Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Author: Andi (page 1 of 8)

Another milestone – um, yay?

mammogram machine

“Tea, Earl Grey. Hot.” As if.

After a few years of my doctor saying, “You know, you should probably get a mammogram, just to have a baseline,” now was apparently the time to have one*. So two days after going in for my annual exam, there I was in a spa-like changing room getting ready for my first mammogram.

I’d heard horror stories (just the description of squishing did not sound like the Most Fun Ever), so I expected the worst: a drawn-out embarrassing process** that would involve discomfort, pain, and another Awful Medical Experience***.

It was so very far from that. The technician was upbeat and pleasant, and more to the point ON TIME****., so not drawn out. No embarrassment, even with a little cotton gown-vest (I appreciate concerns about modesty, but by the point you have someone handling your body parts and positioning them ‘just so,’ embarrassment no longer exists). And no pain! Sure, it’s not the most comfortable of procedures*****, but it’s over quickly. Hurrah!

My only moment of “Arrrooo?”****** was seeing two aerosol cans of deodorant in the changing room. I hadn’t seen aerosol deodorant in a long time, and yet there they were. It took a few moments to realize, “Oh, that would be the most sanitary way to provide deodorant” since you’re not supposed to wear any for the scan. It also had me wonder if mammography in its own strange way is keeping one aspect of the deodorant industry afloat.

tldr: I got my first mammogram, and it didn’t kill me.

 

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*Funny, the same thing happened with the gum graft. Not sure what to make of this.

**I wasn’t sure it could top either of my EKGs, but hey, anything is possible.

***Admittedly, these experiences make great story fodder.

****I’m still unclear on why medical appointments (even at the earliest, first thing in the morning time slots) seem to still require the doctor to take twenty-plus minutes after the scheduled appointment time to show up. Is this just a standard modus operandi? Do they set physician’s clocks behind by twenty minutes? Or are the docs just trying to be kind, figuring that they don’t want to interrupt you while you’re reading that fabulous article from last month’s People magazine about Pippa Middleton’s wedding?

*****Take any solid object and try to squish it flat, then hold it there at 20 psi for 30 seconds. Good times!

******Picture a dog looking at something that looks familiar, but just knows that something is not right: head cocked to the side, ears at attention. Yeah, that was me.

Summer reading program is on

Summer Reading Bingo Card for adults

This summer’s Reading Bingo Card for adults

It’s summer*, which means it is time for the Summer Reading Program! My love of the SRP dates back almost 40 years** when my local public library had a Reading Bingo Card*** and I was so excited to read books that fit the different categories. I can’t remember exactly what I read, but there are proud X marks on some of the categories.

Well, in my current mild-mannered day job, I get to put together the summer Reading Bingo Card for adults, and every summer I still get excited about reading the books to complete the card. However, this summer I did something slightly different—the card is not just about reading, but also about exploring library services and “Building a Better World”****.

So of course I started strategizing and creating reading lists for the 14 different book categories, and of course I looked at how many squares I could finish ON THE FIRST DAY. Because I just could not wait.

Yeah, kind of sad.

<sigh>

At any rate, as of Day 2, I am in progress on six (6!) squares. And that’s me being restrained.

Yeah, I like to read. A lot.

<another sigh>

So what’s on your summer reading list? Anything you can’t wait to try?

 

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*Summer in Oregon apparently means 60 degrees and drizzle. It’s starting to look like Juneuary again.

**Okay, I’m definitely starting to feel old.

***Yes, I still have the 1980 Reading Bingo Card from my childhood library. And no, I am not ashamed.

****That’s the SRP theme this year. FWIW, the theme was decided two years ago.

Happy release day! OUT OF TIME is now available!

"Out of Time" bookOh, this has been sooooo long in the making, and I’m so excited! “Out of Time and Other Very Short Stories” is now available.

This is a collection of very short stories (500-1000 words each) that range from talking dogs and zombies, to stranded time travelers and surfers—all coming from some part of my personal experience.* I like to think of this as a Smorgasbord of Tales**, a wide-ranging sampler of stories to try.

