Writing Exercise: Self-Care Time

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

I constantly talk about BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). This is essential for production writing. Telling stories to myself in my head makes me happy, but if I want to publish, they need to come out of the fingers.

The challenge is not only finding time to stay in the chair working, but stay HEALTHY while staying in the chair. Sun, food, water, movement, and friends keep the body and heart moving. Today’s writing exercise is to develop a self-care reward or routine.


  1. Spend five to ten moments outside during daylight hours. Feel the sun on your face.
  2. Use a smaller water glass, to make yourself get up from the desk regularly.
  3. Make a meal at least once every other day that is worth eating, not just fuel. Eat it away from screens (TV, phone, computer) – maybe on the porch or with friends. No phone; no doomscrolling. Concentrate on the experience of eating.
  4. Get up and stretch once an hour – up on tiptoes, out to the bookshelves either side, down to the floor (might have to bend at the knees). Turn around in a circle and sit down.
  5. Text or email three friends or family today, just because.

Which of these do you think will feel like a reward for you and which a chore? Any other suggestions on simple pick-me-ups or ways to keep the mind and body healthy while writing? Comment below.

Flash: X is for Xanthic

Photo 159761726 © Darius Bau�ys | Dreamstime.com
The rotunda in the Central city Park of Odessa on Deribasivska Street. Ukraine
(photo paid for through Dreamstime.com – please purchase from them so that the artist may be paid)

Flash: X is for Xanthic

A weight bounced on my bed. “I’m ready.”

“Ready for what?” I shoved up my sleeping mask and opened one bleary eye to focus on my special American fully dressed for the day, laying across half my bed, sunlight streaming in behind them bathing them in yellow.

“For the slide show, let’s go, chingu.” They slapped the covers gently, rolled over, and headed down the steps from my loft.

I don’t have a door. Xanadu got the one room in our open space as their bedroom, other than the bathroom, with the door. I might need to rethink that. Especially when obviously they had a conversation in the shower without filling me on my side of whatever happened. Maybe a dream. Likely a dream. Maybe this was one now.

“Coffee’s ready!” They shouted below. “Morning is awasting!”

Not a dream. I groaned and roll out of bed. Stripping out of my pajamas, I replaced them with slacks and a button-down short-sleeve peach shirt. I pick up the linen jacket from where I laid out my clothes for today’s afternoon interviews last night and circle the staircase to our kitchenette below my loft. When they opened their mouth to dive into whatever part of reality I missed, I held up a finger. “Juda coffee.”

They passed me a mug. I smelled the sweetened bitter brew. Enough sugar to give the caffeine of the French press jitters, and a spoonful of matcha powder with a pinch of cinnamon to give caffeine a leg up on the sugar. I leaned on the counter and sipped the steamy mug down to half. While I did that, Xanadu finished making us both Korean street toast, dropping the ketchup bottle on our island. They added cabbage to our grocery list before sitting down with their green tea opposite me.

We gave proper consideration to their cooking skills and ate the egg and vegetable sandwiches in silence. Tomorrow starts my three days cooking and I would need to do the grocery run tonight. So far alternating three days cooking each with one day off for Saturday hijinks has worked, but we were only on the second week of living together.

Pushing the plate to their side of the island with the empty mug, I asked them, “Alright, what slide show?”

“The one you keep putting off, of course.” Xanadu slipped off the stool and took our dishes to the dishwasher.

“Oh, that one.” I pinched the top of my nose and rubbed. “Don’t you have to do prep work for your commission on the Manyard columns?”

“Got it done this morning waiting for you to wake up. I got them scanned and off to Georgio before I started the coffee.” Xanadu walked around the island and pressed a finger to my chest while looking into my eyes. It wasn’t often they were at my height, but the stool made us equal eye level. “I am clear of all projects. This won’t impact anything I am making.”

I looked over their shoulder at the open space behind them. A corner of the room was sectioned off behind privacy screens where my photography computers lived. The rest of the space included a long table, a pottery wheel, a curtained section near a window to work wood, and a stack of boxes where a stained-glass dragon fighting a tiger resided until the greenhouse the contracted buyer finished being adjusted for the art piece. We grabbed the space recommended by one of my father’s friends once we realized we did not actually want to live in New York City, and Georgio, the art agent Xanadu had lucked into getting before graduation, let them know he had galleries on both coasts. Everything in their studio was cleaned up and packed away. “Don’t you need to make examples of the columns?”

“Not until the initial sketches are approved.”

“Okay.” I pushed up from the chair and walked over to my office area. Xanadu grabbed one of the folding chairs left behind by the last renters we will use for guests once we started having them, and added it to the cordoned off space, flipping it around to side in to astride, leaning their head on their arms across the back. I fired up my desktop and waited the few seconds for the three monitors to load everything, then activated the sixty-inch screen. “Are you sure?”

Xanadu switched to Korean. “Seok, you see my work every step of the way. I want to see yours too.”

“Your work uplifts, mine reveals.” I paused, to concentrate on clicking until I got to the curated pictures I had taken during my senior exchange student time. The group I put together for my final project. “These are unpleasant.”

“But their yours. Stop protecting me.” Xanadu firmly ordered. “If these are things that need to be revealed, reveal them.”

I looked at the clock on the computer and set an alarm for 1:00 so I wouldn’t miss my interview, then opened the first picture. I debated describing it in English, but ended up choosing French since that was mostly what I spoke while I was there. “You know how I love art everywhere. This hospital’s stonework is from where it served as an abbey in the 1300s. I spent a full day there just filling my camera USB.” I clicked through a dozen of the best pictures, until the last showed rubble and a wing of gargoyle. “It was bombed during the ‘softening’ exercises. They didn’t have time to evacuate the bedridden.” The next picture was a mangled bed, the obviously used bedsheets still on what was left of the mattress.

Xanadu gasped softly beside me, but I didn’t look over.

“This was the city park, about five blocks from where the university students stayed. I spent a lot of time there taking photos as winter switched to spring. The landscaping included hundreds of unique plants gathered over the centuries…”

(992 words, first published 6/9/2024)

Capturing the Tiger and Dragon Series

  1. X is for Xenophile (4/28/2024)
  2. X is for Xylotomous (5/19/2024)
  3. X is for Xanthic (6/9/2024)
  4. Exhibit (7/14/24)
  5. Exit Strategy (9/1/2024)

Geeking Science: Do You Want Fries in Space

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Food is essential. No only for survival but also for socialization. If you have hung out on my website for any amount of time, you know that meals are a mainstay in my flashes and that I will Geek the Science out of food – everything from the science of Fried Chicken to how Nori develops in nature.

Time to talk about food in space. Last month I touched on soda being a non-starter in an environment where you can’t burp with any grace. Next question on the table, is space exploration going to be sans fries too? I mean, the movie The Martin, Matt Damon raised potatoes – are we going to have potatoes and no fries?!?

It was a worry for a bit – again the action of microgravity and gas which takes out beer and Coke – might mean the bubbling cauldron of oil won’t work but fries do look like they can stay on the menu after some tests run in parabolic flights. (Lea) Hamburgers – with yeasty bread and greasy meat and cheese, all of which are high gas items – may not make it, but at least we get to keep our fries.

Seems strange to test out cooking techniques for space-worthiness, but food is a necessity on earth and food will be a necessity in space. In addition, like the invention of Tang (Cordell), all knowledge adds to Earth’s present benefit as well as our decedents braving the Black.


Cordell, Lyndsay. “Tang: The Orange Drink That Got Its Start From NASA.” Wide Open Country. 18 February 2021. (https://www.wideopencountry.com/tang-drink/ – last viewed 11/14/2023)

Lea, Robert. “Space food: Why Mars astronauts won’t have to hole the fries.” space.com. 12 June 2023. (https://www.space.com/space-food-frying-works-microgravity – last viewed 11/14/2023)

Flash: The Dream of You and I

Photo by Boshoku on Unsplash

“Who is more powerful, the dreamer or the dream?”

I look over. “What kind of question is that?”’

“Just asking,” you reply.

“Nope, start making connections, I want to follow how ordering calamari led to this my ADHD friend.”

“You sure?”

I shake my head in exasperation, “Of course I’m sure.” Seeing the server walking over, I do say, “But hold that thought until we get the food order in.”

Placing the order took almost no time, both of us being well familiar with the menu, though the calamari appetizer was an experiment. One new dish a visit to help me break out of my autistic bubble. I once ate nothing but mac and cheese or tuna salad for a year according to my mother, and I wouldn’t eat both of them the same day, let alone the same meal. Drove her nuts. Added to the fact I couldn’t swallow pills until my early twenties meant she had to ground up vitamins and hide it in the food to keep me healthy. I have since learned to go further afield, though I still ordered the lobster mac and cheese tonight.

What can I say, it was a rough week at work.

Once the server left, I nodded to you, “So…”

“What?” You reply fidgeting with the napkin and fork, folding the cloth through the tines.

I sigh, used to this as much as you are used to extracting me from my house for our weekly Friday dinner, even though I like it enough once we have left my comfort place. “Calamari to dreamer or the dream.”

“Oh, oh yeah.” Your face lights up and my heart skips. We aren’t like that, you are too ace, but I love it when I can make you happy. “So calamari is tentacles right?”


