Archive for January, 2011

Why Blog?

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I donít want to blog, but a really smart woman convinced me to do it. Thank you, Maryjo! So, here I am, even though I've always preferred journal writing over blogging because in my journal I can make mistakes and say whatever I want. I donít write because Iím eloquent, I write because it's always been my number one obsession, a kind of†tortuous self-therapy on automatic pilot. Even before I knew what I was doing was called writing, I did it. I find solace in it, but it's also horribly painful. The psychological hold and emotional aspect of the work can be too much at times. So, for my blog, I decided to take a break from my writing obsession and focus on some of my other obsessions. Some are things I never imagined Iíd find interesting and some are things that have always been my obsessions whether I knew it or not.

My first obsession:†My house. Or ìourî house, I should say. I say ìI should sayî because I couldnít have done it without my husband Dave, yet part of me is possessive because I bought it before I met him. It is my baby. When we talk about possibly selling it one day for a ìbetterî house, I scoff. There is no better house! After all, it is my first. After all weíve done to it, I have such a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. And I canít wait to do more!

Iíve always wanted my own house, even though I didnít realize it.†The desire came to light when I moved to Colorado for graduate school. My first thought was, why continue to pay rent when instead I can put those payments toward owning my own house? It was pure economics. What I didnít realize is that I wanted a house for other reasons: security, creativity, stability. I started to crave those things in a more tangible form after graduate school, when I began to recognize my flair for decorating. Even though I had lived in dumpy apartment after dumpy apartment since my sophomore year in college, I had always made those dumps my own. Posters, rugs, candles, lampsñwhatever it took to make my space comfortable. When I started fantasizing about painting my apartment walls and then tearing down those same walls to make an open floor plan, I knew I had to buy a house.

After finding a real estate agent who would actually help me after hearing my budget and finding out I was a poor, single woman, I finally found a house I knew I could love because I could make it my own. It was in terrible shape, but there was something about its style that I liked. I didn't know it at the time, but that style is "mid-century modern." "Brady Bunch house," I called it; probably because of the cathedral ceilings, the picture windows in the living room and the moss rock fireplace in the "den," which is really a converted garage. But the house I bought certainly was a fixer-upper; one friend later admitted that after he saw it, he wanted to warn me not to buy it. I wouldn't have heeded his warning, though: nothing could dissuade me, save for the inspector telling me the foundation was sinking. Luckily, he didn't say that. He did say a lot of other things, and since buying the house, I have done a lot to it myself and even more with the help of Dave, and I feel a sense of pride because of all we've done. Iím glad I didnít chicken out of the deal. I almost did, but my parents told me to go for it. I thank them for encouraging me. I think their faith in me gave me faith in myself. The one thought that kept going through my head, though, was, ìI canít buy a house!î Thankfully, that thought didnít win out.

In 2002, I started my home renovation by chopping down all of the overgrown foliage around the house and in the front and back yards. This was no easy task, but I needed a blank slate...

Tune in next month to find out where spiders go when you chop down their living quarters, what I found in the giant juniper bush as I hacked away at its branches, and handy landscaping tips for poor people, including, ìDonít stand on top of your roommateís van to trim trees with a bow saw...

Steps on the Journey

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Earlier this month one of our Under The Cuckoo Clock members - Cindy Strandvold - shared a paragraph that was part of a year-end message she received from her agent's agency:

"While it's exciting to see the year's successes listed this way, there are so many more things we are proud of that cannot be quantified--most notably, the countless times that all of our clients, published and unpublished, have pushed through self-doubt, gotten past rejection, continued to focus on growing in their craft, started new projects, brought others to completion, finished revisions, taken note of their own successes (in all forms), and held on to hope.† Each step on the path is worth celebrating, not just those that come with publishing contracts or starred reviews."

For weeks now I have not stopped thinking about the concept.
It was "each step on the path is worth celebrating" that touches a chord in me. I am endlessly trying to improve myself, to mindfully steer my course and reach long term and short term goals. My list is long!

Often I get so caught up in achieving a particular goal, I forget to be glad - in the moment - for what is happening right now.

