Sunday Supper #5: Happy New Year!

Hello, 2022! It’s lovely to meet you, and I hope you’re kind to us. Like, seriously. Please.

That’s pretty much where I am today. We had a lovely Christmas, and a very low-key New Year’s Eve and Day, and this evening, I’m mostly just pondering possibilities and wondering what this newest of years will bring. I’ve not made any Very Big Plans, though I have jotted down some goals, especially in regards to my creative work. More to come on that, and I think it’s going to be exciting.

But for now, I’d like to leave you with wishes for a wonderful, fulfilling, peaceful, exciting, creative, memorable, and most of all, a happy New Year. I hope you do cool stuff, make mistakes, learn, grow, draw, paint, dance, cook, eat, sing, read, write, and just generally live the best you can. And if you ever need a cheerleader, know I’m here, in your corner, even from the other side of the world, and I think you got this, whatever it is. Make 2022 a good one, y’all, and I’ll do the same.

Oh, and for supper: Taco Bell. Don’t judge. What’s a good year without a few tacos? 😉

Sunday Supper #4: Counting down to Christmas!

*A quick announcement before I share some Sunday thoughts: I’ll be taking next week off as a sort of holiday break. But I’ll be back on Monday, December 27th! Expect some post-Christmas musings and the last short story of 2021.*

Oh, man. Less than a week until Christmas. How did that happen? The month’s gone by so quickly, but I’m feeling pretty prepared and excited.

I’ve bought presents for everyone on my list, but I’ve not gotten around to wrapping them yet. The good news? I actually remembered to buy wrapping paper and gift tags this year! (Seriously, I’ve forgotten in the past. I’m not proud.)

The bad news? I forgot…basically everything else. Tape, ribbons, bows… Oops. So, we’ll do what we can this evening and finish up later in the week.

And I’ve got a Christmas feast all planned! Not that I’ve actually made a grocery list or done any grocery shopping yet. But that can happen later in the week, too. I’m sure the store won’t be crowded. I’m sure everyone else is more prepared than me. Right? RIGHT?! (I’m not fooling myself, you guys. It’s going to be crazy busy. But it’ll be fine.)

So, it’s actually just general chaos here as we get ready for the holiday, but it’s good chaos. I’m excited to give some fun gifts to the people I love. I’m excited to see my family and a few good friends (all vaccinated) for a lovely Christmas Day dinner. And I’m excited to see what the new year will bring. But, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. For now, presents, groceries, laundry, and some last-minute cleaning. A busy evening ahead, I think.  

What’s for supper, in the midst of the madness? Well, with everything else going on, I don’t really feel like cooking, so leftovers it is! Good thing we planned ahead and ordered a really big lunch.

And before I go and get started on…everything, I wish you all a very happy Christmas, or whatever you may be celebrating this month. May it be joyful, peaceful, and restful, and most of all, may it be filled with love. Happy holidays from Virginia, y’all!

Five Lessons I’ve Learned in 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve learned, what I’ve accomplished, what I haven’t, and how I want to set goals for 2022.

I didn’t always do this. I’m not a great planner, and sometimes it hurts to think about missed opportunities and bad moments from the previous year. But 2020 changed everything. I want to set goals. I want to make things happen and keep improving myself. I want to live every day with purpose, and live knowing that I’m doing my best. 2020 showed the world just how fragile life – and all of the things we’ve built around ourselves to be comfortable and happy – can actually be. So, here I am, looking back on this last year, and planning for the next one, knowing that all of my moments and all of my dreams are precious.

So, that was a big lesson from 2020. And I’m thinking tonight about what I’ve learned in 2021.

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Be gentle and patient with yourself.

Life’s hard enough without having your own self as a critic and an enemy. Things won’t always turn out the way you want them to. You can try and still fail. You can fail to try, and then have to deal with the consequences. That’s not a moral failing, or a sign that you’re not a good person or capable. That’s human. We’re all human. We are worthy of our own kindness and grace.

