Monday, May 14, 2018

28 Places to Sit in My Yard

The other day I started noticing a trend in our yard. The trend being...places to sit. Lots of places to sit. 28, to be precise. So of course I had to take pictures of all of them. Don't worry, it's only 9 pics; not 28.

So here we go, the first and only edition of All the Places to Sit in my Yard:

Small Table for four on our front balcony.

Gliding swing set for two. This one is far back into our yard, right next to the soon-to-be She-Shed.

 Clint's parents' bistro table, located on the small balcony next to their studio apartment. When they're over it has pretty cushions on it and stuff.

Southern rocking chairs on our front patio--tied for 1st place for the Most-Used Seating Award. Clint and his dad can almost always be found here, shootin' the breeze over a beer and cigar.

 Cozy bench for two on our front patio. This one earns the Least-Used Seating Award. In fact, my one and only time sitting here was right after I took this picture.

Table for four on our side patio, and by far the family favorite! This is the other recipient of the Most Used Seating Award. On nice days we eat all of our meals here. The first two weeks of summer I will be repainting this table and adding new cushions to spruce it up.

This table for six is one of my personal faves. Carey (Clint's dad) leveled this piece of land for me so I could have a table out in the sunshine. It's a great place to soak in some rays during more temperate weather, and its sturdy construction makes it perfect for painting/crafts.

Trinity's space. She has a patio attached to her bedroom, and we bought her this outdoor set for her birthday. All we need now is a plant for that planter. 

This little bistro table was a housewarming gift from Shannon, and has my favorite view. Maybe not too practical for eating a meal here (though I have), but perfect for plopping down with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

And this concludes my super fascinating edition of All the Places to Pop a Squat in my Yard, or whatever. I'm going to make it my goal this summer to use ALL of them and film every minute of the entire experience. 

Okay, I wont really do that.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Last 200 Words - Chapter Two

Quick highlights from the week:
  • I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Shan and Sarah on Saturday night. It had been too long and I love hanging out with my BFF! Even though I showed my gratitude by dumping Sarah's margarita all over her crotch. I tried to wipe it up for her but that just got weird.
  • We discovered an amazing winery/vineyard on my mountain, right down the street from Shan's house (the winery is actually using the apples from Shan's orchard to make hard cider). A group of us went for a wine tasting and even though I'm a closet hillbilly I decided to go along with all the swirling and inhaling and checking for legs. Did you know wine has legs? Which is funny because the more I drink of it, the less I have legs...well, usable ones that walk straight, anyway.
  • A swarm of bees attacked our school during lunch last week. By swarm I mean SWARM. They had to do an on-call telling teachers to keep our students barricaded in class until the rampage had ended.

Okay, last 200 words for Black Lilies, chapter two.

 The dark figure seemed to turn on the rope. Without thinking I reached for it, wanting more than anything to touch it. To touch him. To help him, somehow.
 With a long arm, he reached for me. 
 Coming to my senses, I choked on my scream and jumped back, nearly tripping on my feet. I felt a hand grab my elbow and I almost screamed again, before I realized the hand was trying to steady me. 
 “Whoa there. Are you okay?” It was the dark-haired guy with the sling. Joe, I thought. His brown eyes were deep and warm against his olive complexion. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
 I gratefully accepted his hand and righted myself, trying to control my breathing. Heart beating like a drummer on steroids, my eyes darted around the space where the shadow-man had hung. He—it—was gone.
 The grand clock in Pendulum Square, the one we Sezonians call The Face of Maui, tolled in the distance, its deep bells cutting through the night. Ten soulful chimes, each slipping into the dark like a shadow.
  I swallowed hard and looked up into Joe’s concerned face. 

  “I think I did see a ghost.”

(197 words)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Last 200 Words - Chapter One

Lots to write about but no time! Just to keep my blog from going stale, once a week I'm going to copy/paste my last 200 words for each completed chapter of Black Lilies (similar to what we used to do for the WIP Marathon), unless the last 200 words is a big fat spoiler.

Note: These excerpts are being pulled from a working draft and are subject to change.

Okay, chapter one! Dang it, this one is the most boring when it's out of context. Oh well.

