Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hope for the New Year

It's almost midnight and I'm sitting here by myself, knitting (a Hitchhiker, of course), next to some flickering candles. It's quiet, peaceful, I'm relatively sure that my children are safe, John is upstairs snoring, and I'm just enjoying the last few minutes of a year that I will be very glad to see done and dusted. I feel a bit like I'm tiptoeing into the new year, wondering what will come next. I'm also following my grandmother's advice to begin as you mean to go on, knitting and hoping for new beginnings and fresh starts. Since 2021 hasn't had time to prove me wrong yet, I'm holding hope for many things - that there will be a peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden, that he will be able to use his wisdom, drive, and humanity to help the greatest number of people, that everyone who wants to be immunized can receive the vaccine soon, that the SARS-CoV-2 virus does not mutate more or significantly, that we can safely get Ryan moved back east, and that Justin likes his new job (yes, they did finally make an offer). I hope that those I love and hold dear will be able to stay safe and healthy through the coming dark days, and I hope the same for you and your loved ones.

“But you cannot control everything...All you can do is face the world with quiet grace and hope you make a sliver of difference...You must trust that you being the best possible you matters somehow...That being an attentive and generous friend and citizen will prevent a thread or two of the social fabric from unraveling.”
― Brian Doyle, One Long River of Song

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday (or My Year in Knitting)

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a quick recap of my year in knitting. I am not an especially adventurous knitter, nor a fast one, so I only completed 13 projects this year. 

There were two hats, one pair of adult socks, two pairs of baby socks, one baby blanket, a pair of fingerless gloves, a large assortment of F**K 2020 and WTF dishcloths for friends and family members, and three Hitchhikers:


I knit the Hitchhikers for myself, and as Jane has said so well, the yarn stretched westward towards Colorado while I was missing Ryan. All three of the yarns were gifts from him, so it helped me in some way to be knitting with yarn from him even if I couldn't visit him at all during the year.

The rest of the items that I knit were for friends and family members, and it cheered me to see the enthusiastic response to the F**K 2020 dishcloths and think about the new baby born during the pandemic with his toes being kept warm by bright blue socks and wrapped up cozily in a feather and fan blanket.

I don't have any big knitting plans for 2021, but I do have a hat on the needles, and of course, there are also at least two more Hitchhikers in progress and one in the planning stage. Knitting has kept me focused and comforted during this wild and awful year, and I hope for more of the same in 2021. 

But these dishcloths still express my feelings about this year better than anything else.

How was your knitting this year?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My Year in Books


I've complained bitterly about much of what 2020 has done to us, but there was also an unintended consequence - lots and lots of reading, and much of it was very good. 

I set a reading challenge in Goodreads but just picked 50 books arbitrarily. I enjoy reading enough that I don't really like to view it as a challenge or a specific number of books to be checked off. If there was a way to measure the enjoyment of the books I read or things I learned from them, that would be much more satisfactory. Even the star ratings I give books don't accurately reflect my whole experience, but despite all that, I can still say I read more this year than I usually do. I read for escape, for the beauty of language, to allay fear, and to be transported to other times and places while still staying safe at home. Reading has always been a welcome respite for me, and even more so in 2020.

There were times when it was difficult to focus on what I was trying to read, and this seemed especially true in the beginning months of the pandemic. But then I read Apeirogon in May, Poetry of Presence and Wild Game for our bloggy book club, Read With Us, in June, and something clicked. I began using my libraries more, looking for books that intrigued me, and there were also recommendations from many of you. I read some of my very favorite books in 2020 based on recommendations and I thank you!

It's hard to choose favorites, but there are definitely books that stood out for me. 


The first one is easy; Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell is the best book I read this year. I'm still thinking about it five months later and contemplating ordering the physical copy with the gorgeous UK cover for a re-read. The following books are in no particular order.

Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney

Hal Borland's Twelve Moons of the Year


The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey


The Queen's Gambit by Waler Tevis

Wintering by Katherine May


A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I'm currently reading Owls of the Eastern Ice and Miss Benson's Beetle, and will most likely finish at least one of them before the end of the year. (Completing 75 books is somehow more satisfying than 74!) And I have some loose plans for reading in 2021 that include The House in the Cerulean Sea, What It's Like to Be a Bird, Breath from Salt, some of Margot Livesey's back catalog, and exploring more of Walter Tevis' books. 

