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My uncle Danny used to say, “I like to get up early and enjoy the day before everybody else gets up and ruins it.”
I can still remember steam streaking down his dining room windows, and how the sun would rise like a red rubber ball, blazing over the hazy, wet fields of grass surrounding his house, preparing to dry them for the day ahead.
Like Danny, I like mornings, too.
I think we got that from his mom, who was my grandma.
Every day, I like to switch on the little light above the sink, like my grandma used to do above her stove.
I remember seeing her silhouette in the long kitchen of her farmhouse, when the darkness was still thick outside. A second light, exposing an earth-colored mug of Nescafe, spinning in her microwave, would announce the new day long before the sun made its appearance.
My grandma would then sit down in her chair, at the kitchen table, to compose a daily To Do List on some discarded envelope. That piece of paper would then be tucked under a tattered plastic placemat, and removed at intervals throughout the day, so she could tic items off, as she completed each one.
I knew she could get a lot done in a day’s time; but I didn’t realize that there in the dark, she was doing something extra special aside from writing that list. Grandma Woody was stringing words together, like little pearl necklaces of poetry, for me to find and treasure someday. At the time, she might have thought they would never matter to anyone but her; but she wrote them anyway.
Simple verses, such as this:
In the quiet of the morning
When all the household is asleep,
I like to get up from my bed
And to the kitchen creep.
Fix me a cup of coffee,
Sit at the table and write.
Oh, how thankful I am
For the wonderful morning light!Elizabeth “Libby” H. Miller
Switching on the sink light, and making coffee in the morning reminds me of her. So does taking the time to put my thoughts into words.
The Temptation to Put Off Writing
This morning, I am so tempted not to write.
It seems I have too many ideas and too many things to do. Chaos surrounds me as I ready my parent’s house for the realtor. They’ve been here since the year before I was born. For forty-eight years papers and what-nots have been stashed and stored.
Trying to decide on the best way to clear it out, I consider buying a second cargo trailer – just like the one I’m turning into a tiny house – that way, when I’m done with this move, I can use it to generate income – either as a mini-moving business, or by constructing a second tiny-house, and putting it up for sale. Only, I haven’t finished the first cargo trailer conversion, and haven’t figured out where I’m going to move myself until it’s done…
Sometimes Having New Ideas Can Be the Greatest Roadblock to Completing Our Creative Endeavors
“No new ideas!” I tell myself, remembering the advice I read in Jim Harmer’s book, “Work Energy”, just before I started this blog through Project 24. “Finish What You Start”. Those were the words on the front cover. I wish I would stop having so many ideas…
Sometimes I wish I could put the world on pause, so
I could implement some of them;
but that’s not an option.
Prioritization needs to take place.
Completing what I start is the best place to start.
Instead of Making Excuses Not Write, Start Writing About Your Circumstances
It’s been two years since my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; two months since she passed away. Yesterday, I faced a gift sack full of cards and found some she had never gotten opened. It was obvious that for one poor envelope, she’d attempted to extricate the card from either side; but hadn’t had success. Her strength was completely spent.
I vaguely remember the circumstances; offering to assist her in opening it and reading the words; but she declined, too tired even to listen.
I felt relief. I was too tired, too.
Everything requiring concentration taxed her strength. Her marbled blue eyes would travel slowly toward the window, where her gaze would rest.
On the mornings I was tempted not to write, I’d tell myself, “When she’s gone, I’ll take more time for this. I’ll have more energy to write. I can’t face these stories when I’m in the midst of this.”
On the mornings I wrote, my words were about her, and what we were walking through. I stopped waiting for life to come to a halt, so I could collect my thoughts, and started simply recording my raw thoughts, hoarding them like bread crumbs, hoping one day when I’d hunger for memories of my mom, I’d have a little feast already prepared.
I look back at the words, and am thankful I took the time to tell them to myself. Some of them I’m not ready to re-read; but it’s a comfort to know they are there – like a down comforter, folded in a cedar closet, on a hot summer day, with the knowledge winter will come back around sometime soon.
