A Cat’s Life

Saturdays are my days to do weekly chores, and last Saturday I was helped in this endeavor by Calliope.  I was emptying the dishwasher, a task made much simpler because I have pull out shelves, and Calliope discovered she could jump from a countertop into the cupboard.  Here’s the result of that action.

I love cupboards!

I love cupboards!

She was lucky that the cupboard was nearly empty. That’s what happens when I am able to go an entire week before I have to run the dishwasher. As she explored this uncharted territory, I snatched the camera.

Isn't this fun!

Isn’t this fun!

Obviously she was finding this to be a lot of fun!

I like pull-outs!

I like pull-outs!

And then she started seeing where she could go from here.

Hmm--wonder what's up here?

Hmm–wonder what’s up here?

It Only Took a Quilting Marathon

I have just finished a quilting marathon, making seven quilts of various sizes in 35 hours of quilting over the last week.  This project had been on my plate since late last fall.  I make and donate quilts to Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS), and my contact person there gives me names of families who could use some extra hugs and I make lap quilts for them.  Usually the families are composed of one or two parents and one, two, or even three children of various ages.  And usually I receive their first names, ages, and sexes as well as their favorite colors, occupations, hobbies, etc.

But this time I only received names, ages, and sexes, and on top of that it was a family of seven–a single mom and 6 children.  There is an 11 yr old boy and five girls ages one through eight.  I found the project daunting.  I set up my quilts so that each child has fabric related to their interests, etc. and the parents have fabric from the children’s quilts as well as fabric related their interests.  My theory is that even though someone is a parent, they are also an individual in their own right, something which parents of small children especially seem to forget.

This means that I make a family’s quilts as a unit, and the unit size of seven was hard to keep track of.  The lack of information also made it difficult since I was trying to guess what people I have never met might like.  And so I was stymied.  I had other projects going, so I just kept putting this one away and hoping something would happen on its own.

Last Friday I mentioned this VYFS request yet again to my therapist.  I had recently finished doing a set of four quilts for our Student Link (Vashon’s alternative high school) newborns and one sibling.  Soon I will be planning quilts for our Student Link graduates.  I needed to get this batch for VYFS started and finished, but quilting for me is a very creative process and it was beginning to feel like an assembly line production.  My therapist suggested that since I had no way of knowing what these people might like that I needed to make the quilts in a way that satisfied my artistic and creative impulses, using fabrics I liked and patterns that I found interesting.  She assured me that anyone would be thrilled to receive one of my quilts even if it wasn’t a design they would have picked on their own because my quilts are unique.  They are fun and happy and bright and cheery.  They are warm and soft.  In a word, they are indeed portable hugs, which is what I call them.

So first thing Saturday morning I started in.  I had earlier pieced the three smallest quilts, but now I started in on the other four.  I used fabric that I had cut previously for other projects but never used.  I tried new ideas.  I sewed like mad and most importantly, I had fun!  I worked straight through the weekend on them and by Sunday night I had four more tops pieced.  Monday afternoon saw the making of the flannel backs and then pinning the quilts together, after a morning spent tutoring at Student Link.  Tuesday I was able to cut and sew all the bindings.  Wednesday had no time for quilting but by Thursday morning I was ready to quilt and I got all seven quilts quilted and squared.  I quilt by doodling randomly on my long arm quilter. I sew the recipient’s name in the center, and then write words of encouragement in and around my doodles. It feels very much like dancing across the quilts and it is one of my favorite parts of the process, and also the fastest, even with my feline helpers. Then today I bound them all, and now the project is complete and more importantly, I have learned a lot about my creative process.

I am more inspired when I know the person I am quilting for.  Barring that, I need to know something about the person, at least a hint.  One of my favorite VYFS quilts is still a frog quilt I made for a five year old boy who raises frogs.  It was fun!  And I need smaller groups.  I keep telling my students that if they have a big project, they need to slice it into smaller chunks.  I do family units as a chunk so that I can have common themes, colors, etc.  I do better with smaller units, and if I am asked to do a large family again, I will definitely insist on more information to work with.

I also discovered that sometimes I just need to get on with it.  I need to find a way to make an adventure out of the project.  This time I tried mixing strips with squares and some squares were made from triangles.  I tried different widths on the strips.  I used borders.  One of them had all the strips and borders from the same fabric.  The others have an assortment.  I like the effects of both and will use them again in other designs.

I know quilters who are craftsmen and their quilts are quite beautiful, but not always what I, at least, would term art.  I am not a craftsman in any sense of the word.  I lack both the technique and the patience.  My quilts are my works of art born from my creative juices and from my heart.  The minute my quilting starts to look like a production line, even though I will say I am an efficient quilter, the joy vanishes.  I have to play with the fabric and make it new and exciting.  I think I have managed that with this set of quilts.  The photos below show them from the smallest to the largest.  The first two are 42″ square.  The next two are 42″x48″.  The fifth is 48″x52″.  The sixth is 48″x56″. And lastly the mother’s is 48″x66″.  These seven quilts will be picked up on Monday and begin their journey to their new home and I hope the family enjoys them as much as I have enjoyed making them (once I got going!).

IMG_3309IMG_3310IMG_3312

IMG_3313 IMG_3316 IMG_3317 IMG_3319

How Many Blogs Does One Person Need?

A fellow blogger recently posted a poll asking her readers if they would like her to consolidate her two blogs or keep them separate. That got me thinking because, as many of you may know, I actually have four separate blogs! It is rather absurd, I know, but each was started with a different purpose (forgive the pun) in mind. Today I did decide to consolidate them all on WordPress. Previously two were on Blogger and two with WordPress. So now they are all in one place, which may make things easier.

What are my blogs, you may be asking. Well, I have this one, obviously, where I post random musings and thoughts and also update with photos sometimes. I don’t tend to write here a lot, but I use this site to sort out feelings, comment on actions, or generally babble on about whatever is foremost in my thoughts at the moment.

Then I have Daphne’s Flash Fiction, which, as the name suggests, contains short fiction that I have written. Again, I tend not to write many stories, but when I do, I post them here.

The two blogs which I use the most, daily in fact, are Daphne’s Tanka Diary and Daphne’s Haiku and Other Small Stones. The first contains a narrative account of my day’s activities as well as a five line poem, loosely related to a tanka. The second contains at least one haiku as well as the same tanka that was posted on my tanka diary.

I started my diary years ago at a very difficult time in my life when neither of my children was in touch with me. I hoped that even though they wouldn’t allow any contact, they might keep up with me in my diary and other writings. I have kept the diary up ever since. Thankfully both of my children are now back in contact, but I have found that friends both here on Vashon and around the world chose to follow the events in my rather bizarre and fickle life, and I also find that writing at the end of each day helps me stay focused. Some days I write very little, either because nothing much has happened or because I’m not feeling up to writing, but I do think that the discipline helps me. I also make sure that I write at least one haiku each day as that really helps me to stay present, in the moment.

And so I have four blogs. You are most welcome to follow any or all and I love to hear your comments whenever you wish to make them. Maybe as time goes on, I too, like my fellow blogger friend, will consolidate, but for now, I have four blogs but at least they are all on one dashboard now. Have a wonderful day!

Thoughts on Writing and Publishing

As many of you know, I have just published my first novel, Dragon Riders, and I am close to publishing my first book of haiku.  I have also written my second novel, and will begin the process of revising and publishing that shortly.  I have been thinking a lot, therefore, about why I write and why it is important to me to publish what I write.

My thoughts have been further expanded and clarified as the result of some books I am reading.  I just finished reading Miss Buncle’s Book  by D. E. Stevenson and I am currently over half-way through the sequel, Miss Buncle Married.  D. E. Stevenson was a Scottish author (1892-1973), first cousin to Robert Louis Stevenson, who began writing when she was 8 years old and published over forty light romantic novels, most of which are now out of print.

What has intrigued me the most with the novels featuring Miss Buncle is that Miss Buncle is a new writer, navigating the world of publishing and dealing with the consequences of writing first one and then a second best seller.  Miss Buncle begins writing in middle age during the depression because, as she told her publisher, her dividends were dwindling and she couldn’t abide keeping chickens.  She writes about her village and the people in it, thinly disguising them with new names.  Miss Buncle has the ability to see inside people, get into their skins, and thus her characters are richly drawn and completely compelling.  Of course, when the books are published, those who are not favorably portrayed threaten libel and make life in the village very unpleasant and Miss Buncle, who wrote her books under the pseudonym of John Smith, lives in daily fear of exposure.  Eventually, as the first book ends just as Miss Buncle’s second novel is published, Miss Buncle does have to leave the village and start anew.  She, of course, has married (hence the title of the second novel) and in fact marries her publisher.  She settles down in a new home, a new village, and a new life, determined never to write again.

Of course, events transpire so that once again Miss Buncle is in the throws of creativity.  She writes novels much the way I have, quickly, compulsively, doing nothing else until the words are down on paper.  Her third novel has just been written (at the point where I am in the second book) and her husband is thrilled.  It is her best yet, and he is sure that this will earn her even more money.  But when he mentions this, Miss Buncle is adamant that the book can never be published.  Her husband is dumbfounded and tries all sorts of ways to convince her otherwise, explaining that the characters can be changed so they won’t be recognized and therefore Miss Buncle and her husband won’t have to move again.  I don’t know how things will turn out, but what struck me most was Miss Buncle’s answer to her bewildered husband’s understandable question.  If she hadn’t intended to publish it, then why did she write it?  She answers that it was bursting in her head and she had to get it out onto the paper but now that it was out, no one else could read it, although she was very pleased that he liked it so much.

I thought then about why I write and why I am publishing what I write.  I totally get the writing in a whirlwind.  I finished the first draft of my first novel in twenty days and my second in twelve days.  I ate, drank, slept, etc. my novel and I couldn’t stop writing.  Interruptions were annoying.  The words wouldn’t stop.  I have friends who are writers, and very good writers, who say they work in a totally different way.  They write for two, three, four hours a day each and every day and then do other things.  They plan novels in detail and appear to write in a more organized fashion.  It obviously works for them as they make their livings writing books.

I seem to be more like Miss Buncle.  I didn’t ever have to do it instead of keeping chickens, but like Miss Buncle, especially after her first novel is published so that economically she really doesn’t need to write anymore,  the writing takes on a life of its own and I just have to get it down on paper.  Furthermore, for me, I need to see it completed in a published form.  I use the wonderful services at CreateSpace.com to help me self-publish my works because I want to see them in published form.  Oh, obviously I am thrilled when someone says they read my novel and loved it, and I hope that will continue.  But I needed to write the book and I needed to see it as a “real” book, a concrete object.  

My “Year of Haiku” is nearly ready to send off to CreateSpace for layout and design.  I was reading it yesterday, editing the 365 haiku, drawing doodles for each month, and it was clear that this book captures 2012 for me.  I remembered each scene I’d written about, each change in the seasons or my life.  I hope at least some of those haiku will resonate with others as well.  I hope others will enjoy it.  However, I am publishing it for me because I am compelled to do so.  Miss Buncle, at least half-way through the second book, is horrified at the thought of publishing her third novel.  For her, so far, it was enough just to get the novel written and out of her head, and that I do understand and I too have written many things that I also would never want to have published.  But there is something about the publishing process that allows me to revisit my work, revise my work, and then have a final completion of the process.  

I am already a bit nervous about my second novel because it is even more autobiographical than my first, and I have some characters in the novel taken directly from real life.  I haven’t started my revisions and I will, of course, rework things, but I had to write the story as a way of showing not only how my main character overcomes horrible odds, but how I also have survived and grown.  The novel is fiction, and in fact takes place in the same fantasy world as the first, but it is even more my story than the first.  I needed to write it.  I had to write it.  And I have to see it through to its birth in the real world.  Only time will tell how it will be received and whether it will be enjoyed by others or speak to others.  That is something I have no control over.  But my novel will fly for me and that, after all, is all any artist can do.

What I Learned This Week

My last post was about finding balance in my life, specifically around health issues.  I spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend reading with my fur friends and did not work on a single project–no quilting, no weaving, nothing.  And I discovered that this week went much more smoothly.  I started the week well on Tuesday.  (I should note that my work week is only three days long.)  Wednesday was long and I started to flag in energy.  Thursday was a busy juggling act in the morning and I was definitely fading, but it worked out well because my afternoon students cancelled, so I was done early.

What I have learned is that first, I really believe that I don’t do a lot.  After all, I only work a couple hours here and a couple hours there.  But my therapist has helped me see the reality of my life.  First, I am always doing something.  I get home from Student Link and then snatch an hour or two of quilting time before I tutor the students who come to my home.  I don’t move anywhere nearly as fast as I used to, but I keep moving, keep doing, never resting until evening.

Then, on the weekends, I have time to myself, which as an introvert, I truly need.  But again, I am doing, sometimes as much as eight hours of quilting in a day.  I don’t stop until 5 or 6PM.  And I do that every day.  

I have always filled my waking hours with activities, for a variety of reasons from avoiding facing the fact that I was not being true to myself (much of my life) or because I felt lonely.  I could keep a bunch of demons away by just staying busy and distracted.  And I was accomplishing some really worthwhile things at the same time.  But it was only avoiding dealing with the real issues.

There are way too many folks who have to work seven days a week to put food on the table and that is just so wrong on so many levels.  There are more people who keep busy as I did as a way to run away from themselves.  But the truth is that we all need a balance in life between activities, be they work, chores, projects, whatever, and rest or down time.  Anything else is not healthy.

Each of us has many relationships of various kinds but the one that is the most important is our relationship with ourselves.  Other relationships will come and go, but as long as you are alive, you will always have yourself.  Furthermore, a healthy relationship with yourself is necessary for the health and well-being of all your other relationships.  I am just starting to learn this.  Self-care has to be the number one priority if we are going to live a full and happy life.

So, with this in mind, and having experienced the benefits in having some quality down time last weekend, I’ve tried to re-sort my life.  Again, my therapist pointed out that my job at Student Link and the extra tutoring I do is a high stress job.  Working with adolescents is always stressful, but working with high risk students is even more so.  And at Student Link we are working without any proper support from the school district, not because anyone is mean or doesn’t want to help, but simply because there is no money for the support.  As so often happens, governments mandate all sorts of rules and requirements, but then they don’t fund the programs to allow for those requirements to be met, and then they come in and audit with much yelling when the programs are unable to meet their requirements.

The clearest example in my life of this is the Student Link library.  As I’ve mentioned before, I donate heavily to Student Link to provide the books the students need.  I catalogue them and get them on the shelves and into the students’ hands.  But I don’t have time to enter them into a very outdated and badly conceived database.  My supervisor and I have discussed this and we have set up priorities which I personally think are valid.  Students will come first.  But I know that next spring or the one after, someone from Olympia will start yelling that our library database isn’t properly done.  Well, I think it would take at least one if not two fulltime professionals to sort out the hodgepodge that we have now.  I certainly can’t do it.  And I am a volunteer as well, which means the district has no funding to provide for either the books or the proper recording of them.  I have at least provided the books and if the state wants more, well, they’ll have to figure out how to make that happen.  Both my supervisor and I are fine with our decision, but this is just one example of the lack of support for our efforts.  This naturally raises stress levels.

