I’ve Moved! Have you?

 

Hello Dear Reader! Looking for my latest misadventures?

I moved my website over to new hosting service! You can find me at blackbunchedmassmom.com. See you there!

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[Short Post]Can’t Feel Accomplished for More than a Minute

Photo: Richard! You fool! Get down from there! (Seriously, I forgot to move the damn doll already! Had to throw him up there while the boys were still doing their get-up routine. Thank goodness I remembered!

 

The Christmas letter is written. The Christmas cards arrived yesterday afternoon (special shout out to the postal worker who left the Snapfish box out in the soaking rain!). You’d think that would signify a doneness… but you’d be wrong, Dear Reader! This is only the beginning. Now is the time for hunting down the addresses of people who have moved, creating the mail merge, getting the stamps, writing the little notes at the end of all the letters, and getting everything all stuffed and ready to go.

None of that is gonna happen tonight. I’m spent. I’ve climbed my mountain . It’s been a long day. One last thing to do today: this blog post.

Just as I was setting up to get down to business on today’s post, my husband came downstairs to remind me that Major’s birthday is in January.

So desu ne,” I replied with a sigh.

The Husband has made it fairly clear that I will not be getting away with the anti-birthday-bash coup that I pulled last year. Kids get parties. Even kids born in January. So I’ve been told. I’ve gotta look into booking a place. Just another task to add to the growing list. I’m thinkin’ bowling. That’s a good kindergarten birthday party, right? I mean, he’s never been, so… that might be awkward… or maybe awesome?

Maybe we could just take a beach vacation? Wouldn’t it be better to spend our money on that? He sorta likes the sand!

I’m going to bed.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts

 

 

Season of Change

Photo: Oh yes, look at all the beautiful details, the glorious color on the petals… isn’t this just a glorious photo!? 

 

Snow on the car, snow on the barn, snow on the grass this morning… no snow on the pavement, but you know it’s coming! Oh, Dear Reader… somebody stop the winter from coming! I’m not ready!

When I woke the boys up this morning and pulled back the curtain, the reaction was brilliantly mixed. Major, able to fully see out the window from his top bunk perch, gasped with glee as he took in the first glimpse of white. When he breathlessly announced to his brother what had happened, a groan came from the bottom bunk.

“Oh no,” Minor said. “Not the snow!

That child is my child, for sure.

Major started ticking off all of the things he would need for the day:

“I have to find my boots! I have to find my hat! And my gloves, and those snowpants. Mama, do my snowpants fit?”

No, they don’t fit. That’s why, when I got up this morning and saw the damnable snow on the ground, I got right on the internets and ordered another pair. I’m sitting here praying many prayers that his boots do actually fit. That boy needs a new coat (Nana is getting him one for Christmas) and avoiding new boots would be helpful. I know it’s too much to ask for. The child is growing entirely too fast.

With every item listed, Minor let out a grunt or a groan. “I hate boots. I hate hats. I hate gloves. I hate snowpants.”

Yes, baby. I know.

“But why? Don’t you like the snow?” Major asked as he climbed down his ladder.

“No!” Minor barked.

“Awwwwwww,” Major said in the way that children do. It was this sort of mimic of the way I would have said it, yet it still came out as almost a giggle. As if to say, “oh brother, you’re so ridiculous.”

Major practically pranced through the entire “get up, get dressed” routine. It wasn’t until we got downstairs and he got a good look at the snow that he realized we barely got a dusting. The early morning sun was enough to melt it away. I thought he would lose it, but he shrugged instead.

“It’ll be back! We’ll be sledding in no time!”

His brother and I both groaned at the thought.

I was a total baby about it this morning. Put on leggings under my jeans, a thick tunic sweater to put under my peacoat, and wrapped my hair in satin before putting on my thick knitted hat. I was dressed for January, not late November. It really wasn’t that bad out today. But the visual reminder of yes, cold days are coming, yes the warm days are at an end and, yes, snow will be here and will remain for months is… causing preemptive shivering. I can’t wait to snuggle up under my two thick blankets (Husband: “Really? Aren’t you hot under all that?”) and dream about tropical beaches. Yeah… some wonderful life owning a bookstore on a tropical island… wouldn’t that be magical?

