Bad Mood Rising

Things were tense around here the other day. And by “things” I mean Al, my husband, was tense. And I do not make it easier on him, because when he gets tense, I get tenser. When he gets angry, I get angrier. When he’s in a bad mood, I catch it like a cold. If I could change just one thing about our relationship, I would change the way we interact in tense times.

It’s not even like those fights (some might say “disagreements” but at our house it’s louder than that) are about anything important. What’s happening underneath the surface tension is not even evident to us. We just get locked in battle and both end up defending our side and things just snowball.

It’s ridiculous. I hate it. I want to change the way we are with each other when things are not perfect. So of course I googled it. “What to do when my husband starts fight” or some such pithy search term.

I found out some interesting things. First, Al didn’t start the fight. I did! Because he was tense, I could tell by the way he was acting and the things he was saying and finally I was just sick of it and yelled at him to stop being so mean.

“I’m not being mean, you are!” Al said. Yes, at 64 years of age, this is the level of our discourse when we are upset.

Note that I “yelled” and Al “said” ~ he might have said it in a fed-up tone. We have been here before. All too often. I’m so tired of it. But I’ve also grown used to it. I had just about given up hope for change. I’d just have to “put up” with him when he was in a bad mood.

Then an article from Psychology Today gave me a much needed new perspective. And a way to fix the way we fight. It is true that I can’t change Al’s bad mood. It’s in the house, and I have to deal with it. Because I easily “catch” other people’s moods (and this is true for many people, not just me) it’s almost as difficult for me to change the way I deal with Al’s moods as it is to make it like his bad mood never happened.

But hey, I love learning, so I read on. We can’t control that another person has a bad mood and we can’t control that we catch that bad mood. What we CAN do, although it’s tricky, is to temper our reaction to that mood. For example, I yell. What I can learn to do instead is to take a breath and think about how I want to yell in the moment, but remind myself that that’s what I always do, and it makes things worse, not better.

So I can feel the way I’m catching Al’s mood, feel the emotion of it, and, instead of yelling, think about a better way to respond. I did start out responding better. Yelling was not my first response. First I tried to be compassionate. “I know how you feel.” I reminded him of a specific instance that had happened to me (losing track of important paperwork) which was exactly what he was irritated and upset about. I think I said “I know how you feel” three times in response to his irritated “Where is it?” His bad mood wasn’t soothed by my empathy. So I got out my journal and vented a little bit in it. That always helps me. His bad mood didn’t like that, either.

So then I yelled. What I could have done was just say “I need some space for a little while” and take my journal into my sweet little writing room. That would have solved everything. Al wouldn’t have said anything to that. He would have been okay with me leaving the room, dignity intact.

Part of what I begin to feel when the yelling and swearing starts is embarrassed and sad. I do not like yelling and swearing at my husband. I want to act mature and loving at all times at my age. But because my emotions are so many and so huge at these times, some get buried under other ones, which makes me even angrier. Because anger is the top emotion for me when we fight.

Al is calm and I am excitable. One of the many things I loved about him from the first was how zen he is. I wanted to be like that! I still do! Al would have gotten over his bad mood fairly quickly had I not lost my temper. Instead, he dug in when I yelled, as he always does. A man has his pride, even a almost always calm man.

We both want to win. But I realize now that I want to win at more than who can yell the loudest (it is always me) and who can swear most creatively and fluently (again, always me). I want to win at taking my own emotions in hand. I want to learn to be excellent at controlling my reactions. I still want, after all these years, to be calm like Al. With disagreements and a lot of other things, too.

So yesterday I told Al that I am up for his bad moods and tense moments in future. And I really need to be as he is retiring soon and we will be together a lot. We will be together in our little Florida condo much longer than we’ve ever been before. So any moodiness on Al’s part (and there will be moodiness and even, occasionally, snark) will be good practice in taming my own angry responses.

I’d like to tame all kinds of my typical responses, and not just to Al. For example, my craving response to even the thought of sugar. I can think about my favorite bakery’s white chocolate cranberry scones for hours a day for several days. Not even kidding. What this does is set me up for failure, because the next time I am in any store that sells any type of sugary treat, I will buy a lot of it and eat it all.

If I could tame the beast that is my response to just those two things, it would be a big life win for me. Mental and physical. So, I’ll see how it goes. And I’ll keep you posted!

Solving a Marketing Mystery

Blue Lake Christmas Mystery is on sale this month! 99 cents on Kindle started yesterday, Nook and iPhone also 99 cents starting today. I don’t know about other writers, but I’ve never earned a penny from Nook or from iPhone. My publisher makes my books available on all the eBook sites; it’s a mystery why only Amazon sells.

I decided to do this book promotion on my own with no help from my usual tech smart people. I got excited about the idea that I could just do something low key and not make it a huge thing. Something easy. Not too stressful. The mystery is why I don’t approach marketing that way all the time.

