Everyday Life · Holiday

The Holidays in December

joySince I’m doing a Christmas in July celebration on my blog and author Facebook page this year, I decided it would be nice to list all the holidays in December.

Chanukah (Hanukkah), this year is December 10. I checked a couple of resources online to find the correct spelling and found that both spellings are correct. Hanukkah is the spelling used the most, while Chanukah is the more traditional spelling. Chanukah is the celebration of the Jewish people fighting for freedom and to reclaim their holy temple. It lasts for eight days and is celebrated with a menorah lighting each night.

https://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/102911/jewish/What-Is-Hanukkah.htm

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah

Winter Solstice, this year is December 21.  The winter solstice is the beginning of winter and also the shortest day of the year. After the solstice, days become longer as spring is coming and it is celebrated in many places. It happens twice a year, June in the Southern Hemisphere and December in the Northern Hemisphere.

https://www.britannica.com/list/7-winter-solstice-celebrations-from-around-the-world

https://www.history.com/topics/natural-disasters-and-environment/winter-solstice

Christmas, December 25. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and has also become a cultural and secular celebration for people throughout the world.

https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zkc86sg/revision/2

Kwanzaa, December 26. Kwanzaa is a celebration of African-American culture held from December 26 to January 1, with gift-giving and a feast of faith, called Karamu Ya Imani. It was created by Maulana Karenga and first celebrated in 1966.

http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/kwanzaa-history

 

 

Cooking · Everyday Life · Gardening · West Virginia

The End of a Garden

2015-07-29 17.02.04It’s time to say goodbye to our garden. We’ll be picking our last harvest tomorrow., not that there’s much left. The temperature is cool in the morning and the plants are no longer thriving. I was hoping to have one more batch of tomatoes, but it is not to be. I have enjoyed my time in the garden this summer and am bittersweet at its depature. I love my almost 5-foot tall jalapeno plant and would love to wait it out and see just how tall it could get. But alas, my husband is ready for the last mow of the season, and to prep the garden for next year, so it’s time to get the last of the vegetables and dig up the remainder of the plants (to make it easier for him to mow).

I have plans to make the garden a little bigger for next year because there wasn’t enough space for all I planted. This was our first year gardening and we were told not to worry if some of our plants didn’t take. It happens. Well, we had beginner’s luck and lost only one tomato plant. Okay, we did “lose” all four of our green bean plants but that was because of the rabbits. Baby rabbits are the perfect size to sneak between the holes in the wire fence. And those little rascals love, love, love green beans.

Some of the lessons/tips I’ve learned this year are:

  1. If the recommended planting space is 18-24 inches, go with 24. Once the plants started growing, there wasn’t enough space to easily weed, and I broke a few plants.
  2. Marigolds. Our 4-foot tall fence didn’t keep out the deer. One morning, my husband saw a buck in the middle of the garden chowing down on the tomatoes. He yelled at the deer and it jumped out. We noticed a neighbor still had lovely, red tomatoes in their garden, and had marigolds planted on the corners. Apparently, deer do not like the smell of the marigolds and it keeps them away. I’m not sure about that, but since it worked for them, I’m all for giving it a try.
  3. Four plants of four different types of hot peppers equals an overabundance of peppers. Next year, we’ll go with one less variety. Three of them my husband really liked for making his homemade hot sauces.   2015-09-02 11.07.17 2015-09-12 18.32.17
  4. Add mesh to the bottom of the fence so rabbits don’t bring their babies to your garden to use as a buffet. If I looked out the window and saw the mom and dad rabbits (or maybe they were all moms or all dads) sitting a few feet away from the garden, that meant the offspring were munching away on the green beans.
  5. I have gained a love for eating vegetables. For some reason, vegetables from your own garden taste so good.
  6. Gardening can become very addictive. There’s just something about growing food that is so satisfying. I have to say my most exciting moment was when it was time to harvest the brussel sprouts. I was telling everyone I could that I “made” brussel sprouts. It’s a highlight of my summer that ranks right by there with going to Disney World.

 

This winter, I plan on learning about canning and pruning so I can enjoy next year’s bounty more.2015-09-12 18.16.11

Scrapbooking · Vacations · West Virginia

Preparing for a Crop

Designed PS and crafts 008 I’m leaving tomorrow for a three-day scrapbooking retreat. All of these bags are filled with my scrapbooking supplies and tools for the event. One bag isn’t pictured, the pink duffel bag housing the Cricut Expression, as I was still using it at the time I took the pictures. Oh, and the bag with snacks and drinks is upstairs. Hmm…no wonder my family is wondering if I’m moving. My suitcase is still in my room.

