About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, will be published November 2018 by Immortal Works Press. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.

Sleep, The Final Frontier

Clearly this baby isn’t me. For one, it’s sleeping.
Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

The other day my mom shared a story with me. When I was a baby they needed to have me sleep in a different place for the night. I was just old enough to climb up and peek out of the crib, which, while adorable, can quickly turn into a parent’s nightmare when several hours pass and baby still refuses to lay down and asleep. Apparently I didn’t sleep the entire night and stood peeking out of the crib waiting to be rescued.

Knowing my tendencies, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. Growing up, I was the kid who was always the last to fall asleep at sleepovers, if I slept at all. I never could sleep well when camping, and the first night in a hotel anywhere meant a night of tossing and turning.

Everyone agrees that sleep is important. A bad night’s sleep can wreck an entire day. It cuts back productivity, drains energy, and makes us less able to cope well with stressful situations.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

As an adult, and especially as a parent, I’ve hit new exciting milestones of being tired that I’d never imagined. One day, when it had been several weeks since I’d had a decent nights sleep due to not one, not two, but three kids taking turns keeping me awake at night, I forgot how stoplights worked and who’s turn it was. I had no clue which way I needed to look to make sure I wouldn’t be plowed into.

That marked a turning point in my adult life to start learning how to get better sleep. I studied every article I could get my hands on to learn about scheduling, meditation, exercise, vitamins and supplements. I became more proactive about my kids sleep schedules and my expectations for them to stay in bed. I took back my night.

Most nights at least are okay these days.

It’s turned into a delicate balancing act. If I haven’t had my walk that day. or if it’s fall or winter and I haven’t used my happy light enough, or if I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins, or if I’ve got a lot on my mind or an unresolved problem, those bad nights still come, but much further apart than they used to.

My attitude about having a bad night has changed as well. Now it means I can go down to my office and spend a few hours working at my computer or reading in the silence of a sleeping house. Sometimes I catch up on YouTube videos.

I wouldn’t wish poor sleep on anyone. It’s disruptive, it means I’m tired during the day, and sometimes it makes me angry. But, had it not been for insomnia, I wouldn’t have turned into a voracious reader as a kid. When you’re too tired to cause havoc around the house, reading is a great alternative.

I’d even go as far as saying that if I didn’t have insomnia, I wouldn’t be a writer today.

If you find yourself struggling with sleep, I totally understand. There’s no easy solution and I wish there was. But, there are things that can help and it’s worth it to learn about your specific needs then make steps to work toward better sleep.

How do you feel about sleep? Do you sleep easily, or do you struggle? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

“In the Eyes of the Lore: The Village it Takes” Guest Post by Kaki Olsen

I promised I wouldn’t totally do away with guest interviews and featured posts – and here we are! Kaki Olsen is a friend and fellow author who loves sharing her knowledge and experience with other writers and quite possibly has the largest internal database of obscure literature of any one I know.

I was thrilled when she wanted to share something here on the blog with my readers. Enjoy!

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

In the Eyes of the Lore:  The Village It Takes

By Kaki Olsen

Happy October and welcome to my satellite installment of my literary analysis and book club, In the Eyes of the Lore.  If this intrigues you, you can also find more of the same on my author site:  www.kakiolsencreative.com.

It’s my favorite month to discuss spooky things ranging from the proper way to end a séance to the allegories of possession narratives.  I can bore you to tears or fascination with citations of an article on modern manifestations of fear that was coauthored by the author of Psycho.  I took a class on horror, science-fiction, and mystery writing in high school and have a lot to say on things that can make people feel deeply uncomfortable.

But, as you may know, that’s not the genre I’ve been published in.  I have written retellings of all but one of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, one astronaut drama, one dragon-smuggling android, one gardening romance and a lot of non-fiction.  That’s just based on what I’ve signed contracts for.  On my laptop are stories about secret societies made up of people with day jobs, a kingdom where fairy tales are regulated by law, and a 1920s murder mystery inspired by T.S. Eliot.

