Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where is Matt?

I got this off one of the Hero Arts Blogger's sites (Jennifer McGuire, Ink). It's good for a smile, she says, and I believe it is. At least it got a smile (or two) out of me. Silly, but fun. Make sure your speakers and sound are on. And if it doesn't come through on the Feedblitz, check the website itself.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Thief Strikes Again

[It's raining! As I write this. A thunderstorm blew into town today. Lots of lightning, not much thunder. We took Quigley to the dogpark and got sort of rained on while he played with a Rottweiler.]

So yesterday amidst the whole cut-up paper clip incident described in the last post, I had informed Quigley quite clearly that I was very unhappy with him for getting something and running away and eating it before I could see what it was... very unhappy. Not going to have anything to do with him unhappy. Banish him to the backyard without even doing tricks unhappy.

Okay, yes, when I found the clip and realized he wasn't going to die, after all, and we weren't going to have to spend $2000 after all I put all that behind me and let him back in, so it only lasted the morning.

But still, it didn't do very much good. At the end of the day, I was in the dining room and things got very quiet. I realized I didn't know where he was so I went into the living room and found him coming in from the bathroom -- actually I think he was looking for me. So I could see what he had: the roll of toilet paper in his mouth and the funniest look on his face. Kind of "I know I'm bad/Are we going to play?" He was too funny, so I took a picture, then got the treat and traded it for the toilet paper and he didn't run away but gave it up easily...


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cut-Off Paper Clips

This morning I was supposed to take my mother to the outpatient services at the hospital to have an MRI. Yesterday in planning our timing, I said I would aim to pick her up at 7:40 barring any more crises (like the matter of the baby bird last week). But that, of course, having a dog, a crisis was not wholly unexpected.

And I'd just posted yesterday some of Sun Tzu's principles of strategic keys to victory.

So of course, there was a crisis. Yesterday I tried to fix my broken purse shoulder strap clasp with a cut off paper clip, a cockamamie idea whose efficacy and wisdom I even wondered about at the time. The spring had come out, you see, so the little latch had nothing to hold it in place and the strap came off the D-ring every time I set the purse down. So I cut off the end of a paper clip, squeezed the "U" end into a "V" and stuck it into the spring hole, holding the latch in place. That seemed to do the trick and I hung my purse on the back of the dining room table chair where I always do.

Later, Quigley had some sort of weird fit there, chasing his tail, biting it, tugging on it, going round and round as he caroomed off the walls, the dog crate and maybe the purse, though it was on the opposite side of the chair. Then this morning, as I was getting ready to go and all was progressing smoothly, Quigley suddenly romped from the dining room into the living room with something. He was tossing it about, falling down, rolling around, having a good old time as he often does with stolen things like socks, pens, a hair clip, a hair scrunchie and just as often, a piece of his chew. Since his reaction to me trying to see what he has is now to run away (grumble, steam) I decided to head him off by getting some sausage to offer him as a bribe. But as soon as he saw me coming he ran, chewing on the mystery object, and when I tried to get him, he scrambled under the coffee table, chewing even more. I had to haul him out by his hips. By the time I looked in his mouth, I found nothing but a few slimy bits of food. Whatever he'd gotten, it was gone.

"Fine!" I told him. "Eat whatever you find lying about and if it kills you, at least I won't have to deal with you any more!"

I put him outside, and about eight minutes before time to leave I picked up my purse, set it on the table, the strap fell off and I realized the cut-off paper clip "stay" was gone. I was immediately absolutely sure that was the mystery item he'd found earlier. And eaten. The three quarter-inch long metal V with two points on the end was now making its way through his digestive tract where it would surely penetrate delicate intestinal walls and kill him! I searched frantically in the dining room but found nothing. And I had to go.

So I went. While waiting at the hospital for my mother's hour long procedure to be completed, I called the vet. They'd see him on an emergency basis ($70 fee for that) and I set up an appointment. Then I went back to my chair and started thinking and talking with the Lord.
It just seemed like a set-up. I didn't know for sure Quigley had eaten the paper clip. It only seemed as if he had. And to have it all happen right before I left is so typical of events designed to test, whether from the Kingdom of darkness or from God Himself, making things look like they're one way, not giving me any way to be sure and forcing me to trust Him for some pre-ordained period of time. It also played in that I had to sit there in that waiting room alone for an hour, helpless to act, free to brood. I did not. I had brought a book and read it, determined not to spend any time imagining something that might turn out not to be true.

