Focusing on Foundations – Writing 101

Carol A. Hand

What do I do besides write? In the past, I did lots of things, but I rarely had time to write. Now that I’m retired, I do write. I also garden and do minor – well maybe not so minor – repairs. When I first moved to my old handyman’s special house in October of 2011, I inherited a number of surprises. Initially, I only noticed strengths and potential, until I moved in. That’s when I realized all of the things that needed to be fixed. The first step was to remove all of the things that hid the basic structure and foundation so I could begin there.

In many respects, working on my house and yard reminds me of writing – going back to the foundation to repair what I can. The transformation isn’t often visible, but it matters. A lot. It needs to be solid to support the things that can be seen. Given limited financial resources, but many odd carpentry skills, I’ve done many of the unpleasant jobs myself, like cleaning up the basement.


Photo: Basement Before – February 2013


Photo: Basement After Bleaching, Patching and Painting

Even with more visible changes, I can easily forget where I began. I’m grateful I have some photos to remind me. Transforming the yard also required removing things to uncover foundations.


Photo: Front Yard Before – 2011

I forget the stages of transformation – removing old lawn ornaments, cutting through sod, building raised beds, hauling new soil wagon by wagon, and framing other future garden spaces with bricks.


Photo: Spring 2014


Photo: Still a Work in Progress – August 2015

Often – regrettably – I realize that the work is never really done and the processes of maintenance and transformation are not without messes …


Photo: Debris from garden shed and buckthorn tree removal – September 2015


Photo: Garden in Process after Removing Buckthorn Tree – September 2015

But attending to foundations and transformations has its rewards.

  • A freezer that is filling once again with healthy food to remind me of summer’s light and warmth in the long, cold winter ahead;
  • Memories of working with my daughter and grandchildren in the processes of maintenance, transformation, and harvesting – hopefully a foundation of a different kind for them as well – of love and laughter while working together, new knowledge and skills, the courage to take on new challenges, and the tenacity to see them through to completion;
  • A blog filled with reflections that have helped me return to ever-deeper foundations – to patch cracks and clean mold;
  • A collection of stories filled with memories to plant new seeds and leave a legacy for my daughter and grandchildren – stories about both joy and suffering – stories like the ones I wish I had inherited from generations before. My daughter and grandchildren are a central part of some of those stories and one of the main reasons why I write.


Photo: Family – Duluth, MN – Summer 2009


15 thoughts on “Focusing on Foundations – Writing 101

    1. Funny, Diane! That would be a boring post – but I have done it often enough in the past. (I even considered a job where that would have been my primary focus. I’m glad I declined despite the promised salary and prestige…)


  1. First of all, may I compliment you on your M&R (maintenance and repair or restoration) skills, Carol. The pics speak of regular housekeeping that duly reflects in the beauty of your lawns, flowering plants and pathways. The labour is not only therapeutic but also, through actively involving other members of family, serves as an example for the up and coming generation…best wishes.

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