Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I'm so good at jinxing myself.

Just as soon as I lifted my self-imposed cage off this blog and can write as freely as an uncaged bird, I find myself coming up empty. Nothing interesting has happened lately, and it's too cold to do anything, justifies DH on my behalf. The kiddos haven't said or done anything funny, and I just haven't had any writing inspiration.

It's all cuz of this unreasonable, intolerable, and insufferable cold weather. We are having another two days off school, which is unprecedented for us, as we are a hearty, Midwestern people. Alas, even the hearty can get hypothermia and frostbite.

Since the beginning of winter, I've been thinking about taking a collection of black and white photographs to go with our bleak, colorless outdoors. But that's where it stopped--just thinking about it. Because actually taking the pictures would mean being in the cold, unnecessarily, and draining my phone (camera) battery faster than I can say, "It's freezing!" So all the pics I can muster are these taken cowardly indoors to show just how freakin' cold it is out there.

We examine the intricate patterns of snowflake-like ice crystals on the inside of our windows.

We enjoy the sight of sunshine and snow drift patterns from indoors.

Cuz I'm not Elsa and cannot stand to be frozen.

Anyway, back to writing. Some people get a high from drinking, eating, watching movies, or playing sports. While I "get" such examples of euphoria, I get my high from writing--getting my thoughts into words, communicating via a coherent essay, and making a point using words and a few photos along the way. It is my fuel, my warmth. If I go for too long without it, I'd be like an un-hatchable egg, an un-proofable bread dough, or a barely warm-blooded being in the arctic cold that doesn't stand a chance. Oh, right; that last one about sums up what we're all going through, right here, right now.

So, I'll take my lack of writing inspiration by its dead lightbulb and fight my way through this winter nonsense by just muddling through it. Please bear with me and allow me to share my writing process instead. Cuz I needs me some heat in this frigid cold. 


I prefer to write in total silence and semi-darkness. No music, no noise--just the quiet taps of the keyboard, accompanied by the sweet aroma of my cuppa Joe or tea. I sit on my swivel chair with my legs curled to one side, or folded, until they go numb and I must straighten them out to allow blood flow back to my feet again. Then, switch sides, rinse, and repeat. 

Usually by the time I'm sitting at my desk tapping away, I already have a topic and a few photos in mind. But the process of stringing pagefuls of words together is the embodiment of that writing high. It's like letting go of your bowling ball and watching it glide down the lane to knock down the pins. Those seconds between action and result is the sweet path of that high. You don't know how many pins you'll hit or how well you'll score. I don't know for sure exactly which words will appear or how the post will turn out. You hope for the best, and watch the pins fall. I keep tapping and composing until the piece is complete. And the anticipation is intoxicating.

Only instead of seconds it takes me hours.

Oftentimes I halt the fingers and stare off into space, rummaging for that perfect word or phrase. Sometimes I'm successful, while other times that exact word teases me by playing peekaboo with my aging brain. Sometimes I text DH because either he will know exactly which word I urgently need or he will blink cluelessly at his phone wondering if I've gone entirely mad. But I have successfully stayed away from words not belonging to my generation, such as "adorbs" and "amazeballs". High-fiving my forty-year-old self.

The editing part is no less work. It takes more times than you think for me to proofread each post. Even though any post is editable even after it's published, I still feel gutted whenever I spot a mistake. And I do from time to time. I usually save my last proofread hours or even a day after the previous check. A fresh mind does wonders and tells me to take out parts that scream, "What were you thinking???"

To embellish the words, I take pictures. A lot. Sometimes for posts I know I will write. Sometimes I take random pics that just ever so suitably fit into a post. Sometimes the accidental pics work way better than any intentional pics I take. Sometimes the pics practically do all the writing themselves.

Sometimes a post takes a few hours to complete; sometimes it can take several days. Sometimes I force ask DH to read it before I publish, and other times I just do it. Sometimes I compose posts that are bowling strikes, and sometimes I publish gutter balls. Mostly, I've gotten over feeling anxious about writing and wondering what people will think. I now just remind myself that it's much too tiring and entirely not worth the trouble.

Which, for me, is a considerable accomplishment, since it's taken me about two plus years to reach that mindset. Writing will always be an evolving process, hopefully always for the better. And even now, there's still so much more to look forward to. At least I feel like it's right.


Right now, I'm finishing this post while the kids are home from school, which means no silence and full daylight. But it's been a week and I had to have my fix. It's -3 degrees outside and I needed a small fire for my chilled soul.

My one leg folded underneath me is cold and falling asleep.

Extend. Switch sides. Repeat.

Monday, January 20, 2014


A new year. A new leaf?

I'm sure you've already noticed an obvious change here. 

I have been going through a "mid-write" crisis, ironically occurring as I continue my denial over the need for reading glasses. Whether it's coincidental or orchestrated by a mid-life "awakening," I have been pondering the scope of this blog. And when insomnia kept me awake into the wee hours of the night over this, I knew that it was time for a change. 

It's January, and in my neck of the woods, it looks like this:

As we started back to school after having an extended winter break due to the Polar Vortex, I had mistakenly assumed that I would have it easy (as a substitute teacher) for a few weeks as everyone returned to school routines. I was wrong. I subbed every single day last week. Also, it was a particularly busy week with the kiddos' extracurricular activities. After school, there were multiple events to attend, often delaying our return home at hours close to bedtime. I had no time to read or write, let alone think. It made me realize that if this were to keep up, then writing this blog would be a nearly impossible task, because if you knew how long it takes me to write one Letter, you'd surely think I'm nuts.

Because I have created a blog that fits perfectly into a square box, I needed to always find my right angles each time I wrote, discarding some brilliant acute and obtuse angles that were also floating around in my head. Not to mention exciting curves and creative lines, too. 

So I am tossing my square box. Letters of Muse shall no longer be limited to writing Letters, but will continue to be a vehicle for my voice, expressing my thoughts and musings. 

You know, like a regular blog. 

I am excited to be able to share posts of any length and format, while still showcasing photography and tidbits of my Life with my Peeps. Hopefully this will allow me to keep up with posts and writing even with a busy schedule. It's all about growing and evolving and following your gut and not being afraid to change. Right?

Changes can be good. I'm changing my camera's auto-focus capability to manual focus, giving me more control, and, in the end, a wider scope. So, things might be a little different around here from here on out, but I hope that you will like it.

And I'm okay with keeping the blog name, Letters of Muse, as is.  It's been my baby for 2.5 years, and I like the sound of it. 

How 'bout you?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dear Polar Vortex 2014

Dear Polar Vortex 2014,

Whoa. You've sent most of the nation into a panic on both physical and emotional levels! Just prior to your predicted arrival, I thought it'd be a good idea to go grocery shopping and stock up for the cold. Well, so did everyone and their cousins. All the stores were raided, and lines were horrendous for pumping gas. Social media exploded with supermarket photos akin to End of the World scenarios. It was also plagued with endless screenshots of weather apps with arctic temps and windchill factors (*raises hand*). We been home for 4 days and counting, so I am sharing what we did whilst you visited. Here are the #TopTen Things We Did during your stay:

10. We wished. Starting before the weekend, we squeezed our eyes shut really tightly and wished with all our mights about school closing due to the frigid temps. Who doesn't want to extend winter vacation? Our first wish came true Saturday night with a call to announce Chinese School closing on Sunday. Whoopee! Then we were blessed with not one, but two days off school. Not much we can do since Mother Nature is to blame, so we just stayed home and thoroughly enjoyed the indoor warmth.

9. We baked. What can be done to fill long stretches of time at home? Make fresh bread! I finally had the time to make tang zhong method bread. With the cold, dry air, I had to double the rising time both times! Though it didn't turn out as fluffy and moist as it was supposed to be, I now have enough experience to tweak and improve the next batch. #BlamingItOnTheDryAir.

8. We watched TV. Kids movies. Cartoons. Tween shows. Football games. Movies. Giada in action. It's been years since I've actually sat down to watch The Food Network. #WhatElseCanWeWatch

7. We learned. My kiddos need lots of help with "what can I do now?" If left alone with no prompts, I will be sure to hear, "I'm bored." Remember the Snap Circuit kits you have? How about the United States of America puzzle? Or there's always Go clean up your huge mess! #GetInSomeEducationalActivities Cuz then we do a lot of the next one.

6. We wasted time. Lots and lots of screen time. #ItISWinterBreak

5. We knitted. I pulled out my gear for a new project! This is a great multitasking activity in front of the tube. I may actually finish something with the help of these extra days off! #GoodForMySoul

4. We thought about reorganizing played games. We played Pictionary Jr. and Charades. We screamed, we mimed, we laughed, we cried. We ran around like ostriches and danced The Hammer. We were a bunch of crazy fools having some good old fashioned family fun. #CanWePlayAgain

3. We experimented. We watched awesome videos on social media (lots of boiling water stunts) and tried to see what we can do with this possibly once-in a lifetime outdoor temp. We sprayed water outside with a spray bottle (cuz it was easier than boiling water) and put a glass of water outside to freeze (cuz we have no imagination whatsoever) (and 8 oz of water still takes a long time to freeze). #DorkyGeeks

2. We got mail. I wasn't going to let this Arctic Blast go without seeing how it actually feels. The mailbox seemed like a good goal for a quick outing. The time it took for me to get bundled up (in scarf, coat, hat, snow pants, snow boots, and gloves) was way longer than my time being outside. Verdict: for the short time I was out there, I was fine, but my fingers got cold real quick. #NowIKnow

1. We cleared the sink. I actually saw the bottom of my kitchen sink on these days at home after three square meals a day. This could be my greatest accomplishment of 2014. Because it's #AllDownhillFromHere

The temperature is now in the positive range, and we fully expect to be in school tomorrow. Come this weekend (high of 37), we'll all be peeling off our winter coats and dancing about outdoors rejoicing the heatwave. There will be shorts and flip flops around here, I guarantee it.

So, Dear Polar Vortex 2014, we were of the fortunate peeps who had heat and food and were excused from school and work. Not everyone was as lucky during your tipsy visit. Photos around the nation showed people braving the cold out of necessity (thank you, Mr. Mailman!) I hope that your temporary presence left negligible permanent damage. As for us, we enjoyed being indoors (no cabin fever!) and having nothing pressing to do. We won't be so happy come June and have to make up the two school days, but that's six months away. At least we'll have warmth then.

Lastly, it was nice to meet your acquaintance, but once is enough even for the bravest of us! You've made your mark, so ta ta for good!


P.S. I did a little reading on the reason behind this record-breaking phenomenon. The Polar Vortex is the air that spins around the North Pole, but has come off its kilter these few days. It is being compared to a spinning figure skater who has extended his/her arms to slow down but got off balanced and tipped over. This mass of low pressure air descended upon us as a result. The cause for this broken top is too much arctic ice melting and the heat reentering the atmosphere, throwing off the Polar Vortex air. It is basically and unfortunately global warming in action. Source: npr.