When I got home I prayed the Lord would show me where the paper clip V was, if not in Quigley's gullett. I looked thoroughly through the dining room now. Nothing. I cleaned the table, I moved the chairs and dog bed... nothing. I finally got the counter brush and began to sweep around the table legs and in the corners closest to where the purse had been. I swept up small wads of dog hair, two staples, some bits of gravel and dirt... no clip. So I moved to the other side, which seemed quite unlikely, swept at the crack between two cabinets, and all along the front. Then I pushed all the dirt into the dustpan and examined it. Still nothing. So I went back to the cabinets and there was the clip. As if it had fallen from the ceiling. Hallelujah! Thank you Lord!

I canceled the emergency vet appointment, and re-affirmed the concept that torturing yourself with what-ifs is always a bad idea. So is cutting up paper clips for any reason when you have a dog like Quigley. My purse clasp is now held together with duct tape, that wonderful all purpose adhesive/fastener! And the cut up paper clip V has been glued into my journal as a reminder not to be so stupid again. Though maybe I should fasten it with duct tape as well! In fact... I think I'll go do that right now.


Monday, June 23, 2008

The Art of War

Principles from The Art of War by Sun Tzu

All warfare is based on deception, therefore:

When capable, feign incapacity;
When active, feign inactivity

When near, make it appear that you are far away
When far away, that you are near

Offer the enemy a bait to lure him in;
Feign disorder and strike him

When he concentrates, prepare against him;
When he is strong, avoid him

Anger his general and confuse him;
Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance

Keep him under a strain and wear him down.

When he is united, divide him

Attack where he is unprepared;
Sally out (erupt or bust out) when he does not suspect you.

These are the strategic keys to victory.

And these keys will be used by the Enemy against all those who are moving forward in the Plan of God for their lives. It's important to remember these things, so we can be aware of them when they are used against us .

2Co 2:11 ... so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Recover and Recharge

Today I read an article online about creativity fatigue. This is from Alexia Petrakos's post, "How to Recover and Recharge from Creative Burnout" on Collective Creatives - a cooperative artisan blog:

"Creativity comes in cycles. One month you’re churning out piece after piece, everything you put your hand to comes out fabulous. It seems like it’ll go on forever. You are the Productivity Queen! Next month you crash and burn. You can’t even bear to look at your studio, let alone make something. This is when you need to recognize the signs your body is sending. After a time of great creative work, your brain, spirit and body need a break. You’ve spent your creative energies and your well is dry. It’s time to recharge."

I think that I could paraphrase that second to last sentence to "after a lengthy period of sustained and concentrated creative work, your brain, emotions and body need a break." Now it applies to me. Some of the things she suggests are write in a journal, take a vacation, read a book, take a walk and sleep -- as in take more naps. She left out sit and stare out the window.

I have never experienced myself like this, being so without motivation. There are tons of things I should be doing... I should be catching up on all the cleaning that has been put off while I took care of the dog, nursed my trigger finger and wrote Enclave. (Instead, I'm just doing the bare minimum and one or two extra tasks a week). I should be answering my emails, but for some reason, can't seem to make myself do it. No words. I should be writing a newsletter but, again... can't seem to make myself do it. I should be cleaning out my files, backing them up, and reworking my website. I should be tackling all the house projects that have been put on hold while I was writing Enclave. But I can't seem to make myself do any of it.

Of course, I have been taking my mother round to her tests and doctor's appointments -- we have two more scheduled for the upcoming week, which isn't exactly a vacation, but sort of. It does seem to consume much of my energy for the day. And the heat doesn't help, either, since that always sucks the life out of you.

And we've been walking Quigley -- he and I went together around the park Saturday night and it was exquisite. After day of 107 degree temps, a sort of thunderstorm developed over the mountains and then dumped rain which sent a semi-sustained wind through the city. The temps dropped to the mid eighties during our walk (plus I love the wind) and it was downright comfortable. Quigley was as good on the walk as Bear ever was. It was wonderful.

My son returned from San Diego this weekend and we celebrated Father's Day on Saturday morning with breakfast at our favorite breakfast place, Millie's Pancake Haus. Those were all wonderful, fun things, but they take up time. And energy.

