Blogging hiatus and a little R & R

The hot weather’s back and the timing is perfect for me to take a bit of a blogging break. I’m heading offline for a couple weeks, hoping to get a little extra writing done and maybe squeeze in some R & R.

R&R

I’ll be back in the traces and on schedule again by mid-August. Probably. Maybe. (But don’t count on it if this heat sticks around.) :|

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Piano whispers from an unknown history

Ghost-like memories of piano playing — years of scales, discords and sweet harmony from ivory keys — are hidden somewhere in the history of this old Chickering Victorian Square Grand Piano. No longer are visitors encouraged to play a tune on it. With its wires strung horizontally from left to right, rather than from front to back, its soft, subdued tones (listen) would be unlike what is produced by today’s pianos. But this one sits unused, silently overseeing the comings and goings of patrons in the lobby of a unique log building in BC’s south Cariboo.

Chickering Piano Keys-1

Jonas Chickering was the first piano builder in the United States, established in 1823. The Chickering brothers were known for building some of the finest pianos in history. This piano bears the Chickering name in gold lettering, but not in a style of text born by any other Chickering antique pianos that my research has unearthed, so I can’t vouch for its authenticity.

Chickering piano-1

(Click photo for larger view)

At one time a faded sign on it proclaimed, “circa 1883″, (or maybe it was 1853) but the sign has been gone for a while. Square grands existed from 1823 until the end of the 1880s. They began to lose favour when uprights became more popular, and were pretty well obsolete by 1900.

In the mid-1800s this one probably would have sold for between $800-$1200, the cost of a small house. One restoration site I visited offered fully restored Chickering square grands at prices from $30,000 to $50,000. I can’t afford one. Drat!

This particular piano sits against a wall, surrounded and topped by an accumulation of other collectibles from assorted eras. I wish I could rescue it! I’m not a great pianist or even a collector of antiques, but I want to clear everything off it, gently dust the keys and lower its lid against further insult.

I want to hear my daughters play it, or perhaps our church pianist — someone who understands all the emotion a piano can express and would appreciate its uniqueness and its place in musical history.

But I left it untouched… left with only photographs, and a longing to know its story.

Do you own a piano or another musical instrument? If it could talk, what story would it tell of its time in your household?

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“Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath
praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD!” 

[Psalm 150:1-6]

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Seeking summertime serenity?

Summer’s eve!

Anticipating deep breaths

of rose and peony infused air

Long, languid days

Luscious berries

blossoms and bees

Deck time

and solitude

Serenity-1

Whether skies turn out to be cloudless or cloud filled, the whole idea of SUMMER conveys an element of relaxation, a less scheduled pace and some vacation time. We covet getting away from the rat race, with stolen moments of serenity in holiday destinations or secluded garden sanctuaries.

Serenity-3

Is it realistic? Probably not. Vacations aren’t for everyone. There are no holiday weeks set aside in some calendars, no opportunities to ‘get away’. But most people still dream of summertime for simpler stress-free days, and time away from the mundane.

So how can we achieve that and make summer the special time we envision? Perhaps it means getting up a half hour earlier so we can sip morning coffee on the deck or porch steps, and savour the silence before the day’s routines begin. Maybe we can plan ahead… shuffle schedules to allow for an hour or two enjoying the flowers on a walk through one of the city’s parks. Or make a picnic supper, spread a quilt on the lawn and enjoy a quiet hour in the backyard.

If we’re among the ‘house-bound’ population, we could spread out that quilt on the couch or floor, order in some deli potato salad and cold chicken, and make up lemonade for a homestyle picnic, perhaps invite a neighbour in to join us for lunch or later for an old-fashioned hour of tea, cookies and conversation. Or if company doesn’t appeal, simply set aside an hour of uninterrupted reading with tea and the current book of choice. If we’re writers, that might be an uninterrupted hour of writing! We can put on a nature-themed CD for seaside background ambience, close our eyes and savour the serenity as we develop a plot.

The point is to be intentional about creating memorable times. We’re at summer’s eve. Get ready to leap in with abandon and find your unique moments of joy.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

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Cruising takes on a different meaning…

A little reprieve from cruise photos… sort of. Yesterday it was cruising of a different kind as hubby, son and grandson drove our two vintage vehicles to a large car show. ‘Old Car Sunday in the Park‘ is a Father’s Day tradition in our area and is “one of the largest shows of vintage, antique & collector vehicles on display in Western Canada.” Last year more than 1,340 vehicles participated. This year there were only 534 due to the threat of bad weather (which never materialized), but it was as much fun as ever! The organizers’ motto is, “If you love it, bring it!”  and it’s evident that a lot of people love their old cars, whether rusted or restored, classic or custom.

Our Vintage Vehicles

Our guys don’t claim to be ‘collectors’ — both the 1930 Ford Model A and the 1946 Willys CJ2A Jeep were acquired quite unexpectedly, thanks to the kindness and generosity of family and friends. But they both bring much delight to our men who appreciate their enduring heritage and enjoy tinkering with them.

