Not the greatest month for reading. It’s been hard to focus and even harder to find the desire to sit still long enough to read, but at least I found some good ones.
A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane – I am loving this sequel! I enjoyed the first book in this series, but generally disliked the hero, so that made it a little hard to finish. No such qualms here!
Any Rogue will Do by Bethany Bennet – Second chance regency romance with a heroine who wants her own place and a hero who knows he screwed up. It dragged a little towards the end, but I enjoyed it and loved all the side characters as much as the heroes.
Temptation’s Darling by Johanna Lindsey – This is the only example I have of Johanna Lindsey’s work… I don’t think I’ll be delving further. Though this was the last book she published before she passed away in early 2020, it reads like old school romance. Kind of long, kind of rambling, penetration to orgasm in 0 seconds flat is a thing that happens more than once. I finished it because I purchased a physical copy, likely would’ve DNFed if I had borrowed it.
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer – I, like so many others, watched Enola Holmes on Netflix and was charmed by the story. The book is A LOT darker than the film, and the characters are younger and in more peril. Overall, a fun read and a series that I will return to when I get through some of the other books I’ve been meaning to read.
Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Nadia May – This is the third time I read Emma, but the first time I listen to it on audio. Nadia May is excellent! I highly recommend this version of the book. You can hear my full thoughts on Emma (and Clueless) in this month’s episode of The Bluestocking Circle Podcast.
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Back at work and feeling a little overwhelmed. It’s a feeling I often get when I return from any length of time off, had to remind myself to tackle each project one at a time. I’ve done this before; I can do it again.
Had some bad news in the afternoon. More of a complication than an insurmountable challenge, but still troublesome. My insurance rejected my MRI approval, so I had to make calls and hope the doctor’s office can figure things out. Otherwise, I’ll need to submit an appeal and/or pay $300 out of pocket to get it done myself. I’m grateful that I’m in a place where I can afford it (there were years when I couldn’t and went into debt), but I don’t want to pay it unless I have no other choice because I’m not sure what co-pays are going to look like going forward with treatment.
Day 262, Tuesday
A productive day. Taking it slow, listed all that I have to do and created a time block schedule to feel more in control. It worked!
Day 263, Wednesday
Spent an inordinate amount of time trying to create a password according to the rules for my insurance provider’s new website. I don’t how someone who is older and/or not tech savvy is going to figure out their rules. Ended up having to use a generator and modify to fit their crazy requirements. Finger crossed that I submitted the appeal to the right place because whoever designed their new portal has no knowledge of user experience.
Day 264, Thursday
Just a regular workday. Nothing new, nothing different.
Day 265, Friday
Did proper groceries (in a store!) for the first time in weeks. Woke up at the crackiest, crack of dawn to get to Publix before anyone else decided to go shopping, which worked, but also left me drained for the rest of the day and feeling pretty meh about all the stuff I needed to get done.
Received some late night good news: my MRI was approved!
Day 266, Saturday
Back to the 4-hour writing schedule I set up during vacation. Finished another chapter and have 100 pages to go before this draft is done! I’m excited to get through it and the edits are getting easier now that I’m past the section that needed extra attention. I have a list of details to work through before I send it to betas, but I also have to recruit betas… so there’s that. (Note: If you’re interested in reviewing an angsty friends-to-lovers romance set in Knoxville that features a bi-racial, Cuban-American heroine, comment below or use the contact form to email me!)
Day 267, Sunday
Another writing day. I’m nearing the 300 page mark, which means there’s less than 90 pages to go! I’m starting to really believe I can finish this draft by the end of the month. What joy! I even spent some time organizing my character boards. No one looks exactly the way I picture my characters, but I curate features more than people.
