February 2016 Goals in Review


Man, I have a lot of mixed feelings about February. For one thing, I feel like it disappeared in a flash, but I also kinda feel like it dragged on forever, mainly based on the fact that my work shift felt insufferably long. I also thought I was doing pretty good on my goals, but when I started adding up some stats some stuff didn’t look all that great. So let’s just get right into it so I can get a feel on the overall quality of the month and decide whether it was a success or a failure.

Goal #1. Take good care of myself, specifically by walking 10,000 steps a day and taking at least 15 minutes per day to do something fun/relaxing.

Okay, I definitely feel ashamed of myself right off the bat. It’s not that the results of this goal were absolutely terrible, but they definitely weren’t great.

First off, my 10,000 steps-per-day goal wound up quite similar to January, with the most glaring problem being that I didn’t get anywhere near that daily goal on the days when I was home. 10,000 steps while I’m at work? No problem at all…I don’t even have to think about it because I spend so much time walking around in the field doing my job. But at home? I spend so much of that time sitting at the computer (writing/blogging/etc), sitting in front of a camera (filming YouTube videos), and sitting on the floor (playing with the kid), that I don’t come anywhere near the 10,000 steps. And my days are so full that I’m not usually able to find extra time to, say, go for a walk or something and get those steps up. Luckily the work days help to average out the home days, but this month I didn’t quite reach that number. Overall, I wound up with only 15 out of 29 days having reached the daily goal, and for the month I had a daily average of 9831 steps. Not horrible, but definitely a step down from January.

As for my 15 minutes of relaxation per day, February was definitely a huge step down from January. I actually had 6 days during which I didn’t find 2 minutes to myself, never mind 15. At least I did well on the other 23 days. I had a mixture of relaxing with YouTube, taking hot baths, playing video games, watching Doctor Who, and just laying the hell down with a face mask on. So, not a perfect month, but at least I managed to get a few minutes of relaxation on most of the days.

So, okay, I may have initially jumped the gun on how awful the month was for goal #1, but it was still not as good as January, which sucks because you’d presumably like to move forward, right? Right.

Goal #2. Build readership/viewership by putting more focus and energy into my blog posts, shooting fun and different YouTube videos, and putting more effort into self-promotion.

Before saying anything else, I have to tell you that the majority of the success of this goal for February is due entirely to my husband. He’s been working super-hard to make my YouTube channel better. He redesigned the entire channel, started editing videos for me, and encouraged me to create separate Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts specifically for the channel. He’s been taking Instagram photos for me, sharing things wherever he can, and oh, did I mention that he built me a studio?

The result is that the channel has gone up approximately 200 subscribers just in the past month. That’s pretty amazing.

Also, on hubby’s behest, I’ve begun keeping a regular morning-and-evening schedule of making sure to engage my followers across YouTube and all the channel’s social media so that I don’t get behind and leave people out. He’s definitely my motivator, and the main reason that I managed to make it through the month on the upside of this goal.

On the writing side, things weren’t quite so great. I did manage to keep the blog going strong all month, but I did little to no self-promotion as far as “Nowhere to Hide” or anything like that, and I didn’t sell any books across any platform. Baby steps, I guess.

Goal #3. Write as much as I can, including writing an entire novel from start to finish.

Okay, so let’s just get right to it and look at some numbers. The big number of the month is blog posts, for which I wrote 16,405 words. Some of those words are also fiction (for “Flash Fiction Fridays”), but I forgot to single them out so I’m not sure of the exact percentage. I also wrote 794 words in my journal, which went a bit by the wayside simply because I’ve decided that I don’t really want to be carrying that back and forth out West with me, but I might start a digital one on my laptop in March (which would have the added bonus of being quicker to do). In fiction not for the blog (i.e. “The Other World”) I wrote a paisley 224 words right at the end of the month, but since I’ve gotten back into the groove of the novel I’m expecting to do a lot better with that in March. And finally, in other words, I wrote 1669 words toward Authors Answer questions that are coming up over the course of the next two months.

So, to combine all that together, I wrote a total of 19,092 words for the month of February, which is actually not that much less than January, now that I’m looking at it. I’m pretty okay with that. That’s an average of 658 words per day, which isn’t too shabby at all.

