Categories
Authoring Writing Life

The illusion of progress

Writing a whole post of accomplishment lists has led to pondering WHY I like making “I did this” lists so much. Here’s my answer: it’s a frame adjustment.

I know, I know, “WTF frame what?” Stick with me here. Start with the idea of “progress.”

See, all our lives we’re taught–both formally and informally– to find worth in achieving goals and measuring progress, but that whole plan is fundamentally mismatched with the way life WORKS.

Progress is grounded in linear concepts of direction & endpoints. It’s all about the quantifiables.

When a task is done, it’s done. When a thing is filled, it’s full. When a goal is achieved, it’s over. There are jokes about the reward for a job well done being another job, but the system is accepted as valid.

Except it ISN’T. Reality doesn’t work that way.

Life is built on multiple, interlocking circular processes: sunrise to sunset to sunrise, winter to summer to winter again. Washed dishes get dirty, dinnertime comes around again, dust returns again, plants need tending, laundry piles up AGAIN.

No wonder people feel like we’re always failing. We’re judging ourselves by a metric that’s incompatible w/the medium.

Measuring success & satisfaction by progress is like measuring slices of bread in a loaf by weight. You can do it, but it takes some mental gymnastics.

Lists are my favorite way of somersaulting past frustration & feelings of failure. They line up my position in the endless cycle of Life Doings with the idea of “done,” and presto, I HAVE DONE THINGS.

It’s not only gymnastics, it’s kinda like a magic trick when it works.

Now I’m wondering what neat tricks other people use.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. If you want to celebrate by curling up with a cozy kissing book, may I suggest Weaving In The Ends? I wrote it, it’s all about love, but not only and not even mostly the romance hearts & flowers kind. It’s about the prickly kind of love, sibling love, family love, and formed-family love, the patient kind and the kind that makes mistakes and owns them and makes amends.

Also, there is knitting. And empaths. Available most places books & ebooks are sold. You can find it here https://bit.ly/kmhkindle along with the other books in the Restoration collection.

Sleepy cat for everyone who got this far. Until later!

all tuckered out after a long ponder
Categories
Authoring Writing Life

My Bouncy Brain In Action

I’ve had zero attention span the last couple of days. So, minimal writing. Not zero writing, but…discouraging nonetheless.

But! I have dug into a few interesting topics while in Guilt-wracked Avoidance Mode

Thing the 1st

The town where I spent several formative childhood years was in the news recently. My brain did its bouncy thing and sent me (SPROING) to Google Maps to see how close the incident was to my old house. (A couple of miles away.)

That led to checking out the old neighborhood on street view and retracing my route from house to elementary school. (C’mon, haven’t you done that? If not, you should. It’s a virtual trip down memory lane.) Sometimes placed I’ve lived have changed beyond all recognition, but my old school is still there, and still looks EXACTLY like I remember the buildings and grounds looking. So of course I looked it up. Nothing. Doesn’t exist. More digging ensued, starting with peering closely at the map images to make out the bulding names. (Which, no, did NOT match the listed name of the location, interestingly enough.)

Turns out the place has changed names twice and purpose once. It is now a Variable-Credit High School for students who aren’t thriving at the district’s regular grade 9-12 schools.

So, that was interesting.

Thing the 2nd

My cracked & gnarly fingers are doing better, but one cracked open yesterday, which was distracting In the Extreme. That made me wonder, how the heck do diabetics who have to do jab their fingertips for blood draws deal with the constant pain of injured fingertips? And who the hell decided fingertips were the best spot to jab, of all the places on the human body to choose from. And WHY?

Well. I’m here to tell you there are a ton of techniques for minimizing the ouchiness, plus modern glucose meters do allow for “alternative sites” although it isn’t recommended because “fingersticks still provide the most accurate readings.” All the sites discussing the matter seem to be round-robin quoting from each other with regards to that accuracy claim, though. When they all use exactly the same phrasing, and I do mean word for word, despite the sites ranging in visibility & intended readership. And the only journal article I found was focusing on test strip accuracy, not body location issues.

So I remain unconvinced that anyone really THINKS about “why fingers?” or they accept unquestioned the prevailing wisdom that it delivers the “best” result.

