One Final 2019 Wrap-Up

Before the new year becomes . . . well . . . just THE year, I want to take one last look at my word for 2019: intention.


Because . . . it turns out intention was a trickier word than I anticipated it would be.  And I learned some very important things from it.

Like, well . . . 

Intention is not really an extension of focus (my 2018 word).  Or . . . not like I expected it to be at any rate.  For me, focus was about clarity. Figuring out what I wanted to focus on by figuring out what I was focusing on. Important work, to be sure.  I initially thought that intention would be about following focus.  But it was so much more than that!

Intention is about purpose.  About being deliberate.  About understanding the why behind my decisions and my choices.  It was more thoughtful and less active.  It involved . . . creating a pause . . . building in a thoughtful and deliberate beat between an idea or a thought and my taking action about that idea or thought.  I trained myself to be more mindful of what I was doing and (more importantly) why I was doing it.  And this was a very good thing.  

To really be intentional . . . meant I needed to be very, very clear about the what and the why.  At first, I thought that would be easy.  Because I'd done all that focus work already.  I knew what I wanted to focus on in my life.  But I learned that . . . focus is a fleeting thing.  Life is fickle.  New things (or ideas or thoughts) come along all the time.  So it's easy for our focus to be pulled in new directions.  I figured out that I needed something more . . . stable.  More permanent. So I developed a list of my personal values . . . which are the underpinnings of my everything, really.  Focus areas may change.  But my personal values don't.

(Here's an example.  At the beginning of 2018, I jumped on the "make nine" bandwagon, and chose nine projects I wanted to make during the year.  I thought it would be a good way to focus on things I wanted to make.  It was not.  I think I only made one of those items.  Was it because I lost my focus?  Was it because I wasn't intentional enough?  Did I fail?  Nah. I came to understand the next year - in my year of intention - that I didn't "fail" with the "make nine" thing at all.  Because I did make nine things in 2018.  Just not the nine things I set out to make in January of 2018!  Turns out that - for me - the "make nine" thing was fickle.  It only represented nine things I was interested on that day.  The real and important thing?  One of my personal values is "making things."  And I was very deliberate, very purposeful . . . about "making things" all year long.)

So rather than think of intention as an extension of focus, I changed my thinking a bit.  Focus and intention are related -- but that relationship is tricky!  My intention work got so much more sharp and successful when I linked my intentions to my personal values . . . instead of my more fickle focus areas.

Another key thing I learned in 2019 is that no matter how clear you are about the whys and whats and the alignment of action with personal values . . . well . . . intention still meets reality.  There are only 24 hours in the day, after all.  And weather happens.  And other people's values/intentions don't always line up with yours.  There are seaonal variations.  Health issues.  Personal quirks.  Things just come up.  So even when your best intentions set you on a path for greatness, it's still going to be a bumpy ride with plenty of obstacles in your path.  Adaptablility and flexibily are key.  Even (maybe especially?) when it comes to intention.

I also ended the year with a big question for myself:  If we make time for the things we really want (focus/intention), and I say I really want to do something . . . but then I consistenly don't make time for actually doing the something . . . what does that mean?  And what does it mean that I do make time for stuff I'm only meh about????  (I'm still pondering that one.)


Intention was a great word for me last year . . . in ways I really didn't expect.  I learned so much.  I did a lot of thinking and journaling.  I put some new things into practice in my life.  I came to understand myself in a whole new way.  And I even developed a solid exit plan for a big commitment I've had for a while that just does not line up with my personal values.

That's the power of one little word!

(I can't wait to see where 2020 takes me.)


Tune in next week.  I'll tell you about my word for 2020.

Plain Vanilla



Nothing fancy.


And after not being able to knit last week (couldn't even knit with that dang flu), I am finally making progress on the long-awaited gray cardigan.  (That's what binge-watching Cheer on Netflix will do. . . )

(It's this sweater in this yarn.)

How about you?  What are you working on?


Throwing out this question for you:  I'm planning to knit the sleeves on this top-down sweater flat.  (Why?  I hates knitting sleeves top-down in the round.  Hates.)  What's your preference . . . knitting sleeves flat?  Or in the round?

Read With Us: Fever

Read With Us

Mary Beth Keane's Fever is our current Read With Us choice.


