Posted in Writing

A View From Here

Peaches lie all over the ground, tossed down yellow,
too early, by this morning’s storm. Bahia grass shushes the singing birds,
heads held high despite the damp. Melancholy swims up
and over me and clings as snug as the humidity.

The old neighbor appears, their new fence recently painted,
which clashes with their pile of old slate landscaping stones,
ivy springing eternally around everything in sight.

More peaches fall
and hit the rotting stump of the once towering
loblolly pine. Only one of the original five still guards the threshold separating
their wet grass from mine, but he’s not lonely. The gray squirrels
still swing from his branches and little finches nest in his crevices.

The Tuesday sound of lawn care services
blowing leaves from yard to yard interrupts
the hum of traffic as it crushes past too fast
on its way to the college down the road.
The harsh machine noise echoes through the trees
And sends our animal friends scurrying.

I yearn for neighbor’s past who cared
for the yards themselves, sweating
in the sunlight while joking about my use
of yellow fabric shears while I knelt weeding at the curb.

Their azaleas that smelled so heavenly
the day we moved in, now lost to occupants
who replaced them with easily maintained gravel,
which smells of guano from the bats.
Next I imagine they’ll try to replace the bats, to the delight
of the ever present mosquitos.

I smell damp earth and the light, sweet smell of the peaches.
A sociable squirrel we’ve named Randy
chitters at me through the screen,
daring me to keep him from his fruity treasure. A cardinal
stops to argue with him and he runs elsewhere
like always.

A copy of this poem also appears here, as part of a padlet of coursework from a writing class I’m taking.

Posted in Around the House, Computers and Internet, Writing

Rough Week

I had that one really great writing day last week and then it all dried up. When I say “dried up,” I don’t mean that no words came to mind…not exactly. I was just too cranky to find the words and let them out.

It started with a migraine that wouldn’t go away. I woke up migraine free this morning after 7 days of migraine. It was not one of those all-encompassing-bad migraines, but one of those where your head hurts and you feel dizzy and things look weird and nothing seems right.

Then I joined a reading group for next year where you try to read a book a week all year, only you fit the books into categories that someone else makes up. It sounded fun, but led me down the deep dark path of “what did I read this year?” I only had like 20 books in GoodReads and surely I’d read more than that, right? Turned out I had 38 books in my “Currently Reading” list that I’d never gotten around to finishing. So I’m making my way through the ends of those now. I do the audio book of “Becoming” when I’m in the car waiting for kids, a fun kids book “5 Children and It” (from the Top 100 Fantasy Books list that came out not too long ago) in the morning when my brain isn’t awake yet, and “Thinking Fast and Slow” when I have more brain.

Then my sister told me that my dad caught Covid. Seriously? He goes nowhere and sees no one. He doesn’t even feel bad from it. He went to the doctor for something else and they tested him for it any way. So now he’s super perky because he’s on good drugs. This did not make me feel better about life, though, because now our carefully laid out Thanksgiving plans are not going to happen. We were kind of all depending on having a few lazy days somewhere that wasn’t this house for the first time in seven months. It made the crankiness worse. And a cranky Lisa is not a writing Lisa.

A few days into this “no writing” phenomena, I just decided I hated everything and I was done writing forever. I cleared off my desk, took down a bunch of art, and decided to work on some other projects. One of those was clearing out my hard drive. So I spent a solid day combining all my photo files, deleting the randomness out, and making those nice. Then I spent a day sorting out my documents folder into places where things actually went. That led to me shoving all my poetry into a Scrivener document, like I’d always planned. Which led me to looking for poems that I couldn’t find, but knew I’d written. Which led me to tidying up my writing from the TPL writer’s group and putting it all into the right Scrivener files.

Which sneakily led me back into real, actual writing again because I kept finding things that just needed a little tweaking here or there to fit into place in their own main storylines. So I’d tidy this bit up over here, and change the time of this piece right there, and bam: a whole new scene just appeared. MAGIC!

