Thursday, April 30, 2015

Finding Poetry

While attempting to KonMari a bookcase earlier this week, I delightedly and unexpectedly found a folder with poems I had clipped, copied, saved, and then forgotten about for years. In it was this poem, my introduction to Wislawa Szymborska from her book View With A Grain of Sand. Here, at the end of National Poetry Month, is one of my favorite poems ever.

A Tale Begun

The world is never ready
for the birth of a child.

Our ships are not yet back from Vinland.
We still have to get over the St. Gotthard pass.
We've got to outwit the watchmen on the desert of Thor,
fight our way through the sewers to Warsaw's center,
gain access to King Harold the Butterpat
and wait until the downfall of Minister Fouché.
Only in Acapulco
can we begin anew.

We've run out of bandages,
matches, hydraulic presses, arguments, and water.
We haven't got the trucks, we haven't got the Mings' support.
This skinny horse won't be enough to bribe the sheriff.
No news so far about the Tartars' captives.
We'll need a warmer cave for winter
and someone who can speak Harari.

We don't know who to trust in Nineveh,
what conditions the prince cardinal will decree,
which names Beria's still got inside his files.
They say Charles the Hammer strikes tomorrow at dawn.
In this situation let's appease Cheops,
report ourselves of our own free will,
change faiths,
pretend to be friends with the Doge
and that we've got nothing to do with the Kwabe tribe.

Time to light the fires.
Let's send a cable to grandma in Zabierzow.
Let's untie the knots in the yurt's leather straps.

May delivery be easy,
may our child grow and be well.
Let him be happy from time to time
and leap over abysses.
Let his heart have strength to endure
and his mind be awake and reach far.

But not so far
that it sees into the future.
Spare him
that one gift,
0 heavenly powers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Last Week


The Ten on Tuesday topic this week is 10 Things You Did Last Week. Not surprisingly, Carole chose vacation, sun, tequila, and the beach over blog reading last week, and this week will provide a fun catch up. So, last week I...
  1. Appreciated the spring flowers that are blooming, even though spring is dragging her heels in these parts
  2. Missed Carole, so I did my own lone Ten on Tuesday
  3. Cleaned the wet leaves out of flower beds, and trimmed mums, hydrangeas, and roses
  4. Was itching to plant some flowers and vegetables, but...
  5. Got surprised by snow on Thursday and Friday
  6. Was quite happy that the snow melted almost as quickly as it fell
  7. Saw the return of my sock knitting mojo
  8. Walked to the dentist, bank, locksmith, florist, etc. to accomplish all my errands, and I'm really starting to like it
  9. Started a new book, The Children's Crusade. It's becoming a bit of a slog, so I'm already looking for my next book.
  10. Began planning my own summer vacation
What did you do last week? Hope it included plenty of fun and interesting things!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Look for Them

I've heard these wise words from Mr. Rogers' mother far too many times - after the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, the Aurora and Newtown shootings, the Boston Marathon bombing - and they still make me cry.

Nancy Rogers has given all of us a way to deal with tragedies of unimaginable proportion, whether they are man-made or natural. Her words have been so helpful to me in processing too many catastrophes, and now I always look for the helpers.

That was the first thing I did when I heard the news of the Nepal earthquake. Images show the overwhelming scope of the catastrophe, but just as Nancy Rogers and her son reminded us, there are always helpers.

Omar Havana/Getty Images
Omar Havana / Getty Images
Prakash Mathema/Getty Images
Omar Havana / Getty Images

I don't have much to offer to all those suffering except thoughts, prayers, and donations. But I guess in some miniscule way, that makes me a helper. Doctors Without Borders, Unicef, American Red Cross, and many others are providing help; please consider being a helper yourself. If you leave me a comment about how you have helped recently (for anyone, in any way; it doesn't have to be earthquake-related or a monetary contribution), I'll hold a random drawing on Monday, May 4, and award some yet-to-be determined yarny prizes. Thank you to all the helpers who give me hope.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and take the opportunity to offer a thank you or two. Let's open the mail...

