TGIF

There's no snow on the ground here anymore, but there is plenty of The Dreary and The Frozen.

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It's Friday.  Let's celebrate that with a little TGIF.

T - Thinking About . . . our Solstice party next Thursday.  Pretty much, it's All Solstice All The Time right now in my head.

G - Grateful . . . that Tom and I do a detailed "post-mortem" after each Solstice party -- complete with good notes.  We've been doing these parties for so many years now that we have A System.  (And my notes tell us things like how we set up the rooms, the number of beers and bottles of wine our guests consumed, where we placed the luminaries, and suggestions for the next party.  That kind of thing.)

I - Inspired by . . . all the things I can't wait to get back to once the Solstice party is in the books for another year.

F - Fun . . . I have a facial scheduled today!  (Not always "fun," exactly.  But definitely a treat!)

How about YOU?  How's your Friday shaping up?

Enjoy your weekend.

 


And Then Sometimes the News is Good

Back in the fall, Tom found a little lump in the crease just in front of JoJo's right hind leg.  And then we couldn't find it again.  And then . . . there it was again!  Not very big.  Hard to find.  Worrisome.  But also not so worrisome.  But worrisome enough that I took her to the vet in November.

I expected the vet to say No worries, just a fatty tumor.

But that's not what the vet said.  Let's aspirate that, the vet said.

And it turned out to be . . . not good.  A mast cell tumor.  Cancer.

We must cut that out, the vet said.  And have tests run to see how likely to spread it might be.

Unsettling.  (And JoJo is only 5.)

Last week, JoJo had surgery.  For such a small lump, she ended up with a massive incision.  I was aggressive with the margins, the vet said.  Because I could be, he said.  And because she is only 5, he said.

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Frankendog, said Tom.

After being kind of out of it for a couple of days, JoJo bounced back.  She doesn't like to sit still.  She wants to play and jump and run.  No roughhousing, said the vet.  And no running. 

And she really wants to get at those stitches.  So . . . 

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It's an inflatable collar.  Better than a cone, by far.  Ahoy there, matey! said Tom.

Last night we got the pathology report from the vet.  Good news, said the vet.  Clean surgical margins and a low probability spread, said the vet.

You know what we said?

  1. Yay!
  2. Yay!
  3. Yay!

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


All Wrapped Up

This pile of knits . . . 

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represents the sum total of my Christmas knitting.  Complete!

And this afternoon . . . everything will be wrapped and packaged and ready for shipping.  Yes, my friends.  Everything is all wrapped up -- with weeks to spare!  Which begs the question . . . 

Is there time for one more???

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Be sure to head over to Kat's today for more Unraveled posts.


A Reminder: Focus on the WHY of It

December is so much a jumble . . . of activities and to-do lists and time-crunching.   Sometimes it just feels like too much, y'know?  

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And, really, my Decembers these days . . . are nothing like they were when my kids were still at home!  First, there were those hyped-up, magical years when my kids were so very excited about Santa and what was going on in his workshop at the North Pole.  And, later, when my calendar exploded with concerts and recitals and Winter Formals and hockey games?  My, oh my.  I've got nothing to complain about now!

In fact, my December would actually be pretty low key these days.  Except for one thing.  Tom and I throw big Solstice parties in June and December.  So we've got one coming up again next week.  Big party.  Big guest list.  Big preparations.  Big fun.  And . . . Big stress!

This weekend, though, I ran into a quote that made me just kind of . . . step back and reassess.

"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth the aggravation and people to whom we are worth the same."
                                                                                                --- Donald Westlake

I have no idea who you are, Donald Westlake, but your words just made me re-think everything!  Yes.  This December stuff is ridiculous and a hassle and sometimes it even wakes me up in the middle of the night.  But . . . aren't I the luckiest person in the world . . . to have people in my life who are WORTH every darn aggravation?

The answer is YES.  Yes, I am.  
And from this moment on, I'm going to focus on that . . . the WHY of it!

 


Friday Fish Wrap

It's a busy time of year.  I don't know about you, but my attention span is, like . . . 15 seconds these days. So many little fires burning in my brain.  Year-end stuff.  Holiday stuff.  Social stuff.  To-do list stuff.  My calendar is full -- and I know yours is, too.

