Tuesday, 28 March 2017

I've figured it out!

When my boys all hit a certain age, they seemed to disappear into the basement and only surfaced rarely for air or light or food. I could never figure out how they could spend so much time in the dark, in one room. No matter how many activities they may have going on, how could they do without sunlight? I can't stand being indoors for more than an hour at a time. I've never been able to understand it. And I was never able to coax them out of the dungeon for long.

But today I read a line in a book called Dropped Threads, edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson, that gave me insight:  "When boys hit adolescence, mothers are expected to back off, because we need to let boys turn into men---a mysterious process, which, like bread rising, must happen undisturbed, in a dark warm place." That's it! They weren't avoiding sunlight or shirking their chores; they were rising until double in bulk!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Weaving Update

This weekend I met with my weaving group to look at each other's projects, discuss problems we've encountered, and tour one weaver's fantastic basement fibre studio. This woman has probably four or five looms set up in her basement, shelves and shelves of threads and yarns, beautiful dyed warps hanging ready to dress the looms, and every book about weaving that one can imagine. She's in full production mode, turning out towels and scarves and other lovely things to sell. She has years of experience, and every question we posed, she had a solution. And best of all, she demonstrated to me how to put the "cartoon" (tapestry pattern) on my big floor loom, so now I can do BIG tapestries. Like, I could do a thirty-foot long tapestry if I (insanely) wanted to. Whee!

It's fun to think that whatever I imagine, I can make. All the limitations I thought were holding me back do not, in fact, exist. Some of the other weavers displayed some beautiful projects they've made and the things they've done with various colour blends. It really sparks your imagination. Don't know how it will turn out? Try it! Always wondered what such-and-such a combination would look like? Try and see! You're really free to play and experiment, and the only risk is a bit of money for materials. And even that isn't much of a risk, because a scarf is warm and wearable no matter what the colour ends up being, and you can always dye things afterward if you really need to.

I have great plans for my next tapestry, as soon as this one is done. Yesterday I spent six hours working on it, without realizing how much time had passed. That tells me I was "in the zone." Usually that only happens when I'm writing.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Feminism Hits a Low Point

Okay, I've got to say it. I opened up a magazine today and my first thought was, "How can we possibly have equal rights for women when there's this?" From the cover I thought I was going to read about entrepreneurial women across the globe who have taken the initiative to forward women's situation. And instead it turned out to be all ads about scanty swim suits, make-up, and ridiculously-high-heeled shoes. And of all things, the headline on top of one page was "Girls just want to have fun." There you have it in a nutshell---women are airheads incapable of doing anything serious or thinking about anything more pressing than the correct colour to wear this spring.

How can we honestly expect men to take us seriously if being a woman is defined by the amount of goop on our faces and the height of our heels? Can we blame them for ever thinking we're incapable and stupid? What kind of image are we trying to present to the world? I can take on unequal pay and abuse against women by slathering on eye shadow and wearing three inches of strategically-arranged fabric? Feminism took a giant step backward today, and I feel enraged and offended, with nowhere to land my punches. This is not representative of women, or fair to women, or worthy of women.

There, I've said my piece, and it's only 4:50 a.m. The day can only go uphill from here.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Habits of the Writer

Instead of taking chunks of vacation time this year, I have been taking half days off now and then from work. Initially this was to accommodate my dogs (now that my husband has a job, they are left alone too long some days so I come home early to let them out). But the un-looked-for side benefit of this arrangement has been a free afternoon and evening to write.

Ordinarily I am trying to slot my writing into my life in odd snatches here and there -- early Saturday mornings, the occasional moment I find myself alone at home. (I have a hard time concentrating if anyone else is in the house.) But having one whole afternoon and evening a week dedicated to writing seems to have spurred a creative wave. I find myself writing not one but about five books at once. Ideas are pouring in faster than I can deal with them. Murder mystery and ecological treatise and romance and---it's all jumbling into my brain and I'm typing madly to sort it all out. The other night I dreamed an entire murder mystery start to finish, and I jumped out of bed at 3 a.m. to write it down before I forgot it.

I have carried a notebook around at all times for years, to capture any thoughts or quotes that come to me. Now I actually have time to sit down and use some of them. It's energizing and refreshing, and with spring on the way it's a fantastically productive time. Except soon I need to stop and concentrate on gardening. So the pressure is on even more.

