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October 2015

September 2015

A Change in Taste

There are signs of fall all around me these days:

Less daylight.

Orion in the sky.

Haven't spotted a robin in a couple of weeks.

Goldenrod blooming everywhere.

Mums and pumpkins.

School buses.

Acorns everywhere.

Frantic squirrels.

The need to wear shoes once in a while.

Although I try to ignore most of these things (and especially the shoe thing) and just pretend it's still summer (c'mon; play along), there's one thing that happens every year . . . that just makes the change of season inevitable.


I start to crave cold-weather-comfort-foods!

Yep.  I know that fall has truly arrived when I want to cook and eat foods I never even consider when the weather is warm.  This week, Carole has us talking about just this topic for Ten on Tuesday with Ten Foods We're Looking Forward to Eating Now That It's (almost) Fall:

  1. Butternut squash
  2. Lentils
  3. Grilled cheese
  4. Sweet potatoes
  5. Chili
  6. Chicken noodle soup
  7. Pot roast
  8. Apples
  9. Meatloaf
  10. Mashed potatoes

How about YOU?  What foods do you turn to when the seasons change?


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here

Working on My Fitness: A Fresh Start

(Okay.  So you may wonder what this photo . . . 


has to do with fitness.)  (Read on.  It will become clear.)

Way back in January, when I was setting my intentions and goals for the year and thinking about the whole JOURNEY thing, I stated that I wanted to "shake up my fitness routine this year."  At the time, way back in January, I knew this would be a challenge.  Not the fitness part (because that's easy for me) -- but the shaking it up part.  Because I liked what I was already doing:  running, dancing, kickboxing.  But it was beginning to feel a bit . . . automatic.  (And besides, I was noticing a bit more arm-jiggle and knew I needed to add some weight training.  Or something.)  So.  Shake it up.

But how?  Because, as it turned out, I didn't really want to give anything up. . . 

Enter:  LIFE.

First, there was the ankle tendinitis issue.

Then, there was the knee issue that flared up as a result of fixing the ankle tendinitis issue.

That'll do it!

No more running.  No more dancing.  No more kickboxing.

BIG shakeup.  Nothing BUT shakeup, in fact!  I needed to strip everything away (except yoga and spinning) and start from scratch.

I started swimming again.  I got back into Pilates.  I discovered that the elliptical machine can be okay in 30 minute bursts.  I found another good spinning instructor.

And this morning - at 5:45 AM, mind you - I found out that I like Power Yoga.  (I might like it a little more if it were offered a bit later in the morning, but oh well. . . )

And THAT . . . is how the photo of the sun rising over my butterfly garden relates to a blog post about fitness.  Because this morning, after Power Yoga and some time on the elliptical machine, I arrived home in time to SEE the sun rise over my butterfly garden.

Although it has been a disappointing year, fitness-wise, in many respects (I really did love my dance class, y'know, and I was kind of getting into the running thing), it's ending out just fine.  The forced time off - and the resulting "re-thinking" about how to protect myself from further injury - have paid off with a fitness Fresh Start.

I'm finally getting that 'shake-up' I was looking for back in January!  (Still trying to get that arm-jiggle under control, though. . .


Headline News

What if . . . my week was reduced to headlines?


Couple wins Bells Bash Lottery --  Thrilled to Score Hottest Tickets In Town!

FullSizeRender 24


Disgruntled Swimmer Silenced With Pool Re-opening Scheduled for Saturday
Delays Tax Patience of Club Swimmers


Guest at First Ever Exclusive Beer Tasting Event:  "I Usually Hate Porters.  But This One is Really Good!"  
Home Brewers Vow to Continue Tasting Events Through Fall


Wine Sale Saturday:  20% Off
Just in Time, says Local Collector


Gridiron Action Begins:  Outspoken Local Woman Heard Muttering WHO CARES?


Hope your weekend is newsworthy!



Lessons from Inside the Parentheses

Today . . . is the first in a series of personal "anniversaries" marking the beginning of my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Much as I try to put these dates and events out of my mind, they tend to make their presence known . . .  down at my very core.  

And especially in September.

So forgive me while I revisit these ghosts of my past . . . and try to make sense of my experience seven years ago.  (It seems to happen every year in September.)


