Week 17: A New Headache

This week I finally began the process of moving back into my actual condo.  That mean a lot of unpacking (a process which technically still isn’t complete.)  I was very excited to finally be back in my own place, but I won’t lie, the unpacking process was a major headache.  Aside from there being a lot of stuff to unpack, since I wasn’t part of the packing process, I didn’t know where anything was, and it had been done in a very rushed, disorganized manner.

The result…

  1. Many empty boxes were wrapped in plastic and then packed, and the items that should have gone in them (such as my TV, some collectible figurines) were wrapped separately in paper with so much tape around them that it was nearly impossible to open them again without breaking them.
  2. Items, including an entire plastic drawer set that went missing and have yet to be found.
  3. Items that were broken.
  4. A box of cables that were all thrown together as opposed to being packed along with the equipment they were connected to.

It was very frustrating, especially considering I managed to move across the country, then again to a new city without any of those issues occurring.  Granted, I didn’t have quite as many items in my previous moves, but still, it was hard not to get angry at the process.  I feel like if I had just been able to be a part of the packing process things would have been much more organized and that at least some of the things would not have gone missing.

I’m still working on unpacking stuff, but at this point what’s left is mostly papers and cables that I’m still figuring out where to put.  On the plus side, I had been wanting to do a Goodwill purge and having to unpack all my stuff made it a lot easier to decide what I want to keep and what it was time to say good-bye to.

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Week 16: A New Skill

This week my something new is a work something.  Unlike Week 9 when my new role at work was required, this week the skill I learned was one I volunteered for.  Like many companies, the one I work for is in the process of consolidating workloads to increase efficiency.  In this case, they are transferring tasks from one department to another.  Considering the fact that one of my goals for the year is focused on improving efficiency, it made sense to volunteer.

It didn’t take many sessions for me to learn the basics, and by the end of the week I was doing the majority of the work on my own.  In addition to feeling extra-productive and more motivated at work, I’ve also gotten positive feedback from some of my co-workers about the change.  Now since fewer groups are involved, when changes need to happen, there’s fewer people to contact, so both the work and the communication has become more efficient.  It’s actually made work easier for me as well because I have a better understanding of what to look for and how to identify issues before they happen, and now… I know how to fix them too!  (At least some of them.)

Week 15: A New Story

Today we going back in time to when I left off prior to my blogging hiatus so that hopefully by the end of this week we will be back on track.  Believe it or not, the week I fell off the blogging train, I was working quite a bit on writing a new story.  I don’t know if everyone heard this bit a news, but it was all over my Facebook feed, in the first week of April.  The news was that Crayola was killing one of its colors.  After some quick Google sleuthing I learned they weren’t killing a color per se, rather they were retiring one, and Dandelion was the one to go.  Now, to back up this retirement claim, Crayola created a lovely retirement video for dear old Dandelion, but that doesn’t change the fact that the headline that stuck with me was one about ‘killing a color’.

So, I, being the aspiring writer that I am, sat down and began writing a short story about colors being killed. I don’t want to give the story away since I plan on posting it when I’m done, but I have been having a lot of fun working on it and fleshing out the details.  As often happens to me, this ‘short’ story keeps growing in length, so we shall see if it still qualifies as a short story when I’m done.  I will say that after feeling frustrated and stuck with the novel I was working on before I went to the writing conference, I was very excited to feel that burst of inspiration that came with this idea.  So, while I am sad to see Dandelion go, I am thankful to Crayola for providing such a fun writing prompt for me to play with.

Week 22: Friends, Food & Fun

No, you aren’t going crazy, and no, you didn’t miss anything.  I have just been failing my blogging duties.  I have been trying new things, and I will write about them soon but I had to write about this past week first because sometimes to help us get back on track, we have to revisit something old.

You see, one of the reasons I have fallen so far behind is from a combination of laziness and lack of motivation stemming from loneliness.  Like many people, I find that too often I let life get in the way of connecting with the people I care about, and lately it’s been weighing on me more and more to the point where the negative feelings were starting to take over.