Unfortunately I haven’t even started the novel that I’m supposed to write from start to finish, but at least I can say that I already wrote 38,809 words so far this year, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

So, okay, I started off this post a little on the downer side of things, but in the end it actually wasn’t that bad a month at all. My weak points were promoting the writing side and making sure to relax daily, but in general everything else was pretty good, and in particular the YouTube channel is taking leaps and strides (thank you, Jason!). So I guess I have to revise my former statement: February, you were pretty awesome.


2015 in Review and Goals for 2016

Well, look at that; the calendars have changed, a New Year has rolled over, and some of us were out WAY past our bedtimes last night…

What? The little one? No, you fools, I meant me!

So it’s 2016, which means that it’s time to sit back, relax, reflect on the past year, and re-evaluate for the coming one.

Last year at this time I made three very broadly-termed goals:

1. Take care of myself more.
2. Continue to build my readership/viewership.
3. Write. Write a lot.

If I were to put a label on my success or failure of those three goals for the year of 2015, I would say, “moderately acceptable”.

Let’s start with the first goal: Take care of myself more. I think that, when looked at as individual moments, this goal could be considered something of a success. I did a lot of different things in an attempt to take better care of myself…I ate better, went for runs, took long, relaxing baths, learned how to meditate, and unashamedly enjoyed quiet nights of nothing but Doctor Who, among other things. The problem is that each of these steps forward often stood alone and was accompanied by several steps back. For instance, during the times when I was eating better I wasn’t exercising, and when I was exercising I wasn’t finding time to enjoy my shows, and when I was enjoying my shows I was getting less sleep, and so on and so on.

For that reason, this year I want to continue on with the idea of this goal, but be a little more specific. I’m going to continue to take care of myself in general, but specifically I’m going to do so via two mini-goals: I’m going to walk 10,000 steps per day (counted by my FitBit) even if that means I have to run on the spot at the end of the day in order to hit that number, and I’m going to take at least 15 minutes every day to do something fun and relaxing, whether that’s coloring, or a video game, or listening to music with a face mask on, or whatever.

Those two things, every day, that’s goal number one.

Moving on to the second goal from last year: Continue to build my readership/viewership. That was a very broad goal, based on gaining YouTube followers, blog readers, novel readers, and so on, and I have to say that in general this goal was something of a failure. I definitely gained a lot of YouTube followers this year, but that seems to have been by virtue of my videos themselves, because I did little to nothing to actually advertise them. Marketing myself as a novelist is something I basically didn’t do at all because of a combination of both laziness and the fact that marketing yourself is more difficult and time consuming than it sounds. And the blog…well I hardly even need to talk about the blog because you can just look at WordPress’s end of year review of it. According to those stats, my five most popular posts of 2015 were ones that I wrote in 2014, 2013, and even 2012. That’s a bit ridiculous, if you ask me; it means that no one was coming to my blog this past year for blog posts that I wrote this past year.

I’m not really entirely sure how I should go about fixing these problems, but I have a few ideas, including continuing on with ideas that I came up with at the end of the year concerning the blog. I share a lot of subscription box reviews on this blog these days, but what I need to be doing is more actual writing, so I’m definitely going to continue on with Memoir Mondays and Flash Fiction Fridays, and I’m going to try to spend more time talking about fun stuff on my blog, like the shows, games, and books I’m into, what’s going on in life as the parent of a toddler, any fun stuff I’ve been doing lately, and so on. Finally, I’m going to try to share more of what I’m actually working with on the writing front, rather than simply talking about it all the time. Similarly, I’m hoping to do some more fun, different stuff on the YouTube channel in the future, and if I’ve got any energy left at all I’ll try my very hardest to continue to promote my poor book (pst…there’s a link right there in the sidebar!).

So, more fun and various stuff on the blog, new and different videos on YouTube, and more self-promotion boils down goal number two.

