June 29, 2016

Taming the TeuxDeux List

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.

I've been keeping a bullet journal/journal journal for a couple months now but I've gotten super tired of moving tasks from one day to the next. I've struggled to find a fun and engaging way to track habits.

At work we use a task tracking app called dapulse which I LOVE. Seriously, if you need a task app for your team to be able to use that isn't as technical as project management software can be, allows you to communicate with each other and pass tasks back and forth - dapulse is awesome. I'd be happy to tell you about my experience and how we use it. It's also addicting to use, which is part of why it's the only thing we've tried that's stuck. Sadly, it's not available for individual use and I can't afford to pay $25 a month for just myself, so I've been on the hunt for something more affordable for personal use.*

After trying multiple apps I started using TeuxDeux. Designed by graphic designer Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka the SwissMiss), Teux Deux is essentially a design-y list app that allows you to also add recurring tasks and links. There's a daily task list as well as a place to make lists for other things so it essentially functions as a brain dump for errands I need to run, groceries I need to pick up, Target lists, gift lists, etc. My favorite function so far is that if I don't check an item off on a particular day, it automatically gets moved to the next day. Presto!

My favorite part is when I check off a task, a magical cat flies across the screen in celebration. It's adorable and I am easily amused. The app is affordable ($3 on a month-to-month basis or $24 for the year if you are a believer) and offers a free month to try it out.  The website functions as a desktop version but they also have an iphone app. This is starting to sound like an ad or something, but really I love using it.

I'm still recording what I get done in my journal (bullet journal whatever) on a daily basis because I like having a record of what I've done that's tied into thoughts I had, notes I took on podcasts, etc. all in one place because I am fascinated by my daily influences and how they affect my progress (or don't).

How do you keep track of all the stuff in your life? Any apps to recommend?

*Update July 31, 2016: dapulse has an amazing feedback loop for their users to provide info and feature ideas. I also spoke with them about the cost for dapulsers who want to use it on their own. I was offered a generous discount which was awesome. I will admit that neither Teux Deux and dapulse ended up working for me in the long run. I'm back to working off of a modified bullet journal.

June 28, 2016

My Book Nerd Spreadsheet

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.

I know writers are often nerdy in ways that non-writing readers aren't. I haven't been able to find a way to successfully keep track of my reading that would also allow me to search my notes when I want to find a book.

So, I built an Access database for my books. I love it like I love The Princess Bride. Maybe more. Tonight I'm spending a portion of the evening entering details on the books I've read recently, and eventually I might start adding books I've read in the past as well.

Here's a quick screen shot of my data entry form.

I chose Access because I wanted to be able to write a summary/review of each book to remember my thoughts and Excel was just too clunky for me. AND, this way I can create reports, search it for keywords, sort by any parameter I want, and even add tables to expand on the data if I want.

You can see the types of fields I'm keeping track of and I fill in whatever I can. Bonus, when I'm ready to query, I have a separate list of agents correlated to books they represented etc. There are two fields not represented here: a one sentence summary (or pitch) of the book so I can practice writing those darn things, and my review/notes section.

See? I told you I was a nerd. :p

Do you keep track of what you read? How do you do it?

Edited: July 31, 2016

June 27, 2016

Do you have a morning routine?

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016. 

I took a drive this morning along my favorite road. Yes. I have a favorite road. It's lined with farms and stables, it's twisty, hilly, full of trees and wide open fields. There's something about a simple white fence lined with trees that I just love. I wanted to park myself under one of these trees and watch the clouds float by. It was a perfect way to end my morning errands.

I'm working on finding a new morning routine. I know a lot of famous and successful folks swear by their a.m. routine. My problem is I'm not a morning person. Never have been.

As I typed those words, I wonder if all these labels I apply to myself do more harm than good. Am I really a morning person or just someone who has developed habits that equate to not being very alert in the morning? Change is hard, but I got up this morning and worked out intentionally for the first time in a VERY long time. Once I pressed play on the DVD player the rest wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated. And the endorphin rush afterward felt AMAZING. I wasn't sleepy this afternoon, either.

