The Magic of Snow

Sunday, January 31, 2021. The last day of January. It’s 28 degrees outside, has just started snowing and is predicted to keep snowing until early Tuesday morning. Depending on where the heavy snow band sets up we can get anywhere from 8 to 14 inches. That’s a big storm for us! Whenever we get a snow storm like this it always makes me feel like a kid getting a snow day. I was going to wax poetic about it all and remembered that I have written about snow a few times in the past. This post was from two years ago and sums up how I’m feeling. Except for the first sentence, it all applies.

If you are getting this storm, stay safe. Do you have favorite snow memories?

If you are reading this in a warm and sunny place enjoy a little winter. And thanks for stopping by!

As I wait for the third snow storm in three days I was feeling a bit done with it all. For some reason I began to reminisce about how I felt about snow as a kid. I wrote down a bunch of memories and by the end of it I realized that snow really is amazing and how sad it is that as adults all we worry about is the shoveling, trying to drive and lost work time. It’s been a very gloomy, long winter around here and since I felt cheered up by the end of reliving my childhood memories of snow, I thought I would share some of them here and maybe you too can remember the magic of snow. (There’s no promise that I will enjoy shoveling later!)

In trying to remember my earliest memories of snow the first thing that comes to mind is looking out the window and seeing white snowflakes falling from the sky. How amazing is that? If you’ve never seen that before it is a beautiful sight. Or waking in the morning to a white and softened world? Did my parents know it was going to snow and didn’t tell me so it was a wonderful surprise? I am still surprised by how the world is transformed by snow.

As a kid the excitement burst throughout my whole body. Snow! Running to the kitchen and eating something quickly so I could start the long process of dressing for hours of playing in the snow.

Putting on the warmest pants or maybe two pairs. A turtleneck sweater and shirt over that. Two pairs of socks. Snow pants which made a loud swishing noise when you walked because they were so thick the legs rubbed against each other. A thick snow coat which made it hard to bend your arms. A hat and mittens that Mom had knitted. They were thick and warm and quickly got heavy and soggy wet, but she always had another dry pair waiting to switch out. Boots. They were rubber boots that had a flap you pulled over to the side with an elastic loop to put over the big button to hold them shut. They never kept the snow from getting inside and melting but they were the best we had. And when they leaked, we would put plastic bags over our socks to keep our feet dry longer. Dressed in all of that, we were ready to go outside.

The excitement of those first steps in the snow. How deep was it? Was it dry and light or heavy and wet? We liked the heavier kind as kids because you could make anything out of it. Snowmen, snowballs, snow forts and one year I made a whole snow village with a bunch of simple rectangular houses all around a half a foot high and probably a foot long. Small roads connected them all. Working on them for so long I remember being so cold that even my knees felt frozen from crawling on the ground.

I remember feeling like I could make anything out of snow. Being lost in the moment and not feeling the cold until eventually my body was screaming that I had to go in and get warm. Then suddenly feeling it and going inside for lunch which hopefully included hot chocolate. Toes numb and then tingly and then incredibly itchy as they thawed. After being inside long enough to feel toasty again, we would bundle up and do it all over again.

Another huge thrill was going sledding somewhere. The first sleds we had were the traditional Flexible Flyer. Metal runners with wooden slats to sit or lie on. A rope was tied to the cross-piece and you could steer it by pulling on one side or the other. Those sleds were fast in the right conditions and if you were really daring you would lie on your stomach, head first and feel like you were going a million miles an hour! They were very heavy to pull back up the hill. Later we had plastic sleds in a variety of configurations. The saucer which was wicked fast and no way to steer it. Then the thin sheet of plastic sleds which you pulled the front up by holding the handle giving it a toboggan shape. That was super fast too and you felt every bump, rock or stick as you slid over it. Eventually we had the molded plastic sleds which were a bit thicker and more comfortable to ride in with handles to hold onto. Steering involved leaning in the direction you wanted to go. It was never a guarantee. You always hoped you ended up where you wanted to.

