How to Guarantee an Explosion

Tattoos, retirement funds, texting while driving.  What do these things have in common?  My family knows not to bring them up at family gatherings unless we’re itching to be on the receiving end of the rant.

They’re pet topics of certain, beloved family members.  They can’t help but get fired up.  It’s a knee-jerk reaction–we all have them. But why?

 

Jordan and the gang from Messy Mondays have a knack for picking up on human ticks.  I’ll add one thing.

By identifying what ‘sets you off,’ you may be able to identify your greatest fears, and therefore be more objective about what makes you angry.

Business leaders Mark and Kristine Militello talked about how each person has a ‘fear button’–a fear that causes a knee-jerk, angry reaction when provoked. Kristine says her button is value. When she feels she is not valued, she reacts in anger. Mark reacts the same way to what he sees as a lack of respect.

They talked about how, once they discovered what their fear buttons were, they were able to step back, realize why they were angry, and that perhaps the person did not mean to make them feel unvalued or disrespected. Likewise, if the other was angry, they could address their need for value or respect, and diffuse the situation.

We all have these buttons. Mine is intelligence. If I feel patronized, or that my intelligence is being insulted, I get angry. You might not be able to tell–I am a non-demonstrative introvert–but inside, be assured I am fuming.

I have to realize that, for the most part, people don’t mean to insult my intelligence, and I need to not be so thin-skinned about it.

I bet if we were observant, we’d be able to detect the fear buttons of our best friends, spouses, kids and family, and save ourselves the trouble of many knee-jerk reactions.

What is the pet peeve that sets you off?  

You Will Feel Like a Goof

Chris Brady said:

Our society has fashioned an odd double-mindedness when it comes to success. Everyone wants to see the baby, but no one wants to hear about the labor pains. But success requires pressure and pain, and as we overcome resistance and opposition, there will inevitably be times when we ask ourselves, “Is this really what the successful ones did? They did that?”

I will never forget the early days of doing my part working on the rough draft of the manuscript for Orrin Woodward’s and my first bestseller Launching a Leadership Revolution. I was alone in my house, typing away, feeling like a phony [sic] writing nonsense. Only later would I learn in talking to other authors that most of them have felt this way too, even sometimes after already having several successful books in the marketplace! The flip side of feeling like a goof is that eventually, if you stay at it long enough, you will feel like a champion.

–from his book
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I thought I’d share that with you. At the moment I’m preparing for Monday to come, and praying that this is a better week (work-wise) than the previous. As a writer, I’m at a bit of a low. Frankly, I feel like a goof and a phoney–as if ‘who’m I kidding?’

But maybe I’m not so far off after all?

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The Great Pizza Failure

I wanted pizza something awful, today.  And when I want something, I don’t let go easily.

I may have mentioned this low-glycemic lifestyle of mine.  Pizza is part of it as long as it has a suitable, low-carb crust.  I’ve tried cauliflower crust–not so great.  I’ve tried flax crust–icky. They both taste like eggs.  Back when I ate real conventional pizza, I was obsessed with getting the crust right.  I finally perfected it–and then I quit wheat.

So today on break I searched ‘low glycemic pizza crust’ and found a recipe with promise: almond flour crust.  I picked up toppings, and when Wal-Mart had no almond flour, I decided to try grinding my own.

Yeah, that didn’t work.

I tried the crust before I topped it.  It was… chewy.  And i don’t mean that nice chewy, like French bread, or a chocolate-chip cookie.  I mean like the kind of chewy you don’t want milk to be.

But I wanted pizza.  Surely if I had regular, find-ground almond flour, the crust would be good.  It seemed okay, but for the texture.  So I said ‘to heck with it–it’s Friday night and I’ve got nowhere to be’ and shot off to the nearest Superstore.

Superstore was out of almond flour.

“Sh–!” I said.  (Sorry Mom. This entire escapade involved a few more swear words than I can admit to without blushing.)  I was hungry, by now.  It was seven.  I was wandering, wishing I could just cave and eat regular-people food.

Well, thought I, the health food store may still be open.  And I sure as heck am not going home now that i’m out here.  I went to the health-food store.  It was open.  There was almond flour.  It cost about as much as a new SUV.  I gulped.  I paid.  I went out to my car, ready to cry.

