Monday, October 31, 2011

It's All-NaNos Eve

Since I'm too poor right now to afford candy for the kiddies, I'm celebrating this evening in my own style--sitting here at home, waiting for the clock to strike midnight, and wondering, when it does, what I might put down as the first words to a brand new novel.

And also thinking about this post by a guy named Chuck, who seems to think he has this NaNo thing all figured out, and considers himself an expert on writing.

So, because I have a few hours to spare and need to keep my mind occupied, in rebuttal to many of his points and agreement with some, I will say this:

1) Writing requires writing.

Well, duh. People who endlessly talk about writing aren't writers unless they also put some of those words down on paper, or into a word processing program, or write them in the sand with a stick, or prick their finger and use blood on the wall. Otherwise, they're wannabes.

If you're a wannabe, maybe what you need is a deadline and a whole lot of friendly folks from all over the world to spur you on. If so, you may just need NaNoWriMo.

2) Writing requires finishing.

Who says? I've written many partials. Some are just the beginnings of what may turn out to be full novels, or stories, or non-fiction books. Some of them are just bad ideas that will eventually be trashed (if on paper) or deleted from my hard drive (if on computer).

If you write and don't finish, you're still a writer. You need to finish to publish, at least in most cases. But if you write, you're a writer, and if you don't finish, chances are pretty strong that you've learned something about writing in the meantime.

3) Discipline, With A Capital "Do That Shit Every Day, Son."

Okay, I'll admit that discipline helps. A lot. But is it exactly necessary?

No. I'm about as undisciplined as you can get, and I've still finished one novel, and "won" one NaNo. During the NaNo I won, I got behind on some days, then rushed to catch up. Then got behind again, then another rush.

The tortises win more races, 'tis true, but we hares do win sometimes. (And I am working on more discipline--it's not a bad trait to have!)

4) The magic number is 1666.

Yep. That's the average number of words per day you need to write if you intend to write 50,000 words over a 30 day period.

But it's an arbitrary number, not a magic one. The magic number is actually "1". Don't believe me? Sit down to write a coherent sentence. Start with the first word.

Bet you couldn't stop until the whole sentence is out, now, could you?

The first word of any writing session is always the "magic" one, because it leads to more words.

As for 1666 (or 1667 every third day), the reality is that very few of us are average. Some days, you'll write 5000 words (and those are really magic days for most of us), and some days you'll write none. The trick is to make it all average out. If you write no words for twenty-nine days in a row, and you manage to crank out fifty thousand on day 30, congratulations! You've hit the magic number, too!

5) The Problem With 50,000 Words

Um, he's just plain wrong here. It's true that in some genres, 50,000 words would not be considered a publishable novel. But as Chris Baty points out in No Plot? No Problem!, several well-know works of fiction are about that length, including The Catcher in the Rye (not that this particular book is readable, but it was published and continues to sell well), Of Mice and Men, Brave New World, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Hmm. It seems publishers would disagree with Chuck.

Furthermore, my own personal belief is that as e-books become more and more accepted, the length of novels won't be as important. Publishers of paperbacks don't tend to like books shorter than 90,000 words not because they're inferior, but because consumers are reluctant to shell out ten bucks for a skinny little book, and a thicker book also automatically garners more of the all-important shelf space, making the book more visible to consumers.

As e-book popularity grows, the length of the book will become much less important. E-books are dropping in price, to the point where many are only a buck or two, and folks will shell out two bucks for just about anything. (And if you don't believe me, take a trip to your local dollar store...) And shelf space no longer matters nearly as much as an author's willingness to market the heck out of his or her book.

6) The True Nature of "Finishing"

Actually, the true nature of finishing depends on what your goal is. My goal for the NaNo I actually "won" was to complete 50,000 words of fiction, and to have fun. In that sense, the partial book I wrote is finished. I won't be working on it again. It doesn't have an ending, it's never going to be published, but it is finished. I've let it go.

If you want something more along the lines of a complete novel that's submission-ready, of course you aren't going to be finished at the end of November! You've only just started.

But then, having a submission-ready novel was never the goal of NaNoWriMo, and never will be.

7. Draft Zero

Here, Chucky-boy is just plain silly. No, your NaNoWriMo draft is NOT a zero draft, it's a first draft. The idea that a first draft should be more complete than a NaNo draft is daft, and the fact is that some folks can turn out a very good first draft indeed in thirty days.

