The Artist in the Arena

I love Lindsey Stirling’s “The Arena.”

It’s so beautiful, so powerful. And, because I’m an artist myself, its message expresses something deep within my own heart.

Every artist who shares her work with others must brave the indifference or contempt of her audience. Every artist who creates must confront her own implacable inner judge.


“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…”

– Theodore Roosevelt,
“Citizenship in a Republic”



Mantra for Success

I first heard the middle school mantra for success in either the spring or summer of 2014. My twins were headed for 7th grade in the fall, and we were attending an orientation at Buford Middle School.

Be in the right place,
at the right time,
with the right tools
and the right attitude,
doing the right thing.

I’ll admit I wrote it off as simplistic and a blatant control move by authority. Admittedly, getting 500 students and 50 teachers and staff all pointed in roughly the right direction must be challenging. The administrative staff has their work cut out for them, and every bit of leverage helps.

But I didn’t pay much attention to the Buford mantra until today, more than 2 years after I heard it, and with my children now in 9th grade and attending high school.

So why did I think about it this morning? And why did I suddenly realize it possessed some useful ideas?

Confession time.

I love writing, but you already knew that. I love world building. I love making up characters. I love getting to know those characters and following them through their adventures. I love the hard work that a novel requires and the feeling of satisfaction that comes when I complete one.

But I have one guilty secret about writing that hides in the thicket of all of the above.

I like the way writing tends to automatically organize and prioritize my day. Because here’s the thing: when I’m not writing, I often have an uncomfortable, nagging feeling that I’m not doing the right thing, whatever the right thing might be. And I don’t know what the right thing actually is.

Oh, sometimes I know what the right thing is. But often, I don’t. And I hate that feeling. Hate it!

I’ve always tackled quelling the feeling that I’ve chosen the wrong thing with a straight attack, using logic as my tool. What should I be doing right now? Sometimes that works.

Voice of Reason:“I should be emptying the clean dishwasher, filling it with dirty dishes, and running it again.”

JM:“Uh. Okay.”

:: goes and does the dishes chore ::

loading the dishwasher

More often, that doesn’t work. At least, not for me.

Voice of Reason: “I should revise the cover copy for Livli’s Gift.

JM: “I’m brain dead right now. No can do.”

Voice of Reason: “Okay. How about KonMari-ing that cabinet in the bathroom?”

JM: “I could. And it does need to be done. But I’ve got a lot of more important things on my plate right now.”

Voice of Reason: “Okay. How about working on the new cover for Skies of Navarys?”

JM: “Fine. It doesn’t feel like the right thing, but it does need doing, I do have the mental wherewithal to do it, and it is important.”

:: goes to work on that cover, feeling all the while that something is not quite right ::

Three airships over landscape, feature size

Since I sent my current novel off to my first reader on October 4, I’ve been having conversations much like that second one for the last twenty-six days, and very uncomfortable has it been.

I’ve done a little writing on a short story. But, really, the weeks when I’ve finished the first draft of one novel and haven’t yet started the next one are the ideal time for me to get caught up (or at least make progress on) other priorities in my life. Because I definitely get behind on them when I’m writing.

When I’m writing, the conversation goes like this:

JM: “What should I do today?”

Voice of Reason: “Write the next scene of the novel. Then go to the gym and swim. Then help your son with that big school project. And then you’ll be tired. So read, if you’re in the mood. Or do some drawing.”

JM: “Great!”

:: pulls out computer and starts writing ::

laptop silhouette

So the bathroom cabinet does not get organized via the KonMari technique. I don’t develop a new dinner menu to add to the roster. I don’t mend the tear in that sundress. I don’t write a new “blurb” for Livli’s Gift. The garden does not get weeded. And many other tasks go undone.

But I feel like I am doing the right thing. Writing and going to the gym always feel like right things. Which is a relief.

Last week I tried talking with a friend about my problem of feeling like I’m doing the wrong thing. I was not very articulate about my problem. And I ended up sounding like I was a workaholic. But I’m not really.

Just yesterday I found myself roped into helping my daughter figure out a costume for a Halloween party she was invited to. I ended up pulling out some dresses of mine that I’d saved for her: a pink-flowered prom dress that my grandmother originally sewed for my my mother, and that I wore to go swing dancing in the 1980s; a teal velvet gown that my mother sewed for me and that I wore at feasts for the Society for Creative Anachronism when I was in college; a yellow chiffon gown that my father and I sewed together when he realized that all our father-daughter projects had been “boy things” (model railroads, model rockets) and none of them “girl things.”

(My dad is cool! What can I say?!) 😀

My daughter and I had a blast as she tried on all those special garments. And I had no desire to be working or doing anything other than what I was doing that afternoon. It was perfect. And it felt right.

So has lying in the hammock on a beautiful summer morning felt right. Or re-reading a favorite novel by Georgette Heyer.

backyard hammock

I have no problem enjoying non-work activities, and engage in them fairly frequently. That’s not my problem.

My problem is that I have difficulty consistently identifying what activity will feel right for any given interval of time. And, more often than not, I don’t succeed in identifying the right activity. So I do something else. And the nagging sense of “something wrong” drags at me, and dilutes any enjoyment I might feel.

I get things done. But I’m not getting as much done as I would if I weren’t continuously fighting the “something wrong” feeling. And I’m not enjoying living as much as I might be.

I’ve thought about this problem ever since I was old enough to make choices about how I spent my time and energy. I’ve journaled about it. I’ve tried to talk about it with friends and mentors, but I’ve never felt like I was able to communicate about it very adequately.

I’ve tried various organizational systems: Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, simple to-do lists, and lately my bullet journal. I’m still loving my bullet journal, but organizational systems don’t really address an immediate feeling of meaning.

When I sent my current novel off to my first reader, I tried to plan a way that I could occupy myself meaningfully while I awaited her feedback. The best thing I could come up with was that I would start the short story I had in mind. I did start it, and I’m excited about it. But writing more doesn’t really solve the problem of choosing meaningful activities when I’m not writing.

beautiful morning

So, this morning, while I got my morning sun on the front porch, I wrote about my difficulty in my journal. And while I wrote about it, that middle school mantra for success came to mind.

What if it did have something to offer me? What might I learn if I reconsidered it?

One thing I grew very aware of while I journaled was that I often don’t have the resources I need for the task I contemplate tackling. The most typical resources lacking are mental alertness and oomph or physical energy. But there are other resources missing at times: know-how and helpers are others that appear regularly.

