The Year of Habitat: the detailed plan

As I wrote about in my 2018 resolution post, I have declared this the year of habitat — the year of making my home and surroundings more comfortable and habitable, instead of living like an itinerant college student.

I had an intention in that post, but I never talked about what my plan is. I do in fact have one! I’ve been refining it during the month of January, and I thought I’d share it here, for personal accountability.

Rooms and projects

I started by making a list of all the projects and tasks I wanted to get done in each room. This list is aspirational; I’m realistic that I’m not going to achieve everything on the list. This was mostly to give me a sense of how long to devote to each space; I allocated a star rating of difficulty to each room based on the number and size of tasks.

I also wanted to take seasons into account — I don’t want to be working in my unheated basement in winter; nor do I want to be working in the computer room/library in the heat of the summer (i.e. the room that gets so warm, even with central air, that we put an auxiliary A/C unit in there).

There are also some question marks in here. Do I need a new dishwasher? No; the one we have works okay, but it’s older than our tenure in the house, starting to break down, and probably not very energy-efficient. Likewise, I don’t need a new couch or end tables, but our couch is ratty and cat-clawed and our end tables are black-matte-painted monstrosities. (I was gratified when Matt told me, completely on his own, “We might need to consider replacing the sectional in the near future”).

There are a couple of big projects that span the whole house that aren’t always explicitly mentioned here:

One, the previous owners looooooved cellular shades, and installed them in every single room in very… bold colors. (Pink, wine red, baby blue, etc). I really do not like cellular shades. They look cheap, and they break easily — many of them already have. And I do not need pink anything in my dining room, thank you.

Two, the upstairs bathroom needs an entire remodel. On top of fixtures which are BABY BLUE, the bathtub leaks and has been patched numerous times. (We haven’t used it in years, because of this). About the only thing I like about it is the wooden cabinets. We are planning to get some professional help to address this room this year.

The downstairs bathroom isn’t much better. Water has leaked into it from the upstairs tub, damaging the ceiling. The counters and walls are a peach color, and the tile is vintage 1980s. (Matt argues this room needs a full remodel, too. But I’m not as keen to tackle it this year).

Three, skylights. Hey, skylights are great. But in a house with central air… why do they need to open? In my experience with skylights, having ones that open is just asking for double the amount of leaks. And gosh, do these things leak. It will sometimes pour rain in our sunroom, depending on conditions. Replacing them may need to be a thing that happens.

Those are the overarching concerns. Let’s go room by room now:

Kitchen (**)
– new dishwasher?
– finally replace microwave over range
– clean out, replace, or get rid of old coffee pot
– clean out gap between window and screen
– clean behind fridge
– have well water tested (do after a heavy rainstorm)
– glue foot back on cutting board
– Replace bulb above sink

Dining room (*)
– replace, or at least remove, old broken blinds
– get rid of cookbooks we don’t use (which is most of them)
– replace bulbs in chandelier
– Hang/find a place for family photos

Living room (**)
– clean/purge/organize media collection
– new end tables?
– new couch/seating?
– new media console?
– Wash drapes
– Consolidate/digitize my music collection
– Lighting for my ruby flash souvenir glass collection
– Make a sleeve for and hang decorative quilt
– Organize cat files/paperwork

Downstairs bathroom (*)
– Replace light/fan fixture
– Paint walls
– Replace/cover damaged bit of ceiling from water leak

Sunroom (*)
– Replace skylights with ones that don’t open?
– window treatments
– clean/purge/organize board games/rpgs

Mudroom (**)
– cover cat door (with something more permanent than cardboard & duct tape)
– stain step
– clean behind washer/dryer

Basement – sewing room (***)
– better storage for fabric and yarn
– get rid of desk?
– shampoo carpet

Basement – costume storage (*) and workshop (*) – these mostly just need cleaning/purging/organizing

Upstairs bathroom (***)
– (short term) rehang mirror
– (short term) reattach towel bar
– (long term) full renovation – new bath, toilet, sink, counters – want a heated towel rack – better ventilation/fan
– replace skylight window with one that doesn’t open?

