Just Life

Over the Top on the Fun-O-Meter and a Garden Surprise

Ahhhh.

Summer.

The days are long and the pace is slow.

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Except . . . when it's not!

For me, this has been a non-stop kind of summer.  High on the Good-Things-and-Fun-O-Meter, for sure!  But the pace has been relentless.  (Someday, maybe I'll have a chance to actually sit and rest in this lovely corner of my garden.)

I have nothing to complain about here, truly.  I've enjoyed a long visit with my sister, visited Mackinac Island and Chicago, co-hosted a super successful fundraising wine tasting event . . . and a summer solstice party (in the same week), (finally) spent a week up north, helped Brian and Lauren move into their new digs in Grand Rapids (on the hottest and muggiest day of the summer).  And now?  Well . . . I'm headed to Alaska with Tom later this week.  So.  Really . . . nothing but fun.

Still.  Constant activity - even when it is the fun kind - is always tiring, y'know?  

Okay.  Enough whining.  
Let's have a cool garden story instead, shall we?  

I have this WILD butterfly garden. 

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I do my best to keep the path clear, and I try to keep the weeds down.  But, mostly . . . I let it do it's own thing.  It's an . . . organic, flowing, constantly-changing kind of garden.  Easy care.  Friendly to pollinators.  Always packed with bees and butterflies.  (It looks pretty good, too.)

There is lots of milkweed in my butterfly garden -- common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed.  (Plants in the milkweed family are the ONLY plants Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on -- and the only plants Monarch caterpillars will eat.)

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butterfly weed

Over the weekend, I happened to be checking out one of the milkweed plants to see if I could find any Monarch eggs -- and was thrilled to find this instead. . . 

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common milkweed

See him down there?  Near the bottom of the photo?

Here's a close up . . . 

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A Monarch caterpillar . . . just munching away on my milkweed.

I love a good garden surprise!

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How about you?  How's your summer coming along?


Caught Between Worlds

I've returned from my time up north . . . and find myself caught between two worlds.  
Or something.

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Today I seem to be zigging . . . when I should be zagging.  

I went to a haircut appointment.  
Right day.  
Wrong time.  
(Luckily, I was early and just returned at the right time later.)

I went into the grocery store after the haircut, but couldn't find my glasses.  
Because they were on my head.  
Along with a pair of sunglasses.  
(Uh huh.)

I thought I wrote a blog post for today.
And published it.
But . . . I didn't.
(I don't think I even had a topic, actually.)

So.
There you have it:  I think I'm not quite "here" yet . . . but I'm certainly not still "there" either.

Anyway.
Be sure to stop by tomorrow.  
If all goes well (and it might not) (because caught between worlds), there will be a new Asking Questions interview here! 

(And if not, well.  I'll think of something.)

 

 

 


The Truth of It

There was probably a time in my life . . . before I had cancer, surely . . . when I might've been upset at the thought of turning 60.  Or, at least, felt melancholy and pensive about it.

But now?

I say . . . BRING IT!  MORE BIRTHDAYS!!!!

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Tomorrow, when I wake up to my first day as a 60-year-old, I don't anticipate feeling any different or looking any different or acting any different than I do today -- my last day as a 59-year-old.

I plan to fling my arms wide to embrace the day . . . and enjoy every moment that comes my way.

Because living to celebrate another birthday is a gift.
And I am so happy to be here.

"I decided if you're lucky enough to be alive, you should use each birthday to celebrate what your life is about."
                    ---Mary Steenburgen

 


Winter Solstice

Happy Solstice!

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Our party last night was a great success.  Good food.  Good friends.  Plenty to drink.  Lots of laughter.

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(Plus . . . my cocktail napkin game was strong!)

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Today, I'm happy to have it all (including the clean-up) behind me.  It's time to just sit back and enjoy the rest of the holiday season.

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And - by special request - click here for the Songs for Winter Solstice playlist Tom and I created for our annual party.  Remember, you won't find any Christmas songs on this playlist, but you will find an assortment of songs sharing the loose themes of light, dark, stars, the sun (including both the setting and the rising), and seasons.  (There is also one birthday-ish song in there, for obvious reasons).  Listen and enjoy!  

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I wish you all a lovely Solstice, and a happy weekend -- full of light!

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(Note:  After many annoying minutes of trying to get the actual playlist to embed correctly in this blog post, I have given up.  You have to click the link (in red, above) to get the playlist.  The "list" is just a photo and will not play directly.  Sorry.)

 

 


Unpacking . . . My Desk

I often write about the state of my desk.  Which is rarely tidy.  Or, if it is tidy, it doesn't seem to take very long before it reverts to its . . . angle of repose.  Which is definitely not tidy.  In fact, often, I feel like I'm working in a canyon -- with walls of stuff surrounding my computer!

At some point, I get to feeling claustrophobic enough that I straighten it all up.  
And then I swear that I'll keep things tidy.  
This time. 
But then . . . angle of repose.  
(Rinse.  Repeat.)

