Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, January 20, 2018

January Blows

My lone mug

It never fails. You’ve finally got all the Christmas decorations boxed and stacked neatly in the storage space. Half an hour later, you unload the dishwasher and discover one loan holiday mug.
It’s just another one of January’s sneaky little tricks.

A writer friend I admire says January 2nd is her favorite day of the year. Fresh start and all that. Well, that’s fine for her. She’s clever enough to box up Christmas on Boxing Day, after which she reorganizes and cleans her lovely home office, adding something new to breathe freshness into her environment. She doesn’t need to go outside for work because a book publisher is eager for her next story. Besides, she lives in Kansas where spring actually comes when it’s supposed to.

Not that I’m bitter or anything. Our brutal Canadian winters are too character-building for me to become bitter.

2018 got off to a slow start for me. We returned home from Alberta on New Year’s Eve and I began sneezing as I unpacked. By morning, it was a full-on cold. Though due at work on January 2nd, I stayed home for the next three days and dragged myself to work on the 5th looking like something left over from the zombie apocalypse. There, in my foggy-brained state, I proceeded to make enough mistakes to last the year. I’m grateful Darren, our I.T. guy, bailed me out without also chewing me out. 

I can’t complain, really. I wasn’t nearly as sick as some people or for as long.

Here’s the strange thing. By the time I was in the swing of January, with Christmas put away and goals set for the new year, the month should have been at least half over. It wasn’t. And now that it finally is (half over), why does it still loom endlessly before us like an impossible glacier and me without my ice pick?

I could never figure out why January lasts for years and July for mere days when they’re supposed to be the same length. If I had invented the calendar, I’d have divvied January into two short months and called the second one “Tundruary” or “Frostember.” It might not change anything, but at least it would feel like progress.

One of these years, I’ll take my vacation in January and go somewhere warm. I admit I’m enough of a pessimist to think that when I finally save enough money for that once-in-a-lifetime trip, it will rain the entire time. Or an earthquake will strike. Or I’ll come down with Montezuma’s Revenge. Or flights will be delayed and rerouted, so I burn an extra week’s vacation time at O’Hare. Far better to simply stay here, gaze at the stunning photos of gorgeous sunny beaches posted on Facebook by others, and hate them for it.

Did I mention I’m not bitter?

At least the days are growing noticeably longer. Or is that just something we Canadians say to survive?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Great Minds...

My kids may want to shoot me for yet again turning every insignificant incident into a blog post, but here I go anyway.

For Christmas, I made a not-very-subtle wish for candles. Specifically, three-wick candles from Bath and Body Works. Burning them in my home office while I write in the pre-sunrise hours before it’s time to go to my regular job is often the best part of my day. Nothing like a cup of steaming coffee with my favorite hazelnut creamer, the quiet of early morning, and the warm glow of a scented candle to remind me of something important. You see, for me, the candle represents a spiritual truth: God’s triune presence with me, helping me as we work together. As I light the three wicks, I ask him to fill the room with his Spirit, to infuse my writing with his light and fragrance and warmth. To somehow ignite a spark in a reader’s heart through the words I type.

Well, maybe that’s a tad lofty. But I pray for it anyway. And so, I asked my family for more candles for Christmas. “The kind that smell like something yummy is baking,” I said, since I rarely bake any more. Writing is more lucrative and less fattening.

Hubby toed the line by giving me three candles in three different scents from the specified store. Not exactly cookie dough or banana bread scents, but very pleasant fragrances nonetheless: Midnight Blue Citrus, Winter, and Goal Digger. These will keep me typing for months, leaving no excuse for not writing.

Then we drove all the way to our daughter’s house in Calgary to spend Christmas with her family. By December 29, the remainder of the family had arrived from Manitoba, some by plane and some on wheels. It was our first time all together in ages, and the first time ever for our newest member. Thirteen of us under one roof created delightful chaos, especially when it came time to open gifts.

When dear old mom’s turn came, we enjoyed a good laugh. Two of our three offspring had been thinking similar thoughts. While desiring to honor my request for candles, neither of them wanted to risk buying the same scented candle as anyone else. So they didn’t shop at Bath and Body Works. To ensure their gift would be unique, they each picked a different store, one in Calgary and one in Winnipeg.

The result? Two identical 3-wick Mercury candles in the same Mulled Cider and Cinnamon scent from Indigo. From two different people who, it turns out, might think more alike than they want to admit.

For the record, “Great minds think alike” is not from the Bible. But I’m glad God gave my kids great minds. And the matching candles look (and smell) terrific side by side on our dining table…at least until it’s time for each of them to take their turn at my writing desk.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Stuff I Learned in 2017

Going a whole year without learning anything new would be a tragedy, don’t you agree? Some years it might be a stretch to figure out what you learned, but taking inventory of the past twelve months usually sheds light on a few. Here are mine.

I learned some new words.
You would think I’d know a lot of words, fancying myself a writer and all. But the more writerly friends I make, the more I realize my vocabulary is stuck in Grade Five. So, I’ve intentionally tried to notice new words as I come across them. Unfortunately, I’ve already forgotten both of them. Perhaps in 2018, I will remember to take actual notes, not just mental ones. 

One new word that sticks in my head, likely because I see it on Facebook so often, is “trynna.” I’m trynna find a good plumber. I’m trynna clean the house. I’m trynna write a blog post with some value to it.

“Trynna” is similar to “wanna” or “gonna.” Only wronger.

I learned how to launch two novels in the same year.
Photo by Stan Wiebe
My second novel came out at the end of January and my third in mid-August. I’ve learned I need to take a week off from my day job if I’m going to have enough energy for the whirlwind of launch parties, radio and newspaper interviews, hair and nail appointments. It’s a rough life. 

Some readers have asked about a fourth novel and I’m happy to say one is in the works. Since my publisher discontinued its fiction line, however, I’m praying for a new publisher in 2018.

I learned I can still be helpful. For a limited time only.
Our fifth grandson arrived in September. He was considerate enough to postpone his arrival until a day after I’d landed in Calgary to help. I spent ten days chasing his big brother, cooking, cleaning, and generally trying to make myself as useful to my daughter and son-in-law as possible. Long-distance grandparenting seems to be an all-or-nothing deal, so I gave 110%. When the time came to catch my flight home, it was the first time I’ve said goodbye without crying. Too exhausted or too relieved? I’m still not sure. The tears came later, when my daughter’s thank you card arrived in the mail, pouring out heartfelt gratitude.

I learned to celebrate…sort of.
Hubby and I reached our 40th wedding anniversary on October first. Our lofty goal to check all forty activities off our list throughout the year revealed how celebration-challenged we are. Still, we did accomplish half, which is more than we’d have done without the list. Best thing I learned from that experience is if you actually write things down, you’re more likely to take the steps toward making them happen. And there’s no law saying we can’t finish it in our forty-first year or beyond.

Not too shabby, eh? How about you? Look back through your calendar. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by how much you’ve learned, too.  Happy New Year!