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Rants
  • Of Cars and Clots

    So, somewhere in the last couple months, Matt’s car did what old cars that sat in Michigan for a long time do and pooped out. I wish I could say that this little car debacle had been resolved by now, but alas. SUPPOSEDLY, Matt is going to take the car for a second opinion somewhere, after he ‘knocks some rust’ off of it, because northerners believe that southerners “just can’t handle rust”, and this is why the car place doesn’t want to work on it. 
    I mean, maybe it’s salvageable. But I have a feeling that when we get it to the next place, they’re going to do a long whistle and either refuse to work on it, or quote us something that isn’t worth it.

    The theoretical reason that Matt’s car hasn’t gone for a second opinion is MY car. I took it in for an oil change, and they came back and told me that the tires weren’t in good shape. Since we were planning on taking a trip up to Michigan, that’s not a gamble I really wanted to make. So we got the tires done. Then the car started making this noise. So we took the car back, and they said it was the rotors. Soooo we got the rotors done, because I hate weird noises. 

    It wasn’t the rotors. It’s still making the noise. I was pretty excited about that. (The sarcasm is dripping off that like honey) Because the car is like a small child and WONT MAKE THE NOISE FOR PROFESSIONALS, we’re having a heckuva time getting it diagnosed. Matt’s dad has given us several benign reasons for the noise existing, and that’s great except that logic stops at my brain and doesn’t get through to anxiety brain. So, see above about how Matt’s car isn’t really driveable and my car is making noise, but it’s the only car, so there you go. I’m currently working on a theory that the air conditioner makes it worse. What that means, no idea. 

    But anyway, we went to Michigan, and long story short, I brought back the worst souvenir - a blood clot in my leg. 

    It’s not a serious blood clot (dvt), it’s a superficial thrombolitis or ... svt. Something. Anyway, it means it’s in a vein that won’t kill me, just make me uncomfortable. That’s where I’ve been for the last two weeks. It’s MOSTLY better at this point. I can still feel it in my thigh a bit, and if I stand for too long or sit in a regular chair, my ankle starts to swell up. It’s really swell. (Get it?) I’m debating whether I should go to the doctor and ask for blood thinners to clear the rest of this up, but because of our insurance, it’ll be $130 to ask that question. I’m really dreading the ER bill. I mean, I could kiss our hsa at this point, but I’m so afraid that the stupid blood clot is going to drain it dry. 

    Matt and I also both had birthdays in May, and then there’s just normal life stuff, like dragging the fluffs to the vet, so when all was said and done, that’s why there wasn’t much of anything here. 

    But here, I’ll give you a cat picture before I go. That makes up for it, right?

    He’s a very photogenic cat. 

  • Molecules of Breath

    I have a rotation of podcasts that I listen to, and to be honest, there's enough on my list that I tend to cherry pick and only listen to episodes that sound super interesting. There's a sub category of podcasts that are interesting, but are also good to fall asleep to. One such podcast is called Mysterious Universe, which talks about science things and out there theories and just really random, weird stuff. 

    But the other night, they had an interview with an author who wrote a book called "Caesar's Last Breath". 

    Look, my science lingo isn't up to snuff, so I'm just going to give you the super digested version.

    Apparently, the molecules that come out when we breathe are SUPER resilient, and because we let out so many of them when we breathe, there's a good chance that you're breathing in some of the same molecules that came from Caesar's last breath. 

    Science.

    Now that's cool enough on it's own, but it made me think of Mikenna. She did an awful lot of breathing in our house. Thinking that those molecules survive and are floating around unseen somehow feels a lot cooler, makes her feel a lot more present, than just having her ashes. 

    Not just that, but if Caesar's molecules are floating around, that means my grandparents' are, too, and other pets and loved ones that are no longer alive. Is it silly? Perhaps. But I thought there was something interesting about it. Maybe you will too. 

  • Ob-la-dee-ob-la-dah

    I haven't known what to say.

    Life without Mikenna is really quiet. Not in a bad way, necessarily. For years, I spent nights fretting about her, thinking that every upset stomach was bloat, that a broken nail might lead to a paw amputation, that she would surely die while under for a teeth cleaning. Now that I find myself without the target of my frets, that frees up a lot of mental space. (and I sleep consistently pretty well now, which is nice)

    Thankfully, I haven't transferred any of my animal ailment paranoia onto the cats. Yet. I don't know how to say it, because I'm not sure what the difference is in my own brain. But I worry about dogs, and I somehow accept that cats are fleeting balls of destruction and cuddles. I don't think I love Aery and Gwen any less than Mikenna, but there's a definite difference in my brain. It also helps, I suppose, that I reasonably expect the kitties to be around a good 6-7 years on the low end. I mean, yeah, it could be less, but I don't feel like I'm on an ominous death march. I'll try not to think about that too hard, because I like not worrying about the kitties.

    My new "thing" is yoga. The local humane society started offering cat yoga (it's just a regular yoga class with cats in the room), and I thought, THIS IS THE MOST SARAH THING IVE EVER SEEN. So I signed up, and I've loved it, despite the fact that it dawned on me that technically any time I do yoga, it is cat yoga, since at least one of the cats is nearby, or involved.
    I love the way that yoga feels like it's working all the kinks out. It shows me how woefully unflexible I am, and works on that, gradually. Challenges me, but doesn't completely obliterate me. I feel good at the end, and I don't dread doing it.

    My relationship to exercise in general feels different. I didn't realize it, but there was certainly an element of guilt in taking care of myself while Mikenna was around, especially when she was sick. I felt guilty leaving her for the gym at night, and working out at home was always awkward. As soon as I would pop in a dvd, she would hop off the couch and tell me that she needed food. And water. And to go out. And probably to play with me. It was all sweet and makes me laugh to think about it, but when you're trying to do something teh srsly, it gets frustrating. If I did manage to take care of all of her needs before trying to exercise, she'd just decide to join in. Which usually made Aery join in. We've never had big living rooms to begin with, so that was just a recipe for chaos. As much as I loved the exercises in theory, I couldn't really enjoy them with a little herd of paws at my feet.
    But now I've realized that I can legitimately try out all these exercise dvds I've accrued, and I'm delighted.

    We had a tree branch fall on the car almost two weeks ago. There was a nasty wind storm one night, and one of the trees near the car let go of a decent limb, which crashed into the windshield, hood, and headlight. It also broke a mount of some sort on the inside - the name escapes me at the moment. So, we've had no car for the last eleven days, and just got it back today. I'm a little surprised that I'm not still joy riding around town, because sweet, sweet freedom.
    I feel like it's one of those things that you won't understand unless you really get it, but I get so stir crazy sitting at home for lengths of time. It's not that I constantly need to be moving, but I need the option. It's like my brain recalibrates that way.

