Monday, September 28, 2015

A Moment by the Lake

I have forgotten my camera at the tent, and I don't want to disturb the dogs by retrieving it.

I am sitting in dappled morning sun, over-looking Lake Charlton. There are no ripples on its mirrored surface, only steam rising from it. The sun peeks through pine needles on an adjacent tree, and I can almost look at it with my sunglasses.

The silence presses against my eardrums, and then I hear past the silence. Birds, insects buzzing, a camper's slow rumble of a snore, a camp-mate's propane burner for making that first cup of camp coffee.

Soon kindling is being chopped and I wonder again about retrieving my camera.

I've only come out for one night of camping--and it seems both ridiculous to do so, and absolutely necessary.

A micro-adventure into nature to hear The Piper playing his songs. I hear them in the birdsong across the lake, in the breeze that flutters past my ears and dances in the spider webs.

The kindling catches and the campfire smoke floats out to the lake.

My coffee has grown lukewarm and so a trek to the car to get another bottle of propane is next. I will eat instant oatmeal without guilt and make a cup of chai.

There is a half-hearted talk between the only other two campers awake yet of taking the canoe out, but I don't want to move from my spot. I'm enjoying the quiet like I haven't since I arrived yesterday afternoon. Soon enough the quiet will end.

I was hoping for silent epiphany last night, but I was kept engaged with my friends--enjoying the night--and without sleep late until the wee dark hours of the morning.

But maybe this morning's silence by campfire and following the sun rise higher in the tree's needles is enough.

The Piper card from the Faerie Oracle deck said for me to come camping, so I did.

I'm confident that I have received, or will receive, whatever infusion I needed to clear my head and center into me again.

The more I think about it, the more I believe my healing and personal growth were aided by this view this morning. This still lake, this crackling fire, this quiet morning with the scent of infusing each breath.

This moment is why I came out to Mother Gaia--why I'm here today.

Monday, September 21, 2015

When Organizing Isn't Enough

Whenever I get overwhelmed with things to do and systems to maintain and plans not working out and forgetting things and losing things and just not feeling like I'm enough, I turn to books.

Of course I do.

And this time I'm re-reading Julie Morgenstern's When Organizing Isn't Enough: SHED your stuff, change your life.

I'm reading it slow, and in sections, this time--actually doing the steps as I go. As opposed to reading through it in one go and saying, "I've read it; it doesn't work." Of course it doesn't work if you don't follow up with the actions required to change behaviors. Duh. But sometimes in my quest for Fixing It, I speed  skim through the hard part. The working part.

The book has prompted me to think of a current theme for my life, and to think of when or where my clutter entered my life. These together will help me get to the why of the clutter, and help me to only keep the things in my life that fall under (or contribute to) my current theme.


I think that for the past three years, my life's theme has been building up my romantic relationship with my loverloverman--solidifying it, growing it, loving it. I also have been continuing to mother my teenagers--encouraging them and advocating for their needs.

But just recently--in the last six to eight months--I've shifted my focus to my author business. I'm charged and ready to grow it and I've got game plans and mentors at the ready. 

One of my historical problems--"And I say one, because there are many"(Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice)--is in not utilizing my time and environment judiciously. So that, looking back, I say, "Damn! Why didn't I do xxx then? I had the time and opportunity then. Now it's way more difficult."

I haven't missed the chance to do xxx, but I've missed the easy chance to do it. I make things harder for myself than they need to be. Chronically.

I'd like to transition into a place in my life where I am joyously using my time on the things that matter to me--so that I don't feel like I've wasted my time, or worse, frittered away my time on unimportant things.

Instead of bemoaning that I wished I had all the time to work on my author business, I want to rejoice knowing that I am living my dream life right now. My schedule allows me family time, partner time, personal time, business time, hobby time, and a couple of days a week for secular work. My "day" job is only two days a week.

Therefore, it feels appropriate that my theme(s) are thus:

Career theme--Building my author business with joy, serenity, and balance.

Personal theme--Rediscovering joy in my authentic self.

Coincidentally--and serendipitous too!--my career and personal themes dovetail so neatly together that they feel the same to me. Finding joy in my work and personal life leads to serenity and balance in my work and personal life.