We became experts of snow conditions and which sled worked best. Heavy, icy snow; the Flexible Flyer. Light dry snow of only an inch or two, the plastic sheet sled. A few inches of almost any kind of snow, the molded plastic sled. And the saucer was best for the soft powdery kind because you always had to bail out of it to prevent crashing into someone or something.

I remember going to a golf course where there were a lot of people sledding. The thrill of sitting at the top of a steep hill on that sled, being pushed really hard by my dad. It wasn’t just a push. It was the back and forward to build up power and excitement. The one, two, three! And I was heading downhill like a rocket!

We had to help shovel snow too which wasn’t as much fun but it was all part of a snow day. And again, if the conditions were right we would build snow forts from the snow piled next to the driveway. Digging holes and tunnels, stopping to eat the snow every now and then looking over our snow kingdom. After the forts were done, the snowball fights. I usually got laughing too hard to be very good at aiming.

And even as a kid, just sitting and listening to the blanket of silence that only comes from a good snow fall. If it was still snowing and nobody else was outside, feeling like the world was contained in that moment of crisp cold air and snowflakes melting on your face.

The world and nature were amazing.

I need to hold on to that feeling later today and tonight when I’m out shoveling. Maybe I can catch some of that magic again.

Be Gentle With Yourself

There seems to be a recurring theme that I’m seeing and hearing everywhere. People are completely overwhelmed with the scary, stressful things happening in the world today and that everyone is trying as hard as they can to keep life as normal as they can. I’m one of those people.

I’m also hearing how exhausted people are and many can’t figure out why. Um, see the paragraph above for a clue.

We live in a society that rewards hard work, pushing on and getting things done.

Sometimes we just can’t do it.

Then we feel like there’s something wrong with us because there’s a disconnect from the stress we are dealing with in a world full of a pandemic, political and social unrest, natural disasters like extreme weather and most of all an inundation of information about all of these things all the time. It’s just too much.

Sometimes the regular things we take for granted that we do all the time suddenly seem too much. And then we worry that we will never be able to do them again.

When people can’t keep up their normal pace, they begin to feel guilty and worried about that. This is an endless cycle that depletes our self confidence, energy, and eventually our health.

We need to be gentle with ourselves. Really.

If you can’t keep up with everything, that’s okay.

Rest.

It doesn’t have to be a long rest and in fact, you may be surprised at how great you feel simply by giving yourself permission to rest.

Take a day or an hour to do nothing. Read, play a game, go for a walk, sleep, or just sit and stare out the window. Whatever it takes to give your mind a break. Experience a little peace.

And don’t feel guilty for it.

Have faith that your drive and energy will return. It always does.

We will be okay.

This post is as much for me as for you.

Be gentle with yourself.

End of 2020

Finally! Its the end of this year. We will all be glad to see it go.

There are so many things that I could reflect on about this past year but I really want to try to focus on the positive. That’s not to say that I haven’t had really rough days like everyone else. I tend to feel things deeply and have had times of fears and tears. Yet there is always something positive. This year we just needed to look harder.

I worked on my novel steadily until just before Thanksgiving. That is a huge accomplishment for me and I’m very happy with the work I got done. I finished two complete drafts. Then in November I realized that I have a huge flaw in the story and need to fix it. With the holidays coming and after working on it nonstop for the year, I realized that for the first time since NaNoWriMo 2019 that I didn’t have the energy or the drive to work on it. I also felt that I’ve been looking at it so closely for so long that I didn’t have a good perspective on it anymore. So I’ve taken a break. Which has been a good thing because just last week I finally have an idea of how to fix the problem. I think I came up with this idea because even though I wasn’t physically writing, I was still mulling over the story. So now I’m debating about working on it or just giving it to beta readers and see what they have to say about it first and then dive in again. I’m leaning that way because I’m sure they will find things I don’t see and then I can tackle it all at once with renewed energy.

I discovered that working on this book has been a wonderful escape from the world this year and that has been a gift.

Surprisingly there have been some good things from this year.

-To know that I need to get outside and enjoy nature more. I got to do quite a bit of camping this year which was really a sanity saver for me. It was amazing to see how many people have discovered camping this year because it was one of the few things we can do safely. I have never seen the campgrounds as full as they were this year. And most of the places I went did a fantastic job of keeping people safe.

-This year gave us more time to focus on things that make us happy at home. For me that’s organizing more, digging out old hobbies and projects and working on them. Really focusing on my home.

-I discovered that there are good things about wearing masks; like you don’t need to worry about pimples, stray whiskers or food in your teeth.

-I have learned so many new programs and apps for both work and home. Who knew we would become such experts at video chatting with people? That we would need to think about things like lighting, sound and background noise. How cute has it been to see all the cats and dogs peeking at everyone? Or one of my favorites was the disembodied arm that appeared to float behind one person in their virtual background?

-I appreciate what is important to me more than ever, like family and friends, and to never take any of them for granted.

-To be caring and considerate to others because everyone has different comfort levels. And on top of that despite how much time we have been dealing with this virus, we still have good days and bad days which I for one, never expected to still be happening.

-To respect each other.

-To always be as kind as we can be.

Now that this year is at an end, I think we can all agree that it has been full of learning opportunities. I remember thinking before the year began how interesting it would be to live in the year 2020. 20/20 is perfect eyesight. I thought it would be a good year to focus on clarity. Who knew that we would be forced into seeing things we never wanted to see? But I think in many ways it’s been a year of clarity. As a world we have all learned to see many things clearly, whether we wanted to or not. But I also think it has been an amazing opportunity to look with open eyes at what is really important in our lives. Not just individually but as a world.

Hindsight is 20/20. Time will tell how true that is.

I wish you all a good 2021. I wish everyone good health, good family and friends. I wish continued growth and happiness for all of us.

Happy New Year!

Enfold Yourself in Small Comforts

This is just beautiful and Margaret Renkl expresses what many of us are feeling perfectly. It’s about appreciating the little things, being creative and never taking each other for granted. I love this. Thanks to David Kanigan for posting this. I hope you enjoy it too.

Live & Learn

The scent of sun-dried sheets fresh off the clothesline can completely change my state of mind. Like the sense of well-being that comes over me when a song from my youth is playing on the radio, the smell of line-dried sheets takes me home to Alabama, back to a time when all my beloved elders were still alive, still humming as they shook out a wad of damp bedsheets and pinned them to the line.

This summer I have repeatedly washed not just our sheets but also our 20-year-old matelassé coverlet, whose scalloped edges are now beginning to fray. I have washed the dust ruffle for possibly the first time in its entire existence. Once the linens are reassembled, I crawl between the sheets, breathe in, and feel the muscles across the top of my back begin to loosen. As my friend Serenity’s mother is fond of saying, “There are…

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Catching Up

I haven’t posted for a while for a number of reasons. Some are good reasons and some not so good reasons which I’m sure you have heard more than enough about. So I won’t dwell on that!

I’ve been working on the story I started during NaNoWriMo and since I’ve been at home, I’m making good progress on it. I decided to use the Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020 as an added incentive to keep going. I’m woefully behind but it’s working. They don’t have it set up to record by time, which is what I’m doing since it’s revision but they posted a neat conversion chart and I’m using that to keep track of what I’m doing.

I had set myself a deadline to get the first full revision done by the end of July and I should make that deadline if I stay disciplined. I admit that some days are easier to concentrate than others. So I just roll with it.

There were a few major scenes and plot points that I knew loosely while writing that first crazy draft in November. I’ve pretty much figured out the entire story and now just need to put it all together. I’m treating it like a giant puzzle and mystery. Where to put key parts that I hadn’t included in the original first draft and how to weave it all together so the entire story matches how I imagine it to be. Sounds easy. Ha!

I’ve also gotten to know the characters better. Their history and backstories. They’re becoming real people. There are still details that need to become clearer but now they each seem to have unique personalities.

I also find it fascinating how much the story has changed from my first vision of it. It now only resembles the original in a basic way. The focus has changed and grown. Very exciting. This is one of my favorite things about writing fiction.

