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?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Women of Brewster Place - It's a Wrap!

Today it's time for a wrap-up of our most recent Read With Us book group selection — The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor.

As the Read With Us group is evolving, growing, and trying new things, we did things a bit differently this time. Kym, Carole, and I each posed different discussion questions on our blogs last Tuesday, and some of you responded that way in the comments. 

Just in case you missed them or would like to review, here are the questions:

Kym asked several thoughtful questions: I'd really like to know what you thought of the book (or the movie, if you watched that). How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Do you think it deserves the attention it got when it was first written? How does it compare to more recent/contemporary novels you've read?

The actual street - Brewster Place - and its wall are like characters, personified. Do you agree or disagree? And would you say the street/wall is a protagonist or an antagonist? And does the street/wall, itself, have any impact on the story or its outcome?

Okay . . . that ending! What do you make of it? It's meant to be Mattie Michael's dream-scene, with the women of Brewster Place dismantling the wall brick-by brick. Does that work for you? Or not?

Carole wondered about these aspects of the book: What do you think of the novel’s structure? How does each woman’s individual voice reinforce the novel’s themes as a whole?

Each of these women is capable of enormous love, but they are often hurt by their loved ones. What do you think Naylor is saying about a woman’s capacity for love? Is this sort of love “worth it”? Would these women be happier if they had hardened their hearts to those who eventually let them down?

Many of these women came from the South and Naylor portrays it as both a land of plenty and a land of harsh deprivation. How are these women’s lives different living in the North–are they happier? more fulfilled? more subject to racial bias? Is there more opportunity for them in Brewster Place than in the South?

I asked just one questionEach of the women in The Women of Brewster Place copes with enormous loss in their lives, but each one of them manages their grief differently. Compare, for instance, Mattie’s loss of her house and her son with Ceil’s loss of her baby. How do the women support one another? What could these women learn from each other? 

(If you click on the link for each of us you will be able to read the discussion in the comments.)

Gloria Naylor

But then at 7:00 pm, Kym hosted a Zoom discussion session for the book. I know Zoom isn't new, but it was new for Read With Us, and I think it went wonderfully. There were seven of us that were able to attend, and that was a great number. Some of us knew each other, some of us did not, but it felt like were all fast friends by the end of the evening. I was a little too anxious and excited to even take a screenshot, but hopefully, this will just be the first of Read With Us Zoom discussions. 

We talked about the structure of the book, how our lives are similar with a sense of community, and how we thought and hoped that things should have gotten better since the book was published in 1983, but sadly they have not in any substantive way. 

We also discussed the ending, and several good ideas helped me to understand it a little bit better. Several of us thought the ending didn't fit very well because the rest of the book was so based in reality, but Karel pointed out that there really was no wrapping up a book filled with so much tragedy in a sweet package. Sarah suggested that racism and sexism were so ingrained in society that they had to be broken down from both sides of "the wall". 

We also talked about how we as white women have access to many more resources (emotional, physical, financial, etc.) than the women in the book, so we could only ever have a limited understanding of what it was like for Mattie to lose everything when her son Basil jumped bail. And then there was the age question. Kym asked Sarah how she felt about the book, given that she was significantly younger than the rest of us. I hadn't even thought about that, but Sarah did say that she had a little trouble placing the story in time and place because she hadn't lived through it. There is nothing like a good "in-person" book discussion to present lots of new and interesting possibilities in a book! (We also got to sip wine together and admire each other's knitting and spinning.)

We have a readers' surprise package and after putting the names of everyone that left a comment and participated in the Zoom discussion in a hat, I chose one and the winner is Patty! Thanks to Patty (your package will be arriving soon) and thanks so much to all of you for reading with us! 

And STAY TUNED for the big announcement of our next Read With Us book selection . . . coming to a blog near you on Tuesday, December 8th!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a day for nephrolithiasis (in other words, kidney stones). On Saturday I woke up with severe left-side adbominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. After six or seven hours, the pain had migrated to my lower back, and I began to get a clearer picture of diagnosing myself. Initially, I was thinking about diverticulitis, but as the day wore on and a few more symptoms appeared, kidney stones seemed to be a more likely candidate in the differential diagnosis. 

I called my SiL (a family practice physician) to ask for her advice. I wasn't very anxious to go to the Emergency Room, and she agreed with my self-diagnosis and confirmed that all they could really do was give me drugs and do some imaging to confirm. I might call my doctor today to see what he wants me to do, but I don't want to spend any more time at the hospital than necessary. They are right in describing the pain as being akin to childbirth, so some good drugs might entice me. 

                Kidney stones under the microscope look like jagged spikes of pain. 