I keep saying that I “only” work two hours/day three days/week, but my therapist pointed out that that simply isn’t true either.  I care deeply for these students and I hold them in my heart in and out of Student Link. I worry about them, plan for them, think about them. I often end up taking papers home to mark because I spent my two hours helping students.  I offer extra tutoring to both Student Link students and Vashon High students in my home.  I field the occasional e-mail or phone call.  And even if the students don’t e-mail or call, I am “at the ready,” so to speak.

And I love this job.  I find it rewarding beyond all expectations.  Seeing these students overcoming adversity and fighting for their dreams is incredibly heart-warming.  But it is also draining, and if I compound that by “sneaking in” quilting moments in between students, and so on, I run myself ragged.
I am nearly sixty-seven years old and I have some health issues as well.  So I need to work on better self-care, and I am far from the only person in this world needing this, but I can only work on myself.

I have decided that weekends are for recharging my batteries, not running them down further.  Taking time to snuggle with my pets and just relax with a good book works well for me.  Quilting is physically exhausting.  Weaving and writing are less so.  I started playing the piano last weekend and that was relaxing and not taxing.

There will be time for everything, but in smaller doses and with more attention being paid to me, my body, my mind, my psyche.  I have confronted many of my demons and I don’t need to be frantically busy to avoid them.  I don’t need to feel that who I am depends on what I do.  And if I take care of me and learn to value my relationship with myself, then everything else will fall into place.

I hope that everyone can find time for themselves, can practice good self-care.  If we all do this, our world will be a much better place for everyone.  Have a lovely day!

Too Much or Too Little?

Well, another month has snuck by without any posts.  It seems as if it is all I can do just to get through each day.  By last Wednesday, I was definitely not doing well on all levels, physical, emotional, and psychological, so I decided I would have a holiday break doing as little as possible.  I am never sure how to figure out how much is too much but by last Wednesday there was no doubt that there had been too much.

One of the biggest problems I find in dealing with chronic issues, especially chronic pain, is knowing when I should just kick myself in the backside, figuratively, and get on with things and when I should simply rest.  And my artistic temperament causes natural highs and lows as I work creatively.  Earlier this month, I wrote my second novel.  It just took off with me and it wrote itself in a flurry of days where I was writing 4-6 hours at a time.  I didn’t feel tired (well until the end of each day’s writing) and I ignored my pain and I was on an adrenaline high, thrilled with how the novel was just pouring out of me.  In twelve days I wrote 57,427 words and had a finished first draft.  Then the next day my first proof copy of my first novel arrived and that was another high which kept me going for a week or so as I worked on finding the few goofs and sending off my corrections.

In and around all this, I kept on with my tutoring and volunteering at Student Link.  But by last Wednesday I was more than ready for time off.  I have spent all of the Thanksgiving holiday break reading.  I read a five novel series by Patricia Wrede, The Lyra Novels, which I really enjoyed and then I started on a Robin Hobbs trilogy The Rain Wilds Chronicles, also wonderful.  I have thought about quilting.  I have thought about planning my book of haiku.  I have thought about revising my second novel.  But I have done none of that.  I have snuggled into my recliner and read with one or two cats in my lap and the dogs at my feet.

As I mentioned earlier, my innate artistic temperament means that I have a melancholic nature and I need to watch for the signs that indicate I am slipping into depression.  In addition, both Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disorder and Fibromyalgia have depression as one of their main symptoms, and of course chronic pain also causes depression.

I worry that “doing nothing” could aggravate the situation.  I have always been a do-er and it is hard for me to be idle.  I had it drummed into me from an early age that it wasn’t acceptable just to be; one always had to be doing.  For most of my life that has been possible, and indeed I think my various activities have helped in my battle with depression.

But now I’m not so sure where the line is between doing enough to keep the depression away and doing too much to cause the depression to worsen because my other health issues are being neglected.  So this weekend is going to be a test case.  I shall see if I am in better shape when I return to the “real world” on Tuesday as a result of my very restful five days.  I suspect my juggling act between too much and too little will continue for the remainder of my life, but I hope that with time I will be able to judge more easily where the line between the two lies on any given day.