And finally we have the last goal from last year: Write. Write a lot. Last year I decided to be very, very vague with my writing goal because in previous years I’d set numerical goals and spectacularly failed to get anywhere near them. In 2015 I finished up the year with approximately 226,000 words, which is significantly less than I wrote in 2013 and only about 1000 more words than I wrote in 2014. I was vague specifically so that I wouldn’t be too disappointed in whatever the results were to be, but I have to admit that I’m still pretty disappointed because when I look at my projects folders it doesn’t seem like I’ve really got anything to show for the words that I did write, especially considering that most of those words were blog posts, not fiction. So this year I’m not going back to a numerical goal, but I am going to be a bit more specific. I’m going to write. I’m going to write a lot. And somewhere amid all that writing, I am going to write an entire novel. Not necessarily within National Novel Writing Month (although it would certainly be nice to win again for a change), but sometime over the next twelve months. A little more specifically, I plan to both begin and finish Book Two of The Other World. Book One only has a chapter or two to go before I send it out to my beta-reader, so I want to have the first draft of Book Two written this year. And if I’m feeling really ambitious, maybe I’ll even write Book Three as well. 🙂

Write a lot, including beginning and finishing an entire novel. Goal number three is born.

And I’m going to stick to three goals because three seems like a nice number, a reasonable number. Throw too many things in there and you just stress yourself out, right? Right.

So there you have it…my three goals for 2016 are as follows:

1. Take good care of myself, specifically by walking 10,000 steps a day and taking at least 15 minutes per day to do something fun/relaxing.

2. Build readership/viewership by putting more focus and energy into my blog posts, shooting fun and different YouTube videos, and putting more effort into self-promotion.

3. Write as much as I can, including writing an entire novel from start to finish.

I think those goals are attainable, don’t you? It’s going to take time, effort, and a better attitude than I normally have, but I think my day-planner and I can figure something out. 🙂

So how about you guys? How was your 2015? What are your plans for 2016? Do you have any major goals? Any little ones? How did you spend New Years Eve? Are you possibly feeling a little hungover today? XD Please share! And Happy New Year! ❤

September 2015 Goals in Review

amonthinreviewAnother month has come and gone in the blink of an eye…oh man…where is 2015 going on me? It’s gonna be freakin’ Christmas before I know it. But before the holidays sneak up on me there are a few more months worth of goal reviews to get into, so let’s go ahead and get September over with.

Goal #1: Take care of myself more.

I didn’t really think about this goal at all until right at this moment as I’m typing these words. Taking care of myself just wasn’t that much of a concern this month. However, having said that, it actually wasn’t that bad a month for this goal. Some of you may have read a post I wrote a few weeks ago about discovering that the prescribed medicine I was taking for anxiety was actually rotting my guts out from the inside via screwing with my pancreas. Figuring that out (even though I did it illicitly, without actually, you know…talking to my doctor) has made a pretty big change in my health. My guts are still in the mess that they were a year ago (before I’d ever been given the meds), but my original issue was just irritability, whereas the meds were actually causing major digestive issues and possibly even a host of side effects such as fatigue. So yeah, deciding to drop that prescription was a pretty big turning point.

Another thing that has been helping a lot, even though it may sound silly to some people, is learning how to meditate. I’ve been doing this with the help of the “Headspace” app, for which I received a three month free trial with my Summer Fab Fit Fun box. I won’t be continuing the app once the free trial is up because it’s, quite honestly, horribly overpriced (approximately $12/month for the right to access the audio files), but I’ve learned a lot so far and it’s been helping me quite a bit to make it through the mornings at work, which are always the worst for me for some reason.

Aside from the meditation I can’t honestly say that I’ve done a whole lot of relaxing…even when my husband thinks I’m taking it easy on my computer I’m actually writing, blogging, planning, editing, and so on. Plus there’s been writing contests, work was actually quite busy this past shift, and during my last days off we had a number of trips to take involving the purchase of a new vehicle. So, yeah, through the month of September I didn’t really take too many moments to just sit down and relax or take a bath or whatever. Then again, the month went by so quickly that I hardly even noticed the lack of relaxation. So…win? I guess? Maybe?

Goal #2. Continue to build my readership/viewership.

This has become the kind of goal that actually has a mind of its own, although I suppose that’s giving myself a lot less credit than I deserve. What I’ve been really trying to focus on is just interaction: responding to comments on the blog and YouTube videos, commenting on blog posts and videos from others that I like, interacting with the Twitterverse and Instagram and all that. I can’t claim that I’ve been actively trying to build readership/viewership, but focusing my limited energy on the interaction side of things definitely helps. I’m rapidly approaching 500 followers on YouTube, and WordPress tells me that between blog followers, email followers, and Facebook followers I’m up to about 1000. My Facebook Author page is fairly quite (I can’t blame people, since that’s the platform I find most difficult to actually interact with), but even that has gotten up to 133 followers, meaning that if you combine all those platforms plus Twitter and Instagram I’m looking at something like 2000 followers. That might not sound like a lot to some people, but if I could convince those 2000 people to buy a book I’d be doing pretty good. Ha!

