- If who we are is what we do, then like most people, I am a mixed bag of personas. Writer, bookworm, friend, are what first come to mind. Equally apt would be potty mouth, dog walker, Guinness drinker, swimmer, storyteller, political animal, baker and proud Canadian. Mostly though, I consider myself simply insanely lucky to have a small posse of near and dear ones who put up with me and my curvy, creative, curly haired, opinionated self. I started this blog several years ago with the idea to challenge myself in a myriad of ways. Years in, despite the sporadic entries, I still like to muse about the absurdity of life, what inspires surprises and angers me, books and other entertainments, my menagerie, my travels and any other notion buzzing round in my head.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Unofficial first day of my vacation, with the weekend not being counted, and I spent it doing exactly what I most hoped for. I wrote. While mischievous Mattie happily romped at doggie daycare and Murphy snored on the couch beside me, I spent the majority of the day in my PJs working on my NaNo story. A wee bit of editing to get me going (I know I am not supposed to be editing now, but couldn't resist) and I had a wonderfully productive day. This is exactly the kind of week I planned. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It is days like today that give me a real glimpse of what it would be like to work at my writing full time. It fuels my dream. Truly.
Day 15 is the midway point in the NaNoWriMo project. 25,000 is today's mark for those who are schedule. I am still behind but catching up... grin.
My stats today are:
Coffees drank: 48
Most wince worthy cliché written: you seem visibly upset
Hours spent writing: 47
Deaths/Murders: one body, throat slit, missing left hand
Best line so far: I would happily trade flirtatious banter back and forth, until such time as your ego is sufficiently inflated for me to drop kick it like a football to the other side of the grounds.
Chocolates consumed: 55
Most time squandery distraction: running up and down stairs doing laundry
Take outs ordered: 3
Words written: 16,449
Characters introduced: 15
Favourite word written: litigious*
Social / family functions attended: two
Motivation level (scale of one to ten): 25
* I have noted the appalling deterioration of intelligent "favourite words". Will try to halt the decline before the prose is reduced to a series of monosyllabic grunts.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
It is like this, November. Life goes on and for me anyway, it is important that NaNo fits into my life, not the other way around. I write amongst work deadlines, birthday parties, gossipy pints with friends and my day to day routine of dog walks, coffee with the girls and reading. The house right now smells deliciously of the carrot cake I baked for a family dinner tonight. I'll not get much writing in until I get home, but that is ok. This is my version of a writing life.
I have one thing going for me and my story. I finally figured out how the whole thing ends. Although a few background characters seem intent on worming their way to the forefront of the story, I think I know how it will all turn out. It is twistier than I originally planned. I like that.
Almost halfway through November, my stats look like this:
Coffees drank: 43
Most wince worthy cliché written: and now, without further ado…
Hours spent writing: 42
Deaths/Murders: one severed hand found… what do you think?
Best line so far: He was chucked out; no discussion; placed firmly outside their life as one puts garbage by the curb for weekly pick up.
Chocolates consumed: 53
Most time squandery distraction: the appearance of Star Trek characters in a smokey jazz club
Take out ordered: 3
Words written: 13,721
Characters introduced: 13 of 13
Favourite word written: apropos
Social / family functions attended: one (see the aforementioned jazz club)
Motivation level (scale of one to ten): a slightly over confident 7
Sunday, November 7, 2010
I'm still a bit behind in my word count, but with another productive day today, I will be just fine. I know I have another busy week at work before I am get a full week to myself, so I am trying to make the most of the quiet time I have now.
My NaNo stats look like this at present:
Coffees drank: 19
Most wince worthy cliché written: go big or go home (sad I know)
Hours spent writing: 14.5
Best line so far: Thanking his most favourite saint, Anand, the obscure and under appreciated patron of barkeeps, he noticed the abundantly stocked set up.
Chocolates consumed: 18
Most time squandery distraction: dust bunnies (I know what you are thinking. I must be really hard up for a distraction, if I start cleaning!)