Most of the time, I’m afraid to reach out to people because I’m worried that I’ll be inconveniencing, or annoying them somehow.  I don’t know where that fear comes from, but it’s there.  A couple months ago, I decided to face that fear because I was really missing my best friend from college.  We don’t get to talk much because in addition to living on opposite sides of the country, she has a husband and two small children.  Now that I’m at a point in my life where a lot of my friends are getting married and having children, I sometimes feel like I don’t belong anymore, like since I’m not in the same place in my life we won’t be able to connect anymore.  Again, I can’t say where this fear comes from because there is no basis for it.  Anyway, a couple months ago, I texted my friend and basically invited myself over for a few days.  To my delight she said she’d love to have me visit, so this past week I hopped a plane and flew to Virginia.

As the time for the trip grew closer I felt more and more excited.  I couldn’t wait to see her again, and to meet her kids.  I had met her older daughter when she was a few months old, but now she’s a toddler, which is entirely different and awesome.  It felt so refreshing to send time with my friend again, and the fact that there wasn’t a second of awkwardness despite how long it had been since we last saw each other made me happier and more thankful than I can express.  Our lives may have changed, but the friendship definitely hasn’t suffered, and this week it was the basis for my making some new friends, trying some new food and having a lot of fun!

First, we’ll talk new friends, we’ll call them Miss A and Miss H.  I have always loved being around little kids, they are so much fun to play with and talk to.  The imagination of a child frees my mind.  It’s like all the overthinking habits that invade every other aspect of my life disappear when interacting with kids.  It’s awesome.  Prior to my visit, I was nervous that Miss A would be shy and afraid of me.  Thankfully, that feeling lasted about 5 minutes, until she asked if I wanted to draw with her.  The moment we started drawing, I made a new best friend.  Over the next few days we invented some new games: ‘I’m stuck’, ‘fall down’, and ‘you disappeared’ to name a few.  I was also treated to some new purple body art on both my arms for my birthday.  Miss H isn’t old enough to talk, but she can smile and laugh with the best of them.  She loved playing peek-a-boo, getting tickled and hearing me pretend to have the hiccups.   She might be too young to remember me, but I’ll certainly remember her.

The second new thing for this week was some new food.  As I mentioned earlier, this visit occurred the week of my birthday, and birthdays mean cake.  Cake is always fun, but when your friend is the Goodie Godmother, you’re in for an extra special treat.  (If you like food and/or cooking, you should check out her blog http://goodiegodmother.com/) For my birthday, she treated me to an awesome hot chocolate cake topped with the biggest marshmallows I’ve ever seen.  Seriously, they were like the size of my fist!  It was so cool seeing how she worked to put together the recipe, of course taste testing it was awesome, and I honestly could have just eaten scoops of the frosting it was so good.  I’m not much of a cook, but I’ll definitely have to try to make that cake myself sometime in the future.

Last but not least, there we did a bunch of fun things during my visit.  For me the most memorable was when we went to the National Zoo.  We got to see lots of animals, including a lion, a tiger, pandas, and elephants.  My favorite was when we were watching the sea lions, Miss A was running back and forth next to the glass and one of the sea lions was following her back and forth, she was thrilled and it was so cute.

I could go on and on about how much fun I had visiting my friend and her family.  Even though it was short, I flew home feeling refreshed, motivated and happy.  Mostly, I left feeling more confident about reaching out to the people I care about.  Everyone can get busy and it’s easy for life to get in the way, but hopefully moving forward I won’t hesitate so much to reach out, if only to let the people in my life know I’m thinking about them.

Week 14: A New Procrastination Tool

Hey Everyone!  Hope you’re all still trying new things.  This week my something new is one I really didn’t need.  After all, I procrastinate just fine on my own, I don’t need help.  However, at the writing conference I wrote about in week 12, one of the topics of discussion was marketing tools.  Included in those were social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.  I’m already familiar with the first three; Facebook is definitely one of the most lethal tools in my procrastination toolbox, but I had never tried Pinterest.  I had heard about it, but never really looked into what it was.  However, upon learning that some published authors find it to be a valuable marketing tool, I figured I should at least become familiar with it, so I signed up.