Maybe you've already read the book . . . maybe you've just picked it up . . . or maybe you're still thinking about it.  Wherever you fall on the spectrum, I hope you'll read along with us!

Fever tells the story of Mary Mallon, better know as "Typhoid Mary," the first asymptomatic carrier of the Typhoid virus.  Set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, Keane deftly blurs the lines between fact and fiction in this historical fiction novel. Keane helps us make a powerful connection between the past and the present by inviting us to step inside the mind of Mary Mallon, to see the streets of New York City from her perspective, to meet her friends and neighbors, and to share in events of the times.  The book brings "Typhoid Mary" out of the history books . . . and into our lives.

Mary Beth Keane, author of Fever, is an American writer of Irish parentage.  She has written 3 books:  The Walking People (2009), Fever (2013), and Ask Again,Yes (2019).  In 2011 she was named one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" and in 2015 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction.  Her novel, Ask Again,Yes debuted at #5 on The New York times Best Sellers list in June 2019, and was selected as The Tonight Show Summer Read choice for 2019 after five days of audience voting.  In August 2019, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to discuss the book.  (I've included The Tonight Show clip at the end of this blog post in case you're interested.)


There will be much for us to discuss together next month!  I hope you'll join us.

Book discussions will take place on Tuesdays in February.  Rather than divide the book into chapters for discussion, we'll be taking a different approach with this book and hosting discussions based on topics related to the book.  Watch our blogs for more information as we get closer to the discussion dates.


Be sure to check out previous Read With Us posts about Fever:

  • Carole shared background information about Mary Mallon -- including photos.
  • Bonny shared interesting facts she'd learned about Typhoid and and other asymptomatic carriers.



Back At It

I'm feeling much better.

Tom is safely back home.

In other words, I'm settling.  It's Monday.  Time to . . . 


(On Monday mornings, I share a few things I found over the weekend.)


"I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear."
     --- Martin Luther King, Jr.




Tom suggested this week's word to me.  It's one we both run into quite often in our reading.  It's fun to say . . . and fun to think about.


(Interesting tidbit:  This word is often capitalized.  Why?  Well . . . it's a German word.  And in German, nouns are capitalized!)

What's the zeitgeist of the 21st century?  A quick google search indicates that maybe it's globalization.  Or misanthropy (hint: general dislike of humankind).  Thoughts?



The Oscar nominations came out last week.  Because we go to the movies all the time, Tom and I have already seen most of the nominated movies across the major Oscar categories.  Here's a quick rundown of the Best Picture nominees, including tips on where you can see them.  (My favorites?  I'm firmly in the Parasite camp this year, but I also really liked JoJo Rabbit, Little Women, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.)  What's your favorite?



I just finished reading a new book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Cheryl WuDunn.  (You can read reviews/more about the book here and here.)  This book is about marginalized American people, and my friends . . . it is a real gut-punch.  It's depressing and discouraging and frustrating.  But it also . . . explains a lot.  How we got here, as a country, and where we might go in the future.  If we all work together.  And, yeah.  The book is written by two people leaning left.  But they don't just tow a progressive line. They also validate conservative stances on personal responsibility and the importance of a strong work ethic.  They are looking for solutions -- where we (as a country) could do the most good to change the tide. It is one of the more balanced perspectives I've read -- which is refreshing.  Because it's going to take all of us - working together - to fix the mess we're in.  (The book does offer hope, with many possible solutions -- both for the country as a whole and for individuals.)

It's worth reading.



And . . . just for fun . . . here's an article about "craft trends" for the coming year!  Get ready for stained glass, color blocking, chartreuse, 3D printing, embroidery, and a continued focus on both eco-crafting (mending, zero-waste, use-what-you-have) and inclusion in the craft world.


I hope your Monday is off to a great start!
(I know I'm happy to be back at it this week.)




Happy Friday, everyone.  The world is looking sunnier this morning (even though its really not) because I am definitely on the upswing!


After gallons of orange juice, many cans of Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup, mugs upon mugs of tea, and more sleep than I usually get in a month . . . I am feeling (nearly) human again.  I've even declared myself ready-for-prime-time, and I'm headed out for a much-need and already twice-rescheduled haircut.*  (The first reschedule was not due to The Sickness.  But the second one was.)  

