Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year."

It's been YEARS since I have not sent Christmas cards. Real, physical, paper and stamp Christmas cards. I love them. There's something ritualistic about them: choosing the perfect design, just the right sentiment, signing your name over and over and over again. The envelope stuffing, addressing and stamping. I LOVE snail-mail and I LOVE Christmas cards.

This year we aren't sending them. This move threw us for more than a loop; we got the whole roller coaster on replay! Which, I suppose I must add, is all my fault and my most hair-brained idea...yet!

So this year, I'm sending this. A Christmas Blog. Funny, but I'm OK with it. I can reach so many more people. YOU for starters. I don't have the addresses of EVERYONE I know virtually. The blog-sphere is HUGE. As in WORLD-huge. I like that.

So here's my Christmas card to YOU:

May you hold your loved ones close this season, physically, spiritually or virtually.

Take a moment to breathe. Close your eyes, deep breath, and let it out...slowly. Think about everything you've accomplished this year, everything you didn't. What can you do better next year? What can you avoid?

May you look around you and see people, places and things you can be THANKFUL for. Name them, every. single. one.

May you pause on Christmas day and remember WHY it's there.

On Christmas Eve, go outside. It doesn't matter the weather. Look up. Can you see the stars? Yes? No? It doesn't matter. Think about it: the STARS are there, whether you can see them or not. They aren't going anywhere. And that means there's still a chance for you. There's still a reason for your being here. Don't give up on YOU.

I know I haven't been the most consistent of bloggers but I've decided to sign off until January. Peace is what I need. Peace and focus for the coming year. Have a BLESSED and JOYOUS Christmas, Friends. Know that you are LOVED and you are SPECIAL. Know that there is NOTHING you can't do if you are willing to WORK hard for it. Have a wonderful holiday season!! I look forward to hearing all about YOUR adventures and your GOALS for the New Year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and, as cheesy as it may sound,
"God bless us, every one."


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Daily acts of gratefulness


I recently bought an absolutely gorgeous magazine called Flow. It's published in the Netherlands and - through the magic of random international magazine sections at one big-named bookstore chain - comes to me from a land far, far away.

Filled with little extras like origami papers and lovely app-only content it's one of a growing number of print publications that gives the reader lovely little things along with gorgeous photos and interesting stories.

(On a side note, pretty much all of the magazines I've found that are chock full of extras are from Europe. What does that tell you about the American print media mindset?)

One of these lovely extras was The Little Gratefulness Diary. It's a simple booklet that grants its owner space to record what they are thankful about for the next twenty-nine weeks.

Twenty-nine weeks will take me well into 2015. What say we conduct an experiment? What if I give this 'thankful everyday' a chance? See if mindful thanksgiving really does change how you think about life and those people and place and things (all the lovely nouns) around you.

Here's to being thankful every day.

Have YOU ever kept a gratefulness journal? If so, how did it CHANGE your way of thinking? What are YOU thankful for this holiday season?

Cheers!
Jen

PS: Thank you to ALL the amazing comments from the readers of my Insecure Writer's Support Group post. I appreciate every single one of them and, though I'm slow in making my reading rounds, I'll repay the kindness as soon as I can! <3

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December's Insecure Writer's Support Group Post


Monthly posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is brought to you by Alex J Cavanaugh, The Insecure Writer's Support Group page, insecure writers like YOU and ME...

...and the letter I.

*****

I'm going to be perfectly honest with you all: I have no idea what to post! I'm not feeling particularly insecure, despite the fact I epically failed NaNo last month. Nor am I feeling dazzlingly inspirational or clever in the realm of writing wisdom. No "rah rah rah" cheering, no cut-and-paste from Quote Garden.

If I had to place specific words or phrases to how I'm feeling this IWSG Day, I'd go with "left out" and "confused". You see, there's always been this writing-shaped hole in my soul. I simply can't not write. And yet, I don't. Confused? Here, maybe this is a better way of explaining it. I've written stories since I was old enough to string words together into intelligible sentences. I have no less than 60 (yes, SIXTY) book ideas in various stages of completion - most of them are nothing more than a few sentences of summary. They are all there, waiting, pleading, beckoning with siren song.

And I turn away.

I cringe at the thought of turning on my computer (or I did before my computer died [RIP HP laptop]) and it takes every ounce of brain power I can conjure to type more than a couple of pages before I exhale loudly, pat myself on the back for "putting in my time" at the computer and gleefully log off and bury myself in someone else's written world.

It's not Writer's Block.

It's apathy and I'm ashamed to admit it.

I've become apathetic to writing.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever simultaneously feared writing and NOT writing? Have you ever shrugged your shoulders and thought, "Meh. Why write anyway?" This hasn't been a recent development; it's been ongoing for many, many, many years. I do really well when I'm being lorded over by a professor, a deadline and a grade point average. Left to my own deadlines and desires, however, I am found lacking and severely wanting. I stick my head and heart into the words of others and pine away for my own stories peaking out from shelves, file folders and tote bags. It's an aching of creator seeking creation and a bridge between the two.

Argh! I'm not even sure if this post is right for the IWSG. Maybe I'd be better off if I only had one idea at a time. A friend of mine tells me all the time how she envies the fact I have multiple stories rolling around in my head. Oh, don't envy! It's like having multiple personalities all vying for your utmost attention. So I turn them all away and stick my head in ink and paper.

Tell me, is there an app that can open up my brain, vacuum it out, and start over? A re-boot creativity button? Maybe I've read too many science fiction novels.

*****

Sorry for the less than cheery post today. On top of all of this internal turmoil, AND the fact we're still living out of cardboard boxes, we just got some less than excellent news. I'm a great big floundering mess, aren't I?

Where's my Battle Droid? I need to blast something...


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's December and I'm Still Wearing Shorts...

Good morning!

Happy December? I trust November treated you well. Thanksgiving here was a quiet affair. Odd, really: it was just The Husband and me (and the cat but he slept the whole day so he doesn't count). It was the first Thanksgiving I've ever spent away from "home" - and by home I mean back in the metro-Atlanta area where my entire family lives.

