Saturday, October 25, 2014

5 Reasons A Writer's Group Isn't Scary

5 Reasons A Writer's Group Isn't Scary - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
The invitation came from an english teacher in town. The mother of a girl I grew up with. The winner of the 2013 Word Award for best historical novel. A lovely, lovely, sweetheart of a woman.

My first reaction?


It all comes back to this introspective psyche of a writer: writing is a personal journey. What if the thing that meant the world to me as I poured it out onto my keyboard means nothing to the group of writers I present it to?

We've all seen those episodes of American Idol, right? When the poor chap in the unfortunate cowboy shirt tells the camera how amazing he is and how he's certainly destined for stardom and how he quit his job and lived in his car to be able to stand before those judges and how he opens his mouth and all that comes out is noise? Sure, he's got the world on a string when he's locked in his Chevette belting out Ring of Fire but bring that secret moment out on a world stage? It's a recipe for disaster and slain dreams.

What if I am that guy? What if everything I write is drivel and I stand on The Writer's Group Stage and I get laughed right off it?


Because self-doubt is part of the process and part of being human.

But so is facing your fears.

So I went. And I'm happy to report 5 examples of just how wrong I was.

5 Reasons A Writer's Group Isn't Scary - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

1. No one is there is destroy your dream - they are there to support it.  I was walking into a group who all knew each other, who have worked together in the past, who have a firm understanding of each others writing styles, goals, and genres. I was walking into a group of mature writers, me being the youngest by probably twenty years. I was walking into the unknown but I was given the warmest greeting - this tiny woman {she must be in her seventies} stood and wrapped her arms around me like I was her granddaughter and held me like she believed in me even though she didn't yet know my name.  Sure, hugs from strangers are weird but let's be honest - a seventy-year old can do whatever she wants if she's being sweet about it.

2. They actually want to hear about your writing journey. When you're passionate about something, you want to talk about it. When you can talk about it with someone who shares the same passion you find yourself arriving at a kind of social symmetry that is basically euphoric. I hold back when it comes to talking to most friends and family about writing because I'm convinced I'll bore them to death - but this leaves a gaping hole. Something that brings you joy needs to be talked about. Joy is worthless if it can't be shared!

5 Reasons A Writer's Group Isn't Scary - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

3. They are a wealth of information. Groups are made up of all kinds - from the amateur struggling to make time between work and family {me} to the retired school teacher who can now write all day {and who had a shipment of her new books delivered as we were all sitting around her living room!}. I'm shy during the first crack at anything so I spent much of our first meeting with my feet tucked up under me just soaking it all in but I have no doubt, as I loosen up and get more comfortable with these people I will be pillaging them for advice and ideas and 'where oh where should I submit this divine piece of prose I have so lovingly crafted?'

4. They are encouragers and motivators. A writer's group isn't about tearing people down - it's about building them up, helping them hone their craft, aiding in the search for the perfect word. When I mentioned with trepidation that I was considering signing up for NaNoWriMo they were all 'Do it!' 'What have you got to lose?' 'Next time we see you, you'll be reading us pieces from that project!'

5. There are snacks. Basically it's a tea party that leaves you feeling ready to conquer Everest. 

5 Reasons A Writer's Group Isn't Scary - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

I am so glad I went. I think this could be the catalyst to a real beginning. I needed a fire lit under me - some motivation to which I can be accountable.  

Well friends, I've found it!

And, because I don't want to be the loser who shows up at the next meeting and says, 'yeah...I just didn't think I could do it..." I am an official NaNoWriMo participant. This means, by the end of November, I will be a pale, weeping, exhausted, caffeine infused troll who can {hopefully} say 'I just wrote 50,000 words, y'all!'

Unfortunately, this may mean my blog - this dear, happy place - may get a little dusty and neglected but I'm going to work very hard over the next week to schedule posts for November. My plan is to dig through my archives and rework some old posts that you've probably never seen before and also smatter through a slow reveal of my new writing room. 

Please bear with me. And don't abandon me. Your quiet devotion to my feeble ramblings is a beautiful gift and I would be loathe to ever lose it.

If you want to check in on my NaNo progress during November just click the NaNoWriMo button in my top menu and you'll find a handy little word counter there that's keeping track for me.  Feel free to kick me in the butt if I'm falling behind.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

And Now I Am The Mother Of A Teenager

And now I am the mother of a teenager - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
When I brought him home I knew nothing and the world was still reeling from the falling of the towers. I felt this horrible guilt for introducing him to an earth obsessed with a war I feared would come into our own backyard but he shook his tiny fists at my fear and reduced my war to only his needs. 