Yet the words chilled him. They seemed aimed directly at him, though he had only conceived a name for the clock minutes ago. He turned around, suddenly feeling watched; vulnerable.
  The paper began to skid in the breeze, and he reached down to retrieve it. Flattening it again, he skimmed down to the end of the letter to find the closing salutation.
Yours in Time, Aviva
He let out a breath. That confirmed it. He didn’t know anyone named Aviva. He had never heard of that name in his life.
Curious now, he went back to read the letter in its entirety. The beginning was confusing, and some parts made him chuckle. But by the time he reached the end, his eyes were fogged with moisture, and his skin felt hot. He was glad that William and George had gone home so they wouldn’t witness him behaving like such a pansy.
He carefully folded the letter and stuffed it into the pocket of his trousers. The letter wasn’t meant for him.
So why did he feel, deep down to his core, that it was?
(185 words)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Duck Derby

For the record that last post was written well over a month ago, and I either forgot to post it, or thought at the time that it was too depressing. But it doesn't really bother me now, plus that's a damn fine graphic of a butterfly.

So, life right now in a nutshell: Work, commuting, sleep deprivation...the usual. Monday through Friday sort of sucks. (Wow, I'm off to a chipper start here). I love my job the way I always have, but I'm drained like, all the time. The weekends, on the other hand...those are magical. Every weekend I feel like I'm on vacation. Clint makes us breakfast on Saturday mornings and we eat it outside on our patio, rain or shine (really 'snow or shine'  would be more accurate). We bought one of those patio heaters a few months ago:

You may have seen these in outdoor areas of restaurants. Anyway, this thing was the best hundred bucks we've ever spent. Even when the temperatures are freezing we keep nice and toasty. We end up outside for probably a good hour in the mornings, chatting, drinking coffee, enjoying our little neck of the woods. Literal woods too, which is even better.

Friday on our way home from work we swung by Goodwin's (local grocery store) and purchased our ducks for the mountain's annual Duck Derby next weekend. I've never been to one, but I've heard about it from Shan for years. Basically a bunch of rubber ducks are released down a waterslide down into the lake, where they proceed to bob along in the world's most pitiful "race" in which most stall into giant clumps and need help from firefighters with giant hoses to move them along. Everyone cheers for their duck, not really knowing which one(s) is theirs. The owner of the winning duck gets $1,000 (2nd place = $500, 3rd = $250, last place = $100). Proceeds for the duck derby pay for the town's fireworks for 4th of July.

So despite being super cheesy, the Duck Derby is a big deal around here. Over 3,000 people attended last year, and nearly $8,000 was raised. Isn't this the best thing ever? I am so, so excited for this stupid event. I love it that I live in a community that does corny stuff like this. It makes me feel like I've stepped back into the '50s.

Other reasons I love living here: Regular visits with my sis's family! It's amazing to be able to meet them spontaneously for lunch now, or to swing by their house for a beer and a game of shuffleboard. Trin and Elijah get to see their cousins all the time...those crazy kids get together with or without us. On Thursday night, Cassidi, Dylan and I went to a school board meeting to support Rim teachers (long story), and both Cass and I gave a speech. The whole thing was such a cool experience; being there with my niece and nephew, seeing the community rally together like that.

But mountain living is definitely not for the faint of heart. This is what we've dealt with this past month:

 Our driveway

Trin conquering Mount Crap-Ton-of-Snow

The snow is finally gone now, and we somehow made it through the season without losing a single day of work. Thank goodness we bought the Renegade. That little beast saved us.

Off-topic, but we caught the culprit who keeps eating my fern.


Butterfly Effect

I haven't been able to get this concept out of my head. The idea that the smallest action can trigger an unimaginable chain of events.

Like the fact that a water heater rupturing in a random house in Twin Peaks resulted in the death of a young woman from Los Angeles six months later.

I know this sounds insane, but I'm simply stating what happened.

In November 2016, after losing his wife, an elderly man named Richard put their beloved home on the market. After a few months, Richard accepted an offer on the house. It was officially in escrow.

A week before escrow was scheduled to close on the house, disaster struck. The upstairs water heater ruptured, flooding everything. Richard was forced to make repairs, spending months replacing cabinets and floors. The buyers of the house were not willing to wait, so they pulled out of the deal.

It wasn't until July 2017 that the house was re-listed. A family of four fell in love with the house and made an offer. Despite a hellacious escrow process, they received their keys on August 22, 2017, and now happily live there today.

But here's where the story goes dark. One day this family of four were on their way home from work and school, and they struck a female motorcyclist with their truck. The motorcyclist died. 

This family would have never been on that highway if they hadn't moved to the mountains. They would have never moved to the mountains if they hadn't stumbled upon their dream house. They would have never stumbled upon their dream house if an unfortunate incident involving a water heater hadn't forced the first buyers to back out. 

Thus, a ruptured water heater resulted in the death of Kaleena Porter.

And the wheels of the bus go round and round...

By the way, me getting blasted on social media by a horrible parent also led to Kaleena's death.

Me buying new curtains for my living room also led to her death.

Me pushing my family to leave work right after the bell rang also led to her death.

Clint turning left when he usually turns right also led to her death.