Some things just can’t be helped. Change is in the air. I’m just gonna have to get used to it.

Speaking of which, you may have noticed that the featured image is a little more high quality than my other photos. That’s because this mama invested in a big-girl camera! Yaaaaaaaay!!! I purchased a very nice camera and stuff to go with it in the hopes that I will never put another blurry picture on this blog ever again! Furthermore, I hope that I will begin to get more active on Instagram thanks to my new toy. I’m so excited to better share the beauty of the world I know with you in this space.

The camera is just the beginning. As I told you in October, I decided to spend this winter not writing fiction in the hopes of giving my brain a bit of a rest, and also to spend some time learning and growing in other areas. I purchased a few helpful resources to help me with my fiction and I also purchased a very cool bundle of blogging courses/resources, complete with a cool mastermind group filled with weekly seminars and fellowship. I’m learning a lot and I’m excited to apply some of the knowledge that I’m gaining. I hope that you will come along on the journey with me. One of the first things I want to do with this camera is to take pictures of our Thanksgiving Day feast, and maybe even start posting some of my recipes!

That being said, I was wondering if you would do me a favor, Dear Reader. As I explore the potential of what this blog could be, I am trying to keep my focus on what I’ve already created and why you have chosen to read my blog week after week. I’ve noticed that, though my comments and “likes” don’t always reflect it, I have a pretty consistent bunch of readers who come back post after post. I would love to know who you are and what it is about my blog that you love the most. Would you be willing to take a quick 5-question survey to tell me a little bit about yourself? I don’t collect usernames or email addresses, and you don’t have to type anything (there is the opportunity write a comment at the end if you want to, but it is optional). I just want to know more about why you choose to read my words, and what I can do to make your experience better. I want to grow, but only in ways that honor the relationship I have already established with you.

Rather not do the survey? Send me an email! I actually correspond with a few of my readers and I absolutely love it! My email address is wise(dot)kay(dot)c(at)gmail.com

I’ll keep the survey up for a week just to give ample opportunity for ya’ll to find it and respond. No pressure! But it would mean so much to me, and it would really help me better reach my potential. Thank you for your help, Dear Reader. I look forward to your thoughts!

It’s a short week, but that doesn’t mean there is less to get done! Let’s make it happen, Dear Reader.

Until Wednesday, take care.

[Quiet Thoughts] Prepare the Way

Photo: Holiday crafting is in full effect, ya’ll! Thanks to my sister’s supreme talent, I was able to get a few drawings of the boys in fun action poses. Graphite transfer paper is a blessing and a curse: it fades over time. I didn’t realize that when I transferred the full design to the fabric. *sigh* so I’ve had to reinforce a few times already! I’m rushing to get all the outlining work done so I can color without worry of fading!

 

The farmers of MetroWest are preparing their fields for winter. No matter which way we go, what errand the boys and I run to, there is a field along the way. We’ve marveled at the quick harvest, looked closely for the veggies left behind and, of course, the boys have really enjoyed the heavy machinery that has come out to turn over the soil. While some fields are sort of gray and depleted, others are rich and dark, seemingly ready for another planting right away. Geese passing through on their way to warmer destinations can be seen pecking away at the dregs, delighting in a free meal without worry. While I have enjoyed the intellectual exercise of carefully observing the process, discovering things that I have not before (and continually growing a healthy respect for the people who grow our food for a living), I have a sense of sadness–here we are, the cold season. The longest, most miserable time of the year. Gone are the long days and the sunshine and the warmth. I’m not ready. I’m never ready.

It’s been cold this week, too. I broke out my favorite peacoat, took out the boys’ puffy coats, mittens, and hats. Had to preheat the van one morning (and set it to 85 degrees with glee!), had to go digging for long-sleeved shirts. The marigolds survived the first hard freeze of the season (down to the twenties), while the rest of the garden was decimated. I broke out the rakes after school one afternoon and made four huge piles of leaves. There is plenty of yard left to cover.