What I’d like to talk about today is how to write community-building.  This can apply to something as low-key as a family or as far-reaching as an entire nation.  I could even spread out to tell you how to invent an intergalactic system of politics, but I believe in working in closer quarters than that.

Let’s first talk about two of my favorite fictional communities:  Omelas and After the End Times.  You may not have familiarity with either unless you’re a Leguin fan or familiar with Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, but they’re rich in world-building for very different reasons. Spoiler warning because it’s nice to let you know I might tell you the ending in advance.

I remember reading Ursula K. Leguin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” in Ms. Rodburg’s 9th grade English class. Ms. Rodburg was fond of shattering any idealism, so we also read stories like “The Nine Billion Names of God” (God commands humanity to know Him completely, then wipes them out for knowing him too well) and “The Star” (Jesuit priest discovers the remnants of a utopia that was destroyed in a supernova and is able to determine that the death of this society happened so there could be a Star of Bethlehem).  She’s incidentally the same teacher who taught me about horror writing. 

Omelas is a thriving community with festivals, pastimes, sophistication, and joie d’vivre.  The problem is that this utopia demands that one child be kept in the worst kind of squalor, neglect, and depravity.  Everyone in Omelas comes to know about this at one point or another and they are able to accept the sacrifice that makes their perfect lives possible or choose to abandon it.  The narrator admits to not knowing what happens to those people who choose to walk away from this horrifying perfection.

Contrast this with  After the End Times.  This is not a city or state or country, but as impersonal a forum as possible.  It is a company of bloggers across the world, most of whom will never meet each other in person.  This is largely due to the fact that, ever since the zombie apocalypse, travel has become something of an unnecessary risk.  People are terrified to venture out of their houses and one of my favorite sections of the first novel is when the narrator, Georgia Mason, goes to a political convention that is 7/8 shopping spree and 1/8 nomination of a presidential candidate.  It’s a place where people take advantage of being in public long enough to have a normal life and get Starbucks or buy a new car or check out the latest in self-defense technology.

Georgia and her brother Shawn have little sense of family.  They were orphans of the apocalypse adopted as a publicity stunt and have long outgrown their parents’ need to act like a family.  What they have in place of that is their website.  They are the main contributors to the highest-ranked reporting blog in a world where bloggers have replaced CNN and MSNBC because they are brave enough to still go into the world and confront the dangers.  Their beta bloggers and baby bloggers are something of an extended family, all under the jurisdiction of various trusted colleagues.  In a world where very little is up close and personal, the Masons’ community is the closest thing most of them has to intimate friendships.

When I talk at conferences about diversity in world-building, I bring up protected classes.  I ask about how the elderly, young, male, female, mentally sound, mentally challenged, physically fit, disabled, etc. are treated and regarded.  Then, when I have those answers, I ask what that says about the society.  In Omelas, we see that happiness is worth impersonal suffering.  In Newsflesh, we see that strangers can be more trusted than family.  The answers to these questions can also form the basis of a utopia or dystopia.

The project I’d like to feature today of my own writing is from the Iron Doves anthology.  This charity anthology was a collaboration of several authors in which all of the protagonists had to have three traits from a list of potentially marginalized people.  I wrote “Just One Chance” and made my protagonist a time-traveling android maiden.  Just when you think that’s unusual, she’s time-traveling to save a large number of people traveling to a new world from death and she does it by giving them a secret to keep.  If you were paying attention before, this is what my dragon-smuggling android refers to.

I based the entire society on the dynamics of a cruise ship to explain the setup, but then built the world around smaller-scale choices.  There is a culture among the stewards, but also a conspiracy of schoolchildren who hate being out of the loop.  There is a wide range of ways that adults respond to children having very inconvenient boundaries.  But the place where I have a soft spot for this society is that when the dragon hatches prematurely, the adults know that they will have to put her and her mother on a shuttlecraft or find a way to live with a fire-breathing monster the size of a pit bull in their midst.  They decide to let the children decide whether or not the dragon is a threat or another member of the already unconventional community.  The children, seeing no reason to judge a creature by the sins of its fathers, decide to treat it as one of their own.  The story ends before we ever find out what that means in the long run, but there are stories in the works that explore that as well.

About today’s featured guest:

Kaki Olsen is a Texan by birth, Bostonian by upbringing, and a world traveler these days.  She has been to twenty countries on five continents and her stories of pocket universes in Istanbul or pilgrim’s trails in Austria are as much fun to tell as the stories she writes.  She loves ballets, but is always rewriting them for modern audiences.  She is passionate about space exploration, but has been known to tweak the makeup of a colony ship.  Because she writes essays for fun, she has written on topics such as theologically debunking the zombie apocalypse and why poor characters make the best heroes.  She studied English at Brigham Young University and currently divides her time between a desk job at a law firm and being on the board of an arts non-profit.  She can be found at www.kakiolsencreative.com

Connect with Kaki:

About Iron Doves:

A set of short stories featuring female protagonist, dedicated to support those who have been in abusive situations and needed help. All proceeds will be donated to the Doves Program.

Find Iron Doves on Amazon!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Insights with Tarot

Last week my friend and all together interesting guy, Dennis Morrison, came to the Oquirrh Writers Chapter meeting (part of the League of Utah Writers) to educate about the history of tarot cards and also teach about how they can be used to help guide decision making and give insights into one’s life.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that someone’s future could be glimpsed at through reading the cards or by the lines on their palms. Clues to success could be hiding in the stars, in the careful study of numbers, or even in tossing the dice. Teenage me checked out books from the library about palm reading. Grade school me made origami fortune tellers and played MASH, the paper fortune telling game.

My friends and I would spend hours goofing off with the different possibilities of our futures, as if writing it out on a piece of paper would actually change anything. Thinking back, playing with these different possibilities was important. How do you work toward a goal or dream, if you haven’t made one? I’d always be excited when MASH told me I’d be a doctor and was annoyed if I got secretary. Down the road, I ended up working in the medical field, albeit, not as a doctor. It seems the truth wasn’t hiding in the paper, but in my own interests. The paper only helped reinforce it.

All through those years of playing with different future divining mediums, I’d never had the chance to learn about tarot. My experience was limited to what was shown on movies, and heaven knows that’s never a good gauge of anything.

Tarot enthusiast, Dennis Morrison

Dennis taught how tarot cards began as a simple card game, much like UNO or SkipBo. Over the centuries, the art on the cards evolved and the usage changed. The practice of using the cards to guide decisions or give insight grew as a natural result of them being in use for so long.

As writers and creatives, we discussed how the cards might be used to help guide our characters choices or what might happen in the stories we are working on. The beauty of tarot cards, is that each one is an evocative piece of art. Any randomly chosen card will introduce an idea or an emotion for the writer to consider, and often one that the writer might not have otherwise considered. We were encouraged to take a metaphorical view of the cards and allow our own experiences adapt the image to something relating to our own experiences.

Part of the presentation included a change to choose one card for ourselves and explore what it might mean in our current situation. This was done by having each one of us scan through the deck for an image that grabbed our attention more than the others.

I chose the Hierophant, one of the major arcana. The imagery of a man coming out of the shadows holding an orb struck a cord with me. There are scary things behind him, but they don’t seem to bother him. He’s a priest which means he stands as an advisor and has knowledge to help guide people along their path.

As Dennis explained the attributes of this card, it made more and more sense why the image resonated with my current situation. I’m at a huge turning point in my writing career going from traditional publishing to independent. I’m stepping away from one way of doing things and onto another path.While it’s scary to be the one in control of my future, it’s also liberating.

In the end, I learned much more than I expected. While the card I selected didn’t change the reality I’m in, it helped me think about my situation in a new light and allowed me to consider different angles I hadn’t thought of before.

A huge thanks to Dennis for sharing his knowledge and insights with both myself and my group of writers. I know I came away feeling like I not only learned something new, but having a better understanding of the philosophy behind it as well.