Writing is Not Selfish or a Waste of Time – It Can Be Your Greatest Gift to Others
I took a walk yesterday and ran into one of my mom’s friends. She thanked me for my descriptions of my mom’s condition, saying it helped her feel like she was right there.
I remember that these stories aren’t just for myself.
That thought helps me feel less selfish in protecting my writing routine from interruptions, pressing issues, and other people.
Putting off piecing these sentences together, so I can help somebody put out a personal fire they’ve started, might really be robbing them from the greater gift of theses stories burning inside me.
I know my grandma had a lot to do, and a lot of what she did (baking pies, cleaning house, doing dishes, tying shoes, washing clothes) was done for us.
But of all those tasks, I treasure none like the words formed when she took time to sit down and write.
I’m so thankful my grandma set aside her busyness during those quiet mornings with her coffee.
Her pies have all been eaten, the house and dishes were sold at auction long ago. We wore out our clothes and outgrew our shoes; but we still have her words.
Her poems were her best gift.
I suppose back then, I’d already outgrown my shoes, since one day when she was struggling to shove them on my feet, she declared, “Surely these aren’t your shoes!”
My declaration was, “I not Shirley – I Jody!”
She loved to tell that story, and I love to write stories of what she’d tell.
Write Down Daily Anecdotes – Someday they May Spur Your Memory, or Someone Else’s, to an Expanded Story
In the midst of busy circumstances, it can be hard to remember that one day, you may look back on this season and feel it was the best of times. Getting kids and dressed and ready for the day can make a person feel like a frazzled mess. Take the time to take little notes of the daily anecdotes that happen. Someday, someone will be glad.
I know I was, when I came across my mom’s little journal of sayings the other day. I felt regret over how many of the pages were still blank, and wish she’d taken the time to record more.
I wonder how many rhymes went through my grandma’s head, which were never put down on paper. She was so busy trying to keep us dressed, and clean, and calm enough not to break the lamp in her living room that I found myself boxing up the other day. It had been moved from her farmhouse, and spent nearly a decade at my parent’s. I’m not sure where it will wind up next; but I hope I can get it there safely – wherever it’s going.
I’m still amazed that lamp survived us grandkids playing “Bull” in my grandma’s living room – “rough housing” was the word my mom would have used; but somehow it did, and the memory of all that brings me back to my grandma crying, saying, “You kids think you own this house!” and how the dynamic between us took years to soften.
I want to keep that lamp, because it’s so much a part of my story with my grandma, and how we started out in the dark, as far as how to relate to each other – I think, because we were so very much alike.
I’d like to preserve that lamp.
It’s the same with these stories. I’d like to preserve them and pass them on. Maybe they will help people shed light on their own lives and memories, and see they have something worth taking care of – even with the people and circumstances that drive them most crazy.
There Will Always Be Another Reason Not to Write
I thought when my mom died, things would finally slow down.
I didn’t want her to die; but I didn’t feel like I could keep living like that.
A runner loves to run; but a runner is relieved to hit the tape at the end of the race. Caregiving can be the same way.
Somedays it feels like the finish line of an ultramarathon has been moved on me.
Trying to get this house downsized and sold is daunting.
My own To Do List feels so neglected.
I’m tempted to say, “I’ll write when this is over,” but then I remember, these moments are the story I have.
I might as well take the time to record them.
The Busier My Life Gets, The More Important It Becomes to Me to Protect a Morning Writing Routine
It’s strange to think that just over two months ago I was sleeping in the living room, on a mattress I’d pull out each night and then slide back into a bedroom in the morning. Laying beside my mom’s hospital bed, we were both lacking sleep. My To Do List then consisted of turning her every two hours, keeping track or her pills, coordinating healthcare workers and people who wanted to visit, etc, etc, etc…
She couldn’t be left alone, because she’d forget that she didn’t have the strength to stand, and would wind up on the floor. I tried to keep up my morning routine:
- Reading my Bible
- Singing some (because the birds do)
- Drinking my coffee
- Talking over my To Do List with the Lord
- Recording a tiny journal in one cube of my wall calendar
- Writing (everyday I’d talk through excuses of why I didn’t have time)
- Drink AG1 – Athletic Greens Powder
- Exercise (though some days, I didn’t have time. My Power Blocks had to be neglected as my weight lifting routine focused more on getting my mom on the bedside commode).
