Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Projects and my sanity

I am a projects girl. I always have been. My projects are various in nature.

I usually move from one hobby to the next. When I was newly married and in the create your home phase, crafts were really big, you know those wood cut out Christmas decorations. :/

Then I got into reupholstering because we could not afford the barn-red Pottery Barn sofa that I wanted. This was fun. I think I did two sofa’s, a love seat, and a chair in the matter of a few years.  I was still young then and had the energy… not so much now.

Being broke really does encourage you to try new things. During this time I learned how to work on cars, fix appliances and put in a sprinkler system. You may ask where my husband was during this time. Well, he was working full time and going to school full time and had responsibilities with our church that took up pretty much all of his time. If there was free time, I wanted him to spend it with me and the kids, not fixing the dishwasher. And, I really liked the sound of a dishwasher that actually worked after I had disassembled it.

After this I moved onto wedding cakes. This phase did not last long. I did enjoy it, but it made me nervous because unlike my other hobbies this is something you have to do for someone else…(What was I going to do with wedding cakes made for myself?) And, there is a lot of pressure involved when you are trying to please someone else’s tastes. And I realized I really don’t like to spend time in the kitchen. So, I moved on.  Baking is NOT my talent.

I took piano lessons next. As a child I always wanted to learn but my parents could not afford it. Then, as an adult, I was called into the Bishop’s office, (he is a leader at our church) and was asked by one of his councilors to be the Pianist for our primary kids. Well, I would have said yes if I had any idea how to play. I told of my concerns and the invitation to play was revoked. My husband told me I needed more faith. That somehow miraculously I would be able to play because I had faith. I think we both laughed hysterically at this point. I told him that I didn’t think that that was how faith worked.  So, after this encounter I decided to go ahead and sign up for piano lessons. Again, this did not last long. I was prego with my last and I think my brain cells had gone on an extended vacation.

Next, I began to write. I had always had stories in my head. I had just had my daughter and I was diagnosed with a crap thyroid, (hypo-thyroid), because of this I wasn’t mobile. Writing was the perfect distraction.  We all thought writing was a phase but somehow it stuck.

I still fix things around the house from time to time and this last year I took on a few upholstery projects. I am particularly proud of this chair.

Last month I sold my kitchen table on craigslist. I moved my dinning table into my kitchen to replace the old one...

Here is the before table that is now in my kitchen

But then I no longer had a formal dinning room table. I really wanted these table and chairs from Create and Barrel, but the price tag nearly gave me a heart attack.

Craigslist is the obvious next step for this bargain shopper. I really like the vintage, low backed chair look. These chairs, (hated the upholstery but loved the lines of the chair and the low back), were perfect. Here is the before and after…

I found the end chairs at World Market. These were pricey, even with the 50% discount. But, I figured they were pretty neutral and should last a while and because everything else was a craigslist find I was good.
This is not the exact chair but you can find the one I bought here.

Last, was the table, again craigslist. First off it is huge, and heavy, and really beautiful. The only problem was the height issue. I had to take the whole table apart just to be able to shorten the legs by a few inches.

All in all, it turned out great. And I love it more because it didn’t kill my budget, and it’s unique because I tweaked it myself. It’s a Jen original.
Yes, I know, this room has the worst lighting.

So, here is just a little about me. This probably sounds kind of braggy but the truth is, I can do a lot of thing okay, just nothing really great. I guess you can say that my talent isn’t upholstery, cake decorating, or even fixing things. My talent is not being afraid to try and end up falling on my face. That has happened a time or two. (I also think trying to have as many different experiences as possible also helps me to be a better writer). Some may call it adult ADD, but I choose to call it my talent.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My University Life

Last week, after months of dragging my feet, I finally scheduled an appointment to meet with my advisor at Arizona State University.