    So, the ill-timed branch incident came a little over a week after we said goodbye to the Jeep. It was bittersweet, because I really did enjoy the thing when it worked. Problem was, it was falling to pieces faster than we could slap them back together. I am not exaggerating - there was a problem every time I got in the Jeep from November on. We sank more than the value of the car into it over the last year, and then HOURS after we changed the battery, the Jeep quit on me right up the road. Maybe the fuel pump. But there was no way we would be able to drive it to a garage, so we'd have to tow it. ($$$) Then, who really knew what was wrong with it, and the way things were going, it didn't seem too far fetched that if we fixed that issue, something new would pop up very soon. It was enough. Too much mental and wallet stress for very little return at that point. So we're a one car family for now. I think we'd like to pay off the car before we decide to take on another loan, but circumstances could always change.

    Wednesday was the second annual Gwensday. Since we don't know when her birthday is, we celebrate the day we brought her home. This year, we gifted her a really sweet scratching post that she hasn't really looked twice at, and gave her some extra wet food and love. For her part, Sassypants has alternated between hanging out with us and in my closet. I don't mind, as long as she knows she's allowed to come hang with us, and she's happy. I just put a little padded mat in the closet with her - it contains catnip - so it's probably my own fault that she's in there. But she is definitely a cat who needs a space of her own, and I'm happy for her.

    I've been reading a lot. Ten books so far this year - I set my goal for thirty, and I'm reasonably hopeful that I can demolish that. I'm concentrating on the books in my 'to be read' shelf, and finishing up books that I had started and left hanging. It feels good. It's both a physical and mental decluttering. Also, it more or less keeps me from spending more money on books, and a penny saved is ... still a penny saved.

    Recently, I ordered Mikenna's ashes ring. You send them a bit of ashes, and they fuse it into glass and set that in a piece of jewelry. Today the little "kit" came - a prepaid envelope and a small jar. So I had to crack open the little metal urn and fish out half a teaspoon of ashes. I want the ring - I've thought a long time about that - but the whole process feels strange to me. For one, it still seems unfathomable that the little ball of westie energy that licked my face raw on a regular basis is this sandy pile of ash. It then feels weird to go fishing around in, well, her, to get a half a teaspoon of ashes. Like, what am I sending off, here? Is it her little head that used to stare at me on my pillow in the morning? It is the tail that wagged ferociously when we came home? The little paws that would gently dig my arm when I stopped itching her too soon? I mean, the answer is probably all or most of the above, and then some. Conceptually, it's weird to say, alright, here, take some of my dog.
    The last thing that weirds me out is the little teaspoon. I'm looking at this thing, little traces of ash on it. Do, I, uh, burn it? Am I going to think, oh hey, I used this on Mikenna's ashes for the rest of the time this thing exists? And, you know, I tapped out what I could, but it still had ash residue on it. Like, I just take this out to the kitchen, soap it up, and wash Mikenna down the sink?

    It's just all really weird when you think about it too much, which obviously, I have.

    I think I summed it up best when I thought earlier that grief doesn't hit me so often anymore, but when it does, it feels soul rending. I feel like I have lost a part of me that is, sadly, intangible. I haven't lost an arm that I can point to, but the loss is still there and feels weighty. This is why, for the time being, I can't imagine bringing another dog home. It still feels like it would be a sorry attempt at filling the hole, and that's just not possible. No dog will be Mikenna, it would be its own self. Still feeling her loss, I can't commit to taking on another dog, making it a part of me, and feeling this loss again. I mean, at some point, sure. I don't think I can see us spending the rest of our lives without a dog. But right now, it's asking too much.

    All that said, I'm going to go back and play some Zuma while Matt finishes up season 2 of Daredevil.
    Life moves on.

  • When to make the jump

    I like to think before I leap, especially when it comes to spending money. Is this thing actually going to do what it has promised? Is it going to be worth the cost?

    I'm a little less ridiculous about vetting things when it's something Matt and I will share, but if I'm looking at spending money on myself, oh man, do I have to vet things.

    Recently, I had been looking at this blogging course that looked amazing. Well thought-out, looked like an absolute dream to someone who wants to put out quality content. And the price was decent too, but just a little out of my "buy immediately" range when at the end of the month.

    So I figured I'd wait.

    Payday came, and life was just a little too busy for me to sit down at the computer and make the purchase.

    Two days after payday, I sat down, wallet in hand, and the course was gone.

    Now, it'll be back, eventually, but at a higher (and yet unknown) price. Not that it's not worth that whatever-it-ends-up-being higher price, but who knows if I'll be able to pay that higher price, and dog gone it, I was ready for this course now.

    So clearly, what I'm saying is, this waiting thing really bit me in the butt.

    You could say, well, it's just a sign then that you didn't need it. Maaaybe that's true? But for me, I thinkt the lesson is more in that waiting doesn't always work out.

    Because come on, sometimes we sit around and we wait for a sign or an event that will never happen. We think we'll make the big move "when the time is right", but let's be honest - is the time ever really right?

    There's always a reason not to buy the thing, or not to try the thing, not to take the chance, not to move, not to talk to someone, not to, not to, not to.

    But I like to think that I'd rather take the chance than to sit on the sidelines and wonder what would have happened if I'd only tried.

    So I'm really annoyed at myself. It's about more than just a blogging course. Don't waste the time or the resources or the chances given to you, because you just don't know when there might be another one.

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  • Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 4

    Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 4

    This is, "So you've had a rough night".

    Mikenna goes through periods where she's really hit or miss for sleep. Eventually we find some underlying cause (usually? mostly?) but until then, it's just a mystery. Because the worst thing about Mikenna not wanting to sleep is that she just sits at the end of the bed and whines off into the night. Like, she doesn't even know what she wants, but she thinks we're going to know what she wants somehow.

    The first things I always try are taking her out and feeding her. If one of those is the answer, it's the easiest and fastest way to get everybody back in bed. If that doesn't work, I end up laying at the foot of the bed and gently rubbing her until she falls asleep. This works about half the time.

    So there are some mornings I wake up at the foot of the bed (practice has given me enough foresight to bring a pillow with me and untuck the blanket from the end of the bed) and everyone else is sound asleep like it's the most natural thing in the world.

