Returning to a Favorite Pastime

ink_flower_by_denadavis[1]Creative people fascinate me, and they have long before I became a writer. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned (aside from the fact that most of us have sleep issues) is how frequently writers delve into other art forms to express themselves, especially through painting. I’ve met several terrific artists who also write fiction and nonfiction. Multi-faceted creative folks isn’t a surprise, though. If you allow yourself to open your mind to possibilities and take the time to explore, it’s amazing what will come.

This weekend, while working out at the gym, I started thinking about writing and painting. I also thought about how I would spend more of my free time once I retire from the day job in a few months. Sure, I might write a little more, but given that long periods at a keyboard aren’t healthy (after four decades of typing my posture’s not great and eye strain’s a problem) I’ve decided that extra physical fitness is a good idea, and one that I happen to welcome.

But another idea has come to mind, and it’s based on something that very few people know about me. A little over three decades ago, when I was working on my first novel and pregnant with my first child, I was working on pen-and-ink drawings. (The drawing above isn’t mine, but I think it’s beautiful).

I don’t remember how many pictures I drew, but I still have my sketch book buried beneath stacks of paper in my office closet. I used to draw graveyards and stark, leafless trees, which I suppose isn’t a psychological stretch from the mystery thrillers that I write today. But you know, I’m now thinking about pulling out that sketch at some point to explore the possibility of going back to drawing.

Several months ago my hubby the accountant returned (after a long absence) to painting watercolor landscapes. He too, has trouble staying asleep, so each morning he awakes very early, goes downstairs, and experiments with color and design and ideas before he leaves for work. He loves it. It feels like it sets a positive tone to his day. It’s also given him a new appreciation for the nearly forty years I’ve devoted to my passion for writing. We talked about goals and satisfaction and pushing through tough times until perseverance slowly turns to habit.

I’m not worried about not finding enough to do when I retire. I worry more about having time to do everything I want to. There will be more goals—brand new ones—and although I’m not ready to remove the sketch book out from under all that paper today, it’s now on my radar. We’ll see what happens.

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Well, It Was Almost a Balanced Week

It’s always a struggle for writers to juggle family life and day jobs with their creative lives. In fact, most of us don’t spend nearly as much writing/editing time as we’d like for numerous reasons, although this past week I came close.

I’m one of those weird folks who actually likes Mondays because that’s when I’m at my most energetic. Mondays means that I can get a fair bit of writing and editing done before and after the day job. On a really good day, I’ll then put in a half hour on the treadmill while catching up on reading. Yeah, I’ve been a multi-tasker for years.

By Wednesday afternoon, my energy level seriously fades. Thursday’s often a struggle to write, and Friday’s almost a complete write-off when it comes to stamina and concentration. Usually I can squeeze a little more writing time in on the weekends, but this past weekend was different.

Shower prep-2A few weeks ago, I volunteered our house for my daughter’s bridal shower. Given that this is summer, I figured we’d have a dozen guests at most. My task was to clean the house and provide platters for the food that the bridesmaids were bringing. I spent most of Saturday and early Sunday, cleaning the two bathrooms, tidying, dusting, etc. while my hubby and son swept the patio, cleaned the outdoor table, moved the BBQs out of the way and arranged furniture.

Bridal shower, group photoOnce the bridesmaids arrived, I watched in awe as they brewed jugs of different flavored teas, laid out food, decorated, and arranged flowers with an efficiency that had me in awe. As you’ll see from the photo, my twelve guest estimate pretty much doubled in size. (I’m in the blue dress in the front row, my daughter to the left, and my sister on the right.)

The shower was great fun and the bridesmaids were just as efficient with the cleanup and take-down as they were in setting things up. By the time every had left by 4:30, though, I was exhausted. My plans to do a little more editing that evening fizzled away.

Still, a good week of editing, followed by awesome family time, could be considered a balanced week. The only problem was that none of us felt rested by Monday morning. That’s okay, I have major rest and relaxation planned for this upcoming long weekend.

CakeBy the way, the delicious lemon cake in the photo was hand made by one of the bridesmaids. She brought fresh flowers to decorate the cake with! She also made a cheesecake with blueberry sauce, and earl grey cookies, which were amazing. As her wedding gift, she’s making the wedding cake, along with cupcakes. Now that I’m totally in wedding mode, I can’t wait for the big event in September.

 

Cleaning and Reorganizing My Writing Space

Hiedi_Cartoon_Housekeeper.jpeg_full[1]I rarely do a thorough cleaning of my home in springtime. The weather’s often too cold and rainy, plus there are simply too many other writing events and responsibilities to tend to. I prefer to clean in the summer, when I can leave doors and windows open. The carpets dry faster and I’m usually energized enough to take things to recycling and donation centers.

Unlike the upstairs, which gets regular vacuuming and dusting, I haven’t given my basement office a thorough cleaning for two years. I’ve managed to run a vacuum over the carpet and dust my workstation occasionally, but I’m talking about removing binders and knick-knacks from the shelves, wiping down every surface and tackling a couple of cobwebs high in the corners.

I’m inspired to do this right now, not only because the weather’s warming up, but because I’m currently reading a book about holistic wellness. The author says that a good cleansing of one’s home can improve emotional well-being and I agree.

Office cleaning is unique. No one else can do it for me because I also need to take a long look at the things in my office…the books, unfinished writing projects, the unframed pictures still perched behind my printer, and the numerous papers pinned to the bulletin board in front of my desk. Some of them have been there so long that they’re no longer relevant.

I need to rethink what needs to be filed away or removed altogether. Which pictures should go where? Which writing projects should I return now that weeks, if not months, have passed? I still need to sort through file folders and purge information I no longer want or need, but hey, like writing itself, organizing one’s writing life is an ongoing process.

Whatever happens, there should be improvements by the end of summer, I hope.

Serendipity: How a Dire Situation Became Something Better

Serendipity is what I’d describe as chance encounters with unexpected and excellent outcomes. They don’t happen often in my life, but our family experienced it twice this week, and we needed them both.

I won’t bore you with descriptions of the many phone calls, pharmacy trips, assessments and stress that happened in April and May to try and get my 84-year-old mother more frequent and professional care for her dementia and pancreatic cancer. My sister and I were her advocates, and our family doctor initially thought professional home support and medication would be enough. But as her condition rapidly deteriorated, we began lobbying the powers that be for either palliative care treatment or a hospice.

Everyone tried to be helpful, but there are rules and protocols before one qualifies for hospice or long-term care facilities in British Columbia. As it turned out, impromptu assessments by R.N.s without my knowledge or any feedback from them resulted in their underestimating the depth of my mom’s dementia and relying on inaccurate information from her.

When it became clear that she wasn’t eating solid food, but living on ginger ale and Boost for several days, my sister got on the phone. She wound up talking to a sympathetic woman who suggested that a palliative care doctor could come and assess Mom, and this time, they invited us to be there, so I went. Twenty-four hours later, the doctor’s office told me that she would be placed in a hospice, but at a facility that was still a fairly long drive away. We were hoping for one closer to home, however no beds were available,  but  at least she was going where she’d get the care she needed.

Twenty-four hours after that I received a call, I received another phone call saying that a bed had just become available at a hospice five minutes from my home, and asking if I could bring her there at 2:30 that day. It was both a welcome surprise and a huge relief. She’s currently in a wonderful, caring environment.

MojoThe next dilemma was what to do with her fifteen-year-old cat, Mojo. I’d placed a poster at the vet, boarded him there a few days, asked friends, associates, and work colleagues, and did a shout-out on Facebook. As our family and friends were already inundated with pets who would not welcome a newbie and the cat shelters were all maxed out (we checked), we reached the conclusion that he’d have to go to the SPCA. A phone called to the Vancouver branch assured us that they have a high adoption rate, and that a number of people would be interested in adopting a senior cat. Still, life in a cage seemed depressing.

As it happens, my sister has a part-time retirement job as a cat-sitter. Although she fractured her kneecap last September and doesn’t take on new clients, she has a small number of long-term clients. The day before we were planning to take Mojo to the SPCA, she was tending to a client’s cats when a vet technician she’d met months before showed up to give one of the cats an injection.

They began talking and as my sister updated her about our situation, the tech volunteered to find Mojo a home. She apparently volunteers with a couple of cat placement centers. She told my sister that she’d make a couple of calls and see if she could find him a foster home right away, then look for something more permanent.

We held our breath, hoping she’d come through, and sure enough, she called the next morning. We were to bring Mojo to her workplace, where a foster family would take him home. Given that Mojo’s a Himalayan (not purebred) with gorgeous blue eyes and a friendly personality, we have every confidence that he’ll be placed in a permanent loving home.

Sometimes it takes prayer, other times visualization, or staying positive to achieve the best possible outcome in a tough situation. I think I used all of the above, and I’m thankful for the people who appeared in our lives to help us through a difficult situation. When the opportunity arises, I plan to pay it forward.

Acquiring Mental Strength

o-MENTAL-STRENGTH-facebook[1]A few weeks ago, I came across and interesting article about things mentally strong people do that no one else does. It intrigued me because I’m immersed in a year that’s requiring a lot of mental and emotional strength. But as I was reading the article I was struck by how many of the 12 points listed also applied to my writing life, not just my family life.

For example, among the twelve points listed, the first one is practicing gratitude. I’ve been doing this as a writer from the day I sold my first piece back in 1983. I’ve enjoyed many moments of gratitude since then and have managed to acquire some of the other points on the Entrepreneur article list.

For example, mentally strong people create their own definition of success, delay gratification, don’t blame others, adopt practical optimism, acknowledge their limitations, and don’t compare themselves to others.

I can’t claim to have conquered all points listed. I still have trouble saying no, I still let my inner critic vocalize too much, and I still let fear get in the way of going all out in certain aspects of my career. But I’m working on it.

One of the things I’ve learned after nearly forty years of writing is that I’m stronger than I thought I was, and I have something to share with newer writers just starting out. And that means a lot.

If you’re interested in reading all twelve points listed in the Entrepreneur article, you can find it HERE.

The Powerful Connection Between Nature and Writing

Front Yard Flowers-3, 2019.jpgWriting and gardening seem to go hand in hand. I’ve read wonderful blogs from authors whose photos and enthusiasm for their gardens is amazing. I’ve read biographies about deceased authors who were also passionate gardeners.

Although I haven’t done much gardening as an adult, I loved growing flowers as a kid. My favorite were gladioli. I still like big flowers, dahlias and sunflowers in particular. But after my husband started a vegetable garden in earnest last year (we enjoyed oodles of zucchini and kale) and we had some trees topped or removed (we still have plenty of trees, trust me), the sunlight has poured in, revitalizing flowering plants (which will hopefully attract bees) that have been there for years, but never really blossomed, until now, as you’ll see in the photos.

Front Yard Flowers-1, 2019.jpgMany authors know that one of the best ways to sort through novel plotting problems is to take a walk, whether in the woods, by water, or in a park. There’s something about the tranquility, the sounds and smells of nature that ease our conscious minds while allowing our subconscious our brains to quietly knit ideas together. It’s no wonder that some writers prefer to write outside. Beaches, outdoor cafés, benches, campgrounds, can be inspirational.

At the other end of the spectrum, those of us who’ve been working hard to finish and/or edit a manuscript find the outdoors a way to re-energize and just breathe. There are certain outdoor places where I don’t think about writing at all. While in Mexico back in January, I spent a great deal of time outside walking and seeing the sights, with little thought to writing at all.

As most authors already know, writing about nature is an integral part of storytelling. Without a setting, we don’t have a fully developed novel, and while some stories might be set totally indoors, many are not. Writing about what we see, hear, smell, and touch adds depth to a story that relies too heavily on visual senses.

By the way, last week I wrote about weird and wacky days of the week. Tomorrow, May 23rd, is world turtle day, according to my WWF-Canada calendar. Not wacky or weird. Just poignant. Because I fear that we’re losing too much nature at a horrific rate and that one day we’ll be forced to step inside some sort of dome if we want to see it and inhale the many fragrances. It makes me want to do more to keep what we have before it’s all gone, and to enjoy the outdoors more often.

Weird and Wacky Special Days

long_one[1].jpgLast week my husband said, “Happy lost socks day,” to which I replied, “Huh?” He told me he’d heard on the radio that this was lost socks day. At that point, he glanced at the three unmatched socks abandoned on his side of the dresser.

Skeptical about whether such a day truly existed, I looked it up and sure, enough, May 9th is indeed officially known as Lost Sock Memorial Day. I found a website called Holiday Insights which lists a whole array of unique and in some cases bizarre special days.

Many months ago, I read a marketing tip advising authors to find a special day to tie in with their books. Who knew that Valentine’s Hallowe’en, Labor Day, Canada Day, and so forth barely cover the massive number of special days we can celebrate. Here’s a few more festive occasions in May that you might want to acknowledge, or not.

May 15 – National Chocolate Chip Day (that’s today. Eat a cookie.)

May 16 – National Sea Monkey Day (why? I wonder)

May 17 – Pack Rat Day (I know people who celebrate this daily)

May 18 – No Dirty Dishes Day (unless you’re on holiday, is that even possible?)

May 18 – Visit Your Relatives Day (maybe they’ll do the dishes)

May 20 – Be a Millionaire Day (wonder how that one works)

May 23 – Lucky Penny Day (a rare event indeed, here in Canada)

May 24 – Don’t Fry Friday (never do)

May 25 – Tap Dance Day (love it!)

May 28 – National Hamburger Day (aren’t most days?)

Of course, more serious holidays are also listed, but the point is there’s pretty much an occasion for everyone. If you like to make greeting cards, just imagine what you could do. If you’re looking for rather unique approaches to marketing your books, the opportunities are endless, so have at it.