Thursday, August 13, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Today's poem found me when I heard just the title and was intrigued. After searching out the poem I was quietly in love and wanted to share it with everyone. (I haven't handed out copies of it at the grocery store, but I did consider it.) It reminds me to wake up, pay attention, and not simply wait for time to show me some better thoughts (even during a pandemic). I'll stop blathering and let you (hopefully) enjoy the poet's words. 

You Reading This, Be Ready
William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this 
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Stafford, William. "You Reading This, Be Ready". The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems by William Stafford, Graywolf Press, 1998. 

You can read more about William Stafford here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, presence, sunlight creeping along your floor, better thoughts, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Wild Game: Time to Discuss!

We have introduced Wild Game, promoted it, and talked about it several times over the past few months — now it's YOUR turn!  CaroleKym, and I have each posed a different question on our blogs and we hope you'll answer our questions in the comments. And don't let the questions constrain you. If there is something you want to say about the book that isn't an answer to a discussion question, please feel free.

Even though Wild Game was a memoir I think it read very much like a novel, in a stranger-than-fiction way for me. I was amazed that Malabar would ensnare her daughter in her extramarital affair with Ben, and things got even stranger when Adrienne married Ben's son Chris. Eventually, Chris and Adrienne divorced, but Malabar and Ben had married, so the author's ex-husband was her stepbrother. Eww!

My main question was the same one that Adrienne's boyfriend Adam asked, "What kind of person would do that to her daughter?" But that's not my discussion question. Even though parts of this book repulsed me, after finishing it, I always came back to the fact that the author had finally matured, set boundaries, and become her own person (even if decades late) and managed to tell her story in a way that showed compassion and maybe even forgiveness for her mother. I wondered how and why she managed this and found an answer in a Psychology Today interview.

Becoming a mother made all of the events of my past resurface. Even though I had done a lot of work on myself, I was terrified of repeating some of the destructive behaviors I grew up with. Part of my family’s past for generations was that we carried a lot of secrets. I was worried about inadvertently harming my children if I didn’t fully address what had happened to me.

Adrienne Brodeur's mother, Malabar

My own parents were rigid, strict, and authoritative, with no room for discussion. When I would ask questions about their seemingly random rules and arbitrary reasons, my father would decree, "Do as I say, not as I do!" This made me angry and I swore to never say that to my own kids (and I never have). In many ways, I've tried to make conscious efforts not to parent my own children that way, but only Ryan and Justin can say if I've been at all successful. But as I get older, I do see glimpses of my parents in myself and wonder:

Are we all destined to become our parents in some way, shape, or form?

I'm very much looking forward to reading what you have to say. Please be sure to visit Kym and Carole and let us know what you think about their questions.

But wait, there's more! Once again we have a book lover's surprise package thoughtfully and generously provided by Kym, to be awarded to one lucky reader. Your name will be placed in a hat EACH time you make a comment on each of our book discussion posts and we will then choose a winner. Thank you for participating — our book group wouldn't be much of a group if you didn't read and offer your opinions. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day for More Mantis!

I shared this one from my neighbor's porch a couple of weeks ago, and last weekend was lucky enough to have one pose for a friendly portrait on my own porch. 

I hope your week is off to a good start (and continues that way). Be sure to visit Carole, Kym, and me tomorrow when we'll each be posing different discussion questions for Wild Game. We want to know what you think!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

E. B. White is one of my favorite authors, from his children's books to his essays written for adults. It's no surprise that he also wrote poetry. In true E.B. White fashion, he writes this introduction to his book of poetry:

This is a fraudulent book. Here I am presented as a poet, when it is common knowledge that I have never received my accreditation papers admitting me to the ranks of American poets. Having lived happily all my life as a non-poet who occasionally breaks into song, I have no wish at this late hour to change either my status or my habits even if I were capable of doing so, and I clearly am not. The life of a non-poet is an agreeable one: he feels no obligation to mingle with other writers of verse to exchange sensitivities, no compulsion to visit the “Y” to read from his own works, no need to travel the wine and cheese circuit, where the word “poet” carries the aroma of magic and ladies creep up from behind carrying ballpoint pens and sprigs of asphodel.

But even as a "non-poet" he wrote some lovely poems, like this one that he sent in a letter to his wife Katherine. 

Natural History
E.B. White

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of her devising:
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
She builds a ladder to the place
From which she started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning

White, E.B. "Natural History". Poems and Sketches of E.B. White, Harper & Row, 1981. 