I won’t lie, I didn’t get it right away, and I don’t really understand how authors use it to market their books, but I have discovered how quickly time can pass by when I start reading all the memes and graphics pinned there.  I get e-mails about new pins every day and I started a couple boards for myself to try to figure out how best to use it.  We’ll see how valuable it proves to be as time goes on.  I am a fan of my motivation board for those times I need a little inspiration to get me going.  Of course, if I’m using my time to read motivation quotes instead of doing whatever I’m trying to motivate myself to do I’m not sure how effective it really is.  But that’s a topic for another time…

For now, keep up with trying new things and I will see you all next week!

Week 13: A New Sound

This week my something new is one I have been resisting for months (maybe even years if I’m honest). Before I get into it, here’s a little background. I am hard of hearing, and as a result I have had to wear hearing aids for over a decade. I have a love/hate relationship with my hearing aids. On the one hand, I am very thankful they exist, that they enable me to hear things I otherwise would miss, and I am thankful I am in a position in life where I am able to get them. On the other, I hate the ringing I hear when a particular tone causes feedback, or when something gets too close to my head (such as when someone hugs me). I hate when the battery starts to die in the middle of a conversation causing me to miss part of what was said and then stop the conversation to change the battery. I hate how much they cost and the fact that they are not covered by my insurance, (I could go on a very long rant on that topic, so we will leave it there for now), and I hate how when I go to the audiologist office to get my hearing aids services, the posters on the wall are all of people clearly of retirement age. It would be nice to have someone my age who wears hearing aids to talk to, someone who can relate…
Anyway, I have always worn in-the-ear aids, I’ve had to update them a couple times as my hearing has worsened, but over the past several months, maybe even years, the problem has clearly worsened to the point where the hearing aids just weren’t working enough. The last time I got new hearing aids, the over-the-ear aid was suggested, but I resisted. In my mind, it was bad enough I had to wear hearing aids, but to wear aids that people could see was just not a step I was ready to take. So, a couple months ago, I discussed the option of an over-the-ear aid and finally I decided the daily misery and isolation I was feeling from not being able to hear normal conversations was worse than the idea of an over-the-ear hearing aid, so I got them. I had to wait a couple weeks for them to be customized and delivered, but I got them the day before the writing conference I wrote about in my previous entry.
I still don’t love the fact that I need hearing aids, but I definitely love my new hearing aids. With the technology currently available for my over-the-ear aids, I can adjust the sound with an app on my phone, they have Bluetooth, so I can listen to music and take calls on my phone without came without needing to take my aids out and put headphones in. That was always frustrating when I was around people and we were doing separate things. If I was listening to music, then they said something, I’d have to take out the headphones, put in my hearing aids, and by then the moment had passed. It was frustrating for all involved. My new aids also came with an accessory that is basically a directional mic that the person I’m talking with can clip to their shirt, which makes it easier to hear them in crowded, noisy situations.
I feel like my whole attitude is changing now that I am not struggling to hear every day. I used to have to ask “what?” multiple times in every conversation because I couldn’t hear what people were saying, and engaging in group conversations was so frustrating that I would just tune out and remove myself from the conversation entirely because that was less stressful than not hearing what was happening around me.

Now I don’t have to ask people to repeat themselves because I can hear them the first time. It so much easier, not just for me but for the people I’m talking to. I can ask questions and engage in conversations because I am not using all my energy to piece together bits of what the other person is saying. I had no idea of how much I was truly missing before. People have noticed I seem happier, that they don’t have to talk as loud, that I’m not talking as loud and that the TV isn’t turned up as loud as it used to be. Best of all, I’m happy.
There are still things I’m getting used to, sometimes the sound is tinny when I’m using the Bluetooth function, and since I use these more than my old aids, the batteries go faster, but overall this is definitely a change for the better, and one I’m very thankful I made.

