Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Jan 2-8, 2022

It’s time to get your mental corn popping in time for the weekend.

Jelani Cobb: justice for Ahmaud Arbery. The New Yorker

Vanessa Romo, Becky Sullivan, and Joe Hernandez report on the conviction of the officer responsible for Daunte Wright’s death. (Dec. 23, 2021) NPR

Brett Forester and Fraser Needham report that Canada and First Nations report details of $40 billion draft deals to settle child welfare claims. It’s the biggest settlement in Canadian history. This is what the Feds were doing when they appealed to the HRC last year. You’d think they’d just come out and say they were aiming to provide a bigger payout, no? APTN News

Ryan Patrick Jones: Ontario’s new pandemic strategy risks “out of control” transmission, epidemiologists warn. CBC

Sharon Guynup: can covid-19 change your personality? Here’s what the brain research shows. National Geographic

Gavin Francis says, “We need to respect the process of healing.” A GP comments on the overlooked process of recovery. The Guardian

Joe Palca: a Texas team comes up with a covid-19 vaccine that could be a global game-changer. NPR

Jodi McIsaac relates her fumbling attempt to reconnect with the child she gave away. The Globe and Mail

Your brain once had a superpower. Could you get it back? SciShow

Cal Newport says that it’s time to embrace slow productivity. We need fewer things to work on, starting now. The New Yorker

S. Mitra Kalita lists three New Year’s resolutions for employers right now. Charter Works

Lauren Grush reports that NASA successfully deploys complex sunshield on James Webb Space Telescope. The Verge

Sidney Perkowitz introduces eight women astronomers you should know. JSTOR Daily

Jonathan O’Callaghan: graphene loophole could provide “clean and limitless” energy in the future. ILFS

We’re drowning in plastic pollution. Can we actually fix it? Be Smart

Nicola Davis reports that dogs may be able to tell difference between speech patterns. The Guardian

Carol Mithers: the veterinarian brings his healing presence to pets of the unhoused. The Smithsonian Magazine

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you found something to inspire a future creative project.

Until next tipsday, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The next chapter: September 2021 update

Another month gone. Le sigh.

Here in Canada, we had a federal election that changed nothing, our first Truth and Reconciliation Day, and a slew of continuing political scandals and health crises. We’re still in dumpster fire territory.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Please continue to wash your hands, mask in public places, maintain physical distance, and if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please do so, soonest. And get your flu shot, too. It’s forecast to be a narsty flu year now that reopening is happening and kids are back in school.

The month in writing

The month in writing kinda wasn’t. I’ll get to the why of it in the next section. Suffice it to say, I didn’t write for more than half the month.

It’s probably not surprising, then, that of the 10,000 words I’d hoped to revise/rewrite on Reality Bomb, I only managed 5,056 words, or 51% of goal.

I revised a whole 82 words of my 500-word short fiction goal, or 16%.

The only thing that I kept up with was blogging. I blogged 5,301 words of my 3,750-word goal. 141%. I’ll take it.

My latest Speculations came out mid-month.

And that’s about it.

I’m slowly getting back into the groove. I’m not stressing when I have too much going on to pay proper attention to writing. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Filling the well

I attended three virtual writing-related events in September. First, I took part in Suzy Vadori’s virtual writers’ retreat Sept 10 – 14, which was flexible enough to fit in around work.

Then, CanWrite! 2021 and FiyahCon were both on the same weekend. Fortunately, I was able to watch the FiyahCon panels I missed in replay. So, it wasn’t terribly stressful. I caught Terry Fallis’s and Farzana Doctor’s sessions at CanWrite! and that was really what I wanted to catch.

I went out to my sister-in-law’s for an outdoor family BBQ. Phil made the burgers. Ger made fresh-cut fries. My mom made a three-bean salad, and Steph made the BEST cherry pie EVAR.

In health-related news … there was a lot.

After the end of my acting, I returned to my position as an instructional designer on a short week, which was made even shorter by a dental checkup and taking my overtime as compensatory time. I still wasn’t feeling quite right, though. I had a doctor’s appointment the following Monday, and I got a sick note for two weeks off work.

While I was off, I took care of some other stuff (shingles vaccine 1 of 2, blood work, orthotic check, that kind of thing).

