Brain Vacation

I’ve had a stressful, busy week, so other than some light editing, I’m giving my brain the day off. There will be knitting, TV, time with the Direwolves, and Tom has suggested pizza and movie night. When he gets home, he’s bringing pizza from a place with wood-burning ovens we’ve been meaning to try. Right now, I think the movie will be Three Billboards.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos of my day, as always, featuring Mozzie and Oliver.

Classic: Nobody Likes Team-Building

One of the absolute best things about working from home is I am no longer subjected to the dreaded “team-building events.” I estimate 90% of people hate these things, but we’re all forced to endure them. And let me tell you, extreme introverts hate it more than the less introverted can possibly imagine.

This is a Classic Fermented Fur post from ten years ago. How many of you can relate?

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It is a well-known fact, to those who know it well, that I hate those participatory, team-building, touchy-feely, business seminars. Let me be absolutely clear about this.

I hate them.

Loathe. Abhor. Despise. Detest.

I do not like them. And I need a bigger thesaurus.

And yet that is exactly what I’ll be doing next Tuesday. All day.

We recently re-started our work with our ActionCOACH (yes, that’s how they spell it), which is a worldwide business coaching network. Our coach is an unbelievable dynamo. She’s from Australia, and she does not have a low gear. Think “ADHD hummingbird on crack.” She rock climbs, surfs, bungee jumps, kayaks, and (for all I know) participates in triathlons with entire populations of third world villages perched on her shoulders. Still, she is always impeccably dressed, has lovely – if very pointy – shoes, perfectly sculpted nails, and a dark tan.

As a part of our return to the ActionCOACH fold, we’re being subjected to participating in a Team Alignment Day. I understand the importance of strengthening our team relationships, and finding ways to get along and work better together, because (unfortunately) this is one of our ongoing struggles.

I’d just really rather not be there.

As the Practice Manager, though, there’s simply no way out of it. I must attend, participate, and pretend to be happy about it. I do have enough experience from years of front desk work, pretending to like people, that I will likely pull this off, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’d rather have all my skin peeled off, strip by strip, and fed to rabid jackals.

Tell me if this agenda sounds like fun:

(Setting, a meeting room at a local hotel. The room will be too chilly, I won’t get to sit where I want, and there will not be nearly enough breaks.)

8:00 AM: Welcome and overview

Welcome team

(Yeah, yeah. Yippee.)

Why we are here today

(Because somebody made us be here. Oh, and they’re paying me $15/hour.)

Why to invest in a business coach

(Because we’re clueless, and you’re that damned persuasive)

Introduce business coach

(Hi. We’ve met.)

8:10 AM: Introduction

8:20 AM: General Principles of Success

(By now, I already have to pee, and I want a cigarette. Brain cells may already be starting to atrophy.)

8:45 AM: Setting RAS: What I want out of today

(My answer: More smoke breaks, free lunch, and an early dismissal. An open bar would also be appreciated. And a cab ride home.)

9:00 AM: Game

(I do not like games. And these “games” are never, ever fun.)

9:10 AM: General Principles of Success (Continued)

(Oh, goodie. The 25 minutes of this we’ve already had weren’t nearly enough.)

9:45 AM: Break (15 minutes)

(Translation: Two cigarettes and one quick potty stop. I will probably return to the meeting room out of breath, my pants half zipped, and toilet paper stuck to my heel.)

10:00 AM: 6 Keys to a Winning Team

(If she can just help me get them to stop whining and do their damned jobs, I’ll be happy.)

10:15 AM: Strong Leadership

(Easy. Get a bigger baseball bat team motivation device.)

10:30 AM: Common Goals (Created prior to Team Day)

Business Vision

Business Mission

2007 Goals

(I’m pretty sure that last agenda item should read either 2008 or 2009 goals. Of course, if I re-write my 2007 goals, I could make it look as if I actually accomplished some of them.)

11:30 AM: Rules of the Game

Business Culture Statement (Created on day with Team)

(We’re a holistic veterinary practice. Our vision and mission from the 10:30 segment, and our culture statement, are all very new-agey, all about respect, empowerment, trust, healing, and harmony. Sounds lovely in theory, very tough to pull off in practice when you want to slap someone silly for remaining an idiot after all your generous attempts to de-idiot-ize them.)

12:15 PM: Game

(Perhaps I can pretend to have diarrhea, and thus get an early start on lunch.)

12:30 PM: Lunch (45 minutes)

(Lunch. Is. Not. Included. I am not amused. I shall have to venture several blocks to Chili’s, which I normally wouldn’t mind, but 45 minutes is not enough time for a dozen people to eat lunch, take care of necessities, and get back to the meeting. Especially if they take a detour through Bismarck, which I just might do.)

1:15 PM: Action Plan

5 Ways Profit and 4 Ways Business Building Strategies (Created on day with Team)

(“Created on day with Team” means “We’ll all talk simultaneously and spout off a bunch of random, inconsistent, impractical, off-topic nonsense, and Lori will write it down and attempt to form it into something that won’t make us look like absolute vapor-brains.”)

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2:30 PM: Support Risk Taking

(How risky would it be to make a break for the door right now???)

2:40 PM: 100% Involvement/Inclusion

(I can only promise 75% involvement. Any more than that and my brain begins to swell. I shall have to fake the other 25%.)

2:45 PM: Break (15 minutes)

(See “9:45 AM.”)

3:00 PM: IVVM (Dream Builder)

(I have a huge problem with this part every time. This coach is all about attracting wealth and success, much like The Secret, and simply saying “I will achieve/have/experience this by this date” and it will happen. This has thus far not proven true for me. The other part of the problem is that they encourage our personal dreams and goals as much as business ones. Since all my personal goals and dreams involve things like a remote northwoods island full of dogs, a wildly successful writing career, and never, ever having a “real job” again, I’m not sure my goals are exactly compatible with dreams for the business. With work, I have a hard time looking ahead to next month, let alone 5 and 10-year plans.)

3:15 PM: Top 7 Things Learned Today

(1. Next time, claim to have leprosy.)

3:45 PM: Team WIFLE

(Do you know about WIFLEs? It stands for “What I Feel Like Expressing Is.” You then express whatever needs expressing. Work-related, personal, weather, good news, concerns, whatever is on your mind, always concluding with, “and that’s what I feel like expressing.” Everyone then says, “Thank you, Lori.” I cannot spontaneously WIFLE. When we do this at staff meetings, I have to mentally compose my WIFLE the night before. This is one of those spectacularly lame “getting to know each other as individual human beings” things.

Hey. Remember me? I’m an introvert. That’s all you need to know.)

4:15 PM: Conclusion: Time to Get Into Action

(“Time to get ready to take a nap.”)

At 4:30, I get to exit the parking lot, leaving behind skid marks and a huge, billowing cloud of dust.

Naturally, no Team Day is complete without a bunch of personality profiles and “what I think of our team and business” stuff. We had to fill out and fax in all that stuff this week. I’ve done about 688 of those personality profiles over the years, and guess what? I’m an introvert. (See Team WIFLE) I’ve always been an introvert. I will always be an introvert. Anyone who knows me at all is aware of the fact that I’m an introvert. They also know I’m highly anal-retentive, non-confrontational, and very unpleasant when pushed past my tolerance levels. They’ve seen the results.

Still, I am tired of a lot of the intra-team behaviors that we haven’t managed to change or eliminate. If by some wildly improbable chance this helps fix some of those, it might be sort of worth it. Maybe. Possibly.

I will be ten times more tired at the end of this Alignment Day thing than I ever am after a regular work day. All this people stuff sucks the energy right out of me. It’s a ton of effort and extraordinarily draining for an introvert to pretend to be able to function with normal people, non-stop, for an entire day. That’s why I was so thrilled when we were finally able to assign me to practice management full-time and get me the hell away from the front desk forever.

It may be somewhat more uncomfortable than usual this time around, though, since at least some of the staff probably sees me as the Wicked Witch right now, following last week’s careless screw-ups and subsequent Consequences. We’ve been saying for ages, “Hey, one more screw-up or one more crappy attitude and there are going to be some Consequences, gosh darn it!” Yet until then, no Consequences ever manifested. So maybe it’s not so strange that people actually were surprised when it happened. But I know how to be the Bad Guy now, when I have to be. I don’t like it, but I like warning people about the same errors and attitude issues till my tongue goes numb even less.

Maybe the cure for being an introvert is just getting too pissed off to remember that you are one.

 

Grumpypants

Did you know if you do an image search for “grumpy golden retriever” or “golden retriever in a bad mood” you won’t find much? This shouldn’t surprise me. Goldens are almost pathologically cheerful. They can pull off sad, or disappointed, or bored, or play-snarling, but it’s not easy to find a grouchy golden.

Why was I looking for a picture of a grouchy-golden? Because I’m in a vile mood today and wanted a photo representation, preferably in dog form. After extensive research (three or four minutes trying various combinations of bad/vile/grouchy dog in a Google image search), this guy is the clear winner and accurately depicts my current outlook.

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“Whatever you’re thinking of saying or doing…don’t. Just. Don’t.”

But why? Nothing really unusual here at Furwood Forest today. Awoke to customary puppy-snuggles, it’s not raining, internet is working. Some non-standard and disturbing stuff in the work inbox, I guess, and routine tasks that have a few extra-fun complications involved.

Mainly this, though:

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My to-do list is significantly heftier than my motivation, which does present a problem. I find that on days like this, it’s best to unplug, disengage, and do something mindless. Sadly, this is not an option today.

The only plan I can devise is to fire up the brain-focus and get work done so I can then shift into mindless mode and work on my scarf, which is growing quite a bit. It needs to be at least a foot longer, because I want to wrap it around and still have lots of knitted goodness draped down over my front when I wear it.

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A better solution would be to follow the dream I had last night–no, not that kind of dream, so get your mind out of the gutter–and go to England to visit my longtime author friend, where we will go shopping and buy pear vodka (which it turns out is really a thing) while I try to figure out if dollars work in the UK.

That sounds like a lot more fun than what I need to do. But alas, England is far-far away across a vast ocean, and a check of air fares for flights leaving today tells me it would cost about $3,000 to hop a plane to London, and that’s before I factor in the price of the pear vodka, which I can assume would be substantial, because I feel like I want a lot of it.

And this concludes the whining portion of the day, or the whinging portion, as they say in the UK–a word I love for some reason, and also I’m working on my British English so I’m prepared when I finally decide to get a passport and go there.

Actually, there’s likely to be a lot more whinging (see what I did there?) but the only ones who will hear it are Mozzie and Oliver, and when they get sick of listening to me, I might finally get a photo of a grumpy golden, and also a standard poodle, filling a definite void in the meme universe.

A Day In The Life

It’s Monday again. Back to work for most, but some of us never really stopped.

When I tell people I’m the Managing Editor for a publisher, it’s hard to define what that means, so I thought I’d give it a shot here. I’m kind of exhausted just thinking about it, so let’s see how I do.

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The “editor” part is easy enough to understand. I edit books, working with the authors to get them all bright and shiny and ready for publication, both for my Limitless/Crave authors, and a select group of indie authors.

The “managing” part is much harder to describe. In short, I coordinate with a team of authors, editors, proofreaders, formatters, cover designers, marketing professionals, and the publisher’s executives to move a book through every step in the process, from submission to release.

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Honestly, I wear so many hats that most days I am technically nine feet tall. 

My first step every morning is checking email, and what I find there sets the tone for the rest  of the day. Email might include:

  • Receipt of a manuscript I was expecting for my editing schedule
  • Lack of receipt of said manuscript, or an email explaining why I don’t have it and begging for “one more day”
  • An author with a happy announcement
  • An author upset about something
  • An author upset about everything
  • Other team members being upset about the upset author
  • A long email exchange brainstorming new title ideas for a book or series because the original one sucked
  • A completed edit from one of my editors to be sent along to the proofreader
  • People inquiring about openings in my editing department…often misspelled and poorly punctuated
  • Drafts of cover blurbs to be reviewed/revised, and sent to upper management for approval or rejection
  • Exchanges with authors about release dates
  • Someone asking the same question I’ve already answered six times, as well as posting the information in one of our author groups
  • Messages from the cover artists asking where the hell the blurb is for the current project
  • An author announcing they have a great idea for a new series, and should they write it now, before they complete the series in progress? (No.)
  • Discovery that a newly-signed manuscript is 340,000 words, roughly four times longer than we’d prefer, followed by convincing an editor to tackle working with the author to divide it into palatable bits

And that’s just for starters.

