The Great Unveiling

Something to celebrate!

A project three years in the making . . . 
And three weeks in the doing . . . 

Is finally complete!




Why did it take so long? Well, I've already explained that the project met up with the pandemic in not-so-great ways -- staffing and scheduling delays, hard-to-get materials, and the doors being lost at sea on various container ships.

Then, once all the pieces were in place and the project started, well . . . our house is tricky. First, we needed to have a lot of the cedar siding replaced or repaired. Once the painters could actually get to work, they had to contend with fussy house details . . . 


Like dentil molding all along the front of the house.

And generally tricky decorative details.


And then . . . there's the "north face" of the house. A daunting space that the painters saved for last.

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It's hard to get a photo of this part of the house that can adequately show the perspective. But this side of the house has a walkout basement, and the peak rises about 45 feet up from the ground. And . . . it's situated on a significant slope. I really couldn't watch when they were going up and down those ladders, but Tom assures me it was impressive.

My favorite things?

The new front door . . . 


The new light fixtures . . . 


And having my patio back!


It feels good to have this project completed!
(Next up? Apparently we need a new roof . . . )

Starting Your Engines . . . But Different

(Just a quick note to begin. One of the reasons I blog is to give myself a creative outlet. Ideas come to me. Sometimes they work out, and sometimes they don't. And sometimes they just . . . fade away over time. The "starting your engines" idea, as originally conceived, has lost its charm for me -- and if I can't inspire myself with an idea, I surely can't inspire anyone else with it. But I still like the concept . . . of starting the month by starting your engines. I just haven't quite figured out how yet. Please bear with me while I work that out.)


Welcome to August!

How we got here so quickly, I have no idea. But I'm sure it comes with age. Because summer lasted a million years when I was a kid, and now that I'm in my 60s, well . . . not so much. But. Here we are. August already.

Each year, at the beginning of summer, I think about all the things I want to do during the months ahead. Some years I actually write a list, but most years I just carry that list around in my head. My "summer stuff" list varies by year, and usually includes a real mishmash of things: "Eat ice cream cones regularly" and "Plant a tree" and "Clear out the linen closet."

My list generally changes by year, but one thing (well, two if you count the ice cream) shows up on every summer list I put together: "Watch a sunset over Lake Michigan."

And you know what? We never do it!


Oh, we get to Lake Michigan every year, at least once or twice. But we don't tend to stick around for the sunset! And it's one of those things that . . . never quite appeals once you're tucked in at home for the evening, with your glass of wine. And especially when you can watch some pretty amazing sunsets right there at home, from the comfort of your own front porch. (Plus . . . here in West Michigan, at the very western edge of the eastern time zone, our sunsets come very late.)

But last Saturday, we did it! Tom and I drove to South Haven (about 35 miles away) after dinner, and we settled into our beach chairs on a little sand dune and we watched the sun set over Lake Michigan.


It was such a beautiful evening. The weather was perfect. It was peaceful. And lovely.

I love living so close to The Lake. (If you've never seen the Great Lakes, well. It's much like being at the seashore . . . very coastal and all. Except the waves are wind-based, not tidal. And it's fresh water instead of salt water.) (Which tends to freak ocean-people out.) (And no matter which Great Lake you live near in Michigan, you refer to it as The Lake.)


So. Back to August 1.

When August hits, I always get a little bit (almost) panicky inside. August's arrival . . . means summer is nearly over. (Not really, these days, but I'm sure you get what I mean.) I'm never ready for it to end. And I want to make the most of every summer moment that remains, y'know?

So today, I encourage you to review your "summer list" -- the things you wanted to do this summer -- and pick something that's there, year in and year out. The thing that maybe you don't usually get around to doing.

And then . . . go do it!

Quick. Before summer is gone.

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Trust me, you won't regret it!

"I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this."
        --- Susan Branch


It's August, my friends.
Don't wait!

Start Your Engines!


PS - I'm close - very close - to launching my newly designed blog. I may be posting less often over the next week or two while I work out all the kinks and put on the finishing touches. It's hard to both keep my "regular" blog schedule going AND design a new one, y'know?  But please know I'm here. Working things out.

Best Of . . . July 2022


Did you see it?

July? Just flying by???

Today is my last July blogging day, so even though it seems July only just arrived, here I am, already recounting the . . . Best of My July.

This has been One Of Those Summers where scheduling concerns continue to keep me from being up north. Tom has gone up quite a lot. But me? Not so much! In all of July, I spent one chunk of days up there. With Brian and Lauren and their pup, Ferda. It was great fun -- and Ferda is finally getting the hang of swimming!


One of the best things of my July . . . is that the exterior work on our house has finally begun. (That's the main reason I haven't been able to head up north this month.) Of course, it looks like work will continue on into August at this point. But, hey. It's going to look great when it's finished. (The story I've been telling myself for three years now. . . ) I'm patient. But I've gone from this . . . 


to this . . . 


