Open Pages


Oh, the array of documents that sit with open doors across the top of my laptop screen! It’s like a messy kitchen waiting to be organized so the main meal’s cooking can take place.

These tabs have piled up over the past few weeks, and I long to address them all to the point that I can willingly close a bunch of them.

Here are the members of the queue before me:

1. The Wix home page of a friend’s website for his editing business.

2. My own Wix attempt in draft mode, inspired by my friend’s site.

3. An article on how to name one’s editing and proofreading business.

4. An article on how to start an editing and proofreading business.

5. A video on how to do alternating cast-on for double rib (knitting). Because I have a knitting pattern for making a winter headband, but I’m daunted by a cast-on process I’ve never tried.

6. An article on how to write a great memoir. Its first point is on how to write a premise in one sentence.

7. An article on how to structure a premise for stronger stories.

8. An article on how to build a compelling narrative arc for your memoir.

9. An article on vignettes, scenes, and dialogues.

10. An article on what everyone ought to do to create vivid characters.

11. “Alaska Book”. This is one of dozens of Google Docs I have that are part of the memoir on which I am working. I hope Google Docs never crashes.

12. “Excavator in the Pond”, a Google Doc. This is one of the stories in my memoir.

13. “Boots in the Mudroom”, another Google Doc, and another story in the memoir.

14. “Milk in the Snow”, still another Google Doc for the memoir. I name them simply. This is for my own quick reference. They might end up with new titles, they might be amalgamated into other chapters, and they might even be axed in the end.

There. That helped me purge a bit from my mind, just seeing it all written out.

I’d like to read all the articles and close their windows so I can feel like the groceries and the dishes are put away and I can start cooking up a new mess in my actual writing.

Can anyone relate to having multiple documents open on their computer, and the relief that comes from closing several of them?

Reading and Writing

A “Taste of Home”. The man in the mural is Danny Lytton. He once came to my old farm to help round up a couple Belgian horses I was boarding for horse loggers. The Belgians didn’t want to leave. Danny was so good with horses, he managed to coax them to the trailer.

I’m sitting in my fave little local cafe (there are only two – one we call “The Dry Place” because the food is too dry for our liking and the coffee always tastes burnt, and this one my family and I call “Taste”, short for “Taste Of Home”, because we kept forgetting its real name years ago, which first was “One Another, A Coffee House”; then it was “Bicycle Tree”; and now it’s “Rise & Grind Coffee Shop”, but one of my sons calls it “the kaif”, phonetically pronouncing cafe that way because he plays with words like his mom does).

Ah, it sounds like Jim Croce (whom my son might call Jim Croas phonetically) singing over the speakers right now, something about a Georgia girl he hopes will take him back. Now Gordon Lightfoot is singing about how it would be if his love could read his mind.

While I sip a soy cafe au lait, I have been reading a book, the latest one I’ve bought. It’s a slow process because so many things I read in it remind me of points from my own Alaskan past, so I go make notes in my manuscript documents. That, and I make penciled notes in the book itself.

Here is a page from the abovementioned book, which is called “Alaska in the Wake of the North Star”. Having looked at the publisher’s website (Hancock House), I feel I should contact them about my book, as it seems to fit with a lot of what they have published.

I would love to know if anyone reading this also makes notes in the books they read. 🙂

All These Kids

One of few photos I have of my old house in Alaska

I never used to like kids. They annoyed me. For several months when I was 14 to 15 and super-selfish, my parents took care of a baby for a friend of theirs who had to be away in a hospital for cancer treatment. I mostly hid in my room with music cranked on the stereo I’d bought with my own earnings, to get away from the noise.

When any kids less than a few years younger than me tried to talk to me, I’d ignore them and walk quickly away. I know, how rude, eh?

Then, when I was 23, I met some amazing children who changed my outlook. They were so down-to-earth and enjoyable. One of them, a boy who was seven, always asked me to take him for rides on a Honda 4-wheeler, on the southeast Alaskan homestead of the folks on whose land we were living. We’d ride along in silence, find a beautiful spot to park, and wander around and talk and laugh. Sometimes we’d fish for spawned-out pink salmon off the edge of a wooden bridge over a creek.