It wasn't bad, though. We woke up late, watched the Macy's Parade (two versions of it) and the dog show. My dog never wins but there's always next year, right? Let's hear it for the Irish Wolfhound fans out there!

It was cold, however, and we walked in the park dressed in coats and boots. No, there wasn't snow or freezing rain, but for south Georgia, it was cold. Then we warmed ourselves by the fire (aka The Radiator) and ate a fine meal cooked by the two of us. First Thanksgiving in Savannah. Kind of cool, actually!

In other news, I failed EPICALLY at NaNo this year. 12,000 words. Yep. That's it. Congratulations to everyone who WON!! It's a huge accomplishment! I've won in years past and I know how much commitment and sacrifice goes into winning at a 50,000 words-in-a-month challenge. Treat yourselves! You deserve it.

Oh, and my computer died! Yep, five years and it finally gave up the ghost. Kaput. Gone. I haven't tried re-re-rebooting it. I'm kind of done with it. True, there is a file of pictures on there that never made it to Dropbox or my external hard drive. There are also three or four documents that weren't saved anywhere other than my desk top. But I'll be honest with you: I don't know what was in them. I know what stories they were, but I don't know what I wrote. Which tells me it wasn't that important.

Here's hoping.

Today we spent the afternoon at the beach. December 01 and we were walking around in the sand, getting our feet wet with freezing cold water, collecting shells and discussing what to do about a Christmas tree. Kind of crazy, really, when you think about it. I'm sure in ten years it will be commonplace but right now it's new. All new and exciting.

The tree was bought, my first ever artificial one. It's hobbit-sized and therefore named Frodo. Yes, we name our trees. Alphabetically. This year was "F", in case you were wondering :). And, thanks to a fabulous shop display downtown giving me the idea, we have a book village around said artificial hobbit-sized tree.

Tada!

This is the old part of town. See the crumbling spines?



Here's the new part of town. And yes, those are Harry Potter books being used as decor!

The whole shebang! When you live in a Tiny House, your tree and stockings get displayed on the bar.

Not much else to report at the present. I do hope everyone in the States had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Get some rest you NaNos! And please bear with me as I replace my computer. My husband has been kind enough to let me use his epic monstrosity of a Mac. It's quite an adaption, being a PC gal, but I'll make do.

I will admit, it's nice to see my blog space in such hi-definition! Who knew a 24 inch screen could bring such delight?

Happy Tuesday!
~ Jen

P.S. TBR Tuesday will be back next week :) I thought the whole hobbit-tree-beach-going-in-December was enough for one post :P xo


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Semi-Wordless Wednesday


Enjoy your day, Dear Reader! Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!! Whoever you are, wherever you are, take a moment tomorrow and think about what you're thankful for. Thanksgiving isn't as fun as Halloween or as flashy as Christmas but it's sad how this humble, beautiful holiday gets brushed aside in favor of dropped prices on more junk we don't really need.

Off soapbox. 

That is all.

I'm thankful for YOU, Dear Readers! Cheers!




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TBR Tuesday: Tequila Mockingbird



Though this isn't a novel, I would sit down and read it on a rainy afternoon. Tequila Mockingbird is not only one of the most clever titles I've come across, it's one of the most clever books I've ever thumbed through! Part cocktail recipe book, part literary treatise, Tequila Mockingbird is filled with literary inspired drinks and snacks that look like they would make any book club giddy. I mean, come on! Who wouldn't want to eat an hors d'oeuvre called Prawn Quixote?

The shop I work at carries this book and every Friday I'm tempted to take a copy home with me. My only problem is what to make first? The Last of the Mojitos? How about A Rum of One's Own? Or - look out now - The Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose? Of course there's a few drinks for the non-alcoholically inclined such as The Wonderful Blizzard of Oz.

Sounds pretty silly, right? Well, it is. It appears to be a delightful romp through classic literature with a twist of lemon and a whiskey shooter on the side. I may be a little too excited about this one.

Happy Tuesday everyone! What's at the top of your TBR Pile?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Learning to Love Literary Fiction



Weekends are different now. They begin on Sunday and end Monday night. I am forever telling people to have a great weekend on what usually signals the end of one.

Ah well...

Serendipitously, Jon and I have the same days off. This past weekend (aka Monday) we discovered a used book and record store a couple of miles from our house. As soon as we walked in it felt like home. The shelves were packed three rows deep. The prices were good. They had a mythology section. Oddly enough, it smelled like the old bookstore I used to work in. It was quiet and lovely and musty and we were the only customers there.

There's something about being left to your own devices in a bookstore. It happened the other day at Barnes and Nobel. While I am certainly a champion for the Indie Bookshop and the local used book store, the only place I can find British periodicals is B&N and so I go. Also, it's a great place in which to wander through the Fiction/Literature section. I'm usually the only one there.

This is where I've found myself lately. Not Middle Grade fiction (which I adore), not Fantasy or Arts and Crafts or Cozy Mysteries. No. Fiction. Unspecified. Literary. Classic. In college I would get so angry and THOSE people, the ones who ONLY read or wrote Literary  Fiction. It was said with down turned nose as if people who read genre fiction were of a lower class than they. I wanted to point out that Literary Fiction IS a genre, but I didn't. Who wants to get into an argument with a band of bitter, angry existentialists?

Ok, ok, now I'm generalizing but that's what I assumed. As payback, I'm now wandering through the stacks looking at, you guessed it, literary fiction. And, yes, I still refer to it as a genre :)

And in this genre I am delighted. Positively delighted. There are classics tucked next to pure, literary fiction, stacked next to magical realism and wedged between experimental fiction. I find humorous titles next to "Ulysses" and gorgeous, re-imagined covers of "Metamorphosis". These aisles are packing my phone with images. Most of my pictures these days are book covers whose titles I want to remember so I can eventually read them. Whether I find them at a big, national retailer or hidden in the stacks of a lovely, dusty used book shop, I fully intend to indulge in this new addiction and I'll share it with you, dear Reader, in my TBR Tuesday posts.

