Honoring Connections

"Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone's soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd." -RumiIn a strange confluence of events, our social calendar this week filled up to an unexpected degree. We’re mostly home-bodies, but when our friends reach out to us, we do everything we can to support their plans or need to connect. When someone calls out of the blue, it’s not uncommon for us to spend a few hours on the phone catching up. We recognize that our choice to focus on our home lifeour “sanctum sanctorum”gives us the base from which we can feed our connections the way they feed us.

So this week’s old quote from Rumi was an interesting restatement of one of the many conversations we had this week with friends: We’ve found it challenging over the years to find true friends who are interested in sharing the same breadth and depth of connection that we seek. When we do, we honor the connection by offering unstinting support. And when it’s a true friendship, we end up feeling that energy return to us, as if, in some round-about way, we were lifting ourselves up by lifting up our friends.

Which made this post from earlier this month outlining the difference between loneliness and solitude illuminating. We seek our retreat to fill our well, understanding that nurturing the quiet space within is what allows us to become the shepherd Rumi talks about.

In a tangential way, this article about losing the night sky reflects a different level of disconnect with self. Humans by and large are so focused on the convenience and safety created in lighting streets and homes all through the night that they’re losing sight of the mysticism and isolation that feeds the soul.

Despite the long days and connections honored, I somehow broke the word log-jam and pushed past 30K words this week. In total, that meant I added only just under 500 words, but something about that threshold had been intimidating me.

All of these things converge in an odd parallel to something Brain Pickings covered last week when they wrote about some of what motivated John Steinbeck. The most profound quote in that story for me was, “It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die.” And the only way, with all the terrible things reported in the daily news, to do our part to make sure evil things don’t win, is to spread the light in the way Rumi notes. For me, a lot of that work resides in my story-telling.

At some point soon, though, I’ll need to refill my introvert’s well requiring quiet time at home. Probably reading. Probably from some of the books on this list of the 23 best fantasy books for adults.

As for the wellness challenge, hubs and I finished the required 150K steps sometime last week. But the good habit of walking regularlydespite the heavy rains in the area in recent weekshave persisted. My Fitbit says I averaged 4,589 steps per day last week. This, despite the fact that my tech failed me yesterday: The battery died sometime the night previous, recording just barely 2 hours of sleep, and I didn’t realize it until after we got home from our long walk in the evening and I hadn’t yet gotten the flashing light celebration of meeting my daily goal. So my average was probably more in line with the previous week, when I averaged 6,281 steps per Fitbit tracking. I’m guesstimating that I averaged a little over 7 hours of sleep per night this week, too… but don’t really want to do the math to verify that.


Our Milwaukee house is still on the market, though our realtor reports that at his weekly open houses there continues to be some interest. Not enough yet to generate an offer, but enough to confirm our place would be a great deal for anyone looking for a sturdy starter home.

Since the ROW80 round ended last week and the official goals statement post isn’t due until next week, I won’t be sending you to see how everyone else did this round. For myself, I’m glad that I achieved the key goal of finding and starting a new job. Making that a reality, though, meant a significant reduction in my creative output. Now that I’m finding my feet there again, I hope I’m able to set better goals for the next round. Including one related to how hubs and I tend our inner selves. Until next week, I’ll ponder which specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals I’ll be including in my list, and wishing you the fortitude to walk out of your house like a shepherd.

Captive Land Specimen

Good morning, captive land specimen, is the oxygen level in your air tank adequate today?This week’s image and caption is mostly nonsense, except that it isn’t because of the very high humidity we’ve suffered through this summer. According to hubs’ acupuncture training, there is actually a fifth season–hot and humid late summer/early autumn–that according to ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners causes stagnation and illness in humans, and requires a particular set of treatment protocols. Luckily we haven’t faced real illness, but the background sense of depletion and an ongoing minor headache makes getting through the weeks feel like a slog.

Hubs reports having read an article recently that characterizes this summer in the DC area as one of the worst in the past fifty years. I wasn’t able to find a link, but I did find a climate scientist describing what “oppressive heat” could be characterized as. I can confirm that in the past month, it’s been vanishingly rare to see humidity below 90 percent by the weather station we have set up at our house, thus meeting one portion of the oppressive measures outlined.

Which means that when we go on our daily walks, we’re all huffing and puffing for what feels like a lack of oxygen. Humidity is NOT our friend.

Still, with the knowledge that we have a hard deadline to earn our steps for the wellness bonus at work, we’ve been religious about taking long walks. The Fitbit app says I averaged 5,722 steps a day last week and 8 hours and 14 minutes of sleep.

I also made it through my entire WIP, and even added a few hundred words. I’m moving a lot slower on this than I’d hoped, but at least I’ve dipped my toes back in the creative stream.