I'm really ready to have my patio back. Y'know? (I imagine that will be on my best of August list. Stay tuned.)

I got a haircut in July; my first since winter! It's so different now that I have long hair. I can go months between visits to the salon . . . AND my stylist can cut 3 inches off my hair and I barely notice.

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My favorite plant spot has a spring "incentive" program . . . Bonus Bucks. When you buy plants in the spring, you get Bonus Bucks for every dollar you spend. And then - in July - you can come back and cash them in. I love Bonus Bucks! I cashed mine in last week . . . 


And, as I've already mentioned, I set my "studio" back up in July. I've started painting again. (This is an underpainting I'm working on in my sketch book . . .  eventually, it will be a rusty hinge on an old wooden door. If I remember, I'll show you the finished painting someday.)


Mostly, my July has been . . . very ordinary. Filled with hot-but-pleasant summer days and all those things I love about summer. Time in my garden. Ice cream cones. Beer on the patio. Lovely sunsets. 


July . . . heck, the whole summer . . . is so very fleeting. It just flies by, doesn't it?


How about you? What was the best thing about your July?



SHIFT: July Check In

"Sometimes all it takes is a tiny shift of perspective to see something in a totally new light."  -- Dan Brown

From time to time I've blogged about negativity bias. Y'know . . . that terribly annoying little tendency we all have . . .where we focus on the negative stuff of our lives more than we do the positive stuff. Silly things people say to us. Unfortunate situations that happen in an ordinary day. Things we didn't get done. Somehow, those naggy little things hang with us so much easier than the good things that happen in our everyday lives.

I've been intentionally working to quell my own Voice of Negativity for a couple of years now. But, boy oh boy. It's hard to do! That negative bias? It's sticky!

This month's OLW prompt from Ali Edwards' OLW team is all about focusing on the little positives of life . . . instead of the negatives. I wrote a bit about it last week, when I shared the "small win" I was celebrating in my art "studio." Well. I actually took it a lot farther than that! I came up with a list of about 20 small wins that I could celebrate this month. Just . . . little things I did that I ordinarily wouldn't give myself a bit of credit for doing.

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At first, it was really hard to come up with anything for my list. I couldn't think of one thing! But once I got started (y'know . . . once I shut up my Voice of Negativity -- the voice that kept saying you-wasted-the-whole-month-you-lazy-bum) it got easier. 

And with my WiFi down, I decided to play around with some paper I had, and create a way to capture my small wins in my word journal. 


I don't usually follow Ali's prompts. But this month? It made a lot of sense to me! Thinking about my wins . . . instead of my didn't-dos . . . was just the kind of SHIFT I'm looking for!


As I was going through this process, I realized that EACH of my small wins really represented a shift in my perspective.

  • Instead of chastising myself about not maintaining a strict monthly cleaning schedule, for example, I captured this "small win": I cleaned the bathrooms when I didn't want to.
  • Instead of feeling bad about all the weeds in my garden, I celebrated this instead: Hummingbirds love my flowers.
  • Instead of wishing I'd made more progress on a big project, I celebrated this: I'm asking for help on a big project that is too much for me.

I'm sure you're getting the gist of things.

Focusing on my small wins - and celebrating them - is helping me SHIFT my perspective . . . from a negative bias to a positive one. I think I'm going to try this exercise every month. (Although not with paper craft . . . )

I highly recommend you give it a try, too! Instead of feeling bad about something you didn't do, SHIFT your perspective. And think of a small win you can celebrate instead.

Just a Slight Inconvenience . . . or Two

There are certain things you just . . . take for granted in life. One of these things is enjoying privacy in your own home. And the other is WiFi. And right now? I've got neither of these things! 

Oh, one of them -- the privacy thing -- is completely my own doing. And kinda funny, besides. Because my house painters? They're busy-busy-busy and swarming the house all day long. It is strange to walk into a 2nd floor room, though, and find . . . someone right there! Hard at work on the other side of the window.

It's not like we walk around naked all the time or anything, but we really do need to be on guard when it comes to painters popping up in our windows. This morning, for example, I decided to forego my usual meditation and yoga routine when I walked into the room and found this . . . 


(That shadow there in the window? That's a painter.)

So having painters around every day kinda . . . cramps my style a bit. Especially in my bedroom -- and in the garden beds near the house. And although they are a very accomodating crew - and would get out of my way if I asked them to - I really don't want to impede their progress to, oh . . . say, lay out my afghan squares on the patio (in the good light) so I can take a photo for my blog, y'know?

So you get this instead. . . 


(JoJo insisted on being part of things.) (And the 10 squares are finished, by the way. I'm currently contemplating adding 3 more to the original design.)

The other thing, though? The WiFi? Now THAT's a problem. 