Master bedroom (**)
✅ See if curtains I bought work
✅ Set up reading nook
✅ Acquire carpet
✅ move one of the cat posts out
– new lamps (or just new lamp harps/shades)
– Purge unwanted clothes – I’ll give myself half a checkmark for this; I did get rid of a lot of stuff, but could probably do more
✅ Clean/purge/organize loft
– Put up mirror that came with bedroom set? (Requires cleaning stickers off it first)

Computer room(*)
– Consolidate my collection of digital photos
– Remove blinds by the foot of my desk?
– Scan box of mementos/nostalgia
– Select 10 favorite postcards from European postcard collection, frame them, and hang them in my writing space

Guest room (**)
– Paint walls
– Hang three-panel screen
– Remove and sort clothes from loft
– purge/organize larp memorabilia

Deck (**)
– Stain portion of the deck we replaced
– Re-stain the rest of the deck

Garden (***)
– Build a bridge for the stream
– Remove old garden gate

Screenhouse (**)
– Acquire outdoor dining set
– Patch holes in screen
– Better solution than crappy tiles for floor

Schedule

Basically I plan to focus on a difference space each month. Some spaces are more work than others, and some months are busier than others — and I don’t have exactly twelve spaces — but I’ve tried to break it down relatively equitably.

January: bedroom
February: living room/downstairs bathroom
March: kitchen
April: upstairs bathroom
May: guest room
June: garden/screenhouse
July: deck/garden
August: basement
September: mudroom
October: sun room
November: dining room
December: computer room

Upkeep/maintenance

As part of this project, I’d like to become more regular about keeping my house ordered and clean. I have very much found that (to quote Gretchen Rubin) “outer order contributes to inner calm.” Keeping a neat house keeps my anxiety at bay and helps me to be more energetic and productive.

… which honestly sucks, because I hate cleaning.

I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous cleaning calendars going around on FB — something that someone like me, who works full time and has a number of active hobbies, who could not maintain.


Incidentally, this is about all I am qualified to do in Photoshop.

The closest I’ve found to a cleaning and maintenance schedule that works for me is Unfuck Your Habitat’s cleaning lists. Even then, I find them a bit… ambitious, and I have to modify them to keep with the “do what you can; no marathons” ethos of the site. (Which is really great, btw, and aimed at people who have physical limitations, like chronic illness, that keep them from doing as much as they would like). The actual number of items on the UFYH list is greater, but each one seems smaller. No MOPPING YOUR KITCHEN EVERY DAY.

So here’s my modification of the UFYH lists. It’s evolved over the course of January-February, and is continuing to evolve.

Daily list:
– Make bed (if someone’s not in it, i.e. mostly on weekends)
– Wipe down one surface
– Wash dishes
– Put clothes and shoes away
– Deal with incoming mail
– Clean litterbox
– One 20/10 on an area that needs it
– Prepare for tomorrow, if going into the office (pick out outfit, pack up laptop and gym bag, optionally make lunch)

Weekly:
– Vacuum upstairs or downstairs (alternate)
– Wash, dry, and put away laundry
– Wipe down stovetop/oven door
– Take trash out
– Put away everything on bedroom floor

Bi-weekly (every two weeks, not twice a week!):
– Wash sheets
– Wash towels and rags
– Break down cardboard and recycle
– Clean toilets

Monthly:
– Dust all surfaces
– Wipe down baseboards
– Clean out refrigerator
– Wipe down bathroom walls
– Clean light switches and door handles
– Shred or file old bills and mail
– Clean shower
– Mop upstairs or downstairs floors (alternate)
– Do full litter replacement

Seasonally:
– Wash curtains/clean vertical blinds
– Go through closet and sort through clothes
– Vacuum/clean upholstered furniture
– Clean oven
– Vacuum and rotate mattress
– Clean out bathroom drawers and cabinets
– Change water pitcher filter
– Change HVAC filter
– Clean out and organize pantry

Do I do all of this every day/week/month/season? Gods, no. It’s hard to go from mopping your floor once a year to mopping monthly. But it gives me a framework, if nothing else. I always know what I could be doing to maintain the house. So while being somewhat aspirational, it still does spur me to do stuff.

