Backyard Musings

Creatively, it’s been a rough month. Literary rejections and a house full of visiting kids are the two biggest factors. Both of these can provide inspiration, but dished out simultaneously over the course of the past few weeks, my soul was beginning to wilt.

What could I do to find peace and inspiration while keeping watch over seven kids? Trek around the backyard, while tuning out the noise of the kickball game for a few minutes.

My goal was twofold: find examples of FORTITUDE in nature as well as the beautiful patina of CORRODED metal.

Mission accomplished, spirits lifted!

With the help of my camera, I recorded these wonders in abundance and will share them over the next few posts. Today, I’m skipping Fernando (though there is good news from his neighborhood) and going straight to the back fence. When my family moved into this house nearly two decades ago, there was a tree growing through the fence, just one or two links worth. We left it alone, and now it looks like this.
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It’s sad, in a way, but a powerful example of growing despite trials and perceived road blocks.
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What could have halted progression became woven into its life, making the core stronger. (It’s survived several hurricanes.)
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Not only is this tree still growing, it’s providing a craggy surface for other living things. Love that moss!
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The textures are amazing.
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Where can you find inspiration today?

Life as I Know It

Sixteen years ago today my oldest was born and things haven’t been the same since. I can’t imagine life without him (or the other two that followed.) We have a special bond, in part because of my husband’s job but also because our personalities are similar. We were solo a lot of the time during his first several years of life, but when he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at three years old, my world opened up. Without my son, I wouldn’t understand myself as well as I do, my other kids would probably have health issues, and I wouldn’t have found a good percentage of the books I read. His autism has enabled new understanding, peace, and preventative strategies for health and well-being. It’s allowed me to make connections with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and inspired several of my articles and manuscripts. My son has motivated my life, from writing to relationships, from reading to travel. It’s been a journey of love, with plenty of ups and downs to share along the way. Here’s to more years of sharing.

On the beach at Dauphin Island, May 2014

On the beach at Dauphin Island, May 2014

Midyear Reality Check

As noted in a previous post, my life fell apart sometime late spring. True, it was nothing disastrous—more like a mini-emotional breakdown—but it was a call to action.

My reading slowed.

My writing was non-existent.

My health and sanity = Scary Carrie.

I’m happy to report the past six weeks have proven productive, as well as enjoyable. I started charting monthly goals, and while June’s targets were a call to action, I’m pleased to share that I met half of them (plus made progress in the other categories.) I’m in a much better place than I was just over a month ago.

And it feels great!
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Even though the elements maybe stacked against us—see, even Fernando is battling wilt—fortitude works. Whether it’s through service to others, improving your own health, or embracing faith, life is about making this day better than the one before. Goals help me focus and stay accountable, how about you?

Halfway There

I’m halfway through my reading goal for the year. I finished the fiftieth book out of my one hundred book challenge. Out of those fifty, I currently have thirty books in my possession. Two of my nonfiction books and two fiction are out on loan, one title I borrowed from a friend, I read five books on my Nook, and the other ten were from the local library. Since the last book I finished (ONE NATION: WHAT WE CAN ALL DO TO SAVE AMERICA’S FUTURE by Ben Carson, MD) is a loaner to me from a friend, it all balances out.

Here are some pictures, in chronological order from oldest to newest read. (A couple of these were rereads, but most were first timers.) To see my complete list, check out my goodreads shelves.

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I read diverse books: from genres to subject matter to authors. The first half of the year I covered all types of fiction, from chapter books to adult, plus a graphic novel and poetry collection. Non-fiction featuring current events, education, self-help, and biography. Authors and characters with medical issues, from all walks of life, and of a variety of ethnic backgrounds—I read it all.

What have you been reading?

Surreal Reading Moment

My autistic teen goes to bed when the younger kids do, but he has permission to read a pre-determined number of chapters before turning his clip-on light out. Since chapter length varies by book, he’s learned the art of bartering. If I say “Two chapters” he’ll tell me, “Chapters too little. Five chapters.” I’m likely to say three, and he’ll say “five, five, five!” To which I’ll respond, with an offer of three or possibly accepted his request. It all depends on the time the bedtime routine is finished.

