Happy New Year!

2022 definitely started off with a bang for my family.

I promise we wet the ground and the trees first.

It hasn’t stopped moving since. January first was technically a “rest” day from writing for me, but because we were hosting our Board Game Extravaganza on the second, January first was all about cleaning and setting up my dad’s Tyler house for the party.

You didn’t want a photo of me cleaning, did you? No. There was a gorgeous sunset on January first, though. Bonus: my husband nearly ran me over while I was taking this photo because I was standing in the middle of the road. 🙂

So January second came and only one party guest arrived. We usually have around 50 people at this event, but a) Covid sucks (so many people were exposed the week before), and b) cold weather sucks (I am not leaving my warm house for you), and c) (the most entertaining response) an owl attacked some chickens. But still, we played a bunch of games with our new friend, who asked when we were doing this again.

My dad asking a question about the Lords of Wonderdeep.

January third was a blur of me trying to do all the things that had been piling up, undone, in December. Imagine me whirling around with laundry, binders, notecards, glasses, and eyeglasses in hand while pushing a shopping cart loaded with cleaning supplies and you get the general idea. No writing occurred, but much planning and tidying at my own home. Plus leading my first East Texas Writers Guild Board of Directors meeting as President of the Guild.

Today I am working on typing up note from last nights meeting, writing scenes 2-5 in Chapter 11 of Caro’s Quest, and booking a photographer for my headshots for the UtNC Anthology.

Off I go! Hope y’all had a happy start to your new year.

Lisa’s Writing Vacation

AKA: How I managed to spend a whole week NOT writing

This was a hard week for me. As I’ve mentioned before, my half-brother Ray passed away last month. Last Thursday I drove to DFW and dropped my car off at Katherine’s and she drove me to the airport. I hopped on a flight to California in order to help out Ray’s widow, Susan, and kids getting reading for the memorial service. I’d brought my writing stuff with me, hoping to get to spend some of my free time writing, but there honestly wasn’t any minutes to spare.

I got to their house after a long day of driving and flying and with a negative time change, I was so very tired and it was only 8pm. I tried to stay up and talk with everyone, but it was no use – I was in bed by 9:30pm PST.

The next day I woke up at 4:45am, but managed to coax myself back to sleep until about 6:30am. I went to make coffee, but my nephew ran out and shooed me away, telling me that his dad always got up and said “Make the coffee, Joe,” and he was determined to keep on making the coffee, even without his dad around to remind him. Just like that, I could hear my brother in my little nephew’s voice and see him in his every movement. I had to shoo myself away before I cried all over the little guy.

We spent the rest of the day taking kids to and from school, organizing, then cleaning rooms of the house and the patio so it could be all ready for the memorial service the next day.

My biological maternal grandparents

The next day I was again awake at 4:45am, but this time I got up, made my own coffee, and spent some time taking photos of photos in my birthmom’s room (which was where I was staying). Her walls are absolutely covered in photos, many of which I’ve never seen before. I stood up on a stool and angled myself this way and that to get the best photos possible. Once the other’s were up, I started decorating the house with photos of my brother and his family, and then put out the tablecloths, and washed up all the dishes and platters I thought we might need. An hour before people were due to arrive, the first visitor showed up. He was the ex-husband of my brother’s housemate and since he was early, we put him to work carting drinks into the house, setting up the coolers, and re-installing the door to the garage that Joe had taken off a few weeks ago (and was unable to put back up alone).

After that, everyone else started arriving and over the course of the day I manned the buffet table, meeting many members of the housemate’s family and Susan’s family. There were even some little kids there. Everyone brought fruit. It was fruitopia. The day spun by so very quickly. We were unable to have the main part of the memorial service, due to some clerical errors that kept Susan from being able to get Ray’s death certificate (and therefore also his remains), so the little tree she was going to plant in his honor remained on her front porch. A few of us spoke about Ray, even his little son Jeff, and we all cried. It was nice to meet so many people that loved my brother and sister-in-law.

Because it was also the busiest day of the band year back home, I skipped out on the early evening’s visitor (who had come late due to his work schedule). I went back to my room and watched the livestream of my kids marching at UIL Contest and then looked for photos of them from the Rose Parade earlier in the day. I texted with them, congratulating them on their Sweepstakes win. And then I went back out and joined the conversation.

My kids at UIL Marching Contest.

The next morning I did not get up early. We all got up a little later and then moseyed over to church, which was part Southern Baptist-part rock band church-part surfer dude speak. Everyone there was really nice and no one bugged me about my mask. After church was lunch and after lunch my best friend from high school came and scooped me up and we ran off to Starbucks for a while. I was sad to leave her when our time was up, but I love how easily we slipped back into that friendship for a couple hours.

