At Home

Blustery Snowy NW February Day

So we’re in for a little winter weather here in the PNW. Having thought it never would arrive, I’m wondering why now that it has. It’s February, weather gods! The forecast is for blowing, cold, snowy weather for more than a day. Never being at a loss as to what to do, I’m inside happily making and creating things. I have more interests than time to do them all regularly. So, in a sense, I’m never bored.

Inspiration vs Discipline

So let’s talk about writing. There are two ways that people typically approach writing…Inspiration vs Discipline. Inspiration is that lovely, glowing feeling I get when I have a lovely idea to write about. As inspiration turns to work, then what? Where’s the spark, where’s the sense of loving this? It happens. If you don’t know what to do about loss of inspiration, you may never find out what happens in your story as it will remain unwritten…unfinished…undone. Ugh!

Who can you count on to work on that story until it’s done? Someone writing from inspiration or from disciplined work habits? No, I’m not trying to be a kill joy, but when the buzz of inspiration wears off, and you’re left with an unfinished piece wondering whether you should ever look at it again, here is where we go…

Establish a Writing Routine

Make it a habit of doing the same thing consistently before your writing time. Maybe have a light meal before you begin. Then get your energy moving. Go for a walk, run up and down the stairs, zip around the house picking up… Something to get your energy going. Meditating is good or blogging is awesome to focus into writing brain. This gets your writing juices flowing and your brain thinking “Oh, we’re getting ready to work. We’re going to write!” Then by the time you open your story to work on it, you’re way ahead and in writing mode. No struggle to get in the chair from your brain! No struggle to begin thinking and writing. Something to ponder and win the getting in the seat to write game.

Writing Topics

About That First Draft…

When you start to write that first draft…may I? And you’re thinking that you want to be sure to do the right thing, write the best first draft you can, and, well, I have something to tell you. No, I am not going to tell you how to write the perfect first draft because, and, someone has to tell you, there is no Santa Claus….I mean there’s no perfect first draft. That’s right. You can cry on my shoulder, and I will hug you, but all first drafts should be rubbish. Writing is an act of discovery regardless if you’re a pantser, plotter, or plantser. You want to finish that damn thing as soon as possible so you can working on the story.

Embrace the messy first draft.

So, to give your writing self the best chance of succeeding…fail and fail HUGE! Write the crappiest of crap first draft ever written in all of crapdom! But finish it. Don’t worry about misspelled words! No editing, just go…forward quickly. Get this first draft over as quick as you can. Then the real work of editing and revising can begin.

You might not have all the pieces yet. That’s okay. Write what you have for now. Yeah, some of your story might change as you write, and the first part doesn’t work now. So what! Keep going forward and write from the new idea. Leave a comment for yourself of what you switched up, but keep going…forward!!

Discover the story first!

Sure do none/some/all kinds of plotting to get you started, but you’ll discover more about your story as you write. Just let yourself write. New ideas/characters/settings will come to you. Some might mean changes to your existing draft. But, and this is important, do not yield to the Siren Song of going backwards to change your draft at this time! You’ll get lured into thinking this is a change that you want to make, and then it will be perfect! Nope! <Insert bursted bubble here!> The Sirens will have their way with you and then take you to the murky deep. Don’t do it! You’ll get lost in time moving forward and backward, forward and backward! Keep. Moving. Forward! Use the comment feature to add/hold your great new idea/character/setting in that specific location. And if it’s an idea that seems like it will stay in the story, then begin writing from that point on, making the change only in your head. Because, after all, your story is in moving forward. Finish your story. There may be holes, huge holes, things that don’t match up or fit…but just keep moving forward and finish that draft! Done? Okay. Go forward to the next section here.

Then, and only then, go back and revise!

Now you may scroll back through your comments, skipping merrily as you go, and make all the changes that your writing heart desires. This focused writing time is really what you’re after. Efficient, productive writing time in the chair.

At Home

“Behold! This Lustrous Pearl!”

What are you doing during the great Covid virus indoor experiment? Eating junk food? Extreme gardening? Replicating the Great British Bake Off? Going for walks and getting nowhere?

I extend to you this pearl in the palm of my kid-sized hand. Writing Mastery Academy with Jessica Brody is a veritable feast, nay, a banquet from which to dine.

Yes, I have been studying the craft of writing again. I never get enough though! The content either reinforces what I already know or adds a sparkly new thing to my treasure trove of writing craftiness. This Writing Mastery Academy is phenomenal and is for writers of all ability/stages. Worth checking out this one!! I give this experience a thumbs up, a hearty YES!, and definitely recommend taking anything she offers, and there’s so much to choose from.

So it has been a hot 80 + degrees here in the PNW. Yes, that’s hot here! Stay inside out of the heat or melt. So I worked on a course about developing great ideas that sell. Next is a character development course, and, of course, I want to start it as soon as possible! Oh, and get in some writing time! I’m gaining new tools, new strategies, and getting a better grip on developing story content.

Now for a break and check on the garden and see how it’s growing. Tomatoes are just starting to tomato.

At Home

Oh It’s Been More Than a Little While… But I Got Distracted!

The plot of my life has been wonderful lately. Traveling to Iceland, Scotland, London, and Ireland. Iceland was so cool I had to go twice! Then there was getting married to a wonderful man who is very much like me. Next month will be a year. Spring calls to garden and plant lots of flowers, herbs, and botanicals. We have been planting all over the yard. I’m never bored. The struggle for me is to get to everything that I want to do.

And then now I’m finally touching down, feet on the ground, in the writing chair, and I’m writing again. It is so interesting when the story takes flight. Epiphanies lead to interesting ideas, plot points, structure ideas, and I never know when it will happen, but am always thankful that it does. Recently, I was stuck, not going through this part, what do I do. The lovely epiphany came, and I actually felt like tears of joy were welling up inside of me. The idea was on structuring two moments together, and the result was amazing! A movie started in my head, and I was moved by the scene. I saw it in iMax…big scene, sweeping cinema scape…amazing! Writing can be cathartic and surprisingly emotional at times. I’ve continued learning as a writer. It’s where my heart is.

Life in quarantine has not been so bad. More time to write, bake, make, and garden! The morning started with writing. It’s an appointment I try to keep with myself. Then on to finding a place for 18 pints of strawberry jam that I made two days ago. I cut out six masks today and will sew them up tomorrow. I have a Cricut Maker, and, with the fabric mat, the fabric is pressed on, and the Maker will cut out your design in a snap. There is a software that goes with the Maker. It’s a download that connects to an online website. It has my designs and thousands of others. So it didn’t take long to cut out the pattern for the masks. It has rained all day here in Vancouver, and, it was a beautiful day, as we say! I ducked out and walked around the gardens a little and quickly back inside. I baked a loaf of bread, made split pea soup, and watched an architect show on Netflix that showed plain exteriors and amazing interiors. A busy, joyful day.

Hope you’re finding joy in quarantine in the small, simple things.

At Home

Endings and Beginnings

It has been a season since I stopped here to blog. As the weather turns to rain and cool, I, too, turn to time indoors and to writing. Summer was phenomenal! I grew a garden of great abundance, tended roses, and spent many hours outdoors. It was a long, hot summer here, and ended with a glorious stretch of 70 degree weather. It couldn’t have been better. I traveled, photographed, rested, created, and mostly enjoyed warm breezes and dragonflies darting and dashing through the garden. In the backyard, crickets chirped as darkness approached fiery sunsets and views of Mt. St. Helen’s. This was one of the best summers that I can remember in a long time.