Speaking of stories to try, I posted two stories from the collection. Take a look!

Links for the ebook:
Amazon (print available too!) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks/Apple and more

And now, back to our regularly scheduled writing . . .

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*Well maybe not the zombies.

**Perhaps “Sushi Bar of Stories”? There is definitely a much higher Japanese content than Scandinavian in the book.

***Fun, and maddening and joyful. It’s hard to describe, but let’s leave it at “fun”.

Gardening and power tools

cedar planter boxes I built

Cedar plantar boxes built with power tools and glue. Woot!

Today’s chapter: In which our heroine learns how to use a chop saw and a nail gun.

I picked up a 3-pack of dish tubs from Costco and turned them into planters for seedlings*. While the industrial look of the tubs might work well for, oh, an industrial setting, they didn’t seem to look right on a wooden deck.

My husband said, “Why don’t you build some cedar boxes for them?”

This I interpreted as: “How about I build you some cedar boxes, honey?”

What he meant was: “Why don’t you build some cedar boxes for them?”

This difference in interpretation became evident when he asked me how I was planning to build the boxes.

Him: “So, how were you planning to build the boxes?”

Me: “Erm, what?”

Him: “The cedar boxes. The ones to hold the planters.”

Me: “[blank look on face]”

Him: “You didn’t expect me to build the boxes, did you?”

Me: “[still blank look on face]”

Him: “[heavy sigh] Alright. How about I show you how to do it, and then you can do it?”

Me: “[pause] Um, okay.”

Now, while I like to think of myself as Capable of Anything, for some reason, power tools scare me. Spiders, snakes, and creepy sounds in the middle of the night make me uncomfortable; they don’t scare me, but I don’t particularly care for them. Power tools make me very fearful. I think it has to do with the fact that they can hurt you AND YET you just might need to use them.

I have no need to handle spiders or snakes, and I don’t need creepy sounds in the middle of the night. However, I needed to cover up the grey plastic tubs.

So with a trepid hand, I learned to wield the Mighty Saw Blade of Death**. Then after a side tour with wood glue, I learned how to wield the Dastardly Nailer of Doom***. And with the help of a set of clamps and another set of hands to hold the frame steady, I was able to get the cedar box together.

Woo hoo!

By the time I finished the third box****, I was slapping on the wood glue, clamping the pieces together, KACHUNK KACHUNK KACHUNK with the nail gun, and boom—box done. No hesitation, no fretting. Just following the procedure step by step, getting shit done.

That felt AWESOME.

I think I’m finally starting to understand the allure of construction projects. And of power tools.*****

 

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*Lettuce, basil, nasturtiums, and green onions, in case you were wondering. And that bottle in the middle? That is an experiment in self-watering. Time will tell.

** Pro tip: get the blade fully spinning before trying to cut anything, and keep it spinning as you pull the blade out of the cut.

*** Pro tip: angle the nailer so the nails come out parallel with the wood grain, which will make it harder to see those unsightly nails in the finished product.

****I’ve got to be honest: I made the cuts for the corner support pieces and a couple of the cedar sides, but my husband did the majority of the cutting. In the time it took me to make three cuts, he had finished cutting eight pieces and had time for a nap.

*****Now I just have to get more comfortable with the chop saw. I can use it, but it still freaks me out.

Today is the day

Indecisive Shiba Inu

Need I say anything more?

Well, actually it was yesterday.

Here is what The Daily Stoic had to say about May 22:

“I don’t complain about the lack of time . . . what little I have will go far enough. Today—this day—will achieve what no tomorrow will fail to speak about. I will lay siege to the gods and shake up the world.”

-Seneca*

That was the Stoic quote for the day, but it was the following expansion on the quote that is sticking in my head:

“Today, not tomorrow, is the day that we can start to be good.”

All of which is to say Carpe diem. No day but today**. Face the fear and do it anyway.

Yeah, I’ve been procrastinating. Why do you ask?

525,600 minutes. Nearly half of them are gone.***

What do you have to show for today? Did you move the ball forward?****

 

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*Seneca always comes off to me as Mr. Know-It-All, but sometimes I think he just might be right.