And now I want to get a tarot deck of my own…

Have you ever had an experience with fortune telling or tarot? Share it with me in the comments!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Stonebearer’s Betrayal Sequel Update

For those of you keeping track, I officially started editing the rough draft of the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal back in March. During the writing phase, I’d experimented with both speech-to-text and using a stand alone drafting keyboard, which made the draft messier than usual.

Note to self – when using speech-to-text, correct the mistakes the same day you dictate. Also, teach your software your character’s names early. Katira’s name changed into all sorts of crazy, like cuchara (Spanish for spoon).

I encourage anyone learning a new skill to experiment and find what works best for them. While I spent hours and hours going back and fixing misheard lines and words (and sometimes trying to divine what on earth I might have been thinking…) I know now how effective using dictation software is for me at this point. If it wasn’t for that test, I wouldn’t have tried tried transcribing my own recordings instead. Doing it that way means I can add correct punctuation marks and use names correctly the first time as I listen to files recorded on my phone. It also means I can speak out a scene in the oddest of places where writing or typing would be difficult, like while out walking, and then have material ready for when I’m ready to sit down and type.

All of this has helped me refine my writing process. With drafting, the most important goal is to get the whole broken story out onto the page, then make decisions where new scenes are needed or if something needs to be taken away. Editing is far different as it takes much longer focused sessions of working at the computer, which can be a challenge to find.

A little history…

I started writing the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal during NaNoWriMo 2015 as a challenge to myself to see if I really did have another book in me. I met my goal and wrote the first half, about 50,000 words. Then life happened, as if often does and I set it down to work on other projects and focus on getting book one ready to see the world.

I didn’t touch it for over a year – literally waiting until the next NaNoWriMo to work on it again. That was when I did something truly stupid – and didn’t read the first half before writing the second. This was a lack of planning on my part. I could have easily done my preparation in October, but again, got too busy and when November 1st rolled around it was time to write.

This meant there was time for ideas to change and shift in my mind between the two halves of the book, many of those ideas for the better. But, it also meant that it took a huge amount more work to edit. I’ve literally rewritten 80% of the book at least once, if not several times, to make the two halves match. Learning is hard sometimes, and if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that I really (really!) need to not put projects down for a year and then not spend a day or two simply rereading what was there.

Fast forward to today. There are twenty pages left of the final edit and a handful of little things to tighten up and then the sequel is ready for professional editing and test reading. So much yay! I feel like I’ve been teasing about finishing this one for months now, probably because I kept setting unrealistic goals and then being surprised when I didn’t reach them.

Another note to self – planning on getting significant work done during the kids summer break from school – totally not realistic.

Like I said before, there is a learning curve with every new project and although I know I’ve gotten so much better at drafting and editing, there’s still a long way to go before I can claim mastery. I’m proud to say with each attempt things get better, easier, and faster.

Writing the first book and bringing it to publication was a ten year journey. The second will only be five. The third is already drafted and I expect it to only take 18 months from start to publication – including the months I stopped to focus on book two. If this trend continues it’s totally possible for me to complete two full length novels a year in the future.

Will I get to that point? Time will definitely tell. There is an exciting world of possibilities out there and I intend to keep trying and moving forward.

I fully intend to release Stonebearer’s Apprentice (official title pending…) in Spring of 2020 and Katira’s story will continue!

Here’s to making progress in whatever way we can!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Evermore Park

If you love fantasy and super immersive experiences, I have a place you might love. Located in Pleasant Grove, Utah, Evermore Park is a “fantasy European hamlet of imagination.” Inside the gorgeous grounds you can find adventure, quests, dragons, music, and of course, tasty treats.

My family went to explore Evermore Park last week with the hopes of embarking on an epic adventure that might mimic the quests found in popular video games like Legend of Zelda, or for me – Witcher. The park itself did not disappoint. Good money has been spent in the building and landscaping of the different beautiful buildings scattered around the grounds. Had I been going by myself, I would have spent my time wandering around just to soak up the atmosphere and maybe curl up in a cozy nook to watch and daydream.