What might I see if I took a prospective task through the mantra, instead of going straight to the knockout-punch question: Is this the right task?

The Right Place

For a lot of living, identifying the right place is very straight forward. If you are in school, are you in the right classroom? If you are working for an employer, are you in the right office or the right meeting room or the right site for a site visit?

If you have more control over your location, the answer to “am I in the right place?” can grow more complex.

If I’m cooking, clearly I need to be in the kitchen. If I’m doing laundry, I need to be in the corner of the basement that holds the washer, the dryer, and the drying racks.

But I have plenty of memories of doing something in the wrong place: trying to draw a plan for a work table while lying on my bed; using an x-acto blade to cut paper for a photo album while sitting on the bed; doing sit-ups in the narrow bit of floor between the bed and the bureau; spinning lettuce in the salad spinner on the dining room table, instead of the kitchen counter. I could go on.

I managed to accomplish all those activities in the less-than-ideal place. And half the time, there was a good reason for the non-standard location. But half the time, I just dove in where I was on whatever. And once I was well started, it seemed silly to stop while I relocated.

The question of the what the right place is may need only brief consideration, but skipping it altogether is unwise. For me, at least. And it’s not just because I might end up doing something inefficiently.

Skipping consideration of the right place means that I might miss the first clue that whatever I’m considering isn’t the right thing for me at this time.

For example, the times I’ve spun the lettuce in the salad spinner on the dining room table have been times when the kitchen counter is too full of dirty dishes. Sometimes, that location is the best one. If I’m in a hurry to throw together a salad and don’t have time to clear the kitchen counter and eat the the salad, then yes: table. If I’m too tired, and don’t have sufficient energy for both, then yes: table.

But I might also be better served to change my schedule and rest for 10 minutes. Or eat carrots and dip plus ham rolls, instead of salad, if I’m that rushed. Feeling the pull of a non-standard place or an inconvenient place is something to notice, not something to ignore.

The Right Time

Really structured environments tend to provided automatic answers to: “Is this the right time?” But my environment is highly unstructured. I must structure it. And this is an area where I go astray often.

It’s the morning, and I would feel good if I were writing. But instead I’m checking email.

It’s the morning, and I will be most comfortable if I eat breakfast before going on with my day. But I had a great idea for the next scene in my novel, and I wanted to get it written down before it eluded me. So I jumped on the computer and got lost in the writing, only emerging at 11:30 am, long after I needed breakfast.

It’s 12:30 pm, and the best window at the pool for swimming is from 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm, so I would be well-served to be getting ready to swim and then hopping in the car to drive to the gym. But I never did get breakfast, so now I’m starving and must eat before I do anything else.

It’s 3:30 pm and the kids will be arriving home from school in 45 minutes. I would do well to wrap up the scene I’m writing and rest a little before they get here. But I was late to the gym and didn’t get home until 2:30 pm, so I’ve only done an hour of writing in the afternoon, and I don’t want to stop.

Now, I’m not always doing the right thing at the wrong time, but often I am.

For me, the solution is not get rigid with my schedule. For one thing, it doesn’t work. I feel rebellious and rebel, with the result that my schedule is more disorganized, not less. Or else it does work, and I’m being marvelously efficient, but I’m not generating that good feeling of doing the right thing.

But I think that asking myself the question: “Is this the right time for this?” will heighten my awareness and improve my decision making, with the result that I feel good about my choice of activity, whatever it is.

The Right Resources

Okay, this one is huge for me. At least, I think it is.

Being able to do something without the right resources is a useful skill. It’s not always possible to gather those resources, and if the task is important… well, flexibility and ingenuity are your friends! 😀

But somethings just cannot be accomplished without the right resources. Or can only be accomplished so poorly, that it would be better to shift the activity from doing the thing to seeking the resources that will make it possible.

Currently, I see five categories of resources worth considering.

• tools
• know-how
• energy
• interval of time available
• helpers

I could discuss each of those categories and why they are important. But as I’ve been typing this blog post, I am seeing more clearly what first came to light when I was journaling this morning. These questions I’ve borrowed from the middle school mantra could be used for basic organization. But – for me – their utility is in raising my awareness.

If I lack the size of screws needed to attach the bar of hooks to my son’s door, then should I really be tackling the hook project right now? Maybe I would feel better if I shopped for the screws, scheduled the actual project for a different day, and then went on to get my swimming in.

If I am feeling lonely, but can’t watch a movie with my spouse that evening, because he must attend a soccer orientation with our daughter, then I lack a helper. So maybe I should call a friend and talk on the phone instead. Or maybe I should go with spouse and daughter, even though I neither play nor coach soccer! 😀

If I lack a resource, I would do well to consider either acquiring it or doing a different activity that does not require that missing resource.

The Right Attitude

Do I really want to do whatever it is that I am considering? Can I commit to it? And if I cannot, why can I not?

I suspect that if I ask myself these questions in order – Is this the right place? Is this the right time? Do I have the necessary resources for this? – I will reach clarity before I arrive at the question: “Do I have the right attitude?”

But if I answered, “Yes, yes, and yes,” to the first three questions and then find I do not have the right attitude, the attitude question will halt me before I head off in the wrong direction.

Maybe I don’t actually have the resources I need. In which case… back up and reconsider.

Or maybe there is something else that is a higher priority than what I am considering, and I know it in my heart of hearts, but have refused to consider that more important something. “Do I have the right attitude?” will alert me when I’m considering the wrong activity for me.

The Right Thing

Is this activity the right one? That’s the question that I very much want to be able to answer. And my hope is that by asking myself about the right place, the right time, the right resources, and the right attitude I will tease out what really is the right thing for me at a given moment.

the end of the day

Will it work?

Why am I even telling you about all this before I’ve truly tried it?

I think it is worth trying. I used it a little bit today, and I’m pleased with how the day went. My bio-rhythms are a little off. I read a really good book several days ago, and it was so good that I stayed up until 3:00 am to finish it. So I allowed myself to sleep in the following morning. Which meant is was hard to go to sleep the next night. I’m getting back to the sleep-wake times that work best for me, but I’m not there quite yet.

So I got up at later today than usual. I went outside for my half hour of morning sun and wrote in my journal about wanting to be able to choose the “right thing” more reliably and about the middle school mantra for success.

