So the month of NaNoWriMo has passed. I did not write 50,000 words in November. Worse yet, I did not finish a complete rough draft of a novel in autumn, which was my actual goal. (Otherwise known as my Boss-Fight Quest, as you may recall.) Assuredly, by these metrics, I have failed.
I am writing again. I have figured out how to find the time and energy I need to make words happen, even as I continue to settle into my life in North Carolina.
During the month of November, I pretty much set aside everything I deemed negotiable — things like housekeeping and social media maintenance, for example — in favor of a new approach. I split my waking time into thirds, as follows: 1/3 taking care of my self and my loved ones, 1/3 having fun and relaxing, and 1/3 working on the novel. (Plus, I’ve been sleeping regularly … up to eight hours at a time!) This approach worked. (Even if it didn’t lead to prodigious, NaNoWriMo-style output.)
This autumn, I helped my daughter sell her buttons at a couple of events, including the Raleigh Pagan Pride Festival. Our family picked out, and are preparing for, a puppy who will come home to us in a three weeks. I went to the NC State Fair. (That was a two-for. Both fun and work, because I wanted to do some research for the novel setting.) And now plans are underway to have a real Christmas, for the first time in years.
I also wrote about a third of a novel. (One that is shaping up pretty damn well, I think.)
In these last few days of fall, 2016, I feel balanced and healthy. My relationships are happy. My home environment is … fine. (Better than fine, really. Even good. Just not immaculate.)
So. As the “winter” season begins, I’m going to stay with this plan. I’ll have to make few tweaks of course. I am going to have to dust, sooner or later. And, as usual, I’m resolving to being more faithful to the blog and my other social media connections. I hope to do some on-topic posts in coming weeks, but for now I’ll settle for checking in with you and sharing a bit of what I wrote in autumn.
I hope you are all well, and living the lives you want to live.
P.S. Please remember, this is from a first draft.
Excerpt from ‘the carnival novel’. (As it is currently known.)
The wind lifted the hair off his hot nape, bringing with it a fresh burst of his prey’s scent. Under layers of sweet and powdery perfumes, the animal smell — the betaille smell — of her was dank. She reeked of long-dried excretions, of gently rotting teeth, of pinprick wounds now scabbed over.
For more than an hour, she’d been posing off to the side of midway traffic, smoking cigarettes, making herself available. Despite the sultry evening, she was wearing a jacket with long sleeves and many pockets. All the better to hide a pharmacy, he thought, scowling. Below the hem of the coat, a few inches of denim-clad thigh showed above tall boots. Best to cover up as much scarred and pasty skin as possible, eh Chère? He noted the boots were flats. She’d be able to run.
The night was loud with the sounds of the carnival, but it was no trouble for him to sift through the noise and hear the patter she directed at teenagers as they passed. “I love your skirt,” she’d call out. Or “Hey, where’d you get that foot long?” If the marks engaged with her, she’d chat some, maybe offer a cigarette, before asking, “Looking to get hooked up?” Or, “Need some party supplies?”
The kids couldn’t see the sloven woman — the salope — beneath her fresh-from-the-mall clothing. A shoplifter too, yeah. They couldn’t see the underside of her shiny, long, false nails were crusted with dirt and food and flakes of skin. To them she was a girl, like them, except a bit more edgy. Just a pretty pichouette, in a fashionably distressed jacket, offering to sell them a little fun.
Maybe if she only peddled the mari, he would leave her be. True, she was stealing money better spent on the carnival’s attractions, but about that he could look the other way. After all, some of her marks had come to the carnival only to score their pot. Whatever dollars were spent on the midway by such as them was a windfall, a side effect of the “munchies” her herb inspired. If mari were all she sold, he could forgive the trespass. Mais non, this one sold all the poisons, all the pills and powders and rocks. And some of the children she pitched were so young they had yet to grow hair under their clothes.
Now she was selling capsules, each a one, to a trio of muscular young men wearing matching jerseys. The were laughing and posturing for her, daring her to come ride the Freefall with them. He tensed as she looked up at the blazing neon tower they pointed at, worried she might slip away from him, escorted by the fortuitous herd of near-innocents.
His shoulders relaxed when she put them off, telling them to come back around for her later, making sure to touch each boy as she made her excuses. Was she a putain too? If so she was spoiled meat. He could smell her sickness from where he crouched.
Finally the pack of boys left her. As soon as they turned away, her flirtatious pout fled her face and she licked her thin lips. With narrow, feral eyes she looked up and down the strip. Assured that no one was paying attention to her, she turned her back to the flow of people and swiftly organized the cash the boys had pressed into her hands. She tucked a single bill deep into her front pocket then slipped the rest down the front of her pants, careful to snug the wad up against her crotch.
She looked up suddenly, a stray chienne who’d caught an alarming odor. She peered into the darkness, trying to decide if there was something or someone to fear between the generators he was using as cover. He held his ground, motionless. If her human vision was better, she would have made direct eye contact with him, but to her there could be nothing more than a glint of reddish light reflecting from his eyes. Spooked even so, she backed out into the traffic behind her, then allowed the stream to carry her eastward. She glanced back to her squatter’s territory twice before the crowd swallowed her. Trust one predator to know when another was around.
Staying to the alleys, he kept pace with her as she strolled along the midway, not always bothering to keep her in his sight; he would not lose her trace now. He contented himself with occasional glimpses of her long blond ponytail and that jacket. Within five minutes, with the invisible pressure of him muted by distance, she had stopped checking over her shoulder.
He drew close again when she paused to buy a lemonade and a pretzel. A local boy, temporarily hired to work behind the counter, was just as vulnerable to her surface beauty as any mark. But — he was pleased to see — his cousin Salvatore’s son, who was running the booth tonight, was not fooled. His face twitched in disgust when he caught a whiff of her. When the local went to pump extra cheese into a second cup for her, T-Salvatore stopped his hand with a disapproving glare that forbid the lagniappe.
She moved on. By the time she dropped her plastic lemonade cup into a garbage can, her loose-hipped, easy saunter told him that she was feeling confident again. He wondered if she’d circle back to the corner where he’d discovered her or choose a new location to hawk her wares.
Instead of doing either, she made her way to a bank of portable toilets that lined the eastern edge of the fairgrounds. There was no crowd here, where there was nothing bright and flashy to make one linger, but plenty of stink to hurry one away. She moved toward the end of the line, where strung up lights did little more than blunt the darkness pressing in from the rough fields around the fairgrounds. To the north, beyond the fields, on the far horizon, was a black line of timber. A welcome breeze wafted the clean, wild scent of pines to him as he watched the girl check three boxes, before she chose to go into the second from last. He smiled.
I’ve been away from the Post-A-Week photo challenge, and from my blog, for a long time. (I’ve been almost totally silent since February, and — if I’m being honest — I went mostly-missing not long after last Halloween.) I was busy being overwhelmed and obsessive about the things that needed to be done so that we could move from Minnesota to North Carolina.
It was a long, scary, and stressful process — one that began as a dream, more than seven years ago; then became a goal, about four years ago; then became a plan, at the end of last year.
It shouldn’t have been so all-consuming. I know folks do this kind of thing all the time, but when I was a younger woman it would never have occurred to me that I would. I was a Minnesota girl, through and through. I was rooted. I expected my life to unspool like that of all my friends and family members, who did not just pick up and start all over again in an unfamiliar biome and an unfamiliar society.
But then life happened.
(I don’t want to write about the circumstances that are included in that “life happened” phrase tonight, but if you want an overview, you’ll find it a pretty good one in the middle of this post which I wrote a couple of years ago, when we were still in the goal stage.)
The point is we are now here, together, in warm, lush North Carolina, and it’s time to get back to taking photographs, and blogging, and writing … in short, it’s time to get back to living a life instead of planning for one.
