Category Archives: Writing

Punching the List

Punch list update! 

The short story, we bought a house, made a repair “punch” list, closed a business, inherited a quilters will, a crafters will, my favorite maiden aunt died and my beloved got sick.  Then he died, all within three years. Breathe.

My beloved managed to slice a good portion of the 100 item punch list before he was promoted to engineer for Jesus full time.  The twenty five items he completed were big ones that would have been costly for me to hire to complete.  He rewired walls and the main panel, replaced rafters, installed two sprinkler systems, built a staircase, installed a floor in the two lofts and more.  I am so thankful for what he managed to complete!  The 76 items left loom over me like an oncoming freight train.  I budgeted for them carefully and set a priority for each item and began to tackle them one by one. 

Saturday morning I was able to put the final coat of paint on the trim around a sliding glass door and hang the blinds.  This was the completion of a long drawn out item that included: repairing water damage to the wall, removing its cause, associated black mold, insulation and drywall, some wiring and replacing a damaged outside light fixture.  I lost the alarm, electricity, light and phone on that wall due to the water damage.  The patio cover on the outside of the wall had to also be removed and the damage to the stucco repaired and trim replaced.  Research and technical advice on how to proceed were required to proceed.  It also required I face my Kryptonite, multiple trips to the big box hardware stores where the service is less than desirable when you don’t know what you are doing!  I am sooooooooooo happy that this wall is done!!!!!!!

I haven’t been brave enough during the last few months to even look at the outstanding punch list.  I could only deal with one overwhelming task at a time so, what was the point.  Today I opened up the Excel spreadsheet to move the wall repairs to the completed page and do a review/update of my remaining tasks.  There are some larger ticket items on the list that include:  insulate attic, tile the master shower, replace kitchen window and associated water damage on that wall, replace water damaged kitchen cabinets, remove two crumbling cement pads, replace patio pad, new patio/balcony (old one is removed), new construction of walkway from bedroom to landing in loft.  There are a total of 30 items, the rest are easier and lower cost.  The budget for the entire list is $33,960.00.  I feel so broke just looking at it!  Items that I complete myself will lower the cost but take longer.  Welcome to homeownership.

A review of the completed page revealed that I was completing the tasks at a rate of one a month.  Good right?  At this rate, I will finish the list in almost three years.  I really need it done in two so I can retire and transition to a fixed income.  That means I need to complete seventeen tasks this year, thirteen tasks in 2017 and four tasks in 2018 for a total of 34.  The last four tasks are looking like they may have to just stay a wish and a dream. Reality is, I may not have the money to complete them.

Who knows, if I am brave enough and talented enough to actually finish my three novels and sell them, it might just work out.  My home is no longer the horrible looking pit it was when we bought it in a short sale.  It’s still in the needs improvement  category but I have two neighbors that have usurped me in the “worst” house spot. Each item I can complete on the punch list only improves the look and value of my home. 

The land of optimism is a much better place to live than the dark side.  There are more sane people there.

 

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Filed under All Things Crafty, Grief, Homeowner, Projects, Writing

Anxious Much?

I was raised by a bitical woman (bitter + critical = bitical).  That explains where I learned to fail so well but it does not explain why, equipped with this knowledge, I can’t seem to shake it off.  I ended the relationships that were so toxic and damaging to me completely when my beloved died and they (plural) saw it as an opportunity to attack me personally when I was at my lowest.  I had all but ended relationships with them before but, without my beloved protector and personal encourager, it was no longer possible to have contact with them.  That is their problem, my problem remains but is different.

I set wonderful goals with appropriate steps to complete them; good time frames and even plan outside influences to create my success.  I have great technical plans and then I fail to follow through until completion.  My big girl pants just don’t seem to stay on as long as I need them to.  I shoot myself in the foot on a regular basis and when I get close to the goal line, I fail to finish.  I have volumes of stories that have never seen the light of day. This blog is the first time I have freely let my words leave without rushing to pull them back and protect them from harm.  It is a learning experience for me and, perhaps because I have so few followers, I’ve been able to let it go and be myself.