He was this chubby ball who did nothing but cry and I was a baby holding a baby and I felt immeasurable pride and immeasurable terror. All it amounted to was an abundance of love but it was enough to help me grow up right there alongside him.

And now I am the mother of a teenager - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakAnd I've watched this boy grow and turn and laugh and scowl and I remember how he was knit together in me and how I held my belly there below my heart with a kind of wishful glimpse into the future but never once though about watching this tiny whoosh-whoosh of a heartbeat someday becoming a man.

But now I do see and it's terrifying and spectacular - the lower voice and the matching height and the pimples and the whisper of a mustache and the closed bedroom door and the way his laughter {real, wrenched from the gut laughter} can take over a room and light the world on fire with a flicker of the joy he so often keeps to himself these days.

I'm not sure how to be the mother to a teenager. 

But I also didn't know how to be the mother to a baby.

That's the thing about motherhood, I suppose. It shapes us just as much as we are shaping the life entrusted to us. Day by day. Sometimes moment by moment. And it's a beautiful gift that has been mine for the last thirteen years and will continue to be mine as long as I have the privilege to walk this earth and hear that one sweet word that makes me more proud than anything: Mom.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thrift Blitz Episode Two

When Value Village emailed me last week to say that they were having a 50% off book sale and wouldn't I please come I was all, hitch up the horse, babe - we're going to the city! {Just between you and me...I don't have horses BUT my neighbour does and sometimes I like to watch them from the window with a cup of tea in my hand and pretend I'm in a Jane Austen novel.}

I love books. Books. Book. Books.

If heaven doesn't have books I may put myself up for a transfer.

Obviously I made the time for a little {long} shelf hunt during the sale but I ended up only purchasing 5 {2 of which I'm sharing here}. I wanted some beautifully large decorative hardcovers in my new writing room {stay tuned for that!} but The Complete History of Russia? An over-sized large print Far Side comic book? Yuck! No thanks! Funny how sale day comes and the shelves seem void of pretty things.

But first...

As promised, I've chosen my favorite from all the lovely participants who linked up their great finds to last months post.

And by 'all the lovely participants' I mean one.

And by one I mean my baby sister.

She found this lovely treasure in a trash heap by an e-waste dump site and texted me to see if I thought it was worth a rescue.  Um...yes!  Amazing?  I think so. It's so weathered and beaten and perfect for storing all her piano books!

If she hadn't grabbed it, I would have.

I wish the dear girl had a blog I could direct you to but alas...she seems to think she's too busy handling her daughters and her wacky husband and buying and selling a gazillion dollars of stock for crazy people who have a gazillion dollars to invest to manage a blog on top of it all.

The internet world is just a little less colourful because of it.

Now with that out of the way...

1. 'Wishes Really Do Come True' Curtain Panels {Value Village, $3.99/panel}

{You're getting a sneak peak at my writing room with this one.} I knew I wanted curtains for this room and I really love the black and white IKEA drapes that hang in my dining room - you've seen them over and over on this blog in the background of photographs {like here}. I love their nature-inspired print that's pretty without being feminine, and how light the fabric is while still hanging nicely.

It was with those curtains in mind that I began digging through the racks at Value Village. AND I FOUND THE EXACT SAME CURTAINS. Not similar. Not something along the same line. THE EXACT SAME! What's more - these ones had been hemmed by their previous owner TO THE EXACT PROPER LENGTH I needed.

Talk about providence.

I can't even tell you how much I love them in my new space!

2. 'A Blast From The Past' & 'A Laugh Your Pants Off' Book Party {Value Village, $2.49 & $1.99 respectively}

I have fond memories of my parents reading to me all about Anne with an 'E' and how I wanted to be her and say such wonderful things like 'I'm so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers'. This was the first book that taught me that a book could make you cry {though I didn't let it because my sisters would have shamed me}.

And Mindy Kaling's trip through hilarity? I borrowed this from the library a year ago and loved it so much that I posted this tiny review on GoodReads:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a witty little gem that really brightened my day! At one point, sitting in the living room surrounded by my family, I actually snorted in an attempt to curb my laughter. It's really a non-stop goofy glimpse inside the brain of a brilliant comedian. It's a fast read and definitely worth the time.


