Out with the old, in with the new (not years)

Who still has hanging flower baskets blooming in December here in the Pacific Northwest? Even the local nursery has abandoned attempts to keep theirs presentable so I’m not sure why mine are still growing. Admittedly, the blooms are few and small, but geraniums are geraniums, regardless of size, right?

My hubby had taken all the other tubs of anemic annuals off the deck in mid-October after Thanksgiving, and carried the patio furniture down to the basement where it will wait out the winter months. But the baskets still provided a minimal bit of cheerful colour as they dangled outside our family room windows.

At least, they did until this weekend’s frost. Despite the protection of the overhanging eaves, sometime during Friday night they shivered themselves out of attractive into bedraggled. Without its tiny white blossoms the bacopa maybe didn’t look too bad, but everything else…? Meh!

Yesterday we ventured out to a tree farm and cut our Christmas tree, and as my hubby was setting it into its stand this afternoon, he decided it was finally time to remove the waning greenery.

I kind of hate to see the baskets go. They’ve hung there since early May and survived through blustery late spring winds, summer holiday neglect and torrents of fall rain. I feel like I owe them something in exchange for their persistence.

Then again, it IS Advent now and the outside Christmas lights twinkling above them seem a bit incongruous.

So, “out with the old and in with the new”…greenery, that is. The sickly lantana and geranium leaves have gone to compost heaven and from the other side of the window pane I’m now enjoying the fragrance of fresh fir adorned with cheery baubles, not blossoms.

I’m sure I could find a writing analogy in this if I tried hard enough, but at the moment I’d rather just sit here squinting at the tree lights and pondering Advent thoughts. Taken totally out of context I am reminded of an applicable scripture verse:

“…the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” ūüôā ¬†[2 Corinthians 5:17b]

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Wishing you abundant Hope on this
first Sunday in Advent.

 

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Time Out for Renewal

Many of us love renewing our homes (ahem…yes, guilty). Most love shopping to refresh wardrobes (meh…not so much). Some love travelling to discover new locales (hmmm…it depends on the locale). Too few of us take time out to renew, refresh or discover ourselves.

It could be as simple as snatching ten minutes to sip tea on the porch, a morning to wander or work in the garden, or a day to turn aside from social media and focus on something we’ve been wanting to do just for ourselves. Summertime is when we are most likely to take a break, but there is no ‘right’ season. For writers, it might be whenever the words are piling up against an invisible barricade; for parents, when exasperation is approaching an explosion point; or maybe for workers, when demands of the job have become numbing.

(Consider clicking on photo to enlarge)

None of those scenarios really describes my situation, but I am taking some time out to renew something important to me. August is usually my time to escape¬†from social media. It’s my scheduled ‘time out for renewal’. My camera and I will capture my under-the-radar doings and share them when I re-emerge.

What will you be up to in August? Are you planning anything that will help you renew, refresh or discover?

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“Do not conform¬†to the pattern of this world,¬†but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.¬†Then you will be able to test and approve what God‚Äôs will is‚ÄĒhis good, pleasing¬†and perfect will.”
[Romans 12:2]

“I will refresh the weary¬†and satisfy the faint.”
[Jeremiah 31:25]

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Renovation Celebration!

WhooHoo!!! Our ensuite bathroom reno is complete! Hubby tells me he’s taking me out for a steak dinner tonight to celebrate.

Huge kudos to contractor Ron Cobb (RNC Renovations) and his crew for keeping the process pleasant and creating exactly what we had hoped for.

When we moved into this built-in-1991 home it was only five years old and we were thrilled with all it had to offer. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it over the past twenty-two years and hope to continue here for several more. But neither of us is as young as we need to be to keep up with its maintenance or the 2-1/4 acres of property. Eventually there will come a day when we have to downsize. It’s when we thought about that, and looked around us with the eyes of a potential buyer that we realized how much updating it really should have.