NaNoWriMo has been a great experience for me to “turn off my inner editor” which is really a technical writer and the child of bitterness.  Coaching others to complete the 50,000 word count has helped me grow and throw out my inner bitical critic. Seven years as a staff volunteer for the San Francisco Writers Conference has provided me with healing encouragement and hundreds of success stories and relationships with people who are happy to see me when I walk into the room.

To stretch those new confidence muscles even more, I have started my own critique group and am going to submit two short stories for publication in an anthology.  It is not so important that I get accepted for publication as it is I actually submit it.  I sent one of the stories to a beta reader.  Not just any beta reader but, one I consider to be a true American hero.  He served as an Army Ranger and later as an undercover police officer.  He gave much for his country, including the life of his mother when his cover was blown.  He is quiet, humble and extremely smart.  The story deals with PTSD, a subject he is an expert on.  I highly value his opinion.

I sent the story to my friend yesterday at 5:00 p.m. and was awake most of the night.  My anxiety level was sky high.  I expected one of two things; he would read it and politely say little or nothing or attack it with a full offensive.  Neither happened.  The time stamp was 10:27 p.m. the same day and he liked it!  His wife liked it! He gave me 12 suggestions (some I should have caught if I wasn’t so anxious).

It is time for me to succeed!  I have awesome friends and an awesome God!  Now Tessa, let it go and get it done.

Worry for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

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Filed under All Things Crafty, Grief, Homeowner, Life Lessons, SFWC, Writing

Rain in California = Indoor Projects

Textured wall sm

Post Writers Conference To-Do List, Homeowners To-Do List, Work To-Do List, and then there is the offspring Mom “can you” To-Do List.  I need to retire to get some work done!

My Homeowners To-Do List is the one that weighs on me the most.  It is in my face and doesn’t go away unless I’m sleeping.  It is still there in the morning when I wake up.  We purchased the home in 2008 and a series of events quickly overtook us.  My beloved was able to complete 25 of the 100 projects on our punch list.  He tackled the biggest and most expensive ones first before he was pulled away by 60 hour work weeks and his eventual death by job in 2013.  The official cause was pneumonia; only because Americans don’t have the term the Japanese use, Karoshi (death by job). He worked himself to death and I’m trying my best to find balance in my life and not follow his example.

I’m grateful for the 25 items he did get done and the 40 that I have completed in the last four years.  Projects including removing hazardous trees, painting, trim work and laying a 1,100 sq. ft. hardwood floor.  That leaves me 35 to tackle.  I am frustrated with my inability to get things done quickly. I would really like to take a shower in the master bathroom but that project does not rise to the top of the priority level.

With a heavy heart, I must add several projects to the list.  The last heavy rain shook me out of my denial and I must replace another window.  I have a heavy heart because I do not possess the ability to replace a window and will need to pay someone to do it. The leaking has been going on for so long behind the paint the sill is a void in the corner. When wiping up the water my finger went through the paint.  I have also decided to add a false wall to hide a butler’s pantry in the great room.  I can do the wall myself if my handyman places the floor plates for me.  I’ve decided this is the best way to stage everything for my kitchen replacement that way most of the mess will be hidden  The cabinets are either water damaged or were chewed on by the previous owner’s dogs.  I still have not replaced the ugly kitchen floor.  I really wanted to run the bamboo flooring into the kitchen but the grandchildren have made me rethink.  My 11 year old grandson has dropped a regular hammer and a small sledgehammer on the new hardwood in the den and left dents, major bummer.  I am having problems with him in understanding that grandpa’s tools are not his just because grandpa won’t be using them anymore.

This week, I need to finish several things so I can get outside when the rain stops!  The trim is now nailed up on the water damaged wall in the den after six trips to unhelpful big box hardware stores to find the right piece!  I’ve already painted the repaired area (photo shows texturing only).  So close, and then this item comes off the list!  I will also complete one more transition in the hallway floor and a second clear coat for the garage threshold. Three items this week, I think that will be enough.

When I’m not pretending to be Mrs. Winchester, I also have two literary deadlines before March 15 and an unlimited supply of overtime that I resist almost daily, almost.  The frustration level is very high this week and I have to constantly remind myself to trust God will bring me through it all.

