Happy New Year, y’all!

Wow, it’s been so long my browser history didn’t have a record of my log-in page, and I had a panicked moment when I had to remember the link. That might also have something to do with a potential virus I may have picked up a couple days ago. It’s never a good sign when someone hugs you and says they’re not contagious. Mmmmhhhmmmm. Gotta get some work done while I can, just in case the next few days are devoted to Netflix and tissues.

So it turns out fall is not a great season for writing. Or maybe it’s that we were so diligent about not over-scheduling summer this year that we sort of forgot to protect September. Once you break the cycle it’s hard to get back to it. Creativity, for me, isn’t something I can easily turn back on once it’s shelved for a while.

On the other hand, it has been a good year for the day job. We launched our new baby church the last weekend in September. It took a little doing to switch the mindset from monthly worship to weekly, but I’ve mostly got a rhythm now. Of course, advent made life interesting, and now I’m divvying up my duties for when we go to Florida next month. There is a lot I can do ahead of time, and even more I can do remotely, but someone has to buy communion bread and take it to church.

Not doing resolutions last NYE seemed to work pretty well for me, so I’m not doing them again this year. I have found myself increasingly impatient with people who make changes on January 1. The whole “new year, new you” seems silly to me. If you want to make a change, you can do it on any date, so why attach so much baggage to a single day? Lately, though, I’ve felt the turning of the year in my bones. Maybe it’s been gloomier than usual, or it’s that I’m getting older, or more in touch with my celtic side, but the anticipation has been palpable for me in the last couple of weeks. 2017 was a pretty good year for me, the best one since the floor fell out from under us in 2013. I credit my co-workers and co-worshippers with a big chunk of that. I feel like we’re finally settling into the cozy wee bungalow and our community in general. We have a beautiful new back yard and have started digging into making good memories here.

I hope all of you are well. Regardless of what kind of year 2017 was for you, I hope 2018 is your best year so far, that you’ll treasure every experience and every learning opportunity, and that you’ll share the year with me.

Happy New Year!

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After pictures

The Piazza is finally (mostly) finished. We have some clean-up to do and a couple more plants on their way, but the worst is done. I won’t say it was a painless process, but it could have been worse. The schedule was delayed almost a week when the guys found the reason we lost power to our garage a few months ago. Turns out, the wire was buried in the yard, and the stump grinder cut it when they took out the spruce tree. Now the hard part is keeping everything watered. We’re still trying to find a sprinkler configuration that gets all of it so when we leave town for the weekend we can set a timer and not come home to dead plants. The proper set-up has eluded me so far. Hopefully Eric and I can figure it out tonight. Here’s what it looks like!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rabble Rousing

For those of you under the age of 50, or who don’t read Historical fiction, rabble rousing is defined as “an instance or the practice of stirring up the passions or prejudices of the public.” Back in the olden days, before the internet, rabble rousers worked crowds while standing on a crate on a street corner. Often they could be found at political rallies. Now we have online access and the 24-hour news cycle, and they’re everywhere.

Let me tell you let me tell you a little something about rabble rousers. They want you scared. They want you to react without thinking. They want you to join Chicken Little in running aimlessly and screaming out, “The sky is falling!” They feed on your tears, your hand-wringing, your mindless terror.

Friends, the sky isn’t falling. The circumstances have varied, but if you stop and do five minutes of research, you’ll find that things really aren’t that different than they were in decades past. Despite the best efforts of civil rights leaders in the last 60 years, we still have racism. (This, IMHO, is due to rabble rousers in civil rights leader clothing.) It’s the same hatred, fear, and bigotry in an updated wardrobe.

The events in the news are heart-breaking. Is anger over Charlottesville justified? You bet. If you’re not angry, you might be part of the problem. This is a time to join together in lament. If you wail, it should be for the lives lost, for the hard hearts that caused this, and the pain that will be endured in the community for months and years to come.

You can’t change anyone’s actions through sheer force of will. You can’t stop evil single-handedly. The problem is beyond all of us, it’s bigger than we can manage. That doesn’t mean wailing and hand-wringing is the only answer. Facebook memes aren’t going to fix it. In fact, Facebook memes are often rabble rousers.

You can only do one thing: Examine your life, and change the things that need to be changed. Really look at your attitudes and weed out any hint of fear, hate, bigotry. Do something nice for a person who doesn’t look like you. It doesn’t have to be big. You can turn someone’s day around by complimenting a piece of their clothing. If you try to do something nice and the other person reacts with fear or distrust, that’s on them. It’s not your problem. The only way to change society is to change ourselves, and to teach our children to be better people than we are. That’s how we fix it, a generation at a time.

 

Record Keeping

Ever have one of those days? You’re especially tired, or a deadline creeps up on you? Maybe you have another in what seems like a long line of headaches? Or your pants won’t stay up, and you realize you’ve dropped five pounds? (Me neither, but I hear it happens to some lucky people.)

