Even Your Darkest Night


Sometimes . . . bad things happen to people.

Job loss.

Kid trouble.

A bad diagnosis.

The death of someone close.

Life's hardest challenges rain down sometimes.

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This week, Carole (who needs our support right now, by the way) asks us about Ten Things to Do to be Supportive When Someone Dies.  I'm going to extend that sentiment a bit  . . . to Ten Things to Do to be Supportive When Someone is Going Through Hell (no matter what the Hell happens to be).

  1. Be there.  Yes.  It's uncomfortable to reach out and talk to someone who is going through hell.  It might even be a little scary.  Do it anyway.  Be there.
  2. Think. . . about how YOU might feel in the same hellish situation.  What would YOU want?  How would you wish your friends would treat you?  Then do that.
  3. Check in.  Ask how they're doing.  Ask what they might need.  Ask if they need to talk.  Ask if they want to share a bottle of wine.  And keep checking in.  (Because once isn't enough.)
  4. Listen.  Let them talk.  Let them ramble.  Let them cry.  Ask them if they'd like to share their story.  (Bring the Kleenex.)
  5. Go outside YOURSELF.  Because, y'know . . . it's not about YOU right now. 
  6. Don't just offer help; HELP.  It sounds supportive and all . . . if you say, "Let me know if I can do something."  But that's Not Helpful.  (Not really.)  Because that's just putting the ball in the suffering-person's court.  Instead . . . HELP.  DO something.  Call . . . and say, "I'm at the grocery store right now; what can I bring you?"  Don't wait for a request; just . . . help.
  7. Stay in touch.  Call.  Send personal notes.  Write emails.  Visit.  Bring wine. And stay in touch for the long haul.
  8. Bring food.  (Preferably in containers that don't need to be returned.)  Because people need to eat.  And food prep is hard when you're in pain.
  9. Remember . . . that grief and shock and pain . . . are different for everyone.  No judgement.  Just support.  We each follow our own path when it comes to grief and "dealing with it."  Understand that, and honor someone else's journey.
  10. Share your memories and hopes for tomorrow.  Because it's important to remember a shared past -- and to look toward a brighter future.

This topic is not the cheeriest . . . but life (and, sadly, death) happens to all of us . . . and it's best we support each other through even the darkest nights.


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here

And Then . . . All At Once . . . It Was Gone

It always seems to happen this way.

One day, you're soaking up the sun . . . comfortable . . . in shorts and flip-flops . . . watching the butterflies in your garden and thinking it might go on like this forever.

And then?


Those blustery clouds roll in, bringing chilling wind and drizzle with them.

The butterflies skee-daddle.  The flowers decide the show is over.  And the leaves finally begin to turn.


It happens to the best of us.

We get cold.

We have to dig out the socks.  Maybe our jeans.  We might even wish we had remembered to pack a hat.

Adios, summer.

À bientôt!

(I'll be holding you in my heart.)


Right Now - September 2015

I'm sort of wondering . . . what happened to September.  Because it seems to have just evaporated right before my very eyes! 



Here's what's happening for me . . . Right Now.


Watching . . . my bathroom be demolished right before my very eyes!  (Yes.  It will be worth it in the end.  For now?  Just a giant mess and a lot of hassle.)  (A Jacuzzi tub used to live there. . . )

Reading . . . Undermajordomo Minor.  (The title alone is click-bait, n'est-ce pas?)  (If you're a fan of Princess Bride, you might want to pick this one up.)  I'm also reading Girl on the Train for my book group.  (I know.  Late to this party.)  (Also - not really my style.  But reading anyway because book group.)


Knitting . . . a sweater.  This one.  As usual, with sweaters-in-pieces, I do the sleeves first.  It's slow going lately, as life has been busy and getting in the way of my knitting.


Listening to . . . Black Violin.  (Classical meets HipHop.  Really.  Check it out.)

Planning . . . where to plant my spring bulbs.  I have daffodil, crocus, allium, and grape hyacinth -- over 150 bulbs -- and I'll be so happy next spring!

Needing to . . . get on with my KonMari-ing, which has taken a backseat during gardening season.  Now that the garden is winding down, I'll have time to sort and toss and find joy again.


Drinking . . . our home-brewed IPA.  (Really, it's all Tom's doing -- but I assist with the transfers and bottling).  (And it's quite tasty, by the way!)

Itching to . . . head up north for a nice fall weekend.  I'm hoping the weather cooperates for a nice fall hike in the woods.  (Even though the leaves haven't really gotten going yet.)