I found myself relishing it, actually; the preparation for the change. I don’t want winter, but I’m delighted to be busy with it. The getting ready is fun, the logistics of change strangely bring me joy.  Maybe because, while working with my hands and body to change the house over to things, my mind has been free to do it’s thinking, it’s concluding.

I decided I’m not going to do NaNo next month.

I decided I might not write at all this winter.

Like the fields all around me, I’m going to rest. I’m going to feed my brain with books, and a few webinars about blogging and writing, and I’m joining a Mastermind ground and I’m searching for a local writing group. But I’m not going to force myself to produce. Not for a season. I’m going to let my mind lay fallow.

Because I don’t have the bandwidth and I’ve hit a space where I need to do some learning before I can do any improving.

I contemplated stepping away from the blog, too.

“Are you getting a little depressed or are you honestly rerouting your energy and focus?” The Husband asked me when I spoke to him about this. He asks excellent questions.

The urge to stop blogging is the tug of depression. It would be so easy to turn this computer off, so easy to leave the words behind, to disrupt the routine, to have no obligations to myself at all. Lord, how lovely it would be to surrender to it. It paws at me every single morning and keeps me in bed 40 minutes longer than I should. I haven’t gotten up before 6:30 any day since Grandy passed. It takes an incredible effort to get my two feet on the floor. Once they’re there, I’m fine… but those moments between my waking and my moving are the most exhausting of my day.

Before you start to worry, I’m not giving up and I’m not walking away from the blog. Thanks to freelancing, I was able to purchase some really great resources to help me learn and grow, and I’m sure that there will be some experimenting happening in this space over the winter months. The Husband has taken on the responsibility of holding me to the promise: not to give up, to publish my two complete manuscripts, to learn and grow, to emerge in the Spring ready to produce.

But, in order to do that, I’ve got to prepare the way. I have to rediscover the purpose of the pursuit. I may even need to rediscover what I’m pursuing to begin with.

It’s good to let go, and a little scary. Doubt loves to tease: “Are you kidding yourself? This is what quitting looks like!”

I’m not listening. I know better.

There is nothing wrong with resting, breathing, replenishing. I have to do it. I have actually, finally, reached my capacity.

My dear, Dear Reader, it’s Friday. Another rainy one, actually, with a cold wind that cuts through the flimsy stuff made for the 60 degree days. Halloween (and all that must be done) looms large over my weekend but, tomorrow at least, I don’t have to think about it. Like so many Fridays that have come before, I have wishes for you. I wish you a first evening under your good blanket. You know the one: the one you break out for the real cold, to keep out the real chill of the long season. I wish you that pleasure of taking it out of the closet, shaking it out, giving it a good smell, wrapping it around you and feeling its loving warmth. I hope that you break open a new book to mark the occasion, wrapping yourself up and falling away. Far, far away. I wish you the joy of some good tomato basil soup, extra bonus points if you make it yourself, which you totally can. Bonus points if you have an excellent grilled cheese sandwich to dip in it. I wish you the crackle of a fire or the tapping of the rain on your window, any excuse to stop and listen, to enjoy and relax. I wish for you the permission you need to stop and breathe, Dear Reader. It’s a gift. Finally, as ever, I wish you a loving embrace and the wonderful feeling that comes when someone tells you they love you with full heart and sincerity. A lover, a relative, a friend… those words are powerful, they matter, and they should be said. Be sure to say the words out loud this weekend: to yourself (first) and to someone else.

I’m grateful for your presence, Dear Reader. Thank you for another great week.

Until Monday, take care.

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Onward! A New Week Dawns!

Photo: I like this photo because it represents exactly where my brain is right now. Where to look? Where to go? What to focus on? So many possibilities, so many opportunities… and yet, there is something a bit overwhelming about it all.

 

So, NaNoWriMo starts November 1st? Damn. Seriously? Can’t catch a damn break up in here.

It was my husband who reminded me. He was like, “so, what are you doing next month? We going for Meadowlark III?”

The “we” in that was mighty funny. I’m grateful that my husband is my biggest fan. But also, it was like, oh crap! I’ve got nothing!