8. Quantity Above Quality

This is one of the most misunderstood parts of NaNo. NaNo was not really created for folks who have no trouble sitting down every day and producing two thousand words of high quality work, or even two thousand words of crap.

It works best for those of us whose inner editor is so insistent on "high quality" that no words get written. Ever. Those of us who previously considered a writing session a failure if we didn't turn out a polished, ready-to-submit manuscript with the first draft.

Writing quickly, without regard to quality, bashes down that roadblock of perfectionism, and enables us (and yes, I'm one of those writers) to get the words out.

And when we do, we're often surprised at how good the book we've written really is.

One of the regrets I have with the NaNo I "won" is that I deliberatly wrote a book that by its very nature is unpublishable (because it includes characters and worlds that are the property of other writers). I did it that way because I was in a horrible slump, and realized that the only way I'd get any words written at all was to remove even the possibility of publication.

And what I wrote turned out to have a plot and a theme that was so resonant to me, and writing that in parts was so good, that I might have gone on to do more work on it, if I'd had any chance of publishing it.

But that isn't why I wrote it, and it acheived its purpose by restoring my confidence in my ability to write a good story.

9. Beware "Win" Conditions

I'll just quote him here. I wouldn't have been so crass at the end, but he's right.

If you complete NaNoWriMo, I give you permission to feel like a winner. If you don’t, I do not — repeat, awooga, awooga, do not — give you permission to feel like a loser. This is one of the perils of the gamification of novel-writing, the belief that by racking up a certain score (word count) in a pre-set time-frame (one month for everybody), you win. And by not doing this, well, fuck you, put another quarter in the machine, dongface.

Every year, I have to reassure people who are afraid to even start that the only losers are the ones who are so afraid they'll fail that they don't even start. If you write one single word more in November than you would have writen without NaNo, you've won. If you made some new friends and had a little fun, you've won.

That's why, when I refer to my official win, I put the word "win" in quotation marks. Because I've won every single year I've entered. November has, for the last seven years, been the most prolific writing month of the year. I expect this pattern of winning to continue.

10) We're Not All Robots Who Follow The Same Pre-Described Program

True enough. NaNo isn't for everyone. What confuses me is this: If NaNo isn't for you, Chuck (and seems from your post that it's not), why are you wasting so much time and energy blogging about it? Spend some time blogging about something you enjoy, for Heaven's sake! Or even (gasp!) writing another novel!

11) November Is A Shitty Month


Excuse us for not all being American, and having Thanksgiving to deal with. Nor does everyone in the world celebrate Christmas with a huge month-long shopping spree.

The point of having it in November, btw, was because it is a crappy month for Americans. The weather's not great, so you don't feel left out by your buddies who are heading off to the beach. You've got so much else to do that time spent alone writing a novel feels more like a treat than torture.

It's all in how you look at things...

12) The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good

Right again, of course. That's the whole point of NaNoWriMo right there--to take the pressure of perfection out of the picture, and allow the goodness to happen.

13) Total Suckity-Ass Donkey Crap Is Also The Enemy Of The Good

Not necessarily. Think of your first steps. Not very sturdy, and you fell down a lot.

Or your first printing. Probably didn't look like anything recognizable.

Or your first words--the ones only mom could understand.

But you experimented, and learned, and if you kept practicing, you eventually became able to walk and chew gum at the same time, and print your name so that most folks could read it, and speak in a manner that gets your message across.

Why do we think writing is different? We think that because we've already learned to spell, and write in complete, gramatical sentences, that we should be able to write a decent story.


You have to learn to do it suckily before you learn to do it well. And the writer who tells you that his or her first novel was a runaway success is NOT telling you about the hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of words that were written that will never see the light of day.

I've been writing since I was six years old. Intentionally, and not just for school.

And I'm still learning new skills, and sometimes I write suckily.

But with everything I write, I learn. And the next think I write is less sucky.

So, if NaNoWriMo can teach you anything, it's that you're almost certainly going to write a lot of stuff that sucks before you write anything good. And every NaNo is a step towards being less sucky.

14) You Have Permission To Suck -- Temporarily

Um, just who in Hell's name do you think you are?