The days ahead will be much different, but are also a welcome change as it grounds me more into my interior landscape where ideas are born and expressed through writing and painting. This experience is cathartic. Every creative person has an ever increasing level of creative energy that must be released, or it eats away at your peace of mind and sense of well being. It just is. In the summer, I’m reveling in the summer sun and having experiences so I can be free of the pressures of creative energy. But once weather turns to indoors, it is time to create and to draw on experiences for artistic purposes.

There will be new selections written soon. They are in the works and will be released as completed. I’m following my muse, and, in doing so, believe in the transformative effect of story and poetry.

Garden, Projects

Garden Updates and Extreme Weather Ahead

So, by tomorrow morning, the Vancouver/Portland area will begin a long heat wave. This heat wave is the apex of summer, will last two weeks, and then the decline towards fall begins. I finished as many outdoor projects as possible today and yesterday, and deep watered most of the garden. This is the type of scorching heat that can kill a garden, so I am doing what I can.

Everything is growing so well. I have stored many bags of marionberries, some blueberries, and strawberries. Soon there will be seedless grapes, too. There are huge zucchini on the vine, lots of green tomatoes, and a few yellow squash and cucumbers. I am so incredibly happy with my garden that I want to be in it as much as possible. Now there are frequent daily visits from dragonflies and swallowtail butterflies. It is such a cool place to be, and it will just keep getting better.

My next project is developing a flower garden with butterfly and hummingbird attracting plants. I have most of what I want to plant in my head and how I want it to look. So this will be my post heat wave project. It will have a direct view from the patio so I can take photos of butterflies, hummingbirds, and flowers with a telephoto lens. Always thinking…even in my sleep! Sometimes I wake up planning.

Today I installed an irrigation system on a timer and finished the grape trellis. I have pea sized baby grapes on the vine, and the vines are almost tall enough to reach the trellis. Before the week is out, they will reach the first level on the trellis. I can hardly believe that I will have grapes the first year with these new grape vines. From what I have been told, grapes do really well here. There are many wineries and vineyards in the surrounding areas that produce exquisite wines, so, yes, they should do well.

So this summer has mostly been about the oasis that is my backyard. It has been the kind of summer that I have worked consistently at developing something meaningful…something I’ve always wanted…a place to plant, to make awesome, and not have to leave. Essentially, I am a home body who has moved a few times. It doesn’t sit well with me, but Imdid bring me to exactly where I should be. It is wonderful to have my home in a climate that produces lush foliage and remarkable fruits, veggies, flowers, and berries.

I would like to build a pergola over the patio, but that is in the initial planning stages. I can envision the top being draped in a lovely vining plant like wisteria or honeysuckle. It will most certainly be awesome and provide some much needed afternoon shade. That will be a fun project with decorating opportunities. There should be a custom water feature in it somewhere. Yeah.

I made my first batch of marionberry scones yesterday, and they were some of the most delicious scones I’ve ever made. I’m sorry to say they didn’t last long. When you have one for breakfast and then decide, yep, this is what I’m eating the rest of the day…they are gone way too soon. They were that good. And the marionberries are about half way done ripening. It’s hard to believe that I’ve picked only half so far. I’m absolutely delighted that I planted these. Amazingly delicious, organic, and in my backyard, wow! Once the weather cools again, I’ll make some marionberry jam. I really prefer making my own jam to buying it. The fruit is fresh, the sugar is a fourth of what processed jams use, and I use raw sugar instead. I cannot recommend highly enough the joy of an urban garden full of the things that you love.

So…heat wave. I’ll be inside working on inside projects, reading, staying cool, and napping. Extreme heat wipes me out, so I’m staying out of it as much as humanly possible. Being under gray or raining skies 8 months out of the year makes one sensitive to strong sunlight. I like to imagine that I sizzle and crackle like human bacon with the first exposure to sunlight in May!

There’s lots of things I can do, but nothing quite as satisfying as my garden of earthly delights. There’s some art I have been meaning to finish, some windows to wash that have kitty prints all over them, planning for school, guitar to practice, editing photos, painting, organizing all the creative materials, and such, but no gardening. Maybe more planning for the backyard! Yes, I am a woman obsessed with being outdoors in her garden and making things beautiful and growing extremely well. One thing is for certain, okay, two. I’m never bored, and life really is good!!

 

At Home

Now on to Summer, but Mostly About Gardening

Wandering through the garden early this morning, I found the first ripe Marionberry, and, yes, I ate it, right there. The bushes are absolutely loaded with Marionberries! My sample berry had all the flavor that I enjoy so much in this berry. I’m thinking Marionberry scones, pies, and jams and some for pancakes.

This afternoon as I went out to pick blueberries, I met the most amazing blue dragonfly sitting among the roses of my rose garden. He was large, handsome, and beautifully blue. I sat beside him and just observed him. Still and taking in the world, he didn’t move until I got up. And again I was reminded of the meaning of a dragonfly appearing in your life. Change is coming.

As a teacher, it is the season of change. People changing positions, people leaving, closing down classrooms, making summer plans, and such. I’m curious to know what other change could come about for me. I know the change I would like to have, but the change will unfold as it is meant to be.

The summer solstice has come and gone. I will soon be planting a fall garden. There will be all of the usual broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, and mustard greens. I really enjoy the freshness of my backyard produce section. Recently I made potato salad from fresh dug potatoes, onion, and bought the celery. The flavor of the potato salad was very fresh and noticeable. Wonderful flavors and all organic. I will soon have an abundance of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro for pico de gallo, an easy, tasty salsa that is wonderful any time and for pizza sauce. There’s something very special about enjoying vegetables in winter that are picked in the height of ripeness and processed minimally. Fresh tasting vegetables is not something you can find in the typical supermarket. They look fresh, but commercial farming robs them of their flavor.

The backyard project has been a year long series of changes that have made a wonderful difference in the way I garden. I totally love raised bed gardening. It has transformed the way I grow veggies. With hoops over the beds, I can start growing a full month before it is safe from cold temps and frost and extend the growing season as well. I am going to see how long I can extend it and for which crops this coming winter.

Okay, more later!

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At Home

Magic Beyond Words

My life soundtrack this evening is a collection of Pink Floyd through the ages, and my thoughts are swirling around upcoming life changes with school ending and home life getting an upgrade as I’ll have more time to enjoy projects, cooking, and cats. School has been phenomenal this year. I think it’s the best year I’ve ever had as a teacher, which means I’m right where I should be. Finally, I am over the rainbow and joyful. I have found my sweet spot in life, which is everything.

It’s a sunny week here in Vancouver. The vegetable garden and the rose garden are flourishing beyond belief. It’s quickly becoming a lush habitat and a wonderful place to lose myself in roses and bliss.  In the evenings, I’m tending to roses and enjoying the large, colorful, fragrant blooms. I’ve truly been blessed with an exceptionally green thumb for growing roses and have always loved them.

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This rose is named Colorific, and it is a prolific bloomer with incredible colors.

Change is a stimulant for me. The energy this creates wants to leak out of my thoughts into writing. Also on writing, this movie had me in tears, on the edge, and rooting for J.K. Rowling as she made her way into the world of published, successful writer from struggling to live.  What a beautiful story, a testimony to the power of perseverance. It gripped me in a very personal way. I have always loved stories of those who overcome their circumstances to become successful, but this story is about writing, so it appealed to me on more than one personal level. If you’re passionate about writing, you’ll want to see it…with tissues…and maybe a cat to hug and cuddle with when it gets tough. I think I cried on my cat a time or two, but he’s very understanding and dries quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

At Home

Beautifully Rainy Day in the PNW

After several days of sunshine, it has been a day of perpetual rain, showers, and outright downpours. I love it. This weekend, I planted the remaining garden. To date, the Marionberries are in bloom and buzzing with bees, the blueberries are growing blueberries, six raised bed planters are planted with everything imaginable, and the roses and lavender are in bloom. I have mulched most everything with a little more to go. My next projects are to install another berry trellis for thornless blackberries and concord seedless grapes, plant eight evergreen huckleberry bushes, finish mulching, build a compost bin, and continue designing my zen spaces for relaxing and creating. This two year urban garden project is almost done. Now ma nature is watering it, and I’m languishing indoors, taking a day of rest, and listening to the patter of rain on the roof. Today I’m finding that I am content and at ease, thankful, and assured by what these two hands have achieved…there’s magic in them. They will do what I can dream of, and I am forever grateful for the vision and creativity that dwells within. 