Take out ordered: once*
Words written: 6,556
Characters introduced: 9 of 13 (so far)
Favourite word written: collywobbles
Social / family functions attended: none
Motivation level (scale of one to ten): an optimistic 8
* studies have shown that there is a direct and not so surprising positive corelation between a person's level of creativity and their pizza eating frequency.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Entering my first weekend, I am scheduled to hit the 10,000 mark sometime on Saturday. Right now, just shy of 4,500 words, I have my work cut out for me. Am I worried? Hell no! Well maybe a little bit. But we write on. What choice is there?
Stats after last night look like this:
Coffees drank: 15
Most wince worthy cliché written: rising star in our midst
Hours spent writing: 10.5 *
Best line so far: Shall I have you for breakfast?
Chocolates consumed: 15
Most time squandery distraction: brand new e-reader
Take out ordered: none
Words written: 4,467
Characters introduced: 7 of 12 (so far)
Favourite word written: inveigle
Social / family functions attended: none
Motivation level (scale of one to ten): 8
* An average day's 1,667 takes just under three hours to write. My pace is not bad all things considered. Especially if I include all the time spent banging my head on the desk trying to find the right words.
Will sound triumphant horn of jubilation when I hit the 10,000 mark this weekend. Listen for it!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I was into work early today, and will leave early. My evening plan involves throwing in a quick load of laundry while the pooches settle down after their walk and firing up the laptop for a good several hours. By the end of the day today, I should be around 6,670 words. No problemo she says confidently. That's a mere 2,600 give or take tonight. Sheesh!
My stats look like this right now:
Coffees drank: 12
Most wince worthy cliché written: Who did they think they were dealing with?
Hours spent writing: 9
Best line so far: an itinerant splash of Jamieson’s browning the envelope as Basil’s fist pounded the bar mid tirade
Chocolates consumed: 14
Take out ordered: none
Words written: 4,001
Characters introduced: 7 of 12 (so far)
Favourite word written: curvaceousness
Social / family functions attended: none
Motivation level (scale of one to ten): 7
Curvaceousness.... a very good word! Grin.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
My NaNo stats:
Coffees drank: 8
Most wince worthy cliché written: talk of the town
Total hours spent writing: 7.5
Best line so far: If a beguiling set of knockers flashes in my direction, how ungentlemanlike would I be if I refrained from marking their bodacious beauty?
Chocolates consumed: 7
Take out ordered: none
Words written: 3,470
Characters introduced: 6 of 12 (so far)
Favourite word written so far: scurrilous
Social / family functions attended: none
Motivation level (scale of one to ten): 11
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Yesterday was a spectacularly productive day. I somehow managed to get 1,904 words written and a rough outline of my story completed. Still have so very many holes to fill, but that is where the fun is. I sort of know where I am going now and will figure the rest out as I go. A confirmed pantser (as in flying by the seat of mine) as opposed to thorough and organized planner, I feel quite on top of things.... for the moment.
To keep me focussed, I will try to post an update here regularly through the month. For more specifics about my story “A Fair to Remember” click here .
So without further ado, after one full day, my NaNoWriMo stats look something like:
Coffees drank: 5
Hours spent writing: 4.5
Best line so far: She went up like an old man waking from a long nap
Chocolates consumed: 3
Take out ordered: none
Words written: 1904
Characters introduced: 3 of 11 (so far)
Social / family functions attended: none
Motivation level (scale of one to ten): 8
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I've been itching to begin.
Now, only 28 days left.
The annual NANOWRIMO (that is National Novel Writing Month) challenge is right around the corner.
The website has just been relaunched for the 2010 season. I have updated my profile and posted the summary of my novel which you can find here.
As work on Lillian Munsch is winding down to prepare for NaNo, I am starting to shift gears towards my new story - a murder mystery. The unofficial title is "A Fair to Remember - A Basil McNabb Mystery". If I like this character and genre, I may write more stories with Basil as main character. But that is getting way too far ahead of myself (shocking I know).