Thank you for reading this far, and now I wonder if you might help me add some more books to my list for 2021. What were some of your favorite books in 2020, the ones that enriched your life? I do hope you had a good year in books and wish you an even better one in 2021!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Poetry on Monday


As we approach the end of 2020, I've been thinking about the multitude of things that weren't possible this year. I know turning the calendar page to 2021 will not be a magic cure-all, but I do hope that many more things become possible for all of us in the new year. 

Possibilities
by Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

By Wislawa Szymborska, From Nothing Twice, 1997. Wydawnctwo Literackie. Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh. 

You can read more about the poet here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, plenty of possibilities, and some poetry this week. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

Wishing all of you a peaceful Christmas Eve (or Thursday), and a very Merry Christmas (or Friday). This year is different, but I'm hoping for quiet joy, comfort, moments of delight, and love for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some Christmas knitting still in progress and my decoy knitting.


I only have a few more decrease rows to go on Justin's Christmas hat, but he has been here with us for a few days, so I haven't been able to work on it. I'm not sure why I feel it has to be a surprise for a 27-year-old, but I'd still like it to be. I have high hopes for some knitting time this afternoon when he goes back to his potential new job yet again. He's not sure if they're checking him out extra-thoroughly or making him jump through hoops, but I'm still hopeful. 

Because I haven't been able to work on Justin's hat, I had to work on something else for decoy knitting. A quick glance at Ravelry showed me all the wips I could look for in my yarn closet, and I chose this partially completed Sockhead Cowl in a delicious Wollmeise MCN blend. I would definitely enjoy wearing this if I finish it in a timely fashion.

My recent reading has been enjoyable. I finished Midwinter Murder, Wintering, and The Vanishing Half, and they were each four-star books for me. I started Miss Benson's Beetle and it's proving to be an entertaining read so far. I'd like to finish A Promised Land (Obama's memoir) but I also want to make sure I give it the time and attention that his stellar writing deserves. I woke up feeling dizzy yesterday, and it's worse today so I'm not sure I'll be doing much reading until it's better. I'm off to try the Epley maneuver, fingers crossed!

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Wintering


I'll probably post next week sometime about books this year and reading in general, but today I want to recommend a book that I recently finished. It's called Wintering by Katherine May. I know that several of you are already reading it, but it struck me as so appropriate for this year and this time of year that I'd like to tell you a little bit about it in case it's not already on your radar.

We've had our first significant snowfall and temperatures have been in the single digits overnight, so this seems like a most appropriate time to read Wintering. The US subtitle of Katherine May's unique book, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times shows that this book is appropriate for readers living in any sort of climate as we are all living in Very Difficult Times. May defines winter as "a fallow period in life when you're cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider." It is a lucky person who has not experienced this, and in this book, the author recounts her own personal winters and what she did to actively accept the sadness. Cooking, bathing in the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, reading by candlelight, using the sauna, exploring the behaviors of bees in cold weather, and experiencing the winter solstice at Stonehenge are all things that May describes both seriously and with humor, in beautiful language.

I was prepared to not like this book as I thought it might be self-indulgent and privileged, but I did not find it so. For me, it was a hard-to-classify combination of memoir, nature writing, and philosophy, and well worth reading, especially with May's sublime writing. The subtitle for the UK version may be even better: How I Learned to Flourish When Life Became Frozen. The author says that "Happiness is the greatest skill we'll ever learn," but she understands that it is also important to learn about "the active acceptance of sadness."
 

I fell completely under the spell of the author's beautiful words and finished this short book (250 pgs, ~ seven hrs in audio) in a day. I count myself as lucky when I stumble upon the right book at the right time, and Wintering was certainly that for me. Katherine May has written other books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I think I may search out in the coming year. She also has a podcast called The Wintering Sessions in which she speaks with other writers about the winters in their lives. I haven't listened to all of them, but the link is on her website if this might be of interest to you. 

I hope this season of winter, solstice, and restrained holidays is a time of rest and renewal for you. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Things I Learned Recently


I didn't mean to take off much of last week, but I got involved with two days of snow removal, finally decorating the tree, a bit more Christmas knitting, and a lot of reading. I've got ideas for posts for at least today and tomorrow, so I better write them before I forget. 