Recently, I read a rather wonderful analogy of personal crisis (be it a cancer diagnosis - or any one of the myriad other Things That Go Wrong).  The author suggested that "catastrophes provide a pair of parentheses in which to live apart from real life, depositing you rather abruptly on the sidelines for a bit while normal life continues to eddy downstream."*

This description completely resonates with me.  When I was first diagnosed with cancer, and then for the long months of chemo, I craved only one thing: my normal life.  All I wanted was to live outside those parentheses again!  Back then, in the midst of treatment . . . I swore I'd never take the ordinary-ness of my days - the normal stuff- for granted again.  I looked forward to celebrating the little inconveniences of every day life.

And - for a time - after treatment, I did.  Because cancer is a very good teacher teacher.  It forces you to face up to what you should have known all along:  that life is fleeting, there is little time, and no room for regrets.

At first, after treatment, I felt . . . shiny and new, sanded and polished, incredibly fragile.  I knew - for sure - that I would never experience life in quite the same way again.  While I stepped lightly - but purposefully - away from The Edge, the colors seemed brighter and the boundaries sharper -- and everything tasted much, much fresher.  I took more risks, I reached out, I tried new things, and I spoke out louder and sooner than ever before.

But then one day . . . I was stuck in traffic.  I got impatient.  I yelled in frustration.  And then I realized . . . that I had gotten normal back.  I had moved away from The Edge, and out of the shadow of my cancer ordeal.  I was - once again - cranky about a routine traffic jam, something absolutely unimportant!

I had moved outside the parentheses -- away from the catastrophe and back to normal life.  (It's amazing how resilient we really are.)  But sometimes, it's good to revisit those lessons we learn inside the parentheses.

That's where I am right now.

It is September, after all. . . 


*Lynn Darling in Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding










Soundtrack . . . 


Sometimes . . . 

when your knitting is all wonky . . . 

and it's twisted in a bad way . . . 

and you can't believe you wasted all that time . . . 

and you're ready to throw the whole damn thing into the trash can . . .


All I need is a miracle.


All I need is you.


If I ever catch up with you, I'm gonna love you for the rest of your life!


Let's just say . . . it's kind of amazing what happens to linen when you throw it into the washer and dryer . . . instead of the trash.

It's a miracle!

(Ravelry details here.)

Weekending . . . Ten on Tuesday Style

We kept ourselves quite busy all through this long, hot Labor Day weekend.  It won't be any trouble at all for me to tell you Ten Things I Did This Weekend, à la Ten on Tuesday.


1 - On Friday, I helped Tom transfer his latest beer batch from one large container to another (which is trickier than it sounds).  The stuff in this photo is called the trub . . . or what's left in the bottom of the container after a successful "first stage fermentation." (And this means we're one week closer to our own IPA!)


2 - Then we headed for Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids to see John Hiatt perform in the outdoor amphitheatre. I love sitting outside in my lawn chair, sipping a beer, watching the  geese and herons fly overhead, seeing the sun go down . . . all while enjoying a great concert.  (And it was great.)


3 - On Saturday morning, the dogs and I had a very exciting walk . . . where we discovered a (dead) snake in the road, a huge (very live) wasp nest in a tree, and a giant (also live) cicada in the grass (near the J-pups' favorite pee-corner).  So much to check out.


4 - On Saturday afternoon we headed up to the cottage for a quick overnight. . . and one last sit on the dock and (probably) the last swim for the dogs.  (We won't be back up until October.)


5 - Because then we took the docks out for the season.  (Always kind of sad; summer goes by too quickly, y'know?)


6 -- I knit almost all of one sleeve for this sweater.  I also taught myself to cable without a cable needle.  (I know.  I'm like the only knitter on the planet stubborn enough to continue with a cable needle.  So it was time.)  (Bonus:  I'll get plenty of practice on this sweater.)


7 - I re-did my front porch containers with more fall-ish flowers.  (The summer batch was looking really, really tired.)  (Maybe even dead.)


8 - I read a book  - Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.  I highly recommend it!  Just delightful.


9 - We had a little cook-out, just Tom and I.


10 - And I spent plenty of time just kicking back with Tom and the dogs . . . enjoying a long, pleasant summer weekend.

How about YOU?  What did you do this weekend?


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here


BINGO: The Wrap Up

Now that summer is wrapping up (although not really; we're having a late surge of hot-and-steamy here this week), it's time to wrap up SUMMER BOOK BINGO.



Would you look at that.

A Bingo Blackout!

If you're a Book Bingo purist, well, you might just take issue with a few of my squares.  But I'm here to stand tall and proud in the Taking Poetic License category.*  (And I feel totally justified because I read The Corrections.  And Lolita.  And that absolutely abysmal Beneath the Marble Sky.  Those have to count for something!!!)