I especially want to thank you all for your kind words of support and sympathy during The Sickness.  It helped to know you all were out there, cheering me on and sending the juju.  XOXO

And now . . . let's get out there and have a great weekend, shall we?


*About that haircut.  I've been working on growing out my WAY too short pixie cut for about a year now.  It's slow going, and my hair stylist has been helping me keep things looking (pretty) good through the tedious grow-out phase (as is right, as she is the one to blame for the WAY too short pixie cut in the first place) (you'll look like Jamie Lee Curtis she said) (uh . . . not really, so thanks for that).  Anway, I have now reached the most awkward stage of the grow-out . . . The-I-Look-Like-the-Quaker-Oat-Man-and-I-Can't-Do-a-Thing-With-It Phase.  (Help!)


Trying Not to Whine

So.  I'm working hard right now on . . . 

Not whining.
Being grateful for incremental improvement.
Accepting a slow recuperation with grace and dignity.


But I gotta tell you . . . having the flu (because surely that's what this is) (and, yes, I did have a flu shot) is just a bummer.  I'm reading a lot, knitting a little.  Napping.  And rescheduling every single blasted thing on my calendar this week.

Getting better.  Slowly.
Still being watched over by these two.  (Although as you can see, they're sleeping on the job right now.)

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Since my life is rather dull at present, let me show you something more interesting!  

Tom left last Friday for a fishing adventure in Argentina.  
Again? you ask.  Didn't he do that already?
Yes.  Twice.
But this time, he went to a new and different place to fish in Argentina.  And he's fishing for other kinds of fish.


The other 2 times he's gone to Argentina, he went to Patagonia -- where the yellow arrow is pointing (thereabouts) -- and he fished for giant rainbow trout that live in a big lake in a very cold and windy remote part of Argentina.

This time, he's up near Bueno Aires -- where the bright green arrow is pointing -- and he is on the Paraná River on the Mothership (so called because that's where they sleep and eat, and then they take smaller boats to fish on the river each day).  Now, he is fishing for golden dorado, and the weather is very, very hot.


He is having a VERY good time.  (And is not at all sick.)


He even caught a piranha!  YIKES!


So.  I guess we could say . . . My husband went to Argentina, and all I got was this lousy flu!

Sometimes . . .

It's Monday.  
And time to start your engines.  
But you've lost the keys.


(Gratuitous amaryllis photo . . . because I've got nothin' else. . . )

Last Thursday night, I was going on about my evening -- making dinner, helping Tom pack for an adventure, working on my art class homework -- when all of a sudden . . . I was sick.  Like go-lie-down-right-now sick.  Big headache.  A cough.  Fever.

I got up on Friday (under protest from every fiber of my body) to get Tom to the airport*, but as soon as I got back home I headed straight back to bed, trailing objects behind me as I made a beeline to more sleep:  keys, purse, jacket, shoes, glasses.  And I stayed in bed - sleeping - for the next 36 hours!  (The dogs were my constant companions, watching over me and gently licking my face whenever they needed to go out - or eat.  Good dogs.)

Things are improving.  My brain-fog is lifting.  I am up and about again -- even "pulled an all-dayer" yesterday!  But.  Hoo boy.  That was not fun - and totally unexpected.

I'll be picking up the pieces for a few days, as best I can.  I hope you're all healthy and in good spirits today!  

(And now I'm off to watch the Oscar nominations. . . )


* Tom is in Argentina again -- this time fishing for Golden Dorado.



A Look Back . . . At the Things I Knit in 2019

My one little word for 2019 was intention . . . and I decided early on in the process to bring intention to my knitting.  (You can read more about that here, if you're interested in the nitty-gritty.) Basically, I decided to: 

  • Only knit what I would actually wear or use.  
  • Stick with using yarn I already had.  
  • In colors I love.  
  • And styles that suit me.  
  • No KALs.  No mysteries. 

I wanted to avoid jumping on any knitting-bandwagons that weren't right for me . . . or committing to doing something in a given time limit . . . or chasing a shiny object that wouldn't work for me or my closet.  

I still wanted to have some fun with my knitting, though, should something unexpected and perfect show up.  I didn't want to set myself up to feel like I'd failed if some new yarn made its way into my stash.  I wanted to be intentional about my knitting -- but I also wanted to be flexible enough to be inspired!