Took a week off to write and think and spend time with myself, sometimes with the boy, every day with the cats. I wrote for four hours every day, except on Sunday, when I only wrote for two hours around a migraine that started in my neck. I completed 32 hours and 57 minutes of editing for the month (excluding any edits I get done tomorrow), reaching 22,983 words for my NaNo goal (I regularly track hours and pages, but added words for this month), and totaling 141 pages (72 of those during my break). This progress wouldn’t have been possible without this time off; I missed too many days due to headaches, grief, and medical appointments this month, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it.
Still no updates on my shoulder, still waiting for my MRI to be approved. Hoping that will happen this week. Thanksgiving was a simple dinner outside with the boy and a cake that continued to feed me for breakfast into the weekend (I’m a cake for breakfast sort of gal).
Enjoyed lots of walks and several naps. I look forward to my next break in December. After no real breaks since March, I needed the time to disconnect from work mode and experience my home as a home again.
Happy late Thanksgiving to those in the States. Stay safe!
A long, emotionally difficult day. Met with the orthopedic oncologist. She thinks it’s likely benign but may be a wait-and-watch or a get-it-out situation. I have another MRI scheduled for Monday and a follow-up right before Christmas, so all possibility of quarantining/testing in time to spend a day with my parents is out the window. I’m not willing to risk it for their sake.
Late in the day, I learned that my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He doesn’t know the stage yet, but he has several chronic health conditions and clinical depression, so this is sending him into an understandable spiral. I won’t know more until he has further examination. I just hope they caught it early and it’s not advanced.
I bought sushi and rugelach for lunch and dessert. That was the small bit of joy I found in my day.
Day 248, Tuesday
A day of meetings and trying to cope. I took the day off writing; I just couldn’t get into the right headspace.
Day 249, Wednesday
Intended to catch up on missed writing, but managing one block was all that I could do. There have been so many emotional setbacks this year, it’s been hard to celebrate the progress I have made when there is so much yet to be done.
Day 250, Thursday
Cases are ridiculously high in the state, and my county in particular. My mom has to go to the doctor’s office for a required checkup next week (medicare requirements), so I’m going to have to visit despite my wish to stay away until I’m through with my own medical needs. Sigh. My gran needs someone to watch her, but I plan to keep my distance while I’m there. Another pandemic complication.
Day 251, Friday
All my meetings got cancelled, making it the perfect end to my week! Set up my auto-reply and called it quits by 3pm. I’m on vacation next week, which really means I’m going to be writing without worrying about emails or meetings for 5 days.
Unfortunately, my MRI appointment was also cancelled… well, put on hold at least. Stuff happened and paperwork was missing, so my approval was delayed. I’m desperate for a real diagnosis and the fact that our hospitals are overrun is not reassuring.
Day 252, Saturday
Started my morning with a latte. I impulsively ordered a milk frother/warmer earlier this week and it arrived on Friday. It was a lovely start to my break.
I haven’t made as much progress with my edits this month (so far), but I also realized that two of the 5 chapters I planned to edit were EXCESSIVELY long and needed to be split. I’m about half-way through the book and just about to hit the second part of Act II, so my pace might start to pick up along with the action (I hope!). Regardless, I’m on track to finish by January at this pace, making it through 3 drafts by the end of the year and getting ready for betas note to self: recruit betas.
Day 253, Sunday
Today turned into a life reset day. Trying to get all the errands out of the way so I can focus on my writing goals this week. I normally write for an hour a day before settling down to work, and two hours on the weekends. Sometimes, I manage an extra hour in the evening, but evenings tend to be for movement and self-care (re: avoiding migraine triggers). My goal is to clock in for 4 hours every day this week. fingers crossed It’s been a long time since I’ve had the stamina to revise for 4 hours.
Woken at 5 by one of those horrifying weather alerts. Nothing to get you out of bed like an alarm blaring by your head. The first time I ever heard one of those, a tornado swept down the road, so I respect the warning.
Tried to get back to bed after feeding the cats, but a second alarm came an hour later. Gave up and got my hour of writing in before my energy flagged.