And when I’d done that, I asked myself: “Is this the right time for more journaling?” And it wasn’t. It really wasn’t. But the greater awareness produced by the question made me very willing to move on to the thing that was right: cooking a late breakfast for everyone.

It felt good. It felt right. And that right feeling is what I am seeking.

Thoroughly tidying up the kitchen after eating breakfast felt right also, so I did that. And then I thought about what would feel right next. I became aware that if I wanted to swim, I’d best do it soon. I’d lose the opportunity if I waited.

my son in the cherry treeBut the pause for mindful consideration using the mantra bought me something I might not have realized otherwise. Instead of just diving into swimming (my apologies for the bad pun) – or insisting that my son and I start work on his project right now – I would feel better if I consulted my son.

“I want to swim, and I want to help you with your project. I’d prefer to rest for thirty minutes ” – the kitchen work had tired me – “then swim, and then help you with your project. But will that work for you?”

He liked that schedule, so that’s what we did. And it felt good to me. It felt right.

So the mantra-generated questions worked well today. Much better than simply asking myself, “Is this the right task for right now?” Whether the mantra will work well over weeks and months remains to be seen. But I’ve learned that the time for telling others about something new that I’m trying is when it is new. I’m excited about it. I want to tell others.

If I wait until after I’ve thoroughly road-tested it, the communication becomes a chore. I still want to share, but I don’t have as much energy for it. Best to share while it’s fresh. I can always write another blog post later to report on how it’s working over time. And add an ETA (edited to add) to this post, along with a link to subsequent posts, to communicate the additional info.

Is this the right place?
Is this the right time?
Do I have the right resources?
Do I have the right attitude?
Is this the right thing?

I suspect not many people are so troubled by the sense of “doing the right thing at the wrong time” or “doing the wrong thing at the right time” as I am. I wouldn’t have gotten so many blank looks over the years when I tried to talk about this, if that were the case. But if you happen to be someone who has wrestled with this, I’d love to hear your experiences. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? And, if you give this middle school mantra a try… how do you feel?

ETA 11/10/2016

I’ve been working with all of the above for roughly ten days, and I’v discovered something really interesting to me. The very first question – without any of the follow-ups – is often sufficiently illuminating all on its own.

I’ll ask myself, “Am I in the right place?”

And then I’ll just know that I’m not. And I’ll know where I need to be and why.

A typical example:

I continue to love sitting outside in the morning for half an hour. It’s beautiful, and I just feel good. So good that I tend to linger a little too long. It’s okay to linger an extra ten minutes. Heck, sometimes even a full extra half hour is okay. But much more than that isn’t.

What I find is that I start getting an uneasy feeling after I’ve lingered for a bit. And when I use that feeling to prompt myself with the first question – “Am I in the right place?” – I raise my awareness sufficiently to know what would feel right for my next step.

I see now that when I planned my day in the past, I tended to think I’d done all the planning necessary. And when I went through that day, I could make the obvious adjustments (obvious to me), but I wasn’t making the less obvious adjustments. With the result that I would realize I’d gone wrong only after I’d been going wrong for quite some time. It’s a lot harder to fix that all-wrong feeling after it’s been building a head of steam.

“Am I in the right place?” helps me catch myself much sooner, with the result that I’m feeling a lot more satisfied with each day.

I’m going to keep working with this and see where it leads me. But I’m excited about the results thus far.



A Beautiful Morning

So many of the early mornings this summer were beautiful. That of September 5th charmed me so utterly that I wrote about it in my journal. Since I am head down in the exciting final scenes of my current novel – and prefer not to take sufficient time away from it to write a blog post – I’m going to share that morning with you. 😀

September 5, 2016

Clear sky this morning, deep blue to the south, paler hue overhead, shading down to a soft warm white above the mountains to the west.

Crickets sing in the grass, their droning music punctuated by small tuneful chirps, crows in the distance, melodic twitters from songbirds nearer by. Sun brightens the trees of the slope across the way. Magical.

Sunlit weedsThe back yard is still in shadow, muted greens; golden light hits the upper branches of the holly, so tall it rises above the ridge.

The inner reaches of the maples are quite lovely, a mosaic of shadowed leaves and sunlit ones with pieces of sky showing through.

. . . “the same summer will never be coming twice.” Never quite the same.

quote from
Anne of Ingleside,
L.M. Montgomery



WIP, Utterly Engrossing

Maple TreeI remember so clearly setting up the progress bar for Tally the Betrayals. I’d already written 4,000 words, and I’d been reporting my word-count-per-day all through those 4,000 words to a writer friend.

Me: “I think I’ve done most of the research and world building I need in order to start writing. I think I’ll start next week!”

Friend: “Start tomorrow!”

Me: “Huh. I suppose I could.”

That was a Wednesday. I did, indeed, start Thursday, and it felt great. I’d been focused on publishing tasks (covers, blurbs, etc.) for many months. Then I went through the medical emergency of a retinal tear. And then I had a troll citadel to design. 😀

It had been 5 months since I’d done any writing. I missed it. But I felt wobbly. What if I’d forgotten how?

I hadn’t forgotten how, of course. I think writing is a bit like bicycle riding. Once you know how, you don’t forget.

But I felt like I needed training wheels! So I reported to my writer friend that first week.

“Only 300 words today, but I started.”

“Better today: 800 words.”

“Now I’m getting into the rhythm: 1,200 words.”

When I reached 4,000 words, I realized that I shouldn’t lean on my friend through the entire 120,000 to 160,000 words that my novel would require. (Tally felt like a longish book to me.)

And, really, I didn’t need that much propping up. But I’d really liked reporting my word count to someone. I found it motivating and encouraging.

Just saying, “I wrote 1,600 words today,” to someone other than myself felt like getting a treat.

So I decided to set up a public progress bar on my website.

I worried that I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to do so. (Google is your friend.)

I worried that I wouldn’t like it once I’d set it up. (“You can always take it down again, J.M.”)

I worried I would disappoint those of my blog readers who watched that progress bar, when there were days that I didn’t make much progress.

Holly TreeBut I wanted to do it. So I did!

And you know what? It worked beautifully for me.

I did figure out how to create a progress bar. I plan to blog about that process soon.

And I love updating my progress bar each day. “See, I did write 1,200 words today! Really!”

I’ve also enjoyed seeing the darker blue color that indicates words written slide farther and farther to the right. It was a very tangible marker, more so – for me – than seeing the page count grow in my manuscript file.

