Your mind is free. (Writing updates!)

When I finished my novel in early July, I found myself thinking, what now?

I’m still not doing anything with the novel… yet. Soon, though.

~~~~~

As for updates on the “what now?” – After two years of writing this first novel, I’m accustomed to working on and off 24/7. It feels natural. I didn’t feel imprisoned within that cycle of self-imposed deadlines; I don’t want to leave.

For a brief moment in early July, I entertained the notion of finding some sort of paying part-time, work-from-home situation. It was a sensible idea, but… I’m going to keep writing. Sometimes, the sensible idea is to do what doesn’t make sense to others. (All of the time, in fact, as long as it makes sense to you.)

~~~~~

I’m writing poetry. The poems I’m writing at the moment are coming out a little dark and disquieted, not so much in terms of content, but more in terms of mood. It’s not the happiest place, but it’s not a terrible place, either. The strange poems I’m writing right now are some of my favorites of all that I’ve written. I’m going with the mood, because that’s how it works, writing poems.

~~~~~

I’d had what I thought was a solid idea for my next novel, but these new poems give me pause for thought. A couple of characters have emerged from them. What if I were to take these characters and their worlds and create a prose narrative around them?

Or I could just continue writing the poems in this unexpected series, letting a story unfold, poem as medium. I’d write the poems and work on my new novel at the same time.

Or I could continue the series of poems and also continue preliminary work on the new novel idea I’d already had.

Or I could merge the two, weaving their narratives together. That would be interesting.

I’m intrigued by all of these possibilities.

 

This bird landed on the ledge of our kitchen window. He’s a big guy, about 12″ tall, and we see him around a lot. (21 August 2018)

 

 

 

Advertisements

Current skincare regimen. (Per request!)

Today, I’m honoring several recent requests for an updated skincare regimen. This is going to be quite detailed, just so you know. Pass on over it if it’s not your thing. If it is your thing or you’re otherwise interested, keep reading.

The products I use are cruelty-free (not tested on animals), and most of it is vegan. I’ve provided links to all of it,* including the collagen supplement I’ve been taking daily for the last four months. You’ll find that link in the “Notes” at the bottom.

*I hope all of the links work. My computer froze up while I was writing this; I had to re-start, etc. I’ll check them after I post and fix them if needed.

Here we go!

 

Current skincare products (August 2018)

 

Kind of extensive, right? I spend more time and money on skincare than I do on make-up. Good skincare translates to less make-up on my face, anyway, though.

Daytime routine (gym mornings)

I don’t do anything to my face before going to the gym in the morning. I don’t even wash it. I just put on sunscreen and go.

When I get home, I get in the shower and wash my face with Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

After that, the routine (in order):

*I apply water to my face as if it were a product.

Daytime routine (non-gym mornings)

On mornings I don’t go to the gym, I exfoliate my face with Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Scrub Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

After that, I do the same routine (as above).

Night routine

I take my showers at night. (If it’s a gym day, it’s my second shower of the day.) In the shower, I wash my face with Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Cleanser Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme.

After that, the night routine:

[All of the above-mentioned products are great for both women and men]

Make-up Removal

I remove my make-up before getting into the shower at night. I use:

*I use the wipes with both the cleansing butter and the micellar water

Also pictured above, I forgot to say: the Pacifica Bali Coconut lip balm I use throughout the day, and Alba Botanica Very Emollient Maximum Body Lotion

[Products I loved but don’t use anymore because they’ve been discontinued: The Body Shop Honey & Oat 3-in-1 Moisturising Scrub Mask and Acure Magical Wonderfluff Overnight Hydrating Booster Mask]

Notes

  • I take a collagen supplement (and I believe that my skin loves it)
  • I do a facial massage in the shower as I’m cleansing my skin at night
  • To dry, I press the towel to my skin lightly rather than wiping it over my face
  • I pat on the serum (day) and the oil (night), and I apply the creams in an upward motion
  • I extend the face products to my neck and upper chest
  • I layer on the products, waiting 2-3 minutes between layers

Some of the following habits I’ve adopted for health reasons, but I believe they’re good for the skin:

  • drink water in great quantities, basically non-stop all day
  • avoid refined sugar and refined carbs (sugary sweets and beverages; white pasta, white bread, white rice, and white potatoes)
  • avoid deep-fried foods
  • avoid direct sunlight as much as possible (I have to, anyway, because of methotrexate)
  • refrain completely from smoking and drinking alcohol
  • eat fresh fruit and veggies every day
  • work out 3x/week, unless life interferes. I would like to work out at least 4x/week, but for one reason or another, I haven’t managed to hit the 4th workout on a regular basis. Ideally, I would work out 5x/week.

I think this is about as thorough as it’s going to get, my friends. Some of it may seem, to put it in the parlance of our times, “extra.” But I’m a total skincare junkie, as you may already know, and I prefer DIY skincare… I don’t go to spas or salons to have anything done.

On a final note, if you didn’t laugh when you read “in the parlance of our times,” you need to watch The Big Lebowski again. Just saying.

A skincare post wouldn’t be complete without a pic, so here’s one from yesterday… as usual, no filtering or modifying, blah blah…

 

(finally) updated “professional” profile pic (8/15/2018)

 

With that, I wish you a good weekend!

 

 

“Shenanigans” in French is shenanigans. (And that’s why I’m tuning back in.)

Scenario: Eight people are seated around an enormous table. Seven of them are French. The eighth one is you. The seven French carry on three conversations, two main ones and another that’s fractured into conversation splinters as the speakers randomly jump from their conversation to put a word into the other.

The speakers have to speak loudly, because the table is huge. The speakers’ voices cross fluidly over each other between the conversations, merging in and out of the endless stream of language that is not yours, within meaningless contexts, because the voices belong to family and family friends with a long personal history together that has nothing to do with you. You’re sitting in the middle of it all understanding nothing, neither language-wise nor topic-wise.

You’re fine. You think nothing of it. You just do the natural thing: you tune out.

Then one of the speakers looks at you and asks whether you understood what was just said. You’re embarrassed, and you’d feel rude admitting, “No, I wasn’t even listening,” so you force a little smile and nod just slightly, feeling like you’re telling half a lie. Your response is more a gesture of acknowledgment, but still, you feel something of a fraud. Never mind that if you were listening and if you did try to understand, you probably could have!

