7 Quick Takes for the New Year

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Looks like it’s going to be another chilly entry into the new year: -30° and colder since two days after Christmas, and a bunch of highs near -40° through at least next Monday.

Anybody whose been complaining about your winter weather can be reminded now: It could be worse.

I’ve lived here most of my life, am very content indoors and we rarely have much wind on these cold days– So “it could be worse” even for me.

For example, this could (and has!) happen(ed) during a week when Jay had to drive to work each morning.  Thankfully he has this week off and we can hibernate if we so choose.

And the best part is a week of this and I’ll have no qualms about bringing in all the bedbuggy stuff still outside.  (Jay says he does, though, so I’m not sure what will happen.)

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My “big” resolution, or goal, or… whatever you want to call it:

Nothing new this year.  Not even books– used or new.

This means not starting any new projects in 2009.

By contrast, in 2008, with an already-full life, I

The natural result of “nothing new” is no recreational buying.  No buying “on spec” (my gift shelf is well-stocked, my kids’ grow-into boxes ready, my homeschool books boxed and waiting.), and maybe even no buying without a list.

That last detail’s going to take more thought.

It means finishing the projects and books I’ve started (and bought to start), and training my mind to think first of what I have– even before the Library or other borrowing– because this isn’t first about saving money.  It’s about re-training my thinking.   The purpose of the exercise is to shift my thinking from “outward” and “exploring” to being more home- and contentment-centered.  Satisfied.

I have told myself I can buy books this year once/if I finish what I’ve already bought, but considering I’ve glutted myself a bit in the last two weeks, leading up to this challenge, that is even less likely to happen than is was last year when I tried the first time.

It is sobering to re-read that post and know my goal is exactly the same a year later.  But I also know that I made choices that led to discarding the effort, so (Lord willing) I’ll make a more purposed attempt this time around.

The first thing is to not go into a bookstore– because I *will* find something I’d like to buy (Yesterday I made sure to empty my B&N gift card and buy the one book left to complete the last of 2008’s series’ collecting).  The rest I guess I’ll figure out as I go along.

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I just introduced the idea of “chore charts” to the kids yesterday, and made one for myself as well.

Since I felt it would be either overwhelming or depressing to actually list everything I must do, I just made a 3-point chart for me:

  • Read Bible
  • Exercise
  • Brush dog

I like having such a short list to look at; especially since I sometimes make serious to-do lists on the side.  My three little stickers at the end of the day feel so fulfilling I have no questions about why this works for children.

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

Starting the book Opening Your Child’s Spiritual Windows tonight raised a lot of questions in my mind.  Most about the nature of my relationship with my children.

Slantwise about the legitimacy of my writing and my desire to read so much YA fiction this year.  I (mentally) compared Fire Arrow with OYCSW and can see the value so much clearer in the second.

But unless I feel the call to write being withdrawn (which I haven’t) I have to assume they both are important.  Not because I expect FA to change my life (as OYCSW might) but because I need to be faithful to develop the skills God has called me to build.

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I forget now where, but recently I read someone who insisted the way you become a better writer is 50% by writing and 50%  by reading.

Thinking on the implications of this I determined to keep it “before my eyes” (hence my massive reading goals).  I want to keep this in mind, because if I let my approach to the craft slip too much into writing alone (however important I know that practice to be) I fear I’ll fall into an underlying arrogance; that I might imagine I can improve simply from within, without external input.

And that goes against everything I say I believe.

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

My reading list– all books (though not all the books) that I have waiting on my shelves– is in my new right-hand column.

I have a new page listing what I’ve finished, what I’m reading, and a few thoughts on each as I go along

No reviews here, and no spoiler-warnings either: just the notes I want to keep for myself, and they won’t be spoilers for me.  Consider yourself duly (dully?) warned.

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I *love* my new blog template.  It’s set up with all the changeable options (fonts, colors, widths) in an actual menu, so I don’t have to go digging though the style sheet to find them.

Anyone who’s tried to wiggle their own template details will understand when I say:

Absolute *delight* to work with.