In fact, I tidied up my desk and organized everything on Sunday.  This morning, though, I can feel the canyon walls creeping in.  (And this photo doesn't show the other side of my desk.)  (Or the surrounding floor.)  (Or the cart within easy reach.)

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I thought . . . let's analyze this.  Break it down.  Unpack the situation.  
What's going on with my desk?  Why do I let these canyon walls build up?  
So I took a quick photo.  Just for assessment purposes.  And do you see what I see?

1 - Behind my desk (not terribly clear, probably, in this photo) is a stack of papers for a project I'm working on right now.  I have segregated them out from my in-box, and they are neatly stacked.  But on top of them, I've placed a metal "book hug" that I use for my iPad so I can see it when I'm knitting (I use KnitCompanion for all my patterns, and need my iPad nearby).  A set of size 3 double-points are resting in it (because I need them for my next project).  And there are two sets of headphones, a pair of cheaters, a party invitation, and some checks I need to deposit.  All things I need to keep in ready-reach today.  (Except, probably for the "book hug" and the needles.)  (But they fell off the couch while I was on a phone call last night and I needed to put them somewhere in a hurry.)

2 - I keep an in-box on the corner of my desk.  It's even organized with marked file folders -- so I can neatly file away the papers that come my way!  (They remain . . . empty.)  The in-box is really just a "corral" for stacks of paperwork that is not immediately necessary (but I always know what's in the "corral", y'know?).  The in-box is usually the first canyon wall.  Because I can continue to stack stuff in it.  Even stuff that has nothing to do with paperwork!  Like . . . library books.  My iPad.  A stretchy flip belt that I can use for my phone when I don't have pockets.  And another pair of cheaters.  (Uh huh.)  My in-box really serves as a repository for things I don't want to lose track of , but that I don't need now.  I know where things are; I know what's in there . . . for later.  (Except for the stuff on top.  That's just . . . convenient.)

3 - And then . . . there's all the stuff that just winds up ON my desk.  A coaster for my tea.  Pretty cards and notes I've received in the mail.  Three or four ongoing pads for jotting ideas and random thoughts and figures (because, you know . . . I probably can't find one when I need it, so I grab another from the basket on the cart. . . ).  A tape measure (I'm buying new throw rugs, and I've been using it a lot the last few days as I finalize my decisions).  Lovely yarn (from Vicki) that I received this week. (I like to keep it near -- for inspiration - as I try to figure out what to do with it.)  (I'm thinking maybe socks.)  My planner.  My phone.  Another pair of cheaters.  (Hmmm.) (I always have ALL the cheaters - or NONE of the cheaters  - when I need them.) Random post-it notes for myself everywhere.  Business cards.  Yarn labels.  

(And that, my friends . . . is How Happen!)

Going through this exercise will NOT help me keep my desk neat and tidy.  Really, it won't change a thing.  But it does help me understand  what's going on.  Because my desk . . . is kind of an extension of my brain.  And this is how my brain works.  I like to keep my immediate projects close at hand -- where I can SEE them.  I also like to keep my not-immediate projects "corralled" in a safe space.  And I seem to have no problem working with a lot of inspiration nearby.  (And, well . . . I'm also kind of lazy and drop things where the land.)  (You might get an eye-twitch if you could see how many open tabs I have on my browser. . .)

So.  This is the official news of the day:  I am not going to worry about my desk anymore.  Now that I'm "almost 60", I think it's time for me to stop apologizing for the state my desk (which is representative, I guess, of how I think).  It's time to just accept that I'm good with canyon walls.  That I will stop to control the piles when I need to.  And that . . . while I may be a bit messy, I'm also effective.  And creative.  And I don't tend to lose things ever.

(But perhaps I really do need to get the cheaters situation under control.)

How about you?  What's your workspace like?

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Join Carole for other Three on Thursday posts today!

 

 

 


Unraveling Family Traditions

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that on Thanksgiving - after the turkey has been eaten and tucked away in the refrigerator - we make gingerbread houses.  It's been an Annual Thing since my kids were tiny.  Over the years, we've shared this tradition with friends and various family members.  

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Last week, I did a quick calculation.  I think that, over the years, I have baked just under 70 gingerbread houses!

But what happens when that family tradition . . . unravels????  As in . . . can a gingerbread house even happen if there is no one around to make it?

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I thought long and hard about it.  

At first, I thought about baking the pieces and shipping them (along with candy and the recipe for frosting) out to my kids.  Kind of . . . a gingerbread house in "kit" form.  But then I realized . . . it wasn't my kids going on about what-will-we-do-if-we-can't-make-gingerbread-houses-on-Thanksgiving.  It was me.  So I nixed that idea.  (I don't need to foist MY traditions on them.)

And then, I thought about inviting one of my artsy friends over to make gingerbread houses some afternoon.  We could have a glass of wine and get fired up about our creations.  But I didn't really feel like doing that, either.

I decided to just . . . let this one go.  To realize that, like the Annual Father's Day Croquet Tournament before it, it was time to just let this tradition go.  

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But then, I got to thinking about what I would do with the space on the bookshelf where I usually placed my gingerbread house amidst the holiday décor.  

