It's been a while since I've posted, so I thought I would drop by to let you all know what has kept me so distracted.
After years of lamenting how much we didn't like the colors in our house and a recent upturn in our financial situation thanks to a new job on C. L.'s part, we decided to spend a few months and a little bit on a very budget makeover of our home. Of course, budget means DIY, so I've been rather busy spending what time I have outside of homeschooling the girls and running the soap business to work on the house little by little.
Here are a couple progress photos on the master bath. The one on the left is the latest, when we're close to finishing the frame on the mirror. We were just waiting to borrow a router saw to cut out enough of a divot in the frame piece to allow it to be glued over the clips holding it to the wall.
Believe it or not, all we did was paint, change the hardware and artwork, and get a few new accessories. The countertop paint kit's protective topcoat does take a full two weeks to cure, and the cabinet paint needs at least three full days. So it was a time consuming process, but the whole thing cost about what it would have cost us to just change the countertops out for both bathrooms. And we have enough paint left over to paint the counters in the girls' bathroom as well as the cabinets in both the other bathroom and kitchen.
I'm also in the middle of designing and making all the new soaps for Contented Comfort this year since Con Kasterborous is in a matter of weeks. If you're interested in that, make sure to stop by the Contented Comfort blog every Wednesday between now and June 9 to see the fragrance introductions.
I have a lot more work to do throughout the house with a goal date to finish of July 31. Updates here may be spotty at best until then.
All this winter, there's been one thing that's caught my eye every time I take Lily out for a walk. Trees bare of their summer leaves stand out in stark contrast with the clear blue of winter skies. The appearance of one covered root to crown in ivy is even more striking, but there's been something "off" in the appearance of the tree in our backyard.
What might be wrong with it has been bugging me for months, and I got the answer the other day.
C. L. and I have been talking about making some big changes to our home for years now. We were dreaming of things we never expected to really be able to do with me just writing and soaping part time while I schooled the kids and him working as a teacher. But then last year happened, and he came out of it with a much better job.
We began thinking about actually making steps toward our dream happen. The only issue was having to wait a year or two for C. L. to have enough time on the job to get a loan for such a thing, based on everything we'd heard in the past. We said as much to his grandmother on a call last week, and she encouraged us to go ahead and try before we write off the possibility for a year or more. She's a rather savvy woman when it comes to such things, so we took her advice.
My mom, mother-in-law, grandmothers, and C.L. have been getting onto me for a couple years now for spreading myself too thin, and I've been fighting them on it the whole way. But they haven't been wrong.
When something didn't work out or wasn't working as well as I'd hoped, my first instinct has always been to do more. No matter how stressed out it made me or how little time I had to put into something, just pile more onto the to do list. I ought to be able to do it all and then some, or I'm a failure all around.
While trying my hand at teaching high school back in the fall, I spent so long away from my current rough draft, I forgot half of what I'd written. So I've been going back to read through it. In doing so, several issues with the rough have been jumping out at me, but they all stem from one factor common in rough drafts, lacking conflict.
Readers have their favorites, and they don't enjoy seeing them put through the wringer, but at the same time, what are the chances they would be so fond of those characters if they never struggled? No matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, without conflict, there is no story.
Have you heard all the hoopla surrounding Star Wars being bought out by Disney and all the new movies? Some are all for it, but others, including Mark Hamill have some... issues... with the new storylines. Why though?
Well, to get at the answer, you have to understand a few things about the Star Wars fandom and the franchise itself over the past thirty years or so.
I think we've all seen or heard the "tortured" artist trope at one time or another. It's no secret a high percentage of notable artists, be they writers, poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, or any other kind of artist, have or do suffer from a range of mental health problems. Because of this correlation between mental health problems and creative success, popular notions of creativity have come to romanticize them as part and parcel to creative genius.
I hate this notion so much! Even if there's some truth to it, it's a dangerous and irresponsible idea in so many ways.
Originally published February 20, 2015 at Diary of a Work-at-Home-Mom.
