It’s been a few minutes, right? How ’bout a quick update…
Even though I haven’t written a post to you since I got home from Florida, I have written words on a couple of different stories.
But quite frankly, I’m pretty far behind on a lot of things. Writing goals, housework, health goals, etc… However, as always, I’m working to catch up and I’m working to get things moving forward and getting ahead a little and looking forward to 2022.
I haven’t felt well since I got back. Physically or mentally. I’ve been extremely tired and some sort of exhausted I can’t even name. My mood has been up and down. I’ve lacked for energy of any sort. It’s not that I want to sleep, it’s more that I don’t want to do anything at all.
My diet was way off while I was away and before I left, I had been making good progress with it, making the changes to my eating and drinking habits that made me feel so much better than before. It’s taken me a few weeks to find the motivation to really get back to it, but I’be started making significant progress this week. Exercising has been pretty much in that same boat. I fell way off and have lacked any kind of desire to get back into the swing of doing it. I have started up again, albeit, at a much more pulled back state until I build some energy and stamina back up. It’s the starting that counts at first, and the consistency that counts as you move along.
Thanksgiving was nice. We spent the day up in Charlotte with our daughter and her new cat and kittens. The leftovers were gone by Sunday.
There’s a Christmas tree lighting in the park of the small town we live in later this week and Hallmark Christmas movies have set the bar pretty high, so if this event doesn’t live up to that, I’m gonna be pretty damn disappointed.
The regular college football season is over and thank heavens for that because my Seminoles were not much better this year than they were last year. On the plus side, however, are my Cincinnati Bearcats who went 12-0 this season. I’m nervous about their conference championship against Houston this weekend and cautiously excited. I believe some Cincinnati Chili will be on the menu as an extra boost of support.
My new favorite holiday drink is a Gingerbread Tea Latte (with oatmilk). I had one at Starbuck’s inside the Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago when I went to write in the cafe and oh my goodness, it was delicious. I ordered some Harney & Sons Gingerbread Festival tea as soon as I got home that evening and have been making this tea latte every day since.
And before I close out this note, I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am for you, whoever you are, reading these posts, these snippets that I write. You’re awesome.
Since October 12th, I’ve been down in Florida and during this time, I’ve managed to scratch out a couple thousand words. That’s much less than a week’s worth when I’m at home, but for these 3 weeks, I’ve been helping out family and having the mental energy necessary to write has been a challenge.
I’m mentally, physically, even emotionally exhausted. Being a caregiver, short-term or long-term is not for the faint of heart. It’s definitely not for the selfish or the ‘me’ mentality. It requires patience, kindness, and the ability to scream internally when you can’t scream externally.
Normally, I would have said, ‘I just can’t. I’ll just wait until I get back home and get my head back on straight, catch up on sleep, on de-stressing, on XYZ… And then, I’ll start writing again.’ I haven’t done that. I’ve eked out words here and there, most of which don’t make much sense and most of which will be edited out. I also not upset about it, about the lack of progress on a novella I’d hoped to have finished long before November. I’m barely halfway.
I’ve texted with a couple of friends since I’ve been here. I’ve mostly taken my mom or grandma to the Dr, the store, to run whatever errands need to be taken care of, etc… while my mom is recovering from a fall that left her with multiple fractures in one arm along with a plate and nine screws in her wrist. Her sleep schedule is way off which means that mine is, too. By the time I fall asleep around 2-3am… my brain and body have had enough.
Writing is often an escape, sometimes a joy, a lot of times very hard work. Right now it’s not an escape. I can’t think straight enough for it to be an escape and I don’t have the time to sit and immerse myself in a story. I cobble together a few words, try to figure out a storyline in the moments I may have a second to think. I crave and cherish time to myself, something I haven’t had any of for three weeks. I don’t think I’ll be taking that for granted when I return home.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful I can be here and I can help out when needed because no one else in the family can come. I have the freedom and flexibility in my life and schedule that my sister and cousins don’t. I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my grandma who is 95. I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my mom. I am close with both of these women, but we’re all also cut from the same stubborn piece of cloth and it does pull on the nerves from time to time.
All this, though, is to say… Whatever the circumstance, writing can happen. Even if it’s ten words a day. Five words a day. It’s like the jigsaw puzzles my grandma and I do when I’m here and there’s some down time. It’s one piece at a time. It may be a total of one thousand pieces, but one piece at a time gets you one step closer. It’s the same with writing. One word, five words, ten words in a novella or novel doesn’t seem like much, maybe a drop in a bucket, but it’s one, five, or ten words that weren’t written before and it’s one, five, or ten words closer to the goal.
