Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer's Cusp

The crickets and frogs sing through the cool evenings, and the morning mist parts to a glorious golden glow and frosted blue sky. The heat of summer never quite rises beyond the embrace of a warm bath. Impatience paces beneath the languor of easy weather with easy, flowing clothes and bare feet and sun hats. The hours of daylight have already begun to huddle and bow before the coming winter. Gardeners feast amid the overgrowth, ignoring weeds and the delicate touch of powdery mildew on pumpkin leaves, that autumn pest that comes with the vanguard of cold winds, the sooner twin of frost.

It's so warm and exquisite I can hardly imagine what's coming, but time's river flows and it's pulling me, the landscape changing around me as I'm drawn from summer into autumn. Autumn is opening her eyes, and she smiles that knowing, seductive smile. What games we'll play, what work must be done in preparation for the Cold Queen and her retinue. Better to get it done in advance of her arrival, for working beneath her heavy gaze is harder work than is made in the comfort of autumn's arms.

And I want autumn to rise and dance, even as I grieve at summer's passing.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Integrity for Grownups

This post is not actually all about me, even though it sounds like it and sometimes I'm self-absorbed like that so that wouldn't be an inaccurate perception. There's stuff going on. What I'd like to say is, I will treat others gently when met with matters of word, honor, and responsibility, because I see myself in them. I won't always and unyielding-ly hold people to their words ... they must hold themselves to their words, unless they feel in their hearts, minds and spirits that not holding themselves to their words would be a greater sin than following them. As for procrastination and denial ... those things hound me too.

Someone recently told me that they read (or thought up) what it meant to be a grownup. They got to live in their own place, go out with friends and do whatever or stay home and enjoy the solitude on their own schedule ... and went to the dentist without being bullied or dragged in.

In days of yore, people would say things like 'a man is as good as his word' and 'my word is my bond.' When thinking about these things as a young adult, I thought it meant that no matter how crappy things got, you followed through on promises, even if it killed you.

How do these things connect?

I'm not entirely a grownup, as my DH well knows. I don't go to the dentist for annual checkups or six month cleanings. I go when I feel a hole start to develop on the surface of a tooth, or if something hurts. And though I try to be careful to: A. only make promises I can keep and B. follow through when I say I'll do something, the hard reality is that I'm usually on the verge of being late for work almost every day (I generally arrive just a couple of minutes before I have to clock in) and that I'm a sloppy communicator, so I may not always mean exactly what I say. This has caused some irritation and grief over the years, mainly to my DH, who has to put up with my silliness and inconsistency and my tendency to race around the house looking for my purse when I ought to be walking through the door at my work site.

As I've grown older I've come to realize that 'my word is my bond' and 'a man is as good as his word' are more complex and beautiful and difficult than mere adherence to formally-made vows. The things we say, especially the things we say over and over again, are the things that people around us have to assume that we mean because otherwise the stuff that comes out of our mouths is worthless. We might as well not say anything at all. In fact it might be better not to say anything at all, especially if what we say is something to let ourselves off the hook when we fail.

Integrity isn't always as simple as a failure or a success, a truth or a lie. If I say I'm going to work really hard to get this project done by Tuesday, and the work is overwhelming so that I'm late on delivery but I stay in touch with the manager, let him know how things are going, and tell him as soon as I can that it's going to be done on Friday (or ask for help so that I can get it done on time), he'd be a pretty crappy guy to say "but you saaaiiiid you'd be done by Tuesday! You're a crappy employee!" My lateness shouldn't reflect on my integrity, just my powers of estimation. But if I say, "we can have whatever you want for dinner tonight," and then the suggestion is deep fried shrimp, potato salad and devil's food cake for dessert and I start to wheedle with "but it's so fattening and I'm really in the mood for a salad and some nice broiled fish ...." That's not fair. And I have pulled crap like that.

I've also realized that being responsible isn't just being response-able, though that is a huge and important part of being an adult. There's a need for people to grow and learn and constantly seek new ways to become better at surviving, thriving, and contributing. Being a responsible, grown-up adult also means facing and dealing with the unpleasant, scary, painful shit in our lives, and doing our part to survive, thrive, and contribute to the solutions that will hopefully lead to some improvement if not actual victory. Ignoring or hiding from problems, hoping that they'll go away or get better on their own, or convincing ourselves that they're maybe not so bad, or focusing on all the other stuff that goes on in our lives in the hopes that a lottery win will fix it all for us ... that's not being a grownup.

And I am not a grownup. Not all the way. I hope I'm getting better, stronger, smarter, more competent. I hope that my efforts and communication skills transmit to the people that I love that I probably won't be done by Tuesday, but that I'm working until I'm exhausted every waking hour trying to fulfill my promise. And when I whine for broiled fish and I see the look of betrayal in my friend's eyes, I hope I'm forgiven, though now both dinners are poisoned for everyone because of the guilt and the betrayal. I hope I don't pull that kind of shit again next time I work to deadline or yield a decision to someone else, if I'm given the honor of a next time. Part of what motivates me to do better is the awareness that my friends don't have to forgive me. To respect them, to honor them and to build integrity, I must assume that they might not forgive me.