Had the day off from work, because storm days are South Florida’s version of snow days. TBH, it felt like the storm days when I was a kid and got to stay home from school. Obviously, I’ve been home from school for a while, but the lights are on and the flooding isn’t as bad in my town as it in others, so it was a nice break from the grind. One city reported 17 inches of rain overnight and power was knocked out for thousands; I’m grateful I didn’t have to deal with more than an alarm.
Day 241, Tuesday
Back to work and catching up on projects before meetings. Managed to get my laundry done between the rain storms.
Day 242, Wednesday
Had the day off for Veteran’s Day, but ended up having to take one of my mom’s cats to the vet. Luckily, nothing major, just a UTI, but there went my day.
Day 243, Thursday
Every fall for the last 5 years or so, I’ve hosted a high school class at the library and taught them how to do research. Because of covid, this year’s session was online and I had to adapt my resources to freebies only, since they won’t be allowed to visit the university. About 30 minutes before the class was scheduled, I started to feel the first warning signs of a migraine. Managed to keep it at bay with some advil and a cold pack, but it rebounded with a vengeance.
Day 244, Friday
Migraine all day. I took it easy because it was hard to look at a screen. Attended meetings and showed my face briefly when called, but not much energy to get involved.
Day 245, Saturday
Migraine peaked around noon and improved by 3pm. FINALLY. One of the weird side effects I get is uncontrollable hunger coupled with an upset stomach (fun), so I was starving all morning but also feeling nauseous. Good times. Anyhow, I was craving cake and went to my usual bakery, forgetting that it would be packed during lunch time because people keep eating in restaurants. It took less than 15 minutes to get to the counter, but I must admit, it felt riskier than anywhere I’ve been in the last few months. Hoping my mask/filter and the fact that I was there for less than the suggested time for exposure was enough.
Podcast recording in the afternoon, which was a real treat. For the curious, you can catch the minisode here.
Day 246, Sunday
Feeling more myself today. Caught up on sleep and spent the morning writing. It feels so good to be able to focus without pain stabbing at my head and neck.
Going to the oncologist tomorrow, hoping for some sense of direction.
edit: I got the numbering wrong in the first post and have updated the days.
Day 233, Monday
I finally got some sleep after the cats started to tolerate each other. They’re not friendly, but no one will attack. Locked them out of my room and hoped for the best… woke up to find an unexpected victim: one of my jade plants was knocked from the sill, smashing the pot. Luckily, it was decorated with washi tape, which held the pieces close enough to prevent further destruction.
It was a long day.
Day 234, Tuesday
Kept busy all day to keep from thinking about the election… Obviously, received reports from my friends as soon as the numbers started rolling, but I disconnected fairly early and went to bed.
Day 235, Wednesday
Early start to my day with a visit to my endocrinologist for my yearly checkup. All is well and any weirdness with my headaches, cycle, etc, is unrelated to my thyroid (though, must admit, these have improved in recent months).
Still tensely watching the election results and hoping for something positive.
Day 236, Thursday
Waiting along with the rest of the world. This week has been extra productive as I a) hold the existential dread at bay and b) clear my to-do list for a partial day off on Friday to celebrate the boy’s birthday (and by boy, I mean my partner not some secret child, in case anyone is confused). He doesn’t know this (yet), but I’m making mini cheesecakes as a surprise. Making rather than baking because they’re pressure cooked! I’m so excited to taste them, but have to wait until tomorrow.
Trip to the doctor was not as reassuring as I had hoped. Need to see a specialist.
Day 237, Friday
The verdict is in! Instant Pot cheesecake was a success! It takes just like a baked cheesecake, except the crust isn’t crisp (that can be remedied with a blind bake, if you really like a crisp crust). I tried a piece (screw my lactose intolerance) and was very pleased. Will purchase a few more spring forms for Christmas treats. – for the curious, this is the recipe I used from Little House, Big Alaska.
In the process of scheduling a visit with an orthopedic oncologist. As per usual, I had to figure it out by myself because my doctor referred me to the wrong kind of oncologist.