Goal #3: Write. Write a lot.

Last month I was a bit depressed because my word count had gone down significantly from the previous months…and this month it went down again. That in and of itself is fairly depressing, but I’m not letting myself get down about it because there were other important things to focus on this month. For instance, during one 48-hour period when I could have easily written a few thousand words for the book or the blog, I was actually focusing on my second story for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. And speaking of that challenge, as I blogged about before, I got ten points out of a possible fifteen for my first story in the challenge, which was a major boost to my confidence, so even if I don’t continue on after the end of this round I’ll be happy with what I accomplished in the contest. 🙂

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I didn’t get all that much written in September. Most of the words I did get down were for the blog, and they only totaled 13,663. Not a horrible number, but not one I’m happy with either, particularly since the only fictional words I wrote during the month were the ones for the challenge and the ones for “Flash Fiction Friday”. So, this coming month, my mini-goal is going to be to focus on finally finishing the current draft of “The Other World: Book One” so I can throw it at my beta-reader and get to work on Book Two during NaNoWriMo.

Oh god…NaNoWriMo…I’d almost forgotten about that this year. It starts in 26 days. Writing gods, help me now.

August 2015: Goals In Review


This post is a few days late because I wanted to finish up with the FODMAP Diet Experiment and then it was time for the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, then we had the little missy’s first day of school, followed by a Flash Fiction Friday post, and now I’m writing this instead of a Memoir Monday post because I’m not waiting any longer, dammit!. August is over and done with, we are firmly within the realm of September, and it’s time to get down with the goals in review before October sneaks up on me.

Goal #1: Take care of myself more.

This may shock you right out of your socks, but I had a lot of ups and downs with this goal during August. Astounding, right? I bet you can’t even believe it.

There are a number of factors to look at. For one thing, I did the low FODMAP experiment for two weeks while I was on shift out West. I was hoping that it might help resolve some specific digestive issues I’ve been having as of late, but in the end it made absolutely no change. I do admit that it’s a healthier way of eating (the four-pound weight loss just helps prove it), but I can honestly say that sticking to the diet mostly just made me depressed. Maybe that’s a sign that my body has become so used to copious amounts of sugar that it can’t adjust (which is definitely not a good thing), but all I can say is that I would rather be happy and a little unhealthy than a little healthier but depressed all the time.

Another aspect of this goal is that I spent a good deal of the month (the end of one work shift and the entirety of another) fighting with two warring aspects of my brain: one wanted copious amounts of sleep, the other wanted to actually enjoy a few moments of my evenings. The second part often won because even on the nights that I went to bed super-early I still woke up feeling pretty much like hell anyway. This further cements my belief that my body is somehow broken because it seems to need a minimum of nine hours of uninterrupted sleep in order for me to actually feel refreshed in the morning. Since this is literally impossible while I’m on shift (12-hour day, plus 1 hour travel, plus 1 hour for shower and dinner, plus 1 hour breakfast and getting ready in the morning means I’d have to fall immediately asleep directly off the bus in the evening) I find myself stuck with this pretty frustrating predicament that isn’t likely to be amended any time soon.

Finally, I have to admit that I did pretty much negative amounts of relaxation this month, unless you count those half-hours per night that I would crash on my camp bed and watch YouTube. My days off were surprisingly busy, considering that there were no major events going on, and then there’s the work days, which you’ve already heard plenty about. Long story short, I’m wound tighter than a drum and could really use a deep tissue massage.

Goal #2. Continue to build my readership/viewership.

I’ve been so bad at this for so long, and honestly I’ve been trying to be better. I’ve been trying to work myself into some kind of a groove wherein I actually think about tweeting or instagraming every now and then. It’s ridiculous because both of those things take literal seconds to do, but my brain just never goes there, or I only think about it when I’m working or otherwise indisposed.

The blog, unsurprisingly, has had pretty dismal stats for the past few months as a result. You really don’t realize what a help it is to share on your Facebook Author Page, or to regularly tweet something that leads back to a blog post, but it really does make a huge difference.