Now, as I look back on my knitting in 2019, I declare it a success!  When I look back over my Ravelry projects for 2019, I see . . . no clunkers!  I see 6 sweaters that I love and wear (none of them ended up in the Goodwill pile, which is a big win for me).  I see a stack of dishcloths we use all the time.  I see gifts for babies and kids and curlers and dads.  And I see only 2 shawls (because, really, I have plenty of shawls and was trying to Look Away From the Shawls in 2019) -- but I use them both.  Not a dud in the bunch!  I call that a great knitting year!

(And, yeah.  I know.  There is no gray cardigan in there.  But I don't see that as a failure.  I see it as a casualty of my being "flexible enough to be inspired.")

What were my favorite knits of 2019?

My hands-down, #1 favorite project of the year was my Night Shift shawl.


I used gorgeous yarn from Briar Rose -- and I had so much fun shifting those beautiful colors.  (I didn't use color-changing yarn, so all those shifts you see?  They're my doing!  My favorite projects are always the ones where I get to play with color.)  If you've been thinking about trying one of Andrea Mowry's "shifty" projects, I highly recommend you do it.  Fun.  (Like . . . really fun!)  Great instructions.  And a pretty fabulous result.

Next up, my Felix Pullover.


There is a good reason so many people have knit this great sweater (or the companion Felix Cardigan).  It's quick to knit (once you get the eyelet increases straight), fits great, and works with everything in your closet.  I knit mine from (stashed) Brooklyn Tweed Shelter -- which makes it light AND warm.

And then, my Alanis sweater.


This layering piece is so perfectly "my style" that I wear it constantly.  It's a quick knit from a well-written pattern by Elizabeth Smith.  I knit mine in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (again, from stash).  And . . . it has a sweet little pocket, too.


What to look for from me (knitting-wise) in 2020?

Well.  First up, you'll finally see that gray cardigan.  But other than that?  Who knows!  My knitting plan for 2020 . . . is to have no knitting plan. There are a few things I'm thinking about knitting this year (each of those highlighted words is a separate link, by the way), but I don't do well when I box myself into any kind of "queue" or "make nine" kind of structure.  For me, knitting is about inspiration coupled with the whims of my moods.  I'll keep my "intention" goals (top of this post) at the forefront of my project decisions (because that worked well for me), but beyond that, I commit to nothing.   

I just know . . . there will be knitting in 2020.  And that's enough for me right now.

How about YOU?  Do you like to organize your knitting plans in a structured way . . . or do your prefer to just let inspiration guide you?  What would you love to knit in 2020?




Warming a (Knitting) Mom's Heart

I ended up knitting a few quick gifts for Christmas for my kids and my dad -- hats and slippers.  (You can find the details on Ravelry here, here, here, and here . . . should you be so inclined.)  My kids always claim to like the things I knit them, but they all live (or lived, because Brian is now close by but didn't used to be) far away, so . . . y'know . . . I'd never know if they ACTUALLY used them, or if they were just humoring me.


Imagine my delight when we were all together this year for the holidays . . . and I saw my hand knit offerings (both from this Christmas and years past) IN USE IN THE WILD!

We had a family curling outing on Christmas Day, for example . . . and out came the hats!


Here's Erin and Keith in hats-by-Mom.  (Keith is sporting his brand-new Christmas Basic Chic Ribbed Beanie, and Erin is wearing her favorite Barley . . . knit back in 2014!)


And look!  Here's Brian and Lauren in MORE hats-by-Mom!  (Brian has on his Christmas St. James beanie, and Lauren is wearing the Water hat I made for her last year.)

And they wore these hats ALL the time, totally unprompted -- and not just while curling!  (And I'm pretty sure it wasn't JUST because they were humoring me.)



IMG_7513 2


It just warms my heart!


That's my new grand-puppy in that last photo with Lauren.  Her name is Ferda. (Brian and Lauren are Letterkenny fans. If you watch the show, you'll get the name.)  And let me tell you . . . she is FULL of spunk and energy!  (But not a carpet-eater.)  (So far.)


And . . . just for fun:




A Look Back . . . at the Words I Read in 2019

Goodreads sure makes it easy to review your reading for the year!

