Category Archives: Pets

Squirrels Will Be Squirrels

…unless I can keep them in line.

Confession: I wrote the first four posts in this series on one of my fits of inspiration and hyper-focus. Just wrote ’em out while I had the interest. And now I have no idea what I was supposed to be doing here.

This is where notebooks come in handy, right? Looks like we were going to talk about habits/routines and how I use them to tame the squirrels… or rather, to get things done even when the thought-pigeons in my head are on a rampage.

Which is every day. Basically.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this one is that I recently read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It’s a really interesting book, one of those that I picked up from the library on a whim because it seemed like a tame pigeon, something I could get interested in and focused on for a few days. Really cool stuff about how our brains form habits, WHY they do so, and how we can use them to our advantage.

I’ll confess that I’m not much good at forming or breaking good habits. I’ll get into one for a few weeks and think it’s stuck, and then it’s gone again. We could take meditation as a recent example. I was in the habit of doing it every morning for 5-10 minutes, either on my own or (far better for me) with a guided program like HeadSpace or Buddhify (both available in the apple app store and possibly elsewhere). It was good. I wasn’t good AT it, and never felt like I was making progress, but it was a good exercise.

And then I lost the thread. I gave into the temptation to pick up my phone and check Facebook before I meditated, and that threw everything off one day.

And the next.

I’m really good at bad habits.

But it’s something that I’m working on, and there are habits and routines that really work for me. The key seems to be having the right cue. One that I absolutely can’t miss.

Sometimes having the task written in my bullet journal is enough. I have a section every day dedicated to a whole bunch of habits that I’ll forget about otherwise. If I complete them, I get the satisfaction of checking them off. If I don’t, I get reminded every time I look at that page.

(I used to have these habits on the weekly spread, but didn’t look there enough. Daily is so much better for me. Trial and error.)

Does it always work? Nope. I might look at my page in the morning, see that the kids need their vitamins, and then totally blank on that until I see it again after they’ve left for school. But it is slowly becoming a habit.

And I do still put things off. I write the litter box down every day, but it probably gets done every other day.

Sorry, cats.

But still. It beats waiting for the stench to become unbearable.

This way, the only thing I really have to remember is to check my bullet journal several times a day. And I’ve accepted my scatterbrain tendencies enough that I’m willing to accept that I need to do that. So it works.

Other habits have outside cues, and I’m really trying to develop those more. For example: Every morning, I have to let Jack out to pee. It’s not always first thing in the morning, but it does happen some time between 6:30 when I get up and 8:30 when I take the kids to school. I let him out, turn around, see his dish, and feed him his breakfast.

That’s not a conscious decision. That’s a habit. If I don’t do it then, if I override the habit and move the laundry over instead, the poor guy will not eat until supper time.

…And we can’t have that.

So I stick with it no matter what.

I’d love to say that seeing clutter around is a trigger for me to clean up, or that feeding Jack is in turn a trigger to put that laundry in, but it isn’t yet. I’m trying to get into the “if it will take less than a minute, do it now” mindset, but there’s always something else to grab my attention that’s so much more interesting than carrying a sweater upstairs. And even if I do start to sweep up the dog hair from the floor, odds are I’ll get distracted half-way through by another small task and do that before I grab the dustpan. It becomes an endless chain of unfinished tasks.

Progress is so slow, guys. But it’s happening.

Other things I’m doing to try to help me through the day:

Routines. I’m really fighting to try to get my brain to accept a standard routine. Some weeks it goes well, and it really pays off in terms of later productivity and me feeling like I have a solid start on the day. But no matter how great the rewards, I seem to keep slipping out of it. So I fight on. And it is getting better. I haven’t left packing lunches to the very last second once yet this school year! I mean, it’s only September, but still.

I’m going to keep trying for up-meditate-tea-breakfast-read-get boys up-make lunches before I pick up my phone. It’s a solid routine. I just need to make it a habit.

Preparation. If I have everything I need for a task, I’m less likely to get sidetracked when I go searching for it. Cleaning the bathroom? I’d better have the toilet cleaner, wipes, Windex, paper towels, and mop handy before I begin. It’s one less chance for squirrels to sneak in.