The good news is that my YouTube channel is still gaining steadily. At last check I’m up to about 350 followers, which amazes me considering the quality of my videos and the content involved. I wish I could somehow turn that into better stats for the blog as well, but despite mentioning the blog at the beginning of every video and linking it in the description boxes, it’s just not helping at all.

Finally, there’s the book, and I have to say that talking about it every month really makes me feel like I’m spinning my wheels. I’m not surprised that I have abysmal sales, considering the indie-ness that is my current situation, but it’s definitely no fun to talk about it every month. I haven’t had a review in quite a while either, which is also unsurprising, but the combination of no sales and no reviews really makes the world feel stagnant.

Goal #3: Write. Write a lot.

And finally we come to the writing, but unfortunately I don’t have good news like I had last month. It wasn’t an absolutely horrible month or anything, but I was hoping it would be a lot better. If you read my IWSG post you’ll know that I fell under the 20,000 mark this month with approximately 17119 words, and most of those words were just keeping the blog running. I actually wrote very little fiction, did very little revising/editing, and all in all just did a poor job of being a writer. I’d like to be able to say that I’m going to do better in September, but the truth is that I just feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels lately and maybe I just need to take a break.

So that’s how my month went, for better or for worse. What about yours? Did you accomplish anything? Go anywhere? Do anything fun? Please share in the comments!

It’s the Little Things

Memoir Mondaysimage

Those of you who haven’t been following me for long might not know that I have a non-traditional work situation. I’m a tradeswoman, working on the Alberta oil sands on a fly-in, fly-out rotation. That means that I fly into the work site, stay there for two weeks while working 12-hour days and living on a work camp, and then I fly home for two weeks. The two weeks off are great, and I definitely have one of the better shifts (some people work two or three weeks and then only get one off), but that doesn’t mean that the two weeks at work are a walk in the park. I live almost as far away from the site as you can get while still being in the same country, so the shifts away can be rough. Sometimes I have bad days. Sometimes I have really bad days. Sometimes I get so homesick that it makes me loathe every single thing about my job and that stupid camp.

Times like that are when it’s really important to enjoy the little things. Things like when the camp makes tacos, or when our safety guy brings in coffee and donuts. Things like having a strong enough cell signal to Skype my daughter during my break. Things like how someone finally ordered coveralls in my size for a change, so I’m not wandering around site looking like a little kid in daddy’s work clothes.

Sometimes those little things are hard to recognize, but sometimes they hit you when you least expect it.

Last shift I was hauled away from my cozy, control-system-based desk job, and thrown out into the field, and I was none-too-impressed with that decision. My coworkers and I had to drive out into the middle of nowhere, where a man-made lake had been created as part of the plant process, and we were commissioning the two boats that would be dredging that lake. I didn’t want to be there, and I’ll admit that I was fairly cranky about the whole thing.

But on my second day down there, as the wind was changing directions, I caught a whiff of a familiar scent. That scent made me breathe deep, and the next thing I knew I was calm and smiling. What was this wonderful, calming aroma? Nothing more than fresh, clean water and sand. You see, Alberta is an extremely dry province, with dusty air that makes your skin crack and your nose bleed. So even though the smell wasn’t quite right without the addition of salt and seaweed, getting a whiff of that aquatic aroma reminded me of home and made me smile, at least for a little while.

What little things make you smile on an otherwise unhappy day?

Staying Off the Edge

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “On the Edge.” It’s true that everyone needs something in their life that keeps them from going over the edge. Sometimes life is just frustrating and you need that special something to cheer you up, keep you moving forward, or just stop you from screaming. Over the […]

April 2015: Goals in Review


April rolled by pretty quickly, thanks in part to the A to Z Challenge, which never seems to last as long as I want it to. It’s hard to believe that we’re a third of the way through 2015 already. It would be easier to believe if it would stop snowing in my neck of the woods, but that’s a rant for another day. Let’s get to the important stuff: how did my goals fare this month?

Goal #1: Take care of myself more.