I could also try a roller coaster (but I am fairly sure I won't be doing that). I hope your weekend was a little better than mine!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Ryan and I talk often on the phone, and our conversations very often turn to food. It's one of the few joys that we can rely on to sustain us, make us happy, and give us something to talk about. We recently had a conversation about how to make lentil soup less boring. Ryan recommended kielbasa or chorizo, but he puts chorizo in lots of things. I wondered if there were poems about soup, and want to share this wonderful one with you today. 

Da Capo
Jane Hirshfield

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.

You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

Hirshfield, Jane. "Da Capo". The Lives of the Heart, Harper Perennial, 1997. 
You can read more about the poet here
And here is a recipe for lentil soup with chestnuts. I usually make my lentil soup with mushrooms, but since Jane wrote about adding roasted chestnuts, I think I may try this (if I can find a can of chestnuts at the grocery store). 

I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, a pot of soup simmering on your stove, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a bound-off  and blocked Stormy Night to Bright Light of Dawn. (Finally!)

This may be one of the favorite ones I've ever knit, but I think I've said that about almost every one I've made. It's chilly and breezy here today so I'm enjoying the lovely warmth around my neck and these colors just make me happy.

In reading, I finished The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop. Wonder Boy was sort of a sequel to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which I really enjoyed, but this sequel was too non-linear and jumped around too much in time and place for me to give it more than three stars. I also finished Winter Solstice, a comfort re-read that served its purpose well. I've started A Spot of Bother, and love this quote: “The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.” Those may be my words to live by this week.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Women of Brewster Place - Book Discussion

Now that we've recovered (somewhat) from our election-induced stress, it's time to discuss our current Read With Us book, The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. Carole, Kym, and I are each posting a different discussion question on our blogs today, and you are welcome to answer, discuss, or just leave a comment with your opinion about the book. Thanks in advance for participating in whatever way works for you! 

Here's one of the things that struck me about the book:

Each of the women in The Women of Brewster Place copes with enormous loss in their lives, but each one of them manages their grief differently. Compare, for instance, Mattie’s loss of her house and her son with Ceil’s loss of her baby. How do the women support one another? What could these women learn from each other? 

Then tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern, we'll be having a Zoom book discussion! If you haven't already done so, please let Carole, Kym, or me know that you would like to attend and we'll make sure you receive an invitation. I hope to see as many of you that can join us (with your knitting and beverage of choice). We'll have fun and maybe even discuss the book a little bit! 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Books, Reading, and ...

 ... attention span! I know that many of you are readers, and with more time at home, you would really enjoy losing yourself in a lovely, immersive book, if only for a while. But if you're anything like me, your attention span has been on the wane since March. You start a book, only to find yourself re-reading the same sentence multiple times and still not comprehending it. You start a book that you have really been looking forward to, but lose interest early on and have to force yourself to pick it up again. If you have managed to maintain some interest you quickly lose sight of the plot or wonder who this character might be that you don't recall at all.

Reading is one of the joys in my life and would provide a superb coping mechanism during the pandemic if only I were able to do it better. I've heard the same thing from many, many people, and decided to look for some ways to possibly improve the situation. 

First of all, loss of attention and focus during the pandemic is completely normal. This article was written in May of this year, but it still holds true, and maybe even more so now. Oliver G. Robinson, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, says, "So why are people having difficulty concentrating? That’s part of the explanation: They’re trying to resolve an uncertainty that is unresolvable." That doesn't come as news to any of us and doesn't offer any solutions, except to possibly begin to accept that our uncertainty is simply unresolvable. 

So what can you do if uncertainty is here to stay for the foreseeable future? Here is a list of things that I've tried, cobbled together from various places, and I have had some limited success. 

Meditate - This is not specific to reading, but meditating once or twice daily has allayed my anxiety, helped me to increase my focus, and settle back into reading (but not while waiting for election returns). 

Get some form of physical exercise every day - Also not directly applicable to reading, but just getting outside for a brisk walk usually enables me to think through issues, expend some pent-up energy, and return home in a better mood. And if you are a fan of audiobooks, you can listen while you walk. 

Read in a different format - If you are trying to read a "real book" and not getting anywhere, try the book on a Kindle or in audio format. Sometimes switching the format helps me greatly; I always feel like I'm making progress when I read on my Kindle because it feels like I tap the page forward more often than turning the page in a physical book. 

Read something different - If you can't concentrate on a novel, try a short story. Here's a short story recommendation by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that is free with Amazon Prime. Also, an Agatha Christie collection, an Hercule Poirot Christmas short story, and the entire Sherlock Holmes collection, all free. I don't think there is anything wrong with reading a romance, graphic novel, or just the cereal box if that is what you are currently able to focus on. A good friend and I had an email exchange about re-reading Rosamunde Pilcher novels. They may not be great literature, but for me, Winter Solstice is just what I need now. 