Now, as I look at the 113,000+ word count and the 94% slider bar visual, I feel amazed that I am almost finished.

“How can this be? It feels like just yesterday that I was putting up that progress bar with 4,000 words!”

But I am close to the finish. And, as is usual for me, I’m finding my story to be intense, engrossing, and hard-to-put-down. If only my brain didn’t become soggy with fatigue, I’d write far into the night, saying, “Just one more page,” the way a reader does when reading a good book.

But my brain ceases to hold the necessary edge around 5 PM or so. Sometimes I’m so beguiled by the events in my story that I push until 7 PM, but that’s rare. Better to get a good evening’s rest and a good night’s sleep, and start fresh in the morning.

Deck View

As I write this blog post, it is 7:15 AM, and I am sitting out on my back deck – as I do each morning to keep my circadian rhythm in sync with the sun. But now it’s been half an hour.

I’m going to go in, eat breakfast, and get started writing Tally for the day!

I can’t wait! Gael – accountant to the “dark lord” in my “dark tower” – is going to make a crushing discovery in this scene! 😀

(No, Tally does not really have a “dark lord.” It has someone much more interesting!)

The links from this post:
5 New Books!
My Torn Retina
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
How I Rehabilitated My Sleep



Osteoporosis, Be Gone!

Osteoporosis_LocationsFive years ago, I was diagnosed with osteopenia. The literal translation is “bone deficiency,” and the diagnosis meant that my bones had lost mineral density, making them weaker and more prone to breakage than optimally mineralized bones.

This was not a good development, but few doctors prescribe medicines to prevent further bone loss at this stage of things. Instead, they instruct the patient to get plenty of weight-bearing exercise and to be tested again in 2 to 5 years. The hope is that the osteopenia will not worsen to become osteoporosis.

When my bone density was assessed a year ago, that hope was not realized. My bones had lost more density, arriving at the threshold (just barely) that marks true osteoporosis, literally “porous bones.” My doctor prescribed Fosamax, instructing me that I would need to remain vertical for 2 hours after I ingested the medicine in order to prevent heartburn.

I filled the prescription and only then realized I had a problem. I was dealing with a chronic pain issue that kept me lying down the majority of the time. I was going to find it tough to find 2 hours when I would be upright continuously.

In fact, I never did find them. I beat my chronic pain last December, only temporarily, alas. It crept back during my battle with my retinal tear. Not nearly as severely as before. I am able to be active now. I swim 400 meters three times a week. I could take the Fosmax. But the thing is that I want to build bone density, not merely slow further bone loss. The Fosamax won’t do that. But there is one thing that will:

Weight-bearing exercise.

But not mild weight-bearing exercise. I needed strenuous weight-bearing exercise. And preferably exercise that utilizes the whole body, rather than working muscles in isolation. Which meant I needed bodyweight training.

Bodyweight training would improve my coordination and balance by engaging groups of large muscles all at once, together with small stabilizing muscles. Plus it would work my heart muscle, because engaging many muscles requires much more aerobic support than engaging just a few.

I liked the idea that if I were to trip and fall, not only would my bones be stronger and less likely to break, but also that my muscles would be stronger and more capabale of catching me before I hit the ground, and my coordination would be better, giving me a chance to prevent the fall altogether.

Body by YouSo I went looking for guidance in books. Quite a few praise bodyweight training, but give only the most cursory descriptions of how to do specific exercises. I wanted detailed instructions. I found what I was looking for – and more – in Body by You by Mark Lauren. Lauren is an expert, who has trained thousands to good effect. His book provides the detailed instructions I sought, as well as step-by-step progressions for moving from the beginner versions to more challenging exercises and on to the most challenging of all.

I’ve just started, a mere 19 days ago, and I’m very de-conditioned from all the medical issues that have derailed me over the past few years. So I’m starting with the absolute easiest beginner exercises. But I can already feel a difference, so I’m hopeful that I will improve steadily, if slowly.

Lauren categorizes his exercises into five different types: pulling, in-line pushing (parallel to your spine), perpendicular pushing (perpendicular to your spine), squatting, and bending.

The easiest pulling exercise in the book is called a “let me in.” It works the muscles of the back (lats, spinal erectors, rhomboids), arms and shoulders (biceps, forearms, rear deltoids), and the core. Laren demonstrates the “let me in” in the video below using a door, but I would recommend against a door as your prop. Most doors are not made for this kind of abuse. Over time, you’ll destroy your door and be hurt when it fails altogether.

I use one of the metal support pillars in my basement, sunk into concrete at its base and bolted into a major floor joist at its top.

My husband cautions that not all such support pillars are fastened at their tops, and he has seen them slip. If you try this, check your support pillar to be sure it is secured, not just held in place by the weight of the house.

The easiest in-line pushing exercise is the military press with hands elevated to hip height. It targets your shoulders, triceps, and core. I use the chest freezer in my basement. It’s currently full of frozen meat and really heavy. It’s not going anywhere, even when I lean hard on it. 😀

The easiest perpendicular pushing exercise is the classic wall push-up. It works the chest, triceps, shoulders, and the core, especially the abdominals. The key for me is to find a stretch of wall clear of bookshelves and wide enough that my elbows don’t bump into anything. 😀

Lauren structures his workout so that you alternate between in-line pushing and perpendicular pushing. So, today being a Friday, I’ll shortly be doing “pull me ins,” wall push-ups, “good morning” bends, and squats. But on Monday, I’ll do “pull me ins,” military presses, “good morning” bends, and squats.

Bending exercises work the legs, glutes, back, core, and – depending on the specific exercise – the shoulder and triceps too. The easiest bending exercise is called the “good morning.” It is almost too easy for me, so I suspect I’ll be moving up to the version with the hands held straight overhead soon.

Squats exercise the glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, core, and calves. The very easiest squat is the “therapy sumo squat,” done with the toes and knees turned outward at a 45º angle. That doesn’t work for me, because it trashes my hip joints. So I am doing a basic squat with my toes and knees facing forward. I’ve not yet advanced to the hands overhead version shown below!

I’m pleased with how the bodyweight training feels so far. I’m making progress, and I haven’t yet injured myself! Always a concern. 😀

As I advance – crossing my fingers that I will – I’ll look for videos of the modified exercises to share with you.

