No Regrets

I said I wasn't going to, but I did.

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Last Friday afternoon, I drove over to check out the Michigan Fiber Festival.

My strategy lately . . .  is to go on Friday afternoon.  The vendors are set up and ready, but the Fiber Festival isn't officially open.  (The workshops and competitive events are going on, though.)  It's perfect for me . . . no crowds, first pick of the yarn, nice time to chat with unhurried vendors, parking is a breeze, and you don't have to pay the entrance fee.  (The downside?  I miss the excitement of being with so many other knitters.  Plus ... the animals are just coming in and getting settled, so seeing them is not an option.)

I haven't been terribly inspired about my knitting lately, so I almost didn't go.  And god knows I don't need any yarn. . . 

But.

I bought yarn.  

I found some really lovely yarn that I am inspired to knit with.  So Win-Win!  (Just need to finish that beaded shawl for Erin first.)  

What I like best about going to the Fiber Festival is finding yarn-dyers and spinners that I'd never hear about otherwise.  This year, I found a spinner/dyer from Cincinnati who works with very unconventional fiber bases and creates absolutely beautiful color combinations.  (I nearly had a serious "falling down" in that booth.  I wanted every skein I touched -- and that doesn't happen much to me anymore.)  And another from Ohio that puts interesting and unexpected "bits" in her yarn (also some very unexpected color combinations).  I found a small Traverse City (Michigan) company that locally-sources every aspect of their yarn production:  local alpaca and sheep, local dyes, local everything.  Their colors are to die for -- and all inspired by Northern Michigan landmarks and Traverse City hot spots.  (Bought some of that, too.)  (I love their "farm-to-needles" approach.)

No pictures.  Sorry.  You'll just have to wait until I knit with it.

And knit with it I will!

I wasn't planning to go to the Fiber Festival this year . . . but I'm awfully glad I did.

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In eclipse news . . . we're busy putting together our old-school viewing boxes this morning.  And my dad scored a pair of official eclipse glasses.  Sadly, we probably won't be using any of our devices.  We're expecting heavy cloud-cover here . . . just around eclipse time.  Oh, well.  We can watch it live on the Internet here at the NASA live-coverage site.


Getting Ready

Unless you've been living deep in a cave for the last several weeks, you already know that the solar eclipse is coming on Monday.

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Michigan is not in the Path of Totality (isn't that just kind of fun to say?), but we do expect to experience a 90% partial eclipse here in Kalamazoo.

Although I'm not excited enough to head for totality, I am excited about the eclipse.  I've collected a bunch of "eclipse information" over the last few days, and I thought I'd share my finds with you.

  • If you want to see information about the eclipse for your particular location, click here.  You can enter your city, and the site will show you information about the eclipse near you.
  • If you want to learn more about the eclipse in an "in-depth" kind of way, the New York Times Science section has a great series of articles.  So does the Washington Post.
  • If you didn't nab a pair of eclipse glasses, Science Friday has a list of 5 easy ways to safely view the eclipse without them.
  • If you want some tips from the pros, Vox has a list for you here.
  • If you're wondering what happens to animals and wildlife during an eclipse, you can read about that here.
  • If you want some tips about watching the eclipse with kids, Michigan State University Extension put out a nifty little guide just yesterday.
  • And, finally, if you want some good old tongue-in-cheek humor about the eclipse, check this out from The Atlantic.

Have a great weekend!  


Falling Like Dominoes: A Book Bingo Update

It always happens like this . . . 

I read and read and read with nary a bingo.  And then - suddenly - there they go.  One bingo after another after another!

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Want to see what I read?

Let's take a look at the first row, moving across:

Biography - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot) - So, technically this book isn't a "biography."  But it's a book about a very REAL person, so I'm counting it as a biography.  (My bingo; my rules.)  I found this book fascinating and Important -- with a capital I.  (And some of those researchers?  Despicable.)

Set in more than one time period - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Borrowed - The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (Lisa See) - I borrowed this book from the library, and read it quickly over a weekend up north.  It was much more compelling than I expected it to be, and I enjoyed learning about tea along the way.