To Medicate or Not To Medicate

It has been too long since I’ve posted here but I’ve had to work just to get through each day, so extras, like a philosophical musing on this blog, had been set aside.  But I’ve had some helpful comments from friends about my current health situation which have given me pause and I decided to write my thoughts.

I suffer from a few chronic illness, specifically chronic sinusitis, Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disorder and Fibromyalgia, which are tough to treat and tough to live with.  I have suffered with them for a long time, even though the Fibromyalgia was only diagnosed recently.  But I have lived with chronic pain for as long as I can remember, at least 20-25 years.  I have had constant headaches for much longer than that, since my college days over 45 years ago.

The result has been that I have learned to live with chronic pain.  It is just part of who I am and I have learned to adjust and work around it.  Some days that is much easier than others as the pain levels rise and fall, but I am never pain free.

And I was raised with a father who never allowed for any weaknesses, so I have, for better or worse, simply toughed my way through it all.  I take the occasional Tylenol or Advil, but for the most part I just get on with my life.

Living with constant pain does require a large expenditure of energy just to move.  And when I was younger, I had more energy (didn’t we all!), so it wasn’t such a big deal.  But now, especially with the thyroid auto-immune disorder, my energy levels are far from what they used to be.  So I am forced to learn to listen to my body, to find out where my limits are, to take care of myself and try not to overdo.  Some days this works better than others, but such is life.

Then earlier this week I managed to injure myself quilting (I know–this isn’t supposed to be a hazardous activity), developing costochondritis, a condition where I have ripped the cartilage which joins my ribs to my sternum.  It is very painful and my doctor said it was made more painful because of the fibromyalgia.  It will take time to heal and meanwhile I am trying not to laugh, cough, sneeze, breathe deeply, etc.

Once again, I have people suggesting various medicines which have worked for them or someone they know, etc.  And I appreciate the suggestions because you never know when something new will pop up.  But for the most part, I haven’t learn anything new, and what I have found is that my body does not react “typically” to medications in general, and I am apt to suffer unpleasant side effects.  One friend just broke her foot and she is on pain meds and offered (not seriously) to share.  But pain meds don’t agree with me.  I didn’t take them even with numerous foot surgeries.  I’m glad they work for others, but it isn’t my path.

I am also unwilling or very reluctant at best, to try something new, especially something that I would have to take for a significant period of time to find out a) if it works and b) what the right dosage should be.  I guess, having lived in pain for so long, that it is really a matter of the devil I know being better.  And my chronic illnesses don’t have any cures, so anything I did do would have to be for the long haul.

I am grateful on most levels that I live alone, so I can schedule things as I see fit and if I am too tired to heat up an Amy’s dinner in the oven and prefer having a sandwich for dinner, I can do that.  If I need to head for bed at 7PM, no one cares (although I will be so glad when the elections are over and people stop calling at 8 or 8:30, sometimes waking me for nothing).

So for those who find the medications helpful, I say wonderful!  I am happy they help.  But for me, I am content with the program my naturopath and I have worked out.  I do find homeopathic remedies very helpful.  And my sauna and my hot tub do help a lot with both my chronic sinusitis and my Fibromyalgia.  And when things flare up, it is usually a signal of too much stress in my life and I am working on recognizing that earlier and working to lessen stress.

There is no one answer obviously even for an individual.  One size doesn’t fit all and situations change. But for the moment, I shall continue to muddle along as I have been for so many years.  I still manage to do all the things which are most important to me, even though I have to take them at a slower pace.  But that’s ok.  I hope you, my readers, have found paths that work for you, for whatever situations you find yourselves in.  Have a great day!

New School Year

Today was the first day of school and I have paused to reflect on the summer.  As with most seasons, there have been wonderful moments, such as sharing Vashon’s Strawberry Festival with my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, and some not great moments, such as standing outside a locked door at the dermatologist for thirty minutes and then being barely able to walk. The summer has seen me trying to cope with some health issues as well. Finally, just ten days before school started, on Friday evening August 24th, I had to say goodbye to my dear sweet Sasha.  