    I'm glad they're getting sleep anyway, because they aren't necessarily letting me get much shut eye!

  • Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 3

    Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 3

    I call this one the "I'm not sure how this happened".

    One leg off the bed. No blankets. Cat on other leg, happy as can be.

    It's like my body fought some sort of war and forgot to tell me about it.

  • Marriage: The Adventure

    I've come to dislike the graphics and jokes that imply that a man is giving away his freedom when he marries. 

    It's not "game over", she's not your ball and chain, and it's not like you're giving up the ability to have fun ever again. 

    Yes, marriage can involve sacrifice, and you are accountable to another person. I don't make dinner plans with a friend before running it by Matt - not because I need his permission, but because I want to make sure he can fend for himself or make plans with someone if he wants. 

    I may not get to do the exact thing at the exact moment I want it, but that's as much a lesson in being an adult as it is in marriage. The only time I feel like Matt's in the way is when he's in the bathroom and I really gotta go

    Matt and I married young. We didn't have a lot of experience in adulting, and didn't have strong preferences for how things should be done. In some ways, it feels like we grew up together. We've weathered power outages and floods and illnesses and family crises and car buying. It's not always smooth, but it's so nice to have someone there, who is sharing these experiences with me, who knows what I mean when I say, "Remember that time we left danishes on the table?" 

    Marriage isn't, and shouldn't be about controlling another person, or trying to force change on them. If you love a person enough to marry them, then you love them enough to be married to them. As they are. As they will be - knowing that these two things may not be the same. 

    Matt did a lot of writing when we got married. Then he played a lot of guitar. He took voice lessons. He released albums. Now he's really into drawing, and we make a weekly run to the comic book shop. This is an example of how we change over time that happens to be really easy to pinpoint. 
    Don't expect that you'll grow at the same time or in the same ways as your spouse. Give your spouse space and encouragement to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Understand that you married a person with their own unique history and baggage, and they will let you down. 

    Marriage is not about trying to make your spouse into a carbon copy of yourself, though amazingly, living with someone long enough means that you'll probably pick up some of their habits and thoughts yourself. The best marriages, at least in what I've seen, occur when people give each other the freedom to be themselves, while walking through life together. 

    It's an adventure. Matt puts points into strength, I put points into wisdom. Sometimes we fight a boss monster together, sometimes we fight minions on our own. He gets a little caught up in crafting, and I have to remind him that the daily xp bonus is going to run out. Sometimes I get knocked out and he has to cast rez, and sometimes he aggros more monsters than he expected and I have to help him fight them off. 
    But in the end, we get to where the next quest is, because we're partied up. It's not game over - it's game on.

  • In the moment

    I would like to write some very uplifting post about how taking life slower has been a great experience and gratefulness and sunshine and what have you.

    And sometimes, I feel that way! Sometimes, I'm really grateful for Matt and I sitting together on the couch, taking turns playing video games. I'm grateful to see that the important stuff still gets done even when I don't have much of a hand in it. I love all the extra time I'm getting with my trio of troublemakers, and I find that I'm even more excited to come home to them.

    But more and more, I find myself restless. I want to be better, already. I miss the little things I take for granted - I miss walking.

    Matt and I signed up for the Turkey Trot a week or so before the great ankle incident. I had thought, hoped, counted on, still being able to make it. I went to the gym two nights before, to see whether this was actually feasible for me. I couldn't walk very fast on the treadmill, and it was uncomfortable. Trying to walk at anything other than a snail's pace grew more uncomfortable. In a last ditch attempt, I took off my ankle brace to see if that was part of the problem. Unfortunately, it wasn't. Uncomfortable went to very painful, very fast.

    As I told Matt - I could probably walk the Turkey Trot based on sheer willpower. But it would be a terrible idea, and likely not worth the damage I would do to myself. So I didn't. I stayed home.

    While I didn't injure myself physically, having to drop out of something I had promised myself to do stung. It's been an acute reminder of my situation. I can do enough to get around, but not enough to do things I enjoy.

    Less daylight plus injury plus less movement equals good conditions for depression. Medicine helps. It's not like I've had a complete breakdown over here. But it feels like this will never end (even though it will). It brings to the surface all my feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. I struggle with the thought that my life is really meaningless.

    At least before I fell, I could console myself with the thought that Matt couldn't do everything by himself. Now I see that he really doesn't need me. He can feed himself, and care for the girls, and work, and clean, and ...

    I hate stairs. Especially going down stairs. That's the worst. Steps down are one of the few things that still send jolts of pain up my leg.

    This will pass. I know it will. It's not that I've made myself completely miserable, or that I'm not making any progress. When I compare one week to the next, I know I've done a lot. Matt and I started going to the gym again - even if I ride the elevator up and use the recumbent bike. I've been working on Christmas cards, and the act of hands on creation brings me a lot of joy.

    But life just feels so disorganized. My logical brain doesn't thrive in the chaos, and I just feel broken. It'll all be okay - after all, I no longer have to crawl out of bed or rush out of a shower for fear that my ankles won't support me.

    It's just ... not always easy to remember that.

  • On bandaids and winter coats

    I was watching the local news tonight after Matt had gone to bed, and they showed footage of an impressive snowstorm out in Colorado. It caught me by surprise, and I thought, "Snow, already!?"

    That's when it hit me how quickly we can get used to changes.

    I spent eight winters in Michigan. It didn't take me long to catch onto the fact that snow was fair game any time from the end of September on. Just because we usually didn't see anything substantial until around Thanksgiving didn't mean that it couldn't happen, or that we wouldn't get enough snow to be a nuisance and set off my anxiety flares.

    I kid you not when I say that from the end of September, any day that we didn't yet have snow felt like a stay of execution for me. I was grateful and yet felt the looming inevitability of bad weather. I remember when the maintenance men would come around to change the batteries in the smoke detectors. This usually happened sometime around Thanksgiving. One year, I remember chatting with maintenance about how it was super impressive that snow had held off until just after Thanksgiving that year.

    I've only heard snow referenced for our area of Virginia once so far, in the context of, "Wow, we're only nine (?) degrees too warm for this to be snow!" (In Virginia speak, this translates to: "This is cold!") Granted, I think we've been a little bit above average in our temperatures so far this month, but still! Snow isn't even on my radar, and it legitimiately shocked me that it would be occurring anywhere.

