Finding Your Fire: How One Little Thing Can Change Everything


Tonight I lit my first fire in my second rental house since my divorce four years ago (looks good, yes?). Not a big thing on the surface. But it’s my first house with a fireplace in 11 years. I was married then. I grew up with a fireplace. In both homes, either my dad or my then husband always lit the fire. My dad did it because, well, I was a kid. My ex did it because…that’s the way it was. (Yeah, yeah, I know – that’s for another blog post.)

I’ve been ready to light this fire since I moved in last June. One of the first things I did was get the fireplace inspected. Safety first! When fall came, I went to Home Depot and got the fireplace tools, a screen, built the tool rack with that stupid little gadget thing they always give you in DIY kits. I picked up a bundle of wood. I was READY. And then…

Christmas came and went. No fire. 

I kept telling my kids, “Hey! Maybe we should light a fire tonight!” But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I told myself it was because I was afraid of looking like an idiot in front of them if I couldn’t get it going (our first campfire fiascos and my ineptitude with cooking over a fire are still fresh in my memory – suffice to say the hamburgers melted through the tripod grill thingy and we ended up eating potatoes for dinner.)

Except there is a YouTube video for everything these days, as I realized when my radiator went out on the road last summer, and duh, DuraFlame. So…why am I waiting to light my first fire on Easter? April Fool’s Day, no less? But it is 32 degrees in Chicago tonight…and then it hit me:

This is another first. 

I thought I was done with those, but I am coming to learn that those never end. They just Continue reading “Finding Your Fire: How One Little Thing Can Change Everything”

the power of objects: the anti-Black Friday

057When I studied fiction in graduate school at Columbia College Chicago, we focused heavily on objects. When brainstorming or warming up for writing exercises in our four-hour evening classes, after long days at work and home and caring for families and tending to our lives, we were asked to visualize what objects were in a given space that we wanted to write about.

This is how I came to see the power of objects in fiction and life.

Disclaimer: I am not one who saves things. I am the one who always smacks myself in the head three days after pitching something I realize I needed. When I was young, my mother gave me objects to show her affection. It was her way. A Virgin Mary statue that she made in ceramics. A coffee cup with my name on it and a different adjective for each letter in my name (still have that one). Bookmarks. We had a difficult relationship. I came to see objects and gifts as something to be wary of.

Continue reading “the power of objects: the anti-Black Friday”

The upside of insomnia: creative time in disguise

It started at 2am, when I bolted awake, heart racing and pounding like a man on fire inside my chest. I immediately took action, launching into my trusty Insomnia Routine, which consists of a series of mind games I use to try and trick myself into feeling very very sleepy:

2:09am: I am on a beach. Hear the waves. Feel the hot sand. Smell the coconut tanning oil. Hear the sea gulls cawing in lazy circles in blue sky. Caw caw. My running to-do list from work runs across the beach.

2:17am I am submerged in quick sand. Each part of my body floats down, down, down. I am melting into the quick sand. My arms, shoulders, neck, even my hair. That reminds me, my daughter needs a haircut, my client didn’t seem thrilled with my pitch, and I have no idea how to find my way in to that video project, let alone get it done in time.

2:34am I contemplate counting sheep. Dogs. Cats. Cigars. I have to pee. I’m hot. Hubby starts snoring. The dog (who is more like a horse at 70 pounds  and has no business being in my bed) is kicking me in the kidneys.

2:51am: I get up, grab my journal, and head for my office.

This used to go on for two or three hours, so I’ve made progress. I’ve had insomnia off and on since I was a child, so I’ve had time to fine tune. (I once went for a week without sleeping. I was afraid of me that week.) I used to squeeze my eyes shut tight and will myself to sleep, anything to stop watching the clock, counting down the minutes until my alarm went off and my day started, a day that I anticipated to be long, excruciating and exhausting. which made me angry so I squeezed my eyes shut even tighter and clenched my jaws too. SLEEP DAMMIT!

But I’m older now. Not necessarily wiser, but definitely mellower. Have you ever heard of found time? I don’t recall where I first heard of the concept, but it’s the perspective that any unexpected down time, such as waiting in a long line at the grocery store or post office, is extra time you can use however you wish. Warning: too much found time can make you just as angry as not being able to sleep (I am thinking of several long flight delays), but I usually carry a book, notebook, even my laptop wherever I go because you never know when a pocket of found time will pop up. You have to seize it when it pops.

Right now I’m sitting on my couch wrapped in a white blanket and black night and delicious silence with the freedom to write and work for as long as I am awake. No phone, no email, no interruptions. I can actually do and think about one thing at a time, rather than worry about 17 things at once while simultaneously helping one kid with fractions homework (ugh) and helping the other kid make his lunch while simultaneously feeding the dogs, paying bills and putting laundry away while simultaneously ordering a pizza and having a complete mental block when the girl asks for my phone number. (Sorry Mom for making fun of you when you used to say five other names–including the dog’s–before finally spitting out mine back in the day.)

No wonder I can’t sleep.

But multi-tasking challenges aside, I like to look at my insomnia as my pocket of uninterrupted, found reflective time in the middle of the night for writing, journaling, thinking, reading. It’s like a creative trigger, popping up when life is too busy and crazy and the world feels out of control, reminding me–forcing me–to take my little slice of creative time wherever I can get it.

Get Creative: Make found time in your day today for your creative project.