I check the contract status report. If new books are on there, I have to log them all and start planning their edits, proofs, and creation of their book cover art and blurbs. If the author is new to us, I have to email them a welcome, list of instructions, and an overview of our editing process. I also have to check the budget, because none of this stuff is free.

I check the cover design status sheet. Once a book has a release date set, it needs to go on this sheet, and I send the assignments to the artists, giving them ample time to complete  the project.

I cross-check all my spreadsheets. Book log (which has columns for every step in the 13348883_10208326038441047_398668350_nprocess), blurb sheet (which shows release date and where we are on the writing of the blurb for the online listings and cover), contract sheet, cover design sheet, budget, release calendar, and my personal calendar. Doing this helps me spot inconsistencies or places I dropped a step along the way.

We have Facebook groups for our authors, promotion, a separate group for the authors with our Crave imprint, a readers’ group for Crave books, a group for the authors in our 13 and Carnival horror anthologies, and a readers’ group for them as well. I need to monitor all these, answer questions, cheer-lead a bit, and occasionally smooth ruffled feathers.

Our anthologies are almost a separate process, and somehow I ended up being primarily in charge of coordinating them. I work with the authors of previous anthologies, our marketing team, and the executive team to decide on a theme for the collection, work out submission, editing, proofing, and release dates, write the call for submissions, receive the submissions as they come in, work with submissions to determine which to include in the anthology, notify the authors (chosen and rejected), add newcomers to the relevant Facebook groups, assemble everything and send to the editor…

Are you tired yet? I am.

I love email and Facebook messages. I’d far rather do all business this way, but our CEO often prefers to call and run through a list of things rather than try to sort through email. Her brain works on approximately 48 tracks at a time at 9000 miles per hour, and shifts direction so suddenly and frequently I have permanent whiplash. There are also a few authors who require lengthy discussions or who comprehend complex conversations better by phone. I do it, but every phone call leaves me dying for a very large adult beverage. (I’m not a phone person. I literally only talk to the husband by phone, and that’s extremely rare, as we usually text.)

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Once I’m sure no part of this house of cards is in danger of immediate collapse, I can tackle my own daily editing project. Yes, it’s rare for me not to have an edit on deck. Right now, my first truly open date is in September. I figure out where I need to be in the current edit to remain on track to complete by deadline–because I DO NOT miss deadlines.

While editing, I have to keep an eye on email, because it never, ever stops. With authors all around the world, time zones mean nothing. I used to keep email open all the time, but for my own sanity, I had to start logging out in the evenings, being sure authors know they can reach me by Facebook messages if I’m awake, in case of emergency.

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Editorial Assistants Oliver and Mozzie

Don’t forget I work at home, which means occasionally breaking for laundry, unloading the dishwasher, a snack, a shower, letting the dogs in and out and in and out and inandout, feeding the dogs, making dinner, telling the dogs for the billionth time to shut the hell up because the neighbors are actually allowed to enter and leave their own homes, sit on the porch, or drive their vehicles, though they would not be if I had any say in the matter.

 

Only when email is relatively quiet and I’ve met my editing goal for the day and no dumpster fires are currently in progress can I ease back a bit and do what I do in my off time, which right now is knitting and Netflix. Still, I have to be available for time-sensitive author-wrangling and question-answering, so I use the pause button and stitch markers a lot.

While it can be a bit overwhelming at times, and there’s never a dull moment, I can’t imagine having any other job, unless maybe professional beverage-tester at a beach bar somewhere is an option.

With all this going on, you can probably figure out why I’m unofficially retired from the Author gig and focusing on blogging, though I’m writing a lot more in the blog than I have on novels over the last few years. Which, I think, is how it’s meant to be.

Is It Yarn O’Clock Yet?

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Working at home is wonderful. Keep my own schedule as long as I get the job done, have my canine sidekicks/entourage with me all the time, no business casual or makeup, no commute.

There are some drawbacks, though, such as never really being “off,” the interruptions to do things like tend to the dogs–who are rather high-maintenance–Netflix, snacks, and Facebook.

Lately, my biggest distraction is…

Yarn.