She was 17 yrs. old and had valiantly battled aggressive oral cancer for 22 months, but finally, there were no more miracles to pull out of the hat, and it was time.  Her last two days were difficult and she definitely let me know that it was time to say goodbye.  It has been rough for all of us left behind.  As Dr. Nell, our wonderful vet, said at her next visit, as she was taking care of 4 of the remaining 5 of my fur friends (thanks to May Sarton for that term), “Who knew Sasha was the glue holding all the rest of us together!”

But Sasha’s spirit lives on in all the many hearts that she touched and the morning after her death, when I went out to soak in my hot tub, I found the cutest little tree frog, and it touched my shattered heart.  The frog jumped into my hand and let me hold her and then I carefully put her on a neighboring plant so she would be safe from the opening and closing of the hot tub lid.
But the next morning, she was back under my hot tub lid and she has been there each and every morning since.  This morning I took her photo which I wanted to share as it seems to me that whether she was sent by Sasha’s spirit or the universe at large or whatever, that this little frog is reminding me to treasure each and every moment and live life to the fullest, as Sasha did, until the end.

Then this morning, when I arrived at Student Link for my first day of the new school year, I was greeted with people standing outside and the blinds drawn because a hummingbird had strayed into our classroom.  No one could figure out a safe way to get the hummingbird to leave, and so we’d turned out the lights and put a bright red blanket on the bush right outside our door (next to the fuchsia where it loves to feed), but there was no shifting the poor hummingbird.  Finally, we had to get back to work, and so in a darkened room I started helping one of our new students and everyone kept watching the hummingbird.  After nearly an hour the student I was helping noticed that the hummingbird had fallen a short distance to the top of a small bookcase.  The student, with our encouragement, carefully cradled the exhausted hummingbird and took it outside to the flower box with the fuchsias.  We got some sugar water in a saucer to put right next to the hummingbird and it was amazing to see how our efforts were rewarded.  The little hummingbird drank a bit, flew over to the fuchsia and then eventually flew off to new adventures.


It seems to me that the natural world has held many lessons for us as this new school year begins and somehow, I think that we are off to a very good start for this year in our rescuing a hummingbird.  Our students are the non-traditional students, the ones taking their own paths, and generally, like our hummingbird, they fare well on their own course, but sometimes they too need a helping hand.

And personally, thanks to the lessons being taught to me by first Sasha, and then the tree frog, and finally the hummingbird, I have a lot to be thankful for.  I hope your September is off to a wonderful start as well. 

Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

I have been stewing and stewing over the short (no more than 250 words) blurb for the back cover of my novel.  I wrote the novel and it is over 60,000 words, so writing 250 words about it should be walk in the park. Right? Wrong!  I have been working on it for much of the past week, on and off, and I have discovered something about the creative process, or at least my creative process.  It can’t be rushed.  Ideas need time to percolate through my brain.  I need time to do nothing, or at least appear to do nothing.  I have spent much of the past week reading and puttering around the house, all the while giving occasional thoughts to the problem of the blurb.  I have written tentative drafts, worked on the drafts, disliked them all, and gone back to cleaning a pond or scooping litter boxes or whatever.


And then finally, last night as I was heading off to bed, the words just popped into my head!  I quickly raced back to the computer and wrote a whole new draft, from a very different starting point.  Oh, it was rough, but it was so much better (in my opinion at least) than anything I’d written so far that I went to bed a happy camper.  This morning I have just puttered around, coming back to re-read my draft every half hour or so, tweaking a word or phrase here and there, before doing laundry or having breakfast or tending the dogs.  And I think I have something now that I can live with.  As soon as I find that I have had several re-reads without any changes I will send it off to my publisher and feel very satisfied with myself.


