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August 2020

Bright Spots

Several years ago, we re-did our master bathroom. (It was one of those give-a-mouse-a-cookie situations that began with a shower stall that needed to be replaced, and then just mushroomed from there.) In the process, we ended up removing a jacuzzi bathtub. Most people look at me like I'm kind of crazy when I tell them we did that. But, although I tried really hard to become one, I am simply not a Bath Person. The tub just sat there. Taking up space. Requiring dusting and cleaning. And (truth be told) serving as a "clothes horse" for Things I Decided Not To Wear.

So.

We had the tub torn out. And we converted the space into (what has become) my own, private little yoga "studio." 

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The stained glass windows were always there, but before our re-do, the walls in the bathroom were covered in VERY dark blue striped wallpaper. When that came off? The windows became the star attraction!

I created a little meditation space in the corner. It's always really nice, but when the sun is shining, it becomes a magical space. I just never know what will greet me when I sit down to meditate. Yesterday, I got this. . . 

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Sunlight through the stained glass. Plant shadows. Candlelight reflections. (And a little heart if you use your imagination.)

And then, when I stood up to begin my daily yoga practice, this was my view in mountain pose . . . 

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It's not like this every day, of course. It depends on the time of day and the angle of the sun and the amount of cloud cover -- and when I'm in the space to notice. (Whole weeks can go by in the winter without any wall-sparkling, for example.

It's a good reminder . . . that there ARE bright spots.
We just need to watch for them.
And be there to notice them.
And marvel whenever they appear.

Even in the dark times.


A Change of Scenery . . . Of Sorts

My knitting is in a rather dull spot at the moment, so I'll show you something else that has caught my fancy these days . . . 

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I have always loved hand-stitching, and especially embroidery. After all, it was my "first craft." My great grandmother taught me simple embroidery when I was very young. My first project? She wrote my name on a piece of muslin, threaded my needle with blue embroidery floss, taught me the backstitch . . . and I successfully stitched the whole thing right onto the skirt I was wearing! We had to cut if off and begin again. (My first experience of "so shall you sew, so shall you rip"!)

Anyway, I used to do quite a lot of embroidery. Lately, though? Not so much. Hand-stitching has been pretty limited to my Alabama Chanin projects. 

But I've been following several embroiderers on Instagram for a while, and decided to just pick up my "tiny needle" and jump back in.

I started with this little kit from Cozy Blue Handmade. (The photo uptop is also a Cozy Blue kit.) Her kits are all-inclusive and ready for immediate stitching. (They include the stamped fabric, embroidery floss, a needle, the wooden hoop frame, and basic instruction). 

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(I have always struggled with satin stitch. I try all the tricks -- I outline the area first, for example and fill it in with seed stitch before doing the satin stitch. Still, it's uneven . . . but I'm working at letting my perfection "flow" right out the window. So there you go.)

I'm really having fun with these little projects right now. In fact, I have a couple more in my line-up!

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A change of scenery is good for the soul!

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How about you? What are you working on?

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Make sure to stop over at Kat's today to see what everyone else is "unraveling" this week!

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Also . . . don't forget to check out the Wild Game book discussion happening this week. Find the discussions questions here, here, and here. Be sure to comment for a chance at our book-lover's prize package.


Read With Us: So, What'd'ja Think?

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Wild Game. Join the discussion (which you can do even if you didn't read the book, you know).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. 

We have another "book lovers" surprise package for you (and I promise it's not any surprising "wild game"). Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blogs and your name will be entered in the drawing -- the more you comment and participate in the discussion, the more chances you have to win!

Now, let's get on with our discussion.

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The book begins with an epigraph: Mary Oliver's poem, The Uses of Sorrow

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The Uses of Sorrow
Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

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In the book, the author certainly works her way through the "darkness" of her adolescence over the course of her growing up, although according to this interview, I wouldn't say she thinks it was a "gift," exactly. (The writing process itself sounds like it was very cathartic for her; a chance to understand and forgive her mother.)

Do you think the epigraph - Mary Oliver's poem - was a fitting way for Adrienne Brodeur to begin the book? Do you see the darknesses in your own life as gifts, or would you wish some of them away? Is growth possible without suffering?

I can't wait to hear what you think!