Week 12: The Writing Conference

Hey everyone!  I know I’m still behind, so let’s get right into it.  Week 12 was very exciting for me because I got to attend my first writing conference, California Dreamin’.  California Dreamin’ is a small conference for romance writers held in Southern California every other year.  To be honest, I didn’t realize it was for romance writers when I first signed up, I only figured that out afterwards upon researching the agents and editors I wanted to pitch my manuscript to.  Well, the manuscript is still far from finished, but considering it was a murder mystery and not a romance, it probably wouldn’t be right for the agents or editors attending anyway.

Despite not having a completed manuscript, and not really being a romance writer, the conference was an amazing experience.  I attended so many educational workshops, got a bunch of free books, and best of all got to talk to dozens of other people who love writing.  The people attending varied from the unpublished, aspiring writers like me, all the way to the successful authors who make a living with their writing.  It was so cool to actually get to talk to so many people about writing.  I was surprised to see that the people who presented at the workshops also attended them alongside people like me.  It might seem silly, but being about to sit and talk with everyone made me realize that writers really are people just like me.  Whether they had published books or not, everyone was there to learn from and interact with each other.  It made me realize that becoming an author really is a process not a destination.  That’s one of those words of wisdom that I have heard often in regards to writing (and life in general) but the conference helped me understand it in a different way.

My focus at the conference was forcing myself to talk to people and attending workshops.  Many of the workshops I went to focused on self-publishing, and the marketing involved.  Holy Geeze!  I knew marketing books was hard work, but hearing real world examples of what authors have to do in order to achieve any amount of publishing success in the form of sales is daunting to say the least.  I hear about websites, and social media presence, newsletters, blogging, blog tours, book signings, having extra content you can give away as incentive for buying your book, and more.  It sounded insane, and very scary.  However, at the same time, it helped to have it all laid out in front of me; especially when book sales were presented in graph form and the presenter could tell me what the author did at each point in time that resulted in an increase in book sales.  Those workshops helped give me a more realistic vision of how long it takes to for an author achieve sales success.  Obviously, this is all hypothetical, I have to finish a book, have it edited, and decide if I even want to self-publish before I think too hard on all of this, but still, it’s nice to be aware.  By knowing what is required, I can better prepare for it once I get closer to finishing my book.

I also attended workshops on editing, the Hero’s Journey (that was probably my favorite because I loved learning about it so much in school), what agents look for in manuscripts, and more.  The hardest part was deciding which workshops to go to because there were so many offered, and it was impossible to go to all of them (literally impossible since they held multiple workshops at the same time all three days of the conference).  I liked some better than others, I definitely preferred the ones where the speakers maintained control and didn’t let the audience take over by asking story specific questions.  I also loved the ones where we did writing exercises.  When I have a story idea, sometimes I waste so much time trying to find the perfect way to start it, or to say something that I never actually get the story out.  When you’re doing an exercise with a defined time limit, you can’t think, you just have to write.  I think I am going to force myself to begin my regular writing sessions like that, or with some type of exercise to loosen up the writing muscles and just get the fingers typing.  I’ll let you know how that goes once I try it.

In all those workshops I heard mountains of advice, but one specific piece of advice several people gave me is that I should join my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA).  They said it would be invaluable even though romance is not my primary genre.  Now, I have often thought about joining a writer’s group.  I’ve wanted to join one as a way to make friends, network, learn and practice writing.  In the past, something has always stopped me, either I’m working when the meetings take place, or they take place early in the morning before I want to be awake, they’re too far away, etc., excuse after excuse.  But after hearing the same suggestion from so many people, I looked up the local chapter info for RWA; they meet once a month for half a day pretty close to where I live.  They have speakers who come to present, author meet-and-greets, and quite a few people I spoke with are members, which gave me hope that I could go and make some friends who share a love of writing.  That will be another new thing that I’m already looking forward to trying.

I am so happy that I had such a positive experience at the conference.  Being around and speaking with so many people who all share a love of writing and a desire to share with each other was so inspiring.  It renewed by desire to make my publishing dreams a reality, which is perhaps the best takeaway of all. Have a good one and keep trying something new!

Week 11: A New Remedy

Hey everyone!  I hope you all are doing well.  In this entry, we get to the reason why I fell so far behind with my blogging after my vacation.  The simple reason is, I got sick.  Now, you would think what got me sick was being on a cruise ship with thousands of strangers who may or may not follow good hygiene practices.  We all know how quickly germs and viruses can spread in closed quarters.  However, considering that I was fine the two days after I got back, I believe in this case the culprit behind my sickness was my brother.  He was in town just for a couple days to go to a shower for his friend who is getting married, but he was also getting over a cold.  I’m guessing the mistake I made was giving him a couple high-fives when he, my mom and I were playing a card game because the next day I woke up feeling like crap.

It probably would have been smart for me to stay home from work that day, but I didn’t want it to look like I was just extending my vacation, so I went in, everyone could see how sick I was, and then I called out the next two days and stayed in bed hardly able to breathe with my nose stuffed and throat all closed up.  I did go to the doctor and got the good news that I did not have strep throat (yay!) however that meant instead of getting antibiotics, I just had to wait it out (boo!).  To help dull the agony of waiting it out, they gave me medicine for my throat.  That was my something new for this week, because it wasn’t a regular pill or liquid that you swallow.  This one was a thick gooey liquid that I had to measure out, then gargle.  Basically, all it did was make my throat and mouth completely numb for a while.  It felt exactly the way Novocaine feels when the dentist uses it before a filling.  It was weird.  It did nothing to make my throat better, but it did numb the pain for a while, which was nice.  Still, I’d rather not go through that again.

Even after I went back to work I was still feeling under the weather, and I could hardly speak because my throat was so blocked and I was coughing all the time.  But none of that would have stopped me from going to the writing conference the week after.  That was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world, and one I will tell you all about in my next entry.

Week 10: New Food, Fun & Whales

Hey everyone!  I hope you’re doing well.  We are still playing catch-up, but I went on vacation and tried/saw lots of new things, so I didn’t want to skip it or forget about it.  So, even though we are now at the end of the month, let’s travel back to the beginning of March when my mom and I went on a cruise to Mexico.

This was not the first time I had been on a cruise, or been to Mexico; in fact, cruising might be my favorite way to travel, because once you get on the boat, you don’t have to really think about anything.  One of the best/ most ‘dangerous’ things about cruises is the unlimited supply of food available.  This can be dangerous if you eat non-stop to the point where by the end of the week you can no longer fit into your clothes.  I didn’t have that problem, but I did gain a couple pounds, most likely from the unlimited supply of soda and the delicious chocolate desserts that followed every meal, but I digress.

One of the cool things about that unlimited supply of food is that since it’s all prepaid, you can order anything you want.  If you don’t like it, you can try something else!  If you are a picky eater like me, and therefore hesitant to order food you might not like at a regular restaurant, a cruise provides an excellent opportunity to try new foods without consequence to your wallet or feeling obligated to finish something you really didn’t like.  Talk about awesome!  I tried many new dishes on this cruise, and was pleasantly surprised to discover a few new dishes I enjoyed.  By far the biggest shocker was escargot.  I mean snails… really??  But they were actually pretty good!  I won’t be rushing out to eat them again any time soon, but I tried them and I kind of liked them.  I didn’t finish them because the night they were on the menu was lobster night, and I like lobster more than chocolate, so I had to save room.

There were several other dishes that I tried, but sadly I did not write them down, and I cannot recall them off the top of my head.  Many of them were seafood dishes, and one of them involved shrimp.  I love shrimp cocktail, but this was something different.  It’s fitting considering that Mazatlán (the second port we stopped at) is home to a gigantic shrimp market.