In the meantime, we edit and tweak and are still rewriting Lillian's story through October, being reasonably on track for my self imposed Thanksgiving deadline.
For now, off I go with the usual intentions of posting more frequently; but knowing, realistically, once November begins I'll be lucky if I can get my 1,674 words per day done, let alone have time to post a blog entry.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I have neighbours who go for an evening walk most nights after dinner, to digest their meal, get some fresh air and relax before bedtime. I often take the dogs out around then too and run into these folks as I wander. We stop and chat about the goings on in the neighbourhood, as we see each other each night on our way. A convivial enough habit, for sure. But for me, the more satisfying walks are the ones I take with the dogs very early in the morning every day. Quiet, mostly vacant streets we three stroll block after block, admiring the flowers, Murph and Mattie stopping to roll on the plusher lawns and me ruminating on the various notions filling my head. During the week, some blocks are spent ordering my work day, reviewing my to-do list. But on the weekend our morning walks are often spent mulling over plot points or imaging a less maladroit description or phrasing from my previous day’s writing.
Assiduously working towards my Thanksgiving deadline for Lillian’s story, I cannot help my mind wandering to the next project, the next NaNoWriMo challenge. I have pretty much decided already on a genre; a detective murder mystery. I wanted to pick something new to me. A style I haven’t written before. My problem was coming up with a likeable main character detective and setting for the book. I have been trying on various scenarios. I’d find a good character and then couldn’t plot him or her in a plausible setting for murder and mayhem. Or the reverse. I would envision a brilliant how and where to off some hapless victim and have no clue how to match a detective type to solve the crime.
I talk these things out with Murphy and Mattie as I go. I don’t honestly know anyone who has dogs who doesn’t seek their counsel from time to time. As we rounded the first block, he came to me - the perfect reluctant hero for my story. But even better than that, by the time we were nearing the back porch an hour later, I had a back story for him and a setting for the macabre events.
Since Murphy arrived, I have gotten used to early mornings. While I cursed his early rising proclivity initially, I have found it to be my most creative time of the day. I think best in the morning. I write more prolifically then too. I’m counting on that, as I finish Lillian Munsch and begin my new project - a Basil McNab murder mystery.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
If Aristotle is correct and we are what we repeatedly do, then I am most certainly a dog walker, a writer, a movie goer and bookshop browser, a coffee hound, a laundry avoider and a muser. He was a smart guy. I can live with what my habits say about me. Mind you, he is also to have said “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”. It’s a shame I also have this pesky habit of keeping a roof over my head.
Coming home from the movies today, I saw a woman on the subway reading TS Eliot’s The Wasteland. She had an interesting bohemian look to her, a shock of bleached blond hair ruffed up and sticking out in all directions. The sundress she was wearing gave anyone who looked a nice view of the tattoo curling around from her back and over her shoulder – a gorgeous medieval drawing of an angel, wings spreading. I love encountering people like this. They rouse me from the regular of in my life and remind me of the importance to live unimpeded by convention, and go boldly in my own direction, heedless of the need for conformity to anything other than my own true self. Taking a nudge from the angel on the subway, I am encouraged to make sure my experience of life includes creating, loving, thinking, absorbing, all adventurously. Now that is a habit I could get used to.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I work better under pressure.
I like a looming deadline, some sense of urgency bearing down on me.
While pondering life gloomily this weekend, I more than once thought of how rapidly time passes. Before long summer will be over, and with summer fading, fall is just around the corner. And with fall comes.... drum roll please... the NANOWRIMO writing challenge.
As I was enthusiastically singing the praises of this novel writing exercise last week, recruiting my friend Brian to participate (see Bri, now it is on the internet for the whole world to see – grin) it dawned on me that I cannot give myself over to the NaNo madness unless my work on Lillian’s story is complete and I have handed it over, as finished as a solid first draft can be, to someone else for review and editing. So, I am somewhat freakishly relieved to note that the clock is ticking now. My work has taken on a more feverish pace as I have just realized the following:
According to my latest storyboard and outline, I have about 30,000 words of work to rewrite.
I have another 20,000 plus words of work that needs some significant editing. (There’s a certain symmetry in being back to the 50,000 mark again.)
If I am going to do NaNo this year (and I most certainly am doing it!!), I need to put my current book to bed by Thanksgiving. That is Canadian Thanksgiving for those non-Canucks, which falls around the second week in October. This will give me about two and a half weeks to plot and plan out my 2010 NaNo story so I can begin writing at midnight (or whenever I wake up in the morning) on November 1st.
This works out to a mere 78 days to finish.
If I factor in vacationing in September, family birthday celebrations, a weekend which I am required to work, a visiting friend from Ireland and my trip to Montreal this coming weekend, I estimate I would realistically be left with about 65 days to write.
Figuring the rewrites will take me about two thirds of this time, it boils down to finishing the writing by September 10th, writing about 750 words per day. Child’s play when you figure I had to do 1,650 a day during November last year for the NaNoWriMo project.
I really do love these characters in Lillian's story. I have been living with them for over a year now. Consumed by what they think, how they would behave, what makes sense for them. They first came to me last spring and then fully took up residence with me last fall. I will by no means be finished with Lillian, Alejandro and Nicki by Thanksgiving, but if I work real hard, they should be ready to visit with some trusted friends for a while. God, does this sound weird to anyone other than me???
I have a few story ideas crawling around in the corners of my mind for this November. I have always wanted to write a story about sisters. I like the idea of the complex competing emotional tug of sibling relationships – love, competition, obligation, entitlement. It’s good stuff. I would also like to try writing a style totally other than my normal stuff – maybe a murder mystery.
Whatever I come up with for November, these coming months will be good for me creatively. It’s no secret I am not the most disciplined writer around. I need accountability and a mechanism to set my pace. I have posted a tickertape tracker so I can plot my progress til Thanksgiving. 750 words per day. That is just over two pages a day. No problem, right? Write!
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Overall, it was not all bad. So so, is a more apt description.
On the fun side I spent a night out with my sisters at the Bon Jovi concert. I am not one bit ashamed to admit swooning was involved. That man is simply HOT! I also had dinner with my friend Brian, got caught up on life and talked writing, his and mine. I even managed to squeeze in a few movies. (Inception was cool. I like a movie that leaves you wondering.)
However, any fun I did have this week was marred by the events of Wednesday when, over the course of just one day I heard of the death of three folks who had touched my life in one way or another. I rounded out the week feeling a bit more philosophical than I usually am (which says something in and of itself) and the mood sort of stuck with me through the weekend. I suppose I didn’t exactly help to buoy my spirits by reading the Dave Eggers book I have on the go. As two of the three people I know died of cancer, reading his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which recounts his life raising his brother after he loses both parents to cancer within a single year, might not have been such a great idea.
It is not so much the death thing that has me all introspective. Having a humongous family, I have been to my fair share of funerals. I think I have a fairly healthy outlook when it comes to death. It is also not the cancer thing. Cancer is a bitch. No getting around that. It is tough, both for the patient who suffers and battles the disease and the loved ones who are left behind. It is craptastically bad. But that is not the reason for my funk either.
Thinking it over this afternoon, I see a pattern in it. One person leaves, one arrives. Three bad things happen and then three good things occur. There is a rhythm to these sorts of things; to life. It got me thinking about the cycle of life. I find comfort in knowing that there is a season for everything, for everyone. Some long, some short. Some colourful and others muted. But each unique to those who experience it.
I think my grim mood comes from the fact that I want so much out of life; not just to nibble at life but to gulp it up. To digest what I have taken in and be enriched by the experiences. While I try hard to live in the present, I do worry that I won't get to all the things I want to accomplish, that my life will have had no meaning. So while I get that there is a pattern and things flow in their proper course, I cannot help but feel like I want to guide them, to nudge them this way and rush them that way, before time runs out.
See... funky. Now enough of that! My Ontarian roots are wincing apologetic for the philosophical and pensive mood I'm in. So to compensate anyone who's read this far, I surfed around and stumbled on George Carlin’s hilarious YouTube videos on death. The man was a genius and what better way to end, than with a grin.
“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should
die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get
kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating...
...and you finish off as an orgasm.”
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
It occurred to me that I should have given props to the impetus for my return to blogdom. There is no question, that I am relieved to finally put a halt to the relentless and persistent nudging, pestering, badgering emails from a certain omnipresent support of all my literary endeavours (cough, sputter, Marc!); notes asking me "are you ever going to blog again????" But, if truth be told, I was inspired by my sister Maggie's foray into blogging. She's a delight and I cannot wait to read her more.
From one to four: you rock!
In April I took a week off to write. Met a boy. Forgot I was a writer. Rescued a triple layer death by chocolate cake from the Murphenator. Pumped said chocolate from Murph’s stomach. Celebrated Easter. Dumped a boy. Puzzled, analyzed and commiserated with baffled friends. Drank more than my fair share of red wine and Guinness. Dusted myself off and took the dogs for a long walk.
May was the second month I took a week off to write. Wrote mostly shit. Read ravenously instead. Squeezed a few sentences of arguable brilliance onto the page. Edited 95% of the past two months of work into the bin. Slept in a hammock a fair bit. Decided not to go to Italy.
Now June was fun. During the month of June I worked an entire four weeks. Joined a gym. Watched my city aflame. Thought about writing. Lazed. Procrastinated. Lollygagged. Idled. Goldbricked. Unwound. Became disenchanted with my main character. Dreamt of winning the lottery. Swam. Wrote a staggering 526 words.
And now, lookie lookie. Here we are in July. More than midway through the month no less. For now, the words are flowing again. Am employing the tried and true and none too glamorous AIC method of writing (i.e.: ass in chair) and piling pages. Lillian has new life and now that I’m working on some of the juicier parts of the story, it is fun again. I know it won’t always be fun, but for now that helps.
Besides writing - yes there is actually life outside writing - I am looking forward to a road trip scheduled for the last weekend in July.
My friend Marc is once again riding his bike from Toronto to Montreal in support of the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. The Friends For Life Bike Rally has raised over a million dollars since the late 90s to help make the day to day life of people struggling to live with AIDS liveable. A week on his bike, camping out along the way, riding an average 100 km per day for such a worthwhile cause deserves a party. So, Mags and I, Marco and a host of other friends will head east to be there to welcome Marc when he and the others ride into Montreal after their journey. That is something to write about! And just to make sure, we’ll stay the weekend, celebrate their awesome accomplishment and reacquaint ourselves with the beauty of old Montreal.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I spent a near perfect night last Friday.
It was a pastiche of my most favourite things. I supped a sumptuous feast at our quirky local haunt. I enjoyed a wonderfully bold red. I laughed. I felt loved. I ate something delicious and sweet. I plotted, philosophized and gossiped. I shone. I commiserated. I argued politics, which films really deserved Oscar, and chatted about good recent reads. I sat contented surrounded by family and friends and hugged them well before heading home.
March is like that for me. I’m a very very lucky girl.
The older I get, the more acutely aware I become of quality of life. How I spent my time, how fleetingly life passes; how seasons blend together, years even. I suppose this is common enough. But today, on my birthday, I feel it more. It is becoming increasingly important for me to follow my proverbial bliss. Spending Marchy kind of nights such as I have done recently. Searching the cobwebbed corners of my brain for the right words as I edit my novel. Walking my dogs on crisp mornings. Bliss.
