A Week of Gratitude: Monday

It's Thanksgiving week here in the US . . . a week traditionally spent cooking, gathering with friends and family, and reflecting on our many blessings. I've decided to take a little break from my usual blog "structure" (such as it is) to focus on gratitude this week.


Now I've long subscribed to the notion that noticing and acknowledging the things we're grateful for . . . makes us more happy in our lives. Like many of you, I keep a gratitude journal, and in it I list a number of things I'm grateful for each day. It's a lovely ritual, and really does make me pay attention to and think about the things that I am particularly grateful for.

Some days, though . . . it's hard.

When life feels dark and tedious and harrowing (y'know . . . like now), it's easy to get caught up in all the things that are wrong or fraught or not-quite-what-we-had-in-mind. Like, well . . . who is grateful for this dumpster fire of a year, right? There have been many mornings over the past months when I open my gratitude journal and just stare at it for a while. Cranky and not feeling particularly grateful at all.

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."
                -- Mother Teresa

I moped around last week, thinking about how long it's been since I've seen my daughter in person, how my son is less than an hour up the road -- but still out of reach, how much I miss my mom at Thanksgiving. I got caught up in the pointlessness of cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year. And then I thought of Mother Teresa. I mean . . .she was a great one for shining her light on blessings when things appeared amazingly dark and utterly hopeless, wasn't she? Maybe her words - and her example - could inspire me to find the the blessings in my life.

I realized it was time for me to shine a light on my life.
To flip the switch.
To change my perspective.
To begin.

Instead of focusing on not seeing my daughter . . . 
I started thinking about how proud I am of her for working so hard to land - and succeed at - her dream job; how delighted I am that she is happy and independent in her life; how grateful I am for the many ways we have stayed connected at great distance - and even during a pandemic; how pleased I am that she is making many of our family dishes this year for her own Thanksgiving with Keith. Yes. I miss her. But she is a blessing wherever she is!

Instead of focusing on not seeing my son . . . 
I started thinking about how lucky I am that he is only just up the road now; how lovely it is to see him in person once in a while - even behind a mask and at a distance; what a blessing to me that he is settled and happy - even during a pandemic; how pleased I am that we can share a Thanksgiving meal this year even if it's just dropped off at his door with a wave. Yes. I miss him. But he's close enough to wave at through a window, and that is a blessing!

Instead of focusing on how much I miss my mom . . . 
I started remembering all the happy Thanksgiving times we were able to share over the years; all the pies she baked and her love of dark meat and how much we laughed. Yes. She isn't here around my table this year. But her memories live deep inside me, and her spirit is with me every day -- and especially at Thanksgiving. What a blessing to have such wonderful memories woven into my week!

Instead of focusing on the "pointlessness" of cooking a meal on this weird Thanksgiving . . . 
I started thinking about how I CAN cook a meal on this weird Thanksgiving; that I have access to the ingredients and cooking utensils I need; that I am blessed with recipes and know-how and experience; that I can share my meal - and my love - with Tom and Brian and Lauren and my dad. Yes. We won't be gathering together. But that doesn't change our enjoyment of a shared meal. And this meal - even though shared in a completely different way - will tether us to each other and ground us in our traditions anyway.

Really. I have an embarrassment of riches. So many blessings. So much to be grateful for!

It does work . . . changing your perspective. Flipping the switch. Shining a light on your life.
Even when it seems dark!



(And now . . . a poem. Because why not.)


Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird ---
  equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
  keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
  and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
  to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
  that we live forever.


Today's poem was published in Thirst by Mary Oliver, 2006, Beacon Press, Boston.


Rekindling the Inner Fire

All week long I look for . . . 


And then on Fridays, I report back.