Food wasn’t the only type of new experience I had on this trip.  In Mazatlán we visited the Cathedral Basilica de la Immaculada Concepcion, which is unique in that it’s a Roman Catholic church that displays the Star of David on 28 windows due to a generous donation from a Jewish family.  Now, I’m not religious, but I find those types of historical tidbits fascinating.  But that was not the most exciting new experience from this trip (at least not for my mom and I.)  The best part of the trip occurred at our final port, Cabo San Lucas, where we went on a whale watch.

Whale watches are far from new to me.  I have loved them since I was little, but this one was special.  At the very end of the trip, literally right after the guide told us we had five more minutes to look for whales before we had to turn back, I saw a light turquoise color in the water just a few feet in front of the boat.  The turquoise was the white part of a humpback whale’s pectoral fins nearing the surface of the water.  I shouted “WHALE!” and pointed right in front of me.  We then spent the next five minutes watching the whale as it hung out by our boat.  It seemed like the whale was as interested in watching the boat as we were in watching it because after it left our boat, it swam over to another one nearby.

Seeing a humpback whale that close up is an experience I will never forget.  It was exciting and calming all at once.  To see such a large, graceful creature just lazing about near the surface of the water was beautiful.  It was a perfect was to end our day in Cabo San Lucas.  And now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go watch the video I took of that whale because it was just that awesome.  Have a good one!

Week 9: A New Role

Greetings everyone!  I apologize for being nearly a month late with this post (yikes!).  I actually had it written on schedule, and just forgot to post it before I went on vacation.  Then I got back, and as it does, life intervened.  But I’m still here, and I am going to do my best to get us back up to date because a lot of new things have happened and I am eager to share them with you all!  So, let’s get started.

So far, since I’ve started this blog, I have been the one to choose what new thing I was going to try, but that’s not always the case.  Sometimes life decides to present you with something new whether you want it or not.  Life can bring changes about in many ways.  In this case, life introduced a change at work.

As many people in the work force know, over time your job changes.  Sometimes the change is brought about by a promotion, or by you applying for a new job.  Other times, the change is brought about by a change in management, the company landscape, or a shift in the responsibilities of your role.  This week my something new is training for a new job function at work.

I can’t say I’m thrilled with this something new.  I have resisted training for this role for a long time because I do not feel it points me in the direction I want to move in my career.  However, the time has finally come where management has made it mandatory for everyone in my department to learn all the roles so I have no choice and this week I started training.  I won’t lie, a teeny tiny voice in my head wants to be terrible at this job so they will never schedule me there.  However, the louder and more logical voice in my head reminds me that I would not be able to live with the guilt of purposely doing bad at anything.  I don’t like to fail, so why would I purposely try to?  Plus, that louder voice also reminds me that if I do well now, I will hopefully have more opportunities to train in areas I actually want to be in later.

As for the training experience, it went fine.  I did learn a bit about the role and I took a bunch of notes.  Since it’s now mandatory just want to learn it and get it over with as soon as I can so I don’t have to do it often.  One thing I am thankful for its that my manager is aware of the direction I want to move in my career and he understands that this role is not it.  I have had multiple managers since I started working and I can appreciate how valuable it is to have a manager who listens and makes an effort to help you grow in the direction you want to go.  While I hate it, I understand that all jobs have parts we don’t want to do, but one thing I have learned in my life is that nothing is forever.  So, with that in mind, I will go forward, do my best, and learn this new role so I can start training in the job I want to be doing next.

Just a couple updates before I go, the temporary housing situation I wrote about in Week 3 has come to an end.  My condo is not ready yet, but I had to leave my temporary condo before going on vacation.  I enjoyed living in downtown LA again, and it was a very valuable learning experience living with my boyfriend for about two months.

Beyond that, initial feedback from the editor on the article I mentioned in week 4 is positive.  I’m looking forward to when it’s actually published with a nervous excitement.  In other writing news, progress on the book I am writing for the conference I wrote about in week 2 is slow.  I’m hoping it will speed up when I’m on vacation sitting by a pool and writing in my phone.  I also plan on skipping the part I’m on and writing a more exciting part that comes later.  Hopefully that helps, I’ll let you know.