For me the most important daily tasks are washing dishes and doing the litterboxes, and being sure to pack my gym bag on Sunday night, to set the tone for the week. Making the bed only rarely happens, because there’s usually someone in it when I get up — my husband, 1-3 cats, or all of the above. And that’s okay. It’s nice to get into a made bed, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. (Ha).

Weekly, vacuuming takes the highest priority; everything else happens automatically (i.e. I clean the stovetop when I’m wiping down the counters, or Matt does the laundry).

Also note that all I care is that this stuff is done; it doesn’t matter who in our house does it. Fundamentally, things like doing the laundry or cleaning the litterboxes usually fall to Matt; he also cooks all the food. So a lot of these tasks are “do them unless Matt has already done them.”

So far?

January was devoted to the bedroom, and folks, it is so much more comfortable than it was a month or so ago. I have a comfortable space to read in, with a neatly folded blanket on a (relatively) clean chair under good lighting with a stack of books beside it. My closets and drawers are emptier. The contents of my bedroom loft have reduced by half, and I no longer am tripping over Christmas ornaments. I HAVE CURTAINS!!! AND A RUG!! Here is a photo of my progress on the room — alas, I didn’t prepare any dramatic before/after shots.

Is it magazine-worthy? Hell no. Is it a sight better than it was in 2017? HELLZ YES. I felt such a sense of peace and calm sitting in that room last weekend, reading and drinking coffee.

This month — February — I am tackling the living room and the downstairs bathroom. (Short term stuff for the downstairs bathroom, if Matt really wants to do a full remodel). It’s tougher because I’m away several weekends in February (Mad3, Intercon coming up) and it’s a shorter month, but I’m hoping to go furniture shopping this weekend and replace some of our beat-up living room pieces. I like having an area rug in the bedroom so much that I might just put one in the living room, too.

I’m cautiously optimistic.

2017 Retrospective/2018 Resolutions

This is a year that sucked for a lot of people. In many ways, for me, too, the world is a darker, scarier place–

Oh crap, that’s how I began last year’s post. Um. Well. Still true?

This was also a year for some personal achievements, so I can’t condemn all of 2017 to the trash heap. Here’s where I’ve been and what I did.

Last Year’s Resolutions

For 2017 I wanted to complete edits on Lioness and query agents. This was a partial success. I felt a lot of resistance to editing, and I’m embarrassed to admit I avoided it for much of the year. But in the last days of 2017, I “finished” structural edits and send the story to my beta readers. I use the scare-quotes because editing feels like something that’s never finished; Lioness wasn’t so much released to my beta readers as allowed to escape. But: progress.

Write four new short stories. Partial success. I wrote three flash-length stories as part of the Codex flash contest, and started work on two (theoretically short) pieces. Two of those (“The Mirrors of Her Eyes” and “Granny Hubbard vs. the Giant Slime”) have been edited and sent out to a few markets.

Participate in one of the Codex flash fiction challenges. Success! I participated in Flash, Savior of the Universe (FSOTU) 2017, the winter flash contest on Codex, and wrote a story for all three rounds. And my scores weren’t totally shitty!

Read 50 new-to-me short stories. Success! Even though I read the last one on December 31st πŸ™‚ Sam J. Miller’s “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood,” “The Dauphin’s Metaphysics,” by Eric Schwitzgebel, and “Scattered Along the River of Heaven,” by Aliette de Bodard, were among some of my favorites.

Conclusion: In my Year of the Short Story, I discovered… I don’t enjoy short stories as much as I enjoy novels. It has something to do with immersion — I value spending time in a beautifully crafted SFF world, but by the time I get into a short story, it dumps me out into the real world again. Given all this, maybe I shouldn’t spend my limited writing/reading time focusing on them? A fine thing to discover halfway through the year, but there you go.