Celebrate each step

*† Like celebrating when I sell a story to a local publisher.
*† Like celebrating when the subject of an article I write brings me flowers.
(Thanks, Heather Janssen!)
* Like celebrating when I write a blog entry here and post it on time.† 🙂

Each step is part of the journey, and thus, a big deal indeed. Thanks to the writers who sit Under The Cuckoo Clock for bringing chocolate (!) to give us pause, to notice, and transform each step into a noteworthy celebration - sweet in every way.

Cancer Is Cruel

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

When my sister Linda discovered a large mass in one of her breasts last summer, we all hoped for the best. Indeed, the news was first bad. ìYes, she has cancer.î And then good. ìThe cancer is contained in the one breast.î Then bad again. ìChemotherapy for a year. Surgery in about three months.î

As Linda began the chemo treatments she told everyone that she was in denial. This was not happening to her. She was just going through the motions to please the doctors and her family. She has vacillated between denial and depression since then. Her body has protested. It does not like whatever is being pumped into her. She has had constant problems with eating, with digestion, with lack of energy, with depression.

The time came to talk to the surgeon. Last Friday. I was there. Once again, the news was good and bad. The good, ìThe size of the lump has decreased significantly.î The bad. ìThe breast needs to be completely removed.î Linda asked, ìWhat about my other breast?î The doctor replied, ìWe recommend that you have it removed also. True, there is nothing wrong with that breast at the present time, but the odds of developing cancer there are high. Do you want to start this whole process over again?î The good news. ìYou will have a better sense of balance and you will not need radiology treatments.î

Linda moved from the stage of denial into the stage of anger. ìYou told me that if I had chemo for 18 weeks that the lump would be small enough to remove and leave the rest of my breast.î The doctor shook his head a bit, but did not reply. He allowed her to vent more anger ñ anger against him, anger about losing parts of her body, anger against her oncologist, anger against her family, anger about having cancer.

The surgery is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. next Monday. I will be there. Her family will be there. We will come through this together.

Never Cut the Cats

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Flash here. Donít believe what Cindy said last time she wrote. I was not in a snit. I was BUSY coordinating† an important mission, thank you very much. Someone had to provide the inspiration for the felines in the plot of her new story.

Then we heard from our agent who said there was too much unconnected stuff going on in the story. She told Cindy to decide what was vital to the storyline and cut the rest. She gave Cindy a whole list of possibilities, including the cats Iíd worked so hard to inspire.

Cut the cats? Can you imagine? I mean weíre talking about felines here. What could be more vital to the story? Of course, these particular characters are not nearly as cool as me, but still. You donít just go cutting cats out of stories willy nilly!

Where would we be if The Cat in the Hat, Garfield, and Puss in Boots had been cut from their stories, huh? Just thinking about it makes my tail bristle.

Cindy was sympathetic, but she told me, ìWhatís the point of getting an agent if youíre not going to listen to her advice?î

ìAnd what about your feline muse?î I shot back. ìIsnít his advice important? Iím the one who got you that agent!î

Cindy laughed and patted my imaginary head.

So I held my breath and put my claws in standby mode. Iíd worked too hard on my creations to give them up without a fight.

Cindy got busy over the next few weeks. She cut the evil government agent. She cut the parentsí death. She even cut the robot climax scene. But she didnít cut the cats.

Instead, she molded and shaped the cats until they were vital to the story. I let out my breath, thinking catastrophe had been averted.

Then she got another idea. One that changed lots of things in the story. One that made my cat characters less vital . . .

Stay tuned. I havenít given up yet. After all, I am Flash, Feline Extraordinaire. And everybody knows you should never, ever cut the cats!

Look What the Wind Blew In

Monday, January 10th, 2011


Look what the wind blew in early one fine morning.

It brought the month of January and came without a warning.

Temperatures drop, I shiver and shake.

A crystal glaze forms over the lake.

Snowflakes dance, fall from the sky.

Snowdrifts gather, ever so high.

Icicles shimmer without any sound.

Friendly snowmen stand jolly and round.

Jackets, mittens, knitted caps too

Snow boots, rosy cheeks, so much to do:



Ice Skating,



Snow forts,

Snow angels,


Hop, skip; jump, roll; slide and run.

Crisp, chilly weather means outdoor fun!

Laughter and cheers everyone can hear

Welcoming in a Happy New Year!