But beyond those things and the day to day requirements, I've mostly continued to spend my time making cards, playing with my stamps, ordering new ones and just sitting. I enjoy doing mindless things, like cutting out stamped images with small scissors. It's easy, and you make measurable progress. Plus I love looking at the shapes and colors and putting them together into pleasing designs.

It dawned on me today that I'm still tired. And that I'm tired in a way I've not been before -- not just physically but mentally and emotionally and ... willfully (?) That is, my capacity to make myself do things seems to be very weak. A friend in college told me today that she feels this way after a semester ends and it doesn't go away in a week (which I was expecting). More like a month.

I doubt I have a month, but I think I'm going to give myself grace here. It's been a difficult, confusing, chaotic year. I can continue to go gently and while I might not be napping, the sitting and staring, or playing with the cards, is a form of resting. A weird one, for me, but resting, nevertheless.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Baby Mockingbird

Here's our baby mockingbird. I wanted to take more pictures, but he didn't like the flash, which I'd never intended to use anyway, but by the time I figured out how to turn it off, he ran away every time I got out the camera. He has a little cubby in the fence that he can run to if something big and scary comes by. I feel better, knowing that. He seems like way-too-obvious dinner in his current, flightless state. In fact, I saw one of the parents fighting off a female grackle that was showing a bit too much interest in him. So I went out and scared it off!

Needless to say, Quigley had to stay mostly in the house again today. In fact, while I went with my mother to see the radiation oncologist, I left him in alone for the first time. He did great.

I washed windows, set up my new flatscreen, vacuumed and worked on a card with a cow on it. So again, I was mostly wordless.

Okay, my eyes are crossing. Time for bed!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Still Wordless

This is quite weird. I ended up looking through a rubber stamp catalog with my mother while we waited for the CAT scan on Monday. (Which, contrary to what I'd read on the Internet, took only 20 minutes, not the predicted hour.) After we had exhausted the rather skimpy catalog and she went away to be scanned, I still didn't read any of the stuff I'd brought, but looked through a Sunset magazine. As in, looked at the pictures...

Today I caught up on some chores and spent the rest of the day working on cards, figuring out layouts, playing with new stamps and papers, experimenting with different techniques and creating an "inspiration journal" that is really more like a "bungling..." er... "exploration and problem-solving" journal.

Oh, and we've had a baby mockingbird that has just jumped out of the nest in our back yard today. Quigley started barking up a storm this morning and I went out to see what he had. The bird ran away as soon as Quig was distracted and I managed to intercede before he really pounced. Whenever he finds something new, his first reaction is to bark frantically and keep his distance. Then as he gets braver it crescendos into The Pounce. Which is very energetic and would probably crush a baby bird. If not, The Pounce is followed by The Bite-And-Shread.

Later, I thought the bird was gone, so we went out again. (He looks like he's right at the edge of actually flying, but so far all I've seen him do is run) Quigley found him right away. He was standing in the grapefruit tree treewell, staring at Quig who was not barking but sniffing very cautiously and with great interest. His nose got maybe 10 inches from the bird, when the baby opened its beak, flapped its wings and chirped, where upon Quigley backpedaled frantically and got out of there. When he recovered his courage and came back for more, I told him to leave it alone. (More like, "No, no, no! Leave the baby bird alone! No!"). He actually listened and obeyed, though, and we went back inside.

He's spent most of the day inside, which was fine since it was 109 outside, and he finds that too hot. He's been unusually lethargic ever since this heat wave got going. We took him on the three mile walk around the park last night and he was really dragging at the end. Even though the humidity's at about 10 percent , so the evaporative cooler's been working really well. Of course there wasn't a cooler on the walk, and it was still something like 99 when we were out there. But Quigley's still something of a puppy at 8 months and this is his first Arizona summer. Plus he gets to lie around in the house all day, so he's not really getting acccustomed to 100+ temps.

If the bird's still out there tomorrow, I think I'm going to try to take a picture.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Quote of Note: Fraternity of Solitaries

"We belong to the same club: a secret fraternity of solitaries, shut-ins, and cranks, men and women who spend the better part of our time locked up in little rooms struggling to put words on a page. It is a strange way to live one's life, and only a person who had no choice would choose it as a calling. It is too arduous, too underpaid, too full of disappointments to be fit for anyone else. Talents vary, ambitions vary, but any writer worth his salt will tell you the same thing: To write a work of fiction, one must be free to say what one has to say." – Paul Auster in A Prayer for Salman Rushdie, 1995

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mostly Wordless

These are a pair of metal dog sculptures I saw on this year's garden tour. I thought they were fun!