Really I just got it so I could lend it to my sisters.  After I read it again.

3. 'Not A Wallflower' Red Skinny Jeans {Value Village, $9.99} 

First of all - do you even realize how hard it is to take a picture by yourself of pants that are on your body? It's ridiculous! Secondly - I am not a coloured jeans type of girl but I saw these and I tried them on and I liked how they fit. Plus it's October and red seems like a good fall colour... I've worn them a couple time and everyone else seems to realize I'm not a red-pants-girl too because they've gotten a lot of comments. Not bad comments. More like: You? Red pants? Good for you! Like I deserve an atta girl for wearing clothes.

And can we just take a moment to appreciate those shoes??? I adore them and had Thrift Blitz been up and running last summer I would have shared them then.  I'm pretty sure I paid $9.99 for them and - like the curtain story - on my last trip to Value Village I found the very same shoes again {but in a child's size 4}. 

I celebrated them back in June with this photo on Instagram:

4. 'If You Call Me A Hippie I Might Kiss Your Face' Necklace {Value Village, $2.99}

Every fall Value Villages across the country dedicate a huge section of the store to Halloween. They sell many new costumes but a lot of the stores also pull items from other places to make themed sections: clown, cowboy, hippie...and every fall I make sure I visit the hippie section because I can usually find an adorable top or special accessory.  

Friends, the Halloween section is not just for Halloween! 

I found this gorgeous pendant right between a set of love beads and a bandana collection. It's big and bold and pretty and it jingles when I walk - I love it's colours and it's odd shape. I think it's perfect!

5. 'I Can't Help It - I Love Me A Cardigan' Cardigan {Value Village, $5.99}

As cooler weather settles in {UGH!} a cardigan is a great way to add an extra layer against the chill. And I know last month featured a cardigan as well {also stripped} but I can't help myself - I love me a cardigan!

You're welcome!

6. 'Not Some Old Ladies Afghan' Blanket {Value Village, $4.99}

This was another piece I wanted for my writing room because it's a room without heat. When the door's open it will receive heat from the rest of the house but if it's closed it can get pretty chilly.

Cue a lovely, warm blanket.

This one is heavy and handmade and does not smell like a grandmother's attic. And I love the colour combination of purples and greys - it just screams cozy!

Now it's your turn. What great finds have you made recently?  Share them in the comments, link up your post using the inlinkz tool below, or tweet it with the hashtag #ThriftBlitz {be sure to add @alannarusnak to your tweet to make sure I see it, or just use the button below}.

Happy thrifting!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How To Be A Child Bride

child bride sitting outside cabin

It's simple really.

Be a teenager in love.  Dress your stubbornness in a white dress. March yourself down an aisle.

Oh my poor parents.  God bless them for not throwing a fit.

I was a girl who {thought I} knew what I wanted and that meant marrying the boy who handed me Phillipians 1:3 while I was wearing saggy old man Adidas track pants.  You don't come back from that. The deal was sealed before we'd even had our first kiss.

getting ready for wedding

I was 18. Eighteen! I knew nothing about the world or about love or about how to cook chicken. I was completely gaga for this boy who looked like John Lennon and played Skydiggers on the guitar and grinned at me while I sang harmony against his melody.

walking down the aisle with both parents, signing the register

A child bride doesn't care about the little things {like the decoupaged pop bottle bottoms that became candy dishes on the reception table}. I cared about my dress and I cared that I had a center aisle to walk down. The rest didn't matter.

It would be so different if I was doing it today.  Today, with Pinterest and digital photography and bridesmaids that are no longer children themselves.

It took me an hour yesterday to find our wedding photos - tucked back in a dusty corner.  They are not good pictures. They are a huge regret. But it was 1998 - people had little 110 cameras.  {I would consider a vow renewal ceremony now just for the photos.}

But the message that pours out from those old pages is one of forever - that we knew and believed and promised and vowed that we meant everything that day stood for - and you could see it all over our faces.

How to be a child bride - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

I have regrets about our wedding day.

He is not one of them.

Somehow we've navigated the inevitable ups and downs and now, sixteen years later, I still choose him as my life partner.

So, the question isn't 'How To Be A Child Bride'. It should be 'How To Be A Child Wife.'

But perhaps that's a story for another time...

