Priority Pie, with Bonus Balloons

True confession time:

The past few months, I’ve become nearly immobilized by my own expectations.

It’s as if I’ve been standing in the center of a room that’s slowly filling up with small balloons: blue wishes, pink desires, purple promises, yellow fears, orange assumptions, red determination, green guilt.

The pressure isn’t heavy, but it’s there and I’m surrounded, and I can’t move.

Not forward, not back.

But when I realized that I was the one blowing up all these balloons, I also realized that I was the one holding the hatpin.

So, I took last week off to figure things out.

And make pie charts.  Just because.

Why pie chart


First, I wrote down a list of things I want to do and have to do and don’t want to do and can’t do and have to do before I can do and do be do be do be do.

And then I wadded it up and threw it away, because I already know that even if I can, somehow, have it all, I’ll never be able to have it all at the same time.

So what are the daily essentials that I need to function?



There’s some necessary overlap, because my family and friends and writing* can keep me sane, if they so choose, and I can’t spend time with them or write or work if I’m not healthy, and I don’t have health insurance without work . . . so it’s more of a Venn Pie.**

All I have to do is figure out how to balance the slices on a daily basis.

Here’s the plan, so far:


Professional LibrarianI don’t have much leeway here, except for what I do on breaks, which usually involves a combination of the other parts of the Timepie.

But at least work is on a fixed, steady schedule:  I put in a solid eight hours a day, five days a week, work one night a month and every other Saturday.

So it’s easy to plan around—and three cheers for the aforementioned health insurance and timely mortgage payments.

Moving on.


I like the idea of being healthy, I’m just not very good at following through.

I don’t sleep enough, I overwear my disposable contacts until my eyes hurt, all of my favorite activities are  sit-ivities, I’m a wee bit caffeine-addicted and consider the Comfort Food Diet a valid lifestyle choice. . . And while I’m not afraid of doctors, I don’t bother making appointments for myself unless I’m coughing up something disturbing or that nagging pain isn’t going away—or the stick tells me I’m up the duff without a GYN-OB.***

But it’s past time I make the time to make some changes, which includes consulting medical professionals who will help me figure out what changes to make.

Therefore, I’m declaring this the Year of Health, because the Year of Sarah Finally Accumulating Medical Charts in One Place After a Decade of ERs and Drop-In Clinics takes too long to say.

I’ve already started:  last week, I went to the dentist, who inspired me to hurry up and find a regular doctor by showing me a chart of my enamel-less teeth^ and asking me questions about acid reflux, sleep apnea, and tooth-grinding stress.

But scheduled doctor appointments, while occasionally problematic, aren’t as tough to fit in as the daily stuff.

The dietary improvements I’m trying out—I won’t bore us all explaining them—take no more time than my old habits, and neither does exercise, or what passes for it around here, which I’ve already been doing.  Mostly.

SleepHowever, there’s no question that I need more sleep. And to get more sleep . . . I have to sleep more.^^

And that takes time.  Which means I need to finish up the stuff I need/want/have to do in a timelier manner so I can go to bed earlier or get up later.

I mean, I could warp the space time continuum in order to add a few hours between 02:00 and 02:01. But since I’m trying to reduce the amount of caffeine in my system, I’m not going to challenge the Laws of Physics anytime soon.

At least, not without the okay from my doctor. When I get one.

So . . .where can I make room?

Family and Friends:

Nope.  Not budging.  Or if I am, it’ll be towards more, not less.

That I need family and friends time is a given.

But though I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with e-mails and texts and lunches (with friends) and driving and feeding and hugging (the kids), I’ve been shirking a lot of invitations to girls’ nights out (R movies and art shows and nice dinners) and girls’ nights in (G movies and fingerpainting and pizza) lately because there’s so many other things I think I should be doing, so even when I’m out (or in) with them, I’m not really present.

Green BalloonInstead, I’m off somewhere thinking about  all the other stuff I should/would/could have been doing, batting those balloons back and forth—supposing there’s room in my subconscious—and occasionally holding the rough twine tethering a floating ball of maroon resentment, which will turn the color of guilt about five minutes after I escape leave.

My family is the biggest source of those green balloons.^^^

Because as much as I complain, as much as I occasionally threaten to mail them all to my parents in a cardboard box (“Breathing holes are a privilege, kids, not a right.”), or secretly plan to run away from the circus, I kind of love these guys.  A lot.

I may kvetch (and blog) about interruptions and distractions, bad timing and my apparent ability to render all other adults in the house invisible, but at the end of the day—the end of all my days—I’ve do understand that I’ll never regret a single moment I’ve spent with them.°

And that pretty soon, the kids will stop asking for stories or attention or braids or even a Mom-shaped beanbag to lean against while they watch TV.°°  Better get in that quality time where and when I can.

I’ve already started working on this, too—and I found out that I’m not as resentful now that I’ve learned to ask for time back—three hours a week to run away from home.

Look!  That Sanity slice just got bigger!

As for my friends . . .  when I’m with them, I think I’ll let go of all the balloons and just be.

Balloon free


This is gonna fluctuate with the ebb and flow and jostling of the other parts of the ‘pie.

But there’s a couple of solid changes I can make that may help—a few adjustments in, shall we say, medication.

We all have things we do, little rituals, little habits, that help us center ourselves.

One of mine is reading.  Always has been, always will be, not giving it up—though “existentially incapable of giving it up” is probably the correct way to put it.

Computer games are another habit of mine.  Specifically, Time Management games—probably because I can have as many do-overs as I want and there are cheats and walkthroughs, interesting storylines set to a snazzy soundtrack, and plentiful rewards and applause for a job well done.

Makes a fine change from reality.

But there’s centering, and there’s avoidance—and there’s ignoring all the other things I would/should/could be doing instead, in favor of yelling, “Five more minutes!  One more level!” ay myself, until my eyes burn, my mouse hand hurts, and I’m restocking grocery shelves or harvesting pumpkins or doling out playdough in my sleep, which began a lot later (or earlier, depending on your POV) than I’d intended.

It’s past time to put some parental controls on my inner child and try a little Real Life® Time Management.

I haven’t decided whether to limit myself to playing on the weekends, or try to earn screen time with wordcount/chapters/pages.

Or use the time to reacquaint myself with one of the hobbies I seem to have traded in for pixels and points.

But I set my alarm for an hour last night, tore myself away from The Beardless Wizard, and had an early bedtime.


Time Flies

So . . . what’s left?



Writing Pie

I like writing fiction and I like blogging my version of reality.

Both of them are worthwhile, both are beneficial, both can be a blast.

But one of my goals is to be a published author. More to the point, I want to be a paid published author.

Which means I have to scale down the time I spend writing posts and boost the time I use on fiction, both the writing of and the querying of.

To this end, I’m going to be dropping one post a week, to start, and I won’t be working on posts until I produce pages.

That also means the timing of publication—which has been holding steady at Noon CST for a while—is going to be more random.

Like today, for example.

And none of them are going to be as crazy long as this one, believe me—you’re getting all of last week’s at once.

Talk about your time savers . . .

Toy Balloons



*To be honest, I write interesting stuff when my sanity slips.  But I wouldn’t want to live in that headspace full-time, and my family also prefers that I’m here more than there. Maybe; I’m told I can be amusing while on bookbrain.

**Off-topic Inquiry:  Can a Venn Pie be a Real Thing?  Strawberry, Blueberry, and Cherry, for example? Would I need to invent a new pan or just make and freeze seven kinds of pie (yes, I drew a Three-Pie Venn and counted) and carefully reassemble?  Or have I just proven (proved? indy?) that the Sanity Slice is just wishful thinking?

***No, I’m not trying to tell you something. The equipment still works, but the factory is closed.

^No cavities, though.  Weird.

^^This would’ve probably dawned earlier on someone who isn’t as sleep deprived as I am.

^^^Any guilt my friends give me is the motivational kind and much appreciated.  Thank you.

°Even the two-kid-solo-parent clothes shopping trips. Stay tuned for that post; it’s a lulu.

°°But not money; we’ll always have my overdraft.




Half-Nano Update #4: Gaaaaahhhhhh!

Galapogos Olympics

I made some headway this week—I wrote every day on my NanoWIP, had some plot discoveries, added two characters, and gave an actual name to a third.   I asked a friend for suggestions  about an aspect of an MC’s job and she provided The Perfect Thing.

I also sampled a lot of coffee.  And cake.  For the book.

But I wasn’t quite able to catch up on my word count.  According to the math, I should be at 20,016 words, and at the posting of this, I’m at 18,831.

I have six days to write  6,169 words.  That’s 1,028 a day, and doable,  I hope, even with my folks arriving Tuesday and the living room still to clean and Thanksgiving to do.*

Plus, I’ve been using up a lot of the time I might have used for writing this weekend worrying about the four-and-a-half hour CPR class I’m teaching today.  I know the material, but it’s my first time using a classroom in this particular location—the first time I’ve been inside this particular location—and the first time I’m leading the class.  I don’t know where any of the equipment is, I don’t know how the projector works, and I’m not entirely sure where I’m sending the paperwork afterwards . . .

Wish me luck and many, many words, would you?

How’s YOUR Nano and/or November going?


*Or help do, as my SIL is in charge of the turkeys this year—and most of the rest of the actual meal—while I appear to be in charge of leftovers, which will involveseveral gallons of turkey-matzoh ball soup and several more gallons of egg noodle-turkey soup.  And possibly sandwiches.

[Insert Witty Post Here]

I don’t know if I’m up for witty and thought provoking today.

My mind is full of stuff that needs doing:  packing for Jane’s Concordia trip; calling my eye doctor for a well-overdue appointment; doing laundry so Jane can take clothes with her on her Concordia trip; calling the billing office of our pediatrician, now that our insurance company has finally accepted that our five-year old isn’t insured through her workplace; printing off the list of Concordia contraband and frisking Janie for said items the morning of the trip; figuring out which plot idea I’m doing for Nano, because the last thing I need is to put fingers to keyboard and go blank; placing travel money in specifically-labeled envelopes so my darling older daughter doesn’t use all of her meal funds for tee-shirts and candy; figuring out how to personalize my query letters so I don’t sound like a stalker; consoling Sunny because kindergarteners can’t go to Concordia; making an extremely overdue appointment with the dentist; for the love of all that is holy buying kitty litter before the city’s Hazmat team comes after us or the cat takes things into his own paws; and keeping the rest of the family from throwing Janie out the window because she’s gone into complete Vacation Mode and doesn’t see why she has to do homework, turn down the volume on the television or herself, or be decently civil to people.

More importantly, I haven’t heard (or heard back) from three people* I know on the East Coast and while I realize their priority at the moment isn’t to drop me a reassuring line, I’m worried that they don’t have the power—pick your meaning—to do so.

So if you know or suspect that we have mutual friends, acquaintances, or family in Sandy’s path or wake and you know they’re okay (or not, because knowing is better than not knowing) or you are a friend, an acquaintance, or family and you’re able to do so,**   please get in touch with me somehow, as soon as you can?


I’ll be over here distracting myself with the rest of the list . . .


*I’ve heard from the rest of them/you, or at least know that they’re/you’re well from their your e-mails and comments and Facebook statuses (statusi?).  Whew!!

**Or even if you have no idea  whom I know but you want to share news about your own friends, acquaintances, and family

Random Thursday: Misunderstood Orcs, Artistic Eyeballs, Skyrats, and Time Management

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s acquired during the week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as actually sitting down and creating genuine content.


Dude, you ain’t kidding

Watson sent me this, presumably in sympathy for my current editing efforts:

It’s  interesting: I named my WIP after a classic scam that has nothing to do with birds and didn’t literally appear in the story until the third draft, yet somehow I’ve become, through the generosity of friends and family, an unexpected collector of assorted pigeonry:  images, vids, poems, small tchotchkes, a tee-shirt, questionable jokes, and two proposed tattoos.

Not that I’m not enjoying it all—I am, so much so that I think I’ll title my next project, Gold, Chocolate, and Nicely Toned Cabana Boys and see what happens.


 The other side of the story

At the “Give Me a Thrill” panel at Bouchercon,* Boyd Morrison said (more or less) that villains are the heroes of their own story.

A story as rich and complex as Tolkien’s  Lord of the Rings is certainly no exception:

Interspecies cultural cues can be so tricky.  And now I feel sorry for that cave troll, too . . .


Just because I’m biased doesn’t mean it isn’t good art

Jane’s been into Escher lately.  Or maybe lizards.  I’m afraid to ask.

Sunny, on the other hand, has been experimenting with pastels and eyeballs.

She thinks they’re a hoot.  Get it?


Time management for Writers.  Sort of.

I don’t remember who told me about these short films about the writer’s life by Paper Rats, but I can’t thank that person enough—it’s so nice to know I’m not alone in my weird, yet utterly charming habits.

I’m pretty sure I was originally sent”$#!+,” writers say,”  but this one had my complete sympathy.

And that cat tail around 1:27 kills me.

 I think they mean to inspire me to go write already . . . but all I want to do is learn Chicken.


*Yeah, I’m afraid it’s going to be, “This one time? At band camp?” around here for a while.  Sorry.