“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
                – Albert Schweitzer

I'm an introvert. Which doesn't mean I'm shy or retiring (because I'm neither). And it doesn't mean I don't like people (because I do). Or parties and social gatherings (because I enjoy those, too). It just means that I get my energy from spending time on my own; I need to recharge - I like to recharge - all by myself. As fun as parties and social events are, well . . . they wear me out. And after time "peopling," I really need some down time with my knitting or my paintbrushes or a book . . . and a glass of wine.

As my sister (also an introvert) likes to say, "We are built for a pandemic lockdown."  Yep. Able to withstand limited contact and alone-time with minimal discomfort. Plenty of books and hobbies on hand to last for a good long time. Techology to reach out when we want to reach out. But really not getting that itch to go to a party or any other social gathering that might risk our health, y'know?

But recently, I've discovered that my introvert-ness has a limit. And I'm there. I find, after nearly 9 months of connecting with my friends via FaceTime and Zoom happy hours and online-whatever-you-haves, I'm missing . . . 

PEOPLE, in general
seeing and spending real time with my friends

(And my family, too - but that's a whole other kind of missing.)

This longing for community, for my friends, seems especially hard right now -- as we head into what will surely be a long, dark winter. Five more months of being cooped up inside (even though I do have plenty of diversions inside with me) until it's warm enough to meet in the park again for lunch at a picnic table? Five more months of meet-ups and "parties" and happy hours on Zoom (even though I'm grateful for technology that allows this kind of connection) until maybe the vaccine is available? It just feels really bleak right now. And where is the HOPE in that?

So you might say I was at a low spot.
My inner fire was definitely diminished.

And then, something happened.


I got a note from a friend!

A really wonderful note.
The kind that warms you up and brings a smile and . . . makes you shed a tear or two.

This note bolstered my spirit and . . . gave me hope!
That we will get through this.
That we will get together again.
That we are friends.
That we remain connected.

I discovered that it's actually pretty simple . . . for a friend to rekindle your inner spirit when your inner fire goes out.

Just words.
Just a note.
A simple, heartfelt note.

This week I decided to start writing my own notes to friends. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and start trying to spread some hope out there among my friends.

Maybe those notes will hit at a low spot . . . when the inner fire has gone out.
Maybe I'll be able to rekindle some inner spirits with my words.
I think it's worth a try!


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that rekindle your inner spirit.


A Different Kind of Holiday

Last Friday, I wrote a blog post about hope and gratitude when it comes to the Thanksgiving holiday this year. In the post (which you can read here), I explained my heartbreak at needing to change our plans this year . . . because of Covid. (Aren't we all just so tired of saying that?) But change our plans we did. Because it's the right thing to do. And many of you shared how you'll be changing things up this year, too.

Just a couple of days ago, James Hamblin wrote an essay called Cancel Thanksgiving for The Atlantic. Hamblin writes, "few things sound nicer than sitting around eating with friends and family, after so much isolation and worry over this decades-long year." But . . . then he goes on to explain that we're in "precarious moment" in terms of the pandemic, with infectious-disease experts giving us some very straightforward advice:

  • limit activities to those essential to life
  • don't gather socially
  • don't travel
  • don't celebrate Thanksgiving in anything resembling the modern American way


Of course, this is a very unpopular message, and few of our country's leaders are brave enough to deliver it. (Although just today, in the Washington Post, seven governors - 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans - published a joint statement imploring people to re-think their Thanksgiving plans and stay home this year.) (And a shoutout here to my own state's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, one of the seven governors.)

In his essay in The Atlantic, James Hamblin tells us "this is a moment for creativity," and encourages us to think about what we like most about the day -- and then to think about how we can make that happen in a different way this year.

In my house, we've decided to cook our same menu (although we'll do the cooking ahead of time and over the course of several days) and then pack it up to deliver to my dad and to Brian and Lauren so we can all share the same meal - separately - on Thanksgiving Day. And I've sent Erin several of my recipes so she and Keith can try them at their own dinner this year. And we've got a family Zoom planned, as well. (Erin and I are also planning to do our annual gingerbread house decorating via Zoom this year. It won't happen on Thanksgiving Day, probably, but sometime over the weekend. I'm putting together a "kit" for her, which will soon be on its way to California.)