    For me and my anxiety, it's a nice change of pace. As I was writing about this, I remembered my "rule of thumb" for coats, which Matt gave me a lot of grief over. I refused to wear a winter coat until Thanksgiving, and I grumbled a great deal if the weather was bad enough that I had to give in. I would be layering up sweatshirts, shivering in the car, but no, no coat. This act of insane stubbornness stemmed from a year where I really needed a new coat, but decided to wait until black friday sales in hopes of getting one for cheap. I'm not saying it made sense, but it's what I did. I think it was an act of rebellion for me, against the weather.

    -

    I thought that doing dishes by hand would be the end of me. I mean, Matt and I were bad enough at dishes when we had a dishwasher! I figured that we would be eating cereal for every meal, because we wouldn't want to dirty dishes more complicated than that.

    Now, I'm not saying that I cook terribly elaborate meals, but as it turns out, washing dishes by hand isn't that big of a chore. (It helps that Matt does a share of the dishes too!) Now, I would probably go bonkers if it were more than just the two of us, but we really don't use that many dishes.

    To tell the truth, the dishwasher in our apartment was kinda crappy anyway, so I can honestly say that I haven't even missed having one. There are times when I lament a stack of dishes in the sink, sure, but it hasn't been the big deal that I expected. I also don't miss that random soap scum that made our glasses look weird.

    -

    I was also a bit nervous about having Matt work from home when he moved out here. After all, the days that he worked from home when we lived in Michigan felt like huge disruptions to my day, and we hadn't yet lived together in Virginia, so I wasn't used to having him around. It was going to go from zero Matt to ALL THE TIME MATT.

    That too, has not been a bad thing. It helped that my dad worked from home for a while when I was growing up, so I had an idea of what to expect. It also helped that Matt has his own little office, which just so happens to be as far removed from the action as possible. (Downside: Matt got stuck with the smaller room. But it's a private room!)

    I try not to ask Matt to do things for me while he's working. But, as we've gotten into a rhythm, when he needs a mental break (programming is taxing on the brain. I get that and I don't even do it.) he'll come chat with me for a few minutes, wash a couple dishes, or run the trash up real quick. I suspect that Matt might like it if I dropped by his office more often to chat with him, but I ... uh ... I tend to forget he's there sometimes. As I said, his room is kinda out of the way. Huge change from when he would work at home in Michigan, and be in the living room, two feet from my own work space.

    -

    We resist change so much. I share these examples, and I'm sure I could think of half a dozen more, and yet, I still dislike change! Part of it is the sunk cost fallacy - in which we've already put time, money, effort, into doing things one way, and so we have to keep doing it that way, because we believe it'll have been a waste otherwise. (Not true, hence the word fallacy)

    Part of it is the fear of the unknown. It's much more comfortable to stay in a place that we know and understand, even if it doesn't work for us, than to look for alternatives. I know that's a big reason why we stayed in the apartment we did for so long. We really didn't like it when the neighbors' toilet overflowed and flooded our bathroom. (Thank you Facebook, for helping me remember that saga.) But it was the devil we knew, so to speak, so we stayed put. (We also figured that if we were going to have our rent increase by several hundred dollars a month, we'd have to move to a place we loved, and we had a really hard time finding that place. But I think that was ultimately a convenient excuse for fear.)

    We are such creatures of habit, and stability, and we love our comfortable environments. Change uproots everything, and requires work and we don't know what the end result will be. What if we go through all this work and we don't like the results?

    But we grossly overestimate how difficult change is, how disruptive to our lives it'll be, how long we'll be stuck with the discomfort.

    I used to drive my mom crazy when it came to bandaids. Whenever they needed to be changed or were ready to be taken off, it was an ordeal to get me to remove it. I didn't want the pain! She would encourage me to just rip the thing off, and it would be over with, and I would quickly forget whatever pain the bandaid had caused. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it - nor would I let her do it. Instead, I would painstakingly nudge at the bandaid, and inadvertently let it pull every little hair on my arm, making the pain drag on for several minutes while I whined and fussed about it. (Hindsight, I can totally understand her frustration. Even I want to go back to past me and tell me just to rip the stupid bandaid off)

    Remember that whatever life throws at you, you are adaptable. You are strong, and you can handle it. It may hurt or make you uncomfortable for a while - probably longer than you'd like - but you will be okay. The discomfort will end, and someday, you will realize that it's the end of November and you haven't even needed your coat yet.

    You'll realize that you have changed.

  • It's beginning to look a lot like

    Thanksgiving here in the United States is a little over a week away. This is the first year ever that I will celebrate with both Matt and my parents in the same location. I could begin and end my list of things to be thankful for right there!

    One thing I've noticed on Teh Facebook lately is a lot of angst about the holidays. Whether it's fussing over the design of a starbucks cup or fussing about people fussing about the design of a starbucks cup, it seems the holiday grumbling has come early. Hooray.

    I know, I know. Every year retailers put out their holiday stuff earlier and earlier. It's too early. We're skipping over Thanksgiving. I get it.

    But let's think about this a little bit, okay? The Christmas decorations come out early, yes, but I think the autumn decorations were in stores sometime in August. If you don't exclusively decorate for Halloween, you can easily justify decorating for fall from early September until the end of November, as far as I can tell. From a retail standpoint though, fall (Halloween/Fall in general) aren't as big of a decorative moneymaker. So it makes sense to rotate in the Christmas stuff as soon as possible.

    PLUS, there are a lot more "big ticket" decorations for Christmas. From your Christmas trees to those giganic inflatable things to put in your yard, Chistmas decorations tend to be bigger and pricier. So it makes sense that retailers would want to give people more time in which to plan and spend their money. Everyone has a list of people they need to shop for, plus (probably) cards to buy - retailers don't want you to not decorate your yard with an inflatable C3PO and R2-D2 because Aunt Betty needs a gift. Let's be honest at least: we've monetized the living daylights out of the holiday season. If consumers didn't buy, retailers wouldn't do it. But as someone who doesn't have the disposable income to buy everything I want at a given moment, I think having decorations available relatively early isn't a bad thing. I'd rather stretch out my spending a little bit than have a large clump all at once. Also, in theory, if I'm going to spend money on decorations, I want to enjoy them for as long as possible. (Though this is kind of a moot point, since my idea of decorating is some gel clings for the windows.)

    And, well, if you're going to complain about skipping over Thanksgiving, I've got a set of 2016 planners being shipped out my way this week. It's hard not to glaze over the next month and a half entirely! Wowza.

    But, all this has been a really long prelude to what I really want to say. Apologies to my inner editor.

    Who am I to judge how you decorate, or when?

    Maybe someone's mom died right before Thanksgiving one year, and it's just so much easier on their mental health to kind of glaze over that holiday.