Damn I've got a lot of growing up to do.

I won't drag my friends to the dentist. They have to go to the dentist themselves. For my part, if they ask, I will be honest about the decay I see, and offer what insights I have. However unworthy they may consider themselves to be for whatever they have done or not done, unless they've managed to hide something extreme like that they're a bunny-raping axe murderer, I know we are akin in our imperfections, and forgiveness, understanding and love will remain possibilities in our ongoing lives.

One last observation. The things that we are most ashamed of or most fearful of might not be what our friends and families find most painful and distancing. So often it's not the mistakes we make, but what we don't do about them or don't say about them that damage our integrity the most. Those times that we are most afraid, hurting the most, and the most isolated are often the very times we need to reach out, if for no other reason than to get a second opinion from people we trust. If we have chosen our friends wisely, it's more likely that our worst nightmares of condemnation and isolation will vanish, and we'll wake into a world of support, caring, and with the hope of a fresh new start.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Lately I've been feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, not only because of work, although that contributes, or because I also have too many projects in various stages of completion, which of course doesn't help either, but because I have too much stuff to track and maintain and organize. I feel a strong desire to downsize, not so much in the direction of a smaller house, but in terms of unloading things that I don't want or use anymore.

Some of the stuff we have around the house is garbage. It's useless, not just to us, but to anyone really. Some of the things I have in my office are so dirty or water damaged or bug/mouse/creepything infested or stained by the leavings of those things that I don't even want to touch them. Motivating myself to go through those things, especially because I'll want to try to clean/repair/rescue some of those things is tough. The last thing I want to do after a long day at work, or even worse, on my weekend, is wrestle with giant spiders and dust mouse droppings off of something that had once been precious to me.

It's too dry to have a paperwork burning. That's one of my favorite forms of purging mess, is to sort through boxes or bags of paperwork that I didn't feel comfortable just chucking into the recycling bin. It's easy with no guilt and very little desire to retain/rescue individual pages, but it's time consuming. Anyway, since I can't really do my favorite garbage-ridding, I'm looking for ways to downsize the rest of our accumulation.

Donation is easy and convenient for those things we don't want or need anymore. We have a Goodwill station right by the grocery store. But I sometimes wonder if I might be able to get some actual cash money for some of our items.

Unfortunately, a lot of that non-useful-to-us stuff really needs to be cleaned up and organized, and then what? We're a bit too far out to have a garage sale. Ebay would require a big learning curve, and a friend of ours let us know that it can be quite time consuming without any guarantee of making back enough money to offset the time you spend on it, never mind get what the item is actually worth.

So, I'm debating what to tackle in what room, to what extent, and when, and while I debate, of course no progress is being made. Still, it's on my radar. I now that having less stuff will help reduce my stress level and give us less housework overall. When I look at homes that look nice, they tend to have very, very little clutter and almost no stuff in each given room. That would be full of awesome.

As long as I don't have to sacrifice any books. Clearly what we need are more bookshelves. Which technically are stuff, but ... not, right?

Ugh. Stuff. Too much stuff!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Yet Another Weird Thought About Writing

I wondered today if I was the last person on Earth, or marooned on an island with no hope of anyone finding me, and/or if I could only write on materials so transient that they would become unreadable before anyone but me could read them again ... would I still write? I know these aren't original thoughts, but that's where my brain went today. Nothing new under the sun.

Anyway, I think I would write as much as I could. In fact, I think writing would become even more precious to me. I don't think I'd have much time to write in a survival situation, so there's the scarcity principle in action right there.

But I also have a scarcity principle in operation because I work full time, so I have very little (by comparison to the rest of my day, considering that I have chores, have to eat, sleep, etc.) time to write. So writing is precious to me in part because of that.

And I have no guarantee that anyone will find my work, or read it. It's a grain of sand on a vast beach. I would like to be read, but that's not the primary thing motivating me.

Still, there's a chance. In that marooned situation, last person in the world scenario, why would I write?

To ease my loneliness, even if it's only until the tide comes in and sweeps the words from the sand.

I wonder if there's a lonely part inside every writer that writes to make itself feel better. Is it deluded, unaware of all the companionship all around it ... or is that part of a writer the part that's aware that no matter how many friends we have, how close we are to family, or how many pets we cherish, each of us can only live our own lives. As we are each born into one body, that one body must die and no one can take that journey for us, or go with us ...

Our writing is perhaps one of a few things that exists as part of us outside of us. Sculpture, art, music ....

Prehistoric cave paintings on a wall. Made for posterity? Maybe, but even so, their creators were like us. Are us. Found pleasure it extending their existence outside their bodies so they could look at something so much better than a mirror. Art, as a companion? A soul mate?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bonny blue een

The girl is putting together a paper and a diorama for her poetry class. She and I had a lot of fun making a rice-stuffed doll. She did the rest entirely herself (although as a surprise, I'm going to make a shield for her fallen knight tonight.) We may have reached new lows, or highs, depending, of family weirdness as we both really like the doll. Even though it has no legs. And looks wounded. And is creepy.