What’s the appeal of old things? Why do we like old vehicles, vintage clothing, and the ancient history found in books, antiques and museums? I think it has a lot to do with the nostalgia created by these reminders of the lifestyle from a bygone era. We like to believe it was a simpler time, a time when quality and old-fashioned principles were held in higher esteem, and when a hard day’s work created calluses rather than stress. I doubt our forefathers would agree with that analysis, but what else is it? Why do Currier & Ives Christmas card collections remain so popular through the decades? Why do historical and Amish fiction continue to dominate book sales? Why do groups hold such successful car shows every year? I don’t have an answer. Do you?

What’s your opinion? Do you like owning any special reminders of the past?  What do they mean to you?

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Keeping an eye on the goal

The last day of March! That means it’s also the last day of my month-long March Madness and Speedbo projects. All the other participants will likely be joining me in a last-minute dash to the finish line, hoping to reach or exceed the goals so publicly set out before the start of this endeavour.

What then? Do we heave a sigh of relief that it’s over, and walk away? I don’t think so. I think you’ll find those who have persevered through the month will still be working on their projects tomorrow, or moving on to new ones. I know I will be. When one goal is reached, there’s usually another waiting in the distance. Keeping an Eye Out I think one of the main differences between those who succeed and those who don’t is the determination to push on… to keep eyes focused on a long-term goal despite failures or successes, challenges or disappointments along the way.

March is just one month out of twelve. April will return me to my Monday and Friday posting schedule, but in between I’ll continue to write the story that has kept me occupied this month. I didn’t get the first draft finished and I’m anxious to see how it ends.

What about you? Besides Easter, what’s on your horizon that’s enticing you forward into April?

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Chickadee Black-capped

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Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection,
not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.

[Martin Luther]

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March Madness 3: Fragile Reflections

Bubbles 1A couple weeks ago a granddaughter was here for the afternoon. One of her activities of choice was bubble blowing with Grampa. There are various soapy solutions and different shaped tools that all seem to work, although some produce better bubbles than others.

This particular afternoon the bubbles were very fragile. After blowing them she would try to recapture one, hoping it would balance on the wand. Each time a bubble was touched, however, it popped with a splat and splatter into the air.

Left alone, the bubbles were light enough to catch the breeze and soar away.

Bubbles 2

Thinking back on this I was struck with the similarities between those bubbles and my new WIP. One of the reasons I lean towards the ‘seat-of-my-pants’ kind of writing is because I like the unexpected pleasure of watching a basic idea develop into a beautiful story. I don’t generally talk much about it during the first draft because the concept seems fragile, and too much poking around can easily destroy whatever beauty my spontaneity may be creating. If I try to wrestle it into position, something that at first seemed exciting, begins to lose its appeal. The bubble finally pops and a rainbow idea disappears.

I’ve been moving gingerly into this new story, and now that we’re half-way through our March month of Madness it’s clear my original goal of a complete first draft isn’t realistic. As other MM hosts have suggested, it’s not a bad thing to step back periodically to evaluate what we’re doing, to redistribute our efforts over the remaining available time, and possibly even tweak our goals.

There is no shame in adjusting our goals, only in abandoning them. March 31st is only an arbitrary deadline. Do whatever it takes to stay focused on your destination but also retain joy in your writing. Don’t let anything burst that bubble!

Just sixteen days of this madness left. How are you faring? I hope you’re soaring!

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Hanging in there on a Monday

It’s Monday again… and I imagine many of you went into it already counting down to Friday. I happen to like Mondays, but I’m probably an oddity. (Stop nodding your head and laughing!)  Living through the week while being focused on something else is a little like what our resident squirrel does.

Squirrel 1

He took all winter to figure out how to work his way over the squirrel-proof bird feeder and reach the one beyond it that contains his favourite black oil and striped sunflower seeds.

Squirrel 2The problem is, he’s so enamoured by his discovery of the food, he sometimes forgets where he is.

Squirrel 3Squirrel 4He throws caution to the wind (along with a lot of millet) and neglects the important aspect of hanging on, occasionally slipping right off.

The fall to our deck is about seven feet, but if he misses that — and he often does — he falls fifteen feet to the gravel path.

Lack of focus may not be his problem so much as ineffective multitasking.

Squirrel 5

“Didn’t your momma tell you it isn’t polite to laugh at others?”

So, about this yearning for Friday business…. maybe wishing the days away isn’t as wise as putting all you’ve got into the present, even when you’re planning ahead for the weekend.

I’m sure there must be a writing analogy in this, but I don’t know what it is. I’ll leave it to your imagination. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to burying myself in my March Madness and Speedbo writing. :)

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March Madness: Taking a deep breath…

There is a moment, a thin slice of time just before something momentous is about to happen, when everything becomes still. It’s as though the world has taken a collective breath… waiting. I’m sure it happened as the hatch opened on the Apollo 11 to let Neil Armstrong out onto the surface of the moon, but I’m equally sure less history-making events have caused a similar response, though on a smaller scale.

  • Teetering at the outermost edge of the high diving board.
  • Listening for a baby’s first breath in the delivery room.
  • Watching the morning sun as it begins to break over the horizon.
  • Waiting for the hanging drip to drop from a melting blob of ice.

