Thursday, June 29, 2017

Writer Life: What's on My Desk?

Work spaces interest me. Some people need a pristine area to get stuff done, whereas others thrive in a pile of chaos. On the day he died, Albert Einstein's desk was a mound of papers. I wonder sometimes if this is the creative mind, thriving in chaos, surrounded by things that might spark new ideas (creative people love ideas). 
Naturally, I'm rather neat and tidy, but that all changes when it comes to my desk. Papers can be scattered all over. I might have piles of books I'm reading, pens, to-do-lists, notes, etc. In the picture, my desk is actually neater than it usually is. 

It's strange, because I don't like mess. I don't like a lot of clutter (I actually hate knick-knacks because they collect dust and never look neat to me). With my desk, however, it's not the same. I've cleared off my desk numerous times, but it always reverts back to being littered with things both random (like the tube of antibiotic cream on it right now) and that make more sense (like a pile of books for my June Update post). And I don't mind it. I actually think I prefer it with some clutter on it.

Maybe eventually I'll try keeping my desk clear, see if I'm more productive and creative with a blank canvas before me rather than piles, but for now I'm going to embrace it. So here's a list of things currently on my desk.

1. A bamboo plant that seriously needs some pruning. It was a birthday gift from years ago, and I love having that bit of nature with me when I work.

2. A salt lamp. I got one of these to see if it would help with my headaches from staring at my screen too long, and whether placebo or not it does.

3. A stack of books I've already read.

4. My surge protector power strip, also my main charging station for everything when I remember to charge them.

5. A thermometer and humidity gauge. The time is wrong, and I've been too lazy to figure out how to set it, but I didn't get it for a clock anyway.

6. A legal pad with a to-do list on it.

7. A sticky note pad with my list to accomplish this week.

8. Two index cards, one with goals for the year, the other with goals for July.

9. Another sticky note pad. I love them.

10. A pen and highlighter, which I use for my to-do lists.

11. My laptop and charger (of course, lol).

12. A chronological order Bible. I decided to use this for my Bible Study time and it's quite interesting. I've read the Bible before, but I really like how this one gives you an idea of what events happened concurrently.

13. A devotional book with mini lessons compiled by Beth Moore.

14. A plastic bin with memory verse flash cards. I find this is the easiest way for me to memorize Scripture.

15. An essential oil diffuser that I haven't refilled or used in weeks. 

16. A picture of my first cat, Buffy. I loved that cat (and still do).

17. A kitchen timer. I set it to remind myself to take breaks (and to remind myself to get back to work).

18. That tube of antibiotic cream I mentioned before. Not sure why I'm leaving it there.

19. Owl stickers (because why not). 

20. A giant snail shell I found on the beach years ago. 

21. An empty Smart Water bottle. For some reason, I love having a water bottle on my desk. I like the aesthetic much more than a glass (and there's not the danger of spilling, I always cap my bottles when I'm not drinking from them). 

22. A blood pressure monitor I borrowed and need to return.

23. A check for the bank.

24. A reminder from the dentist.

25. A twist tie I usually keep around my phone charger.

26. An index card and sticky note with verses and quotes that I love.   

27. A hair band and a bobby pin, to keep my hair out of my face when I work (I feel so Violet Baudelaire haha). Usually, though, the hair band is keeping my hair up already (I have really thick hair which makes me feel almost instantly hot when it's down), and I don't need the bobby pin too often.

I'm curious about doing an experiment sometime, to see if I work well with a clear space if I keep it clear long enough. After all, maybe my desk is messy because I'm lazy. But certain things I like to have out and right in my face, like that timer and my to-do paraphernalia, because it's right at hand when I need it. I'm also curious what effect putting everything anyway when I'm done working would have. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, April and May Update!

As I mentioned in my last post, March, April, and May were hectic months for me, in which I didn't get much reading done. Because of this, I'm combining April and May, since I only read 3 books total.


April was a tough month with a lot happening. I finished the first draft of Wind Singer, the sequel to Thorn Changer (and it is certainly a rough draft, I have a lot of editing ahead of me). My second nephew was born premature, so I spent some days taking care of my toddler nephew while his parents visited his brother in the hospital. One of our cats, Callie, fell seriously ill. And I spent the first week recovering from being sick myself in March. But I still got 2 books read, so at least it was a little closer to my goal.
1. Affluenza*, by John De Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor

Rating: ***

This book studies the "too much stuff" disease (aka "Affluenza"). It tells you what common symptoms are (like "Swollen Expectations"), probable causes, as well as treatments to try in order to rid yourself of this "disease" (including a chapter on political solutions).

It was intriguing how the authors compared having too much stuff to a disease. I'd never heard that comparison before, and they had some good advice. I feel like some of their suggestions are not super practical, but you've got to start somewhere, and being aware of and learning to control your "need" of more things is a good start.

2. The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

Rating: ****

With her father away much of the time, Princess Irene is under the guard of the servants of his manor house next to a mountain mined for his service. The mountain is filled with goblins, banished only by song. But when the goblins plan to overthrow the kingdom, Irene and the miner boy Curdie must rely on the aid of her magical great-great-grandmother to save the kingdom.

I've read this book several times, and I still enjoy it, even though the writing style is much different than that of books written nowadays. I think young children would enjoy it, but would likely need someone to read it to them in order to understand it. Children 10 and older would be fine reading it on their own, and even though it's written for children, adults would enjoy it as well (I certainly did).