I wish you mindfulness, peace, presence, time spent in and with nature, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. My knitting looks much the same (ready to bind off the Hitchhiker, plugging along slowly on the baby blanket, stalled on Ryan and Justin's fingerless gloves) so I'm going to show you some making of a different kind. It's a common sight on blogs during this season, and I've joined the pickle-making brigade.

John went out to the garden for a "couple of cucumbers" and came back with an almost full five-gallon bucket. After distributing some to neighbors, it was time to make the pickles. I'm not a fan of canning, so that limits my pickle-making to refrigerator pickles, which in turn is limited by refrigerator space.

This swampy-looking stuff is dill pickle brine.

And this is 9 quarts of dill pickle slices.

We'll keep some here in MD, take some home to NJ, and give plenty to my dill-pickle-loving BiL. I'm also done making pickles!

But I have been reading. I've been checking Overdrive for what audiobooks are available now and downloading several if they sound interesting. I listened to Whitethorn Woods (or maybe it's a re-read as I'm fairly sure I read this years ago) and The Shape of Family. They were both three-star books (but just barely) so now I'm on the lookout for something really good to read. Suggestions welcome!

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

First Wild Game, Then a Wild Ride

I hadn't planned a second post today, but Isaias changed things a bit. I had some medical things scheduled, but the hospital has some flooding and is on emergency power so they are only treating emergencies. I'll reschedule and try again tomorrow.

There were two tornadoes in the area, eight inches of rain, and now we've got 40 mph winds. Here are some photos of what I came home to, but we were very lucky indeed. 

The corn is blown over, sunflowers are snapped and uprooted and even a couple of my blue bottle support sticks were snapped. All minor, just a surprise to see. I did salvage a couple of sunflowers for the dining room table.

I hope you have all fared well, your basements aren't flooded, your gutters are still attached, and you still have power. It was a tiny bit of a wild ride!

Wild Game: Just A Reminder

This is just a reminder that we'll be discussing Wild Game a week from today on Tuesday, August 11. Carole, Kym, and I will each be asking a different question on our blogs, and we hope that you'll join in the discussion and contribute your thoughts. Some of you grew up with similar mothers, but for many of us, it was wild to read about a mother that behaved this way. I know many of you have read the book, and several of you found that it was not the book for you. Whatever your mother was like, your relationship with her, whether you liked the book and gained something from it, or just couldn't finish it, we'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day to admire a doe and her (three or four) fawns!

They weren't munching on my landscaping, so seeing all of them was pretty much the highlight of my weekend. Hope your week is off to a good start!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Oh, my friends, it has been a week. Full of lies, omissions, emotions, and deceit. All of this affected my choice of a poem for today. I'm still not certain that this one speaks precisely to what I've been feeling, but Mary Oliver has never, ever led me astray. 

I Worried
Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it, and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang. 


Oliver, Mary. "I Worried." Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, Beacon Press, 2010
You can read more about Mary Oliver here


I wish you mindfulness, peace, presence, the laying aside of your worries (if even for a few moments), and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. There was some real unraveling, but hopefully, that is all behind me. 

I fixed my issues with the baby blanket. I had to rip all the way back to the beginning border stitches but now I check after row 3 (the k2tog, yo row) to make sure I haven't forgotten a yarn over. That extra stitch matters in the pattern and while I can sometimes drop down and fix errors in my knitting, I couldn't figure out a way to do that to add a yarn over. It's still too hot to knit much on a baby blanket but I might try working on it during the drive back to NJ. Two hours in an air-conditioned truck is too much good knitting time to waste.

Also, my fabric arrived, and I love it. 

The contrast of the sweet flowers and the words makes me laugh and made me want to get start sewing on masks. I've washed and ironed the fabric, and today is for pinning the pattern and cutting out as many mask pieces as I can get. My sewing machine is in NJ, but I think I'll be able to sew several masks this weekend. I can hardly wait to wear one!

I finished Here in the Real World and even though it's a middle-grade book, I found it delightful. Not too sappy or preachy, just a celebration of introverts, art, and hopefulness. Now I'm struggling to read The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. It's not the book; it's me. The subject is the 1918 flu pandemic and it's set in a maternity ward in Dublin. I thought I wanted to read it when I requested a pre-publication copy from Overdrive, but now I'm not so sure. Each day I read only a few news stories from NPR and The Atlantic and then stop, so I don't know if I want to be focusing my reading on a pandemic story, especially one with expectant mothers. I'll see ...

