10 Thoughts on Reaching 41

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I turned 41 earlier last month, and it’s made me thoughtful.

I’m not someone who freaks out over age. I really do believe it’s just a number, and I don’t feel the way I think I should. I still don’t always feel like an adult. I sometimes feel like I’m faking it, like someone’s going to call me on it and say, “Shut up, kid!”

That being said, I have learned a few things over the years.

  1. Do what you love. Make time for it. If you don’t, what’s the point?
  2. Let it go. If the lady at the grocery store is rude to me, I shake it off. Most people, even the cranky, miserable ones, don’t actually want to be cranky and miserable. She’s not part of my life, so why not just move on with my day?
  3. Smile at everyone. Look them in the eye. Say please and thank you. From people’s reactions, they’re often surprised by this. I’m not the person who loves being out among others, but when I am, I try to add to the world by spreading a little bit of positivity wherever I can.
  4. Don’t be a doormat. Just because you understand or try to empathize with people doesn’t mean you have to allow them to treat you in a terrible way, especially if they are a part of your life. Dump the toxic people.
  5. Don’t apologize for what you like. Everyone’s got opinions, and I swear the emperor has no clothes. Whether it’s YA or Fifty Shades of Gray or bad horror movies, if you like it and it’s not hurting anyone, enjoy!
  6. Age is just a number, and not a particularly meaningful one. I see lots of lists about things you shouldn’t wear after 40 and books you shouldn’t be reading after 20, and so on. They’re all stupid.
  7. Find your tribe. They’re out there, and they like the same things you do. I’m a socially awkward introvert with a sense of humor most people don’t understand, and I like books and characters more than I like real people. Yet, I’ve managed to find amazing people who don’t make me self-conscious. I can say stupid things and don’t feel judged. It’s a beautiful thing.
  8. We all make mistakes. Ah, it’s such a simple phrase, but it’s such a hard one for me. Sometimes I’m okay with not being perfect. Other times, I perseverate on every mistake I’ve ever made until my head feels like it’s going to explode. I try to remind myself that I don’t judge others for their mistakes, so I shouldn’t judge me either.
  9. Be kind to everyone, even yourself. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness. It’s easier to be kind to others when you treat yourself well.
  10. Everything makes sense in retrospect. I’m someone who believes that everything happens for a reason. When I look back on the things that have happened to me, both bad and good, it all seems to make sense. Maybe that’s me just putting meaning where none exists, but I’m okay with that. Even if I’m making meaning, the point is that I have meaning in my life.

Five Things Friday- August 2018

One- What I’m Writing

I submitted my YA thriller, Not Dead Enough, to Pitch Wars! (Keep your fingers crossed for me!) I’m editing my YA horror novel, Acheron Crossing, along with my amazing critique groups. And I’m outlining/ brainstorming/ writing/ cursing another YA novel, currently titled Hide in The Light.

Two- Random Fact About Me

I used to practice with a roller derby team. I had to quit before I could ever join (because I got a new job that conflicted).

Three- What I’m Grateful For This Month

I’m grateful for no kill shelters and rescues… they do great work and have amazing volunteers.

Four- When I Wasn’t Reading

I went on a ghost walk in Austin and went to a roller derby bout, both of which were a lot of fun. We also brought a new dog home.

Five- Favorite Picture This Month

Ripley and Midnyte never could have lay this close without grumbling and growling, but Comet and Ripley get along with no problems. It really warms my heart to see them together.

The Dinner List- A List & A Review

I found The Dinner List, by Rebecca Serle, on the Book of the Month Club. It was one of the picks for August, so I thought, “Why not?”

It’s something we’ve all done; picked 5 people (living or dead) we’d like to have dinner with. I expected a light, fluffy, read, especially when I saw that one of the dinner guests was Audrey Hepburn.

What I got was a book that was an easy read, but had some surprising depth, exploring how complex relationships can be. The diners were Sabrina (the birthday girl), her estranged father, her best friend (who’s been growing away from her), her estranged boyfriend, and a college professor. Oh, and Audrey Hepburn.

This book doesn’t offer up solutions to thorny relationship issues, but it is an exploration of the way we sometimes sabotage the very thing we want, and how two people can feel wronged in a relationship and both be right. It also explored the grief we feel over the loss of loved ones, and the loss we sometimes feel even when they’re technically still there.