I’m not naturally gifted when it comes to record keeping. I tend to overthink things and gravitate toward the complicated systems that will be a pain to keep up. And really, what’s the point?

Easy. Accumulation of empirical data.

Case in point: My family jokes that I’m solar powered. When it gets dark early in the winter, I’m ready to go to bed shortly after dinner and sometimes fall asleep on the couch. In the summer, when it’s light 16 hours a day, I can’t sleep unless I go to great lengths to darken my bedroom. Until recently it was a theory. Last February, I got a new Fitbit and it tracks my sleep. The amount of sleep I get has dropped steadily since May, so now I have definitive proof. To say I’m looking forward to the shorter days of fall is an understatement.

I’ve amped up my writing records, too. I used to track just word count. That’s the important number, really, but not the only number. I think it was Tim Grahl who gave me the idea to track word count and time as well as the location, project, and applicable notes. Since then I’ve discovered I do my best writing in my office, but sometimes I need a change of scenery. I plot better in coffee shops. Hotels are also productive as long as I’m not in a place where I want to go forth and see things. That’s why Vegas works for me. I’m looking forward to finding out how the new back yard affects productivity. (More on that next week, I hope. For now, I’ll just say I’ve renamed it The Piazza.)

The real beauty is when you take empirical data from multiple sources to reach a conclusion. If you look at my word counts over the last few summers, they’re lower than the rest of the year on average. I thought it was because summers are full of distractions, and they can be, but now I realize a lot of it has to do with the lack of sleep. If I can’t sleep, I can’t think, and therefore can’t write. Now that I have a concrete reason and I know it’s not just me being crazy or lazy, I can take steps to fix it. Or try to, anyway.

Like maybe by buying a hammock for The Piazza.

Record keeping. It’s your friend.

Run-by posting

It’s been a busy week. Since getting back from Vegas, I’ve done some writing. It’s been more about laundry and cleaning, though. I have family in again this weekend, and we’re going back to the Bristol Ren Faire. It will be the first time all of us have gone together, and we hope to run into friends from St Louis.

I may have mentioned we are having our back yard turned into a patio oasis. If I haven’t, we are. It hasn’t been without drama. Last spring, around the time we had our spruce tree taken out, one of the utility companies was doing work in our alley. During that time, we lost power to our garage. We didn’t know where to start to get it fixed, so between one thing and another, we put it off. Turns out the tree guys were the culprits. Unbeknownst to any of us, the power line ran underground next to the tree, and they cut it when they ground the stump out. The landscaping crew found it, and thankfully were able to fix it. It’s done right now, running through conduit like it should have been in the first place.

That set the project back a couple of days, so it’s not close to done. I had hoped it would be, what with family being here and all, but it’s fine. We have too much to do to lollygag in the back yard. We’re doing Official Author Photos tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll have some to post soon!

Birthday Boy Redux

I ran across this today and decided to share it again for Alex’s birthday. Some of it has changed. He now has a masters degree, full time job, apartment, and fiancée. We won’t celebrate his birthday in person. In fact, his birthday cards will be late and I texted him at work.

I’m a little torn today because while I’m glad he has built himself the start of a grown-up life, my mommy heart misses him. I’m told this is how it’s supposed to be, and that it won’t ever change much, so I’m going with it.

I hope you enjoy the blast from the past and I’ll see you next week.

——-

He’s never really been small; we took him home from the hospital in a 3 month onesie. All the newborn clothes I’d picked up at yard sales got packed back up for the next baby.

At 5, he had a life plan worked out. At 7, he was a theologian. About 10, his strong sense of moral outrage kicked in, but he’s never let it override logic, and he’s good at trying to see other sides of issues. He would make a good lawyer, but that’s not even on his radar.

I’ve watched him grow from the cutest little butterball baby and toddler you could ever want to see, through the ornery gangly teen years, into manhood. He still has a plan for his life, but it’s a little different than it was at 5. He’s still planning on being in the military; that hasn’t changed. He’s always been interested in the military. He’s my itchy foot kid; travel light and don’t stay anywhere too long.

I don’t know how it’s possible, but he turns 21 today. He didn’t want a party, and presents are optional. He just wants to go to dinner somewhere that he can order a beer. I expect he’ll have his party next month when he goes back to school, which isn’t too surprising. It’s more fun to celebrate with frat brothers!

Every birthday is a little more bittersweet. Every year they move away from Eric and me a little bit more. Our roles have changed from disciplinary to advisory. Pretty soon they’ll both be off on their own and birthdays will be celebrated via mail and telephone. Not this one, though. For this one, we’ll still have a birthday cake at home.

Happy 21st birthday, Alex!

Here’s what I’m doing this week

Our friends are in town for the week, and we had our daughter with us for a few days. It’s been busy, but it always is. Not pictured: Fresh pasta and a couple of movies.

We went to opening weekend at the Bristol Renaissance Faire,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

had a group pic at the Museum of Science and Industry,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and worked on getting spruce roots out of the yard in preparation for our new patio.

 

Hope y’all are well and staying out of trouble!