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Posts Tagged ‘Thoughts’

So, November.
/vroom!

Yeah. Like that.

November is (of course!) National Novel Writing Month. I’ve taken part for the past however many years, and it has been fun. I laugh, I write, I cry, I win. Then I collapse in a mostly useless heap for the next many weeks. The holidays don’t help post-NaNo productivity, of course, but I don’t know that a draining push to write write write write does either. I’m looking for sustainable output.

I’m also distracted this year. As mentioned, I’ve taken up woodworking and it’s fun. I like the challenge, I like the creativity and idea generation, the inevitable roadblocks, problem-solving, and the triumphant conclusion.

It’s a lot like writing, actually, only with more finished product and results that don’t depend on the vagaries of editorial preference.

So this November, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I opted for NaNoMakeMo.

Me, one month, making stuff, with the definition of “stuff” being flexible. Words, wood, whatever. I’m one of those people who can be well and truly stuck on one project but super productive on another. As long as I’m working on whatever my secret brain wants to pay attention to, much gets done.

I decided to use this quirk to my advantage. It’s a classic productivity trick called structured procrastination. I may have mentioned it here before.

The first rule is there are no rules.

Write, turn, bake, sew, whatever. The goal is what’s important, not how to get there, and for November the goal was simple: Make more stuff.

I pulled on my big girl work clothes and got to it.

/insert 30 days of work work work work work.
/ok, fine, I didn’t work all 30 days
/some days I sat inside by the fire and read, because winter and cold and snow, people!

* * *

So how did the first inaugural NaNoMakeMo go?

My original plan was to post updates (with photos and witty commentary even!) as I went along, sharing each and every project through the twists and turns of the creative process. When that didn’t happen, I decided to make an awesome advent calendar-style image map linking all of the awesome into one aesthetically-pleasing package.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. Images and updates take time. Thinking about how to frame a project takes time. Stepping back from the desk or workbench or computer takes time and also the sort of mental space I don’t always have when I’m mid-stream. And the interweb informs me that image maps have been out of style Like For Ever.

Too bad, I was going to use this fun image. It pretty much sums up my month.

Instead you get this uber post. Also, I made this list.

(Yes, that’s my list handwriting. It is both teeny tiny and impossible to read, or so I’ve been told. I have no trouble with it at all. Let me just get a magnifying glass;)*

* * *

So how did it go? Pretty well, actually.

I got a lot done on a lot of different projects, which I find very satisfying. Rather than feel I’ve ignored much of life in order to focus on one dimension, writing, I’ve made progress on multiple fronts.

For evidence of same, please see Exhibit A (note: some projects have been excluded in the interest of maintaining holiday-related surprises;)

I made things, I broke things, I learned more about what to do and what not. Yay:)

* * *

What would I change? Next time I might plan a bit more. Fifty thousand words is a little nuts but having a target helps your aim, you know? Goals and also alternatives, for when the old attention span is minimal and absolutely everything looks interesting except the work on the desk. Maybe I’ll list the different possibilities on little pieces of paper and keep them in a jar for when I need to pull out a new project.

(Teeny tiny lists on teeny tiny scraps of paper, in a Swedish glass jar. Because that’s how I roll, and if there’s one benefit to the passing years, it’s figuring out new ways to work around my own crazy:)

In sum: NaNoMakeMo may be a less dramatic way to approach creativity than NaNoWriMo but it’s also, at least for me, more sustainable. And in the end, a productive, constructive life is the true goal.

And so I declare the inaugural NaNoMakeMo a pretty not-bad success. Here’s hoping you enjoyed your month too!

* * *

* The point usually isn’t the reading. It’s about thinking, and the process of sketching out an idea or problem helps me think it through. I find that works best when I’m scribbling on the back of some envelope, or a scrap bit of paper or the corner of a random flyer. Who says no one uses the mail anymore?

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Hooray, it’s voting day! Time to rip open that mild-mannered dress shirt,* toss aside those oh-so-effective-as-a-disguise glasses, and be the superhero you were born to be.

*Figuratively speaking, of course. But hey, if you planned ahead and are wearing your Wonder Woman Underoos, you do you.

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”
― David Foster Wallace

Have questions? These links can help:

https://votinginfoproject.org/projects/get-to-the-polls/
Voter Guide: How, When and Where to Vote on Tuesday

Here, I even made you a little something…

And here’s a little something from some other superheroes:)

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
― Larry J. Sabato

 

 

Image credits:
Vote, democracy, stars and stripe and voting HD photo by Element5 Digital (@element5digital) on Unsplash
We Can Be Heroes photo by Jessica Podraza (@birdiesnapdragon) on Unsplash
Statue Of Liberty photo by tom coe (@tomcoe) on Unsplash
Protest, message board, text and protester HD photo by Heather Mount (@heathermount) on Unsplash
Sticker, message, finger and hand HD photo by Parker Johnson (@pkrippermachine) on Unsplash

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>> Today’s Lesson, or, tl;dr: If a bird strikes your window, it’s probably* in trouble. Help if you can. <<

A bird hit my window today. The thunk echoed through the house and into my office, and of course I went to investigate. Two juncos scattered as I approached the back door, but a third wasn’t going anywhere. It lay on its side on top of a big plastic storage bin that holds bird seed and miscellaneous gardening equipment. It’s not the kind of place a bird normally hangs out. Too exposed. Smells too much like cat. But there it was, tilted over on one side and twitching.

I waited, because this has happened before. Sometimes they fly away.

Ten minutes later, the bird was still there, but it had rolled over to perch on a coil of garden hose tucked behind the bin. I propped one half of a shoe box on the bin to keep it from looking too much like dinner to some passing hawk, hoped the cat stayed asleep, and did some research.