Life may get in the way of your plans. Make them anyway.

I had some big creative plans for this year, and though I’ve made a little bit of headway on them, they clearly haven’t materialized yet as I wanted them to. For the first half of the year, there was a bigger issue – an issue that affected more than just me – that required my full attention. So, I gave it. And it mattered. It made a difference. I made a thing happen. It meant changing up what I thought I’d be doing with my time this year, and that’s okay. I’ve still taken steps forward. And I’ll continue to take steps forward, even if they’re tiny ones, until I see my goals become real.

Failure is a teacher.

To be fair, I think I’ve always known this. I think we all do, but it’s a lesson we have to learn over and over, because it sucks to fail. There are few things harder for a human, I think, than to do your best and still not succeed. But it happens. And it will happen again and again. There’s nothing for it but to learn from it and take those lessons forward to the next task. If you’ve failed, at least you’ve tried, and if you’ve tried once, you can try again.

Every single second is a chance to start over.

Don’t give up on a day because you had a bad morning (or lunch hour, or just a bad moment). I’ve had to really contend with this, in the last year. It’s so easy to lose motivation, ambition, willpower – even hope – when things go south. But every breath you take is a chance to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again. Don’t wait. Don’t waste precious seconds of your life.

You’ll be scared. Do it anyway.

Hit send on that email. Type “Chapter One” on that blank page, and then keep typing. Send that text, make that phone call, book that ticket. If it’s important to you, do it, even if it scares you. You’re afraid because you care. And because you care, it’s worth doing. So do it.

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It’s been a strange year for me. So many ups and downs, moments of absolute relief, and joy, moments of abject fear, of sadness and worry. But it’s been good. I’m glad to be here, to be alive and to be working and loving and trying and singing and dancing (badly) and eating and breathing. And so as I close out my 2021, I look forward, and know that every step I take matters.

Sunday Supper #3: A Long Week, a Christmas Parade, and a Sleepy Sunday

Well, y’all, it’s been a long week.

Graham and I came back from Thanksgiving very happy (and very full of both love and delicious food), but also very tired. And we haven’t really had a chance to catch up on rest this week, but hey, that’s the holidays, right?

Seriously, though, it’s been a long week, but a good one, capped off by a lovely Christmas parade and celebration in the next town over (which we pretty much consider our second hometown, at this point).

The town wisely limited parking, so the crowd wasn’t as large as it has been in the past, but there were loads of people, all happy and smiling and enjoying everything this beautiful part of Virginia has to offer. I truly love to see it. And by yesterday evening, it looked like this:

Same spot, five hours apart. Crazy.

And it’s kind of crazy to think that we’ve only got twenty days until Christmas. But it’s exciting, and we know there are even busier days ahead. So we’ve taken this cloudy Sunday to rest, nap, relax, and generally do a whole lot of nothing. It’s been downright luxurious.

And for supper? Something decadent, I think. Pasta with a creamy, cheesy garlic sauce, bacon, and peas. Yes, perfect.  

Sunday Supper #2: Christmas Decorations, Thanksgiving, and Why I Love Champagne

I mentioned in my post on Friday that it’s been a busier week than I expected. And the truth is, it’s also been a not very good week. Bad news, coupled with busy-ness, and also not feeling great after my flu shot and COVID booster, and I’m seriously ready for a few good days with family and food. But in the meantime, Graham and I took back a little bit of control this weekend, and put up our Christmas decorations. Let’s make some happiness, y’all. Haul out the holly!

Yes, I decorated for Christmas yesterday. I have no regrets.

Let me explain.

I grew up in a household that put up Christmas décor after Thanksgiving and took it down before the new year. No judgement here. Honestly. But as I’ve made my own home, I’ve made my own schedule. And I like a Christmas tree.  (To see more about my decorations, look here and here. I have lots of beautiful heirloom pieces, and whenever I decorate, my family feels close. It makes my heart smile.)

So, here we are. Our Christmas decorations are up, Thanksgiving (for the U.S.) is coming, and I’m in my cozy chair, drinking some champagne in front of the fire.

I firmly believe that champagne is appropriate for every occasion. Sad? Have a glass of champagne. Happy? Glass of champagne. Questioning humanity’s very purpose? Champagne. Putting up Christmas decorations? Well, I think you know.

I hope that the week to come is better. But in the meantime, champagne. And what’s for supper? Roasted zucchini and yellow squash with kielbasa over rice. Easy, tasty, not super unhealthy.

A quick note, I’ll be taking a break from posting in the coming week, but I’ll be back on Monday, November 29th. I’ve got a short story in the works, and plan to share some of my favorite cold weather recipes. I hope you come back to visit! And if you’re in the U.S., or you feel so inclined, I wish you a good week to come giving thanks and being grateful for the little and big things that make life wonderful.

On sleep, and how I’m bad at it.

Some of you may recall a post from August of 2020 – Three Insomnia Haiku. And well, folks, here we are again, in the Land of Little Sleep. At this point, I feel like I must be among its most frequent and loyal inhabitants.

The facts are these:

  1. I have never been a good sleeper. Not once in my entire life.
  2. I’m apparently a good enough sleeper that I don’t qualify for heavier sleep aids (and I don’t really want to use those anyway), so melatonin and chamomile tea it is.
  3. They…don’t really work.
  4. See Number 1.

I don’t know how many of you know the feeling of staring endlessly at your ceiling in the dark, or of tossing and turning and never quite finding that comfy spot on your pillow, or of flipping through the channels trying to find something (anything) that might bore you to sleep or drown out the invasive anxieties running through your head. But if you’re dealing with any of that, then know that I am with you, my friend, and man, it just really, really sucks. And if you’re not, consider yourself lucky and enjoy that blissful rest you’re getting.

Why am I writing about this now? No idea, honestly. It was just on my mind. It’s been on my mind all day, as I’ve groggily moved from task to task, never quite focusing completely and thinking way too much about the possibility of maybe, just maybe crawling into bed tonight and closing my eyes and cozily drifting off with a purring Gatsby snuggled up beside me.

But I digress.

Or do I?

You know, I’m honestly not sure. I’m sleepy, y’all.

At any rate, if anyone has any clever tricks for falling (and perhaps more importantly STAYING) asleep, feel free to share them! At this point, I’ll try just about anything. Except warm milk. Ew.

Happy 35th to me!

Today’s my birthday!

I’m 35. Which feels an awful lot like 34. But five-ier? To be clear, I didn’t expect any life-changing revelations when I woke up this morning. And my goals for the day are pretty modest. I just want to enjoy the sunshine, read some books, eat something sweet, and hang out with Graham.

So, this post will be a little short so I can get on all of that. I think it’ll still be fun, though. Last year, I posted 34 fun facts about me. This year, I present to you, in no particular order, 35 of my favorite things.

  1. Chocolate malt milkshakes
  2. Hayao Miyazaki movies
  3. Hot coffee on a cold day
  4. Cold coffee on a hot day
  5. Earl Grey tea with lemon
  6. Chicago (the city)
  7. Chicago (the musical)
  8. Also Gypsy (the musical)
  9. Red Velvet cake
  10. The Blue Ridge Mountains
  11. Old houses
  12. New friends
  13. Old friends, too
  14. And old books
  15. And new books
  16. John Prine
  17. Neil Gaiman
  18. Yona of the Dawn
  19. Mozart
  20. Dirt roads
  21. Craft beer (and cider)
  22. Weeping willow trees
  23. Guitars
  24. Wood-burning fireplaces
  25. Antiques
  26. Foggy mornings
  27. Rainy days
  28. Winter
  29. Snow
  30. Chicken and dumplings
  31. Christmas
  32. Halloween
  33. Foxes
  34. The color blue
  35. Graham

Feel free to share some of your favorites! And if it’s your birthday today, too, then I hope it’s a fabulous one! Or, more precisely, I just generally hope you have a good birthday, whenever it is, and a good day today, too, even if it’s not your birthday.

