Monday, March 23, 2015

Tutorial: Book Planters

I saw these magnetic book boxes at Michael's and knew they had to be turned into bookend planters. The English ivy planter above was the first one I made and it got such an overwhelmingly positive response when I posted it in a craft group that I knew I had to make a couple more so I could photograph the process for a tutorial.

This project is very simple and doesn't take much time. I made both the London and the butterfly book planters while sitting outside waiting for the school bus. 

These are the materials you will need:

  • cardboard book-shaped box with a magnetic edge (I found these at Michael's)
  • potting soil
  • gravel
  • small plants
  • two storage bags (I used quart freezer bags for the larger box and sandwich bags for the smaller. If you're using a larger box you may need gallon freezer bags)
  • clear packing tape
  • scissors
  • box knife
  • small shovel

Pick a small plant or two that will be happy growing in a small container. I put English Ivy in the first planter, which I think will look amazing once it grows in. For this tutorial I chose succulents. These are Blue Elf Sedeveria, Hummel's Sunset Jade, and Firestorm Sedum. Book plants, meet world. World, meet book plants. 

This is one of my book boxes. It has a magnetic strip along one edge to keep it closed. Now we get to transform it from a confusing object of unknown purpose into something pretty and useful.

Take your box knife and carefully score around the top edge of the box.

Cut along your score and removed the panel, leaving a small width on both of the narrow ends.

Cut the zipper edge off the storage bags.

Place one of the bags inside the other, lining up the top edges. The double layer will reinforce the planter pocket and hopefully keep water from leaking through if one of the bag seals fails. 

Tape the bags together around the edges, then nestle the bags into the book. Tape around the top edge, overhanging the tape on the outside of the book to make the top edge water resistant. At this point, you'll probably want to close the book and tape along the top edge of the magnetic side but I left mine open for now to illustrate the next step.

Pour a 1-2 inch layer of gravel into the planter for drainage. Fill the planter most of the rest of the way with potting soil.

Add your plant or plants and fill in around it with potting soil within about 1/4" of the top of the planter.

Fill the last 1/4" of the planter with gravel. In addition to being decorative, this will help with moisture retention and keep gnats from moving in.

All done! Brush off any stray dirt and bring your new little friends inside.

Give them a little water (make sure to water slowly so it doesn't overflow the planter) and set them up on a sunny shelf so they can enjoy the view.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Author's Note - The Crystal Lattice

I never thought this book would meet the eyes of readers, but it turned out my eldest baby has a mind of his own and is determined to use it. The first draft of The Crystal Lattice was written when I was a twenty-one year old college student with too much time on her hands during summer break. It was written on scraps of paper while solo camping in the Ozarks, on napkins during midnight Steak n Shake runs, and eventually on my bulky old desktop PC. It was a disaster. My narrator aimlessly wandered about the wilderness for something like 150 pages before figuring out what he should be doing, and then I couldn't figure out the ending so I gave up and filed it away.

A few years after college I was working a temp job in Kansas and was struck by an epiphany about how to finish the book, which I hadn't thought about in years. I pitched my thoughts to a coworker, who was almost as excited as I was. He ended up being my first reader and the person I tossed ideas at to help solidify them in my head. A few weeks later, the second draft was complete. It was horrible, but we both saw potential in it. I filed it away for a while since I was inspired to write Echoes of Oblivion, then Mayfly Requiem, then Shadows of Absolution.

Twelve years after walking away from the abomination of a first draft, here I am completing it again. It has been completely rewritten twice, edited, reedited, filed away and found again, names have been changed, characters have been dropped, and the heart of the story has been discovered and embraced. A lot has happened in those twelve years - college graduation, jobs, several out-of-state moves, a marriage and three children, diagnoses and illnesses and injuries - but I wanted to preserve Tesji's young voice, a challenge as my thirty-something voice often tried to take over and delete some of immaturity essential to the character.