I have two photos for the “spare” prompt:
First a very literal one. I had mentioned to my Ogre, on Friday night, the topic of this week’s photo challenge. A couple of mornings later, as we sat at the breakfast table doing our usual morning stuff, he suddenly looked up at me and said, “Wait, you need a photo for spare, right?” then he pushed his puzzle toward me. Slam!
This next one, though, is the photo that really captured something special about spare for me this week.
This is the pool at our new apartment community. We were relaxing in two of the loungers in the late afternoon. The sky was restless, with layers of clouds chasing each other about, and it was occasionally sprinkling us with soft, heavy, warm raindrops. We were talking about our new budget, and our new life, and about how much he’s enjoying his work, and how much I want to settle in to mine.
Then the rainbow came to delight us. A good omen.
The second bow? The one that came a few minutes later? That’s the spare one.
Here are some of my favorite entries for the “spare” prompt from others:
(I’ll add more as I have time to browse, so feel free to check back.)
The Simpler the Better | Once a Home | Iceland | spare tires | this reminds me of the paranormal hotel | a spare chair | love the way this is written | refreshing | bone | ooh, a creepy one | spare (ribs) | spare words |
Hi Folks. I suspect many of you have picked up on the fact that my life is changing dramatically, but I should have written a post about it more than a month ago. Apologies. (My mind is just completely overwhelmed these days.) Here’s the official announcement:
We are moving from Minnesota to North Carolina
at the beginning of April, 2016.
That’s 1,200 miles, give or take, and the logistics of the move are nightmarish. Consequently, I have to admit that I won’t be blogging until I can think about anything other than organization, transportation, and packing.
Long term readers will know that this has been our goal for the last four years. I can’t wait to get there, and I can’t wait until this part of the process is over!
Answers to questions you may have:
1 The Ogre (my husband) asked for a transfer to a North Carolina branch of the company, but local management said no, they couldn’t do without him.
Instead, they made him the happiest techie-introvert on the planet… he’ll be keeping the job he has, but he’ll be doing it out of an office we’ll set up in our apartment. (He’s a software engineer, and his company employs a number of 100% telecommuters. In fact, he already works daily, via teleconferencing, with some folks who live in other states and work from home. He just didn’t realize he could be one of them.) Isn’t the modern world a magical place?
2 We are taking the dog and the cat with us. (And hasn’t that complicated our travel plans exponentially?) We are not, however, taking most of our furniture. We’ll be living like newlyweds / college kids for a while. (Won’t that be fun?) We want to take our time finding pieces to replace the stuff we don’t want to drag across country. (Plus, to be honest, this whole process is expensive! We’d rather live on folding chairs than go into debt to furnish a new place.)
3 We’re moving into a large three-bedroom apartment in a lovely complex. (We need that extra room for Ogre’s office.) On the property, there’s even a pool, a real fitness gym, and a dog run with agility obstacles. (Bonus: I’ll have my own washer and dryer again.)
4 We are done with snow, and ice, and cold … and feeling like we age a few decades, and become shut-ins, for four or five months out of each year.
5 We’ll be joining our daughter (aka Pooka) and her beau, who have been living in NC for almost seven years. In fact, our new place is very close to theirs. Our 20 year old son is relocating with us. Our little family will be reunited.
6 The plan is to for Ogre and me to take at least a year to explore NC in a quest to find a town or neighborhood to settle in — one that we will love as much as we have loved White Bear Lake, MN. (Which would be perfect, if only it weren’t in MN and subject to so freakin’ much winter.)
7 Our son is leveling up to roommate status. He’ll continue to work and save money, and look into his college options, while he is establishing his residency for in-state tuition. He already has his AA Degree, so he’ll basically be a junior when he can go back to school in 2017. (Not too far off the planned trajectory, age-wise.)
8 Finally, I expect I’ll be clear-headed enough to start blogging and writing again by mid-May. Maybe sooner, if things go well. I miss it.