Learning to read backwards and upside down is how I learned to reorient letters. I seriously thought everyone could do it until I asked a coworker about something on a sign posted outside our window, and they responded by questioning how I could read the sign. It was only five years ago, when C. L. was taking the Ortton-Gillingham training that I learned it was one of the earliest methods of helping children with dyslexia learn how to reorient letters. Unfortunately, it's also a method that's effective for just 5% of those dealing with dyslexia, and while I might be part of that percentage, the girls aren't.
The only thing I can compare letter reorienting to is looking at a 3D model that's been spun around. It looks different from the back or upside down, but it's still recognizable if you can shift your perspective mentally.
I'm relatively lucky in that from my perspective, the letters usually appear in the right order or with only a couple of letters swapped around, but I often see letters flipped on either the X or Y axis. (Numbers are a different matter entirely.) Spelling/sound inversions only happen, for me, between the brain and either hands or mouth. In essence, I'll think the word or sentence correctly, but it will come out in a jumble. This is why I depend on muscle memory to spell for the most part since there's less reliance on the sequencing center of the brain.
Reading upside down takes a few more seconds to get going in because you aren't just reading left to right but from the bottom up. And reading something written normally is more difficult than reading anything in all caps since more letters look similar to one another. For instance B, D, P, and Q look very different when capitalized, but depending on the type face, b, d, p, and q can look virtually identical in the lower case if you have issues with orientation.
For those who have problems solely with orienting letters, the rest of the letters and text can be used to help shift the problem letters back around. Context clues also play a large part, particularly with words like bare and dare were both versions are words, but only one would make sense in context.
From what I can tell after reading with Nichole over the last few years, she experiences the written word differently. There are days she does just fine, but on others, a page of text looks like one gigantic word scramble puzzle. Whereas I see letters in the correct order but flipped and on occasion with the spaces between them in the wrong place, her mind can't seem to decide where each letter is on the page. Let's take the highlighted text here as an example. When she's trying to read the word "order," she might see the "l" from the word "place" from below it or "like" from above it in place of the "r." Therefore, she'd read the word as older instead of order.
Using cards to cover all but the line of text she's reading at the time has helped a good deal. However, context clues and an extensive vocabulary are going to be crucial to her gaining full reading fluency as she progresses to more complicated material. That's one area where she has trouble now because of her age. She's forever coming across new words in her lessons, so she isn't yet confident in discerning between seeing a word wrong and coming across a new term.
I've been hearing from parents who suspect their child may have dyslexia or who have received a new diagnosis. It's not something that's talked about much, even in this day and age. And all the different variants thereof still aren't that well understood by many. If any of you reading this have any questions, please feel free to comment or message me. I'm far from an expert, but I'll try my best to help.
If you're in the thick of it now with your child, please remember that they're trying and keep an eye out for patterns in their "mistakes." While the various "disorders" beginning with the dys prefix are caused by the same difference in "wiring," they are experienced differently from one person to another. It might take months to figure out how they are seeing the text and the patterns behind it, but once you do, figuring out ways to work with their mind versus fighting it can open the door for massive improvements.
A lot has changed for Nichole since I originally wrote this. She's reading on grade level with a lot less trouble than she had even a year ago. Spelling, particularly with English's reluctance to follow its own rules, is still a challenge, but we've found a method that works for her a few months ago. So she's making great strides there now as well.
* Originally published on March 8, 2010 via Diary of a Work-at-Home-Mom.
Sunday evening was singing night for our congregation, being the first Sunday of the month, and one of the songs sung was "How Great Thou Art." The song has never failed to drag "Oh What a Grace" from the recesses of my memory. Not that I compare the songs but because I had a tune similar to its melody running through my head when I penned the first draft.
It's hard to believe that was nearly a decade ago now. I don't remember exactly which Sunday it was, but I seem to remember it being sometime in late spring or early summer of 2000. I was listening to our preacher speak on a particular Psalm one Sunday morning when the words started nagging me. By the time we were heading home, I was desperate for a piece of paper and a pen. The lines came tumbling out, and a half hour later, I had the first draft.