The budget dictated when and how much we could tackle. In 2015 we did a minor renovation of the kitchen. In 2016 we totally renovated the main bathroom. And this year we finally got to our ensuite bathroom.

We kept the original odd floor plan (a reverse “Z”), because it works fine for us, and we would have had to cut into the bedroom’s walk-in closet to change it anyway. ¬†We chose the same tiles and colour scheme to¬†coordinate with the main bathroom which was renovated in 2016. I never disliked the old bathrooms, but the new decor feels so much brighter.

A few people have said they wanted to see Before (L) and After (R) pics, so here they are.

 

The Jacuzzi tub that only our grandchildren used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now a freestanding soaker tub with floor mounted faucet and hand-held shower.

 

 

 

 

The old brass trimmed shower with full tiled walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replaced with a frameless shower with half glass wall (to allow more light into toilet enclosure), rainhead and hand-held showers.

 

 

 

 

Our 1991 oak vanity with laminate countertop and blinding “landing strip” lightbar.

 

 

 

 

 

Grey vanity with matching mirror, quartz countertop, updated light fixture (plus there are pot lights around the ceiling), and a heated floor.

 

 

It isn’t a large room, and it isn’t as fancy as some people might have chosen when renovating, but it’s a significant upgrade for us and feels serene and luxurious. Now it’s time to go luxuriate in it.

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June Jottings

June! Another new month well underway. We’re four weeks into our en suite renovation and I’m happily watching the bits and pieces come together. Well, yesterday happily would have been stretching it. Yesterday it was anxiously.

Carrara marble fools us into thinking it is white with grey veining, but when one is trying to match the background ‘white’ with paint for the remaining walls, it’s not white at all. I know that from the renovation of our other bathroom which has the same tiles. Last time, my colour choice wasn’t exactly what I intended, so this time I was determined to find the right shade — a greyish-white with a slightly blueish undertone, the same as the tile. There are thousands of off-whites, but I was pretty sure I had found the right one this time. It wasn’t until the painter had left after finishing the first coat that I looked in and saw…blue¬†walls. Ack!!!

I stewed about it for a bit; actually, for quite a bit. I figured I would once again have to swallow my mistake and live with it — after all, it¬†was¬†a pretty shade of pale icy blue — but I¬†really don’t want blue walls! That’s when having a wonderful contractor paid off. I finally sent a timid text message, — “What can I do if I don’t like the paint colour I chose?” — which initiated a flurry of action and less than twenty-four hours later the painter was back, with buckets of new paint. I apologized since it was my mistake, but was told, “No problem. We want you to be be happy. We want you to love your new bathroom, not just like it.” I tell you, these people* are awesome!

~

It’s not just tile setters, electricians, plumbers, drywallers and painters that have been working around here. Hummingbirds have also arrived. I’ve blogged frequently in the past about our busy little visitors but they continue to entertain, flitting and fighting as they do.

While there are also Anna’s Hummingbirds along BC’s west coast, only the Rufous ones come to our feeder. They’re the feisty ones. They’re also the ones with the longest migratory flight of any other bird, relative to their body size — 3,900 miles from Alaska to Mexico. They “make a clockwise circuit of western North America each year…up the Pacific Coast in late winter and spring, reaching Washington and British Columbia by May. As early as July they may start south again, traveling down the chain of the Rocky Mountains.”**

The females are mostly green, with rusty shading. The males are bright rusty-orange. Feisty as they are, occasionally they buzz me when I’m out on the deck, but other times they’ll sit beside the feeder and watch us with caution and curiosity, as this one did. I think she knows where her ‘bread and butter’ comes from!

Female Rufous Hummingbird

 

Male Rufous Hummingbird

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Writing has too often taken a back seat to being a ‘sidewalk superintendent’ and birdwatcher lately, but I¬†am¬†moving slowly ahead with a new story.