So.  Let's have a Friday Fish Wrap to add a little MORE fuel for that fire!

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First of all, here's something handy.  

I try really, really hard to adhere to an "inbox-zero" system (for myself -- I do not adhere to the strict inbox-zero concept developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann).  But, like my physical desk and inbox, my email inbox is a bit of a jumble.  (My personal inbox-zero system helps me know what's in there, though!)

Anyway.  Every now and then (usually once or twice a month), I carefully go through my inbox and unsubscribe from all the email newsletters and retail places that I really don't want in my inbox . . . ever.  It's a totally tedious process, but it always makes me feel great when I'm finished.  For about . . . 2 or 3 weeks.  And then . . . back they come!  All those emails from all those places I've already unsubscribed from.

Frustrating.

I've decided to try a more nuclear approach to unsubscribing to emails.  I've gotten the Unroll.Me app for my phone.  (It's available for iOS and Android.)  It will scan your emails (Yeah.  I know.  More on that later. . .) and give you a list of everything you're subscribed to.  You then have the option of keeping, deleting, or having Unroll.Me condense them into a weekly Rollup for you (getting a weekly digest of subscription emails in one email, instead of all the individual emails).

It's simple to use and very clean.  Before downloading the app and signing up, I did a lot of checking on how they use the data they collect (because, after all, you're giving them access to your email!!!) and what their privacy policy is.  They're very transparent about what they do and how they use it.  I was impressed, and decided to give it a try.  (Although my heart did skip a beat about the warning I got from Google about allowing Unroll.Me to access my email.)  (And then I remembered . . . that I have NO IDEA how Google is using my email.  Which they have had full access to for years and years.)  (So we're all living dangerously anyway, non?)

Anyway.  I tried Unroll.Me.  It works - easy-peasy.  And I'm happy I don't have to go through my regular unsubscribing clean-up routine.  Again.

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Yesterday, I wrote about my personal reading "odyssey" in 2018, including my favorite books of the year.  And a couple of weeks ago, I shared the list of the 100 best books of 2018 from the New York Times.  

Enough on the book lists?  Maybe not!

Because NPR has published their Book Concierge list -- a list of 2018's 300 best reads of 2018!  (As if any of us need any MORE reading ideas for our lists.)

What's especially cool about NPR's list . . . is that it includes handy filters for a bunch of categories.  Want a list of the best historical fiction of 2018?  Push the button on the side panel, and there's your list.  Looking for suggestions for your book group?  There's a book group button!  Long books?  Short books? Poetry?  Cookbooks?  There are so many ways to slice and dice this list your head will spin!

(And if that's not enough, there are also links to their Book Concierge lists going back to 2008.)

So.  Even more books to add to your reading queue.

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Speaking of books . . . if you are a fan of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels (or if you just want to see what all the fuss is about), be sure to check out the My Brilliant Friend series on HBO.  It follows the books amazingly closely, and really serves to bring the books to life.  (Plus, you can brush up on your Italian while you're watching -- because it's all in Italian, subtitled in English.)  I'm usually quite wary of books-adapted-to-screen, but I'm really impressed with this one.

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Have you started making Christmas cookies yet?  We haven't . . . yet.  But soon.  Very soon.  Although I have a few standbys that I make each year (pepparkakor and spritz, for example), I'm always looking for tasty new treats to try out at the holidays.

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I noticed the New York Times put together a collection of their 35 best classic Christmas cookie recipes.  Some are familiar, but some are new and look pretty tempting.  Check out the collection if you're looking to change things up a little this year!

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Did you hear that "toxic" is the Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year?  Yep.  According to NPR, Oxford Dictionary "reported a 45% percent increase in look-ups of toxic and it was used in so many situations that "the sheer scope of its application, as found by our research, made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title."

(I saw someone somewhere on the internet - although I can't recall exactly where right now - joke that "toxic" is the Word of the Year . . . because "garbage fire hellscape" is three words.)

And all of this reminded me . . . that it's time to think about your One Little Word for 2019!  If you're interested in signing up for Ali Edwards One Little Word class, you can click here and save some $$ by registering before the end of the year.  