    Maybe someone has young children who have been begging for weeks to put up the Christmas decorations, and giving them that afternoon of joy is worth digging out the decorations early.

    Or someone is just super stressed out right now, and seeing all those bright colored lights and tinsel just makes them a little bit happier.

    What if getting the decorating over with early allows people to focus more on spending the season with their loved ones, fully present and not worrying about what neeeds to be done?

    Perhaps they just like decorating.

    Maybe it doesn't matter.

    It's not up to me to tell you when or how to decorate, or even if you should - for any holiday. It's not worth the mental energy to judge each other because someone put their tree up before Thanksgiving. Who cares?

    We are all unique, with our own stories and our own baggage, and that applies to holidays too. So the best gift we can give one another is understanding. You decorate your way, and I'll decorate mine. May your house be merry and festive and bright...and I'll probably have a cinnamon scented candle burning.

  • How can we do better for them?

    How can we do better for them?

    I'll say up front that this is going to be a little long and rambly. My apologies.

    Yesterday, we took Gwen in for a dental appointment. I knew something was off, but I didn't know to what extent. She had flailed violently when the vet tried to look at her mouth during her physical, which led me to watch her over the next couple of weeks. Chewing seemed to bother her from time to time when she ate, and she would leave little pieces of the already little kibble scattered around her bowl. She also drooled a lot - occasionally I'd catch the drool looking darker, but I didn't know whether it was blood or food. I mean, come on, we've all eaten a piece of cake then brushed our teeth - your spit looks pretty gross. Even though Mikenna also needs dental work, I decided that we had to get Gwen in there first.

    They pulled every single tooth yesterday. Her teeth were rotting, exposed, and her mouth was infected so badly that otherwise halfway decent teeth had to be pulled because of infection and abcesses.

    That didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen in the three weeks we've had her.

    As I held a heavily medicated, towel wrapped Gwen last evening, the vet told me that, as much pain as she was currently in, she wasn't worse off, and may even feel a little better than she'd been living with. The cats they see in her condition are mean and very anti-social - Gwen was exceptionally sweet for how much pain she had been in.

    WOW.

    Let me show you the description of Gwen as a shelter cat.

    This is not the description of her that I'd have written based on how she was at the shelter. Even living with us at home, she let me pet her, and she was fond of following us around, but she wasn't much for being held, let alone hugged. This description was written at least a year before we adopted her.

    That means, while living at the shelter, her disposition changed. I know people noticed, because someone who declared herself a frequent visitor warned me away as Gwen was mean.

    I want to stress this - I don't blame the shelter. I know they do the best job they can with what they have. They rely on generosity - volunteers, and donations of items and money. This particular shelter is working towards being a no kill shelter. They helped over two thousand animals last year - and so, you know, I can't really blame them for not having the time/resources to sit with every cat and figure out not only if there's something wrong, but what it is.

    And yet - with the infection as severe as it was, and with Gwen not crying out in pain, I have to wonder, how much longer did she have before that infection spread throughout her body? Would they have caught on before it was too late? Or would they have found her dead in a cat bed one day, having had no clue that anything was wrong?

    How many animals has this happened to already? Suffering in silence because shelters don't have the resources to keep close watch over their residents - especially the long term ones!

    I don't know how to begin to advocate for change. You have to have people who can and want to notice physical and behavioral changes in the animals. That means they have to come around regularly. It's probably ridiculous to make a paid position out of someone sitting with animals to check their physical and emotional welfare. It's a huge thing to ask of volunteers.

    And even then, even if there were people who could spot change in an animal - what to do about it then? How can you determine whether the change is from depression or a physical ailment? Shelters can't afford to be taking every animal in for vet care every time there's a twinge.

    Something is broken, and I don't know how to fix it. I just know that no animal should be in that amount of pain for an extended period of time with no one noticing. There has to be a way.

    I want to do things better, for you, Gwen.

  • Inevitably

    Inevitably

    I used to be good at writing openly, honestly...perhaps a little too good. I needed to develop a censor. But somewhere along the way, in the last few years, my filter got thicker and thicker, until I didn't know what to share, because nothing felt right.

    At the end of the day, I like talking about things, and I like being honest. I have this thought that maybe, someone will come across my ramblings and it'll be what they needed to hear that day, to know that they're not alone. But in order to do that, you have to be okay with sharing the muck and the imperfections, and I've gotten much worse at being able to share anything about myself.

    Lately, I've been thinking about change. It makes sense, as I'm in the middle of changes right now, fixing up a new place, in a new state, away from Matt. 

    But there's the changes we seek out, such as getting a new haircut. Unless someone cuts your hair in the middle of the night, that's probably not a change that's going to just happen to you. 

    There are also the changes that happen to us, that we weren't looking for, probably don't want, and we just have to cope wtih. 

    Of course, throughout the course of a week both kinds of change happen. I might choose to go to Panera for lunch, but when a huge traffic backup happens, wind up at McDonalds instead. But because I did that, I'm not going to feel like working out later, which means that my body won't change.

    We change, our priorities change, our expectations change. Change, change, change.

    Then, of course, there are the things you assume will be constants.

    I assumed that we would make our transition down to Virginia, and we'd go back to visit, and like a good little time warp, nothing would have changed in Michigan. Then, right before I moved, that all got dropped on it's head when some of our friends split up. Now I realize that it's not very likely that I'll see one of these friends again, and that thought never occurred to me the last time I saw hir.

    In a weird way, it puts into focus the fragility of life and just how silly our assumptions are. You just never know when life will make a hard right turn and your life will change dramatically. We make plans, and sometimes, they turn out, and other times, the picture looks nothing like the reality.

    A year ago, we were waiting on our twice delayed apartment, closer to Matt's work, close to shopping, closer to friends. Now, here I am in another state entirely, I don't know what to expect with Matt's job, and sometimes it feels like I'm starting over. It's good, it's scary, and it would be really easy to wrap myself up and forget about the world ... I'm trying not to. Because heaven knows, just because I assume you'll be there tomorrow, doesn't mean you will be. I don't want to take that for granted.

    ...Also, my unfinished countertop is looking really rad, and less unfinished. Change can be good.

  • Out of Hiding

    Out of Hiding

    Okay, so I didn't intentionally go into hiding. An absence is particularly bad when you have to look at your own website to remember the last few things you said.