Bonus Post! More Q&A!

Y’all, I missed some questions! With apologies to Shivani (whose blog you should definitely visit!), I’m answering them now. Because they’re good questions. 😊

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When writing a story, what’s the first thing you take care of?

It varies. Sometimes a voice will come to me first and I’ll start with a character, and sometimes, I’ll have a setting in mind. It just depends on what kind of mood I’m in that day and what’s standing out most to me. That being said, the first thing I usually do when I sit down to write a story is to make myself a cup of coffee (sometimes tea, but usually coffee) and to write a few journal pages, just to get any messy thoughts and anxieties out of my head. I find everything comes out a little more smoothly after that.

How do you decide on a catchy title for a story?

Honestly, I have no idea, and sometimes, I don’t. Choosing a title is sometimes more difficult for me than actually writing the story. It’s usually the last thing I do in the process, and by then, I just hope that the story is good enough. My best advice is probably just to keep it simple. The story’s the real work and the real reward.

EDITED TO ADD:

Are you sure your house isn’t haunted?

LOL, no! It’s almost 3:00 a.m., and I’m still up writing, and the washing machine just turned itself on and off twice in a row. Do you think the ghosts want me to go to bed already so they can do their ghost things before the morning?

Q&A! (Long promised, finally delivered!)

As promised, here I am with a Q&A. Hope you enjoy it!

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Why did you start this blog?

I started this blog back in 2016. I’d left a corporate job to pursue writing full time, and starting a blog as part of that shift just sort of felt like the sensible thing to do. It never felt quite right, though, and looking back, I realize now that I was scared. I didn’t want to put my creative writing out there, because I was afraid people wouldn’t like it. And I didn’t want to share too much of myself, because I was afraid people wouldn’t like me. I more or less rebooted this blog (and myself, really) in very early 2020, after my grandmother died. She was my last grandparent, and cliché as it sounds, losing her made me realize how fast life goes, and how quickly everything can change. I stopped worrying about being liked, and started thinking about what I wanted to create and how I could get it out into the world. And here we are today.

What do you have in mind for the blog in the next three months?

More stories, more poems, maybe a couple of travel posts. I’m also really intrigued by the six-word stories I’ve been reading, so that would be fun, I think. And I’ve thought about incorporating more posts about my writing process, and more inside looks at how I build stories. Is that something y’all would want to read? Let me know!

Weren’t you going to start a YouTube channel?

Yes! And it’s coming, I promise! My non-writing life has been pretty unexpectedly chaotic this year, and I’ve had to put off really digging in and getting started making videos, but I’m still planning to make it happen. I might even write some posts about how it’s going, once I get started. 😉

Still working on your novel?

Which one? I mean, yes. I have a love/hate relationship with my novel(s) at the moment. But we’re working through it.

Who’s your favorite writer?

Neil Gaiman. I’m also very fond of Kazuo Ishiguro.

What’s your favorite book?

That’s like asking me to pick a favorite star in the sky! I really like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read it many years ago and it’s stuck with me all that time. Recently, I’ve been reading Yona of the Dawn, which is a manga series and yes, I know that’s not the same thing as a book (or is it??), and I’m really invested in the story. Would recommend. And I still find myself thinking about The Song of Achilles, which I read at the beginning of this year. So, so good!

What does your name mean?

My personal name? Katie means “pure.” My mom chose it because she liked it. I’ve come around to liking it, too, but I desperately wanted a more unique name when I was a kid. I think a lot of kids do, actually. As for my blog name, I’ve lived in Virginia all my life, and I love it here. There are lots of places I’d like to see, and I can’t wait to be able to travel again, but no matter where I end up, Virginia will always be home.

Have you ever visited Waterford, VA?