Tomorrow is registration day for this fall’s Surrey International Writers’ Conference¬†(yay!!!),¬†which provides ¬†lots of motivation. I’ve managed to get there more often than I ever thought possible and always experience a wonderful weekend of inspiration and professional development shared with my daughter, the¬†award winning writer Shari Green! (How I love being able to say that.)

Lots happening. Lots to look forward to. Oh, and summer’s coming. ūüôā

~  ~  ~

 

* RNC Renovations
** All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Writing Despite Distractions

Sounds of a table saw and power nailer add to the smell of freshly baked bread and contribute to my Saturday morning distractions. My hubby is outside, glad for the sunshine as he power washes the final side of the house, and I’m sorely tempted to abandon my inside chores and escape out to the garden. But I mustn’t. Not yet.

I promised myself I wouldn’t let this week slide by without finishing a chapter in my new manuscript and writing a blog post, so I’m chained to my laptop until that’s accomplished.

It can be difficult to ignore distractions, especially appealing ones, but I try hard to stick to my priorities which, right now, are to rough draft a second book in a series, then return to an older story and rewrite it to become the third. I don’t have a definite timeline, but am squinting hopefully at year end.

Aspiring writers are often heard to say they’re going to write a book sometime¬†… perhaps when the baby finally sleeps through the night so they aren’t always exhausted, or when the children are in school, or when retirement from the day job arrives … sometime,¬†when they have time. The problem is, time rarely makes itself available. Parkinson’s Law says, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion” and Isaac Asimov’s corollary to that says, “In ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day.

It’s a safe bet there will never be any leftover time, so whether or not a book gets written will depend entirely on the writer’s commitment to the task and the desire to make¬†time. I think all of us have dreamt of endless hours sequestered in a hideaway writing our life’s work uninterrupted from beginning to end. I think we also all know it’ll never happen.

Even full-time career authors and retired writers with no children at home acknowledge the reality of everyday life and the limitations it puts on time. I’ve always had trouble settling in to write when I know I have only a half hour, or some similar time restriction due to an impending appointment or meeting. But I’ve learned to recognize that restless ‘I-don’t-have-enough-time’ voice as the negative influence it is, and to ignore it. Even short sessions can be productive.

In proper manuscript format, one page consists of about 250 words. Depending on the genre, a first novel is usually no more than 90,000 words, so if a person could steal enough time to draft one page per day, that would produce a finished novel in one year. Just one page! Some days I can write an entire chapter; other days I struggle to find those 250 words, but it averages out.

For the next month or so the main distractions around here are going to be the coming and going of workers doing the renovation in our en suite bathroom. They have their supplies and equipment in one bay of our garage, so they come in through the adjoining door to our laundry, and trek down the hall through the middle of the house. They are very considerate, but inevitably there is noise and dust and frequent questions. (And in the middle of it all is our wild-child Labrador, unhappily kept away from the hallway by a cardboard barricade and advising me regularly that there are strangers in the house.)

Still, I will write. I have this story nagging at me, revealing its scenes in small bursts. When I know I won’t likely get all the needed words on a page at one time, I make notes as a blueprint for my next session. I want to get it done, and doing it is the only way.

How about you? What’s your dream? What distractions keep you from pursuing/achieving it?

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Sometimes you just have to slog on through…

I imagine most people have heard the quote, “The¬†best way out¬†is always¬†through.” [Robert Frost’s A Servant to Servants] I don’t know how many people agree with it, but it’s true for me as I muddle with decisions over renovation materials.

Bit by bit we’ve been updating our twenty-seven year old home, upgrading portions of the kitchen in 2015 and the main bathroom in 2016. Now we’re embarking on the en suite bathroom, and right from the get-go this renovation has been challenging.

It shouldn’t be. The colour scheme and materials are the same as we used in the main bathroom — the same bianco carrara tile floor and walls around tub and shower, the same decorative mosaic accent, light grey cabinet with a dark grey quartz countertop, white fixtures and chrome faucets. It all pulled together quite easily last time, but now …? Ack!