Thirty-one days, a wonderland of snow,

January passed quickly, until the wind began to blowÖ

What a Holiday This Was!

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

This Holiday†Season was†amazing. †Many events tumbled around us--friends fell into despair and confusion while we stayed at home. Colorado lay under winter storm warnings, but there was no traveling for us, thus†we never got stuck in the bitter blizzard conditions; we were not stranded in the ice storms. The worst thing that happened to me was I had to switch to arctic tundra boots to be able to feed hay to the horses and still my toes got very cold.

But, sorrowful and terrifying things did happen. Simply awful. One friend suffered a head on collision and was being lifted in the ambulance when her cell phone rang. The message was from a far; her elderly mother was dying. Another family I know limped thru the holiday with a broken heartóthis was the first Christmas since the passing of their little girl. And, a sister in the creative life, a writer and artist, buried her beloved husband.

Is it okay to mention the brighter side? One Christmas letter shared a story of recovery from a stroke, while another brought an address, so I could write a long lost friend back.†Plus, my little family was home, altogether! And, we opened many gifts from under the tree, tokens that reminded me that I am not alone. I truly enjoyed the games, the books, and the movies. I ate a lot of chocolate and enjoyed the feast of ham, casseroles and homemade treats. I had a long needed conversation with my very busy hubbie, and we found a path through the tangle of this empty nesting stage of life. Additionally, I rejoiced with the good news of a friends unexpected positive surgery outcome, and sighed a deep one of relief when another friend did not have breast cancer. I attended a Winter Solstice gathering and listened to Hopes as we waited for the end of the Long, Dark Night. Stars shown overhead, and filled my heart--these things matter.

This Holiday, between my radiant sparkling moments, I cried a lotófor the pain of people around me, and because so much of Life Happening scares me. I cried for myself, selfishly praying for Strength and Courage!

The older I get, the more I realize how fleeting this time is called My Life. In the bustle of all the shopping, I have learned to rest my eyes and grateful heart on the family Christmas tree, lost in the reverie of each glittering memento, treasuring the images of tiny hands and snaggled-toothed grins of my children as they handed them to me. They are grown ups now, busy and out there, more and more, †without me. But, I am learning to let go and love them as wonderful people set upon a course, rejoicing when they come to be with us.

Daily, I seek the Source of my personal strength, and clamor back on board every time a new twist dislodges my spirit.

For the New Year, I hugged each loved one and friend, generously. I want them to know they matter, that life with them has been so rich. The losses hurt. I mourn, and learn to let grief hone my sense of eternal gratitude.††

Thank you everyone, for coming into my life and for every blessing you have shown me, every Living lesson and excruciatingly painful bit. I try to live worthy of your gifts, everyday. Really.

New Year's Confusion

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

I love getting a new daily planner every January with clean, unmarked pages. I put in my friendsí and familyís birthdays and check what day mine falls on. Until the 1st, I get impatient with my previous yearís marked-up planner wanting my new blank slate.

But this blank slate does not work so well with how I handle New Yearís resolutions.

Every year, I want to lose 10 pounds and exercise more. I plan to start jogging, to eat less and to eat healthier. But I quit my resolution sometime in January, figuring Iíll start in the summer, when the days are longer and seem to create more time for exercise with hot days to curb appetite.

What has happened with my repeat resolution is that Iím actually starting to take it seriously, turning it into more of a goal. Slowly, and I mean very slowly, I have tapered off my consumption of sweets, added in more healthy foods, including an apple or fruit for a snack, and stopped eating at the just-before-feeling-full point.

I guess what has happened to me is Iíve had a New Decade resolution for the 2000s.

Now itís 2011 and another decade, but I canít figure out my resolution for this year or the next 10. I certainly have goals, like publishing one of my novels, going to church every single Sunday, reading the Bible from cover to cover and painting enough paintings for an art show.

But I donít know what kind of resolution to have that would work for 2011, changing my behavior in the span of 12 months. Should I lose 10 pounds on top of the five I have lost? Should I run a mile a day? Should I do volunteer work, something I keep meaning to do?

I guess, though itís Jan. 1, Iíll have to keep thinking on that ñ so much for starting off the year with a bang.

Yes, I do not have a New Yearís resolution except to figure out one to have by the end of the month. All I can say is better late than never.