Making tasks appealing. Going back to my stationery snob tendencies here for a second, I’ll give you an example. For weeks I’ve been meaning to write down all of my notes on my new book series in one place, but kept putting it off. I had a notebook ready, but… well, it was fine, but not appealing. Not something that was a pleasure to write in. So yesterday I grabbed the Leuchtthurm1917 I won in an Instagram contest and started working. The paper is nice, and better yet, the pages lie flat so I don’t have to fight with them. I’m excited to use it. So I am. Same goes for buying laundry detergent I love the smell of (God bless Gain Apple Mango Tango) and making my office a place I want to spend time in. I reward myself with a wee spritz of a nice-yet-economical perfume when I’m focusing on work in my office.

So that’s kind of my take on routines and habits. My pigeons are still fluttering, but the more automatic I can make my actions, the less those foolish birds bother me while I’m making things happen.

Okay. I think next time we’re supposed to talk about my work time. That’s trickier. I’m struggling hard with that right now. But talking about it might help someone, so off we’ll go next week.

If I remember to draft it.😉

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Farewell to a Puzzle

His name’s not really Puzzle–not in our world, though I’ve called him that more than a few times. But the blink-and-you’ll-miss-him black and white cat sleeping on Rowan’s bed in chapter two of Bound, the one who’s a little pissed about having his nap disrupted, has a real-world counterpart.

His name’s Charlie. That’s been his name since before we adopted him from the SPCA 12 years ago, and he’s even responded to it a few times.

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YOU. WILL. LOVE. MEEEEEE.

^This basically sums up our relationship.

He doesn’t go out of his way to be mean, and he has sweet moments with one of our other cats. But he’s generally antisocial, has never liked to be touched our cuddled (save for the occasional scratch under the chin). He jumps at things that aren’t there, and I’m not entirely convinced that he doesn’t think we’re all figments of his imagination. Entertaining, yes. Snuggly… not so much.

He’s been my weirdo housemate for a dozen years, basically Sheldon Cooper in feline form: uncertain of how to give or accept affection (even when he kind of wants it), happiest when left alone to enjoy his favourite spot on the couch. He’s been with us through six moves and three provinces, two kids, four dogs and two rats.

And now it’s time to say goodbye.

Charlie’s had a good life, or at least a contented (if somewhat paranoid) one. But he’s sick. I won’t go into details, but we’ve seen the vet, we’ve tried treatments, they’re not working.

I’m taking him for his last vet appointment at noon today (so 10:30 Eastern, if you want to send happy thoughts). He won’t be pleased to be there again, but I’ll stay with him until the end no matter how cranky he gets.

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And it will be hard. No matter what the circumstances, it’s not easy to say goodbye to someone you love.

There’s no lesson here, no big revelation to end the post. Death is hard, even when it’s merciful, even when letting go is the right thing.

He’ll live on, though, in my heart and on those pages.

Rest well, Puss.

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Anyone Else Feeling Really Monday Today?




Writing Stuff Wednesday: Insert Interesting Title Here

Yeah, sorry. I don’t have time for a clever title, or to dig deep into all of these cool new scenes to find something fantastic for WIPpet Wednesday.

But since you stopped by… 2 lines of dialogue for the 2 in the date. No context. Just two characters in a life or death situation. No big deal.

“Pathetic as it sounds, you’re the only family I have, and those two are my only friends. I can’t let you all wander off to your deaths without at least joining in, can I?”

“At least you won’t be lonely.”

If you want to see what the WIPpeteers are up to, here’s the link. I hope I’ll get around to everyone this week… I think I managed it last time. I couldn’t comment on everyone’s, though. THANKS, BLOGGER. I did read, though!

 -_-

 

ROW80 UPDATE: TORN

Things are progressing well with this round of edits on Torn. I have one chapter left to completely re-write, one in which I only have to re-write the second half, and one that only needs partial re-writes.

Those climaxes, man. They get me every time.

I was hoping to get that done this week…

But this weather is killing me. I’ve got a migraine today, but am working through it (God help my characters!). The kids were home for another snow day yesterday, and their dad is away for training this week. The boys are old enough that they can play by themselves or go outside when the storms calm down, but I still can’t close myself off, stick my headphones on, and work while they’re around. I have to be listening, and available. They want me to do crazy things like play with them.

I try to remind myself that this is how I wrote the first draft of Bound, but it doesn’t help. That draft sucked. These scenes aren’t allowed to.