There is some sort of utility work happening on a nearby street, and on Monday mid-day our WiFi went out. From what I could tell, the outage (which is very localized and doesn't impact many people, although it does impact us) was supposed to last "up to 24 hours." Yesterday, after 27 hours without WiFi, I contacted AT&T and found out that it's some major issue . . . and may take up to 72 hours to fix.

I've figured out how to use my phone as a hotspot, but it's very slow.

And it's all made me realize how very dependent we are on having WiFi!

Want to watch something on TV? You need WiFi.
Compose a document or write a blog post? WiFi.
Watch your latest art tutorial? WiFi.
Work out on the Peloton? WiFi.
Print something? WiFi.
Airdrop a photo? WiFi.
FaceTime? WiFi.

Holy cow. So much of my day-to-day life depends on WiFi! 

It's a good thing I have plenty of books and plenty of offline activities to keep me occupied. In the meantime, color me inconvenienced!

(And I certainly realize very how minor and insignificant these inconveniences are in the overall scheme of the world.) (I'm just whining.) (But most all of us are surprisingly dependent on WiFi in our daily lives these days -- and we really notice that when it's gone. It really is hard to be without it.)


PS. Our Wifi is back up this morning!



Read With Us: Sorrow and Bliss


Often, when I'm writing what Bonny and Carole and I call our "promotional posts" (to try to entice you to Read With Us), I haven't read our selection yet. But this time, I have!


I think Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason is a terrific Read With Us choice. Although the subject matter (mental illness) is dark, the book is nothing like our last selection (Young Mungo), which was really, really dark. So if you've been holding back on picking up Sorrow and Bliss because you just don't want to be emotionally beat up by a book again, well. You can breathe a little easier with this one.

That said, this novel pulls no punches when it comes to the heartbreak that comes from mental illness! Sorrow and Bliss is a searingly honest look at a woman trying to navigate life and relationships with a misdiagnosed mental illness, and it also explores the impact her illness has on family members and loved ones. The novel is sad and heartbreaking, yet it’s also charming, witty, and funny. The characters are authentic, the dialogue is fresh, and the entire storyline moves along at an easy pace.

What was really interesting to me about this book is the author’s refreshing take on not “labeling” the main character’s particular mental illness. In fact, the mental illness featured in the book is completely made up! Without a label, we readers can remain open to what’s actually happening to her, rather than filling in the blanks from our own experience or assumptions.

I'm sure there will be much to discuss when we get together to talk about the book in September!

If you’re wanting more insight into the book, Bonny shared Meg Mason's (she's the author of Sorrow and Bliss) inspiring bulletin board with us last week. And two weeks ago, Carole shared several interviews with Meg Mason (including a fascinating video interview). If you're looking for a good review of the book, here's one from The Guardian.

I do hope you'll pick up a copy and Read With Us.

The book is currently available on Amazon in hardback ($16.69), paperback ($13.09), Kindle ($6.99) or Audible versions (1 credit). Check your local bookstores for a copy, too! The book should also be available at most libraries, without too long a wait. 

Our Read With Us book discussion day will be coming up on Tuesday, September 13. Bonny, Carole, and I will each post discussion questions on our blogs that day, and then - later in the evening (7:00 pm Eastern time zone) - we'll be hosting a live book discussion/meet-up on Zoom.

C'mon along! 
Read With Us!


This or That: Summer Reading Edition

How it's already gotten to be the last week of July . . . is beyond me. Really. Time has been flying! Anyway. I've been thinking a lot about summer reading lately, and to celebrate this week's Booker Prize long list announcement (Tuesday), I thought it might be fun to wrap up the month with . . . 


Reading a book-book . . . OR . . . Reading on an e-reader

Listening to an audiobook . . . OR . . . I can't concentrate when I listen to a book

Feel like I must finish what I start . . . OR . . . Life is too short to read books I'm not enjoying

Library . . . OR . . . Bookstore

Sometimes I read the ending first . . . OR . . . I wouldn't dream of peeking at the ending

Book club . . . OR . . . No group reads for me

Multiple books at once . . . OR . . . One book at a time

Read in bed . . . OR . . . Too tired to concentrate on a book at bedtime

Follow book awards . . . OR . . . Book awards? What book awards?

Sometimes I re-read books . . . OR . . . Not interested in reading something again

Always have a book with me . . . OR . . . Always have my knitting with me


To answer, just copy the the list above, paste it into the comment field, and indicate your answers.

This . . . or . . . That? 
I can't wait to see what you choose.

(As for me? Check the comments to find out!)

Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge July 2022

Several months ago, I introduced my monthly fitness challenge, explaining my "inspiration" and why I think it's so important to do strength work ESPECIALLY as we age. (You can read all about that here.)


