Y is for yardwork

White daffodils and red dicentra

Narcissi and bleeding hearts

It’s April, which means everything is in bloom. Magnolias scatter their petals in the streets. Dogwoods are opening, their buds still looking dry and brittle. Tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils flourish in beds and around mailboxes. My new hellebores have their first blooms, and the bleeding hearts are stretching out their limbs.

First hellebore

It also means I have to clean up the dead peony stalks I didn’t deal with last fall, deadhead the daffodils as they finish blooming, remove the grass from the flower beds, and put new mulch on top of the old to nourish the soil.

New growth on peony

I also regularly support the Arbor Foundation, and I just got a shipment of ten random saplings (maple, oak, spruce, dogwood, redbud) that needed to be planted around the yard. Thus, new holes dug, edgers placed around the saplings to protect them from the lawnmower, that sort of thing. (Meant to have a pic of the edgers and the saplings to put here, but I decided to take my daughter to the park yesterday instead.)

The lovely thing about April? Even with a warm spell, it’s pleasant enough to do the work, and there’s plenty of rain to keep everything greening nicely.

What about you? Any new or old projects in your yard this month?

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading!

V is for violets and volunteers

Violets in the grass

Violets in the grass

Volunteers, in this case, referring to plants that grow somewhere without being planted there. As, for example, the dogwood sapling in our front flower bed that I need to decide whether to transplant or leave where it is. It can — and probably should — stay where it is until fall, as the best time to transplant is when there are no leaves on the tree. However, we’ve been talking about redoing that bed since we moved in, and it won’t survive that.
Dogwood volunteer in the flower bed

Volunteer dogwood

Mary Engelbreit may say to “Bloom where you’re planted,” but there are times when to really thrive, something needs to be moved. I think this is one such case. Meanwhile, however, it grows and becomes stronger. That’s all that I can ask.

U is for unfinished work

The down side of starting new ideas is that I’m not always done with old ones. It’s not just writing, either. Yes, I have what would be piles of uncompleted stories (short stories, novels, whatever) if they were printed out. I’ve also got most of a quilt top that I need to finish putting together. A sweater I was making for when the girl was 1-year-old (and now if I finish, I need to figure out what to do with!). Organizational efforts with papers that still need to be gone through (although I made a good start earlier this month) and shredded, recycled, or filed as necessary. The garden, which will always be a work in progress. And more.

The problem with all these things is that every time I see them and notice them undone, it takes a bit of an emotional toll. “I should do that.” “I don’t have time right now.” “I need to make time.” “Later.” Which means not getting the work done can be mentally exhausting.

People who work monomaniacally don’t have to deal with this as often. They pick one or two projects, pursue to completion, and then go on to the next. It’s great if that’s the way your brain works.

Me, I think my work habits go back to the whole “breadth, not depth” thing. Deep focus just isn’t the way I’m wired. I’m a bee that goes from flower to flower to flower . . . (Extra points for catching the reference!) And it mostly works for me. I do get things done and submitted and even published. I keep my attention fresh and engaged by always having something that fits my mood and attention.

Still, I’m not enchanted by the emotional toll of realizing how very much still needs to be done. I hope to get the quilt top done in May. Ditto the papers. The stories? Well, I’m working on them. I know there will always be some unfinished (at least partly because there are always new starts), but I’m trying to cut down on the backlog over the next year or two. There’s a marathon this coming weekend on Forward Motion that may help with the short stories. That should help.

When it comes right down to it, though, I know that it will never be all done. I’m okay with that. I have to be. A priest once said, “We all die with things on our to-do lists.” The alternative is to stop living before I die. I’m not willing to do that.

T is for tea and tetsubin

Tea is, as I think I’ve mentioned, my favorite drink, the default that keeps me going through the day. I drink black tea in the morning, black decaf tea in the afternoon, green tea when I feel like it, and herbal teas whenever (lemon tea with honey particularly when my throat hurts, for example).

I’m not super picky. I don’t drink Lipton (although at least one of their black teas in the pyramidal bags isn’t bad), but my general methodology is boil water, pour over tea bag in cup, steep, and drink. Removing the tea bag before drinking is optional. So is drinking before it gets cold; my mug is no stranger to the microwave.

Sometimes, I’m more traditional. I pour boiling water into my cup to preheat it. I bring the water to a boil and let it cool for a couple of minutes before pouring it over the loose tea leaves (generally green tea with jasmine), and I do remove those and their strainer after just a couple of minutes of steeping. The aroma is marvelous, and there is no bitter edge.

For Christmas, my husband gave me a tetsubin — a Japanese cast-iron teapot. I haven’t used it yet because I wanted to clear my desk (which has happened with the computer woes) so I could set the teapot there for use. One of the things that I really like about this pot is “soap should not be used to clean an iron teapot. After rinsing the tetsubin cast iron teapot thoroughly with water, it should be wiped dry with a clean cloth. This cleaning method will allow the seasoned mineral coating to remain intact” (from Teavana’s tetsubin page). Yes! I’ve been telling my mother for years that I shouldn’t have to wash my teacups out, and now I have a teapot I can let be. 🙂

I’m looking forward to getting settled back into my office and having the tetsubin (with warmer) nearby for my tea. Meanwhile, I’ve got to go boil some water for my next cup of decaf tea.

R is for results

Results are the outcome of everything that we do.

I follow a training program for running, I get results: I can run farther, and my thighs start slimming down.

I spend hours writing instead of frittering away time on the Internet, I get results: thousands of words added to works in progress, new stories to submit.