More 7 Quick Takes at Jen’s place.

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 3)

Again, from Jen’s idea.

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Jay’s talking about wanting a pellet-burning stove.  I’m asking where it will go.

I’m asking for a double bed with drawers.  It will take up less room (in our little room) than the queen-sized bed (we never use all that space anyway), and let us get rid of at least one dresser.

Both changes will make more room for book cases ;)  Eventually.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

The cast list was sent out last week, and my name was by “doting mother,” which comes just before a list of “my” seven children (a boy, three girls and my own three kids).  This might have seemed really cool, except just a couple days before Jay had fielded a call while I was out, inviting me to play “the matron.”

Leaving aside the self-image rearrangement that I looked more like a “matron” than a lady (hmmm?) the description of the role he was given created some questions that have yet to be cleared up.

  • The role was described as comic relief
    • I’ve never actually done “comic relief” before.  My humor is more about situational stuff and wordplay.  It would be a new thing to learn.
  • Am I the “doting mother” or the “matron” who’s constantly dumping her seven kids on Cinderella (highlighting her helpless plight)?
    • The compatibility of the two alludes me
  • What is the behavior of these 7 children?
    • I have yet to see a comedy where the children behave properly
    • I e-mailed the director and said I would be willing to herd 7 children, but not 7 brats (I suppose that was horrid, but it’s true.)
    • I’ve often thought that more intimidating than unruliness (and less-frequently explored, perhaps because it’s more complex) is the “perfectly behaved” children who are positively devious and make their digs by cunning rather than brute-brattyness.
      • This possibility actually creeps me out more than spiders.  Or at least as much.

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I have my latest project (with Christmas for the deadline): dollhouse dolls.

I was so excited to see Barbara Curtis‘s post about the hugely discounted M&D dollhouse that I bought it the same day (it’s still going for under-retail now, but then it was $47.99, I think).  Local retailers ended up being out of the little dolls, so now I am in the process of making little flexible family members to live in said house.

It may even turn into an “entrepreneurial opportunity” as one owner of a sold-out shop emphatically affirmed her store would be very happy to offer locally made dolls.

(We’ll see how interested I am after I finish our own bundle)

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I was at Barnes and Noble yesterday, considering all the delicious ways to spend a gift card, and the oddest thing happened as I cruised the section of the children’s department where I read the most.

I felt a claustrophobic tightening in my chest.  Just standing and looking at books was making me dizzy, and not in a good way.

This I’ve noticed only once before: when perusing the Lloyd Alexander section in my local library.  Dude’s got a gobzillion books out!

I can only suppose the feeling is a goulash of emotions: anticipation (someday I’ll be there), anxiety (when will that be?  When will I be done?), overwhelmed-ness (at the prolific-ness of other writers), and maybe even jealousy (at the freedom they seem to have in order to be prolific…)

I had to make myself be still and pray, waiting for God settle my mind and emotions before I could finish looking for the book I wanted that day.

Unreal, but making me again thankful I have a God who’s bigger than my emotions.

~ ~ 5 ~ ~

Once that was over I propped myself in one of the cushy chairs by their circular fireplace and worked some more on the timeline of my novel.  I had two distinct packages emerge in the process, and solved a squished-time dilemma (I’ve needed an extra day and just found where it belonged).

So, I have to give Jay’s fireplace idea some credence.  There’s a lot to be said for watching the flames.  It’s like a shower for your brain.  At least for me, having something visual and real, but inconcrete, was very useful.

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

I’ve decided I like to eat too much for weights or Pilates to be enough exercise.

Not that I eat a lot (I imagine I’ve got that under control) I just like, a lot, to eat.  And the stuff I want to eat, that I’ve been eating, has maintained me 13-lbs above my target weight (trust me when I say my target is not unrealistic, or even low, for my height).

The trick, as with all exercise, is finding something sustainable.

Free weights and Pilates are doable because I can take from books and do them in my living room.  The walking with my dog has been put on-hold because sub-zero walks are far from the motivating delight “normal” walks are.