Instead I get visions of my landing page wallpaper featuring falling snow as a backdrop to a great tagline and beautiful book cover. That swirling snow looks so pretty, but I’d need to hire someone to do that. And also, I would usually start thinking about trying to place a BookBub ad to get more sales. If you’ve never done BB ads, let me just say it is stressful and can also be expensive.

What I want more of this holiday season is less stress. I cannot stress this enough. 🙂 Also I love reading Christmas novels. I don’t think I’m the only one…so I figured why not be nice and lower my price? I can’t be the only reader who loves a 99 cent deal.

So here’s a fact lots of people don’t know. As you get older, you will like to get into the Christmas mood earlier. This year, for the first time, I read my first (of many, I am sure) Christmas novel before Halloween. I used to be one of those people who thought it was best to wait until after Thanksgiving to make a peep about Christmas. But that’s when I was younger. Now I’m older, time moves faster, so I need more of it to finish up all the Christmas and holiday themed books and films I’ve bought or recorded.

I don’t actually know if all older people feel the way I do about getting started on the holidays earlier, but I do know that retail outlets have no problem beginning marketing earlier (it seems) every year. So I figured I could do the same. Easy research.

The other bit of easy marketing research comes from personal experience. I am so busy in December. Too busy to read as much as I’d like. I tend to stack Christmas novels in a TBR pile, and rather than look for a new book, I just pick from my handy book stack. Or, I’ll watch a holiday movie I recorded in November.

So this is my no-stress, commonsense, low key marketing plan for my Christmas novel. One other happy little coincidence (well happy for me, not for Katie Hill and other victims of revenge porn) that I didn’t have to lift a finger for is that even though my novel was published two years ago, revenge porn is a current hot topic, so my first tagline practically wrote itself.

While writing Blue Lake Christmas Mystery, I thought about all the ways it could be awful if someone you trusted and loved posted a video or nude photos of you online. Might you be so upset you’d kill him? Indeed, is that the reason a perfectly nice fictional guy was murdered at a Christmas party in my book? Because he wasn’t, underneath it all, quite so nice?

Sugar Math

It’s been six months since I decided to quit sugar and wheat and get my health back. I’m still at it and while I have not lost significant weight, just bloat, the most obvious signs of digestive distress are gone. Eliminating wheat has been a game-changer for me as far as how my body functions. That’s why I’m not often tempted by pasta, bread, cereal or other processed foods containing wheat. P.S. All processed foods contain wheat.

In “I Quit Sugar” Sarah Wilson admits to eating an occasional gluten free muffin or other low-sugar treat, and I admit to adding Saltine crackers to my homemade vegetable soup. The first ingredient on the Saltine box is “wheat” but I had a cold, then a cough, then bronchitis, for most of the month of October. So I needed soup. The first week we had vegetable soup and the second week, chicken noodle. A main ingredient of chicken noodle soup is pasta and sick as I was, I could not make myself omit the pasta.

I was too tired to fight with my better self, the one who thinks before she eats. There was not a lot of meal planning (or grocery shopping) going on in October. Whatever was easy, and could be made out of stuff in the pantry, I was eating. I wasn’t that hungry anyway, so the added wheat didn’t have much of an immediate negative effect.

I don’t know how to say this next part. Okay, here it is. When I’m ill, I go to a place where I want to be taken care of. I feel sorry for myself and I’m all I’ve got. So, like an indulgent parent, I soothe myself with sugar. Especially ice cream because it also soothes my sore throat. In October, I ate a lot of ice cream. Also chocolate and scones plus donuts. And apple cider. Because those are the “groceries” I could pick up at the drug store when I was buying another bottle of cough syrup.

Sarah addresses lapses in “I Quit Sugar.” They happen. We’re human. To her, a lapse means she’ll eat a gluten-free muffin or a chocolate chip cookie and in the moment she’ll check out how she feels. Does the cookie make her feel better? How does it taste compared to how she imagined it would? That’s Sarah. Now me. I will eat the cookie and of course I don’t feel better, because I have bronchitis, so I eat another and another and eventually the package is gone.

**When I’m not sick, I don’t eat sugar at home. If I am at a friend’s house, like my book club lunch or my writer’s breakfast, I eat dessert. At restaurants, I order salad or eggs. Sometimes I’ll get a burger and not eat the bun. I don’t even LIKE buns anymore. But this is the strong not-sick me. In the past few days I’ve been getting back to her.

It’s a bit of a misnomer about quitting sugar. Sarah did the research on how much sugar is absolutely OK to eat in a day. There’s a magic sugar number, and for women it is 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, or 26 grams. Men get 9 teaspoons (36 grams) and kids go just a bit higher. I probably got that much in my cough medicine, but I was too sick to check labels.

Now I’m back to checking labels, or, easier for me, just saying no to sweets, wheat and packaged foods. But I’ve been craving pumpkin, which has minimal sugar, 2 grams in a half cup, so I googled around for pumpkin recipes with no wheat or sugar. Found a few and made pumpkin-buckwheat pancakes yesterday. Recipe made 12 pancakes and I froze the leftovers because when you cook everything from scratch, batch cooking will save your life. When I got sick I had veggie soup batch-cooked and frozen waiting for me!

