Sometimes the universe gifts you a tin filled with popcorn kernels. And sometimes the gift comes in the form of a writing project that transports you away from life’s challenges and makes your heart sing.
Today I am grateful . . .
- my sister helped me feel more at peace about a friend’s death.
- my critique group gifted me another week to finish the draft of my work-in-progress and that
- I am, indeed, making progress on that work.
- I enjoyed a calm, non-aggressive walk in the warm sunshine with Emma, even though we passed other dogs.
- I completed my four-minute plank despite learning the hard way that Led Zeppelin’s Four Sticks is absolutely not a good motivational song. Nope, not even close.
Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.
~ Pablo Picasso
I guess that’s basically what I strive for with my fiction: to write lies in such a way the reader realizes some truths.
I loathe liars, but this kind of lying is a pretty good gig.
- I am almost finished with revisions and will send off manuscript tomorrow.
- My smiling, happy Emma dog and I had a nice run around the neighborhood after I finished working for the day.
- Zippy vacuumed while Emma and I were out running.
- Michigan State is up by 20 over Notre Dame at the half.
- I can still feel gratitude in the face of so many scary-difficult realities in the world.
Last night I met with my critique group, The Writing Roosters. (Yes, we’re aware that it’s funny for a membership of six women and zero men to be roosters.)
It was my turn to receive a critique and the group didn’t disappoint. I’m grateful for their willingness to point out holes and weak characterization and plotting improbabilities in my novel, and also to let me know what they felt I’d done well. It was my first draft and I now have a pretty firm grasp on how to revise.
I received lots of guidance last night, but want to give a special shout-out to Claudia Mills for using Track Changes/Comments a whopping 429 times! Thank you for getting down and dirty with my manuscript, friend!
I’m also thankful I had the trails 100% to myself as I ran, never seeing another human during those 35 minutes, not once, not even off in the distance.
I am thankful for the company of the 80 million grasshoppers, the occasional butterfly, the what-I-hope-was-a-hummingbird-and-not-an-enormous-insect buzzing in my ear, the one bunny that allowed me a glimpse before disappearing into the rabbit brush, the sunshine, and the unidentified bird with the black tail.
I’m thankful for the strength in my legs, the power in my lungs, and the lack of ego that allowed me to walk when I felt like it.
Finally, I’m thankful that the rain didn’t fall until I was already home.
This is Zippy’s indoor weather station. As you can see, it’s sunny and 65 degrees outside. Granted, the outdoor thermometer is in direct sunlight right now so it’s really only 65 degrees against the bricks on the south side of the house. But still. Sixty-five degrees in January!
I’m going out for a run around the neighborhood and am looking forward to cruising past the snow piles lingering from last weekend’s storm.
Gotta love Colorado and its split-weather-personality.
If you happen upon this, writer-friend Linda Salzman, you might be happy to know that yesterday I finally, finally wrote the final scenes of the YA I’ve been wrestling with since the beginning of time. Are they perfectly written scenes? Hells no. Are they fleshed-out scenes? Absolutely not. Are they even close to being what they’d need to be in a final draft? HAHAHAHAHA.
The scenes I wrote yesterday are, at this point, a collection of placeholder words. A roadmap for the next draft (should I ever have the inclination to wade into the manuscript that right now feels like a horrible, torturous place to spend time). I learned about the value of using placeholder words from writer-friend Laurie Schneider, and I must say it’s one of the most liberating tools in my writing kit. The pressure is off when I’m creating placeholder words; all that’s required of me is to literally hold the place in the manuscript with clues for my authorial intent. The details come later.
So after writing those scenes, I printed out a hard copy and wrote out a few notes for myself before packing everything away in an accordion file. At the soonest, I’ll read that manuscript again in a month. But I have a feeling it’ll take longer than that for me to muster enthusiasm. After finishing, I’d gone back to read the opening chapter, thinking it would fire me up by reminding me the rest of the book is stronger than the ending. *insert hysterical laughter* Turns out, I’d arrived at the THIS BOOK SUCKS MORE THAN A HOOVER stage, and it’s gonna take some time for those feelings to fade.
The good news? I’m already reacquainting myself with another project. This one has huge potential and fills me with excitement. So take that, nasty voice! (Also, I was very grateful for the distraction of this “new” project when I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about Debbie Reynolds dying the day after losing her beloved daughter.)
There are sad and horrible things happening all over the planet, but I’m grateful for the fictional worlds I create in my mind. Sometimes the pretend is the only thing keeping me from being crushed by the real.