~~~~~

Even in our own language, it’s easy to tune out when the conversation between old friends reaches back to old times. There’s an intimacy in reminiscing. Outsiders aren’t privy to the back-stories of the personal histories involved. Mysterious references are made, faceless names are mentioned. It’s like sitting down in front of the T.V. in the middle of an episode in a series you’ve never watched. When it happens in a foreign language you’re yet learning, it’s even easier to tune out, especially if there are several episodes playing at the same time. It’s okay, though, because it’s just as interesting to watch the speakers’ animated faces with their changing expressions, to note their body-language, to hear their exclamations and their laughter. People-watching is a pleasure in a universal language, no sub-titles needed.

But I digress.

All of this to say, I’ve returned to my efforts to converse in French. Last year I stopped working on it, and now I’m working on it again… but I just started working on it again. Hence, all of the French television series we’ve been watching.

This is the story and extent of my spoken French: it’s still true that I understand more than I can speak. I’m able to carry on a halting conversation with one or two people at a time. I can comprehend most of what’s being said, but I can contribute very little. I get nervous and tongue-tied; I forget most of what I know. (I’m socially anxious to begin with!) I speak French the most freely when alone with Callaghan, as I’m more relaxed around him.

The weekend was good. It was fun times with our visitors from France, and I enjoyed it. They’re lovely. Lovely people make the best visitors.

Not to mention, I still got to the gym on Saturday morning.

The Geronimeter. (Desert tortoise updates!)

Now toward the end of summer, we’ve learned yet more about our Geronimo as we’ve continued to observe his patterns of behavior this first cycle of seasons with him. The main thing we’ve discovered recently is that we have a personal meteorologist who has a built-in Doppler Radar. Geronimo tells us when it’s going to rain. We have a Geronimeter.

