up doing any editing. Still. And even though I’ve set up this year’s Goodreads challenge (spoiler alert: same number as last year), I haven’t been reading novels lately. I’ve been reading news about how high the US infant mortality rate is, another take on the misery of capitalism based on the experiences in Appalachia, and female anger. I’ve been reading about how Facebook can’t be fixed, regardless of Zuckerberg’s best intentions. And how Japan would love to fix its college admissions testing process.

Everybody is starting the year trying to see what can be changed, and how. Today, I ran across an article that highlights both the pitfalls of an MBA education, and how to actually be a better leader. And I read a tribute to a man who did his level best to lift up everyone around him. And, oh, by the way, he was transgendered, so had objective measures of his success before and after becoming a man, which underline some of what the opinion writer regarding female anger said.

Hubs and I have also been enjoying more screen time lately. It started with the long flights to Mexico (I can highly recommend pre-loading an iPad with movies to watch while in the air–it makes the time enclosed fly by, if you’ll forgive the pun). Two we particularly enjoyed for having more depth than we anticipated: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” and “The Founder.” This week we binged on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which absolutely earned its Golden Globes, the writing was tight and the acting superb. We keep revisiting scenes from all three of these shows and pondering the characters. In some ways, given the arc Mrs. Maisel had in season 1, it is almost a shame to continue the story, but I’m glad they’re doing it anyway. The relevance of a woman fighting for what she’s passionate about in the late 50s is surprisingly on point in today’s climate.

My phone says that so far this month I’ve averaged 3,099 steps per day (it was 5,160 for the month of December… we walked a LOT while we were on vacation). It was harsh to return to the coldest temperatures of the season immediately upon our return from a place where the daily average was in the upper 70s. On the other hand, Tashie is walking better and stronger than she has in a long time, so weather really is our excuse for cloistering ourselves at home.

As for goals for myself… I really like what that HBR article had to say about mindfulness. It’s something I’ve practiced unconsciously for decades, but hubs and I have been talking about doing yoga together, so I’m going to add to my standard list. I’m not happy this list hasn’t changed in two Rounds, really, but I really want to get back into regular writing, and that means first I must clear the decks on the projects that are in editorial limbo. So:

  1. Finish edits on Dust to Blood and re-release it with its new cover.
  2. Edit Blood to Fire and re-release it with its new cover.
  3. Edit Fire to Dragon and release it.
  4. Blog weekly with my ROW80 updates.
  5. Walk at least a mile a day.
  6. Do at least half an hour of yoga a week.
  7. Keep the sanctity of my weekly date night with hubs.

I am in the final phase of getting my first audiobook ready for release, so I know there will be some delays in getting started as I deal with those logistics. I also know my day job schedule is going to continue to demand long hours for the foreseeable future, so I need to get used to just having an hour or so at night in which I can be productive on the writing goals I’ve outlined. That can no longer be an excuse.

I’m glad the ROW80 group continues its mission of providing writers a supportive forum in which to hold each other accountable so I will continue to point everyone to the other participants’ recountings of their efforts. Good luck to us all.


"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." -Marcel ProustSchedules and happenstance mean I’ve gotten to spend some quality time with old friends in the past two weeks. First up was a visit from my exchange sister from Germany last weekend. I hadn’t seen her in ten years. It was good to catch up, and strange to discover new parallels in our lives. This weekend, the Slambovian Circus of Dreams returned to town, and we had the honor of hosting them–and then attending their inspired take on a Christmas concert that ended with a spine-tingling mash-up of “Angels We Have Heard on High” and Van Morrison’s “Gloria”. The band’s ability to twist the familiar and make things deeper by mere juxtaposition is unlike anything I’ve heard from anyone else.

We didn’t get much sleep for all the charming gardening (meaningful talking about life, the universe, and everything) we did that made our souls blossom.


In all of these discussions, we came to the realization that while a natural consequence of talking through the night is a bone deep weariness, there is also a buzz of possibility and opportunity that opens our eyes to other perspectives. We’ve holed ourselves up at home more than ever over the past year as we’ve grieved our losses. It might be time to reach out to our friends and explore new avenues. It’s still mere words, but we’re feeling energized again.

Strangely, a friend from work shared a thought-provoking article about self-care that amplifies the sense our friends imbued in us. It’s incumbent on us to define the life we want, and build it in such a way that there’s no need to escape it. (Though… I will never stop reading fiction, even though it could be considered a form of escapism. It’s also an important element in my ongoing quest to become a better writer and a better person.)

That conclusion resonates in two articles related to maintaining a harmonious work environment that I ran across this week, too. The first is a short take on what makes great office culture. The second digs into what women need to be able to finally break through the pervasive corporate glass ceiling, which restricts women CEOs to 4% of Fortune 500 companies.

The unifying theme about all these articles and our discussions relates to self-knowledge and the capacity to understand our motivations and goals and be intentional in our pursuit of them. So it was funny to read an article about “fixing statistics” that said our problem in dealing with the big data mountains we’ve surrounded ourselves with has much more to do with misunderstanding our cognitive biases and inherent behaviors than any inability to crunch numbers. It’s a rich field to consider imaginatively. Even so, I was startled by the perspective on math as meditation in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti when I read it this weekend. I will have to re-read it to dig into its unique take on futuristic scifi with a strongly ethnic twist. (Yes, I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who’s looking for an unusual take on the step a girl takes from her isolated community on earth across the stars to attend university. The novella has earned every one of its awards and nominations.)

As for steps, my phone says I averaged 5,270 steps–and I know I forgot it on at least one of our walks. So we’re doing much better about staying active. Even with the distractions of our friends.

The final two weeks of this final Round of this year are going to be very busy at the office, as we on-board two new employees and kick off the search for two more, as well as deal with quarterly reviews and Christmas madness. I’m sad that for yet another Round I didn’t manage any of my writing goals–even if I did settle into a decent rhythm with hubs and the pups regarding family time and exercise. I’ll keep reporting, in the hopes that I might surprise myself with productivity; in the meantime, I suggest checking in on the other ROW80ers to see how they’re faring.

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