Today is about some things I learned recently. Nothing earth-shattering, and maybe they are things you already know, but when I first heard them I was surprised and intrigued.
  • Decarcerated is a word. Of course, this makes complete sense, but when I heard it on Friday I thought it had to be a mistake. If I hadn't been listening to NPR, I would have been sure it was an error, but I looked it up anyway. I couldn't find an entry in Merriam-Webster or Dictionary.com, but Oxford Reference defines it as "the process of removing people from institutions such as prisons or mental hospitals—the opposite of incarceration. Another linked concept is transcarceration, in which people are moved sideways from one kind of institution to another."
  • I've always heard and spoken the idiom as "the devil is in the details" but while listening to NPR on Saturday, I heard an interviewee say "the angel is in the details". John was talking at the time and didn't take kindly to my shushing, so I can't tell you who said this. I've tried to find a clip online but wasn't successful. Wikipedia tells me that the idiom was derived from "God is in the detail", and has been attributed to German architect, Mies van der Rohe. This seems closer to angel than devil. Nancy Pelosi said, "The devil and the angels are in the details." when discussing the Covid-19 stimulus package, so I may have to consider angels rather than devils. 
  • I don't remember exactly how we started the conversation, but John told me that he just learned that roads, streets, avenues, boulevards, drives, and lanes were not just arbitrary names but actually meant something. This was news to me also, so of course, we had to look them up. 

Road: Can be anything that connects two points. The most basic of the naming conventions. 

Street: A public way that has buildings on both sides of it. They run perpendicular to avenues.

Avenue: Also a public way that has buildings or trees on either side of it. They run perpendicular to streets.

Boulevard: A very wide city street that has trees and vegetation on both sides of it. There’s also usually a median in the middle of boulevards.

Drive: A long, winding road that has its route shaped by its environment, like a nearby lake or mountain.

Lane: A narrow road often found in a rural area. Basically, the opposite of a boulevard.

Most of the local examples we could think of seemed to hold true to these naming conventions, except for one. We live on an Avenue, and it is parallel to Main Street. Main Street may be an outlier because our avenue is also perpendicular to a street. I grew up on Oak Lane, and it was a one lane dirt road in a rural area.

So am I the only one who didn't know about decarcerate, "the angel is in the details, and street naming conventions? What have you learned recently? Please educate me!


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

My Very Own Greenhouse

(of a sort). My mother loved and collected Dept 56 porcelain houses, so much so that my sister and I were left to deal with over 400 of them after she died. She had gotten some for me as Christmas gifts, but I am not much of a collector of tchotchkes, so I don't think I ever displayed them. My boys were small and fragile porcelain houses don't do well with little boy hands trying to play with them. (Someday I'll tell you about the T. rex, velociraptor, and pterodactyl that visited Jesus in the manger.)


But now the boys are grown, I've sold all the excess houses, and kept a few special ones. I don't decorate nearly as much as I used to, but these pieces are important to me and don't take me too long to set up. 


There is the North Pole Weather & Time Observatory, the Candy Cane & Peppermint Shop, Tassy's Mittens duplex with Hassel's Mufflers & Woolies, along with some elves, Mrs. Claus and Santa, and Santa's sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.


But my favorite piece is Mrs. Claus' Greenhouse. It was one of my Mother's last gifts to me, and I really love all the details,


like the snow in the corner of the panes, the clay pots piled outside, and the poinsettias and plants growing inside the greenhouse. 


Even at my advanced age, I can almost imagine that I can fit inside and garden along with Mrs. Claus. I'd love to have a real greenhouse so I could have the ideal conditions and space for all the plants I'd like to grow, but Mrs. Claus' Greenhouse is the next best thing!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day to get prepared. We've got the first significant snowstorm of the season predicted on Wednesday, with snow lasting for 24 hours, and a final tally of 12-14 inches. 

This is a sunrise photo from late last week, but I'm guessing that Wednesday's may also be a "red sky at morning, sailors take warning" one. I'm off to get my french toast fixin's (bread, milk, and eggs - it's a law in NJ), fill the four-wheeler with gas and get it all set to easily plow all the snow. I asked for the snowplow attachment as my Christmas present two years ago, so I'm kind of hoping I actually get a chance to use it!

Here's hoping your week is a good one without too much snow! 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

It's been chilly here this week, and I seem to have a very narrow temperature range in which I'm comfortable. Unfortunately, John's comfort range is much warmer than mine, but we do agree that the house needs to be cool to sleep well at night. I woke up at 3:00 am with my feet freezing and when I put on a darned but warm pair of alpaca socks, I was able to slip blissfully back into sleep. When I woke up the next morning I was busy singing the praises of my socks to John, and that reminded me of this poem. 

Pearls of Wisdom socks - socks with Neruda's poem knit into them in the original Spanish. 

Ode to My Socks
by Pablo Neruda

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft
as rabbits.
I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
two
cases
knitted
with threads of
twilight
and goatskin.
Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish made
of wool,
two long sharks
sea-blue, shot
through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this way
by
these
heavenly
socks.
They were
so handsome
for the first time
my feet seemed to me
unacceptable
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
unworthy
of that woven
fire,
of those glowing
socks.

Nevertheless
I resisted
the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere
as schoolboys
keep
fireflies,
as learned men
collect
sacred texts,
I resisted
the mad impulse
to put them
into a golden
cage
and each day give them
birdseed
and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
socks
and then my shoes.

The moral
of my ode is this:
beauty is twice
beauty
and what is good is doubly
good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool
in winter.

"Ode to My Socks" from Neruda & Vallejo: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda and translated by Robert Bly (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993).
You can read more about the poet here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, warm socks on your feet and on your needles, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some finished Christmas knitting and some in progress. 

I finished Ryan's Vespa fingerless mitts (Ravelry link) and got them mailed on Monday. We had a lovely conversation earlier this week where he apologized for not coming home for Christmas and didn't want me to think that he didn't want to be with us. I had hardly considered the possibility beyond thinking "wouldn't that be wonderful" but it was still nice to hear. None of us feel safe flying on a crowded plane with new cases at all-time highs and I want all of us to be healthy, well, and alive when we can finally get vaccinated and be together (even though I haven't seen him in person for 14 months). :(


Getting Ryan's gifts in the mail allowed me to make a start on Justin's Christmas hat. I couldn't find the yarn I wanted in worsted, so I'm holding two strands of fingering weight together. I hope I have enough yarn (I wonder if I bought a second skein and it's back in NJ?), and I hope it ends up being warm and like something he wants to wear. He had a second interview for a job that would be almost perfect, so I'm knitting lots of successful job juju into this hat. If you wouldn't mind sending some successful job juju, he has a third interview coming up on Monday, and any good thoughts you can spare would be appreciated.

For a small break from listening to 29 hours of Obama's book, I listened to Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews. It's a Christmas cozy mystery, but many of the interesting owl facts scattered throughout the book along with a moral dilemma at the end saved it from being too lightweight and just a run of the mill cozy. 

Back in the olden days, you used to be able to carry over some Audible credits, but that is no longer the case. Because of this, I have a bunch that are expiring soon, so I used some to get four books. I think I'll be listening to Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie first. Nothing like some Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot winter-themed short stories to put you in a cheery seasonal mood!

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Read With Us: It's a New Book!

Several of you mentioned in the previous wrap-up post comments that you were anxious to find out what the new Read With Us book might be. Today is the day you get to find out what it is and I'm excited to tell you about it! 

Normally we have a lot of discussion around what book to choose, but I don't remember that we discussed this one too much. This could be my faulty memory, but it sounded interesting, current, eminently discussable, and on several people's Goodreads lists so we all agreed to it rather quickly.


So what is the book? (Insert drum roll here): It's Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam.

This is from the publisher's blurb: A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong. From the bestselling author of Rich and Pretty comes a suspenseful and provocative novel keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis.

That is not a bad description, but having just finished the book on Sunday evening, I think it's about so much more. I'm really hesitant to say too much because I think this book will have much more impact if you read it without knowing too many details beforehand. I had a vague idea of what it was about, and I'm personally glad I didn't know too much. I will tell you that it was a National Book Award Finalist for Fiction this year, the author has written two other novels, Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother, and I think it will provide a very good discussion.