    The last several weeks can be distilled into this: My scheduled move date got pushed out to the end of October at something resembling the last minute, which meant that I had spent a lot of time packing already. It's nothing terrible or traumatic, just a mutual agreement that things might go for smoothly for two and four legged beings alike if things were more settled for living arrangements.

    Having bathroom walls is a great place to start. A floor is a nice bonus.

    So that was a bit of a productivity whiplash. Last week, Matt had time off, and we had a lot of things planned, so I really didn't do much resembling work.

    Now, I am finally climbing back on the horse, just in time to go spend a week with my Mom, then come back and resume frantic packing and cleaning.

    Life is chaotic, what can you do?

    One of the primary things that has been taking my attention has been this fantastic, intense photography marketing course. Changing states gives me a great chance to start over, and I want to do things well. I have learned so much over the last seven weeks, and there is so much that I can't even begin to implement yet.

    But I have decided that I am going to give a go at pet photography. It's no secret how much I adore my animals, and the more I've had time to think about it, the more passionate I am about the idea.

    I'm going to get back to noveling, hopefully sooner than later, but I'll be honest - big, time consuming life transitions are a bit rough. As far as projects go, I feel like I have a lot on my plate, so I might need to clear a few things off before I can do that justice again.

  • Ethical art

    This is a topic that, as a creative person and as someone who makes their art available, is near and dear to my heart.

    To cut right to the chase - when someone uses an image that isn't theirs and uses it without the creator's permission, it's illegal, it's unethical, and it's gross.

    There are various shades of grey on this topic, such as ganking random images for your website. Generally speaking, you're probably not hurting anyone. But while you may not be directly stealing from them, someone out there had to make that image, or take that picture, or pay for the license. You should too. If you really can't make your own images, there are various sites out there to buy art for fairly cheap, and other sites that use the creative commons license and will let you use their work for free (usually with attribution). If you're doing movie, game, or album reviews, it's not uncommon to see art on the official website designated for that purpose.

    Sure, it's not as easy as copying the first image you find in your search, but with just a little bit of work, you can find images for your websites or projects without being sketchy about it.

    However, what really rubs me the wrong way is when people take someone else's work and use it as their own - and worse yet, make a profit from it.

    Unfortunately, it's not unheard of for art that people draw for fun to wind up printed out and sold elsewhere without their permission - especially vulnerable is fanart.

    Let's make up a really crazy story, okay? Let's say Microsoft decides to get into the digital invitations game, and six months from now, we see that they've taken my designs and are selling them as theirs. They've given no money to me, and they're making money off of them. I'd be livid - and rightfully so! I might be able to rally a bunch of people to boycott them, and I would have cause to sue. I don't think anyone would doubt that they stole my work.

    However, when you buy those digital invitations from JoeBob's shop, and they have the Cars characters, or the Disney princesses, they are doing the same thing to disney. Just because they are "only" taking a character and sticking it on their own template does NOT make it okay. They are still taking someone else's art and making a profit from it as if it were their own. It'll illegal. It's theft. It's only because (generally speaking) these people are too small for big companies to notice that they get away with it.

    Taking someone's art is no different than stealing something physical. Theft is theft, even if it is digital. Theft is theft, even if it is a large company you are stealing from. True, Disney is probably not going to suffer because of these little transactions - that does not make it right.

    So, to sum it up - if you didn't make it, if you didn't get permission to use it, and you are using it, and especially if you are using it and making money from it, you are stealing. If you buy things from people who practice theft, you are part of the problem. Maybe you didn't know better, but now you do.

    Don't steal from artists, big or small.

  • Living well

    Recently, I picked up and devoured the book "Until I Say Goodbye", by Susan Spencer-Wendel. The book is a memoir, as Susan was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gherig's) at 44, with a husband and three fairly young kids. Rather than pity herself, she chose to take her loved ones on trips that would be good memories for them to hang onto, and to live as fully as possible. She wrote much of the book with her thumb, on an iphone, as she could no longer move her hands.

    My maternal grandma died from ALS in June 2004. While I don't think there's really any good way to die, I think that ALS has to be one of the worst. To be fully present in your brain, as your body stops working, little by little.

    On the one hand, I wouldn't consider this book to be light fare that you prop up before bedtime. It's a good read, but a difficult one emotionally. On the other hand, I apparently don't like sleep, so staying up to read this book is exactly what I did.

    It's a sentiment we hear often, but I think bears repeating. We really don't know how much time we're going to have. To some extent, we assume that we're going to get married, have kids, see those kids graduate, marry, and have kids of their own. We're going to sit on a porch with our spouse when we're old and gray, watch sunsets and sip coffee before our lives fade to the end credits.

    But we're not guaranteed any of that. Morbid thought? Perhaps. A local man was killed recently when a tire flew off a truck on the other side of the interstate and crashed through his windshield. How could he possibly have known what would happen when he set out that day? How can any of us?

    Our lives are all too short while the days drag on. Whatever dreams you have, whatever relationships you cherish, whatever is important to you - don't continue to put those off until the great 'someday', when everything will align. The things worth doing, the things worth having and cherishing, are rarely easy to obtain and keep.

    I think it must be better to try, fail, and do rather than stare down our lives and regret the things we never touched.

    Whatever you do, whereever you are, whomever you want to be, live with passion and hope. I won't say "live each day as if it were your last", but rather, live each day as though it matters. Because it does.

  • Toxicity

    If you use your search engine of choice, you'll find a great number of articles that will give you anywhere from 5-10 signs that a person in your life is toxic. Of course, if you're searching for articles along those lines, chances are that you probably already know the answer, and are just looking for affirmation.

    Toxic people are difficult to deal with, because a good deal of the time, they are people close to us. If we had known in advance that someone was going to be toxic, we'd probably have stayed far away, but rarely do we get that kind of warning. So we build a relationship with them, they become our best friends, our families, our confidants, and that's why disentangling yourself from a toxic person is so hard.

    Understanding that someone is toxic for you is only the first step. Maybe you realize that you've never been able to get a word in edge-wise, or that your opinions get shot down with incredible accuracy. Perhaps one day it hit you that you feel just a bit worse every time you see this person than you did before, or that you don't feel like you can be yourself around them for various reasons. Knowledge is one thing, but coming to terms with it can be another thing entrely. Once you know, well, you can't un-know it, so you start this inevitable march towards action. For some of us - those not gifted in the fine art of confrontation - this is a dreadful march.

    Listen, if someone is toxic, it is not your fault. It doesn't even necessarily mean that they're a terrible person. It might, but sometimes, we fall into unhealthy patterns and don't realize it, or the particular baggage of two people just reacts in a negative way. The sooner you can be brave and strong enough to deal with a toxic relationship, the sooner you'll know whether it is a relationship worth saving.

