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April 2020

Walking In My Neighborhood: The Little Libraries

JoJo and I go walking in my neighborhood every day.*  We don't have a destination in mind.  We just head out along the quiet streets and see where our mood takes us.  The fresh air is a treat, and it feels so good to get out of the house and move around.

So far, since I started keeping track on March 13, JoJo and I have clocked 125 miles together!


And, yeah.  It gets a little boring . . . walking the same streets, day after day (after day after day).  I usually listen to a book or a podcast while we walk, which helps make the miles go faster.  And it's fun to watch spring unfolding in the neighborhood.  Walking these familiar streets also gives me a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness and pay more attention to the things I see all the time.

For example, I discovered earlier this week that we have THREE Little Free Libraries in the neighborhood.  I've known about two of them for a long time now (because I pass them often on my more "regular" routes), but on Monday we took a path I don't usually follow . . . and discovered another!

I always wanted to have a Little Library of my own.  My house is on a corner, and we get a fair amount of pedestrian traffic - especially when school is in session.  A few years ago, I even looked into getting one set up -- downloaded some plans to have my dad help me build one and everything.  But before I could get started . . . a neighbor just down the block put up this one:


It's a cute one -- and the bench is a great addition (although I've never noticed anyone sitting on it).  The location is kind of out of the way, and doesn't get as much traffic as my corner, but oh well.  They beat me to the punch!

A few blocks away, there's this very creative and well-used Little Library:


This Little Library is in a PERFECT location (much better than mine would have been).  It's on a corner on the main road into our neighborhood, and is right on the way to the neighborhood elementary school.  I (used to) see kids stopping on their way to and from school all the time to switch out books.  This one changes over quickly -- and has puzzles and games in addition to books.  Since the stay-at-home order, there is also a neighborhood food swap going on here.  (At Christmas time, this Little Library was all decked out with lights and greens.  It was so cute!)

So those were the 2 Little Libraries I already knew about.  The other day, I changed my route and walked around the neighborhood elementary school and found another one -- right there on the school yard:


How fun is that?!!  Little Libraries everywhere!

How about you?  Do you have any Little Libraries nearby?  And have you ever thought about creating one of your own?


Be sure to stop in at Carole's for more Three on Thursday posts!


* Jenny is not completely left out of the dog-walking fun!  Now 13, Jenny can't really manage much of a walk anymore.  She's deaf and (we're pretty sure) blind in at least one eye and she moves pretty slowly these days -- but she still wants to come walking with us.  Tom takes her on a leisurely walk around the block every day (we start out all together, and then JoJo and I veer off on our own) and Jenny LOVES it.  At first, she could barely make it a few houses down the road before Tom had to take her back home, but now she's making it all around the block and getting stronger all the time.  (See?  Exercise IS really good -- even for old folks!)


Just Raveling Away

Every year at this point in the season I go through a sort of . . . knitting "mood". . . where I can't quite settle on what I want to knit next.  I can't blame the pandemic this time, really.  (Although, actually, I can.)  (Because I like to blame everything on the pandemic.)  But I think it's mostly that between-seasons thing I go through every year.  

I'm not really in the mood for woolly knits - like sweaters - by the time May rolls around.

But I'm also not in the mood for more summery knits - like with linen - either.  

So I just kind of . . . play things by ear and dabble in some fickle-knitting.

What's that look like?  Well.  Right now it looks like this . . . 


As soon as I saw Margaret Holzmann's Safe at Home blanket on Ravelry, I was smitten.  I mean . . . this design has pretty much every element that lights up the happy places in my brain: a grid design, color free-play, whimsy and charm, little houses, and (squeee) striped roofs!

Of course, it also includes futzy intarsia in garter stitch, a whole-lotta seaming, and millions and millions of ends to weave in.  (And my intarsia skills are Not Good; a real weak spot in my knitting repertoire.)

But whimsy and charm!
Color play!

And also there's the symbolic nature of the whole thing.  Knitting little houses . . . while we're all staying in our own little houses.

