Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Be Still...and Begin Your New Year Well

be still and begin your new year well
I sit alone in my office. Holiday's have blessed us with time off but it also means we must take our turns holding down the fort on our own, manning the ship so others can rest. My eldest is here, warming the foyer seats as he works on a school project. There's a new leak in the roof and a big chunk of ceiling tile has collapsed on the carpet {groan!}. This place is still drunk with the leftovers of the Christmas Eve service and I'm sure I should be trying to get it tidied up but I myself am still drunk on a full stomach and little sleep and the idea of putting away Christmas makes me sad.

I get a lot done when I'm the only one here. The silence nudges me to productivity and I find that I don't mind it that much - especially when it means I can have the rest of the week off.

It's almost a new year. I cleaned up my bulletin board because that seemed an appropriate activity to herald in a fresh beginning. Among the old post-its and drawings by my children I found a poem written on legal paper - some personal piece birthed from a exercise during one of our {less painful} staff meeting devotions.

Stillness is circular 
      and calm is a breath.
Have we not wings with which to fly
      and a voice with which to sing?

BE STILL...

A mother may rock her baby in the cradle of a wishing well
      but her peace is not silence -
            Hearts beat loud around this world.

KNOW...

Rock me gently - 
       this belly is dark and
I'm wrapped up tight in this intestinal dungeon.
But that I might be spewed out upon a beach
      to bake beneath the SON of forgiveness.

I AM...

To rest in the bow
To sleep, perchance to dream...
To hold high some vision of clarity - 
For future and hope
      all spelled out in one word of strength.
One word upon which all worlds and lives and wars are built.
      One word.

LOVE

I wish I remembered the inspiration behind this - the prompting that brought it out of me - but even without it, I think it's a beautiful creed to apply to the upcoming year:

Take time to breathe. Bask in stillness but don't forget the world. Keep on reaching and never stop loving.

And that's all we really need, isn't it?

May you find the moments you need, as we approach 2016, to reflect on what matters and set aside what doesn't - to dwell on goodness and celebrate victories, both big and small!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

What I Didn't Get For Christmas

What I didn't get for Christmas - by Alanna Rusnak
I see blue sky peeking through the sheer curtains when the children hitch up beside my bed and whisper, "It's 8:01, Mommy."

The sun is shining and summertime bugs buzz stupidly against the dining room window as I pour water into the coffeemaker and press start, marveling at the mild temperature and the green green grass that still graces our entire property.

"If it's not a white Christmas, my life is over!" Liam announced more than once as the day grew closer but he's all bouncy and smiley as the coffee starts to gurgle through its brewing and I'm quite sure he's forgotten his end-of-life threats as he tells me, "I've been snooping in my stocking! But I didn't touch it! You just said we weren't allowed to touch it!!"

I'd told them 8 am was acceptable. I'd told them they weren't allowed to wake me until then. I'd told them there was no Christmas before the sun came up and I'm thrilled they cared enough for my hours of sleep to respect that.

They go and wake their father who groggily joins us by the tree, fully dressed though the rest of us are happily in our pajamas and plan to be for hours...or at least until we have to pack up and go visit other family.

We drink our coffee and watch the children spread their stocking contents into every imaginable corner of the house, the younger ones accepting the magic of it all without question and yes, the reindeer really must have loved the sugar cubes we left them!

I make waffles and bacon and hash browns and I put a bowl of grapes in the center of the table so we can pretend there's something healthy about what we're doing.

We eat and clean up and prepare to open gifts.

I didn't have a Christmas list this year. I normally don't. I don't need anything.

But that didn't stop the children.

When I opened one of Noa's homemade gifts, I oohed and aahed and held out the half egg carton with a white disc glued in one of the spaces. "What is it?" I asked, after exclaiming over its beauty.

"It's an egg," she said. "I thought you'd like an egg."

Ha!

But the thrill it gave her to glue it together, wrap it up, stick on a little 'love Noa' card, and stick it under the tree...? That's everything!

If I did make a list - an honestly selfish Christmas list - I would include the following:
  • one trip to Italy
  • one USB Typewriter
  • one VW bus {with matching curtains - like this 1978 option}
  • new windows for the west side of my house
  • a log cabin in the south field
  • a coffee maker that changes cheap coffee into heaven-in-a-cup
  • one publishing contract with a generous advance

But I made no such list and so I opened no such gift because maybe Christmas {thought the Grinch} doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more...