Guests coming to the park are welcome to dress up and be part of the fantasy. I was surprised and amazed at how many visitors came dressed in elaborate European fantasy garb. The people watching was incredible.

A magical mix of eerie and beautiful

The residents of Evermore feel as if they’ve walked out of the pages of your favorite fantasy book. They wander around carrying clues and totems to give to questing visitors. Successful quests earn visitors “gold” coins they can turn in for prizes.

I wanted to love this idea so much. As a fantasy writer, this should have been a wonderful immersive experience that would both inspire and light new creative fires. For my kids it should have been a magical place where they could pretend and play and come away feeling like they did something both different and cool.

In reality, there were lots of things that we learned the hard way. When we were admitted into the park there were no real instructions or even a vague idea of where to go or what to do to start our journey. While there were a few characters interacting with visitors in the entrance, because we weren’t sure if they were visitors or residents we didn’t know what we were supposed to do with them. It wasn’t until later when we learned that residents wear a special lighted pendant to indicate they work for the park.

When we finally found a character to talk to, she was wonderful and gracious and did her best to get us started on our way with a special quest to find a princess who had forgotten who she was. Terrific! Each of our kids received a little charm that was supposed to remind this princess about her true identity and a few clues as to where to find her.

We were on our way!

The first place we checked, she wasn’t there. We asked around and given another clue to go look somewhere on the other side of the park. Determined to find our princess, we trekked over there, getting distracted along the way to explore the eerie mausoleum filled with creepy vampires and a demonic spider thing. By the time we reached our missing princess’s new location, she had already gone. We were directed yet again to seek her over by the entrance, on yet a different corner of the park.

She wasn’t there either. See a trend? Two hours had elapsed without success in our first quest. Along the way, we talked to a few other characters to help us, doing everything we could to keep it lighthearted as the kiddos were starting to get frustrated. Finally, we learned that she had just barely moved to a new location.

We rushed to find her. My daughter was too shy to talk to her so I tried to remember what we were supposed to tell her, (remember, we had now invested over two hours) hoping that she would fill in the gaps and make this a magical moment so our experience would have a lovely pay off.

Nope. We gave her the charm that was supposed to remind her of her true identity and she just kind of took it with a shrug and said thank you. It was awkward enough that I didn’t want to pursue it further.

Statues so real I thought it was going to jump out at me.

We did have fun learning to be rangers and hiding behind residents and what not, but it was dark, we were tired, and if the first quest took two hours of frustration, we weren’t super eager to try again on another one. We got a super yummy snack and wandered a bit more without bothering trying to interact with other characters, and then called it a day.

For our family, while the park itself is amazing, the learning curve was simply far too steep to truly enjoy the experience. And at the cost of over $100 for the five of us to participate, we didn’t feel we got our value out of it.

If you love LARPing, this would be your dream come true and I’d fully recommend it for you.

However, if you are even in the least bit uncomfortable interacting with people in costume, or are bringing children who want to complete quests to get prizes, this venue might be super frustrating.

On a positive note, they didn’t blink an eye when my 7-year-old wanted to try archery, so kudos there.

Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Book Review: Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn

Happy October everyone! It’s the first Wednesday of the month which means it’s book review day. Today’s pick: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. This book came out in 2001 and I first read it back in college. It made a deep enough impression on me that I recently recommended it for a book group and reread it a few weeks ago.

About the story:

Ella Minnow Pea is an epistolary novel, meaning it’s composed of letters from one character to another. Ella lives on the fictional island of Nollop, located off the coastline of South Carolina and named after Nevin Nollop who has been immortalized by his creation of a phrase using all 26 letters of the alphabet, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

What’s unique about this island is that due to poor infrastructure, they are isolated from the modern world. There aren’t computers, internet, email, or even telephone service, although those on the island know all these things exist. To communicate long distance, they are limited to letters and the occasional telegraph. Because of this, they’ve developed a love and passion for the written word and a unusual eloquence.