In a bath supply showroom the freestanding bathtub we wanted this time was waaaaaay too expensive, but we found it online from a reputable dealer for a much better price. There was a delay in shipping. The toilet we wanted was out of stock. We chose a different one. The desired tub filler wasn’t in store but could be brought from the warehouse in a couple days. After two long delays we gave up, cancelled the order and picked up an alternate. Two weeks later the original order came in and, despite having received its refund, we continue to get phone calls (three so far) to please come and pick it up. Then we couldn’t find an affordable rainshower kit in a design we liked.

The most recent pucker in our plan is tile for the shower floor. The other bathroom has a tub/shower combo, so tile wasn’t required. This bathroom has a custom shower stall, hence the need for a base. The contractor thought a plain white tile would work well, except we have a lot of iron in our water here and I refuse to have white tile or white grout in an area where standing water can stain them orange. We decided on a medium grey.

I found the perfect one — actually, our young granddaughter found it; it’s the one in the right hand bottom corner of the above photo — but when the contractor went to collect the tile order, that particular one had gone out of stock, was no longer available, and they had nothing else like it. ::sigh::

We selected an alternate at Lowes, got it home and found, away from the store’s fluorescent lights, it was almost black, not grey at all. Now we’ve chosen another, but I’m second-guessing the choice because it has veining in it that might be too ‘busy’ alongside the carrara. I couldn’t bring a sample home so won’t know until the contractor delivers it. Then it will be too late to change.

And so it goes. Decisions, choices, backtracking, second-guessing … a stressful process for me who likes things organized and straightforward. But there is no way to bypass this part of the process. We just have to slog on through.

It’s reminiscent of my writing-and-revising process. Some days the words come easily while on others they are plucked like eyebrow hairs, one at a time, sometimes painfully, from the not-so-creative pool. I recently finished a story, edited, revised and finally rewrote it, then edited again. There were moments when I just wanted to flush the whole thing, but the only way to finish was to trust my intuition and keep going. It’s out on submission now, but I know if it’s accepted anywhere for publication it will undoubtedly have to undergo even more revision.

I want things — bathroom and books — to turn out the best they can, so will take a deep breath and keep slogging on through to completion, hoping¬†the niggling internal voice is wrong and the end result will be worth the struggle.

How do you deal with misgivings and the taunts of your internal editor? 

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Thoughts on not much of anything…

A reprise from 2009. I hope you don’t mind.

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I’ve been thinking. What I write here varies with my mood, but the two topics that most often turn up in this blog are my novel writing and my locale. If you were a fly on the wall here, you’d understand why that’s so.

In this semi-rural retreat I call home, I am surrounded by trees, a bit of wildlife, and the stillness that makes for a perfect sanctuary. Nighttime moonlight flits between the darkened trees to find its way through the french doors beside my bed. Morning sunlight filters through trees to bring its warmth into the livingroom.

With hands wrapped around a coffee mug I stand at the bank of windows in our kitchen/family room and check out the slash of deer tracks punctuating the leftover snow in a sheltered corner of the back yard, and watch a lone Towhee who has arrived on the deck for its breakfast. There is no place I’d rather be. When my thoughts settle into this groove my subjects are home and hearth.

Other times my mental closet of plots and process reaches spillover stage and the ideas that tumble out are random aspects of novel writing — the quirks of the Muse, character development, storylines, revision frustrations, even agents and rejection dejection.

There isn’t a lot of logic to why and when creativity clicks into gear or what writing will result when it does. I’ve learned the important thing is not so much what I write but that I write. My responsibility is to keep trying and eventually I become a channel for ideas that need to materialize. Then I simply have to find an appropriate title to attach and launch the creation into cyberspace.

So, with that revelation, here’s today’s contribution.¬†(Not much content, is there? It’s indicative of the state of my morning brain.)

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