Sidebar: If you think my suspicions overblown, entertain yourself with a peek at the vast amount of scientific detective work that had to be done to debunk the medical research community’s entire foundation for deciding what size particle constituted aerosol contagion. The medical community had its standards & JUST KNEW THEY WERE RIGHT, but as it turns out, they were WRONG, because their fundamental size value was based on a single solitary set of experiments done DECADES before modern aerosol measuring tools were available, AND the results came from an outlier, hard-to-catch respiratory disease, too. Interested? Start with the Wired article titled “The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill”. There’s a lot more info, but this is all a digression, so ANYWAY…

I’d need to do a LOT more digging to find the primary lit behind “why fingers FFS?” and that’s more distraction than I need right now. If I ever write a story about a diabetic character who has to test, I’ll get out th research backhoe. Until then I’ll stick with my gut feeling that this is another of the many medical, “we’ve always done it this way” situations where “accurate means “all our systems & tools are designed for the reams of data we already have” as opposed to “what systems and tools should we design for the best comfort and convenience of our patients.” See also: cold metal speculums for vaginal exams, among other things.

Humans are not as eager to acept new things as we think we are, sometimes.

Thing the third.

There was a bug in my office today. A big roughly hexagonal beetlish kind of bug. I would describe it in more detail, but Pippin woke up when it buzzed past us (he was on the desk, quelle suprise) and he intercepted it and ate it before I got a decent look at it. He has impressive reflexes and spectacular aim. He scoped it right out of midair.

From his expression as he chewed, I got the impression it did not taste good, which made me think it was probably a stink bug. A couple of hours later, another bug went buzzing around the room. (This time of year, a lot of different bugs often hatch out of plants I bring in from the garden. Some combination of warmth & increasing light, I suspect.)

Anyway. Pips was snoozing downstairs by that time, so I had to gently capture and flush the bug myself. Carefully, because this one was indeed some kind of stink bug. But what kind? There’s an invasive species (known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, how’s that for a name) that’s been seen in the Chicago area this year, but there are also at LEAST two lookalike native species similar in appearance.

Which one had mine been? I didn’t know! So of course off I bounced to investigate stink beetles.

Beetles are fucking amazing. I had a good time combing through the various agricultural university extension documents and nature websites, but I still don’t know which variety of bug I flushed. ID requires close examination of things like antennae stripes and protrusions on the shell, and…honestly? Invasive or native, it was in my house, and it had to go.

And now the day is done and so am I.

Still had no focus in the evening, but I’ve made supper (don’t get excited, it’s green salad & leftover takeout gyros meat mixed into boxed rice mix & baked in the oven because I’m too distracted to cook on the stovetop) and now I’m playing Wordles from the online archive and drinking wine while I watch Witcher Season 2.

I am a powerful creative force to be reckoned with, eh?

Anyway. That’s it for this installment of “writing something even if it isn’t BOOK writing. Until later, enjoy this pic of the Ferocious Critter Cruncher.

Categories
Detours Furbabies Writing Life

My Latest Distractions

Chateau Herkes is now home to two (TWO!) 10-week-old kittens. Meet Pippin and Merry, also known as Peregrine the Perilous and Meriadoc the Mellow. Pippin is the tabby, Merry is the tuxedo.

Their arrival continues a lifelong tradition of stumbling across Just The Right Cats at Just The Right Time.

These little furmonsters showed up on the life radar and landed in our family by a string of coincidences so unlikely no one would believe it if I put it in a fictional story.

I mean. Really.

It starts when we happen to take a neighborhood walk at the same exact time the owner of a home a few blocks away happens to be out front walking one of his cats on a lead. Okay so far. Reasonable. Believable.

Also entirely believable? That Spouseman and I stop to chat with a fellow cat person. We’d never seen anyone at this house, but the garage was often left open to cat-height, and we’d seen cats come & go & peek out the windows.

We introduce ourselves and admire the fine cat who is lounging upon the grass, and we enquire whether it is a Maine Coon, as it is Huge And Fluffy and Gorgeous. Conversation ensues. It turns out Fester Sylvester (the cat) is inDEED a Maine Coon, and also the son of one of the other cats in the household. There’s even a visiting cat, a breeding queen who was accepting the attentions of suitors.