First off, no matter what I write, it's not ME that sucks, but my writing. And if I keep writing (with the intent to improve, that is), OF COURSE that sucky writing is going to be only temporary.

But even if I write for my own amusement, and every single thing I write is sucky, your permission matters not at all, sir.

I'm going to skip over the next bunch of points in order to indulge in a bit of a rant.

Most of the folks who do NaNo know what it's all about, and engage in it for the right reasons. But on the Absolute Write boards, and in blogs like this, there are those who think that because it's not for them, it's a useless and even harmful exercise for everyone.

I don't get it. They're ranting about the "rules" of NaNo being too restrictive, and not conducive to good writing, yet the rules they set out for others are far more restrictive and crushing than any of the actual rules of NaNo, which, for the most part, are more along the lines of official suggestions.

And Chris Baty and friends set up the challenge, so they have a right to set out the rules. If you don't like them, that's your perogative, but they do work for most of us who participate, and if they don't work for us, we disregard them. There's even a whole section on the NaNo forum for "rebels," folks who, for one reason or another, find it necessary or desirable to modify the "official" rules.

End of rant, because Chuck's last point is one that needs to be emphasized.

25) November Is Just Your Beginning

Now, for some, it may be the beginning of a life without writing. Been there, done that, may or may not have bought the tee shirt, but it's not for me. The world can live without my words.

Fair enough. I am not a better person than you because I write, and you are not a better person than me because you don't write.

For those of us who do write, November is also the beginning.

If you get to the end of the month with a manuscript — finished or not — in hand, celebrate. Do a little dance. Eat a microwaved pizza, do a shot of tequila, take off your pants and burn them in the fireplace. And then think, “Tomorrow, I’ve got more to do.” Because this is just the start. I don’t mean that to sound punishing — if it sounds punishing, you shouldn’t be a writer. It should be fucking liberating. It should fill your heart with a flutter of eager wings: “Holy shit! I can do this tomorrow, too! I can do this in December and January and any day of the goddamn week I so choose.” Don’t stop on November 30th. You want to do this thing, do this thing. Your energy and effort can turn NaNoWriMo from a month-long gimmick to a life-long love and possibly even a career. Let this foster in you a love of storytelling made real through discipline — and don’t let that love or that discipline wither on the vine come December 1st.

Those words, I can agree with wholeheartedly. They bring tears to my eyes.

November, each and every November, is the beginning of the rest of my life as a writer. And that, my friends, is why I'm impatiently waiting for midnight. Beginnings are magical times, and the fact that I'm beginning again doesn't take away from the magic, any more than celebrating Christmas or birthdays or the first really warm summer day gets old.

Happy new beginnings, friends, and whatever you do, may you have joy in the task!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again!

Yep, the time when everyone goes bonkers with fear that they might catch a cold or the flu. And there's some pretty strange and outright bad advice going around, so I thought it might be good to post some antidotal common-sense type advice that will (we hope) keep us well.

Note that I am not a doctor or a nurse, just a regular human being with a few brains in her head who reads a lot. This advice is not meant to counter anything a trained health-care provider says--if we conflict, go with the advice of the person who's trained and paid.

But I doubt very much if any health care provider will take issue with anything I have to say here, so here goes:

1) Be aware and accepting of the fact that as a human being, made of flesh, you are going to get sick at some point. Don't panic, as long as you're not dead! Colds and most flus aren't death sentences any more--they're usually no more than minor inconveniences.

2) You'll get over the inevitable faster if you admit it and take care of yourself while you're sick. If you're sick, stay home!!!! Don't go to work because you feel "kind of okay," wait until you feel well. Don't send kids to school with "just a cold." First off, you will get better faster if you're not wearing yourself out while you're sick. Second, you'll bless everyone else by keeping your germs at home.

3) The two lists I've seen about flu prevention both miss my number one, most important precaution.

GET A FLU SHOT!!!! In Ontario, they're free and available at your doctor's office now. If you don't have a family doctor, there are clinics just about everywhere--call your local health unit on Monday ('cause today's Saturday and they're probably closed). The year after I go the flu for real (and not "stomach" flu, but real, honest-to-goodness influenza), I started getting the shots every year. I haven't been sick with the flu since, and even my incidence of colds has gone down.