    Eventually, you're going to have to talk it out with your toxic individual. If you can, do it before things reach a boiling point, so that you can try and have a calm, productive discussion. If you've ever argued with someone before, you know that things get said in the heat of anger that we don't mean, are exaggerated, or just come out the wrong way. Once something is said, you can't take it back. Say what you need to say, certainly, but try not to do it in a moment of anger.
    It should also be said that if you need to have a talk in a public place to feel safe, do it. If you need a third party there to help mediate or support you so that you don't back down, do it.

    Understand that this talk may not go well. We have a tendency to get defensive when someone tells us we've done wrong, even if it's framed in the best way possible. Give yourselves some space if you need to, to think things over, to let stuff sink in. What is the worst case scenario? That you will lose the relationship with this person? If a relationship truly is toxic, it cannot go on as it is. You need to change things, because you are worth it, and you don't need negativity in your life. Really truly.

    If you are fortunate, the person will take to heart what you've said and want to work on themselves in order to save what they have with you, or even just to avoid hurting other people. If not, and the relationship ends, by now, understand that you've done everything in your power to do the right thing. You cannot change another person if they don't want to change.

    Respect yourself enough to know when it's time to walk away. If they promise change and don't follow through on it, or if they blow you off, walk away. If they get angry and sever ties with you, don't go groveling to them. If you lose a relationship with a person, even if it is toxic, it will hurt. It will probably hurt badly and it may take you a long time to heal. That is perfectly okay. You are so much stronger than you probably give yourself credit for. Cry. Get upset. Write it out. Regret your decision. Think about every possible thing you could have done differently. But in the end, you will be okay. It may not feel like it for a very long time, but your life will be better off without toxic relationships. Life can be difficult enough without knowingly stacking the odds against you. We need loving support, and toxic relationships do not provide this. Someday, you'll understand that, too.

    Take excellent care of yourselves. You can, and you deserve better.

  • Self Care Through the Holidays

    Today, I'd like to talk about taking care of yourself through the holidays. Self care is a relatively new concept for me, and it seems like a concept that is centered around progress, not mastery.

    Each of us have a story in which we feel required to do it all, and to stretch ourselves thin for the happiness of others. It's taken a long time for me to understand that taking care of myself does not exclude loving others. In fact, taking care of ourselves is vitally important to our relationships with others. When we run too long without proper self-care, we get tired and bitter, then burning ourselves out to the point of not enjoying being with those we love - or worse, to the point of illness.

    The holidays are a time ripe with opportunity to run ourselves ragged. So it's even more important that we check in regularly with how we're feeling physically and emotionally, and take the time to take care of ourselves.

    Remember that experiences and time truly are more valuable than physical gifts, so try not to stress out about what and whom to give to, or finding the 'perfect' thing. My favorite part of this time of year is the Christmas party we have with our friends' group. Everyone makes an effort to be there, and while it's not so different from other times we see everyone (okay, maybe there's a bit more in the way of snacks, and festive music in the background), it's really nice to have an interlude with some of my favorite people. Don't worry so much about the trimmings and the perfect menu - it's the people. Better are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with those you care about than a buffet with those you don't.

    There's always going to be a reason that it "has to be the perfect holiday!" - whether it's Tyler's last before college, or your grandchild's first. But it's just like the weddings we slaved over at some point in our lives - it's going to happen, something is probably going to go wrong, and no one else is going to appreciate the tiny details anyway. So just relax and have fun with it.

    Make sure you take some time for yourself, especially if you're an introvert! Even if all you can spare is an extra five minutes in the shower, make sure there's time to recharge. Feed yourself, get adequate sleep, and consider taking vitamin D if you're in a cold, forsaken, hoth-like climate. Bonus points if you take enough time to do something you enjoy, too, but start with not neglecting your basic needs.

    If you need help, ask! There's no point in being a martyr. If you find yourself in need of taking a break, do it. Step back and decide whether everything on your list really needs to be done. If not, let some things go and give yourself more room to enjoy the moment.

    But really...spend time with those you love. Because time is fleeting and lives are precious. Fruitcake will outlast all of us anyway.

  • Thanksgiving - to shop, or not to shop?

    I saw this article linked on a friend's facebook, regarding shopping on Thanksgiving. It makes some good points, so I'm certainly not responding from a place of pitchforks and anger.

    Here's my (brief) backstory before I delve into my main points. I'm coming from a perspective where my spouse gets pretty generous holiday time off, and paid for it. I'm getting to spend Thanksgiving this year with an aunt/uncle/cousins who live in state, but this is an anomaly. My parents live very far away, and the last actual Thanksgiving I spent with them was in 2004. My dad works retail. So I see a few different sides of this.

    I totally get needing more money. I also totally get not liking/celebrating holidays, or not having family to celebrate them with. My husband can attest that I live in dread of the holidays. But I'm also super grateful for any day he has off to spend with me. I also try very hard to practice compassion and empathy. But I'm really torn about all of this, and I think it's the trend that bothers me.

    Right now, opening on Thanksgiving seems pretty lucrative, which is why more stores are doing it. Even the sizable mall down near my husband's job is opening up for "36 hours of shopping!" over Thanksgiving and Black Friday. What happens when, in a year or two, all of the retail stores open up on Thanksgiving? Those who would rather work the holiday don't make up the majority of the retail workforce, but they'll be called in anyway.
    For those that -do- have families that they get together with, actually pulling off a dinner becomes more diffcult when not everyone has the same day off. The families most affected will be the lower and low-middle class families - middle and upper class families don't have many retail workers.

    Retail work can also be physically taxing. I think my dad probably needs a day off to rest more than my husband does.

    I know that finding the one open store on Thanksgiving when your child is sick can be like a beacon of hope. Some people will always have to work on Thanksgiving - I may not like it, but if I ever slice a finger off while carving a turkey, I'll be grateful for emergency personnel. There will always be people who need more hours on their paycheck, who don't have families to spend holidays with, or just don't want to celebrate. But is the answer to make everyone work, instead?

    It just doesn't sit well with me...it seems like the wrong answer, somehow. Do we really want to encourage a society of isolation and work? We need more community, to take care of and include one another, and more rest. Seems like we don't value enough of those things here, anyway. Maybe while we're at it, we can take some of the emphasis off of physical Christmas gifts and put a little more value on spending time with loved ones. It won't solve all the problems, but to me, it seems like a better trajectory than the one we're on.