I’ve considered a step, as I like the space requirements and exercising to music, but I’ve not taken the plunge yet.

We did see one in the same place Jay noticed a pull-up bar he wanted, so we may end up getting both together.  Maybe for a new-year’s project.

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After looking yesterday at all three furniture stores in-town, Jay decided he wants to build the bed frame himself.

His goal is to get the main support and frame built this weekend (so we can buy a mattress and get our bed off the floor) and to design it so that a later-constructed set of drawers may be slid under it whenever they are completed.

This was the design we liked best out of what we saw, only most of these drawers were simple “friction” drawers, where you needed to drag a wooden box out of a wooden hole.

Jay knows he can do better than that, though he/we might not even have bothered, truly, if it weren’t for the exorbitant cost of new furniture.  If I’m paying over a thousand dollars for an item (we’re pushing a house-payment here!) I expect to get *exactly* what I need.

I suppose we could be considered unreasonable consumers.  But there you are: Jay will take on a project, same as me, when he knows he can do it as well, or better, then what is otherwise available.

So the bed will come before the fireplace– but I expect the next time we’ve saved some house money the fireplace will be next.

7 quick takes Vol. 2

My brain is so full (and my time so clogged) that I’m going to do this again.  I’ve written at least four posts since the last 7-takes, but none of them were right for general consumption, so I’ll just touch some here and go on.

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Been fighting bedbugs since last Sunday’s blitzkrieg.  Three days ago I realized the hardest thing about it all (okay, one of the three hardest tings) is a basic reality I learned in Introduction to Logic 10 years ago:

You can prove something exists.  You cannot prove something does not exist.

I’m feeling very good about the situation currently, but I can’t change what I’m doing because I have no way of knowing if I’ve “won” or if I’m just holding things off for the present.

I pray it’s the former.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

I find constant housework mentally draining.  “Just pick it up when you see it” only works for me if I’m chooing not to see it all.

As a project-oriented person I feel I do my best when rotating between specific, goal-focused tasks.

The necessity of daily pick-ups for the daily vacuuming makes me a little nuts and I haven’t really figured out why or what to do about it.

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

My laptop’s mouse disappeared while I was vacuuming in the other room.  I really hope it surfaces soon.

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

I’ve been pulled toward my novel several times this last week, but not done any serious work.  I was reviewing my characters’ playlists (I’ve mentioned these before), adding songs, and really noticed the gap in appropriateness between my children and the stuff I’m writing.

Oddly (?) enough, it entered my awareness mostly from my realizing i didn’t want my kids listening to a steady diet of these songs I’ve collected.  Maybe they wouldn’t notice or care, but the stuff I collect leans toward the more emotionally intense.

It could be just my wiring, but these are rarely just background music, and when I finish one of these playlists I have a similar feeling to when I’ve sat through a movie– that breathless, half-tired rush of reentry to reality.

(And, again, if you look, the movies mean nothing– I collect these for the songs, so don’t read into what you might see.)

~ ~ 5 ~ ~

Because of all the “extra” work the dinosaurs have been put on perpetual hold.   Bummer.

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

Despite telling myself a long time ago that I would focus on guitar alone, I just realized I’m at about the same level on both.

That is to say, not great, but competent enough to accompany myself on songs I’ve practiced.  It’s amazing to me how much more alive and full a song sounds with an instrument.

And then it all jumps up that much again when a “real” pianist or guitarist plays that accompaniment.

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I had a couple positive reminders yesterday of kids absorbing their parent’s enthusiasm for something.

  • I was practicing In Christ Alone on the piano and all the kids cycled through sitting with me until Natasha came and stayed.  I showed her the shaping of a couple cords, and her hand wasn’t quite stong enough, but she stayed with me and sang along while I played, watching the words and hardly missing any.
  • The bible study I’m visiting just now has the high goal of memorizing a verse a week of the passage we’re studying.  Yesterday I was playing catch-up and had my reader watch the words while I recited them.  I couldn’t pause long to think because she’d start reading.  By the end she was cheering me on, and when I paused her little sister launched into Psalm 19, the passage we memorized together last summer.
    • Melody might have been the quickest learner back then, but she quite suddenly decided she didn’t like it any more and quit participating, so this was a “breakthrough” moment to have her back on board.

