Small Habits

800px-Coccinella_magnifica01There are all kinds of articles and studies and blogs about small habits. I have a file folder full of them and they all say basically the same thing.

Start small. Start tiny. Start even smaller than tiny.

There are zen small habits. There are doctors’ who tell you about small habits. There are writers and artists and teachers and their list of small habits. They might use different terminology (ie., small versus tiny versus miniscule versus – well, you get the picture) but they’re all telling us the same thing.

Start small.

Think small.

And once you’ve done that? Think even smaller.

I’ve been thinking about this more than a bit, because whatever good habits I had seem to have vanished completely over the past three incredibly hectic months and have been replaced by exceedingly bad ones.

Yes, I have an excuse. Actually, I have many. Moving. Unpacking. Working a third more than I usually do at the office. Concussion (minor and now pretty much okay).

What I want to do is to run a half marathon this fall and that means starting to run every second day. Run. Run. Run. Run a lot. The other thing I want to do is lose some weight and that means giving up all my favorite things and losing that weight. Fast. Fast. Fast. Starvation fast. The third thing I want to do is write every day and that means finding an hour or two or even three when I can do that. Write. Write. Write. Write pages and pages every day.

Of course, I don’t do any of these things because I’m waiting for the perfect time to do them. and of course there isn’t one.

But now, thanks to an article about B.J. Fogg and his approach to small habits that I found while I was thinking about this blog, I’m going to try it. I’m going to pick three very small things (he says you’ll probably abandon one of them), I’m going to do them every day (he says to attach them to a “crisp” anchor, that is, do it after something you do every single day at basically the same time without fail – brush your teeth in the morning, turn off your bedside lamp, put on or take off your glasses, have your first cup of tea or coffee) and I’m going to celebrate – with an out-loud ATTA GIRL! – the fact that I do them.

So for the running habit, I’ll plan to put on my running shoes. Just that. For my losing weight habit? I’ll drink a glass of water. One glass of water. And for my writing habit? I’ll write a single sentence. Every single day.

Small habits. That’s where I’m going to begin.

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What not to wear in downtown Vancouver


  • Good looking guys in good looking suits with the pants ending somewhere around their ankles. Often, to make matters worse, their socks end right around the middle of their ankle bone, leaving bare skin exposed. Yuck.
  • Yoga gear – Vancouver is home to Lululemon so everyone here loves yoga pants and tops. Hey, even I do. But not downtown where your clients or colleagues might see you.
  • Ski jackets. Yeah, yeah, if you’re a tourist, you can wear whatever you want, but wearing a ski jacket to the office? Not if you want to get that promotion.
  • The clothes – or lack thereof – that your mother would only allow you to wear to walk your dog. And especially if she’d let you wear them only after dark.
  • Pajama bottoms. What is that all about?
  • Uggs and pajama bottoms. Even worse.
  • Skirt and jacket with a tank that exposes your belly button ring.
  • Nose piercings. Lip piercings. Eyebrow piercings.
  • Bicycle shorts. Short shorts. Golf shorts. Gym shorts. Any shorts of any kind with white socks unless, of course, you’re a tourist.
  • Evening attire is only necessary when you’re actually going to an evening party, not when you’re going to the office.
  • Steel-toed boots and hard hats are only appropriate if you’re actually building something or a member of the Village People.

I’m not kidding you, I’ve seen every single one of these things in the past twenty-four hours. I’m probably forgetting some of the milder infractions.

The thing that I notice most? The very occasional well-dressed person, male or female. I want to turn around and follow them because they’re exceptional. Wonderful. Fascinating. And this in a city that I swear has more per capita high-end designer clothing stores than almost any city in the world.


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Anna Leigh Keaton and Madison Layle: Falke’s Renegade


I don’t often do reviews, and it’s seldom that I run across two books in a week that I want to write about, obviously, this week is an exception.

Falke’s Renegade is the third book in Layle and Keaton’s Puma Nights series. I read the first two, really enjoyed them, but there’s just something about this third book in the series that caught me.

Heidi Falke comes from a long line of puma shifters, shifters who have a very particular way of keeping that line going. It requires two male shifters and one female – the trouble for Heidi is that there’s only one family of puma shifters and all the males in it are her brothers. Oh, yeah, and then there’s the other problem – only the male shifters can actually shift.

Sucks being Heidi, doesn’t it?

But all that changes when a hunter brings an injured black jaguar into her veterinary office and she realizes right away that he’s also a shifter. What she doesn’t know is that Javier Montero is the last third of a shifter triad – his brother and mate and child were murdered and he’s spent the past two searching for the man who killed them.