Who is putting this pressure on me? Well, no one, really. I have to get one manuscript to my editor by about June. That's it. So why the panic to get it all out of my head and into the computer? It's not that I'm afraid I'll forget the plots---I've taken extensive notes. But the pressure builds up like a log jamb and it all has to come out. It's almost a physical sensation. The more I write, the more I want to stop everything else and write. Seize the day! Seize the pen!

Until gardening season, and then all I'll want to do is garden. Until next winter, when all I will want to do is sleep.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Post-St. Patrick's Day

I took yesterday off work just for a break, and I had a lovely day. Slept in to 6:30 (which was amazing). Got up and wrote a mystery for hours, worked on the tapestry for a while, played ball with the dog, went grocery shopping, watched an old episode of Dead Zone, read Malcolm Gladwell, napped, then walked down to the library and the mall, where I bought seeds in preparation for spring planting. Husband came home from work and made hamburgers. Listened to my son describe his butchery class (not quite so fun, but nice to interact with him). Drove my son to his friend's house. In bed by 9:00.

All in all the perfect, relaxing day. I would love every day to be like that, full of creativity and accomplishment. No pressure, no need to wear makeup or a watch. M. Fukuoka (I think I spelled that right) taught that the art of living isn't to do this or do that, but to learn to Not Do. To learn to let things unfold as they undoubtedly will anyway, and not waste time on trying to micro-manage everything in life. He would scatter a variety of seeds in his garden, for example, and let nature decide what would survive and where, according to each little micro-climate, soil conditions, etc. Whatever could thrive would thrive, without human intervention. All he had to do was open up the possibilities, and nature did the rest.

I think it takes a lot of courage and humility to loosen our grasp on every detail and trust nature to know what to do without us directing everything. Just as it takes courage and humility to let go of what we think we control in our lives and tell God "Thy will be done." But imagine how freeing that would be if we could actually do that! How restful it would be not to try to organize the universe ourselves. To tap into the creative and nourishing energy of the earth and let it sustain us without trying to dominate it. Mr. Fukuoka managed to do it, and he lived to be 95.

One of the hazards of being an admin assistant (correction: I got upgraded to "Executive Assistant" this week, which means absolutely nothing in regard to change, but looks nicer on a résumé) is that you have to micro-manage everything. It's my job to make sure every staple, every paper clip, every number in the Excel sheet is as perfect as possible. Meetings have to end on the dot so that the next one can begin. Every sheet of paper my boss needs must be at her fingertips. There can't be a single typo. Words must not run into the letterhead. The muffins provided at the meeting must accommodate every person's dietary restrictions. There can't be any glitches. It's my job to make my bosses' world run smoothly.

When you've been buried in that kind of precision and micro-management 35 hours a week for 30 years, it's a difficult thing to step back and relinquish control. But really, we control very little in our lives, when we're honest about it. I can make every possible effort, but there can still be a power outage that wipes out my beautifully-crafted PowerPoint, or the Catering Department could mess up the muffin order, or someone might be ill and postpone the finely-prepared meeting. I could be hit by a bus on the way to work. The government could shut us down completely.

The key, I think, is to do your best but keep it all in perspective. Be flexible. Don't let your ego intrude, and don't let your sense of self worth get entangled in it. Because ultimately that isn't what matters. The only thing really required of us is to keep breathing in and out, eat, sleep, and take care of those around us. The rest is just frosting.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The latest crazy update about Best Buy

When my husband took the computer back to Best Buy, they printed him out a receipt to prove it was returned. And on that receipt was a phone number and email address that wasn't his. So either the thief put in his own information (which would be nutso), or he made up a random bit of information to throw people off the track. My husband - ever clever - figured out that the email address and number belong to a man who lives not far from us. He gave MasterCard the information to follow up on, and the MasterCard service person said, "You've done more for us today than we've done for you!"

Hopefully one more thief will soon be out of commission.

Thursday, 16 March 2017


For those of you wondering if the thief was lying wait, planning to break into our house to steal the computer after it was delivered...Hasn't happened. And my husband has now turned it back in, so if anyone does break in, they're out of luck. Nothing else in my house is worth $3,000, including the clunky old machine I'm typing on right now.

