Tag Archives: projects

For Now

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“Only those with tenacity can march forward in March.”

~ Ernest Agyemane Yeboah

I am struggling, this winter, to continue moving forward. My exercise program has become anything but “regular.” My daily walk takes me, many days, no farther than to the end of the driveway and back. “Morning Pages,” three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that I recommitted to last year, has fallen by the wayside, beyond a few occasional fits and starts.

This writing, too, has been sorely neglected this year. Since I committed to this blog post – now more than seven years ago – I have published at least one essay every week. I’ve taken on mini-challenges within the larger commitment: there were a few month-long challenges; I wrote a family history, in installments; I dedicated one day per week to a Timeout for Art post; I went through two books of weekly “List” prompts; and I published a blog post every single day in 2016.

It often seemed like I may have run out of things to talk about. I noticed my writing was often devolving into complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. I set a new goal this year. My plan was to work my way through each of the writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away.

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Or, perhaps, that task would be better suited for my private journal pages. Does anyone really want to read a ten-minute essay about jell-o? Or dishes? Or nuts? With doubts running through my mind, I contemplated leaving this year’s plan behind, but had no clear idea of what to replace it with. So, my default was to just neglect it altogether.

This morning when I got up, the temperature outside was 13 below zero. The view from any window is snow, snow, and more snow. Under the snow, there is a thick bed of ice, that will throw me off balance if I don’t watch my step. When the sun comes out, gigantic icicles form along the eaves of the house.

The dogs have forged a network of paths leading from the back door, to get to the places where they choose to do their outside business, or where they can bark at the neighbors. Bored with the pace of this cold season, they spend a great deal of time going outside and coming back in, just for the sport of it, and the possibility of a reward. Today, they are sprawled together on the bed, grumbling their displeasure.

The long term weather forecast promises better days. By next week, we should see temperatures in the 30s, and into the forties by the end of the month. Undoubtedly, spring will eventually come. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. That celebration brings big excitement and an influx of visitors to this Irish island. It won’t be long after that before the warm weather residents and tourists arrive.

With that assurance comes new frustration at all the things I have not yet gotten done. Though today’s weather might seem to contradict the statement, time is running short for all of my winter’s plans. It’s time to make the big push, while there is still time. That, along with my feelings about the quality of my recent posts, has brought me to the conclusion that it’s time for a different tack.

“Don’t settle: Don’t finish bad books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.”

~Chris Brogan

I’m not giving up on this blog; I’m not going to quit writing. What I’m giving up are all previously conceived notions and obligations regarding it. I will publish regularly, but not on a pre-planned regular schedule. I’ll write whatever I feel like sharing, even if that happens to sound like complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. It may take a surprising turn, as I direct my attention more to my health, art, or my home projects. I don’t know yet, but the possibilities are exciting to me. For now, that’s good enough!

Time Out for Art: Continuing

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As hard as it is to start a creative project, it’s a breeze compared with continuing.

I have plenty of proof.

In an old suitcase in the back of the attic, I have needlepoint pillow  top. It is made up of a dozen squares of different colors. Eleven of the squares have names and birth dates in a complementary color, and a flower to represent that person. The last square holds a bouquet of all of the flowers. I plotted out the design myself, and planned it as a Christmas gift for my mother, sometime back in the early 1970s. The names are of each of her children. It’s still not finished.

It keeps company, in that old suitcase, with the beginnings of an embroidered quilt made up of squares cut from old blue jeans, several mitten halves cut from old sweaters, not yet blanket stitched together, and piles of crocheted granny squares. I have quite a collection of baby sized afghans (I call them lap-robes, now) that were intended to be full sized afghans.

In my studio, one slim drawer holds “finished works”, waiting to be matted or framed for display. Four others are labelled “work in progress,” and they are full to overflowing!

The middle of a project doesn’t grab and hold my attention as easily. Beginnings hold promise. Anything is possible! New ideas spark with energy! Continuing, the challenge is to maintain the vision, to keep the energy, to work out the kinks and solve problems as they come up.

It helps to have several projects going on, so that there’s a choice. Within those projects, it’s best if there are also options as to what aspect to work on, based on time and mood. It’s most helpful to have designated time to work, to hold on to the initial inspiration, and to have a particular end in sight.

Still, continuing can be hard.

This Day…

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It seems, these days, that my head is filled with lists of things I need to do.

