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April 2016

A Confession

For as long as I have been blogging . . . 

(And even before that.)

one of my annual goals has been . . .

Become Proficient With Photoshop.

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I had the software (the full-blown version, mind you) loaded on my computer.  

(I even upgraded once or twice.)

I took classes in using Photoshop.

Live classes.

Online classes.

I'd learn how to use it.  I'd create all kinds of great effects.  Basically, I'd edit the crap out of my photos.

In class.

For my assignments.

But I just never used it on my own.  It seemed like . . . just so much trouble.

So my new-found skills would get rusty.  (Again.)

And then I'd feel bad.  (Again.)

And, each January, declare that this . . . THIS would be . . . The Year I'd Become Proficient in Photoshop.  (Again.)

It has become achingly, painfully clear, though . . . that it just ain't gonna happen.


You know what I did?

I Kon-Mari'd it!

Yep.  I uninstalled that sucker.  Because No Joy.



The photo above?  Lake Michigan waves crashing over the South Haven pier last Saturday.  (And not edited with Photoshop, by the way.)


Drop Everything!

This girl?

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As in . . . always, Always ALWAYS had her nose in a book.

Maxed out her check-out limit at the public library.

Maxed out her check-out limit at the school library.

Flew through her school work so she could spend "free time" reading.

Got in trouble for reading at the table.

Got in trouble for the flashlight-under-the-covers thing.

Lived for the Scholastic Book Fair.

Never, ever, ever was caught without a book to read.

Favorite books from my childhood* (when Drop Everything and Read hadn't really been invented yet, but seemed to happen just naturally?) . . . 

  1. Misty of Chincoteague
  2. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler
  3. A Wrinkle in Time
  4. Island of the Blue Dolphins
  5. Across Five Aprils
  6. Phantom Toll Booth
  7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  8. Johnny Tremain
  9. Little Women
  10. The Outsiders

How about YOU?  What are the books you . . . dropped everything to read?


Find out what everyone else has to say here!


* I had to narrow this topic to my childhood, ages 9-12, because I couldn't have managed any other way. (I just read too much.)  (As in . . . still maxing out my check-out limits.)

On the Trail

Six weeks ago . . . when Tom agreed to be on a relay team for a run in early April . . . I'm sure he never truly anticipated snow.  Or below-freezing temperatures.

Oh, he knew it COULD happen.  (Because spring is a fickle beast.)  But, really?  What were the chances????


Yep.  There you have it!



And . . . totally committed to running this thing!


The Kal-Haven Trail Run is a 33.5 mile race along the Kal-Haven Trail - a rail trail that links Kalamazoo with South Haven.  Some people run the whole thing on their own, but most people choose to split the course up and run it as a relay.  Here's Tom, above, just about to overtake the woman in orange neon near the end of his 8-mile stretch.  Tom ran as part of a 6-person co-ed team -- with friends of ours from the gym.

I was f-f-f-freezing just watching and taking pictures.  (Good thing I had my Stopover sweater!  Never thought I'd still be wearing it . . . in APRIL.)

After the race . . . best part!  Mexican food (and margaritas!) in South Haven.


And then out to the beach . . . 


for a walk on the pier.  (Where it was so freakin' cold!!!)


(But it was sunny.)

Great day to be on the trail... despite the weather!


Poetry Friday

Some poetry* for your Friday.

But first, some daffodils read to pop.  (Sadly, this was a week ago.  Before snow and freezing rain and a hard frost laid them down.)  (Not certain there'll be any popping now.)

Dafs before the snow

In Praise of Dreams

In my dreams
I paint like Vermeer van Delft.

I speak fluent Greek
and not just with the living.

I drive a car
that does what I want it to.

I am gifted
and write mighty epics.

I hear voices
as clearly as any venerable saint.

My brilliance as a pianist
would stun you.

I fly the way we ought to,
i.e., on my own.

Falling from the roof,
I tumble gently to the grass.

I've got no problem 
breathing under water.

I can't complain:
I've been able to locate Atlantis.

It's gratifing that I can always
wake up before dying.

As soon as war breaks out,
I roll over on my other side.

I'm a child of my age,
but I don't have to be.

A few years ago
I saw two suns.

And the night before last a penguin,
clear as day.

        --- Wislawa Szymborska
                from View with a Grain of Sand


* April is National Poetry Month.  Join me on Fridays - and maybe a few other days, too - for a silent poetry reading.

** I'm not bitter. (ha!)

Attitude Adjustment: A Riff About the Weather

The weather has taken a turn for the crappy.

It was just a few weeks ago that the weather-folk were going on (and on) about some sort of "Bermuda Ridge" (apparently the opposite of the "Polar Vortex;" obscure weather phenomena only recently "named") and the promise of an early and warm spring.

Now, I don't usually pay overmuch attention to the weather-folk.  (Because biggest hype-machines ever.)  But I do tend to get a little excited when they start to throw around terms like . . . 

early spring


get ready for a hot one


We've got snow.  Frigid temperatures.  And no end in sight.

(Bermuda Ridge my a$$.)

I'm trying to adjust my attitude.  But, man.  It is hard.  Because March . . . was warm and pleasant.

I started working in my garden here and there - preparing.

I got my bike all ready to go.

Shoot . . . I even got my flip-flops out.

(Really, though.  I should know better by now.)

Lucky for me, these guys are hanging in there . . . and giving me something to smile about.


Hope abounds.

Keep Calm. Carry On.

Sometimes . . . 

life just gets overwhelming.


Life stresses.

Background noise.

Seemingly unfixable problems.

Here's what I do  . . . to calm myself down. . .

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  1. Meditate.  (I am a firm believer in the power of meditation and mindfulness practice.) 
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Then . . . another.
  4. Repeat a mantra.  ("I am enough" . . . )
  5. Stretch. (Go deep into some Warrior poses.)
  6. Work out.  (There is much restorative power in a good, hard workout.)
  7. Journal.  (Write. It. Out.)
  8. Get outside.  (Walk.  Breathe.  Pull a weed.  Or two.)
  9. Move your hands.  (Knit.  Stitch.  Paint.)
  10. Play with your dog.  (Or your cat.  Just . . . touch it.)

Feel better?  I sure do!  How do you keep yourself calm?


Find out what everyone else has to say!


Organizing . . . with a Bullet

Ever since my college days, I have kept myself organized with a day planner/calendar/to-do list/note-taking system . . . of one sort -- or another.

Really, it's the only way I've kept myself on top of things -- and sane.

At first (back in college and pre-computer, for example), analog systems were the ONLY way to keep life in order.  I developed a system for myself . . . color coding, stickers, post-it note lists.  It worked for me.

Over the years, I tried various systems, always looking for the one that would suit all my needs.  Perfectly.




Planner Pad

I tried them all.  Ultimately, I settled on the Planner Pad -- and I used it for a decade or more -- with a couple of breaks to try online systems -- Palm Pilot, Outlook (back when I worked in an office), Google Calendar, and the iPhone/iMac Apple calendar system. 

Turns out, I just prefer analog systems.  I like keeping my calendar in pencil.  I like writing lists -- and crossing things off.  I like being able save lists and reminders and notes in an actual calendar -- with an actual paper clip.  I like post-it notes.  I like highlighting.  I like being able to jot things down on the fly.

The biggest problem?  Finding an analog planner system that could work for me right out of the box!  (Because, really.  It didn't exist.)

I had my preferred calendar system, sure.  But it was a bastardized mess of paper-clipped sub-calendars for meal planning, project planning, blog posting, habit-tracking, lists of books-to-read/movies-to-watch/orders-I'd-placed, holiday plans, billable hours, travel plans, garden journal, goals and intentions.  Interesting, sure.  But not completely functional.

A couple of years ago, I heard about the Bullet Journal system -- and I knew right away it was for me.  You start with a blank notebook -- and make up your own system.  Completely flexible.  Never boxed in by a pre-existing calendar or format.  Plenty of room for notes and multiple lists and don't-forget-this-or-that.

I was sold!

I tried it last year.

I couldn't make it work.  

Turns out, I was trying too hard to make it "look nice." (Because there are blogs and Pinterest boards and Facebook groups and #hastags with these incredible, artful bullet journals out there.)  I gave up -- and returned to my bastardized Planner Pad system.

This year, though, I decided to give the Bullet Journal a try once again.  (Because, really.  Perfect for me!)


I got a plain, old Moleskine notebook, some monthly sticker tabs, and . . . just started with January.

I gave up on trying to make it artful. (I have art journals for that.)

I gave up on trying to make it perfect. (I can change things on the fly if it doesn't quite work.)

I gave up on trying to make it color-coordinated.  (And I bought some Wite-Out.)

And, y'know?  It's working for me!

I developed a monthly calendar that looks like no monthly calendar I've ever seen!


I came up with a daily/weekly "spread" that allows me to plan each day just the way I need to work.


I've developed a montly habit-tracker that works perfectly for me.


I can track my billable hours and my volunteer hours . . . in the same space I plan my blog posts and menu plans.  I can create lists -- or paste in post-it notes -- or tape in lists I cut out.


I track what's happening in my garden with simple, old-school monthly calendars taped right in to the pages.


It's ugly.

But amazing.

And it works!

If you've been thinking of giving the Bullet Journal system a try -- I'm here to encourage you.  (Because it really is pretty cool.)  If you want to make it "perfect" -- you'll be able to find plenty of resources to help you do that.  But I'm here to encourage you to . . . just let it fly!  

Now that I'm in Month 4 of my Bullet Journal experience . . . I can tell you it's the best organizing system I've ever tried!

(And, pretty much, I've tried them all!)

A Month . . . of Poetry

Welcome to April!  Home of April Fools' Day, baseball's opening day, the conclusion of March Madness (Yeah.  I know.), Tax Day, and all those April showers.

Also . . . National Poetry Month.

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Join me this month - each Friday - for a bit of poetry -- with a bonus poem on Thursday, April 21 (because Poem in Your Pocket Day).

Today's installment . . . 


Poem to First Love
by Matthew Yeager

To have been told “I love you” by you could well be, for me,
the highlight of my life, the best feeling, the best peak
on my feeling graph, in the way that the Chrysler building
might not be the tallest building in the NY sky but is
the best, the most exquisitely spired, or the way that
Hank Aaron’s career home-run total is not the highest
but the best, the one that signifies the purest greatness.
So improbable! To have met you at all and then
to have been told in your soft young voice so soon
after meeting you: “I love you.” And I felt the mystery
of being that you, of being a you and being
loved, and what I was, instantly, was someone
who could be told “I love you” by someone like you.
I was, in that moment, new; you were 19; I was 22;
you were impulsive; I was there in front of you, with a future
that hadn’t yet been burned for fuel; I had energy;
you had beauty; and your eyes were a pale blue,
and they backed what you said with all they hadn’t seen,
and they were the least ambitious eyes I’d known,
the least calculating, and when you spoke and when
they shone, perhaps you saw the feeling you caused.
Perhaps you saw too that the feeling would stay.


Want to expose yourself to a bit of poetry this month?  Sign up for Poem-a-Day and start each day with a digital poem.  (New, contemporary poets during the week; classic poems on the weekend.)  The wonderful poem I shared today?  It was yesterday's Poem-a-Day!

And get ready.  Share a poem on April 21 - Poem in Your Pocket day.

Enjoy your weekend!  (Poetry rocks.)