Other Cool Stuff Wot I Did in 2017

  • Read 25 books
  • Wrote 12 substantive blog posts (i.e. not the accomplishments posts)
  • Visited England and attended Kaleidoscopic Consequences
  • Attended the Stratford Festival with my mom
  • Got my druid Wodehouse to 110 in WoW
  • Completed Nighthold (normal and heroic), Tomb of Sargeras (normal and heroic), and Antorus (normal) with my guild in WoW
  • Did a road trip through Western Massachusetts with EB
  • Did a road trip (with a stay at a theme hotel) in New Hampshire with EB
  • Finally framed the 10-year anniversary gift I made for Matt
  • Completed season one of Zombies Run!
  • Ran my first 5k race
  • Completed two developer self-directed days: one on CSS Shapes and clipping/masking, and a second on CSS Grid layout
  • Visited ten places on Atlas Obscura I hadn’t been before
  • Replaced the lamp globes in my upstairs bathroom
  • Started playing a new boffer larp campaign, Shadowvale
  • Finished PCing my first boffer larp campaign, Fifth Gate (Silverfire)
  • Staffed three Tales from the Cotting House events
  • NPCed five Madrigal 3 events
  • Played in four theater-style larps

What I Want to Do in 2017

As I wrote about in “Moving into my own life”, my theme for 2018 is going to be habitat. As I wrote there:

So, starting in 2018, I am moving — into my own life. I am going to do the things you do when you move: go through my crap and getting rid of what no longer suits, make our house into a comfortable place to live, and keep it that way through regular maintenance. I am going to make it the sort of place I love to spend time, instead of the kind of place I dread to come home to.

I’m still working out a concrete plan on how I will tackle these goals, going through each room of my house. And of course, I have the “Habitat” section of my 101 goals in 1001 days list to refer to.

What else? By itself, that could keep me busy for a year! But I feel remiss if I don’t hit on some other aspects of my life.

Writing: There are more edits ahead first, but by the end of 2018, I’d like to have queried a non-zero number of agents. I would also like to do Pitch Wars or another pitch contest.I will continue to submit my short pieces to markets, until hell won’t have ’em, etc.

Reading: My Goodreads Challenge for 2018 is 30 books. I really admire those folks who read 100+ books per year, but I, dear reader, am not one of them.

Health: I intend to continue to run and mostly stick with a healthy, low-GI diet. I’ll try to take my vitamin D and use my sunlamp more regularly.

Family: I will spend time with my mom, who has a terminal lung disease. I’m already planning to go to the Stratford Festival with her in 2018, her health permitting.

And that’s about it. But most importantly:


The last photo of 2017. I did, in fact, pet more kitties this year.

A much-belated 2016 resolutions post

Said I to myself, at the end of December/beginning of January: “Who needs goals and resolutions? I just want to have fun in 2016! ANARCHY WOOOO.”

And thus commenced some of the worst depression in my life.

Perhaps this attitude is not terribly helpful for my well-being. Perhaps I am not good at undirected fun-having.

Look. I’m having significant issues with self-esteem, internal validation, poor body image, etc. I see how I am constantly looking for external validation, even though I know it’s not going to make me happy. Even as I realize that my self-worth is an empty pit into which compliments and reassurances fall with a thud.

I have to fill that pit myself.

I… have no idea how.

How do you shovel shit into a hole?

It seems like some people do this* by setting realistic goals and achieving them. A sense of mastery, it turns out, contributes to a sense of self-esteem.

Sidebar: Is that it? Setting goals and meeting them? I don’t think so. At the end of the day it’s dangerous to tie our well-being entirely to abilities we may lose. To use a trite phrasing, we are human beings, not human doings. But it’s a start. Suggestions on other ways to fill the pit of self-worth are certainly appreciated.

So I did a tarot reading around the theme of–

–I know that sounds ridiculous, but bear with me. I could write a whole post on my attitude towards “fortune-telling” devices like tarot. Executive summary: I don’t believe they’re supernatural, or have any real oracular ability. But I do believe in the divine trickery of stories, i.e. the message I send to myself in interpreting the cards.