So I'm digging in.  I don't know how many squares I'll actually end up with.  Probably not the 90 called for in the pattern . . . but maybe enough that I can make a pillow.  Or something on the small-ish side.  (I do know for sure that the only way to get better at intarsia is to practice.  So there is always that, too.)  One thing I do know?  This will not be a monogamous kind of knit for me.


(I've also gone a bit ga-ga for Susan B. Anderson's sweet Little House design.  I bought the pattern, and kind of sense that this may become one of those potato-chip projects for me in the days ahead.) 


But it can't be all futzy little houses all the time now, can it?  So I've got this on my needles as well . . . 


It's another hat for Brian like the one I made him for Christmas.  He loves that one -- and recently told me that the Christmas hat is getting him through his current pandemic-hair growth stage.  (It's this pattern.)



What's a knitting-mom to do?

(Of course.)


How about you?  What are you knitting these days?

(And be sure to join my fellow Unravelers over at Kat's today!)

Flowing Through April

It's early.  I'm watching some fog roll in.  Listening to the morning bird-joy outside.  Drinking some coffee.


And thinking about how this year just isn't going in any direction that I thought it would when I cooked up that hopeful pot of black-eyed peas (way) back on January 1.  Picking my new word and setting my intentions for the year ahead.  Putting future dates and events and trips on my 2020 calendar.  Knowing that there would be some surprises in the coming months (because of course there are always surprises out there), but feeling confident in the overall direction of things, and full of hope for a fresh new year.


We know how quickly that all came off the rails now, don't we?

Back in January, when I first started out with my word (flow), I had some loose notions in mind of how I might frame my explorations . . . as I let my word work that One-Little-Word-magic in me.  I figured I'd use it as a springboard for thinking about and engaging with things that. . . well . . . flow.  Creativity.  Work.  Yoga.  Movement.  Water.  Words.  The moon.  There were things I wanted to learn about and think about and DO.  I knew, too, that I wanted to renew my commitment to and strengthen my mindfulness practice.  I wanted to be more present.  I wanted to listen more carefully to my own heart.  To let things go.  To be less driven by shoulds-and-oughts.  And to be okay with all that.

This morning, as I sat there listening to the birds and watching the fog and sipping from my flow-mug, I realized that EVERYTHING has changed.  

Except it also hasn't.

The world has changed, certainly.  MY world has changed, definitely.  But me?  I'm still interested in all those same things I was interested in back on January 1.  Things that flow.  Creativity.  Work.  Yoga.  Movement.  Water.  Words.  The moon.  There are still things I want to learn about and think about and DO.  Every day, I'm working to strengthen my mindfulness practice.  I'm trying to be more present.  I'm trying to listen more carefully to my own heart.  I'm trying to let things go, now more than ever.  I'm certainly less driven by shoulds-and-oughts.  I want to be okay with that.

I've realized that I am . . . still ME.
Still grounded.
Still rooted.
Still . . . THERE.

Sure.  The virus is out there and not going away.  The economy is in shambles.  Our "leader" is incapable of leading us.  (And certainly doesn't want to help any of us.)  We're basically stuck in a total toxic dumpster fire.  

All that crap, though?  I've got to let it go.  I have to let it flow around me.  I've got to keep moving.  I've got to find new ways of doing.  Of dealing.  Of living.  As Virginia Woolf said . . . 


And that's where I am right now, here at the end of April in 2020.  
Working to stay rooted.  
While I let things flow.


How about YOU?  What are you learning about your word these days?


You can find my earlier One Little Word posts for the year here . . . 

Choosing My Word (January)

Getting Started (February)

Be Like Water (mid-March)

Pushing the River (March)

Just Another Monday

Like all the other Mondays lately.
(Actually . . . like ALL the other days lately.)

Before we get to "starting your engines," though, I just want to tell you that my blog platform (Typepad) has some . . . issues . . . now and again with commenting.  I have my account set up so that I receive an email notification whenever a blog comment comes in.  Every now and then, though . . . no notification!  That happened last week.  Y'all were commenting.  I just didn't hear about it!  I try to respond to most comments (although sometimes I don't manage that so well) (sorry), but when I don't get an email notification, it makes it really hard for me to write back to you.  So.  If you commented last week and I didn't respond, please know that I went back to my posts and read each one.  I'm sorry that I didn't reply personally.  I so appreciate all of your comments!  I love hearing your thoughts and suggestions or just sharing our friendship.  It means a lot to me when you take the time to let me know you're out there.  Thank you.  (And it looks like I'm getting notifications again, so let's keep our fingers crossed for this week.)


