A compilation of all the things I’ve made for Halloween…from printables to costumes to decor. Links are at the bottom of the image:
Living a simple, creative life at a small 1950's motor inn in Bryson City. A Lifestyle Blog.
A compilation of all the things I’ve made for Halloween…from printables to costumes to decor. Links are at the bottom of the image:
I spoke about writing from the heart this weekend in Galveston at the Blog Elevated Conference. Yes I actually did it, despite being knocked silly and unable to turn my head after the car accident. And despite my being a deer in the headlights, the crowd laughed, and cried, and they were right there with me. And the genuine “thank you’s” afterward shook me to the core and made it all completely worth it because there is always that doubt: why would anyone want to come and hear what I have to say about writing? I have no certified expertise. I never did well in English and literature classes when I was in school. I thought I’d share a few things that I shared with those that attended my session because it’s all so very close to my heart right now. This is what I know today:
1. A writer actually has to WRITE.
This is a work in progress for me. I’m always thinking about writing, but not always actually WRITING. The book Page by Page by Amy Sellers is one that I love to read over and over, and never in order:
2. A writer has to disconnect every once in a while.
I am the QUEEN of excuses when it comes to writing: I’m too busy. The phone is ringing. It’s too hot . It’s too cold. I have to organize my space first.
I have to find a quiet place to really write. Maybe it’s for an hour a day, maybe for an entire weekend. Since we have such a small living space right now, I cleared out a section of my daughter’s room that I can use as an area for writing each day when she is at school. It isn’t glamorous but it’s all I need. It’s quiet, and without distractions. Stephen King used to write in his laundry room. It was a place where he could shut the door and show the world he meant business.
Sometimes I go to the library. Sometimes I just sit in my car in the library parking lot. Sometimes I ride the train by myself.
3. A writer needs input.
Just like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit….”need input”….who consumed books: I think a writer needs to consume books. I took this photo over the summer of Carl Sandburg’s house in Hendersonville, NC:
It was like walking into a time capsule. Incredible. Every square inch of his house is covered in bookshelves, to house the 14,000 books that he stored there. He had twice that but he donated half to a university. And in each book were tiny pieces of paper where he had marked things to come back to. He devoured anything he could get his hands on. When he died they found his jacket pockets full of newspaper clippings and phrases.
I am never without a book. I sleep with books. Books stack up next to my bedside. Magazines. Wikipedia. I live in bookstores. The more good stuff I put in, the more good stuff that comes out.
Also, input isn’t just about books. Dayna Steele who was the keynote speaker at the conference gave some great advice:
Never stop learning. Google everything. Google everyone. Look at the morning news. Know what’s going on around you. Continue to learn about things you know nothing about. Teach yourself stuff. Get out and meet people. Talk to people you don’t know.
I think to write from the heart you have to live from the heart. They are undoubtably linked.
Live to write, not the other way around, right?
A few books that I recommend:
Page by Page by Heather Sellers
“Writing a book is exactly like love. You don’t hold back. You give it everything you have. If it doesn’t work out, you’re heartbroken, but you move forward and start again anyway. You have to. You don’t hold some of yourself in reserve. It’s all or nothing. There are no guarantees.”
On Writing: Memoir of a Craft by Stephen King
“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”
“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
I really do live in Mayberry. i.e. Bryson City
This is Buford’s Barbershop. He waved at me each time I walked by today.
A store that sells guns and ice cream:
The view from Main Street and Everett Street:
Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering, or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.
Today I tried a new table down by the river and I checked underneath like I always do before climbing on top….and there was the largest spider I’d ever seen. She was upside down on the table, her egg sac carefully wrapped up in her web, and hundreds of little babies were swarming about. Charlotte is very ill. She only has a short time to live. Instead of chasing her away I found my usual table.
The sweat bee came back from a few days ago and brought all of her friends. Swarming they began to take over my personal space and eventually I moved to the bright red picnic table under the walnut tree. Butternuts were falling like bombs around me. I was a sitting duck. One of these would have probably knocked me out:
A man approached me and asked if my truck was for sale. I told him no. He told me he lived on the Cherokee reservation nearby, and then he told me his life story. Which I thought was awesome….I didn’t even have to ask any questions for once. His brother and his dog sat near his truck and waited for him to finish talking and eventually I mentioned that to him. He told me his brother was scared of him. As he left I told him to please be nice to his brother…and he hung his head a little as if he felt guilty all the sudden.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon working in the used book store…and the most important thing I learned is that it is not:
Used Book Store
Details, shmetails. Until it clicked and I realized we weren’t selling used bookstores. Obviously in my last post about the book store I didn’t know this difference. I never did that well in English. After that very important lesson, I spent my time going through 8 boxes of books brought in by the same elderly man. You can tell a lot about someone by the books they read. I think this man must have been a professor once, of history or philosophy….or anthropology.