And then there’s Bruno, who I have decided is not, in fact, a Chihuahua, but a Mexican Bed Hound. I’m not getting much sleep with him curled up between my knees–between not being able to move and being worried that he’s going to suffocate under the blankets, I’m waking up exhausted.

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But if I shut him out, he cries. And my husband gives me sad eyes.*

I need more coffee. And a plan.

In case anyone’s wondering what the months before my book release look like, here’s the goal, with dates removed–because things go awry. Snow days happen. Editors get sick, or have other clients put them off schedule, or hey, they have personal lives. Beta readers take longer than anticipated, though no fault of their own. I get sick, or get headaches, and until I’m making more money than my husband**, I’m responsible for this household: laundry, getting the kids to school, cooking, cleaning.

I need a housewife, is what I need.

But here’s the plan:

  •  finish rewrites
  • compile notes
  •  final clean-up pass (will take about a week, I hope, and will involve reading aloud, making the prose read more gooder better, adding in a few ideas I’ve had along the way, and really taking it from a solid story to a beautiful reading experience. In theory).
  • Send to second-round beta readers, hope they can get it back in a week.
  •  write cover copy.
  •  Set up pre-orders.
  •  Figure out whether I can format the paperback through Scrivener (wasn’t an option in the PC version… we’ll see)
  •  cover reveal. Pre-orders. Other fun stuff!
  •  newsletters
  •  fix whatever my lovely betas say I screwed up
  •  send for proofreading/copy edits (2 weeks)
  •  Prologue reveal (not to be disregarded, thanks)
  •  formatting
  •  final version to Amazon (10 days pre-release)
  •  teaser photos
  •  relax and/or freak out and/or get back to work on book 3
  •  upload to other vendors
  •  RELEASE DAY. Party on Facebook.

And then REALLY get back to work on book three, because I’ve had some ideas for big, scary revisions.

So… yep. That’s the plan. Please cross your fingers, toes, and anything else you can spare that I can get this all done soon!

For more about ROW80, click here. For more updates from other participants… um… I’ll add the link when I find it.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you’re all having a fantastic week (and staying warm, if applicable).

—-

 

*Not this week, but there’s still the crying.

**Okay, even then, it would still be my job, because I work from home.


Barking Mad

Last week, I found myself home alone for almost 72 hours. I edited. I watched Supernatural*. I edited some more. I ate quick meals, I planned, I revised, I edited even more.

It was fantastic.

How did I swing this when I usually have a husband and two kids around? Well, they went to the big city (not the one we go to for groceries… the bigger one) to pick up our new dog.

Now, I’m a little fuzzy on the details of exactly how we ended up adopting a Chihuahua from a rescue agency in Los Angeles. I remember seeing his picture on Facebook, posted by a friend who was fostering him in Hamilton, ON (Canada, guys), and thinking he was adorable. I vaguely remember my husband being quite taken with him. There were messages sent between him and said friend, and he started looking for ways to get a carry-on-sized dog from Ontario to Newfoundland. Something about an acquaintance who’s a pilot… my husband having days off work… talking about dog names… figuring it wouldn’t kill the boys to miss a day or two of classes… I know I actually consented to all of this. I’m just not clear on the details.

In my defense, all of my brain power was going toward the book. I’m sure I smiled and nodded and even acted like I had some clue what was happening around me, but it was actually all I could do to not burn the house down every time I cooked something.

Long story short, this is Bruno:

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He’s 6 lbs of cuddles, love, a puppyish bark, and a bad habit of eating EVERYTHING. Like, I was thinking about getting a Roomba, but I don’t think there are any crumbs left around the house for it to pick up. He (Bruno, not the theoretical Roomba) wears adorable sweaters, sometimes chases the cats (we’re working on that), and is fitting in pretty well around here.

jack and bruno

How are they even the same species?!

We must be crazy. I have a book to get out in the next few months, and edits just keep getting deeper. We’re probably moving this summer, and we have no idea where. We have a dog and three cats (one of them kind of old) already. Our family was pretty great as it was. Why rock the boat?

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Okay, the improved satellite reception provided by those ears is actually nice. But other than that, and having a companion for Jack when the family goes out, and giving a three year-old dog his forever home, and having another furry little buddy to hang out with…

You know what? Never mind. I answered my own question.

*I’m only on season 2. I’m told it doesn’t get really good until season 4, but something pretty is keeping my interest for now.