Coincidences are racking up! Now we have a fine gentleman who is not only the owner of several felines, but also an owner of pedigreed Maine Coons and someone who works with breeders in the area. Still believable, but a certainly a fortuitous encounter for us about-to-look-for-Maine-Coons people!

We admit we love MC’s and will be on the search for some soon, and explain our situation.

I’ll summarize that situation here as briefly (HAHAHAHA me, brief?) as possible.

It’s been two years and two months since our beloved Scootercat died. He was big, black, talkative, and rambunctious, and for 18 years he enjoyed fabulous health other than some serious arthritis in his hips. His decline in his final months was swift and relentless. When things reached a point when we realized we were holding onto him for our sakes, not his, we found the strength to let him go, but damn, it was hard.

We always intended to get another cat or two or three, but the time was never right. First we were grieving, Then we were relocating from our old home to a new one (an even older house, as it turned out) Then we began upgrades and updates on the new-old house, with all the stress, noise, dust, and upheaval attendant on such projects. Inflicting all that change and stress on new pets felt like it would be One Thing Too Far for everyone involved.

Now let me pause to make 100% clear that this house has clearly been a well-loved bungalow since it was built. The previous owners did a beautiful job of maintaining the original interior and modernizing essentials like windows, kept up on repairs, and did critical kitchen and bathroom remodels. But it was built in 1929. All the individual upkeep work was due for consolidation, and other parts were due for replacement. It took time & money and DID I MENTION THE CONSTANT UPHEAVAL?

Anyway.

The last major work involving concrete saws, drills, rumbling earthmovers & strangers coming in & out of the house just wrapped up. (It was all very pandemic-safe, no-contact, outside-ventilated areas, exterior entrance to the basement FOR THE WIN)

The night before our fateful walk, actually–we’d decided it was FINALLY cat search time!

So here we are, standing on our neighbor’s front lawn, sharing our saga of “finally ready to bring cats into our home,” and he says, “My girl had a litter of kittens in March. Want to see them?”

Now what are the odds of that? Uh-huh. Multiply that by the odds that both kittens are amazingly friendly and sweet and just PERFECT, and also not yet under contract to anyone else? Yeah.

That’s how it works for us, I guess. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and our new furry overlords are officially members of the family and rulers of their domain.

That domain currently consists of a Kitten Safe Zone (for overnight and other times they can’t be supervised) plus the kitchen/family room/Spouseman’s office area. As they master the finer points of ambulation, coordination, and personal hygiene, more areas of the house will be opened for conquest.

I’ve astonished myself by getting ANY writing done in the last week, but I have! In some ways I work better when I have a reliable schedule PLUS a distraction to push against. These little guys are plenty distracting as well as totally adorable.

They will be on social media, but I keep the best material non-public. You can support me by signing up here for the free monthly newsletter that comes straight to your inbox, ask for an invite to my Very Quiet Discord server and/or follow this blog.

Two final pics to tempt you into newsletterland:

I’ll share the stories of my past cats in future posts. Unless I forget.

That’s all the all for now. Until later!

Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances other things Writing Life

Learning by doing: my latest project

I only did 2 virtual conventions during Our First Pandemic Year because Discord became the default interaction platform, and it was not only a New And Scary Thing, it was a complex new social one. I was already two social media programs past coping, so navigating Discord servers was overwhelming, bewildering. It was impossible for me to get bast anxiety blocks to process how Things Worked. Not the technical side, that was refreshingly clear, but in a basic, human “how do people use this thing?” way.

Learning to drive is the best analogy I can think of. Complex, multi-channel learning. It’s so difficult there are CLASSES and people have to CERTIFY, right? The difficulty has less to do with mastering the pedals, levers, and buttons to make things stop & go, and a lot more to do with learning the rules of the road, and MOST to do with learning to apply those rules to physical experience in real time so you don’t hit the wrong pedal at the wrong time and crash.

Social interaction is like that for me. ALL social interaction. But each new environment isn’t like a new car. It’s like a whole new kind of driving, period. Think car vs airplane, or electric scooter vs sailboat. New mechanics, new rules, new integration. Some elements transfer, but you don’t know which until you’ve put in the time in the new system.

With Discord, the mechanical part was simple, but there were so many different types of interactions that the patterns weren’t readily visible (To me. Things that are as clear as glass to many people are opaque to me, and vice versa. But I digress.)