Those who have already read my other books may be interested to find that The Crystal Lattice is where the Aulors and Web lore originated. The first five Malora books were written well-after this one. Someone told me that my little fable about the fall of Ganebra would make a good story on its own, and that one, simple, possibly drunken comment sparked five books. I still blame this all on you, Jason. To everyone else, thank you for joining me on this millennia-long journey. There are still two books after this one (one on each side chronologically), so I hope I can keep you entertained for just a little bit longer before I bounce on to another world.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Good Morning

Good morning, lady.
You'd glare if I called you that.
You're no lady,
Just a woman, a mother, a wife.
Other labels have peeled away
to leave you feeling somewhat hollow.
You let the shower warm up
while you brush your teeth.
Mist settles on your collection
of rusty pink razors
and empty shampoo bottles.
The baby coos at you from her bouncy seat.
Her brother wakes in search of the remote,
and cartoon theme songs echo off the tiles.
Your pajamas come off
and you cringe at your reflection.
All you see is a pile of flaws,
but you shouldn't.
Your thighs do not thunder.
They are the concentrated strength
that lets you run, bike, play.
They are the soft lap
your children seek when they need comfort.
You scratch at your stretch marks.
They are warrior tattoos,
symbols of the trials you survived.
Your stomach is not dough,
it is a patterned pillow
where your children rest their heads.
It was their first home,
and where you first fell in love with them.
Your breasts are not ugly, not ruined.
They nourished your children,
were the remedy to their discomfort,
were why they smiled as they dreamed.
I know you feel lost,
like your old self is gone forever,
but it isn't.
You just need a little time
so be patient, you'll get there,
you'll find your way back to yourself.
You don't need to smile yet,
just breathe.
Your weary face is beautiful.
The baby giggles at you,
her favorite thing in the world,
her entire world.
Lady, magnificent mama,
step into that shower,
and wash your self-loathing away.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Out of the Darkness

I'm sitting in the dark to write this. It seems to be the only appropriate way to get it out of my head since the last year was so bleak. Bright flecks bracketed the gloom, but what happened between the parentheses has left me scarred. I'm working on turning the lights back on and it's almost bright enough to return to writing my way through my imagination.

The short version: I have a fifteen week old now, my third and final baby. My pregnancy and postpartum were full of complications so I'm still recovering.

The longer version:

I had my first midwife appointment the day after I got a positive test. I had a history of hyperemesis gravidarum so we needed to be proactive with my treatment in case it happened again. It did. By 5.5 weeks I couldn't keep anything down anymore and started taking an anti-nausea medication, Diclegis. It helped at first, but it made me so sleepy that I couldn't drive more than the mile to get Turbokid to and from school. Messy Mouse trashed the house while I dozed on the couch.

By eight weeks I was on the maximum dosage of my medication and was running out of safe foods. I was vomiting between 15 and 30 times a day. I was triggered by the shower, by the color chartreuse, by certain sounds, and by every smell. I could no longer drink water, and wouldn't be able to again for another sixteen weeks. My husband was out of the country for work so I was alone for ten days with a preschooler, a toddler, and an inability to stand up for more than five minutes without vomiting. My kids' whole foods diet became a steady stream of veggie burgers, veggie dogs, bread, fries, carrots, and applesauce.

I forced myself to sew my son's Halloween costume but I was too sick to take him trick-or-treating. My entire body ached from the frequent vomiting and lack of nutrition. We went to a friend's Halloween party and I spent almost the entire hour we stayed in the bathroom. The rosy glow in my cheeks was due to broken capillaries.

At fifteen weeks I hit my critical dehydration point. The midwife couldn't find the baby's heartbeat with the doppler. After a terrifying five minutes of searching, she took me in a different room for an ultrasound. My heart rate was fast and the baby's was slow, so they matched and she couldn't tell them apart with just the doppler. The midwives tried giving me a shot of phenergan. I vomited foamy acid into the sink, became agitated, and the walls started to move. They sent me home after two liters of IV fluids and making sure the baby's heart rate was back up in a less scary range.

Less than 48 hours later, it was Thanksgiving and I was in the ER pleading with my body to just get it over with and let me die. The vomiting was continuous, my pulse and breathing were rapid, my balance was poor, and I was so confused I couldn't figure out how to fill out the forms. I had lost seventeen pounds and it would have been more if I hadn't spent the previous seven weeks on partial bedrest to conserve calories. The IV Zofran the ER gave me made me hallucinate and projectile vomit. It took 2.5L of fluids before I could bring my thoughts into some sort of focus. I was diagnosed with a UTI, given IV antibiotics and a printout of ridiculous "tips" to combat HG, and sent home with a 10 day course of oral antibiotics. It was a fight to keep them down. I lived off a soy pediatric drink for two weeks because my stomach was so irritated from a week of vomiting every 15 minutes that it couldn't handle anything solid.

At the beginning of December I started having headaches like electric shocks to my left temple. They were brief, but frequent and excruciating. My doctor determined they weren't dangerous and were the result of nerve irritation from excessive vomiting. I had electric shock bursts 5-10 times a day for several months before the extreme pain faded to tingling. I still have strange sensations in my temple so I think the nerve is damaged.