Icy Branches

I get a similar feeling every time I prepare to hit the ‘send’ key to whisk a query or submission into cyberspace. It happens the night before I begin NaNoWriMo every November, too. It’s easy to say, “Sure, count me in” when the event is weeks away. Faced with that last no-turning-back moment, however, I always have to take a deep breath to steady myself before I’m able to make the leap.

Today it’s all about jumping into March Madness. If you haven’t heard about it, or would like to join us, check out the details on Denise Jaden‘s post. (She’s our co-ordinator and Boss Lady.) This is my fifth year participating, and I know it’s all good.

My goal is attainable, but even if it isn’t, any progress I make will be useful. There’s no reason to feel hesitant. I have a fresh notebook on my desk; a new file has been titled and saved on the computer; the few notes (very few) I made about this new novel have been read and re-read. A fresh stock of Diet Coke fills half a shelf in the refrigerator. I’m ready… and yet I’m not. I never feel quite ready at this final moment. A whole litany of excuses rise up to taunt me. Fortunately I know there’s also a whole #wipmadness community that’s been holding its own collective breath, and is waiting to jump into this month of writing (or reading or illustrating… whatever you’ve committed to) with me.

Do you have trouble making a start on big projects, or are you one who starts with enthusiasm but perhaps has trouble staying the course? Together we CAN do this and accomplish our goals. March Madness here we come!

Let us know how you feel about leaping into the madness today, and then tomorrow be sure to head over to Angelina Hansen’s blog, http://yascribe.blogspot.ca, for Sunday’s check-in, and let us know how your first day went.

So here we are. We’ve arrived at the brink. Let’s link arms and race in together. ONE, TWO, THREE… GO!!!

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Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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March Madness (i.e., #wipmadness) is almost here!

We’ve reached that time again — our semi-annual dip into insanity. In November it was NaNoWriMo. Now March is almost here and we’re ready (sort of) to tackle March Madness. You’re invited to join the challenge. Whatever your bookish endeavour — reading, writing, blogging or illustrating, etc. — you tell us what you want to achieve in March, then you get busy and start achieving. Each day there’s a blog post to offer encouragement and act as a check-in location where you can report your progress and cheer each other on.

mm 2014 wordle

Author Denise Jaden coordinates us, and today is Goal Setting Day on her blog, so click on over there and let her know your March goals.  They don’t have to be mind-boggling ones. Make them reasonable — ones that you know are attainable but that will push you a little beyond your comfort zone. Then let your public declaration boost your willpower.

There will be loads of encouragement and prizes galore to help provide motivation. In fact, Denise is offering the first prize to someone who comments on her post TODAY. 

We’ll tweet regularly under the hashtag #wipmadness, and bloggers will be posting their encouragement every day of the month. There will be lots of great prizes available to those who check in regularly. Here are the daily check-in locations beginning here on Saturday, March 1st:

It all starts here on Saturday, BUT you need to get yourself over to Denise’s blog TODAY and let her know you’re committed to our mad-dash month of writing (or whatever your pursuit) and make yourself eligible for the very first prize giveaway.

Do it! Go on… don’t over-think it. Just click HERE and spill your plans to Denise. Then we’ll see you back here on Saturday for the kick-off. I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

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Procrastinating on Snow Days

BlogBlankWe had a friend, Nel, who maintained February always had at least nine sunny days.  She wasn’t a meteorologist but relied on her memory to substantiate the claim. When we started paying attention, it seemed as if she was right. February might be too soon to plant or mow, but nice days often had us outside, cleaning winter debris from garden beds and planning spring projects, like power washing decks and cleaning gutters.

Not this year. This February tossed winter fury at us by way of sub-zero temperatures, bitter windchills and — this past weekend — more snow. For easterners this wouldn’t be unusual, but we BC west coasters are offended! Enough is enough!

Snowy Squirrel

It was still snowing when I went to bed last night, but I think… I hope… this week’s rising temperatures will soon be melting our six inches of heavy snow into puddles and mud. It’s not that I like mud, of course, but it’s an inevitable forerunner of springtime, and now that the Olympics are over, I have my sight set on spring.

There are plenty of indoor projects that could use my attention, but if I can’t do what I want to do, then I might not choose to do anything. Yes, I’m reading books and organizing a manuscript, and for a writer those are valid, even necessary, occupations. But this ornery weather is putting a pucker in my seasonal intentions. It’s allowing me to procrastinate when I shouldn’t. I think I need to start a list.

I’m being flippant. If I procrastinate, the worst thing that might happen is a few tasks will be put off for another time. Is that a bad thing? Probably not, although it sets a bad precedent. Then again, I’m retired and schedules are a thing of the past, so who’s going to care? I do have a routine of sorts — things I do each morning — but beyond that the day is my own.

Hmm… not entirely true. If I were in charge of my day’s activities, I’d be gardening in the snow today, and that’s not going to happen. Ah, well… patience! The snow will eventually melt. I’ve never met a summer that was chilling under six inches of snow.

Do you procrastinate? Does it matter?

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