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.

Version 2


H is for Happy Money

UnknownI think that Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, is the first (and perhaps only) non-fiction book to make the list.  I say “perhaps only” because I don’t have all my posts written yet, and there are one or two that are in competition for a letter slot.

The Haunting of Hill House lost to Happy Money in this case.  Sorry, Shirley Jackson.

Anyway, back to the point.

I’m a bit… frugal.  I buy a lot of my clothing at Goodwill, and feel that secondhand stuff is almost always as good (or better than) new.  Maybe that’s a legacy from my grandparents, who sold antiques and reproductions at flea markets.  (And my uncle, who currently runs Holly Hill Antiques… hey, it’s another H!)

Pretty much the only things I spend money on are books and notebooks.  I really love notebooks.  And pens.  Oh, and I love my laptop, but that’s not really something I regularly spend money on.  Seeing a theme yet?

Anyway, in Happy Money, the authors call on research that disputes the age-old claim that money can’t buy happiness.  Actually, it can.  But not if you buy stuff with your money.  Cars, houses, furniture, etc. won’t buy happiness.

In order to purchase happiness, one must buy experiences.  Those experiences depend on what each individual likes.  For me, I love any experience that involves going somewhere and seeing something new.  Bonus points if it’s something natural.

Because I’m frugal, I used to feel at least somewhat guilty about spending money on vacations or for consumable experiences, like concerts.  But after reading this book, I realized that the happiness I got from these experiences was an investment in my future.

If an experience has the ability to absorb all my attention, to transport me, to enrapture me, then it’s a good value.  I recently saw David Gilmour in concert.  It was relatively expensive, traveling to Los Angeles to see him at the Hollywood Bowl.  (He wasn’t playing locally.)

It was a show unlike any I’ve seen before, and live music is always better than pre-recorded music.  The Hollywood Bowl is an outdoor venue, and the music filled the air.  People sang along with songs, the drunk guys behind us bumped into us every 37 seconds and spilled beer on my backpack, and the electricity made my heart race.

I’ll never forget it.

There are a lot of things that are needs, and a lot of things that are wants.  In my opinion, experiences fall somewhere in between those two things.  Because experiencing things, both positive and negative, are what living is all about.

Maybe that’s why I love to read so much.  Each book is a little vacation, a new experience, a different way of seeing the world.  And that, my friends, is priceless.

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”
-Dale Carnegie

T is for Travel

Skagway, Alaska Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Skagway, Alaska
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

On a regular basis, I’m happiest at home, but I do like to travel to break me out of the rut.  I like doing new things and seeing new places.  I feel like it wakes my brain up and makes me more creative.  When I go somewhere, I try to immerse myself in the experience, which can be difficult for me, as my default setting is, “Please don’t talk to me.”

It’s not that I hate people; it’s just that I mostly prefer my own company.  I like to read and I like to make up stories about people.  When people do inevitably talk to me (I have no idea why; I’m told I appear standoffish), I do enjoy hearing their stories.

My favorite thing about traveling is to see new scenery.  I love landscapes and skies, trees and water.  I love taking pictures of beautiful places, interesting buildings, and things that are broken and decaying.  I love pictures of animals and paths.    I love to look around at everything.  I know I look like a tourist, but I don’t care.

Travel takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.  I remember the first time I went to Arizona to visit, I was enamored with how huge the sky way.  There was just so much of it, stretching in every direction.  Before going there, I never knew you could see so much sky at one time.  After 7 years of seeing it, I became numb to it.  I no longer looked up in wonder every time I went outside.  But then I traveled to Texas, and there were trees!  Everywhere!  I had grown up in Pennsylvania, so trees weren’t new to me, but after 7 years of no trees, they were new and exciting again.  My eyes had missed the green.

Travel helps me to appreciate what I have, and to enjoy different things.  While I admire people who do lots of traveling or do exciting things like backpack through Europe, it’s not for me.  After a week being somewhere else, I’m ready to come home.  Like Dorothy, I believe there’s no place like home.

When Getting Things Done Feels Like A Vacation

Superstition Mountains, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Superstition Mountains, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I moved over two months ago, and I haven’t gotten nearly as much done as I wanted to.  I’d hoped to be further along in unpacking and writing than I am.  I had set a goal to get my novel out to as many agents as possible, until I realized that my novel still needed some heavy editing.  *sigh*  I’ve just been “too” to get anything done.  Too tired.  Too busy.  Too unmotivated.  Too everything.

I expected last week, the first week of NaNoWriMo, to be more of the same.  I was determined to keep going through the entire month, even if I didn’t meet the goal of 50,000 words, just not to give up.  I was also determined to get some things done around the house.

I was pleasantly surprised to feel motivated and to get more done than I expected to.  The unpacking went well, and so did working on my novel.  I’m forcing myself to work on it even when I don’t want to, and it will definitely need rewriting, but at least I’m getting the skeleton on paper, which is the point of NaNoWriMo.  I also managed to do some editing on my completed novel.  My writer’s group gave me positive feedback, and I feel really good about the edits.  I’m changing some minor things in the novel to make it better.  Finally, I feel like I’m on the right track.

Getting things done feels good, and for the first time in two months, I actually feel like I’m off work.  I haven’t worked a job for pay since the beginning of August, but I’ve been so busy and stressed that I haven’t felt like I had any “time off.”  Now, it’s finally starting to feel that way.

As an added bonus, I’ve decided to try doing yoga again.  I did my first session last night, and it was wonderful!  At first I had trouble keeping up (for those of you who don’t use yoga, it moves faster than you’d think), but once I got into the groove, I feel like I did pretty well.  I got a very good workout and I stretched out all those achy muscles.  Of course, I have new aches today, but that’s the good workout kind of ache.

Maybe I didn’t get started as quickly as I wanted, but I’m finally doing all the things I wanted to do during my time “off.”  The clock is ticking until it will be time to go back to work, so I’m making the most use of this time that I can!

Travel Journal

My travel journal

My travel journal

When I was visiting in Virginia, my sister in law shared a great idea with me.  Every time she and her husband go on vacation, she takes with her a journal in which she writes about her trip.  She also takes the opportunity to purchase her next journal wherever she is.  I thought that was a really cool idea, and I adopted it.  While I was in Virginia, I bought myself a cool notebook and wrote about my Virginia trip.  Since then, I used it while I was in Jerome and will use it next time I go camping.  I think she only uses hers for “big” trips, but the nice thing about ideas is that they can be individualized.

I have a tendency to write things in different places and have no idea where I’ve written it down later.  Or, I’ll find something and have no idea when I wrote it, and be sad that I lost it. I’m trying to be more organized… I’m a work in progress.  🙂

So far, I really love this method of writing about trips.  I chose a small journal, and next time, I’d choose a regular sized one.  The small journal is cute and fits nicely into my purse, but my hand cramps when I write in it, so a bigger journal next time.

Vacation with Family

Two weeks ago, I was on vacation in Virginia with my sister-and-brother-in-law  The four of us always have way too much fun when we’re together.  We played tourists in DC and played board games together.  We were silly, laughed, and ate too much.

I adore squirrels!

I adore squirrels!

If you’ve paid any attention to the weather, you’ll know that it’s been unusually cold and snowy out there.  If you’ve paid any attention to this blog, you may know that I have a curse: every single time I go back to the East Coast in the winter, it’s 60, and if we get any precipitation at all, it’s rain.

Yeah, this time was no different.  Well, we did get a dusting of snow the last night I was there, but otherwise, nothing.

We went to Arlington National Cemetery, the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the National Archives, toured the Pentagon, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial.

Other than seeing family (and a few friends), I had some highlights in my trip.

We spent all day at Arlington National Cemetery, which I don’t think any of us expected.  We’d budgeted a half day there and planned to go to the zoo later.  I love cemeteries, and always find them inspirational.  I enjoyed doing some writing there and took some photos.  One of the things that really struck me was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Day in and day out, no matter the weather, the tomb is guarded.  Watching the young man march and the changing of the guard made me misty-eyed.  It was powerful to watch.

The tree is reaching out as if to offer comfort.

The tree is reaching out as if to offer comfort.

The day we were there, someone was being buried who got a 21 cannon salute.  That too, was powerful to watch.

The cannons boomed!

The cannons boomed!

We went to two Air & Space Museums because my husband is crazy about spaceships and planes.  I’m not.  I like going up in planes as a means to an end, but otherwise they don’t interest me all that much.  I liked the Museum of Natural History a lot.  What can I say?… I like dinosaurs and gems!



In the National Archives, I learned some interesting things.  First off, there’s absolutely no photography in there anymore, and when we first went in, I didn’t understand why that would be.  After I saw the Declaration of Independence is, I get it.  The document is so faded that it’s illegible in places.  For many years, it was kept in full sunlight and in bright rooms.  After they put it in a dark room with LED lights, people came in taking pictures, but didn’t shut their flashes off.  Flash photography fades those documents, so they’re now doing everything they can to preserve them.

While seeing the documents was cool, I was actually more touched by a display of handmade birth/ death/ marriage documents.  Apparently, during the Revolutionary War, widows sent these beautiful documents in to the government to prove their marriage to get benefits.  They had a small display of these documents, and I fell in love with the workmanship and the time that it took to make these.  I found a website that shows some of these documents, and you can see it here.

On the last night there, we got a dusting of snow, for which I was very grateful.

That's my snow ration for the year.

That’s my snow ration for the year.

Of course, the week I left, they got 5 inches of snow.  I expected nothing else as my sister-in-law gleefully texted a “guess what” message.  But hey, I got even.  My response to her was, “That’s cool.  I just got out of the pool.”

Modern people are so lucky to be able to travel back and forth so easily to visit with loved ones.  Even if I always miss the snowy weather!

Be Where You Are

Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum; Photo credit: Doree Weller

Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum; Photo credit: Doree Weller

I’m trying to be more mindful this year. It’s not a resolution or anything, because when I make a “resolution,” I probably won’t follow through. No, it’s just a “thing” I’m working on.

We went to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, which is essentially a bunch of planes. I’m more interested in history than I used to be, but planes and space shuttles aren’t really my thing. It didn’t help that I had been to this museum before, and we were just back because the space shuttle was there and the husband wanted to see it.

I was tempted by my cellphone several times. I could have surfed the internet, browsed pictures, texted friends, or played Candy Crush, but instead, I told myself, “Be where you are.” I walked around and looked at different things, people watched, and daydreamed. I didn’t have a special revelation or anything, but it was nice to be in the moment, and doing it takes training.

Technology is the ultimate in “grass is greener.” It’s always better somewhere else, and I can be somewhere else pretty much instantly. I just hop on my iPhone and go. I miss my friends and family when I’m not with them, but when I’m with them, I… Text other people? Read Facebook? Surf the internet? How does that make sense?

We visited my sister-in-law and brother-in-law last week.  The four of us get together once a year, as they live in Virginia, and we’re in Arizona.  I only get to see them one week a year, and the Internet will still be there the other 51.  So I made an effort to have my phone away during most of the time we could interact, and I tried to annoy everyone else into putting their phones away too.  During times where they drove us into DC for sightseeing, instead of getting out my phone, I quizzed them about what they liked in school and what they thought they wanted to do when they grew up.  I learned some things about everyone in the car, even the husband!  I feel like I learned more about them on this trip than I have on previous ones.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to put my phone down and go do something today.

Work In Progress

Every day is a gift; that's why they call it the present!

Every day is a gift; that’s why they call it the present!

One of the things the TV Guy always says is “We’re all just works in progress.”  It’s true, and I have to remind myself of that every day.

As I look back on 2013, I can choose to see it as a good year or bad year.  It just depends on where I put my focus.  I’ve made progress on some goals, and not so much on others, but looking at the year as a whole, I’ll consider it a success.  I’ve learned some things I didn’t know before, and I’m a bit wiser.  I’m about 15 pounds heavier than I was this time last year, which I’m not pleased about one bit, but I’ve recommitted myself to a healthy lifestyle, which can be tough to do and is a day to day thing.  I’ve gotten back to eating more whole foods and less processed stuff.  I’m back to walking daily.  After 5 weeks of not hiking for one reason or another, I got back to it this past weekend.  And oh, I hurt, but I feel good.

I left a job I love in order to meet an important goal for myself, toward supervision and independent licensure.  My new job has me sitting down a lot more, so I have to be more purposeful about getting up and moving.  I went on a few vacations, and took lots of great pictures.

I don’t do resolutions.  They’re too easy to break.  But I would like my theme in 2014 to be more professional development, of both my writing career and my counseling career.  I want to learn more and stay focused.

I found a great quote not long ago.

 “It’s never to late to be what you might have been.”  -George Elliot

No matter what happens in 2014, I’m going to keep moving forward, learning, and growing.

Be safe, be happy, be healthy, and I’ll see you next year!

Leaving A Mark

Before I left for my vacation, a friend and I were discussing picture taking.  He commented, “Oh, don’t worry about it.  I’m sure there are a million photos out there of whatever you want a picture of.”  Maybe that’s true.  But they wouldn’t be my photos.  One of the things I like about pictures, much like writing, is that they allow a glimpse inside another person’s perception.  Maybe there are a million glacier photos, but in that moment, I saw it differently than other people did.  No one can see it exactly the way I do.  Maybe others have better pictures, but it’s a view through someone else’s eyes, which is exactly what I don’t want for my vacation photos.