I saw this rainbow as I drove home last night driving home from the bookstore:
It doesn’t even look real. When I took it I thought: no one will believe this is real.
Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void. -Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
Today was my first day volunteering at the Friends of the Marianna Black Library store in downtown Bryson City. It’s a used bookstore that benefits the local library. I’ve always wanted to work at a bookstore, especially after watching You’ve Got Mail, Notting Hill and The Neverending Story. Today was really just a training day and I learned how to use a cash register again (it’s been probably 15 years since I used one). I rang up 2 customers. One of those customers was me…because I bought 6 books on my first day.
Friends of MBL (located right next to Cork & Bean)
Speaking of The Neverending Story…I watched that last night. It was just kinda weird, nothing like I remembered it. Falcor wasn’t the cute doggy dragon I remembered, Atreyu yelled way too much, and the Swamp of Sadness was just a big swamp of sadness. Sometimes childhood movies should not be revisited. But the whole idea of being lost in a book…well I love that. I’ve tried to set aside at least an hour a day now just for reading, and then I write. I sat by the river this morning and read a book as I drank a Grape Fanta:
If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger–
If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early–
If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless–
If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won’t understand what Bastian did next.
-Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
That quote reminds me of when I read my last Steinbeck novel…I cried closing the last page, because I knew it was the end and no more would ever be written. Or when I read Katherine’s Graham’s Personal History…and I got to the scene in the middle of the book about her husband’s death…I had to close the book and put it away for over a year before I could read the rest. And Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals I’ve read so many times the pages are falling out…and some journals are missing because they were either destroyed or lost and that drives me cuckoo. And when I read them it’s like she’s reading my mind. And so on and so on. And then there’s the whole appeal of a used book…especially the old and tattered ones. There’s something very mysterious about them, there’s something very mysterious about used bookstores in general…especially when they are in the setting of an old historic building, with the original soda fountain stools from years ago. And the treasure hunt! A very young couple today came in looking for Steinbeck. They were staying in the Yurt village for a few days up at the Nantahala Gorge. I loved hearing about their experience in a Yurt. And that all created a flashback to when I once studied Chinese movies in college and we watched Mongolian movies….everyone lived in Yurts. Mongolia may have invented the Yurt. Someone asked me the other day about daydreaming….how I manage to do it. Learn to lose yourself in books first, then the daydreaming comes easily after that…
…and it could be really awesome in a Yurt.
It was a rough day for Boo yesterday…she was grounded. I don’t know what got into her….maybe it’s all the freedom. There’s a wedding tonight and the bride and her family were here yesterday setting up and Boo was so excited to help…and she was a great help…but then she began to get a little snooty, too big for her britches as they say, and then she was disrespectful to the inn’s intern Harper and that was the last straw. I confined her to the house and then witnessed a full blown tantrum and I’d never seen her so defiant before. She is well beyond her years in being able to turn arguments around on a dime. After being grounded and realizing that her actions had serious consequences (like not being able to run freely around the inn) she turned back into my sweet, down-to-earth child.
But she is me. She wants to do and see everything. She craves freedom and independence. She wants to disappear and wander aimlessly. She never tires. I get it…but when it affects others it’s time to reign it in. I guess that’s why we need boundaries, right?
I stayed up way too late last night…reading Thoreau of all things. I hadn’t touched Thoreau since being forced to read it in high school but something deep down was urging me to revisit it. I kept having to turn on the light to write down page numbers of quotes to share:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest.”
“It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”
“In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
“The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats.”
Yesterday was the first day I took my big DSLR camera out…and I only took a few photos. We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the other night and there’s that scene where the rare snow leopard emerges from its hiding place and Sean O’Connell doesn’t press the shutter button. Watching it I’m thinking: PRESS THE BUTTON. PRESS THE BUTTON!
Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.
(loved that movie…except I have been singing the line non stop “This is Major Tom to Ground Control….I’m stepping through the door.”)
I’m in these moments…I haven’t felt like I needed to capture them all for the first time in a long time.
I was a little uncertain for the first few days living here….the moisture of the mountains, the spiders and healthy insect colonies of the forest. It was all so new. I wondered if maybe I just wasn’t made for the outdoors. But yesterday, as Brett and Boo were skipping rocks into the river yesterday afternoon (her request) I found this place along the shore where the powerful Tuckaseegee river was flowing backwards because of the current. He leads me beside the still waters. I’m in awe of this place. The richness of the land and the area. It’s humming with life all the time. I find strength in the trees and peace from the water.
A year ago I would have needed the perfect office to write from, now I’m writing from the floor of my bedroom huddled next to the dog for the best sunlight. It’s quiet here and Diesel’s sweet panting breath is soothing. And other than that there is no sound whatsoever except for an occasional bird song. I could be the only person on earth right now…..except I know there is a flurry of activity up the hill for a young couple getting married on the property tonight:
There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.
