Yesterday was My Birthday

My husband and I saw Emma yesterday, which was hilarious, and now I’m in Portland with my boyfriend. It’s shaping up to be an excellent birthday week. I didn’t come up with anything particularly clever to share here, so here’s a picture of me with a goofy bunny sitting on my shoulder.

This is what I get for ignoring Frodo while I work. He will not allow it.

New Things

So, some new stuff is coming up. I’m still working on the details, but I’ll be offering email list signups soon. I’ve been reluctant to do that, because I personally find excessive email pretty bothersome, but an email list is an important thing for indie authors to build and maintain.

Self published authors rely heavily on the grace of a few huge corporations for their livelihoods. Amazon and Facebook are particularly known for their capriciousness, but all companies can suddenly change their business model or regulations, not to mention that accounts can be deactivated or deleted entirely. Sometimes that’s accidental, and sometimes it’s the result of a targeted effort on the part of trolls who don’t like that person’s platform. When that happens, the author can potentially lose all of their followers permanently, which means they lose all their ability to advertise their work to an interested audience. That’s the work of months, or even years, building an audience, and it can be gone in an instant.

An email list is a group of people who are interested in what the author has to offer, and it isn’t subject to the whims of Facebook or Amazon or any other company. It belongs to the author. Even if Mail Chimp, or whichever other service they’re using, goes under, they’ll still have that list and can switch to another similar service. That’s why it’s so important for authors.

It can also be nice for followers who don’t use social media as heavily, since they may otherwise miss content or events from creators they enjoy. There’s a balance to strike, where emails regularly offer content that followers are interested in, but obviously they should never overwhelm anyone’s inbox. I would never encourage anyone to stay signed up for emails that stress them out or annoy them. It’s just one option, for anyone who might be interested.

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Snowdrop flowers pushing through leaves and just starting to open.

Good Enough

I’m really struggling to write this post. I can’t think of anything to say, and I’m getting frustrated and distracted, and it’s probably at least in part because I set my expectations too high this week. I wanted to come up with something more to write about than just a quick update or picture, but there’s also a lot of other stuff going on in my life right now, and that inspiring idea just didn’t show up.

It’s so easy to feel like I should just throw my hands up and not post anything if I have nothing cool to share, but that’s not a healthy approach to meeting goals. I said I’d post every Friday, and I do. Ground-breaking content is not specified, although it’d definitely be neat if I could scrounge some up more often.

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Pussy willow branch in front of a wooded area and blue sky with fluffy clouds

February Life Update

My birthday is coming up at the end of the month, so that’s exciting. I’ll be thirty one! I suspect it’ll feel very much like being thirty.

I finally got a treadmill last week, and I’m actually surprised by how much I love it. I really like walking, and I already spend a truly excessive amount of time listening to audiobooks and watching youtube videos about weird stuff, so now those activities can be combined. This makes me feel much less useless and floppy.

I’ve been iron deficient for quite a while, and I found out that the supplementation I’ve been doing hasn’t actually been working all that well, so that’s fun. Having shitty blood really saps energy and focus, and the things required to make me absorb iron better are all also things that throw my potentially very painful stomach issues into overdrive. It’s a wee bit frustrating.

On the bright side, though, I did some vital houseplant maintenance and drew some tropical fish.

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A moorish idol (top) and banggai cardinalfish (bottom) that I got to see at the Seattle aquarium recently, drawn in black pen and colored pencils. Sorry about the lighting on this pic. It’s always hard to find enough light to show the colors without washing out the black a bit.
One of my African violets was looking pretty sad, so I trimmed and repotted it.

 

Messing Around with Colors

I have no idea where I’m going with this one. I usually aim for detail and accuracy, but right now I’m really just playing with colors and shading. Maybe I should just mess around creatively more often. It’s pretty fun not to have any particular expectations going in. I’m not even sure if it’s finished yet.

A pen and ink drawing of a narcissus flower
The same drawing, but filled in with colored pencils. Things got a little wild around the edges.

Keeping the Balance

The schedule I’ve been using for a few months is still working well for me, overall. It’s gone through some adjustments, and I’ve had some pretty rough days where things just fell apart, but it’s good to be in a place where those unproductive days don’t snowball into whole weeks of frustration and self-recrimination.

The dogs and the bunny have even gotten on board. They each get a quick training session every morning before I sit down to work. Their increased biddability does not hurt my focus, even though it probably is just an act they’re keeping up while they plot my doom. I’ve also been managing to regularly fit in yard work like raking, weeding, and planting beautiful flower bulbs for the squirrels to dig up and throw around like tiny beach balls. I’ve read/listened my way through more than a few books already this year, and I’ve even been doing a little bit of freelance writing.

There’s still always that impulse to think everything is going well, so I might as well add, like, ten or fifteen new things to my list this week. I remind myself that I can only manage a little bit more at a time, but then it all seems equally important, so I tell myself that a lot more will just have to be fine. (Spoiler: it wasn’t. It never is.) 

