Staring Down a Busy Week

We all know the feeling:

It’s Monday morning. You wake up, crawl out of bed, find the caffeine, open your laptop, and there it is – the list. Or maybe that’s just me. I make a weekly to-do list in Excel. It’s color-coded. At any rate, you look at your list and think, “Oh man, there just aren’t enough hours…”

And that’s me, this week.

My color-coded list is full of time-consuming tasks, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage. But I will. I’ve done it before. And I’m excited about the work I’m doing (including my short story for June!), so I’m grateful. But man, I wish I had more hands and more time.

Don’t we all?

Weeks like this remind me to be thankful for the quieter times, and to really soak in those still, carefree moments. I’ll get back there eventually.

But for now, to work! Happy creating, y’all!

A Weekend Break

Graham and I will be spending time with family this weekend. We’ve not seen some of these folks in ages, and we’re so excited. 🙂 So, in light of that, I’ll be taking a short break from posting. I’ll be back on Wednesday, June 22nd, though, hopefully with some good stories to share and good memories to keep.

Be sure to check back next week, and in the meantime, happy creating, y’all!

Reflections on an Accidental Week of Writing Poetry

I mentioned in Friday’s post that last week’s all-poetry theme wasn’t intentional.  The fact of it is, even though I pretty regularly post poems here, I’m always sort of amazed that I’m writing them at all.

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a poet. In high school, I hated the lessons that involved writing poetry – not as much as anything to do with math, but a lot. In college, I stayed very (very) far away from any class that would have had me writing poems, a policy that kept me from getting a concentration in creative writing. And even as I started this blog, and my current creative writing journey, I remember thinking to myself: “Well, I can write anything but poetry.”

It’s all very strange, because I love poetry.

I love reading it, performing it, pondering it, memorizing my favorite poems and quoting them, usually in full and often at inopportune moments. And so I asked myself, over the weekend, why I’ve always had such a hard time with the idea of writing it. And I think the answer is really simple: I don’t feel like I’m good at it.

Rest assured, I don’t need validation or compliments here, though kind words are always appreciated. What I’m getting at is, I think, a larger issue in our culture, whereby we seem to be operating under the incredibly damaging and entirely false belief that if you’re not really good at something, there’s no reason for you to do it.

Not a great singer? No karaoke for you. Go sit in a corner and be embarrassed at your wobbly warble.

Not a good runner? Find another form of exercise. No running groups for you! You’ll slow everyone down.

Can’t draw? Get out of here, false Picasso. No room for your stick figures on this canvas.

And I’m sad to say that for the longest time, this is how I felt about poetry. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’ve read so much good stuff (hats off to you, poets of WordPress!), and so I fell into the trap. Why even spend my energy on it? No future for me in it, so it’s a waste of my time. I’ll never be great, so why do it at all?

Except, I was wrong. Of course I was wrong. And these last couple of years have been a journey of discovering just how wrong I was. Because the why has nothing to do with greatness, or compliments, or money. The why is so simple: I enjoy it.

I’ve found, as much to my surprise as anyone’s, that I actually, truly, completely enjoy writing poetry. It makes me happy. I love the rhythm of sound and silence, and the way the words dance when you get them just right.

For me, there’s joy in writing poetry, even bad poetry, and that’s enough.

And frankly, that’s enough for anything – drawing, singing, running, writing… You don’t have to be an expert, or a natural, or even any good, to enjoy something. And enjoying it is reason enough to do it. Life is just too short to live it without joy.

So here I am, a not-very-good poet, clacking away on my keyboard, enjoying myself and appreciating that poems exist in this universe and I can write them (sometimes badly). It’s taken me years to get here, but I can say confidently, in this moment, I write poetry.  

May’s Short Story (and some other thoughts, too…)

I’m working on it! Or, I’m trying to. And it’ll be up on either Monday or Tuesday of next week.