Just after Christmas I had my anatomy scan. I chose not to find out the sex of the baby. I wanted to separate the baby from the awful pregnancy and keeping her anonymous until birth was the only way I could think to do that. The baby was healthy.

In early January I started to slowly gain back the weight I lost. My first attempt at weaning of the Diclegis was a disaster that nearly required another IV. I ended up not being able to wean off it until about 28 weeks.

February was my best month, even with the broken toe I sustained from knocking a can off the counter. I can't remember if that happened in January or February because it ended up being an insignificant injury, though it was painful at the time. I was able to go back to the gym, though all I did was walk on the treadmill while the kids went nuts in the child care center.

March was cataclysmic. At the end of February, I caught a respiratory infection. It progressed quickly from congestion to a bronchial cough. I went to urgent care on Monday when I spiked a fever and coughed up pink. I was diagnosed with bacterial bronchitis and started on antibiotics. I started getting better, but then on Friday I coughed up blood and coughed hard enough to feel a pop in my lower left ribs. The doctor thought I'd fractured a rib and the bronchitis was turning into pneumonia so he gave me an antibiotic shot in my hip and a prescription for Tylenol 3. I stopped coughing blood. Sunday night around 10pm I was getting ready for bed and had a coughing fit. My left ribs audibly popped as I tried to catch my breath. I couldn't calm my breathing and was in a lot of pain so my husband called a friend to stay with the sleeping kids and took me to the ER. I was given morphine and a chest x-ray. I went home with stronger painkillers and a printout on rib fractures. My husband was flying out for a work trip at 5am Monday so he called his mother to come help me with the kids.

I woke up very early Tuesday morning with a crackle in my left lung. Every breath caused more pops and more pain. The pain spread down my back and up into the hollow of my collarbone. Every movement was agonizing. I knew something was very wrong and drove myself to the ER. After I had a positive D-dimer, the doctor told me he suspected a blood clot in my lung. Since I was seven months pregnant I had to sign a bunch of consent forms for the recommended CT scan. I was afraid the test could hurt the baby, but I knew a life-threatening pulmonary embolism needed to be ruled out. I had a CT with contrast and ultrasounds on my legs. I didn't have any clots, but my left lung wasn't normal, either. I had pleurisy, pleural effusion, a partially collapsed lung, and torn intercostal muscles, though that last one wasn't diagnosed until a month later. There wasn't anything I could do but take Vicodin and wait out the extreme pain. The Vicodin didn't help.

About two weeks later I was starting to feel a little better and could move around a little, but then I fell in a hole in the yard and sprained my ankle. It was the same ankle I had reconstructed when I was in college and I had nerve damage from the repair so I wasn't sure how badly it was sprained. I was given crutches and referred to an orthopedist, who said my old ankle repair was tight and well done so I escaped with a moderate sprain. Unfortunately, I could only use the crutches for a day. The strain on my ribs was too much and my pain level went back up to an 8-10. If I laid in bed on my bad side and didn't move, I was only at an 8, but moving turned it into a pain worse than my worst kidney stone. Several times when the pain or the lingering HG made me vomit, I ended up stuck on the bathroom floor unable to move.

The month of March was pure torture. As the baby grew, more and more pressure was put on my ribcage. It didn't help that she was persistently breech and liked to jam her head into my injured side. I felt like whatever I used to be died months ago and my mind was nothing but a numb shell. That wasn't the beginning of my depression since I was already having issues with it due to the HG earlier on, but it certainly aggravated it. I was in so much pain that I couldn't function. I couldn't take care of myself, let alone my family. I finally got a referral to the pain clinic after the last non-invasive treatment option, lidocaine patches, did nothing. My appointment was in early April, when I was 34 weeks. The doctor examined me and decided that the pain was most likely neuromuscular. He gave me a series of trigger point injections, which released the spasms in the damaged muscles and finally gave me some relief. I was very sore for a couple days afterward, but soon the pain levels were greatly reduced and I could resume living. I still couldn't do any torso-twisting motions and coughing and sneezing were horrible, but after a month of agony just being able to breathe was wonderful.

My muscles relaxed enough to allow the baby to flip head-down just before 35 weeks. That was definitely a relief because I had about run out of room. I measured behind the last six weeks with my first two babies, but this one was bigger and I was measuring ahead. At 35 weeks I was already bigger than I was when I went into labor with the other two even though my weight gain was much lower. I only gained 10 lbs this time compared to the 40 and 35 I gained with my other babies.

My water broke in the morning on May 8th. I didn't have contractions for a couple hours, but once they started up I knew it was going to go fast. After a 2.5 hour labor, my little warrior Elora Eowyn came into the world with a scream. She was born with her right arm next to her head and a true knot in her cord. I had hoped for another waterbirth like I had with Messy Mouse, but since I went from 7 cm to baby out in under 5 minutes with a series of involuntary pushes there was no time to get into the tub.

Our pain journey wasn't quite over yet. I aggravated my torn intercostal muscles from moving around during labor and injured my tailbone during the rapid birth. Elora's face was bruised and her eyes were red with broken capillaries. She screamed whenever she was moved. On day four she was hospitalized overnight for jaundice and we found out the screaming was because her right collarbone had snapped in half on her way into the world. It took about six weeks to heal, and during that time we had to dress her only in front-fastening clothes and swaddle her arm to her chest.

Elora is wonderful now and I love everything about her. She's chubby, smiley, and cooing. I'm still fighting my way out of the darkness, though. All of the physical trauma I went through triggered postpartum depression and anxiety. I've been on antidepressants and going to support groups for two months now, and those have been a great help. I no longer feel so overwhelmed and disconnected from myself and the world. The derealization I had for a while was terrifying, especially when I started feeling lost in my own neighborhood or having panic attacks at the grocery store. I'm coming up on month six of rib pain with no end in sight, but now it usually only bothers me when I move the wrong way or do too much physical activity. I tried a restorative yoga class last weekend but it was still too painful. The tailbone still aches sometimes, but hasn't bothered me much in a month or so.

I'm working on feeling like myself again, both mentally and physically. Progress is slow, but it's still progress. My muscles are starting to feel a little less gelatinous and my mind is leaving surrealism behind. For a while I struggled to write a single coherent sentence, but now my stories are starting to come out of hiding. I'm heading toward rereading what I have already written on Sand Into Glass so I can finish writing the last act of it, but I'm not quite there yet. It's coming back, it will come back, I will come back. It is taking some time to find myself again, but the fight is no longer as daunting as it was a couple months ago. I just need to be patient with myself through the endless days as I battle out of the abyss and back into the light.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Giveaway Time!

Don't you love the mystery a never-before-opened book offers? Those crisp pages have the potential to take you anywhere with anyone and all you have to do is read them, no travel reservations required.

I have five signed copies of Shadows of Absolution to give five lucky readers on Goodreads! This is my favorite book so far in the series, but it has been read the least so I'm trying to find good homes and a little love for it. Shadows falls fifth in the Malora series, but it works well as a stand-alone book so it isn't necessary to read the first four (Mayfly Requiem and the Echoes of Oblivion trilogy) to appreciate it.


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Shadows of Absolution by Courtney M. Privett



          Shadows of Absolution

          by Courtney M. Privett


            Giveaway ends August 21, 2013.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

      Enter to win

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Cliff

Sometimes my mind gets lost. I step to the edge of the cliff and look down. I have no intention of stepping off, I just want to see what is there. Swirling mist and hanging rain? Endless fields of moss roses? Oceans, endless oceans of churning waves and writhing kelp? Nothing, everything, the universe, despair joy? My thoughts wander and I need to remind myself to breathe. I do not lack inspiration, but every effort is rewarded by my body screaming "No!" I retreat and try to force myself to wake.

I spin upon my aching heels and watch the twisted trees sway in a salt breeze. There are words on the wind, clear as glass, sharp and grating. I can dance with them and hold them in my hands, but they refuse to become tangible. The fatigue carries them into a silver box that I am forced to carry with me but not open. The only key is remission, but relief is rare and fleeting, and bracketed by an inability to accomplish anything beyond caring for basic needs. My body refuses to let me heed the call of the twisted trees and the screaming words. I can walk toward the trees but they never get closer, and the words spit scathing insults which burrow under my skin and leave me dazed and breathless.

I turn back toward the cliff to escape the words and nearly fall off the ledge. I can see what is beyond now. Water churns against barnacled rocks. My foot slips. I catch myself but an avalanche of pebbles drop into the water. They plink upon the rocks and are immediately thrashed into oblivion by the waves. If I fell, the violent water would do the same to me. I know I am caught in dreamtime, but this dream is too vivid to be harmless. It is my mind on the precipice of giving up and drifting into a nonchalant cycle varying between asleep and not-quite-awake.