Many of you who commented on my blog post are planning to celebrate in similar ways:

  • Most of you are planning on family Zoom get-togethers.
  • Almost all of you are scaling back the number of people gathering around your tables, just keeping it to your household and maybe including a couple of family members from your "bubbles."
  • Some of you are changing up your menus (Kay), or scaling back the amount you'll be cooking or the size of your turkeys (Carole), but some of you are cooking just like always (because who doesn't want those leftovers!) (Bonny).
  • Several of you are coming up with creative ways to share your family recipes with kids - even incorporating cooking-together FaceTimes. (Kat)
  • A couple of you are excited about starting new traditions (this will be Sarah's first time cooking a turkey, for example), while others are figuring out clever ways to carry out your usual traditions (Kathy will still be making treats for the birds in her yard as she does each year -- and this year, she's put together a tutorial in case you want to try this, too).
  • Some of you are keeping your fingers crossed for decent weather, which would allow for family hikes or campfires, and might make getting together with others possible and safe (Patty and Geri).

None of us like the changes we're making to our usual Thanksgiving traditions -- but we're finding ways to make it work and keep our families safe. Like Geri said in her comment last week, "With such encouraging reports regarding a vaccine I want to make it to the finish line, healthy, whenever that is!" That's what it's all about: Keeping ourselves - and our families and friends - safe and healthy!

It's going to be different.
But we're going to be okay!


A Little Riff . . . Sound of Music Style

Things got you down?
Me, too.
Let's take some advice from Maria . . . as the thunderstorms rumble around us . . . 
Let's SING!


blue and white dishes
things in grid patterns


warm woolen everything


knits that look great from their back side as well

. . . these are a few of my favorite things!


when the Trump tweets
when the pandemic bites
when I'm feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things . . .
and then I don't feel . . . 
so bad!


This is the Pressed Flowers shawl, finished and with some modifications. If you're interested in more information (and, I promise, no more strangled lyrics) you can click here for Ravelry details and more photos.


(And, yep. That is my current full-on-pandemic hairdo. Because if you can't grow out you bangs during a pandemic, when CAN you grow them out???)


It's not too late to join the book discussions for The Women of Brewster Place! Bonny and Carole and I each posted questions yesterday. We'd love to hear what you think.


Read With Us: Let's Talk About It!

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . The Women of Brewster Place. Join the discussion (which you're welcome do even if you didn't read the book).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. (Please know . . . that because of the limitations of Typepad, I can't "layer" or "stack" the comments in my comment feed. Remember when I was having so much trouble with my comments last summer? Yeah. It was because of my attempt at "stacking." Sorry. Bear with me.)

We have another "book lovers" surprise package for you with this book discussion. Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blogs and your name will be entered in the drawing -- the more you comment and participate in the discussion, the more chances you have to win!

Now, let's get on with our discussion.

The Women of Brewster Place

First . . . I'd really like to know what you thought of the book (or the movie, if you watched that). How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Do you think it deserves the attention it got when it was first written? How does it compare to more recent/contemporary novels you've read?

As I read the book (and, later, watched the Oprah Winfrey movie version), I was captivated by the physical "location" of the walled-off Brewster Place. That wall! It just kept everything/everyone in -- or out. And, then. Well. There was that ending! I know a lot of readers didn't like the ending of Brewster Place, or were confused by just what it meant. So, let's talk about that, too.

The actual street - Brewster Place - and its wall are like characters, personified. Do you agree or disagree? And would you say the street/wall is a protagonist or an antagonist? And does the street/wall, itself, have any impact on the story or its outcome?

Okay . . . that ending! What do you make of it? It's meant to be Mattie Michael's dream-scene, with the women of Brewster Place dismantling the wall brick-by brick. Does that work for you? Or not?