How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)


Here's this month's fitness challenge:

Challenge #10 -- Create a 2-minute Every Damn Day routine for yourself. And then do it . . . every damn day.

When it comes to improving our strength, consistency is key. This month, I'm challenging you to create a 2-minute routine that you can build into your day, every day. What you put in your 2-minute routine is completely up to you, based on what you want to work on regularly. 

Here's my 2-minute Every Damn Day routine: (Start your stop watch!)

  • First, I do 10 push-ups. (Why? Because I want to focus on strengthening my upper body and core, and push-ups are a great way for me to do that.)
  • Next, I do 5 pilates roll-ups. (Why? Because I want to maintain my core strength, stability, and flexibility. And I hate core work, so 5 is enough.)
  • Then, I do a yogic squat. (Why? Because it's good for my hips, my knees, my legs, and my ankles. It keeps me flexible, and it translates into a functional movement I can incorporate into my life -- squatting down in the garden, or when I'm doing housework, etc.)
  • From the yogic squat, I move back onto my butt and roll back into a plow pose. (Why? Flexibility and mobility, mostly -- but it also keeps my spine supple . . . and it feels really good, too.)
  • Then I roll out of that and into another yogic squat.
  • From there, I stand up (no hands!), and do my hands-free sit-on-the-ground/stand-back-up practice. (Why? So I can keep getting up and down from the floor. Fighting gravity is a good thing to do every day.)

Done! (Hit your stopwatch again; It should be . . . just a couple of seconds over 2 minutes.)

I do this every day, usually after my meditation time, but sometimes I tack it on at the end of a yoga practice or other, regular workout. If I'm having a busy day and won't have time for my regular workout, I do it just after I brush my teeth in the morning. It's quick. It's easy to do. It's become a habit.  

As you create your own 2-minute routine, the most important thing is to keep it short, simple, and filled with do-able elements that YOU need. You don't need to sweat. You don't need to suffer. You don't need to change clothes, even. You just need to do it every day.

So. What are you going to include in your 2-minute routine? That's up to you! Consider what you want to work on, and what will help you get stronger. Some elements you might consider:  

  • 5 jumping jacks
  • 5 crunches
  • 10 reps of shoulder presses with a light weight
  • a 30-second forward fold
  • quad stretches
  • skipping down the hall and back
  • holding a plank for 30 seconds
  • standing on one leg for 15 seconds
  • (and then the other!)
  • 5 cat-cow cycles
  • 5 leg lifts
  • 10 kegels
  • 3 bridge poses
  • a downward dog or two

The possibilities are endless!

Find a routine that works for YOU, and make it a habit -- every damn day.

Try it.
See what happens.


Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges:

Challenge #9 -- Try this 10 minute beginners yoga once a week for a month.

Challenge #8 -- Give yourself a couple of hugs (every day).

Challenge #7 -- Pay attention to how you walk. (With every step.)

Challenge #6 -- Get your feet off the ground! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #5: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

Challenge #2: Stretch your hamstrings, activate those glutes . . . and spare your back just by changing the way you bend over.

Challenge #1: Strengthen Your Lower Body by Doing Body Weight Squats . . . All Day Long


Tales From the Garden

Reality bites. 

I'm thrilled that my exterior house "makeover" project is well-underway (at last!), but my-oh-my . . . my garden is taking a serious hit! I knew this would happen. Once you bring in a paint crew and some carpenters and ladders and more ladders and long hoses and power washers and . . . well. Plants are bound to be trampled. Whole hunks of container plants (which I thought had been moved out of the way, but not enough) are gonna break off. I hold my breath and try not to look. . . 

(Also, I just want to say that our painting company? They are the most aware, cautious, and respectful-of-our property painting company I've ever seen. They are absolutely doing the best they can, and I'm pleased with the respect they're giving my garden. Still. Ladders. Lots of ladders.)

So. I'll not share any garden photos with you today.
Let's talk . . . garden fashion instead.


Ever since I completed my 2021 Quest for the Perfect Green Overalls (which I ended up sewing for myself), I have discovered that the VERY BEST thing to wear while gardening . . . is overalls. Comfort. Practicality. Pockets. Seriously, you can't beat 'em. And while I was thinking about making another pair -- hacking them into shorts overalls this time, I found the perfect, ready-made version . . . thanks to my (highly annoying but surprisingly right on the money) Instagram feed. 

These overalls (the ones I'm wearing in my photo) are from Duluth Trading Company (here's a link, and they're on sale right now . . . just sayin). They're lightweight. They have The Best Pockets. The shoulder straps are elastic. And I don't have to unbutton everything (just one shoulder strap) when I need to use the bathroom.


Besides . . . what gardener doesn't want overalls with little gnomes on them, huh?

(And for those of you who don't share my love of quirky gardening gear -- like gnome overalls or "chicken boots" -- they do come in solid colors, too.)


And that's my tale from the garden this week!