Well, not nothing… I have two viable ideas that I’d like to explore. One of them is, indeed, the third installment of the novella series that I usually work on for NaNo. The other is a start of a different series, still likely novella-length. But maybe novel-length? I’d better decide pretty quickly!

But ideas aren’t outlines, and I need an outline to write with any sort of coherence. I know about the phenomenon of other writers sitting in front of the blank screen and following the words where they lead, but I can’t handle that. It’s chaotic and makes me anxious. Mostly, it results in rubbish.

But can I outline a story worth telling in little over a week? Welp, that’s the great and grand question of the week. No coffees, no meetings, no chatting and driving around MetroWest with little purpose. I’ve dedicated the entire week to get ready.

In so doing, I’m putting this month behind me. I woke up on Sunday, put on my favorite outfit, and went to church with a smile on. I decided to dedicate myself to feelings other than pain or guilt. It was a difficult thing at first, but stepping out into the sunshine and then stepping into a community that I increasingly find place, meaning and purpose in really, really helped. I woke up this morning feeling less dread, more focused. I broke out my notebook and really got to work. Coffee had full taste again. Full color is coming back to my world.  It felt great, Dear Reader. It really did.

I won’t try to fool myself into thinking I’m back 100%. There is still pain and a void that feels insurmountable. I’m still playing catch-up, but most of the tasks are done. I refuse to step into November feeling overwhelmed by sorrow. I want to start November 1st with a powerful story to tell.

So, I’m actually going to step away from here and get on Evernote to continue my brainstorming. I have to continue researching the lives of private/personal chefs and what they do. I also have some reading to do tonight–I bought a training to help me with this whole querying thing. I am not going to lie, this thing with trying to find an agent and get published the old-fashioned way causes me anxiety and a little bit of anger. There is something archaic about it, and it’s certainly an arduous process. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it. I really hope that this exercise in patience and hard work will be rewarded!

It’s Monday night and it feels like we’re off to a great start, Dear Reader. I hope that the momentum of a productive day will carry you all the way through to Friday. I promise to find something real and substantial to write about, and to keep my streak going: no fail posts this week. Can’t get lazy. Gotta get back into it.

Until Wednesday, take care.

[Bloggy Sick Day] Rough Transition

 

 

Did two days go by?

This new schedule is grueling. I can’t believe it’s Monday!

We slept, we ate, I got a little bit of cleaning, a little bit of work done… but it’s 5:30 on Monday afternoon as I write this and all three of us are staring into oblivion. I can’t believe it. Why don’t we have the stamina for this? I’m incredibly surprised about how difficult this transition has been.

I’m trying my best not to worry about it. It probably doesn’t help that we’re all sick.

Did I tell you that we’re all sick? Oh yes. We’re all sick. Full blown chest colds. It’s lovely. I want to write a full 1000 word rant about the super considerate mother and the lovely child who gave us these colds, but… I’m trying to better my karma points.

And, let’s be clear: nobody needs more rage in the world right now.

But what my family needs is rest. So this is a short post. I’m going to make dinner, I’m going to put my children to bed, and then I’m going to do the same. My brain is full of thoughts and worries, my body is sore and fatigued… I have so much to write, but they need me more.

So I’ll write with an update on Wednesday. Until then, Dear Reader, take care.

 

[Quiet Thoughts] Back to School Moment

Photo: This beautiful blossom has the audacity to bloom outside of the safety of The Husband’s Triangular Prism of Safety. I do not know how long it will be before the groundhog comes to get it, but I praise it for it’s bold and beautiful petals, daring to be perfect and conspicuous outside of safety zone. May you continue to amaze, you radiant beauty! Thank you for your silent and brilliant teaching.

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I’ve been refraining from blogging about my writing lately. Maybe a bit out of embarrassment, having yet to succeed in my goal of publishing a novel. Many of you started reading this blog way back when I’d set a grand goal of publishing a novel on my 30th birthday. Well, 32 will be here next month and many projects have come and gone since then.