Think about it. How can you order anything online with a stolen credit card? If you put in your own address, the police can nab you. If you arrange to pick it up at the store, the police can be there waiting for you. The only option is to have it delivered to the credit card owner's address and then break in and get it. Seems like a lot of bother, doesn't it? It's easier to be honest.

Though I am going to have a word with Best Buy about their online order form prepopulating with our home address. Now the thief has it too. I bet most online retailers have that same safety hazard.

Two funny observations this morning

1. I got up and got dressed in the semi-dark as always, a black top and what I thought were black pants. I went downstairs, had breakfast, read my scriptures, did a little yoga, and went to work. On the way, I thought about things I'm grateful for and decided to try to be more mindful today. Rode the bus. Stopped for a doughnut and to sit and read the newspaper. Got to work. Went into the washroom...and discovered my pants were blue, not black. It took me three hours to notice. So much for being mindful!

2. Last week my husband's credit card number was stolen. MasterCard called us to say someone had spent $3000 at Best Buy with his card. Luckily they will reimburse us and everything, but he has to get a new card. Last night a box was delivered to our home...a Macintosh computer from Best Buy. The thief had it delivered to the address associated with the credit card, instead of his own address! How's that for smart? We'll call Best Buy and MasterCard again and figure out how to return it. Just had to laugh, though.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Wow, the timing is perfect!

And wouldn't you know, I just ran across this quote:

Bertrand Russell — 'In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.'

I guess it's time to do that about the pace I've set for myself and my assumption I can (or should) maintain it.

Reflections on Fallability

Well, my last post was about how our sense of self worth can't be based on our identities other than as children of God, because we will fall short and disappoint ourselves. And boy, did I do that yesterday! I had to put together an important meeting at work (weeks in the making), and my job was to not only participate in the discussion but to take minutes and record the meeting so we could refer back to the content later. All went well...until the meeting ended an hour and a half later and I realized I had never turned on the digital recorder. Aaaugh!

I looked at my boss and she was just shaking her head in disgust and despair...because this isn't the first time I've messed up lately. I seem to make small, stupid, but crucial mistakes every day lately. Is it "Fibro-Fog" associated with my Fibromyalgia? Is it cognitive impairment? Early Alzheimers? Mindlessness? Just run-of-the-mill stupidity? Or is it that deep down I just don't care?

Well, no, I do care about being competent and reliable. I do care what people think of my intelligence. I do try to do my best job at whatever I'm doing. But maybe---and this is probably the real explanation---I'm trying to do too much. I support ten people at work, whereas no one else supports more than three. I have a huge volume of work flying at me from all directions, and balancing and juggling everything for the past 22 years may be catching up with me. There's no chance to focus on one thing and do it well, because I'm busy lobbing a hundred balls into the air. Maybe my brain has reached saturation point and there just isn't room for one more bit of information. There's never down time to get organized and rejuvenate. Things are slipping through the cracks.

It's difficult to admit I've got more on my plate than I can handle. Up until now I've been able to manage just fine. I like being able to say yes to whatever is piled on me. Is that because I actually enjoy being busy? Maybe partially. But it might also be because I'm trying to impress other people. That's idiotic, and I'm not impressing anyone lately. It's difficult to take a hard look at your own motivations to figure out how you dug yourself into a hole. The truth isn't always pretty. And I don't like disappointing myself.

It's a good thing I wrote that last blog entry so I can reread it, because right now I'm feeling pretty lousy. I fantasize about dropping out of society, living in a hut in the woods, and foraging for my food. I compose my resignation letter in my head at least once a day. I imagine myself going berserk, grabbing my passport, and getting on the next plane out, no matter where it's going. I take note of small obscure villages where I could disappear to and no one would be able to guess where I've gone. I imagine myself baking an entire batch of cinnamon doughnuts and eating them all in one sitting.

Yep, definitely time for a break. But more than that, it's time to talk to my boss about scaling down.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Good Message at Stake Conference Today

One of the speakers in church this morning said something I liked. It was a quote she once saw written on a chalkboard: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."