  • Moving, I am disappointed.

    An update on our moving saga:

    First, we were moving in September, which got pushed back to October 15th, because our area has had a lot of rain this summer and apparently the spot where they're trying to build these apartments is much more 'clay based' than they were expecting. (The company originates in Ohio, which is sandier)

    Today we got a call, telling us that we can either have an apartment that we're not so keen on for October 15th, or the apartment we initially chose will be available on January 15th. We had to make the decision almost immediately, and hoo boy, what a frustrating choice.

    On the one hand, we chose the unit we did for a reason. It's on the edge of the property, with no other units behind it. Theoretically, it should be a little quieter, and a little more peaceful, not having to stare into someone else's unit. After the run of neighbors we've had in the last few years, any chance at peace feels like a big deal to us.

    But an extra four months after our original move-in date is frustrating, to put it mildly. The original timing of our move lined up perfectly with our lease being up. Moving in October lined up with Matt's annual review, for which we're cautiously optimistic. My parents were going to try and come visit us in October.

    In January - I mean, who moves in January? - the company Matt works for supposedly will have moved south, making his commute a beast. We'll be month-to-month, which costs more, and our gas/car maintenance budget increases as well. Not that these are huge expenses, but it's frustrating to incur them when the big thing we want is still out of reach.

    We're prepared to wait until January to get the unit we want, and my gut is wondering whether it might get pushed back even further. It's frustrating, because we've already taken steps towards packing, picking up a few things to set aside for our new place, planning out future purchases. I've been counting down the amount of trips I'll have to make to the bank for laundry quarters.

    Standing at the edge of something very exciting, and then the ball gets kicked further away. Moreover, it totally messes with my goals, several of which were contingent on moving before the year is up. That's disappointing too, because it's completely out of my hands - I'm not going to move to a unit we don't want, just to cross off a line on a piece of paper.

    On the bright side, because really, there has to be one, it gives us more time to save. I'm fairly confident that an extra three months post second move-in date means that we'll be able to get a couch, and probably replace our (cheap, falling apart, sub $100) desks.

    For the two of us, so wanting our own creative spaces, it's discouraging. But we've lived with it this long...if we can survive our first place completely flooding us out, we can survive this.

    It's just discouraging...even though both of us feel that this really is the right move in the long run.

  • Day in, Day out

    There will be days when you feel like you are unstoppable. You are on top of the world, and nothing can stop you. Every word you write is gold, every project moves unhindered, and you've got limitless energy.

    There will be days when you feel like sludge. No two words make sense, everything is three steps back. You may as well have stayed in bed.

    Both are okay. Both are normal.

    Sometimes it's easy to pin-point the cause; you didn't sleep well, or you just lost a family member (pets totally count), or you're working 50 hours a week at your day job. But maybe you just feel ... icky, and there's no specific reason. Your brain just told you that you're incompetent, and you're having a hard time telling yourself otherwise.

    It's okay. It really, really is.

    As much as it's important to work hard at things, to push yourself, to be diligent, it's equally important to remember to take care of yourself. Eat regular meals, sleep as much as you need to, and if you're feeling really burnt out, take time to recharge. Don't beat yourself up if you can't do everything you want to, because berating yourself doesn't help.

    When you're feeling good, take advantage of it. Seize the moment, and work on things to your heart's content!

    Not every day can be a great day, or even a good day. And that's okay. It really is.

  • One Hundred Percent

    When I do something, I'm usually doing three or four other things as well. As I type this, I'm microwaving my lunch, migrating dishes to the sink, considering emptying the dishwasher, and getting a new carbonator hooked into the sodastream.

    I wonder how it would have been if I'd either finished this up before lunch, or if I'd waited until after I ate.

    Let's be honest, distractions are everywhere, and even if they aren't of the "check facebook" variety, there's always more than one thing on our list that needs our attention.

    Oh, now there's spinach in my teeth! But if I get up to grab a toothpick, who knows what else I'll end up doing? See, I shouldn't have tried to write this while eating.

    Oooh, a facebook notification. Oh, a friend of mine wants a photographer and is asking everyone on her list if they're interested. I haven't made my mind up whether to throw my hat in the ring. Ok, we'll close that tab.

    I know that fending off distractions is easier said than done, but I think it might be important to fend off as many as possible.

    Oh, hey, a friend of mine just sent me an instant message with a link to an article. I'm kind of interested, but I really should finish up this post first.

    Even on a good day, when I sit down to write, there's a good chance that the mailman will arrive just then and set Mikenna barking. Or that Aeris will jump up on Matt's desk and start smacking guitar piks off the side, and I have to go rescue them from her paws.

    Ugh, that headache is getting kind of annoying. I'd better pop a Tylenol before it gets worse and I don't get anything done today.

    Certainly, there's a healthy amount of distraction. I know many friends-who-are-moms who catch up on facebook via their iphone while their small child is playing. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If my attention had to be solely fixed on a child all day every day, I'd probably go mad, so I don't judge. But I also know people who've wound up with water running down the stairs because they were on facebook for too long. See? There's an area there, where some distraction is healthy, and too much is counter-productive.

    Check twitter again. Don't know why. It's not like anyone has said anything in the last five minutes.

    I think everyone should carve out a period of time every day for that thing. You know, the thing you really want to do that you keep putting off because you've got other things to do. Maybe it's the book you really want to read, or the book you want to write, or the fundraiser you want to start. Whatever it is, we all have at least one of those things in our lives. But since I'm primarily creative, that's where my analogies usually are.

    Carving out time, quality time that is as distraction-free as you can manage, isn't a frivolity. It's not a 'nice to have', and it's not even a reward. It's necessary. It doesn't matter whether your thing is a project to change your future or just a way to unwind. They're equally important, and when you're fulfilled and relaxed, you're in a better position to help others, too.

    Matt is a perfect example. If he goes too long without making music and playing his guitar, hooooo boy is he moody, like he sees everything through a grey filter. But when he's working on something and actively trying new things, he's got a spring in his step and he's optimistic about everything. I love him either way, but he's so much more fun to be around.

    Distractions are inevitable, but many of them are managable. Try an experiment with me - for the next few days, when possible, rather than multi-tasking, just focus on one task at hand. If you think of something you absolutely must do and fear forgetting it, jot it down or put a quick reminder in your phone. Make sure you get some measure of time for your thing every day, whether it's to practice your craft or just to unwind, and do it with as little distraction as possible. If something is worth doing, isn't it worth doing 100%?