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November 2019


"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
      --- Melody Beattie


I wish all of you peace and gratitude and a sense of thanksgiving today . . . and always.

Going Solo

Last year, I had a little existential crisis about whether or not I should make my annual gingerbread house when it was . . . just me.  Ultimately, I did it.  It was a struggle to get started, but in the end it made me happy.

In fact, it was cathartic.  Gingerbread house as metaphor for life.  Things change.  Kids grow up and move away.  Mothers get sick and leave us.  We need to find ways to carry on.  Bake it.  Build it.  Slap on some frosting and sweeten things up.  Breathe.  

And the next year (which is now this year)?  
Why . . . you do it again!


Because when it comes right down to it, my trusty Pampered Chef gingerbread mold has holiday memories and stories and family love baked right into its every crevice.  It's time for me to release all that . . . stuff . . . again.


I discovered last year that baking, building, and decorating . . . just one . . . gingerbread house was a perfect way to welcome the "ghosts of Christmases past" into my heart for the holiday season.


So last night I baked the pieces.  And sometime over the next few days (when there is a lull in the action), I'm looking forward to putting them together and decorating my house.

Just me.
By myself.

And I'm fine with that!


If you haven't already, please follow this link to take our quick Read With Us survey.  We'd love your input -- whether you read Just Mercy with us or not.  Thanks for helping us make Read With Us even better!


The Big Wrap-Up: Just Mercy

Way back in September (which seems like a million years ago now, doesn't it?), Bonny and Carole and I launched our Read With Us experiment.  Although we thought it would be a fun thing to do . . . we had no idea if anyone else might think it was a fun thing to do.  Y'know?  

Read With Us

Would you think it was a good idea?
Would you like the book we chose?
Would you join in?
Would you . . . Read With Us?

And, now . . . here we are.  At the end of November.  Having our first read-along under our belts -- and all ready for a wrap-up!  (When we were doing our blog post planning for Just Mercy, I drew the "short straw."  Which means . . . I get to write this summary post for our first book.  And since we've never done this before, there is no precedent.  Which means I can make it up . . . right here right now.)  Let's go!


You Had A Lot to Say

Each of us . . . first me, then Bonny, and then Carole . . . hosted a week of discussion about our chosen book - Just Mercy - on our blogs.  And, yes.  We know the format was not ideal (we're working on that).  But.  Even though the discussion format was less than ideal, you had . . . A Lot to Say!  I'm not going to reiterate all of your comments and our discussion here in this post, but I will say that this book touched most of us in a profound way.  We were shocked and appalled by the injustice of our criminal justice system; horrified by how it all "works."  I'll just summarize by saying it was . . .  eye-opening.

(Please click on our names, above, if you'd like to check out the discussions on our blog posts.)


You Wanted to Take Action

Many of us, after reading Just Mercy, wanted to Do Something.  We were ready to take action.  The issues with mass incarceration and the failings of our criminal justice system (especially for people of color, children, and those struggling with mental health issues) were just overwhelming -- and appalling to all of us reading along.

In her discussion, Bonny shared this link from Equal Justice Institute (the author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson's, organization).  The site encourages us to "get close"/get involved through action in the following four areas:

  • Change the narrative
  • Get proximate
  • Be uncomfortable
  • Create hope

The EJI website lists several things we might do to be involved.  Do check it out!


Taking It Further

Here are a few more things I've found over our weeks of reading and thinking about Just Mercy that may interest you.

In the News

First, I ran across this article in yesterday's Washington Post about 3 men in Baltimore - arrested as teens - being exonerated after 36 years in prison for a wrongful murder conviction.  Their story could have been lifted right out of the pages of Just Mercy. In this case, though, it was Baltimore's Conviction Integrity Unit that cleaned up this criminal justice . . . mess.  

More and more courts (districts, states) are forming their own Conviction Integrity Units (according to the Washington Post article, there are more than 50 in the country now).  Do a Google search to find out what's happening in your state.  (I discovered that there are a couple of active Conviction Integrity Units here in Michigan, for example.)