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

One Little Word in July

I was trying to think of what photo I could use to go along with this post about Focus, and I decided that these things I grabbed from my bedside table might work. Here's what I've been focusing on in July:

  • Reading - poetry and that wonderful Hal Borland book, Twelve Moons of the Year. This is a book that Vera recommended and I'm so glad she did. It's a collection of Borland's nature editorials from the NYT, one for every day of the year. I've been reading one each day, and just that simple act focuses and grounds me. I've also got two great books on my Kindle, The Pull of the Stars and Here in the Real World that I'm finding real pleasure and focus in reading.
  • My Health - I've had some issues but have also been focused on doing what I can to improve them. I used to think that pill containers were only for "old people" but call me old because my pill minder and alarms on my phone are keeping me on track. 
  • My Switch Lite - I have to include that because it's so easy (and fun) to focus on Animal Crossing. It gives me a way to connect with Ryan as we can visit each other's islands, fish together, and be happy for each other when we catch coelacanths and mahi-mahi. 
  • I don't have a good way to include meditation in the photo, but that is really what has been keeping me focused throughout this month. A friend gave me the Ten Percent Happier app as a birthday gift, and it has been one of the best gifts I've received. I have meditated every day, and it's beginning to have some positive effects on my life, with increased focus, more patience, better sleep, and fewer morbid thoughts and days when I just don't care. They are currently running a Summer Sanity Challenge and you can try the app for free if you are interested. We each have to find what works best for us, but this is working for me and I intend to keep focusing my energies on meditation (and in turn, meditation is helping my focus)!

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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day for hanging out. (Also lots of laundry, making zucchini bread, knitting, writing letters, prepping more masks for sewing, paying property taxes, and applying for a mail-in ballot for November, but I don't have appropriate photos for those activities.)

Make it a good week!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Maggie Smith (the poet, not the Dame) is coming out with a new book in October, entitled Keep Moving. I loved Good Bones and am eagerly anticipating this new one. I have my fingers crossed that I might win a copy in a Goodreads giveaway, but in the meantime here is a poem from Maggie Smith. 

How Dark the Beginning
Maggie Smith

All we ever talk of is light—
let there be light, there was light then,

good light—but what I consider
dawn is darker than all that.

So many hours between the day
receding and what we recognize

as morning, the sun cresting
like a wave that won’t break

over us—as if  light were protective,
as if  no hearts were flayed,

no bodies broken on a day
like today. In any film,

the sunrise tells us everything
will be all right. Danger wouldn’t

dare show up now, dragging
its shadow across the screen.

We talk so much of  light, please
let me speak on behalf

of  the good dark. Let us
talk more of how dark

the beginning of a day is.
Poetry magazine, February 2020
Read more about Maggie Smith here
I wish you mindfulness, presence, calm, and some poetry as this week winds down. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, and because I can't bear to show you another picture of the Hitchhiker that still needs a few more teeth, I'm showing you possibilities instead.

I'm going to cast on soon for fingerless gloves for Justin and Ryan. I haven't bought yarn during the pandemic, but one day I was in a mood and thought I would buy a skein that was perfect for each of them and knit something for Christmas. They have sIze 13 and 14 feet respectively and are both hard on their socks, so fingerless gloves it will be. Given the current coronavirus numbers, I had some slightly morbid thoughts when I purchased the yarn, but I think when I finally catch up with all the zucchini and cucumbers in the garden, I'll be happy to be knitting on projects for my kids.

I finished The Night Watchman late last night, but haven't written a review yet. It was a four-star read for me at least, and my favorite of the Louise Erdrich books that I've read. 

“When he needed to calm his mind, he opened a book. Any book. He had never failed to feel refreshed, even if the book was no good.”
― Louise Erdrich, The Night Watchman

I couldn't sleep, so looking to calm my mind, I started another book, The Prettiest Star. It's a heart-breaking story set in 1986 about a young man with AIDS who returns home to his family to die. It was probably not the best book to read when I couldn't sleep, but it is good (even if I know how it's going to end).

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, July 20, 2020

Zukes, Cukes, and Beans

It's mid-July and the garden is producing a bumper crop of zucchini, cucumbers, and string beans.

My problem is what to do with it all. Here's what we've eaten (and are still eating) during the last week. (The kitchen in MD is very dark and the only decent light is from from the hood over the stovetop where I took these slightly odd photos.

A meta-cucumber combination of cucumber spears dipped in tzatziki sauce. We also had tzatziki on zucchini fritters but we gobbled those up before I took any photos.