Read about our perfectly imperfect wedding night by clicking the Slum Love photo on the left.

p.s. Today was my first day blogging from my new writing room.  I'll be showing it off soon!!

p.p.s. Thrift Blitz goes live on Monday - be ready to link up your super great finds!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How To Make A Good Thanksgiving Out Of A Bad Week

How To Make A Good Thanksgiving Out Of A Bad Week - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

It's bound to happen once in a while, isn't it? A bad week? An entire five days of the Mondays?

That was my story last week.

I fit enough complaining for a year within the course of four days.

1. After a year of resistance, I updated to the Maverick operating system.  This took my computer out of commission for almost three hours. {They should really warn you about that before you hit accept.} I had to follow that up by updating all my programs which took another good hour. Everything that should have been accomplished on Tuesday didn't even get so much as a 'hey there!'

2. Because of a project I've been tasked with at work I had to install Word. I despise Word. I think Word is it's own curse word and somewhere a little demon is gleefully rubbing his hands together while I fume and rant and force-quit that CURSE over and over again.

3. Every year during performance reviews we have to set goals for the coming year. One of my goals for this season was to begin the recording/editing/uploading of our Sunday services so that we're reaching anyone unable to physically attend.  Because of all the upgrades I basically had to relearn how to use the programs and then converting the video files to an up-loadable size took HOURS and slowed down my now awesomely upgraded computer so that I could do nothing else but watch that little timer tick by.

{I am not interested in wasting time. It makes steam come out of the top of my head. I become a cartoon character. I am Lucy from the Peanuts with mad black scribbles in my speech bubble.}

4. Walmart sold out of their 79¢ turkeys.

5. It was flipping cold and the fire was flipping frustrating to keep lit - even it knows it's too early to have to heat your home!

This - all of this - culminated into a big black pot of angry yuck and the idea of thankfulness seemed like a bad joke.

But then Friday came. And I still managed to get through my list at work. And Walmart restocked their turkeys. And the country station started playing Momma's Broken Heart while I was doing the dishes and before I knew it, I was singing loud and chopping celery for my stuffing and looking forward to the twenty mouths I'd be feeding the next day.

Because all I needed was for that week to be over so that I could get busy getting over it.

And I shucked it off like a smelly coat and replaced the stench with the scents of sage and thyme and cinnamon and as the family poured in and their loudness multiplied into a symphony of chaotic blessing, I sat there beside my sweet Great Aunt and smiled at the mess and the volume and the pie crumbs on the counter and knew that this - right there in the heat and the noise - that was what I was thankful for.

A bad week means nothing when you've got the love of a family around you.

And gravy. 

And pie.

{But I still hate Word!}

How To Make A Good Thanksgiving Out Of A Bad Week - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakHow To Make A Good Thanksgiving Out Of A Bad Week - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
How To Make A Good Thanksgiving Out Of A Bad Week - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
How To Make A Good Thanksgiving Out Of A Bad Week - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

P.S. Thrift Blitz Episode Two will be coming soon and you'll be invited to link up your own great finds! Get your posts and photos ready!!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Turning My Grey Complaining Into Orange Gratitude

Turning My Grey Complaining Into Orange Gratitude - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

It's downright gloomy outside and the wood hissed at me when I tried to light a fire yesterday. I hate being cold and I hate wearing socks and I hate how busy everything feels and I hate how grumpy all this hate makes me.

Because I'm not a hateful person.

I'm a glass-half-full, look-for-the-silver-lining kind of girl.

I'm a second-piece-of-pie, get-lost-in-a-good-book kind of girl.

I'm an always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life kind of girl.

So, while the wind howls and the leaves take their final death dive, I've got to make my own sunshine by taking the best of the season and costuming my home.

Turning My Grey Complaining Into Orange Gratitude - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

And by the best of the season, I mean orange. Because ORANGE!

Sunsets! Fire! Sweet potatoes! The energy of red and the happiness of yellow.

Turning My Grey Complaining Into Orange Gratitude - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

It doesn't take much to bring a touch of the good parts of fall into a home. {And no matter how cheesy you might think plastic gourds are - they're a cheap way to celebrate the season without breaking the bank.}

Turning My Grey Complaining Into Orange Gratitude - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

Turning My Grey Complaining Into Orange Gratitude - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

Turning My Grey Complaining Into Orange Gratitude - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

It's ridiculous really, that a small little corner like this can turn my mood around.

But it does. So I'll take it. Because every day needs a little brightening.

How do you welcome fall in your home?


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