Monday, November 30, 2015

The Deep Breath Before the Plunge?

Good morning!

I hope everyone in the States had a marvelous Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. I love the idea of a day set aside to be thankful for the people and things and events that have shaped our lives for the better. To be thankful for what we have and for where we're headed. What I can't stand is how chaotic it's become! I noticed it two years ago, how Thanksgiving seems to now be rebranded into "Black Friday Eve". Now, I remember people going Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving when I was a kid. Heck, that was when we got our Christmas tree. But lining up at [name a big box store] at 3pm on THANKSGIVING?!?! That's when lunch is in full swing and dinner guests are just arriving!

I'll rant no more.

For now :)

But seriously, everywhere you turn there's mentions of the "chaos" of the season and the "rush and hurry" to "shop 'til you drop". Why?

When did the holiday season become a marketing tool?

I know, I know, YEARS ago, right? Thanks to social media, however, it seems that this attitude has rooted deep and pulled us down into the quagmire it's created.

A lot of people tend to view the days before December as a ramping up, a bit of calm before the storm of shopping and parties and gifting and traveling. That's all true. I LOVE buying and making Christmas gifts. I LOVE going to and hosting Christmas parties. I love, love, LOVE giving gifts (and, let's be honest, getting them). This year we even get to partake in the great holiday exodus and I'm especially looking forward to that. What I DON'T love is the presumed stress of it all.

It's easy to look at the ticking clock and the dwindling calendar and think, "Oh GOSH I haven't bought the ham yet!!" "Aunt Ethel's sweater isn't in stock!" "What am I going to do if they sell out of season whatever of Game of Thrones???!!!"

Take a deep breath.

Go make some tea.

I'm going to tell you a secret. None of that matters.

Not. One. Bloody. Bit.

Parties can be potlucks and gifts can be handmade. If Wherever is sold out of Whatever, give a gift card telling the recipient what you were going to get them and instruct them that THIS card is for that item (or whatever else they would rather have).

I'm the world's worst at wanting everything to be Martha Stewart perfect but let's face it: I don't have her film crew! They wouldn't fit in this tiny box anyway. The point is, the holidays are about BEING together. About ENJOYING one another. About GIVING and LAUGHING and RECEIVING the kindness and love and joy of OTHERS.

Go ahead. Take another deep breath. Brew another spot of tea.
Now, instead of plunging into December, why don't we wade in gently.

Happy Monday, Dears.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Shift in Light

Light is a fickle beast. It comes and goes with the movement of time, of earth, of clouds. You can wake up knowing weather by light itself. Sometimes light nudges you gently. "Get up." It whispers. "Go. Look." And what you see is a world of quilt batting, gently rolling filament over rock and twig and road.

In the summer light is harsh, a beating from Apollo, a raining warmth that can grow a garden and set sensitive skin aflame. Spring light is muddled through storm clouds. It casts a green glow over the windowsill and flaps with the shifts in cloud and leaf. Autumn light, o fleeting! It's sometimes orange and sometimes yellow and sometimes the color of fog. Autumn light moves, creeps over the back of your couch and BAM hits you in the eyes. Autumn light differs by day, by moment. It can come through the bedroom window today, enter by living room tomorrow.

I love the way light shifts from one season to the next. Autumn light is the most interesting. This morning it peeped from behind a cloud and hit the orange throw, setting it on fire. Yesterday it lit the bedroom in a symphony of white showing every errant strand of cat hair. Tomorrow it may yet dapple the walls and split open the blinds; one never really knows in autumn.

My favorite light is the light of winter. It's crisp, cold, blue-tinged weathering that fingers you with icy awareness. Fleeting as it is in the South, winter light sings of snowfall and I have memories of precious mornings as a child when by the light alone I woke and KNEW it had snowed during the night.

Today I am thankful for the light that illuminates our tiny cottage. It shows the dust and cat hair, reminds me where to clean. It angles (angels?) around my books and collections reminding me of the blessings of lovely little things. I am thankful for the light of words that shifts with the reader, diffusing the soul into a thousand wings of thought. I am thankful for the light of others as it shows me where I falter and where, on the rare occasion, I shine.

Happy Monday, Dears!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

I do love a good ghost story. Recently finished "The Woman in Black" as a matter of fact. Gloriously gothic tale! But sometimes, I need a story that makes me feel happy and content. That is exactly what "Mrs Queen Takes the Train" by William Kuhn did for me.

This book invites you into the imagined world of HRM Queen Elizabeth and yet it is so realistic you have to wonder if Mr Kuhn happens to, himself, be a part of The Household. The book tackles some hard issues such as depression, confusion, the loss of loved ones, and handling difficult emotions but it does so in such a wonderful way that you take a deep breath, feel the hurt, understand it, and go through it to the other side.

The Queen is a bit down lately and accidentally leaves Buckingham Palace (whoops!). She befriends a couple of young people and a blind couple and their German Shepherd. She leaves the palace in a bit of a hush-hushed uproar and sends one soldier, her personal attendant, a long-time butler, and a lady-in-waiting on a bit of a dash to Scotland in an attempt to intercept HRM before MI6 interferes.

It is a lighthearted romp through London into Scotland via public transportation and it is one that I think you'll enjoy. There's a lot of bantering in the "Upstairs, Downstairs" sense between classes and the humor is deliciously dry. If you like a story that seems more like a deep breath and a lovely, long exhale then this is the book for you. Perfect for a chilly weekend spend indoors with a pot of tea and cozy blanket.

Or, of course, for a trip on the train!

