Betsy Whitt

I read. I write. I think. I live.

Author: betsy (page 2 of 29)

My Stupid Brain Won’t Let Me Sleep Until I Type This

Sometimes, when I go to bed, my brain keeps trying to think of things I should take care of. Some nights, I just tell it to shut up, and it does, and I go to sleep, and if it’s important I’ll remember it in the morning.

Tonight is not one of those nights. I have been trying to tell my brain to shut up for quite some time, and it is not obeying my demands. I got up and wrote down things I need to take care of tomorrow, including taking a payment to the dentists’ office (quicker to drop it off than mail it) and exchanging the jeans I wore once before the seams started pulling in a rather unfortunate location (no, I did not get the wrong size; there seems to be a fluke in manufacture).

Not even my clever going-to-sleep trick is working. I would tell you about said clever trick, but that’s beside the point and rather confusing to explain at any rate.

The point is that I have decided that I have a goal for August.

I’m sorry, but that’s all I can tell you. I have a goal, and I will complete it before the month of August ends. It’s demanding. If it wasn’t, I could tell you more about it. But this way, I retain the element of surprise AND the possibility of evading the acknowledgement of a crushing defeat if I don’t quite reach it. Which won’t happen, but it doesn’t do to be unprepared.

There will be smaller goals associated with this large, demanding, quite-honestly-rather-frightening-and-makes-me-want-to-cower-in-a-hole-rather-than-think-about-it goal, and those I will very likely talk about and, (*gasp!*) even ask for some accountability on, but the end goal? The thing I will announce that I have accomplished by September First in the Year of Our Lord’s Grace 2010?

That will remain a secret.

And now, I bid you all good night.

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Deep Question

Why is it that, when I’ve set a timer to remind me to do something (anything from taking dinner out of the oven to checking the laundry), I have this crazy ESP and I check how much time I have left when there’s less than a minute on the timer, but if I haven’t set the timer, there’s no way I ever remember to go back to something?

WHY?

I don’t get it. I’m not saying I’m going to change my system, because obviously it works, but it doesn’t make sense.

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An Update on Shiloh

Wait a minute, didn’t I just post something yesterday? Craziness!

It’s not that I’ve forgotten about you, dear readers of my blog. All 20 of you. It’s just that lately, most of the things that have been going on have been either stunningly mundane (stunning in the sense of inducing unconsciousness, not dazzling) or really rather disgusting. It’s just how I roll, yo.

Granted, I don’t have kids yet, so there are folks who can out-disgusting me with one hand tied behind their backs, but we do have a dog. A dog who, we are getting more and more confirmation, has a sensitive stomach. It makes me glad that we made it a habit early on not to feed her much people-food, because I can only imagine what that might do. When she was a puppy, Shiloh balked at eating the dog food we tried to give her–she would eat it, eventually, when she got desperately hungry, but it was clearly not what she wanted to do. When we switched her to a formula without corn, wheat, or soy (the most common dog allergens in foods), things improved dramatically. Not only was she more eager to eat, but her… erm… other body functions, shall we say, became healthier and more regular. She still loves an occasional treat that contains wheat or corn (like MilkBones or a few pieces of popcorn), but having drastically reduced her intake seems to have made a big difference.

We never had her tested for allergies, but the results seem to have been working, so I can only be glad.

As I’ve mentioned, the past six months or so have been rather hectic. During that time, I’d estimate that I’ve spent almost a month away from home–almost all of it out-of-state–and Matt has been gone for about three weeks, including youth group retreats and overnights, our vacation, and camp a few weeks ago. This week will bring him up to a month away, as well. That’s aside from our erratic schedules on a day-to-day basis. Normally, most days I’m home doing housewifey or writing things for at least 30 hours of my “work week”, and the other 10 are spent out and about. Recently, that ratio as often been reversed. But not always.

It makes for a very uncertain schedule, and the stress has, from time to time, been wearing on all three of us. Matt and I tend to show that stress in different ways than Shiloh does. We have the liberty of sleeping in from time to time, and shooting things in video games to decompress, and reading for a few hours to get away from reality a bit. Shiloh has fewer options. Yes, she sleeps. But mostly, her body chemistry gets out of whack, specifically in her sensitive GI tract. In early June, that began to manifest itself as intermittent diarrhea.

We went to the vet when it was clear that things weren’t clearing up in the normal course of “the dog ate some random plant and gave herself the runs”, and the meds they gave us seemed to help right away. For about a week, things were looking good. There were no surprises for us in the office. Shiloh was eating eagerly (we’re pretty sure her appetite was off because her tummy felt bad–I don’t like to eat when my stomach hurts, either). And then it returned, getting progressively worse.