If you’ve followed the blog, you know I’m a lifelong crocheter. (That word looks wrong. Trust me…I’m an editor and words are my business. But it’s not wrong. A person who crochets.) Then a couple of weeks ago, I began teaching myself to knit, first with some ragged, misshapen swatches, then a pretty decent-looking dishcloth which shall never see a dish because I spent hours on the thing, dammit.

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I’m a yarn hoarder. For crochet, though, I tended to stick to more basic brands, with Caron Simply Soft and Deborah Norville Everyday Print Yarn being a couple of favorites. I like to make big crochet projects, and balancing quality and cost is essential. But I always coveted some of the lovely boutique yarns many of my knitting friends used.

As I slowly build my knitting skills, I look for patterns that are very clearly knitted and don’t resemble any crochet style. If it looks like crochet, I can crochet something similar a hell of a lot faster than I can knit. It will be a long time before I knit consistently and quickly enough to justify doing an afghan.

Which means I’m doing small projects–again, sloooooowly–and I can justify buying more expensive, indulgent yarn.

Last week, I found Chroma Worsted Yarn by Knit Picks. It’s 70% wool, 30% nylon, and super soft and not at all itchy-woolly. And here’s the kicker…so many beautiful colors!

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More expensive than I’d usually buy, but as slowly as I currently knit, it will take me several decades to finish a scarf, so I decided to indulge. I bought five balls each of Vermont and Drawing Room.

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Vermont on the left has soft tones of pumpkin, teal, rose, and a heathery purple. Drawing room is grays and sage and lavender and aqua and cream. OMGGorgeous!

I needed a pattern that would work up not too slowly and wouldn’t look too much like crochet, and I chose a fan-and-feather scarf. I don’t wear scarves, but whatever. I might make an exception for this.

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Not blocked, of course, until it’s done (some time in 2056, I estimate). Experienced knitters will see the error where instead of two rows of knit followed by a row of purl I did a row of knit and two rows of purl, but I decided to leave it and keep going. 99.9% of people would never notice. This is in the Vermont yarn.

But that’s my dilemma. I have an edit I must finish today, and the work emails continue to flow, but this yarn is calling to me. I needed a new challenge, and knitting is challenging and satisfying. So is editing, but editing doesn’t involve oh-so-lovely yarn.

Now I have to be a grownup and put on my editing tiara, finish the edit, return it to the author for review…and then I can play with the beautiful yarn.

Sunglasses Are Easier Than Eyeliner

I started using makeup the summer after 7th grade, when I was 13 years old. There was a girl in my neighborhood who I secretly thought was rather plain, but she could get her hair in those lovely Farrah Fawcett curls, and she wore makeup. She looked like the cover model on a teen magazine, but I looked more like this.

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In my defense, it was 1978. 

I was rescued from being shanghaied by the KISS Army by my older sister when I visited her at her house in Pennsylvania. I saw her as the epitome of class and elegance. Her house had things like valances and a master bathroom and a chair in her bedroom just for reading and drinking coffee. I had a sliding closet door in my room at home which contained a toilet and sink, and the toilet never worked in all the years I lived there. The only use I ever found for it was as a secret beer cooler when I was in high school. Come to think of it, my sister didn’t have a secret beer cooler in her master bedroom, so maybe I actually won that point.

She got me a dark gray Revlon mechanical eyeliner pencil and persuaded me that bright blue eye shadow was not an acceptable alternative. I also learned to tweeze my eyebrows, though that produced mixed results, because I spent much of the next two years looking perpetually surprised.

The late 1970s and early 1980s had high expectations for teen girls. One did not leave the house without proper makeup application and a perfectly coordinated outfit with accessories. I had a royal blue satin jacket with white piping and a matching baseball cap, for crying out loud. They matched the blue and white pom-poms on my roller skates. I weep at the memory.

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Oh, wow…I forgot! I also had the shorts. This outfit in royal blue. But I also had the hat and the pom-poms, so I out-1978-ed Chrissy Snow.

Hair was sacred. Every day, without fail, girls were required to wash, dry, curl, style, and hairspray it into submission. Having long nails was also desirable, and I focused intently on growing my nails into uniform perfection. But it never failed–every time I was almost there, one would break, and I’d have to cut them all back and start over.