Posted in My Own Personal Weirdness, Writing

Day Five of Nanowrimo

Despite my lack of planning on my official nano piece, things are going well. Since I am using Lady Air Pirates (the new story) to bribe myself to work on Caro’s Quest (the older story I am supposed to be finishing this month) I am, in effect, doing a double nanowrimo this month.

The whole Lady Air Pirate story started with a dream I had that was a mash up of several things I’d been reading or watching at the time, like three months ago or longer. It stayed with me all that time and my brain has been amusing itself with what if’s along the way, but I told myself I needed to finish Caro’s Quest first. Then I completely burnt myself out on that when my critique group went from twice a month to once a week and we got some new members that just did not get the fantasy genre. It became such a slog. So my brain kept telling me these silly little side stories that were not going to work in Caro’s Quest. I thought I might shove them into The Dreaming for a while as well, since I have some pseudo pirates in there. I had zero time to work on that, though, with the increased critique group load. This lady air pirate was not willing to be squashed down into a side character in a novel not her own, in any case. No, not her.

So when it came time to declare my nano novel, she just took over and told me she was not going away. I’d have to find time to write her, too. That was the day before nano started.

Day One hit and Lady Air Pirate went into hiding. In her place, the little girl at the bottom of the gazebo came forward. She knew she was going on an adventure with the Lady Air Pirate from the moment she saw her hanging there in the air, but first she wanted to tell what she was escaping. So day one became about that.

Day Two was more of Melanda’s story. Her mom Joan was actually about to win an award for once and she was not going to let Melanda’s wild ways ruin her day.

I made a rough outline of my story on Day Three. I dumped all those plot points into Scrivener, a sentence or two per section really adds up the word count. I also got some character sketches done that day, in between a visit from a friend’s family.

Yesterday was Kerani’s day. She’s the Lady Air Pirate. I got to hear how she ended up doing the super risky thing she was about to do, how it was supposed to save everything for her crew that had just had an upheaval, and how it was actually going to be an unmitigated backstabbery disaster. Then to add insult to injury, there was this kid they accidentally abducted. Yeah. I wrote nearly 3,000 words on Caro’s Quest yesterday morning as well, doing word sprints at mywriteclub.com with my friend Elizabeth. I also got nearly caught up on my Vein of Gold classwork in the afternoon. It was a fantastic day.

Today I need to up my count for the Lady Air Pirates piece. My brain got stuck on this picture of Amy Pond as a pirate while I was researching the other day, so she may in some form or fashion appear in my story as well. Not sure how. It may just be her hair, who knows.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. How’s everyone else’s week going?

Posted in Computers and Internet, My Own Personal Weirdness, Organizing, Writing

NaNoWriMo 2020

Another year, another NaNoWriMo. I prepped all October to finish up the rewrite for last year’s Nano novel (Caro’s Quest) but then there’s been this other story this last week (Lady Air Pirates steampunk thing) that I cannot get out of my head, so I changed courses this morning and started on that instead. I’m in a mood, what can I say?

I’ve written 1711 words so far on the weird steampunk thing. It’s really weird, man. I had to stop for lunch (frozen cheese pizza for the third time this week – Greg’s trying to get it out of his system before he goes back to in person school tomorrow), but I feel like there’s more story in me and I’ve already done all the other personal life stuff I needed to today, so I think I’m going to write some more while my brain is still good.

I am still working on Caro’s Quest, though. I have thirty days of re-writes planned out, so I’ll do those and use this new story as a bargaining chip. As in, “do your rewrites, Lisa, and then you can write the crazy lady air pirate story after.”

I’ve made myself a crazy excel spreadsheet of all my projects and am going to track and see how many words I write a month overall. (A kid came through just now and wanted to know how many projects that is and I’ve counted four fantasy novels, one mystery, one memoir, all the short fiction I do during my writing group times, and this blog.) I’ve been curious about what that number would like for a while now. Maybe I’ll share that with y’all later. 🙂

What are y’all working on this month? Doesn’t have to be writing. What’s your passion project? Tell me about it in the comments.