**What? No Rent love?

***Sometimes I need a kick in the butt to remind me about the Big Picture, and there is nothing like a deadline to do that for me.

****Again, talking to myself here. Lots of talking to myself. With a whole lot of mixed metaphors.

Children of the 80’s and geeks unite!

cover of "Armada" by Ernest Cline

“Armada” by Ernest Cline

I have discovered a new guilty pleasure: listening to a delightful audiobook at home with a glass of wine. And the first audiobook to receive this treatment? Armada by Ernest Cline.

If you are a child of the 1980’s, or a geek, or even better BOTH, this book was made for you. Pop culture (heavy on the sci-fi) references abound as an alien fleet comes to attack Earth, and it gets even better with the reading by Wil Wheaton.

Yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Wil Wheaton. Gaming nerd Wil Wheaton. Geek Extraordinaire Wil Wheaton.

I can’t remember the last time (any time?) I listened to an audiobook read by someone with so much enthusiasm and love. Wheaton’s reading was infectious and fun. Sure, the story is a bit predictable (especially for readers of Ender’s Game and viewers of The Last Starfighter), but it’s still a joy to listen to Wheaton sing rock songs and do impersonations of Sir Patrick Stewart and George Takei.

While I have only read the print book, I can only assume that Wheaton put the same energy into his audiobook reading of Ernest Cline’s previous book (and soon to be movie) Ready Player One (another fun 1980’s/geek novel).

Now, to find the next decadent wine-worthy audiobook . . .

Face palm

Man with head buried in hand

This says it all

So it’s been two months since the surgery, and I expected that I’d get behind some with the writing, but I figured it would pick back up as I felt better.

I didn’t expect that I’d fall this far behind.

Between life, a mini-vacation (which was lovely), and, well, life, I lost track of where exactly I was with the writing and publishing. In fact, I got so lost that I floundered, to the point that the creativity spark fizzled and went kaput.

Insert freaking out about “I’ve lost that creative feeling”* and desperate attempts at recovering my creativity. Because OMG I MIGHT NEVER WRITE AGAIN.

Yes, well.

So I went back to basics. I started writing morning pages** again. I read books about creativity. I wrapped myself in guilty pleasures (you know, the usual: Jane Austen, vampire and/or werewolf romance books, historical scifi-fantasy-romance TV, kid action-adventure novels, space operas, ). I reminded myself that healing takes the time it takes, and that whenever I have tried to force something to happen, the results were Never Good.

Essentially, I journaled, I read, I immersed myself in fun, silly entertainment.

Then I saw a post by Dean Wesley Smith about his process of finding story titles and then writing the story. I gave it a shot, and just finished a 3,200 word story.

Then I saw a post by Chuck Wendig with another flash fiction challenge to write a story mashing up two randomly chosen genres***, and I got started on another story.

With a little momentum behind me, I went back to the publishing and tried to figure out where I left off. Oh right, review the websites with the book and make sure everything looked okay. Which it should, since I have been over this book a zillion times by now.

On the preview, IN THE FIRST SENTENCE OF THE FIRST STORY, right there in front of me, was a spelling error.

On the freaking preview.

<face palm>

So back to the ebook mines. I fixed the problem, finding other minor problems as well, and then uploaded the corrected files. And now I wait for the sites to process and approve them. Which means more time to wait.

It’s progress, I think. Just very very slow, 2 steps-forward-1-step-back progress (i.e. the new normal).

Hopefully this just means a week or so delay, and then I can post links to the book and get on with my publishing life.

Ugh.

 

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*It’s funnier to me if I say it to the tune of “You’ve lost that loving feeling”.

**See Julia Cameron’s classic “The Artist’s Way” for more info.

***I <3 these challenges. They are brilliantly inspirational.

Getting close

swimming to the wall

Just. A. Little. Further.

I’ve finished the print and digital versions for my flash fiction collection (at last!), and am now in the home stretch. Accounts are set up with digital (and print) purveyors, so it should* just be a matter of getting the files uploaded and hitting “Publish!”