Time to go exercise now! (I spent most of today writing the current scene of Tally and composing this blog post!)



The Secret Behind Midnight Snacks

It’s a classic, isn’t it?

You’re reading a fantastic book, and you keep saying to yourself, “Just one more page!” Or your best friend forever is visiting from out of town, and you talk late into the night, heart to heart.

Big Ben Clock FaceSuddenly you realize that it’s midnight and you’re starving.

I never gave the classic midnight snack much thought. I’d heard health experts recommend against it for various reasons: it didn’t give your gut a chance to rest; calories ingested at night got converted to body fat more readily; etc.

I’d also read that the food-to-body-fat superhighway was nonsense: it didn’t matter when you ate, rather that how much you ate overall was the key.

But I never paid more than cursory attention to all the discussion.

When I was younger, I happened to be one of those lucky people who maintain an ideal weight without much attention or effort.

Now that I’m older, my metabolism has slowed – as most people’s do – and I pack on extra pounds much more easily. So the pros and cons of midnight snacking hold more interest for me than heretofore.

But I’ve also learned that the simplistic calories-in-calories-out model (calories expended must match or exceed calories ingested) still touted by much of the medical establishment grossly ignores the action of the hormone insulin on the body.

My blog posts Thinner and Healthier and Test first, then conclude! go into this more extensively, if you’re interested. But the bottom line is that most people become much more sensitive to the effects of insulin in the bloodstream as they get older. The hormone packs fat into the fat cells and, once we’re over 50, makes it more and more difficult for any of that fat to be removed and used for fuel. While starving yourself on super-low-calorie diets merely deprives your body of needed nutrients and lowers your metabolism further. Catch-22!

But I digress! 😀

Sleep SmarterThe reason I bring this up is because of something I learned in Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.

When you are sleep deprived, the amount of glucose reaching your brain dips.

Brains run on glucose. They must have it. However, there’s no need to eat sugar to fuel your brain. In fact, don’t do it! Your liver can make all the glucose your brain requires, without you ever ingesting any sugar at all.

In a sleep researcher’s lab, where the amount of sleep deprivation induced for the purpose of study is extreme (24 hours), glucose reaching the brain dips by 6%. But suppose you regularly get by on only 6 or 7 hours of sleep. No doubt your glucose dips much less, but it still dips.

Even worse, the reduction of glucose to the brain is not distributed equally. When the reduction is 6% overall, the parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex lose from 12% to 14% of the glucose they should receive.

Why is that important?

The parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex are the areas of the brain we use for thinking, for discerning the differences between potential actions, for social interactions, and for knowing right from wrong.

When the parietal lobe and prefrontal are short of their necessary fuel, our decision making suffers.

That’s why you might do something really unwise late at night and then wonder in the morning: “What was I thinking?” In fact, you weren’t thinking, or not very well.

On top of this, your brain late at night – desperately seeking glucose, due to the growing dearth of this necessary fuel as the hour latens – knows perfectly well that a shot of glucose is conveniently at hand in a bag of potato chips or a bowl of Cheerios® or a few scoops of ice cream.

That’s why those foods prove so irresistible at midnight!

I took away several things from all of this.

1 • If I’m asleep before the glucose dip arrives, it will never even happen. Asleep, my body will be in the repair mode that occurs most intensely between 10 PM and 2 AM. (That’s another fact I learned from Sleep Smarter.)

My brain chemistry will be exactly as it is supposed to be, initiating repairs, instead of losing glucose and frantically seeking a resupply by prompting cravings.

(Unless I am chronically sleep deprived; in which case, the glucose dip occurs even in sleep and can actually wake me up!)

2 • It’s not that eating late at night is a problem in itself. It’s that such snacks are usually extra and often composed of sugar or simple carbohydrates. I’ve already ingested all the food I truly need at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Whereas, if I fall asleep somewhere between 10 PM and 11 PM, I’ll never even get hungry at midnight, let alone go seeking extra food.

3 • If I do happen to stay up too late – which will happen at times, because I’m a night owl – I have the perfect hack. I’ve tested it, and it usually works, although not infallibly. The brain in search of fuel is pretty fierce!

Curse of Chalion 300 pxHere’s the scenario: I get to re-reading The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my absolute favorites, and – whups! it’s midnight!

I realize I’m feeling really hungry, hungry enough that it will keep me awake, even though my eyelids are falling closed with my fatigue.

In the past, I’ve poured a big glass of local, farm-fresh milk and stirred a little stevia and cocoa powder into it.

The problem with that is that I’m getting an awful lot of carbs in the lactose (milk sugar) contained in that milk. On top of that, the sweetness of the stevia will trigger a larger insulin release into my bloodstream than would the lactose alone. And, on top of that, the big glass holds twice the amount of milk that I would normally drink in one go. So I’m getting a huge lactose hit with little else to cushion it.

While I was fighting my sleep schedule in the aftermath of my retinal detachment – before I read Sleep Smarter – I drank that huge glass of milk nearly nightly. And I gained 10 pounds. Not good!

(Chronic sleep deprivation all by itself causes weight gain, without any big glasses of milk, so some of my gain of ten pounds was no doubt due to several months of sleep loss.)

These days I’m usually asleep by 11 PM. Plus I’m finally visiting the gym swimming pool again after a long layoff. So I’m hoping to take those 10 pounds off! (Fingers crossed.)

But on those nights like last night, when I was absorbed in The Curse of Chalion and got hungry, this is what I do:

FIRST, I remind myself that my sensation of hunger, while powerful, is due to the dip in glucose to my brain. This actually does help, although it is not enough without my next step.

SECOND, I eat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

coconut oilCoconut oil is made up of largely medium-chain fatty acids that are not normally stored in the body’s fat cells at all. Instead they are quickly converted to energy. Additionally, coconut oil acts as a slight appetite suppressant for many people. It certainly does for me.

Anyway, it’s a much better option than the huge glass of milk. That 2 tablespoons of coconut oil diminishes my craving for food at midnight just enough that I can get to sleep. And it gives me a slight energy boost – not a frenetic boost like caffeine, but a calm can-do feeling – just enough oomph for me to go brush my teeth, spray some magnesium oil on my legs, and turn out the light.

CAUTION: If you decide to try my coconut oil hack and see if it works for you, be a little careful. The short- and medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil don’t require bile for digestion. But coconut oil also contains some long-chain fatty acida, and those do require bile for digestion.