What happens between Heidi and Javier isn’t easy. He’s a jaguar on a mission and is pretty certain that he’ll never mate again. Heidi’s brothers and fathers are pretty adamant that Javier is big trouble and Heidi’s not sure that she wants to settle for just a lover – the Falke family has a tradition of finding the one.

Heidi and Javier have to prove to her family, to themselves – and to each other – that they’re worthy of becoming mates. How they do it makes for a terrific story.

And did I forget to mention how incredibly sexy this book is? You’re going to love it.


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I’m a walker.

My life is set up so that I only have to get into a car once a month for a meeting that I can’t walk to. Okay, I guess I could if I wanted to take two hours there and two hours back – and I’d be tempted by that if it weren’t for the small problem that I always have a pile of stuff to take with me. Heavy stuff like paper and binders.

Living in Vancouver, especially downtown, encourages me to walk. The beach and Seawall are a block and a half from where I live and I often walk it. I go down there for some exercise, as a way to spend time with friends, to get places at either end of the Seawall, to get out of my own head, and as a way to get into it.

If I’m blocked on a writing project, the easiest way for me to get unblocked is to walk. I know Agatha Christie said to do the dishes – walking is kind of the same thing. You have to pay a certain amount of attention so you don’t trip over a curb, run into a cyclist or a car, make the correct turns. s

You see the world differently if you walk rather than drive – you see detail instead of the big picture. I might have driven by this tulip bed and seen color and said, oh, isn’t that pretty. What I wouldn’t have done is seen the extravagantly erotic and beautiful detail of the beginning of this particular tulip’s growth.

The tulip is more than simply beautiful; it made me think about beginnings – the start of something. Beginning a book is a frightening thing, just as getting married, having a baby, starting a new job are scary things. But they’re also incredibly exciting. I guess scary and exciting often go together.

I think what we all need to remember when we start something new is that we can’t simply concentrate on the scary part of it, we also have to focus on the excitement. I’m an Aries, so I’m very good at beginning things – they always seem exciting to me. And they always scare me to death because I’m never quite sure if I will be able to finish them.

But from now on, when I begin a story, I’m going to put this tulip on my desk to remind me to enjoy the excitement of the beginning, and to remember that I can finish things. I’ve finished many things and there’s absolutely no reason why this story is going to be any different.

Got my fingers crossed that it’ll work.

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It begins with the mussels


I’ve always got a bunch of stories waiting around for the exact right moment to write them – sometimes just a piece, sometimes a whole story, sometimes just a title. I type them out and save them and then, if I’m stuck trying to decide what I’m going to write next, I troll my Word files.

 That sounds easier than it actually is. I have Word files in quite a few places: both of my offices, my home computer, two or three separate thumb drives, including the one I carry with me that contains my current manuscripts.

 So depending on where I’m trolling, I might find something that really excites me. This single paragraph was one of those things. I want to wade right into this story, I want to get to know these characters – but mostly? I absolutely love this voice.

It’s so sensual and tactile and I love the fact that it’s in present tense. I’d like to finish this story so that, in the end, even I don’t know the names of the characters or what they look like, so that it ends as mysteriously and as erotically as it begins.

But this lovely little snippet is going to have to wait. I’m in the middle of revising a novella, writing a short novel and another longer one. That doesn’t stop me from waiting it. I really really really want to start it.

I won’t. Not quite yet. But knowing that it’s waiting for me? That might help keep me going on the other things.

 “It begins with the mussels.

Soft, sweet and succulently orange, their moist petals peeking through the hard dark shells protecting them. He offers them to her on a silver fork, a piece of warm bread held beneath to catch each droplet of juice.”


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Are you a list maker?


I’m not talking about grocery lists – I’m talking about lists. I’m talking about obsession. I’m talking about the things that fascinate us, revolt us, move us. I’m talking about the things that push us to create, to think, to become someone different.

My lists tend to begin when I get that little tingle of interest, when something comes up two or three times in a short period of time and I go – AHA! I’d like to see / know / understand more of that – whatever that is.

First, I find a notebook. The perfect notebook. The one that is the right size, shape, paper, cover for the subject. How do I know this when I only have the smallest beginning of what may turn out to be a list? I don’t. I just keep looking at notebooks. I usually start with the many empty ones I’ve bought and keep in my office at home. Occasionally, though, the obsession captures me so quickly I have to shop right there and then. At that point, cost becomes no object. The notebook is more than necessary, it’s absolutely crucial.