I’m writing this on Thursday, May 26th. It’s cloudy outside, and a little breezy, and I’m watching cardinals chase each other around in the birch tree by my back window. Sometimes, it strikes me how this planet just keeps turning. It has to. There is no other choice. It turns, and we keep going.

I’d planned for my story to be finished and posted by the end of this week, but honestly, I’m just having trouble writing much of anything at this moment. Nothing feels right. My words sound hollow and empty. My heart hurts for a tragedy that both is and isn’t mine, and I’m angry and frustrated that my country has to mourn losses like this over and over. I’m not trying to get political, and I’m not trying to claim grief that doesn’t belong to me, and I’m certainly not trying to dump my feelings in anyone else’s lap. We were never meant to carry the burdens of the whole world.

Anyway, I can’t seem to write anything else right now, so I wrote this. I’ll be back next week, with a (hopefully) good story, and some happier thoughts. Until then, if you feel this way, too, wherever you are, know that you’re not alone. We carry the burdens of our world whether we’re meant to or not, but at least we can carry them together.

What does community mean to you?

I know this is the second question I’ve posted this week, but it’s one I’ve been pondering lately.

Graham and I live in a tiny village. But that village is part of a county split between a busy, suburban east and a quiet, rural west. And that county is part of a state full of large metropolitan areas and even larger swaths of coastline, mountains, and small country towns.

By way of example, this is Virginia:

This is also Virginia:

And so is this:

In our village, we stay involved in civic and volunteer organizations, we support the businesses and the small school operating here, and we try to help our neighbors when they need it. We feel safe, and very happy. And in the next town over, we’ve got a whole second community – we play trivia every Thursday, we’re regulars at several businesses, and it’s pretty rare to walk down the sidewalk on any given day and not see someone we know. We feel connected here – to the people around us, to our local government, to the history that we’re becoming part of – and when we think about what community means to us, that’s it: connection.

Or perhaps it’s something a little deeper than that.

It’s feeling rooted, I think.

And I never thought I’d feel that way after I left my childhood home in southwest Virginia. I think many people worry about that, too, and I feel really lucky that I’ve found this place.

So, that’s community for me, then: people, place, connection, and roots. But I know that my world isn’t the world, and there are all kinds of ways to be part of a community.

Now, backing up.

I’ve been pondering all this of lately because I’ve been kicking around a new project idea, something that would explore where I came from, through the lens of where I am now, and with the wisdom and knowledge that I’ve gained as I’ve grown up (and continue to grow up…it’s a process, y’all). I’m not sure if I’m ready to write it at all, but I know that in order to write it well, I need more perspectives than just mine. I need to understand what people think of when they think of community. In order to really tell the story that I want to tell in a way that resonates, I think I need to know more about the people who will read it, where they come from and how they feel about community, and what their experiences have been in whatever places they’ve chosen to call home.

And so I put it to you, my wonderful readers, from so many different places, and with so many different passions and ideas:

What does community mean to you?

The Happiest Cat

Is there any happier creature in the world than a cat in his favorite sunny spot?

I really don’t think there is, y’all. And yes, this is an older picture, if you feel like you’ve seen it before. He is so very comfy and asleep right now that I just couldn’t bother him with the camera. But trust me, he looks almost exactly the same, just absolutely at peace, dozing in the sunshine.

At any rate, after several days of cool temperatures, clouds, and rain showers, the sun is out and shining today. It’s a nice change for all of us, but I think Gatsby’s enjoying it the most.

I hope it’s a sign of good things to come this week!

Erstwhile Horse Girl

When I was a little girl, I wanted a horse.

Wanted isn’t even really a strong enough word. I needed a horse. I needed a horse like I needed to breathe air, like I needed the blood circulating in my veins and the cells regenerating in my body. It was fundamental to me, a building block at the very core of my being. I would sit awake at night, imagining morning rides through dewy fields, just my horse and me. Wild, together, and utterly free.