ANYWAY. I asked what will help me in my search for self-esteem, and the response I got was the Ace of Pentacles, which has to do with things like NEW BEGINNINGS and MANIFESTATION OF GOALS.

ace_pentacles
Isn’t this a happy-looking card?

Message received. Set some fucking resolutions, lady.

The towering inferno of last year’s plans

First, let’s talk about last year’s goals: to write 50% of the days and read 50 books.

I did neither of these things exactly. I wrote about 34% of the days, and I read 32 books (counting one I abandoned because it deeply displeased me).

I love writing, but the demoralizing hell of submitting my work and having it continually rejected took a toll on me this year, and I don’t feel I’ve had traction in this area for a couple of months. (This doesn’t seem reflected in the number of submissions I put out there, but my brain is really good at concocting catastrophes).

Reading-wise, I feel like I’ve tackled a goodly number of “tough” but rewarding books this year (like Our Mutual Friend), so the actual number concerns me less.

Overall, these are non-zero numbers, and I’m happy with what I did. Hell, I wrote 51,000 words this year on Lioness, which is nothing to sniff at.

Other cool stuff wot I did in 2015

  • Wrote a couple of new short stories, “Remember to Die” and “Handedness.” The latter I probably won’t do anything with, but I’ve been shopping the former around (see below).
  • Wrote a few new poems
  • Wrote a terribad piece of smut for a local burlesque group
  • Wrote some Fifth Gate fanfic – “Unending Circle” and “The Eyrie Goes to the Beach”
  • Submitted “Powder of Sympathy” to seven places — notably, this was my first time ever submitting to a short fiction market.
  • Submitted “Remember to Die” to a few places
  • Queried three different agents with Gods and Fathers. I think I’m trunking it/backburnering it at this point in time.
  • Started PCing my first boffer larp (Fifth Gate – Silverfire)
  • Made costuming for said boffer larp (an invocation circle, underdress, and overdress)
  • Tried two foods off the Omnivore’s 100 that I hadn’t tried before — curried goat and snail
  • Completed a 21-day habit streak for writing
  • Relaunched this site (as a slightly-more-professional bit of branding. Except for the part where I still swear like a sailor).
  • Attended my first (and so far only) SCA event
  • Played in seven new-to-me theater-style larps
  • Visited Ireland and England
  • PAID OFF THE SECOND MORTGAGE WOOHOO
  • Got a significant raise and promotion at work (to Senior Front-end Developer)
  • Raised my 401k contribution to $80/pay period

The past is boring! What am I doing this year?

Well, first up: I want to finish Lioness (it’s at 91k words), edit it, and begin querying agents. Everything after that is out of my control, and is the sort of external validation I need to stop thinking so hard about.

In the interest of not continuing to go through life like a brain in a jar, I need to get more in touch with my squishy meat body. This, I think, will help with my body image issues. I think my exercise-related goals in my 101 goals list are pretty good, starting with a 21-day habit streak and the introductory fitness ladder.

Oh, an entirely fun and trivial thing — I want to get a tattoo. I’ve had several ideas rolling around in my brain for YEARS (a post about that maybe forthcoming?), and I’d like to finally see ink put to flesh. In particular, I’ll probably opt for the Nerevarine Moon-and-Star from TES III: Morrowind first, which is perfect in its “this is exceptionally geeky but looks mainstream to anyone who doesn’t know better”-ness.

And that should be enough to keep me busy — and, hopefully, happy.

Final note

I have a TON of posts I have been neglecting while the energy-sucking flu has been particularly bad. You may see a greater volume from me in the next few days. Given how infrequently I’ve been posting, I doubt this will be an issue.

The State of the Writing (July 2015)

I’ve set various writing goals this year, and this post is to check my progress on them, since it’s now about halfway through the year.

In January I said I wanted to do something writing-related every day — at least 50% of the days. It looks like my current percentage is 42%, after some rough months (March and April, for example). Thankfully, I’m out of larp season now, so I hope I can be more consistent.