And I certainly hope you share with me your bookstore adventures. May your TBR piles grow ten times over!

Happy weekend - whatever that means for you!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quotes and Notes



I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, wracked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

~ Agatha Christie

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

To be Read (TBR) Tuesday

Good morning!

Thank you to all the well wishes this past weekend. My husband and I both ended up with the same darn cold but all is back to normal at La Petite Maison. For a moment I thought about naming our tiny bungalow something austere and repulsively enormous. Like THE GRANDIOSE HOUSE OF CARRIAGE or THE BODACIOUS BUNGALOW BIG-TOP but in the end, Jon suggested we call it like it is: tiny house. Only in French because, let's face it, French makes everything sound better.

Here's a new, weekly feature for you, dear Readers: To be Read Tuesdays or TBR because it's easier to type and, let's face it, we all know what THOSE letters stand for :). Recently, I've developed quite the trigger finger whenever I waltz through a bookstore. Also recently, I find myself perusing the literature and fiction aisles. Not what I'm used to reading or exploring but I am finding some fantastic titles which I shall, in latter weeks, post here.

Today, I'm dreaming of vintage handkerchiefs:

Link to publisher's book page HERE (Thames and Hudson)


This isn't a joke. I have a passion for pattern and vintage handkerchiefs are treasure chests of pattern. I have a small collection (somewhere) that I hope to turn into a lovely curtain one day...you know, when I can finally move all my belongings to where I am.

Handkerchiefs make me think of a gentler time when ladies cared about manners and were well versed in the eloquent art of well placed sarcasm. The Brits do it best, especially in period pieces and cozy mystery novels. Ah to be able to dab my eyes with an elegant hankie all the while dealing vicious blows with nothing more than well placed wit and razor sharp vocabulary.

I found The Printed Square whilst perusing the art and design book section. The word "printed" leaped out and me and I had to see what it was about. The book is mostly pictures, gorgeous one page spreads of nothing more than well ironed lovely little hankies. Some are pristine while others, my favorites, have small tears or entire corners missing.

Where and by whom were they carried? How many tears did they dry, how much comfort did they bestow? One can only imagine.

I for one am thinking of starting a new collecting passion. There are so many antique, thrift and second hand stores in Savannah there's bound to be more hankies than I can shake a runny nose at. Considering I'm recovering from a cold, I'd say this is a hobby that's come about in the nick of time!

Tell me, what's on your TBR pile this week? Have you discovered anything new that you'd like to read? Any quirky collections? Any of grandma's old hankies lying about?

Happy Tuesday,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

We Interrupt This Blog...


This is pretty much all I feel like doing this week. It's not all I'm doing, though. I'm at work. Then I come home, put on pajamas and try to get my head unstopped. I've got a cold or some other seasonal funk.

Here's to feeling better and back to blogging next week.

I'm off to watch a ridiculous amount of No Reservations...

...oh yeah, and read.



Cheers!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG_November Edition



Good morning! Today is the November posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Every month, we post about our writing insecurities or offer encouragement to those who need it. If you're not involved, click HERE to find out more about this amazing group. If you don't know who Captain Alex is (aka Our Fearless Ninja Leader) then click HERE. This was his brilliant idea after all :)

***

"Hey, Jen, could you call --- and troubleshoot why our point of sale system isn't working?"

"Hey, Jen, could you call ---, ---, and --- and pay these invoices? Here's my credit card. Thanks!"

"Hey, Jen, I told this gal you were the hiring manager. Could you tell them we're not interested in their application? Make it sound good!"

Yes, all three of these requests were made of me.

All three of them were made in my first week of my new job.

I've been at said job now for a month (woohoo!!) and I LOVE IT. Read: this is the first time in my life I've ever been able to say I love my job. From the very first day, I was thrown into the underbelly of running a boutique business in a very busy tourist town. In other words, I showed up at the pool and was pushed off the high dive into the deep end.

Talk about feeling insecure! I do NOT like confrontation. I HATE being handed things that are "of some importance" and told to handle it. These things were asked of me on my first day at a new job. And you know what? I handled them. I didn't hem-haw around, I didn't kick the dirt or try and excuse my way out of them. I did them.

I, who sucks at computers, get easily overwhelmed and can come across as waaaay too nice:
- spoke to three different people at a company I've never heard of to troubleshoot why our computers weren't working or accepting credit cards
- created an item in a system I've never used on an iPad (which I loathe) that makes our discounts much easier to deal with
- told no less than five people (who were told I was the hiring manager) "Thank you for your application but we've decided to go in a different direction"
-dealt with a credit card snafu like a BOSS!

I'm learning something new every day. I'm finding out that I'm capable of far more than I ever thought I was. And you know why? Because I was given NO CHOICE in the matter. I was handed the credit card and told to pay the bills. I was given the phone and asked to fix the computer problems. And I did it.

If I think too much about something, I won't do it.
If I grab the darn phone, punch in the numbers, and speak my mind, I get things done.

So. Writing.

Stop over thinking your story. NaNoWriMo is in full swing. I'm as guilty as the cat sitting in the bird cage with feathers sticking out of it's ears. Write it. Type the words. Don't worry about it being "right". Make the call. Make the decision. Step up the plate and swing for the fences. 

TRUST ME!

You are braver than you think, smarter than you know, and more amazing than you realize.

WRITE ON!
(like a boss ;))



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Establishing the "New Normal"


I'm not quite sure who said it first, the term "New Normal" but I like it. It suits exactly what we've been seeking for the past month. Yes, we've been in our new home for a month. Thirty-five days to be exact. And while we're almost there, to this new sense of normalcy, there's still so much that feels strange to me.

For example, the complete lack of space! I KNEW we were downsizing. I KNEW we were cutting our living space in half. Seriously, kids, we went from 1400 square feet to 700. Oi! Today I was trying to organize the closet. And you read that right: THE closet. One and only. There I was, thinking I was helping, pulling out all my t-shirts and long sleeve shirts that didn't require ironing when all I was really doing was making room for the dresses I completely forgot were draped over the small shelf shoved in said closet.