So. Did I forget anything? Ask anything you like in the comments … and wish me sanity and fine weather for the cross-country caravan trip that is coming.
We’re going home!
A young friend of mine, who may or may not be bipolar, recently described one feature of depression as a dimming of the colors. Though I’d never thought about it that way before, I was immediately struck with the truth of the statement … in both a literal and figurative sense.
Today I snapped a photo simply because I actually noticed the depth and vibrancy of the colors:
To find and notice color in mid-November, in Minnesota, is a good thing, especially on a rainy day.
(And, by the way, it’s a miracle that we’ve only had rain and not snow … a miracle that I appreciate very much.)
When I uploaded the above image from my phone to my PC, I noticed a backlog of unnamed, unsorted, un-posted files, including the following shots, which I took almost exactly a month ago, at the height of leaf season:
I took the photographs because I could objectively see how lovely the colors were, and I had good intentions of posting them somewhere, but I don’t think I ever did.
Isn’t it funny how that drab view of a clump of wet sticks caught me by the heart today and inspired this quick post, when that golden tree failed to move me to action just a month ago?
Maybe I’m coming out of the worst of this thing … though I am tired of resolving to feel better, so today I’m just letting whatever happens happen. Instead of fighting, I’m trying to make peace with my black dog.
This blog hiatus I’m on was actually planned. By mid-October, I knew I was going to need a break as soon as Halloween was out of the way. (November is a terrible month for a paranormal-themed blog anyway.) I did intend to come in and made some kind of announcement about taking November off, but I didn’t quite make it before I crashed. So this is that belated announcement. I may be back before December, but right now I’m not really planning on resuming regular posting (or being much engaged with social media) until then.
And on that awkward note, I’m out for now. My Ogre has come home and we’ve got plans to go stock up on soda while the prices are low.
(Hey, I’m a little surprised I decided to write anything, to be honest. The words aren’t coming
easily at all lately.)
Most of us have done a regular, item-gathering, scavenger hunt at some point. Such a hunt can be fun, but thanks to the proliferation of the cell phone camera, the classic game can be raised to a whole new level. In a photographic scavenger hunt, you don’t need to approach strangers to ask for random objects. You don’t have to buy (much of) anything. You don’t have to manage a growing collection of bits and scraps as the game goes on. You don’t have to race to an object before anyone else gets it.
Instead of counting on luck and the power of persuasion to do well, you can rely on your intelligence and creativity.
(If you lean toward being introverted, or have friends who skew that way, this is the scavenger hunt for you.)
WHY HALLOWEEN IS THE PERFECT TIME FOR A PHOTO SCAVENGER HUNT:
The Halloween season is ideal for a photo hunt. In most parts of the US, September and October are the months most likely to give us gorgeous, temperate days that make us want to get outside and do something. Why not use the hunt as an reason to get out and enjoy the season? After all, the landscape itself showcases objects and vistas that are iconically associated with Halloween. Starting in early September, shops begin displaying seasonal merchandise. By mid-September, towns and neighborhoods may start to decorate. By October first, many of us are fully immersed in a world painted in autumn colors and populated by monsters, ghosts, witches and other Halloween-y creatures.
ORGANIZE A TEAM-BASED HUNT:
Organizing a scavenger hunt may be the easiest way to entertain during the season. Because the hunt happens outdoors, in a public area, you don’t have to clean your house or cook. And you don’t need a big group of people to make it fun.
All you need is a list of inspirations, a digital camera or cell, some friends to “compete” with, and whatever amount of time you all agree to dedicate to the hunt.
To make it even easier, I’ve created a printable list of inspirations for you:
This list is appropriate for all ages. When you print the Halloween Photo Hunt list, you’ll find a couple of blank lines at the bottom. Allow teams to add their own found items, or customize the list ahead of time, to suit the location where you will play. (Here in White Bear Lake, MN, many residences and businesses display polar bear statues and signs, so it would be logical for us to add a bear to the list.)