I’ll admit I’m a little nervous about this trip, and also taking my Cricut out. It’s the first time it’s leaving the house. I didn’t have a proper bag for it so it’s never ventured outside. So tomorrow it will take its first trip and it’ll be a long one, a three hour drive. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to a weekend scrapbook retreat where I “left” home. I’ve been to a couple of local ones but this time I’m going to be spending a few nights at a hotel.  I’m looking forward to it but also nervous as I’m going alone. I’ve never attended a big scrapbooking event like this on my own. When I went years ago, I always went with a group so this is really outside the box for me.

And after seeing how long it takes for me to get ready (I’ve been packing since Saturday), it’s no wonder it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a weekend retreat away from home. At least with the close weekend crops, if I forgot something I could come back home and get it…or call and ask my husband to bring it. This time, whatever I forget I must do without. Kind of scary.

Now, I must go double-check my bags (and I think I’m going to do a little shuffling of items) then load the car. I’ll be working on a Disney Cruise album this weekend so it was a little easier to pack as I just grabbed everything Disney related…which I have a lot of. I’ll share some layouts next week. Off to… Designed PS and crafts 009

Craft · Scrapbooking · Writing

Redoing a Scrapbook Album

Pocket Pages Megan baby album 011Not me. Ever. That was the statement I always made to myself when I read about scrapbookers redoing albums. Wasn’t the way I made layouts when I first started as much part of the “history” as the photos and journaling on the page. It showed how I progressed in the hobby and what was hot and trendy … or at least what I thought was awesome … back in the day. Besides, if I redid albums every time my scrapping style changed, I’d be documenting the same pictures over and over again. And there is the likelihood that, like clothing fashion, what was once trendy and is now mocked will become trendy again and the pages will once again look like they did.

To me, it was like rewriting a book after it’s been published. The project is “done” so no use going back and tweaking something that has left the to-do pile. My style has changed since my first book was published in 2002. One did not rewrite a book once it was published so it seemed “wrong” to redo an album, or even a layout, once it was placed into a scrapbook. Not to mention, all those other lonely photo longing for a page/layout of their own.

And then I did the unthinkable–I rewrote a book that had gone out of print. I still loved thedyingforredemption_small characters and most of the plot, but there was one part I didn’t like and cringed at years later. I decided it rewrite that part and also have it edited before I republished it on my own. There were two other novels that were out of print but I wasn’t interested in redoing them. I like those stories and felt they were told the way they needed to be told. And, I’m at a different place with my writing and am content with “letting them go”.

Along came the Project Life way of scrapbooking, or at least it finally got on my radar a few months ago, and I knew it would work perfectly for doing my children’s baby/personal albums. I always wanted to do a scrapbook for each of them separately but have spent my scrapping time working on yearly and event (vacation) albums. I had also started the albums in the 8 1/2 x 11 size and never liked the limited amount of space. My thoughts were always since I started it in that size, I needed to stay in that format.

I kept putting those albums off to the side and decided to go with my heart and redo the albums. One thing I am doing, is keeping as much of the original embellishments from the page that I can. I don’t want to alter the style completely of the pages I did ten years ago, but I want to change the structure to that of the pocket scrapbooking (as I’ve heard it called also). It has “breathed new life” into the project for me. On days that I am really tired, I find that pocket scrapbooking lets me enjoy my hobby as focusing on the smaller spaces is relaxing and manageable while a larger canvas just seems impossible.Pocket Pages Megan baby album 012

Encouragement · Everyday Life · Writing

You are a Diva if — Not!

You are a Diva if…

you are not doing what others expect you to do at all times.

Or at least that is the impression I’m getting lately. Diva (along with narcissist) is a word I see and hear quite frequently. Sometimes diva is said tongue in check and a term a woman applies to herself, and other times it’s a putdown used against others. A recent blog post I read has me thinking about this a lot today and mostly because it has hurt people. Good people. Wonderful, hardworking, loving, giving women stretched almost to the point of breaking are made to feel that devoting time to their own dreams and goals is wrong. Sinful.

For most people, time is the most valuable and limited resource. Between jobs, second jobs (writing for some authors), family, household, volunteering most people are hanging on and just managing to get everything done. And sometimes tasks are not done and it adds on a layer of guilt and makes a person feel unworthy. Lacking.

Instead of trying to ease the burden, some are heaping on more guilt by labeling people divas or narcissists because they aren’t doing enough for others. And interesting to me, the “others” the labeler seems to be talking about is themselves. In these hand slaps, what I hear loud and clear is basically, “Using your time on yourself, and not me or what I say is important, makes you a Diva.”