Since I turned in The Enclave on Thursday, I've been mostly wordless and generally still decision-challenged. I've done a lot of napping and staring out of windows. I went to a stamping party Thursday night, made a couple of cards on Friday and Saturday, and played with my new stamps, two orders of which I bought while trying to finish Enclave, then refused to let myself use (or in one case even open the package) until I was done with the book.

I've done very little that has to do with words. I've hardly even gotten on the computer, and have had no words to answer emails. I've played a lot with Quigley and we've walked him or taken him to the dog park every day. (He's finally beginning to understand that when we say "no," we really do mean we don't want him to do whatever he's doing. My! What a concept!)

Oh and how about this for a "coincidence?" Now that the first draft is done, my trigger fingers are almost completely gone...

This week I hope to get back to my Flylady cleaning routines, which have mostly been dumped for some time now (at least the weekly ones; I've kept to the morning and evening ones). And also answer my backlog of emails, though I'm going to keep that to a minimum. I'm actually trying to not do things involving words. Tomorrow I'm going to go with my mother as she gets her CT scan, and probably will spend some time waiting. I'm so used to reading when I wait, I'm not sure what else I'd do. Maybe sketch.

I'll let you know.


Thursday, June 12, 2008


The first draft of The Enclave is DONE and turned in! Hooray!

I have no brain. I have been turned into a mannequin, spending a lot of time just sitting and staring out the window. (Though I did go to lunch with a friend today, and was actually able to carry on a conversation). Don't ask me to make a decision, though. It will produce more motionless staring.

But I'm done! I don't have to work on it for at least a week! I'll probably take more than that, though. And now I can take up the blog again, which was let go because I just didn't have the words to do it.

More later....


Monday, June 09, 2008

Quote of Note: Deadlines

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
-- Douglas Adams

Sunday, June 01, 2008

This and That

Here is a picture of a pond with two heron sculptures that was in one of the gardens we toured last spring. The garden sits on the top of a hill but is surrounded by house and trees so it's very private. I just thought it was really cool. A lovely oasis in the hot desert (101 today)

My son left for San Diego today, after communion. In some ways it's weirdly disconcerting to have him gone and planning a life in another city. In others, the way our lives are these days, where technology and travel have closed the distance gaps that once would have meant you wouldn't even have contact for months or years, it doesn't seem so bad. He says he'll be back in three weeks. And three weeks is nothing. (Alas, when it comes to book progress)

I did email my editor last week, and she graciously gave me a few more days, so sometime this next week I plan to be done. Of course I've planned a lot of things that never happened, or happened differently, and I've written about the seeming futility of planning ("The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps). I am currently working on drafting chapter 30. Chapters 1 - 25 and 27 are ready to go. Chs 26, 28, 29 await a final run through to fill the pot holes and put barricades up where the reader is likely to fall off a cliff. It dawned on me last week that I could put in something that wasn't so good, or even not right, and that would be better for someone reading it than the sudden drop off to an asterisk and then taking new things up with no warning.

At least I am now working on the ending. I've got a lot of material that I want to try and put together in the most economical way. I don't want to run on and on here. Unfortunately (for me) trying to be economical is a lot harder than running on and on. So today I didn't get much done. Well, mostly because of communion where some friends from northern Arizona were able to join us for the first time since January, and my son was leaving (neither of which inclined me to rush away immediately after service) and the shooting... Oh. I don't think I mentioned that, yet.

The road that many of us take to the home where we meet for church was the site of a town-spanning shooting spree which involved a police officer shot and not expected to live. The timing was such that as close as I can figure, the shooter in his red Mustang came barrelling down the road not long after I (and several others) had turned off into the gated community where we meet, and not long before the arrival of still others traveling the same path. The officer was shot maybe four or five hundred yards up the road from where we turned off. Talk about being reminded of God's protective hand and timing upon one's life!

Our hearts go out to the police officer and his family though. One of the things that struck me was that though there were several officers wounded in this spree, no civilians were. They did their jobs of protecting us, even though it may well cost one of them his life. Reminds you of the fact that they really do stand in the gap and do an awful lot to give us the peaceful and secure lives we mostly take for granted.