After that, Susan and I loaded up the kids and went to the beach. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for Joe and I to get thoroughly soaked from the waist down and for Jeff to lecture us on the improbability of us turning into merpeople and Susan to get creeped out by some weirdo. A couple hundred beach pictures in ten minutes, really. But it was good. I always feel better at the beach.

I am at Imperial Beach with my nephews.

Susan dropped us back at the house and stayed just long enough to say hi to the chair lady. Then she drove back out to pick up Angela. I made my “famous” chicken spaghetti and “Aunt Mandy’s” green beans for a late “fancy” dinner. I laughed at that. Chicken spaghetti is the easiest thing ever. I taught Joe my secret sauce, just in case they liked it. Oh boy, did they! Jeff said I took him to “Flavor Town” and “Delicious Land.” I’m so happy it was well-receieved.

We went to bed very late that night, in some part due to a conversation that needed to take place out of the earshot of the children. We had to wait for Joe to fall asleep. In the end, an agreement was reached about what would happen with the kids if something happened to Susan. It was a hard conversation, but necessary. I was really glad to be included.

The next morning we all got up at the crack of dawn so Susan could drop me off at the airport and then take the kids straight to school. I waited in the longest TSA line I’ve ever seen, but made it to my gate all right. The flight itself was mostly okay, but there was a medical emergency towards the end in first class, so we ended up spending quite a while at the gate waiting for that to get sorted out. Then Katherine picked me back up and we had a late lunch and then went to rest at her house for a while before I drove home. I was feeling so foggy and out of it, I was worried about driving home. I did end up making it home okay, but I had to stop for a while halfway home and walk around for a bit to get my brain back online. So I didn’t get home until about 7:30pm (I’d expected to be home by 5pm).

Katherine and I tried to make up for me not remembering to get a photo with Emily.

Tuesday I spent cleaning my entire house. Being away from home on a super busy weekend makes the mess so much worse. But I was also still feeling so groggy and weird that it was hard to get anything done. I started to worry that I was coming down with a cold or something. I attended my Spiritual Practices group, but I absorbed none of the conversation, alas.

Wednesday morning was my pill box refill day. I couldn’t find the pills I needed to fill the box. I finally realized that the reason I was so out of it was that I had picked up my medicine at the pharmacy before I left on the trip, but had forgotten to put that one in the box I took with me. So I’d skipped it for a couple days by accident. (And now I know just how essential it is to my health and well being.)

I taught a lesson at the Wednesday Whatchamacalit group that day and it went well. That is detailed in an earlier post. Later. I spent the rest of the day resting/spending time with my younger kids because I knew that the next day I had some more big cleaning to do.

Thursday I went over to the David House and helped him get it cleaned up because my dad was coming to visit. David was supposed to have finished moving rooms before my dad came to town and he had not finished. Plus there was resetting the room he’d moved out of and resetting the closet of the room that stored the stuff that used to be in that room and putting stuff from the room he was moving to into that closet. If it sounds circuitous, it really was.

After that was the recycling. I don’t think anyone has taken the recycling out of the house since January. I filled my entire Jeep up from top to bottom and back to front. It was only about 2/3 of the total recycling. I had other errands to run, though, so I did that and never got back to check on the David House.

This morning I got up and realized that I’d never gotten around to doing the critiques for the Pineywoods Critique Group, which was just as well because I hadn’t sent anything in over the last weekend, either. So the spouse and I went and got haircuts, which we have literally never done at the same time before. Then we ran a couple errands and ate lunch. One of the errands was picking up all the boxes of history for the ETWG Historian position before the current Historian moved and took them with her.

This was the last thing on my To Do list for the day besides feeding and chaperoning the band. It’s also the first real writing I’ve done all week. I’m not sure I’ll have time during the weekend to write, unless I am very careful with my time. We have the game tonight, my dad in town, an afternoon church party tomorrow, dinner at my dad’s and games, then church Sunday morning, and an ETYO concert Sunday afternoon. I may not get anything sent in to the critique group this weekend either. Chapter Nine of CQ needs re-drafting. Maybe I’ll send them some more poetry.

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?

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.)

Huge List of Activities to do with Kids during Covid-19

I started this document ages ago and have shared it with many friends, family members, and FB forums already. It’s compiled from many, many different places: lists on facebook, travel websites, space websites, family websites, school websites. It’s broken down into categories for ease of use: The Arts, Books, Celebrities, Coding, Crafts, Disney, Exercise, Food, Movies/TV/ Mental Health, Museums, Music, School Related, Travel, and Non-Internet Things to Do.

Hope you enjoy it. Here’s the link.

Book Binding Weekend

One of my best friends and I made books this weekend. She took a four-day workshop on it and graciously offered to have me down for the weekend and teach me her new skills. I forgot to take a picture of the book press, which is large, red, and dusty from having sat in someone’s workshop area for years.