So, if you find yourself in need of writing but you don’t have much time, you’re exhausted and don’t know which way is up or down and everything seems to be going sideways… Just add one word, five words, ten words… They don’t have to make sense. They just have to be there.
I love y’all… And I’ll be in touch again soon.
In addition to the writing I’ve been doing and all the story ideas I’ve been collecting through July and August and likely through September, too, I’ve been doing some reading and thought I’d share what those titles are…
I’ve finished a reading a fantasy novel, A Court of Honey and Ash by Shannon Mayer and Kelly St Clare, and to be honest with you… I’m both looking forward to the sequel and yet, I’m not. I didn’t like the way the first one ended and had I known, I’d have waited until the whole series was available.
I’m currently reading Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury for nonfiction. I heard someone describe it as a love letter to writing and she was right. It is. It’s wonderful.
Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin. Because I can always, always, always handle this better.
I’m also slowly working my way through Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. If I focus on it, I’ll not be doing any writing at all because I’ll be reading it and the two books that follow and re-watching the series on Netflix. So, I have to pace myself.
Not My Romeo by Ilsa Madden-Mills. It’s slow going, too.
I gave up on City of Sin by Ivy Smoak. I couldn’t get into it. At all.
I need to finish, at some point, Ruckus by L.J. Shen. This one isn’t reaching me the way Vicious did. Defy was really good…
I have The Love Interest by Kayley Loring and Magical Midlife Madness by K. F. Breene waiting to be read as well as The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly.
There are a few on pre-order, too…
Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
Gallant by Victoria Schwab
Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerry Maniscalco
The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly.
Let’s not talk about the number of books already on my bookshelves (real and virtual), my library wish list, and my bookstore wish lists.
So many books… Man, I need a couple extra lifetimes.
If there’s anyone reading this, tell me what books your reading…
I’m at my desk this morning with a rather large cold brew coffee which is an anomaly. Not the coffee. The coffee is never an anomaly. If I’m without coffee of some sort at my desk, someone needs to call 911 because I’m not me. But I’m not usually sitting at my desk this early. Normally, I’m taking care of some household chores, sitting out on the porch watching the cows, doing a crossword puzzle, wandering the kitchen, running errands, trying not to go back to bed, exercising… Being at my desk typically comes in the afternoons. That’s when I write and have some time to myself, but I’m at a point in a couple of writing projects that while maybe not require me to give a little more time, they certainly compel me to and so, here I am.
I also wanted to touch base with you. It’s been a couple of weeks and I’m sorry for that. I didn’t mean for that much time to go by without connecting and talking.
I lose track of time. Not in the way I used to lose track of time when I was still scrolling social media (though I may have a bit of a YouTube issue…), but in a general I find other ways to occupy my time kind of way.
I’ve become a bit more of a movie person again. I used to have movies on all the time when I’d write or shows like Law and Order, but I got out of that. Now, I’m back to it. It’s kind of strange, too, my choices of late…
While working on a Christmas novella… It’s been The Expendables (all 3), The Equalizer (both movies), and I’ve moved on to Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, and Mission Impossible (4, 5, and 6).
While working on some erotic shorts… John Wick (2 & 3) and Red (both).
I’ve put on The Lord of the Rings while working on some writing other projects as well.
These are all movies I know and like and love and I don’t have to pay strict attention to them. They’re just a moment to look up and recite dialogue or watch someone get their ass handed back to them.
Strange for writing romance. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know what others do. Maybe they chat with other writers. Maybe they do write-with-me videos. Maybe they listen to music or dictate or…I don’t know. I do listen to music a lot, as well, when I’m writing.
But I’m more than halfway into the Christmas novella. I’ve finished one of the erotic shorts and am almost done with a second one. A third and fourth are started and beginning to take shape.
We’re coming up on football season and I’ll be writing while watching a lot of college football, too.
I’ve been working on some racing romances here and there for next year and with the end of the current racing season coming over the next few months, I’ll be starting to pick up pace on them.
Aside from what I’m working on writing wise, once a week, the Spouse and I go for a drive into the mountains or into a little town we haven’t been in before. Last weekend we found Blue Wall Preserve. It’s twenty minutes from our house and that I have things like that all around me, all within 20-30 minutes of where I Iive now… Just…grateful.
Anyway, it’s called Blue Wall because it’s said that when the Cherokee used to hunt the land here, they called the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Wall. And there are places leading into the mountains where they just loom ahead and you can totally see why they would be called that. And when the blue hue is just right… It steals my breath every single time.
These hours we take to see something, breathe the air, find a new coffee shop (for me), marvel at nature… They renew me and I’m learning to take it all in, to watch it all, to savor it all without thinking that I should post it or what hashtags can I use or… These are moments that are precious and special and I missed too many of them, wasn’t present for many of them the way I should’ve been before.