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Filed under Grief, Homeowner, Prepare, Projects, Stress Reduction, Writing

NaNo Recovery

 

Last night I met up with a teacher friend who was writing a final for her high school students at Denney’s, a local diner.  This was my first public writing effort since November 30th.  I love the National Novel Writing Month each November.  I’m a technical writer and edit as I write. This is great for work but bogs down the novel writing efforts to a crawl.  NaNo has really helped me to “turn off my inner editor” and make real headway on my projects.

The Christmas season is upon us with a whirl of regulatory deadlines, school events and parties.  Last night may be my only effort squeezed into December as the overtime ramps up.  January will be here soon enough and my fellow NaNo’s (or WriMo’s) want to get together for a regular, more casual, event.

Today, I am adding new external links on my employer’s safety website and came across this from the America’s PreparAthon website.  (FEMA) It is my response to the statement I often get from people I fail to understand, “Why would you want to get involved?”

The answer:  https://youtu.be/qBrMU0sLoHQ

http://community.fema.gov/

Keep America strong!

Love those around you and Stay Safe out there!

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Be Thankful – Be Positive

The National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWriMo, is in full swing.  Do you NaNo?  I am honored to be the Liaison for my Region.  I take care of small details and set up events for my Region.  We meet together, for those interested, every week.  I’m a sometime coach and general encourager.

This year we have more under 18 writers than last year.  I’ve been surprised at how a small encouraging word makes a big impact.  One author was ready to quit and is now strongly powering on to the finish.  One young adult, barely over 18, made a comment to me in an email.

“I’m behind just a little in my word count but I really want to catch up, this is my last chance to be an author.”

Did you just hear the brakes of my virtual car slam on?  I could swear they did and a 20 car pileup ensued.  I wanted to ask, who has been filling your mind with rubbish but refrained.  My job is to encourage not to solve the issue of world peace or even home peace.

I hope I managed to convince this precious writer that it is not the last chance.  They are writing between 250-500 words in each 10 minute virtual word sprint.  I have reasoned with the writer that if you can write that many words in 10 minutes, why can’t you find a 15 minute chunk of time to write every day.  Hide in the bathroom; write in bed after lights go out.  Write over lunch (I do!).  It’s o.k. to write in public just as it is o.k. to hide your writing in secret.  It is not o.k. to quit on yourself.  Don’t give up your dreams no matter who tells you are not ______ enough.

Jesus only gave us two rules to live by:  Love God, Love Others.  During this Thanksgiving season, do your own personal reality checkup.  Ask yourself:

  1. Do I express my thanks and appreciation to God and others?
  2. Am I kind to myself?
  3. Am I kind to others?
  4. Am I paying too much attention to what others say?
  5. Am I paying attention to my goals and dreams?
  6. Am I thankful?

It is a rare honor to be able to convince someone to believe in themselves and to reach for their personal dreams.  Be so thankful and kind this Thanksgiving that someone will be encouraged because you are alive!  Go change someone’s world for the better; it might be your own.

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Write On!

I made it through the difficult days, from my birthday until my wedding anniversary.  Days in which my beloved is missed dearly. Time to let the grief drift into the background and get back on track and in focus.

I seem to be doing better, at least if word count is an indicator.  October was a haze.  I can’t really say what I was busy with.  My calendar shows some activity but not the hectic pace I felt.  It must have been “the list” accomplishments.  The rest of the defunct patio covering was demolished, winter 2015 yard cleanup, shower caulking (for tile install), stucco repaired and finishing off a 4 month project to install 1,100 sq. ft. of bamboo flooring.  Rub knees, take a deep breath!

Last night, I had a few friends in and we laughed our socks off at Pitch Perfect 2!  Good friends, good food, roaring fire in the fireplace and something to laugh at.  I recommend it highly to improve your sleep patterns.

November is NO-vember.  No to any new projects, requests or pleading.  I have two birthday parties to host for grandchildren (14 and 9).  I am the Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo for the county I live in.  I will celebrate Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving visitors.  Last, but not least, is a commitment to myself to write 50,000 words in the month of December for the National Novel Writing Month.  National Novel Writing Month

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2015 N of WD speaker Marissa Meyer

To keep up with the commitment, I must write 1,667 words per day.  I’m a little behind but I’ll catch up.  I missed a few consecutive days but am committing to write every day regardless of how many yeowls the cat makes and squawks the chickens produce.