I step back and look down the other side of the cliff. My inspiration sits on a lower ledge -- ragged, filthy, hooded, and surrounded by hungry birds. He is forgotten by society, invisible, a shadow of the brilliant light he once was. I know his story, but he is afraid of me because I know. He is afraid I will reveal his brokenness to the world and drive him from outcast to reviled. I have told the first two-thirds of his story, but he knows it is the last third which will break him. He doesn't realize it will also redeem him. All he sees is the churning water below the cliff, while I see a bigger picture. I see his frailty, his kindness, his longing to be something other than a waif trying to decide if he is ready to lean a little forward and plunge off the bluff. "Wait here," I tell him as he tosses his last piece of bread to the birds. "I will return for you as soon as I wake. I will reveal your life as worthwhile."

I walk away from the cliff. The trees stay distant and the words still wail. I turn around to see where I came from. I no longer see the churning water and the ragged cliff. Instead, I see the light glistening off the tranquil water. I see a piece of my own whole. There is as much beauty in the distant water as there was in the moss roses, in the violent waves, in my fragile muse contemplating his past and future. The fatigue remains, but its sting is lessened. The pain in my hands flares, but it is tolerable for now. I'm afraid to push it toward intolerable, but I must. I promised my inspiration I would return for him, and he will haunt me forever if I don't. He is too beautiful to be forgotten, even as he refuses to reveal his face to anyone but me.

The sun sets, but now I know it will rise again on the other side of the darkness. The fatigue is temporary, part of an endless cycle of day and night. My days and nights are different from most and not restricted by a clock. As the sun falls below the waves, I notice my inspiration upon the shore. He is no longer on the cliff, but instead standing in the sand, his feet licked by the rising tide. I stand with him and reach for his hand. The water is icy. He squeezes my aching fingers and says, "I am no longer afraid of you."

"Neither am I," I reply.

Note: I took these photographs while on a family vacation last week. While looking through them, I realized they had a story to tell just as much as I do.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

To My Children

To my charismatic son, who brings a burst of energy with him wherever he goes and who has recently discovered swordfighting...

...and to my inquisitive daughter, who thinks underwear make splendid hats and is madly in love with Dora the Explorer,

You are growing up so quickly in a world struggling through change. There are still people out there who think it is best for other people to lie about who they are, who want those who are different to shut their mouths and hide from public sight. I am not one of those people, so don't be afraid to be yourself around me. I don't care who you love, as long as that person treats you with the respect and kindness everyone deserves.

You are very young and I admit I do not know you yet. I know your baby-selves, your toddler-selves, but I have no idea who you will grow to be. I don't know what your interests will be, how your personalities will grow, or what kind or people you will be attracted to. As long as you're not hurting yourselves or others, you have my support to be who your heart tells you to be.

I don't know where your life will take you. Will you want your hair short or long, wildly colored or natural? Will you set fashion trends or dress for comfort? Will you want to be an astronaut or a dancer, a chef or a doctor, a rock star or an engineer? Will you want to play soccer or chess or violin? I will nurture your interests even when they differ from my own because I want you to find what you are good at and what makes you happy and use that to create your own fulfilling life.

I don't know where your love will take you. Who will you plaster in poster form on your bedroom walls? Who will you scrawl secret love notes to in your diary? Who will you ask to your high school prom, and will you want to wear a skirt or pants? Will you choose to marry, will you have children, will you grow old with the same person you loved when you were young or wait until you are older to settle down? I'll help you tape your posters to the wall, giddily take pictures of you with your prom date, dance with you at your wedding, and will support you in any way you need as you make a life with the person you love more than you ever dreamed possible.

Respect yourself and others. Be fearless. Be bold. Be yourself. Never lie about who you are to appease others. Most importantly, love. Platonic or romantic love, male or female or outside or in-between, surround yourself by the people you love and who love you in return, and never let anyone drag you down. If someone tries to hurt you, that person isn't worth your love so leave him or her behind and find a person who is worthy of you.

I hope by the time you are grown up the world has grown up with you. Your parents and much of their generation are striving to make the world better for you. We've come a long way, but still have a bit farther to go, so I hope you forgive us if progress ends up being slower than we hoped. Minds are slow to change and there are still a lot of people who think it is their right to force their personal biases on the rest of society. It's difficult to change tradition, even if the tradition is unjust and cruel. It's time to create new traditions so our children will never again be tormented or denied rights because of who they love.

For now, I want you to grow, learn, play, dream, and laugh. Become the wonderful person I know you will be. A better world will be waiting for you when you grow up.

I love you always,