– Jack Kerouac
This morning we took a wrong turn and ended up on the Road to Nowhere. It’s a 6-mile-drive into the park that ends abruptly at this tunnel. (you can read the story here). There’s not really anywhere to turn around so we just kept going. Why not right? We were the only ones there when we first got there:
Boo and Brett talked me into going in. I walked behind them holding Diesel. One foot in front of the other…careful to stay right in the center…totally focused on the light ahead of me. I felt like I was going to be snatched into the walls. My heart was beating a million miles per hour and I just kept saying the Lord’s Prayer so it echoed throughout. Funny how things can be scary and amazing all at the same time.
the light at the end of the tunnel
Here’s a photo Brett too from the other side:
exhilarated….until we realized we had to walk back through.
a graffiti compliment
So the Road to Nowhere actually does lead somewhere…to an eerie tunnel that feels sinister, earthy and breathtaking all at once. I totally recommend walking through it…first thing in the morning (that’s the safest time of day in scary movies).
As I write this we are somewhere in Illinois and have driven 2,165 miles so far in our trip. We are headed to Nashville today where my aunt lives. I will wait to give you a recap of our trip but a few things we’ve learned so far:
1. You can’t take a 16 foot box trailer across the Hoover Dam.
2. You can’t sneak a dog through an X-ray machine at a national monument.
3. Uploading photos through a car Wifi can easily eat up your entire phone plan in a matter of minutes.
And most of all:
Everyone should take the time to drive America, especially the back roads.
It’s official: I now have more plastic storage bins than actual possessions. (although I guess plastic bins are possessions too?)
All those were once full. In the last two months I’ve gotten rid of over 5,000 pounds of belongings. Sorting, selling, weekly trips to charities. It’s quite embarrassing actually. And it’s been an extensive process because I just don’t want things to end up in a landfill….so I have to get creative. We built our house to have unlimited storage….and now all that storage is empty. I can’t imagine anywhere close to that much stuff ever again. I will write about this process soon….it’s been a very long one and I can tell you it’s changed me. It’s changed our whole family. Our closets are empty. Our shelves and storage rooms are empty. Of course we still have work to do over the next 2 weeks still. We’ve started to say goodbye to friends here in the desert and it’s becoming more real that we are making such a huge change. I have more to tell you about all of this but there are still things falling into place and I will share very soon. I’m off to the Elevate Conference this weekend in Newport. Excited for a short weekend break before my last two weeks of wrapping up all loose ends. And then I can get back on my regular blogging schedule!
We plan on being at the Hemlock Inn by Brett’s birthday, June 9th (his 40th). We’ll be celebrating my birthday probably at the Grand Canyon on the 2nd (I’m envisioning a candle in a chocolate Ding Dong…that would be so awesome.) Thank you for all the recommendations along the way…we will be making quick stops. (and maybe staying with a few of you who happen to be on the route…wayfarers on our way to a new life!)
My family. My books and journals. Water?
We were going to go to church this morning but I have a horrendous cough. We stayed home instead and made biscuits with apple butter. Brett and Boo know me way too well because I got books from the two of them this morning:
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller
Love Wins by Rob Bell
We spent the rest of the day packing up boxes and sorting more things for our move. I did manage to get a photo of Boo and I yesterday at the Mother’s Day Tea at school:
It’s been a process getting rid of 30+ years of belongings and collections as we gear up for a simpler life. Last night we went to our usual pizza place and Boo took all of her 10K+ loose crayons for their almost empty bins. She even refilled them herself:
This has been good for us. The more we get rid of the more we want to get rid of. It’s a domino effect. I’ve made at least 2 thrift store runs a week and we plan to have a big moving sale for the remaining items right before we leave. And the house we’ll hopefully still sell furnished (furniture, plates and silverware, pots, artwork…even the fish in the fish tank!)
Boo doesn’t want to really keep much at all….just her books and her dolls. (Goodbye Barbie Dream House!) Brett and I have narrowed our closets down to the bare necessities. I’ve kept some craft supplies and tools so I can keep doing DIY on the blog but really we are only taking what we can haul with us. No movers, no storage. I feel like I’ve been playing that “what would you take on a deserted island” game for the past few weeks!
Except I do have that one issue: books. I haven’t really been able to get rid of any. Actually not true…I did remove 2 from the pile, but only because they were duplicates. And I sorted my piles by memoir, fiction, self help, etc. OCD. And when I try to pack them I end up rearranging piles: might want to read before I leave. pack last. leave out of boxes. hide in suitcase. hide in camera bag.
I did hand pick some items for the blue label page to help fund our move and the next few months as we figure things out. Thank you for all the support. What’s on the page is just about the last of everything. I can’t wait to get through all of this craziness so I can focus full time on writing finally. We are leaving June 1st regardless of whether the house sells. We’ll just leave it. And rely on faith that it will sell in its right time.
(Note: Need to figure out the best way to get Internet in the car on the way cross country: hot spot phone or just stand alone hot spot?)
Hope you had a wonderful day!