Bits of Sunshine Coming In

canstockphoto2875377In journalistic vernacular, this is going to be a disjointed fluff piece. For months, I’ve been wrapped up in the turmoil that is political life in America and this week, I’m calling a time out. It’s exhausting and depressing – and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some IQ points in the process. My practice this week is to not read any news until the evening, leaving my day untainted by a sense of apocalyptic foreboding.

The sun has been shining and we’re having a bit of a warm streak here in Minnesota. Despite a few slip-n-slide sidewalks, I’ve been able to get out and walk and feel some sense of normalcy. I perused my yard, taking note of various garden projects and making lists of supplies. It’s premature. These warm streaks are inevitably followed by blizzards and my notes get put aside for a snow shovel. But still, it’s a break in the cold days and bleak skies. And it keeps the Minnesota homicide rate down during cabin fever February.

*****

canstockphoto9109848I forgot that it was Valentine’s day yesterday. Late afternoon, I stood in line at the drugstore with a lot of men who were clutching chocolate and stuffed animals. It’s a test each year about expectations. I usually have to make up something for my husband to get me, because when I say nothing, he worries that he should do something. Inevitably I end up with some heart-shaped doodad that, until that moment, I didn’t know I didn’t want. I usually ask for spring flowers, which show up in shops around this time of year and are easy to pick up downtown on the way to his bus. We’re a romantic lot here.

*****

canstockphoto7037830If you have a compulsive personality like I do, the real trick is to turn that negative into a positive. I cancelled Netflix and Amazon Prime to curtail a binge-watching habit. I traded it in for a free language training program called Duolingo. I’m not into product promotion, but this is a fantastic online program. I’ve been reviewing, in short snippets, my Spanish, Russian, German, and French every day for the last week. Once I get back into the groove, I would like to start some Hindi and Korean. It’s user-friendly (my 12 year old got me onto it) and is self-paced. I feel parts of my brain light up that were collecting dust.

*****

canstockphoto9229380

If only my cats were this useful.

In my attempt to eat less packaged foods, I’ve been cooking. As a rule, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. I’m so accustomed to quick food that the preparation, cooking and cleanup seems interminable. A meal from scratch can take 2 or more hours, and it takes my family all of 15 minutes to eat it – even less to grimace on the first bite and make themselves a sandwich instead. It’s not a gratifying experience and I’m stuck eating a soup nobody liked for the next week.

*****

Writing has been going well for me. I’ve been more productive in the last couple of weeks than I have in months. I need a finished manuscript done by April for a writers’ pitch conference. I had to let go of preconceptions about how and when I work. I purchased a cheap laptop which I drag along to all the places where I wait – all my daughter’s rehearsals and lessons and practices.

I finally trained myself to use Scrivener, which I had purchased with a discount after NaNoWriMo in 2012. It’s a challenge to learn it, but my novel and notes were becoming too unwieldy in Word. I’m finding it useful, but there is definitely a learning curve.

*****

As an American, I’m highly trained in instant gratification. Instant entertainment, instant food, instant information. Cooking, reading longer form news, not trying to incessantly fill every space with sound, images and ideas – it seems that this is emerging as a new intention for me. It’s not just slowing down, but giving myself time to unravel all the tight, angry tension that I’ve felt for the last year.

canstockphoto34597907Lately, what I’ve been observing in schools, coffee shops, offices and sometimes in my own home, is that we are batteries that are never fully recharging. Our information comes in fast, short bursts. We lie to ourselves about multitasking. We pride ourselves on odd things like functioning on little sleep or how many emails we get or how many friends we’ve acquired on social media.

I’ve been thinking about the concreteness of life around me, a life not lived ephemerally through my phone or computer. It’s not as interesting or exciting. It defies instant gratification. There is no drama, nothing that inspires rage or jealousy or triggers eating and shopping sprees. I realized how addictive some emotions can be. I’ve felt addicted to anger with all the online reading, an anger I usually reserve for driving. The space left when I turn off all the noise is unsettling.

*****

Useless trivia I will remember instead of where my car keys are:

I watched my daughter’s orchestra perform at Orchestra Hall last week and ended up with a melody stuck in my head. That’s when I found out that a pop song I knew from the 1970s had liberally lifted from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, III. Adagio.  Perhaps, if you’re an oldbie like me, you recognize the tune. The Rachmaninoff estate now gets 12% of royalties due this pop singer. This same singer also borrowed from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18 for another pop single.

31 Comments on “Bits of Sunshine Coming In

  1. I appreciate this post because they are honest pieces of your life. The previous post mentioning the laminated cue card set me thinking on what my cues would be. You do help a lot of souls out there !! 🙂
    I am not an American, but I have been closely following the turmoil that’s been happening there and have jotted down my thoughts regarding this. Do keep your posts coming, I admire you because I truly believe that being honest requires a lot of courage!! https://msdiandheroven.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/mocha-fudge-cake-aka-mocha-brownies/