We Are All Criminals

Next, I want to share this TED talk by Emily Baxter explaining her We Are All Criminals project.  This TED talk is 18 minutes long -- and worth every single minute.  (In fact, there is an even longer version of her original talk at Google available here.  It's 46 minutes long.  But absolutely worth the time.) 

What's all this about?  Well . . . it's about the very, very, (very) fine line between living in the shadow of a criminal record . . . or having the luxury to forget.  It's all about reframing the way we look at justice.

(Watch it.  It'll change the way you think.)


The Movie

And lastly, I just want to remind you that there is a movie - Just Mercy - based on Bryan Stevenson's book coming out in December (on the 25th, I believe).  It's getting some Oscar-buzz, and looks terrific.  Here's the trailer.  If you want to see the book come to life -- or if you didn't have a chance to read the book, but you're interested in what it's all about -- watch for the movie at your local theater next month.


And . . . that's a wrap on our first Read With Us read-along . . . Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  

Next week, we'll be announcing the NEXT book that you can . . . Read With Us!  

In the meantime, we'd love your input!  Please click here to take a VERY-short-and-VERY-sweet online survey.  It's 8 questions - guaranteed to take No Time At All!  We want to hear from you -- whether you read along with us this go-round or not.  At the very beginning of this whole adventure, we told you it was our Read With Us "beta" test.  Now, we'd like your help so we can make it even better.  Thanks.


Monday. Again.

Here we go!  It's time to . . . 


Here are some things I stumbled across or thought about this weekend. . . 


A Quote
(or . . . My New Motto!)

"The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that."
   --- Nolan Bushnell



A Word

I had decided to take this week off . . . and not share a new word with you.  I figured that you might be tired of these goofy words I post on Monday mornings, and I'd just give it a rest for a week.

But then this word showed up in an article I was reading last night.  And I just couldn't help myself.  (So many vowels!  So unusual!)


(And now, of course, I can't even remember which article. . . )

Anyway.  How about that.  Maieutic.  Another word for the Socratic method!

Now.  I don't know about you, but I went through more than half my life never hearing about - let along using - the Socratic method.  We never talked about or used it when I was in high school or college.  But my kids did!  Both of my kids went through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in high school -- and they regularly used the Socratic method in their classes.

No one called it maieutic, though.

(How about you?  Have you ever used the Socartic method? And if yes, did know it was maieutic?)


A [Thanksgiving] Factoid

Remember that episode of Seinfeld . . . where Jerry and his pals feed Jerry's girlfriend turkey dinners so they can play with her toy collection?  (I'm afraid you'll have to click here for a reminder.  Although I tried to include that 32-second clip from the episode here, Typepad formatting goes haywire with embedding, so you'll have to click through instead.)


Well, it turns out that tryptophan doesn't actually make you sleepy!  According to House Beautiful magazine, here's the real scoop:

"On Thanksgiving Day, you probably prepare yourself mentally knowing you’ll be tired after eating turkey, but the holiday bird isn’t actually to blame. Instead, the reason you can’t imagine doing else but watching football on the couch is because you over-ate. In fact, Dr. Daniel Barone tells Business Insider it's actually called "postprandial fatigue. Simply put, he says this means 'after you've had a big meal your body goes into basically shutdown mode and sleep gets promoted.'"

How about that?  Now you know!

For 14 more fun Thanksgiving facts, click here.



Although I tend to keep my Thanksgiving menu pretty much the same from year to year, I've decided to add something to my line up this year.  It's this recipe -- Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes from Ina Garten's Make It Ahead cookbook.  Not only does it look super tasty, but . . . I can make it ahead.  Always a good thing when it comes to Thanksgiving!

How about you?  Are you trying anything new this year for your holiday meals?


I hope your Monday is off to a great start!