An author with a disability - Last Night in Twisted River (John Irving) - John Irving has dyslexia.  I am a fan of John Irving, and I have read most of his books.  If you're not already a fan, but want to try one of his books, I wouldn't suggest this one for starters (go with Owen Meany or Garp or Cider House Rules instead).  It's definitely not his strongest novel -- but I still found it worth the slog.

Backlist from an author on your current year favorites list - The Gifts of Imperfection (BrenĂ© Brown) - I'm working my way through BrenĂ© Brown's books as part of my look at all-things-balance this year.  If you're looking for a bit of self-care and personal reflection, her books are not a bad place to start.

BINGO!

Next up, let's check out the last column, on the right, going down:

Backlist from an author on your current year favorites list - See above.

That you want to read because of the cover - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Banned in a country outside the US - Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi) - This book is banned in Iran. Hmmmm. Although I really wanted to like this book (after all, I am a lover of the classics, and particularly interested in the overall concept of the book), I just . . . didn't. I found it a far more tedious read than expected. Great concept; strong and interesting women; just . . . not quite captivating.

Alternate history - The Yiddish Policeman's Union (Michael Chabon) - Tom read this book when it first came out, many years ago.  It was just sitting there . . . on our bookshelf . . . waiting for me.  As usual, Michael Chabon doesn't disappoint.

Bird or animal on the cover - The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry) - Okay.  So a "serpent" isn't really an animal.  And there isn't really even a serpent on the cover (although there is the strong suggestion of one).  But . . . my bingo; my rules.  I had wanted to read this book since I first heard about it (when it made the long list for the Women's Prize for Fiction this year), and so . . . by gum . . . it was going to fit into one of my squares!  Lovely book.

BINGO!

And there's one more -- the fourth row across:

About a person with a disability - Shtum (Jem Lester) - Just as we were all sorting through our Bingo cards for the summer, I happened to be driving and caught an interview with Jem Lester on NPR.  I was hooked!  If you're interested in a rather gut-wrenching story about what it's like to live with a severely autistic child, this is your book:  Love. Commitment. Struggle. Redemption.

Wanted to read for more than a year - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test - Chemistry (Weike Wang) - Ah . . . the Bechdel-Wallace test.  For those of you unfamiliar with this category, let me explain a bit.  The Bechdel-Wallace test (or sometimes just called the Bechdel test) was originally applied to films, but has been expanded to include fiction.  The qualifications for passing the test?  The work must include two women who talk about something other than a man.  (Sometimes it further requires that the women be named.)  And this test, my friends, is oh-so-much harder to pass than you might think!

I decided to just . . . read . . . this summer -- fiction I would choose just as I always choose -- with the Bechdel-Wallace test in mind.  I continued to be disappointed.  Because in each book I read, women talk about men!  It really is rather infuriating when you think about it.  Finally, as I read Chemistry, I found two women who talked about something OTHER than men.  They talked about grad school and work in the lab and their careers.  Eureka!  I found it.  But . . . no.  Eventually, our characters ended up . . . talking about men.  But.  This one is the closest I came to reading a book that - at least for a portion of the novel - passes the Bechdel-Wallace test.  (Of course, the characters aren't named.  But that is the style of this particular book.  The characters are the narrator herself and the other woman, known simply as The Best Friend.)  (Further irony?  The only named character in the book is a man.)  No other book of fiction I read this summer came even close to meeting the Bechdel-Wallace test.

As for the book itself, I think I liked it because of the chemistry.  Having gone through Tom's chemistry graduate school experience along with him - and seeing what life was like for the (few) women grad students in his lab - I could really relate to the story and situations.

Thriller - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Alternate history - See above.

BINGO!

Like I said . . . falling like dominoes.

 

 

 


No Time for Unraveling

My knitting has been very slow this summer.  A row here; a row there.  Some days, not even a stitch.

I finally finished this earlier this week . . . 

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That's Kirsten Kapur's Mystery Shawl 2017 -- in all its unblocked glory.  (I don't have a good place to block up north, and the well water is just kind of . . . well, smelly.  I will block when I get home.)  

And now, I'm working on this blob of lace weight . . .

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Because, really.  With less than 3 weeks until a wedding, shouldn't every mother-of-the-bride be working on a lace shawl with beads for her daughter?  (Like the title says, no time for unraveling.)