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 1)

From Jen F.’s lovely idea of lumping the littles together in their  beautiful, interconnected randomness.

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I read a book Monday, took Tuesday off, read a book Wednesday (I had a *completely* different ending mapped out for the book you sent me, Bluestocking.  Couldn’t help feeling mine was just a bit more logical/realistic.  If nothing else, intense.)

Jay walked in on me starting a third book Wednesday morning and was a rather efficient wet blanket to my smoldering enthusiasm.  I gave up the new book and returned to a book that was already at “favorite” status with only one read.

~ ~ 2 ~ ~

While on my way home from Bermuda last week I finished Stephen King’s On Writing.  I loved how right he was about being encouraged by what you read.

He basically said that no matter what you read it’s good for you: either as a model to emulate/aspire to (though he repeatedly emphasized dreaming was the most we mortals can do with the really high caliber stuff), or as an encouragement that there’s stuff published that’s worse than what you’re currently producing.

~ ~ 3 ~ ~

That said, I felt encouraged by both “new” books I read this week.  I felt that I am writing solidly at the level both these books were at, and it really gave me confidence to dive back in…as corny as I sometimes feel.

The what (and flaws I noticed as a writer: i.e., the biggest things I would have tried to revise):

  • The Hound and the Princess (the story was engaging, but quite a few talking-heads scenes.  Gave me hope that my own tendencies might not be as dangerous as I thought).
  • Dream or Destiny (head-hoping and minute description of clothing choices.  Got used to it, but the quick-changing POV is a no-no in my writing circle/according to my training) D or D was a murder mystery/romance, and the jumps from leading man to leading lady are an understandable device of the writer to make it clear neither one is guilty.   Though she could have been sneaky and revealed one of them as an unreliable POV….

But then it wouldn’t have been a very satisfactory romance.

~ ~ 4 ~ ~

At the dog class last night the teacher asked what tricks I was teaching Joule.

Taken aback I said we weren’t don’t anything special– she can’t jump up, and has to lay down before she gets her dinner.  She *loves* to retrieve.

That’s not enough, I was informed.  She needs to be able to bow or wave or something. 

Get to work lady.  Don’t waste a brain.

~ ~ 5 ~ ~

I have a challenge looming over me that has given me some kind of emotional flu.  It’s resulted in my being less-kind than (honestly) I can ever remember being before.

Any prayers will be appreciated.

~ ~ 6 ~ ~

Have I mentioned here that one of my creative outlets (though not recently) has been making stuffed animals?

This would be of the distinctly-identifiable variety.  Not the make-a-blob-and-call-it-cute type.

I started making Teddy Bears (that’s my book review on Amazon) when I was 17.  Jointed and un-jointed.  Big coolness points.

Creating stuffed animals is something related to noveling and giving birth.  There is a moment when you see the spark of life and *other* in the thing taking shape under your hands: both of you and different from you.

Perhaps pathetic, but I am picking up the scissors again in an attempt to battle my “flu” and hope to finish designing my own pattern.  It is not a bear.  It combines what I learned from that book and this one about dinosaurs to mesh what I found to be the best elements of each.

I made my prototype two Mays ago and it only needs the head and tail modified.  Body spot-on the first time.

Comfortably pleased with myself.   Yes, I really do leave projects to sit for years at a time.  Less-pleased about that, maybe, but not enough to change.

~ ~ 7 ~ ~

Fascinating place, Bermuda; everything that’s not a a bar or restaurant closes at five.  And the sun goes down within the next hour.  The warm dark was quite as surreal as expected.

And I *loved* the warm rain.

I was sitting in a hotel room writing while Jay was in a conference most of the day, and wrestled my way to a clean 3/4ths mark— before I had a whole flop of revision assert itself and create 5 new sections to write.

Yes, I might now be procrastinating a bit; but at least I have reasons.