I can kind of tell how much added sugar is in foods I use now, but just to double check myself, I went through everything I put into those pancakes, and on them when I served myself, and added up the sugars in my meal. Came out to 25 grams of sugar, and that includes a bit of whipped cream on the pancake stack <1 gram, the sugar in the canned pumpkin <1 gram, the sugar in my syrup (22 grams, I use brown rice syrup, about half the natural sugars as that in maple syrup), and coconut creamer (1 gram) in my coffee. That’s it. Almost my at my sugar limit for today. Which is fine. I have a big salad, veggie burger, spaghetti squash, tomatoes and ground turkey on the menu for lunch and dinner. All that 0 grams of added sugar.

I admit, I feel good. (Part of that is just being so overjoyed to feel normal again). I’ll also admit, I’m scared. The holiday food season is upon us and I have a doctor’s appointment in December to check my sugar levels. I’ve had six months to lower my A1c. Can I keep off sugar (or stick to 6 tsp per day) until then? Or will sickness and the season spoil my success?

If you have any tips for eating sensibly during the holidays, I would love to hear them. Email me or drop a comment below. Thanks!

As Above, So Below

Important news from the stars for writers here on earth. Mercury will be retrograde from Halloween until November 20. I had to look at my calendar twice this morning because obstacles are already throwing themselves in my writing path. Luckily, I am in revision mode with the WIP, and Mercury Retrograde is an absolutely awesome time for revision.

Not such a great time for signing contracts or making new electronic purchases. Communication is a bit fraught during Mercury Retrograde, so watch your words, in manuscript and real life. That goes for delivery of mail electronically or through USPS, Amazon or any other kind of mail system.

Yesterday I was determined to get down to business on my WIP. I’ve been doing okay, more or less keeping up with my schedule despite some minor setbacks, but felt it was time to put all the pieces into one pile, read through everything I have, and see what needs to be cut and what still needs to be added.

Got all the various files into one master document and decided to print the whole damn thing out. I’m about halfway through my revisions, and know what still needs to be fixed and written. I even know how I’m going to do it. I have a plan plus notes and an outline. Not flying blind, here.

Was happily printing out my 62K words so far, when things started going !!!!! Literally. Laptop printer icon said !!!!! and printer flashed same !!!!! Also, the last twenty or so pages printed made it clear I needed to change the ink cartridge. Alas, my grand plan was foiled for the moment. And my tech guy (Al) was at the football game. He had recently ordered extra ink cartridges and so even though it was a new printer, and laser not ink jet, I figured I’d try to change the cartridge.

Things did not go well. I figured okay Al will eventually come home and when he gets time he will fix everything for me and I will be humming a happy tune once again. Also, I don’t use the printer on Mondays because I blog and everything is online. Then I remembered I was hosting my book group on Thursday and I needed to shop, clean, and cook before then. So…maybe I can finish what I started on Friday.

As long as things get sorted before Mercury appears to move backward in the sky, I’m good. For more on exactly what Mercury Retrograde is, see Susan’s post here.

Studying the Stars

Last night’s full moon was in Aries. The constellation is an actual place in the sky, so “full moon in Aries” just means that’s where the moon is located in the sky for the next week or so. Full moons are significant scientifically because the moon’s gravitational force is greatest at this time, affecting the ocean tides more than any other time.

The fact that the moon rules the ocean tides amazes me. How can that be? How can the moon pull the ocean waves around? The moon has its own gravity is the short answer. The long answer is like higher math, incomprehensible but also beautiful, at least to me. For a long time, I used science facts about the moon to defend my reading of the stars.

These days, I don’t try to convince anybody that astrology has merit. It’s the same with reading the tarot. I interpret tarot and astrology because divination is in my blood. My great-grandmother read the cards and tea leaves. During the Great Depression, her readings kept her large family fed. That impresses me. Having been a single mom, I know how hard it is to raise a family on a woman’s wage.

The taboo against astrology began with the advent of the One God. Astrology was a pagan tool from ancient times, which is why believers in the One God were schooled not to look to the heavens, not to look to the stars, for answers about the meaning of life, for predictions about what happens next, for a clue about which path to follow. Not looking to the stars seems ironic, because the One God is in heaven, right?

I use tarot and astrology to spark ideas. They’re starting points for me, and they’re about possibilities more than predictions. The more esoteric meanings of a full moon in Aries engages passion, energy and courage. It’s a time to take action, break chains that would hold us back, and savor the freedom and confidence that ensues.

This moon may see a sudden and drastic change in your life. Or maybe not. What I like to do is be ready. Just in case. So far, I’ve not had any sudden or drastic change in my situation, but I will keep you posted if it happens. 🙂

In general, full moons, and the two weeks after, are times of change. When events reach the fullness of their manifestation. Maybe what this full moon means for me is having the courage to lay some of my private inner practices out here on the page.