Despite all that, it’s charming and funny at times. I finished it knowing I’d recommend it to others.

I haven’t done this in ages, so I thought now would be a great time to make a new list. I’m not including anyone from my day to day life on this list because… well… I can go to dinner with them whenever I want!

The five real people I’d love to have dinner with:

  1. My grandma (gone since 1993)
  2. My grandpa (gone since 2006)
  3. Bryn Greenwood (an amazing author)
  4. Drew Barrymore (I’m a fan!)
  5. Paul McCartney (only the best musician ever)

Who’d be on your list of 5 people?

Five Things Friday- July 2018

One- What I’m Writing

I’ve just started editing an old YA horror novel, Acheron Crossing, with my YA writer’s group, and I’m going to start a few short stories to work on with my other group.

Two- Random Fact About Me

I adore squirrels, probably because we had a pet one when I was a kid. We have feeders outside and consider them our “outdoor pets.”

Three- What I’m Grateful For This Month

I’m grateful for my recent vacation and my wonderful pet sitter. I really needed some time off, but I can’t relax unless I know my cats and dogs are safe and well cared-for.

Four- When I Wasn’t Reading

I was vacationing in Alaska. We saw bears, eagles, humpback whales, orcas, moose, otters, seals, and deer. It was a great and relaxing trip.

Five- Favorite Picture This Month

I really love this picture I got of an otter enjoying his dinner.

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Superstitious

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I’m a superstitious person, in some ways. Obviously, I don’t think black cats are bad luck, and the only reason I’m worried about walking under a ladder is that I’m clumsy, and who knows how I’ll hurt myself?

I LOVE Friday the 13th. In fact, my grandparents got married on one, so I’ve always considered it a somewhat lucky day. Additionally, I love the numbers 13 and 31.

Broken mirrors worry me a bit, maybe because I like the idea of mirrors being doorways in fiction. If I spill salt, I always throw some over my left shoulder to blind passing witches. When a bird pooped on me at the Jersey shore, I consoled myself that it was good luck.

There are days when I avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. I get nervous if I’m buying something that amounts to $6.66, or worse, if I get that amount in change. I always knock on wood to stun the wood fairies (they’re mischievous, you know). I pick up pennies, and I know bad luck happens in threes (especially deaths).

And I don’t care what anyone says; weird things happen under the full moon. Study after study indicates it’s not true, but when I worked in crisis, if there was a full moon, we were guaranteed a weird night.

What superstitions do you believe in?

10 Things That Help Me Unblock Creativity

I’ve been sort of in a funk lately. Not like, depressed. But just feeling like the story I want to tell wasn’t going well.

For me, I’m doing well with everything or nothing. While the writing wasn’t going well, I wasn’t having much success with other things either. I was feeling disorganized, as if any item I put on my “To Do” list went off and died there. I was struggling with eating healthy, and wasn’t taking my dog for regular walks.

It wasn’t that I felt unmotivated; far from it. I wanted to accomplish all those things, but when it came down to it, I found myself reading a book or playing a game on my phone (I love 1010!) or aimlessly surfing the internet. And then the day was gone, and I’d managed to check off one thing.

Two weeks ago, I couldn’t do what I’d planned to, and was sort of forced to steam vac my carpets. (Let’s just say I have lots of pets and leave it at that, okay?) And it felt kind of good to move around and play music really loud and sweat and have something tangible I accomplished.

None of that week went as planned, but I got lots of things done. And then the following week rolled around, and all that motivation I’d stored up but hadn’t used just kind of burst to the surface.

I decided that I needed to clean off my desk and make my workspace a bit more appealing. In the midst of doing that, I saw my kaleidoscope collection and realized that I haven’t looked through them in a while.

In the past, when I’ve been searching for inspiration, I’ve sat down and looked through a kaleidoscope. More recently, I take out my phone and play 1010! It’s not the same.

I found my fountain pen, disassembled and cleaned on my desk, and realized that I haven’t been using that either. I love my fountain pens.

With all the other life clutter going on, I decided it was a good idea to make myself a list of things I love, so that next time I’m in a funk, I can remember to reconnect.

