Monday, December 15, 2014

Just An Update...

Gee whiz, has it been quiet around here!

November was a swirling vortex of inspirational chaos as I tackled NaNoWriMo, fought sickness, wrote, showed up for my day job, wrote, spent a night at The Fanciest Hotel In The World {at least in my own puny experience}, wrote, kept three other humans alive, and WROTE.

By November 28th I had written 50,405 words.  That means I did it.  I accomplished the goal.  

And I was thrilled nearly to the point of tears.

And I was SO EXCITED to step away from the crazy pressure of 1667 words per day and start polishing and perfecting and turning my 50K into something solid and sell-able.

Except that I crashed.  And I crashed hard.  And the sickness that shadowed me at the beginning of November came back in an annoying cloud that kept me bone-weary-tired and foggy and it just wasn't letting go.

So that novel?  Sitting right where I left it at the end of November.  This blog?  I had to clear away some cobwebs before I could start typing this.

"There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both overlook neither." Alan Cohen quoteI attended a family Christmas on Saturday and my dear Great Aunt - one of my most faithful supporters and fountain of encouragement - asked me how things were going with my writing and I told her, "I'm taking a break."

"Good for you," she said.

And yes, good for me!  I needed it!
I learned awhile ago to let go of blog guilt and I'm applying the same wisdom to writer's guilt - I suppose they're one-and-the-same, at least in my situation anyway.  My body and brain were crying out for reprieve and I had to listen.

Today was the first day since the beginning of December that I actually felt good.  I still had to take an Advil Cold & Sinus {magic!} to clear my foggy sinuses but I actually {almost-nearly-totally} felt like myself again.

So here I am.

It's good to be back.

p.s. Become a SBR subscriber and you'll gain exclusive access to updates and sneak peeks about my NaNoWriMo project, The Church In The Wildwood {click here} to join.  Already a subscriber? You'll find an invitation to join the wildwood tribe at the bottom of every email you receive!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Oh Deer

Oh Deer - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

I'm driving.  The night is thick and swirling snow puts us in the midst of what feels like Star Wars hyper drive.  The younger two are lost in mouths-wide-open-necks-cranked-terribly sleep and the eldest sits in the middle pretending he isn't interested in our grown-up conversation but we both know he's eating it up with late-night-bugged-eyed attention.

We've been on the road for over an hour already and haven't yet seen a plow but we are only ten minutes from home and we're confident we'll get there safely.

I've had to pee since Duntroon.  Not an every day discomfort gotta-pee.  A full-on, painful, bouncing leg, humming under my breath, if anybody mentions water I'm going to scream gotta pee.

We're coming over a hill from which, on a clear night, we'd be able to see the lights of hometown glory.  Which means we're almost there.  Which means I'm going to make it.

But then...

He appears on the opposite side of the car, all regal and tall - magnificent with a long, lean neck and antlers that burst proudly from his head.  The ground is slick but he is haughty and he starts his run with a confident shake of his striking crown.

"We're going to hit," Scott says.

I see him as a golden brown blur that shoots across my vision and I work the brakes and control the spin and skid us to a shaking stop halfway down the hill.

I don't remember the impact.  It can't recall the sound or feel of it.  I know it's happened but it's as if I was away from my body in the moment it occurred.

The young ones are roused from sleep, big eyes and questions while my heart is beating in my throat and my palms sweat against the steering wheel.

I ease us to the shoulder, put the station wagon into park and turn on the hazard lights.

The children stay buckled while the grownups inspect the damage.  It's all in the front end - crumpled and broken.  There's a tuft of golden fur clinging to the shattered headlight.

Scott calls 911 and I remember that I've never had to pee so badly in my existence and pat myself on the back for not letting it all loose upon impact.  I march to the rear of the car, step into the tall, snowy grass at the edge of the shoulder, unbutton my jeans and squat like it's normal.  Except it's not normal.  It's freezing.  But I don't care.  Until the first car we've seen in twenty minutes crawls by on the slippery highway.  Hi there! 

I button up my pants and take the phone because I was the driver and I tell our story and yes we're all okay and yes, we'll wait for the officer to come.

"What were you doing out there?" one of the children ask as I climb back behind the wheel and turn up the heat.

"Peeing," I say.

"You were not!"  Liam argues, because he thinks girls can't pee outside.

The officer comes and says we are a blessing because he's had some bad calls tonight and the roads are awful everywhere.  He's kind.  He completes an accident report and sends us on our way.

The car drives fine.  We haven't damaged any important bits that we can tell.  It all seems to be cosmetic.

Sleepy heads get put to bed and I wonder if they'll really remember in the morning because it's so late and their brains must be weary.  