Did I mention the closet is tiny? And that it's being used for TWO people?

After literally shifting one pile of clothes for another I asked the empty bedroom whose brilliant idea this was, moving into a house small enough that you can sit in the middle of the bed and practically touch the walls on either side?

Oh yeah. That would be MY brilliant idea.

Another example: the coffee shop. Now, I know this may not be a big deal for most people. Most people go to THAT place. You know, the one with the siren and the plethora of warm, sweet drinks (the chai latte of which I must admit, I am a big fan). For us, however, we need a small, cozy, quirky place in which to drink our black beverage of choice. Or tea. I'm still hopelessly addicted to Earl Grey. Back where we're from there was ONE such place within a 50 mile radius. And they knew us there. Literally. We hung out there every week. They are our friends and considered in many ways family.

Here, there are no less than 5 coffee shops in a 5 mile radius. And I like them all. They all have something unique going for them. They also all have their drawbacks. I'm needing a place I feel I can go to, get to know the baristas enough that they will soon be privy to my own hot drink sensation: The British Imperialism in a Cup.

We'll talk about that in another post :p

Today, dear readers, I feel I may have found a suitable substitute. See that mug at the top of the post? That sits atop a random table in said coffee shop where Jon and I sat in mismatched leather chairs and wrote for a good hour and a half. It's a big, open place, painted grey and black. They play 1940's and 50's music. The barista was dressed like a barber from 1933. A bizarre painting of The Ramones hung in the hall and the bathrooms were easy to find. It's quirky without being pretentious. It's moody without being a haven for hipsters. The Earl Grey didn't suck!

I liked it, Dear Reader! In fact, I liked it a lot. Bonus points: it's 1.5 miles from my house. In fine weather I will be walking.

I have not established true normalcy yet, Dear Reader, but the tentative courting stage of Coffee Shop to Write In has begun. Here's hoping!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Things We Carry: Part Three



Examine the box at the back of your mind’s closet. You know the one. The things you don’t miss. The things you want to forget. These things also shape us. They carry with them stories. The dark places we don’t want to revisit.

Why is horror such a successful genre? Easy. It invites us into the dark closets of other in order to flush out the demons we all recognize. We don’t want to face OUR demons but we can do so with someone else’s from the safety of the movie theater or our sofa.

The dark places aren’t meant to be forgotten. They aren’t meant to be brooded over or allowed to fester. That creates instability and bitter anger. They are meant to be handled gently, with care, and let go. Like thin skinned balloons they are released in the air, one at a time, and once high enough, they crack. Pop! Disperse.

Some of us root around in other’s closets to find boxes of baggage. Some of us wallow in our own. Others lock the door and bask in reflected sunlight from others because the shadow of our secrets won’t allow us to absorb the light of freedom. We smile. We try. We fail.

What are the dark things you carry? Think hard. Have you let them go? Have you made peace with your demons? We will never be perfect and some things are impossible to forgive or forget. But we can face them, look them in the eye and see them for what they really are. When that is done, they lose power and they can be let go. Unfortunately we are also the dark things we carry.

Let them out into the open. They lose their power that way. Write about them. Expose them. Show them who’s boss.

Happy Halloween! Go be something fabulous, frightening or freakish. It’s your one night to be anything you want to be.


Cheers!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Things We Carry: Part Two



The things we carry are also intangible. These are more important. These are the memories and the stories we carry. These are the things no one can take from us. They require no luggage, no extra plane space. They are fibers of our being, woven from experience and shared over cups of tea, pints of beer, and slices of pizza. These things are irreplaceable.

The stories. It’s the STORIES that make the THINGS we carry so important. Stories are embedded within the things in our lives. We all carry stories and ultimately it’s stories that connect us to place and things and the stories connected to those places and things draw us back and make it so hard to part.

Things don’t matter. They’re just things. This is true. Stuff can always, always be replaced. It can be given away, stolen, cast aside, destroyed or enshrined. Stuff is just stuff. But the stories connected to those things live forever. I will always see the small, crystal serving dish my grandmother served canned cranberry sauce from every Thanksgiving and think of her. My mother now serves canned cranberry sauce from it. The thing itself is worthless. If it broke I would be sad because it is a tangible connection to my grandmother and Thanksgivings past. BUT the STORY is always there, in my memory and the memories of all nine of us cousins. When the dish itself is dust the story will be here, circulating from the mouths of our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Do you see WHY that old plastic stirring spoon you couldn’t throw out after your great uncle died means so much? It’s not a bit of plastic; it’s a conduit for memory. It’s a portkey for story. We don’t deliberate over boxes of things to sell, store, or carry for fun. It’s not beer and skittles when it comes to downsizing. It’s arduous and heartbreaking. Yes, we always have the stories but the things are the grounding wire, the roots to our ever expanding branches of memory. To have the THING, be it actual, representational, or pictorial, is to have something to touch and transport. Think of the china, the platters, the plastic spoons as time capsules, not stuff to be tossed after your death.

And should the time come when you must leave everything behind, don’t bemoan the fact you’ve lost stuff. Mourn, yes. It’s necessary and cathartic. Then remember. Remember the stories connected to those things. THAT’S what is so important about the things we carry. That is why we carry them in the first place.

What do YOU carry, Dear Reader? You’ve mentioned things that root and ground you. Some of you have even told me you’ve left everything before but kept those things that rooted you to the past and acted as anchors for the future. Think of the stories. What do you carry?


Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Things We Carry: Part One



Many, if not most, of you have heard of Tim O’Brien’s masterful work The Things They Carried. I’ve read most of it in excerpts thanks to multiple college English and literature courses. It’s a beautiful, haunting tale of the Vietnam War told through the eyes of a young soldier and the seemingly endless list of things he and his platoon carried with them into battle. Things both literal and figurative. Things both tangible and metaphysical. Ever since I read it I’ve wondered: what do I carry? If people could see the things I carry would I look like Marley’s ghost, dragging long chains wrapped ‘round my ankles and arms? Or would the things I carry gossamer behind me like moonlight on the sea?

The things we carry are important. They are the things that make us, mold us and shape us. Some things we have a choice in carrying; other things were forced on us, shoved upon us, never asked for. We can choose to cast those things aside but they will forever haunt our steps. In the physical sense, the things we carry root and ground us to where we are, where we’re from and where we are going. 
Never before have I thought so much about this. Never before have I had to.

Last week I blogged about trying to find order in the chaos of a big move. Since then I’ve come across the term “new normal”. I thank a dear friend for that. Establishing a new normal is an ordeal. For my friend it has been in the wake of her first child, for me, the surrealistic venture of uprooting and replanting.

New city, new vibe, new place.

Both frightening and enticing.

This past week I’ve contemplated the things we carried with us, the things we deemed necessary enough to travel 200 miles with us. What of the things we left behind? We kept them for a reason, didn’t sell them, but there wasn’t room enough for them in the moving van or in the house.

The things we carried:
One book shelf worth of books.
Old dishes, tea cups and saucers.
A messenger bag of writing ideas, article prompts and no less than three rough drafts.
50 record albums.
Every Tim Burton film we own and three copies of Star Wars, the original (**only**) trilogy on VHS.
A box of tea.
Three binders of torn out magazine pages of craft ideas, product designs and printmaking techniques.
The cat.

Of course there’s more. Like my husband’s favorite painting that looks more like Louis XVI dressed as a Christmas tree topper than the “Archangel Gabriel” as it is entitled. The print of one of Tolkien’s drawings for The Hobbit that has hung on a wall in every house or apartment I’ve lived in. A hand written note from Madeleine L’Engle.

My great aunt’s sewing machine.

We are the things we carry. They are outward manifestations of our inner lives. Why else do we buy particular brands? To look a part, true, but also because on the inside we carry aspirations and dreams. We, like the Tardis, are bigger on the inside.

Much, much bigger.


Thank you ALL for sharing with me the things you’ve carried with you from moves as well as from loved ones. It’s been a wonderful experience learning I’m not alone in this bizarre transition to the “new normal”. Have a wonderful week!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Magic of Recognition


The box was labeled “Kitchen. Heavy. Fragile.” Lifting those Blue Willow dishes onto the counter had a profound effect on me. The morning sun was seeping into the kitchen and the light fell just “so” onto the familiar pattern. The white counter created a blank canvas that allowed my eyes to form a picture so comforting that I had to pause and smile.

That simple act of recognition fortified me. I knew from that moment that I was going to be OK, that we’d made the right decision to move. Crazy. A box of dishes, old and chipped grabbed me by the gut and said, “You’re fine! You’ve got this!”

Sometimes all it takes is a glance, a chance encounter with something from your childhood. A memory, a smell, the taste of gingerbread as leaves begin to fall. Our minds work with our emotions and senses to create a sense of well-being. I “knew” this but I suppose it took the act to solidify the truth of it.

Holding those dishes during supper remind me of my grandmother and my mother, Seeing them on my open shelves relate comfort. Inanimate, fragile, one day shards of dust they anchor this gal to the here and now and the reality that, regardless of where I find myself, I am still “me”. Location can’t change that. Loss of something I thought I couldn’t live without doesn’t erase a piece of me.

Things. What is it about them that help us hold on? Since we’ve moved I’ve often wondered about the people who lose everything, who have nothing familiar to shift from lost house to new home. I used to be able to say I could do that. It can’t be that hard. It’s just, as I have to remind myself, stuff. 
But, oh how we don’t really know how much of our comfort is wrapped up in a chipped tea cup, a well-thumbed novel, or a photograph of our father. When they aren’t there, we flounder. When they are, however, they smile down from new shelves and out of strange windows to whisper familiarity in the midst of the unknown. Those people who lose everything and soldier forward, pick up the pieces, and retain their sense of self I admire. I applaud. I am in awe and if you, Reader, have ever found yourself in that situation, if I was there, I’d hug you.

I need recognition from inanimate things. I need that silent welcome home.

Have you ever uprooted your life and sought solace in something familiar? A book, a poem, a song? Perhaps a photograph or a statuette of a squirrel. For me, it was a mixed up set of Blue Willow dishes. You?

Enjoy the rest of your week and your weekend,


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Importance of Routine


For the past few years, my husband and I have enjoyed starting our off days outside with a cup of coffee. Unless it’s just stupid cold, you can find us pajama clad with warm, dark goodness on whatever morning finds us at home together. I’ve even garnered a small but loyal group of Instagram followers who consistently tell me they look forward to seeing what coffee cup I’ll feature next. In the upheaval we now call Savannah Move 2014 (or my personal favorite, The Great Hampton Exodus) that lovely routine was disrupted.

A lot.

As in “lost for almost two weeks”.

We danced when we found the box with the coffee pot. I may have sang a bit of Handel when I discovered the French press and the tea kettle. Finding quality, whole bean coffee was another challenge soon remedied by my husband who ventured to Perc Coffee Roasters a mere two miles from our house.

Suddenly there were familiar sounds and smells amidst the chaos. The coffee grinder echoed off the galley kitchen walls. The coffee maker needed no reminder that its job was to create liquid goodness. Oh how I smiled when we made that first pot of coffee in our new place, poured it into familiar mugs and sat, outside, at the rickety little cafĂ© table I wouldn’t trade for anything.

As a writer I understand the concept of routines and why it’s so important to establish them. When it comes to professional pursuits I can convince myself that it’s imperative that I train my muse, my creativity and my brain.

Why is it so hard to do the same for more important things? Honestly, I had no idea how much I needed those mornings outside with coffee in a mug with silly pictures. How much I needed to sit outside, shielded from the world by some form of patio, in my jim-jams.

Routine is not just necessary to train your muse to show up every time your butt lands in your writing chair. It’s also not just something you do so you can check it off your never-ending to-do- list. Routine tells us everything is OK, ensures that we’re not crazy, flipping idiots. Routine says, “Hey, you might be living in some chaos right now. Life may be a bit topsy-turvy. Heck, everything may be going to hell in a hand basket and it’s all your fault BUT there’s still tea to be had.