If you’ve been eating a low-fat diet for a while, which many people do these days, your body hasn’t needed much bile for a while and has adjusted by not making much. It won’t suddenly produce more when you abruptly dump 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in! Which means you’ll feel nauseated and maybe even experience diarrhea.

So start with a quarter of a teaspoon and work up slowly to give your pancreas and gallbladder a chance to ramp up.

(I’ve blogged about the benefits of coconut oil in Butter and Coconut and Cream, Oh My!, if you’d like to know more.)

The bottom line? It’s really best to be asleep long before midnight!

But I found the why of the midnight munchies to be fascinating, so – of course! – I had to share it with you. 😀

To read the blog posts I mentioned in passing, see:
How I Rehabilitated My Sleep
Thinner and Healthier
Test first, then conclude!
Butter and Coconut and Cream, Oh My!



Drawing for Fun and Relaxation

When my kids were little, I introduced them first to fingerpainting and then to watercolors. The fingerpainting stage was messy. I would cover their toddler table with a large plastic leaf bag and robe them in smocks and stand vigilant to steady the water bowl they used to rinse their hands when they wanted to switch colors.

Watercolor by J.M. Ney-Grimm

But when they were old enough for watercolors, the level of supervision could be considerably less. So I joined them in the fun. I’d cover the entire dining room table with leaf bags, set out three sets of paints and three cups of water for rinsing brushes, and sit down with them. We had some lovely times painting together. And I found that I enjoyed the painting almost as much as I enjoyed the time with my children.

I remembered that I’d loved drawing since I was a kid myself, and wondered if it might be good to reactivate this interest. I read a few chapters of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, but it seemed overly ambitious for me at that moment. So I poked around online and stumbled upon the Zentangle® website.

I loved what I saw there, but the starter kit was $50, a little steep for something I just wanted to experiment with. So I bookmarked it for later and went on with my life, breaking out the watercolors every now and then, even after my kids were no longer interested.

To be honest, I forgot all about Zentangles until this June, when I decided I needed a quiet activity for the evenings that didn’t involve a computer screen or a TV screen. I tried an adult coloring book, but that didn’t quite work for me. And then I remembered…something.

“Wasn’t there some kind of pen-and-ink drawing?” I said to myself. “It looked really cool. I remember I wanted to try it, but it was awfully expensive. What was the name of it?”

As you can see, my memory was very sketchy. All I had was the picture in my mind of that cool black-and-white drawing.

Luckily, I had bookmarked the site with the info. Even more luckily, I found the bookmark when I went scrolling through the hundreds of bookmarks that I’ve created. (I bookmark a lot of pages when I’m researching for my novels.)

I clicked the bookmark, it directed me to the correct site, and I said, “Oh, yeah! That’s it!” when I saw it. But I still couldn’t go for the $50 price tag.

One Zentangle a Day“I wonder if there’s a book about this on Amazon?”

You can guess the answer. There was. It was reasonably priced. And it looked like it would have just the how-to information I wanted. I purchased One Zentangle a Day and leaped on it when it arrived.

The book is not perfect. The author includes a fair bit of verbiage on shading and use of color which is not a part of the Zentangle method, although it can be used with Zentangle-inspired art. Unfortunately, this extraneous material is not particularly well explained. However, I didn’t get the book for instruction in shading or using color.

Zentangling is essentially an exploration of pattern and how different patterns can be fitted together. It’s a new name for a very old pastime.

The book presents three new patterns at a time, showing how to draw each one step by step. With each set of patterns is an example of a drawing that features them (usually mixed with a few more). You, the reader, are instructed to practice the patterns first and then to draw your own Zentangle using the new patterns, together with a few of the other patterns you’ve already learned.

So I’ve been doing just that, and it’s been a lot of fun. It has proven an excellent evening activity when I’m not in the mood to read or when I’m too tired to do anything else.

Here are some of my practice squares of patterns I learned during the first 4 days I used the book.

Zentangle patterns, day 4, 600 px

The first couple of weeks, when I drew my own Zentangle, I always used the new patterns plus a few of the older ones when the design seemed to call for them. Lately, my designs seem to demand that I use only two of the new patterns instead of all three. Since I’m doing this for fun, I go with my inspiration. It means that I’m getting “behind,” in that I’m collecting patterns I have yet to use, but who cares! I’m not in any hurry to reach the end of the book.

Here’s the Zentangle I drew using the patterns shown above.

Zentangle, day 4, 600 px

What do you think? Does it look like fun to you? What do you do when you need something quiet, but engrossing?



How I Rehabilitated My Sleep

My torn retina in January devastated my sleep. When the ophthalmologist completed his repair of the tear, he injected a gas bubble into my eye and informed me that I would need keep my head upright, but with a slight tilt (which tilt he demonstrated by moving my head into the correct position), 24/7 for the next 10 days.

digital clock

As it turned out, that first 10-day interval was just for starters. I had several check-ups during the 10 days – with favorable reports on my eye’s progress – and then was told I must keep that head angle for another 2 or 3 weeks. All told, I think I kept that head angle for nearly 2 months.

Which meant I had to sleep sitting up!

Which meant I mostly dozed, and only for about 5 hours per night, when I was exhausted enough to do so.

By the time I was cleared to lie down again, both of my hip joints ached, most of the rest of my body was sore, I was seriously sleep deprived, and I was accustomed to starting my doze somewhere between 2 AM and 4 AM.

With permission to lie down, I thought, “Now I can sleep!”

I could not have been more mistaken. I hadn’t realized how much I tended to lie on my back while I slept, and I didn’t have permission for that position until the gas bubble was entirely dissipated. Lying on my back would cause the bubble to float up to my cornea and abrade it. Not good! So no lying on my back!

Lying on my side at night, the ache in my hip joints grew worse. I’d stay on the right side until I could not bear it. Then I’d flip to my left side. The relief to my right hip was wonderful…until roughly 40 minutes passed, and then the ache in my left hip was equally bad.

I did sleep. Some.

But when I was finally clear to sleep however I wanted, including on my back, normal sleep was so far in my past that I couldn’t remember how to do it.

I made efforts to return to a reasonable sleeping schedule with little success.

Sleep SmarterWhich meant that when I spotted an advertisement on June 2 for a book titled Sleep Smarter, I was ripe for checking it out. It sounded good, with information based solidly on sleep research and pleased readers who had tried its methods.