(If you hear maniacal laughter in the background, just smile and look away.)

Reading continues apace.  I may get a Bingo coverall after all, but it's hard to tell at this point.  Right now, I'm slogging through John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River (we'll just say . . . this one is NOT A Prayer for Owen Meany* - although it's every bit as long -  and leave it at that).  I've also just started Beartown (Fredrik Backman) -- which is, so far, everything you've already heard it is.  (Watch for a Bingo update post tomorrow for a more detailed look at my recent reading.)

How about you?  What are you knitting and reading today?

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Today's post is part of Kat's Unravled Wednesdays.  See what everyone else has to say here.

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* One of my top-5 favorite books Of All Time.


Keeping Track

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a record-keeper.  I have been journaling since I received my very first diary (one of those little lock-and-key numbers) for my 10th birthday.

Up north, here at our cottage, I've been keeping journals to record our up-north-adventures since we first built the place -- back in 1998!

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These journals are a treasure-trove of information now, and we find ourselves dipping in every once in a while -- especially if we want to find the exterior dimensions of the cottage . . . or to remember what year we added the shed . . . or bought the pontoon boat . . .  or to look up who it was that we hired to take down a dead tree near the house.

It's also fun to look back and read the details of what the kids did as they grew up at the cottage (because Erin had just finished 2nd grade and Brian was still in preschool our first summer up here) and how things evolved over the summers.  My journals keep track of wildlife sightings, special guests, fishing trends, and life changes.

Although I still keep an up-north journal, I don't update the details of each of our trips up like I once did.  Things up here have settled into a . . . sameness . . . now -- and it would get a bit too repetitive if I wrote about each visit in detail like I used to.  I imagine, though, that I'll always maintain a cottage-journal in some form or another.

As I was looking back at my old journals this week, I found another kind of journal tucked in with the rest . . .

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Back in June of 2000 (I know because I looked it up in my cottage journal!), Erin and I used to take walks in the woods surrounding our cottage to find wildflowers.  I was only beginning my gardening adventures back then, and didn't know much about wildflowers.  We would go out in search of whatever was blooming, collect a few specimens, and then look them up in our trusty wildflower guides.  (The internet wasn't A Thing yet, so we relied totally on our guides.)

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As we got more interested in wildflowers, we started drying and pressing our best specimen plants to create a "journal" of our wildflowers.

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It was quite a project.  We completed the journal over the course of that up-north-season; filling the entire book with flowers and leaves and even a few pressed berries.  Erin even used it for a school nature project somewhere along the way.

I haven't looked at it in years, but it was fun to stumble across the journal and . . . remember.  I'm actually surprised at how complete it is; and how well it's held up over time.  The colors, though?  Totally faded.  

I still take walks and look at the wildflowers whenever I'm up north.  Sadly, there aren't as many.  Our lake association has taken to mowing the roadsides these days.  I'm not exactly sure why, but I imagine it appeals to the same folks up here who plant grass and try to create lawns (in the woods) (I know).  I don't pick any of the wildflowers any more -- mostly because I want them all to seed the roadsides.

But also because these days, I can "collect" them this way:

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(From top to bottom:  Queen Anne's Lace, Bull Thistle, St. John's Wort, Moth Mullein, Ironweed, Common Evening Primrose)

Collecting and documenting is certainly much easier these days, thanks to smartphones and the internet.  It's fun to look back over your memories -- no matter how they're recorded!

 

 


Sometimes Mondays

. . . look like an escape.

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As summer begins its march toward fall, Tom and I like to escape up north every chance we can.

So.

Here we are.  

Somewhat isolated as we work remotely, trying to soak up every bit of summer we can. 

This Monday, though, we're also trying to make sense of the times we live in, and struggling to comprehend the vermin in our midst (always there, but now unafraid to show their faces).

I think I'll head down to the lake now.  
To watch the loon-baby learn to swim and fish.

Escape.

 


It's Friday and I Need an Opinion

I'm having a decision-dilemma.

I can't decide which shoes to wear for Erin's wedding.

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I'm hoping y'all can help me choose!  