Monsoon season began in July, as monsoon season does. We were in the backyard when the first dust storm rolled in and dropped the temperature along with it. We looked over from the patio and saw Geronimo’s little nose poking out of his burrow. The wind picked up as the sky darkened. A wealth of mesquite pods swirled into space and landed in our yard. (Thank you, neighbor.) The rich scent of creosote saturated the air… classic indication of imminent rain in the desert.

Geronimo readied himself at the entrance of his burrow as we stood on the patio in the blowing dust, all three of us watching the storm unfold. As soon as the rain began to fall, he came out and marched all over the yard, up and down along the back fence, patrolling his perimeter with a joie de vivre unlike any we’d seen in him before. He was clearly in his element.

He’s since settled into a routine of coming out at night to crawl into the mass of verbena along the side fence, walking his back-fence path when he wakes up in the early morning (eating any hibiscus flowers and buds he can find along the way), and retreating to his burrow to escape the daytime heat. He’s back in his burrow by around 8:30am. The storms usually move through at dusk or later, and he comes out to revel in the rain. That’s Geronimo, living his best monsoon life.

I wish I had pics of him in the rain to share here. Unfortunately, cell phones and rain don’t mix. Monsoon winds blow the rain onto the patio; nowhere remains dry. I have a few general pics of him, though (actually screenshots from video clips).

On a typical early-morning before the day heats itself into oblivion:

 

Hello, post-storm world.

 

We’ve stopped soaking him and instead have placed his bath/water dish on the ground in front of his fence. He has fresh water in the dish every day, and he knows where to find it. If he needs it, he clambers in. If he doesn’t, he goes around.

We’ve seen him squirting water through his nose more often than usual, maybe to hydrate his nasal passages.

 

Nasal-rinse

 

This dish is actually a large plant saucer (I can’t remember whether I’d mentioned this in previous posts).

 

Things to do, places to go…

 

That’s all I’ve got for this update! Next month, Geronimo’s vet will notify us to bring him in for their annual pre-hibernation clinic and screening. It’s unreal that the summer’s almost over.

 

Staying.

Your irrelevant newsflash of the day: I’m keeping my personal Facebook account. Just so you know.

This was a grand decision. I’d about made up my mind to deactivate, as some of you are aware, and then I reconsidered. Like many of you, I had more than one foot out the door; I’d stepped almost all the way out the door, leaving just my shadow in Facebook. In my opinion, Facebook has become absurd on many levels. I was relieved to have decided to part ways with it… but that would have meant parting ways with everyone.

Confession: I loathe FB.

Conundrum: FB is the only way I can stay connected to many friends and most family.

Connections won. I see friends and family too seldom as it is… I’d miss them more were I to abandon my digital hub of connections.

Still, I have mixed feelings about this.

The poet Miss Dickinson comes to mind: in her later years, she reportedly never left her house, rarely left her bedroom, and spoke to visitors only from behind her closed door. Even more than living as a recluse, she seldom saw anyone. This could be me at some point, only my closed door would be a computer screen. It seems that the digital age has encouraged our inclinations toward complacency in solitude, because we don’t feel as alone when we’re linked to each other online.

I’m an introvert. I love to be alone. But I don’t see that I’d enjoy the life of a recluse the way Miss Dickinson did. In “I Had Been Hungry All the Years,” she wrote:

Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.

One could say that the reason Emily Dickinson didn’t feel “hungry” was that she stayed inside. She shielded herself from wanting. Physical isolation was her comfort. She did have her liaisons, though. She kept up an active correspondence with many, writing hundreds of letters and poems over the course of years. Miss Dickinson was ahead of her time in more ways than one. She stayed connected through her letters and poems the way we stay connected through the internet.

I’m content to sit at home, alone and writing, most of the day and on most days… but I don’t want to be isolated.

 

(Captured in the wild with Nenette, August 7, 2018)

 

I enjoy the physical company of others – and not just at the gym! So I’ve been making more plans to have lunch or coffee with friends. I have some time, now, after all.