This has been so long in the making that I can’t even say. The good news is that while the learning curve for indie publishing has been nearly vertical, with any luck future books shouldn’t** take nearly as long to get out into the world. Why? Because I’ve learned a whole slew of skills:

  • interior book layout and design
    • front matter
    • back matter
    • pagination
    • headers and footers
    • readable and embedded and copyright-free fonts
  • cover creation
    • definition of “royalty-free” and why you should pay for it
    • writing jacket copy
    • pricing
    • ISBN and BISAC
  • formatting a book for print
  • formatting a book for digital consumption (epub and mobi formats)
  • contracts and net royalty calculators
  • which companies are worth dealing with

And that doesn’t even get into the hours spent learning the page layout software and creating the book template, learning the image manipulation software, learning the e-book editing software, learning the e-book conversion software, and studying how others have indie published good-looking books.

There is definitely something to be said for paying a professional; at the same time, I think it’s invaluable to have a functional knowledge of how these things work, even if I end up hiring professionals in the future.

Hmmm. That might also apply to other life situations, come to think of it.

 

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*”Should”. There I went and jinxed myself. Because I think that this process will only take another week at the most, it will most likely take another three months. Wait for it.

**Doh! I went and did it again. Argh.

Sometimes things turn out okay

cat with flower

Wait. What?

I went in for my post-op follow-up and was told that everything looks good. Even better? I can eat real food again! So no more relying on soups, applesauce, and other soft foods. This means pizza and crusty bread and chips and all that good stuff. Woo hoo! I just still have to be careful with the roof of my mouth, which hasn’t quite finished healing yet (but so close).

Now, to start easing back into “normal” life and moving forward with my projects. I’ve got a book (or two) to publish!

The joys of not talking

silent monkey

Silence really is golden

I was not aware that a gum graft might require not talking. For a week.

For a full week, I didn’t talk at work* or at home. I attended meetings, but could only communicate by writing my comments down and having a co-worker read them. I visited friends and enjoyed their company, but couldn’t say anything. Why?

The location of the graft is such that when everything was swollen, I couldn’t talk without it a) causing pain, and b) pulling the stitches and causing bleeding. In my attempts to not talk, but to communicate, I thought facial expressions would work. Not so much. Certain contortions of my lower lip and jaw pulled on the stitches which caused more pain, and because it happened so fast, I couldn’t deduce exactly what expression or movement was the culprit. All of which meant trying to not talk AND keep a straight face when interacting with people. Not an easy thing! If anything, it convinced me that I really do need to work on my poker face.

The funny thing was the people who tried to talk with me, and then felt like they couldn’t speak either. Or the people who understood that I couldn’t talk but still asked me questions that involved more detailed answers than “Yes or No.” Although I did appreciate their attempts, since it made me feel like less of a social pariah.

Thankfully, the swelling has decreased, and I can talk again, although I still have some trouble with labial consonants** (so no F’s, V’s, B’s, or P’s). It was a relief to be able to talk, and at the same time, kind of a disappointment. I started to like and appreciate not being able to talk because there is a joy in silence. A number of them, actually.

So here they are: The Joys of Not Talking.

  • It made me realize how much pointless chatter I do everyday.
  • It quieted my mind some.
  • It freed me from some socially obligatory conversations that don’t accomplish anything, and always feel awkward trying to end.
  • It allowed me to do focused work because people knew I couldn’t talk, so they didn’t drop by to ask questions*** or chat.
  • It meant that I had to condense my thoughts into short, simple sentences that I could jot down quickly.
  • It felt restful.

I am glad to be able to talk again (really!), but I am also glad that I had the experience of not being able to talk. Very educational.

 

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*I had to make and wear a sticker that said, “Sorry, I can’t talk. Doctor’s orders.” because people seemed to think I was avoiding them or being rude by not returning their “Good morning!” greetings.

**One of my favorite classes in college was linguistics, and I could have sworn these sounds were “fricatives,” but alas, they are indeed labial consonants. But “fricative” just sounds better. Go ahead and say it. “Fricative.”

***Well, except for one supervisor. The good news was that normally the drop-by would have lasted 45 minutes, and not the 5 that this one did.

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