In retrospect, I feel a bit weird today about the bounty I have in my life particularly in light of the devastation that is going on in many parts of the world. I am not ungrateful for what I have. I can chock up my present thoughts to the notion that, especially after the globally stormy night, one never really knows what is around the corner. I know it is important to live well and fully. While all true, these rationalizations rings a tad insufficient. I am usually so completely aware of how rich my life is in so many ways, that to feel awkward about it does not sit quite right with me. I wonder if my final birthday gift this year comes more in the form of a reminder. I have pinned to my fridge an oft quoted phrase which resonates today. To those whom much is given, much is expected.
And so, what will I do?
It is a good birthday gift. An invitation to do something. More.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
GO CANADA GO!!!!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Life is hectic enough under normal circumstances, but March is shaping up to be a killer month. With the last gasp of implementations scheduled at work where we have a fully staffed team, I am trying to jam in as much work as possible while we still have warm bodies. Add to that the usual social obligations surrounding no less than five birthdays and a wee celebration called St. Patrick's Day and I am crammed to the rafters with life stuff. Good life stuff for sure.
Deciding to take the first week of April off to do nothing but read, write and muse was a no brainer. Now that the pooches are booked in for a holiday up north, I am free as a bird to write without distractions, wander the city, hang out until the wee hours free of any schedule save what whim I fancy for a full 10 days.
A peaceful mindset descended over me the minute my vacation time was approved. Funny how that is. Just having something pleasant to look forward to somehow makes the crazy bearable. And if this week in April doesn't do the trick, I still have the visage of an Italian getaway in September to conjure up in times of chaos.
Respiri dentro. Respiri fuori.
Keep calm and carry on... til it's time to take a vacation!
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Shane, you did good!
We made it be!!!!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is essentially a murder mystery, where 11 year old Flavia DeLuce, lives in 1950’s England on a big estate with her widowed father and two clueless and narcissistic older sisters. Flavia is an odd ball - a bit of a mad scientist with a penchant for all things chemistry, especially poison. Imagine her delight when after overhearing her father and a strange man arguing over a priceless stamp, a few hours later she stumbles upon the same man dying in their cucumber patch. Being the only one present to hear the dying man’s last words, Flavia is delighted at “by far the most exciting thing that had ever happened to (her in her) life”. On her trusty bicycle Gladys, she determines to solve the mystery of the dead man’s murder and prove her father’s innocence. A smirk inducing read, I was pleased to hear that Alan Bradley has written another Flavia book called The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag. Delightfully light and perfectly suited to the kind of month I’ve been having, I liked this book immensely and look forward to more time spent with Flavia DeLuce.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a story told from the perspective of two people who reside at a posh apartment hotel in Paris. Madame Renee Michel is the concierge, an autodidact lover of art, literature and film. Inconspicuous to most of the residents in the building unless they need something from her, Madame Michel secrets away her intelligence so as to play the role of a woman of her station, fully aware though of all that is going on with her residents. Juxtaposing Madame Michel’s point of view about the residence are the musings of Paloma Josse, the youngest daughter of a diplomat father and self indulgent therapy addicted mother. Paloma, convinced of the futility of life, that it is nothing more than a meaningless taking up of space, has decided to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday. Several months away from her death, Paloma begins recording a series of “Profound Thoughts” and remarkings on the universe as she sees it. Living each with their secrets, both Madame Michel and Paloma’s lives are turned around when a mysterious and elegant Japanese man moves into the residence. Intelligently and beautifully written, at times funny and very heart warming, I particularly liked the interplay between these characters, the insights of each and as with most stories written with Paris as a backdrop, I was drawn in immediately to this very good read.
After recalling the enjoyment of getting lost with these characters the past few weeks, a whine about life seems a little bit self indulgent. Without question, work has been a political mind field. I make a conscious effort these days not to let the nonsense going on at work spill into my personal life, but it has been challenging. Blessed relief will arrive at the end of March when much of the problem will come to an end. A lesson in patience like no other is what work is now, so I will take that consolation.