I'd prefer to just wear my flip-flops (or - better yet - no shoes at all!!!), but I think I'm going to have to go with mother-of-the-bride respectable for this one, and put on Real Shoes.

Here's my dress. . .

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After shopping (in stores and online), I remain uninspired with my shoe options, but I've narrowed it down to two pair.

What do you think?

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Disco feet? 

(These somewhat sparkly silver sandals are comfortable and - as a surprise bonus - they do not highlight my extreme flip-flop tan lines.)

OR . . . 

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Neutral putty peep-toes?

(Also comfortable and nearly invisible - but my god . . . that flip-flop tan line is rather extreme.)

OR . . . 

Should I keep shopping?  (And, if so, for WHAT . . . exactly?)

What do you think?  Opinions, please!  Help me decide. . .

 

 

 


A Real Non-Event

On Tuesday I had my annual check-up with my oncologist.

NINE YEARS!

(Of course, I will mark and celebrate these nine years many times over the next several months.  Nine years since my diagnosis.  Nine years since my "port" was installed.  Nine years since my chemo began. Nine years since my first clean scan.  Nine years since the end of chemo.  Because . . . really . . . there are so many anniversaries to "celebrate.")

Anyway.  The appointment.

All. Good.

A-OK.

See you next year!

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So.

Other than the appointment being a Big Life Marker . . . it also made me realize something I never-ever imagined possible in those raw-and-shining days just out of chemo . . . 

Having cancer is just not something I think about much anymore.

This is unfathomable to me.

I can go days now . . . maybe even weeks . . . without thinking about cancer or treatment or that I had it or worrying that it might come back.

I can hear about someone else (or someone's sister) (or someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (or someone who just happened to be a friend of someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (etc.) being diagnosed with cancer without that trap-door opening and sucking me down into the depths. 

I can think . . . I am a nine-year cancer-survivor.  And just be grateful for that -- without feeling guilty because of all the other cancer survivors who never made it to nine years. 

I can allow myself to trust in a future again, as much as any of us can.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL.

I've passed some huge milestone of "survival" somewhere along the way to nine years.  I'm not exactly sure when or where I did that . . . but I did.  I'll never kid myself.  My experience with a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma back in the fall of 2008 changed me . . . forever and for good.  

I have no illusions.  

I know that every day is a gift.  

And that life can change on a dime.

But after nine years . . . I'm grateful that my annual oncology check-up is just routine for me now.

A real non-event.


Deadheading: Good for More Than Gardening

In gardening, deadheading is a particular maintenance practice that prolongs blooms, prevents seeds from spreading where you don't want them, and keeps things looking neat and tidy in the garden.

Basically, it means pinching or snipping off spent blooms -- those blooms way past their prime.  (My favorite gardening mantra:  If it's brown, cut it down.)

Some gardeners hate this chore, but I love it!  I find it very meditative and centering -- and it's a great way to keep in close touch with what's happening in my garden.  

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(That's a look down into my bucket after a good deadheading session last weekend.)

So, last weekend - as I was deadheading my perennials and containers - I started thinking about the value of getting the spent "stuff" out of the garden.   

It certainly makes things LOOK better.  (Because a clump of dead daisy heads is really not attractive, y'know?)  

And when you pinch off dead-and-dying blooms, you provide more energy for the plant to produce NEW blooms -- or to grow deeper roots if the blooming period is really over.  (Roses respond especially well to deadheading.  And those daisies?  Once I deadhead the dead daisy heads, I get a second round of blooms.)

And deadheading allows you to gather seeds to share or to plant where you want them.  (Rather than the wild self-seeding that can happen with some plants if you're not careful.)  (I'm talking to you, Japanese anemone.)

All good things . . . for the garden.

But.

Isn't the same true of our lives?

Perhaps we should also be doing some "life-maintenance" once in a while. . . deadheading out the "spent" stuff in our lives.

Relationships.
Situations.
Habits.
Notions.

With regular deadheading, we can create space and energy for our own new growth.  We can keep old, negative seeds from spreading and growing where we don't want them.  We can keep our minds neat and tidy . . . and ready for new blooms.

Deadheading.  Turns out it's good for more than just garden maintenance!