I wake up, usually, about two AM, running the items through my mind. I’m out of bed by three, with a cup of chamomile tea, shuffling through papers or writing things down. I rarely accomplish anything worthwhile in the middle of the night. If I’m lucky, the tea and a bit of activity will allow me to fall back asleep, so that my nocturnal worrying doesn’t spoil me for the day ahead.

I feel overwhelmed in my life.

There seems to be no area that I’m not behind in.

When I am at my main day job, I’m able to focus on that. It keeps me busy enough to hold my attention.

It’s when I’m home that everything else crowds in.

Housework, laundry, home repair, special projects, yard and garden maintenance, dog-walking, bill-paying and letter-writing.

That’s just my personal life.

The news magazine has a whole list of its own, of things to write…or plan…or send…or do.

Then there is the studio, with paintings and collagraphs to finish and other ideas to flesh out. A daily drawing practice planned and abandoned. A new collaborative project, and thirty canvases waiting. Ceramic wares to be fired…big plans for a new kiln…no time.

There are stacks of books in progress, or waiting to be read.

November is just around the corner. Last year, I wrote a blog post every day of that month. I’m thinking of trying it again this year. It seems my writing has devolved into long tirades filled with whining and complaint. Would writing every day get me past that, or just indulge my self-centered ranting? Do I really want one more obligation? Am I crazy?

Yesterday, facing my day off, I was up in the night plotting all that I would accomplish. I took to the couch at 6AM, and slept until after nine. UGH! Rainy outside, I was able to set aside the mowing, raking, pruning and pulling that might have otherwise competed for attention.

In between loads of laundry, sweeping and scouring, I managed to finish a couple projects that have been waiting.

I assembled a new box spring, to support the mattress of my double bed.

I was not dissatisfied with my single bed. It actually gives me a bit more room to move around in my small bedroom. That is  doubly important ever since I moved Mom’s cedar chest and Mrs. Valaquet’s hand-me-down dresser into the space. However, last year, while attempting to drill through the wooden headboard, to lower the height of the mattress so that my little dog could get on and off on her own, I split the frame. Since then, the single sized flat springs topped by single sized mattress have been sitting on top of a twin-sized metal bed frame. Though the difference is small, it’s enough so that every time I roll over or shift in bed, the mattress slides off one edge of the frame, and sits at a slant until I get up to fix it.  The mattress is not the best, either. Lately, I’ve been looking longingly at the double bed.

I have always liked the double bed. My husband and I found the frame on the roadside, on sale for twenty dollars, many years ago. I had just bought a new mattress for it when – in an allergy-induced fit of purging the house of anything that might harbor dust mites – I got rid of the old box spring and stored the bed.

I tried to make a mattress support for it several months ago, in the middle of the night. With a hand saw, I trimmed a dozen 1 x 6 pine boards to fit precisely between the metal side rails of the bed, arranged them as planned, added the mattress, sheets and comforter, congratulated myself on a job well done, and got into bed…only to have it collapse. Evidently, pine boards have too much sway. So, in the middle of the night, I had to clear away the boards, stash the mattress, metal headboard, foot board and side rails in the attic, pull out the frame and mattress for the twin bed from the same small attic (a task that involves more coordination, planning and ability to pirouette than I have, thank you!), remake the small bed…and done.

This product, designed for supporting a mattress, should be better. It came through the mail several weeks ago, in a surprisingly small box. Though it’s called a box spring, there are no springs. The box contained several pre-drilled pieces made up of boards and spacers, bolts, nuts and screws. In order to have room to assemble it, I would have to commit to – once again – disassembling and storing the twin bed. That alone caused another week of procrastination!

Yesterday was the day for action!

It went surprisingly well. The kit required twelve bolts and nuts (thirteen of each were in the package) and thirty screws. Only 28 screws were sent, which caused a bit of a scramble to remember where I’d stored the toolbox that would probably (and it did!) have a couple screws in it. Otherwise, there were no major issues. Box spring assembled and double bed put together, sheets and comforter in place, I am happy to report this bed does not collapse when I get into it!

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I was so bolstered by this success story, I went on to move the legs on my suitcase coffee table. That also went without a hitch!

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Encouraged by this success, I’m wondering what I can accomplish today!

First, I’m going to tackle the crazy-making agenda of my life. I need a schedule. I am going to plan time to work on specific projects…but it can’t be all the time. I am going to figure out how to have time to do whatever I want, even if just a few minutes a day, without guilt over what I “should” be doing.

On this day, I’m going to start placing as much importance on living this life as I do on any other job.

That is, after all, the most important job any of us have.