My parents had no interest whatsoever in owning a horse, and it broke my almost-a-Horse-Girl heart. Money, to me, was no object when something so very important and vital to my happiness – nay, to my life – was on the line. Alas, these are lessons we learn with age. Money is always an object. And so as a consolation, my mom put me in riding lessons, where I learned the basics of care and maintenance, and the ins and outs of entry-level equestrianship.

This did not fill the void, though I enjoyed the lessons and learned a lot, most of which I have retained, I think, in some dusty, rarely used corner of my brain.

I never got a horse. And eventually, my interest in (read: obsession with) horses waned. I moved on to other hobbies, and for many, many years, I didn’t think much about horses at all.

Then, we moved to Hunt Country. Here, I am surrounded by horses.

Here, I live alongside hobby riders and polo players, foxhunters and trainers, jumpers, grooms, farriers, rescuers, and all manner of people who love their horses.  Here, I’ve met one of my very best friends, who is fierce, powerful, and astoundingly unbothered by the various injuries one can sustain when falling from a large, moving animal.

Her fearlessness inspires me on so many levels, but it doesn’t inspire me to own a horse. I find this curious, that I, who so desperately ached to be a Horse Girl all those years ago, should now be so unmoved by the prospect. That now, when it’s entirely accessible to me and imminently possible, I should think about it and decide, “Eh, no thanks.”

I guess we really do become our parents.

I can’t help but wonder, though, just where that little erstwhile Horse Girl went.

I do still love horses. I find them beautiful, strong, and smarter than some people would like to think. To my friends who care for them, they are devoted companions. When I see a horse galloping through the fields or resting under a tree on a warm day, I do still feel a little twinge, the smallest, tiniest tug on my heart. And so I know she’s still in there, somewhere, that almost Horse Girl. I carry her with me. I’m not that girl anymore, but I’m grateful to her, that spunky little wannabe daredevil. She taught me to be brave, patient, and kind, and to crave adventure, and to use my imagination.

She isn’t who I am today, but she helped me get here. And here – writing in my comfy chair on a rainy day, listening to the dog stir in the corner, making up stories from this lovely little corner of Virginia – is pretty darn good.

Old House Problems

I figure, as long as I’m here, confessing some insecurities (Haven’t read Monday’s post? You should!), I’d talk a little bit about my house.

It’s old.

Like, really old.

If you’ve ever watched anything on HGTV, you’ve probably heard the phrase “old house problems.” It comes up over and over: On renovations shows, when homeowners encounter shoddy updates and outdated pipes and wiring. During house hunts, when starry-eyed first-time buyers see anything built before 1990 and worry about how much work it might need (LOL…).

“You buy an old house, you get old house problems.”

I’ve heard it myself, from my dad, when Graham and I first started searching for a house with a story.

My dad used to build houses, and I trust him, and I know that he knows what he’s talking about. But as children do, I considered his advice carefully, ignored it entirely, and did what I wanted.

I think it’s important to point out that any house will have problems. Our first home was built in 2007, and we poured thousands of dollars into fixing stuff that broke, big stuff and small stuff. We replaced a faulty sump pump that flooded our utility room and an HVAC that died not once but twice. We installed a radon mitigation system, we sanded down doors that stuck as the house settled, fixed nail pops, bought a new refrigerator…

My point is, any house, regardless of its age, is going to require some serious maintenance and upkeep. But I’m willing to admit that it takes a special sort of crazy person to commit to the maintenance and upkeep of a home of…advanced age.

I am that crazy person.

So is Graham. I didn’t pull him into the insanity with me. We met there. And here we are today, in our very old house, happy as can be despite our ever-growing list of “old house problems.”

Why am I sharing this now?

Well, a few reasons. The first is that I wrote a post earlier this week that just got me thinking about it. The second is that Graham replaced our kitchen faucet over the weekend, and it took about two hours longer than it should have because everything was crusty with lime buildup and rusted together. The third is that, as we think about fixing small issues like that faucet, we’re also starting to discuss what larger projects we might want to tackle over the course of the spring and summer.

And believe me, it’s super easy to “find” projects in an old home.