You can check out my previous book selections here and here.  The rest of my squares:

By An Author Born the Same Year as You:  That, my friends, is where The Corrections comes in.  Because me and Jonathan Franzen, baby.  1959.  (I hated this book.) (Bonus points . . . because I also read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, who was also born in 1959 -- on CHECK THIS OUT -- the SAME DAY as Jonathan Franzen!)

That You Think You Will Dislike:  Now, to be fair . . . I don't read books I think I'm going to DISlike, so this is a stretch from the get-go.  (Although sometimes I DO read books I think I'm going to LIKE . . . but end up DISliking.)  Anyway, this square was fulfilled by The Bees by Laline Paul -- a book I felt quite lukewarm about going in, and ended up LOVING coming out. 

At Least 800 Pages:  Nicholas Nickleby.  (But you already know all about my relationship with this one.)  I really did enjoy old Nick, although it's not my favorite Dickens.  (That would be Great Expectations.)

About a Subject that Challenges You:  Applying some of that poetic license again here . . . I'm counting Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny.  Because murder of a child challenges me.  Also guns.  

About a Religion With Which You are Unfamiliar: Because I read so much, I've become familiar with almost all religions.  BUT.  I had never read a book set inside a monestary for nuns.  Enter . . . In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden.  I can honestly say -- I never expected to be so captivated by nuns!  I plowed through all 672 pages in 3 days. 

Manga Poetry:  When my Bingo card came up, I wasn't freaked out by the "over 800 pages" square . . . I was freaked out by the Manga square.  Because I read a Manga once.  Long ago.  (When Erin was kind of into them. . . in, like, 7th grade.)  And, really.  That was enough for me.  So . . . I substituted the Manga square for my own, made-up Poetry sqaure.  And then I read Poems New and Collected by Wislawa Szymborska.  (And my life is much the better for it.)  Excellent.  Just excellent.  (I am not passing judgement on Manga as a genre.  It is just not MY genre.  I tried it once.  Life is just too short for any more.)  (And, besides . . . I read The freakin' Corrections!!!)

That You Saw Someone Else Reading:  I saw Margene reading Mink River by Brian Doyle.  And I am SO GLAD I did!  (A terrific book.)

By An Author of a Different Culture:  For this square, I read Kartography by Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani author.  This book . . . was breathtakingly beautiful; one of those books that just made me gasp - over and over.

And, there you have it!



*And sure, I may have stretched things a bit on some of the squares.  But keep in mind . . . I read lots of books with lots of pages this summer!  Not only Nick, coming in at 817 pages, but also The (freakin) Corrections at 635, In this House of Brede at 672, She's Come Undone at 465, and The Art of Fielding at 512.  That's gotta count for something!





September = Fresh Start (And, yeah. You're in the right place.)

And suddenly you know:  It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.
                                                                                                     ---Meister Eckhart


If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember that I think of September as the beginning of the year.  (I guess that old academic calendar is firmly embedded in my psyche.)  

September . . . just always reminds me of new shoes and fresh crayons and a new lunch box. Starting over in a new grade with a blank slate and a year full of possibilities.

So now seems like the perfect time to roll out a fresh look for my blog!  There will likely be some further tweaks as I work with this new format, but it's a good start.

September.  Let's begin!


My special thanks to Vicki, who designed my new blog banner and provided much-needed technical support along the way.  XO Vicki!   

Extra . . . Ordinary

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.
                                                                                                            --- Thomas Moore


Today for Ten on Tuesday, Carole gives us an interesting topic:  Ten Seemingly Ordinary Things That Bring Us Joy.  

It got me thinking.

Ordinary.  What a . . . strange word.  It's not usually employed as a Good Thing.  Or as a compliment.  I mean, really.  Who wants to be ordinary . . . in a world where EXTRAordinary is King?

But I rather like ordinary-ness, myself.  

After all, it's the
routine . . . the ordinary things . . . that form our lives and provide us with structure and foundation.

While extraordinary is certainly nice once in a while, ordinary things . . . are special, too!

For me, these seemingly ordinary things bring joy.

  1. Sitting in the sun, especially when it's been AWOL for awhile.
  2. Walking around in my garden with a cup of coffee.
  3. Sleeping with the windows open on a chilly night.
  4. Picking herbs to use in my cooking.
  5. Waking up to a hot cup of coffee.
  6. Crossing things off my to-do list.
  7. Driving with the sunroof open.
  8. Deadheading and weeding in my garden.
  9. Bringing in the mail.
  10. Having good, sharp knives in the kitchen.

How about YOU?  What seemingly ordinary things bring you joy?


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here