I am content with the results of this project, and am very happy to note that greens, onions, peas, and cilantro are already up and harvestable. Raise bed planters make it a real dream to garden. So far, I have built and planted six. They are 4 x 10 feet and two high. Yesterday as I sat on the dry ground cleaning and tidying around the huckleberry bushes, bees were enjoying the Marionberry blossoms just inches away from me. I found such pleasure in watching them up close and personal as they searched out each individual blossom. I hope to see many more in the upcoming weeks. 

The time outdoors lately has completely filled my soul with sunshine and song. After a day outdoors, I come in transformed with a merry heart that glows from the inside out, spirit free, and smiling uncontrollably. Now summer approaches, and it will be a time of balance: leisure, productivity, outdoors,  and design. The countdown to the end of the school year is obviously on when it is now under 30 days. It has been another wonderful school year, and I am truly blessed. I’m already looking forward to the next school year, and what I will accomplish this summer. 

Shine on!

 

 

 

Art, Cats, Photography

Wrapping it up and on to Spring

Just a few more minutes and then my winter break comes to an end. It has been woooonderful!! With the good fortune and grace of sunshine, I picked up my trusty camera and accessories and headed into the great outdoors yesterday to photograph some of the Portland/Vancouver urban goodness around me. Here is a little of what I saw.

Vancouver, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
The underneath gothic support arches for St. John's Bridge
The underneath gothic support arches for St. John’s Bridge
One of the gothic arches on the St. John's Bridge
One of the gothic arches on the St. John’s Bridge
A gothic arch on the St. John's Bridge
Gothic arches of the St. John’s Bridge

First, I visited one of my favorite locations in Portland, Oregon just across the bridge here from Vancouver, Washington. It is the St. John’s Bridge, the most beautiful gothic bridge. There are so many people here who are in love with this bridge, myself included. It’s truly a beautiful, expressive structure that you never get over once you’ve seen it.

Then there’s the shot of one of the houseboat communities on the Columbia River, the river that divides Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. I have wanted to take this photograph for a while, and the conditions were excellent that day. I stood on a pedestrian pathway on a freeway bridge that connects Vancouver and Portland to get this photograph. I think I want to frame this one. And, really, anyone can if you like it enough. I’m on Fine Art America or download the app from the app store for your iPad and search my name. Then you can do many wonderful and unexpected things with the app, but mostly you can get this framed, too, if you like it or order a print. Photography is a hobby that makes me really happy and takes me to wonderful places.

Photographs very often inspire me to think of stories to go with them. The floating community photograph did just that. I thought of it as the setting for something very intriguing. I will have to see where it takes me as a possible plot.

Update on kitty potty training. It is a go, and I’m am so much happier without a litter box as are the kitties. They are doing an excellent job and continue to earn kitty treats for being so awesome. It was really easy. These kitties have always been inside cats. Many people turn their kitties outdoors because dealing with a litter box is such a pain. Well, I agree that they’re a pain, but having two lovely boys, I didn’t want to see them stray for days on end, come back beat up from cat fights, and since there’s a busy road nearby, not come back at all. So, toilet training was a better solution than putting them outside. So it can be done, and it’s really easy. Petco or PetSmart has what you need if you want to try it.

My winter break ends tonight. So back in the classroom tomorrow and reading good books. I’m packed and ready. Now to get some sleep and enjoy the tailings of winter dreams.