It's time to . . . 


As usual, on Mondays I share a bit of this and a little of that.  Things I discovered over the weekend.

(And I always start things off with my quote-of-the-week!)


"You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming."
                --- Pablo Neruda


I cut this little bouquet of hellebores when I was out working in my garden yesterday afternoon.  So very many things in our lives have been canceled or restricted or have just plain vanished over these past two months.  Spending time in my garden reminds me that there are some things that can't be canceled:  spring, blooms, grass growing, buds bursting, birds nesting.  It's good to get out there and bask in what CAN'T be canceled.



You know how it seems like time has sort of . . . folded . . . lately?  That we can't seem to keep track of the days?  And weeks feel like months while the days fly by?  Well.  It turns out there's something called 'The Oddball Effect' at play for all of us right now!  Usually, this time-folding thing happens most often for people on vacation.  (Or . . . staying at home in a global pandemic, apparently.)  Read all about this interesting phenomenon here.  (It's pretty fascinating.)



I know many of you already listen to Brené Brown's new podcast Unlocking Us . . . but just in case you haven't given it a listen yet, let me push you in that direction.  Truly, this podcast is one of the bright spots in my weeks now.  It is the right listen at the right time -- every week.

New episodes drop each Tuesday.  (Extra bonus:  This helps me remember when it's Tuesday!)




Vacation plans . . . have fallen like a house of cards. I try not to think too much about it, but it has been rather heartbreaking to see my travel plans for the year totally unravel.  California. Scotland. Italy. POOF! Gone. And I can't even console myself with a weekend in Chicago. It's rough. For all of us. No matter where we wanted to go.

Thankfully, we still have our computers. This year, we'll just have to do virtual vacations . . . Armchair Adventures!

Let's start off with a trip to Yellowstone. The National Park Service has put together a fabulous virtual tour of this terrific travel destination. The site includes maps, videos, photos, educational information, and lots more! You can even use it as a starting point to plan a REAL trip . . . y'know. For Someday. 

Have fun visiting Yellowstone from the comfort of your own armchair!



I don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time settling in with books lately. I feel kind of like . . . Goldilocks.  This book is too sad. This book is too predictable. This book is too . . . pre-pandemic.  I've been having a hard time getting comfortable, although it looks like mystery (but not too "cozy" a mystery) with a bit of crime drama thrown in might be the "just right" genre for me right now. Classics also seem to be working for me these days.

Maybe it's time I combine the two???? Here's a list of highly-regarded classic crime stories for you to check out if you, too, are having a hard time finding that "just right" read. 

(I've always found that when I lose my "reading mojo," a bit of Agatha Christie or Jane Austen will usually get me back on track.)

And . . . just in case you missed it, the Women's Prize short list was announced last week.  I've read 3 of the 6 so far.  Two of the books won't be published until late summer here in the US, so those will have to wait.  I have Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light in my Audible library . . . but even though I was really looking forward to listening to it, I find I'm not in the mood for it right now.  (It's partly that Goldilocks thing, but also, well, everytime I look at it and see that it's over 38 hours I just . . . can't.)


Lastly . . . I'm sure you've all already seen this.  But just in case you haven't (or if, like me, you can't quite see it often enough), I'll leave you with this.


Be healthy, my friends.  And get out there and experience some can't-be-canceled Spring!

Friday is for Poetry

Spring is taking its time around here . . . just kind of moving in fits and starts.  
And, well, that's me, too.  
Moving in fits and starts. 

So let's just not worry about it -- and have some poetry.


The Moment
Margaret Atwood

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper.  You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.


April is National Poetry Month, and each year, in April, I celebrate poetry here on my blog . . .hoping to win over some converts to the beauty and peace and accessibility of poetry. Sharing something that brings me joy.