Which is also to say…
I’m still enjoying this time away from social media. I’ve been thinking I should check messages on Instagram, but honestly y’all… I’m a bit nervous. I don’t want to fall down the scrolling hole again, but I know myself well enough to know that it’s a possibility. I even told the Spouse that if I log in, he’ll probably have to come take the phone from me and delete the app again. This is how much I don’t trust myself and my behaviors. How sad is that?
However, as I’ve stated a few times before, being away from social media has been good for my writing and my mental health. I’m occupying my time in other ways and I’m learning who I am again without all that noise and I’m liking myself more. I’m not sure I’ll go back and I don’t know what that means for me as a writer, as someone who once published books and intends to publish more. I don’t know what not being on social media for connection and marketing will do to sales. Though, honestly, I didn’t have many sales before leaving social media, so… I guess I’ll see when I start publishing again.
Anyway, that’s about all I have right now…
One of the things I wanted to focus on this year was creativity. I think I mentioned that in one of my posts recently.
Creativity comes in different forms for different people and one of mine, the biggest one for me lately has been in the kitchen.
You’re shocked, right? I mean… Who wouldn’t be? I love a lot of things in this world, but playing in the kitchen with cooking or baking or coffee…that’s one of my biggest jams.
Y’all have heard me talk about how long I’ve been cooking, that my first jobs were in food service. The first kitchen I loved was my grandmother’s kitchen and the smells that would come from it. My favorite meal smell is Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and dressing.
My favorite comfort. Food.
Over the years, being married for so long, dinner gets stale. Ideas are harder and harder to come by, even with Pinterest and food bloggers and YouTube and cookbooks galore. I tended to just stick to the things I knew my family would eat until this year.
We joined HelloFresh for a few months and I started to fall in love with cooking again. We tried new dishes. We tried new ways of cooking familiar ones. I tried things I hadn’t before. It became fun, making dinner.
We canceled the service a few weeks ago, but I’m still cooking. I started falling back into the same old ruts from before until dairy decided it didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Now, I’m trying new recipes that are dairy-free, a lot of them are more vegan than not, and they’re good. They appeal to my sense of curiosity in the kitchen.
My thing right now is taking food I grew up loving and trying to make it tasty and dairy-free. This is easy and not, and it tests and tries and rewards my creative soul. And when my creative soul is thriving in one area, it also starts to thrive in others. I’ve learned that I need a day to simply play in the kitchen. A day to try something new. A day to explore and experiment. A day to just get excited with no expectations.
Yesterday was one of those days for me. I made vegan Mac and Cheese.
Now, I’m a Southern woman. Mac and Cheese is one of our religions down here. Every family has a secret to their recipe. But what happens when you can’t have all those layers and layers of cheesy goodness? Well, you try to find something that will work for you.
This is not the kind I grew up with. This is not the baked with burnt edges of cheese and pasta that I grew up with. This is definitely not the holy grail that the Spouse grew up with. But it worked. It worked and I ate a bowl of it and I wanted seconds. It satisfied the craving for pasta and cheese, baked under a crispy layer of breadcrumbs.
I also roasted my very first butternut squash yesterday. I’d never had it before. Roasted or otherwise. See, I don’t like yellow squash at all and I pretty much lumped all squash into the category of NOPE! But I wanted that mac and cheese up there in that picture and the only way to get it was to roast a butternut squash. I only needed half of it for the recipe, so the other half of the squash was roasted with maple syrup and cinnamon and let me just tell you now… Oh. My. Goodness. Literal goodness.
I was happy. I was making messes left and right. I was testing the taste at every stage of the recipe. I made a cheese sauce out of…no cheese. You read that right. No. Cheese. And yet, with the combination of ingredients in the recipe, it became a cheese sauce for the pasta. Even the Spouse said it was good and that he’d eat it. And remember, he grew up with the holy grail of mac and cheese.
I was so proud of myself and for the second week in a row, I exclaimed how much I love being able to cook.
Yesterday, I also made some iced pour over coffee. And two different kinds of overnight oats (maple cinnamon and lemon).
It’s fills my heart and soul to be able to play in the kitchen. It boosts my overall mental wellbeing. It’s a happiness and a need that I have. It’s a must like writing. When I’m going strong with writing, doing it daily, especially, it becomes a living, breathing part of me and my mental health thrives.
Creativity is something I need to be happy and whole. It’s not everything I need… There are other things too… Music, naps, drives up into the mountains, reading. Each thing fuels and feeds the others. And playing with food, playing in the kitchen… I definitely do need it for my creativity and for this new way of eating. Talk about nourishing the soul and the body…
Talk to y’all soon…