GENERAL HOW TO:
Create your teams.
- I suggest keeping the teams small – 2-3 players – and making multiple teams, rather than dividing a large group into just two.
- Also see the VARIATIONS section below.
Define the time frame.
- See the VARIATIONS section below.
Determine your rules.
- How far in advance can participants see the scavenger hunt list? (I suggest each team member have equal time access. If you know everything on the list, you’re already thinking about how to capture some items. Don’t be a cheater; let others think ahead too.)
- What are the boundaries of the search zone?
- What method(s) of transportation are acceptable while on the quest? Is it okay to use a car, or will you restrict travel to that which can be done on foot or by bike?
- Are purchased props acceptable? How much money can be spent to obtain a photograph? (We had set an allowance of $10 to facilitate shots, but we only paid a few cents for an aluminum pie plate during our hunt.)
- Are videos allowed, or just still snapshots?
- Also see VARIATIONS section below.
#1 – The Simplest Version – In 2-6 hours.
This is the most spontaneous way to do the hunt. You only need a few people, a nice day, and a couple of hours. (Plus, of course, enough photo-capable cell phones so that each team has at least one.)
- Depending on the weather, a hunt could last anywhere from two to six hours.
- Confine the hunt to a small town, a defined section of a city, a neighborhood, or the site of a seasonal attraction (like an autumn fair).
- Set up a meeting place to begin and end at appointed times.
- If you will be out for longer period of time, considering also setting a meeting time and place, for a shared lunch or snack, in the middle of the hunt.
- At the end, get all the teams together, tally checked-off items on each team’s list, and share favorite photos by passing phones around.
- If you need to proclaim a winner, base it on total number of items checked off.
- For extra fun, have everyone send their pictures to one person who will create a digital album or slideshow that can be sent to all participants later.
The following video is the album from one of my family’s photo hunts:
#2 – The Extended Version – In a weekend or other multi-day period.
~For far-flung social groups and/or adults who want to range farther, over a longer time, or who want to create more elaborate pics.
- This variation is not about getting together with a group, but rather about working closely and creatively with your partner(s).
- Make arrangements with another team (or several) in which you define a time frame during which everyone is free to obtain photos, wherever they are.
- Teams will share / compare results after the fact.
- Make sure all teams know what the goal of the hunt is — Completion? Creativity?
- This extended version may lend itself to more elaborate photographs, set-ups, costumes, makeups, etc. Make sure teams are on roughly the same wavelength.
- Emphasis may be placed on satisfying the requirements of the right-side column of the list.
- Be clear about the length of time for the hunt AND the length of time before photos should be submitted to “opposing” teams. (Make a deadline.)
- Decide if digital photo manipulation is acceptable.
- Alternatively, teams could text or email photos to each other as they are taken, through the course of the hunt.
NOTES: It’s perfectly fine to stick to the basic hunt list that I’ve provided above, but if you’re going to do a more elaborate, extended, hunt, you could also work from a more challenging, extended, hunt list which is available in two formats. Please visit: The Halloween Photo Hunt Homepage to locate and print either format of the extended list, if you prefer.
At the homepage, you’ll find another way to play the Halloween Photo Hunt game, AS A TEAM OR AS AN INDIVIDUAL. Check out the option, and consider participating that way too.
Any original photo, taken in the six weeks before Halloween 2015,
inspired by any prompt, on any version of the hunt lists,
is eligible to be displayed in a personalized gallery at the HPH Homepage.
There are some guidelines at the homepage about what I will and will not publish in the galleries.
FREE HALLOWEEN CROSS STITCH PATTERNS:
I realize folks could arrive at this page at any time of year, but the majority of readers will visit in the late summer or early autumn, when their thoughts first turn to Halloween. Starting a cross stitch project at this time of year is the perfect way to get into the spirit of season without freaking out the neighbors by putting up premature decorations.
(What’s premature? I’m not a good judge. Some of my “Halloween Decorations” stay out all year round.)