This better be good.

When I assembled the crust, it looked okay so I topped it with provolone, pepperoni, spinach and mushrooms.  It baked up looking and smelling heavenly.

**takes a deep breath**

Nope.  It was disgusting.  I ate a piece, hoping it would get better.  I ate another little piece.  And then I just tore the yummy toppings off and left the crust.  I picked up the crust, carried it to the kitchen and threw it into the garbage.  And then I cried.  I cried all the way from the kitchen to the bathroom, and then to my room as I changed out of my pizza-scented clothes.

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It’s melodramatic, I know, but it feels like a metaphor for my entire week–maybe month.  Work has been one screw up after the next.  Yesterday I had a ‘competency assessment’ after a judgment call of mine went sour and I screwed up a coat.  Today my senior operator pulled me out of my process room and took me aside to discuss another mistake–a mistake that resulted when coworkers pulled me in to help sort out an issue.

I threw up my hands and said to the senior op, “Why did they have to ask me?”

“Because they think of you as the next subject matter expert in coating,” he said.

I squinted at him.  “Thank you for saying that.”

“No really,” he said.  “When I make my schedule in the morning, I only have a couple of people I can trust to run a pan on their own and you are one of them.”

I hoped he was serious.  I said to him “Are these the kind of speed bumps I have to hurdle to become an SME? (subject matter expert)”

He turned and looked at me.  “Hey, I only know what I know because I f—ed up so many times.”

Unfortunately, it seems life is like that.  We must go from failure to failure to succeed.  It’s crossed my mind that, perhaps, I should be encouraged by the volume of my failures. They are, in part, because I’ve been asserting a lot more independence, even branching out and training a coworker.

I remember four different coworkers (a senior operator, a supervisor and two training specialists) who have told me stories of big, big failures they’ve had on the job–lectures from quality analysts, thousands of dollars of product wasted.  But they’re still there, and much more successful than I am.

It puts my mess into perspective, even if it doesn’t take away the sting.

Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Almond crust is out.  But I have low-carb pitas that are coming soon.  And you can be darn sure I’ll have pizza then.  In this life, or the next, I shall have my pizza.

The Icky Life of a Writer: Writing Process Blog Hop

Writing is a glamorous job: an office with an antique oak desk, dark-rimmed glassed, whimsical scarf, typing away in an ecstasy of inspiration until voila! A novel is written, which becomes a best-seller and is made into a movie starring a man who looks good enough to eat.  All of this is done while drinking like a fish and/or consuming copious quantities of illegal drugs.

So I’m told, anyway.  Never tried it.  At least I got the dark rimmed glasses.

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The writer in her natural habitat

Kim Rempel, a fellow “Inkster”, a hawk-eyed editor with a (self-proclaimed) built in BS meter, and a knack for writing articles that touch hearts, graciously shanghaied invited me to share my writing process as part of a blog hop.  I don’t know what a blog hop is, but I’ll do my best.  Be sure and read her post about her ‘beastly’ writing!  She may already be regretting that she asked me to do this.

It’s an Icky Process

My writing process is… untidy.  Today my ‘writing uniform’ is blue scrubs, hair frizzy from the steam of cleaning my process room, and stinky purple socks. My desk is my knees, my office is a stainless steel bench.

One day I hope to have a studio, complete with an espresso maker and a big picture window and a sound system that plays Bon Iver in crystal clear surround sound.  Then I’ll be able to close a door and write for three hours straight.  But right now, I accomplish what I can, under everyone else’s noses.

Blog posts come from jokes with colleagues (head-swapping, for instance), from books I read I the bathroom, and from things I meditate on while my coating pan is running. They’re written on my iPhone while on lunch-break, edited on the next break, and posted when I get home.

Scenes for my novel are imagined in my head while working, and written at 1:00 am after a late shift.  Sometimes I temporarily become these characters and let them ‘see through my eyes’ as I work. That can be fun or traumatic, depending on the circumstance. In this way I learn to know my character. It is a bit like an actor talking about being ‘in character.’ The good actors make you believe you are that person, and I strive to do the same thing with my characters. For me, the characters ARE the story.