I mean, think about it: why DID Arthur Dent need that cup of tea so badly? He needed something familiar, some normality in the face of the violent upheaval of his hum-drum existence.

(Image found on Pinterest)

We NEED routine. We need things that whisper of normality even if nothing is familiar. It may take a while, but little by little, those old routines will establish themselves in a new place. Slowly but surely my soul will come home again.

What routines do you need in your life? Do you stick to the same routines in your writing, your mornings, your drive to work?

Happy Wednesday,


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Simple Cup of Tea

The Need for Ritual


Something truly amazing happens when you take that magical first step towards the realization of your dreams. The world opens up. People appear to help you. Doors begin to open.

Sounds like rainbows and unicorns doesn’t it?

It’s not.

In fact it’s hard. Very, very hard. We left an area where we’d lived for the entirety of our married life. An area where we’d established ourselves, made friendships, had weekly routines that put us in places where we were known, cared for, and loved.

Twelve years ago I moved away from the only home I’d ever known. I packed up my bedroom and moved 200+ miles away to start my adult life in Savannah, GA. For two years I called the Hostess City of the South my home and then, without warning, my wandering soul tugged me back Atlanta-ways. And now I’m sitting here, in a shaded courtyard, back in Savannah, this time with a husband and a cat in tow.

I thought this time it would be easy.

I thought this time it would be a piece of that proverbial cake.

I was wrong.

It’s been tough, Dear Reader. Because of health challenges, this is the first time I’ve had a full time job in five years. We downsized to half (read that HALF) the living space we were used to. My husband has yet to find a job and parking in Savannah is anything but a dream. We are still getting the house in order, still trying to piece together the things that came with us and wondering where some of what was supposed to come ended up. Many nights I wake up and wonder, “Am I just %^*$*^$ crazy?”

The positive: 

1. I HAVE a full time job and I LOVE IT! Seriously. I have never, ever been able to say with 100% conviction that I love my job until now. It’s a gloriously cheerful boutique kitchen shop smack in the heart of the historic district, right outside one of the busiest tourist spots. It’s maddeningly crazy but after two weeks I STILL want to one day own my own shop. I must be doing something right.
2. The owner of our carriage house is awesome.
3. My boss is fracking amazing. 
4. We live 20 minutes from Downtown Savannah and 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. 

Yes, Readers, it IS a wonder to watch your dreams come true. A crazy ball of mixed emotion wonder.

It took me a while, but I finally understand why it’s been such a hard transition this time. Over the past twelve years I’ve established rituals and routines that give my psyche the much needed recognition of “this is life and this is good”. When most of everything you own has either been sold or packed and left behind, it’s hard to find your footing. Yes, it’s just stuff but we are -for right or wrong, better or worse- connected to the things we carry. We’re thrown off balance when the things that anchor us are lost at sea. I found myself seriously wanting to go back. What brought me back to sanity?

A simple cup of tea.

The sound of water in a kettle, the clatter of sugar spoon against porcelain, the smell of a bag of green tea. Nothing profound. Chances are you’re thinking, “It’s tea. Big deal.” When the soul is thrown into a tail spin it is, most definitely, a big deal.

I’m discovering many things that are grounding, things I always took for granted: a playlist for an as yet unwritten novel, a particular series of books, consuming ridiculous amounts of Chick-Fil-A, country music from 1998. Rituals. We need them. And it doesn’t matter how petty, how ludicrous, how insignificant they may seem to others. If a cup of tea can calm my nerves and give my soul the assurance that I am in the right place, that I am HOME regardless of my surroundings, then it is a most important thing. It deserves recognition and it deserves a certain solemnness of enjoyment.

Thank you for your patience, Dear Reader. Forgive my long absence. Tell me, what rituals bring you back to your soul-center?

Happy Tuesday,


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG October 2014 - Writing/Inspiration

It's time for another post of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click HERE to find the links of other amazing writers and read their thoughts and inspirations. I promise you'll get something of value from each and every of the posts, even if you're not a writer.
***
Writers like to complain. We’re too busy to write, uninspired, blocked. We really like to bemoan the fact we must keep a day job in order to fund our addiction to words, ink and page. We wait tables, preside over court rooms, change diapers, fix computers and sell avocado slicers all while dreaming of convalescing in Cornwall with nothing to do but write. Our souls are wandering Victorians, idle in life, loaded in bank account and over-flowing with the time it takes to both write and read works of poetry and prose. And because this fantasy avoids reality, we cross our arms, poke out our bottom lips and refuse to write until “situation perfect” is achieved.
            The truth is that perfect situation will never come. The most important lessons a writer can learn are these: start where you are and no experience is wasted. To the writer, all of life is research. Our writing steeps in the flavors of experience when we are willing to open ourselves up – become vulnerable – to each and every moment life hands us. It is a frightening proposition; nobody likes to be vulnerable. Nobody enjoys grunt work, third shift or digging ditches in the rain. In Texas. In August.
            Life is experience and experience is what readers look for when they pick up a new novel or download a short story collection. The reader asks, “Will this story give me something to take with me, to keep in my database for future enjoyment and reference?” Perhaps more than that, the reader is looking for someone who understands his circumstances, her particular situation. How can we as writers hope to understand a plight or offer an escape if we ourselves have not lived beyond our writing room walls?

            Experience lends believability to even the most fantastic legend. Let yourself absorb the emotions, the five sense of every moment you live through. Allow life to be your encyclopedia, your Google. Don’t shy away from new or scary. Say “yes” until the doors stop opening and you’ll not only uncover experiences which will help you create stronger characters and deeper story lines; you will also discover someone stronger, braver and more beautiful than you could possibly imagine: yourself.
***
I apologize in advance for not being around the IWSG this week. I will read as many as I can as soon as I can. Today is moving day and we're hauling all our stuff (and ourselves) 200 miles away. So, if you don't see me for a few days (or a week) that's why: I'm rearranging life!  Have an awesome week! ~ Jen

Monday, September 22, 2014

Letting Go



Moving sales are different from yard sales. I never really knew that. Sure, you read the sign "Moving Sale" and think, "Oh, someone's moving and selling all their cool stuff!" That's great - until it's YOUR cool stuff sitting in boxes and bins and being rummaged through.