“And I am working my way through Lovecraft at the moment.”

“Why are you doing that again?”

“Trying to figure out racism in writing and how it changed over time,” you inhale deeply, “But anyway, so Lovecraft has Cthulhu. Tentacles.”

“Okay, calamari to tentacles to Cthulhu to Lovecraft?”

“Nah, Lovecraft isn’t in the chain, other than present hyper focus.” The fork in your hand bounces against the table making a nice chime, and I am once again glad my stims are related to doodling, much less noticeable and socially acceptable. I have enough other issues in social situations. “Anyway, in some of the stories, so I guess Lovecraft, anyway, in some of the stories, the Outer Ones—”

“Never heard of Outer Ones, I thought they were all the Old Ones.”

“Yeah, you don’t like horror so you never studied this shit, anyway, the Outer Ones cannot be part of this existence, but in some of the stories it can be interpreted as though the Outer Ones are dreaming of the Old Ones, and I was thinking of which is more powerful, the crazy half-realized Outer Ones who can’t be here, here-here,” you wave at the restaurant using your fork like a wand, “or the Old Ones which can exist in our world, but only as dreams.”

“Ah, hence the question, who is more powerful, the dreamer or the dream.”

“Exactly.” You reach across the table and squeeze my hand with the hand not holding the fork.

I freeze a moment, until you say “sorry” and stop touching me. “No, it is okay. Just give a person some warning please.”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“Forgiven. It’s okay.” I twist up one side of my lips while pressing them together in a semi-smile. “Back to the question asked – strictly rhetorical, or can we talk about it, because it is interesting.”

We stop for a moment as the server drops off our sodas and the bread basket with bread straight from the oven. They always run a little behind on the bread on Friday nights, which is one of the reasons why we like to come here on Fridays. We both adore hot, hot bread, so instead of cool bread in a basket being ready the minute we sit down, on Fridays we have to wait for it to come out of the ovens. Sometimes that means we don’t get any until our food is ready, but most Fridays, the bread hits the table about the same time as the salads. Speaking of which, a second server comes up behind our primary server with a portable table and a tray filled with greenery, mine with no dressing and yours smothered in raspberry vinaigrette.

When the servers retreat, I reach for the bread. I always eat one of the buns before anything else. It’s too good to pass up and I slather it in salted butter. You use the fork you have been playing with to move around the salad until every inch of the leaves glisten with lightly pink oil.

“I’m thinking the dreamer is more important, until the dream takes on a life of its own.” I take a deep inhale of the yeasty bread, then take a bite. Life with yeasty bread is good, especially compared to the store-bought loaf sanitated to an inch of its life so it can stay in the fridge for three weeks without mold while I make my sandwiches to take into work. “Like Martin Luther King Jr.”

You point with your fork, agreeing with me. “Exactly, yeah, I see that. ‘I have a dream.’ He was a dreamer sharing a dream.”

“A dream which lived beyond him but couldn’t have lived without him. An infectious dream.”

“A COVID of dreams.”

I snort. “I know some political people who sure think the dream of ‘when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.’ is worse than COVID.”

“I can tell you which one I rather catch,” you reply.

Having dropped off food for a week at your doorstep during your round with the disease before the vaccine came out, I know which one you rather catch too. I had been worried sick about you even though I barely knew you at the time, just a coworker who was badly sick, even though you weren’t sick enough to go to the overflowing hospitals, thank god.

May the goddess keep Morgan wrapped up in hugs until we can all met again on the other side. I miss you, you big craziness.

“Hey, come back to me,” you say.

I look down at the salad, now carefully sorted into lettuce, carrot strips, cucumber, and olives. I would have eaten the tomatoes automatically. They drip on the other food and need to be removed quickly. “Sorry … Morgan.”


You never met my high school best friend, and I hate that. You and I, we had only met at the office Christmas party in 2019 and only got to know each other in the year the world ended. During that time, everyone needed to help the ones near them and Morgan lived on the coast. City lights of New York had drawn Morgan in and so many COVID arrivals from around the world.

I inhale deeply and breathe out. Your eyes grow soft.

Breaking the melancholy, I pull out one of our standard Friday questions, “How was your week?”

Morgan is a topic for sofa, blankets, and ice cream at home and you understand this.

“Funny you ask…”

(words 1,255; first published 2/4/2024)

Flash: Memory of a Kiss

Photo by YesMore Content on Unsplash

Cooling foam still dripped off the newly landed spaceship when the skin cracked and dropped a disembarking plank. Two spacers slid down the rail either side of the steps and barely caught the landing as they adjusted to full planetary gravity. Hurrying away from the ship, they ignored the person yelling words not legally usable on the planet. Local laws did treat ships like embassies, allowing some breaches in etiquette, and basically making the whole port a bastion against the religious restrictions found on Saints World.