Social networking is done while brushing my teeth, on the breaks when I’m not writing blog posts, and on the toilet.  TMI?  It’s the icky truth.

Now, what else was I supposed to say?

What am I working on? I am in the mid-stages of editing an apocalyptic/zombie/love-story. I hope to publish late June, early July.

What makes me different? I doubt there has ever been such a character-driven zombie novel.  In spite of the guts, guns, and gore, it is a love story at it’s heart.

Why do I write what I write? I write what fires my imagination. I get a kick out of taking a scenario, adding a big twist, and seeing what happens. For example, I work in a pharmaceutical plant. I once asked myself “What if we were manufacturing humans?” That idea became an entire novel–next in line to be edited after the one I’m working on.

And that, my friends, is all.

Ashely Kaboha is a photographer who is also participating in this blog hop.  Her photos are BEAUTIFUL, and she has a real passion for helping women discover their own unique beauty.

 

Why I Left Christian Music

I stopped listening to Christian music about the time we got high-speed Internet in our house. I was probably sixteen. I’d never been on YouTube before.

I had a problem with ‘worship music’ since my early teens, about when I entered my angsty stage (from which I never emerged, by the way). I’d be at a youth-retreat. The band would be playing their heart out, and all around me people would be raising their hands and crying, and I’d be standing there going “if you repeat the chorus one more time, I swear I’ll kill someone.”

Angsty, remember.

If the band was good, all I wanted was to be up there playing in the band. If the band was bad, I’d stare at the ground, embarrassed for them. By the fifth round of the chorus I’d refuse to sing, and say “God, I’m sure you get the point by now.” And then I’d feel guilty.

I was sure something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I feel anything? I loved Jesus. I wanted to follow him. I wanted to worship. Why couldn’t get all into it like everyone else?

I enjoyed Christian rock, but at the time there was no Christian rock station in my area, so I was limited to the few CD’s I bought. The Christian radio station played mostly pop and Chris Tomlin and all this local stuff that sounded like it was produced in a basement.

Haunted by my lack of connection to the words, annoyed by the sound, I turned to mainstream music.

What kind? All kinds. I’ve never pinned myself to a genre. But it sure was angst-ridden. Sad songs about lost love, struggle, depression, longing.

Was it the darkness that drew me to those songs? It isn’t that you can’t find darkness in Christian music, particularly Christian rock, but my local station (the one that played Chris Tomlin and pop music) sure was bright and shiny. I didn’t do bright and shiny. If you look at my writing from those days–actually, if you look at any of the novels I’ve written–you’ll see that I cover a lot of dark themes and I’m really not sure why. But as music often acts as the inspiration and the soundtrack for my writing, melancholy melodies are what I needed to come through my ear buds.

And then I went through a ‘hipster music’ stage—for my older friends, that means Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver, the Lumineers, and then as many bands that no one has heard of as possible. Make it weird, raw and jangly… yes, jangly.

These days my playlist is a bit more up-tempo, more hopeful. My anthem this week has been “Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Arcade Fire. “They heard me singing and they told me to stop. Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock. These days I feel my life, it has no purpose. But late at night these feelings swim to the surface.”

To me it signifies the struggles against the mundane. I aspire to so much, but most people around me would only drag me down if I listen to them. Gosh, I got a lump in my throat just now. My ‘romantic battle’ to follow my dreams of being a writer and just plain an excellent person is one of the most important things in my life—and, I believe, part of God’s purpose for me.

I’ve yet to find the Christian equivalent to bands like Arcade Fire, Broken Bells, Passenger and Muse. I recently found a Christian ‘Mumford and Sons’ lookalike, but their songs were so saccharine that I exited iTunes without purchasing.

But lately I’ve made a return to Christian music.

It began when I joined a group of young women who meet to pray, study and worship together. The group leader would always play worship music, and I would often sit there (pretending to pray silently) annoyed as heck with the music. I mean, what did they do? Put all the Christian clichés in a bowl, mix it up and flop it on the page?

But one day, she played an album by Christy Nockels—“Into the Glorious”. Her beautiful voice, the piano driven sound and the beautiful lyrics got to me. I bought a couple songs and began listening to them when I was down or in a funk, and they would remind me of the goodness of God.