AG1 has been a part of my morning routine for nearly a year now.
I believe it’s helped keep me healthy despite undergoing a highly stressful season.
Power Blocks have been a big part of my exercise routine since I wrote my book, “Quitting the Gym: How I Threw in the Towel”. They have also made working out much simpler, when I have been on the road.
Today, there is still much to do; though my circumstances are completely different.
I remind myself that it’s okay that my power blocks are still in Indiana – who needs weight-lifting, when a house full of furniture needs to be moved?
I need to reread my own words from
“Quitting the Gym: How I Threw in the Towel”
to remind myself
it’s okay to focus on more functional exercise.
My dad wants to sell the house. There is stuff everywhere. He signed up for a three-year cruise. Last week he bought a new laptop. computer and cellphone. At seventy-seven years, he old needs help learning the technology.
I think I’m getting old, because I think it would be helpful to enlist a sixteen-year-old kid to navigate through this.
Feeling Lost and in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time is Something Readers Identify With – Write About That
I’m also thinking of my dad getting off a ship in a strange port city, and I wonder if he’ll be able to find his way back before the crew says, “Bon Voyage”.
Maybe I need to sew some of the air tags he bought off Amazon into his underwear, so someone on board can keep track of him. He says he’s going to leave one air pod in his cabin, so he can at least keep tabs on the boat.
In the meantime, I have this website that has been much neglected, especially the last few months. I started Project 24 in November, a two-year commitment, to help me with the technical aspects of being a writer. This year’s calendar has already rounded the bend, and I feel very far behind, like my ship has already set sail.
As my Aunt Frances used to say, “When my ship came in, I was waiting at the airport.”
Maybe it’s our missed opportunities that make for the best stories.
My writing plan could have gotten completely put on hold, while the world kept spinning around the sun; but having a morning routine helped me keep some semblance of order, despite my circumstances.
Each day I try to spend some time reading my Bible, singing a few songs, and keeping a super-tiny journal of the previous day by filling out one cube in a wall calendar with what happened, and any overarching thoughts for the day. I drink my coffee while I do that.
Focus On One Thing at a Time
This morning, there was a little left over coffee in the pot from yesterday, so I stuck it in the microwave, and was warmed by memories of my grandma, as I prepared a fresh pot and waited for my mug to heat.
I will tell you that there is a power struggle between the microwave and the coffee pot at my parent’s house. A picture reminding me that morning multi-tasking doesn’t work well.
Those two appliances sit side by side on a butcherblock counter, sharing a circuit with only enough electricity for one to work at a time. If I try to operate both simultaneously, they will both shut down. It is an ongoing war in our local “current” events. Sorry, that was a pathetic pun – sometimes I just can’t help myself.
History so often repeats itself – both the coffee pot and the microwave go blank, because I forget I can’t run both. Such is the story of my life – I think multi-tasking will make me more efficient – and it totally shuts me down.
Apparently, especially predawn, if I try to use the synapses in my brain to do two things, it short circuits. There was evidence of this when I went back to the pot to pour a second cup. To do this, I had to bypass the furniture stacked in the dining room, and the paper piles covering the surface of every table. I tried not to think about the mess involved with moving everything out of the house after a half-century of accumulation.
Lifting the pot toward the red and white Swiss cup my mom used to love, I tried not to think of how its match was shattered a few months ago, when somebody tried to carry too many things at one time. I remember sweeping up shards, on my knees beneath my mom’s hospital bed, with my sister on crutches, and so many things to do, and someone suddenly appearing at the front door for a visit…
This is a quiet morning, as I pour coffee into this solitary Swiss cup. I found a letter yesterday from the daughter of the woman that gave the mug to my mom, announcing she’d gotten married. How had I missed that detail? It was right there in the stack of cards, and I hadn’t gotten to read it, or congratulate her.
How had life flown by so fast, when I was so often sitting still, watching my mom slowly fade away?
