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.


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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!


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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.


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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!


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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!


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That Time I got Schooled at a Book Club

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

There is a special joy found in talking about fiction and books and ideas with other people who love to do the same thing. As an author, sometimes we even get to go to book clubs and hang out and discuss our own books. Is it a little scary? Yes. Here’s a group of smart people who have their own very distinct view of what makes the perfect book and they want to ask you questions about the one you wrote.

I’ve only done it once.

And I got schooled.

That’s a touch misleading, let me back up. For the most part, the discussion was both interesting and safe. We discussed my journey as a writer, what other works I’ve written, where my ideas come from, all the usual stuff. There was a brief discussion on what my thoughts were on women writing male characters, which led me to assume I might have done it badly, as well as how fantasy is distinct from other genres.

All of those topics are ones I’m super comfortable with because I’ve already explored and talked about all of them in one way or another, some here on the blog. Then I did the dumb.

I got on my soapbox.

The question was something along the lines of, “What’s the hardest part of writing a book?”

My answer in the moment – marketing. But no, I couldn’t just leave it there like a normal person now, could I?

Photo by William Moreland on Unsplash

I started on the whole, for the price of a fancy drink at one of those cute soda stores you could buy a book. The drink will last maybe an hour whereas a book will give hours of entertainment. The majority of authors are struggling to sell their works that they’ve spent years on. I did the math and currently I get paid something like $0.0012 an hour if you take the total number of hours I estimate I spent on writing and editing my first book compared to what I’ve made on it so far. Novel writing is not for the faint of heart my friends.

It was a passionate rant for people to buy more books and support their favorite local authors and it was super thoughtless.

Then came the schooling.

“But Jodi, you’re forgetting that people’s time is valuable. Buying a book means committing hours to reading it. It’s not the price that keeps people from buying more books, but how much available time they have to read them. I’m very selective about the books I buy because my time is valuable. “

Mic drop.

Photo by William Moreland on Unsplash

She’s absolutely right. I’d only weighed my need to sell books against people’s ability to pay for them. I’d forgotten about how everyone leads full and busy lives, just like I do. I maybe purchase a book for myself every few months and get the rest through the library because I like audiobooks. Guess what? So do most people.

The moral of this story? Don’t assume people want to buy your stuff simply because it’s inexpensive and you’ve spent lots of time making it.


Hey, if you want me to come hang out with your book club, all you have to do is ask! Find my contact info in the About Me tab.


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