When letters begin falling off the memorial statue to Nevin Nollop, the island Council deems that it is a divine mandate from Nollop himself and they must stop using those letters in everyday speech and the written word. This also means those letters drop out of use for the remainder of the book. With each loss, the island falls deeper and deeper into totalitarianism as the Council works to eliminate those who would use the illegal letters.

Ella finds herself fighting to save her friends and family from being banished off of the island, a task that grows more complicated with new letter’s loss.

My review:

As a lover of artful use of language, this book delights on so many levels. Ella tries so hard to maintain her eloquence and love of language, even as each letter is taken away. The resulting linguistic gymnastics are impressive to say the least. It made me wonder if I could do the same. I tried it with the letter “m” thinking it would be easy. In a 15 minute sample where I tried my best to be careful, three “m”s still managed to find their way in.

There is also the element of satire about an overreaching government seeking punitive punishments for violators of the new rules as well as what happens when a society must adapt to censorship. For me, this felt almost Orwellian and brought back of not-so-fond memories of the discomfort of being forced to read 1984 in school, mixed with a touch of Lord of the Flies. However, Dunn encapsulates this satire inside the story of those trying to live the new rules and because their story shines stronger than the satire, it makes it much more palatable.

By the end of the story when only handful of letters are left, the text becomes almost unintelligible. Letters are swapped out for phonetic matches and to understand what’s being said, the reader almost has to say the syllables out loud. For me, it brilliantly demonstrated the frustrations of the main characters as they struggle to communicate.

In all, I found the book delightful and both a fun and profound read.

Recommendations:

I recommend this book to those who love a good play on words and appreciate vocabulary and wordsmithing, as well as those who love seeing how a society can go wrong. Those who love word puzzles will also get a kick out of seeing how each character manages to avoid using banned letters. It’s also a charming story of making the best of a hard situation that doesn’t dwell on the ugliness that could be found there.

I would not recommend this book for those who want an easy read. It is not. From the deeply vocab-u-tastic wordiness at the beginning, to the almost alien constructed language nearing the end, this book is challenging. I also would recommend those who are sensitive to political misuse of power to steer clear as this book might be triggering.

I give Mark Dunn’s Ella Minnow Pea 4.5 stars.


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to Amazon, Goodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!

Lessons Learned from Buying a Used Elliptical

We’ve all done stupid things. Buying a used elliptical sounded so smart at the time. I was saving money, ensuring my wintertime happiness, and also giving my kiddos another outlet to burn off extra energy. Then reality bit me in the butt.

Let’s back up a minute. Last week I talked about the importance of taking walks to help clear my head and deal with anxiety. While walking is indeed the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to do this, the winter months are coming and the idea of walking outside during a blizzard or dreary freezing wind is not appealing in the least.

So, I had a brilliant idea – find a cheap elliptical that I could use on days when the weather is nasty and get in my exercise that way. As an added bonus, I could totally watch Netflix while working out – win.

Bad elliptical, go sit in time out and think about what you did. If you’re lucky, you won’t be a coat rack in the future.

For those of you who are experienced fitness machine users, yeah, feel free to laugh at me from this point forward. So many mistakes…

I found what looked like a great deal on a solid looking elliptical – $30 dollars and everything worked fine. We took it home at set it in the center of our family room to let the kiddos goof off on it. If anything was going to break, I’d rather it happen sooner than later and kids make excellent testing subjects. They hung on it, tried it two at a time, adjusted the built in fan, and made sure the heart rate monitor was accurate.

Even better, they didn’t break it.

What they did reveal is that it was a bit squeaky and thumpy. My goal, remember, was to be able to use it while watching TV. Being the uber-handy person I am, I decided it would be a great idea to lube the thing up and get rid of the excess noise. I looked up a Youtube tutorial, hubby bought some plastic-safe grease, and we went to town.

I’m one of those people who love taking things apart and putting them back together. It is very gratifying to fix stuff so it works better. Even better, hubby feels the same way. Usually. We lubed literally every joint and friction point just to be sure this new addition to our family could be as good as it be. If we’re going to do it, might as well do it as good as we can.

And it worked and ran as smooth as butter. For 30 glorious seconds.