Now it's two days later and we've eaten our fill, laughed until we made new wrinkles, found homes for new trinkets and made plans for a huge bonfire to rid ourselves of all the wrappings and trappings. Our heads are buzzed, our bodies are weary, and our hearts are full with the realization that if you took it all away - all tinsel and the bustle and the money spent - we'd still have Christmas and it would still be good because somehow, an old egg carton holds a lot more heart than a shiny new Volkswagen.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

When You Feel Bi-Polar About Your Manuscript

when you feel bi-polar about your manuscript - Alanna Rusnak

Monday: la-di-da...skipping through the daisies...this story is so beautiful I want to pinch myself...

Tuesday: I-can't-even. Who wrote this crap?

Wednesday: Wow! Did I write this? This is really good. This is really, really, really good.

Thursday: Garbage.

Friday: Maybe it's worth it...oh, I don't know...but maybe...?

Is this normal? Because it really doesn't feel like it should be normal. It feels like I should be on medication or something...

Self-doubt has got to be the biggest joy-blocker of all and the crazy roller-coaster of 'I love it'/'I hate it' is so much worse than those childhood anxieties of 'he loves me'/'he loves me not' - because, let's be honest, we all pre-counted the petals and only played with the flowers that had an even number...

There's no petal-counting when it comes to a manuscript - there's just seeing your heart bled out on a page so vulnerable that the idea of quitting holds more weight than accepting that by putting it out there you're opening yourself up to the possibility that it won't be loved with the same nurturing attention you've given part of your life for.

There is so much garbage out there - things I can't even believe made it through traditional publishing avenues and ended up on bookstore shelves - and the idea that anyone anywhere could categorize my work in the same place makes me feel sick. 

But here's the thing: it's all subjective.

I happen to LOVE books about zombies or vampires and I steer clear of anything in the romance section.

You might LOVE romance and want to burn a vampire book in a cleansing fire.

I think anything written by James Rollins is a brilliant journey into a world of science, possibility and mystery. You might find it dry with facts and figures.

Just because someone doesn't adore books by Anne Rice or Ted Dekker doesn't mean they're bad writers. It only means they write to a certain demographic.

A writer's job is to know their audience and write to them. Because they are the one's that will read it and {hopefully} love it - and not stick it on the garbage shelf.

But what if I want everyone to love it? ...SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP!

*sigh*

The stupid thing is that all my worry is unfounded. I have beta-readers returning positive thoughts and that should be propelling me forward - not spinning me backwards to reveal the 'not good enough' devil voice, spilling oil out over my hard-spun words.

I am my own worst enemy.

"Is it garbage?" I ask myself, nervously squinting at my pages.

Not today! 

I think...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In Defense of Name-Calling

In defense of name-calling by Alanna Rusnak
So there's this woman who's got the kind of vitality that makes you feel like you've had glitter shaken all over you after just one full minute in her presence. She's vibrant and bouncy and takes every opportunity - even when she's much too busy - just to say, "Hello, Beautiful!"

If everyone in my life had her atta-girl approach I might be a whole lot closer to my dreams!

The thing is, when she says, "Hey, Sweetie!" or "Thanks, Dear!" or "See you later, Darling!" I like it! It makes me feel like I am being seen beyond a cursory glance - like I am important enough and precious enough to warrant a title of endearment.

The strange thing is she recently came and apologized to me for not being professional in the way she addressed me.

WHAT?!

For goodness sake! 

I shook my head like she'd lost her mind, trying to whip some of that glitter back at her to smarten her up. "Never stop!" I said.

Because professionalism isn't relevant to people who have a relationship that involves knowing the names of each others children or the depths of varying aspirations.

Professionalism has its place - yes. 

But I want to be called Darling, darn-it!

And if we're friends, if I consider you more than a casual acquaintance, you can call me any sweet name you well please! {except Girlfriend, Pooh Bear, Princess, or Shnookums, of course.}

Some acceptable options {in case you're wondering} Babe, Beautiful, Cutie, Darling, Dear, Doll, Hon, Honey, Love, Momma, Pumpkin, Sweetheart, and Sweetie...to name a few. 

It makes my morning when the drive-thru girl hands me my coffee and says, "There you go, Love. Have a nice day."

And I will have a nice day. You know why? Because a stranger made me feel precious. A stranger!

The world is an ugly place. Let's not rid it of one more sliver of whatever rare niceness it has left. 

Now, for crying out loud, could someone please call me Sweet Momma and put the world back into its proper orbit?!

Excuse me. I need to go eat some chocolate.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thrift Blitz Episode Six


So...remember way back when I dreamed up this whole Thrift Blitz thing and I said it was going to be a monthly celebration of thrifty joy?

Yeah.

I'm a ball dropper.

Episode Five was in June. June!

How completely unacceptable. Not because I think anyone is sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for the next Blitz, but because I have such a love for thrifted treasures that it just seems strange I haven't been compelled to share.

Well friends, the wait is over!



Sadly, no one came out to play during my last episode and so I have no reader feature to share *sad face* --let this be a lesson: link up with your own treasures at the bottom of this post and you could see yourself shared right here during episode seven {which will not be five months away...I hope}.


1. Woodstock Remembered Me Shirt {Value Village, $3.99}


This just screams 'Concert In A Muddy Field' doesn't it? I haven't actually figured out how to wear it because the sleeves have these full cutouts in them that don't lend themselves well to layers. I may have to save this beauty for summertime.

The colour is vibrant and it just reeks of happiness, like by putting it on I'd be donning a blissful 'Give Peace A Chance' attitude.





 





2. Just One Shade Of Grey Cardi {Value Village, $1.99}

 With winter nearly upon us, layers are a necessity in my life. Because layers. Mmmmmm...warmth!

{And can we Canadian's just pause for a moment and thank the weatherman for this mild December?!?! Sure, Christmas isn't quite Christmas without a fresh blanket of snow but seriously, how amazing is it that today is December 10th and I haven't even turned on my furnace yet??!! All that being said, if we pay for this later on in bitter cold that lasts until June I'm running away and moving in with my Texan friend...}

3. Them College Patches Knit {Value Village, $2.99}

I don't even know how to express my LOVE for this sweater! It is cozy. It is winter-ready. It is kind of adorable. I want to wear it everyday. I won't...but I want to.

4. Summer Sweetly Blouse {Value Village, $2.99}




This was just too sweet to leave behind. I love the delicate flower pattern and its flowy fabric. 

The tag says 'hand wash or dry clean only' to which I said "Pshaw!!" 

Happily, it handled the washer just fine.

{One of my thrifting rules is to NEVER purchase something requiring dry cleaning. BUT for $3 I figured it was worth the risk of an experimental washing.}












5. All That Glitters Necklace {Value Village, $4.99}


This not-gold necklace is quite heavy and its pretty palette pairs really well with the Summer Sweetly blouse above. 

I feel a little like I was tricked into buying it - only because I went into Value Village on a 50% off day and I didn't realize until I was going through the cash that jewellery wasn't actually included in the sale. Grrr. But I liked it and I figured I was saving so much on my other purchases that I deserved something pretty.













6. Put A Little Wood On It Bracelet {Value Village, $1.99}


I just liked it. That is all.

7. I Hope Colin Firth Is In This Book Book {Value Village, $3.99}

Confession: I haven't read any of the Bridget Jones books but I adore the movies {is there anything with Colin Firth that isn't worth watching?} and when I saw this I thought, why not? The only problem is that I will now have to search for the others in the series. Because nothing is worse than a shelf holding an incompletely series. {Actually, a lot of things are worse...but, you know...appropriate emphasis and all that...}

8.
Runaway Collection Suitcases {The Church Basement & My Mother's House, $0}

Free things make my heart sing! 

There was a recent mass clean out at our church and A LOT of stuff went into the trash. I was able to salvage two older suitcases which serve brilliantly as extra storage in my living room AND that beauty of a cardboard one on top? That belonged to my Nana and my mother passed it along as they were packing up during a recent move.


Now it's your turn. What great finds have you made recently?  Share them in the comments, link up your post using the inlinkz tool below, or tweet it with the hashtag #ThriftBlitz {be sure to add @alannarusnak to your tweet to make sure I see it, or just use the button below}.


Happy thrifting!





May your finds be gorgeous and your wallet eternally grateful!

Monday, December 7, 2015

DIY Mason Jar Christmas Decor

how to make a mason jar christmas tree

Let's start off with a little honesty, shall we?

I've shared this before. Two years ago actually. BUT, it's such an easy, Christmasy craft that lends itself to years of Christmasy bliss, I just had to share it again!

As much as I wish this was my original idea, it's not. The great beast that is Pinterest planted this beauty in my head and all I've done is taken the brilliance of someone else and tweaked it to my own liking.

