Stuck? Try Constraints

For the first time in our 30‐year history, DH and I low‐balled our gift exchange.

$30 apiece on each other.

Why the limit?

Boredom? Familiarity? Fixed income? Seasonal stress?

A numbers thing: $30 for 30 years?

But that anniversary isn’t until next December. And we’re not early partiers.

What answered was this: time for something different.

And so, DH gained Sherlock socks plus a World Travel Book for Kids.

Nirvana for a retired kid with a travel‐hungry Holmes heart.

He gifted Springsteen’s Broadway concert CD plus colored pencils and word puzzles.

Music for a writer’s ears while filling in word clues with 48 different hues.

The deliberate, inexpensive gift exchange has, in less than two weeks, ascended to status as Most Memorable Holiday Ever.

Why?

We forced ourselves to think outside the box. Which, unwittingly, drop‐kicked us into another one. Whoever hears ‘think inside the box’? 

With four hard walls around our gift‐giving, we surrendered dollars and expectation to creativity and consideration.

Overwrought, over‐priced shopping expeditions sit in the ash‐heap of our coupled past. Thank god!

Now, it’s simplicity, fun, and creativity—in all presents. And presence.

Constraints: they’re as clever as you make them.

Like a < 200‐word blog post.

First ever.

The Road Trip Is Over, But The Journey Is Just Beginning!

I have been home for several weeks. I would say that my life has returned to normal, but it hasn’t. I am now really officially retired. I still have not determined what the new normal is going to be. This is a whole shift of consciousness for me, because I have either gone to school, worked, or both since I was about 15 years old.

The first thing I noticed when I returned from Colorado was that I slept.….a lot. I would sleep well at night. Get up in the morning, drink some coffee, watch some news, and then take a nap. I almost got worried that I was sleeping too much, but then I realized that I was feeling GREAT! Apparently I haven’t been this rested for approximately 50 years! I adopted a very mindful approach to my daily schedule and just observed. When I was hungry I ate, when I was tired I slept. How so very zen of me.

I have structured my daily life so I seldom have to set an alarm clock. At first I swung back and forth between waking up early in the morning and sleeping until 11 a.m. Some evenings I fell asleep early reading a book and other evenings I stayed up late watching whatever movie I found irresistible at the moment.

One day a week I get together with a friend for a day of culture or adventure or a movie or whatever strikes our fancy. The picture above is from the Big Bambu at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. It is a sculpture made out of bamboo that is literally big enough to walk through. It’s another variation of a road trip. If you have a chance to go and see this exhibit, I highly recommend it!

Also I continue to enjoy the local road trips to the Alley Theater in the evenings. Their most recent production of Holmes and Watson was great fun!

I was reminded of the Sherlock Holmes exhibit that Melanie and I both visited at the Museum of Natural Science. We learned to observe our surroundings and pay attention to details. Perfect reminders for a writer. Observe and take notes!

And yes, I am writing. I have been mindfully experimenting with writing schedules and think I have just about found what works best for me. Some days I focus on writing. Other days I focus on culture/adventure/movies. So far retirement into full‐time writer life is working for me.

I hope everyone who reads this is having a great summer! I will write again in about a week.

Stay cool!

Writer as Detective Observer

Semi‐bored, I sauntered through the Sherlock Holmes exhibit. A passel of schoolchildren entered the hallway and careened along its blacken walls. I winced. Turning to my right, I glanced a casual side‐eye to spot the piece of paper. It seemed an afterthought in the glass case until I read its message. Eerily appropriate for this day, this time. Indeed, my life this year:

Richer storytelling inspired by unexpected sources

Holmes’ words around “The Art of Observation” propelled me back to his era. As quickly, my mind jerked me back to where I stood. A whipsaw journey for an ex‐reporter absorbing too much of daily surroundings, fast‐forwarding to a writer determined to grow her storytelling skills. Further afield lies a chauffeur‐in‐waiting, prepping for a 19‐day road trip.

Was the Universe trying to tell me something? 

I stopped and turned back around. The rousing antics of youngsters faded away. I leaned in to peer beneath the glass. Sherlock Holmes’ advice about seeing but not observing left me blushing “guilty!” He wrote of inspiration, forensic science, discovery.

I read on and begin to substitute words. Personalize. Connect. Words written in the 19th century morph into new meaning in the 21st.

Observations captured here, for later translation…

Storyteller becomes detective, exploring the why of characters doing things as they do, propelled by setting, mood, temperature, intangibles awaiting discovery.

I am a writer; observation begins everything in my profession.” 

My heart pounds, remembering what’s approaching. A road trip through three states across 19 days. With a fellow observer. There’s something for both of us to see, observe. Discover.

Thanks for the reminder, Sherlock. Or is that “thanks, Sir”?

We’re all detectives — or can be — if we see lightly, observe deeply.