The classic cucumbers in sour cream. There was always a bowl of this salad in my grandmother's refrigerator during the summer.

Sweet and dill refrigerator pickles. My house will probably smell of pickles for days and my hands are stained with turmeric.

John threw some string beans in a half-full container of old dill pickles, and now we have pickled beans.

And we've eaten plenty of plain old steamed string beans.

But wait ... there's more! Zucchini marinara and zucchini bread (one loaf pictured, five more in the freezer). Chocolate zucchini cake is the next zucchini recipe I'm going to try — soon. 

I hope I still have zucchini on the vine when the corn is ready to pick soon so I can make this, this, or some mashup of both recipes. 

I hope you're enjoying summer vegetables, whether they're from your own garden, a CSA, a farm stand, or the grocery store. I think I could be a vegetarian during July and August!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

I chose today's poem at random from Poetry of Presence (the only book of poetry I have with me in MD) but it felt right. I hope it also says something to you. 

The Cure 
Albert Huffstickler

We think we get over things.
We don't get over things.
Or say, we get over the measles
but not a broken heart.
We need to make that distinction.
The things that become part of our experience
never become less a part of our experience.
How can I say it?
The way to "get over" a life is to die.
Short of that, you move with it,
let the pain be pain,
not in the hope it will vanish
but in the faith it will fit in,
find its place in the shape of things.
and be then not any less pain but true to form.
Because anything natural has an inherent shape
and will flow towards it.
And a life is as natural as a leaf.
That's what we're looking for:
not the end of a thing but the shape of it.
Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life
without obliterating (getting over) a single
instant of it.

Huffstickler, Albert. "The Cure." Poetry of Presence, Grayson Books, 2017, p. 155.

You can read more about the author here.

This book has a dedication "to the poets who help us be mindful in a world that has urgent need of presence." I wish you mindfulness, presence, and calm as this week winds down. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a request for your opinion. 

The beads I ordered for my Hitchhiker arrived. I opened them excitedly but was a bit underwhelmed. 

My photos are not the best, but that is what the beads look like in real life. This is the original photo from etsy, but mine are cloudier and just don't glow like this.

I thought maybe I would sew one on each end, possibly along with some clear silver-lined beads, but now I'm not so sure.

So what do you think? (I wasted way too much time trying to create a poll but was ultimately unsuccessful. If you have an opinion, let me know in the comments!)

I finished Song Yet Sung last week, and it was well worth listening to. I've started two new books, Breath, and The Night Watchman. Breath is a different sort of nonfiction that I'm not quite sure about so far, but The Night Watchman is really compelling. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Read With Us: Wild Game

Last week Kym presented our first promotional post for this quarter's Read With Us book — Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur. This week it's my turn to give you a little bit more information. I'm going to start with Mary Oliver's poem, "The Uses of Sorrow", that the author used as an epigraph. 

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.

Plain and just a few lines, but it speaks volumes and I think it sets the tone quite well for this book.

Adrienne Brodeur and her mother, Malabar, in the 1980s

I don't read memoirs very often, and I was initially a little skeptical about this one. Adrienne's mother, Malabar, sounded like she was nothing like my own mother, and I wasn't sure I would understand the events in the book or that the circumstances would resonate with me. I would like to think that most readers would find the events unimaginable, but with Brodeur's writing ability, I was able to see the unhappiness in her mother's life and how this shaped her behavior and interactions with her daughter. Don't get me wrong, this is Dysfunction with a capital D, but I found it to be both an interesting page-turner, and a story about growth and maturity (even if the maturation was several decades late). 

One night, when Brodeur is 14 years old, her mother, Malabar, wakes her up to tell her that a married family friend, Ben, had kissed her. Malabar is also married, but that doesn't stop her and Ben from carrying on an affair and using Adrienne as a confidante and secret-keeper for years. It only gets more and more complicated, while Adrienne seems to be the only one bothered by the deception. It would be easy to dismiss Wild Game as a shocking family drama. But Brodeur weaves together the story of her childhood, the burdens of secret-keeping, and her mother’s traumatic life in a way that we learn from her compassion for her mother and knowing that she did not want to mother her own children as she had been mothered.

“For all of us people in the world who do have difficult childhoods or hold some secret, I hope the book demonstrates that, by facing them, we can all get out from under them.”

Carole will be sharing a third promotional post next Tuesday, July 20th, and we'll be discussing the book on all three blogs (with different questions and different discussions) on Tuesday, August 11. 

I hope you'll come along and  Read With Us!