The first draft was written by scene and/or chapter, each in its own file. I find it easier to revise and focus on little pieces at a time. It’s much less intimidating. Now I’m looking forward to making it all one long story.

I have handwritten notes and have added lots of comments in the files themselves. I use the comment feature which makes any notes stand out and easy to find and work on. If you haven’t tried that, I highly recommend it! I make notes to go back and fix something or add a detail later as I go along so I don’t get bogged down and distracted. So lots of work to do and I’m still motivated and excited by this project.

I hope you are all writing and creating. It helps make this crazy time just a little easier to deal with when you can make something to call your own.

I would love to hear what you are working on whether it’s writing, drawing, sewing or anything else you are making. Whatever you are doing, take good care of yourself and hang in there.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I’ve been trying to get outside every day and was just thinking how wonderful and calming it is to hear the cheerful birds and see the plants growing as usual. Some normalcy in this scary time.

Thanks to David Kanigan for posting this. Margaret Renkl perfectly expresses what I wanted to say but couldn’t find the words.

Please enjoy.

Read via Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Writing by Hand Versus Typing

How do you write? Do you run to your computer and type as fast as you can to get it all out? Or when an idea comes to you do you need to write it by hand?

When talking to other writers there is a mixture but most of us write our first words by hand. Only after that first draft is on paper will many of us then transcribe it onto the computer.

There seems to be something more organic about physically forming the letters and words using a pen or pencil and putting them onto paper.

Yet we seem to have no problem typing words for blogs, emails and tweets. Why is that?

Is it a matter of ‘serious’ writing versus the more conversational, less important quick communications of today’s social media?

Maybe we consider the social media words more temporary and our fiction, poetry and memoirs more permanent and lasting?

Pensieve

You know when you have so many thoughts bottled up in your head that you feel overwhelmed and scattered? You have a hard time concentrating and sleeping? Trying to focus on one thing at a time becomes a challenge and eventually you feel edgy and cranky?

Me too.

So the first time I read about a Pensieve in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I wished that it was real.

Definition:

A Pensieve is a wide and shallow dish made of metal or stone, often elaborately decorated or inlaid with precious stones, and carrying powerful and complex enchantments. Pensieves are rare, because only the most advanced wizards ever use them, and because the majority of wizardkind is afraid of doing so.

https://www.wizardingworld.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/pensieve

At times, when one’s head is so full of thoughts that one cannot hear oneself think, it is useful to be able to take some of those thoughts and literally set them aside. The practiced Wizard can extract a thought from his head and store it in a phial or in the Pensieve for another time. If it is in the Pensieve, it is possible to stir the thoughts stored there together and look for patterns. It appears that the wizard has the choice of extracting an entire memory, leaving no trace of it in his head, as Professor Snape does in Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix or extracting a copy of a memory, retaining the original, as Professor Slughorn does in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It is also apparently possible to edit these extracted memories, though it is a difficult task and one which is often not done well. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Muggles%27_Guide_to_Harry_Potter/Magic/Pensieve

How wonderful would it be to have a device in which to place thoughts and memories? Those many early mornings when you wake from a deep sleep and stay awake because of all the thoughts fighting for your attention at 3:00AM? How wonderful would it be to take those and place them safely in a Pensieve to look at or take care of later?

After giving this some thought (at 4:00AM) I realized that we have a few ways to deal with those things here in the real world. Nothing as cool as a Pensieve though.

Lists: When I need to remember something I make a list. I am a list person! I have shopping lists and to-do lists. I have main lists and sub-lists. It has become a running joke about me but I’m okay with that. Lists help me relax because as long as I have put something on a list I don’t have to worry about remembering it. I get it out of my head. I can look at that list at anytime, secure in knowing that I haven’t lost that thought.

The Reminder app on my phone is the digital version of lists and I use it constantly. I love that I can write what I want to remember and then select a date and time to get it done by. Wonderful! Any time I hear myself saying that I have to remember to do something, it goes in that app.