I think my paper messiness (which is by far the bulk of my untidiness) was a combination of (1) not having time to deal with the accumulating stuff, (2) the quest to be the practical do-it-yourselfer ("That could be useful someday"/hoarding hand-me-downs and not-quite-right stuff because it was better than being without), and (3) and seeing myself as a busy, important-type person.

Busy, messy desks also signified creativity to me somehow.

How could I be creative and clean?


After dissecting my life and trying to find out when the clutter started, as per Julie Morgenstern's instructions, I think I've pinpointed it to 2002, when I moved in with my now ex-husband. And the clutter has continued to this day.

My mother may disagree, but I don't remember being super messy as a kid. My room certainly looked cleaner than some of my friends'. And in my first marriage, despite moving multiple times, my office wasn't ever out of hand that I remember.

In particular, I remember one rental house in Kalispell, Montana with a sloped floor and cottonwood trees in the back. My great-grandmother's vanity table sat in the dining room/kitchen and we used it for a desk. The phone sat on top and the drawers held the phone book, pens/pencils, various supplies, and paper for taking phone messages or writing letters. It was rarely messy and I loved it. I was proud of the family heirloom entrusted to my care.

Army life after that was always pristine. It had to be.

The messiness of my second marriage wasn't paper, just "baby" and dirty dishes.

The house I lived in as a young widow was a little chaotic sometimes, with little ones and being suddenly single--but whole chunks of the house were clean and serene. That was my theme then--finding serenity and inner peace.

It was only after I moved in with my now-ex, and my first child started kindergarten, that the kitchen bar and table started filling up with papers--bills, receipts, documents, kids' artwork and schoolwork, et cetera.

After the WHEN, it was time for the WHY

I thought, at first, that in my quest to be a nurturing mom, I wanted to keep everything. That could certainly cause clutter, but it didn't really ring true. Then I thought maybe I was just pre-occupied and never could get to the organizing of it. But I'd hired organizers to come in and make everything great, to have it fall apart again within three weeks. So that wasn't it.

Did I not have the skill-set for organizing? No, because it was organized before 2002.

Maybe I just had too much stuff and it spilled out everywhere. Maybe a sense of lack prevented me from getting rid of the papers. But that didn't seem right either. I don't think I'd miss much of it if I got rid of the whole kit and caboodle.

What was my attachment to my clutter?

Before the mess was calmness, a little bit of loneliness, and a desire for a large family.

And then it started coming together a little.

Maybe the reason I had clutter piling up around the office and dining room was because I'd simply prioritized something else all those years.

My theme for thirteen years had been nurturing my family and growing romantic relationships. I just didn't have time or energy to keep my paper clutter at bay; I was focused on something else.

But now that my kids are semi-autonomous, and I'm in a refreshingly awesome romantic relationship, I can shift my theme back to reclaiming joy and serenity in my personal life and to growing my author business in joy, balance, and serenity.

What's your theme right now? 
When and why did your clutter start?

Next step from Julie's book is to seek out my treasures, and keep those. I'm looking forward to approaching my office with a sense of joy--finding those items that create that joy in me, and also those things that contribute to my current theme. Then, I heave the trash.

Do you see? It's the other way around in every other organizing book I've read--and there have been many. Usually one goes through and makes piles for thrift stores, recycling, and trash; then puts away what's left. But I think that going through and looking for those things that light you up is far more enticing than Organizing The Office.

Who wants to make time for that?

So seek your treasures then! 
Leave a comment about what you find. We'll do this together.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Am I a Fiction Snob?

Because I've been reading non-fiction almost exclusively lately, I have challenged myself to pick up fiction. I never really thought of myself as a fiction snob, but I frequently am disappointed about the novels I pick up.

And I don't know why.

I'm interested in discovering this answer, both as a reader and a writer.

As a reader, I obviously want to be swept away to another time or place, fall in love with the characters, and/or be otherwise entertained. I usually stick to literary or mainstream fiction because I prefer a strong character arc to my books. I don't care so much about the plot, and I lovelovelove beautiful language.

I assumed that genre novels (romance, scifi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, horror) didn't focus on character development and were more akin to Hollywood blockbusters for the ADHD crowd.

But that's ungenerous.

So I've specifically challenged myself to read more genre fiction. I purchased seven genre e-books--mostly romance, but two darker ones. I thought maybe the romances would surprise me. I do, after all, enjoy romantic comedies. Though, I have to admit that my favorite rom-coms are independent ones, and not the Hollywood blockbuster ones. (Strike one for genre.) And my only experience with romance novels were a couple of unfortunate Danielle Steels and Victoria Holt's gothic romance in my high school years, Harlequins in middle school, and some Nora Roberts when I was desperate for a book to read in my early thirties.

But that's ungenerous. Again.

So maybe I am a fiction snob.

But that doesn't add up either, because there are plenty of "classics" and award-winning novels that I couldn't wrap my head around (or even understand sometimes) and even stopped reading before the end--unheard of in my earlier days of reading.

I think what I really am attracted to is voice. The author's voice.

So, as a writer, I'm interested in what makes me turn the pages as a reader. What is it about an author's voice that I like?

That's harder to identify. And--it seems--is completely subjective. Which makes it hard to duplicate as a writer.

Right now, I am reading Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber. More mainstream fiction. I know, I know.

But what's a girl to do with a To Be Read pile like this?

I'll read one of the new genre e-books next. Promise.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Doggy Dilemmas

Time for another seven minute blog post!

Since last I wrote, life took an unfortunate turn.

Two of my dogs fought again.

It was super traumatic. For me and the dogs. I only now feel partially recovered. I mildly injured my hand in trying to break up the fight--just stiff and a little swelling/over quickly, but I'm talking about the emotional trauma. I honestly thought they were killing each other. I knew with certainty that one of them would end up dead. I tried everything to get them apart. I even called 911, who patched me to the Police Department, who said that the Animal Control people had left for the day already. By the time they had called back to check in on me, I had miraculously managed to get them apart.

I'm not re-living the event in my mind nearly as often as before, and slowly feeling a little better every day.

They've been separated for over a week and this makes our home life more stressful. No more snuggling on the bed together. No more lounging in the living room with my loverloverman and all three dogs. Now we take turns sitting with them in different parts of the house, making it so that even the humans get separated from each other for stretches of time. (insert sad face)

At least the rigor of medications is over. Two different pain meds and two different antibiotics, two and three times a day, for two different dogs was crazy insane to go through. I've been to several vet appointments, with still one more to go. Humphrey needs to go in next week to get his stitches removed.

Also next week we start a new kind of dog training. I have high hopes for this time around. We've done others in the past with limited success. Loverloverman is right in pointing out that some of that "limited success" was our fault for not personally training them everyday (in addition to the two training sessions the professionals would come and do each week.) And this training will focus on changing dog emotions--specifically the problem ones: fear, anxiety, aggression.

We will be putting both dogs through training (a first), and both dogs will get personally trained by us every day (also a first). We will be changing around some of the things at home that cause extra stress for the dogs, hoping that will create a way for them to deal with their dislike of each other in less "rough and tumble" ways.

For instance, we will be installing a mailbox at the street. Two of our dogs go completely dire-wolf on the mailman through the window when he or she approaches the house mail slot. Why get the doggy adrenaline going and just cause them to be all fired up around each other? That's a recipe for disaster, right? With a mailbox at the street, no mailman at the house, no doggy freak-out, no running into each other, no fighting. Win/Win.

I'll blog about our training successes (or failures) in the upcoming weeks.

Look here for tips and tricks that might help you in your doggy dilemmas. Let's learn together.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Exercise in Slaying the Perfectionist

I'm suffering from perfectionism right now.

I haven't blogged for many many months and it's because -- I think -- I've made a mountain out of a mole hill. Blogging is just journal writing, with a little more focus. But somehow I've built it up to being this big scary platform-building professional thing. And it's not. It really isn't. It's just a diary.

Sort of.

So, I made a deal with a member of my Mastermind Group that I'd blog for seven minutes today and post it. And then text him that I did. Accountability, yo.

Newsy Updates:

My garden is out of control. The front yard has gone all ghetto (which means it needs to be mowed and weeded and the carport needs to be organized, dusted and swept.) It's embarrassing to walk up or drive up to my house. The others around me are charming.

I might be insane enough to can some dill pickles this Saturday. I'll let you know if I do. And I'm going to start up the kombucha and jun again. Hooray!

I went on my first ever writer's retreat, which was divine. I had days and days of reading, napping, and revising my manuscript of Herbal Junction. And I got to re-connect with a lovely lady that means a lot to me.

My teens are starting up high school again next week, and I'm so glad to get back to my more regular routine. I love FALL!

What are your newsy updates?