I'm not going to sign up for the official "class" this year, but I AM going to choose a One Little Word.  (Actually, I've already chosen it.  I'll tell you about it soon.)  (Hint:  It's not "toxic.")

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And now . . . something so awesome it will make you wish you'd thought of doing it yourself!  Have you ever done jigsaw puzzles and noticed how the pieces are, pretty much, all cut the same?  Like . . .  pieces fit together in shape -- but the pictures don't match up and that's the only way you know it's not quite right?

Well.

This guy . . . fits two different puzzle (with the same die cuts) together . . . to create amazing jigsaw mash-ups!  Take a look.  It's so cool.  (My favorite is the semi-truck/pharoah mash-up.  How about you?)

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Looking for a cute - and edible - treat for your next get-together?  How about this . . . 

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These little penguins were the scene-stealers last night at my dad's apartment's Christmas party!  I don't have any directions (although I'm sure they're all over Pinterest) (yep, I was right; they have their own category on Pinterest), but I took a close-up so you could break it down for yourselves.  Mozzarella balls, black olives, carrots, and cherry tomatoes.  A bit futzy, but so adorable!

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And, lastly, I thought I'd share a little Mom-pride-thing here.  My daughter, Erin, was the "featured alum"  last month on the Carnegie Mellon University English Department website!  You can click here to read all about her.  (I still have a hard time explaining to people what she DOES, exactly, at LinkedIn . . . so this article will help me explain.)  (Although I'm still not quite sure what she DOES, exactly. . .but I do know that she likes it! )

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And . . . that's a WRAP.
Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you Monday.


Three Things About My Reading in 2018

I've reached that time of year . . where I begin reflecting.  Looking back over the past year -- before I look ahead to the coming year.  I usually start with some easy reflecting (what did I read, for example) before I tackle the harder stuff (did I accomplish what I hoped to accomplish, for example).

So. Let's talk about reading, shall we?

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According to Goodreads, I've 66 books so far this year.  That's fewer books than I've read in years past, but that was actually by design.  (Yes.  That's right.  I opted to slow down my reading this year; to focus more on what I was reading, and to try to make deeper connections with the books I did read.)

Turns out I read mostly 4-star books (by my own grading system), which is typical for me.  I'm pretty choosy about the books I read, and I have a good idea of what I tend to like, so it doesn't surprise me that most of my books end up with 4 stars.  Besides, for me, 5-star reads just don't come along very often.  (A book has to be really fabulous for me to give it 5 stars.)  That said, I also read a few real duds this year, too!

My top 5 books of 2018? *

And here are three things I've learned from my reading in 2018:

  1. Early in the year, I decided I wanted to focus more on my reading.  I spent a while thinking about what that meant, exactly.  (Especially because I have always - all my life - focused on my reading!)  I came to the understanding that what I wanted . . . was to focus more on making my reading meaningful.  I decided to slow down.  To make better connections with what I was reading - and to, ultimately, remember more about the books I read.
  2. I started taking notes about each book I read this year.  I don't mean . . . notes like you take in school or anything (I certainly wasn't outlining chapters here).  But I did create a format for myself so I could jot down a basic synopsis, a list of characters, my impressions, and quotes I particularly liked from each book I read.  I discovered that by taking notes, I was connecting at a deeper level with what I was reading -- and I'm certainly remembering the books more than ever before.  These notes helped me write reviews on Goodreads (another reading goal of mine for the year), and it helped me create . . . space . . . between books.  In years past, I would open another book as soon as I closed one.  By taking the time to go over my notes and put together a review, I was creating a boundary between my books -- and that turned out to be a great strategy for me in slowing down and finding more meaning.
  3. I used my library more than ever.  While this was frustrating for me sometimes (because I couldn't always get the books I wanted WHEN I wanted them), it taught be other lessons.  Like just because a book finally pops up on Overdrive -- along with 3 others! -- you don't have to pressure yourself to read it Right Now.  You can put yourself back on the hold list and read it later.  (That was a big lesson in letting go for me.)  There were still times I purchased a book because I didn't want to wait (my Overdrive wait for Michelle Obama's Becoming was 8 months long, for example, so I purchased it on Audible), but I was much more likely to wait for books from my library.