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The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver originally appeared in Thirst, published in 2006, Beacon Press.

 


The Reality Of It

. . . is that sometimes I have trouble starting my own engines on a Monday!

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Although I'm back home now, I've been up north for a while. Long enough . . . that I have a lot of catching up to do now that I'm back. (I'm not complaining. Just explaining.) 

I'm looking for a jump start for myself today, so . . . no interesting links for you. But I can still share my quote for the week:

"How did it get to be so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness, how the time has flown. How did it get so late so soon?"
        --- Dr. Seuss 

Happy Monday, everyone.
I hope your week is off to a great start!

(Anyone have some jumper cables?)

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Don't forget to join Bonny, Carole, and I tomorrow for our Read With Us Discussion of this quarter's book selection . . . Wild Game.

 


Fridays Are For Poetry

Today, I bring you a poem from another of my favorite poets, W.S. Merwin.

There are so many (many, MANY) fabulous Merwin poems. (If you haven't check out his work . . .oh, do!) The one I chose for today is from his last published book, Garden Time. It's a bit melancholy and thoughtful, and - for me - perfect for These Days. I've always loved Merwin's spare style, his crashing words, the fact that there is no punctuation. His poems are always a ride!

Enjoy.

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Living With the News
W.S. Merwin

Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records
this is not the world that I remember
then comes the day when I open the box
that I remember packing with such care
and there is the face that I had known well
in little pieces staring up at me
it is not mentioned on the front pages
but somewhere back near the real estate
among the things that happen every day
to someone who now happens to be me
and what can I do and who can tell me
then there is what the doctor comes to say
endless patience will never be enough
our only hope is to be the daylight

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

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Today's poem was published in Garden Time, W.S. Merwin, Copper Canyon Press, 2016.  Information about the poet can be found here

 


And Then It Kind of Unraveled

We're up north this week (where it was 43 degrees F when I woke up this morning!).

Making-wise, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to finish up my little bunnies. The early-week weather up north was looking cool and rainy -- perfect for bunny-finishing! So I gathered everything up and packed it for a bunny-making sew-and-stuff-fest at our cabin.

Yesterday afternoon (cool and rainy, as predicted), I got everything all laid out on the table . . . ready to settle in with my bunnies.

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But.

If you take a look, something is missing.
Something important.
Vital to the project, even. 

(And if you guessed "bunny body parts" . . . you'd be absolutely right.)

Sigh.

My plans = completely unraveled!

I was evidently so focused on remembering to pack the stuffing and the black yarn for the faces and extra yarn and all my tools and my iPad . . . that I forgot to grab my bag of bunny parts!  (Oh, well. There's always next week.)

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How about you? What are you working on this week?

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Be sure to head over to Kat's today for more Unraveled fun.

 


Get Ready to Talk About It

Read With Us

Y'know, one of the best things about being in a book group . . .  is reading a few books you'd never in a million years read on your own! Book group selections can certainly challenge our reading habits in whole new ways -- and I know our current Read With Us selection did that for many of us.

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Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur was not a book I'd ever have read . . . left to my own devices. I actually enjoy memoirs, and tend to read a few every year. This one, though? I'm gonna admit that it didn't appeal to me at first. Then, I heard the author speak with Gretchen and Liz on the Happier podcast (it was their book club selection last fall), and I was a little more interested. There was more to the story than the book blurb seemed to suggest.

It's . . . uncomfortable reading, subject matter wise. A mother coerces her young teenage daughter to "help" her hide an affair with her stepfather's best friend? Really? So . . . juicy, for sure. But also not something I could relate to (thankfully). I mean . . . my family, one of very modest income living a very modest life and eating casseroles thrown together for dinner with no cocktail hour ever, was about as far-removed from Adrienne Brodeur's complicated life and even more complicated family than I could imagine!

So I read the book like it was fiction. Because it seemed like fiction to me.

But, if I'm really honest about it, there were some very relatable things in this book for me. Not relatable in a lifestyle or family-structure or situational kind of way. But there is something very universal about wanting your parents' attention and affection, about separating from your parents as you grow into adulthood, about letting your children go their own way, about secrets. And I think, in that way, there was more to this book than its rather juicy foundation would imply.