We fall into dreamless sleep.

Oh Deer - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

As morning comes and we slowly crawl from our various blanket cocoons, Noa calls sweetly from the couch, "Mommy, remember that time we hit a llama?"

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Evolution of a Writer's Room Part Five {it's the little things}

{go to Part One - Space & Paint}
{go to Part Two - Furniture}

My home is not a home of pretty doors - it is a home of functional, cheap doors, most of which are hollow core {hollow bore if you ask me!}.

The door to my writing room is no exception.  Yawn.

During the process of planning and painting, I mentioned to my sister that I was looking for a pretty door knob.

"Like an old glass one?" she asked.

Exactly like an old glass one!

And it just so happened that she had one lying around her house, taken off a door they removed once upon a time.  And it just so happened that she was willing to part with it for the whopping price of a cup of hot chocolate.

It was DIRTY! Like a century of grime and grossness.  Like one hundred years of dead skin cells.  This thing was a crime scene!

how to clean a dirty doorknob with sandpaper & toothpaste

My first step was disassembling it and giving it a good cleaning.  Which did nothing, as you can see in the photo's above.

Remembering that my other sister used to clean her flute with toothpaste, I grabbed a near-empty tube and set to work, smearing it all over the dirty surfaces and then rubbing it off with a rag.

how to clean a dirty doorknob with sandpaper & toothpasteThis took a lot of the thick build-up off.  I followed that up with some aggressive sanding and then repeated the toothpaste step for a finishing shine.

Weird?  I know.  But it worked!

Because I wasn't putting this knob on a good, thick, solid door, I was unable to use the internal mechanism that allows it to lock so when I first attached it and saw that white door paint shining through the lock opening I thought - LAME! So I undid the bottom screw, twisted the plate to the side and drew a black box with a sharpie.  Maybe it's not 'the right' solution but it's good enough for me!

how to fake a door lock

It's such an improvement from the plain-old-jane kind of knob that was there before.  Like a little piece of jewellery for my door!

I also went one step further and attached an old window to the door.  In theory it was a good idea.  In reality, I really kind of hate it.  I'm not even sure why.  Maybe it's the scale.  Maybe because it just looks like I attached a window to a cheap door.  But I'm kind of stuck with it now.  If I take it down I'll be staring at four holes in my door.  I figure the window is the lesser evil.  

how to make a hollow core door into a pretty door

So my new mission is to find a lovely paneled number that will fit the door hole to which I can still attach my pretty glass knob - perhaps with it's full fittings.  I've been keeping my eyes open.

Small changes make a difference!  From painting one wall to changing a doorknob! The possibilities are huge.

{p.s. November is National Novel Writer's Month and I have joined a global community of crazies who have made a commitment to write every day with a goal of 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. Come on over here if you're interested in seeing how I'm doing...}

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part Four - Walls & Things}

Evolution of a Writer's Room
{go to Part One - Space & Paint}
{go to Part Two - Furniture}

A room is four walls.  Four walls + one room = loads of opportunity to make it pretty.

I spent about two weeks surrounded by my Powdered Donut White and it was fresh and bright {as bright as a tiny room with a tiny window can get} but I got bored FAST. And some of the imperfections in the walls were really beginning to annoy me. {Not only was this my childhood bedroom but later on it became my father's office - in fact, it was within these very walls that he wrote Muninn's Keep [which one reviewer hailed as 'The Bourne Identity meets The Lord of the Rings'] -  he had filled the walls with shelves and they now bear the scars of those years despite my best efforts to fill the holes and sand the rough patches.} So I wanted a distraction from the distraction of rough walls.

I settled on a hand painted treatment.  One colour. One wall. A one inch wide craft brush.  {The inspiration came from here.}

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part 4 - Walls & Things} SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

This was so easy and so forgiving. I started in one corner and worked my way to the other side painting stout, random strokes - the only rule was that no stroke could be directly beside, above, or below another.

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part 4 - Walls & Things} SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
The whole process took less than an hour.

As I finished, Noa came wandering in and said, "Whoa...what?  When did you get wallpaper?" 

Which was a small victory because that was the look I wanted.

It has changed the whole feeling of the room - made it a much more interesting space - more personal and inspiring somehow.

I'll admit, I was a little nervous when I started because I wasn't sure if I'd love it...I'm glad that got flipped on it's head!

I considered moving on to the other walls {for about fourteen seconds} but I think it would be much too busy for a place intended for working.

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part 4 - Walls & Things} SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

To fill a lonely space on the wall beside, I took an old mirror that used to be attached to my dining room sideboard, sanded it, dry brushed it with my white wall colour and voila - it became a white-board {of a sorts} to write inspirational messages to myself.