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Filed under Grief, Stress Reduction, Writing

Modern Day Shunning

We seem to be fascinated with the Amish in today’s society.  Breaking Amish is a popular reality TV show.  Why are we so curious about a people that not only dislike but generally refuse to be interviewed or photographed?  Is it just the unknown that attracts us?  The individuals I spoke to all commented on the ridged, inflexibility of the lives of the Amish and their harsh penalties.  My in-laws came from Amish and Mennonite stock so I have a slightly different take on those harsh penalties.  I am by no means an expert but will try my best to draw a parallel that is flawed and incomplete.

What others consider harsh is, in part, just life.  You are never far from a natural disaster when you live extremely close to nature.  Drought, fire, flood, pests (you get the idea) can descend on your home, crops and way of life rendering you helpless.  The time to prepare is before the natural event.  You prepare for the off-seasons when you can’t grow your food by setting aside for it.  This is a way of life for the Amish; they set aside for the winters, for a slow or no growing season.  They set aside to provide for themselves as well as for their children, livestock and even a little bit more for their neighbors.  They are extremely hard working people and like any group of people there will be an extremist. The strict attention to providing for themselves without outside aid is often misinterpreted as harsh.  It is not harsh but a chosen way of life, each child is given plenty of time to consider and make that choice before joining the church.  The television “stars” that have joined the church and are now “breaking free”, are pursuing something similar to a divorce.  The commitment was made and then broken.   My in-laws chose to leave the community when their approved time to choose arrived.  They were not shunned but the chosen way of life set them apart from the friends they grew up with.  All Amish are given the choice.  Not all outside the Amish community are given choices.

Then there is the shunning, what’s that all about?  The shunning is to protect their way of life.  If you join the church and then break with it, you are usually shunned because you have broken one of their most sacred commitments.  It is a matter of trust.  If you don’t join the church, the shunning doesn’t always happen.  You are not included in many of the “church” activities but the harsher shunning is not automatic.  Social opportunities are limited because they usually occur within the church but the level of shunning is up to the local leaders.

Contrast this with the modern high-tech world.  You wouldn’t think our society practices shunning, right?  Well, we do, and we do it big!  Social media is the preferred method of communication for many young people and the young at heart.  I even have four social media accounts.  Almost everyone has a smart cell phone these days.  How do you communicate?  Do you sit down and linger over a cup of coffee, spend the evening at a friend’s house for dinner, dessert and a few hours of conversation?  Plan a shopping trip for the new season of fashion?  Probably not?

We are fast paced, hurry, leave a message, post a status so you don’t have to tell everyone individually and generally rush through life.  How quick are people to defriend, block and remove from social media people they would never openly tell them they are doing it?  This is modern day shunning.

Vaugebooking is the disturbing passive aggressive practice of withholding information in an extremely immature way in order to elicit attention and sympathy.

From the internet:

“Today has gotten the best of me. I’m just not feeling it. Some people just don’t understand how their actions affect others. Signing off now.” What do you think, hide them from your newsfeed or full out shun them?  Do they need help or are you enabling sick behavior?  Is it your job to see to their mental health?  Are you your brother’s keeper?  Is this a friend in a face to face relationship? Perhaps it would be best to not feed the bear and ignore vaguebooking by refusing to ask the questions the author is trolling for.  If it is a friend, then you have a phone number to use.

I assert that lasting relationships are intentional and love is not a just a noun but a verb.  My best friend has already retired, yet she is intentional in keeping our friendship alive.  Today, we have a lunch planned.  She will pick me up in front of my office building and whisk me away for a few minutes of catch up, food and laughter.  When my beloved died, she paid a bridge toll and drove the 30 minutes to my house every day for a month.  We send emails; have regular phone calls and the occasional outing or lunch.  It is intentional and Facebook is not where our friendship is maintained.