I now have a playlist—a short playlist—of ‘songs of worship’, which I will play during my devotional times, or when I need to be reminded of God’s truth.

I also have a mind full of hymns that I learned as a child, and I love to belt them out when alone in my process room at work. The profundity of the poetry and beautiful melodies make them mini-sermons for my soul. I still find singing in church a bit awkward, and being an anal writer, I’m driven wild by the prevalence of pronoun confusion, tense-jumping, and other literary weirdness but… we’ll let that pass. I seem to be growing out of it—a little.

It’s not sinful to enjoy music made by non-Christians. We are all endowed with a certain measure of common grace, and many artists use it to produce wonderful music. I doubt that the list of Christian music I own will ever be longer than the mainstream, but I’m opening myself up to finding it again. They both have their place.

In other words, no need to play therapist to me. I’ll be fine. :)

But, having said that, if you know of a band I’d like, please let me know! Comment, or share a YouTube link so I can take a listen. And I always appreciate when you guys share articles on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your help.

Note: The term “Christian music” means different things to different people. I’ve defined it as music produced by a band that specifically claims to be Christian and/or is associated with a Christian music label, as this is what I think of when I think “Christian music”. If I were to write out a definition of ‘Christian Music’, I would probably call it ‘music produced by Christians for the glory of God, regardless of what genre it belongs to.’

Dinner With Bill Gates (and other bewildering dreams)

Last night I dreamt I was having dinner with Bill Gates and his wife. I have no idea where this came from. I don’t even own a PC.

Not that I’d mind having dinner with the couple. I bet they’re interesting. I’d just have to hide my iPhone. Or better yet, avoid the topic of technology all together.

Vivid dreams are normal for me. I’ve always had them. I can remember a wacky dream I had when I was seven or eight about this lion that was stalking our house and throwing apple-shaped bananas at the window. No joke.

My dreams come in a few different varieties: the adventure type (my favourite) in which I embody a character in a scary or adventurous scenario. There are the ‘searching dreams.’ I hate these. In these I search for something Important, I.e. my keys, my shoes or my swipe-card for work. I can never find it, and I’m always running late. Torture.

I recently dreamt that I was missing my work shoes, and by the time I found them and went onto the production floor, no one was there. They were all in the pool (my work doesn’t have a pool…) and outside there was a thunderstorm, and the rock formations around the building collapsed and blew out the windows and there was dust everywhere so I waded over to the gowning station and put on a dust mask. I mean, obviously a pharmaceutical plant would have dust masks in its pool room.

Oh, and then there are the embarrassing dreams. Usually these involve nudity.

A couple weeks ago I dreamt that I was at my parents house, and decided to streak from the shower to my bedroom. I came sauntering out, in the buck, just as two guests arrived. I greeted them with great dignity, and then dashed into the bathroom to hide. I’d just wrapped myself in a towel when I heard someone clear their throat. I turned, and there was a friend of mine, sitting on the toilet.

Why did they leave the door unlocked, anyway?!

Anyone who interprets dreams would have a heyday on me. What does this mean? I am afraid of being exposed? Afraid of swimming pools? Afraid of losing?

I lose things all the time, so I suppose that’s true.

The upside: my dreams have inspired me more than once. We The Living: an Apocalypse, the novel which I intend to publish mid-year, was inspired by a dream about zombies.

But Bill Gates?

Well, I’ve never had a prophetic dream yet, so I guess my MacBook is safe.

Trim Healthy What?

Subtitled “What’s that thing you’re doing, Geralyn?” 

It’s been more than a month now, so I suppose it’s time to own up. I’m trying to lose weight.

I wanted to make good and sure that I was doing this before I put it on the blog, after all, it seems every week I meet someone who says, “I read your blog.” It still gives me a mini heart attack every time, and I stand there wondering “what do you know about me?”

People have been asking “what are you doing?” and I’ve been yapping–probably too much. It’s time to give y’all an explanation.

The What
It’s called Trim Healthy Mama. Authors Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett are both moms of big families who have a passion for healthy living, and in their book they share the ‘boiling down’ of years of learning.