Imagine trying to avoid a crash when you couldn’t learn the rules first because you’re already driving, so you can only learn the rules of the road only by watching other drivers while also learning your pedals and lever mechanics. Pretty dangerous, huh?

On social media, crashes translate as mortifying humiliation with the potential to drive me into solitude for, oh, years. That made Discord a no-go zone for me for ages. But that bugged me. Things I can’t do always bug me.

So I made Discord this year’s Hibernation Project.

Late winter is the best time for me to tackle Scary New Things. Once my energy starts to build up after the mid-winter crash, I find something shiny and carry them into my nest and get to know them better by combing & petting & squeezing the stuffing out of them.

Almost everyone learns better “by doing,” but it’s the only way I learn multi-channel processes. When I first wanted to understand website design, way back in the day, I bemused my friends who worked in web design by teaching myself to code sites from scratch using HTML & CSS. Why didn’t I focus on learning the web design programs, they wondered. But see, those programs didn’t make sense to me At All until I mastered the underlying language structure.

This year, I dragged Discord into the nest and made it my own. I built my own little server, nice and tidy, with all the usual parts & pieces, then brushed and polished it up to Discord’s Community Guidelines so eventually I can make it public.

That was a long read to get to the news that there now exists a Dawnrigger Discord server, huh? But there it is!

Right now it’s private, invitation only. If you’re a reader and/or fan of my books, if you have room in your Discord for a quiet little server where there’s not much clutter or content yet, you’re welcome to join Dawnrigger’s Den and share the fun.

This also means that when the day I flee Facebook inevitably arrives, I’ll still have an interactive space online, and I’m a LOT more comfortable surfing my way around other servers & occasionally even posting comments & engaging in conversations.

Not comfortable, but not as uncomfortable. And that’s progress. Wins all around.

That’s all for now. Some heavy shit happened online this week. I’m still processing, but there will be blog on ot eventually.

Until then, have a random cat with a book.

Photo by Heather McKeen on Pexels.com
Categories
Authoring Whimsy Writing Life

Daily Life, Fairy-Tale Style

First, a funny meme:

Point-to-point distraction is a huge problem when I start life chores, but guess what?

I KNOW THE SUPER-SEKRIT WINNING STRATEGY to overcoming it, thanks to my unprofessional, unscientific, non-analytic studies on the subject. And because I’m so generous, Imma share it with you today.

Here it is: life is a series of fetch quests.

Once you know that, you know the third task past the first is a trap, and you can avoid it.

How can I say this with such confident certainty? Well. Thank my parents for giving me so many fairy tales wherein the protagonist had to quest for item after item, then wind back through a long line of exchanges to the beginning to get their prize.

There is always a turning point several quests into the journey. ALWAYS.

If you want to reach your day’s happy ending, turn back at the fourth victory and begin tracking back to the original quest. Otherwise you are DOOMED.

I’m not saying that’s easy. Simple things rarely are.

(I know it isn’t always the fourth quest in the classics — but three-plus-one is a powerful number, and I did mention this being unscientific, right? Right. So. Back to the POINT.)

The fetch-quest model works (for me) because it puts adrenaline-craving and competitiveness into harness together. When aimed at a shared goal, they’re strong enough to haul my interest-motivated ass away from all the shiny things and drag me down the road to home. YMMV, but never underestimate the power of WINNING.

Once I complete the work that earns me a gem from the Goblin King, I know to decline the promise of riches for the easy follow-up task they offer. That quest will surely lead to my destruction, and I ALREADY HAVE AN IN-GAME TROPHY TO COLLECT!

So I refuse the Goblin King’s tempting reward, turn back and retrace my steps to the dragon’s lair, give him the gem in trade for the scale I will use to pay the wizard for the spell that releases the cursed bird from its cage so she can sing the song that releases my love from their enchanted sleep…

…or toss the freaking pens, take the list to the store for detergent, REFUSE TO BE SIDETRACKED INTO FIFTEEN OTHER ERRANDS, and come home to start the damned laundry.

Whichever. Point is, never ever take that fifth fetch quest. Eyes on the shiny, shiny prize.

The struggle is real.

That’s it in random observations for now. Until later!

We’re off on another quest!
Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay