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I originally submitted this to a magazine but it seems they didn’t want to publish it, so I’ll put it here.  A funny piece, my writer’s group liked it so I’ll consider it a “free” blog entry for the day because I don’t have to write anything new.

On Gaining Weight While Remodeling the Kitchen:

Our kitchen just got a lovely new French Country remodel…

…and I got a good old American-style dough-nut around my middle in the process.

Partly it was the depression I felt. The kitchen job we just completed wasn’t even really a remodel, just a fresh coat of paint and some tile work. But this turned the entire house upside down, and what I envisioned as a one-week quickie took my perfectionist husband, with my inexpert help, nearly four weeks to complete.

I’m seriously affected by my environment, you know? Which is why I like to remodel and make things prettier in the first place. But having the kitchen mostly in the dining room, and the front porch furniture piled into the living room (so we could paint doors and drawers out there), and my husband—not to mention two kids, a puppy and the cat–constantly underfoot drove me into some very bad moods.

So I ate carbs. Lots of them. And chocolate. And sugar. And whatever other foods made me forget, if only for a second or two, about the mess my house was in.

With the kitchen and rest of the house all askew, we knew we wouldn’t be cooking much. I attempted to budget for this. By my calculations, one week’s dinners of pizza, deli food and Taco John’s should cost the four of us about 80 bucks. But soon the first week was over, we were still without a kitchen and money was scarce. (After blowing some of it on beautiful new kitchen linens that would coordinate the new colors in the kitchen with the dining room which meant I HAD to have them, well, spare cash for more eating out was low.) Do you know that those five dollar large pizzas they advertise are actually quite tasty and filling, not to mention convenient, for a family of four without a kitchen? We must have had pizza four nights the second week. Nobody even complained.

On the muggy, hot day we sanded the cabinets, we ran to the deli for an 8-piece chicken dinner with all the trimmings and hurried off to the beach to get away from the dust and grime. After a day of tiling and grouting, we spent an hour at the sub sandwich shop eating five dollar foot-longs because why get a mere 6-incher when you can get twice as much food for only two bucks more?! Besides, sub sandwiches are diet food.

One night when we felt brave enough to fire up the one-burner on top of the washing machine, what did we make? Pasta, of course. It couldn’t get much simpler than that. Just boil up some water, throw in the noodles, strain them through the colander into the utility sink (never mind the paint brushes and other gross stuff in there, it can’t be helped), throw on some sauce and grated parm and you’re set. Pasta is the perfect remodeling-the-kitchen food.

I was told by a nutritionist once that carbs and sweets produce a calming effect. It’s no wonder people crave them to relieve stress then. But the effect doesn’t last long, and when it goes away one is left with nothing more than a low mood, a sluggish digestive tract, and after four weeks of this, an extra five to ten pounds around the hips.

I’m happy to say that my kitchen is done and it’s bright and beautiful. And now I feel just a bit obligated to spend more time in there, keeping my cute new French Country cookie jar filled and turning out delicious dinners. After all, I always said I’d be the perfect wife and mother cooking in the kitchen if only the room were prettier.

But on second thought, I’ve got a dough-nut to get rid of. Maybe I can put weight loss affirmations in that cookie jar? Somehow, I think my family will complain.

you get to read a page in my journal!

You get to read a page in my journal! (and egads, I see I would make a terrible hand model--freckles, scabs, wrinkles, oh my!)

Every morning (well, okay, not every but most), I sit down and write three pages by hand in a ten-cent ruled school notebook.  I learned, from Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, to call them my Morning Pages.  A rather romantic name for stream-of-consciousness journaling, which I’ve done much of my life in some form or other.

Well, okay (again), maybe not that much of my life but sporadically throughout my life since I was in junior high.  Actually, if I had been writing these pages every day for more of my life, I’d probably be an even more prolific writer and perhaps even a more-published author.  I only wish I’d been doing them more deliberately for a longer time.  I do them quite religiously now, though.

Morning Pages are an essential part of working through Cameron’s many creativity-enhancing books.  They must be done daily and in the morning, they must be three pages long, and they must be written by hand–according to her rules.  I think if anyone does any amount of journaling on most days, for whatever amount of time fits their life, it would be helpful to them.  As it stands for me, the Morning Pages rules work well, however.

So many people want to be writers, and so many of us ask published writers “how do you get to be a writer?”  And the answer that always comes first is this, “write every day”.  Write every day.  No matter what it is, just write.  Make it a habit, make it a job, do it!

I can attest to the fact that writing my Morning Pages every day helps me write more in other areas.  When I first started my Morning Pages, working through The Artist’s Way, it was summer of 2005.  I spent the twelve weeks of summer on that book, and on all but I think two days I wrote morning pages.  I remember that well, because I had two really crabby days that summer–both of the days I didn’t start by writing my pages.  (Another thing Morning Pages help with, whether you want to be a writer or not, or work on your creativity or not, is emotions.  More on that later.)

Then later that fall, in November, I wrote my first novel.  In a month!  I participated in and completed the 50,000-word NaNoWriMo challenge, which I’d heard about on NPR and decided I had to do.  And you know what?  It wasn’t that hard!  Since I was a success at it, people asked me, how did you do it?  I would tell them that in the group of NaNoWriMo writers in my area, I was the only one who consistently wrote the 1,667 words each day that was necessary to write 50,000 words in one month.  I did it in about two hours each afternoon, usually taking Wednesdays off due to burnout and then writing a bit more to catch up on the weekends.  I attribute my ability and relative ease in doing that directly to my Morning Pages habit, begun only months before.

(I’m not saying that novel was very good, but the fact is I did it and I’m so proud of myself for that.)

Besides keeping me in the habit and practice of writing, some other benefits I get from writing Morning Pages are these:

  • Some days I just make three pages of lists in my notebook.  Lists that help me organize my thoughts and the day ahead, or my life in general.  This can really help me make it through my day or week without losing my mind!
  • Other days I work out emotions, maybe from the day before, or something that’s been percolating a long time.  I might write out what I want to say to another person, and whether or not I actually ever say it I feel better for having written it.  Some days I might feel like writing down what I’m grateful for; then the pages serve as a good reminder of how blessed my life really is.
  • Morning Pages are often a place I write down dreams or try to figure out what I want from life.  They help me in pursuit of my goals.

The notebooks full of my life stories now sit stacked in a cabinet in my home.  Who knows what might come from them someday?  Maybe I’ll be such a famous writer I’ll be asked to write a memoir.  Then my cheap notebooks just might be worth a fortune…I can always dream, can’t I?

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