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!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

New Everything

I feel like we just did some kind of life swap. It's exciting, but also unnerving. I get a little spooked when life throws too many changes at me, and even good stress is stress. I started mentally cataloguing the things that have changed in our lives recently, and taking smaller things out of the equation (such as the renovations we're making on our house, Trinity learning how to drive, etc.), here's what I'm trying to adjust to:

New Career: Not for me, but for Clint. He went from being a train conductor and engineer to a 7th grade math/science teacher. Though this has been a mostly positive change for our family, it has come with it's share of stress (having him buried in school work, his exhaustion as he copes with his new position, etc.).

New Home: You already know about this one. But one thing worth mentioning is that though we moved only 29 miles away, 9 miles of it is straight up a mountain, which means our new house is in an entirely new climate.

New Car: Because of the above-mentioned new climate, we need a smaller vehicle with more maneuverability for narrow, curvy roads, yet something that can get us through the snow. I wanted a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. I adore Wranglers. There's just something so classic and timeless about them. Unfortunately the crash rating for the Unlimited is only a 2 out of 5 for the passenger (3 out of 5 for the driver). This was an instant deal breaker. So we ended up with this:

This is a 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk (crash rating 4 out of 5). It has everything on our wish list. It's a 4-wheel drive with a tight turn radius and has special settings for the snow. And yes, we got it in hyper green! I'm not a silver or beige car-person. Best part is we never had to go to a dealership. We found everything we wanted online, and the dealership came to us! We signed all of the paperwork at my work and they delivered us our car. It was pretty crazy showing up to work in a minivan and leaving in a brand new Renegade.

New Dog: This is Gus.

When we moved to the mountains, George (our German Shorthair Pointer) became an absolute terror. Clint's dad has always had a soft spot for George, so he decided to take him. Giving up George left us with only one dog, and Beans gets pretty lonely while we're at work. So we got Gus. It was Clint's idea to go with a Corgi again because of how much we loved Cricket (our old girl who died last year). So far Gus is too adorable for words.

New Diet: I haven't eaten meat since June 22. In less than two weeks I'll be at the half-year mark. I really want to tell you all the cliches such as "Becoming a vegetarian has changed my life!" and "I have more energy than I've ever had before!" but the latter is simply not true, and mostly I just miss meat. Trying to cope with all of these life changes without any comfort food kinda sucks. I've decided to give myself one cheat a month now for fish only, but this doesn't help much when what I really want is a McDonald's double cheeseburger.

New Perspective: I've touched upon this on past blog entries. Ever since the accident the idealist in me has been chipped away a little, and I view the world through a more cautious lens. It's not a bad thing, it's just different.

I think that covers the major "new" things. I did buy a new set of pajamas that I really like, but that's probably not worth its own heading.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Strawberry Flats

It's only the second day of December but I've already been bitten by the Christmas Bug. (That's a thing). I think it's this place. These cozy curving streets and towering trees, the chill in the air and the scent of smoke and pine, all of the festive lights...I love the mountains to a degree that's got to be annoying to others because the wonder of living here is all I want to talk about. But recognizing I have a problem is the first step to curing it, right? (Do I want to cure it?)

Here is our home, decorated for the first time. Well, decorated for the first time by us, at least.

Today Trinity baked chocolate-chip cookies and wrapped them in cellophane wrap with ribbon, while I made Christmas cards. We're going to give them to our neighbors tomorrow. Attack of the Christmas Bug.

Oh, our Amazon purchases are a wee bit out of control too.

So speaking of my obsession with the mountains, last weekend I went to our local library to research the history of our town, and discovered these pictures:

It turns out our town used to be known as "Strawberry Flats", due to berries that were grown in the surprisingly wide/open areas of the community in 1865, along with a successful strawberry farm homestead run by a Mr. Smithson from the 1870s-80s. Twenty-five weekend cabins were constructed in 1914, bringing in an influx of visitors. According to the article "Best Kept Secrets in the Mountain," there were finally enough full-time residents by 1916 to apply for a post office and their own zip-code. Residents requested the name "Strawberry" or "Strawberry Flats" for their town, but the name was rejected because another community in California was already using it. Strawberry residents were forced to accept their second choice, "Twin Peaks," named after two prominent peaks nearby. These peaks are still known today as "Strawberry Peak" and "Little Strawberry." The post office pictured above would have been the very first building to display the town's new official name of "Twin Peaks." It had to feel strange to the locals, calling their home by one name their whole lives, then having to switch to another.

Every town/city has a history, so I'm not sure why I'm so intrigued by this one. When I lived in Oak Creek (WI) for 18 months, I never cared about the town's history. Even my beloved desert hometown, though it's backstory is mildly interesting, has never captured my attention quite like Twin Peaks. Maybe it's the size of the town that makes a difference. My desert hometown has a growing population of over 90,000 residents, and is constantly blooming with yet another chain, whether it be a Von's or a Starbucks. There's nothing quaint or cozy about it; nothing that makes a person want to dig for a story. But Twin Peaks has only 1,500 residents (with very little room for growth due to its geography). That's about the same population as the middle-school I work for. Our local grocery store is family-owned and has been around since 1940. 

When you're living in a town this small, history seems to resonate from every corner, and somehow your presence there feels so much bigger.

Maybe eventually small-town living will get on my nerves. But for now I feel pretty dang grateful to live in this sweet little slice of mountain. I feel very certain that, someday, one of my novels will feature a small foggy town in the mountains...a town called "Strawberry Flats".