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.
100_6010
It’s sad, in a way, but a powerful example of growing despite trials and perceived road blocks.
100_6011
What could have halted progression became woven into its life, making the core stronger. (It’s survived several hurricanes.)
100_6013
Not only is this tree still growing, it’s providing a craggy surface for other living things. Love that moss!
100_6014
The textures are amazing.
100_6012
Where can you find inspiration today?

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!
100_5883
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?

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.)
J-Mac

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?

Mayday!

The month is almost over and I’ve not made much progress on my writing goal (one thousand out of five thousand words so far) and I’m three books behind schedule for my reading goal for the year. Plus, I just remembered the yearly goals I’ve made every year on my birthday for the past several years, and that milestone came and went a few weeks ago without me reviewing them.

It’s time to hold myself accountable and get back on track!

One thing I did finish up with was my work on the Third Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest hosted by Mobile Writers’ Guild. The winning stories from both middle and high school students in Mobile and Baldwin Counties are up on the MWG website (see posts from May 23 and 27, 2014.)

May 14

As for me, I’ll keep reading, writing, and watering Fernando.

What are you working toward?

Cycles of Life

It’s been an interesting two weeks. Highs and lows, appointments and responsibilities. Nature and modern life colliding in a symphony of emotions.

I was able to help with the Mobile Writers’ Guild Third Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Competition for middle and high school students in the area. It was labor intensive, but rewarding and when friends are involved it makes it fun. Thanks to Joyce Scarbrough for her keen editorial eye and snazzy remarks.

My birthday was celebrated this weekend. While it wasn’t a milestone, I’m getting closer to it and the world must smell the opportunity. Offers of increasing my life insurance policy and testimonial sales pitches for health products arrived. But along with those came a birthday wish from my writing mentor, as well as a dozen others thanks to social media. I received hopeful gifts like this, too:
100_5541

All in all, it was a fun few days of celebration and surprises.

Then, I spent a day at Dauphin Island beach with my kids and another friend and her family. It was gorgeous, and the sun was kind enough to leave a reminders of the day well spent. There’s also a half-bucket of shells under my desk, waiting for the kidlet to decide she wants them back after gifting them to me.

After the festivities, I received yet another “pass” (that’s the P.C. term for rejection), but not a few hours later, I got this literary road sign from a dynamic, crafty duo to brighten my day and inspire me to keep those literary dreams alive.
100_5538
100_5540

Amazing, isn’t it?

So, while Fernando might currently look like this (and, yes, I did just water him)…
100_5544

… I’m still plugging away with my writing. Plus, there’s this beauty of sight and scent waiting for me for the next several days.
100_5543

What have you been inspired by—even in the face of discouragement—lately?