Another trip to the vet revealed an overgrowth of a normal canine digestive bacteria–usually stress-related. We got another round of the anti-diarrheal medicine and another package of doggy probiotics, which promote healthy GI bacteria levels. We have accepted the fact that at some point it might be necessary to keep her on the probiotics (at about a quarter the dosage she’s gotten for the problem-solving) long-term. They’re little chewable tablets that she seems to enjoy, so it wouldn’t be much of a hardship.

Of course, since I’ve always been one to want more information rather than less, I have been looking at the various options, and have found the following:

  • Probiotics tend to work best when they’re species-specific, because each species has different normal intestinal bacterial growth. So adding a human or feline probiotics supplement, while it may help, will not be AS helpful as a canine formula. Good to know.
  • The probiotic our vet has recommended for Shiloh, and which does seem to have been working, is Iams Veterinary Formula Prostora Max. This is available through vets and a few online outlets, but not most pet stores–and, oddly enough, our vet’s price is $20 cheaper per package than the online price, even before shipping.
  • I had been underestimating Shiloh’s weight for quite some time, it seems. She weighed in at just under 65lbs on her first vet visit, and two pounds more for the second (at least the intestinal problems have not caused a weight loss). This puts her firmly in the “large breed” category, which means that although her current dog food isn’t BAD for her, a diet that is lower in fat and higher in protein will probably be beneficial, and maybe easier on her stomach as well. We’ll be trying her on a large breed diet as soon as we get to the end of this bag of food.

So that’s where things stand with the dog. She just took her last probiotic tablet this evening with dinner, so hopefully things will continue to improve. I’ve been working on getting my schedule back to something more normal, and I can only hope that Matt’s absence this week isn’t agitating her. She misses him, I can tell, but she hasn’t seemed stressed out.

I’m sure, if I’m wrong, that I’ll be cleaning more bits of carpet in the next few days. Fingers crossed.

See, I’m not sure anyone really wanted to know all that. But here I am, posting about it, because it’s a big part of my time and brain space lately. Glamorous, my life is not. :)

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An Update That’s Not Actually Up To Date

I actually wrote this on June 14th. Well, as long as we assume that “this” means everything in this entry after this paragraph, which I am writing today (July 19). Which means that even though I am posting it now (more than a month later), I am still behind on keeping anyone at all up-to-date on what’s going on. I can say, however, that thus far my predictions about how the summer would continue have been pretty much spot-on. Last month’s news is better than no news!

It’s been an appallingly long time since I posted an entry here. In my defense, I did predict that busy-ness would overtake our life before I went dark a few months ago. (No, really, I did. Except now I can’t find the entry. Drat! I still maintain that I predicted it.) What I didn’t predict was how very busy I would be.

You see, stuff with Matt’s job sort of blew up a little bit, with the end result being more responsibility for him to shoulder in the middle of an already very busy semester. Thus, my job search was aborted before it even really began, and I have spent the last several months being the wifey-est wife you ever saw. I have even been doing the dishes. Sometimes. I have also been cooking and cleaning and chauffeuring and running errands. I did pretty much all the research for buying the car we added to our family, and then took care of all the ensuing complications that having a new-used car presents.

I planned our vacation (we stayed in Pagosa Springs, CO, and explored a big portion of the SW corner of the state) and did a lovely job of it, if I do say so myself. Four or five days after we got back, I flew out to the east coast to surprise my brother for his 30th birthday and had a nice time visiting with family at the North Carolina beach. And I got a tan. Sort of. As much of a tan as I ever get. Seriously, my freckles are closer together. I swear.

June 4th was our fifth wedding anniversary, and at some point we’re planning to go out to a nice dinner to celebrate. We’ve just been too busy so far. We did cook ourselves a nice dinner that night and had a movie date at home.

Otherwise, I’ve continued with the usual church activities, both worship team stuff and preaching stuff. I also went to a women’s conference with some of the ladies from Bible Study last weekend, which was well worth it. I’ll be chewing over some of the teaching for some time, which is a good thing. I’m also preaching this Sunday, which means sermon prep will take up some of my time this week.

Life isn’t going to get less busy any time soon, either: this weekend a good friend is coming to visit for a few days. I’ll be serving as camp nurse (i.e. I get the first aid kit) and cabin mom for one of the senior girls’ cabins at the church’s weeklong camp up in Wyoming for the week that bridges June and July. My cousin is getting married two weeks after that, and I’m looking forward to flying to Atlanta for the wedding. In August, one of Matt’s sets of parents will visit us for several days, then taking off on a driving trip for several weeks before they fly home, and my parents will be visiting a few weeks later, around Labor Day.