Interestingly, an HBR article recently talked about the importance of curiosity, which is, to me, a key aspect of being creative. My creative work is almost entirely driven by asking “why?” (For a very different, NSFW view on creativity and body positivity, the @whoresofyore Twitter stream recently has been posting messages about and by sex workers.) The counter-point to that is an article in Vox that discusses why it’s scientifically inexplicable that a desk job can be so exhausting. One of the most memorable conversations I had during my orientation training for my current job was when new colleagues said, “I wish I were that creative.” I got to sit up high on my hobby-horse and remind them they ARE creative–every time they solve a new problem. How do you deal with a traffic jam in the morning? Creative new route to work? How do you solve any new problem? It all takes creative thinking.

Similarly, I’ve run across articles about small habits that promote productivity, behavioral economics and the likelihood that research from that field can help us manage our finances, and a football player who’s doing his best to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged kids. Each one reflects components of choices I’ve made and reminders to stay focused on my priorities. And writing remains a priority–especially when I get random feedback from unexpected sources, in which someone tells me they particularly enjoyed one of my stories. I’m still working on not feeling utterly flummoxed by someone saying they savored my words. And I’m very proud of my brother, whose words on an entirely different topic will be featured during the Atlanta Code Camp.

Hubs and I are also trying to be patient about having our Milwaukee house on the market. Our realtor held an open house yesterday and reported some interest. No offer yet, so if any readers are interested in the place where I wrote my first six books… it’s available.

In the meantime, I’ll be back to balancing day job and noveling. Next week is the end of this Round, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be churning out 10K words a day to meet one of my goals (finish drafting Team Alpha), so I need to discover my latest writing pace and figure out what a realistic, new deadline is. Until next week, then, consider checking how the other ROW80ers are doing on their goals.

Overcoming Obstacles

Attitude to Inspiration: "From this day on, when I look back on the past, I will smile and say to myself... 'I never thought I could do it, but I did. I overcame all the struggles, all the obstacles, and all those who tried to bring me down!'"Today marks one month since I last touched my WIP. It’s a strange realization, how quickly and easily life gets in the way of creativity. In fact, last weekend, I started battling a migraine that didn’t let up until I passed a key certification that had been hanging over my head for my current day job. I had attributed the extra stress I was carrying much more to the ongoing issues with getting our Milwaukee house sale-ready, but after I passed on Wednesday, the amount of extra energy available to catch up on organizing my office and taking care of details centering on celebrating hubs’ most recent birthday was actually startling.

And because hubs got new monitors as part of his birthday haul, I inherited his old one. I now have a triple-monitor set-up that lets me have one whole monitor dedicated to my WIP.

Being able to focus that way on what I’m trying to accomplish in my writing world is an unexpected gift back from him.


And now that I’ve been at the new job for a month, things are settling in that way, too. In fact, through their wellness program, hubs and I are now wearing Fitbit trackers for much more accurate step counts–and the challenge to beat 5,000-step goals every day. Since there’s a financial reward tied to it, all of a sudden we’re all walking a lot more. My phone says last week I averaged 5,741 steps per day. Sleeping is still less regular than I’d like, with only a 6 hour 35 minute average for the week. But apparently the Fitbit has an alarm to buzz my wrist at night to push me toward bed at a reasonable hour.

Outside of work, I’ve been reading a lot of depressing news and opinions. There was the one in Bloomberg at the end of July that pointed out how many of the current trends from a bigger perspective–worker productivity stagnation, aging population, entitlements, world affairs–add up to a likely dystopia in the next ten years. Or the Wired article earlier this week that spoke about the details of how Puerto Rico has dealt with the critical infrastructure failure brought on its electrical grid by last year’s hurricanes. Or the retrospective on the Prague Spring from the New York Times–it’s strange to me that it was merely fifty years ago that the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, and now neither of those nations exist in that form anymore. History moves quickly.

And yet it doesn’t–at least for women. The perennial recommendation for “bedrest” for pregnant women (at least a hundred years of practitioners pushing this bunk) was thoroughly documented in an article in The Atlantic. And Quartz reported on the fact that Tokyo Medical University has doctored the scores of female applicants for decades to ensure far fewer than were qualified were actually granted admission. Because … they were obviously going to drop out of the working world once they got pregnant. Two opinion writers, one in Medium (from a widely published author) and one in The Atlantic (from the former director of policy planning at the US State Department) outlined from different perspectives the various pulls on women’s time and energy. And the many hurdles we face in being taken seriously along with those inner voices that “helpfully” point out how often we fail to live up to our own expectations.

I see it in most of my writer connections online, too: How do we balance our day jobs with our family obligations, with our need to rest and recharge? It’s a discussion hubs and I have been having, too. It seems, particularly for creative types, that the more we can disentangle ourselves from those energetic parasites that distract us from pursuing the goals closest to our hearts, the more inspiration strikes–and the more vitality we are able to invest in our pursuits. For hubs and me, this correlates directly to our divestment from the Milwaukee property, which, FINALLY, this week is ready to go for sale. We don’t need yet another, extraneous distraction. Or, in the case of that house, an anchor to a past that ties us to other struggles.

