NaNo, SweMo, and SeCaMo (?)

We’ve flipped the calendar page and turned back the clock hands, and now here we are in November, in coming-on-winter, in the deep of it all. How are you? Personally, I’m very, very tired. (No thanks to the time change and the fact I’m now waking up Too Da** Early at 4 am instead of Too Da** Early at 5 am.) But mostly I’m tired of feeling unmoored, unconnected, and uncertain of where things are going from here. I’m even tired of hearing and talking about how hard it all is. It has been catching up with me lately.

On the plus side, we are having more Sweater Weather Days than not. My husband and son went to a used-book store over the weekend and brought me a Sesame Street anniversary album. I baked soda bread. If I’m careful not to overdo it, I can knit again; in October I knit a hat, a cowl, and two shawls. (I know, that’s a lot; I’m not being careful enough.) I finished a picture book draft, and prepped for Advent.

Sneak peek of Advent inspiration, coming weekly (plus some extras) starting 11/29.

NaNoWriMo, and writing faith.

I pushed to check things off the list in October so this month I could concentrate my Martha energy on just a few things. First is National Novel Writing Month, a yearly challenge (which I have attempted several times but never gotten past the first week) to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

Favorite tools: disc-bound notebook, NaNo helps books, strong coffee… and a pen, which should be a Ticonderoga pencil (my real fave).

Every year my Facebook “memories” taunt me with reminders of all the other years I posted “I’m gonna do it this time!” on November 1. But seriously, this year, I’m gonna do it! No reason not to: there’s no traveling for Thanksgiving, no school activities, no work parties, none of the usual disruptions and distractions. I have nothing but time and routine.

And what’s more, I have a plan, thanks to the middle-grade novel writing class I took earlier this year. The NaNo milestone is more than twice the word count of my first kidlit novel draft, but I’m going to follow the same weekly structure.

I’m also hoping this time I’ll be more successful because I’m beginning to understand myself as a writer for young people. I can’t explain it, but I feel like I’m clicking into place. I’ll be writing about faith, and the ways events in our lives cause us to tune into the holy.

SweMo, and Christmas already?

I don’t know if people are still doing NaKniSweMo; if so, I cheated by starting in October. But every year around December 18th I wish I’d knitted a Christmas sweater… and not just a nice holiday-appropriate sweater. An actual almost-but-not-quite-ugly Christmas Sweater.

The thing is, most years I’m not remotely ready for Christmas until Thanksgiving; technically, until Santa Claus arrives in Herald Square at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But this year, it seemed perfectly reasonable to start knitting a full-on Christmas sweater over Halloween weekend. So I did. This pattern is inspired by one of the best (if not the best) Christmas movies, though my version will be a lot less ’50s-form-fitting and more boxy and cozy. It’s called the Betty and Judy Lodge Sweater, by the Poison Grrls, but I’ve named my version Haul Out the Holly, because I “need a little Christmas,” like, NOW.

For real, though.

SeCaMo, and making it up as we go.

There’s no such thing (as far as I know) as Self Care Month, but if there were, this would be a really good month for it. The holiday season is fraught enough on it’s own. On top of that, the pandemic is fraught. The political situation is fraught, and is going to stay fraught for a long time. Did I mention things are fraught right now?

So what are we going to do about it?

There’s so much we can’t control. Maybe this season (of life, not just of the year) is teaching us how much we can’t control, all the time—this particular season of life is bringing that lesson home, but really, it’s always true. At the same time, maybe it’s teaching us to be more creative, wiser, and more intentional about the things we can.

As for me, I’ll be writing, and knitting. And this month I’ll be trying to be creative, wise, and intentional about what I’m reading and watching, and how I’m playing and praying. Tomorrow, on Election Day, I plan to start reading Dan Rather’s book What Unites Us (and hoping that something still does). I plan to follow up my Christmas sweater with some amazing mittens. I’m going to bake some donuts, and try some new recipes from my new Ina Garten cookbook for Thanksgiving. I may watch a Christmas movie or two (or three).

I’m mostly going to keep my expectations low and my to-do list short. I’m looking at these next couple months as a time to dial down and focus in—not the usual approach I take to the holidays, but a much-needed one. If I can manage it, I hope it’ll also make me better able to find rest when I need it, and joy wherever it shows up.

Wishing you rest and joy, too—today, tomorrow, and in this season.

Stay well. 🙏🏻

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