Writing/Journals: Writing in my journal works too. I always have too much to say and think about. Writing it all out is a great relief. And I’m sure my family and friends appreciate not having to listen to me endlessly.

Trusted Friends/Family: My favorite way of dealing with too many things on my mind is to spend time with a trusted friend or family member sharing our many ideas. Spending sometimes hours with both of us, or all of us, talking. Each person listens carefully to the others and each gets to talk. As long as it doesn’t turn into a toxic and negative discussion that feeds on itself. That isn’t healthy for anyone. But positive discussions and helpful ideas are wonderful.

After using any of these methods of getting too much clutter out of my brain leaves me feeling calm and focused again.

A friend who knows my love of the Harry Potter universe and who knows me well enough to know that I wish a Pensieve was

real, gave me one.

It’s fun to figure out ways to make the real world a little more magical.   

Pensieve Case

Open case

Revision

I’m working on revising my NaNoWriMo story and that’s taking most of my writing time which is great.

How am I revising/editing?

The following is generally how I’ve been going about this next draft and hopefully it’s making my first draft better and that’s the goal.

  • I’ve been working on fleshing out my characters. I see them clearly in my imagination but I have to make sure a reader can see them too.
  • I have some places to fill in that I skipped in the mad rush of that first draft. I’m writing entire new scenes for those areas. This seems easier now that I see where the story is going more clearly.
  • I saved each scene in its own folder and I’m going through those one at a time. Eventually I’m hoping they will each be a chapter. And I like having each one in its own folder so as this book takes shape I can rearrange easily if I need to. At first I had just numbered them as I wrote but now I’m adding chapter titles so I have an idea of what is going on in each one. This makes it easier to remember what happened when.
  • I’m updating and creating a synopsis as I go. This helps me keep an eye on the story as a whole and will be a better tool for me once this first revision is done. This will help making a short description of the story when it’s done. The chapter titles really help here.
  • When I find things I need to know more about I let myself get on the internet and look things up. That can be a huge time dump so I’m careful about doing that. I like doing this when I’m too tired to actually write. At least I feel like I’m still working on the story but in a different way.

The more I read about revision the more I see that everyone does what works for them. I like picking up techniques that appeal to me.

I also see that a lot of people don’t like this part of the writing process. I like it. To me the hard part is getting a completed first draft done. Revising is adding all the fun parts and the details that make the story come alive. It’s like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.

I read books, blogs and writing forums to pick up ideas. But again I have to be careful not to spend all my writing time doing that. I need to stick to the actual writing.

Do you have any favorite tools or suggestions about revision that you would like to share? I would love to hear your ideas.

Keep writing!

Confidence?

Now that the holidays are over I’ve been getting back into writing regularly. I’ve set myself a weekly goal of four hours for working on the story I wrote during NaNoWriMo. I’ve been happily adding and deleting words, doing some research about various aspects of the story and trying to piece it together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a long way from being done but I’m enjoying the challenge of getting there.

At the same time I’m usually reading two or three books at a time. Its just what I do. There are times when the books I read are enjoyable or good enough. And then there are books that take my breath away with the beauty of the writing, the cleverness of the plot or with characters so real that they feel like friends.

Those amazing books are the trouble. Why? Because those are the books that make me question my own ability to write. I start questioning myself. I could never come up with a plot twist that surprising or clever. Are my characters like cardboard compared to the fully fleshed out people I’ve just read about? My descriptions are pretty good but to make someone stop and reread them just to experience the beauty of the words? That’s a lot of pressure!

These feelings of inadequacy have been creeping around the edges of my mind lately and at least this time I’m recognizing them before they get out of control and I stop trying. I don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve built up while working on this story.

This time I keep reminding myself that I wrote this story for me. That it’s totally self-indulgent and the challenge of putting it together and getting to know the characters and their motivations is fun. That this is play and not to be taken too seriously.

So far this is working. Mostly because it isn’t anywhere near ready for anybody else to read it which is good if it keeps me going. It may never be ready for anyone else to read and that’s okay too.

Do you experience this?

I would love to hear how you keep that devious voice of inadequacy at bay.