I'm looking forward to delving into this one with you next week.

Join Bonny, Carole, and I next Tuesday to talk about the book together. Each of us will pose a question for discussion on our blogs. We look forward to hearing what you have to say! (As usual, there will be a booklovers prize at the end, so be sure to join the conversation.)

In the meantime, this book is a quick read -- so even if you haven't read it yet, there is still time. Yes, the subject matter will be a turn off to many. Just do what I did and pretend it's fiction! (Because most of us read fiction with this kind of storyline all the time now . . . don't we?) The writing is very good, and the story flows quickly from the more uncomfortable child/mother relationship to The Aftermath and the author's struggle to find her self as she grows up.

If you want to delve into the book a bit more - either as reminder for yourself or just because you're interested in the author - here are a few links to check out:

An interview with the author on NPR. (You can read the transcript OR listen to the interview using this link.)

A summary of the discussion from the Happier podcast. (You can link in to the actual podcast episode from this link, too, if you want to listen.) Note: If you scroll down in the link, there is a photograph of The Necklace so talked about in the book. If you've read the book, I'm sure you'll be curious to see what that dang necklace actually looked like -- so this is worth the scroll down to see.

A link to the author's guest appearance on Dani Shapiro's podcast Family Secrets. (I listened to this podcast last night, and it is quite interesting.)

I'm looking forward to discussing this book with you next week.

Happy reading!


First Monday in August

Monday again.
Already August.

(Can you believe that? Time continues to whirl away.)

Let's . . . 

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On Mondays I share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, a little of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe something to rev you up!

So. Let's get to it.

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"If you are in a bad mood, go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood, go for another walk."
                -- Hippocrates

Every week, I find a quote that inspires me (or one that reflects my current mood), and I write it at the top of my weekly planner. I also share it here. This week, it's the quote above . . . which is attributed to Hippocrates. You know . . . THAT Hippocrates. The Father of Medicine, the Hippocratic Oath guy. Ancient Greek physician. Back in the BC times.

And that quote, much as I love it, well . . . it doesn't ring very "ancient Greek" to me. "Bad mood?" I'm sure the ancient Greeks had them, but it seems like an awfully modern term. I just can't quite picture the ancient Greeks hanging around in their togas and laurel head garlands talking about their "bad moods." I did some Google-digging, though, and . . . it really does seem to be attributed to Hippocrates by many a reliable source.

So. I'm going with it!

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I haven't done a Start Your Engines dictionary word for months now, but I have one for this week. Today's word . . . is one I'm sure we're all very, very familiar with (overly familiar with, I'm afraid):

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(Yeah. I knew you'd know this one.)

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was a total doomscroller. I was reading and clicking and reading some more ALL.THE.TIME. I got a handle on it pretty quickly by re-instituting many of the good habits I developed in my "digital detox" (way back in March 2019). BUT. I can still launch myself into a doomscolling rabbit hole if I'm not super vigilant!

It's important for all of us to be mindful of the doomscroll trapdoor - and especially as the news just grows ever more bleak and full of (well . . .) doom. Sure. We need to be informed about what's going on. We just need to be careful about being TOO informed, paying too much attention -- because it's wreaking havoc with our mental health!

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(image from @the_happy_broadcast on Instagram)

Looking for some suggestions for how to stop the doomscrolling in your life? Here are a few resources for you. (Note: Mostly they say the same things, but in different ways.)

From the New York Times.

From Wired.

From @the_happy_broadcast on Instagram.

(Also. This is the not the last you'll hear from me on this particular topic!)

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Looking for a way to get involved with the upcoming election? 

Check out Vote Save America for great information . . . PLUS ways to "adopt" a swing state!

Good information.
Forward thinking.
Ready to rumble!

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Let's talk . . . vaccines and antibodies . . . for a minute.

Here in my house . . . we tend to talk about chemistry and pharmaceuticals and vaccines probably a bit more than your typical household, I know. But at this point, it looks like a vaccine might be the only way out of our current pandemic mess, so it's best we all pay attention.

This article from the New York Times came out over the weekend (Friday) -- and it is an excellent explanation of antibodies, vaccines, how they work, and what we might expect from current research. Give it a read. It might give you some (much needed) hope! (Especially if, like me, you're afraid of the rush-to-drug-approval aspect of the entire process.)