Dear Mother Nature,

I know I whined about the weather all winter and I'm determined not to do that now that spring has (sort of) arrived. So even though it is snowing today and you have deposited graupel on my grape hyacinths, I'm not going to complain. Instead, how about if I thank you for providing me with the obvious choice for dinner - chili in the crockpot! Never mind that I originally had planned to do hamburgers on the grill; I'm sure it will warm up enough for that by August or so. 


Dear Drivers,

Since Justin had his accident in March and has not yet replaced his totalled vehicle, I have been without a car. I'm a sucker for loaning him my Subaru, but his being able to get to school trumps my need for a car. Life and errands don't stop, so I've been walking everywhere - to the bank, locksmith, florist, post office, and I may attempt the three mile round trip to the grocery store next week if I feel adventurous. Exercise with a purpose! 

However, I kindly request demand that drivers pay attention to pedestrians in crosswalks and look for people walking across the road before you screech around the corner making your right turn on red. True, I have been getting a small amount of upper arm exercise by shaking my fist at you, but I would really rather not end up run over in the street next to the "Yield To Pedestrians in Crosswalk" sign. Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.

Dear Sock Knitting Mojo,

Welcome back! I don't know where you went or what caused you to leave in the first place, but I'm glad you have returned. It became clear that you have been gone far too long when I could barely remember how to knit a heel flap last night, but I'm humming along now, looking forward to the magic of the heel turn. I may even throw you a party if you stick around long enough for me to finish both socks!


Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe, and warm weekend!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Many Reasons

Since Carole is enjoying sun, fun, and tequila on vacation in Mexico and not around to do Ten on Tuesday this week, I've come up with my own list - Ten Many Reasons Why I Would Love to Move to Colorado.
  1. Oldest Son lives there
  2. Youngest Son would like to live in the West (as soon as he finds a job there).
  3. Mountains
  4. The climate
  5. A Reader's Haven 
  6. A truly wonderful library system that is quickly becoming my local library even though I am currently 1700 miles away!
  7. So much good beer
  8. Whiskey, too
  9. The best reuben I've ever had
  10. The Loopy Ewe
  11. Celestial Seasonings and the Mint Room
  12. Pike's Peak
  13. Mesa Verde
  14. Friendly, accomodating, and accepting people
  15. Gorgeous wildflowers 

 Some day!


Friday, April 17, 2015

B is for ...

Bird houses!

Several people commented that they would like to see the bird houses I mentioned on Tuesday, and since it's time for me to get out the ladder and put them up, I'm happy to oblige and take some pictures. They aren't terribly artistic, but it really makes me smile remembering all of us painting together, with both boys very concerned that they were painting designs that the birds would appreciate and make them feel welcome.

This one says Welcome right up front.

 This one Welcomes the birds, both forwards and backwards.

What family wouldn't also enjoy the covered porch and the green and gold striped
 awning over the side window?

This one has a skylight.

Here is one of my personal favorites, with some lovely nest-related art on the back.

I spent some time climbing the ladder and also climbing some trees
 to hang the bird houses, including one on the porch in a prime spot
 just a few feet away from one of the feeders.

Now all I have to do is wait for the birds to get ready to nest. We've been hanging these bird houses for fifteen years or so, and they've had nests, eggs, and baby birds almost every year, maybe because we made the birds feel so welcome!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A is for ...

I've taken some long blog breaks this winter; some were due to lack of time and many happened because I just didn't feel like I had anything worthwhile to say. I was thinking about NaBloPoMo last November, and while posting every day was difficult at times, it became easier once I overcame my initial inertia. I know an ABC-along was a blog thing long ago and while this might be a similar idea, I hope it will provide me with a way to find a topic when I'm stuck. So, with the intention of posting more often (definitely not every day, and I'm not making any promises), A is for abecedarian.

Izambert, Cecile. "Lettrine A". Atelier Cecile Izambert. 2011. Web. 15 April 2015.

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Seeing Poetry II

After my rediscovery last weekend of the poetry right in front of me, I went in search of more poetry. Youngest son Justin wrote a lot during his high school years. Most of his writing was penned only for himself, privately filling many journals still housed in his desk, but I did find one of his public poems in my copy of his high school literary magazine.