We’ve been sort of laisse faire about things so far. We’ve done some interior and exterior painting, but we have a lot more to do.

We’ve fixed issues as they’ve come up, but we haven’t really sat down and developed a strategy for making improvements, adjustments, and repairs. To be fair, we’ve only lived here since 2016, and it’s taken almost that long to really decide and settle on how we want to use spaces, how we want them to look and feel, and what “home” looks like for us here.

But now, it’s time.

Truly, it’s past time.

We bought this house to make it a home, and to be good stewards of a piece of history. I think it’s about time we made good on that commitment.

So, cheers to old house problems! (I’m holding up my coffee cup.) And may we learn to be patient and enjoy the process…  

To Be a Gardener

Yesterday, we went to a local flower and garden festival with some friends. Earlier last week, I decided to join a local horticultural society, so the festival came at a good time. Or a bad one.

Let me explain.

I am decidedly NOT a gardener. I don’t really like dirt under my fingernails, or worms, or ticks, or (worst of all) little, harmless garden snakes. I don’t enjoy spending hours in hot sunlight, though I love being outside, and I will get a horrible sunburn in less than ten minutes. I’ve never been able to reliably keep a plant alive, much less help one grow from seed to bloom.

But, I’ve always loved flowers. I love nature. I love the sound of buzzing honeybees and the earthy, sweet fragrance of lavender and roses. I love the way light dapples through green leaves, and the feeling that everything around me is breathing and part of something bigger, something that will last long after I’m gone.

All of that to say, I am NOT a gardener, but I WANT to be.

I am surrounded by amazing gardeners. Graham’s mother is so talented, and her back garden looks like something out of a fairy story. Many of our friends care for boxwoods that are over a century old. We never have to look far for vegetables fresh from someone’s back yard vegetable patch, and they really do taste so much better.

Meanwhile, the state of our garden is mostly…wild. I’m being kind to myself here.

The honest truth is this: I’m intimidated by it, and so I’ve let it grow untamed and unkempt for most of the time we’ve lived in this house.

I’m not proud. In fact, I’m mostly embarrassed, and a little ashamed. But it amazes me that even without any help, any human hands nudging things along, it is still a beautiful space, and flowers still grow, like clockwork, every year.

I spent a lot of time thinking about that yesterday, as we walked by lots of stalls full of little green stems and leaves and colorful blossoms that I could not identify and would not know the first thing about planting. On the one hand, knowing that the earth will do what it does, regardless of my meddling, is something of a relief. On the other, I can’t help but imagine what our garden could be if I just learned to try, to get over my worry and my fear that I’ll do something wrong, and just…garden.

I don’t trust myself, but I do trust nature.

And so, I think that this will be the year. This will be the start. I’m going to learn to plant things, and nurture them, and help them grow. I’m going to be patient with myself, but I’m not going to allow myself to make excuses. I’m going to try. I’m going to go for it, because it’s worth going for, and because I know I can, with a little effort and time. I’m going to do it, even if it’s hard.

I’m going to be a gardener.

April Showers

I think the weather today got a little…confused. It’s raining. That’s normal for April. It’s also cold. And sleeting. And just a few miles down the road from our house, it’s snowing.

Snow in April isn’t unheard of around here, but it was so nice and warm, just beautiful and sunny and breezy on Saturday, that the cold and damp today just feels a little like whiplash. I suppose that’s Virginia for you – Fool’s Spring, Second Winter, False Spring, Third Winter. Maybe by this time next week, we’ll officially have some actual, lasting springtime.

And I can’t complain. Or, I shouldn’t. I’d planned over the weekend to spend today in, reading and writing, and resting and generally just getting to work and keeping my head down. It was a busy, super fun, and ultimately very tiring weekend, and so I knew I wanted some quiet time today. So really, I suppose, the weather’s just cooperating with me. Because I certainly don’t want to go outside and play in the almost freezing rain!

So, onward, and hopefully soon, Real Spring. In the meantime, happy creating, y’all!