The scenery. I really go for creepy houses and graveyards. Yep.


J is for Jack

I can’t claim to have the best dog in the world, but that’s only because that would be a bit like saying you have the best kids– sure, everyone thinks it, but you don’t go around saying it.

But seriously. My dog? He’s awesome.

Outstanding in his field. Or my in-laws' lawn, whatever.

Outstanding in his field. Or my in-laws’ lawn, whatever.

I can’t take credit for it. My husband did most of Jack’s training, but I don’t think he can even take credit for most of it. Sure, me walking him for an hour almost every day probably helps with his good behaviour, especially since Jack is a high-energy breed. We play with him, we shower him with affection, we let him join in on conversations (dude sounds like a wookiee, how could we not?)

But really, I think we just got lucky.

I mean, he basically trained himself not to poop while we’re out on walks (I can’t deal with dog poop, so this is a very good thing for me. And for our neighbours’ lawns). He’s always been gentle with the kids, changing the way he plays with people depending on how big or young they are. He loves our cats. He doesn’t wander off. He behaves himself at other people’s houses. He sings along with outdoor church services when he hears them, which is hilarious.

He chills with me when I’m working.

Jack is by no means a perfect dog…

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…but he’s a pretty darned good one. 🙂

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More good stuff this way in the A-Z blogging challenge!


Here’s What Happened Next

It’s been nine days since our cat Lucy went missing. Last Wednesday I mentioned that she was gone, and you were all amazingly supportive; I didn’t get back to respond to all of the comments, but your words of comfort and assurances that you were sending prayers/love/good thoughts her way meant a lot to me. Anyone who says internet community isn’t real community can bite my left foot. You guys are fantastic.

That was Wednesday, and I’ve been… well, fine, mostly. The kids are back to school and on something that at least resembles a routine, the house has been cleaner than it usually is  because that’s a thing I’m trying. I haven’t been writing much (fiction or blog), because it turns out that AJ is right: I can’t focus on more than one creative outlet at a time, and I had a deadline on a doll and some ponies.

Of course, I’ve also been distracted, worrying about this naughty little cat of ours. You know, for a long time I’ve suspected that she was a ninja or some sort of feline superhero, and that’s why she insists (loudly and incessantly) on going out so much. Perhaps, I thought, she’d been captured by her arch-nemesis, Or maybe a nice family had invited her in out of the rain, and she hadn’t been able to get out and come home. We did what we could, contacting the SPCA with a description in case someone brought her in, and they put her picture up on their Facebook page. We worked on posters to put up on the three bulletin boards in town.

I knew she would come home if she could. Remember this?

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This is not a cat who stays away longer than she has to.

But yes, I was worried, and I know I wasn’t the only one. AJ wasn’t talking about it, but he’s been leaving the front and back porch lights on all night, every night, just to make sure Lucy knew we were home. I figured I would know he’d given up when he stopped doing that. As for me, I’ve been preparing myself for the worst, trying to ease my brain into the idea that she might not be coming back, that we might not ever know what happened to her.

And I’ve been dreading talking to the kids about it.

Last night, AJ turned the porch light off.

But life goes on, and this morning I managed to at least crank out a few pages of writing notes before I took Jack for his walk. We’d been gone for about twenty minutes when my phone rang. It was AJ, but at first I couldn’t hear anything.

And then I heard, “MEW!”

“IS THAT LUCY?” I said, already crying. Yes, I was standing there by the side of the road in Noggin Cove, NL, tears in my eyes, voice trembling.

“MEW!”

No, Lucy hadn’t phoned me, but she had come home. AJ was still in bed when he heard a cat at the door. At first he thought that Harriet had got out when I left, but it didn’t sound like her. When he opened the door, Lucy came in, telling him off (or saying hello, it’s hard to tell with cats). She was yelling at him for treats when he called.

I got home in record time.

She’s fine. Maybe a little thinner than she was the last time we saw her, not that there was much to lose, but fine. Clean, healthy, undamaged. Sleepy and hungry, but that’s actually normal for every cat I know.

We might never know where she was for more than a week, or why. I’m sticking with the feline superhero thing, and yes, you can bet my brain has already made up a story about it for my older son’s age-range. But that will have to wait. For now, I have a sleepy kitty to cuddle.

Thank you all again for the love and well-wishes. I’ll tell Lucy all about it when she wakes up. 🙂


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