She has ravens, a nest, and everything. We used corn silk for the hair, and painted two buttons with blue nail polish (doesn't everyone have blue nail polish just laying around the house?) for the eyes.

Her subject:

  Twa Corbies! (Anonymous, from

AS I was walking all alane 
I heard twa corbies making a mane: 
The tane unto the tither did say, 
'Whar sall we gang and dine the day?' 
'—In behint yon auld fail dyke         5
I wot there lies a new-slain knight; 
And naebody kens that he lies there 
But his hawk, his hound, and his lady fair. 
'His hound is to the hunting gane, 
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,  10
His lady 's ta'en anither mate, 
So we may mak our dinner sweet. 
'Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane, 
And I'll pike out his bonny blue e'en: 
Wi' ae lock o' his gowden hair  15
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare. 
'Mony a one for him maks mane, 
But nane sall ken whar he is gane: 
O'er his white banes, when they are bare, 
The wind sall blaw for evermair.'

Whether the doll is weirdly, creepy-cute, or just plain wrong, that was about the best quality time the girl and I have had to spend together in quite awhile.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Getting Stuff Done

As most of you know or have gathered, I work a full time day job (yay!) and then write, design books, garden, do light physical training, create cover art, and teach myself various business-related skills like web page design, tax accounting, graphic design, typography, and how to maintain my delicate facade of calm and competence when in fact I'm constantly overwhelmed by work and dreaming crazy dreams.

Lately I've been more overwhelmed than usual (!) with stuff that needs to get done by various deadlines. This is what I do when I have so much crap to accomplish that I don't want to do anything at all. It might work for you too.

I separate daylight and after dark activities. It really doesn't work to garden after dark, though I've done it. Ditto for trimming goat hooves, mowing, taking the dogs for a walk, staining the deck, carpentry, etc. So if I plan to make headway on one of those sorts of things, I prioritize my time accordingly.

I separate heat-of-day activities from cool temperature activities. I might get away with staining the deck, washing a car, giving the dogs baths, or even pulling tansy during the heat of the day, but mowing during the heat of the day, or rototilling, or digging up a huge plant and moving it to the opposite end of the garden might be best for before noon or after 6pm.

I give myself an hour or so playing dithering games. Those vary from the obvious, like playing endless rounds of Bejeweled, to weird, like deciding to reorganize my underwear drawer. I could try to not do those sorts of things at all, but I find that if I don't give in at least for a little while, I can't seem to focus and I end up puttering and not getting much done ... basically I dither by default. Once that hour (or so) is up, I have to stop and work on one of my real goals. Something about the time restriction, and allowing myself to waste time on my own terms, helps put me in a good working headspace.

Then I get to work, dividing my time between two or three things over the course of the day so that I don't get mush brain and start to make mistakes. I listed this last, but I seem to do much, much better if I decide in advance which two or three things on my long to-do list I'm going to work on on a given day.

When I start to hesitate, or realize that I don't have all the stuff I need to finish, or my eyes start to cross and I lose track of what goes where and whose eyes are green, I stop, dither a while, tank up on food and water, and do something different, whatever is next on the day's list.

This system has been working really, really well for me. And the more I practice it, the more I seem to accomplish.  Pretty soon I hope to announce the completion of a big project I've been working on for years. I'm very, very close to getting there. Because I'm a typical, self-sabotaging creative type I of course didn't want to put the finishing touches on this project as soon as I got home from the day job, and instead watered my garden, played Bejeweled, weeded around some of my roses, trimmed oregano back from a garden path, and made snide comments about a really, really bad movie playing in the background while I played Bejeweled. Well, I've had my fun now. According to my rule, I need to put some time into real work now, so it's off to copyedit a few more chapters in my book, and then bedtime. Who knows? Maybe if I get on a roll, I might even finish tonight. That would be awesome.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


I tried to find something today. It was a fairly important thing that at the time I thought we would need today, ASAP.  Turned out that we didn't, but, I spent about an hour looking for it.

I found:

Boxes of paperwork intended for burning.
Spiderwebs larger than my head.
Enough dust bunnies that they could probably be felted into a fine and substantial hat.
Old CDs I'd burned for bellydance classes that I haven't held in many years.
That although the floor had been recently swept in my office, there was enough accumulated cat litter tracked out of the cat box now that it's extremely unpleasant to walk in there barefooted.
Paycheck stubs from years ago waiting to be filed, along with a huge stack of other to-be-filed material.
That we have an impressive colony of the spiders I loathe and fear the most in our downstairs.

And much, much more.

I'm inspired to get some of this stuff organized, cleaned out, and whatever is junk, thrown away. I would also like the spiders to magically disappear as if they've never existed, and I will pretend that they were all nicely let outside where they belong and will lead their happy, long, creepy spider lives elsewhere.

And I would really, really like to find the disk we were looking for. We found the box, the instructions, the legalese ... but not the disk. Argh. We don't need it, but in case we do, I don't want to search through all that junk again.

Because, seriously. That was scary, and gross.