I’ve never managed to run at my full capacity without immediately going over the red line and into rapid burnout levels of stress. Part of the problem is that it’s genuinely challenging for me to tell the difference between the two sides of that line, having had so little experience with balancing near it for any length of time. Consistent effort of any kind is tiring in a different way from a sprint or a last minute scramble before a looming deadline, and gauging its effects probably takes practice.

So, I’m practicing.

A yellow flower drooping out over a mossy curb

Song Sparrow

I had a mystery bird at my feeder, and it turned out to be a song sparrow. Identifying it online was a bit of a challenge, because the population of song sparrows up here tend to much darker than usual. They’re really striking little things.

I’m already waiting for spring, so my little sparrow got a pomegranate branch to sit on. We’ve had our snow now, and I’m ready for all the plants to wake up again.

A song sparrow sitting on a blooming pomegranate branch drawn in colored pencil

Winter Blooms

This winter in Seattle can’t seem to make up its mind. No snow quite yet, but plenty of drizzle. They’ve been predicting it for a few days, though, so maybe we’ll have gotten some noticeable flakes by the time this posts. That’d be fun.

With the colder weather rolling in, I’m super happy to have the third season of Anne with an E to watch, because it definitely picked up in the second season. Not that I didn’t like the first season, but I really love the diversity of characters they introduced as they went along. It feels like they’ve very much kept the spirit of the books and just broadened the scope of it.

And, in keeping with that spirit, here are some very romantical winter flowers that I discovered in the arboretum. Turns out they have a whole garden devoted to things that bloom in the colder months, and it is gorgeous. It smells amazing, too.

Daphne flowers. I thought they were a type of jasmine at first, because the scent was so sweet and strong, but they’re a whole different plant that I now really want for my own garden.

Daphne flowers

Hellebore

Pink camellias, I’m pretty sure

More pink camellias

Yellow witch hazel flowers. They smelled divine.

Yellow witch hazel with lots of frilly lichen

More yellow witch hazel and a path through the bushes

Orange witch hazel flowers

Some sort of interesting bulbous flower bud on bare branches. Possibly an edgeworthia, but I’m not sure.

A still pond full of algae and floating plants

A pair of mallard ducks in a different pond

Some new buds forming on a mossy branch in front of ferns

Let’s Go Round the Sun Again, One Step at a Time

Like most milestones that humans care about, the new year is pretty arbitrary, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to wipe our mental slates clean and look forward with a little extra hope.

A lot of people are probably already finding their new year’s resolutions to be a heavy burden, because we’re usually encouraged to set our sights way too high when crafting goals. If you picked something that’s making you miserable and burning you out, I hope you’ll consider stepping it down to a more reasonable level now rather than just dropping it when you run out of energy entirely. That’s not failure, it’s just good planning.

Restrictive diets don’t tend to work for the vast majority of people, but adding an extra vegetable source to one meal a day is pretty doable for many, and that can help build a long term habit that supports individual health. So can adding five or ten minutes of stretching or meditation at a convenient time of the day rather than committing to spend an hour at the gym five times a week when you haven’t gone in months or years. It doesn’t mean you can’t increase your goals as you go along, but keeping the increments ridiculously tiny means that it’s almost impossible to let yourself down. Small wins make a huge difference in confidence and self-image, while repeated failures are disheartening and typically lead to completely abandoning all effort.

This stuff is even more important to consider if you live with mental illness or are neurodivergent. There’s a huge amount of pressure to use that yearly boost of energy to DO ALL THE THINGS and be… better. And it works, but only for a few days, and then our actual limits come down even harder on us because we burn out all of our reserves. And then all that hope turns into just another thing that we feel bad about failing to live up to, and none of us needs more of that. Not a one. We need a bunch of little successes a hell of a lot more than we need a handful of new regrets.

So, please, give yourself the gift of some really small but consistent wins this year.

Some humble, slightly random suggestions for new moderated goals:

  • Go to bed just ten minutes earlier than you have been
  • Set your alarm for ten minutes earlier (but only if you went to bed earlier. Sleep is so important.)
  • Switch just your afternoon tea or coffee to decaf
  • Add a veggie you don’t hate to one meal a day
  • Stretch for a couple of minutes every morning
  • Walk around your block once a day at a convenient time
  • Write 50 words on a project every day, or even less if that’s too much
  • Spend fifteen minutes doodling if you’ve been missing your art
  • Spend ten minutes gardening and then go inside if it’s cold or raining
  • Clean or organize one part of your space for ten minutes and then let yourself stop for the day
  • Read a page or two of a book you’re interested in every day
  • Catch yourself when you start thinking negative things about yourself and practice redirecting to something more neutral whenever you can. Neutral is a much more achievable starter goal than positivity, and it’s still an improvement.

Adding something small to your day tends to be easier than eliminating something, and in the long run it can have the same effect by slowly edging out whatever it is that you think you should reduce. If you’re interested, the book Mini Habits by Stephen Guise is a pretty helpful guide for setting consistently achievable goals and he also explains why they work so well.

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