I Write

Continuing with my theme of things I am thankful for, I want to talk about writing.

I realized today, as I was contemplating what I am thankful for this year, that I am thankful for the gift of words.

It’s not something I consciously think about much, because I have literally been writing my entire life. But it is a true gift, and I am thankful for it.

I’ve always said that I wanted to touch people with my words, be it poetry or novels. And I have, because people have told me.

When I was a member of Job’s Daughters, the youth group I was involved in from the time I was fifteen until I was twenty, I was promoted to the state chapter, which was a great honor. My job was to be a pen pal to the girls in Missouri (this was before the Internet. Wow, I am really showing my age!). So we wrote back and forth and sent each other stuff. For the big State convention, there was a contest to see who had the best depiction of their assigned state (and an essay). I made a cool map of Missouri and made it into a collage with all the stuff I got over the course of the year. And I wrote an awesome essay.

Well, I won. And was asked to stand up in front of hundreds of people and read it.

Apparently, I made some people cry. I had touched them that much.

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Adventures in Pencil

Hello! So, last month I talked about the drawing class I was taking. It’s over now, and I enjoyed it, though it wasn’t quite what I wanted, if such a thing even exists.

But I thought I’d share the end results with you.

Here’s our main project, the Escher hand:

You can see the remains of the grid. And my “interesting” shading. I was much faster than everyone else (probably because I couldn’t be bothered to be accurate with my shading) so I finished this after three classes.

The last class, one of the other people had also finished his drawing (he was working on it at home! lucky bastard has grown children who do not live at home) so he brought along a picture of some aspens he’d taken. We used the grid method on it again.

This took me about 3/4 of the class. Notice, again, my lack of patience with a gazillion little details and the switch to being more stylistic than realistic. (Though I do like the end product.)

And then, because I figured I should probably draw in drawing class, I found a photo of a grumpy owl on …

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Lessons in Letting Go

Last month, due to a file transfer glitch, I lost all my cell phone photos from the past year.

I had taken a lot of pictures–maybe three or four hundred. I tried troubleshooting, but as far as I could tell, they were just gone, vanished into the ether between the phone and the computer.

At first I was shaky and stunned. A whole year, gone.

I don’t usually take pictures of people, so I didn’t lose precious baby photos or anything like that, but I love shooting day-to-day photos around my city, my garden, architecture, and far-flung locations when we travel. (We’d gone on one international vacation in that year. It was the only time we brought our full-scale digital camera. So I didn’t lose all evidence of our trip.)

But by a few days later, I felt much calmer.

It’s true that not all the photos were exactly gone. I’m on Instagram and post often, so many of the photos survived there, though only in a low-res, square format.

It may also be true, as my spouse pointed out, that I took so many photos that no single one was particularly special to me.

But I think something else is going on.

Theory the first: I use photography as a form of mindfulness, to remind myself to look for moments of beauty in my not-particularly-beautiful urban life. It’s why I enjoy Instagram challenges, taking a photo roughly every day for a month. It’s a form of self-care. The …

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Caffeine Connoisseur

I’m not a coffee snob. Just because I know good coffee doesn’t mean I turn my nose up at bad coffee. Unless I have a choice. I mean, I’m not going to take the bad coffee if the good coffee is right there.

I guess I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I can’t help it. Good coffee is just so good.

I’ve always preferred good coffee to bad, but lately I’ve gotten more picky about it. A few months ago I acquired a French press. I don’t remember why, I think I thought it was pretty and it would be just as easy as using my little one-cup drip brew since we have a water cooler that heats the water. And it was just as easy, and more of an experience. I even got an hourglass to time my brewing.

The thing with a French press, though, is you have to get the grind right. Coffee ground for drip coffeemakers is finer than what you’re supposed to put in a French press. And while it is possible to find coffee specifically ground for the French press, it’s not easy. Not in grocery stores, anyway.

So I decided to try grounding my own. I had a little handheld blade grinder for when I was feeling fancy. Surely that would work!

Good lork, those things are loud! And I had to really pay attention, or the grind would still be too fine, and I’d be drinking solid coffee at the bottom …

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So how’s the job search going?

…Yeah.

It kind of isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I am applying for as many jobs as I can. But I don’t drive due to medical reasons (basically? Screwed up eye muscles) and I have to take the bus, which only serves my hometown. (This is a special program, doorstep to doorstep, that costs a dollar a ride. And the drivers are so cool). So that brings down the list of possible places considerably. Then there’s the fact that I literally learned nothing new at my former job — as far as technology goes, anyway — so I’m finding job postings with stuff like, “Must be an expert in Excel” or “Must be a Mac user” or “Must be able to do PowerPoint presentations.” All of this except for the Mac I can do theoretically. But I don’t feel very confident about it, so I tend to skip those postings.

So I’m left with stuff that isn’t even remotely in my field. I have no problem with that, if I can’t find anything else. But I would really like to stay within my field.

Then there’s the freelance stuff, which is going okay. It’s still not steady enough, but I have every confidence that I can make it happen. And if not…well, I tried. I can continue to try even if I do get a day job. It might be hairy, and busy, but it’s not like I haven’t done that before.

