There used to be many places I liked to write before the pandemic, but several of them have either closed, or only have indoor seating right now. One of the places I still like to go to write is on the patio by the lakes on the UT Tyler Campus on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. The campus is quiet during those times, and the weather right now makes it a lovely place to go for writing. You can hear the sloshing of the water and the quacking of the ducks. It’s just a quiet and comforting place.
I’ve also been enjoying sitting on the patio at The Foundry Coffee House, near the square in downtown Tyler. They have made it very pretty outside with a lot of plants and strings of lights. During certain times of the day there is shade, but this time of year with the temperatures finally cooling off, it’s nicer to sit in the sun.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
We’ve been talking about Personal Creeds in church lately, so I thought I’d share my own personal creed:
I believe that love can conquer hate, that kindness can break barriers and that we should try to leave the world better than we found it.
I believe that we should respect our fellow human beings, regardless of their race, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and that we should reach out to help the poor and the powerless.
I believe in the power and the magic of the written word, the satisfaction that comes from hard work, and the comfort we derive from our family and friends.
I believe that pain is always going to find us in some form or fashion and that how we react to that pain determines our path in life. I choose not to wallow in it, to always try my hardest to accomplish what I say I am going to do, and to not just find the light in darkness, but persistently stumble towards it.
Every person owns a beautiful story; I learn best by listening, not judging. By learning about another, I learn about myself. I strive every moment of my life to make myself better to the best of my ability, to share all that I learn in that process that all may profit by it, to take what comes with a smile and without loss of courage, to be considerate of people and things in everything I say and do, to appreciate beauty everywhere I look, and to find the best in others.
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?
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.
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?
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.