My little friend and his older brother adored their baby sister. Their mother, an OB-GYN nurse with chestnut hair that reached past her waist, with whom I loved sitting and talking while gathering information for my own eventual motherhood, was soon to have another baby sister for them.

Within the year, I got married (albeit to a man who wasn’t lifetime material — see the long story here) and had my first child. We had moved into our own place, in a little house (24′ x 32′) we built for ourselves at the back of a gravel pit. We didn’t own the government land on which the house was situated, but we were there via a permit to be the caretakers of the business. As part of the permission, the house had to be moveable, and so it was built on skids (big logs laid on the ground) to later tow away.

Our nearest neighbours were 3.5 miles down old logging roads with nothing but forest between us. The other neighbours, on whose land we had been living prior to this, were 5 miles away and across a river that had no bridge. We had no phone but a VHF marine radio, we heated the house with wood, we pumped water uphill from a well with a Honda pump, and our electricity was from a 7-kilowatt Lister diesel generator we’d run for about six hours a day – just long enough to keep the fridge items cold and the freezer items frozen.

It was lonely out there, especially when the man of the house had gone out on the tugboat to deliver gravel or to do commercial fishing for the same boss. My motto soon became, “I have no friends, and so I will just have to make my own.”

My second baby was born within 17 months of my first. Then a couple years later my third was born. These children were a lot of work, yes, but they were and continue to be my dearest friends. Four more children later, and I’m a mother of seven now.

Not only are there my own children, though, but some of their friends have also become my friends. Some refer to me as “Mom 2”. I am honoured.

Here we are in December. Holiday time allows for more of my kids to be home. The oldest four are out working in other areas, but they come home when they get extra days off, sometimes with their respective partners whom I also love. With more people in the house, it is warm and pleasant, but oh so busy! The younger kids stop their usual activities when their beloved older siblings come home, so excited are they.

There is less time for blogging with all the family around, but I am going to keep trying to squeeze in a word or two or seven hundred when able. Like right now (word count: 695!), when most are sleeping-in on a Saturday morning and one has gone across the road to play with a friend.

Maranatha!

Hippie Coffee

Look at that golden froth atop the coffee. That’s what happens when you blend hot soy milk, turmeric, and a few other goodies into your brew.

Specifically, here’s how I do them: Half a mug of Ginger Fire Chai, half a mug of Aeropress’d espresso roast coffee (freshly ground in a burr grinder with a few shakes of hot red pepper flakes), an ounce of heated soy milk, Himalayan pink salt, stevia leaf powder, black pepper, coconut oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, and turmeric. Froth it up in the blender.

I prefer this over everything I’ve ever had in any coffee shop. Way cheaper, too.

I’ve heard that coffee and tea mixed together is called a “dirty chai”, and when you add soy milk it’s a “dirty hippie”. But this stuff is more like a “crazy health-freak hippie”.

Yeah, man. I can dig it. Call it what you like, but give it a try. You might like it as much as I do.

Watching Paint Dry

Here I sit in my basement — dressed in black ski pants, a camouflage wool jacket, burgundy Baffin snow boots, and with a red and black neck tube wrapped around my head, hair pinned up with a wooden hair fork — watching the shine on a pine door, waiting for it to go dull so I can move it off the sawhorses and put the other slab down for coating.

You may have heard of things that are as exciting as watching paint dry. Well, I can tell you that watching clear-coat satin acrylic polyurethane wood finish in the drying process is almost as exciting as that.

(If you read my blog post from yesterday, you will know it was my goal to do this yesterday. However, that didn’t go as planned, but today it’s done, and nobody got injured or died as a result of the delay.)

To be fair, I did have a delightful mug of turmeric coffee to bring a pop of liveliness to the event. And the smell of milled pine mixed with low-odour polyurethane isn’t bad. Combine it all with good music from my phone and I’ve got a nice little Saturday afternoon party-for-one happening.

Oh, make that party for two! No, three… four… five! In walked my Pom-Chi dog, then my youngest child, and now two cats.

And now that door is ready to be moved.

If you’ve read this, I thank you for making me not completely be talking to myself.

There we have consecutive day 7 of my Just Write challenge on WordPress. Yahoo, celebrate! I bet you’re as entertained as you’d be by watching paint dry, eh?