Dreading . . . pumpkin spice everything!  At the grocery store on Monday - in just one aisle - I saw PS marmallows, PS Mini Wheats, PS granola bars, PS tea, PS coffee, and PS Pop-Tarts.  (Of course, I also discovered that one of seasonal flavors of Chobani - PS, of course - is really quite tasty!)

Wondering . . . how long it will really take before my bathroom is functional again?


Enjoying . . . the Drawing with Colored Pencils art class I'm taking this fall at the KIA.  Lots to learn; lots of fun.

Organizing . . .my time so much better these days.  How?  A good, old-school planner system that really works for me.*  (Digital, while cool, just does not.)

Delighted by . . . a new work table for my drawing and art projects.  My Dad built it for me - custom-sized.  I can't wait to get it!


Celebrating . . . the Super-Lunar-Blood-Moon-Eclipse.  We didn't think we'd get to see it at all - because clouds.  But then, just as the show started, the clouds parted and we had a perfect view from our patio.

How about YOU?  What's happening for you . . . right now?


* I've used Planner Pads almost exclusively since 1999.  Every once in a while, I try something digital.  But I always go back to the Planner Pad. 




Can You Fly That Helicopter?

As soon as I read Carole's Ten on Tuesday email this weekend, a movie scene popped into my head:



What Ten Things Do I Wish I Could Learn Instantly?  (Like . . . Matrix instantly . . . )

  1. Italian.
  2. Watercolor. 
  3. Sound mixing.
  4. Photoshop.  (Shut.Up.)
  5. Snowboarding.
  6. Biochemistry.
  7. Carpentry.
  8. French cooking.  
  9. Cartography.
  10. Flying that helicopter!

Tom wanted to join in this week.  Here's his list:  

  1. Chain saw sculpture.
  2. Lion taming.
  3. Tight-rope walking.
  4. Hang gliding - or maybe cliff diving.
  5. Diffusing bombs.
  6. Computer hacking.
  7. Working the exit door on an airplane water landing.
  8. Making the perfect topping for crème brûlée.
  9. Breakdancing.
  10. Hostage negotiation.  

(I don't know about you, but I think his is the more interesting list!)  (I so wanted to steal hostage negotiation from his list.)

How about YOU?  What do you wish you could learn instantly?


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here


Yesterday, Tom and I headed to Grand Rapids to take in some of ArtPrize.  (This event is far, far too big and overwhelming to do in just one day.  This year, there are over 1,500 entries in over 160 venues.)

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We loaded the trusty ArtPrize app on our phones and headed north.


The best thing about ArtPrize?

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The diversity of works presented.

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And the accessibility.


So easy.


So much to see.


(And we only saw the tip of the iceberg. . . )


At this early stage of the process (it just opened on the 23rd), the public voting is still open.  The app made voting super easy!

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We'll be looking forward to seeing if any of our favorites end up with top rankings.  Tom and I are both betting on this one to be finalist . . . 


(You may remember seing this in a previous blog post; we were lucky to have an exhibit by the artist at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts last spring, so we were already familiar with his work.)

I also really liked this one . . . 


Each plate depicts a "last meal" request from a death-row inmate.  (There are nearly 600 plates in the exhibit, and the artist considers this a work in progress.)

But this is the exhibit that really captured my heart . . . 

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The artist is Paula Kovarik (she's from Memphis).  Her exhibit was titled "The Thread That Connects."

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Her quilting was exquisite; very free-flowing and unusual.

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I loved this dress she stitched!  (It was one of Tom's favorites, too.  You can see him above, checking out another of her pieces.)

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 So inspiring!  Her work was just stunning.

Tom and I had a great time.  If you're anywhere in the Grand Rapids area, I'd encourage you to visit ArtPrize.  (It runs through October 11.)  It is truly an awesome and joyous event.  

Dear Self

The One Little Word prompt for September involved writing a letter to . . . yourself.  Here's mine.

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Dear Self,

I know you were looking for . . . something . . . when you chose the word JOURNEY for 2015.  I know you wanted to wander (a little) off the comfortable and well-worn path of your life.  You used the words "shake up."  You used the words "explore" and "discover" and "get a little lost."


(You did.)

And, as usually happens with this One Little Word thing, you get what you're looking for.  (That's why you sign up every year, right?  That's why you put up with all the prescribed arts-and-crafts scrapbooking bullshit and commercial "kits," isn't it?)  Because, turns out, the process - and the monthly prompts - all work for you.

So, yeah.

OLW strikes again.