I can't wait to hear what you think!


Don't forget: We'll be discussing the book on Zoom tonight - 7:00 pm Eastern Time. There's still time for you to join us! Just let me know of your interest either with a comment or by sending me an email (see sidebar, above) -- and I'll send a Zoom invitation. 


Monday Morning

means it's time to . . . 


On Mondays I share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! 

So. Let's get to it!


"It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light."
            --- G. K. Chesterton


I'm sure this is a quote most of you have heard before, but when it popped up in an email late last week, I got to thinking about it again. A lot. Right now, it's so easy to be heavy. As in bogged-down-HEAVY. The pandemic. The "transition." The environment. The polarization of our people. The holidays during the pandemic we're all so tired of. Heavy business, all. 

It's important, though . . . amidst all this heaviness . . . to try to be light. Laughter is good for us! Really. It is. According to psychologist Brian King,"the reality is that people need humor all the time. Humor, and the laughter it inspires, is our built-in mechanism for managing stress. It provides relief when times are tough, improves our mood and helps the mind and body calm down." 

So, with that, I've decided to dedicate this Monday's Start Your Engines post to . . . lightening up! Because we all need a little frivolity, laughter, a bit of silliness, and even a quick hit of serotonin in our lives right now.



A Little Frivolity

Don't you think it would be fun . . . a little frivolous . . . light, even . . . to walk into your bathroom and see one of these shower curtains hanging there? The full text of your favorite book on the outside, plain white shower curtain on the inside. (Which means, of course, that you couldn't read while showering. But still. You'd know the words were there.) Books, Beatles lyrics, the dissents of RBG . . . so many to choose from!


Tired of reading (or listening to) books that reflect . . . life . . . a little too much? (I'm looking at you, Shuggie Bain.) Maybe it's time for a good knee-slapper of a book! Enter James Tate Hill with five audiobook recommendations that might be good for a laugh. According to James, "you'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll forget for a few hours to check the news." Sounds good to me!

A Bit of Silliness

Maybe you heard about this during election week (when you were seeking a diversion, any diversion), but there is a new fashion trend out there: $590 designer scratch-and-sniff t-shirts! Yes! You can read all about them right here in the NY Times (where they describe what it's like to be the proud owner of such a t-shirt - cherry scent - along with the history of scratch-and-sniff technology) (hint: better living through chemistry) or on a variety of fashion sites (like this one). Total silliness.

A Quick Hit of Serotonin

Okay. I'm not really embracing the TikTok thing, but there are a lot of TikTok videos out there that make me smile and add some levity to my days. Usually, TikTok videos land in my consciousness through Instagram or because someone forwarded them to me somehow -- but over the weekend, after reading this article about "The Rainbow Man" I visited TikTok myself -- and spent some time getting my own "quick hit of serotonin" thanks to the wild, homespun, totally creative dance videos of Mark Kanemura (former dancer for Lady Gaga) -- who is QUITE the performer. It's like . . . short, home-made videos of lip-syncs by a dancer sometimes in drag and always with props and wigs and sparkles. Absolutely silly and very frivolous, maybe check out some of his videos next time you want a quick hit yourself. (And if you are a fan of the Broadway musical "Wicked" . . . do watch the video where he looks like Elphaba ready to defy gravity. You will not be disappointed.)


And . . . that's it for me on this Monday morning. 

Here's to a good week for all of us.
Lighten up!


Remember . . . tomorrow (Tuesday, November 17) is the day Bonny, and Carole, and I will be hosting the book discussion for The Women of Brewster Place both on our blogs AND in a Zoom meet-up at 7pm (Eastern time). If you're interested in joining the Zoom meet-up and haven't already done so, please let me know in the comments or in an email (see sidebar). We're looking forward to the discussion!





When Hope Looks Like Gratitude

All week long I look for . . . 


And on Fridays I report back!