The classes I needed were filling up and apparently you can not register until you have spoken to a professional. Like I am going to sign up for something crazy like American musicals or something, oh wait, I did sign up for an American Musicals class… with my advisor's permission of course. What musicals have to do with English, I haven’t a clue. I guess I find out in the fall. I will keep you all posted. I know you'll be waiting on pins and needles

I don't suppose studying musicals will help much with my writing either. The creative writing classes I wanted to take have already filled up, so musicals it is for this girl. Who knows, maybe studying Dorothy will inspire me. I am taking a travel writing class that I am SO excited about. I love to travel, have done quite a bit of it, and would love to know how to make the most of my little adventures.

I don’t know why I have all sorts of hang-ups about being the “mature student” in class, but I do. You can read about a very embarrassing past experience here

To lesson the age gap between myself and the younger students, I went to the campus incognito, (little make-up and large sunglasses). It kind of worked. My advisor thought I was 30! Woot, woot! Let’s hear it for the 30 year old… yeah and add 7 years.

So it turns out my shot records were not up to date. Yep, the last time I had my MMR shot was back in ’83. Yes, that’s 1983! I was scanning this shot record that I received from my childhood school and was shocked to see the little amount of immunizations I had in comparison to what my kids have received. 

I am not going to lie. When the nurse at ASU told me I needed a second MMR shot, I began to whimper. I asked all of those questions we have heard many times from our own kids… “Will it hurt? Will I be able to use my arm afterwards? Do I really need this shot?” By this time, I was in a state of near hysteria. I had both of my girls with me on campus, (yes, poor planing on my part… and nothing says mature student like dragging along your seven and eleven year old to school). I may have traumatized them, (the other students and my girls). 

Whatever I did, (the hysteria... not bringing my girls), it worked. The nurse recommended a blood test instead to see if I had built up an immunity to measles mumps and rubella. I can do blood draws… piece of cake. I am nearly a professional after having to deal with a crap thyroid for years.

And, do you know what??? I am one immune woman! I have never been more proud of myself, or more relieved. Bring on the germs! They got nothing on me.

Anyway, I am starting school in the fall at the relatively new east campus, (Polytechnic Campus). I hadn’t been there in years. The campus was originally used as some kind of military base. It has been a bit of an eye sore. But, holy cow, how things have changed. The powers that be at ASU have clearly put a lot of effort and money into the new campus. It really is a bit of an oasis in the desert.

For those of us who are intimidated by large universities  the east campus is perfect. It has a very quiet, community feel to it. The two days in which I had to traverse the campus I felt right at home.

My excitement is definitely starting to override my nerves. I know this is what I want, I can feel graduation day on the tips of my fingers. The only thing left to do is go. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The start of a novel

This photo has nothing to do with the post. I am just shamelessly posting this pic of the Opera House in Vienna. Shameless!
Now that you have all admired the pic, lets move forward, shall we...

You have this idea in your head of what you think would be a really good book. It’s been rolling around for some time nagging you to do something with it. it's been keeping you up late at night and you need your sleep. I totally get you, right?  So, how do you get that story down on paper?

There are many different ways authors go about this. No one way is right. Lets just get that out of the way. Some free spirited, let the novel guide me, type people, just start at page one and then see where the novel goes. I know others who skip around in a novel, writing a variety of scenes then put the manuscript together in a start to finish format later.

Neither of these examples is me, though sometimes I wish I could let go and be that way. I like to keep things structured, or that's how I am comfortable writing.  Never in my writing have I had a character do something that I didn’t want him or her to do. This isn’t true for all authors. When I hear of this happening, something I do hear often in my writing circles, I think to myself, WOW! I would love to be in your head when that battle of wills takes place between you and your characters. I guess I am a bit headstrong so my characters don't stand a chance against me. 

Before I even start a project I always map out chapters and characters. I want to make sure I don’t get struck somewhere, not knowing where the story should go next. This way I never have to deal with writers block, a very real thing. Can you imagine writing forty or fifty thousand words and then getting stuck having no clue where you were going. Yep, it happens to authors all the time. I even know of some who actually scrap what they have written. My heart aches just thinking about it. 