I got to thinking that . . . well . . .it might actually be kind of fun to make one just for myself!

So I did!

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While, initially, it made me a teeny tiny bit sad . . . that didn't last long at all!  I thought about all the fun times we'd had with the gingerbread houses over the years.  My kids when they were small.  Erin's friends as she grew older.  My mom.  Introducing the tradition to Keith and then to Lauren.  (Let me tell you -- there are good memories and lots of love baked right into that Pampered Chef gingerbread house mold!)

And then . . . I plugged in to the newest Louise Penny Three Pines mystery . . . and let 'er rip!

Merry and bright, indeed!

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Joining Kat and friends today for Unraveled -- even though I'm not unraveling anything fiber-like.  Be sure to stop in over at Kat's to see what everyone else is unraveling!


Ending the Week on A Good (paid off) Note

I had planned a Friday Fish Wrap post for today, but my week has been rather discombobulated (nothing bad, just . . . life) and I don't have the time or energy for that kind of post today.

But.

I do have some good news to share.

Earlier this week, Tom and I got a letter in the mail . . . 

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with this . . . 

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so we did this . . . 

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Good news in a discombobulated week.

Now . . . let the weekend begin.

 

 


Finding the Space

Today . . . looks to be a hard day.  After a rough week.  (My heart aches that we can't - at this stage of history - come up with solutions that make life better for ALL of us; that we can't listen and hear; that it always has to be a power grab.  That we can't seem to ever get it right.)  (And I'm done now.)

So.

I thought we could all do with . . . something beyond ourselves.  Something lovely.  And meaningful.  And purposeful.  To lighten our load -- and to find the space in our souls . . . to maybe relax for a moment.  And breathe.

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This art installation piece is called Intersections, by artist Anila Quayyum Agha.  It was the grand prize winner in both the juried and public vote categories back in Art Prize 2014.  I didn't see it then -- because the lines to see it were just too long at the time.  I always regretted it, because I kept hearing how powerful it was -- how peace-filled and magical.

I was thrilled to discover that it is back on exhibit in Grand Rapids (at the Grand Rapids Art Museum) right now -- during Art Prize 2018.  (It is not part of Art Prize.  It is simply on exhibit at the same time.)

Tom and I popped in to see it when we were in town on Tuesday . . . and - unbelievably - we were the only people in the space at that moment!

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It was such a treat . . . to be able to experience Intersections . . . privately.  Absolutely on our own.  Which made it even more amazing than it already is!

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On this heart-wrenching day . . . after a heart-breaking week . . . may you find some space, some magic, some peace . . . within yourself.

Intersections, indeed.

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If you click in to the link above (about the exhibit in Grand Rapids), you'll be able to learn more about the piece itself.  There are a few video links as well.  But to really get a feel for the story behind the piece, watch this video:

Anila Quayyum Agha: Intersections from Walley Films on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ms. CrankyPants

There are many things that are currently making me cranky.  Most of them are not really suitable for a blog post.  (For one reason or another.)  And some of them are already making most of you cranky, too.  (So . . . why go there.)

But this one?

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Oh, yes.  MAJOR culprit in the cranky department.

I don't blog about this, but I have rheumatoid arthritis.  Have had for . . . nearly 30 years now.  While it causes some problems for me now and again, it's mainly under control.  Which means it rarely stops me from doing what I want to be doing.  (Better living through chemistry.  And all that.)

But.

Every once in a while, some joint will flare up in a major way.  Usually, it's my knee.  Occasionally, it's my jaw.  And, most annoyingly, sometimes it's my wrist.

And you know what that means, don't you?  Yeah.  No knitting.  No stitching.  No working out.  No walking the dogs.  Minimal gardening.  Typing with one hand.  And lots of grumbling. . . 

But I can still lift my cup of coffee.  
And hold a book.  
And sit in the car while Tom drives me up to Grand Rapids for Art Prize later today.  

So life is very good, really.

(I'm just wearing my CrankyPants.)

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PS - JoJo is feeling cranky today, too.  She has an ear infection, but is on the mend.  (We're partners-in-crank.)

 

 


Digging Deep

Y'know, there are just times when the Overwhelm comes for a little visit.  When life just feel a little . . . heavy.  When friends are struggling, or life's realities just kind of swamp you, or you have to do this-or-that that you'd really prefer not to.  (When not being signed in when you really ARE signed in and can't leave comments on friends' blogs is your Last Straw  . . . )

That's when I know I need to dig a little deeper.  
Turn things around.
Listen to what's already there . . .  in my heart.

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A gratitude list is usually a good place to start . . .

  • the smell of rain in the morning
  • a cool breeze through the open window
  • a cup of coffee
  • dogs at my side
  • an old pair of flip flops that perfectly conform to the shape of my feet

And, suddenly, the day seems brighter.  
Manageable.  
It's those simple things, really, that turn away the Overwhelm.  
Digging deeper . . .  opens the path for a fresh new day.  
(Because, really.  How can old flip flops not turn the tide?)

Happy Friday, my friends.  It's going to be a good day.