I adhered to this regimen through much of my adult life. Even when my weight was out of control, I kept it up. Then, sometime in my 40s, I asked myself, “Why the hell are you wasting so much time and effort on this?”

Good question.

Up until 2010, I worked outside the home, and continued to maintain “out in public” grooming standards. Since then, however, I’ve worked at home, and can honestly stay home for weeks at a time. I prefer it that way. By current cultural standards, I imagine I’ve “let myself go.”

Let’s compare.

Back then…

  • Meticulous makeup when leaving the house, and even at home if the husband was present.
  • Hair washed and styled daily.
  • Nails as long as possible, later transitioning to acrylic nails at a salon when it became clear my nails were never going to cooperate. Forced to endure contact and small talk with manicurist, which is one of the lesser circles of hell.
  • Clothing as stylish and coordinated as possible. Comfort optional.

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See? Cute as hell, but how many hours did I agonize over the perfect hair, makeup, and accessories? I mean, seriously, I even have a stupid red flower in my hair.

Now…

  • Makeup only when having “a night out,” which occurs only when Tom manages to lure me into the Out with promises of delicious seafood and copious adult beverages. Until recently, I used to also put on makeup if I had to endure some sort of extended interaction with someone, such as the veterinarian or groomer, but now I figure as long as I remember to shave my chin-whiskers and mustache, I’m good.
  • Hair…brushed. Usually. Until the last couple of years, I had my hair professionally cut and colored (to cover the pervasive, persistent gray), complete with highlights. But for the past year and a half, I’ve stopped coloring and have been trimming my hair at home. My stylist friends recoil in horror when I mention this, but there are many tutorials on YouTube, and it’s not that hard as long as you have very low standards.
  • Ironically, now that I don’t give a rodent’s derriere about my nails, they grow long and thick and I could probably rip open a tin can with them if I had to. Since I spend most of my day keyboarding, I have to cut them back more often than I apply makeup.
  • Clothing criteria have shifted from “stylish” to “fits and sort of matches and doesn’t squish my middle.” This includes stretchy shorts and tank tops in the summer, and leggings and weather-appropriate shirts in cooler weather. I feel fancy if my underwear matches my pants. Bras are only for social occasions.

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Hair, brushed…mostly. Makeup…none. Lack of makeup disguised by convenient sunglasses. Dogs perfectly groomed and adorable. As it should be.

I’m strangely okay with this. I’m not sure if Tom approves, but if he doesn’t, he’s been smart enough not to say anything about it. This might be slightly unfair, since he is the one who has to look at me, but the dogs have to look at me more, and they don’t mind. In fact, when I get a shower, they sort of look at me like “hey, you were just starting to smell right,” but even I realize they’re not the best judges of personal hygiene.

It’s liberating not to waste so much time and money. I’m baffled by the women I see on HGTV when they’re touring potential new homes and open the gigantic walk-in closet and sigh. “Oh, it’s so small.” (It’s roughly the square footage of the home I grew up in.) “I’ll never get all my things in here. Is there, like, a shoe closet somewhere?”

In October 2016, we attended the Walker Stalker Convention in Atlanta, and I was forced to buy new liquid makeup, blush, mascara, and lipstick, because I was fairly certain my liquid makeup was technically old enough to vote. I haven’t bought any since, and should be good for the next few years. I do still love my eyeliner, and if I wear cosmetics that is one thing I never skip, but I use it so rarely I haven’t run out since Atlanta.

By contrast, the Direwolves are shining examples of fashion and grooming. They have signature style Lupine collars with matching harnesses and leashes, and color-coordinated tags. They are bathed regularly (but not too often, because they are dogs and too much bathing is bad for the skin), their nails are kept trimmed, and Oliver receives a poodle-clip at Jill’s Pet Resort every six weeks.

Most women freak out if their stylist is on vacation when they need a cut and color. Oliver’s groomer was out on medical leave when he needed his most recent appointment, and I almost had a panic attack.

It’s not that I don’t care how I look. I just think it’s not nearly as important in the scheme of things as I’d been led to believe. By not wasting buckets of money on clothes and makeup, I have more for the important things, like yarn and dog toys.

It’s all about priorities.