Yes, I have! It’s a lovely little village here in Virginia, named after the one in Ireland, I believe, with some interesting Quaker history and lots of immaculately preserved historic structures. Graham and I actually looked at a house in Waterford, when we were searching for a historic home. It was our second choice, but a strong one, and I think we would have been quite happy there. Or in Ireland.

Tell me more about your house.

Well, I’ll start by saying that you don’t live in an old house so much as you experience it. And you’re not really the owner of an old house so much as you’re the steward. At least, that’s how I’ve always looked at it. I grew up in a small town with lots of history, and two main streets lined by beautiful old homes, and it was always a dream of mine to own a historic home of my own. It took over a year to find the right one.

Is it ancestral?

No. It’s housed many a family in its long lifetime, and I’m sure Graham and I won’t be the last.

Did you restore it?

We’ve done a few projects, and we have a few more to do. We bought it in good shape, though.

What’s your favorite part of the house?

I have several! I write in a comfy chair by the window and fireplace in my living room, and so I’m quite fond of that spot.

I also love the stone walls in the basement.

And the view. I love the view.

And I know it might be hard to believe, but I really love my small, practical kitchen.

Easy to use, but more importantly, easy to clean!

Is it haunted?

Depends on who you ask. Graham doesn’t think so and I’m pretty sure it’s not, but some of our friends are totally convinced it is. Either way, I think it’s a happy house, and we’ve always felt very comfortable. I did have a friend ask to come in and do a ghost hunt, and I was like, “No! Absolutely not! I have to live here when you leave!”

Tell me a funny story about when you were in school.

Here’s me, in high school, playing Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I once argued with a high school English teacher over whether Welsh sounds like French. (It doesn’t.) I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I was the kind of kid who…well, who just couldn’t. I also got in trouble in kindergarten for using paint brushes as drum sticks. Oh, and I broke my arm pretending to be a monkey on a set of monkey bars (isn’t that what they’re for???). Is any of that funny? I don’t know. I was an academic, musical kid, and I took myself super seriously. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I really embraced my silly side.

Do you have a favorite friend?

I’m fortunate to have a great group of wonderful friends, and since I’ve been working on the Better Friendships podcast, I’ve really started looking at friends and friendships differently. All of my friends bring happiness and value to my life in their own ways, and I treasure them for who they are and for how they each make my life a little better.

What do you think of The Gondwanaland?

I’m a fan! 😊 Thanks for asking, so I could say so!

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And that’s it! This was kind of fun, I admit. Maybe I’ll do another one when I hit 500 followers. We shall see!  

I wonder where we’d be?

On this day, two years ago, we’d made our way to Vík, Iceland.

A night later, we’d see the Northern Lights for the first time.

On this day, last year, we sat at home, wrapping our minds around quarantine and social distancing, with barely an inkling of just how much the world was about to change.

Today, I’ve spent the day plugging away on my laptop, and so has Graham. He’s outside now, trimming back a hazelnut bush in our front yard. In his pajamas. And I’m still on my laptop. Also in my pajamas. No itchy business casual attire for me, here in my house with only my cat to critique my lack of style.

I wonder where we would be right now if not for the pandemic. I’m sure I’m not alone. And I’m not impatient. Safety and health are never far from my mind, and I will wait this thing out in my house in my pajamas for as long as it takes. I’m grateful that we’ve not gotten sick, that our families are safe and healthy, that we have money coming in and a comfortable place to live and pretty much all of the creature comforts anyone could ask for. I am so grateful, in fact, that I sometimes feel overwhelmed and undeserving. How lucky we are. I never forget.

But I do sometimes find my mind wandering. To places we’ve been. To places we’ll go. Right now, I’ve mind-traveled to Japan, where I’m enjoying a big bowl of miso ramen with corn and butter on the island of Hokkaido.

One day, we’ll get there for real. For now, though, pajamas and home and the familiar clack of my laptop keyboard it is. And that’s okay.