My normal routine is to get up, take care of my dogs, stumble into the shower, throw on some clothes, grab McDonalds on the way to work and hope no one at the office talks to me for an hour -- at least. But at the end of the day, I have trouble finding time for the things that are important to me and handling the family stuff that needs to get done. It's time for a change.

When it comes to morning routines, I have a long list of things I want to add to my routine, but honestly, once I wrote down this list, I can see why I've had a difficulty breaking my resistance to trying it. There's, like, 3 hours of work on this list. I'd have to get up and 5 a.m! It's too much to start all at once.

1) meditation
2) intentional exercise (strength training, etc)
3) walk the dogs
4) write
5) morning pages

This week I'm sticking to physical activity. Either walking the dogs or intentional exercise (strength training, yoga, etc). I will build on my activities from there. There is something I have to add to my evening routine to make all this possible: go to bed earlier. I'll report back on my progress next week.

Also, I've been blogging for 7 days! only 23 to go. LOL.

I'd love to hear about your morning routine. Any pointers?

Edited: July 31, 2016

June 26, 2016

Adults suck and then you are one

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.

I turned 43 today.

In my wildest dreams I never envisioned myself actually BEING 43. Nor would I have imagined that just yesterday I uttered the words, "Kids these days." I mean honestly. I never wanted to be that kind of adult.

Of course, I went romping through my parents old photo albums and pulled out a couple of gems because I am nostalgic like that.

Oh, how I loved Mickey Mouse.

This cake, however, is by far the one I remember the most. Every summer, my mother, my aunt and my cousin and I took a car trip up to the UP to visit my grandmother so Mom and her sister could perform the annual spring cleaning of my grandmother's home. Spring cleaning back then was very serious business in my family that involved washing walls and waxing floors. We usually spent at least a week there playing with cousins in the yard while the rest of the women in my family worked for days making the house spotless. This particular year, my mom asked another family member to make me a birthday cake, and she made me this glorious Holly Hobby cake. I LOVED IT. It was my most favorite thing ever to have such a fancy cake. And I was wearing a sundress, which pretty much made this day the best day ever.

What is your best birthday memory?

June 25, 2016

Naming My Fears to Conquer Them

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.

There’s a storm rolling in today.

As my phone buzzes with weather warnings, anxiety about the safety of my loved ones rises. For some ridiculous reason I feel like if I am with them I can keep them safe and calm even when my insides are not calm. Or maybe I just worry that if something happens and I am not there that I will always wonder what happened--be haunted by it.

Fear for me is often rooted in the “what if.” That feeling of not knowing, of not being able to control what comes next. It’s the feeling I avoid the most. With the storm, all I can do is head for cover and hope it’s enough. I can only surrender, and so my fear fades into the background as I do what's necessary to stay safe.

As a child, I was terrified to the point of shaking and weakness at the thought of riding a roller coaster, but I’ve grown into and adult who loves them. I know that fears can be conquered. The trick, I just realized, is finding enough incentive to be willing to endure the “what if.”

Remember that scene in the movie Twister (spoiler alert) when Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton live through the final tornado by strapping themselves to some pipes in that tiny shack? Helen Hunt’s character had spent her entire life doggedly pursuing the knowledge about what happens at the center of a tornado because it represented the worst moment of her life—when she watched her father get whisked away by a tornado. And in the eye of the tornado, in the middle of her worst nightmare, she saw a moment of blue sky.

Naming some of my more persistent fears feels like strapping myself into the path of the biggest tornado I’ve ever seen. Once I've named it, I have to see it. I'll never be able to pretend it isn't there.

With my fear of roller coasters, the scariest part was waiting in line and anticipating my fear, but underneath the anxiety and the worry there was a trill of excitement--a buzz that said I was pushing my own limits. I wanted to know if I could do it. I dared to believe I was bigger than my fear. By trying, I'd triggered something new.

