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!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Things I Did, Saw, and Wondered About This Weekend

These are just some snippets of things that I did, saw, or wondered about this weekend.

It looks like we will be wearing masks until the 7th of forever, so I ordered some cool new fabric from Spoonflower.

I saw these campaign signs and wondered if titles really matter enough that they had to place white stickers that say "Doctor" on all of Doctor Barsoom's signs. I couldn't tell what the sticker was covering up (so I was free to imagine all kinds of things).

People can be slobs and/or lazy. I could have shown you nine discarded masks that I saw in my two-block walk to the post office, but these two are more than enough.

I like the mehndi-inspired design (and the title) on this streetside chair. 

This one would have been better if someone has not covered the words when they installed the plaque. I wonder what it says?

I got to see my hydrangeas in bloom in NJ!

I wonder when bougainvillea bracts turn colors? The very end of one on the right is beginning to look slightly reddish, but quite slowly.

I thought that fruit salad was the perfect thing to make when it's too hot to cook and a guest is a slightly picky eater, but that was not the case. I wonder what they didn't like about it? (Oh, well, more for me.)

I wondered if I need to lock up my Fruity Pebbles.

I wonder what this week will bring? I hope it's full of good things for you (and your Fruity Pebbles stay safe). 

Friday, July 10, 2020

A Little Friday Encouragement

I didn't have a post planned for today, but when this showed up in my from The Latest Kate I had to share. It was something I needed to see this morning and I thought maybe you might, too. 

Here's one more for the weekend. I hope you give and get plenty of kindness, every day.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Quite a few people have commented that they are " not poetry people" or that they "just don't understand poetry" and I'd like to talk about that a little bit. I never thought of myself as a poetry person, and I'll let you in on a secret, there is plenty of poetry that I don't get. I don't understand what the author is trying to say, the language sounds odd in my ears and feels strange in my mouth, and sometimes I feel dumb and wonder what I'm missing. 

Here is a poem that I should understand but I just don't get it (and it pains me greatly to admit it). The author is my nephew Tim Scott who majored in creative writing at The College of Santa Fe and has published two volumes of poetry. Tim is a lovely, thoughtful, quirky, creative person, and fantastic father, but I don't know what an endocrine block is, nor hypothermic blues. I do know that Uncle Jim and Harry Cat are both gone, but as much as I've puzzled over his poems, I don't think they were written for me. 

Tim Scott

This is how it begins:
by banging and shivering the halls
in the house at the endocrine block,
paths tramped by Uncle Jim and Harry Cat,
the moldering barracks out back,
mazed with towers standing and towers toppled
of ledgers, yearbooks, manuscripts,
wholly wrenched and creaking in the wind
like a galleon's ribbed timbers,
rigged to breathe, rigged to run the hypothermic blues,
with Mike clutching our story folder,
back of the line, concession stand at the town pool,
pale and waterlogged, rivulet-headed
leashed by the eyes to Cara Abernathy's one-piece,
trying not to grind my teeth in the cold, because this is how it ends:
shadows stringbeaning in the afternoon,
when defeated was only something I thought I could be.

Scott, Tim. "Foreshadow". Our Lady of Perpetual Motion, America Star Books, 2012

With the pandemic, Kym's sharing of poetry, reading a lot more poetry on my own, and discovering a real respite in poems during this time, I've found that there is a lot of poetry that I do get. That makes me say "yes, that's just how I feel" or even "I didn't know I felt that way, but that poet deftly captured my feelings with their words". Here is a poem that makes me say those things.

Good Bones 
Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Smith, Maggie. "Good Bones". Waxwing, 2016.

So relax and don't worry about whether you are a poetry person or not. I bet that someday
you'll read a poem, it will speak to you and just maybe begin to turn you into a poetry
person. And if not, no worries! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with plenty of focused knitting on the Sunset Hitchhiker, and mistakes galore (but also some learning) on the baby blanket.

I've reached more than 42 teeth on the Hitchhiker, but I've also got a second skein, so I'm going to keep going (until it's big enough or I'm tired of knitting, whichever comes first). 

I've ripped out several repeats of the baby blanket several times, but I think I'm finally remembering (and correcting) all the previous mistakes I've made with the feather and fan pattern. Like forgetting to slip the first stitch purlwise with the yarn in front, that there are knit border stitches on each side, and remembering that pesky last yarn over in the pattern repeat of six k2tog, yo. That last mistake isn't evident until four rows later when you are one stitch short, but I 've successfully completed three pattern repeats, so maybe this old dog has finally remembered some simple tricks.

Reading was productive last week, with three four-star finishes: The Body in Question, Deadliest Enemy, and The Splendid and the Vile. I'm now thoroughly engrossed in Song Yet Sung. It's intriguing enough with just the right amount of magical realism that I'm finding it hard to stop listening. It even managed to make me forget about my aching back and the sweat running into my eyes while picking beans on a 94-degree day. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


So why am I showing you photos of routine household chores like grocery shopping and ironing?

Because I am getting mentally and physically ready for John to return to work. Am I happy about that? Not one little bit.

He (and all of the other office-based people in his company) have to go back to work on July 20th. I know that many of you never stopped working, or have already returned. The chemists and lab workers in his company have been back to work on a part-time schedule for a month or so, but now the powers that be have decided that since they have a building, it's time for all the people that used to work there to get back and do their work. 

I am glad that John has a job, but he also has an autoimmune condition that he takes corticosteroids for. The medication works by suppressing his immune system, but that is not a good thing to have if you are exposed to the virus. He has a telemedicine appointment this afternoon with his rheumatologist to discuss how immunocompromised he is and what he should be doing. I'm pretty sure he'll be going in to his office no matter what his doctor says because there has not been a lot of compassion or understanding so far from his bosses for people with possible medical exemptions. 

So I'm re-stocking the pantry, cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer in MD and making sure John has ironed clothes to wear. I don't understand why someone who has been doing their job quite well from home can't continue that, but it's not my call and I have to let it go. (Still, I have had a lot of imaginary conversations in my mind with his boss. I've made some great points and she has been won over by my logical arguments, but only in my imagination!)