He hadn't shared it with me before it was published, but when √Član came out, he left a copy on the kitchen table, knowing that I would read it. As soon as I did, I knew exactly who and what it was written about. I had inwardly fumed at the initial incident; how dare someone hurt my son in the dismissive and yes, callous, way she had done it. Justin showed me a much more effective and beautifully-worded way of dealing with feelings - by writing a poem. I was reminded of this lesson again just a few weeks ago when this same woman behaved in an even more callous and downright cruel manner. Sadly, I don't think Justin is still writing poems, but perhaps I should start writing and stop fuming.

As his mother, I'm completely partial, but I do love this poem. In honor of National Poetry Month, my youngest poet son who has the ability to use just the right words and things to teach me, I'm sharing: 

Callous Liasons


Struggling to hear
             Yearning for the words.
Why can't they say

We all covet it
At some point.
Sometimes at
             Arduous for some
             Effortless for others.

High school.
Should be simple,
             Not for me.
                          Not for them.

Not an ordinary
             Met once before
             Mesmerized then
                          Still now.
Must restrict myself
             But I asked.
I got an answer.

She said
             She must shout.
So my heart can hear
             The lethal response.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - It's Delightful!

This week's Ten on Tuesday is 10 Everyday Things That Delight You. What a lovely topic to consider the multitude of delightful things in my life. Some are things, some are experiences, and some are a combination of both, but they are all wonderful to me.

Mt. Moran in Grand Teton National Park delights me immensely.

These people at Mt. Moran give me even more delight!

1.  PG Tips Tea - Proper English tea, this is what gets me out of bed in the morning and starts my delightful day.

2.   My ipod - This is how I listen to audiobooks. I use it every day and it's probably my favorite piece of technology.

3.   The stained glass over my sink - It's simple, but I love the reflections and colors it casts on the kitchen wall, and allows me to have a rainbow-colored view while I do dishes.

4.   ChiaoGoo interchangeable needles - I love everything about these needles and the fact that they make knitting even more enjoyable.

5.   Our birdhouses - Years ago, my husband built several birdhouses from scrap lumber and we all decorated them. I put them up every spring and delight in our colorful painting and the families of birds that move in.

6.   Talking with my kids on the phone - Certainly a commonplace occurrence, but it's wonderful, especially when it's good news like it was Monday evening!

7.   Cleaning out flowerbeds and seeing new green shoots on almost everything - I was overly excited to find bright green shoots on roses, mums, and hydrangeas yesterday.

8.   Getting into a bed freshly made with sheets that have been dried on the line - That happened last night and was a wonderful ahhhh moment.

9.   The abundance of family photos and artwork in our home - I find it delightful that I can look around almost every room and see great photos that have captured some truly happy memories. Photos of childhood, vacations, graduations, art projects by and from the boys are all treasured and fill me with happiness.

10.  Knitting, reading, and enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day - Another ahhhh moment when I sit down in my comfortable chair, glass of wine nearby, and lose myself in knitting and/or reading. This is definitely delightful and I look forward to the experience almost every night.

So what brings you delight? I hope everyone has a a nice long list!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Seeing Poetry I

I'm guilty of becoming blind to some things in my surroundings and not really seeing them. This piece of poetry has been hanging in our home for 12 years, but thankfully, some spring cleaning and dusting this weekend served to make me notice, read, truly see, and remember all the surprise and joy it brought me back in 2003.

Ryan wrote this as a school assignment back in sixth grade. His teacher was taken with the imagery, submitted it to Creative Kids magazine, and he became a published author. I remember reading this for the first time and shedding some tears myself, thankful for being able to see things through his eyes, and that he could describe a perfectly average scene from his window so beautifully. I'm not impartial in any way, but I do love this poem. In honor of National Poetry Month, my oldest poet son who still has a way with words, the fact that the gutter is no longer filled with white flakes, and that I actually did some spring cleaning (but his window is still speckled with smudges of dirt), I'm sharing:

 Gutter Filled With White Flakes

Gutter filled with white flakes as they billowed out-
ward, roof dappled with melting snow. I sat watching
 birds. By chance, I saw them, flooding by like water in
 the rapids, rippling, fluttering about madly as dragon- 
flies. Small, dark, brown birds with tan flecks all down
their bodies ending in bristled curls on their tails. One
halted its skyward ascent to sit on the edge of the
snow-filled gutter. A twig snapped above the bird's
head and plummeted. The bird, startled, slapped its
wings and gracefully soared away from its certain peril. 
One bird gone, yet another replaced it almost immedi-
ately, squatting down, making itself look ever more
pudgy, so pudgy in fact, that I almost had to laugh. 
That bird's visit, too, was cut short. A heavy truck rum-
bled down the road startling the bird, it drove onward 
in its trek to an unknown destination. A cardinal sits
on a tree branch, tree's trunk striped with ribbons of
rolling droplets as if in tears, weeping with sorrow 
at the cardinal's departure. As the smudges of dirt with 
which my window is speckled begin to cloud my view, 
I begin to slip into the world of knowingness. I turn
away, in tears, vowing to look back on this day and
behold again all the glory and peace it brought.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Letters

I've written a few Friday Letters to recap my week, say what's on my mind, and take the opportunity to offer a thank you or two. Let's open the mail...

Dear Guardian Angel,

Thank you for watching over Justin at the end of March. Even though he drives drove a big diesel truck, his truck was no match for the last surprise eight inches of *%&$#*! snow and ice that sent him careening into a marble post, mailbox, and tree. I'm so incredibly thankful that he was okay, even though his truck was totaled. Every time I complain about endless calls with the insurance company, all the other associated details that have to be dealt with, being without my car for the past several weeks because Justin needs it to get to school, and now the process of looking for another vehicle, I stop as soon as I catch myself, and say another prayer of gratitude that he was okay. Please continue to watch over him; he is a 21-year old boy man male and could possibly even use an extra guardian angel if there is one to spare.


Dear Verizon,

Just a customer service tip, "Oh, crap" is not what your customers want to hear from you after being assured by three different associates that you can easily transfer contacts and photos. After two and a half hours and a suggestion from a helpful customer that happened to walk in, then you were able to easily transfer things. Good job!


Dear Life,

The past four months have been a little trying in many different ways. If there is any possibility, could I please ask for a slight reprieve for the next month or so? It doesn't have to be anything big, maybe just an hour or two to sit peacefully, concentrate on reading a real book, knit without making so many mistakes because I'm worrying about other things, and not feel cold dread in the pit of my stomach every time the phone rings because I'm expecting bad news. Thanks for considering my request!


Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe, and smart weekend!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

To the Rescue!

Now that spring is ever so slowly returning to my neighborhood, today seemed like a good day for one of my personal spring rituals. Our past five days have been chilly, grey, and rainy, but the rain has served to melt away the very last dregs of snow. This is a real cause for rejoicing, but it also revealed how badly the lawn suffered from winter's ravages.

We are not well-manicured lawn people; with lots of shade trees and plenty of lawn apathy, we can only grow some grass, but lots of moss. I think it's beautiful, soft, and fun to walk on, and since I'm the one that mows the lawn, my husband's desire for more "real grass" gets vetoed.

The towering piles of snow killed some of the grass and moss, leaving big bare patches scattered throughout the lawn, and our resident deer herd, digging and foraging for something to eat, dug up their fair share of moss. We scraped up some large patches of moss with our enthusiastic shoveling, so it was clearly time for my spring ritual - Moss Rescue Day!

Big bare patch
Deer digging patch

Moss Rescue Day consists of walking around the yarn, picking up any scraped or shoveled moss patches and using them to fill in the bare patches. I know, it doesn't sound exciting and I'm posting odd photos of dirt, but it does my heart good to save the moss and try to make the yard look a bit better and greener.

Before: Ugly bare patch
After: Bare patch filled in with rescued moss

I don't have nearly enough rescued moss to fill in all the bare spots, but I do have a plan. In the next month or so when temperatures start to warm and grass and the existing moss start to really grow, I'm going to make several batches of moss milkshake, pour it on any places that are still bare, and happily watch my new moss grow. My neighbors already wonder about me, so I may be providing them with some extra entertainment. 

These lovely green patches of moss in my rock garden are already reproducing and spreading by producing spores, all part of the beauty of moss and why I look forward to Moss Rescue Day!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Last 10, Plus One

This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is The 10 Last Books You Have Read. Luckily for me, Goodreads is one of the few places where I manage to stay up-to-date and organized, so this one should be easy. Including what I'm currently reading, my books are:

1.   The Golem and the Jinni - I'm reading (actually listening to) this one after Carole convinced me with her review. I was a little hesitant because the story sounds so different (almost odd!) but it's really wonderful so far.

2.   The Green RoadAnother current read, this Irish family saga is a pre-publication copy I was lucky enough to win through First Reads. I would probably be done with it if The Golem and the Jinni hadn't captured my attention so well.

3.   Better Than Before - A nonfiction book, that, while not bad, didn't really teach me anything I didn't already know. I need to stop thinking that new self-help books are going to solve all my problems and bad habits.

4.   Unless - A successful writer's oldest daughter drops out of college to become a panhandler, sitting on a street corner with a sign around her neck bearing the word "Goodness". I read this one in search of some parental insights. I don't know that I came away with any answers, but it did raise questions, which can also be a good thing.

5.   Hausfrau - Ugh! This is definitely not the book for me. I honestly couldn't even finish it (and I rarely abandon a book) after I grew weary of a protagonist intent on self-destruction of her decent life, without any desire to change herself or her circumstances. On the plus side, the cover is beautiful.

6.   The Martian - Science fiction with lots of science! MacGyver on Mars! I found the book fun, entertaining, and enjoyable. Some of the writing is adolescent, and if you're looking for evocative prose, a beautiful, complex story, character development, and introspection, I'm afraid you won't find it in this book, but you will find a compelling adventure.

7.   A Fatal Grace - This is the second in the Armand Gamache mystery series, and I liked it even more than the first. I've got the third and fourth books ready to go when The Golem and the Jinni release their hold on me.

8.   Station Eleven - Post-apocalyptic fiction is not my favorite, but the author managed to intertwine both the pre- and post- worlds in a well-written, thoughtful, and unique way. 

9.   The Shipping News - This was a reread for me, and I was thrilled to find that The Shipping News is one of the few books that stands up well to a reread and is even better than I had remembered!

10. If I Loved You, I Would Tell You ThisThis book illustrates some of the difficulties I have reading and rating a volume of short stories. Some of these stories are very, very good (the title story) and some are very much less so.

11. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend - This picture book is the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner, and I loved it so much that I had to include it as a bonus #11. I won't bore you with all my thoughts here in case picture books for children 3-6 years old aren't your thing, but you can take a look at my review if you're interested. It's possible that I may have ordered a copy for myself.

So, what are some of the last books you've read? I'd love to hear about them, good, bad, or in between!

Monday, April 6, 2015

It's a Seedy Business...

But it means that spring is finally approaching! I started some of our garden seeds about a week ago, and just seeing those little seedlings makes me happy. There are Napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, three types of tomatoes, two types of watermelons, and five types of marigolds in the front two trays. I planted the back tray on Saturday with peppers and more tomatoes.

My started seeds usually live in our cheap cost-efficient planting arrangement - shelves from Costco with fluorescent fixtures suspended over them, housed in the dungeon basement. This is why I wish I had a greenhouse, but it works even though it's not pretty. It's more Mother Earth News than Martha Stewart.

I love how the watermelons look so strong and energetic, reaching for the sun.

Some of the marigolds are getting their first set of true leaves, above the seed leaves
 (or cotyledons for those that might remember some botany terms). 

I marvel that these tomato seedlings, some of which haven't even fully broken the seed coat, will be producing delicious red fruit in only four or five months.

I'm glad to finally be employed in some seedy business!