With that being said, here is my recipe for Christmas cuteness in a jar!

how to make a mason jar Christmas tree


  •  salt
  • glitter
  • glue gun
  • mini trees
  • mason jars
  • sparkly pretties







 1. Gather & prep your supplies. I visited the local dollar store for mini trees, glitter, and sparkly things. {The trees are usually available leading up to Christmas wherever they shelve the bits for building your own little Christmas village.} I have a rather large supply of mason jars so I just pulled some from the cold-room shelves and gave them a good wash and dry.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree
2. Attach the trees. Use a generous bead of hot glue on the underside of your lid and secure the trees there.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree
3. Add your pretties. Shake in some glitter and sparkly bits to the bottom of your jar. By adding this first it won't end up totally covered by your 'snow' in the next step. {I used silver sequins, beads, and snowflakes that were part of a Dollorama Christmas card-making kit.}

how to make a mason jar christmas treehow to make a mason jar christmas tree

4. Let it snow. I'm sure there are many options for snow but because I wasn't planning to add water and turn these into snow globes I chose to use good old kitchen salt and simply poured it into the jars on top of the glitter.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree5. Put on your lid & flip it over. My trees were a little wider than the mouth of my jar so I had to coax them gently through the opening. When you turn the jar, the 'snow' will settle around the base of the tree and hide that ugly plastic.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree6. Decorate. This is the point, right? I put these beauties in special little spaces around the house and I love their wintry look!

how to make a mason jar christmas tree

how to make a mason jar christmas tree
 ...and two years later they're still standing up well! The salt has hardened into place now but it hasn't lessened the Christmas appeal.

Happy Christmas crafting!

p.s. I'm finally working on another Thrift Blitz episode that will hopefully be ready to go live by the end of the week. Get your posts ready to link up - I want to see what thrifty treasures you've found!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Eulogy For A Blog Title {A Farewell To SelfBinding Retrospect}

a farewell to selfbinding retrospect - a eulogy for a blog title - Alanna RusnakI hate the sound goodbye's make.

I don't know where I first heard that saying. I found it in one of my old notebooks, hastily scribbled in the margins in red pen because, for whatever reason, in the moment I heard it, it felt profound.

Goodbye's are ugly.

Sure, they're beautiful too - they force you to pause and appreciate all you had and all you will miss in the leaving. But yeah...they're ugly. Like the time I realized my sister would be in Paraguay for a whole year and the world wasn't quite small enough for me to wrap my arms around it {resulting in a public mess of snot and tears}.

To everything there is a season. A time to be born and a time to die and it was with this sentiment that SelfBinding Retrospect, the sweet companion who has held my secrets for FIVE YEARS, has been put to rest.


She went gently - drifting away into some tender, euthanasic dream cycle with minimal protest - with little more than the whisper of a sigh.

This was not a mercy killing. No. It was more of a forced evolution - like a Plasticine flower being suddenly shaped into a seashell.

"I'm disappointed that you're done with SelfBinding," my husband said as he crawled into bed the other night.

"Really?" I was surprised - not that he cared...but that it mattered. "Why?"

"I liked it. I thought it was clever."

I remember the day she was born. We still lived in the little house on Queen Street and I was sitting on the covered porch {goodness, I miss that porch!} steaming coffee poised beside my laptop on our tiny bistro table, staring at the screen that demanded I name the blog I was about to start.

One of the songs I'd written as a polyester-wearing-hippie-wanna-be-teenager had the word 'self-binding' in it. 

stranded paperback poetry
self-binding and everywhere in between

That term - that self-binding - it meant a million different things but of all of them, the truest was that to each of us, we are our own world; it spins for our pleasure; we are bound to every choice, every dream, every moment that holds us captive. We are all self-bound because we are all - at the core - consumed by self. And what else is a blog but an archive of our own self-awareness - our own retrospect of our self-binding awareness?

And as I boldly typed her name with that blinking cursor, she was birthed into the internet world of a billion other internet voices and for five good years she has carried my stories and cradled my words.

But I want more.

And I want it with less work.

A little over a year ago I bought my own domain name and set up a website devoted solely to my writing pursuits. Through attending various seminars and workshops, I recognized that I needed an online space to showcase my 'talents' and give a clear picture of what I could offer should my dream of actual physical publication come true.

I loved my website. It was pretty and professional and received steady traffic which made me proud and even more determined to keep on pursuing this craziness.

BUT...

Managing two completely separate online spaces was becoming an increasingly heavy load to bear. There are things I liked about it - I actually enjoy digging into the coding and manipulating things to look the way I want - I love the design element of it, crafting buttons and images to support my personal branding BUT doing this in two spaces {that are not paying me for my time} became exhausting and, when I really looked at it, utterly ridiculous.

Why was I doing this to myself?

So the decision was made: take two sites and make them one. 

And, because my ultimate goal is to market myself as an author, Alanna Rusnak had to pull more weight than SelfBinding Retrospect.

Still...I feel a small nudge of grief when I think SBR will no longer carry my story forward but really, what's more me than Alanna Rusnak?

And so we move forward. We say goodbye to past titles and move on to a promising future, believing that change is positive and from it, great possibilities will be birthed.

Fair thee well, SelfBinding Retrospect - may the heaven of deceased blog titles cradle you like the sweet treasure you are.