If it's not covered by provincial health insurance (because you live somewhere else), investigate how much it costs. Being sick with influenza can keep you off work for a week or more, and make you feel sluggish for even longer. Is it less than a week's pay to get the shot? Then get it...

What are you waiting for???

3) One of the lists I read started with "Demand (their word, not mine) that any visitors or guests who enter your home wash their hands right away."

Um, right. NOT!

Now, washing hands is a good thing, but it's YOUR hands you need to wash if you want to avoid germs, because it's (hopefully) YOUR hands that will be going near your mouth and face and food. Unless your guests are holding your newborn (in which case I'd say, "If you want to hold the baby, you can wash your hands in the bathroom. I've set out fresh guest towels just for you."), I wouldn't worry about their hands, except to invite them to use the washroom before a meal. (Once again, suggest, don't demand. "I've set out some guest towels in the bathroom, if you'd like to wash your hands before we eat." Then they'll seem like complete boors if they don't wash, and you haven't demanded a single thing, or even made them feel uncomfortable.)

But like I said, it's YOUR hands you really need to worry about.

Wash after you use the toilet, before you eat, and before and during food preparation. Before and after visiting someone in the hospital, visiting a doctor, etc. Use common sense. Washing your hands CAN get excessive, but most people don't go nearly that far, or even nearly far enough.

Use soap and water. A study I read done by a soap company looked at the difference in health outcomes in a third world country after distribution of different types of soap. The control group was not given any soap. One-half of the remainder was given plain, ordinary soap with instructions on how and when to wash. The other half was given antibacterial soap, again with instructions.

Both soap-using groups had better disease outcomes than the control group. But there was NO DIFFERENCE between the two different types of soap. What matters, therefore, is not that the soap has antibacterial agents in it, but that you use it.

4) Get enough sleep. Once again, numerous studies show that adult North Americans don't get anywhere near enough sleep. Six to eight hours minimum, folks. It will help you recharge your immune system. It will keep you alert so you don't have as many accidents. And it will keep you from getting overly grumpy, which could keep you out of prison...

Okay, so maybe not that last, but you get the idea. The proper amount of sleep is important in maintaining your overall health.

5) Eat healthy amounts of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Forget about processed "fruit-flavoured" snacks, and go for an apple. A smoothie is great, a real banana is even better. Carrots and peas and beans and salads...

I'll stop now. I'm getting hungry.

I've seen plenty written about how important vitamins and trace minerals are for your heath, but I've never read a study (which doesn't mean there aren't any, just that I haven't read them) that shows that a daily pill will keep you healthy. Vitamin pills can't replace real vitamins, direct from the source, IMO. And they don't taste nearly as good, either.

6) Stay hydrated. Drink enough water. Water, folks. Not fire-water, or cola, or tea or coffee. Just plain water.

And use a re-usable water bottle when you do it (or a glass), so that we can keep our environment healthy, too.

7) Stay out of places with lots of sick people if you possibly can. Some of the advice on the lists I've read tell you to stay out of places like grocery stores as much as you can, but that's just silly. Sick people don't generally go to the grocery store, they go to the hospital and the doctor's office. So unless you really need to go, stay out of those two places.

DO NOT go to the emergency room for a simple head cold. One, it wastes taxpayers' money. Two, it wastes your time, because you'll be put way, way down on the triage list, after the person with the sprained baby toe, and definitely after the guy with the stab wound, and the woman in labour and all the other fun people you'll get to meet. Don't go there just to pass the time or read a book, either. (I've never done this, but apparently a few people do.)

Read your book in the library, if you must get out of the house.

If you're sick with non-life-threatening illness (you can breathe okay, you can talk, you're not terribly disoriented, and you have no or a low-grade fever) try PHONING your doctor for advice first. Wrap yourself in a blanket, drink lots of water, have some chicken soup, and read a good book or watch an old movie. You'll be well in a day or two.

8) Finally, be a little wary of zapping your cold or flu with too many OTC medications. First, read the instructions carefully. I have some meds that say it's okay to take them every four hours, but when you read further, you find out you can't take more than three doses per day.

Second, don't take them so you will feel "well enough to go to work." Meds DO NOT make the illness go away, they just disguise it. Your body is still sick and it still needs the time to heal. You may actually be sick longer than otherwise if you take meds and continue with your daily routine, heedless of your body's real needs. Second, you're still contagious, so other people can still get sick from you, no matter how good you're feeling.