I spent a few weeks trying to put music to it to no avail. I asked a friend for help, but nothing seemed to work. So I asked the congregation's preacher if he knew of anyone who could put music to lyrics, thinking he might be more familiar with local talent considering the years he'd helped organize The Musical Explosion. He gave me Mr. Stevens' name and number, and the rest is history.
Looking back on it, it feels like ancient history. I was barely out of high school, only in my second semester of college. I was still smarting over having to swap a chemistry major for English because I was having these uncontrollable shaking spells that nearly resulted in a big accident in the labs. I had yet to meet C. L. and was just starting to seriously consider writing as a career.
Even then there was a surreal feeling about this piece. It came quickly and with an ease I rarely associate with any bit of writing, let alone anything outside of fictional prose. I'm not a poet. "Little Eyes" and "A Day in the Mind of a Child" are flukes. I found it difficult to believe I'd written this one then, and I find it next to impossible to believe now. I barely remember it, and what memories I have are more impressions of where I was, the need to get my hands on paper now, and the scratch of graphite across the page. I don't remember the writing of it at all other than the occasional feeling a word was off and counting the measure.
Maybe that's why I was so embarrassed when song leaders would make sure to point me out when they'd lead it. What did it matter I happened to be there? What did it matter who wrote the words or the music? The song was meant for the praise of God.
There are three things these three works have in common. First is their form. These are the only poetic pieces I have ever done and not immediately destroyed. Second, they come from a different place. I don't know how to describe it, but I was in a different head space when I wrote these poems/lyrics than I'm typically in when I write my stories. Instead of brainstorming, painstakingly building them up a concept or a word at a time, I saw or heard something and they seemed to spring fully formed onto the page. And finally, they have a different purpose. While I did feel the need to share them through publication, I haven't seen them as work to be sold. The poems were published in nonprofit college journals, and the song was spread from hand to hand. As far as I know, it's never been put into a songbook, but it's not like I'd ask for payment if it was. That's not why I asked for Mr. Steven's help finishing it. I just want it to be sung somewhere by someone, by congregations or just someone going about their daily work, I'm happy either way.
I've heard it's still sung at some congregations around the Tennessee Valley. Personally I haven't heard it in years, and I doubt I will. Mom told me years ago song leaders find it intimidating to lead a song when someone that wrote the words or composed the music is sitting on a pew. I suppose she might be right, though I find it disheartening to think they'd believe I'd be insulted or something if they didn't get it note perfect.
Though remembering how much of a nitpicking Grammar Nazi I used to be, at least when it came to pet peeves like double negatives and subject/verb agreement, before I grew up and learned to control those knee jerk reactions, I can see where they might think I'd be a little snippy. But really, as long as it can be followed, it's good.
I know today's post is supposed to be another Back to Basics article, but as stated Friday, all of here at the England household are sick. I'm doing better than I was Friday. I can breathe most of the time now at least, but I'm in that stage of a sinus infection, with accompanying ear infection, where all the bones in one side of my face hurt. An it feels like I got smashed in the side of the head with a 2 x 6 kind of hurting that makes concentrating next to impossible. So instead of posting a grammar article that might be full of mistakes or where I forget half of what is needed, I decided to bump this week's article to next week, so you'll get January's Back to Basics articles back to back.
Since I can no longer take NSAIDs without hours of feeling ill, the only thing I've found that's really effective combating this pain is humidity and warmth. So I spent a good part of yesterday with this rather sad looking DIY rice hot or cold pack wrapped around my head with a smaller one laying over one cheek and eye.
Although I've dealt with quite a few ear infections in my life, it's never before dawned on my to try using heat to soothe the ache. So I guess it's not that surprising then that this time, being so different, the sensory input of having a heating device soothing an ear ache triggered a memory forgotten for years and the earliest one I've had sparked.
A. B. England is a small business owner, home-schooling mom, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves fantasy, mythology, and all flavors of science fiction.
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