Zoey has lived with us for the past eleven years and for the majority of those years, remained in either the house or yard. She (and Coco) didn’t get to go on neighborhood walks (or open space hikes) because they were out of control on leashes. When they saw another dog, no matter how far off in the distance, they’d bark, growl, lunge, and generally behave in a bat-shit manner.
At one point early on, we spent a whole lot of money to have a personal dog trainer work with us. That strategy ultimately failed because of a lack of consistency. The dogs responded to me as the alpha, but couldn’t care less about pushover-Zippy’s commands or young Wildebeest and Zebu with their high voices and unassertive attitudes. The dogs still believed they were the alphas who needed to protect the pack.
It all came to a head years ago when I took Zoey and Coco for a walk. They went nuts when they saw another dog, and in their ensuing barking / twirling / lunging, knocked me to the ground. Both my knees were thoroughly black and blue.
That was it for me. I no longer felt guilty about having two dogs that never, ever left the yard.
And then Coco died. To help Zoey through her grief, we started walking her once a day. I’ll admit that it hasn’t been an entirely pleasant experience (one walk lasted a full three minutes because I had to drag Zoey home after she went ballistic at the sight of another dog), but I am pleased to say we’re having some enjoyable walks. Today’s, for example.
Zoey still has an alpha attitude, but she’s older and wiser (and a little less strong). I’m grateful we can give our old girl the gift of a daily walk.
There’s a snowstorm headed this way, and the finches and chickadees are very busy at the feeders and heated bath. I’m grateful for my warm home and wish I could open it to my feathered friends tonight.
Then again, it’s probably not very cool to invite birds into a household that includes two cats.
Today’s my birthday,
lots of gifts over the years.
Love these two the most.
When the shriveled skin of the ordinary is stuffed out with meaning,
it satisfies the senses amazingly.
~ Virginia Woolf
My senses are doing all right today, I guess.
Not what I’d call amazingly satisfied, but well enough.
I’ll gaze on those old rose hips a little longer.
Happy Thanksgiving to friends in the U.S.!
After a revision-filled day, I’m pleased with my progress. In fact, if I pushed on for just one more hour, I’d probably make it to The End. But my eyes are screaming for a break and, since my peepers work very, very hard for me every single day, I owe them a respite.
This lemur’s calling it a day.
Zebu and Wildebeest have been avid Spotify users for years, and now Zippy and I also have access to ALL THAT MUSIC.
It’s great to have a song pop in my head and then seconds later, I listen to it. It was years since I’d heard Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and then the other morning her voice gave me chills.
Spotify is also great for quickly checking out bands and musicians I read about in Rolling Stone, plus I discover new music while listening to other people’s playlists. Case in point, Earl St. Clair. Spotify = MORE MUSIC TO LOVE.
But the absolute greatest thing about Spotify is how it’s rejuvenated my hoop dancing. In the dark ages, I’d cobbled together a playlist of songs that were mostly good for dancing within my hoop. And while Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” are kick-ass hoop dancing songs, I was bored.
I’m now the proverbal kid in the candy store. New songs every day to inspire my hoop dance. New favorites to sample again and again without fear of getting in a permanent rut.
So on this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for:
all the incredible music that makes me want to dance,
and Spotify which makes it easy to do.
Zippy and I just returned from a hike in the open space. We walked up the street a little ways and were out on the trails.
Unfortunately, I started having discomfort in one of my toes and guessed that the neighboring nail was cutting into the skin. We stopped so I could take off my boot and sock and, sure enough, my toe was bloody. So I found a small rock and used it as a file to grind down the nail’s sharp edge. It worked! For the first time ever I had faith that I could’ve survived more than an afternoon in Lonesome Dove (contrary to a friend’s long ago teasing).
Zippy and I continued on our hike. There was so much cool stuff to see (flowering thistles and seeded-out knapwood plants and bright red rose hips and wildflowers and hawks and songbirds), and I kicked myself for not bringing camera and binoculars. But Zippy used his phone camera for these shots, and I’m glad to have documentation of our lovely hike on this August afternoon.
I’m so very grateful for open space that allows me to clear my mind and ease my soul.
But that’s what I called him.
The name change started about the time he and my mother-in-law traveled to Alaska to visit Zippy and me. I mentioned in conversation that he didn’t seem like a Steve, but more of a Stu. So later on when we were in a gift shop in Fairbanks and I discovered a STU coffee mug, it was a done deal. My father-in-law was forevermore Stu.