If we just took one of these things out of the equation, just ONE of these pathetic little things, we would not have struck Kaleena with our truck.

I can rationalize a dozen things that I did, that she did, that life did, that led to Kaleena dying on the street that day. I don't need anyone to console me, to tell me "You can't beat yourself up over this. You didn't do anything wrong." Because I already know that. I already know that I was being a normal human being doing normal human things, living my normal human life. I also know that if we weren't there, someone else might have struck her. She was, after-all, in the wrong lane.

But knowing doesn't keep your brain from traveling through the "If only's."

If only I had listened to my family who said my living room curtains looked great and didn't need to be replaced. If only I had let the school clear out more before rushing my family out the door. If fucking only.

People often mistake regret for guilt. You can tell me all day long that I have no reason to feel guilty. But don't try to tell me not to feel regret.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Everyone Wants to Write a Book

Well, maybe not "Everyone." But according to surveys published in the New York Times, USA Today, and other online forums between 2002 and 2016, over 80% of Americans dream of writing a book. Of course this doesn't address the other half of the question: Of this 80%, how many actually set out to do it? 

Regardless of the answer, there's this little sweetheart to contend with:

According to Utterances of an Overcrowded Mind
"Out of every 1,000 people that set out to write a book, only 30 actually finish. And if you then add on top of that the fact that only 20% of people who write a book actually publish it, this means only 6 people get published."
This would be a good time to note that the author of this post never cites any sources for this statistic, so it could be total hogwash. Nor did he mention whether "published" includes self-publishing and/or publishing through independent presses. 

So maybe this statistic needs tweaking (it definitely needs backing). Still, I tend to believe its basic premise: The majority of people here on planet Earth will not write a book in their lifetime. It's easy to forget this, because when I'm on social networking sites such as twitter, it feels like everyone and their mother is a writer. I'd estimate that at least 2,000 of my 'friends'/followers are published. But here is where I need to remind myself that I spent years deliberately building connections with published authors. These numbers do not reflect the world I physically live in day-by-day.

In real life, I do not have one single flesh-and-blood friend who is published. In fact, I work for the largest employer in my hometown with over 2,500 staff members. Of these staff members, there are exactly two who are published authors. A 6th grade teacher, Mr. A. (from one of our local elementary schools), and me. Two. Of over 2,500.

That's a more accurate representation of real life. 

So I guess the moral of the story is, I need to give myself permission to feel good over writing a book. Instead of wallowing in writer's guilt for being such a slow writer, for not cranking out my next book fast enough, for derailing from writing for months at a time, for being terrible at marketing the f*ing thing...why not simply feel damned good for being amongst the 3% (of a possibly bogus statistic) that actually finished writing a book in the first place?

So if you too have finished a manuscript (or are on the verge of doing so), repeat after me: 

Bite me self-doubt, I wrote a book.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goal for 2018: Be Boring

In the past two days I managed to tear down a huge wall of writer's block. This sucker was beefy and cost me several months of writing (though looking at my word count, we're probably talking closer to a year). The culprit, I think, has been all of the life changes my family has gone through. Not only have these changes been distracting (and even derailing), they've also been entertaining. Walls to paint, rooms to decorate, new places in my neighborhood to visit...I guess it sounds like a good thing, huh? I mean, a lot of people believe that the key to writing a lot is living an interesting and varied life. The thing is, I disagree. I think the key to writing a lot is stability, and even boredom. When I first started teaching, it was my dream to write a book, but I couldn't get anything down on paper. Teaching was too new, and it was taking every ounce of creative energy I possessed to create lessons. The job turned my life upside-down, and I was perpetually drained. It wasn't until 2011, after I had been teaching for 4 or 5 years, that I was settled enough in my job to finally write a book. Three years later, my novel was finally finished.
~ Gustave Flaubert

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon devotes an entire chapter to this principle. The first paragraph sums up his argument nicely:
I'm a boring guy with a nine-to-five job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog. That whole romantic image of the creative genius...running played out. It's for the superhuman and the people who want to die young. The thing is: It takes a lot of energy to be creative. You don't have that energy if you waste it on other stuff (Kleon 119).
I think that's the key. I need to get to a place of consistency again. I need my life to take on a sort of dull harmony, so that boredom can set in, and I can take all of that pent up creative energy and purge it onto pages on my screen.

Thus, my New Year's Resolution for 2018 is to be bored.

(For the record, I think this resolution is better than the one I made in 2015, in which I vowed to be a hermit crab stuffed into a broken piece of bottle).

Seriously, 2017 was too exciting. And too unsettling. Boredom sounds amazing. Can I get me some of that, please?

Happy New Year, and may yours be more exciting than mine!