Stay home, take time to get well... (Wait. I think I've said that before.)

Seriously. I think a huge part of our problem with infectious diseases is our insistence that we are machines who can "bash on regardless." We're not machines, we're living organisms, and we'll live longer, healthier lives if we respect the difference.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are You A Minister Yet?

Every so often, someone will ask me that question. What they usually mean, of course, is, "Are you ordained yet?"

The last time I heard that question, it was in a diner in a small town I've never before been through, and will likely not be through again, at least for a while. I don't even know the name of the person who asked it, or where I'd known her from. She might have been from a pastoral charge where I served as a student, or one of the ones I occasionally visit as a supply preacher. I'm good at recognizing faces, and voices, but names I don't always remember, especially if I go to a church where no-one wears a name tag, and I don't learn the names in the first place!

The distinction between the question she voiced and the question she was really asking is important. The friend who was with me at the time actually started laughing, knowing that for me, the question was hard to answer because the answers to the two questions are dramatically different.

No, I am not ordained.

Yes, I most definitely am in ministry.

At the time, I was driving her up to a town where her father-in-law resides, so that she could be with her husband who had been hospitalized while visiting his father. The next day, I would be baby-sitting her grandchildren, and on Monday, I'd be in the church office behind the administrator's desk, taking her place. This is ministry.

On Thursday, I conduct a service/bible study at a local retirement home. Not many folks come out, but the ones who do are so fanatical that the thought of the (ordained) minister of our church taking my place for a Thursday has them having palpitations. This is ministry.

Today I walked the grounds of a local retreat centre with the land manager, discussing how this year's Live Nativity Scene will play out, and on December 3rd, we'll put on this pageant for over 500 guests. This too is ministry.

Whether it's starting a Messy Church this coming winter, or being our church presbytery rep, or simply listening to someone who needs a shoulder to cry on, I'm engaged in ministry.

I'm even engaged in ministry at home--making dinner for an ex-husband who's had a stressful day (I do this for him twice each week, and he does it on Saturday, when he doesn't work), or taking care of my autistic child, or laughing and praying with my two older children, or checking up on my parents. Loving our families is ministry.

So yes, I'm in ministry. But I'm not ordained, and at this time, I won't be pursuing that path. I'm too busy...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

One (Baby) Step at a Time

Wednesday morning, I found I just couldn't do it.

I got up a little later than usual, as I didn't have to go get Robin from his dad's or feed him breakfast, and I wasn't feeling great to begin with. I faced the bed and told myself, "Rise and shine, Ruth! Get dressed right down to lace-up shoes."

No. I couldn't do it.

"Make the bed?"

Nope. No go.

"Eat breakfast?"


"Okay. Baby steps here. How about a sip of water and your meds?" (I take two pills, both in the morning.

Yes. I can do that.

A little while later, I was sitting at my computer wasting time with CivIV or some such game, and I felt strong enough to get dressed.

Once dressed, of course, I had to make the bed.

Then I realized I was hungry, and headed downstairs to have my breakfast. And my morning routine was completed only about a half hour later than usual, because I was willing to take baby steps.

All too often in the past, I've looked at a task taht seemed overwhelming, felt I couldn't complete it to standard, and so didn't even start. I've got lots of novel ideas, and more than a few first (and even some second) chapters hanging around, but only one novel to which I've typed, "The End."

It seems that in order to be able to type those magical words more often, or to live in a clean house, or to balance my budget, I'm going to have to go back to taking baby steps.

Can't write a whole novel in one sitting? How about a chapter, or a paragraph, or even a single sentence?

Can't clean a whole room in one go? How about a 1 foot by 1 foot area of counter?

Can't pay a whole bill when it's due? How about paying what I can, and planning to pay the rest ASAP. (And explaining to the creditor what I'm doing...)

Very few people have huge chunks of time or energy or money to do large tasks. All we're given as mere mortals are little bits and pieces, never enough individually to do the job at hand, but if we use them instead of wasting them, the job will eventually get done.

I think there's a quote about that from a book I read somewhere:

Oh, yeah.

"The master was full of praise. 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!'" and "To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away." (Mt 25: 21 & 29, New Living Translation)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm FLYing!

