Tuesday, November 28, 2017

So Hono(u)red

In the spring, my essay "Bypass Instructions" appeared in Compose literary journal. Compose has been a going concern for at least five years--it's set to publish its 10th issue soon--and nominates its content for prizes.

I learned today that Compose nominated "Bypass Instructions" for a Pushcart Prize! You can read all their nominees at the announcement in the link.

I so appreciate this vote of confidence from the journal--as well as the positive responses from readers.

Thank you, Compose!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Of Course! Wait...Really?

Lately, I've been moving several projects forward simultaneously. My days are packed with teeny incremental steps on several fronts.

I'm learning several surprising things. Some big. Most small. Like, for example, what I do and don't need to have handy.

Decades ago, I bought a Filofax planning system. (Influences: Thirtysomething and Alexandra Stoddard.) Ever since, it's held All The Important Things, as well as Most Things It Came With.

A couple of months ago, I decided I should use my Filofax more wisely, or not use it at all. To start, I asked myself some questions.

Do I really need to carry the addresses of all of my cousins (especially when we communicate mostly through social media)?

How about that fold-out four-colour map of the world, including time zones? Is that a "gotta have at my fingertips!" kind of insert?

What about the daily to-do lists from two months ago?

The answers: No. No. No. And answering those questions has made me face a few hard truths.

For example: No, I am not the kind of person who needs a map of the world at my fingertips. I probably never was, though it was kind of fun to picture myself sitting in meetings with the time zone in Nepal at the ready. If I had even remembered I had it. Which I wouldn't have. (Now, of course, we would all race to be the first to look it up on our phone.)

The questioning process has been useful. I've ditched a lot of paper, not replaced a lot of purported "necessary information," and generally simplified my Filofax--which I now consult multiple times a day, and which (mostly) helps me remember what I'm doing and what comes next.

I've extended the questions to other items I "must have." Like the extra glasses case with cleaning solution and wipes. Like the bag with five lipsticks, four of which I don't even like. Do I need both of those things in my purse? Of course! Wait...of course NOT.

At one time in my life, I might have wanted to be the kind of person who needed the time zone map and the five shades of lipstick. That time isn't now. Ignoring the voices of my Depression-surviving parents screaming "don't throw anything away!" I've now filed the addresses (for holiday cards) and parts of the to-do lists (taxes); I've left the eyeglass cleaning kit in the bathroom and tossed the lipsticks.

But I waffled on the time zone map. I'm trying not to save things for "someday," but still. I put it with the other maps in the stash of images I'm collecting "to do art collages with someday maybe."

Because at one time, I might have wanted to be that person. I might be still. Just not today.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017


"I don't remember my jeans."

I stood in front of the credenza where a stack of denim lies folded on the top shelf. My husband, poor man, happened to pick that moment to pass within earshot.

His raised eyebrow told me that he didn't quite know what I meant. Whatever. I did.

It happens every year--at some point in April or so, I quit wearing jeans so much and start wearing shorter versions of jeans, or more lightweight workout pants, or (gasp) dresses. And at some point in the fall, I go back to the long pants.

In the interim, I forget my jeans--the individual quirks I used to know about each pair. That one, the most comfortable pair, has a small rip near the zipper. I remember now, vaguely, that I decided in April I'd think about later.

Later is now, and now is later, and I can't worry about the times I've worn them recently without remembering that rip. I can only hope whatever else I was wearing covered it up.

Because I realized I didn't remember, I tried on all the pairs. And information came back to me. The legs on this one will fit into boots; the legs on that other pair also will but only if I take extra time to wrap them. This pair I can wear all day; this one is itchy against my skin after a morning.

I've bought new pairs, too, and am learning their strengths and limitations.

Is there a metaphor for writing in this? How well you know me! Many metaphors are possible: getting to know characters again, the ones you needed space from before you can really tell their story. Returning to a different phase in the "writing process," like drafting new work vs. revising existing drafts. Even allowing yourself to return to the yin of winter, after a yang-y summer.

As for me--I'm not quite ready to wear the flannel-lined jeans, but otherwise, I can do autumn.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Blank Square

Sometimes, there's no more beautiful sight than a blank square.

Like this one.

That's today on the desk calendar my husband and I share. It's the first blank space on the calendar in several days. You can even see some of yesterday lapping over the edge to today.

The events that have filled the past several days have been great--lots of celebrations and fun events, a few meetings, some generic errands, much that has been entirely pleasant.

And yet--it's been a lot of interaction for me.

I really enjoy this blank square. There's another one, tomorrow. Errands will fill up one or the other of these days. But for now, I'm enjoying that sense of possibility stretching ahead.

Maybe I'll even find the internal space to face a blank page. It's high time.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Autumn Leaves

This time of year I'm still walking outdoors, and enjoying it, for as long as I can. Soon, the snow on the roads won't melt during the day, and the ice will force me to the treadmill. But not yet.

Monday, I picked up two leaves--one a bright orange birch-type with a dark streak down the middle, another with lobes (like a maple or white poplar) that was a tasteful pink-and-yellow. They were lovely, a really eye-catching moment of brightness on a grey day when autumn has nearly-but-not-quite lost its glory.

There they are, below:

No, really. 

See, it started raining while I was out, and an unpleasant encounter with workers in my neighbourhood had left me rattled, so when I got home I put my dripping waterproof jacket and pants into the dryer without emptying the pockets. 

And then I had to race through the shower and get to town for a work date, and on the way, two different cars apparently didn't see mine (though I was driving with my lights on, even) and they nearly hit me. I was late for the meeting (which itself went fine except for the meter that ate my toonie) and then I had a frazzling wait at the pharmacy, and then several main roads were blocked off and the rush-hour traffic was even more hellish than usual, and my car was low on gas. 

However, I gritted my teeth and survived it all. 

When I got home, I retrieved my jacket and pants from the dryer but didn't think even then to look for those beautiful leaves. It finally occurred to me in the evening, as I reviewed my day.

I'd completely forgotten the lovely moments early in the walk, before the initial unpleasantness with the workers. I didn't have any control over their behavior, and I am in no way excusing it. 

I do wish, though, I had remembered the leaves when I got home from walking, before they had their fifteen minutes in the dryer. I could have participated in the beauty of that moment again. 

Would it have changed the other factors that made Monday so stressful?

Nope. But if I'd remembered the leaves, I could have thought of them as I settled into my work spot after losing $2 in a parking meter. I could have remembered them as I sat in backed-up traffic. I could have pictured them while I shivered through gassing up my car.

I try to notice those small moments for stressful situations just like those on Monday. This time, that strategy didn't work as I'd planned. 

At least I remember them now. And that's not nothing.