At home, Mattie has been a typical 6 month old puppy replete with all the inherent mischief that comes along with that age – the chewing, testing her boundaries, the nipping, the need to be the centre of attention and even emergency trips to the vet for several stitches after an encounter with a pointy pile of sticks. I know the puppy thing will get better. But right now, when I need peace and quiet at home, it is a little bit hard to come by when Miss Matilda Mischief is awake. All that said, she is such a beauty. And, if I am being perfectly honest, I have always been drawn to those who rail against placidity and launch themselves at the world. She is all that and more.
Not surprisingly, I have had trouble finding time to write. Spotty at best would be a good description. “If writers write, then what am I?” is the thought that keeps swirling around in my head. Writing gives me joy. This is a certainty. Presently, I feel the need for the salve writing brings more than ever. So I started again last night and here I am blogging to prime the pump as much as catch up some. I am a writer I can answer today. An easily distracted and at times undisciplined one; a struggling writer… but a writer nonetheless.
Life in February chugs along, complete with barks, hard work and drama, but also chock-a-block with beauty, spunk and the constant inspiration of good books.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Friday, January 1, 2010
Looking back on it, 2009 was an extraordinarily good year in my little part of the universe. I am incredibly blessed to have people in my life to love and who love me, a cozy little place to call my own, robust health and a good job. Today, in this moment in time, I am happy and grateful and feel inspired on many levels.
I do not ascribe to the notion of New Year’s resolutions. Last year, for the first time in years, I made one – to avoid all discussions of the weather. For the most part, I stuck to it. I continue to refrain from weather smalltalk. We live in a northern climate. We have four distinct seasons and the weather changes from day to day. None of this is new or newsworthy. I would much prefer to chat about something someone read or saw or experienced; something someone is thinking about rather than the fact that it’s cold out or wet out or humid.
So no New Year’s resolutions to be made by this Chiquita. But in lieu of that, a wee recap of 2009 and thoughts for the coming year...
I began blogging last January with a project in mind, to read more and to try to lose weight. I set a seemingly achievable goal of 50 pounds and 50 books for my year’s project. One pound and one book per week, approximately. While I did not make my goal in either regard, I had a fabulous time trying and am still quite pleased to be a consistent 13 lbs lighter and having read about 24 books this year that I would likely not have read otherwise. In retrospect it was more like a pound a month and a book every two weeks give or take. Not too shabby all things considered.
Goals are important. I realized just how much so this past November, during my novel writing challenge. I am a person who needs goals to accomplish things. I like the structure, the accountability, the timeline. So I set goals for myself. And strive to meet them. Last year, I read a blog where the author chooses a defining word at the beginning of each year. Something to guide her, focus her attention. It’s a cool idea. If I had to pick a word for my 2009, it would be creative.
Without a doubt, the highlight of my year was the NaNoWriMo writing challenge which I participated in during November. I learned so much about myself as a writer in this exercise. I can actually see that writing is a real possibility for me as a career and life’s occupation. I have written a novel. It’s a messy, badly in need of several re-writes, research and massaging in every way, piece of work. But nonetheless, a novel it is. I am supremely proud of this achievement.
2009 was a year in which I also:
- Passed my exam and got my Project Management Professional certification
- Shared juicy stories and embarrassing moments, worries and triumphs sitting comfy on patios, at kitchen tables and on the couches of Postridge, Battenburg and Hibernia
- Drank sangria sitting on La Ramblas in Barcelona and walked happily and aimlessly along the beaches of Sitges
- Took in the magnificence of the Cliffs of Moher once again
- Cried happy tears at the wedding of dear friends
- Successfully lead several implementations at work which I believe benefit patients coming to hospital for chemotherapy treatments, pre-operative assessments, mental health consultations and cardiac procedures
- Became better acquainted with Annie Dillard, Alice Munro and David Sedaris
- Said no more
- Saved some, spent some but came out ahead
- Welcomed Matilda to our peaceful household in all her she-devilish, spunky, sweet chocolate lab beauty
- Shed quiet tears at the loss of another member of the family’s old guard
- Overanalyzed the nuances of politics domestic and foreign sipping pints at the Imperial and chatted books and religion at Dukes city wide
- Realized I need bifocals, made real peace with my curves and counted myself lucky to enjoy curls
Such is indeed the makings of a good year and I look towards 2010 richer for the experiences I have had. Much is made of the passing of the decade. In chatting with friends about this particular new year, I had really forgotten it was a decade marker until reminded of it in our conversation. Time certainly does pass us by quickly, which only serves to remind me of the importance of living in the present, fully engaged and aware. It reminds me of that Henry Miller quote about living. An apology for the misquoting but it goes something like: the aim of life is to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. Joyously aware sounds pretty good to me.