Here are some details concerning dates for this book: I will be doing a promotional post on January 12, Kym will write one on Jan. 19, and you can read Carole's on Jan. 26. We'll do our usual discussion practice of posing questions on our blogs on March 2, plus a Zoom discussion on March 2. Hopefully, we've given you enough advance notice that you will be able to Zoom with us in March. Our first Zoom discussion was great for The Women of Brewster Place, and I hope this one is even better.

I hope you are able to find this book at your local library (I only had to wait two weeks for it), and it is also available from AmazonAudible, and I bet your local bookseller may have curbside pickup. I hope this book sounds as intriguing to you as it was to us, and you'll Read With Us once again!


Monday, December 7, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is the day to wait in line at the post office to mail Ryan's presents.


This is after the town water guys come to replace our water meter with some new-fangled one. The water will be shut off for "hopefully, only an hour" is what I was told when I called to schedule the appointment. What could go wrong?!

Wish me luck with the water meter and the post office. I hope your Monday is a good one!

(And be sure to check in tomorrow when Kym, Carole, and I reveal the next Read With Us book selection. I'm excited to tell you about it!)

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

I didn't post a poem last Thursday because it was Thanksgiving, so I feel in need of a good one today. 


        The Joy of Writing
         by Wislawa Szymborska
    Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
    For a drink of written water from a spring
    whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
    Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
    Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
    she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
    Silence-this word also rustles across the page
    and parts the boughs
    that have sprouted from the word "woods."

    Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
    are letters up to no good,
    clutches of clauses so subordinate
    they'll never let her get away.

    Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
    of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
    prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
    surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

    They forget that what's here isn't life.
    Other laws, black on white, obtain.
    The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
    and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
    full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
    Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
    Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
    not a blade of grass wig bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.

    Is there then a world
    where I rule absolutely on fate?
    A time I bind with chains of signs?
    An existence become endless at my bidding?

    The joy of writing.
    The power of preserving.
    Revenge of a mortal hand.


    Wislawa Szymborska – Poetry. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2020. Wed. 2  Dec 2020. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1996/szymborska/25593-wislawa-szymborska-poetry-1996-26/>

    You can read more about the poet here

    I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, the joy of writing, the power of preserving, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

 Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with 1.25 fingerless mitts.

I finished the first mitt for Ryan and am several stripes in on the second. I wanted to match the stripes and so far, so good.


I'd like to get his gifts in the mail by Friday and it looks like that might be a self-imposed deadline I can meet.


It's possible that I might be further along if I hadn't wasted time fishing for a tuna. Now I just need two more fish to complete the fish section in my museum in Animal Crossing, but I will try to stay on track with knitting. After writing about focus yesterday I think I should stay focused on the right things (but playing Animal Crossing sure is fun). 

I'm still listening to Obama's book, finding it thoughtfully-written, thought-provoking, and incredibly interesting as he tells the reader what he was really thinking during his years as President. This quote struck me this week as something to strive for and practice not getting hung up on the daily ups and downs.

I’ve often been asked about this personality trait—my ability to maintain composure in the middle of crisis. Sometimes I’ll say that it’s just a matter of temperament, or a consequence of being raised in Hawaii, since it’s hard to get stressed when it’s eighty degrees and sunny and you’re five minutes from the beach. If I’m talking to a group of young people, I’ll describe how over time I’ve trained myself to take the long view, about how important it is to stay focused on your goals rather than getting hung up on the daily ups and downs.

What are you making and reading (and maybe playing) this week?

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Focus in Focus

I haven't written a post about my one little word since July, but that doesn't mean that I have not been practicing and trying to put it into action. Now that it's December 1, I figured it was definitely time to focus on my word (focus).

I chose the word last January after reading a post from Kym that contained this now-famous (to me, anyway) diagram: 

Balance ==> Focus ==> Intention. I felt like I really needed some focus in my life, and having chosen balance in 2019, this seemed a logical progression. But I struggled ... with my chosen word and so many other things this year. I suspect that most people felt the same way, and in March I wrote about making the effort to focus once again after ignoring my word for several months:

I'm going to make a return to Focus. It may be just a little, but I am making the effort. I am going to focus on meditation, mopping the kitchen floor, holding those dear to me along with some good friends close to my heart and in my thoughts, taking a walk even though the weather is poor, and maybe even some knitting tonight. That is enough for now. It will have to be because it's all I've got. 