At any rate, I’m not sure how this post deviated from “I’m keeping my personal Facebook account” to a reflection on the habits of reclusive poets. To leave you with an almost as-irrelevant finish: I resisted the urge to fill this post with an exuberance of dashes in further homage to Miss Dickinson. Just so you know.

Bah Ouais. (July Favorites!)

July, then! In (sweeping) summary, I finished writing my book, we went out of town, and we spent most of our entertainment hours over the month watching French-language T.V. series – we found a few great ones on Netflix, and I’m sure we’ll find some on Hulu and Prime Video, as well. We’ve still got a few in our Netflix queue before we move on.

I should have mentioned in my last “Monthly Favorites” that I’ve changed up my format for these posts, namely in the interest of streamlining them: 1. I’m now specifying where we watched the series mentioned, 2. I’m including less in the way of commentary, and 3. for the food and products listed, I’m linking to the items and using pics from their websites (rather than taking my own… this way you can see the item clearly, packaging and all).

For the movies/series, especially, I’ll try to keep my commentary brief. I may not write anything at all. If it’s on my “Favorites” list, it’s because I enjoyed it!

[ETA: I corrected the typo of “100%” – thank you, sharp reader!]

 

1). La Forêt (Netflix series)

 

 

(Crime drama set in an appropriately dark and beautiful forest on the Belgian side of the France/Belgium Ardennes.)

 

2). La Trêve (Netflix series)

 

 

La Trêve – our favorite of the French crime drama/thriller/mystery series we’ve watched so far.

 

3). Dix Pour Cent (Netflix series)

 

 

I’m not sure why the title “Dix Pour Cent” (“10%”) got turned into “Call My Agent!” – whatever the case, this is a fun series. It makes for a good change of pace, too. It’s good to mix some humor into our dark and sinister crime dramas.

 

4). Les grandes Grandes Vacances (Netflix series)

 

 

We’re still working our way through this excellent animated series. The simplistic art of Les grandes Grandes Vacances lends the production an innocence and charm that’s perfectly fitting, but remember that WWII through the eyes of children in the (occupied) French countryside can be nothing but heartbreaking.

 

5). GoMacro Macrobar (Everlasting Joy: coconut + almond butter + chocolate chips).

 

GoMacro Macrobar (Everlasting Joy: coconut, almond butter, chocolate chips)

 

These bars! I’m totally into these. They probably contain more sugar than I’d like to be eating, but their nutritional panel looks good, overall, and I love the bar’s chewy coconut base. Supply is low wherever I find these, so I always do the courteous consumer thing and snap up what’s left. “First come, first serve,” right? I would order them online, but ordering anything with chocolate chips in the Arizona heat usually doesn’t end well. I may start ordering them online once the weather cools down.

 

6). Sprouts Organic Vegan Pesto.

 

Sprouts Basil Vegan Pesto

 

I know… I listed Trader Joe’s vegan pesto just last month. We still enjoy that one, but we’ve now discovered Sprouts’ vegan pesto, and I have to say that it’s my favorite of the favorites.

 

7). Acure Brilliantly Brightening Day Cream.

 

Acure Brilliantly Brightening Day Cream

 

I was almost-but-not-quite at the bottom of my day cream jar when the remaining product developed an odor. I used it one more day before throwing it out. Needless to say, I went looking for yet another day cream. This one by Acure seems to be good! If I enjoy it all the way to the end, I’ll re-purchase it.

 

8). The Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Shower Gel.

 

The Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Shower Gel

 

I used up the last of the Frosted Plum shower gel I’d purchased during The Body Shop’s Black Friday sale. It’d become my favorite – to me, the strongest note in its fragrance was pine, and I love the scent of pine. The Body Shop tells me that it’s unlikely they’ll bring back that particular holiday/limited edition. I had to find a replacement. I went for their Pink Grapefruit shower gel, and to my surprise and delight, it’s also redolent of pine! It could just be my nose, but I’m picking up the bitterness of the grapefruit as an evergreen bite.

