My 2021 Goals

I set goals every year, and I’m normally too shy to share them. But I’ve seen lots of posts over the last few days about goals and hopes for the new year, and I’ve found them all so encouraging. For what they’re worth, here are the goals I’ve set for 2021. I’m nervous to put them out there, but you all have made me feel brave and inspired. So, here goes!

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Go hiking and get outside more often

Whenever my husband and I travel, we hike. We’ve done big hikes and small hikes, and I’ve loved them all. I’m not the fittest person out there, but I’m pretty capable.

I don’t do a lot of hiking in my everyday life, though, and truthfully, I spend a lot of time inside. In my pajamas. I’d like to change that this year, and plan a good hike at least once per month. And, you know, just be outside more. There’s a lovely patio out back, after all, and I’m sure it would be nice to do some writing in the sunshine every now and again.

Make some improvements to the house

I love my house. I know I talk about it a lot. But I really, really love it. It’s the first place I’ve lived in my adult life that really feels like home.

In 2021, I’d like to spend some time painting, decorating, cleaning up and refreshing, and maybe even renovating (lightly…and inexpensively). I’ve not made a complete list of what I want to do, but I would like to make my home a priority in the coming months.

Continue to work on and grow this blog

And to engage with my wonderful followers. I’ve gained over 100 this year, and you all are amazing. Thank you for reading! And for writing and sharing your own thoughts and stories. 😊 In the new year, I’d like to gain 100 more followers, and to put out good, interesting, creative content that resonates and gets people thinking.

Start a YouTube channel

This is something I actually wanted to do in 2020, and I just chickened out on it. It’s kind of intimidating to think about being on camera. But I would love to take you all along on some of my adventures, especially in the beautiful Virginia countryside.

And to show you what it’s like to live in a very old house, and to just share some of my day-to-day life with you. What else would you like to see? Let me know. Maybe it will help me be brave enough to actually get something up and running!

Finish a novel

Oh yes, the big one. The main goal. The dream. I’ve been in some phase of working on a novel since 2016 when I started this blog. I’ve got several in various states of doneness. This year, I’d like to actually finish one. And then, if I can work up my courage, start the hard work on trying to get it published. Maybe to hold myself accountable I’ll do a weekly or monthly feature here. Is that something you all would like to read? I think it would help me to share the journey with you.

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And there they are, out there for everyone to see. I feel like by posting them here, perhaps I’ve spoken them into being. 2020 hasn’t been the year I thought it would be, but I’ve worked hard and accomplished a lot.

2021 will be better, I hope. I certainly plan to do everything I can to make it as good and as happy as it can be.

Oh, and one more thing!

I actually have a super exciting project to announce. It’s been a labor of love for the last several months, and I’m so excited to share it with you guys at the beginning of January. So stay tuned!

And on my December short story…

It’s almost done. It’ll be up on Wednesday. I swear.

Merry Christmas! (But It’s 2020…)

Well.

Hmmm.

I honestly don’t know where to start.

To say that this Christmas has not gone according to plan is an understatement. We aren’t where we thought we’d be. We aren’t spending time with the people we thought we’d be seeing. And I’m not making a lovely dinner for my husband’s wonderful parents.

Yeah, 2020 threw us yet another curveball.

But, you know, it’s fine.

We’re home, and we’re safe and healthy. It snowed a bit this morning. The Christmas tree is all illuminated and there’s a fire in our fireplace. The cat’s napping and the dog’s being cuddly, and we’ve got vanilla crème brûlée in the oven and a roast in the Crockpot.

I’m thankful for all of it. My heart goes out this year to everyone who isn’t so fortunate. This is a Christmas we’ll all remember, I think, and not for the best reasons. But I hope we’re all the happier for it next year, when we can hopefully celebrate with family and friends. And without worry.

From my home and my heart to yours, merry Christmas! I wish all of you joy, love, warmth, comfort, and very good wine (or the tasty beverage of your choice).

And I promise to have my short story up next week.

A Note on My December Short Story

I’ve been plugging away at my December short story this week. I think I like what I’ve got and where I’m going. My original goal was to post it today, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. So, I’ll try to post on Friday. It’s a Christmas story (I think), so it would make sense to post it on Christmas Day (I think).

If not by Christmas Day, then it will be next week.

By the end of December, there will be a new short story on this blog.

I don’t struggle with deadlines, I think, so much as I struggle with ideas. I’ve got lots and often I’ll start a few different stories at once and see which one finishes first. I’ve started two different stories for December, and I like them both. I’ve put in a similar amount of time on them at this point, but I think I know which one I’ll focus on in the coming hours/days.

I don’t know yet quite where it’s going, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it gets there.

I think that’s my favorite part of writing, at the end of the day. I love the journey. I love starting with almost nothing – a character, or a sentence, or a setting, or a few lines a dialogue – and building a whole world in the course of just a few pages.

There’s nothing quite so tantalizing and terrifying as a blank page.

So, onward, and we’ll see where I get to. Or rather, where the story takes me. Somewhere good, I hope, and a bit Christmas-y.

Found Friday #16: A Very 2020 First Snow

I don’t think anyone expected a winter storm to hit Virginia in December. It’s certainly not an impossibility in any given year, but we normally have to wait a little longer into the season to see any real wintry weather.

It’s been a year full of surprises, hasn’t it?

Wednesday started off snowy, and it was so lovely. My husband got a fire going – the first of the cold season.

It snowed until about 3:00 p.m. – big flakes and small flakes, heavy showers and light. It was beautiful. Really, really wonderful. I’d say we got about four inches.

I love snow. You know what I don’t love?

Ice.