Today's poem was published in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, 2017, Grayson Books, and edited by Phyllis Cole-Dar and Ruby R. Wilson.  Information about the author can be found here.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace.



Because I Know You've Been Singing It Too

There is one song that just keeps playing in an endless loop in my head these days.  And I bet it's been playing in yours, too, maybe.

So let's all have a sing-along today . . . to celebrate my first pandemic knit!  
Because . . . it's finally done: my big, cozy, comfy, stay-at-home, pandemic sweater.  
Now with ALL NEW pandemic hair styling!

Sing along with me now!
Everybody. . . 

It's the end of the world as we know it
(time I had some time alone)


It's the end of the world as we know it
(time I had some time alone)


It's the end of the world as we know it
(time I had some time alone)


And I feel fine!


The sweater is knit from this pattern, and you can find all the details here on Ravelry.


And, just to end on a fun note, check out this "unplugged" version of REM doing It's the End of the World As We Know It. . .


The Days . . . They Fly: A Random Post

I am feeling more . . .
I don't know, I guess . . .
settled . . .
with my new pandemic life.

Disturbed, surely.
Still very sad.
But feeling more . . . purposeful of late.

(Still not good.  But also not that freefall kind of feeling I had at first.)

So.  Progress?

How about YOU?


(Tom made bagels yesterday.)  
(Chemistry you can eat.)  

Have you noticed how the days seem to fly by lately?  I seem to ask myself (usually around 3:00 each day) how it got to be mid-afternoon already!  It seems really strange to me that the days are flying like this.  Somehow, that seems wrong.  Time is kind of standing still right now - on pause.  How can it fly?

Or is it just me?

My days are filled with movement -- long daily walks with JoJo (Tom takes Jenny for a quick walk around the block, but JoJo and I are out there for miles and miles), strength training down in my basement, yoga with my new best pal Adriene, and - starting this week - Facebook Live workout classes from my gym.  

But I also spend quite a bit of time in more quiet ways: thinking and reflecting -- writing, journaling, meditating.  I keep up with things I need to keep up with (home chores, outside commitments) as I need to, but my standards are definitely lower than they used to be.  I cook and I do the laundry and I tidy.  I check in with my kids and FaceTime with my dad and text with friends every day.  I read a little.  I knit a little.  I get out in the garden when I can.  I've become totally driven by the New York Times crossword puzzle and obsessed with the daily Spelling Bee game.

Life goes on.  

It's just different.

How are you holding up?  
What are you doing with your days?
What do you need . . . right now?


Monday Morning

. . . you sure look fine!

(And I have a week's forecast with no snow in it.)
(For that, I am grateful!)

Time to . . . 


As usual, on Mondays I share a bit of this and a little of that.  Things I discovered over the weekend.


"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.  It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift."
            --- Mary Oliver


(This is the creek I pass each day on my walks.  In the background, you can see the chartreuse green of the willow trees leafing up.  I love that color!)



For years, my sister has been a big fan of The Makerie - a Boulder, Colorado based maker's retreat host and general advocate of . . . hand craft, slow-making, and pauses for creativity.  (They have an awesome manifesto.) (I am a total sucker for a good manfesto.)  It is one of our sisterly-dreams . . . that we will go to a Makerie workshop together someday.  The sad truth, though, is that in the time it takes her to send me a text about an upcoming workshop, the thing sells out (in mere seconds), and we've never been able to sign up for one.  (And now??? Who knows when we'll be able to even see each other, let alone attend a real-life workshop together. . . )

So.  Imagine my delight when my sister sent me a link to sign up for a Zoom-style Makerie workshop!  It's called A Playful Pause and it's this Wednesday - April 22 - from 3-4 pm Eastern Time.  We have no idea what to expect -- but it looks interesting and it's free and it was easy to sign up!

Want to join us?



Here's an interesting thing to watch . . . a Live Deep Sky Tour from the McDonald Observatory (The University of Texas at Austin - my alma mater!  Hook 'em Horns!)  So nerdy -- but so very cool!  This hour-long YouTube video is surprisingly interesting -- and perfect for right now . . . y'know . . . when it's nice to remember the world is bigger than our houses.