Beyond that, I’m not sure what’s happening, but I doubt it will be any less busy. Maybe one day I’ll actually have time to look for a day job, even if I won’t subsequently have a calm enough schedule to keep it. We’ll see.

In between all that chaos and traveling, I’ve hardly done any writing at all. I’m also behind on several projects that I expected to have made progress on by now. It’s frustrating and a bit discouraging, but thus far I haven’t given up. With any luck, I’ll be able to establish a better schedule that will allow me to get all the housewifey things done AND take care of my own projects without killing myself. Hope springs eternal.

I think it’s about time for me to stop babbling for now. I’ll see what I can do about posting more often. Life is still very busy, but not as insane as it has been for the last few months.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up with some funny stories about my time at the DMV. Which is where I’m sitting as I type this. Unfortunately there isn’t a wifi network here, which means I’ll have to remember to post this when I get home, but we’ll hope it doesn’t take long to finish up here.

Once again, hope springs eternal….

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Flattered, But Baffled

I have a confession to make. I check this blog’s stats almost as often as a published author checks their Amazon ranking. I like numbers, I like seeing trends, and I really like bar graphs that make everything super-easy to see. And the last few days? I have had some record-breaking individual visitor stats–and I really don’t know why.

Are new Dyson vacuum cleaners and massive amount of popcorn so interesting? I really don’t know! But I’m flattered, and I hope I can keep doing whatever it is that’s drawing people in. Because, you know, it’s all about the blog stats. They are like internet popularity crack.

In random news, I’m preaching again this Sunday (Palm Sunday! It’s late on Thursday night and I haven’t actually written anything yet! Panic!) and I got my last two packages today!

This translates more or less to me squeeing with glee over all my new kitchen gadgets, and it also means that everyone who ordered things from my recent Pampered Chef party will be getting those things delivered soon–most likely on Sunday, since I actually think I’ll see everyone by then. Hmmmmm.

Tomorrow? Writing a sermon, lot of laundry, washing the new kitchen gadgets (and the kitchen they now belong to), and maybe a few other semi-top-secret things. Which mostly means I’m too lazy to go into details here, not that anything all that exciting is happening.

Also? I have been thoroughly enjoying Assassin’s Creed 2, and I sincerely hope to kill more people tomorrow. And loot more treasure chests. Really, people are begging to be robbed when they put chests full of money out in the garden or on their completely unguarded balconies. But hey, it works for me!

With any luck, I will still be sane by Sunday afternoon–which would be good, since Matt and I get to tell our life stories at small group that night.

Time for bed! Sweet dreams, all.

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On The Benefits of Ordering Things

I didn’t particularly think about it a few days ago when I posted last, but last week I managed to spend money ordering several things.

You might ask, “What did you order, Betsy? Clothes?”

To which I would laugh and laugh and laugh, because I learned a long time ago that mail-ordered clothing rarely fits me well. I have rather freakishly long limbs, you see, at least compared to my other relevant dimensions, so it’s rather hit-and-miss… with more misses than hits.

So, if not clothes, then what? Okay, so it’s not much of a mystery to those of you who follow my twitter feed or are my facebook friends. Work with me, people!

At any rate, what does someone like me order online and then follow the tracking info incessantly??

1) A vacuum cleaner! Huzzah! Yes, I am excited about a household cleaning device. It has SUCTION, oh yes it does. It pulled dirt from our “clean” carpet–a lot of dirt. And it empties about a hundred times easier than our old one. Matt was walking around in his bare feet after I did the living room today and he said the floor actually felt cleaner under his toes. And he’s right! I’m not even making it up! It’s also accented with super-electric blue, which nobody can be sad about.

Yes indeed, we have a Dyson DC17 “Asthma and Allergy” model, which is apparently just the same as the “Animal” model except you get different attachments in the package and it costs $50 less. No, we didn’t pay the extra $150 for the roller-ball model. Yeah, I’m a little sad, too, but there are better places to spend that money. But really. You should come to my house and put in some time on this vacuum. It’s wonderful.

With such excitement to start out, what else could I possibly have ordered? What can stand up to the Dyson DC-17???

This Christmas one of the gifts I gave Matt was a multi-pack of gourmet popcorns. Three different varieties. One of them in particular was so good that we realized we’d be perfectly happy eating it all the time instead of the popcorn we get from the grocery store–and having looked it up on their website, we realized it wasn’t really more expensive than said generic kernels. We waffled a bit about the very real possibility that we are becoming popcorn snobs, but then we caved to the snobbery and decided to order.

