Thursday, March 20, 2014

Household Predictions

Prediction: Our kitchen will be remodeled soon.

I know this because I got out the duct tape today to fix the temporary flooring that's been in place for about two years.

When you get out the duct tape, you know things are about to get serious.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What we didn't name the cat that wasn't ours.

How about Buttercup?

Buttercup is my name.

Okay, so we'll name her after you.

How about Butterball?

Butterball is a turkey, not a cat.

It's a yellow tabby, it needs a yellow name.


It doesn't have to be a yellow name.

How about Butterbeer? That would be a good name.

Butter is not the only thing that is yellow, you know.

The cat that is probably not named Buttercup did not come home with us this morning. She met us at the half-way mark our second time around and Not-Buttercup and our old dog, Naisey, enjoyed walking together for a while. They behaved like old friends. Happy to see each other and enjoying the cool morning breeze. It's still chilly at 5:30 in the morning, but spring is definitely in the air.

When our big (younger) dog, Nancy, approached, I was very curious about how the very friendly Not-Buttercup would welcome her. Cats must have a sense about these things. She pulled herself into Halloween cat pose and when Nancy gave her the nose, the cat exploded into a little yellow fury ball of spits and nose swats. Nancy backed down immediately, as any good dog faced with a good cat should.

We also saw a fox this morning. It first crossed my path on the first quarter of track (also Naisey's, but I don't think Naisey sees well enough to spy a sly fox these days). Needless to say, I was more excited by the near-encounter than the dog. The fox is a beautiful animal. We would see them occasionally in western Kansas when I was a kid and it always felt like a really special encounter. They seem like such sophisticated animals.

Near the end of our walk, I was excited in telling the rest of the family about the fox encounter, as well as warning little Not-Buttercup that she should keep an eye out. About that time, the fox made its second appearance, running in the opposite direction. Everyone saw it this time. Except Naisey, she's definitely not seeing as clearly as she did when she was younger.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

48 Hours of Me Time

The family left at 1:00pm on Friday. I happily shooed them out the door. They were headed for Planet Comicon in Kansas City. I was to stay home, all by my lonesome... well, me and the dogs.

By 1:15 I had a plan formulated. I made a quick trip to the store (4 stores, in fact) for all of the necessities I would need for the next 48 hours of my life.

1) Aldi: they have my baked chips, a vice I continue to cling to.

2) Price Chopper, the only grocery store in town with anything resembling a salad bar. I knew I would have a chance to shop at the farmers market on Saturday, so I didn't want to commit to a big tub of organic greens until I had a chance to buy fresh and local.

3) Sweet Granada! Because it's a chocolate cafe. Is any other explanation needed?

4) The Liquor Store (yes, that's the name of the place) because it felt like if I was spending a weekend alone indulging, I should have some pear cider on hand. As it turned out, I didn't open a single bottle. But because it was available I knew I wouldn't have an excuse for leaving the house--and the task at hand--later.

So what does one do with 48 hours alone?

Set the stage. No need to get up from the table. Everything I could possibly need was within reach. I was starting with 6,446 words of a work-in-progress and was determined to use the time to grow it as much as possible.

At 4:30, I got an unexpected call from a friend who was in town meeting a relative. I was at 7,477 words, so took a break to visit my friends at Java Cat.

Back in the writing chair at 7:30pm. Fresh popcorn for fuel, 2 glasses of water, and 10 dark chocolate covered coffee beans.

9:25 pm = 9,316 words.

I was setting the timer for two hours at a time. Each time it went off, I took a break to stretch (okay, maybe did some dancing... I was home alone, after all) and restock the necessities table. I also did a little house cleaning each break and kind of shook the limbs until I felt like I could sit again.

A clean sink leaves a lot of good mental space for the creative soul.

11:00 pm = 10,591 words.

I was feeling pretty super-charged because the writing was going so well. Drank some sleepy time tea and made myself prepare for bed. I had market Saturday morning and, while I knew I could go tired, I didn't want to be completely off my game.

Saturday breakfast:
Kale, Strawberry, Mandarin Orange Smoothie.

8:15 am Saturday morning - Took break from alone time for farmers market and farmers market annual meeting. Good times. Oh my, what a gorgeous day it was. Perfect weather. Love my market friends and family!

2:00 pm -- home from market. Showered and set the alarm for a two hour nap. When I woke up, the sunny sky had been replaced by grey clouds and the temperature was dropping.

4:45 pm -- back at the keyboard.

8:12 pm -- 13,433 words

11:00 pm -- 17,077 words

Midnight -- took a break from writing, messed with some family photos till about 1:15 am. Went to bed.

Chamomile tea! I can't decide if it's really effective, or just a placebo effect. I love ending the day with a good cup of tea.

Sunday morning -- up at 8:30, brief review of emails and Facebook, before back to clickety clacking at the keyboard.

Washed and folded what laundry I didn't manage in yesterday's breaks. Swept the floor in the kitchen and living room. Emptied all the trash cans in the house.

1/2 hour past noon: 19,452 words. The story is rolling along, though it has turned darker than I expected. Good time to take a break and ponder my progress. Time for a little more dancing and stretching. Family should be home soon.

That, my friends, is how I celebrate 48 Hours of alone time. 13,096 words added to the work-in-progress. I think I'm going to call it, What the Heart Knows.

Life is good.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Anticipating Change and Enjoying the Creative Fuel it Brings

I've always maintained the belief that creativity begets creativity. Writing, painting, composing... it doesn't matter the form. One creative act leads to ideas for at least two more. Most of the time I would claim to be engaged in creative work on pretty much a daily basis. Most often it is writing, but I've been known to draw a picture, pick out a tune on the piano, experiment with recipes or take photographs all with that same satisfied-at-having-created-something feeling.

I also enjoy spending time doing more rote, logistical type things that I've come to think of as creativity fueling. I enjoy being busy, productive, and there are certain tasks that I know I can turn to when my mind needs time to process its more unruly thoughts. I am delighted by spreadsheets, for instance, and I take pride in the management systems I have created with them to aid my work with the farmers market or in managing the billing and bookkeeping for my husband's law office practice. I suppose the act of generating a good spreadsheet is creative, but the act of using a good spreadsheet is incredibly satisfying (especially if you are confident of all of the mathematical functions because you placed them there yourself for reasons you fully understand). I place a number here, and it calculates this, that, and another.

Sometimes my creative mode turns more habitual, however, and I come to the realization that I've not so much been creating as going through the motions simply because I think of myself as a creating kind of person. Perhaps I am writing the same words in a different tense, or putting them to paper in cursive rather than print. Maybe I have turned to doodling for the sake of filling blank space. Or I am serving the same dish meal after meal and forgetting what everything tastes like. Sometimes I am so practiced at what I do that I can fall into the habit of work without really feeling the satisfaction of actually having created something.

It is interesting to look back at my life and see these patterns of actively and passively engaging with the creative process, and the pattern of falling into ruts (usually caused by finding a pattern that works so well I never want it to end). When I was younger, I was more prone to get caught up in the fear of changing things, but now I've almost come to the point of looking forward to those moments. I might recognize that I am getting stuck in a groove, but am more content than I used to be to wait for the right moment. I'm less likely to feel the need to hang on to actions or routines because they once worked. Situations change. I change. My creative process changes. Sometimes I have to do something different in order to move forward and move my creative life to a place of greater satisfaction.

It may be that I've come to anticipate those changes so much that the knowledge that they are coming is enough to fuel a resurgence of creativity. The hubby and I had an idea last week. It was a big idea, for us. An idea that would involve a new house and a new business. I don't know where that idea is going to go, or if it is going to go at all, but I have felt that opening of my mind. I'm ready for change. I'm ready to switch up my routine in a bigger than usual way.

Just the idea of making this move has resulted in an flurry of creative energy. It's infused my market work, my law office work, and my writing. I've got more ideas on the plate than I have room for, but I'm happy that way. I'm coming to the end of each day exhausted and satisfied. I'm excited about that open state of mind, the feeling that anything is possible, and whatever it ends up being, it will be good.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Book Review: 600 Hours of Edward

600 Hours of Edward
by Craig Lancaster

600 Hours of Edward is the story of an adult man on the Asperger's end of the autism spectrum. I downloaded a sample of it several months ago when a friend recommended it to me. When I finally picked it up and started reading on my Kindle, I was hooked. I purchased as soon as I reached the end of the sample and pretty much continued reading until I had finished the book.

I absolutely adored Edward. Each time the author wrote, "My data was complete," I smiled with satisfaction, and when he barrelled out of bed without recording the time he woke up and the previous days temps, I laughed out loud.

As Edward tells his story, the 600 hours where his life--his routine--changed, I was moved by his observations and his relationships. I can't claim that this must be a true representation of the different way a person with Asperger's must think, but it certainly felt realistic. Edward's routine gave a rhythmic quality to the story telling that had exactly the right timing. I didn't want to put the book down. I kept reading pages, eagerly anticipating the twists, the events that would change things.

This story is brilliant in both its construction and its conclusions. I am looking forward to reading the sequel, and I am putting it on my "recommended" reading list.

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