Life isn’t as hectic as it was this Spring; but it has its own sort of new busyness, trying to box everything up.
I tipped the spout toward the rim of the cup, and smiled at the familiar sight of morning steam coming up over the brim.
Then I frowned – totally confused.
Clearly, I could have used more caffeine when I was preparing the coffee.
I completely forgot to add the grounds to the filter. There was little to no color to what was coming out of the pot, landing in that stark-white cup.
I laughed out loud, then started composing this post in my head, thinking about mornings, and writing, and having a routine to avoid the disastrous toll that multi-tasking can take on a day.
Even When We Know Multi-tasking Doesn’t Work Well, We Can Still Fall into that Trap as Writers
I picked up my camera and decided to take a picture of the weakest coffee there could possibly be, then refilled the coffee maker with water to try for round two.
Apparently, I had my mind on my writing, rather than the coffee; because when the pot beeped for the second time, and I went to pour my cup, I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to add the coffee grounds a second time.
Clearly, my mind is much murkier than the color of my coffee.
I spent the last six months of my mom’s life, reminding her of her whereabouts, and as I admitted before, I’m a little worried my dad will forget his, when he’s in some foreign country, on the other side of the world, while his ship is in port.
What’s that old saying about the kettle calling the pot black. (Is that a politically incorrect reference at this point? Probably so).
I just know I can’t call that first or second pot of coffee black.
At least I didn’t strike out on my third try, though I did wonder if I’m starting to get dementia, too.
I know I’ve asked before on this blog, if chemo brain is contagious – at least I remember writing that!
I picked up the camera, and made this little film, which may give you a better picture of my circumstances, beyond what my words could.
I forgot again to turn my phone horizontally, so I’m sure the footage will probably be narrow for some people. It’s the little things like this that are making me realize that I too, am getting old. It’s not professionally filmed by any means; but feel free to click the box below to get a sense of the clutter surrounding me:
If you want to learn more about Insta Crates, you can click here on my Amazon Link; (but I will tell you, if you have a Costco membership, they are considerably cheaper over on Costco.com).
If You Can’t Think of What to Write, Write About That
If I’m going to write, it needs to be today.
I’m so tempted not to.
I tell myself, “When such and such is done, then I will write. Then I can finally concentrate.” Yet, I know from experience, that day with nothing else to do will never come. There will always be one more thing – or fifty – pressing into my mind, demanding my attention.
And so, I make myself sit down, and I start typing. It’s really the only way.
I’m midway through my morning routine.
I’ve finally gotten my cup second cup of coffee. It’s brown, instead of see through.
I’ve made my AG1, hoping the vitamins, minerals, and whatever else is in it will help keep my body and mind functioning well for a few more years – and somehow repair the damage of sleep deprivation.
I’ve set aside the rest of my list for the day, and I’ve put my mental blinders on, trying to ignore the mess surrounding me.
The sun is starting to rise, and all the rest of the house, and the neighborhood, is still at rest.
I am writing.
I am doing today what I spent several attempts at convincing myself I ought to put off until tomorrow.
I am up and enjoying the best part of the day, and I’m not ruining it with my own procrastination.
I can hear a creak on the floor from the other side of the house as I write this conclusion. It doesn’t matter now, I’ve done the most important thing. I can face the day, feeling like I’ve accomplished what I’m called to do…
Even if I am only practicing my craft, putting these words down is progress.
For me, the most reliable way to get my writing done is to start with a morning routine.
An Epilogue in Praise of a Daily Writing Habit
Before I hit publish, I walk away.
I take a shower and get ready for the day, rethinking my words, clarifying ideas in my head, doing a vicarious edit from afar.
Then I go back for a second look at what I’ve written: shortening sentences, expanding ideas, adding subtitles, etc…
I’m tempted to reread my writing again and again; but perfectionism is the enemy to moving forward.
I take one last look to add in links, images, and a very subpar YouTube video, and then I do what I fear most.
I hit “Publish”.
If anybody’s still reading – thanks for sticking with me.
To read more tips for overcoming writer’s block, please click below: