Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 59 - February Goals

It's the last day of February. The sun is shining, though it's a cold -11 degrees and we're expecting another three to six inches of fresh snow tomorrow. The calendar says spring is just 20 days away, but those of us living in the northeast know we have a long way to go yet before we get a taste of warmer weather. Still, the days are growing longer, slowly but consistently pulling us from the darkness of winter, and that's something for which to feel thankful. 

February 1st marked the beginning of two new writing projects, one of which is a manuscript I will query, and the other an erotic novel I plan to self-publish under a pseudonym. Incidentally, this "erotic" novel is turning out to be more of a romantic comedy with a twist of naughty. I have discovered that, although I take my writing seriously, it is not in my nature to write an erotic novel with a serious plot. I simply find my characters wanting to say or do humorous things as they blunder together through their adventures. Still, I'm having a good time getting to know these (yet unnamed) characters and telling their story, one that perhaps longtime partners and spouses will empathize. I met my goal of 10,000 words for the month, with a total word count of 10,044.

My "Book to Query" project is also coming along nicely. I'm still getting to know the main character Holly and her daughter Tess. There's also Ben and various other unnamed characters that will play a pivotal part in moving this story along. Quite unintentionally, this book has begun to delve into the world of magical realism. I've always had a fondness for contemporary stories that include a touch of the surreal, so I suppose it's only natural that I write one. At this point, my story is rather unstructured. There is very little flow, no chapter delineations, and out-of-order scenes that melt one into another. My goal has been to just write, which is exactly what I've done. It's a wonderful mess! As with my other project, I met my goal of 10,000 words for the month, with a total word count of 10,028.

Unrelated to writing, but something I'm no less passionate about, is gardening. Before dogs, we had a wonderful raised-bed system of gardens in the back yard that allowed us to grow an abundance of vegetables and flowering plants. But now we have a young and energetic black lab, and an even younger and more energetic lab/boxer mix. The gardens were dismantled and dug up so that they could have ample space to run and play without hurting themselves or destroying my hard work. 

Two of the raised beds were moved out front this past spring and I plan to add one more this year. It will be another 45-60 days before I start seeds indoors, but I bought packets of kale and spinach seeds to grow and harvest inside right now. My son has a bearded dragon and guinea pig that eats these greens and, well . . . buying from the store what we can grow at home doesn't make much sense. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 58 - The Dress

posted originally here
If you've been on the Internet or watched television at all today, chances are you've read or heard about the good-natured controversy surrounding this dress. It was my teenage daughter who first brought it to my attention. She simply showed me the picture above and asked what color the dress is, providing no additional context. When I answered "blue with black lace," she suffered paroxysms of disbelief, exclaiming that it is not blue and black, but rather white and gold. "What?" I said, wondering how my child had made it so far in school not knowing her colors. But she was adamant. I honestly don't understand how anyone can think it is anything other than blue and black. Well, it turns out there's a science behind the controversy: 

Light enters the eye through the lens—different wavelengths corresponding to different colors. The light hits the retina in the back of the eye where pigments fire up neural connections to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes those signals into an image. Critically, though, that first burst of light is made of whatever wavelengths are illuminating the world, reflecting off whatever you’re looking at. Without you having to worry about it, your brain figures out what color light is bouncing off the thing your eyes are looking at, and essentially subtracts that color from the “real” color of the object. “Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” says Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington. “But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Neitz sees white-and-gold.)
The article then goes on to explain that humans evolved to see in daylight, but daylight is, of course, not constant. Anyone who's painted a room before has experienced this phenomenon: You go to the paint store and pick out a lovely shade of your favorite color and then spend hours rolling it on . . . only to hate the way it looks once the sun starts to go down, or even the next morning. It's really just a difference in how everyone's brain processes light and color, which is pretty amazing in my opinion. 

Of course, I can't help but think this whole dress thing is also a metaphor for the bigger issues in life.   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day 57 - Liberation

Sometimes . . .
I feel brave enough to let
the world see me and
all my glaring imperfections.
Sometimes I am strong enough
to love the person I am.
This is true of my writing, as well. After all, writing is such a personal endeavor. Criticism or, worse, utter silence, after sharing your creative thoughts with others can be very damaging. Fundamentally insecure, it's taken me years to develop the ability to shake it off, to be able to distinguish between constructive criticism and intentional insults. Sometimes the difference between the two is negligible and comes packaged in a superficial smile or seemingly nice word that at first catches you off guard. 

At least for me, the ability to carry on goes hand-in-hand with my own self-confidence and how secure I feel on any given day. Validation from others is all well and good, but I will always be my own worst critic and biggest fan. The more I love what I do, the more others will find value in it and the less I will seek or need their approval. I reached that point quite suddenly several weeks ago following a true light-bulb moment. I realized that although my opinion is not the only opinion that matters, I've become a lot better at recognizing the people whom I consider capable and qualified to actually weigh in on my life. That, in itself, provides not a small amount of liberation. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Day 56 - It's "Snowing" Down South

I have fond memories of my 12 years growing up in Marietta, Georgia, not the least of which was the occasional snow day. Although snow days (and now cold days and delays) are standard here in upstate New York, to the point of getting old, down south they're a novelty. As a kid, I remember sitting transfixed in front of the television on those "bitterly cold" 32-degree mornings, hoping and praying and crossing my fingers that the Cobb County school district would cancel classes. Sometimes they did, but more often than not they didn't. Cherokee County, on the other hand . . . well, it seemed like stupid Cherokee County was always closing school. I was convinced they would close if it rained too hard.  

Several of my friends in Georgia are on their second snow day. The "snow" they're currently getting, as seen in video and photographic footage on social media, is - in our collective opinion from the Frozen North - laughable. After last year's snow debacle, during which motorists were stranded on Atlanta highways, the governor declared a state of emergency for the city in advance of this most recent storm. A woman's execution has been postponed for - get this - the threat of bad weather. The threat. 

All joking and poking fun aside, suburbs north of Atlanta are supposed to get a possible 2-6 inches, nothing to sneeze at when you live in an area that is neither used to that much snow, nor is properly equipped to remove it. Accumulating slush and ice can be dangerous. Extremely so. I've had several white-knuckle experiences to know that firsthand.

So, to my friends down south: BE SMART. BE CAREFUL. STAY SAFE. And be thankful you don't live in Boston, where they've had over 100 inches of snow, or upstate New York, where winter lasts 5+ months of the year. It's currently a balmy "feels like" 12 degrees here and full-on sun. In other words, GLORIOUS!! It's some much-needed relief to the extended sub-zero temps we've been surviving for too many weeks now. And when the thermometer shoots past 85 degrees and all of us northerners begin "dying" of heat and humidity (yes, it actually does get humid here) in our non-air-conditioned homes, feel free to laugh at us. We won't hold it against you.

For your enjoyment, here is a recently discovered video from about four years ago, when we made a snow ramp in our front yard. Just to put things in perspective, we currently have over a foot of frozen snow on our roof, compared to just the several inches in this video.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day 55 - When the Lights Go Out

Louie relaxes by a warm fire.
Losing power is always an inconvenience. Losing power in the early hours of the morning when it "feels like" minus 30 degrees outside is even more of an inconvenience, as was the case just shortly after 3 a.m. today. 

There is a kind of bright hum to the sound of silence, when the white noise of the electric fan and constant whine of modem and router is completely removed, and household appliances die a sudden death. Instead of being thrown into an even deeper sleep, the silence instead keeps you awake. And then you begin to fret: 

  • Do we have enough firewood to get us through an extended power outage? 
  • Without power, we have no water. Or flushable toilets. Please, oh please . . . let the boy's stomach virus have passed. 
  • How will the reptiles stay warm without their heat lamps? 
  • Who else is without power?
  • Will schools be closed? 
  • Man, I should have bought a few more flashlights. And extra gallons of water. 
  • No Internet. No Internet!! 

And then . . . finally . . . power is restored a few hours later. You take a deep breath, crank up the heat, and vow to be better prepared for next time. 

A necessity when you live in upstate NY.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 54 - Getting High

caffeine and words, my drug of choice 
Now that my youngest has advanced to pre-team gymnastics, a two-hour class in which parents are encouraged not to attend every week, I've had to vacate the gym in search of another venue to work. Actually, it's the perfect excuse for me to pop down the street to the local Barnes & Noble for a coffee and free Wi-Fi, not to mention a quiet place from which to work on my two novels. I feel a bit like Amelia Harkins from YEAR OF THE SNAKE, only there's no cute barista to bring me endless cups of mocha lattes and blueberry scones. Also, I am neither a local celebrity, nor do I have fans peeking around the magazine stands trying to get a glimpse of my current project or asking me for my autograph. Not yet, at least. 

The change of scenery has done me good. I reached and exceeded today's writing goal in about an hour, which means I have some free time to just chill before retrieving the kid and heading home to tend to . . . LIFE. A weekly date with myself is something I could definitely get used to.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 53 - Soul Food

Tomorrow the kids return to school. 


After a snow day on the 13th due to frigid wind chills, and then a week off for winter recess, we've gone far too long without any sort of routine. Rather, our "routine" has been to sleep in until 7 a.m. and not shower until noon, and to forgo lovingly prepared healthy meals in favor of foraging and day-long grazing or, worse, fast-food. This forced downtime and lack of structure is great for precisely a week, but a week is about all we can handle when we're stuck inside in such close proximity to one another. My oldest, who is still recovering from a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy performed on the 11th, definitely fared the worst this vacation. There were tears. My youngest, however, escaped for some much needed one-on-one time with her grandparents, returning happy, spoiled, and exhausted. My son, the middle child, enjoyed the break from his "annoying little sister," and my husband and I reveled in the complete absence of sibling arguments.

In line with yesterday's blog post, I came across this video about urban homesteading. This family in Los Angeles grows over 6000 pounds of food per year on just 1/10th of an acre. What an inspiration! Even if my dream of running a greenhouse business never comes true, and given the size of the property on which we currently live, we absolutely have it within our power to adapt this family's lifestyle to fit our own. Of course, the weather in Los Angeles is slightly different than it is in upstate New York, which makes it challenging . . . but not impossible.

To find out more about this family and their mission, click here.

And because gardening and music are related, if only because they both feed the soul, here's a song for you to enjoy: 

*We are currently under a windchill advisory until noon Monday, with "feels like" temperatures expected to dip as low as 30 degrees below 0.