I have done the same thing with quilting where I have just cogitated on various patterns and ideas, fabric and themes, without appearing to “go” anywhere, but suddenly it all falls into place.  I am not sure if this is what Brenda Ueland means by moodling when she says, “So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering,”  but it is what I think she is getting at.  The subconscious keeps working on ideas even when or maybe even especially when, we relax and let our minds wander.


In our society which is very goal oriented, having down time where I am not getting anything particular done and where the day goes by with only apparently aimless puttering to show for it makes me feel as if the time has been wasted.  I need to be doing, or so I tell myself, but the older I get, the more I realize that my body as well as my mind needs down time and while I can work under pressure, I can’t create under pressure.  The creative process depends on having the time and the ability to moodle, and that time spent in moodling is actually very productive, as counter-intuitive as that seems.  If you are interested in this concept, there is an e-course in August run by Fiona and Kaspa at Writing Our Way Home which is designed to help us find our creative process and develop the skill of moodling.


Now that my blurb is nearly done, I have quilt patterns to moodle on and then November is not that far away; I had better start moodling about my next novel so I am ready to hit the deck running when National Novel Writing Month returns.  What is your creative process?  How do you recharge your creative juices?  Are you a moodler?

Holiday Thoughts

Today in the United States many are out celebrating the birth of our nation with parades, much flag waving, barbecues, fireworks, etc.  The month of July contains three national holidays, Canada Day, Bastille Day and Independence Day, and marking such occasions is a part of what we as humans do.


But I would ask that we take a moment to reflect on all those who can’t or aren’t allowed to celebrate.  In the United States we proclaim that all are created free and equal, but the reality has always been much different.  In the beginning free and equal was only for white propertied males.  Over the years the qualifications have changed so that more are included, at least at some level.    But we are still far off the mark.  Women are still treated as second class citizens who earn less then men.  The GLBTQ (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered/Queer) community cannot marry and in fact in many states must stay in the closet to keep a job.  Children go to bed hungry every night, denied the right to food and medical care.  And the list goes on and on.  We still have a very long way to go to meet the ideals set forth in the United States Constitution.


And what about those who feel entitled to more than equal rights?  There are wealthy people (not all, I hasten to add) who feel that they have a right not to pay their fair share of taxes.  There is Corporate America which feels entitled to grab anything it wants, raping, pillaging, and plundering with wanton disregard for anything other than their own profits.  And there is the mainstream media, determined that it knows what the viewing/listening/reading public needs to know and how this knowledge should be spoon fed to the masses.  These are just a few of the instances of the improper distribution of rights.


The United States is far from being alone in the unequal distribution of rights.  We rank 13th in most lists of countries by quality of life factors, so 12 nations are doing a better job and many others are doing a lesser job.  But I would like to see this emphasis on nations and boundaries abolished.  The bottom line is that our entire planet, the source of life for all creatures, is being cannibalized and each of us needs to stop and think about the health of our Mother Earth.  Endangered species certainly do not have equal rights, and they too deserve them as do all species.  We need to put the health of the planet above everything else, above profits, above nationalism, above so called progress.  If we don’t, the planet will fight back and it will not be pretty.  We are already feeling the effects of global warming and it will only get worse.  We already have wars and acts of terrorism caused by the unequal distribution of rights and assets.  Selfishness, be it on the individual level or the national level, will destroy us all.


As humankind becomes more “advanced,” so to speak, it seems to lose its connection to the earth and the remaining species.  Humans are not more important, more intelligent, more deserving than any other species.  We just think we are and we are the only species capable of carrying out mass destruction on every conceivable level.  It is time that we realized that we don’t own this planet.  We have no more right to live here than do the birds in the trees or the fish in the oceans.  We need to work together to save all life.


So wherever you are and whenever you celebrate your nation’s glory, please remember those who can’t celebrate.  As you wave your flag and cheer the parades, remember those who are missing.  And together let’s see if we can’t work together to make Mother Earth our first priority so that life is better for all.