Happy reading, Dears!

Monday, November 16, 2015

There is beauty to be found here.

a view of Gaston Street in Savannah, GA

An epiphany was had this weekend.

There is beauty to be found here.

HERE, wherever "here" is for you.

For me.

The world around us rages and it seems that everywhere we turn there's bad news, dreadful photographs and ugly language seeping into our memories and consciousness.

There have been times when I've found myself raging, seething to escape the confines of strangers, strangers who cut me off from my present. My selfish present. My consciousness became toxic from constant exposure to the traps of social media.

Have you ever gone away from it? Unplugged from the constant updates of everyone else's lives? I've stopped blogging before but I realized that wasn't unplugging for good. It was removing myself from a creative community and each time I've done it, I've faded.

No, I'm talking about FBook. Perhaps I'm being oversensitive. I am the happy owner of a hyper-sensitive personality. Oh joy; we take up only 1% of the population. It's not easy being green. It's not self-preservation, well, not JUST. It's a preservation of the beauty that is always around us.

Yes, Dear Reader, there is BEAUTY around us. Always around us. Sometimes you just have to look harder, find the microcosm that is easily missed.

As of this morning, I'm not existent on FBook any more. At least for a while. It may be permanent. My only hesitation of the forever is I have friends there who aren't involved in blogging or on Instagram. Why Instagram? Because it's a celebration of the lovely. It's easier to find others who want to paint the world a better place with joy and gardens and positivity. 

Am I avoiding "real life"? Not at all! Walking away from virtual anger is walking into the waking realm around us. Oddly enough, I feel I've just woken from a long, strange dream. The scrolling stopped and I felt lighter. A beautiful lightness of being. I wasn't on FBook terribly often, but I realized last night that I would suddenly have a lot more time. If I have more time, I wonder about the other hours flitted away by others who are there more and more often.

I'm not condemning social media. I'm a blogger and I post pictures of my cat on Instagram. It's a wonderful form of communication and connection. There are people in my family I've reconnected with and stay in touch with in ways I wasn't able to before. But, for now, I'm here in the blogverse, I'm on Instagram, and I'm out THERE. 

In the great, wide wonder of reality with hopes of better fueling myself to create my own!

Have YOU ever removed yourself from Social Media? What about those of you who AREN'T on FBook? Who have permanently removed yourselves from it? Did you feel freer, less constrained by the whims of others? If you've never been a part, why not? 

Happy Week, Friends!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Power of Words

Words are powerful. Magic.

Writers deal with words. They are our medium, our palette, our tools. We are the artists and words are the ways we present our art to the world.

But do we really, really know the power of words?

"Sticks and stones", we used to chant, "will break my bones but words will never hurt me."

So, so untrue.

Words have the power to build up and tear down.

Words have the power to create and destroy.

Too many times I find myself saying things outloud that I shouldn't. Many times those words are directed to myself. People laugh at self-deprecating humor. Some of us wield it like a well-trained butter knife.

Be kind to yourself and to others. When you're writing, choose your words well. I'm not talking about nitpicking every single thing you say. I am saying that there are perfect words out there for every thought you want to convey. Take the time to find that perfect word or phrase. Sure it will take more time, but it will make your work sing.

And when you start to insult yourself, take a step back. Pause. Breathe. So you goofed. So you didn't get that word count in for NaNo last week. Big deal.

You're amazing just because you're here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November IWSG : how do YOU NaNo?

Greetings and welcome to the monthly posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our goal is to encourage and inspire each other as well as hold the hands of anyone and everyone experiencing hard times in the writing world. We've all been there and we all need a hand to hold. The IWSG was started by our fearless Ninja leader, Alex Cavanaugh.

Unless you've been hidden away in a cellar or out traveling with the Doctor, you know that November is National Novel Writing Month. EVERYONE it seems is writing a novel or attempting one. Between November 01 and 30 you'll find groups of writers scribbling and typing away in coffee shops and book stores everywhere.

I missed last year but decided to sign up for 2015. I haven't posted an update and I just started writing yesterday. Some would say I was already 3 days behind and over 5,000 words late. But I realized something this year: NaNo is what YOU want it to be. Sure I've done the race for 50,000 words. I've even DONE 50,000 words in a month three times. It's hard, it's exhilarating and, when you "win", it's triumphant!

This year, though, I had a different approach. I've been working on a nonfiction project for a year now. It started as a way to uncover memories from my childhood and turned into a gathering of craft projects, recipes and memories of past holidays. It's fun and I'm enjoying it. I decided I'd use NaNo to get as far as I can in the second draft of this project. No, it's not a novel. I'm not even sure if the outline and summary I have will add up to 50,000 words when all is said and done. But I've made my choice and my goal and I'm going for it.

If you've decided to compete in the NaNoWriMo Challenge, GO FOR IT!! Grab those word counts and see just what you're made of. It's fun to do it, the Challenge Way at least once. You really find out just how you write best. But for those of you on the fence, or those of you who have been afraid of NaNo, here's my little ray of sunshine for you. Go ahead and sign up. You don't have to post any word counts unless you WANT to. The NaNo Gestapo won't show up for regular updates. As far as I know, one doesn't exist. The reason I signed up is so I'd have something to focus on and something to check my own progress against. That's all.

Maybe I'll make that 50,000. Maybe I won't. The point is to set MY goal and go for THAT. Goals are important, but remember they are YOUR goals. Unless you're writing for a publisher, then flexibility is required. But until then, use whatever works for YOU to get YOUR work done!

Happy writing!!