Yesterday, the family honored his wishes and let Stu die. The nurses did everything to keep him comfortable, and in the hours before letting go, Stu was surrounded by his wife and four children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law. The last thing he said after opening his eyes and seeing us all there was “My chickadees.”
Stu had accepted, once and for all, how much his brood loved him. Following a surgery in early December, his last three months were mostly spent in hospitals and two different rehab facilities, with only a handful of days at home. His health had declined on several fronts and it was incredibly difficult for him. But the gift of those months was that Stu spent time with his family and had conversations he’d never had before. Emotionally honest conversations. Pre-surgery, there’d been a standing joke that Stu’s favorite children were the three different West Highland White Terriers he had over the years. Stu didn’t do emotions. Stu stiffly accepted hugs, but never initiated them. Stu was a rock.
Except, the evidence said otherwise.
From the start, Stu made me feel welcome in the family. Despite our vastly different social and political outlooks. Despite our vastly different dietary habits. Despite coming from such different backgrounds that we were practically aliens to one another, Stu and I had a bond.
Yes, Stu was a rock. Except for that time vacationing in Puerta Vallarta with a six-month-old Wildebeest, when Stu and my mother-in-law babysat so Zippy and I could have a quiet dinner alone. Wildebeest of the mighty lungs wailed the entire time we were gone, and Stu patiently held him and walked round and round the hotel pool, ignoring the other guests’ groans of “Here they come again.”
Stu was a rock, except when we were in Hawaii when I was pregnant with Zebu and the twisty-turny road up to the volcano made me sick and he pulled over to let me throw up in the ditch and then allowed me to drive the rest of the way, even though Stu always, always was the driver.
Stu was a rock, except when putting in hours in his woodshop making toys for his grandchildren.
Stu was a rock, except the time I overheard him telling a nurse about his wonderful family consisting of one wife, four children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, and ending it by saying he felt very bad for people who didn’t have family.
Stu was a rock, except when he confided that the one good thing to come out of his lengthy hospital stays was that he and I had become better friends.
Stu was a rock, except when he asked the physical therapist to call him Stu rather than Steve.
Stu was a rock, except when I got to his bedside yesterday and he reached out his hand for mine.
I’m so grateful I got to be one of Stu’s chickadees. When I sat down to write this, I caught a flash of movement in the pine tree outside the window. I looked closer and wasn’t at all surprised to see a Black-capped Chickadee hopping around the branches.
The last time I went for a run was 81 days ago. Today, with the full blessing of my physical therapist, I ran again.
It’s been a hard bunch of months around here as I went from being someone who did yoga almost every morning plus ran a couple times per week plus lifted weights three times per week plus sneaking in a hooping session or two, to a woman who couldn’t do much of anything.
How did that happen? It was the strangest thing but apparently my old gluteal muscle aka left butt cheek issue didn’t like how I ignored it and let it get tighter and tighter, and so triggered other tight points in my body which culminated in my back getting so tight and painful that it hurt to move. I literally went from being able to put my palms flat on the floor to the next day not being able to reach much past my knees. It was bizarre.
Depression ensued. As did loss of muscle and weight gain. Many tears were shed as I wallowed in what I was afraid would be a permanent condition. I went on my first job interview in about twenty years (with the hope I’d be better by the time the job started) and was hired to work at the library, but ended up having to tell them I couldn’t take the position due to my physical limitations. I never, ever would’ve guessed I’d have to turn down a job for that reason, and it was humbling.
But my physical therapist and I persevered, and then I started getting massages from a genius therapist who focused on trigger points which then allowed me to do more of the stretching and strengthening exercises without pain. We saw light at the end of the tunnel.
Today I came out of that tunnel. I walked for ten minutes then ran (slowly) for fifteen minutes then walked another ten, ran another fifteen, and walked ten more minutes for a whopping total of 60 minutes of exercise! All I’ve done over the last several months was walk for about thirty minutes at a time, and when I walked home this afternoon I wept tears of gratitude and happiness and oh-my-goddess-I’ve-missed-running-so-very-much-tears.
I’d left a note for Zebu letting him know when I took off and when to expect me home, asking him to drive up the street to find me if I hadn’t returned by then. Just as I walked into the driveway, the garage door went up. There was my son, the one who’s been so sad on my behalf as I struggled to regain my mobility, getting ready to come haul his sad mama home. He smiled when he saw me there and his smile got bigger when I told him I felt great.