And then I begin. And then, generally pretty quickly, I stop. I have dozens of notebooks with five or ten or maybe even twenty pages of a list – very seldom more than that. And yes, it’s a waste of paper, but I can’t take the notebook that contains X-obsession and use the next pages for Y-obsession.

So what that means is I have a whole bunch of notebooks with three or ten or twenty (occasionally forty or fifty) items in them. I have lists of –

  • Names of all kinds – people, places, boats
  • Books I’ve read (I actually kept this notebook for years and then stopped)
  • Movies I’ve seen – I do this most years shortly after the nominations come out for the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Directors Guild awards
  • Potential titles for stories of all kinds
  • Ideas for blogs (and I wish I could find that notebook!)
  • Art postcards that I’m sure at some point will inspire me (I know it isn’t actually a list, but in my brain it is)

Here are the list notebooks I could find – I know there are more of them, but I’ve just moved and the rest of them could be anywhere. Maybe I should start a list about the things I need to find? Probably not worth it, though, as I have no idea what the things are that I need to find – that’s why they’re missing.

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Going nowhere…

I’ve been traveling the past week – at least it feels that way – even though I haven’t gone further than 10 miles from home. It wasn’t exactly a staycation. I wasn’t on vacation, in fact, just the opposite was true. I’ve had an incredibly busy work week.

But I did manage to enjoy my week because of how I traveled.

Part I

Vancouver is a city surrounded by water. Where I live – in what is called the West End, basically right downtown – there is water on three sides of the small peninsula that constitutes the downtown core. False Creek on the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Burrard Inlet to the north. The east is where the tiniest isthmus (I think that’s what it is) connects us to the rest of Canada.

Because of that, there are plenty of way to get out of downtown, most of which involve crossing water.

There are four bridges, the first three of them across False Creek: the Burrard Bridge (an art deco delight), the Granville Bridge (your typical not so exciting bridge built in the 50s or 60s just to move traffic from north to south or vice-versa), the Cambie Bridge (broad and low and fun to walk), and the Lions Gate Bridge (one of the prettiest suspension bridges around – think Golden Gate).

And then there are the boats. You can take a tiny walk-on ferry across False Creek and from one end to the other. It’s a treat even if you’re going to work. I do that pretty regularly to do some shopping on Granville Island.

But my favorite is the Seabus. It takes you from downtown Vancouver across Burrard Inlet to the north shore. Fifteen minutes of traversing one of the busiest ports on the west coast of North America. I really did feel as if I got away – how could I not when this is what I saw from my window?


Part II

I’m a huge fan of train travel (and train music) and although I didn’t travel on the train, I did spend some times drooling over the tracks. These tracks could take me almost anywhere – as long, of course, as I was traveling east. The Rockies. The prairies. The Great Lakes. The big eastern cities. The Maritimes.

So I spent the week on the water singing train songs. Seems a bit odd but kind of appropriate.

My favorite train songs? And I defy you to not find one of these songs that stick in your head and you sing for days.

Canadian Railway Trilogy
City of New Orleans
Homeward Bound
500 Miles
Me and Bobby Magee
Chattanooga Choo-Choo
In the Pines


Okay, you see what I mean? This list could go on forever – but trains are nostalgic. They’re beautiful. And that whistle? No sound is more mournful than a train whistle at night.

Instead of a staycation, I took a dreamcation or a songcation or a transportationcation. And I felt just as good as if I’d actually left town.

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Art and Movies


This weekend, for the first time in forever, I went to the movies. Went out to the movies, which is the way I like to see a movie for the first time. There’s just something about sitting in the theatre and not being able to look away, not being able to pause the action, not getting interrupted with commercials, that makes movies at the theatre a whole different experience than watching them at home, even with my relatively big screen TV.

I have PVR’d dozens of movies which even when I’m desperate to watch something, I don’t watch. I do watch movies I’ve seen before, for some reason that’s okay, but new movies? I have to force myself to watch them at home. When I do, I’m often pleasantly surprised, but I think that I’ve somehow hardwired my brain to insist that movies must be seen at the theatre.

So what did I see last night?

I saw Trance, a British art heist movie. There were a lot of reasons for choosing this movie over every single other movie that was playing—none of which I’d seen.

  • Vincent Cassel – he’s one of my favorite actors, so I’d probably have seen it just for him
  • I have a background in art history so love movies about art – and art heist movies are a very specific genre (my favorite movie of genre is the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, though I do like the 1968 version starring Steve McQueen almost as much)
  • It’s an English movie set in London and I love London
  • And, oh yeah, I have a gift card for $50 worth of movies so it was free!

