Blogs I follow and why

I don’t follow a lot of blogs, I just don’t have the time to read them all and sometimes blogs can be a bit narcissistic (ok, maybe that’s what blogging is all about, but why read even more?) But in case you were looking for some great blogs to keep track of, here are just a few of my favorites these days:

1. Saving for Someday. On top of some great tips on saving money, bargains, and deals in stores, Sara also shares some insights into her life and daily living as a giving, caring person trying to raise a daughter in this crazy world. Follow her, you won’t be sorry.

2. Pirates and Fireflies. Vicariously travel through Europe and other parts exotic, with photos that make me say AHHHHHH so many times it may be annoying to anyone around me. The posts are short enough not to be tedious, but interesting and bucolic. You won’t regret this one, unless the jealousy eats away at you. (What? I can’t help it.)

3. Nail Your Novel. Roz Morris, author and editor, shells out some great advice and quick tips to do just what she says…Nail Your Novel.

4. TIPPR Blog. An aspiring writer/editor who blogs a bit of poetry. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I do enjoy it sometimes, and I like getting just a bit every so often in my inbox and these are quite nice. Give a look.

OK, that’s four. I’ll put a few more up for you soon. What blogs are you following? Let me know.

 

My Stand-Up Desk Experiment (Day One)

For those of you following, my week of solitude was a success. I spent a lot of time getting the writing done that I wanted, I watched a few movies, and I spent time with my great-nephew. Daughter had a fabulous time at camp and can’t stop talking about it, which is wonderful to hear.

As a matter of fact, I had such a wonderful week in my office that my back was starting to yell. Sitting in a chair too much can be quite painful, especially for anyone with prior back/spine issues. Considering how bad it is for you to sit in a chair all day, I decided to get/create a standing work station to see what all the fuss was about. First, I talked with Sean Preuss, a trainer to friends of mine and an author who writes standing up. Then I searched Pinterest and the Internet for stand-up desk DIYs just to get a feel for what I needed. Here are a few of the sites I visited:

1. One Year at My Standing Desk

2. The Standing Desk Experiment: Five Months In

3. Forbes Magazine: What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Standing Desks?

4. Lifehack: The True Benefits of a Standing Desk

What did I learn? The desk should be at elbow height or just below. Your arms should be at right angles from your body, including your wrists, while typing. An anti-fatigue mat for standing is a good idea. Get ready for a sore back and legs at first. Move around a lot if you can.

My Standing Workstation

My Standing Workstation

So, after all that research I started the search. I was planning on stacking books on my desk until I searched my teenager’s room and found a study computer desk we had bought for her a few years back. Since she doesn’t use it all that much anymore, (the dining table worked fine and she just graduated). It has two heights, and the lowest height is perfect for me. As you can see from the photo, it’s wide enough to put a mouse/trackball to the right. There is actually a built-in mousepad there. Too bad I don’t need that. There is also a light on the left for late-night reading.

Day one: I find myself shifting my feet a lot, side to side. I finally decided to put a box under the desk and rest one foot on it, similar to standing at a bar (except nobody served me a martini here. This bar sucks!). I have even stood for a bit with my foot propped behind me on the chair I’m not using.

The space right between my shoulder blades is screaming at me. I think this is just my body telling me that my posture is pretty damn bad and I should just sit down, but I’m not giving in that easily.

This little table gets cramped quickly with the laptop, trackball, and speaker. (What? I need my Pandora when I work.) The wire is too short to sit on the desk. But the good news is that there is a lot of room under the desk to put things. And, it can be folded down in case I want to sit for a little bit and take a breather.

I need better shoes. I think I need to invest in some really good shoes to stand in all day. It’s like walking all over Disneyland but without the big annoying mouse. My feet hurt like crazy, but I didn’t get any ice cream shaped like a mouse head.

From what I’ve read, it does get a bit uncomfortable the first few days. Some people say don’t do it all day on the first few days. I may sit after finishing this post, or I may take a walk. I will definitely be finding a gel mat to stand on soon, and hopefully one that doesn’t cost the same as my computer. Have you priced those out? Geez! I suppose it’s worth it, but I may be trying to make my own.

So for now I’m shifting side to side and shrugging my shoulders a lot. I have actually found myself swaying to the music and walking around my little office a bit more.

If you have one of these, let me know what you do to ease fatigue and soreness. I’m hoping this will be a great solution. I have heard that people lose weight after doing this, although that is not my goal. This is just my first step at trying to get a bit more fit, work out a little more, and live a bit longer.

Stay tuned for updates. I’ll let you know how the long-term standing sits with me. (Get it? Standing-Sits. Hehe, I’m crack myself up!)

Thanks for stopping by!

Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you

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Seems like there are always so many books I want to read. Ever feel that way? I always have two or three beside me, one in the car, a few beside the bed, etc. My purse is too heavy because there’s a book in it, or an iPad with a hundred books and the potential for more. And those are just the ones I want to read, not the books I must read for literature class or book club. Those are always on top of the pile and usually keep me from what I really want to read.