 

9). Flower Beauty Sheer Up Lip Tint (Airy Orchid).

 

Flower Beauty Sheer Up Lip Tint (Airy Orchid)

 

The first thing I look for in a pigmented lip product is a cool undertone. I love this berry shade from Drew Barrymore’s cosmetics line. The lip tint is moisturizing, too… it feels good to wear.

 

10). NYX Butter Gloss (Ginger Snap).

 

NYX Butter Gloss (Ginger Snap)

 

This is a nice formula for a pigmented gloss, and the ginger snap shade is a good, neutral brown that’s just dark enough. It’s hard to find a brown without orange undertones. I like a brown with a plum undertone, but if I want to wear a brown gloss, it’s nice to have one with no undertone at all. I like the way the sheer effect of this one brings out the natural color of my lips.

Also, this shade brings back the 90’s. Love it.

 

That’s it for July! I hope you all enjoyed a great month.

 

 

 

“That one time I went to the shrink…” (My worst therapist experiences!)

You’ve likely had at least one negative therapist experience if you’ve been in therapy for any length of time. This is normal; no one meshes with everyone. It’s like psych medication… you have to find what works for you. I’ve been lucky to have had mostly good experiences with my counselors over years of on-and-off therapy.

I do have a couple of bad experiences to share, though, so I thought I’d go ahead and do that since I regularly discuss my mental health adventures in this space. Moreover, I know it can help to hear about others’ bad experiences!

Let me say that my two unfortunate therapist experiences weren’t bad in the usual ways. That’s how my life works. I can’t just have a normal bad therapist experience. It has to be a really freaking bizarre therapist experience, maybe more bizarre than bad.

First, there was:

  • The shrink who ghosted me.

I’d gone to this counselor for several months. I thought we had a good rapport, so I was surprised when I went to my appointment one day and she stood me up… as in, I knocked on the office’s front door, and she didn’t come to answer it. She was there. I knew she was there. I could see the light on in her office through the glass. She just didn’t come to the door! I even called her as I stood outside. Maybe she can’t hear me knocking. She didn’t answer her phone.

We later re-scheduled. The same thing happened again. I don’t remember if there was a third time, but for all of her apologies and excuses, I never saw her again.

To be ghosted by someone in your personal life is one thing. (I’ve had it happen to me, and I’m guilty of having done it, myself. Not proud of it. Just being real.) But by a counselor? A therapist? I’d never heard of any professional in the field of mental health doing this kind of thing to a client.

You place your trust in your therapist, right? Trust is a fundamental of the therapist/patient relationship. That’s why you keep going back. You’ve established trust, and you’re confident that you’re in a safe place free of judgement. Trusting this particular counselor turned out to be a mistake. After those last experiences, I felt worse than I did before I started going to her.

I might as well have wired $1,000 to a Nigerian prince to get the riches promised, only to discover the scam and find myself $1,000 poorer.

 

Next:

  • The shrink who lectured me for an hour about the evils of gluten.

He was an interim counselor, so it was the one and only time I saw him. But during that one appointment, all he did was try to convert me to a gluten-free lifestyle.

His proselytizing had nothing to do with mental health. What happened was he started out reviewing my list of medications, noticed that I was seeing a rheumatologist for autoimmune issues, and decided that I could easily cure myself of everything. All I had to do was go gluten-free. Miracles happen once you quit consuming gluten. I spent the rest of the session receiving an education for which I never signed up.

And I mean, he went on at length into biochemical detail, even showing me anatomy graphics to illustrate how gluten was wreaking havoc on my immune system and destroying my body from the inside out. His conviction was profound. A true evangelist, he made sure to pull out a pamphlet for me to take home. His passion for the gluten-free lifestyle bordered on fervor that almost edged me out of the room, but I sat frozen in awe. Without a doubt, this was the most bizarre and unhelpful counseling session I’d ever attended.

Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried! Rest assured, most of my experiences have been good, if not excellent. The two that I’ve shared above are anomalies… don’t let them deter you if you’re thinking of seeking assistance. Talk therapy does many worlds of good. It does help.