Finally, in June, something clicked:

Like breath during meditation, Focus isn't something you attain and you are able to focus happily ever after once it's achieved. Some days and some months have made it feel almost impossible, but each time I am reminded of Focus, during daily meditations, asking myself "Is this how I want to be spending my time?", I can re-focus and calm my unsettled monkey mind.

It didn't hurt that I was diagnosed with depression in June and began talking to a counselor. Things have honestly been better since then. Even in the midst of a pandemic, feeling fear for the loss of work, experiencing the pain of kidney stones, worry for my own health and that of loved ones, and desperately missing friends and beloved family members, I can still feel some hope, and that makes it easier to focus. I think the most helpful tool for me has been daily meditation since June. It's become enough of a habit that I do it even on days that I don't really want to. I've used the 10% Happier app, but there are many other resources available. There is even a meditation from one of my favorite teachers, Jeff Warren, entitled "meditating even when you don't feel like it". 

“I cannot say this frequently enough: the goal is not to clear your mind but to focus your mind—for a few nanoseconds at a time—and whenever you become distracted, just start again. Getting lost and starting over is not failing at meditation, it is succeeding.”
~Jeff Warren

So I'm not sure where focus will lead me or what word I'll choose for next year, but I do know that I've learned a lot from focus this year (even after ignoring it for many months!) and feel confident that I'll continue to learn in the future.

Please visit HonorĂ© to read what she and others have shared about their words.

Monday, November 30, 2020

It's Monday ...

 ... and I'm grateful! The pain from my kidney stone(s) finally stopped on Thursday. (Imagine a chorus of angels singing The Hallelujah Chorus here.) I was a little wary about whether it would last, but it's been four days and all I've felt are small twinges.

I'll take twinges any day instead of mind-numbing, teeth-gritting pain that narcotics only took the edge off of, so the cessation of pain provided the perfect reason to start my gratitude journal. 

I haven't been very good at keeping up with any kind of consistent journaling in the past, but these first entries have been easy. 

I am so very grateful, for lots of things, but no pain is the big one so far. What are you grateful for today?

Also, here's an interesting episode of the Hidden Brain podcast that I came across on Sunday. It's entitled Where Gratitude Gets You, and research shows it can get you a lot (better self-control, improved health, etc.)

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!


 Wishing all who are celebrating a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving,

and a very happy and healthy Thursday to those who are not!


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with some Christmas knitting. It finally dawned on me that it's only a month away and I better get going if I am going to mail some gifts to Ryan and have them arrive on time.


To be honest I've had a little bit of trouble knitting through the pain during the past couple of days. I've tried knitting after taking tylenol with codeine, but then I seem to knit when I should be purling and vice versa. This is not helpful when the mitts are worked in k2p2 ribbing but I'm going to keep plugging away. I wanted to knit something bright and cheery for Ryan and these stripes in the Must Stash Vespa colorway seem to fill the bill (or is the expression "fit the bill"? Here's an opinion.)


There has also been some making for Thanksgiving, in the form of pumpkin pies, stuffing, and later today I'll be making several dozen crescent rolls. I make things ahead of Thursday mainly because I only have one oven, but I dream of the day when I might have double ovens or the boys will live close enough to make some parts of dinner. Who knows, maybe even next year? (I can dream, and I'm dreaming of Ryan and Justin being closer.)

I finished reading A Spot of Bother (an engaging three stars from me) and started Miss Benson's Beetle and A Promised Land. I haven't made a lot of progress in either book (see pain and drugs above) but Miss Benson seems entertaining and I'm very glad Joe Biden won the election (for many reasons). I don't think I could have faced reading the first volume of Barack Obama's memoir if that was not the case. Mr. Obama says, “I’m painfully aware that a more gifted writer could have found a way to tell the same story with greater brevity (after all, my home office in the White House sat right next to the Lincoln Bedroom, where a signed copy of the 272-word Gettysburg Address rests inside a glass case.”

“I found my mind resisting a simple linear narrative. Often, I felt obliged to provide context for the decisions I and others had made”

In my reading so far, I have found his writing brilliant (even if not particularly brief). Listening to him read his own book makes it even better. 

What are you making and reading this week?