We have some wonderful bird organizations in Ottawa.** The Wild Bird Care Centre rescues all kinds of birds and also has a lot of useful information online. Pick it up, they said. Put it in a bag or a box and bring it in, it probably needs help. Won’t cost you a thing, we’re just that awesome (and they are!)

Bonus: birds can be adorable!

We’ve had bird strikes before and while a couple picked themselves up and went on their way, one most decidedly did not. It was a mourning dove, a beautiful grey bird that decided the yard looked like a fine spot to lie down in, and that was that. We picked it up and took it to the Wild Bird Centre. Later, they reported that it had a broken wing and pelvis so, yeah, not walking away from that one any time soon. (It took months, but the Bird Centre rehabbed it and released it back into the wild with a flock of its fellow doves. How great is that?)

Remembering that dove and flush with new information, I called Safe Wings Ottawa.

“The Centre’s closed for the night but bring the bird to me and I’ll care for it,” said the nice woman at the other end of the line. “It probably needs help. But be quick, flying away doesn’t mean it’s ok.”

I thanked her, grabbed the other half of the shoe box and headed back outside.

The bird flew away.

I called the nice lady back. She was polite but perhaps just a wee bit exasperated when I said, “You know how I called about that little junco? Yeah, it woke up and flew away.” She must hear that a lot.

But next time, she won’t hear it from me.

* * *

Looking for information and/or window stickers to prevent bird strikes? Here, I’ll save you the trouble:
Prevent birds from hitting windows with these products — BirdWatching

I got some of the UV reflective stickers and they seem ok but not great. We still had a strike after I put those up. After that I went old school, and also use gold star stickers that I picked up from a craft or dollar store. They aren’t great for outdoors but will last the season if in a relatively protected place.

Figure out which windows are problematic (do they reflect the great outdoors? the answer may change depending on the season; does interior light make it look like there’s a passage through the house?) and stick away!

* * *

* I’m just guessing here, but if it knocks itself out I’d say definitely in trouble.
** Most relevant today: the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, a charitable organization whose mission is to “assess, treat, and rehabilitate injured, ill, or orphaned wild birds,” and Safe Wings Ottawa, a “program of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club to reduce bird mortality from window collisions.” If you aren’t in this neck of the woods but need help with a bird, OVWBCC recommends you visit www.wildliferehabber.com or call your local vet.

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Politics make me sad.

Baking makes me happy. Being constructive and making things (and countering the negativity inherent in the current public discourse) makes me happy.

And so I give you my latest creation: A rolling pin…

… complete with a flower on the handle. (Or is that a “flour”? 😉

Next stop, Canadian Thanksgiving and (you guessed it!) pie.

Chin up, fellow humans. We’re just one alien invasion away from remembering that we’re all in this together.

 

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Things that could have gone better today (mostly minor, ’tis true, but it’s barely afternoon!):

  • Tracked Hurricane Florence instead of working on my current novella.
  • Walked instead of running. Because really, I can’t run. It hurts, like everything else good for you (not really, but some days that’s how it feels). Ouch ouch ouch!
  • Forgot to take my vitamins with breakfast.
  • Haven’t cleaned today. Even odds on whether I’ll get to it at all, really. Wynonna Earp is just as awesome through a thin film of dust, right?
  • Ignored the hummingbird feeder and other oddities to wash in the laundry sink. Again.
  • I still don’t know how to get rid of the efflorescence by the laundry room drain. Or is it mold? Or some similar-looking precursor to an alien invasion that just happens to be starting in my basement? Maybe leaving it there is actually me doing a noble service to SETI-hunters everywhere?
  • There is a crack in this seemingly perfect pen blank. You can’t see it. Half the time I can’t see it. But it is there, and now all I can do is use it as a reminder that not everything works out the way you’d like, but sometimes even mistakes can be beautiful.

Enjoy your day, imperfect or otherwise!

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We planted Joe Pye Weed this year, and look what stopped by!

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(today I bring you a dispatch from the wilds of suburbia)

I just mowed the front lawn. I hate mowing. We have an electric mower that’s great, it’s a small yard, no big deal, but it is not my cup of tea.

English estates popularized lawns, but it took America to democratize the things. I’ll cite a few lines from a nineteenth-century book based on Frederick Law Olmsted‘s work (via this excellent article by Michael Pollan), but the real push for lawns started in the 1950s.

“Let your lawn be your home’s velvet robe, and your flowers its not too promiscuous decoration… A smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban house.”
— “The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds,” Frank J. Scott (1870)

Pretty? Sure, if you like uniformity. But in terms of land use, water use, and pesticide chemical use, lawns are terrible for the environment. They are also a massive time suck. Don’t get me wrong, I love Olmsted’s take on keeping nature in cities and improving society through physical design, etc. But there has to be a better way.

We planted a clover-grass mix (yes, on purpose:), but by the time the clover is tall enough to flower, the grass is twice as high and seeding. The neighbors have beautiful, chemically-induced perfections of green. They look askance at our “grass plus” mix, and at the way we wave the weed control van on when it comes around.

And so to keep the peace, I mow. Even when the clover is flowering and the bees are buzzing and can’t understand why I would take away their glorious buffet. I’m not sure why either. I ask the bees for understanding, and I mow in slow motion to give them time to leave the all-you-can-eat-restaurant-turned-food-desert and under my breath I’m asking myself “What’s the flipping point?” I mutter it as I mow the clover, the edible wood sorrel and lamb’s quarters, and the wild strawberries that spring up under the bushes.

Except I don’t say “flipping.”

We’re still looking for ways to shift our lawn to something more useful, but it’s a process. Want to save time, money, and the planet? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The back yard doesn’t get as much sun, and only patches of clover flower there. I let them grow anyway.

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