I also write scenes in order. Why do I do this when I clearly know what happens at the end when I start on page one? The anticipation to write those juicy scenes keeps me moving forward everyday.  Due to the anticipation I write very, very, quickly. I am an instant gratification girl, so I like to hurry to get to the resolution. I write in the morning, 4 to 6 hours a day. It usually takes me two months to write a complete first draft. It is always error ridden and a bit flat with plot holes, but that’s what revisions are for… and those take me at least a year before the book is readable. Sounds like work right? It really is. I am so glad my day job is in my home or there is no way I would be able to write. Even then, my house looks like a bomb went off when I am writing. I except it as the trade off and thankfully my family is very supportive. 

So, today I sit in front of my computer with a novel that needs to be begun. Yes, it has been nagging me for months and I can't put it off any longer. This for me is one of the hardest parts in the writing process. The chapter sketches are done and I feel confident that this book is going to be fun to write and even more enjoyable to read.  That being said, putting the first chapter down is a bit of an overwhelming thought. It takes a lot of concentration to write a novel… headache-inducing concentration, I often am forced to take a nap after a morning of good writing. I kind of have to psych myself up to begin. I also know that once I cross that start line it’s going to be an intense roller-coaster ride until I reach THE END.

So, wish me luck. I have bought my ticket and its time to board the ride.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Lovin Arizona" reunion 2014

Only Half of the Lovin crew… we lost a few in Sedona...
Over this last weekend the Lovin descended on us here in Arizona. We have reunions every two years. Due to my mother’s declining health we decided to have this year’s reunion here at home.

My family is not your ordinary run of the mill family. My parents have eleven, yes eleven kids…eight boys and three girls. The order is… a daughter first then eight boys followed by two more girls. I was the lucky girl born after EIGHT boys. To say I was a tomboy is an understatement. Having siblings so much older than you is an odd thing. My nieces, who were close to my age, seemed more like siblings than my older siblings did. It felt more like I had five dads than one dad and four much older brothers. As a teenager I was a bit of a handful, and I didn’t appreciate my surrogate fathers very much. Now, years later, I look back and I am so grateful for brothers who cared enough to lecture me.

Our family at times feels like two families. Because my brothers, who were number six and seven have passed away there is a bit of an age difference between the first group of 1-5 and the second group of 8-11. We call it family one and two.

This weekend, as the 60ish Lovins (only half of our number) crowded restaurants and national parks, those two families seemed to merge back into one. I don’t know if it was because age no longer really matters after you’re 30, or if it was because of the genuine love we feel for each other. Whatever the reason, as the weekend came to a close, tears came to my eyes. 

This weekend was crazy! I mean crazy. All bazillion of us drove up to my mother’s childhood home of Jerome, (a very cool haunted sort of old mining town), then we drove over to enjoy the beauty that is Sedona. For some reason I ended up being in charge of this day. Directing Lovins is sort of like herding cats. Cats you love, but cats that like to scatter in different directions. By the end of the day we only lost two families, I considered that pretty good consider how many of us there were.

Yes, Sedona is really that beautiful.

There is something about cousins...

Sunday was a tough day. I am not going to lie. We started the day with a few goodbyes, then the remainder of us gathered for a meeting to discuss my parent’s health and their wills. I was a bit of a wreck leading up to this. My parents are at the age where it needed to be done, but boy, I wish I was anywhere else but in that living room.

I really do have the most amazing parents. I know that this is why my siblings are such kind, supportive people. My mom was forty when she had me, forty! Then forty-five when she had my little sister. She has been through a tremendous amount of trials in her life, and it breaks my heart that after everything she has to end it suffering from Alzheimer’s. It isn’t fair. But life isn’t fair, and bad things do happen to good people.  I don’t know what she would do without my dad. He is the sweetest most loving man I have ever known. The way he takes care of her is so beautiful. Them together is a beautiful thing.

After “the meeting” we watched old videos, again more tears, then we sat around the piano and sang like the old days. Slowly all of the out of towners left and now we are back to normal here at the William’s household.

Howdy Partner.
All in all it was a magical weekend. I feel emotionally drained but my heart has been filled to the brim.