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part 4 - Walls & Things} SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part 4 - Walls & Things} SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part 4 - Walls & Things} SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
{The lighting washed it out but the mirror says, "First drafts don't have to be perfect - they just have to be written." A little NaNoWriMo motivation for me.}

There you have it - how I jazzed up my wall. The full reveal is coming soon but first I have to tell you all about my door knob! Come back on Monday for Part Five - It's The Little Things.

{p.s. November is National Novel Writer's Month and I have joined a global community of crazies who have made a commitment to write every day with a goal of 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. Come on over here if you're interested in seeing how I'm doing...}

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In Which I Discover a Portal to Western Canada & Narrowly Escape Death at the Hand of an Axe Murderer

Everyone forgets how to drive that first bad day of bad weather.

The ground was wet earlier in the day but then the mercury fell and suddenly everything is ice and no one knows how to navigate it.  Traffic is crawling.  It's nearly 9 pm and all I want is to be home, wearing jogging pants, and eating bonbons.

The row of cars stretches out ahead of me, now at a dead stop.  There must be an accident ahead.  I wait in the line, red brakes punctuating the night like lonely Christmas lights on a forgotten planet.

No one moves.  The clock creeps forward.  Has there ever been a night darker than this?

I weigh my options.  Blake Shelton is singing a sad song from the radio. There's no way of knowing how long we might all be stuck here in this endless line of waiting.  I crank my wheel and pull into the opposite lane, heading back the way I came - slowly.  Because we haven't put on our snow tires yet.  Because we're fools.

I take the first right and intend to take the next side road north, miss whatever is blocking the highway, coming out beyond it close to home and no worse for wear.

Seriously, has there ever been a darker night?

I think our headlights need cleaning.  The high beams barely break through the black which seems to float down and consume the car.  I miss the first road.  I don't even see the sign until I'm already passing it.

Not a big deal, right?  The next road will go to the same place, right?  Right?!

So I take it.

It's okay for a minute.  I pass a driveway on the left and a field access on the right.  The road slowly narrows.  The trees pull closer.  The darkness, which I'd been sure was total before, becomes thicker and more ominous.  Snow covers the road but I'm no longer sure it is a road.  There is no colour.  The car lights cut ahead of me, looking as weak as a poor campers flashlight. 

There's no way this is a road!

But my head tells me it has to meet up with the main road at some point. 

A towering pile of logs stretches out beside me, unstripped branches scratching the car and sounding like fingernails.

I've just traveled through a portal that's slammed me down in the middle of a British Columbian logging company!

I bounce in and out of huge ruts.  More piles of logs creep up beside me.  I think I've been driving for three hours.

I follow the curves as they wind to the left and right and I think I should turn back but I just know the real road has to be right up ahead.

I see red lights as I round a deep turn, spilling out on the snow so that they almost look pink.  I slow to a crawl.  There's a truck up there.  I stop 100 meters back.  It's not moving.  The road is too narrow to fit around them.

I tap the wheel and bite my lips and "I don't know...I don't know," and it doesn't matter that I'm talking to myself because no one is there to call me crazy.

The brake lights start flashing.  Is it a message?

Tap tap taaaap.

It either means 'Help me, I'm stuck!' or 'Come here, little girl and I'll show you my chainsaw!'

Tap tap tap taaap tap.

I feel a cool wave of panic.  What if-?  {The blessing and curse of a writer is a ridiculously overactive imagination.}

I flip the car into reverse and pull back into a wider area of the 'road', turning myself around and getting away from those flashing lights as fast as I can.

It's highly possible that I'm abandoning some poor woman who bottomed out in the massive ruts and is now weeping as the headlights she thought were her salvation disappear back where they came from.

It's also possible that I just escaped a trap that lured me into an axe murderer's creepy forest portal...

It takes forever to find the end of the road.  The same reaching branches scratch me as I pass them a second time.  Two deer wander out and stare at me.  Move deer! I'm running for my life here! {If they only realized what was going to happen to their big buck of a cousin only three days later at the hands of this very same car they would either move a heck of a lot faster or they'd stand on their hind legs and slam their hooves through the windshield and into my throat in a huge pre-revenge plot.}

I stop to take a picture because I have enough sense to think I'll probably want to tell this story and when I finally reach the end I see a large post covered in signs that say things like 'No Winter Maintenance Beyond This Point' and 'Warning! Logging Operation'.

Thanks a lot over-labelled road!  Your signs mean nothing in this pit-of-hell-darkness.

{Contrary to what you may think, this is not a still from a horror movie - this is where I found myself - this is what it looked like - and the blur of the photograph perfectly represents my frantic state of mind as I navigated this experience.}

I take the next northern road.  It is actually a road.  It even has a few lights.  And houses.  And signs possessing that rare magic that causes my headlights to reflect off them, making them beautifully visible.

It is the wrong road.  Again.

It twists and turns and takes me well beyond my own destination to the little village that lies just beyond our home.

I am annoyed and flustered when I finally come through the door.

"How was that?" my husband asks, on his way to the fridge to top up his Pepsi.

"Well, I didn't die," I say.

{p.s. November is National Novel Writer's Month and I have joined a global community of crazies who have made a commitment to write every day with a goal of 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. Come on over here if you're interested in seeing how I'm doing...}

{p.p.s. I will tell that deer story later and you're going to want to come back for it because it includes such glamorous moments as side-of-the-road-peeing and the child that said, "Hey, remember that time we hit a llama?" - but right now I have 1,604 words to write if I'm going to stay on top of the Nano challenge.  I'll see ya when I see ya!}

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Evolution of a Writer's Room {Part Three - Soft Things}

{go to Part One - Space & Paint}
{go to Part Two - Furniture}

You can fill a room with all kinds of beauty but if all of it is hard how can you relax? Incorporating softness was a really important component to creating a comfortable, inviting, and inspiring room.

1. Area rug. My husband works at a treatment center for delinquent youth with mental health issues and they often receive donations from company's trying to fulfill their philanthropic goals. Pottery Barn is one of them. Often there is so much donated that it can't be used and it gets stored away in an attic or barn until someone can decide what to do with it.  Two rugs had been stored in the barn loft for far too long before we kindly rescued them from their squalor.  One quickly made it's home in our basement family room and the other has waited patiently for the moment I decided to tackle this room and give it a home.

The 5x7 jute rug fits the area perfectly!

2. Curtains. I don't need to tell this story again {If you missed it you can catch it on the last Thrift Blitz} but curtains are a simple way to lend instant softness to a space.  I grabbed a curtain rod from the Dollar Store - you can seriously find anything there! - gave them a good once-over with the iron and hung them. Simple and lovely!

3. Homemade Throw. Not only a great way to pull some new colour in but it's practical too for a chilly day. {Also featured on Thrift Blitz}

4. Pillows. Throw pillows come in all sizes, colours and styles. The owl pillow was a birthday present a few years ago and I LOVE it - I think it's so cute - and the red one is a pillow cover from, you guessed it, the Dollar Store. One of them lives on my comfy corner chair and the other is softening the back of my desk chair which, for now, is just an old dining chair.

What are your favorite 'soft things' to include when you decorate a room?

Come back on Monday for Part Four - Walls and Things

{p.s. November is National Novel Writer's Month and I have joined a global community of crazies who have made a commitment to write every day with a goal of 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. Come on over here if you're interested in seeing how I'm doing...}

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Being Extraordinary

{edited from the archives} 
{photo by Stephanie Rusnak}

Life gets to a point where everything is reduced to Mommy Do.  Breakfast.  Lunches.  Dinner. Toilets.  It's easy to lose yourself, drowning in the ordinary every day and missing out on the colour. 

Because it is there. Colour.  I just wasn't seeing it past the piles of dirty dishes in the sink or the laundry I didn't have time to do or that spot by the fridge where my sock stuck to the floor because Liam spilled the juice when he thought he was strong enough to pour his own.

When I started writing it down it was more for the discipline of writing than because I thought I had anything worth saying but, in taking that moment to record a moment, something beautiful began to happen.  

I began to see.  Really see.  

I live an extraordinary life, so saturated in colour that it strains the lines and drips rainbow dollops of dye onto anyone that gets close enough to care.  

What I was mistaking for dull was just a misunderstanding - a temporary blindness.  Because behind it all I'm living in this little blue house bursting with love and laughter and frustrations and LIFE and to anyone looking in this is a thing to be coveted.

I am often asked why I share so much of our lives. Why I put it all out there - the good and the bad. 

And this is my answer: 

Because every drowning parent needs to take a moment and come up for air - to look at what surrounds them and thank God that they are so lucky. 

If something I share causes one person to pause and appreciate what's right in front of them, then I am making a difference by sharing my life here.

There will never be enough time in the day to get it all done - to have a spotless house and make sure the kids don't have chocolate on their chins before you go to the grocery store - but there is time for thankfulness and for remembering and for reminding yourself that you are anything but ordinary in the midst of what feels like anything but extraordinary.

{p.s. November is National Novel Writer's Month and I have joined a global community of crazies who have made a commitment to write every day with a goal of 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. Come on over here if you're interested in seeing how I'm doing...}


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