Though there is always room for improvement, I can honestly say that I did a pretty good job of this goal during April. There were several contributing factors:

First, I’ve made a point of eating better while I’m at the work camp out West. It’s difficult, since so much of the available food can hardly qualify as ‘edible’, but believe me when I say I’ve been making a huge effort. The big thing is avoiding pop (except for once or twice per 14-day shift when I have my treat nights) and drinking as much water as I can force down my throat. I’ve also been avoiding the baked goods like the plague, because I don’t know what they do with some of that stuff, but it seems like every time I have a camp-made chocolate-chip cookie I wind up with a roiling stomach all evening. The hardest part though? A vast deal of the meat here doesn’t taste right to me (I swear some of it isn’t even actually meat) so by the end of the shift I tend to be pretty protien deficient. I’ve been trying to remedy this by making friends with both cheese and peanut butter, and thus far it seems to be going fairly well.

Also, I’ve been running again, using my Zombies! Run! app, and it’s been going very well so far. I didn’t go out once while I was home last time, but there’s a reason for that, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Oh, and for the record, I’ve lost about 7 lbs in the last couple of months, so that’s pretty awesome. ^_^

The other thing that I have to mention in my “taking care of myself” goal, is that I had an extremely relaxing days off in April. There was a bit of a snafu on the first day I got home, in which my car fell victim to the insanity that is the pothole-riddled roads back home, but other than that I had quite an excellent 12 days. I played with my daughter, spent time playing video games while snuggled up in a blanket with my little spectator, took some rather relaxing baths, and just in general did almost nothing. I didn’t write, I didnt’ work on the blog, I didn’t exercise. The only things that I did that I would consider “work” was to install our new dishwasher and to record some YouTube vidoes, but all of that only accounted for maybe one full day’s worth of time. So it was pretty good. I needed it. And although I definitely want to get some fiction writing in more often, I plan to have a similar days off in May as well.

Goal #2: Continue to build my readership/viewership.

It wasn’t really a bad month for this goal either, for a combination of reasons. For one thing, at the beginning of the month, and then on my birthday, I gave away several copies of “Nowhere to Hide” to readers who took part in my giveaways on the blog and on Goodreads. The Goodreads giveaway in particular had a huge response – I think something like 800 people entered – so I’m hoping that it pays off and that the winners write some nice reviews for me.

Another factor, of course, was the A to Z Challenge, which didn’t have an enormous impact on my stats this month but resulted in several new people deciding to follow the blog (hi guys!), and I even picked up a few new followers on Twitter as a result of the challenge.

Additionally, my Instagram and YouTube following has been steadily increasing over the past few months. I’m not sure exaclty what I’m doing on Instagram that people are enjoying, but I’ll take it! As for YouTube, my “Enormous Funko Haul” post has been dragging people in from the woodworks – it’s gotten over 6000 views, which isn’t bad for someone who isn’t exactly a major presence on YouTube – and some of those people decided to stick around. I am very close to reaching my first 100 subscribers, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s pretty awesome to me considering that I just do these videos for fun. 🙂

Goal #3: Write. Write a lot.

This is the one goal that suffered in April. The main reason is, of course, as I mentioned above, the fact that I didn’t write a damn thing while I was on my days off last time. 12 straight days of not writing definitely puts a girl in the negative column. It was worth it, of course, but between that extended period of nothingness and the fact thatI planned, wrote, and scheduled most of the A to Z Challenge posts in March, I didn’t do a whole lot of any kind of writing in April. All total I wound up with 12844 words, which is more than a 7000 drop from March. Still though, all things considered, I don’t think it was that bad a month. I mean, come on, almost 13k words is pretty descent, right? Right.

With that said, I would like to bring your attention to my blogging plan for the month of May. First off, because of the A to Z Challenge, I haven’t done any of the unboxing and review posts for the month of April yet. Most of the videos are up on YouTube already if you’re a subscriber, but I didn’t want to clutter the blog with the corresponding posts while the challenge was going on, so those posts will be going up the rest of this week. I also have an additional few videos – some hauls and a YouTube TAG that I decided to take part in – that will be going up soon, and I’ll be sharing them on the blog as well. Aside from those I plan to take it mostly easy on the blog for the month of May. I need some time to deal with other stuff, figure out my priorities, and keep up with that whole relaxing thing, so I’m not going to panic about making sure that there are at least 5 posts a week. If I have something to talk about, I will, or if I see an awesome prompt or something else I want to share, I will, but I’m not going to hold myself to any standards this month because, hey, everyone needs a break every now and then.

So I hope you’ll all keep coming by to check out the videos, and make sure to relax yourselves! It’s absolutely worth it!