"When you can't be grateful for everything, be grateful for something."
        --- Anne McOmber

IMG_1428 2

Thanksgiving is coming. And I love Thanksgiving! It's my favorite holiday, hands down. Food. Family. Grateful hearts. Plenty of tradition - but without the weight and hype of Christmas. Mainly, I love cooking and sharing a big meal with people I love.

Tom and I have been trying to figure out a way to make our usual Thanksgiving "work" . . . in a pandemic. Erin's plans to join us this year were, of course, disrupted months ago. But we were hoping to salvage the feast for those of us geographically closer - Brian and Lauren and my dad. We had come up with all kinds of ideas. 

Maybe we could eat in the dining room with the windows open and an oscillating fan going?
Or maybe we could bring the table out to the garage, open the door, and invite Mr. Heater?
Or maybe the weather will cooperate and we could eat on the patio?

So many ideas. And none of them very appealing. Especially against the backdrop of exploding Covid numbers here in Michigan -- and especially so in our part of the state, which is being hit particularly hard right now. With no coordinated plan in place (anywhere, as far as I can tell), we all need to take care of ourselves and make the best decisions for our families.

With heavy hearts, Tom and I have decided to cancel any attempt at an in-person Thanksgiving gathering this year. (Sorry, Mr. Heater.) We're still planning to cook the same meal we always cook -- just a day earlier. Then we'll pack up the meal and deliver it to Brian and Lauren and to my dad. We're planing a whole-family Zoom to celebrate. It'll be weird. And different. And a little sad. But we have a plan!

So, where's the hope in that, huh????

Well. There is hope . . . in gratitude.

My family remains healthy - and we all want to keep it that way for each other.
Being apart for Thanksgiving doesn't change our love for each other.
We are resilient and willing to adapt our traditions for the times.
We have enough and more.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."
            --- Epictetus


I know the coming holiday season is going to be different and difficult and sad for many of us. I'm interested in ways you and your family are going to celebrate the holidays this year -- maybe sharing our ideas for how we can connect while celebrating remotely. I've been doing a lot of brainstorming myself, and I think it might be inspiring for us to share our ideas. 

What do you think? Let's share our ideas! How can we make the holidays . . . feel more like the holidays . . . in this pandemic season? I'll pull together a post based on your responses.

Let's find hope together!


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy.
And gratitude.



In The Blink of An Eye

Like many of you, last week we had a week-long stretch of unbelievably wonderful fall days here in my corner of the world. Just day after day of blue skies, warm temperatures, and open windows . . . unheard of in November in Michigan.

Tom and I took full advantage of this weather by taking care of some lingering outside chores, taking the dogs on neighborhood walks (where they enjoyed crunching through the leaves gathering at the curbs), and . . . sitting out each night for drinks-on-the-patio.

IMG_1436 2

Such a glorious weather-week.

And . . . over in the blink of an eye!

On Tuesday night, a cold front moved through. And now? November is back, and all the remaining leaves dropped from the trees in one night. So today, seeing that it's a Three-On-Thursday kind of day, I thought I'd share three wonderful colors-of-fall in my garden - now gone, sadly. But wonderful while they lasted!


Until next year, fabulous garden color!

"In the garden, Autum is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November."
            --- Rose G. Kinsley, The Autumn Garden, 1905



Be sure to hop on over to Carole's today for more Three on Thursday posts.


And do let me know in the comments if you'd like to join us for our first ever Read With Us Zoom meet-up to discuss The Women of Brewster Place -- Tuesday, November 17 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time. (You can also send me an email; address in the sidebar.)


Updates and Changes and Zooms . . . Oh, My!


Wasn't TODAY . . . supposed to be THE DAY we all discussed the latest 

Read With Us

book selection . . . The Women of Brewter Place????

The Women of Brewster Place

Oh, yes, my friends.
Yes. It was.