Looking back, it's been a really great reading year for me.  I know that there will always, always be far more books out there that I'd like to read . . . than I'll ever have time to read.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that!

How about you?  What were your favorite books this year?

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* My other 5-star books this year:  Calypso (David Sedaris), The Overstory (Richard Powers), From a Low and Quiet Sea (Donal Ryan), Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf), Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)  The Ninth Hour: A Novel (Alice McDermott), The Light of the World (Elizabeth Alexander), The Temporary Gentleman (Barry Sebastian), Winter (Ali Smith), and Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor).

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Be sure to visit Carole today, for more Three on Thursday posts.

 


Merry and Bright

. . . and SHINY!

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Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with a friend in her studio making glitter balls.  Fabulously fun and super simple!

(And, yeah.  I don't have a Christmas tree at my house.  But I do have a lighted birch tree.  And these will look very fine hanging from the branches.)

We also tried some ornaments with alcohol inks.  Our results were decidedly mixed.  While this one looks quite pretty. . .

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I think there's a learning curve.  (Because not all of them worked quite as well.)

It was a fun afternoon, filled with mess, laughter, and creativity.  Merry and bright, indeed!

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It's kind of amazing how many "unraveled" posts I can come up with that have absolutely nothing to do with knitting.  I've been knitting a LOT, but can't show you any of it quite yet.  (Because Christmas.)  Stay tuned!

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Be sure to head over to Kat's today for more Unraveled posts.


Permission Granted

FOMO . . . or the Fear of Missing Out . . . can be a real drag on happiness and personal contentment.

I bet many of you have experienced FOMO.  It's that feeling that sneaks up on us . . . when we're really quite happy with whatever we're doing.  But then . . . Someone Else is doing Something Else that sounds Even Better.  Or More Exciting.  Something, maybe, we SHOULD be doing.  It's not . . . Inspiration.  It's darker.  (Because we're often inspired by others, and that's a fine thing.)  FOMO is more . . . feeling bad about yourself because you're NOT doing it.  Y'know?  There's quite a difference there.

Anyway.

FOMO at the holidays can contribute to stress and overwhelm and feelings of not doing things quite right.  Last year, for example, I decided not to put up a traditional Christmas tree in my house.  I was happy with my decision; relieved, in fact.  But then . . . Everyone Else was putting up trees.  And going on about their trees.  And FOMO crept in.  Just a little, and for a very short time.  I started to think . . . maybe I SHOULD do a tree.  In the end, though, I stuck with my decision.  I ended up quite happy and content with my traditional Christmas tree-less season.

In an attempt to block FOMO - and especially at the holidays - I recommend giving yourself permission to celebrate YOUR way.  To not let yourself be swayed by what Other People are doing. To let things go.  To avoid the "shoulds."  

This year, I created a permission slip for myself.

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It's just a simple thing written on a Post-It note that I stuck on the December page of my calendar.  A little reminder that I have already given myself permission to let go of things; a little reminder to myself NOT to succumb to FOMO.

I want to remain happy and content with the way I've decided to celebrate this year; for not doing things the way other people are doing them -- and for not placing guilt on my family or friends, either.  My holiday, my way -- your holiday, your way.

It's time to take some of the overwhelm out of the holidays -- for all of us.  Let's give ourselves permission . . . to be content with our decisions, whatever they may be.

 


Sometimes Mondays

. . . feel a little scattered.  (But also festive!)

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You know how, sometimes, everything just kind of lands on the calendar . . . on the same day?  Well.  This is one of those days for me.  

It's manageable.  But I feel a bit scattered.   A real Monday kind of Monday, in other words.

How's your Monday looking?


About That Holiday Shopping

So.  Last night, I went to opening night of the annual KIA Holiday Art Sale (a major fundraiser to benefit the Art School where I take classes).  I wanted to get a headstart on my holiday shopping.

Oh, I did some shopping alright. . .

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For MYSELF!

(Cute pottery sheep.  Adorable, non?)  (What fiber-lover could resist?)

Does this happen to anyone else?  You go out to shop for the holidays . . . and come home with something for yourself?

Oh, well.

It's Friday.  Have a great weekend!