Sadly, this phenomena seems to be more prevalent in Christian organizations and circles. If a woman (and yes, it’s usually a woman it’s directed at) isn’t giving all her ‘free’ time or personal time to causes and in support of others dreams and goals then she is a Diva with a capital D. To make sure she gets the point, some version of the “God is not happy with you” quote is throw in. I think sometimes in our quest to prove ourselves a good Christian to the world and make God love us, we forget 1. pointing out others ‘faults’/’sinful’ behavior isn’t proof and 2. He already does.

We do not know all that is happening in a person’s life at any given moment. Sometimes I don’t even know what is happening in mine. When someone doesn’t step up the way you feel they should, doesn’t do enough for you, it doesn’t mean they are a Diva. It could mean they have a lack of time. It could mean they’re struggling. It could mean they need your help.

“Do onto others as you would have them do unto you” should be said and thought of with a loving and giving spirit, not with a self-righteous and punishing spirit. As bling does not make a Diva, nor does having limited time to help others in their pursuits make a writer a Diva.

Everyday Life · How To · Writing

Writer’s Block — aka Knee Injury

Who would’ve thought that a knee injury would make it hard to write? An injury to a wrist, finger, hand or an arm are understandable … but a knee? I never realized how important moving around was when I’m working on action scenes. I always knew I was a pacer … I wander around when I’m working out a scene … but never knew it was such an integral part of my process. Until now when I can’t do it and I find myself stalled just when I was ‘in the groove’. 

I’m an actress when it comes to action scenes. I can only see the action clearly enough to write it when I play the role of the hero or heroine and go through the motions (subduing the bad guy, kicking down a door, etc.). I want to make sure that if the antagonist is standing in a particular position that my hero or heroine is approaching them from the correct direction. How else can I know for sure if the scene works?

Right now, unless I want my character limping or hopping along (Wait –that could work in a story, I must take notes on getting around. Or not getting around as the case leans toward), I find the action scenes not as compelling and hard to write. I just can’t visual the description to make it work and not sound clunky or like well … an author is telling a story to the reader rather than the reader watching the action take place.

I might just have to hunt through the house and see if I can find the Rescue Heroes my son had saved for me. Though, I do believe my teen finally gave them all away. I might just have to resort to using Dora, Diego, and Boots and their assortment of critters to work out the climactic scene. Dora and Diego do have a helicopter, SUV and a four-wheeler available for their use. It could make for a very interesting scene.

Books · How To · Reviews

SRP Non-Fiction Review: Organize for a Fresh Start by Susan Fay West

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This year, I’ve decided to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month. With celebrating the Self-Rescuing Princess type, I decided this year to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can either improve my skills in an area or learn a new one. For March, I decided to tackle organizing.

I really enjoyed Organize for A Fresh Start: Embrace Your Next Chapter in Life and how it focuses on organizing … from belongings, to finances, to time … after a person enters a new stage of life. It addresses how once a new stage of life is entered (marriage, divorce, children, grandchildren), the way we’ve done things in the past might no longer work. There are lists at the back of the book to help with decluttering projects.

I really liked how the book separates dealing with inherited items and those belongings of a deceased loved one, from regular accumulated stuff. The author acknowledges that it will be harder to make decisions on possessions passed down and those that had belonged to a loved one who has passed away. She is respectful about the feelings and memories associated with these special type of belongings and encourages people to take their time, even if it means a few years.

I found the book to be written in a very practical and encouraging style.  As I was reading, I kept nodding and started to understand why some of my organizing systems no longer worked. I have added more obligations and projects to my life over the last two years, and never took a look to make sure the old set-up for my office still worked for me now. Also, now that my children are teenagers, we need a new system in place with them to keep track of sports, work, and social schedules. Sometimes I walk away from books like this feeling discouraged and guilty for not having been able to keep everything maintained. This time I could see why our system doesn’t work and have some plans on what could work. No guilt, just helpful ideas.

Encouragement · Everyday Life · Writing

Setting Goals

I’ve been taking a finance class at church and this week’s assignment was about goal setting. The goal setting the course wanted us to focus on was financial ones. Plan out the big purchases we knew we needed to make in the next few years. List out the purchases and figure out the amount we needed to save for that item. My husband and I are determined not to use debt (credit cards and loans) as a method of purchasing large items. (newer car, kitchen remodel, vacations, etc). Thinking about $25,000 for a kitchen remodel is depressing. My first thought was we’ll never save that much. But, breaking the cost down to years, and then into months, made our goal seem doable. Reachable.

 I decided to take that mindset and apply it to my writing projects. I know how many books I’d like (and need) to complete this year and broke those projects down by word count. Writing 2,000 words a day (1,000 each book) for 2 different works-in-progress made the goal of completing those books more doable in my mind. Well, I did give myself permission to change it up if I’m in ‘the zone’. Write 2,000 on one book, and the next day 2,000 on the other project.