I purchased the book and read it. I liked what I was learning. I’d thought I knew a lot about sleep, but in fact there was more I didn’t know than I did. The author’s tone is clearly geared toward a pop audience, and I’m not convinced that every last one of his recommendations is backed by solid research. But he referred to many studies that I do have some familiarity with and that are valid. In any case, I figured that the proof would be in the pudding. All of his action-steps were easily implemented and inexpensive. I’d try them and see how they worked.

Here’s a list of many (but not all) of his suggestions:

• exercise for 10 minutes first thing in the morning
• get 10 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning
• turn off all screens 60 – 90 minutes before you want to be asleep
   (to limit blue light, which depresses melatonin production)
• during that hour, do something pleasurable and low key
   (read, listen to relaxing music or an audiobook, converse, meditate,    journal, take a bath)
• rub topical magnesium onto your legs
   (many westerners are magnesium deficient, and the mineral is
   necessary in many processes, including relaxing tense muscles,    reducing pain, and calming the nervous systems)
• drink no caffeine after noon
• get 30 minutes of sunlight during the day
• remove electronics from the bedroom
• keep the thermostat between 62°F and 68°F at bedtime
• use blackout curtains in the bedroom
• place a spider plant or a snakeroot plant in the bedroom
   (to clean the air)
• meditate for 5 – 10 minutes first thing in the morning
• move bedtime and wake time by only 15 minutes at a time,
   when you need to move them
• use low-blue light bulbs in the bedroom
• get glasses that block blue light for use when you choose to look at
   your computer, your phone, or the television late at night
• download apps that block blue light for your phone and computer
• wear loose clothes to sleep in
• do self-massage as part of your bedtime ritual

Not all of these recs appealed to me. Some were irrelevant: I don’t drink either coffee or tea or soda. My husband’s allergies meant that having a plant indoors was unwise. I didn’t feel ready to invest in blackout curtains right off the bat. But getting some sunlight immediately upon waking sounded excellent, as did turning off my computer by 9 pm.

Sleep Smarter included a plan for implementing the various strategies over the course of 2 weeks, but some of the easiest tips weren’t added until the second week. And some were those that weren’t going to work for me.

I decided to take what I’d learned and put it together with what I know of myself (I’m a night owl, not a lark, for example) and create a customized morning routine. One thing that was clear to me was that I’d always approached changing my sleep schedule with a focus on my evening routine. That’s important, of course, but it was never going to do what I wanted, if it was unsupported by an effective morning routine. In fact, for me, the morning routine needed to be the main focus. The evening would fall into place, if I got the morning right.

This is the morning routine that I developed:

• immediately upon waking, do 20 minutes of core exercises
   that prevent pain in my back
• the instant I am done with those exercises, go sit outside
   for 30 minutes on either my front porch or my back deck
   (bring my journal, if desired – which it generally is)
• walk barefoot on the lawn for 5 – 10 minutes
• come in and cook breakfast

maple trees from the back deckEven though my sleep schedule was a mess when I decided to try this, I’d been waking at 7:30 am. But I’d been so tired that I always went back to sleep. So my first morning, I went outside, instead of diving under my pillow.

And it was glorious! The air was cool and fresh. The sun through the tree leaves was beautiful, as were the fluting calls of the birds. When I walked on the grass, the earth under my bare feet just felt good. And I didn’t feel sleepy at all by the time 30 minutes had passed.

That was already a success, as far as I was concerned.

This is the evening routine I developed:

• turn off all screens at 9 pm
• spend the time reading or journaling or drawing
   or chatting with my husband
• at 10 PM, wash my face, smooth a coconut-based lotion on my face,
   and spray a magnesium oil on my legs
• turn out the light the instant I feel sleepy

It was a little hard finding quiet things to do after I turned off my computer. I tried coloring an adult coloring book that featured butterflies, but that didn’t hold my interest sufficiently. So I purchased a book that explained a pattern-drawing method called Zentangle® and discovered that drawing designs in this way is a perfect evening activity. Between reading, journaling, drawing, and conversing, I have enough possibilities.

So how did it work?

It worked wonderfully well for me! The first night I was sleepy by 1 AM, so that’s when I turned off the light and fell easily and swiftly asleep. An incredible improvement over my then-typical 4 AM! By the end of my first week, I was sleepy by 11 PM. I occasionally have nights when I’m sleepy soon after 10 PM, but I am a night owl. I suspect 10 PM would be my ideal bedtime, but I am happy with 11 PM. And I am thoroughly delighted with how pleasant I find the morning routine and how quickly it returned my sleep schedule to something that meshes well with the rest of the world around me.

Total success, as far as I am concerned! 😀

ETA: Keep in mind that none of the above is intended to address an actual sleeping disorder. If you’ve just gotten off track – as night owls like me do from time to time – then ordinary sleep hygiene, applied intelligently, can make a huge difference quite rapidly. But for certain types of sleeping disorders, some of the listed strategies could actually make things worse. So get help from an expert in sleep medicine, if you think you may have a sleeping disorder.



Sunlight as a Source of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been in the news a fair bit lately. It’s an essential nutrient that keeps our bones strong and our immune systems functioning well. And – apparently – most modern people don’t get enough of it.

beach fun

I’d read that it’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Since I’ve had a melanoma (the most dangerous kind of skin cancer), I don’t dare even try to get my vitamin D from the sun. But I was curious about the claims that it is possible. And about the claims that it is not possible.

So I went hunting online to see what I could find.

First off: how much vitamin D does an adult need?

The standard these days is quoted as 5,000 IUs a day, although I also found a mention that it may not be enough. Different people at different ages metabolize D with varying efficiency. The experts seem in agreement that the only way to know for sure that you’re getting enough D is be tested for your blood levels. One study that tested D supplements found that 8,000 IU was needed to produce the correct D blood levels.

But let’s say the commonly cited 5,000 IUs is enough. How long would I need to soak up rays?

beach sun

The angle of the sun in the sky is critical to determining the answer. Human skin makes vitamin D when exposed to UVB radiation. When the sun is below 50 degrees in the sky, all of the UVB rays are filtered out by earth’s atmosphere. There are many locations where there are no UVB rays to be had for some portion of the year. Mine is one of them.

I live at latitude 38°2′ and the first day of the year when the sun reaches 50 degrees is March 15. Between 1:10 pm and 1:40 pm on March 15, UVB rays reach my patch of the planet.