The basics: a low-glycemic (that means it has a low impact on blood sugar levels) diet that separates high carb from high fat so that the body can burn off the fuel you give it without storing any. If I am eating a higher fat meal, i.e. something creamy or cheesy, it will contain almost no carbs. If I am eating something with more carbs (and these carbs are carefully chosen to not spike blood sugar), the meal will contain no more than one teaspoon of fat.

Oh yeah, and sugar is not allowed.

What has this meant for me? It means that I haven’t eaten sugar, regular bread, potatoes, white rice or pasta, or milk for five weeks (with a few exceptions when away from home). My protein intake has about doubled, and I am eating more healthy fats, like coconut oil, flax seed, and natural peanut butter. Nothing too weird, nothing especially ‘diety’—no prepackaged food. Most of what I eat is good, solid, whole foods.

I thought giving up sugar might cause some sort of withdrawal, but it didn’t. I really don’t miss it. The stevia powder I’m using has almost no aftertaste, and I feel good knowing that the lemonade I’m chugging is hydrating me, not filling me up with sugar. Just to be clear (because I’ve already received a lot of well-meaning advice), honey, raw sugar and agave nectar are good for you, but they are not low-glycemic and I’m not open to using them.

The book isn’t just about eating. It gives suggestions on short, high intensity workouts that are easy to fit into the day. I’ve incorporated this into my life, as of Friday. My motto has always been ‘me no work out’, so this is truly amazing!

The Why
Why would I do this?  Well, I needed to do something drastic.

Prior to this, I ate to a decent degree of health, but moderation wasn’t my strong suite. If the food was good, I’d keep eating—especially if it was salty and full of carbs. Worse, I craved junk food almost constantly. The cravings were unbearable, and when I’d finally give in to them I’d feel like a complete loser. This went on and on. I thought I was an addict. I thought something was wrong with me.

Two of my friends were doing this thing called “Trim Healthy Mama.” I knew a bit about Serene and Pearl through a magazine called Above Rubies, and I knew they were pretty ‘nutty’ about health, so I dismissed it.

Cue a little thing called “My Fitness Pal.” It’s an app that tracks your caloric intake for the day. I got an accurate picture of what I was eating, and I tried so hard to change. But I couldn’t do it. I hated it. I just wanted the freedom to eat when I was hungry and enjoy what I was eating.

Meanwhile, my friends were having results, and posting things on Facebook about the awesome things they were eating. After a bit of research, I bought Trim Healthy Mama and decided that I’d start off slow.

My friend assured me that this diet would help me with my cravings. Then, just a few pages into the book, it started describing problems like adult acne and mood swings, and I said “if you can cure me of this, I’ll love you forever.” That was it. I was in, and in with both feet.

It’s been five weeks, and I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve lost about eleven pounds. I’ve seen a slight improvement in my complexion, and a definite rise in energy levels. I’ve yet to see my mood swings improve, but I’m hopeful that I will find a remedy. I’m still a bit concerned that I spend too much time thinking about food. But I’ve realized that I enjoy food more now, because I know what’s going down my gullet is good for me. That’s all I wanted, really. Food free from guilt.

Oh, and I tracked my eating on My Fitness Pal yesterday.  I spent all day feeling almost over-full, and I was WELL under my caloric limit for the day. :)

Find out more at trimhealthymama.com.

An aside: many of those who I’ve talked to about my new style of eating immediately start justifying why they are not eating this way.  Please don’t feel you have to do so.  While I am passionate about my new lifestyle, I know that there are many ways to be healthy.  Do what is right for your own lifestyle!

 

Who to Blame for Evil Deeds?

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

I first heard this quote, from The Gulag Archipelago, paraphrased by Dr. Andy Bannister in a lecture titled “Does Religion Poison Everything?” (borrowing from Christopher Hitchen’s line, “Religion poisons everything”). Bannister said that ‘religion,’ in the quote, could just as well be replaced by ‘money,’ since money causes crime, poverty and resentment. Or ‘politics’, since politics causes bloodshed, strife and war. He said that whatever humans ‘lay ahold of,’ they poison–sort of a reverse Midas touch. That applies to politics, money, government, science–and religion.

But all of those things can–and are–used for good as well. The dividing line runs through our hearts.