Posted in Friend Time, Lifelong learning, My Own Personal Weirdness, What I Love

UU Discussion Group, first session

Our spiritual practices group has segued into a discussion group now. We’ll each be leading a session of our own topic choosing. We had our first session tonight and it went really well. Here’s the quote we discussed:

“It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the test results and they’re not so good. Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.” Anna Quindlen, b. 1953

The two questions our leader this week proposed were: (1) How are we doing at “crafting our spirits” – what does that even mean? (2) How can we be better friends to one another so that we are not “cardboard cutouts?”

Honestly, I didn’t have a really good answer for that first one when we got started. By the end of the discussion, I realized that all this was part of crafting my spirit – the spiritual practices class, the Vein of Gold class, learning the tarot card stuff for my Preptober with Tarot class, just learning about writing well-rounded characters in general can be enriching to the spirit because it makes you think so much more about your own character and what makes you you.

As for the second part, it was something I was already thinking about. Two of my friends that used to be really close are having a tough time communicating lately, and I have become something of a go between while they each work through it on their own. It is an interesting enterprise. One friend I have known for years, so we communicate on a deeper level than I do with the other friend, who I’ve only known a year. They are both people that are hard-working and dependable. They each strive to help their community so much. I’ve tried to be a listening board for both of them, but that looks and feels different depending on which person I am communicating with. There isn’t a “cookie cutter” quality to these friendships, despite that we are all in the same organization doing volunteer work. Each person I have a different relationship with. It is good.

In any case, those are my thoughts for the subject. What about you? Do you have different answers to those questions?

Posted in Lifelong learning

Spiritual Practices: Worship

In our UU Spiritual Practices class this week, we covered worship. Worship is about returning to what’s worthy. Why do UU’s do Sunday worship? To be reminded that we are part of a larger community, something more for us to pay attention to.

Ritual: not just as part of worship

tea or coffee in the morning

studying the bible at a certain time of day.

Posted in Lifelong learning, My Own Personal Weirdness, What I Love

Sacred Space

Here’s something I wrote for my Spiritual Practices class this week:

When my kids were small, we used to have a little altar set up in the front hallway. We put pretty leaves, feathers, flowers, and rocks there that had caught our fancy during walks. As the seasons progressed, so did our altar. Green leaves gave way to yellow, flowers gave way to acorns and whirligig seed pods, but rocks were always a part of the mix. 

Once the last child started in all day school, those daily walks came to an end. The altar lay stagnant. Eventually it became a dumping ground for all manner of school related detritus.

This new altar sits in an awkward space between the living room and the back hall.  When I was first putting this together, I despaired of finding anything spiritual to put onto this shelf. Everything in my house spoke to fairy tales: dragons, unicorns, fairies, and trolls. But then I started thinking of that other, older tradition we once had. So this altar is a bit of a combination space.
First I covered the four elements: rocks for earth, candles for fire, hummingbird and clarinet for air, and fountain for water. Four of the five senses are also there: perfume bottle and candles for scent, all the pretties for sight, rocks and beaded textures for touch, and clarinet and bird for sound.  Plus a little mandarin orange for taste.

Home is the center. Also shown: Some favorite quotes, a cross stitch with our family motto, a painting that makes my mind wander to spiritual thoughts by a friend whose art fills my home, a wooden box from my favorite store in my hometown that is filled with at least a petal from every flower arrangement I received from 1998 til about 2015, a spooky old tree that is reading (and also is an incense burner) the footsteps poem from where my spiritual journey first started, a rock from the lake by my parents’ hometown, other rocks and shells from so many places our travels have taken us, a geode that reminds me that even the hardest rock can be changed by a tiny stream of water, the hummingbird from my best friends “second chance” adventure, a fantasy map where the treasure is in a book (naturally), the clarinet because music has been a part of my life for so long, a green polished stone engraved with the word “Balance” and candles, always candles. 

So there I am, me and some of my beliefs all in one little shelf.