PS: Did you ever notice that the word “pine” is right there inside of “happiness”?

Sunrise Etc

Even a poor quality photo of this guy named Sunrise is pleasant.

“Meow. Meow.”

He says it in such a soft little way, even though he’s the biggest cat of the bunch around here.

His real name is Sunrise, but he’s been nicknamed so much more: Big Guy, BG, B, G, Ghee, Guy LaFur, Thanos, ThanToast, ThickOats, Fatto Catto, Orange Guy, Dude, Man, Manny, Mayonnaise Manny, Sunny Foo-Foo, Foo, Mr. Foo, Dr. Orange, Dr. Thick…

Probably other names I can’t remember off the top of my head but my kids will surely bring up as they trickle out of bed. It’s 9:24 a.m. and the three youngest still aren’t up. They were all up late last night, which I can’t say I like but bedtime is such a weary point of day for me, “choose your battles” is what I tell myself.

Why don’t kids like going to bed? I’ve always loved sleep. Maybe it’s only certain people who fight bedtime. My second child never had a problem with sleep, either, and even in her mid-twenties she’s still often taking a nap after work or on a weekend daytime.

Well, today I am working on trying to find a certain date from my journals so I can reread my notes and elaborate on a story for the Alaska book. I did that yesterday, too. Oh, not all day. Just a bit of poking through here and there between the myriad other jobs that pile up constantly. Plus I’m trying to finish editing a book manuscript for a friend, on top of working on my own works in progress.

And firewood needs to be brought up the stairs to the deck. I have to initiate that process, but the kids will help. Having a wood-burning stove on the second story of a house makes for a bit of extra work, but I so enjoy wood heat, I think it’s worth it.

And there’s a batch of yogurt underway in the Instant Pot, with a goal of turning it into Greek yogurt.

And there’s a double batch of kombucha on its second ferment, which I poured into bottles two nights ago but haven’t yet added the flavourings. All I have right now is turmeric root, ginger root, and goji berries, but those have become our family’s favourite option so it’s just as well. That process is on the invisible part of my to-do list, along with so many other things that never make it into writing.

The rest of my to-do list sits there waiting for my attention, but here I am at my desk, avoiding it for a few minutes. I know I’ll have to get into the basement to put some coats of protectant (because I can’t remember if it’s varathane, polyurethane, or something else, so many different cans of goop have I used on varying wood projects over the years, depending on the need) on one of the pine doors we bought for the kids’ bedrooms to replace the old, dark, falling-apart ones. I don’t look forward to that task, as the basement is uninsulated and on days like this we can see our breath down there. Hmm, I’ll have to take a picture of the goop can and see if the label says anything about “do not use in temperatures below” a certain number. I don’t recall that on this one, but it might be there.

Why would I take a picture of the label? Because the writing is so tiny and without much contrast. It’s hard to read unless I enlarge it. A magnifying glass would help, too.

Meow. Meow. Ghee is still meowing that tiny little meow.

I found out why the intermittent meowing happened. Big Guy was at the door at the top of the basement stairs and wanted to be in the kitchen. Usually, we keep that door open a bit, but it’s cold today and I’m trying to warm up the house.

Now to suit up (camo ski pants and a blue plaid fleecy coat) to go down into the deep to assess the door-coating situation. Brrrrr…

OK, that’s day 6 of my challenge to myself, to write something in my blog daily. It’s a blog entry that goes nowhere, just some rambling thoughts, but I hope I at least spelled everything right and used proper punctuation. I still haven’t varied my sentences to my liking. Practice, practice, practice!

PS: My youngest child is up now and she indeed helped me add to the list of names we call Sunrise. 🙂

My youngest daughter wanted me to include this photo of Sunrise from last night.

Day 3 of Just Write: Letter Writing

I used to write a lot of letters. It started when I was five, living in Vancouver, BC, writing to my friend who lived an hour’s drive away. Her parents and mine were buddies, but we didn’t get to see each other as often as we’d have liked.

When I was nine, we moved to within a five-minute walk of my friend’s house, so I didn’t write to her anymore (except for a few weeks when our parents forbade us to hang out on account of us all causing too much trouble when together. We were such brats, we wrote our own addresses on the envelopes so the post office would do a “return to sender”, so each other could receive the letters without us using a stamp.)

In my new town, I wrote to my old friends in Vancouver. That was in the mid-1970s.

When I was eleven, my class at school started doing a penpal program with a school in Vancouver. That was fun! We all had a meetup one day, which was also fun.

I started putting penpal ads in a free ad paper in my late teens in the mid 1980s. I got to know a lot of people around the world through that. One penpal I remember was a boy from Malawi, Africa. When he saw a photo of me I’d sent, he expressed shock over ladies wearing pants. Apparently, at least at that time, in his country, the females all wore dresses or skirts.

When I moved to the wilderness of Alaska, I kept writing to my penpals, plus I began writing to family and friends back home in BC.

This Bible verse often came to mind when I got a letter:

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25)

Around 1992, I found out about a magazine called Women’s Circle. There was a penpal section. I sent in a free ad. Several months later, when it got published, I was inundated with replies, Many people were fascinated with Alaska and wanted to know someone who lived there. I had to get really choosy about who I’d answer as there were literally hundreds of letters each month.

In 1997, I got my first email account. (I still have that one, but I rarely use it as Hotmail isn’t as appealing as Gmail.) By then, I had three children, and my letter writing became less and less due to time constraints. Plus, email was quicker.

Now, with seven kids, I rarely write pen-and-paper letters, though I fondly regard the memories of having done so for all those years. I still have a lot of old letters from my worldwide friends. My sister has all the letters I wrote to her when I lived in Alaska. I got to borrow them once, and it was fun poking through to reread the things I told her.

While I was sorting through my mother’s boxes of papers this past summer (she left her earthly body in May 2018, and I look forward to seeing her again with Jesus, whom she also knows), I came across a paper called “How To Write A Letter To A Friend”. I thought, “Wow, I like this! The writer sounds so much like me.” And I finally realized it was indeed written by me in the mid-1990s. I copied it below.

And I wonder about other people, what their letter-writing experiences are like, and if they still do much, if any, today, with email being so much quicker. Any thoughts? Do share!

How To Write A Letter To A Friend

First step: just do it!

Get out a pen and paper. Or, if you have a computer, turn it on and log in to your word processing program. Have a typewriter? You know what to do!

If you have a letter from the person to whom you want to write, you’ve got a step ahead right there. Has it been several months since you received it and you still haven’t answered? Better hurry – they may be thinking you no longer care about them. Open it up, lay it out in front of you, and reread it. Even if you just read it yesterday, this step is still helpful, as it reminds you of the questions they asked. Never leave a question unanswered.

Starting from scratch…

If you don’t have a letter from the person, no problem. Do you ever think of them when you hear a certain song? Let that be a starting point. Grab your writing implements and make a few notes. It could start out like, “Hi! I’m just listening to Pam Tillis sing ‘Blue Rose Is’ and it reminded me of you. Remember when we were line dancing to that song back and Jenny’s wedding and…”

Okay, so maybe you haven’t heard a song lately that reminds you of your friend. Maybe something else makes you think of them, or you can drum up a memory and go from there.

Don’t have time to write? Sure you do. If you care about someone, time can be found or made. How about those nights when you can’t sleep. Get up for fifteen minutes and write a one-pager.

You don’t need to schedule a whole hour and finish the letter in one fell swoop. Add to it as time allows. A sentence or two here, a paragraph there, and maybe you’ll even get carried away and tell your life’s history in a mini-novel. Any of these are fine. If that letter is headed for a friend, they will read it with relish. And maybe even mustard and a bun, if it’s long enough.

Across the miles…

When you move too far away to see your friends regularly, and you can’t afford long-distance phone charges, write a letter. And keep those letters going back and forth.

When a friend moves away from you, all the more reason do you have to write to them, especially if they’ve moved to a place where they know few, if any, people, they need your encouragement. They need to know you haven’t forgotten them. You are likely still in their minds. Maybe you don’t think of them as much as they think of you, since you still have others in your network of family and friends to occupy your thoughts. That friend is now living in a faraway place and is probably lonely. Even if they aren’t lonely, and even if they are gregarious people who make new friends easily, they are still attached to you, and they just might long to hear from you.

“Old friends are like gold
New friends are like silver…”

(That’s the gist of a poem I read on a Celestial Seasonings tea box.)

And old friends are also like a big apple tree – full of fruit that’s taken years to establish: the fruit of memories. New friendships are like sprouts in spring – exciting to discover, yet easily killed if not nurtured. Neglect them, and they die. Give your friendship the sunshine as well as the rain. Share your joys and sorrows, a little or a lot, depending how much you want that plant to grow.

Don’t get so busy that you neglect to keep in touch with a friend. Even a short note is better than losing something that could bring you a lifetime of joy.

 

Day 2 of Just Write – Stove Cleaning, Dog Cones, and Stringed Instruments

A guitar-playing son, a resting girl cat, and an alert boy dog

Well, hello there, WordPress page! I love seeing your peaceful blank slate that awaits new words.

Here we are on day 2 of my “Just Write Challenge”. Since I’m the only one being challenged, I am sure I will succeed no matter how long or short my run time ends up being.

Today, I will make this blog page less blank by talking about my morning. Who knows, maybe someone will read it and relate. That’s always in my mind when I write. I love stumbling across words of others that make me nod inwardly with recognition of some of its notes.

Last night, I planned to clean the wood cookstove today. Our wood is pretty wet, due to so much rain this past summer and also because of our still-incomplete pallet woodshed. As a result of the wet wood, I have to clean the stove once every week or two, which means waiting till it cools enough to take the heavy iron plates off the cooktop so I can remove the creosote.

But when I woke up, the stove was too warm. Coals were in the firebox and the heat-activated fan was still spinning. It’s a sunny day, though, so although it is around the freezing point outside, there’s enough sunlight through the windows and stored heat in the house to wait for the stove to cool down and we won’t all have to put on ski pants and parkas in the meantime – which we would have to do on some days if we were in the basement where there is no heat and no insulation.

I am taking this time to enjoy WordPress, waiting for the stove to cool down. I sit at my desk with a red-with-white-snowflake woolly scarf around my neck; my hair piled into a bun on top of my head with a wooden hair fork; all-black clothing of cotton 3/4 sleeve top, weird bootcut yoga pants with a short skirt attached, and Uggs slipper boots (with dog and cat hair adding a splash of colour to all this black); and a camo apron, in readiness for the stove cleaning. I didn’t actually think about it when I chose what to wear this morning, but black is wise for stove-cleaning day, for less chance of soot stains showing up.

My beloved wood cookstove

This classy cookstove might make it look like we are wealthy and live in a fancy house, but, truth be known, the stove was a huge investment for us, we are relatively poor in this country, and our house is far from fancy. This stove is hands-down the most beautiful non-breathing item in it. The coveted spot to sit for our family members is in a wooden rocking chair in front of that stove. If our kitchen were huge, I’d set up a bunch of rocking chairs around the stove for everyone. (I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, too. One can dream, eh?)

My kitchen is crowded. And that’s okay. I am so grateful for the house we have. I’ve lived in far less.

One more little blip of my morning is the picture I posted at the top of this blog entry. You will see a long-haired chihuahua puppy in a kennel, a grey striped cat on top of the kennel, and one of my sons in the top left preparing to practice his guitar.

Why the cone on the dog’s head, and why is he in a kennel? Well, this little guy is my oldest daughter’s dog. My “grand-dog”, if you will. They are staying with us for a few weeks. The puppy, Pedro, has a bit of mange on his face, and so putting a cone on helps him not scratch the itchy spots down to bare skin.

Pedro is only seven months old and too young to trust having free roam of the house without finding a secret new potty spot on say a closet floor or behind the couch. So, unless he is within reach of a human family member, he hangs out in his comfortably appointed kennel, right in the heart of the home yet cordoned off so he has a sense of being in his own little cave where none of the four cats or the Pom-Chi can bother him while he gets his beauty sleep.

And, ahh, my son’s guitar playing. I dearly love the sound of stringed instruments, especially when played right in my own house. I wish I could play like him, but, alas, I can only strum a few chords. Maybe someday in a new body…
“…with the music of stringed instruments
and with melody on the harp.
Your mighty deeds, O Lord, make me glad;
because of what you have done, I sing for joy.” (Psalm 92:3-5, TLB)

Ramble session done for this day. Off I go to pursue other things.