The weather at this time of year is volatile. Depending on the date, and your location, it could be hot and thick, as summer has its last hurrah; or it could be cool and rainy, as autumn comes on. In either case, it seems there are more opportunities to settle in for an evening with some cross stitch … and, perhaps, a great scary movie. (Maybe an iconic old horror film, or one about Halloween or ghosts?) It’s also a busy time of year for many of us, as back-to-school demands fire up. Keeping all that in mind, I’ve featured projects that range from quick and easy, to elaborate and complicated. There should be something here you can finish in the time you have before Halloween.
Note: Yes, I used my Free Halloween Knitting Patterns post as a template for this one. The wording IS almost identical. You are not going crazy.
FREE CROSS STITCH CHARTS:
If you hover over the image in the gallery above, you’ll see that each featured piece is captioned with the name of one of the following source sites. The “hover-title” is the name of the pattern, and the designer. These images are just a sampling of what’s available … have fun browsing each site for just the right project.
Find the charts at the following links:
- 55 free designs from cyberstitchers.com
- 24 free designs from kreinik.com
- 11 little embellishment patterns from hobbyloco.com
Two of the projects pictured in the gallery have specific links:
- Haunted House by freepatterns.com (You may have to register at this site – I already was.)
- Halloween Topiary by DMC
What will you make? What would you LOVE to make?
I’m going to do something really scary:
I plan to stitch a project from a a chart that I designed myself. I’ll share my plan, but I DON’T recommend that you choose my design, unless you can see from experience that it will work for you. I’ve never done this before, and I have no idea if it will turn out well.
As I was finishing this post, I decided to go looking for some kind of program that would allow me to create a chart for a project that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. I found MyPhotoStitch.com. I played with the tool to get an idea of what kind of image would work well as a base design. (I already knew I wanted the design to read ‘Carpe Noctem’.) I dug through my photo files to find a pic of the moon, against a pure black sky, that my Ogre took. I imported that photo into Kizoa.com, which is a free online photo editor. There, I added the Carpe Noctem text, and a piece of owl clip art that Kizoa had, to my re-sized photo. THEN I imported the new image into the MyPhotoStitch chart maker tool. I had to play with the setting a fair bit, but I think I’ve come up with a workable chart.
My plan is to work on 18 X 12 piece of black, 14-count, Aida cloth. MyPhotoStitch says the finished design will be 7″ X 5.5″. I designed the project to be workable in ten colors or less. The chart ended up suggesting nine. I won’t know if the recommended floss colors will be right … I’ll check tomorrow, when I go shopping for the supplies. (I’d actually like the brighter edge of the moon to better match the brighter parts of the text.)
Here’s the link to the PDF chart (on 4 pages!) that MyPhotoStitch gave me:
CAUTION: (Edited the next day.) If you print the following PDF, you will use A LOT of black ink! Thank goodness I went to Office Max to have it printed, so I didn’t kill my cartridge. Ogre will fix it this weekend, with his magic Photoshop, and a pattern with a WHITE background will be available too. That said, I actually like being able to see the pattern against the black, because the fabric I’m working on is black. So, if you like that idea, be sure to take it somewhere where a color print doesn’t cost much.
Questions for experienced cross-stitchers:
- First off, and most importantly, does this seem like a viable project?
- Would you stitch in the owl and branch with black, or just leave the black Aida cloth showing there? (I’m leaning toward filling it in, but I don’t know how to blend the lower branch edge into the Aida cloth, or if it will look weird if I just end it at the edge of the moon.)
So that’s it for now. I will update as I progress with the project. Cross your fingers for me!
NOTE: All above photographs and images of cross stitch projects were obtained from the site of the original source of the free pattern and are used for the purpose of referring readers to the website that offers the content. At posting, all links are current and active. I have NOT made the projects, so I cannot guarantee that patterns are correct.
The photograph of box of embroidery floss, used on the main Halloween index page, is ready to stitch! by Claudia Marchán.