Then life exploded and we forgot. Until last week. When we were out of popcorn. Well, out of good popcorn. So I hopped online to order more of our favorite variety. Matt, upon learning that the company had a number of types of popcorn that we hadn’t tried yet, asked me to see if there was a variety pack of some kind to try a few more. And since we already knew that we loved the one type, I also ordered the biggest container they offer of it–after all, if we’re mail ordering, I’d rather do it less often.

It wasn’t until I’d all but placed the order (deciding shipping options) that I realized that ordering 31 pounds of popcorn kernels might have been a bit much, but I wasn’t about to back down then!

So, along with the vacuum cleaner, our popcorn arrived today. What does 31 pounds of popcorn look like, you ask? Like this!

And just in case you’re shaky on how much that is, here’s a standard paperback (and one you all should read, fwiw) to give you perspective. Also, the lid of the 15lb. tub is open because that is a stinking LOT of popcorn.

So that’s what came on the UPS truck today. Later this week I’ll get three boxes from FedEx full of kitchen gadgets and gizmos for me and my friends. Maybe you’ll get to see pictures of those, too!

So there you have it. This week in the Whitt house: packages galore.

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To Quell the Clamoring

Some have noted my recent extended silences. I maintain that I have not been doing much worth talking about, and when I have been busy I haven’t had time to write about it. Crazy catch-22 there, eh?

We’ll see if I can’t balance it out a bit more in the coming months.

Shiloh’s training stuff has been in effect for about a week, and she seems to be making progress. Or maybe we are the ones making progress. Hard to tell.

I went to California for about a week to visit a very good friend–we had a lovely time, including activities like hanging out at her place in the middle of a big desert, getting evacuated because of a gas leak a half a block away, going to Disneyland, a day at the San Diego Zoo, and various and sundry other visity-ish things.

While I was gone, several rather major things happened with Matt’s job. I’m not particularly inclined to go into details, but the end result is that at least temporarily, he’s doing his job and his former supervisor’s job. The details of what will be happening long-term haven’t been finalized yet, but it’s thrown rather a large rock into our little pond. It’s a good rock–he’s excited about things that are happening, and enjoying moving forward with things–but there’s a lot to juggle and balance, especially for the next two months until this school semester ends.

Matt was sick when I got home, and then passed his dastardly head cold to me, so I was sick over last weekend. It took more time and energy to recover than I would have liked, but I think things are looking up on that front.

The past few days have been lovely outside, and I’ve been able to do some reading out on the porch. Wonderful. Too bad there’s snow in the forecast again day after tomorrow, but that’s classic spring in Colorado.

To alleviate the general boringness of this update, I’ll end with a Shiloh anecdote. A few nights ago, I was watching Dirty Jobs on Netflix when Matt got home–I paused the tv show so I could talk to him. A few seconds later, Shiloh drew our attention by sniffing cautiously at the tv cabinet. There hadn’t been anything yummy-smelling up there all day, so we couldn’t figure out what she’d be interested in. Just then, she took a step back, her hackles came up a bit, and she started a growl–and we realized that when I paused the show, it caught a frame where Mike Rowe was addressing the camera, and on the new tv his torso was almost life-sized. Shiloh was growling at the strange man (who she couldn’t smell) in her living room.

Yeah, not very momentous, really, but we found it immensely amusing. Poor dog, thinking someone got into the house without her noticing.

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I’ve been quiet lately. Mostly that’s because although I’ve gotten things done, they haven’t been very interesting. I’ve made minimal progress with the manuscript revisions, which is really frustrating. But the time hasn’t been a waste.

I researched options and interviewed several people for the job of training Shiloh more extensively. Not only is it part of my 2010 resolutions list, but it’s also becoming rather important for optimally enjoying our life with her. We’ll be moving forward with lessons and daily training homework in a few weeks; until then both our chosen trainer and we have rather hectic schedules.

I also researched our options for getting better TV for less money, and tried to enact changes on that front, but the dastardly tree outside the office window is directly in the line of sight for both satellite companies, which means we’re stuck with the stupid cable company. All that took about five times as much time as I would have hoped, and in the end we’re not saving any money or getting better service. Stinky stinky.

The recent experiment on whether I can pull off the full-time writer gig have yielded their results. It seems that I go through natural spurts and dry spells of lots of writing and then none at all, and those happen regardless of whether I’m also holding down a day job. Thus, it makes no sense for me to not be bringing in money regularly. Thussity thus, I’ll be putting out feelers for part-time job opportunities. I’ve got some ideas of places to start and am not in a huge hurry, so I feel like I’m in a decent position to find a job I’ll like and be able to stay in for a long time.

Otherwise, I’ve been reading, taking care of various chores and tasks around the house that generally get put off and are nice to take care of, and doing all my normal church things.

Decent progress, but not interesting. How’s your month going?

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Saturday, in Numbers

Alarms accidentally turned off instead of snoozed: 1
Breakfast visits with my brother: 0
Cars in the ditch before I reached the interstate: 2

Sets of keys to Mom’s car found in pocket: 1
Miles from home when said keys discovered: 9
Thanks to grandfather for letting me drop them off with him instead of driving all the way back home: 1,000

Average speed on I-75 north to Dayton: 60mph
Feeling of silliness at driving past the Dayton airport in bad weather to go another 1.5 hours to another airport, scale of 1-10: 9.5
Average speed on I-70: 40mph
Cars in the ditch along Ohio interstates: 8

Semi trucks in the ditch along Indiana interstates: 9 (!)
Cars in the ditch along Indiana interstates: more than 15
Times I swore after sliding into a snow bank: 7
Relief at no injury to myself or the rental car, scale of 1-10: 12.7

Minutes for which my car joined the ditch-party: 45
Men deserving awards for pulling my car out faster than I had any right to expect: 3
Hesitation on providing huge tip for the tow guys, in seconds: 0

Hang-ups returning rental car: 0
Total travel time to airport, in hours: 5.25
Minutes to spare catching flight: 20

Years I can wait before having a similar day: 1,000,000

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Finding the Flow–Redux

In the last week or so, life has alternated between being so full (of non-writing activities, of course) that I don’t have time to write blog entries and being so frustratingly free of progress that I’ve held to Thumper’s mother’s age-old advice that if you can’t say something good, you shouldn’t say anything at all. This morning, though, I seem to have a little more steam, and I was looking for the link to a blogger I found several years ago (three, it turns out) who had some really helpful ideas about organizing work time.

And, as it turns out, the entry I wrote about it three years ago (click for original post) is strikingly appropriate for today, so I’m reposting it.

Here you go:

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks lately, with many distractions from my writing. I find that distractions tend to accumulate, causing inertia on so many levels it’s hard to comprehend, but one of the measurable ones is the drop in my daily word count – or daily editing progress. Usually it’s my husband who finally confines me to my chair and tells me to stop whining and get back to work, but even then it can be very daunting to get started.

Tobias Buckell posted this link in his blog a few weeks ago, and it struck a chord with me. Yes, it’s aimed at computer/software programmers, but the concentration difficulties are very similar. I’ve tried the “work for X amount of time, take a designated break, get back to work” method before, but it almost always falls apart after a few cycles because as I’m taking a break, I get distracted by something (ooh, shiny!) and it ends up being two hours before I remember I ought to have been working. What can I say? I’m blond, and not afraid to admit it.

The difference here, to me, is that John Richardson recommends setting a timer for work time and break time. And not just any time – 48 minutes of work, and 12 minutes of break. I’d argue that other combinations would work, but the point of this is specificity.

It’s easy to say “I’ll take a ten minute break” and let it turn into 15 or 20 minutes… or two hours. If I’m taking a 12 minute break, I’m taking a 12 minute break. I know I won’t look at the clock at the right time, so I set my kitchen timer, clip it to my pocket so I can hear it even if I wander over to the mailboxes, and it calls me back to work at the right time. I get 12 minute intervals throughout the day to do things like tidy up the living room or rotate the laundry, so even the thoughts about the non-writing tasks I need to complete don’t intrude on my working time. 12 minutes is enough time to do two small chores AND brew myself the next cup of tea. It’s a long time, really, and sometimes I find myself ready to get back to work before my break is done. Then I feel like I’m getting luxury time to just sit and do nothing, without shirking any of my various home or working duties.

Also, when the writing’s not going well, all I really have to commit to is 48 minutes of typing. I can handle that. I’d probably waste that time watching morning talk shows anyway, and not doing anything productive, so I might as well waste the time pretending to work. If, by the end of that time, I only have 200 words – or 20 words – and I’m still struggling, then so be it. I’ve written, and I can go on about my day guilt-free knowing it would have been horrible to punish myself by sitting at the desk trying to put together words that just wouldn’t cooperate. But usually by the time my timer beeps that first time, I’ve found my groove again and can’t wait to get back from my 12 minute break to keep working.

It’s funny how that works – how your brain can forget why you were so excited about a project, and needs to be reminded.

On the days when I’ve used the timer method (and I’ll admit it hasn’t been every day – I’m still getting used to it) I find that I get more done in general, not just more writing, and that’s a fantastic payoff no matter which angle you come at it from.

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