I recently repeated Solzhenitsyn’s words to someone who was bemoaning the prevelence of technology–smartphones in particular. I think she was thinking of the ubiquitous iPhone, and the ‘smartphone slouch’ that goes with it, and how people use their phones as an excuse to not talk to each other. It’s a valid complaint, if misdirected. My iPhone (on which I am writing this blog post) is the single most powerful business tool I own, but it is one of my greatest time-wasters, and a gateway to all kinds of destruction. It all depends how I use it.

Another example. I grew up around guns. My family is a hunting, fishing and trapping family. All my life, I’ve been comfortable with guns because I’ve seen them since I was little, was taught how to shoot and how to handle guns safely. My Dad and his gun were what put meat on our table, and they continue to do so. But other people have used guns to kill and cause all manner of human suffering. It depends on the use. The line of good and evil runs through each of our hearts.

We would like to say that it is religion, or politics, or money, or sex, or guns, or just ‘those people’ that wreak havoc in our lives and in this world. If we could only eliminate the gun, the smartphone, the religion, the poison would go as well.

If only it were that easy. Solzhenitsyn, who as a survivor of the Soviet Gulag knew true evil, realized that the horrors he had known could not be eradicated by destroying a certain group of people because evil was in every heart.

The poison isn’t the object, the poison isn’t ‘those people’. The poison is in us, and everywhere we go, there we are.

Malcolm Muggeridge said: “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

But perhaps it is easier to blame it on the smartphone, or the religion.

Roll Up the Rim is Gambling! (A True Theological Dilemma)

I’m on such a losing streak. I’ve yet to win anything in Roll up the Rim. Nothing, not even a donut. This year each cup even has two rolls on it and I’m still skunked.

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But I roll anyway, because I remember The Streak. It was a college kid’s dream. I rolled a rim and won a coffee, which won another coffee, which won another coffee, which won another. Tim Hortons didn’t make any money on me that year, oh no. Never mind that I was only buying coffee there because it was Roll up the Rim…

The other day, my sister and I had a perfectly serious conversation about what we would do if we won the car (sell it), and this morning as I pulled into the drive-through, I said “Oh Lord, if I could only win something big…”

It dawned on me this morning, as I rolled out of the drive-through, that this Roll up the Rim thing may be… it might be **whispers** gambling.

Gasp!

You don’t say. A good Mennonite? Gambling?

Well, if you think about it, a cup of coffee is almost the same price as a bet at the local horse races (that place of sin and debauchery).

What is a Mennonite to do? Maybe I need help. Maybe I should buy coffee exclusively at McDonalds where I am at least guaranteed a sticker for my rewards card–a return on my investment. Perhaps that would be better stewardship of my God-given resources.

Or maybe buying coffee at Tim's is too worldly all together! Never mind that NOT going to Timmies makes me un-Canadian or something. Mennonites don't really do the patriotism thing. Everyone knows that.

Well, if I ever win the car, I will tithe once I sell it. I promise. That makes it okay, right? Right?

I hope my good Mennonite friends will recognize satire when they see it :)
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Playing Hooky… From Everything

I’ve been lazy this week. No, not lazy, maybe desperate. Desperate for a little sanity.

So I haven’t kept to my rigid blogging schedule. I haven’t been listening to my audios. I haven’t kept up with the dishes. I didn’t even write a to-do list for the week. What the heck is wrong with me?

I’m playing hooky.

I hear that Winston Churchill, in the heat of World War 2, would take time to paint water-colours. i think it was Ronald Reagan who chopped wood on his ranch. Some famous person was famous for napping. So I figure I can cut myself a little slack and do something useless from time to time.

Not that watching Catching Fire is useless, per se, but it’s not like me to watch TV more than once in a week. This week, at least three times.

I’ve been reading a lot instead of working on social media. That hasn’t been helping, because I’m reading Thank you For Your Service, which is about American Soldiers returning from Iraq with PTSD, or traumatic brain injuries. It’s research for my novel, but it’s heavy stuff.

So, all in all, not a recipe for a great mood or a lot of energy.

My monthly goals are probably going to go to the dogs, but I suppose it’ll be okay. I don’t know that one week of hooky will make a big difference, in the scope of a lifetime.