I’ve also been trying to find myself a therapist. I think I’d really benefit from having someone to help my navigate this sea-change in my life. There’s really no one who specializes in women who are diagnosed as autistic later in life. At least not locally. I have some feelers out, thanks to a friend, but I haven’t heard back yet.

I’ve been using the quality of my sleep, the amount and nature of my rumination, and my relative level of brain fog as my barometers. My sleep has improved—I’m dreaming non-work-related dreams—I’m not ruminating about my work-related failures, but most mornings I’m still foggy.

I was back at work last week and it was really hard.

This weekend has been restorative, though.

A little morning halo for you.

What I’m watching and reading

I’m going to short-form my list this month because I watched a lot in my time off, and a number of mid-season series finished their runs. My reading’s back on track as well.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The whole season could be summed up by saying … and wackiness ensues. John Constantine’s arc was a bit dark, but the rest was so outlandish that I couldn’t take anything seriously.

The Flash was its usual schmaltz.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe. Yes, there were obvious gaffes that resulted from rewriting and reshooting during a pandemic to avoid a viral subplot, but I enjoyed it.

I May Destroy You was brilliant, but traumatic to watch.

Fleabag was similar but not quite as traumatic.

Black Lightning finished its run in typical DC fashion. Tobias Whale is dead, and everyone is ready for their HEA except poor painkiller, who had to forget he ever knew the Pierces as the cost of removing his kill order on them.

I also watched three movies.

Soul was quite good, as Pixar movies tend to be.

Amazon’s take on Cinderella was an interesting twist [SPOILERS], with Ella’s desire to be a fashion designer causing the prince to abdicate and follow his heart.

Raya and the Last Dragon was another show that I felt was better than some reviews made it out to be. The ending made me teary. Yup. I’m a sap.

Finally, I watched The Death Cure. I’d seen the ending before, so I knew what was going to happen, but I watched it anyway. The thing that got me was that there was evidence in the second Maze Runner movie that showed Thomas’s blood had curative properties, but nobody figured it out. They could have saved Newt. His death was pointless. A lot of the character deaths were.

I finished or read six books in September.

First was Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Wonderful storytelling. It was an easygoing story with an uplifting ending.

[SPOILERS] Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun was interesting, but it would appear that the two main characters are dead at the end. I wonder how the author’s going to walk that back.

[SPOILERS] M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts was typically post-apocalyptic. In the end, all the humans die but the teacher, and she gets to teach the hungry kids, who are apparently the evolutionary future of the human race.

I enjoyed Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star despite the rampant infodumping. The world; the connections between the seelie and unseelie fae, fairies, ironborn, gods, and titans; the interplay of science and magic, kind of required it. And I liked that it was partly set in Toronto.

Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi was the perfect read for my recovery. Short and yet complex. Gentle and kind and even if the ending isn’t particularly happy, it’s hopeful. LOVED.

Finally, Bethany C. Morrow’s A Chorus Rising focuses on Naema Bradshaw, the secondary antagonist from A Song Below Water. A deep dive into what social media and being an influencer can do to a person … until she gets a reality check in the form of her true nature as an Eloko.

And that was the month in this writer’s life.

Until tipsday, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-Inks: My day at Graphic-Con and the struggle for balance

Greetings, writerly peoples!

Before I get to the meat of this post, I’ll give you a little update on the writerly happenings of the week.

This past week, there was just one. The Sudbury Writers’ Guild booked a table at Graphic-Con, which was held at the Sudbury Arena, Saturday, June 10th. While it’s not a huge event as comic cons go, it was big for Sudbury.

Fandom was well-represented. There were cosplayers, LARPers, gamers, table top gamers, RPGers, comic fans, art fans, and television and movie fans (Degrassi actors were in attendance). And there were readers.

SWG co-chair, Andy Taylor, committed to be present for the full day as this was our first year booking a table and he wasn’t sure whether it would be worth it or not. Liisa Kovala helped out from opening to noon. I helped out from noon to 6 pm, Clay Campbell walked over after his CKLU radio show and stayed through to 7 pm, Liisa returned to finish off the day and help Andy pack up the table, Kristan Cannon had her own table (right beside the SWG table), and members John Jantunen and Sabine Gorecki stopped by and hung out for a while. It was a team effort 🙂

GraphicCon

Andy took this picture just after Clay (Rincewind) and I arrived and before Liisa left (noonish).

We had on display various books by Guild members, including a few copies of my wee poetry chapbook, NeoVerse. We sold just about one of everything (well, except NeoVerse—I didn’t expect poetry to be a big seller, though there was some interest), sold out of Creepy Capreol, which our other co-chair, Mat del Papa edited, and sold five of the SWG anthology, Sudbury Ink.

Sales weren’t the purpose of our booking the table, however. Reaching out to the writing community in Sudbury was. In that respect, the table was a total success. We had 19 people sign up to find out more about the Guild. We’re going to try to get together in late June for a special meeting for these individuals. If the timing doesn’t work out, we’ll at least send them a copy of our June newsletter to give them an idea of who we are and what we do.

Which leads us to balance

When I got home from Graphic-Con, I was pretty much bushed. Phil had the moms over for BBQ, but afterward, I decided to forgo my usual Saturday post.

Work/home/creative balance is a recurrent issue for me.

As a writer with a day job, I’ve chosen to devote nearly all of my non-work, non-sleep time to writing. Thus, a lot of other things go by the wayside. Physical fitness, family and social events, friends, support of artistic and professional organizations and events. Still. I can’t shut all of that out of my life. So, I try to squeeze it all in. Therein lies the rub.

When I can drag myself out of bed early enough, I do yoga or other exercises in the mornings. When the weather and other commitments permit, I walk home from work. I spend time with Phil and with my mom. I volunteer for the SWG and for the Canadian Authors Association. I try to get out and do something creative and soul-feeding in the community.

I try to get out and garden, or use my summer office. I try to keep the house clean(ish). My standards have fallen significantly in recent years …

I also try to write or revise my novels and short stories daily, keep up with my blog posts, keep up with my commitments to DIY MFA, read, study my craft, improve, attend writing workshops in person or online … and it all takes its toll.

Add to that my persistent issues with depression and anxiety which I must manage carefully, and a myriad of aches and pains that only seem to multiply the older I get, and there are times when I have to step back.

Phil’s supportive. He does the cooking, the groceries, the heavier household chores, and the renovation on his own. He knows my writing time is mine and, except for the odd hug or kiss—we need a fairly steady supply—he leaves me to do my thing. He doesn’t insist on coming along (he hates travelling and would just be miserable) or that I stay home when I have a conference or convention to attend. He listens when I have to blow off some frustration about work or professional obligations. He’s learned, for the most part, not to try to offer solutions. I’m very fortunate.

The heady rush of positive feeling and energy that returns with the sunlight in spring gives way to my first bout of burnout around this time every year. The second battle with burnout usually hits in the fall. This is why I have usually tried to take a self-funded leave from work every 18 months or so, May into June and then October into November.

It’s how I’ve managed my physical and mental health.

It’s been two years now since my last self-funded leave and the continual issues with our pay system at work have meant that I’ve had to defer my plans to take a leave yet again. I won’t be able to manage much longer if I can’t get a leave this fall. I’ve pushed through before, but never longer than two years. I used to work part time when I was in the call centre. That’s probably a better long-term strategy, but this next leave will involve a new pup as well, I don’t have enough leave aside from the self-funded to house train a pup.

I’m hoping that the larger part of our pay issues will be resolved by then and that it will be a possibility. Even if it’s not, I can’t afford not to make the request.

For now, all I can do is take things easy for a few days, give myself a break, and then get back to it.

I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability sessions on Audible. Vulnerability is at the core of a satisfying life, of contentment (which is always my goal, not happiness—I’m pretty sure that’s a mythical beast), and of achieving healthy goals. And self-love is at the heart (lol) of vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I’m kind of addicted to shame and I tend to wall myself off from other people so I don’t have to be vulnerable with them, one on one. Everyone else thinks I’m doing great. I’m that high-functioning person living with mental illness. I can simulate vulnerability on this blog because it doesn’t cost me as much as opening up in person can. All the self-hate takes place in private. I operate from a scarcity mindset. There’s never enough time, energy, you name it, and I am certainly never enough.

I know that none of this is true, intellectually. I know time can be managed, found. A healthy lifestyle can provide me with more energy. I can tell my friends and family that they are enough often, but I can rarely turn that compassionate lens on myself.