Give it a watch!



Tired of sewing face masks?  Ready to move on to sewing another useful thing?  Tessuti Fabrics is offering their super-cute cross-back apron pattern for free (download version only) right now.  Besides being a sucker for a good manifesto, I also get a little weak-in-the-knees about cross-back aprons!  And this design is a good one.  

Check it out -- and make one for yourself!



As we dig deep into our pantries for ingredients these days, it's good to know what those "expiration dates" really mean.  Did you know . . . they really don't mean much at all???  (I kinda knew this already.) (But the date-thing still freaks me out sometimes.)  


Here's the low-down on food expiration dates, with suggestions on which dates you should pay attention to. . . and which dates you can ignore.  Good-to-know information for These Days. . .



I know many of you already subscribe to Clara Parkes' The Daily Respite (and if you haven't, you might want to; there is a free subscription or an optional for-pay version) so you've likely already seen what I'm about to share.  But this is so cool I just have to post it, too!  Even if you've watched it already (or maybe . . . 10 times or more) (like me), you may find some joy from watching it again!


Murmuration from Islands & Rivers on Vimeo.


Here's to a safe and healthy week for all of us!

Friday Is For Poetry

It's Friday.
It's been another very long week.
And it's snowing again here.

Let's have some poetry!

(But first . . . a sunset from my front porch, earlier in the week.)



Antidotes To Fear of Death
by Rebecca Elson

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometimes it's enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.


April is National Poetry Month, and each year, in April, I celebrate poetry here on my blog -- hoping to win over some converts to the beauty and peace and accessibility of poetry.  Sharing something that brings me joy.

Today's poem was published in A Responsibility of Awe, 2018, Carcanet Classics.  Information about the author can be found here.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace.


Trust It

It's kind of interesting going through a global pandemic . . . with a scientist.

Tom has spent his entire career as an organic chemist working in the pharmaceutical industry.  He's particularly interested in following along with all the science-y information coming out about COVID-19 these days.  He's knowledgable about - and really good at explaining - the issues and progress being reported every day. He helps me understand how fast the COVID-19 science is moving right now, and how much scientists are learning all the time.  He trusts that science . . . will figure this out!

And that's really comforting.

What does concern him?  Why . . . all the people out there who doubt and second-guess science!


Because, like Tom's coffee mug says, we NEED science.
Now more than ever.

Yesterday, Tom forwarded an article to me that was written by Dr. Paul Wood, one of his former colleagues (who is now a professor at a university in Australia).  The article offered a brief summary of how the science is progressing in different areas related to COVID-19 . . . in more simple terms that non-scientists can understand, and without the hype of news reporting.  It brought some comfort to me yesterday, so I thought I'd share a few things with you, too.

Here goes (these are all direct quotes from his article):

Vaccines: We already make vaccines to several corona viruses in animals, so we know how to make a vaccine to SARS-2 covid -19. It will just take some time, but with dozens of groups around the world working on this problem rapid progress is being made. The first vaccines will use conventional vaccine processes as we do not have time to develop, scale and validate a new manufacturing process.

Anti-viral agents: Very quickly we have screened all the currently registered drugs for activity against this virus and there are several promising candidates. Once we determine the correct dose these drugs can be used to treat infected patients. Drug companies also have libraries of millions of new compounds and these are also being screened for more effective new anti-viral agents.

Passive Antibody therapy: This treatment has been used for centuries and works well for viral infections. You take antibodies from people who have recovered from the infection and inject them into infected individuals. The problem is we don’t currently have enough people who have recovered from covid-19 to donate their blood. The other solution is to make these neutralizing antibodies in the lab, using humanised monoclonal antibodies that we can produce at scale as recombinant proteins. We then use a cocktail of these recombinant antibodies to different parts of the virus to treat patients. The first of these products is already being tested in humans.

So.  Yeah.  I know.  It's still science.  (And those scientists do have a language all their own.)  But maybe it helps . . . to know that scientists around the world are working hard - all the time - to figure out all they can about COVID-19 and how to overcome it.  

Science works.  
Trust it.