So many awesome, amazing people stopped by this weekend and gave great homes to favorite things. Others are adopting furniture this week that I honestly hate to see go. Every time I've sold stuff in the past, it's been the junk. You know, the stuff you don't want anymore and don't mind sending to a new home for a few pennies. This time I was waving goodbye to old friends as they carried away possessions I'd had for years.

It's good to know one of my paintings will grace the wall of a friend's newly renovated house. It's comforting to know the cedar chest I've had for 20 years is now holding toys and games for a friend's two daughters. Decor and figurines and books - all have scampered away into the arms of new parents. The books - oh it was like selling children!

But...

... I feel a certain sense of freedom. Stuff can tie us down whether we intend for it to or not. I didn't realize how much we've accumulated over the years and I certainly didn't realize just how hard it was to let things go out of necessity. The house we're moving into is only 700 square feet. That's half of what we live in now. Most people our age are upgrading to newer houses, larger houses, houses they actually own. We're downsizing to an older house ("vintage") and still renting.

And yet...I'm seeing a dream come true before my very eyes. Lesson learned: keep saying yes, and keep waking through those open doors until they stop opening. You just never ever know where they will lead. And, trust me: you WILL have to let go of the old in order to make room for the new. Pruning of possessions. It's painful but liberating.

What have you had to let go of recently? Ever had a moving sale and watched things you didn't want to lose go away? What about downsizing? Thoughts? Have a great week! I'm off to Google ways to hang shelves without putting holes in cinder block walls!

Cheers,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Finally, the news I've been wanting to share!


One of my favorite scenes in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is when Bilbo finally decides to leave the comfort of the Shire and follow Gandalf on an adventure. He goes tearing out of his house, down a steep embankment and shouts to a passerby: "I'm going on an adventure!" This scene is made infinitely better because it's Martin Freeman acting it out...but I digress.

Later, at the end of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, eager Bilbo looks out over the charred landscape as the newly released dragon swoops toward Laketown, bent on destroying it and all its inhabitants. His face is filled with fear, anger, worry, and guilt. "What have we done?" He whispers.

What have we done indeed.

My Insecure Writer's Support Group post hinted at some changes being made around our homestead. I haven't been able to shout if from the social media street corner yet due to a possible snafu with my husband's job (which, by the way, does not yet know and we'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible). BUT I did want to let the blogverse know:

We're moving to Savannah October 01.

Brief history: I lived in Savannah twelve years ago and fell in love with the city, the people, and the proximity to the beach. My husband and I have been wanting to move back there for ten years. We knew the time to move was coming soon. We had no idea it would strike while we were on vacation. A small, hand drawn sign in a window beckoned "Hiring Full Time Inquire Within". So I inquired. Three days later I was called back to an interview. Three days after that I drove the 3 1/2 hours back to Savannah and emerged from the shop, an hour and a half later, with a new job.

The week after that I took that drive again to look at a house to rent. Three days ago I got final word that the house was ours.

My husband still awaits news on the job prospects he's interested in. 

On the one hand, I'm running around, shouting at the top of my lungs, "I'm Going on an ADVENTURE!!!" On the other hand, I'm looking at the chaos around me, hyperventilating and breathing into a paper bag: "What have we done? What have we done?"

No dragons or Laketown dwellers (or dwarfs for that matter) have been or will be harmed in this move. A few people have expressed displeasure. One refused to talk to me for 24 hours. Others perk up the moment we mention "free place to stay near the beach". I'm surrounded by mixed feelings, packing tape, and boxes beckoning me to either sort, discard, store or stow. We're going from a 1400 square foot house to a 700 square foot bungalow. Yes. Bungalow. How groovy is that?

How did this all come about? I said YES to a heck load of crazy questions. "Inquire Within". OK. "When can you come down for an interview?" "Saturday." "When are you planning on moving to Savannah?" "October 01". That was the big whopper. We'd not even decided on moving officially. But the question was asked and I answered with wide eyes. The first thing I said after I hung up the phone was, "What the hell have I done?" My husband just laughed. 

He's still laughing.

Point is, I'm freaking out but I'm excited. New job, new house, not so new city. I've had more story ideas in the past 2 weeks than I've had in years. I've got to pack up the house, decide what we can take, have to store, and must get rid of in two weeks while working and doing all the other "normal" life things.

"What have we done?"

You can say that again, Bilbo.


Happy Week!


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Bold and the Beautiful


I could write something here about coffee. Or really strong black tea. As much as I LOVE both of those beverages, I'm thinking more about bold moves in regards to chasing one's dreams.

"Fortune favors the bold" is attributed to Oscar Wilde. Wilde was known for being flamboyant, over the top, larger than life and a bit too bold for late Victorian sensibilities. I've always thought he was fantastic. Come on, anyone who would write "The Importance of Being Ernest" is someone I'd love to have tea and a chat with!

What do you think Wilde meant by this little quip? Assuming he said it, I like to think he was referring to those of us to step out of our comfort zone and go after those things which we know we are destined for. Another favorite quote of mine was recently spotted on a mug in a Books-A-Million. "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." Frightening words but true.

What's your comfort zone? Is it a physical location, one you've been long hovering in, knowing you need to step out and move on? Or is it a writing style, a particular genre you just KNOW you could never in a million years leave? Maybe it's a group of people who, though they drag you down and never encourage you to go after your goals, are long time friends, those who may not support change but will be there with you as long as you stay put.

I know I'm waxing a bit deep this Monday. I've had a lot happen in the past two weeks. Good things. Scary things. Things I'm not quite yet ready to talk about in the bog-verse. Very bold things, one of which I should get some news back on this afternoon, just as soon as a friend calls back. Argh! Waiting for opportunities to come about is one thing; waiting for news about those opportunities is an entirely different sort of anxiety! If you could spare some positive thoughts this way, friends, I'd appreciate it! Right now, I'm one big jumble of nerves!