Funny thing about moving parts, some don’t like to be slippery. In our haste to finish the job, we used a spray lubricant to reach a few places not thinking much about the drips. Those drips made their way under the tensioning belt and made the whole thing slip off.

Using and elliptical without a tensioning belt is WAY more exciting that I’m up for. There’s no friction at all and if you work hard enough you can cut a portal into another dimension. I think one of my kids summoned a minor demon as they cranked their way to infinity – and beyond! His name is Floyd and he now lives under my 7-year-old’s bed.

Did I mention that not only was this elliptical a great deal, but it is quite possibly the cheapest home elliptical known to man? We stripped screws, snapped plastic bits, and (possibly) swore more times than normally allowed in a home with younger kids. To fix the tensioning belt, we took that whole thing back apart and degreased all those essential frictiony bits to the best of our ability.

And put it all back together again…

And enjoyed another 30 glorious seconds of smooth silent operation…

Before the #(@&)#ing belt slipped off again.

Guess who gets to learn the finer points of how to properly retension an elliptical belt this weekend?

This gal, right here.

Yay.

The moral of this story is to research before you buy, don’t be too cheap, and for heaven’s sake, be careful where you spray lube!

Arrrg, Matey! When in doubt, use the white stuff. Smells like an old amusement park.

The real life lesson is never give up. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Stuff takes longer than expected. A great deal turns out not so great. Getting mad doesn’t fix anything. Whatever you do, keep trying. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Does anyone want to adopt Floyd? He keeps the youngest up at night with his cute demon snores.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Amazing Woman: Mary Anning

Ask any young child what their favorite thing is ever and there’s a good chance they’ll say dinosaurs. Today, we are going to discuss one of the most influential women in the field of paleontology, Mary Anning.

By Credited to ‘Mr. Grey’ in Crispin Tickell’s book ‘Mary Anning of Lyme Regis’ (1996) – Two versions side by side, Sedgwick Museum. Also see here. According to the Sedgwick Museum, there are two versions. The earlier version is by an unknown artist, dated before 1842 and credited to the Geological Society. The later version is a copy by B.J. M. Donne in 1847 or 1850, and is credited to the Natural History Museum in London. Also see here., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3824696

Born 1799 in Lyme Regis in Dorset, England, Mary grew up in the popular seaside resort area which was already popular for selling ‘curios’ to tourists, many of which were actually fossils including “snake-stones” (ammonites), “devil’s fingers” (belemnites), and “verteberries” (vertebrae). These items ended up in curio chests and cabinets all over the world and were thought to have medicinal and mystical properties.

Richard, Mary’s father, would take her and her brother, Joseph, to the coastal cliffs which were part of the Blue Lias. The unique formation of limestone and shale made this perfect fossil hunting territory. The family would collect and sell these fossils to supplement their income.

Mary’s father died when she was eleven and she continued to search for fossils to sell in order to support her family. It was during one of these searches that she and her brother came across their first major find when her brother dug up a four-foot-long ichthyosaur skull. Mary found the rest of the skeleton a few months later. She was only twelve. That skull was sold at auction to Charles Konig of the British Museum for £45 and five shillings.

Some say her story led to the creation of the popular tongue twister “She sells seashells on the seashore” by Terry Sullivan published in 1908.

By Thomas Webster (1773-1844) – Transactions of the Geological Society of London (1824), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9001159

At the age of 24, Mary found the first complete Plesiosaurus skeleton. That same year, she was nearly crushed by a landslide that killed her dog, Tray. Five years later, she found the first of the pterosaurs ever to be seen outside of Germany. They called them “flying dragons” at the time.

Mary Anning quickly became known in the fossil community as an expert in the different families of bones and was consulted often. During her life, she was not allowed to join the Geological Society of London because she was a woman. In fact, the only publication she is ever named in is the Magazine of Natural History in 1839 where she wrote a letter to the editor questioning one of its claims.

Her discoveries played an important role in the discovery of coprolites were actually fossilized feces and that belemnite follis contained fossilized ink sacs much like those found in modern cephalopods.