Posted in Lifelong learning, My Own Personal Weirdness

Spiritual Practices: Pilgrimage

Photo by Bishal Sapkota on Pexels.com

For our last UU Spiritual Practices class, we talked about Pilgrimages. Pilgrimages are associated with many religions. Christians visit places associated with Christ’s earthly life. Their motives for pilgrimages usually include penance, thanksgiving, and a desire to obtain supernatural help.

Things that are involved in a UU pilgrimage: transformation, devotion, reflection, a deeper understanding of the sacred and of yourself.

Several people talked about the kind of pilgrimages they’ve already taken or would want to take. Places like a UU trip to Boston or to the first UU Church in Transylvania or to the bridge in Selma. They talked about social justice trips, as well.

I personally, don’t have any thoughts on where I’d go on a spiritual pilgrimage. The idea is fairly new to me, as I grew up with a religion that rejected them as a concept. In my head, it’s something you’d read about in medieval literature, not something that is done in modern times. I guess it’s something I need to think more about.

Growing up, we went on several non-spiritual pilgrimages. The first one I remember, and possibly the most meaningful to me in the long run, was when we visited the Bronte Parsonage. I was, at seven, too young to have read the Bronte’s well, but my mother loved their books, so we went to see the Parsonage. She got me some edited versions (for first time English readers) and had me read them and we watched the movies before we went. It started a lifelong love affair for me with classic English literature, which eventually lead me to a degree in English and life as a writer.

Where would you go on a spiritual pilgrimage?

Posted in Around the House, Everywhere But Home, Family Time, Friend Time, Parenting, Saving Money

Feast of Tabernacles

You know how we thought the Feast of Tabernacles last year was weird? Yeah, this year is weirder.

If you are new to this blog and do not know: we are an interfaith household. My husband’s family belong to the United Church of God. More info on the Feast of Tabernacles can be found here.

David is headed off to Utah with church friends from all over. I dropped him off at the Tyler airport today after spending all day with him yesterday trying, and failing, to get his phone fixed before he left. We ended up getting him a new one instead, as T-Mobile doesn’t recognize Sprint’s care plan after their merger.

David waited til the last minute to tell us what he was planning, then the pandemic threw a wrench in things as well, with some locations deciding to limit visitors all together. So Utah was super last minute, which meant getting him a reasonably priced airline ticket was going to cause some issues. He ended up on three different planes with one eight hour layover in Dallas and one twelve hour layover in Phoenix.

He was totally calm about all of this. It was me wracked with worry. What if he missed a flight? What if the Phoenix Airport wouldn’t let him spend the night inside? What if he forgot to pick up his luggage in Phoenix and ended up in Utah without it?

My anxiety levels were already crazy, but sending my 19-year-old off on his own for the first time drove me over the edge. Hence the All Crochet All Weekend confabulation.

He got there just fine. His friends eventually picked him up at the airport. He’s great, he says.

Meanwhile, the other four of us are at home this week. Nick and Greg are going to watch videos livestreamed from other locations. They can do it in the morning with a Florida site or in the afternoon with the Utah site David is at. (Ree and I? We are doing school work or writing or practicing instruments. We’re fine.)

Posted in Crafts, Lifelong learning, My Own Personal Weirdness

Spice of Life Crochet

I came to this realization the other day that I am a much more happy, productive Lisa when I am crafting. I really enjoyed doing those dolls, using my hands for more than just typing. When I craft, the back of my brain can work on writing thoughts while my hands do something else for a while.

So I decided to do a fall themed crocheted blanket. But I didn’t have any patterns for that, so I looked through what patterns I did own and found this one. Which looks like a lot of fun! It’s a striped sampler, basically, and has some things in it I have never attempted before.

Then I went to try to recreate the colors she used in the original, but more fall-like. That’s when I discovered I didn’t really actually have any fall themed colors on hand. So I changed a few of her colors to things a bit more muted without being oranges and rusts. Here’s what I’ve ended up with. 🙂

We shall see how it goes. 🙂 I think I’ll just crochet all weekend and ignore the weird things going on behind the scenes.