  1. Kaleidoscopes– Looking at the swirling colors is a form of meditation for me. I can slow down for a moment and just concentrate on one thing. If you want to get metaphysical, I can also remember that like life, they’re beautiful and constantly changing.
  2. Fountain pens– I started using a cheap plastic fountain pen when I was in my teens, and I just love them. Actually, I love all pens: gel pens and sharpies and nice ballpoints. But I have a special love of the smooth writing of a good fountain pen. I love to see ink on my fingers.
  3. Journaling– I seem to get away from this just when I need it the most. I’m trying (again) to make it a daily practice. I always use the excuse that it’s hard when life gets busy. But when isn’t life busy?
  4. Doodling– I’m trying to get more into art journaling. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw, but am TERRIBLE at it. (No, seriously, visual art is something I’m bad at.) But I’m okay with loving something and being terrible at it. Lucky for me, Pinterest has about a million boards for inspiration on the topic. Right now, I’m mostly working with banners and arrows. Gotta start somewhere, right?
  5. Stickers– I can’t draw, but I can put stickers on everything.
  6. Healthy eating– I really do feel better when I eat better.
  7. Logic puzzles– While just playing random games isn’t all that helpful (and is actually a time waster, I know!), logic puzzles use the logical part of my brain. I guess that makes my whole brain work better? I don’t know; I just know that mindful game playing works for me.
  8. Coloring– For me, coloring is like meditation. I can’t draw, but I can stay inside the lines. The biggest decision I have to make is whether to use the blue or the purple crayon. It helps me turn off my conscious mind for a little while. Sometimes, that’s the space where answers find me, instead of me looking for them. Adult coloring books are a thing now. You can find them anywhere, even Wal-Mart and Amazon.
  9. Taking a Walk– We have a lovely greenbelt near our house. Getting out and listening to the birds sing and the breeze moving through the trees is relaxing, and sometimes helps my brain get moving again.
  10. Candles– There are more and more articles out there about the benefits of aromatherapy. It can help improve mood, help with wakefulness, even help with physical issues like headaches! I love burning candles and filling my office with scent. Because it’s what I do when I write, my brain knows that when it smells vanilla candles burning, it’s time to get to work.

What kinds of things help you unblock creativity?

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Saying Goodbye to My Dog

I’m a firm believer in the idea that nothing good is free. There are different ways to pay for things: through hard work, time, perseverance, etc.

Perhaps the worst payment of all is grief. That’s the ultimate payment, and we can’t avoid it.

I recently had to euthanize my lab mix. She was fifteen years, seven months old. I know she was ancient. For her size, my dog was 107 years old! It’s mind-boggling, actually. But as old as she was, I wasn’t ready to let her go.

The cards were stacked against her from the time she was born. She was the runt of the litter, the last dog born to a malnourished mother. The sac didn’t pop, and had to be pierced manually by my husband. (She was the puppy of a friend’s dog.)

She couldn’t walk well at the end, and she always seemed to be in pain. She got excited about the ball for a minute or two, but she couldn’t really chase it anymore. She was eating, but not enough. She’d gone from a stocky 55 pounds to a skeletal 35 pounds.

And yet, until the end, she would follow me around the house. She’d go outside to do business, and she got excited about food.

Making the choice to end her pain was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time. I firmly believe that she would have held on as long as I wanted her to, because dogs don’t understand selfishness. She would have stayed with me because she loved me, so I had to make the decision for her.

Even though I’ve had to do this a number of other times with cats (and another dog when I was much younger), I did my research, trying to find something on the internet that screamed THIS IS THE RIGHT DECISION. It never feels right, even when it does. We always want just a little more time.

Almost unanimously, most veterinarians agree that it’s better to do it a little early while the dog is still themselves than to do it too late when the pain has stolen everything from them.

I found this great scale that helped me, so I wanted to pass it on.

HHHHHMM Scale: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, & More Good Days than Bad.

In the end, my girl wasn’t even having good days anymore. She was having good hours. Because we’d planned it, I got to make sure she did her favorite things. I took her to the creek, and though she could no longer swim, she waded. We got a brand new tube of tennis balls, and though she couldn’t chase them, she carried one around. She got a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, and a milkshake from McDonald’s.

I’m going to carry those memories (and so many more) with me. Even though grief is a steep price to pay, it’s so worth it. The best things always are. And it doesn’t get any better than love.