A good friend of mine has been urging me to check out FLYLady, a site that she claimed would help me organize my home and my life, something I've been trying to do for ages. Or at least since yesterday...

Anyhow, I have, in the recent past, made some respectable progress towards de-cluttering and organizing my house, but it's still nowhere near where I want it to be, so a week or so ago, I did follow my friend's advice, and have since become a devotee.

Not a fanatical one, mind you--as with other home organizing books I've read and sites I've visited, I still take what I think will work, adapt others that seem to need some tweaking, ignore those that aren't applicable, and leave until another time those that are too expensive or too hard to do right now.

But it isn't the actual de-cluttering and cleaning methods that keep me coming back. It's the philosophy.

FLY stand for "Finally Loving Yourself." I realized that having a messy home full of broken junk, sink overflowing with dishes and counters so cluttered I couldn't cook was a form of self-hate. I realized that if I truly loved myself, I would make an effort to clean up and cook decent meals, just as if I were a guest in my own home who I wanted to impress.

And the results?

I reorganized my dining room to be more functional before checking out the site, but it continued to develop clutter, and the kitchen still wasn't clean enough to cook a meal. But after checking out the FLYLady site...

Step One: Shine Your Sink. Which you can't do if the sink is full of dirty dishes. So I did a load of dishes. Then another load. Then another load. And I put them away once they'd dried. Then I cleared the clutter off the counter, putting the small appliances that I don't use every day (most of them) in a cupboard that's actually perfect for that purpose. A little scrubbing of counters and sink, and I had a kitchen I could use!

I've managed to do that one simple step every day for a whole week, and guess what?


The caps and the bolding and the exclamation points say it all, I think. And because the kitchen is clear and I'm using the dining room to eat, I'm more conscious of moving the clutter out before it has time to accumulate into mountainous piles of crap that's mostly garbage. So I've had the ex-husband over for dinner twice this week. I cooked a crock pot full of winter veggies drenched in maple syrup and ginger (do as the recipe says, folks, and use all that ginger!) that was apparently so good the kids didn't leave me any. I made a second pot tonight, and while veggies aren't really my thing, I ate a full serving and a bit.

But the real cap of the week was Sunday. I walked into the house after church and did a quick double-take, because for a split second, I wondered if I was in the right house!

I'm continuing to work on my house--I still have the office, bathroom, upstairs storage and basement to clear out and clean up. And of course, then I'll be doing a second round of the house, paintbrush and curtains in hand.

Once all that's done, I'll truly be able to say that I've conquered my CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome), and I'll have a house that I truly enjoy living in and showing off!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a rough couple of weeks in our town--I've spent a lot of time and energy supporting a friend who's had a real run of bad luck. As I explained to a couple of people, it's payback time--when I was going through my rough times, this friend and many others were there to hold me together. Now I can do it for her.

Sunday morning's sermon featured a story about a man who had journeyed to Colombia, where he saw poor villagers--the men sitting and chatting in the sunshine, smoking, the women sitting on front porches of brightly painted houses, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, nursing infants, and children swimming in a muddy river. He noted that these people didn't have a lot of things, their environment was not pristine, their food less than the best. But there was more joy in that village than he'd ever seen on the streets of any North American suburb, where kids had expensive video game systmes, where we throw out more good food than some people eat, where both men and women are fully employed.

They had joy because they were thankful for what they had. We have so much, I think, that we don't even notice it any more.

A case in point--as part of my "101 Things" project, I've been cleaning out my house. Today, I got the kids over and we cleaned out my front hall closet. I found the boots that I didn't wear last winter because they were buried under a mound of stuff. I have enough paint to cover all the walls in my house--twice! I've twice asked for paint coupons from my co-op (they supply the paint, I do the painting), and twice started and not finished the job. I found two pairs of running shoes--and I was just about to go out and buy another pair because the pair I've been wearing are worn out. I found my black dress shoes, that have been missing for over a year. Lots of brooms and mops, some good, some ready for the dump. Stuff that should be in the car (like the gas can), stuff that should be in the basement (like the paint), stuff that needed to be thrown out, and stuff that should have been given away a long time ago.

How can I be thankful for my stuff when I don't even know it's there? Or when I can't get to it?

So now, thanks to my kids and a couple of hours' worth of work, I have an organized closet.

And I'm thankful.