Once I was strapped in the car hurtling over the hills and loop de loops, I looked up and saw blue sky. The friend next to me squeezed my hand. I was not alone. I finally focused on the moment and not the what if. I didn’t die, pee my pants, or anything else I’d imagined. I actually had fun.

I know that conquering my fears won’t be as fun as discovering I love roller coasters, but as I dare myself to imagine a world without my fear, I’m hanging onto the vision of the blue sky. I just have to remember to look up.

What were you formerly afraid of and can’t get enough of now? What’s your favorite roller coaster? Mine is the Rockin’ Rollercoaster at WDW Hollywood Studios.

Edited: July 31, 2016 for excess commas and other silly things.

On your inner critic

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.
I was winding down from a busy day and evening when I realized I hadn't posted yet. Here I am at 12:40 a.m. with a blank page and tired brain. I thought I'd just leave you with a quote that's been on my mind today. It's from author Neil Strauss.
"The inner critic is a monster. And by the way, the inner critic is not you. The inner critic is dad, mom, siblings, it's not you. That voice, if you stop to think about it, that voice was programmed into you and it's not you." ~Neil Strauss

June 23, 2016

Plotting for difficult characters

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016. 

Check out the cute baby frog! These little guys are all over the backyard right now.
When I start a new story, I get the vaguest hints of my characters. Like the frog above, they have a lot of growing to do, tend to be well camouflaged, and I have no idea where they are headed. Critique partners reviewing early work always want to know what my characters want, and I can only answer in the vaguest of terms: Love, belonging, courage, to feel beautiful, etc. I have trouble defining a physical goal that feels organic, so the plot of my WIP often suffers. Drafting feels impossible.

To solve this, I've been reading and analyzing and noodling on an idea to help me develop unruly characters who essentially refuse to be known. My solution is to use what I know to reverse engineer a course of action for my character. I take that loosey-goosey feeling my character wants and combine it with what I know about her already. Then I write down all the plausible ways my character might try to solve her problem.

I ask open ended questions like the following:
  1. What does character feel like she wants, what does she long for, what feels missing, what is she avoiding? Answer: Character wants to be wanted
  2. What does that mean?: Character doesn't feel wanted now, or at the very least she doesn't feel worthy of being wanted.
  3. What does being wanted look like to the character?
  4. What options are available to the character to go about trying to make her vision a reality? Or sometimes, what can't she do?

The key is to ask enough open ended questions to be able to move forward, but not so many that I plot the whole manuscript (a creative mojo killer). For me, this is no more than 3 to 5 questions. It's worked for me so far. If you are stuck, maybe it will work for you.

How do you flesh out difficult characters? How much is too much?

June 22, 2016

Whose team am I on, anyway?

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.

You know when you have a dog on its leash and you try to pull it in one direction and its immediate reaction is to put on the brakes and stop moving? That’s me anytime someone tries to impose any sort of schedule or limitations or plan on me.

As a child, this happened whenever my father told me to do something (okay, sometimes it still happens. Love you, Dad!). Even if there was a part of me that knew he was right, I would get an overwhelming feeling to do exactly the opposite.

I’ve looked at this rebelliousness as an integral part of my creative side. Something that refused to be tamed--and shouldn’t--lest I strangle the tiny creative ember I wish to fan into a bright flame that lights my way into a glorious future where I…and, there I go again. Lame and ridiculous justifications aside, it feels like I’m part Borg. Resistance to my resistance is futile, so just give into the resistance. (Except the Borg would probably be into having a schedule because they are Borg and, like, would need to do systems maintenance or something but whatever).

The point is, I gave into my resistance a long time ago. So when I decided on the spur of the moment to blog for 30 days straight with no plan – the wild chaos loving side of me jumped up and down at the challenge, and the pain in the ass adolescent in my brain freaked the hell out. As a result, I got up this morning looking for a way to get out of this. I drove to work thinking about how to get out of writing a blog post today and panicking about what I will write and if it will be stupid and dreaming up previously unimaginable horrors that will befall me whether I post a new blog or don’t and feeling stuck and grumpy.

At work I normally listen to podcasts, but lately I’ve been listening to video interviews from a series called “30 Days of Genius.” Today’s interview is with Lewis Howes. I had no idea who he was, but the video description called him a lifestyle entrepreneur (seriously, that’s a thing?) and he wrote a book (of course he did). Sarcasm aside, less than halfway through the interview it’s like God reached down and smacked me on the back of the head.

Lewis believes in the power of community (even a community of one other person) to help us accomplish our dreams. And then he compared life to how when we are on a sports team, we commit to a practice schedule, show up on time, work hard on stuff that sometimes sucks and (hopefully) support one another. Simple right? So why do I allow myself to resist scheduling time to do the things I need to do in order to accomplish my life goals? Whose team am I on?

It’s certainly not mine.

I don’t know why Lewis saying this exact thing at this exact time really hit home. It’s not like the same idea hasn’t been presented to me in other ways before, but this time I got it. It clicked. There can be freedom in discipline.

Maybe I was ready to hear it this time. Today, for a little while, I let go of my resistance. You can too. Take one small step towards making that one change you've been avoiding and then promise you’ll do it again. Decide when and how and most importantly, why.  Then do it. Keep the promises you make to yourself even when it's hard. Be on your team.

I’ll be here again tomorrow, keeping my promise and showing up in the community I have chosen for this task. If you want to learn more about the 30 Days of Genius series, I’ve put the info on my Inspiration page.

Before you go, tell me about what you’ve been resisting and how you got over it or tell me about your favorite Star Trek villian. I've always been partial to an oldie but a goodie, Q.

June 21, 2016


Currently is a quick and easy way to share what's up every other Tuesday. Thanks to the lovely Katy Upperman for the idea! 



I finished reading Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas and loved it! I cracked open Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown yesterday. I'm still super behind on my reading and hoping to catch up this summer now that many of my TV obsessions will be ending soon.


Binging on season 5 of Awkward! and I also started watching Mr. Robot, which I gotta tell you, is super trippy.

Listening To

I'm ready to start Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven King today on my way to work. I read the book when it came out in April, so I'm looking forward to a nice leisurely listen where I can soak up all the wonder and magic that is this series.

Thinking About

The events in Orlando and how sometimes I don't recognize the world I'm living in. The only thing I believe is that #LoveWins and the outpouring of love on the internet and on TV has proven this.


My little pup, Dakota, has been pretty ill these last two weeks. Everytime I think we've finally gotten things under control, something else pops up. Right now I'm wishing that by the end of the week she'll be feeling much, much better. We've got an appointment with a holistic vet on Monday and I'm really looking forward to getting her health back on track.

That's it for this week's Currently post. I'm also posting 30 blogs in 30 days and this is only Day 2. Here's Why.

How's it going with you guys? What are you wishing for?

June 20, 2016

Lost and Found

So, I was driving to meet my health coach last week and the Caribou we selected for our first meeting was one I hadn’t been to before. Knowing my predisposition to anxiety regarding new places, I diligently looked it up, memorized the route, and left early to make sure I had enough time. When I arrived, the Caribou had closed early due to staffing issues, and so after a quick text my coach and I agreed to meet at a different Caribou somewhat nearby. Bonus! I had been there before.

I immediately headed in the direction of the new location. Halfway there, I looked around at the road I’d chosen and started wondering…did I go the right way? Was I lost? Maybe I should have taken the freeway. Maybe I should have taken 50th instead. Maybe I should have…you get the picture.