And I sincerely hope you'll . . .
be okay with,
cut us some slack for
. . . making a last minute substitution here.

You see, well. The election and resulting exhaustion got the better of us. We hope our change in the "starting lineup" won't be disappointing for any of you, and that you'll stick with us for a week.

Here's the adjusted plan:

Next week - on Tuesday, November 17 - each of us (Bonny, Carole, and I) will post a book discussion question on our blogs. As always, we encourage discussion-by-comment through the week.

But-wait-there's-more! Also on Tuesday, November 17 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time we will be hosting the FIRST EVER READ WITH US ZOOM book group meet-up! To join in, all you need to do is RSVP to either Bonny, Carole, or I. You will receive a Zoom invitation next Monday. We hope you'll join us. Come along to talk about the book, share a glass of wine (or your beverage of choice), and just . . . hang out with us for a while.

So. If you haven't read the book yet - or if you're not quite finished - you've got an extra week to do it. And if you want to supplement your reading (or substitute your reading altogether), you can watch the story unfold before you on Amazon Prime. 


Oprah Winfrey's The Women of Brewster Place is available to rent for $3.99 (or you can purchase if for $7.99) on Amazon Prime right now. I rented and watched a couple of weeks ago, and found the movie version follows the book very closely. If you don't have time to read the book - or if you just want a refresher - I highly recommend watching this film version.


I hope you'll forgive us for this last-minute change in plans.
And I really hope you'll join in either the discussion or the Zoom meet-up or BOTH next Tuesday!

And, as always, thanks for reading with us!


What a Weekend!

Was that EVER a weekend, huh???

But now, it's Monday.

Time to . . . 


On Mondays I share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! (As if we NEED any rev-ing THIS week. . . )

So. Let's get to it!


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
            --- Margaret Mead


That quote has been hanging with me for days now. Margaret Mead's words started bubbling up in my brain on about . . . oh, day 2 of Election Purgatory. And they just got louder and louder all weekend. Until it became so clear . . . that truer words were never spoken!




Now what?


I have a few suggestions for you:

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is by making a donation to Fair Fight, Stacey Abrams' organization. Check out Fair Fight's website to learn all about the organization and what they're doing. We've certainly seen the results of their work -- now let's help Stacey organize for the Senate run-off races in Georgia  -- and then move her message to the rest of the nation!

Write Some Postcards! Get involved with the Georgia Senate runoff races from the comfort of your own desk. All you need to do . . . is sign up here -- at Vote Forward. Get your pens and your postcards ready! Let's do what we can to encourage the vote and shift the balance in the Senate.

Follow the News . . . Not the Noise. In the early days of the pandemic, I started following Jessica Yellin, former White House Correspondent for CNN, on Instagram. She quickly became my "go to" news source -- she carefully sifts through the noise to find the news. She continued to be my most trusted source throughout the election. Check her out! She is GREAT. Really. You can just follow her on Instagram to access her excellent reporting -- or, if you like what she's doing, you can support her through Patreon, too, and get even more of her in-depth stories and interviews.

Become a poll worker/election inspector in your community! Do your part to make future elections fair and accessible. It's interesting work, kinda fun, and . . . well . . . let's just say it's never dull! Click here for more information -- or contact your local city or county clerk's office for more specific requirements and needs in your community.



President-elect Joe Biden (oh, how it pleases me to string those words together!) declared on Saturday night in his first speech to the American people, “This is the time to heal in America.” A good way to begin doing that . . . is to remember and revisit the things that make our country great!

Maybe . . . check out the Fifty project of The Atlantic, where they are showcasing photos from each state -- adding one state each week through 2020. Maybe . . . pick a random red state . . . and take a good look at the wonder and the beauty that is there, in this wonderful country of ours.

There is much to celebrate. 
There is also much to heal.
Let's start . . . somewhere.


And . . . that's it for me on this Monday morning. 

Here's to a good week for all of us.
Keep moving!