Let’s look at my novel projects:

Gods and Fathers. I’ve revised my query so many bloody times now I’m not even sure what this book is about, but still no bites from agents. I’m tempted to trunk it (or self-pub it, since there’s at least some interest among my friends), but I also feel like I haven’t queried as many agents as I could. And I haven’t sent it directly to any publishers, certainly.

I think if I started this novel today, it’d be exceptionally different, and I’d handle certain cultural/ethnic concerns better. I don’t think it’s offensive or anything, but I suspect there are parts people could squint at and say, “Really?”

Maybe that’s the signal I should put it aside. I don’t know. I’m a terrible judge of my own writing.

Lioness Embarked, on the other hand, is going very well at the moment. I just passed 63k yesterday night. At the end of April I decided to participate in the Codex Novel Contest, setting a goal (roughly) of 10k words per month until the contest ends in December.

However, in May I logged only 3k words, and in June about 5k. (Thanks, larp season!) To try to get back on schedule, I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I have to write about ~700 words per day to make up for May and June’s missed words and get July’s done — a total of 21,600 words.

Of course, this is assuming a book of about 110k words, which may be more than I need. It may be less than I need, too, though, which is the concern.

So far, a week into the month, it’s been challenging, but I remain more or less on track! We’ll see it this can hold up through Readercon and the Shadows one-day, which are my big time-sucks this month.

Eventually I am going to need more alpha and/or beta readers. Right now I have my writing group, and EB, basically. These folks have valuable feedback, but I’d especially like some transfolk as readers, since there’s a character who identifies that way in this novel, and I worry I’m doin’ it wrong.

If you’re interested in trying on the role of alpha reader — reading as I produce pages — but aren’t sure if you can commit to 100k words of my deathless prose, let me know, and I’ll send you the first chapter. You can decide from there if you want to continue. I’ve been pitching this novel as “a fantasy genderqueer retelling of The Three Musketeers from the perspective of the series’ antagonists,” so if that sounds like your cuppa, let me know.

If you’re interested, but want to wait until the novel’s finished, let me know, too, although I’ll probably forget between now and then and ask again later πŸ˜‰

Short Fiction

I just submitted “Powder of Sympathy” to Lackington’s for their Dreamings issue. This is the second place I’ve submitted it — it’s only a semipro market, but the theme fit, and the submission window was closing. Given pieces I know were rejected, I suspect I’m going to get the “how is this connected to theme?” rejection (because it requires somewhat of a careful reading to see).

This story is flawed. (Every story is flawed). But dammit, my Dunsanian imitation is pretty dang good, and I wish someone would appreciate it.

I had a few people read the flash pieces that came out of the Codex Weekend Warrior contest–“Remember to Die” and “Handedness.” The consensus seemed to be that “Remember to Die” was the stronger piece, and “Handedness” felt a little too derivative SF.

Given that, I decided to focus on “Remember to Die.” I’ve made some edits which I think strengthened the beginning, but probably botched the ending even worse. I need to take another pass at that, but I’d like to get it out to DSF this week.

Codex is doing its summer flash contest this month, but pretty much all the dates conflict with larp and fandom commitments.

I have three sad, half-finished short pieces in the world of Gods & Fathers and Lioness which I will not be focusing on any time soon. They’re the kind of things that are only interesting if you’ve read the novels, though, and I don’t think they can stand alone.

Other than that, the other short fiction I’ve written this year has been a couple of Fifth Gate ficlets and “The Little Dutch Boy,” the purposefully terribad historical smut I wrote for a burlesque show.

Poetry

I’ve written a few poems since the start of the year, but still no idea what to do with them. Mostly I write poetry because I can’t not, rather than to do anything with it.

Executive summary

I’m behind on my goals. No surprise there. I need to have more reasonable expectations for larp season, it seems. On the up side, my year-over-year “doing something writing-related daily” percentage is up 6%.

I am still optimistic about finishing Lioness this year. I’m less optimistic about… well, everything else.

I still struggle with submitting my work. A lot. This topic has got me thinking about the “gates of writing,” the obstacles one has to overcome on the path to being a published writer. I’ll probably have a post on that in the future, but suffice it to say, that is the gate I am trying to pass through now.