Thursdays Are For Gratitude

(I'm grateful every day . . . but in November, I blog about it, too.)

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On Tuesdays, my dad and I go out for lunch together.  This week, as we sat eating our sandwiches, our conversation turned to hobbies -- and about how so many people just don't "get" them. I'm sure you know what I mean . . . those folks who say things like 'I could never find the time' . . . or 'I don't have the patience.'  Or - worst of all - those people who belittle your choice of hobby: 'she plays in the dirt' or 'you probably made that'.  We both agreed that it's just silly and sad, and neither of us understand how people can NOT have hobbies.  For both my dad and I, our hobbies provide entertainment and outlets for creativity and friendships and -- even some really useful objects.

All of our talk about hobbies got me thinking more about my own this week -- how much they add to my days and settle me and just . . . well . . . please me!

So today, I'm grateful for my hobbies, and in particular, for the hobbies that allow me to make things.

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  • I'm grateful for the teachers who showed me how to use my hands to make beautiful things in the first place:  my great grandmother (who taught me how to embroider), my mom (who taught be how to knit), and Miss Helzer (who taught me the right way to sew).
  • I'm grateful for the ever-expanding availability of lovely materials to work with.  Earlier in my life, I was limited by the fabric and fiber choices available to me locally (often . . . just Red Heart yarn at the grocery store, y'know?).  Now?  There are yarn shops and fabric stores and fiber festivals and "big box" craft stores -- not to mention all the online resources.  It is a treasure trove of options out there.
  • I'm grateful for all the online resources to help me be a better knitter/stitcher/sewist.  Ravelry (for keeping track of my projects and patterns, for an endless parade of new designs, and for real-life photos of finished projects), Pinterest (for never-ending ideas and inspiration - and a way to sort and save them), blogs (for friendship and technique and inspiration), YouTube videos (for technique and instructional how-tos).  Really . . . an embarrassment of riches.

How about you?  What are you grateful for today?

New Box of Crayons

When I was a little girl, my favorite thing in the world . . . was a new box of crayons.  (I was giddy the first time I got a Crayola box of 64 crayons -- with built-in sharpener!)  (Remember those?)


It shouldn't surprise any knitters reading this . . . that I jumped feet first right into this brand new "box of crayons" . . . 


Although the colors are quite off in this photo (because it's so dang dark anymore), you can see that I'm having a really good time with this.

I may even be slightly obsessed.  

Just like I used to be with a new box of Crayons!



Walking in a Winter Wonderland

It's warmed up again here.  I mean . . . it's a relative thing now, at this time of year.  But it's not THAT cold.  And all the snow has finally melted.  (I may even try throwing my bulbs in the ground later this week.  Because what have I got to lose???)  Slightly warmer temperatures and no snow/ice on the ground makes for easier outdoor walking, that's for sure!

Which got me thinking.  I know a lot of you walk outside as your primary fitness activity.  And it's hard(er) to get out there and do it in the winter, when it's cold and there's snow on the ground.  But it's not impossible!  (Just ask my sister, who walks every day -- even in Cheyenne's brutal wind and "sideways snow!")  I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips for winter walking - to keep us all moving -- and moving safely.


So.  Here we go.  My tips for winter walking:

Stretch a little before you get out there.  When it's cold outside, your muscles take a bit longer to warm up.  Help them out with a few quick stretches before you begin.  Get that blood flowing before you leave the house.

Watch your step.  Mind where you go when it's snowy or icy.  Keep to a moderate (or even a slow and careful) pace when there is ice or snow on the road.  If possible, walk on trails or the sidewalk or less traveled streets.  Watch out for those piles of plowed snow!  Seriously, take it easy -- because you don't want to fall.

Take smaller strides.  The longer your stride, the more likely you are to fall on an icy road.