May is the busy season at my work, necessitating long days to get everything done. My second nephew was still in the hospital for part of it, so I had days of babysitting my other nephew. Callie died near the end of the month (a surprise, because she had been doing better). I had to pack up a lot of my things for moving (and I can tell you, after just packing up my personal belongings, I am definitely interested in becoming some form of minimalist). I watched more Netflix than was healthy. Because of all this, I only read one book.

3. The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald

Rating: ****

The sequel to The Princess and the Goblin, Irene and her father have gone away to the capital city, and while Curdie was asked to come along, he has stayed behind to help his parents. However, everything is not right in the capital, and Irene's great-great-grandmother tasks him with setting it right. Given the ability to tell by the touch of a hand whether a human is becoming more depraved and animal-like, or whether an animal is becoming less depraved and more human-like, Curdie sets off to the capital city with Lina, a woman who became an animal and is now trying to grow better and become human again. Things are indeed seriously wrong in the capital, and it will take all of Curdie's courage to set it right.

I don't like it quite as much as The Princess and the Goblin (I'd probably rate it three and one-half stars if I could get a half-star), but it is still a very good book. I was very disappointed by the very ending, though (the ending of the main tale was wonderful, the main tale wrapped up beautifully, albeit almost exactly as I pictured so not much surprise in the book). If the last page or so was cut out, it'd be a much better story. If you read it to children, I suggest not reading the last couple of paragraphs, as I don't think they'd really understand why they were tacked on the end. Honestly, I'm not quite sure why they were myself, but I think MacDonald wanted to make an allegory out of this book (although I don't think it suits well for a children's book). The rest of the book is definitely worth reading.

I've counted up how many books I've read from my Book Challenge list, and it looks like I'm almost halfway through it. Granted, there are a couple I didn't finish, and am not counting in my read quota, but I think I've found enough others to replace them. I'm a little surprised that I've read so many of the nonfiction books already, since I usually lean toward Fantasy. But most of that genre I have on Kindle, and it's easier for me to read paper copies sometimes (like if I read before going to bed), so that might help explain it.

I'll also post reviews of these books on my GoodReads Account.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitle of this book.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, March Update!

If you want to read about how I did on my Book Challenge in January or February, the links will take you to those posts. Today I'm posting about how March went for reading, and what books I read.

I'm a little behind in posting updates (as well as posts in general) because of a lot of life changes, including getting ready to move, taking care of a sick family member, several projects at work, and taking care of sick cats. I plan on regularly posting again, and this post and the next will talk about my reading through May, and get us all caught up (because of time constraints, I didn't read much in either month, so I'll be consolidating those reviews into one post).

March was a chaotic month for me, which you'll notice in the fewer number of books (one was a little longer, but the others were rather short). I spent a lot of my free time this month helping out my ill family member and taking sick cats back and forth from the vet, as well as dealing with illness of my own (which for some reason, I have a hard time reading when I'm sick, anyone else?). But I was pleased to see that, even under those time constraints, I still was able to read four books.

1.  The Joy Of Less*, by Francine Jay

Rating: ****

In this book, Francine goes through and teaches you how to organize, declutter, and simplify your life, and helps challenge your current thinking so you realize why you would want to.

She has a wonderful way of looking at things. From challenging you to think about what you would actually pay to replace if it was all lost, to encouraging you to realize how much you already own when you feel the need to buy more (she suggests trying to number your things when you think you don't have a lot), Francine works on challenging your rationalizations for why your stuff matters, and encourages you to get rid of those things which don't.

2. Lilith*, by George MacDonald

Rating: **

A young man finds himself trying to save children and the woman he loves from her mother, who is bent on destroying them all.

I wanted to read this book because I've read others by him (such as The Wise Woman, my favorite by him), and enjoyed them immensely. Add while this book was intriguing, it was hard to follow in places, and although I finished it, I probably won't read it again. MacDonald goes into rambles sometimes that draw away from the story (although, as this is a book from the 1800s, it probably was typical of these types of books of its time). I would recommend his works for children (such as The Princess and the Goblins) before this one.

3. The More of Less*, by Joshua Becker

Rating: *****

After realizing he spent the day cleaning his garage when he could have been playing ball with his son, Joshua and his wife Kim decided to try downsizing their possessions and see what they really can do without.

I loved this book. Joshua gives some wonderful tips for downsizing, and reasons why. I love his idea of experiments, trying for 29 days to live without something to see if you really need it (I'm currently trying that with sweets, and so far it's been going great!). He also put forward some ideas for minimalism I hadn't come across before, such as having more time to volunteer and give to others in need. There's a lot of books on minimalism out there, but this was the first one I've come across which seems to be written from a Christian's perspective, and as a Christian myself, I enjoyed his connecting minimalism with Biblical principles (but if you are not a Christian, you don't need to worry about this book being "preachy").

4. The 100 Thing Challenge*, by Dave Bruno

Rating: ***

Overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in his and his family's house, Dave decides to experiment and see what it is like living with less by getting rid of almost all of his personal belongings and committing to living for one year with 100 or less things.

I confess, I am not at all interested in living with just 100 things (I was, until I decided to number my stuff just for the fun of it and found out I have over 100 things in my bathroom alone, if you count small things like extra razor blades). I am working on downsizing what I do have, though, and using up my extras (like my 15 little notebooks, for example). I was intrigued with how he did it, and how his year went. I appreciated how open he was with his struggles about living with less, as well as the joys he found in it. There is some swearing in this book.

As you can see, two of the books listed here were not part of my list for my original challenge. I'm pleased to be finding other books I want to read besides those 42 I listed. And even though I did not read much in April or May, I feel pretty good at this point that I'll be able to read 52 books this year.

I've also posted reviews of these books on my GoodReads Account.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.