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I know. It's just the beginning of August. But you know what that means in the garden???

Yes! It's time to start thinking about, planning for, and ordering spring bulbs! (Seriously? Yes. Seriously.)

In the past, several of you have asked me to give you a little reminder-nudge when I order my bulbs. Well, my friends. This is that nudge! It's time! (Actually, there's quite a bit of time before you need to get the bulbs in the ground, but if you don't order or purchase soon, you may not get the bulbs you want.)

I generally order my bulbs online. I can also pick them up at local nurseries, but I can't always find the bulbs I want in the quantity I'm looking for -- and the quality tends not to be as good as the bulbs I order. One year, I purchased a number of daffodils locally -- and I also ordered them in bulk from an online supplier. The online bulbs were bigger and healthier and only a bit more expensive. Most importantly, though -- the online bulbs have consistently performed better over time. (Like . . . way better.) Bottom line? I recommend ordering from a good supplier if you can.

Looking for online bulb sources? I usually order from White Flower Farm with excellent results. This year, I'm also thinking of trying bulbs from Longfield Gardens. I've heard good things about them, and their prices look good (a bit cheaper than WFF, although not on everything). (I'll keep you posted.)

Here's a list of top online bulb suppliers put together by Garden Gate magazine, just in case you're looking for some options.

And if you're planning to pick up bulbs locally, here's a great article explaining what you should be looking for in healthy bulbs.

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And that's it for me this first week in August.

I hope your week is off to a great start.
Keep smiling.
We'll get through this.
XO

 


Poetry On a Friday . . . Now On a Saturday

(Sometimes . . . you write a blog post and then forget to post it. It happens. So enjoy some poetry on a Friday on a Saturday!)

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When I feel like I really need break (as in . . . give me a fu*king break), I look for poetry that will make me forget for a moment. Poetry that might bring a smile. Poetry that will lift my mood with it's cleverness -- and then make me gasp when it takes me to an unexpected destination.

When I need that kind of poetry, I pick up Billy Collins.

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(A lovely photo that has absolutely nothing to do with this post.)

Billy Collins is one of those poets . . . who just looks at the everyday, ordinary world and finds that little detail or some minor thing to wonder about or marvel at . . . and brings it on home for the rest of us to experience with fresh eyes. His poetry is always, always a delight. (If you're just dipping your toe into poetry, Billy Collins is your guy!)

Last Thursday night, out on the patio with a glass of wine and one of my Billy Collins books, I read poem after poem (too many of them outloud, to Tom, who humors me . . . but had enough - thankyouverymuch - even though he also enjoys Billy Collins) looking for one to share on the blog today (which turns out to be a Saturday and not a Friday). I had a hard time deciding on one, but ultimately made my choice. It's classic Billy Collins to me: beginning with an everyday observation, playing around with words, making clever connections, and then . . . revealing some gut-punch-y truth in the end.

Enjoy.

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Baby Listening
Billy Collins

According to the guest information directory,
baby listening is a service offered by this seaside hotel.

Baby-listening -- not a baby who happens to be listening,
as I thought when I first checked in.

Leave the receiver off the hook,
the directory advises,
and your infant can be monitored by the staff,

though the staff, the entry continues,
cannot be held responsible for the well-being
of the baby in question.

Fair enough: someone to listen to the baby.

But the phrase did suggest a baby who is listening,
lying there in the room next to mine
listening to my pen scratching against the page,

or a more advanced baby who has crawled
down the hallway of the hotel
and is pressing its tiny, curious ear against my door.

Lucky for some of us,
poetry is a place where both are true at once,
where meaning only one thing at a time spells malfunction.

Poetry wants to have the baby who is listening at my door
as well as the baby who is being listened to,
quietly breathing into the nearby telephone.

And it also wants the baby
who is making sounds of distress
into the curved receiver lying in the crib

while the girl at reception has just stepped out
to have a smoke with her boyfriend
in the dark by the great wash and sway of the North Sea.

Poetry wants that baby, too,
even a little more than it wants the others.

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My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) 

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Today's poem was published in Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, Billy Collins, Random House, 2013.  Information about the poet can be found here