Humans always have the urge to mark things that they’ve touched.  Bathroom graffiti, hieroglyphics, art, tattoos, architecture.  These are all ways of saying, “hey, I was here!” Even Mother Nature leaves a mark.  Water wears away at rock until the marks can’t be erased.

Cruising to Tracy Arm Glacier.

Cruising to Tracy Arm Glacier.


Although perhaps my photos aren’t important to others, being able to snap that picture in that moment is important to me.  No one wants to look at all 3000 pictures I took on my vacation, but there will be times I’ll enjoy looking back at them as a way of remembering.

I’m awful about picture taking.  I see something interesting and snap.  Then snap again.  And snap some more.  The great thing about digital photos is that I don’t have to take just one or two pictures and hope they turned out okay.  I can see immediately if they did or didn’t, but I can also just keep snapping.

The fact that I just owned up to taking 3000 pictures on vacation may lead you to believe that I was glued to my camera, but I swear, I wasn’t.  I like to hold my camera up to snap, but look at what I’m looking at through my own eyes.  That’s why many of my pictures might not be centered correctly or might be crooked.  I don’t always look at what I’m snapping.   Yes, I want it “on film,” but I also want to see it firsthand.  After all, I want to live it.


My Alaska Trip

I recently got back from 10 days in Alaska and Vancouver.  My husband and I have always wanted to go to Alaska, and I finally decided to book it, tired of continually saying “maybe next year.”

It was so worth every minute and every penny!  We stopped in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.  My favorite port was probably Skagway, and the husband liked Ketchikan the best.  Juneau was both of our least favorite port, though still great.  I learned a lot of interesting things, did some great relaxing, saw new things, met new people, and came home rested and recharged.

I took notes on my vacation, mostly so I could remember the cool stuff I learned and what I did each day. I could give you a blow by blow account of that, but I’m sure no one actually wants to read that. Do you remember when, in school, you had to write an essay about “My Summer Vacation”? This won’t be that.  I’ll just hit the highlights.  🙂

Our cruise was 7 days to Alaska by way of Vancouver. Although Canada is very nice, going in and out of customs 4 times was a bit of a hassle. Both US and Canadian customs were efficient and pleasant, but I prefer to avoid lines when I can. Bottom line, if you’re traveling from the US, just leave from Seattle. It would be so much easier.

Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan were all fishing towns at one time, though Juneau gets most of its revenue from being the political center these days. We saw whales, bears, bald eagles, huge mutant mosquitoes, and glaciers. I went specifically to see the wildlife and glaciers, and I left satisfied.

In Juneau, we went whale watching, and got to see humpback whales and sea lions while we boated around a bay surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Whale tail

Whale tail

I also hiked to the Mendenhall Glacier.  There’s nothing else quite like standing close to a glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

In Skagway, we took the train down and around the mountain.  It was exhilarating, as in some of the places, it was barely big enough for the tracks.  On one side, I could have reached out and touched rock, but on the other side, it was almost straight down.  That was a pretty packed day, as it’s also the day we went to Liarsville, saw Okie Bob’s show, and had the best salmon of our entire trip.

Abord the White Pass Railway

Abord the White Pass Railway

In between Skagway and Ketchikan, we cruised up to Tracy Arm.  We had fortuitous weather, as we were able to get right up to the glacier.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  We were lucky enough to see the glacier calve, and I’ve never heard anything like the sound the ice makes as it’s breaking up.  It’s like a thousand thunderstorms.

Tracy Arm Glacier... yes, it really is that blue

Tracy Arm Glacier… yes, it really is that blue

In Ketchikan, we went bear watching and had a great hike through the temperate rainforest.  Bears are pretty great!  I didn’t know that Alaska has a lot of rainforest, a lot of volcanoes, and a number of earthquakes.  Now that I’m a bit older, I enjoy learning things on vacation.

Hello, bears!

Hello, bears!

A cruise is a great mix of relaxing and activity (if you book excursions). The first time I took a cruise, I thought it was a bit too slow for my vacationing preference, but this time around, I really paid more attention to it, and I just loved it. I think that’s going to be my ideal way of vacationing now.

See how the water is splashing up in the pool?  Seas were a bit rough that day!

See how the water is splashing up in the pool? Seas were a bit rough that day!

I’ll be uploading a video of a glacier calving to my Facebook page, if you’re interested.