Despite that it is customary, which somehow conveys to me ordinary, I am not immune to the notion of setting a tone for the coming year. So in lieu a resolution and in honour of the decade that has past, here are ten ideas that I wish to make mine moving into 2010.
Read – Already I am all over this one. Whether newspapers, magazines or books; be the format online, soft or hard cover; purchased from independents (preferably) or big well stocked conglomerates, reading still provides me with one of the greatest joys and sources of inspiration, knowledge and food for thought. I look forward to the undiscovered joys that reading will bring to me.
Explore – Travel feeds the soul, at least this soul anyway. Unscheduled, aimless exploration of new parts of the world, different ways of communicating, eating, celebrating, depicting our history await me. The experience of it will alter me in ways I do not even know yet. But isn’t that part of the fun of it?
Write – My chosen form of expression, my bumpy struggle, exhilarating and more frustrating a journey than any I know. My hard won achievement, my joy and my challenge. I could easily have used the word communicate here or create or speak, rather than write. As hard as it often is, I cannot see a day without writing in my future and look forward to the excruciation and the bliss.
Present – I still have to remind myself every single day to try to remain present; to focus my energy and my attention on the here and the now. I know that yesterday is over and cannot be altered. Worry over tomorrow just takes away from today. Who I am with. Today. What I have to do. Today. What beauty surrounds me. Today. What help there is to give. Today, I strive to live presently.
Nurture – I am not a mother, but I do have a wee one at home these days. Not a baby, but a puppy. She’s a beauty and needs guidance. This year will be much about teaching Matilda to be a good companion, well mannered and easy to get along with as Murphy is.
Connect – Frequently I muse on the blessings I have in friendship and family. Relationships take work and while we all manage somehow to stay connected I recognize the importance of making time to venture westward or drag my arse out of the house and away from the computer for brunch so as to enjoy the personal bounty that has been bestowed upon me in the lives of these wonderful people.
Persevere – I am not the most disciplined person in the world. Far from it. Procrastination is still very much a regular in my arsenal of coping and copping out mechanisms. I learned this year that to just keep on struggling through provides you with, if nothing else, the sense of achievement at never having given up. I will write on, slim down, save and never, not ever, give up!
Gentle – Strength is good. But sometimes tenderness and a gentler approach work wonders. I am not good at this. I embrace my strength and wrap myself up in a coat of confidence that I know could do with some time spent hanging in the closet. What would my world look like if I was gentler with the earth, listened more to others, was less hard on myself and sat quietly observing rather than doing?
Conserve – Frugality is not something that comes naturally to me. I can certainly dial it down and do not really live outside my means. But balancing between what is necessary to truly live well and happily and thoughtless spending for the sake of the moment is worth considering.
Calm – It is not so much that I wish to be a calmer person, although there are times when I feel this would help me. Calm here to me means seeking rest, rejuvenation, quieting down and taking time to slow the pace and simply be, enjoy and think… calmly.
I have no idea what 2010 has in store for me or those dear to me. Peace on earth doesn’t sound too bad. I would hope to grow. I prefer that to a static state. Whatever awaits us, I know it will be an adventure. Regardless of where I find myself at the end of 2010, I am looking forward to the ride.