On the other hand, not all results are good. I stay up too late watching Battlestar Galactica on Netflix with my husband, and I get results, too: I’m exhausted the next day. Do it two or three times in a row, and I become an incredibly grumpy person who has trouble focusing on anything.

Again, it gets back to choice. Results are cause-and-effect. What I choose to do affects what results I achieve.

So what results are you looking for this week?

P is for perseverance

Otherwise known as, why quit when you’re behind?

No, really. If you haven’t reached your goal yet, and you quit, you’ll never reach it.

Perseverance is the art of creating a goal and focusing on it — either on the long-term goal or on each step you need to take along the way — until you’ve reached it.

Sometimes, the goal is something like making it through another week. Sometimes, it’s writing a novel. Sometimes, it’s running a race, learning a new language, or raising a child.

Perseverance gets us through. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time — in my case, literally. Perseverance helped me relearn to walk, more than once. Perseverance is helping me relearn to run. Perseverance keeps me going.

What have you persevered at recently?

N is also for No Excuses

You didn’t think I’d forget my mantra, did you?

What am I not making excuses for now?

  • Running — I’m two-thirds of the way through the Couch-to-5k running plan, and I’m contemplating entering a 5k race on May 7.
  • Paperwork — Not only does it have to get done now, but I’m spending time tweaking my system so it’s easier to deal with papers as they come in (at least once every week or two, when I’m paying bills), rather than letting them just pile up.
  • Planning ahead — I’m thinking about a five-year plan. Not in detail of what specific projects I want to have done when, but in more general terms of where I want to take my career and its different aspects over time.
  • Writing — Not a lot done on that this week, but that’s because (to refer to Tuesday’s post) I’m juggling, and those balls are in the air while I deal with taxes and so forth. They’ll come down again, though, when it’s their turn, and I’ll write. That’s not an excuse; it’s the reality of how I work.
  • Family — My work day is limited by the time I spend with my husband and kids, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What about reasons, instead of excuses?

Well, the water transmission main that broke this week put a crimp on housework, with dishes and laundry stacking up for an extra day. (That was a little problematic for the boy, who needed a clean pair of sweats for his gym class. I figured a little dirt in the water wouldn’t hurt the wash for those, so he had them, and then they were washed again after the water was clean.)

What about you? What commitments are you holding yourself to?

As always, thanks for reading!

N is for nectarines, Netflix, and Nutella

Just because I like them all.

Nectarines. The fruit that most means summer to me, juice dripping down my chin, and none of that fuzziness that can be so irritating with a peach.

Netflix. Wonderful service if you’ve got kids. Being able to stream so many things at a moment’s notice for a monthly fee? And then there’s my husband, who is rewatching several series from when he was growing up. Or the fact that we can now watch the new version of Battlestar Galactica from the beginning.

Nutella. Awesome spread, great on toast or a crêpe, and absolutely delicious stirred into oatmeal. Spreadable chocolate — what more could one want?

If you haven’t already, give them a try.

What random “N” things do you like?

J is for juggling

When people think of balance, they often think of a static situation — a pair of scales, equal weights on both sides. Dynamic balance — the kind you need to ride a bike or walk on a tightrope — isn’t usually what people are striving for in their lives. There’s this idea that you can get everything together and cope for once and all with everything you have to do.


That’s why I prefer to think of juggling. When you’re juggling, the more you’re juggling, the more is out of your hands. If you’re doing it well, things fall into place, right in your hands. And occasionally, balls get dropped, but it’s not the end of the world. That describes what I live with.

There’s the personal — wife, mother, manager of family finances, cook, washerwoman, gardener, and more.

There’s the professional — copyeditor, indexer, proofreader. Running the business, dealing with finances, finding new work.

There’s the writer — um. Current count of projects on my list for the next couple of months? I’ve got one short story now, but I’m hoping to participate in the Story-a-Day challenge on Forward Motion in May. I’ve got the Mayan book I’m working on for Moongypsy Press, and Daniel’s book (under Doru’s name) that I promised to have up by the end of this month. I have four other books in various states of completion that I want to send out to NY publishers, at least 2 of which I’d like to get done in the next month or two. I have another project, Bridge, which I started this month but really won’t talk about until December or January. I have the steampunk adventure stories. I want to write another novella to submit to the UPC Science-Fiction Award this year. I just got an idea for a new series yesterday, and I was reminded of an old idea for a series that I probably won’t get to before next year. Oh, and then there are the short stories already written that I keep sending out to markets (occasionally selling one), as well as the ones I’m considering putting up for sale.

So, yes. Juggling.

No balls dropped so far today, but the day is young.

I is for IRS

Ah, spring! When a young woman’s thoughts turn lightly to thoughts of piles of receipts and forms to fill out to convince the government that yes, we really did pay our share of the government’s expenses last year. Okay, maybe not so lightly.

I was annoyed when I received the postcard from the IRS saying they weren’t sending forms this year. Our post office doesn’t have them. I didn’t see them at the library. That means downloading them and printing them (No, I’m not doing e-file). I can do that — I’ve often done it for worksheets and forms that weren’t included in the booklet anyway. It’s just annoying, increases the amount of time and energy I have to spend, and makes finding the appropriate instructions, tax tables, etc., frustrating. I like being able to flip through the pages. I like being able to fold pages in half so I can reference pages in two different sections of the book. I like having the paper there as reference when I need it.

In my opinion, a better way for them to have handled it would have been to provide the option to order the booklet sent.

Ah, well. Can’t expect them to actually be helpful, can I? This is the IRS — after all, butt of fear, loathing, and jokes across the country. Okay, back to work on the forms. *sigh*