I rode the anxiety wave for about five minutes until I realized that I HAD been on this road before. I knew where it ended up (or at least where it used to because it had been under construction and closed for a long time), and even if I was wrong I was familiar enough with the area to get myself where I needed to go. And then I started thinking about how I’d driven away from Caribou #1 in the direction of Caribou #2 with confidence. I knew the way! It was only when I started thinking about getting lost, that I actually started to feel lost.

When I see a runner on my way to work, something inside me stretches its legs, remembering the feeling--craving it even though I haven’t run in years. When I think about drawing, my mind goes to the stillness it creates, an quiet place filled by the quick passage of time and the sound of the pencil on the paper. I avoid giant potholes in the road without thinking. I dream about writing--remembering the feeling of surprise and wonder after having written something unexpected.

Given all this, is it possible that deep down I know the way through the murkiest parts of my creative projects? All I want is more…wonder, more magic, more light. I wish that creating was always wonderful magical lightness, but it isn’t. And the small voice, you know the one I’m talking about, whispers that it knows the way just like I knew the way to Caribou #2 by heart.

How many times do I approach the blank page, canvas, or whatever with doubt already in my mind? How many times do I just let the project unfold rather than worrying about how I’ll get to the end? How many times do I trust the process will eventually get me where I need to go – which is inevitably the second draft, or the third draft, or the final finished drawing, scuffed with erasure marks but still whole and right in its existence?

Somewhere along the way, I started trying to control everything, to make something that is inherently a messy, flawed process, into something that produced diamonds. I need to practice trust. And I need to practice enduring that feeling of failing when something doesn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped.

Over the past six months, I have written dozens of blog posts I never had the courage to post. I type them out when feeling inspired, but when I read them again right before I hit the post button, the doubt creeps in. Will this resonate? Will this make me look stupid? Am I being too revealing, too needy, too sad, too weird? Should I be happier? Am I too opinionated?

Starting today I’m going to post 30 blogs in 30 days. I have no idea what I’m going to write about. I am not planning a single post nor will I recycle the drafts I’ve left abandoned. The goal is to look for inspiration and try something new. I’m going to hope that the words will show up and when they don’t it’ll be a new challenge--a creative experiment. To create, we have to be willing to get lost.

Join me if you like, for as long as you like. Otherwise, tell me about a time when you got lost. Or tell me about wonderful magical things because I feel like the world needs more light this week.

June 7, 2016


Currently is a quick and easy way to share what's up every other Tuesday. Thanks to the lovely Katy Upperman for the idea! 


Last week I finished a bunch of books I've had on my nightstand for a bit. Yay! I'm incurring late fees at the library for Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy, which is a novel written entirely in lists. It's cute so far. I also started reading Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas today and I am loving it! 


I've been bingeing on Melisssa and Joey (it's like a new-fangled Who's the Boss) which is admittedly kinda ridiculous but apparently entertaining enough for me to keep watching. I also started watching Cinemax's Outcast - another comic book adaption by the creator of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman. I haven't read the comics, so I had no expectations as to the material. The first episode aired on Friday night and it was definitely creepy, kinda gross, and oddly intriguing. I'll give it another week.

I also went to see the movie Sing Street last week. It's about a boy in the 80s who forms a band after he invites a cute girl to star in his music video. There's also an awesome older brother, tons of 80s music references, big hair, and blue eyeshadow. I was probably the youngest person in the theater on a Saturday afternoon, which had me worried, but it turned out to be a win for me.

Listening To

This week I continued my yearly re-listen of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys Series by starting book 3, Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I love this series sooooo much.

Thinking About

I'm also doing some research on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion for a story I'm noodling on as I'm making slow progress on my current WIP. I've had some interesting ideas for this story lately, so I'm trying to figure out how it all fits together without stopping my forward progress on my current project.

Making Me Happy

Spending time with SoundMan now that things have slowed down at his job for a little bit. Yesterday was the 24th anniversary of our first date. For hilarity, here's a picture of what we looked like back then give or take a of couple years.

How's it going with you guys? What's making you happy right now?

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