So I’m going to goof off for a few days, except for the absolutely necessary stuff, like blogging and housework, professional obligations, and, well, the day job. I’m going to try to be present enough to listen and be kind to myself and to others. I’m going to try to enjoy myself.

We’ll see how it goes and I’ll check in with you next weekend after the poetry walk. The post may go up on Sunday again, but that’s just my way of shifting things to give me enough intellectual and emotional space to recover.

In the meantime, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

And I’ll “see” you on Tipsday!

Muse-inks

Caturday Quickies: Pupdate

A true quickie for you here: Nuala’s doing well.

Her vet appointment on April 29th wasn’t a glowing review, but everyone who’s seen Nu in the last week has commented on how much better she seems.

Her meds were adjusted, no more oral antibiotics, renewed ear washing, and we have another appointment on May 13, 2014.

Will tell you more when there’s more to tell.

My Sweetpea

See the new light in my eyes? (lasers on–full stun)

Caturday Quickies

Pupdate, part the third

Yesterday marked the removal of Nuala’s staples.  She’d finished her cocktail of medications on Wednesday, and since then, had been increasingly restive.  I think as least one of the medications was to calm her down.

Nu doesn’t like to be this inactive.  She likes her morning walks, chasing her ball, wrastling on the floor.  After her meds were done, she wanted to get back to her normal routine.

This was challenging for my mom.  She called late last Sunday to suggest that we bring Nu over and that she keep her enclosed in the basement.  As Nu became more active, this became more demanding.  On Friday, Nu jumped onto the bed that Mom has in her basement.  She hadn’t even attempted it any time in the year previous.  She might be feeling better, but she’s not supposed to run or jump at all.

Try to tell her that.

A note on accommodations

I’m not talking hotel rooms; I’m talking about the ways that we’ve had to rearrange our lives to accommodate Nu’s recovery.

We have a small house, so limiting her activity isn’t too difficult in general, but we do have stairs that lead into the house and so bathroom breaks have been somewhat of a challenge.  We’ve been trying to help her up the stairs by slinging a towel around her abdomen, but lately she doesn’t have the patience for it.

While she was on the medication, we had to make sure that we administered it at the proper times and dosages.

Since walking was out, we had to make sure that she had relief before we went to work.  Nu’s a dog of habit and she doesn’t like to do her “business” in the yard.  She prefers to decorate the yards of others so I can show my love for her by cleaning up after 😛  This last week has been one of the coldest in Sudbury for the past few years.  Waiting outside, impatiently, for Nu to realize she had to choice but to drop a deuce in the yard was a B-triple-R challenge.

Our dog has the run of our house.  Normally, she sleeps on the bed (until it gets too hot) or on the couch.  These are two of her favourite places.  Because she’s not supposed to jump, we’ve had to get creative.  The couch isn’t so bad.  We can pull the cushions down and she won’t try anything.  The bed’s a different story, though.

We have a king-sized bed with a pillow top mattress.  Before Nu started to show signs of lameness, it was really high.  Neither Phil nor I had to sit down much to get in it.  When she was initially diagnosed with arthritis, Phil cut the legs off the bed, shortening it by six inches so that Nu could hop in again.

We’ve noticed something, though.  When we have laundry out on the bed, Nu won’t go near it.  So for the last week and a half, we’ve left the laundry spread on Phil’s side of the bed and he’s volunteered to sleep on the couch nights.  See, if we were just to go to bed as usual, Nu would be tempted to jump up.  She used to leap right over Phil to get into her preferred spot between us.  Then sometime in the night, she’d hop down again.

You see how we have a problem with this.

Tonight, however, we are going to bring Phil back from his exile and put Nu into hers.  He hasn’t been sleeping so well on the couch, so we’re going to try closing the bedroom door on her.  I anticipate some trouble …

We have to work some new system out, though, because Nu will be under restrictions for at least three more weeks.

It takes six to eight to heal bone completely.

naked pup bumSorry about the lack of a decent picture.  Nu won’t sit still enough for me to take one 😛

Unless something bizarre happens, you can expect pup-related silence for the next three weeks.  Our next appointment is February 16th, so I’ll catch everyone up then.

Nu thanks you for all of the support 🙂