You see it, right? See, after about 3:00 p.m., the weather turned, and my quiet, gentle snow showers turned into evil, spiky little ice crystals. And they worked fast. Like, scary ice storm kind of fast.

The thing about ice – one of many reasons that I don’t like it – is that it’s heavy. And when you live in the country, on a property with lots of trees, heavy ice can be a real danger.

Case in point: We had to call the fire department because the limbs of our birch tree were so laden with ice that they ended up resting on the power lines, and started to spark and flame up, and kept at it all night. It was terrifying, and we’re expecting a visit from the power company to do some serious trimming.

So, I spent an anxious evening and a largely sleepless night worrying about a fire near the power lines, and listening to ice ping against the windows and the metal roof.

But I have to say, it sure did look beautiful by the morning. Almost pretty enough to forget how much I hate ice.

I mean, come on, it doesn’t get more Christmas-y than red berries in the ice and snow.

And the willow looked like something out of a fairy tale.

This wasn’t the first snow I was expecting. But this is 2020, so this was the first snow that I got. We’ll see what else this winter has in store for us. I, for one, am hoping for NO MORE ICE. But always for snow.

Four Snow Haiku

Delicate and slow
Snowflakes descend from gray skies
And turn the world bright

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In rhythm with life
Like white petals on a breeze
Fragile crystals fall

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Powder coats the ground
Soft like sweet icing sugar
Dessert for the eyes

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This new snow globe world
Brief and fleeting as a breath
Fantasy made real

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I love snow. I’ve always loved snow. I like the way that life slows down when it snows. I like the reminder that fragile things – tiny, delicate things – like snowflakes, can have a huge impact and tremendous power.

A December snowstorm is a truly rare thing here in Virginia. The forecast has changed several times over the last hours, so I’m not sure how much snow we’ll get today, but I can tell you one thing:

I will enjoy every single millimeter and every single moment of it.

Waiting for Snow

For days and days,
we watch.
And we wait –
for the cold snap,
the good pattern,
full clouds and low pressure,
the track and the timing,
elements that must come together.
Warm breath on the crisp air,
red noses, chilly fingers,
hats and gloves
and hot chocolate in hand,
we watch and we wait
for the delicate promise
of the season’s first snow.

Found Friday #15: The Perfect Present

It seems like every Christmas, my husband and I end up stressing about presents.

To be fair, the two of us approach the act of gift-giving in fundamentally different ways. Though we both love giving presents, I tend to be more impulsive. I’ll see something I think someone would like, and buy it, and then find a few other items that just seem to fit with it, and consider my job done. My husband is thoughtful and cautious, and can spend hours looking around for THE perfect present. And whatever he gets, he often feels it isn’t enough.

And don’t even get me started on wrapping gifts. I’m really, really bad at it. I suspect it’s genetic.

(Okay, that was a joke. Sort of. I am terrible at wrapping gifts, but the beautiful, handmade blanket wrapped up in that picture was absolutely too large and unwieldy for any kind of real wrapping paper, so my parents improvised. Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention.)

Here’s the truth: presents are my least favorite part of Christmas.

There, I said it.

I love making people happy – love, love, love the way a friend’s face lights up when I’ve given them something they truly need or want – but I think at Christmas, the best way to be happy is just to be in the moment. The holiday season gives us all a chance to slow down and enjoy decorations, music (my actual favorite part of Christmas), good food, and time with the people we care about (my other actual favorite part of Christmas). I hate getting lost in the anxiety of buying stuff.

So, I suppose this post is more about something I haven’t found than something I have, but I’m genuinely curious: What’s your favorite part of the holiday season? And if it’s gift-giving, please tell me your secret! How do you do it? I have to know!

What scares you the most about writing?

Someone told me once that they wouldn’t be brave enough to write, and that I must be very brave to try. I’ve been thinking about that this week, as 2020 comes to an end and I set goals and dream dreams for next year.

I’m not a very brave person. Truly. I’m afraid of heights, snakes, flying, germs (ESPECIALLY NOW), crowds, ladybugs (Don’t ask. I don’t know either.), and the dark. Yes, the dark. And yes, I am in my thirties.

When I decided I wanted to write – really write, and make a career of writing – it wasn’t out of courage. It was out of desperation. I felt like there was nothing else in the universe I could do, and do as well, as write, and that if I didn’t get my words out there, part of me would just…shrivel up and die. And I felt like I was perilously close to that happening, and I couldn’t let it. I couldn’t lose myself.

I know. It sounds very dramatic. I’m a Leo. And an only child. And a retired theatre kid.

But the sad truth is, writing scares me, too. I figure anything worth doing should probably scare you a little, and sharing my thoughts and my fears and my hopes and my demons with the world is pretty frightening.

The thing that scares me the most, though, more than anything else, is that once I write and put my words out there, they don’t belong to me anymore. They belong to anyone who reads them. And once I’ve sent my poems and stories and essays out into the great, wide world, I hope they’ll find the people who need them, who want them, who will love them. But I know the world is not a safe, kind place for stories.

I write anyway. I think that’s the thing about life. You’ll always be afraid, and you’ll live anyway. Boats are safest in the harbor.

But that’s not where they’re made to be. So of course, I’m afraid to put my writing out there. But I do it anyway, because stories are meant to be read. And words are their own kind of magic. And I’d rather use the magic and be afraid than live a life without any magic at all.

Fragments (A Monday Poem)

Of course the big picture is beautiful.

It’s made up of a million little miracles –
small victories
and delicate pieces.

Beautiful all on their own,
these fundamental fragments,
and meaningful
not because they are part of something larger.
Just because they are.