Social Media is a euphemism for a relationship.  It looks and feels like shunning from real relationships because it is popular but, as time progress and you find yourself needing a friend with skin on, will your thousands of “friends” be there?  When you call for help because you have fallen in life, who will come?  Who have you invested in?

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Filed under Life Lessons, Social Media, Writing

Planning for Monday Morning Success

It’s Monday and my plans for success have already been fired upon.  My stamina is low as I recover from an ugly bought of mono so I need to plan better. I carefully laid out my clothing and schedule for today.  My purse and badge were in order and by the door.  Lunch was laid out and ready to be packed.  The Keurig was ready for a push of the button.

All I had to do to get out the door was get dressed, feed the animals, push a button and pack the lunch.  I left out one little important item, my memory stick!

Pooh!  My current work in progress is on that stick.  I do have it backed up on my laptop and external storage but it is difficult to work on a piece if you don’t have it with you.  I like to shut my door and eat lunch while escaping into my current piece of fiction.  I get a great sense of accomplishment in banging out 1,000 words over my lunch hour.  It makes me happy to know I contributed to reaching my goals.

I guess I will read on my lunch instead and try to find time to write tonight.  What a horrible sacrifice, to just sit and read, I will just have to force myself.  (Dramatic sigh added for emphasis)

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A Writer’s Listening Block

Every SFO Writer’s event I attend brings something new into my life. I spent years focused on making others successful: my husband’s business, my children’s success, my boss etc. I brought up spending more time writing with my beloved and he was all for it, he was my biggest fan. I almost stopped volunteering when he died. He used to be my beloved chauffer for the hour long drive to SFO.  It was a special “couple time” in our busy schedule and often included a special dinner. He passed away at 52 and even though he is gone, I still find strength in his belief in me as more than a Technical Writer but as a Fiction Writer as well.

My plan is to just keep writing at this point. To learn more about the craft and to position myself for success with several manuscripts in good shape before “launching” which I plan to precede retirement in 3-5 years. The better my craft, the fewer years to retirement. This year I will have written at least 120,000 words towards my own success not including my blog (while working full time, mom to grown-up kids, and a being the best grandmother). I am also building my platform! Hah, I would have thought that involved 2 x 4’s and nails a few years ago!

This is where my changing mindset has been and where it is going.  I learn new things based on where my head is so I concentrate on being open to learning new things and not experiencing a mental “hardening of the arteries”.

This year at Writing for Change I had preconceived ideas about the line-up, Nina Amir is one of the speakers again and will Karma really show up? I schooled myself to keep an open mind and go to promote literacy in the craft as a volunteer, model hospitality to the attendees and to learn three new things.

I enjoyed Adam Hochschild as a keynote speaker (To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918), he opened my mind about writing history and how it can still touch us today. Michael Larsen always encourages writers to hold up their books and in doing so, to be their own promoter and to take themselves seriously as writers (I love his punny jokes). Jim Azevedo at Smashwords is always fun to talk to as well as some of the usual suspects like Nina Amir (The Author Training Manual). Elizabeth Pomada always brings a touch of class and kindness to any event as well as a wealth of knowledge and the editor/agent line-up was first class.

So what about the “usual suspects” specifically Nina Amir? I listen as I volunteer to keep track of the pulse of the attendees and anticipate their needs. While Nina was speaking, several of the attendees made comments about how valuable her information was. Attendees were taking notes on the handouts and making game plans. I have heard Nina speak several times on multiple topics that were value added for me but, my mind was not open to learning anything new from her, my mistake. The attendees comments helped me to listen with an ear towards learning something that will take me one step closer to success. Why had I discounted some solid advice?  I started taking notes after that and now have several pages of ideas and “next steps” towards my success. My apologies to Ms. Amir for my jaded listening skills.

This year I will miss the first few days of the annual San Francisco Writers Conference as I attend my baby’s wedding but I plan on catching the last day or two. I’m excited about my busy President’s Day Weekend 2015 and the new beginnings for those who will listen and have the courage to embrace new things!

Happy writing!

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Words as a Comfort Food

Words as Comfort

I’m not sure where this photo came from but I snagged it from a PowerPoint that someone sent me.  It just said so much!

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