Then there’s work and life, yes those pesky obligations that keep us from our daily reading. But ahhh, when that glass of single-malt is poured, and the lamp is clicked on and the book is opened, I am at peace.

But for now, there will always be more and more books, and yes, I still scour used-book stores for more. I can’t pass up a bargain for something I would want in the future, something that will keep me company with my glass of amber liquid and softly glowing light in an otherwise dark room.

So here I sit, in a small office as I work, with many books keeping me company. “We’ll be here when you’re ready,” they seem to say. “Take your time.”

Dying to look like Laurie Partridge

Ever since I can remember, reading was a wonderful escape for me. Not fitting in with my peers was a given, but I always seem to fit in when I was reading a book. I never worried that the characters in the book would care that I didn’t have the latest Jordache jeans or didn’t have the money to travel to a resort in Upstate New York for the summer like everyone else. One book in particular, The Velvet Room, took me to a place that I have never forgotten.

In the book, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Robin and her family are migrant workers and land in California. While trying to hide from her siblings, Robin finds a tunnel leading to an empty mansion on the hill. But one room is not empty. It is filled with ceiling-high bookshelves and tall windows with red velvet drapes and window seats. Robin finds herself returning day after day to the room, reading and exploring. She begins to wonder why just one room in this large empty house is furnished. I was engrossed in this book for many reasons, but mainly I wanted to find a room like that. I wanted to get away from my family and our dysfunctional drama into a room with tall windows and red-velvet curtains drawn tight against the sun. I wanted to wander and read all the leather-bound books on the shelves without fear of interruption or ridicule. It didn’t matter what you wore in the Velvet Room. Even Robin, in her worn clothes from the fields, didn’t have to worry in there. She could escape the hard life she lived at the bottom of the hill by curling up on the window seat with the curtains drawn and her feet up under her while she read a book.

I carried that book around with me everywhere when I was 11, to my mother’s dismay. I read passages about the room when I was alone, or wanted to be, which was most of the time. At one point my mother wanted me to come out of my shell and allowed me to put a sweater on layaway at K-Mart, a sweater that look so much like the kind everyone else was wearing I was giddy with excitement. It had a brown and yellow zig-zag pattern with a smart-looking tie at the waist. If I could talk her into a pair of wide bell-bottoms, I imagined I would look just like Laurie Partridge, although with my frizzy blonde hair and c-cups at age 11 there wasn’t much chance of that happening too soon. But I dreamed, and went to the store and put another $2 on the sweater each week. I patiently waited for cooler weather and the chance to wow everyone with how hip and groovy I looked in my sweater.

Needless to say, when I finally got the sweater I didn’t look anything like the incredibly thin, poker-straight-haired Laurie. I looked more like her little brother Danny (as in Bonaduce). I was wrong, that sweater didn’t change anything. I retreated back to my book after wearing the sweater for a full week, every day, with no ooohs and aaaahs from anyone.

Virginia Wolfe said every woman should have a room of her own. That might not always be possible, but a corner? How hard can that be? For the moment, I’ve got a large chair in my studio that faces my tiny bookcase and I’m content with that. I’ve got a room, and before that I had a corner. I’m going out to buy red velvet material to make curtains for the tiny windows in my studio this week because after all these years, I think I deserve them. Don’t you? Oh, and I found a copy of The Velvet Room on E-bay a few years ago, and I see it’s on Kindle now. It’s still a good book, and I still look a little like Danny Bonaduce. Some things never change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why creatives need each other, or, another lesson from Papa Hemingway

Perhaps I need to open a Restaurant and Social Club for Writers and Artists

Being a writer/artist can be a lonely life. Many of us end up sitting for long hours in quiet rooms writing/painting/creating. (I am tucked away in my tiny studio neatly hidden in my backyard as I write this). Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint, it is certainly something we choose to do. I write better when I am alone and I lose track of time. For some writers, the coffee shop becomes a refuge from the solitude. I know people who write all day in a coffee shop, blocking out the chatter and kicking out chapter after chapter. Then others work at home and end up hanging out in public with fellow writers when they have the chance.

I return to A Moveable Feast often, and I find that I do that when I’m feeling isolated or I start to get into a self-defeating mindset. Even Earnest Hemingway understood the importance of surrounding himself with creative people, including T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, etc. He liked to be alone and write, but he kept acquaintances and friendships with many creatives. I realize that this glamorous era in Paris when all of these creatives were drinking and socializing and sharing their work makes more sense every day. Yes, they had arguments and it wasn’t all rosy, but the bottom line was that they all encouraged each other. (OK, maybe Fitzgerald and Hemingway stopped encouraging and started bickering, but that’s later. Follow me here for a moment.)