In response, I’ve started posting reminders to myself on Twitter of the smiles and love I have at home with my dogs. You might notice them as “moments of floof” on my timeline, and I’m trying to post them daily. Because that’s how regularly Natasha, Santino, and KouKi bring us joy–and because it’s worth spreading that to the world at large given the ubiquity of the stressors we all face.

Then, too, there was a fascinating article about a move toward true modernization of democracy in Taiwan. The take-away that disallowing commenters from replying to other commenters, and instead on relying on upvoting and downvoting comments to generate consensus was eye-opening to me. And a Digg article about the NYC Ethics Board Twitter team also made me smile.

So my goal this week: Get back to fiction writing in my now-organized office, and continue to beat the challenge set by my employer’s wellness challenge. Until next week, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing.

Say Hello to Something New, Say Goodbye to Something Old

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." -C.S. LewisI’m back in the saddle with a day job that has me excited about new things to learn and new people to meet. At my new company, the norm is to start the work day at the latest by nine in the morning, which is a significant shift from my recent employers, and certainly the night owl tendencies I lived during the course of my sabbatical. It’s like being in a different time zone, and I felt jet lagged most of the week.

There was, however, another drain on my energies. As of August 1st, our tenants moved out of our Milwaukee house. The disaster zone they left behind has meant that hubs and I have had to hire junk haulers, gardeners, and a handyman to deal with the mess.

For the record, JDog did an amazing job, if anyone in Milwaukee needs to deal with the detritus of evident hoarders. Apparently our former renters left behind clothes, exercise equipment, furniture… and even food in the fridge and freezer. And were kind enough to have the power turned off before they left to make sure things got stinky in the meantime.

For another thumbs up: Cantoral Maintenance ripped out years’ worth of weeds, trimmed back overgrowth, and re-mulched everything to live up to their Angie’s List top rating. From the outside, things are looking much better already.

Apparently, too, the renters changed one of the locks on the garage, and only saw fit to return one of the four sets of keys we gave them. They also felt free to scream at us and our various helpers claiming that all of these things are actually our fault.

There’s a certain level of heartbreak to knowing that a structure that sheltered you and provided a secure home base for you was so disrespected that the tenants felt free to destroy all the screens and blinds and did something inexplicable with plastic on the walls and windows that is causing our handyman headaches.

The good news in the mayhem is that no major repairs are necessary and we should be able to get the house on the market in the next week or so.

I can promise spamming the world with links to the listing once the realtor has it finalized, because the house deserves to be loved as a home once more–and hubs and I won’t be returning to Milwaukee to make that a reality.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading about things to do if you’re going through adversity. So far, we’re doing pretty well following that advice. Similarly, Tiny Buddha had a post I found recently that listed four ways to live life to the fullest. Being authentic and doing things we love are high on our daily task lists, which is why I suspect we have the emotional resilience to come through even the fiasco of our renters’ aftermath.

A former colleague forwarded a Forbes article about creating rockstar employee engagement that actually didn’t sound that far off from the personal advice in the previous two articles.

And then I found a futurist’s take on what the world could look like in 2050, and how to prepare today’s children to face that reality. It was a stark accounting of the pace of change and how little anyone is served by merely shoveling more data into their brains. It’s a long read in Wired‘s UK edition, and scary for anyone who’s looking for a sense of comfort at settling into middle age. The underlying point is that the world is changing so quickly, we all need to be equipped to know ourselves well enough to surf each transition and still land on our feet.

For myself, change seems to be a feature rather than a bug in my life in the same way the author of that article outlines. While reading about uncertainties writ large can sound scary, I’m the same kind of optimist as C.S. Lewis in today’s quote. So far it seems that even the worst-appearing changes put me into positions of growth, and allow me to remain true to myself.

My creative mission has lately been on the back burner as I adjust to the changes in my life, but the nature of my new schedule indicates I’ll be back to having an hour or two every evening to work on Team Alpha. I’ve adjusted my editorial deadline with the ever-patient Liana, so I’m hopeful that this book will be out in October or November.

On the health front, last week my phone says I averaged 4,744 steps (2 miles) walking, but only 6 hours and 16 minutes of sleep.

Even amidst an openness to change, it will be good to find a better sleep routine.

This thus marks my return to my weekly blogging schedule as I hold myself accountable for balancing my work life, my writing life, and my home life in such a way that I remain healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. In the meantime, I recommend following the other ROW80ers as they pursue their goals.

DISTANT WORLDS – Science Fiction & Fantasy Giveaway

I’m participating in an SFF promotion this month from August 1 – 21.

Enter for Your Chance to Win!


Love science fiction, fantasy, and romantic F/SF? How would you like to win an ebook prize pack where YOU choose the books YOU want to win and read from Amazon? Enter and you could take home one of four ebook prize packs, a Kindle Fire 7, or Amazon gift card.

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And while you’re there, check out our Distant Worlds Book Fair for best-selling and highly reviewed ebooks on sale, FREE exclusive downloads, and a $15 Amazon bonus giveaway!



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