    Like

    • I’m glad to hear that you are finding something useful here. This blog is often navel-gazer territory. I have found honesty to be easier than anything else, so not much courage involved. Perhaps laziness and many hours walking about in my own head!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a friend who swears by (not at) Scrivener. He insists he’d never have finished his book without it. As for your cooking adventures (or misadventures depending on how you look at them) I have 2 suggestions that make it effortless: A George Foreman grill and a slow cooker. With the slow cooker you don’t even have to be at home and you have no idea what you can cook in there. Glad your being so productive with your writing. I am a big fan of laptops for precisely the reason you’ve mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scrivener requires an investment of time up front in terms of learning it. I found that when I focused and went through tutorials, it was clear to me how useful it is.
      I do have a slow cooker, but I’ve discovered that I much prefer raw veggies to cooked ones. Soups and hot dishes might not be my forte because I simply don’t like them. I just have to keep experimenting. Fortunately between online and the pile of recipe books I have, I have a lot of resources.
      And the laptop thing! I’m stubborn sometimes and when I finally find an easy solution, I don’t know what took me so long. I can’t believe how much more writing I get done. I’ve also stripped away any programs off it unnecessary to writing, so it is the only thing I use it for.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I so enjoyed these vignettes and appreciated both the reference to duolingo (I’m ready to practice Spanish) and Rachmaninoff. I grew up in Minnesota, so here’s another idea for you: an inexpensive grow light and seeds. I’m doing catnip and cat grass inside this year for my fur family, as well as preparing to sow spinach and kale in the cold frame outside. (Yes, I will likely be thwarted by some violent stroke of “uh: it’s-still-winter” Nature, but it’s all part of annual faux Spring ritual. :))

    Like

    • I am really enjoying Duolingo. There’s even an app for the phone (there’s always an app!).

      I used my first grow light this winter, but used it for roses and lavender to dispel the winter gloom. Thus far, I haven’t had much luck with seeds, except for cat grass. I want to build a cold frame for next year. We have a nice south side location for it. My list for this spring is SO long!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s from 1975, Eric Carmen’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”. You’ll hear the Rachmaninoff main melody in the chorus. The second piece he lifted for was “All By Myself”, but I haven’t matched it up to the Rachmaninoff.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I never would have made the connection between Rachmaninoff and Eric Carmen, but I know I’ve ripped off plenty of writers I read. In fact, I notice my writing style can be heavily influenced by someone who’s writing I’m deep into. (Last year I wrote a lot of posts in pinklightsaber style). Can’t turn it off at times. Good job taking a step back and slowing down. Years ago, I used to be in the habit of driving with the radio off. Now I’m constantly flipping channels and checking my phone at stoplights, even when I feel my brain just needs some peace and quiet. It’s madness, I say. Madness!

    Like

    • It kind of bugged me that I had an earworm from 1975 still bouncing around in my brain! It’s weird when you have heard the later version of a song first. Even when you hear the original, it stays messed up chronologically in your head.

      I’ve had to give up reading heavy fiction while writing. I too easily imitate voices that I like. Bill over at PLS has likely influenced my writing as well!

      It’s funny you should mention the car radio. I’ve tried leaving it off as well. The same with doing house chores without a show or music on. It feels weird at first, but then I kind of get into it. I’ve been thinking about how we live so much of our lives on autopilot, run by our habits and distractions.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: In lumina

    • I started watching the 12 Days of Christmas (so easily distracted). It’s very funny and I’ve added it to my list of things to watch/do when I’m grumpy. I didn’t recognize the name Peter Cook at first and when I read about him, I realized that he’d been behind many of my favorite comedies and comedians, so thanks for that, Ross.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I thought your fluff piece was enlightening. All the little snippets of your life coming to life. I will have to look out for Scrivner, my word processor is good but I’m always open to trying new things. Eric Carmen’s song a Rachmaninoff composition? Well, who’d a thunk that? That’s pretty darned cool. And you are too. I look forward to reading more of your stuff as the days go on. You have a way of writinig that is light and airy. Very easy to follow along. 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to comment. I still have mixed feelings about Scrivener. It was originally written for a Mac, so the PC version is not quite as robust. It is definitely easier to work with all my notes and character bios in one place and much easier to move things around.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The first time I tried Scrivener, it kept crashing and I so went back to Google Docs. (This was even on a Mac so it wasn’t a PC issue). Then for some reason one of my writing buddies convinced me to try it again. I did, and now I use it, but it didn’t change my life. In some ways it’s just one more program to deal with.

        Like

      • Michelle, I was just looking at all of the features of Scrivener and it is amazing. I can see how it helps with things like novels or movies. My first book was solely a book of poetry but now I am breaking oiut and looking to publish a book of short stories. I think Scrivener can help with that. I am going to do the free trial and go from there. Thanks for being the inspiration for it, Michelle. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I am right with you on the cooking! I have been trying to cook dinner more often for myself and my kids, who tend not to eat much at lunch because they don’t like what the cafeteria serves and have other food issues related to sensory integration and perception. I succeed in this–I cook, I get a decent meal on the table–but it does seem interminable. Sisyphean, even. You just roll that damn pan up the hill every night and every morning it comes right back down.

    Like

      • Yes, but for some reason I don’t mind laundry as much. Probably because I only do laundry once a week. Meal preparation has to be done multiple times a day. I’ve sometimes wished for chloroplasts so I could just go outside in the sun and photosynthesize!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with duolingo. I studied Italian at uni and have been forever thankful to myself for making that choice. Thank you. 🙂

    Like

  9. I empathise with you on the compulsive personality trait- I too have been trying to eat more healthily and read more instead of vegging out in front of the box! My CBT councillor has been guiding me into a healthier life style. I also have my art which is my saviour and concentrating on the more positive aspects of my life. Trying new things to challenge your mind is a good way forward. Learning a new language is a real challenge- something I might look in to. I enjoyed reading your post. Wishing you success in all that you do 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you. I’ve finally come to terms about my compulsions. Now I’m just trying to redirect them toward things that won’t kill or depress me! Writing is my lifesaver as well. If only to keep the noise to a low roar. Best wishes to you as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I discovered Duolingo last year and have been enjoying refreshing my high school French and Italian from over 20 years ago! Enjoy the language adventures!

    Like

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: