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April 2018

Fridays are for Poetry

"We’re only here for a short while. And I think it’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention."
                                                                    ---Mark Strand

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One of the things I like most about poetry is its ability to translate that simple paying attention to daily life . . . into language.  For me, poetry is really is about this translation.  
Poetry makes the personal . . . universal.  
The mundane . . . meaningful.  
The traumatic . . . divine.

I have always loved the poetry of Nikki Giovanni.  She writes of the most elemental human longings and concerns . . . and makes them fresh, new, relatable.  For all of us.  She is a master of translation.  

Here is one of my favorites.

CHOICES
by Nikki Giovanni

if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
do

if i can’t have
what i want … then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

since i can’t go
where i need
to go … then i must … go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal

i know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry

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Click here to read more about Nikki Giovanni and sample her poetry.
Remember, April is National Poetry Month.  Join me here each Friday in April for more poetry.


Unraveling . . . a Dining Room

No time for knitting.  No time for stitching.  But plenty of unraveling going on!

When we moved into our house back in 2003, there was late-80s wallpaper in every room.  Heavily patterned.  Lots of mauves and teals.  Everywhere.  I'm sure it was really awesome and trendy back in the day.  But by 2003 it was dated and awful.  

It took a while for Tom and I to be able to look past the wallpaper to see the promise of the layout of the house.  And it took a generous "re-decorating" offer from the former owners to sweeten the pot.  Most of the wallpaper was removed (and carpet replaced) before we even moved in.  But there were three rooms that would have to wait until later -- the master bathroom (described here), the main bathroom upstairs, and . . . the dining room.

But removing wallpaper is such a pain in the . . . neck.  And it's so expensive to have it done professionally.  So we put it off.  And off and off and off.

It's time now, though.  To just power through and git'r'dun!

Here is the dining room just before the wallpaper removal project started last Saturday. . . 

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Just a little busy, non?

The wall below the chair rail is painted; the wallpaper and the border above some really lovely crown moulding ON THE CEILING need to be removed, though. (Tom also removed the chair rail yesterday.  No more two-tone dining room.)

I found this product online, thanks to a lead from the guys who did our bathroom renovation project a couple of years ago.  (They used a professional grade product that was very much like this one.)

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It really does work as promoted.  It's far less drippy than either soaking the wallpaper down with a sprayer, or using a steamer.  (I've used both methods in past houses.)

You just lightly score the wallpaper (lightly, I learned in my first test area . . . so that you don't damage the drywall underneath), then soak the sheets and stick them to the walls for a while (in my case, it takes about 15 minutes per application).

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The wallpaper really does peel off pretty easily . . . most of the time.

Don't get me wrong -- this is still a tedious and frustrating job.  It's a lot of up-and-down on the ladder, and a lot of work.  But the results are coming much easier than my past experiences with wallpaper removal.

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And it is so satisfying to rip that paper off the walls!

Even that ceiling border is coming off with less hassle than I expected.  (Although what a pain to work upside down.)  (So much respect to Michelangelo, y'know?)

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This morning, I'm faced with the last of it.

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One good session this morning, and the wallpaper will be gone.

Just in time for . . . wall prep and priming.  
(Yippee!)

How about you?  What are you unraveling this week?

 


Fridays Are For Poetry

"Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words."
                                                                                    --- Robert Frost

In my corner of the world, April is usually a dreary month.  I know the calendar says it's spring, and I know there are blooms happening in other parts of the country (because I've seen your pictures) . . . but here in Michigan, we remain winter-weary.   Sure.  We've got robins.  And we've had snowdrops and crocus.  Daffodils are beginning to pop up; even some early tulips.  But those are just little teases of what will come, eventually.  Right now there is snow on the ground again.  And it is cold.  And grey.  And not very spring-like at all.

Not much to love about April, really.  Not here, at least.  It's a month that seems like it should be something that it's just not.

So I'm particularly pleased that April brings me something else to celebrate (while I wait for those bursting buds and blue sky blooms and . . . heck, temperatures above the freezing mark) . . . 

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Yes!  April is National Poetry Month -- a month set aside to acknowledge and celebrate poetry's importance in our culture and our lives.  There are many goals of National Poetry Month (highlighting the legacy and contributions of poets, supporting the teaching of poetry, and encouraging the distribution and publication of poetry books, for example), but I can most easily embrace the goal of encouraging the reading of poems.

Each Friday during April, I'll be writing a little bit about poetry -- and then I'll share a favorite poem with you.  I hope maybe you'll join in, too.  Especially on Poem in Your Pocket Day (which is April 26 this year). 

May poetry bloom all month long (and maybe some flowers, too).

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Love After Love
by Derek Walcott
 
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
 
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
 
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
 
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Learn about Derek Walcott and sample more of his poetry here.

A 3-Point Pact

A couple of years ago, I started taking colored pencil drawing classes.  (We have a great art school program here in Kalamazoo - for adults and kids.  It's a year-round program with a huge variety of class offerings.  I'm so grateful.)  I've learned a lot over the years, and I've created some drawings I'm really proud of -- and some real duds, too.  

I like picking out challenging projects for myself in my classes -- because I'm there to learn and develop my skills.  Last fall, I decided I wanted to try to draw something shiny.  Something with a lot of metal in it.  (Because there is a colored pencil technique called "burnishing" that makes wax-based colored pencil drawings "shine" like metal.)

So I decided I'd draw Tom's car.

And it has been the bane of my drawing-life ever since.

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Because it is hard.  And my drawing is big.  And I'm not actually all that fond of drawing cars.  And it is taking me so very long.  And I have wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

But then, something interesting happened.

My instructor (who is also a friend) asked me to teach her how to knit.

So I did.

And she is determined to make (as her first project) Jared Flood's striped scarf in two contrasting colors of Noro Silk Garden.

Although she caught on to knitting immediately (she had tried it once or twice in the past, so wasn't completely new to to the task), she struggled a bit.  Because it is hard.  And she can't fix her mistakes.  And she wasn't completely sold on the colors she chose.  And it is taking her so very long.  And she has wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

Sound familiar? 

Over a glass of wine, we laughed at ourselves . . . old dogs learning new tricks.  And we made this 3-point pact with each other:

  1. We will allow ourselves time and space to learn and improve.
  2. We will ask each other for help without apology.
  3. We will throw perfection out the window (instead of our projects).

I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish my car drawing before the end of my next "semester" of colored pencil drawing class.  And she is hoping to finish her scarf in time to wear next winter.

I'll keep you posted!

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To read more Three on Thursday posts, be sure to hop on over to Carole's!

 


On Sleeves and Stitching

When I knit a sweater, I always knit a swatch first.  If I can, I really like the sleeve-as-swatch approach.  Somehow it just feels like I'm more productive that way.  Y'know . . . moving forward right out of the gates and all.  (Even though I end up knitting more than two sleeves for one sweater sometimes.)

Anyway, I decided to apply that same logic to my big (and really rather overwhelming) Alabama Chanin wrap dress project:  Start with the Sleeves.

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This is a big project with many pieces and a complex stencil.  I'm using the sleeves to kind of find my way with the stitching and the cutting and the beading.

The sleeves are manageable pieces to work with, both to handle for the stitching and to look at.  Because it's hard to find your way at the beginning of a project like this one.  (And after the inspiration of the Alabama Chanin workshop I attended last fall, the ideas are just . . . oozing!)

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One stitch at a time.

Dreaming and scheming as I go.  

(It looks a lot different before it's cut, doesn't it?)

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(That beaded bit right there?  So far, it's my favorite part!)

You can learn a lot from a sleeve or two, y'know?

How about you?  What's your approach to a big project?  Where do you start?

 


Mud Pit in the Making

After living my whole life until last summer without the pleasure of a Bobcat in my yard, I've got another one parked out front.

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As I've mentioned many times, my house is built on a rather significant hill.  On one side of our property, there is a city sidewalk that follows the slope of our yard.  So it's steep.  Like . . . really steep.  Brian and his pals used to love it for skateboarding, but it's not so much fun if you're pushing a heavy stroller or maneuvering a wheelchair.

The city finally took notice.  Because the pitch of that sidewalk was not ADA-compliant.

A couple of weeks ago, a city-representative stopped by the house to explain their plans for making it so.  Let's just say it involves a lot of digging and some sort of retaining wall.  The photo above shows the work as of Sunday.  By yesterday, a whole lot more of my yard has disappeared, and now there is a big trailer, a Bobcat, and several piles of dirt and broken sidewalk at my house.  (Because of the hill and the layout of my house, I can't see the work being done at all.  But I can hear it!  And the dogs are very aware that we have a Perimeter Breach.  I can only see what's happening when I'm in my driveway.)

I'm anxious to see how it all turns out.  For today, we have rain in the forecast.  Lots of rain, actually.  Followed by "wintry-mix" and then several inches of snow.  (Yay.  My favorite kind of April weather.)  

Can you say . . . mud pit?  (Stay tuned.)