How was your April? Did you participate in the A to Z Challenge? Did you get any good work done? Did the emerging post-winter potholes destroy your car as well? Please share!

Dragging Anxiety Through the Fire and the Flames

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word “relaxation”? Do you think about slow music and a warm massage? Do you imagine yourself in a sunny meadow in the summertime? How about a hot bath surrounded by candles? Or even reclining in your favorite chair to watch the big game with a beer in one hand and a plate of junk food on your lap?

Everyone has their own way to relax, but we generally accept the same sorts of things to be “relaxing”: pleasant smells, yummy foods, comfy furniture, time to rest, time to enjoy something that you truly love, being pampered. But then again, some of us relax in ways that make other people raise their eyebrows and wonder if perhaps there is something wrong with us.

I’ve mentioned a great number of times on this blog that I have stomach problems. Part of those problems are due to the fact that I eat food I really shouldn’t and fail to take care of myself properly, but something I’ve only really figured out in the past couple of years is that a great deal of my problem is due to anxiety. I get anxious about the possibility of stomach problems, and thus I wind up having them. Then the stomach problems make me more anxious, which exacerbates the stomach problems even more. My body and mind work together to create a very miserable, cyclical self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anxiety can result from a great many things, but for me what starts the avalanche sliding is any kind of travel. If I know that I’m not going to be handy to a bathroom for any significant period of time the anxiousness rears its ugly head and it all goes to hell from there. And because my work requires me to spend a significant amount of time on buses, shuttles, or out in the plant where I can easily be a ten-minute walk from any wash-car, you can see that I have many opportunities in daily life to become an anxiety-riddled basket-case.

Medication helps to an extent, but I also have to talk myself down on a regular basis; to force myself to relax, if you will. So how do I do it? How do I convince myself to relax? Peppermint tea? Lavender perfume? Pressure points? Breathing techniques? Nope. When I find myself in a position of imminent anxiety, I throw on my headphones and listen to this:

Now, you may, of course, recognize Through the Fire and the Flames by Dragonforce to be one of the least relaxing songs of all time. This is the point in the post where you’re probably raising an eyebrow and wondering if there’s something wrong with me.

The fact is that I’ve tried lots of different, seemingly more appropriate, music to help me relax. Classical music helped the most because it’s so soft and soothing, but what I found even with that was that my mind would still wander, and that wandering would inevitably land me back in anxiety-land. Then one day Through the Fire and the Flames randomized on my playlist while I was on the bus coming back from work, and by the end of it I realized that I’d spent the last few minutes of the trip blissfully lacking in anxiety.

My theory is that what I really need is something so busy and complicated that it forces my brain to turn off in order to deal with the barrage of information. I can’t think about being anxious because I’m busy focusing on the multitude of different instruments, beats, voices, and melodies that are intricately interlaced to create what many people would say is just noise. For many people this particular song would probably send their heart rate through the roof and actually make them more anxious, but for me it helps my brain to default to some kind of primal music-only level. I start to count the drum beats, to predict tonal changes, to focus on distinguishing each instrument, and to follow the notes in my head as they storm past. My mind becomes absorbed with music and everything else turns off.

Of course, that’s not to say that this method will work for me forever, but for no the combination of medication and Dragonforce are making my daily travel a heck of a lot more doable.

How do you relax? Do you have any favorite techniques or methods that seem weird to other people in your life? How about suggestions for methods that you think could really help other people? Please share!

A Traitor of the Closest Kind

I have a problem.

My problem is not easily resolved. It is not something I can simply ignore. It is not something that can be repaired without a great deal of effort. It is not something that can be quickly diagnosed. It is not something that is even easy to explain.

My problem is my brain. My brain is broken.

I suppose, perhaps, that the above statement is a little bit dramatic. There’s nothing physiologically wrong with my brain (as far as I know…), but sometimes I genuinely feel as though there is a disconnect in there somewhere, between the “You can relax for a bit” and the “I need you right now!” synapses. Some days I feel as though my brain has packed up and wandered off on a tropical vacation without me, and that’s just rude.