And the main thing is that we are children of God, loved, and inherently divine. And nothing and no one can challenge or diminish that fact. Any other role we play in life (and there are many) can come and go; we can fail, and we may feel inadequate at it. We may not be the best mother we want to be, the best employee, the most successful teacher or perfect friend. We may not always be a spouse, a musician, an artist. Life changes and things are sometimes lost. But we can't fail at being a child of God. It doesn't depend on our actions or our successes. We don't earn it. Our identity as a child of God can't be taken from us.

Because of this, if we base our sense of self-worth on our other roles (parent, friend, whatever), we set ourselves up for a roller-coaster ride. Some days we might be confident and good at it, and some days we might fall short or disappoint ourselves. But if we base our self-worth on being a child of God, we will have a firm foundation and a sure anchor in whatever storm life may throw at us. That knowledge helps us maintain inner calm and peace, no matter our circumstances, and no matter what else in our lives might crumble.

My great-grandmother used to call these sorts of thoughts and insights her blood transfusions, because they buoyed her up and gave her new life. That's how I feel after today's reminder.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Just Ask

I am slowly cluing in to the fact that if you just ask for what you want, you tend to get it. And if you never put yourself out there and ask, you likely won't get it. Sounds basic, right? But it's been more and more obvious in my life lately.

The other day I mentioned to someone that I was interested in learning to do tapestry. And she happens to have an actual tapestry loom that she's not using and would be happy to let me use.

I mentioned to someone else that I once learned to spin wool and would be interested in doing it again. And she said she has her great-great-great-grandmother's spinning wheel she's happy to unload on me.

I have been wondering in my heart whether any of my efforts at teaching the youth at church are sinking in (because I can hardly get them to talk), but someone came up to me on Sunday and told me she's heard great, positive feedback from the youth about me so far, which gives me encouragement.

And just yesterday I told my boss I was having trouble finding someone to watch my dogs now that my husband is starting a new full-time job...and the outcome is that I now work half-days on the two days a week that were a problem...using just one vacation day a month to cover it. Oh, and my title has been upgraded to Executive Assistant, without my asking for it. So I solve the dog problem and get a couple of writing nights a week, just like that.

Well. So problems are being solved left and right, God is providing what I need, and things are looking up. It makes me think a little harder about what I ask for and what I project out there into the universe, though. I don't want to take too much advantage!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Final Edits are Done!

Just finished proofreading the next manuscript for the last time. The Song of Copper Creek comes out in July, and I'm hoping to do some book store appearances while I'm in Utah and Idaho this summer. Stay tuned on my website for details as I learn them.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Happy St. David's Day

It's March 1st - Daffodil Day - so naturally my thoughts turn to Wales and the great memories I made there. I went on an immersion course (Cwrs Wlpan) in 1986, the first time I'd been out of the country and the first time I'd seen grass being properly green, the way grass is meant to be. I was in awe the entire three months at the beauty of that country. I remember watching a tractor patiently turn a steeply sloped green hill into brown corduroy, trying to count the number of varieties in a hedge to guess at its age, and sneaking out of class to go watch the cricket match. The roads were impossibly narrow and the stone walls that blocked the view begged to be touched. It was a tactile sort of place, where you wanted to run your fingers over every surface, every ancient rock, every wall and tree. The air was softer, somehow, and the clouds lower than I was used to. I would go for long walks and gather bits of wool off of barbed wire where the sheep had rubbed against the fences (I still have a bit of it in a shadow box on my wall). I couldn't comprehend the age of things. I never grew tired of watching the gentle light on the hills.

The people were a bit reserved until I tried to speak Welsh with them, and then they were the kindest and most welcoming people ever. One woman shuttled me to church because I was without a car, even though she wasn't a member herself. One found out I couldn't have tea or coffee and then went out of her way to make sure I got milk every morning instead (even though the resident chef insisted milk was only for children). One couple brought me flowers when I was sick. I have only the warmest feelings for the people I met there. I made friends in those three short months that I am still in touch with thirty years later.

A magical experience. A transforming experience, as only travel can do when you are young. I pull out my Welsh books now and then for a refresher, though I've lost much of the bit of language I knew. I still listen to the haunting folk music (it all seems to be in a minor key), and I even once took harp lessons for a time. I may not ever get back to Wales, but a part of my heart will always live there.