Are YOU doing anything BOLD and DARING? What's the SCARIEST thing you've ever done? Any of you AWAITING news that could CHANGE EVERYTHING? Pour another strong cuppa; it's going to be a crazy ride! Oh, and I promise not to leave you hanging forever. Just as soon as I can, I shall divulge all :D








PS: I'm reading some absolutely lovely tributes to Tina Downey. I regret that I didn't know Tina well; She occasionally popped up in my readings and was ALWAYS cheerful. She was, from what I'm reading, a force of nature, a positive powerhouse, and an ardent supporter of all things awesome. You can check out everyone participating in the Tribute and find out more at the A-Z Challenge site.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group - September

Welcome! Once more, we're gathering throughout the blog-verse to hoist our colors of insecurity and sail the wild seas of the writing life. Thankfully, we have each other, other ships that sail with us, encourage us and help us stay afloat!

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh who had the courage to set up this fabulous island of hope and to the entire crew of the Insecure Writer's Support Group website.




Insecurities? Yeah. I've got 'em.

What is it about the potential to see a dream come true - a long awaited dream - that freaks some of us out and makes us wonder what the h#!! were we thinking when we took that gigantic step into unfamiliar waters? I'm there. I'm drifting in the realm of waiting. No, it's not a book deal or publishing contract but it IS something that induces insecurity that I can relate to writing.

In order to succeed at anything we have to take risks. We HAVE to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. Without risk we grow stagnate. Without growth we die. Stagnation does mean security (in a way); it can mean that we are "safe" and "comfortable" and "well taken care of".

But...

...it can also mean that we are bored.

Withdrawn.

Lost.

Drowning.

Sometimes these steps aren't all that big. We see something, shrug one shoulder and say, "Sure, why not." And we step through the door, purchase a ticket, shake a hand, agree to meet for coffee. Suddenly, "Hi how are you" becomes a whole lot more. That door you thought opened to a suggestion is now the portal to another life. It's crazy, it's strange, it's down right panic inducing. And it gives you a choice: you either keep saying yes or you say no and the door shuts and you're left alone, again, in the dark.

What do you do? Be it writing, moving away from the familiar, taking on a new job, going back to school or anything worth taking a risk, what DO you DO? Do you say yes and ride the wild waves to freedom? Or do you say no, maybe, not now and risk having that door locked forever?

Either way is a risk. Perhaps we just have to ask ourselves which is more frightening? The new and unexplored or the eternal mundane?

Be BOLD, dear friends. Write on!

PS: I'll be making my IWSG rounds tomorrow and Friday. Working on Wednesdays makes it a bit difficult to keep up with all the posts on the day they are posted. But I promise I'll return the visit! Cheers :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Musings


What is it about going out of town that makes life so busy? It's a good busy: cleaning out the house, cleaning up the yard so it doesn't look like we've died, making sure we have enough sunscreen. Thankfully, my work scheduled shifted and I don't go back in until Wednesday. That means I've had a solid week to get things in order before we go on vacation. Woohoo!

In other news, I've been editing a brochure for said work place, reading a first novel for a high school student (who is VERY talented might I add) and putting some finishing touches on some personal projects that shall grab me by the wrist and drag me along (whether I'm ready or not) come the first of September. All in all, it's been a bright, shiny week and it's only going to get better!

I got to meet the first of two new babies this past weekend. Two friends had back-to-back babies and I get to meet the second new arrival tomorrow. Talk about lucky! I get a cuddle fest times TWO! Auntie Jen is more than excited :D Heck, with eight nieces and nephews, what's two more "friend babies"? Seriously...oh, and we've more than enough of those as well!!

Speaking of making your yard look like you haven't died, have you ever cleaned out a mint patch where the mint was several feet tall? Seriously, I cut down Hobbit-sized mint yesterday! That is not counting the tendrils that are creeping along the back patio. When they say mint takes over, they mean it! But it's a good take over-very fragrant and oh so convenient when you're craving a mint julep :)

Some of you may have seen my Facebook post about finding a snake in the house last week. Well, yesterday Colby (the fierce beast that he is) cornered and ripped the tail off a lizard in the living room! Geez...when did suburbia become Wild Kingdom? After releasing him back into the overgrown yard, I informed all other reptiles that I appreciate their bug-eating abilities but to please limit it to the OUTside!

That's about it for today! A jumbled mess of a post for sure, but a lot has been going on! I may not have a post next Monday. We'll be out of town for a joyous FULL WEEK!! First time in twelve years for me! But, if you are on The InstaFace, I'm sure you'll see ridiculous amounts of food pictures, beach photos and random shots of me frolicking in my natural habitat: SAVANNAH, GA!

Happy trails!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Maaahvelous Mondays!



Well good morning! I trust you all had a fabulous weekend. Thanks to everyone who stopped by for the IWSG. Thank you also for being patient as it usually takes me the rest of the week to make my rounds. Whew! I honestly don't know how you all do it, reading blogs and commenting and writing and publishing and...

I'm going with the fact that you are all Super Heroes. There. You can proudly tell everyone you meet today that you are, indeed, a Super Hero. Choose your strength, your super power. Mine would be breathing underwater. Oh and time travel...time and dimensional travel. Ok, skip being a Super Hero, I just want the TARDIS.

You see that little guy on my coffee mug? He's a reminder to me that I can do everything I set my mind to. He's also there to remind me that I can't do it all. He's only got two hands but he chooses to only use one. He's conserving his energy for that which really matters.

Many bloggers are going to one day a week posts. That sounds like a fantastic plan to me! Mondays are perfect for me and that's where I'll stay. Except of course for the IWSG Wednesdays! Never fear! I wouldn't give those up (again).

Happy Monday to everyone! Have a spectacular week. Whether you blog once a week or once a day, I hope you get everything accomplished that is important to YOU. Remember: life is short and we should concentrate on what makes us happy, what helps those we love, and what we are called to do - NOT on what others expect us to do.

That is all :)






PS: Oh! And Magpie Tales, I'm swamped today! Sorry I'm not participating this week!