Sometimes my faculties are in top condition. I’ve most often seen these moments occur when it is particularly busy at work. I’ll be the only one there, piles of paperwork on either side of my desk, talking to four different field tech groups on two different radios, running a control panel, and scribbling out the information I’ll need for later on piles of sticky-notes. I’ve had amazing days when (with the field techs as my partners) I commissioned 25+ instruments in one 12-hour shift, as opposed to the approximate average of 5-10 instruments. I’m rushed and doing a dozen things at once, but somehow everything flows and I get it all done, and by the end of it I feel like a million bucks. My brain is giving me a mental two-thumbs-up.

Then there are other times when I wonder if I haven’t suffered some kind of terrible head trauma and I just don’t remember it. These days seem to come when I’m trying to get chores done and errands run. I’ll be trying to work on this blog and I’ll end up reheating my tea six times because I just plain keep forgetting that it’s there (assuming that I get that far…sometimes I won’t even remember to take the tea-bag out). I’ll run out to the post office and drive right past it and be halfway across town before I remember what I was out for in the first place. Worst of all, I’ll be at the grocery store and end up just staring at a wall of soup for, like, five minutes without even actually seeing what I’m looking at; I’ll only realize what I’m doing when I notice another customer looking at me as though I’ve lost my mind.

Which is what seems to actually be happening.

The brain is a muscle, and like any muscle you have to use it unless you want to lose it. If you don’t exercise your brain (like those moments when I’m at work, multitasking like a boss) you start to lose cognitive function and focus (like those moments when I’m drooling like an idiot in front of the Campbell’s). Unfortunately for me, my brain seems to “lose” much more quickly than it “gains”. I turn into a babbling moron after only a few days of extended “mindless” tasks (i.e. the past few days that I’ve been trying to get the house clean), but it seems to take a good week for my brain to return from vacation once I’ve signaled that I need it again (i.e. I’m usually halfway through my 14-day work shift before my coworkers stop commenting on how often I’m reheating my tea).

I blame a number of things for this phenomenon. I blame the fact that I watch more kids’ shows than adult ones these days (listening to Ernie teach my daughter how to count for the three hundredth time can be pretty mind-numbing). I blame the fact that taking Calculus in university seemed to permanently damage my brain for being able to handle complex information. I blame the fact that sometimes my sinuses get so stuffed that I’m surprised there’s not enough pressure on my brain to actually kill me. I blame a lot of things, but mostly I assume that it’s my fault. Somehow, subconsciously, I choose to be a dribbling imbecile some of the time.

Maybe it’s my brain’s secret way of getting some rest and relaxation. If so, my brain is taking way too many siestas.

Get back on that plane and make your way back to my head, you traitorous mass of neurons. I’ve got a lot of writing to do and it’s a hulluva lot harder without you here helping!

Do you ever feel like your brain has just up and left you? Do you have any explanation for these times, or is it completely random? Have you ever caught yourself staring at a wall of soup for minutes on end? Please share!

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 15

Sometimes we all need to just take a break, sit back and relax, and try to forget about the chores we have to do, the responsibilities we have, and the numerous things we are trying to accomplish.

Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself this past week.

With that thought in mind, I don’t have a lot to report this week. I decided when I got home from my shift out West that I was in desperate need of a week of doing absolutely nothing, and I’ve pretty much stuck to that.

Health and Body Image Goal

As stated above, there isn’t a lot to report, since I allowed myself to relax after I got home for this turnaround. However, I can mention that I’ve restarted Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution plan as of this past Sunday. More on that in tomorrow’s post, but suffice it to say that my teeth are firmly gritted. I’m gonna get in shape if it kills me, dammit. (And it probably will.)

Editing Goal

Hells yes, I avoided this one while I was relaxing. Something that needs to be done? Yes. Something I enjoy doing? No. With that in mind, I don’t expect to dig up much time for editing in the coming week either, since I’ve fallen drastically behind on my blog posts and need to replenish the supply so I don’t have to worry about it during my next shift out West.

1,000,000 Word Goal

Have I got something to report for this one? Yes. Yes I do. I can report that this has been my worst week yet at 2183 words, all of them blogging words. Something is definitely better than nothing – and you’ll be so kind as to recall that bit about relaxing – but still, I feel a bit bad. Worst week yet. Ick. In addition to that, my lack of writing over the past week has meant that I’m only up to 13060 words for Camp NaNoWriMo. Less than halfway to my goal and less than half the month left. I’d better get back to work, hmmm? Agreed.