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In 2019, I read 80 books. Just under 26,600 pages.  Slightly more than 2018.  Which is all meaningless information, actually.  But interesting all the same. Most of the books I read in 2019 came from my local library.  I read fewer audiobooks this year than usual (and I have no explanation for that) (although I'm afraid that it might be that I watched more TV).  A few of the books I read in 2019 were . . . pretty mediocre.  But most were quite decent and very worth reading.  (My average rating was 3.9.)  I wrote a review for every book I read.

After all those books and all those pages, here are the books that really stand out for me this year -- a list of my Most Memorable Reads of 2019 (not all these books were 5-star reads for me, but they were memorable all the same):

First, the book that changed my thinking more than any other book this year.  White Fragility is not an easy read -- but it is an important one.  It's good to shake up the way you look at the world sometimes, y'know?!  I think about this book every day.  Highly recommended.

White fragility

Then, there's the book that changed my digital habits in a life-shifting way: Digital Minimalism.  Sure, I still Google useless facts too often, and I scroll through Instagram a bit more often than I really want to, but generally . . . I'm much more aware of how and when I use technology, and I feel far less tethered to my phone.  

Digital minimalism

I started the year with Milkman . . . and I'm still in awe of it.  The story was powerful, and the storytelling structure was unique.  I loved the fresh voice and perspective of the novel's narrator.  While it's probably not a book for everyone, if you like something a bit different and you're in the mood for something to chew on, give this one a try.


I always have a hard time choosing just one favorite book of the year, but if pressed . . . I'd probably tell you it was The Topeka School.  Again, probably not a book for everyone.  It's brilliant -- but challenging.  And so worth the effort. 

Topeka school

Then there's The Heart's Invisible Furies.  Epic, funny, poignant, and so full of heart it just . . . bursts!  (I talked Tom into reading this one after me, so I had a chance to listen to/talk through the best parts all over again as he read.)  If you like sprawling epics that will rip your heart out while making you laugh, this one is for you!

Heart's invisible furies

Oh, Lanny!  You stole my heart.  This quick, little read was such a magical treat!  


I read Red at the Bone right at the end of the year - almost my last book of 2019.  There is so much packed into this short book -- great characters, compelling story, unique storytelling style. This is one you won't want to miss!  

Red at the bone

And then there's Just Mercy -- the first book we read together, which will always make it special to me!  Y'know, it's pretty . . . risky . . . to try something new.  Like a bloggy book group.  So it was heartening that so many of you responded positively to this new (and evolving) idea, and that you . . . read with us!  Our first book was an interesting look at the criminal justice system - and particularly at death row inmates - in the US.  Not an easy read, but an important one.

Just mercy


What to look for from me (reading-wise) in 2020? 

I don't have any solid reading goals or plans in mind, and certainly not related to the number of books I plan to read.  I don't think I need to read "more" and I don't think I need to read "harder," so I'll keep to my usual strategy:  paying attention to the major book prizes (the Women's Prize, the Man-Booker, and the National Book Award are my favorites), checking out the recommendations from the New York Times and the New Yorker and other readers I trust, and then . . . well . . . just be open to general inspiration.  

As far as very loose plans, well . . .  this year, I'd like to read something by Virginia Woolf.  (I never have.  I think it's time.)  It's probably time for me to re-read some Jane Austen. (I go on a Jane Austen binge every decade or so. . . ).  I'm interested in a few memoirs right now, and I have a short stack of books on art and creativity that I'd like to tackle this year. 

How about you?  Do you have any reading plans this year?


Read With Us

I invite you to Read With Us!  We're just starting in on Fever by Mary Beth Keane (available for Kindle - $1.99 now).  Be sure to read Carole's promotional/introductory post about the book today.  We'll be discussing Fever throughout the month of February, so you still have plenty of time to join us!



My other highly recommended (5 star) reads this year:

Olive, Again (Elizabeth Strout)
The World That We Knew (Alice Hoffman)
The Dutch House (Ann Patchett)
Grief is the Thing With Feathers (Max Porter)
Disappearing Earth (Julia Phillips)
The Murmur of Bees (Sofía Segovia)
The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead)
Women Talking (Miriam Toewes)
The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson)
Inland (Téa Obreht)
Spring (Ali Smith)
The Great Believers (Rebecca Makkai)
Improvements (Jean Silber)

(For my reviews on Goodreads, or to follow along with what I'm reading, see my blog sidebar.)