Mary died young at the age of 47 of breast cancer. In 2010, the Royal Society included her in a list of the ten British Women who have most influenced the history of science.

References:


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Journaling and Long Walks

I know it’s a author stereotype, but yes, I am an introvert with a huge capital “I”. If you’ve seen me out in the wild, like at a conference or convention, the outgoing person you met is me acting in the role of what I’ve interpreted as my public persona. I’ll start conversations, talk to strangers, and even invite people to discuss their favorite things. None of these are things I’m naturally comfortable with.

Like at all.

The cutest, fluffiest ball of suppressed anxiety you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet.

This kind of acting requires both mental and physical energy. When the event is over, I go home exhausted. What’s more, being out in the wild like this, even around people I really enjoy, causes a huge amount of anxiety as well. You can sleep off exhaustion. You need special tools to handle anxiety.

If I’m to be really honest with you, there are plenty of other things that cause anxiety as well that shouldn’t. That’s what anxiety is, unusual fear, worry, or dread about things we don’t have control over. For me, the morning rush to get the kids to school is always a big one. Innocent requests to help with kid’s projects are another. Preparing for family outings, meal planning, shopping for clothes … yeah, those things too.

Throw on top of all that the writing and authoring business stuff and I’ve built myself a lovely anxiety sandwich.

Photo by Youjeen Cho on Unsplash

There are two things I’ve come to use regularly to manage my anxiety, journaling, and walking.

This isn’t run of the mill journaling used to reflect on the events of the day or capture angsty rants and long winded stories. This is a practice called morning pages. Before sitting down to work, I spend 15-20 minutes filling two composition book pages of the words and thoughts that need to spill out of my brain. It’s like Drano for the mental pipes. Sometimes I ask questions that I’ve been meaning to spend time thinking about and sometimes I use it to get a rant out of my system. Regardless of what ends up on the pages, I always feel better after I’ve done it. What’s better, I often get really good ideas while I write.

While journaling takes care of a lot of the built up mental garbage that needs to be taken out, walking works wonders as an emotional reset button. If the morning’s been stressful, taking a walk before diving into the rest of my days often eliminates the accumulated stress of the morning and makes it possible to not bring that stress into the creative space. It also helps me maintain better energy levels during the day, gets my heart pumping, calms my cravings, and I get a change to play Wizards Unite. For me, that’s super motivating.

Yesterday I didn’t get in my walk because I knew it was going to be a busy day. Come afternoon, my anxiety was unmanageably high and I was raiding every shelf of the pantry for something sweet. By early evening I so tired, I ended up watching TV on the couch. By missing a 40 minute walk, I lost several hours of working time – not to mention ate way too much junk food.

Speaking of which … I haven’t done my walk today because of the rain. If it lets up, I better get out there!

What do you do to manage anxiety? Let’s talk about it!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

The Future of Guest Interviews

For nearly a year, Fridays here on the blog have been dedicated to guest interviews and features. It was gratifying work and a great chance to learn more about the amazing people I’ve had the privilege to meet.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

The idea was a great one at first and ultimately spread good karma all around. I got to help other creatives reach more people. Sometimes they did nice things for me in return. However, it was work. I spent hours and hours searching, inviting, interviewing, collecting images, creating graphics, and gathering links and info to make each of these interviews shine.

As a writer mom who works from home, there are always dozens of projects underway at any given time. This makes for a pretty chaotic mind space and a chaotic mind is not an efficient one even on good days. It’s crazy making on bad ones.

Between working to finish books, keeping active on social media, writing blog posts, managing my local writing group, and also maintaining my household and being a stay-at-home mom, something had to give.

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

After careful analysis of what efforts brought the most benefit and what were fun, but not super helpful, I’ve decided to drop the weekly Friday guest feature. In it’s place, I’ll be sharing something meaningful or interesting. It might be funny or serious, it might be academic or a rant – but it will be something I hope will connect with you, dear reader.

I will still be posting a few interviews here and there as I find them, probably about once a month.

Onwards and upwards!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!