Life took you on a JOURNEY you weren't quite expecting when you signed on to this gig.  You landed in some kind of wilderness - one that you wouldn't have picked for yourself and really didn't expect.  And -- AH! -- that's the real beauty of a JOURNEY.  Sometimes you know where you're headed, and sometimes you don't. I kind of remember . . . that you were hoping for a JOURNEY where you didn't quite know where you were headed.

And.  Well.  That's what you got!

Now that you're moving again -- out of that wilderness and onto a path you didn't know existed back in January - you've learned a few things.

Like. . . 

Heading out on a JOURNEY when you don't exactly know where you're going . . . is risky.

Getting lost . . . means being uncomfortable.

And (like with any trip), it's important to pack lightly.  Which means . . . letting go.  Getting rid of what you don't really need.  Ideas.  Objects.  People who drag you down.  Commitments you shouldn't have made in the first place.

Because being lost -- really being lost -- and wandering (even flailing) in the wilderness for a while might just be the best way to find out who you are, what you might want to do, and how you want to live the rest of your life.

When you set out on a JOURNEY - any kind of journey - you should expect to come back changed.  And, y'know, you don't get to direct what that change will be.  It just . . . happens.


Here's to "getting lost."  And "exploring."  And "discovery."  Here's to "shaking things up."

Keep going.



"Cherish your wilderness." -- Maxine Kumin


My Kind of Fall


It's been My Kind of Fall.

Warm, sunny days.  (Flip-flops?  No problem.)

Cool nights.  (Great sleeping-weather.)

For days on end.  

Warm, sunny day.  
Cool night.  

Our leaves haven't really started turning yet.  They're actually behind "normal" schedule.  (Apparently all that rain we had early in the summer has made our Michigan trees healthy and resilient and unstressed.  So the color will happen -- just later.)  (This according to Mark Torgerossa, Official Weather Person of MLive.)

I'm spending as much time as I can outdoors these days.  Soaking up the sun and enjoying just being outside.  (Without a jacket.)  (Or socks.)

I'm drinking coffee with friends at the outside tables at the coffee shop.

I'm eating lunch al fresco, too, every day.  (Even if it's just yogurt on my patio.)  (With the dogs.)

I'm enjoying before-dinner drinks with Tom on the patio.

I'm writing grants outside.

I'm getting to all sorts of garden chores.

It's fabulous!

I continue to ignore the more pesky signs of "fall," though.  (Like pumpkin spice flavored everything.)  (And "pink ribbon" products everywhere.)  (Yesterday I almost tripped over a display of "pink ribbon" solar garden lights at my grocery store.)  (Really.)

So, yeah.  This is a perfect fall for me.  Summer is getting some bonus extension time.  And I can ease into the best parts of fall unfolding around me slowly.

I hope it lasts a long time more!

(Except not the goofy "pink ribbon" products.)  (I wonder how much money from the sale of the "pink ribbon" solar garden lights makes it to breast cancer research?)  (I wonder . . . wouldn't it be better to just make a direct donation?)

(Don't get me started.)

I think I'll take my coffee out on the patio this morning. . . to watch the sun rise.


Herb Harvest

I have a little workhorse herb garden next to my patio (and just outside my kitchen door).  I love being able to just run out and clip fresh herbs when I'm cooking.  So convenient.  So fresh.  So tasty.

But now that the nights are getting cooler, it's time to start harvesting some of those herbs for . . . using later.


I start by cutting herbs from the garden, washing them in the sink, and setting them out to dry on my counter.

Although I used to tie and hang my herbs to dry, this year I'm trying a dehydrator.  It's much quicker -- but it still takes a long time for those bigger, thicker leaves (sage and rosemary, for example).  (And for chili peppers, too.)


After the herbs are dry, I put them in little jars.  (I don't crush or crumble the leaves until I cook with them.)


I don't dry my basil, though.  


Instead, I make "basil bombs" -- and freeze to use later.

First, I wash the basil in the sink, and dry it on the counter.  Then, I chop it up and mix it with olive oil.


Then . . . I fill an ice cube tray with the basil/olive oil "paste" and stick it in the freezer.  Later, I'll pop the individual "basil bombs" from the trays and store them in a zip lock bag.  When I need some basil in a recipe, I can just add one of my "bombs" -- and I'll be all set with (nearly) fresh basil from my herb garden.


(Amazing . . . how all that basil in my sink . . . crushes down to fill just one little ice cube tray . . . )

I feel like I'm preserving a little bit of summer. . . when I harvest and preserve my herbs.  
Keep your fingers crossed that I can get one more harvest in before winter comes!


Be sure to stop by and wish Carole a very happy birthday today!  (And it's a biggie.)  (Just sayin.)