The last day of the year when this happens is September 27, between 1:00 pm and 1:10 pm. Only 10 minutes!

From September 28 through March 14, there are no UVB rays and thus no vitamin D to be garnered in the garden at Casa Ney-Grimm.

How did I find out this sun angle information? The United States Naval Observatory makes a sun calculator page available at If you live in the US, you can just type in your city and state and the date to get the sun angles for your spot on earth. If you live elsewhere, you’ll need to know your latitude and longitude. A simple online search should produce them.

The next step in calculating my vitamin D production would ordinarily be a visit to the page created by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research. Every expert I could find referenced this page as difficult-to-use, but accurate. But I could not get the page to load. Maybe, with summer right around the corner in the northern hemisphere, too many people like me are checking their vitamin D production. 😀

(Maybe you will have more luck than I did in getting the page to load. Here is the URL:

I was not ready to give up, however.

beach wave

With yet more searching around, I discovered that there was a consensus that light-skinned individuals (which I am) produce 1,000 IUs after 4 minutes of UVB exposure, while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. So, to get my 5,000 daily IUs I would need 20 minutes in the sun, at a time when UVB rays were getting through the atmosphere. If I needed 8,000 IUs, then I would need 32 minutes in the sun at the right time.

I suspect this general consensus probably refers to vitamin D production when the angle of the sun is at its steepest, well over 50 degrees. Which means that the spring months and fall months, when the sun barely reaches the minimum angle, would produce considerably less than 1,000 IUs in 4 minutes. But I won’t be able to check this until I can get that Norwegian page to load for me.

There are two problems, then, with getting vitamin D from sunlight.

One: In my locality, there are no UVB rays for nearly 6 months of the year.

Two: Light-skinned individuals will start to burn after 16 minutes in the sun. If I wear sunscreen, then it will block the UVB rays, and my skin won’t make any vitamin D. If I don’t wear sunscreen, then I must get out of the sun after 16 minutes, which limits my vitamin D to 4,000 IUs.

I could strip down to a swimsuit. According to the Vitamin D Wiki, wearing shorts and a t-shirt yields 32% of the skin exposed, while a one-piece swimsuit yields 73% of the skin exposed. Doing the math, in a one-piece swimsuit, I’d make 2,281 IUs in 4 minutes. Thus, 9 minutes would get me 5,000 units. And 14 minutes would get me 8,000 IUs. Possible, in the summer.

beach sceneOf course, due to my melanoma history, I would be unwise to spend 9 – 14 minutes in the noonday sun every day. And even if I were to pursue that course, I still couldn’t get my vitamin D from sunlight from September through mid-March.

I think I must conclude that it is, indeed, not possible to get enough vitamin D from the sun. Fortunately, there is another way. But that’s another blog post. Yes, I will write it. But no promises as to when. Tally the Betrayals, my work in progress, continues to call. 😀



Slow Blogging and Other Variations

Backlit keyboardSeveral years ago I read a humorous blog post by comedic mystery writer Anne R. Allen about “slow blogging.” I laughed and enjoyed it, but I was also relieved. Back in 2012, most successful bloggers were recommending that anyone who wrote a blog should post something new every day.

I’d never attempted that schedule. I knew I’d spend all my creative energy on my blog and have nothing left for writing my novels. But I worried about my choice to post something new only once a week.

Ms. Allen’s thoughts on slow blogging reassured me.

She listed eight benefits to less frequent blogging, some more serious than others, but the gist of it was that you’d probably have an active blog for many more years if you paced yourself, you wouldn’t overwhelm your blog readers, you’d enjoy it more, you’d have time and energy for writing novels, and that quality over quantity would draw an audience.

With Ms. Allen’s bolstering behind me, I carried on posting once a week, missing only a few times when a cold virus laid me low or a family emergency pulled me away.

Then, in the spring of 2015, I found myself head down in my doorstopper novel Fate’s Door. I had four other stories that I planned to publish on the same day that I released Fate, and it had been over a year since I released anything new.

I didn’t want to take any time away from the novel.

So I didn’t. My blog languished while I wrote 2,000 – 3,000 words a day of fiction. And I refused to feel guilty. Surely, when you were on a hot deadline, skipping the weekly blog post was the very essence of slow blogging.

I finished the novel at the end of July and sent it off to my first reader.

Then I returned to writing blog posts with what seemed pent up ideas and vigor. Not only did I write that week’s post, but I wrote extras to have ready when my first reader gave me her feedback and I dove back into the novel to revise it. I ended up with more than a dozen blog posts “in the bank” by the time I’d completed two revision passes on Fate, prepped all five books for release, and then clicked the publish buttons on Amazon.

I envisioned those extra blog posts as lasting through a good portion of the time it took me to get well started on my next novel. Especially since I felt moved to write a new addition to my banked posts every now and then.

We all know what happens when plans meet reality.

In my case, the retina of my left eye tore, taking me out of the writing game completely for a while. Then I discovered that my next novel required a lot more research and world building than I’d realized. And here I am, nearly 40,000 words into that novel (which feels great, btw) and every single one of those banked blog posts is up and live for you to read. 😀

(Except the one announcing the paperback edition of Fate’s Door, which (a) can’t be posted until that paperback is available – soon, and (b) probably won’t ever be posted, because I’d written of the the newly released novellas making good stocking stuffers and the new novels being great for under the tree. Yes, it was December then, while the Fate paperback will be released this June. I’ll need to draft a new announcement.)

My deadline for Tally the Betrayals is not nearly so pressing as the the one for Fate’s Door. But I’m totally immersed in the world – the Bronze Age of my North-lands – and I don’t want to take time away from Tally to research the blog posts I have swirling in the back of my mind.

Summer Landscape Telemark

I’ve already been a bit erratic in posting my last few posts, waiting until Saturday, or even the next Monday, before I clicked the “go live” button. I thought about skipping this week’s post altogether.

But then I realized I could give you all a head’s up. Tell you that I’m head down in Tally and that blog posts may be sporadic for a bit. I enjoy blogging a lot. But right now, Tally has me in its grip. 😀

ETA: In the comments below, Anne R. Allen – author of the post on slow blogging that I mention above – said: “I guess maybe it’s time I blog about blogging again.” While I was reading her blog a few days ago, I discovered that she’d made good on that promise. As usual, the post was excellent, I’ll share the link: What Should an Author Blog About?

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