Day 238, Saturday
Prepping for the story by charging ALL the things–laptops, switch, backup batteries, cute but surprisingly functional kitty lamp. I’m sticking it out at home because I don’t want to stress the cats and I’ve been to too many doctor’s offices to feel comfortable staying at my mom’s.
I’ve been finding joy where I can – celebrating Joe and Kamala, enjoying takeout with the boy, and sneaking up on one very alarmed cat.
Day 239, Sunday
Stormy weather started around 10 am. Brought all the plants in because the succulents DO NOT appreciate a soak.
All day rain and dramatic gusts, the scariest part has been the horrifying flood alert from the county. So grateful that this wasn’t a worse storm but the flooding is pretty bad based on reports.
On a side note, the weird foot fetish stalkers have emerged again. I post one shoe review and this nonsense starts.
Temptation’s Darlingby Johanna Lindsey – a new story by an old-school romance author to round out my genre education. (Johanna Lindsey’s last novel before she passed earlier this year)
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer – (just started) I was so charmed by Netflix’s Enola Holmes, I had to read the book.
Silverwolf (Rowankind) by Jacey Bedford – Magic and mills! I love how Jacey Bedford blends rich fantasy with a historical setting (Georgian era Britain in this case). I’m so glad I found this series!
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – Tune into The Bluestocking Circle podcast on November 1st for my full thoughts, but this did not meet my expectations.
Skincare by Caroline Hirons – You can watch her channel and get the gist of it… I guess the book is a nice collectors’ item if you’re a big fan shrug
The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Euan Lawson – In writing about reading writing advice while dealing with anxiety and depression, Joanna Penn notes, “I was able, in moments of clarity, to see that the reason well-meaning advice left me feeling so dispirited was not that I wasn’t cut out to be a writer but that I wasn’t the audience people were writing for.”
This is everything I needed and more. As a writer with chronic illness and chronic pain, the advice to write every day and push through isn’t practical, at best, and damaging, at worst. I can’t push through a head-splitting, three-day migraine that leaves me feeling drunk. Nor can I write through the exhaustion when fatigue takes over. Conventional writing advice isn’t for me and that’s ok.
None this month
Hex, Love, and Rock & Roll by Kat Turner – I DNFed around 30%. I liked the concept but the plot was too messy for me and didn’t hold my interest. (LibraryThing Early Reviewer copy)
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See – I only got a few pages in. I usually like Lisa See, but the tone wasn’t what I needed at the moment.
Every day, the numbers in the tri-county area are going up and Miami is getting closer to the kinds of numbers we were seeing in July and August. This gives me the same level of hopelessness I felt this summer. I hate it. Wear your masks, everyone. And if you’re coming to Florida for the theme parks or the beaches, remember we’re open because our economy is based on tourism, not because it’s safe.
Day 226, Monday
A busy start to the week with another trip to the vet for Cookie Cat, this time to re-test for FIV. His last test was inconclusive and I need him to be clean before I can bring him home to live with my super delicate little flower of a girl kitty.
Worked on projects that were piling up now that one of my working groups is sort of done… I think. Anyhow, I’m in between tasks for that one so I get to catch up on everything else.
Day 227, Tuesday
Great news! Cookie Cat is clean! I’m not 100% ready for a new addition, but keeping him indoors is the best option for him and my mom already has one secret cat too many in her apartment. I already had a collar for him (was saddened when the first test came back inconclusive), so I ordered a tag to go with it. I need some more supplies to ready for his arrival since I retired Candy Bear’s bowls when he passed. He’s a sweet boy, so I’m hopeful that he’ll get along with baby girl (she has a grumpy face but a sweet temperament).
Day 228, Wednesday
Day 1 of an online conference… Not as enthused about this one as I was the last one I attended. And I’m on the planning committee (yikes). It’s kind of a mess IMO. The online format leaves a lot to be desired for this one. (some do online well, some don’t)
Day 229, Thursday
Underwhelmed by day 2 of the conference, so I spent most of the day writing and catching up on some much needed rest (migraine broke last night, so I was feeling good for the first time in days). Did some cleaning in preparation for Cookie Cat’s homecoming tomorrow. Fingers crossed Also, recorded a short life update because it’s been months and I never bothered to upload the last one I recorded.
Day 230, Friday
Cookie Cat came home. It was an uneventful homecoming. Waiting to see how they react to each other. Got my MRI results. My shoulder is fine but there was a concerning spot on the image. It’s likely a nonaggressive cartilage tumor, according to the radiologist’s report, but they recommend further study. I made an appointment for my PCP per the ortho’s recommendation but I’m feeling pretty low. Wondering if I should reach out to a specialist rather than wait. Had the long-coming, inevitable political fight with my mom. She’s old Cuban. In Miami, that means one thing.
Day 231, Saturday
It was a rough night. Between the cats being too scared and intimidated by each other, I didn’t get much sleep. Add my anxiety about the MRI results and it was not a restful time. I woke up with a very stiff neck, soreness in my arm where the strain was aggravated by poor posture, and one heck of a migraine that made me nauseous for hours. I puttered around the house, tidying and trying to encourage the cats to get closer. Not much luck to start. Squeezed in a 25 minute writing sprint to wrap up a scene, which leaves me with my most productive month of editing, clocking in at 30:32 hours. It’s been a struggle to get into the headspace I need to revise this novel. It’s a romance with a heavy dose of angst leading up to a friends-to-lovers HEA, but getting to that HEA means I have to work through my own anxieties to find the mental space to write. Every time I think I’m moving forward, something throws me off.
Day 232, Sunday
Happy first day of NaNoWriMo! I’m sort of participating as a rebel while continuing edits. Also told myself I would be more active in the community this year. We’ll see how well that goes, but if anyone wants to add me as a buddy, I’m @emperatrix.
Sleep was not had last night. The cats are still skittish around each other and Cookie Cat wants love but also runs away when I approach. Apparently, this is normal behavior for him. It’s going to take a while for him to be comfortable, but I REALLY need sleep. sigh.
All that to say, my weekend writing plans were all a bust, but I managed to wrap up a chapter.
For the curious, I filmed a brief October recap/life update. It’s short because my connection can’t handle a massive upload, but such is the current state of affairs (I really miss the ludicrous speed of the university network). Also, filmed before the latest development in my health journey.
Finally, if you need something to listen to while dealing with the existential dread of the upcoming election, the latest episode of The Bluestocking Circle Podcast on Ella Enchanted is now available. I didn’t enjoy the book, but the movie was an experience.
Back at it… I blocked off a few hours to concentrate on a very important task that take precedence over all the other stuff on my list. Luckily, I’m not the final voice on the decision.
Had a meeting in the afternoon to discuss a committee that I was nominated for… not sure if I’ll be selected, but it’s important work if I am. Still, I was torn when I received a second nomination for a very important committee within days of accepting.
Day 212, Tuesday
And today was blocked off for the meeting that dealt with the review I completed on Monday… followed by my weekly Faculty Senate meeting (because that’s how the cards fell this semester).
Day 213, Wednesday
Meetings and a training. One of my staff returned to the office, which led to a lot of voice memo exchanges (she really loves a voice memo…)
Day 214, Thursday
Day 215, Friday
Attended my first virtual conference of the new school year. I haven’t been drawn to the majority of the conferences that come through my inbox, but this one was a nice change of pace and gave me some ideas for my own research interests.
Day 216, Saturday
Working a half day today, so I’m taking Monday off using vacation to make up the difference. I’m really craving a day off. I planned to start scheduling one or two days off each month but the glut of meetings I’ve had this month threw a wrench in that plan. TBH, I’m looking at just as many meetings going forward, but I’m going to lock those days down early for November.
Day 217, Sunday
Kitty cat woke me up in the wee hours and I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got an early start on my morning edits. Quick trip to moms to deliver some supplies that I shipped to my place by mistake (this is what happens when your mom has non-stop requests). I picked up up a slice of Tiramisu for her yesterday. If I can manage to stay quarantined in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, maybe I’ll be able to bring her a feast.
Day 218, Monday
My MRI was approved, so I had the scan done today. Will need to wait for the ortho to receive my results before I know what’s causing the pain in my arm… I was temporarily diagnosed with a teres minor injury, but the more I read about pectoralis tears, the more it sounds like the pain I’m feeling…
Day 219, Tuesday
I’ve been feeling achy for the last two days. Part of me suspects prodrome (the symptoms that arise before a migraine attack), but I’m desperately hoping it’s PMS.
Day 221, Wednesday
I just want to go back to bed. Power went out around 3 am in the middle of a crashing storm, which meant it was hot and I could hear the wind howling, neither of which was conducive to getting back to sleep after being woken by the outage. Kitty also decided it was time for breakfast at that time and wouldn’t stop begging until I fell asleep sometime around 5, only to be woken by my alarm at 5:30, followed by more begging. I fed her and went back to bed, but gave up around 7. Now, I’m feeling jittery and tired and have more meetings to go, well into the afternoon.
Day 222, Thursday
One of those days where the meetings took over.
Day 223, Friday
One more medical test before what will fingers crossed be one of the last two medical appointments I have for a while. I’m really hoping that everything checks out for my thyroid and my shoulder and I can isolate in time to be cleared for the holidays. (not that I’m planning more than dinner at home for my mom, if I can swing it)
Day 224 & 225, Saturday and Sunday
A very productive weekend. I don’t wish to jinx it, but my current writing routing is really working for me.
Was in a meeting where folks were discussing their recent increase in meetings… meanwhile, I have three meeting-free days this month, excluding two days for an online conference. None of those include the two new committees I am now a part of, and none are related to the move to remote. If I was working on-campus, I would still be attending the same number of meetings.
Day 205, Tuesday
I took a look at my schedule and realized I had nothing pressing until after lunch, so I grabbed my ballot and headed to the elections office to drop it off. My vote is in. I hope some good comes of it.
Day 206, Wednesday
Off to the ob-gyn for my yearly wellness exam. She also thinks my arm pain is a knot in my muscle rather than something internal, but I’m still waiting on an approval for the MRI…
Day 207, Thursday
And off to the doctor again for my yearly physical. My OBG and GP are a husband/wife pair and both were open about their views on the current administration’s response to COVID and their personal bout with the virus. Both caught it, along with one their kids. His case was worse (he developed pneumonia and fainted several times), but his wife and daughter developed tremors after recovering. It sounded frightening but weirdly reassuring. Like I too might have a chance… Still, he told me, “keep doing what you’re doing if you haven’t caught it.”
Day 208, Friday
Back to the grind… I blocked out a few hours for a pressing project, but it still wasn’t enough. Spent the night reading so I could away from the screens.
My BF reached the let-my-girlfriend-give-me-an-undercut stage of not being a fool in a pandemic. It was my first time using clippers but it went well!
Day 209, Saturday
Mild migraine rolled in with the storm clouds, but managed to head it off with a low dose of advil. I started laying off the advil after I noticed it was making me retain water in a concerning way, but it’s one of the only pain killers that works for me with some success. Managed to get a few hours of writing in before it wore off, but no rebound headache yet fingers crossed
I used to have regular dessert dates on the weekends, just quick trips to a local bakery for treats and coffee, but those stopped at the start of the pandemic. Today, I took a chance and stopped at one of my old haunts for a small cake for myself and cheesecake for the boy. There were two people eating inside but they left shortly after I arrived, and it took less than 15 minutes, so the risk felt less dire than my recent trips to the doctor.
It was delicious.
Day 210, Sunday
Alternated between writing, cleaning, and paying bills/checking my budget. Decent amount of energy too. Days like today me feel almost normal, which is kind of sad if I think about it too closely.