Maranatha!

Doctor… my eye?

Yesterday afternoon, I was standing in the kitchen talking to my 15-year-old son, contemplating the soon cooking of dinner.

Something small and black zoomed past my line of vision as though it were inches from my face.

I looked around for what I figured must be a fly, but saw nothing.

Seconds later I saw it again, but when I turned my head to locate it, again it was nowhere to be seen.

“Did you see a fly?” I asked my son.

“No, I didn’t,” he said.

“It’s being a stealth bomber,” I said. “I know I saw something but then it disappeared.”

It happened a few more times over the next couple minutes. By then, I figured out it wasn’t a fly but was something going wrong in my eye.

Then I saw what looked like a bolt of lightning shoot down the far right periphery of my right eye. That happened a few times over the next hour.

There was no pain. Just weird sights. I knew them to be indicative of a possible retinal tear or retinal detachment, but I was hopeful/shocked/in denial.

Curious if there was a less sinister diagnosis into which they might fit, I did a quick internet search. Torn retinas and detached retinas were all I saw.

Needing to get meal prep underway, I tried to ignore the slight curtain of blur to the right and kept my eyes from sudden movements.

After dinner (which was, in case you are interested, teriyaki pork stir fry, involving marinated pork tenderloin, sliced white onion, bell peppers, broccoli, and a cubed pineapple, with sesame oil and sesame seeds, served over brown basmati rice), I called the BC Nurse Line.

The nurses can’t diagnose or even suggest differential diagnoses. Based on what I told them, they urged me to “get ye to a hospital post haste”.

Once I got to the hospital, a nurse got me to read letters from a distance with each eye. Then the emergency physician checked my peripheral vision and looked into my eye with instruments and bright light.

The conclusion? Nothing suggested a retinal detachment or tear. Yaay!

But what was wrong, then?

The physician told me to go to my eye doctor the next day. He wrote a note for me to give to him.

I did so, and am pleased to report that my right eye has no retinal concern. It is a lesser evil indeed, to do with the vitreous.

My optometrist said it is nothing requiring surgery or treatment, that it will merely be annoying, and that it should lessen and go away. If things worsen suddenly, I am to call him. He has referred me on to an ophthalmologist in Kamloops, to be seen within the next month.

Something weird the optometrist noticed, though, was evidence in my other eye of an old retinal tear. Scar tissue had formed to hold it together. He said it looked to be at least a year old. I never had any symptoms to cause me concern.

These things just happen with age and supposedly there isn’t anything that can prevent them.

I am grateful to see with eyes that are relatively healthy. But one never knows when sight, like anything physical, can break or die. And so I am thanking Jesus for my hope beyond this sin-damaged flesh, in eternity where a new body will be mine, and decay of any sort will be no more!

And I am grateful for the people who care for me. Thanks for reading.

Are You Still There?

I haven’t been blogging much lately and I notice that a lot of the people on my little list of bloggers I follow haven’t been as active, either. What’s going on with us? Are we all too busy for WordPress? Have we lost part of our minds in the busyness of summer? Will we get back to regularity eventually? Are we not eating enough fiber? (Sorry, bad joke.)

I’m posting this in hopes I will hear from WordPress friends and followers and maybe even from a new viewer or two.

Maybe you’re as busy as me. Longer, warmer days make more time for the things that can’t get done as easily in winter.

And the dark cloud that has been hovering over me comes and goes. I’m doing what I can to force it to stay out of the way of my sunshine – exercise, healthy food, essential oils purported to improve mood, sleep, even medication in desperation – but sometimes it is insistent. Do you fight with it, too?

Of course, only the village idiot is happy all the time. (I grabbed onto that saying from a fellow blogger. It reminds me that I am not as insane as I sometimes feel.)

I hope today has good moments for you, whoever and wherever you are. We all need at least a few of those, eh? But when things are dismal, it serves to intensify how much more we will appreciate when things are going well. And I always think of how all the more will heaven be joyous compared to earth.

joy