When I focused on the big goal –writing three books this year– it put a bit of pressure on my muse. I felt overwhelmed, discouraged and headed toward failure … and the year has just started. All I could picture in my mind was thousands upon thousands of words in a mish-mash, thousands of blank pages I needed to place all those words on. Three books. In one year? Not going to happen. Then I split those books into separate goals, then divided each of those books into  smaller daily word goals. By looking at those daily goals, I realized it was possible. Achievable. It didn’t look so bad when I saw how many words a day I had to write.

This week I started my daily goals for my projects. At the beginning of the week, I write down the words count I want to write each day, for each project and check them off as they are completed. I find myself more relaxed when I write. I didn’t think I could write 300,000 words this year. But I know I can do 2,000 words a day.

Whether it’s paying off debt, saving for a large purchase, or completing a book, the end goal because more manageable when it’s looked at in smaller bits rather than as a whole.

Encouragement · Writing

Taking My Own Advice

“Every writer’s journey is different.” This is a piece of advice I have given out, but haven’t been taking lately. It’s so easy to advise  and give encouragement to others, but so hard at times to do it for ourselves. I find myself questioning and comparing my ability, my commitment, and my success against how others are doing and managing their writing careers. And for the most part find myself falling short. Sometimes way short. Nothing shuts the muse down like brow-beating oneself.

But the truth is I’m not them. I’m not any other writer. I’m me. What works for one person will not work for me. Not only do we have different obligations, commitments, time available but also personalities. Some writers can write at a consistent breakneck speed, producing thousands upon thousands of words a day every day. I can’t. I can for a certain time period, but not on a daily basis. It’s just not the way I write best. I need time off to read, scrapbook, quilt.

Music is my muse. Without having time to just sit and listen to tunes that I have purchased, or spend some time browsing iTunes for new songs, I don’t feel ‘complete’. Some of my best characters and books have come from listening to a song and having a character or storyline come alive in my head. It’s my way to recharge. At times I feel as if any time not writing is wasted time. It means I’m not as committed as other writers. If I spent more time writing, I’d be more successful.

In order to live in the world of my characters, I have to spend time out of it. When my life only revolves around their lives (writing) then I find myself basing my worth on business … aka money. The self-defeating mindset that what I make determines my worth in life. A horrific untruth that I pound into my heart and soul. I keep reading advice that basically says the more books the better. I believe it and judge myself and work against that ‘truth’. I’ll forget about ‘my journey’ and try to duplicate others journey. Even worse, I start believing that if I’m not doing it that way (their way) it means I’m setting myself up for failure. An insistent voice scolds and says the only reason I’m not seeing success is because I’m not managing my writing career like them. But when I try, I fail and I realize the simple reason why … I’m trying to be someone else and not me. I forgot to take into account there is a difference between the words ‘mine’ and ‘their’.

What is theirs cannot be mine. For me to have ‘their’ success, I have to be ‘them’. I have to be someone else. I can’t. I can only be me. I have a different personality. A different background. Different obligations and commitments. I write best at different times. A different writing pattern and method is most suited to my personality and my life.  I have to find what works best for me and use all those methods to the best of my ability. 

Everyone’s journey is different and I can only succeed if I travel down mine.

Writing

It’s a Draft.

The other day, I struggled with turning off the inner editor and just allowing myself to write. I found myself over-analyzing every word. Each sentence took so long to write because I kept deleting them as they weren’t perfect. Just write, I’d tell myself and it worked for a few paragraphs, but then I’d start hitting the backspace key like crazy because one word didn’t feel right. I think it’s great for a writer to search for the perfect word but not at the expense of the writing.

And the writing was losing out. I didn’t enjoy it. I found a multitude of reasons for getting out of the chair or switching away from the work in progress. Laundry. Email check (I have three email accounts so this process can be a huge procrastination tool). Dishes. Another email check. Another load of laundry. The worst part of this struggle was the beating I gave myself. This book is not good enough. You’ll never finish this book. You are wasting your time doing this.

That voice was hard to overcome. I started saying “This is just a draft”, every time the critical voice spoke. Drafts are to get out the ‘bad’ words, the wrong words, the imperfect ones that will change when I edit. The book always get better after I edit so to get to the better, I had to first dump out the worst. There’s nothing quite like being your own worst enemy (or I guess ‘best’ enemy in a way) and harshest critic.

Finally, the mantra wore the inner editor down and it stepped aside so I could write. I know there will be changes but getting the words on the page the first time is always the hardest for me. It’s easier to fix the words when they’re on the page rather than stuck in my head.