I liked this movie, though it felt a bit weak on the art part (mostly a way to get into the psychological thriller which it really was), and I also found it a bit confusing. But hey – Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson. So it’s worth seeing, but don’t go if you’re tired (following the plot is hard enough even if you’re not tired) don’t go if you’re thrown off by excessive violence (lots and lots of blood and gore), don’t go if you’re looking for the equivalent of The Thomas Crown Affair or Once a Thief or Entrapment, but despite these reservations, it’s definitely worth seeing

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Partying in the Hen House


The last week has been girl party after girl party. It was my birthday on Wednesday so—as always—I spent a lot of time with friends. I love going out with my women friends; they’re smart and funny and generous and, when necessary, catty. And they’re always on my side.

They celebrate with me when things are going well, commiserate when they’re not. They listen when I whine about work—again—and listen just as well when I do an about-turn and tell them how much I love my job.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about knowing that if I’m bitching about work or my partner or a store clerk or my computer or vacuum cleaner, they’ll back me up. They’ll never poo-poo my annoyances, never tell me they’re trivial or that I’m pathetic for feeling that way.

What they will do, the thing that women do so well, is that they’ll tell me stories about how the same thing happened to them. It’s just one of the many, many ways we confirm our sisterhood.

That sisterhood, that connection that women make so easily and quickly, is one of the reasons we make it through the hard times, the sad times, the good and bad times, the I’m-so-busy-I-don’t-have-time-to-pee times.

And then there’s the practicality of women…

It’s no wonder that they’re the ones who think to help clean the house after the baby’s born, rearrange the closets when their friends move, help them pack and unpack, help them organize showers and weddings and funerals. They’ll bring groceries or homemade soup or a bottle wine. They’ll phone every day just to make sure you’re okay. They don’t just say poor you, they DO something.

But more than all of that, they pay attention. They don’t just hear what you’re saying, they hear what you’re not saying, the thing you can’t say because you can barely acknowledge it to yourself.

Women are amazing. Completely, utterly, and often astonishingly amazing.

Thank you, all of you, those of you I’ve known for years, those of you at met at the grocery store last week, those of you I know in person or only online.

I couldn’t make it without you.

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A funny thing happened…


A funny thing that was, as my mother would say, Not funny ha-ha, but funny peculiar.

I want to begin by saying that I am an expert mover. Really. Or at least I used to be. After I left home at 16, I moved. A lot. In fact, at one point, in my mid-thirties, I actually calculated how many times I had moved in those 20 years—it worked out to an average of 1.5 times per year. As you can imagine, I became very good at it.

And it wasn’t that I was without possessions. I had furniture and books and dishes and clothes and a whole pile of art and… You get the picture. I wasn’t just moving a futon and a couple of milk cartons worth of kitchen ware. No, I was moving the whole shebang, the big enchilada.

Each time I moved, I had accumulated more stuff, but because I did it often, I didn’t think of it as difficult; I just thought of it as a regular part of my life. And maybe that’s the difference.

Because it isn’t a regular part of my life anymore. Oh, I still move, but it’s every four or five or, occasionally, ten years, rather than every 1.5 years. What that means is that I’ve lost my moving chops. Completely.

This time was hell.

One of the things I would have remembered if I’d kept my moving regularly routine was that it’s actually easier to move everything at once rather than moving over a month—which is what I did this time. The exhaustion, when spaced out over a month, just keeps accumulating. If you do it all at once? Yes, it’s exhausting but only once, rather than 10 or 15 or 20 times over the month.

No, I didn’t have to wrap everything up so it wouldn’t break, but I did have to pack it, take it over to the new place—sometimes three or four trips a day—and unpack it. I had this idea that I would only end up with 10 or 15 boxes. That, too, was wrong. I still have 40 boxes that aren’t unpacked. Why?

Because last week, when I was beginning to unpack some of those boxes, I tripped over one of them and dropped to the slate floor. Now I have a slight concussion, which means I can’t unpack the boxes, can’t organize the walk-in closet which holds most of my clothes and accessories still packed into various suitcases and boxes, can’t get back to the gym, and can’t race around as I usually do.

So I’ve learned my lesson; make that lessons.

One, I’m not 20 or even 30 any more. Two, spreading a move out over a month is a very bad idea. Three, I’m not moving ever again unless I can afford to have someone come in, pack everything up, move it, and then unpack it for me. Four, I guess I’m not ever moving again J


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/

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