It’s scary. I mean, we’re used to a certain amount of …

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It Gets Everywhere

The stars have aligned, friends, and I am finally taking a beginning drawing class at my local rec center. (I’ve tried to take this class a few times before, and it either gets cancelled, or it’s at an impossible time, or…)

It’s two hours every Monday for the duration of October, and apparently each month the teacher picks a technique for everyone to practice. This month we’re doing straight pencil drawings (which is good, because that’s what I wanted, and if it were charcoals or pastels or something I would be disappointed) and working on reproduction using a grid. Basically, you draw a grid on whatever you want to copy, and a grid on your paper, and then you painstakingly copy everything, square by square, to help you get everything in the right place.

We’re doing M. C. Escher’s Drawing Hands (just one hand, so as to not go insane). I mean, we are anyway, but it’s the thought that counts.

On one hand, I’m not wild about copying another picture, even one by Escher. It’s a good technique to know, I suppose, but I’d really like to learn more about how to draw in general.

On the other hand, I get two hours to myself to do nothing else but draw, which is relaxing and wonderful, and it really helps clear everything out of my brain.

So, you know, it evens out. Though I do really just want to learn how to draw, and shade. Specifically shade. I am …

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The Summer of Not Gardening

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that my spouse and I have been doing a vegetable garden since we bought a house in 2012. In this climate, that means working the soil and sowing seeds in late April or early May, a mad scramble to buy and plant seedlings at the end of May or into June depending on the tenderness of the plant, and weeding and watering and harvesting up to the end of September or early October.

Turns out that’s a lot of work.

I was excited to finally have a house where I could garden, and I dragged my spouse into being excited too. But…problems abounded. We had too big a garden for our time and energy levels; there were hungry squirrels in the area who like to take one bite out of each ripe tomato; and the killer–an infestation of weeds that spread by underground roots and could never be completely eradicated.

So this summer, we covered over the vegetable bed with landscape fabric and mulch, and let it lie fallow for a year while (we hope) suppressing the weeds to some extent.

We thought we would buy some potted vegetables. We bought rosemary, which got used a little, and one cherry tomato plant, which was sickly all summer and produced very few tomatoes–just enough to keep the squirrels fed. One day I was out on our back deck, writing, and a squirrel picked the only ripe tomato and sat there …

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Adventures in (Avoiding) Editing

Friday I stayed home from work. I had a touch of a stomach bug, enough that I definitely needed to stay home, so I wasn’t ditching work–I was just really glad that I needed to be home. I needed the day to edit.

Edited all day Saturday, excluding a grocery store run and probably some time wasted at some point.

By Sunday I was getting tired of editing. So I made a deal with myself–twenty minutes of editing, ten minutes of break. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been needing to do for a while, and I wanted to get some of it dealt with.

The first break, I cleaned the litterbox, then decided to light a candle to deal with the residual smell. I grabbed a candle holder, took an empty tealight shell out of it and crunched it in my hand, then dropped a new tealight in and lit it. Then I touched my face or something with the other hand, and scratched my freaking face deep enough to draw blood with a tealight shell.

I went back to editing.

Next break, I decided to see if switching the light bulbs in the track lighting in the kitchen would help anything. We hate the track lighting, but we’re not ready to have it replaced. Anyway–took a little longer than ten minutes, but I got the bulbs replaced and the kitchen is 3x a bright as it was, yay me!

I went back to editing. But before very long …

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Starting a New Chapter in My Life

So, as you may or may not know, I was recently laid off from the job I’ve held for sixteen years. I was the Sales Secretary at a food brokerage, working with food distributors and vendors. It was a good job, and I was pretty damn good at it.

I’d had some inkling that it was coming, so I wasn’t completely blindsided. However, I didn’t know when and that added a whole new level of stress and complication to the mix. And, as time ticked down, the stress got worse and worse. So, as sad as I am to not be working there anymore, I am happy to be free of the stress, which wasn’t good for the fibro or trigeminal neuralgia.

I do want to say one thing, though. That place was like family to me. We had our rough patches, and disagreements, but at the end of the day, I was treated very well. And we were like a little family, the six of us. They had my back and I had theirs. Two of my former co-workers passed away, and both were good, decent people. One former co-worker retired. So at the very end, it was just me and my bosses.

I will miss them. It hasn’t been that long, and I already miss going there every day. Taking the bus. The vendor reps and buyers I worked with on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, I can’t believe that it’s over. But…things always change. My bosses were of retirement …

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Comfort Reads for Troubled Times

Some days it feels like the world is really going downhill. Natural disasters (as I write this, Texas and India are still recovering from massive floods, large chunks of western North America are on fire, and another hurricane is gearing up to hit some vulnerable islands on the way to Florida), politics (’nuff said), bad days on a personal level…and if they all combine, watch out!

On days like this, one of the best cures is a comfort read. Simply defined: it’s a book you pick up because you know it will make you feel better. It’s by a favourite and trusted author. You’ve probably read it before (perhaps many times), or else you’ve been looking forward to reading it (maybe it’s a new installment in a series you love). Maybe you discovered it at an impressionable age and love it beyond all reason even though you know it’s not objectively the best book ever. It has stood the test of time…at least for you.

What books qualify as comfort reads? Obviously, the answer to that is very personal. Some people might crave works that are light and funny, or sweet and romantic, or even dark, so that they feel less alone.

Here are some of mine…

The Lord of the Rings

Yup, I’m one of those people. *grins* I’ve read the books multiple times. Most of those times were long ago, but I’m slowly rereading them now, and let me tell you, it’s a bit weird revisiting them for …

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