It’s not like I haven’t been working toward the goal. It’s just been slow, slow… frustrating, arduous… with many lessons learned from multiple teachers: books have been read, techniques have been tried, writing buddies have come and gone. Meanwhile, I’ve been part of a steady, wonderful writing group who have been with me along the way. This blog has helped a lot as well. I keep telling Major that practice is what makes guitar easier–the discipline of making the time, doing the work, is what is going to make him a rock star someday. Well, the steady blogging, going on what? Almost 5 years?  Anyway, it has helped a lot. It’s why I even put up “Fail” posts: the discipline is what makes me better. A better blogger, a better writer.

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I think that the best part about the steady blogging has been the relationship that I’ve been able to build with you, Dear Reader, as well as building a bit more trust in myself: I am capable of stringing together good stories that people want to read. They aren’t always perfect, but they are often comprehendible. The blog has become a weekly practice of bravery—learning what to share, how to share it in a compelling way, learning that vulnerability often yields a strengthening of bond, a further welcome into an expanding community. Your presence here, your patience with me, and your incredible kindness has made me a better person, a braver writer.

So when I took a leap of faith and sent an editor sample pages of both The Patron of the Meadowlark Inn and The Purveyor to the Sweet Soil Inns (both novellas that I wrote for November NaNoWriMos and published here as I wrote them), I was scared, but for all the right reasons. It wasn’t because I was worried about straight-up rejection, someone telling me that my writing was worthless and that they manuscripts were unsellable. Actually, I was scared because I couldn’t believe how easily I filled out the form, wrote the emails, prepared the pages and sent them off.

I got into my writing group chatroom and filled it with curses. “I can’t believe I just did that! What a stupid, foolish decision!” (That’s the expletive-free summary)

“Oh, you just had your back-to-school moment,” a wise member of my writing group told me. “September is the perfect time to take a risk and try something new. That was your moment. You just started something big.”

On Sunday night, the editor got back to me. Her notes were full of compliments and questions, challenges to make the two manuscripts better, plenty of encouragement. She expressed excitement over the prospect of reading more. I was truly shocked.

I showed the email to The Husband and he just nodded his head. “I told you so.”

I realize I’m still at the bottom of the mountain. I guess I also realize that I’ve come a long, long way in the last two years. Some of the work was unnoticeable, some of it was excruciating. Yet, I’m still on the hunt for that first publishing “yes” and the momentum that comes with it.

But my Quiet Thoughts are in the seemingly small acts of personal bravery that can propel. By virtue of getting in touch, making a pitch, sending some pages, I made a decision that I can turn back from. Much like with the freelancing, the simple act of saying, “yes, I will try,” is a big deal. The results have been momentous. I know that there is a lot of luck in that. I get to celebrate because things have happened to go right so far. There is still risk of failure. High risk. The freelancing could dry up. The fiction writing could never take off. I could ever remain right where I’ve always been: at the bottom of this tall, tall mountain.

But, Dear Reader, I’m trying. Small steps turn into feet, yards, and miles.

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Even if you are not a student, I love this time of year because it signifies an opportunity to try something new. We all get to reset as the children head back and we all recall first days gone by. So on this Friday, hot and humid, in total denial of the social change of seasons, I wish you your own brave back-to-school moment. Take the step you’ve been working for. Do it with a little bit of doubt, but a whole lot more faith in yourself and what you are capable of. I wish you quiet moments of contemplation, but then a bit of time to talk it out with a close companion. When was the last time you spoke your goals into existence? Be sure to share an intimate moment over good food, excellent drink. The harvest season is starting! Indulge in fresh tomato! Bonus points if there are fresh basil and mozzarella to add! Above all, as ever, don’t forget to share a bit of loving joy this weekend. Just say the words to someone: yourself, a family member, a friend, the love of your life… say the words, knowing that when you do, you get everything out of the world that you put into it: so express your love, your appreciation and your admiration to someone this weekend. Know that someone feels the same way about you. Feel it in your heart and surround yourself with it as you go about your days.

And come back ready to take on the world. It’s going to be a great start to the new season!

Until Monday, stay safe, be kind, walk bravely, and take care.