Home, Health, and Hope

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve thought, typed, or spoken the words, “It’s been such a busy fall” this year. It has. With retreats and conferences, board meetings and ad hoc committee meetings, costumes to sew and boxes to pack…I’d say this is one of the busiest seasons I’ve had in a while. And when you get that busy with non-routine items, your regular life has a tendency to atrophy.

The house is a mess. We’re eating on the fly (and thus eating less-than-healthily). I haven’t found time to rake the leaves even once.

But with a number of items checked off the oddball to-do list (the biggest being a revision of my manuscript for my agent) I am looking forward to November as a time to take back the reins from Chaos.

I will clean this house.

I will take all those boxes and bags to the thrift store.

I will make that eye appointment.

I will do a real grocery shopping trip.

I will make smoothies for breakfast.

I will exercise. (I will, I will, I will!)

I will start thinking about goals for next year.

I will get some renovation projects moving at church.

I will make every attempt to take a shower before noon.

And I will entertain some hopes and dreams that may come to pass next year: a visit with dear friends that moved away this year, the purchase of a new house, the signing of a publishing contract, the getting into clothes that haven’t fit me in a while. The new year is still two months away, but I’m already in that kind of renewal-type mood.

Storytelling, Books, and Bookstores

My agent’s blog is full of links to great content about writing, books, and creativity. And in the past couple weeks, she’s shared two items I want to share with you today — partly because they’re simply interesting and edifying, but also because once I’m done with revisions to The Bone Garden (the manuscript we intend to submit to editors first), I’ll be picking up I Hold the Wind again. And it so happens that I Hold the Wind is about books. Physical, printed, paper and ink books. And it’s about a bookstore. So I love reading things like Why the Printed Book Will Last Another 500 Years and listening to things like this:

Both give me the warm, fuzzy feeling of curling up on the couch under a blanket to enjoy a foray into another place and time. And both assure me that I’m not crazy.

What We Can’t Let Go Of, We Must Store

When one of her daughters gives her a charge — please keep your eyes open for boxes and newspapers — my mother comes through in a way she might never do for anyone else (even herself). A month ago she came to my house to help me go through the kitchen cupboards so I could clean and repaint them while my husband was gone at a conference. We thought we’d pack up anything I don’t use much — fancy serving pieces and vases and such — so that there was less cluttering the cupboards when we list our house.

At that time, she brought a bunch of boxes and two grocery bags full of the Wall Street Journal. As it turned out, neither of us felt like cleaning out the kitchen. We just felt like sitting around and talking. So that’s what we did. All weekend. It was great. And the boxes sat forlornly in a casual ziggurat in the middle of the office.

A week later when I was in New Mexico, my husband and son traveled to the east side of the state and visited Grandma and Gramps. They came home with the back of the Explorer filled with boxes (all of which at one time held about a dozen bottles of wine each…now I’m not judging, but…that’s a lot of wine).*  Those boxes I stacked into a fortress wall in the sunroom.

Now, I still haven’t tackled the kitchen, but I did start boxing up a bunch of stuff in the office, including sewing patterns and my extensive collection of notions, binders full of magazine clippings, fabric, yarn, and some other random stuff. I also boxed up a bunch of gardening supplies, pots, and a few books in the sunroom. I’m cleaning and reorganizing as I go, chipping away at that massive to-do list I created this summer.

And pretty soon, the fun tedious, backbreaking, filthy part: pulling everything out of the attic, hunching over and pushing these boxes the entire length of the house in order to get them in the very back of the attic, going through all the stuff we just pulled out of the attic to see if we can get rid of any of it, and then carefully putting it all back again.

This stuff from the attic, sunroom, and soon the kitchen is just the tip of the iceberg. The part that’s underwater (the 90% you can’t see) is basically my son’s toys (only child — yes, I promised myself it wouldn’t get this way, but it has). We’ll see how much I can move on to new homes before Christmas.

And for some dumb reason I popped onto Zillow today just to see if there were any interesting new listings…and I found a great house in a great, non-flood-plain location, for a good price. So I’m just constantly flipping through the pictures and hoping it won’t sell and that they’ll relist in the spring for a lower price yet. Hey, a girl can dream.

*According to my mother, those are the kind of boxes the grocery store had. Um, yeah, sure.

“Wasting” Time to Awaken Your Inner Creative Spark

While I spent most of my time in Albuquerque writing, one workshop I did attend was Kimberly Brock’s Tinderbox Workshop. Before we all packed for the trip, our Retreat Planner & Organizer Extraordinaire Orly Konig-Lopez told us what we should bring: a journal or notebook, magazines and glue, stickers and interesting paper, markers and pencils. It was clear that this workshop would have less to do with writing than most offered at writers conferences or retreats. As I had recently purged my house of unwanted magazines (see earlier posts on decluttering in anticipation of listing our house for sale in the future) I decided to bring my watercolors and some pastels.

I won’t go into details about the workshop content (except to say that if you have a chance to be in a Kimberly Brock workshop you should take it) but I will say that she had to assure participants that they were not “wasting time” by not writing and that there was not a “right way” to do the exercises. I’ll share a page from the journal I was working on as she spoke about creativity:

Underneath that collage is a pretty simple painting of a face with colors coming out from all angles — my interpretation of what Kimberly was talking about. When she said we were going to start covering it up with collage, I said to myself, “Um, no. I will not be doing that. Thank you very much.” I was happy with what I’d painted and drawn and I wasn’t about to obscure it with things pulled from magazines.

But then I did. And it was fun. It’s been a while since I did any sort of collage and it was pretty fun finding images and words that inspired me and went along with some of the concepts Kimberly was talking about.

When I got home, I didn’t want to put my paints away. The retreat was held at Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town, a beautiful space that really got under my skin in a good way. So I decided to paint one of the pretty outdoor spaces: the pavilion. Friday night we all ate BBQ under here and Saturday there was a gorgeous wedding in this space. But it was most beautiful to me when it was empty of people and dappled with sun and shadows.

It’s funny how creativity works. I went to New Mexico to write, to learn, and to meet other writers. Bringing paints was definitely not part of my original plan. Neither was collage. But I came home with a heart and mind full of the place and a bit of dormant creative spirit unleashed. So now I not only find myself painting, I’m also plotting a novel set in our hotel, with an ensemble cast drawn from some of the people I saw (and many more I am imagining). Opening the door to one part of your mind often lets in enough wind to blow open other doors.

When was the last time you let yourself just fool around with art supplies for a few hours? When was the last time you allowed yourself time to just have fun doing something kind of mindless, like you did when you were a kid? My guess is that it has probably been too long.

So when are you going to start?