Things I learned:

1. Glue is the foundation of all books. That and more glue. With some glue here and glue there. Also some paper.

Photo of a workspace that includes a teal cutting mat which has cut paper and a rectangle of cardstock on top, a wooden 12-inch ruler, a black Sharpie marker, an awl, a white plastic storage container, a box containing a brayer, a bottle of fancy white glue, a yogurt cup containing glue and a a foam paintbrush covered in glue at the tip, a blue bowl with a wet, blue paper towel wadded up inside of it, a pair of green-handled scissors, a red stool, another work area across the table from the main work area (but without the teal mat), and front-and-center a hand which is coated in glue holding a cardstock spine that is also coated in glue. So much glue.

2. I cannot cut the cardstock. Not at all. My friend ended up cutting it all. BUT she has a Cricut and we’re going to cut down some of her huge cardstock sheets to run them through the machine later. I folded all the paper in half, though.

3. Stabbing little holes in paper is fun! So much fun!

4. Sometimes you forget how many holes to make, so you have to improvise. We accidentally put in 5, but you need an even number in this style of book binding, so we put in another one at the bottom. We used variegated thread for our inner binding, which made it super festive.

5. Beeswax smells just like when you smush your face really deep into your cat and then try to breathe, but without all the fur up your nose.

6. There is no 6. 7. Waxing thread is also addictive. I don’t know why.

8. Sometimes you have the wrong sized paper for your interior. So then you need to cut it, but it is hard to do without the guillotine. You may try many things, like sanding the paper, cutting it with box cutters, or even using the dremel wood cutters. They will not work. They will also make the house smell weirdly burnt. Then you will go out to Wal-Mart really late at night and buy a guillotine. They are CHEAP. Start with that last step.

10. Bookbinding has a lot of waiting time while the press does its work. We watched irreverent feminist comedy specials on Netflix while we waited. You can watch whatever you want. 🙂

11. When putting the endpapers in, use the tiniest line of glue. We thought we had. We were wrong. Also, don’t use thin paper for the endpaper. Mine was a little too translucent. Steph’s was fine (a nice sage green, not pictured.)

12. Make a feature of a little error. My error was cutting the paper too close to a little signature spot on the paper. I ended up putting it on the front, where it looks like a cute little frill. We also learned that if you don’t like one side of your book, flip it the other way and make the back the front (my blue was crooked on one side. This side is much better.)

We had such a fun time making these little darlings! 🙂 12/10 would do it again.

Nurturing Oneself

I had an early brunch with a dear, dear friend of mine this morning. As we sat in her sweet little breakfast nook with tea, boiled eggs, and stollen, we chatted about how the year was going and she asked me what I was doing to nurture myself. Honestly y’all, I babbled out an answer full of things that made her go “THAT’S what you find nourishing?” Things like scheduling things, making sure everything had a task associated with it, being better organized, etc. She expressed a bit of doubt with my methods, but being the gracious hostess she is, she just let it go and the topic moved onward.

I got home a while later and really started thinking about it. I am not really a planner. Oh, I try and try to be, but in the end every plan lasts a few days and then I scrap it. So I spent some time just meditating on the idea of nurture and what it meant to me.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Nurturing me means extra time around everything so I can digest experiences. Yes, that means a bit of planning, but it is soooo good to have time around things and not just be chock-a-block busy.
  2. Nurturing me also means time for music, which I have not been making. The words “I haven’t played the piano since I got these progressive lenses” slipped out of my mouth and now that I’ve ruminated on it, I got the glasses in January (9 months ago) and haven’t really touched the piano since my mom died.  Hmmm….
  3. Nurturing me means time to read. I have “Time to Read” in my Habit Tracker, but how much have I really been reading? None. Like one day a week, which is very close to none for a Lisa.
  4. Nurturing me also means eating foods I actually like. My husband is very good about cooking dinner, but he is very bad about making food that I really am fond of. Part of that is that the kids hate everything and part of that is that we really, Nick and I, have a totally different palate. I’ve been cooking my own lunches this week and eating all the things I love, like mushrooms and onions and zucchini and sweet potatoes and cabbage, and have been so happy at lunch time!

Anyways, that’s what’s on my mind today. Time to go eat the mushroom/onion/zucchini/feta dish that’s been sauteing while I type. 🙂  Hope y’all have a good afternoon!

An Actual Exciting Friday Night

Tonight I sat reading a writing book in blissful silence when suddenly sometime after 8:30, the doorbell rang, waking two of three sleeping people up— it was the Amazon delivery that had been marked as delivered several hours before that had never shown up. The sleepy humans came out, ate dinner, and then we sat around reading silly memes to each other for more than an hour until it was time to get Greg. Greg got into the car and said “I had a great time at the dance, but all my friends are going to Whataburger now, Mom. It’s tradition!” So me and my sleepy self sat at the mom table and watched my kid interact with his friends. (Boys move around way more than the girls) Met some nice moms I’d never met and saw some familiar faces, too.