Last week he borrowed my library book—before I got a chance to read it. The Game of My Life: A True Story of Challenge, Triumph, and Growing Up Autistic by Jason (J-Mac) McElwain with Daniel Paisner is something I wanted to read, but I did hope he’d show an interest, too. (Yes, the J-Mac of the high school basketball video that went viral a few years ago—and still makes the rounds. He also finished the Boston Marathon this year.)
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When my son’s done with his chapters, he comes in to tell me (proud that he read so much) and I try to ask about what’s happened in the book, or who it’s about. Usually, I’ve read the book but he’s branching out more—he read a Captain Underpants book the week before which isn’t a series I’ve tried out for myself. I asked him what happened in the J-Mac book and he got all excited and said “Big Bird! Sesame Street!” and repeated that a few times. Since he spent way too many years obsessed with the show, I thought he might have been flashing back to scripting or something, but I asked, “Does J-Mac like Sesame Street?” (I’ve heard it referenced in at least one other autobiography of a young adult on the spectrum.) My son said “yes” and smiled really big.

Did we just have a conversation?

Yes, this seemingly small exchange does count, especially when it takes years to get that far, but I wasn’t completely convinced because of his Sesame Street response.

Well, this weekend I got my chance with the book. Sure enough, J-Mac’s first words were “Big Bird”, said while he was watching the show with his brother.

Note to self: Don’t underestimate the power of books when it comes to opening communication with my child.

Has a book helped with discussions between you and someone you love?

P.S. Here’s the Fernando update:

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

He’s taking to the summer well, as long as water is provided on the non-thunderstorm days.
And is it just me, or does the moss/fungus on the right look a little corroded?

Rejuvenated

The hard work I mentioned last week is paying off—the baby steps are adding up. Plus, this weekend was great. Started it with the BOSTON concert Friday night (a rare date night with my husband) and ended with family time on Sunday.
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Of course, I have to mention the music. The show was fabulous. My face was sore from smiling—that’s how much I enjoyed it. We had balcony tickets this time and Hard Rock Biloxi is a great venue so the seats were actually comfortable. I’d rather be standing down front, though.
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I’m still wearing my feel-good post-concert mood and today has been extra productive, like the beginning of the week usually is for me.
• I organized this next year’s homeschool work, plus sorted out each kid’s first week of work (which is next week.)
• Cleaned two months of paper mess from the top of my file cabinets.
• And I passed five thousand words on my current project.
I love Mondays!
What’s your favorite day of the week?

Ain’t No Cure but Hard Work

If you know me or have been reading this blog for more than a season, you know that summer is my least favorite time of the year. Yes, I know that it isn’t technically summer, but it’s in full swing on the Gulf Coast. The thermostat has reached ninety degrees and the humidity is at sauna conditions.

Fortunately, I think I reached my yearly low last month (notice there were only two blog posts in the past thirty-one days.) But, never fear, I’ve slowly been on the upswing. The final shove came gently from my critique buddies at our meeting this weekend. Thanks, MeLeesa and Joyce! For me it’s now baby steps to the blog. Baby steps to the Scrivener file. But at least I’m moving.

May was rough, though. The month started with adding another year to my life chart, but ended with a great concert at the Hard Rock in Biloxi. Power metal, country, classical, world, folk, pop, oldies, classic rock, opera, R&B, rap… my music knows no genre boundaries, but I’m very selective about music groups/singers.

Last week, Diamond Rio played at the Hard Rock. They’re my favorite country group—I’ve been listening to them since I first heard “Meet in the Middle” during my freshman year in high school. (Of course, I was also listening to Firehouse, J.S. Bach, and Enya. Like I said, no musical borders in Wonderland.)

Besides the great show, all six band members did a meet and greet next to the merchandise table after the show. Naturally, I bought the band’s autobiography and gushed over the twenty-three years of music fandom while they all signed the book. (Here’s another bunch to add to the Fantabutius roster.) The experience of participating in the creating (composing music), sharing (concert), and spending time with fans (autographing) reminded me of my own goals as a writer. I need to work on my craft to have something for people to read, so I can hopefully inspire others to do the same. 100_5591

The Diamond Rio concert was a great way to end the moody month and start me thinking about creativity and positive vibes. This past week I finally started a mood music file for my current project and started thinking more about characters and less about the literary rejections. Here’s to a summer of magic and memories in the making. What do you have in mind?

Bonus, I’m going back to the venue for a BOSTON concert on Friday. Rock on!