The two ignored their fellow crewman. You snooze, you lose. Someone had to stay on ship at all times. Sucks to be Stan. Short for Standby for those who don’t spend a lot of time without gravity. After one final gesture, the figure walked away from the hole, the plank reversing course and resealing the skin. The younger of the two would apologize and trade out later. How much later remained to be seen.

A tiny bar cut out a corner of the customs area, inside the port. Spacers didn’t have to jump through immigration, visas, and tourist entry hoops to get their drink of choice.

“Beer,” were their first words in atmosphere in six weeks.

Saints World restricted words, religions, sex, genders, species, actions, imports, exports, clothing, and a host of other things. If humans could figure a way to make a law about it, Saints had a law. One of those laws was no drinking alcohol.

Except the monasteries made really good alcohol of all sorts – wine, beer, buzzbee, distilled liquors. None of it could be legally exported, except the buzzbee; too much money to be made there for the Church’s governmental coffers. For locals to drink, they had to pay an indulgence tax.

The Port of Call bar folded the tax into their fees; spacers didn’t care.

The two beers hit the smoothed, shiny local wood surface after credits transferred.

They sipped the drink slowly, swallowing carefully. Microgravity taught caution in eating and drinking; food couldn’t always figure which way was “down” when swallowing.

The younger of them shuddered, his Adam’s apple transversing up and down his throat with precision.

The elder set her drink down and sucked in the unrecycled funky air of the spacer joint, still sweeter in its own way than Far Meadows Finder, though she would never say that within the ship’s AI hearing range. She adjusted the ship’s earpod, verifying activation, something both of them should have done before leaving the ship. Mammy likely had followed the regulations to the letter, hence why he remained on ship. FMF pinged back.

The bartender leaned against the wall, watching the customs area for any clients. “Evie, Adrian, welcome back.”

“Father Andrews,” Evie nodded, taking another small sip of the nutty brew. “May as well pour Adrian another. He has the body mass for it.”

The young man hummed agreement beside her, breathing through his nose, the stein never leaving his lips.

“Done.” The monk-custom official drew another beer off the tap and placed it on the wood between them. “Sister Evie—”

“Just Evie, I wouldn’t want to be branded a heretic for assuming citizenship I had to give up.” She smiled sadly at him. “Spacer Evie if you must.”

Father Andrews leaned on the stool behind the bar, not quite sitting, likely some new restriction of when rest may be sought on a holy day. All days on Saints had some holiness to them. “Spacer Evie, may I ask a question?”

Adrian dropped one empty glass and reached for the next. The elder spacer laid a hand on his. “You only get this one, and in an hour you are reporting back to the ship. Think wisely about what is next.”

“Yes Captain.” He picked up the beer and edged toward the stained glass and plants decorating the customs waiting area.

Evie watched until he settled in the colored lights from the sunlight streaming through the glass from the local dual stars. “Please, ask away,” she said, taking another small sip.

“I know spacers can’t drink much in space. Especially crews the size of yours. Always on rotation and may need to respond with no moment’s notice in an emergency, therefore can’t afford any recreational impairment. But why is beer so important to new arrivals? It’s all they want. Not wine, not buzzbee, not whiskey or gin. Just beer.” The monk reached for the empty glass, accidently brushing the top of her hand where it lay on the bar. “I know you got The Neer, the near-beer substitute, but all spacers want is beer as soon as they arrive.”

“The Neer is worse than pis…not quite perfect.” Evie changed her words soon enough the high-ranking monk wouldn’t need to report them. The custom’s area did obey planetary regulations, mostly.

The Saint grounder shook his head. “I know it is not Blue Mountains or Crystal Stream, but the bitter and hops has a good mouth feel. Sure the foam is missing, but you can’t have that in space.”

“Worst thing inside the skin, needing to burp and can’t because the body doesn’t know how to in the microgravs.” Evie ran a finger through the condensation, wondering at it. On ship, those drops would be breaking off into balls of water she would be needing hunt down, while the other on-duty crewman would be adjusting environment to prevent more condensation from occurring. “Neer isn’t beer, even with the trippy version providing the five minutes relaxation effect. No bubbles. The bitter is off somehow. Gravity holds the world.” She shrugged, taking another sip. “Drinking The Neer is like … a memory of kiss. When all you can have is the memory, you turn it over in your head a thousand times.” She looked at Father Andrews for a moment, pushing against at least four commandments but worth it, making eye contact with eyes that exactly matched Adrian’s in color. “But nothing can compare to being held and kissed by one you love.”

(words 1,002; first published 1/21/2024 – created 11/14/2023)