Dress in layers.  Even though it's cold, a brisk walk can get your heart rate up and make you sweat.  If you're overdressed, you'll be uncomfortably warm, and that's no fun.  (When that happens to me, I usually take off my gloves for a while and unzip the top of my jacket.  I can always pop the gloves back on, or zip back up again if I get chilly.)  But . . . don't layer your socks!  You can better avoid blisters by wearing only single socks.

Wool!  (I don't need to tell the knitters out there about the benefits of wearing wool.)  Wool is your best layer.  Leave the cotton stuff at home!  (Really.  Cotton absorbs moisture -- which never works well when you're exercising.)

Pay attention to your visibility.  Wear something bright -- and something reflective if you're walking in the dark.  If it's dark, put on a flashing clip light.  Carry a little flashlight so you can mind your footing.  Or, better yet, go ahead and get yourself a headlamp.

Try some studded boots or "traction cleats" for your shoes.  When the roads are icy or snow-covered, I pull on my YakTrax.  They provide an amazing amount of stability and make walking outside possible for me in the winter.  My sister has some sort of studded boots that she wears for winter walking (I'll ask her for more information if you're interested).

And then, of course, when you get back home from your winter walk be sure to do a bit more stretching and drink plenty of water!

How about you?  Do you have some tips to share for . . . walking in a winter wonderland?


Please join us for our Week 3 Read With Us discussion of Just Mercy.  Carole's hosting us for Friday Tuesday Night Snacks -- and you don't want to miss that!

Revving Up

All day yesterday, I felt like it was Saturday.
It wasn't, though.
Monday has rolled around again.  Time to . . . 


On Mondays, I share things I discovered over the weekend.  
(Even when the weekend seemed shorter than it was.)


A Quote

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude."
     ----- from the Winnie-the-Pooh series by A. A. Milne



A Word

Here's another word I'd never enountered before . . . discovered while reading Ben Lerner's The Topeka School:


I had to look up more words in that book than I can remember doing with any other book in recent history.  For the most part, I could easily glean the meaning of these unfamiliar words in context.  But I was curious.  So I spent a lot of time with my dictionary.

How about you?  Can you recall a book you've read that required you to keep a dictionary by your side at all times?



As a Mister Rogers fan, I'm looking forward to the movie coming out later this month, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which is based on the relationship between Fred Rogers and the journalist Tom Junod.  Junod has written an essay for The Atlantic about his relationship with Rogers, what it was like to see the movie inspired by/based on that relationship, and, ultimately, some thoughts on what-would-Mister-Rogers-do in our world today.

It's rather long, but well worth reading.  Here's the link.



Oh, my.  We have reached that point in the movie-watching season where it is just an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great movies in the theaters.  Between now and the end of the year, it is going to be a constant parade of movies with "Oscar buzz."  This weekend, Tom and I saw two movies we highly recommend:  Harriet (starring Cynthia Erivo) and Ford v Ferrari (starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale).  Both are worth a night out at the movies!  (But be warned about The Lighthouse.  Sure, it's critically acclaimed.  But it is also a . . . Big. Slog.)


And that's it for this Monday.
Hope your week is starting off well.

Join us tomorrow over at Carole's for week 3 of our Read With Us book discussion of Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy.

This and That

It's Friday.  Let's circle back.

Remember when I told you that Tom's curling team was entering a bonspiel (that's curling lingo for tournament) as the Brews Brothers?  It was last weekend.  They got 2nd in their division (best finish EVER in a bonspiel, so yay!).  And here they are in the official team photo. 


(Maya, on the far right, decided to dress for the photo as the Carrie Fisher character from the Blues Brothers movie.  She played all the games in the standard Brews Brother costume, including the sideburns, though.)

Remember when I told you I dug out the needle felting supplies from the back of my craft closet to make some little pumpkins?  I finished them!


Remember when I told you about the larch tree in my garden . . . and how weird it was to see its golden glow through my living room window?  I explained it was a deciduous conifer and that it would drop its needles, leaving a rather dead-looking tree through the winter.  Well.  We're there.

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I hope you have a great weekend.
See you on Monday