Surrounding yourself with creative people fuels your creative juices. It has to. Being around that kind of energy and enthusiasm and angst can’t do anything else. We are all in the same boat, trying to create and share our work. We all understand the depression and elation that comes with being creative. Why do you think that writer meet-ups are so popular, or that writing groups meet all over the country in bookstores and cafes?

Who do you surround yourself with? Do you have a circle of people who knit with you, scrapbook, etc? If you’re a writer/artist, do you have a core group that “gets you?”

I realize that although I have a few friends who are writers, I don’t frequently hang out with other writers or artists. I had the chance to meet a lovely, encouraging writer recently and what a great feeling it was. Just hearing that someone else had doubts about her success or talent, or that someone else felt the need to create and didn’t know why. It’s a grand and fabulous feeling to talk about your work and be validated, and that’s what all those lucky people in Paris were doing. And that’s what all those lucky people in writing retreats do, and writing meet-ups in cafes. And yes, I know that the cyber world enables us to have relationships with other creatives from the comfort of the back studio, but there is nothing like being face to face with another writer and nodding your head as they express feelings you’ve had so many times.

So, my goal is now to add to my creative circle of people to share my journey. I know it can only be beneficial to me and to everyone else who has a chance to grow from it. Thanks to Shannon for adding me to your circle!

 

What is it about bookstores?

On a recent visit to New York, I had a long list of places I wanted to visit. Museums, parks, old churches, restaurants. Crazy how much you think you can do on vacation, and yet how little actually gets done.

Of course, once I showed my daughter the list, her eyes jumped right to the Strand Bookstore at the top of the list and she saw nothing else. It has 18 miles of books, what else do you want? It has used and new books, stacks of old books, carts of $2 and $1 books on the street and even a separate floor for antique books. She was in heaven.

What this means is that we spent two days at that bookstore. We didn’t get to the museums because she wanted to return to the bookstore and that was cool with me. The great thing about it was that we didn’t miss the museums at all. Spending two days in a bookstore was a blast and we would have spent three if we could have. We stopped and ate mac & cheese at S’Mac in the Village (nothing but mac and cheese, nothing but divine!), then dove right back into the books.

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Mac & Cheese at S’Mac. Can’t stop at just one.

The smell of a bookstore, and the rows and rows of books, are a comforting sight. I feel alive, peaceful, curious, excited and more when I’m in a store like that. I just want to pull up a big comfy chair, cup of tea, cushy blanket, oh wait, I don’t live there. But oh if I could.

We’ve been watching old episodes of Black Books on Netflix since we got back (free on Hulu), a British sitcom about a guy who owns a bookstore. Sounds simple enough, but with typical British humor, Dylan Moran does it while drunk most of the time with a sidekick who is hilarious. Once again, a sitcom in a bookstore has got to be a hit, right? It’s books, what’s not to love?

So, when I need another bookstore fix, I’ll be at Bookman’s or Half Price Books, trying to get that NYC kind of feeling again. But it just won’t be the same.

Recharging Your Life

I spent the past week in New York with a dear friend and I feel marvelous. Why? Part of the trip was to celebrate her birthday (Happy Birthday, Dawn) and it was wonderful to be with someone I truly love. Old friends just get you and that is so comforting. And like a warm cup of tea held gently in your hands, a friendship like that is soothing, peaceful and restoring in its simplicity and beauty.

The other part of the trip was meant to recharge my life. I’ve been feeling doubtful and hesitant about making changes in my life lately. Ever get into a slump where you feel as if life is charging past you and all you can do is watch? Yeah, that’s where I’ve been lately.

Some of those changes are happening whether I like them or not. My daughter is just a few years away from flying the coop and joining the world on her own and I’m so excited for her. But that means eventually I’ll be here alone (OK, Husband will be here, but you know what I mean.) Of course, that’s a change I’m coming to terms with slowly, but not something I can alter too much.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in New York City with my daughter and I will cherish those few days forever. We ate pizza, rode the subway, strolled through Central Park and wandered the streets of the East Village. We shopped for used books and ate mac & cheese till be could have barfed. And then we ate a little more.

We found the perfect studio apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, (that’s ours on the second floor right with the flowers) just one block from Central Park and a few blocks from the Dakota Building and Strawberry Fields. We awoke to the sounds of the city and felt a little like New Yorkers for just a few days.

The apartment was on a Bed & Breakfast registry and a last-minute decision, which always seem to be the best kind of decisions in my life.

Having this time away also gave me a chance to reevaluate my writing life, and my writing ambitions. I realize that I’m secluded in my studio, writing and editing day after day without input from other writers. Why? I’m a typical artist who doesn’t want anyone to criticize my work so I keep it to myself. Yes, I realize how foolish that is. All artists need input, right? Who wants to die with a computer full of stories that nobody has ever read?

I am recharged and ready to write, edit and get serious. And I love blogging and I’ll be jumping in her more frequently. I love connecting to other writers through this medium and I cherish the friendships I’ve made here. Plus, I feel just a little like Carrie Bradshaw as I write about my life, only with less shoes and a bigger ass.