Set goals - Not high-minded, impossible ones, but maybe try reading for ten minutes, then increasing the time if you are able. 

Cut yourself some slack - While reading for pleasure used to be a source of pleasure for many of us, it is not a necessity, so maybe consider a temporary hiatus from trying to read if it is non-productive and frustrating. Your priorities probably include taking care of yourself and your family, earning a living, and maintaining your mental health. If you have any energy left to devote to reading for pleasure or other pursuits, that is just fine, and also perfectly fine if you don't. 


And speaking of reading, don't forget that tomorrow is our Read With Us book discussion of The Women of Brewster Place. Carole, Kym, and I will each be posting a different question on our blogs, and you are welcome to answer and discuss these questions in the comments. Then at 7:00 pm Eastern, we will be having a Zoom discussion! If you haven't already, please let Kym, Carole, or me know that you are interested in Zooming and we will make sure that you get an invitation. I hope to see many of you!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Joe Biden has often quoted Irish poet Seamus Heaney, especially his verse play The Cure at Troy, so I've chosen an excerpt to share today. The story concerns Philoctetes, an archer who has been gifted with a magic bow. On his way to the Trojan War, a snake bites his foot and the bite becomes infected. He is abandoned on an island, but it is foretold that this wound will be healed at Troy if he ever arrives there. But he resents his abandonment, blaming Odysseus in particular for the decision to leave him behind. Philoctetes is faced with a decision: does he choose to continue on the mission he originally set out on, one with a cure at the end, or does he let the injuries and indignities he suffered on the way define him? Can he work with former enemies to create an outcome they all want?  The Greek Chorus advises him with this stanza.

Excerpt from The Cure at Troy
by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.
The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme. 
Heaney, Seamus. The Cure at Troy. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990.
You can read more about Seamus Heaney here
I wish you mindfulness, peace, hope, a cure for your ills, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with a ready-to-bind-off Hitchhiker.

The colors aren't exactly right, but I'll take better photos after I've bound it off, given it a good soaking, and blocked it. I thought I might have it completed by now, but it turns out I ended up holding it more while I was watching election returns than actually knitting. That's okay, it provided just the comfort I needed while it was sitting on my lap.

That little ball of yarn is what I have let to bind off with. I'm fairly confident that I've got enough, but I'll figure something out if it turns out otherwise. 

In another bit of exciting news, that is a glow-in-the-dark stitch marker from The Lemonade Shop. You'll have to trust me that it does indeed glow in the dark because a photo proved impossible. I also got some rainbow and gold and silver glitter hearts and they all make me very happy. 

I did finally complete The Queen's Gambit and found the book as wonderful as the Netflix series. I also finished listening to Anxious People. This one was a little difficult for me to get into (maybe I was a bit sidetracked by election returns?) but once I did, I was rewarded with Fredrik Backman's usual combination of poignancy and humor. I think this might have been my favorite of all of his books. I'm not sure what I'll read next; it depends on what is ready for checkout in my Overdrive queue.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


I knew only a little bit about what happened after an election was "called", but this year I was curious enough to seek out some more information. It turns out that there are a whole lot of post-Election Day processes that have always been carried out, but I certainly have never seen them featured front and center in the news and knew very little about the details. Here is what happens in the aftermath.  

Warning: this may be the most dull and/or boring post I've ever written, due to too much information that maybe not a lot of people care about and no pretty pictures. Proceed at your own risk!

Once regular ballots have been counted, local election officials process provisional ballots (ballots cast when the voter’s identity or eligibility to vote was uncertain) and “canvass” the election. That just means that they prepare results and report to the state. The state then canvasses the election as well. State law governs the postelection processes, so there are 51 different ones (each state plus Washington, D.C.) There are a long range of deadlines for each local or county canvass and varying state deadlines as well, some of which are shown below.

I can't enlarge the chart above any further, but you can access it here and view it in full screen if you are interested in your state's dates. 

Media sources (like the AP) may project the winners of races long before these dates, but those are just projections. The winner of each state contest is not final until the certification has been completed. For the presidential election, states have a hard deadline of December 14th, when electors of the Electoral College must meet and vote to certify their results. Congress will certify the Electoral College votes in a joint session on Jan. 6. Then it's really official!

And then there is the General Services Administration, the governmental agency headed by Trump appointee Emily Murphy. She is tasked with officially affirming that Biden has won the election, and does this by signing a letter to release funds to the Biden transition team through a process called ascertainment. This would mark the first formal acknowledgment from the Trump administration that Biden has won the election, and it would also unlock access to national security tools to streamline background checks and additional funds to pay for training and incoming staff. Biden’s transition team cannot receive official government email addresses until Ms. Murphy signs those papers, they don’t get access to federal offices, and they can’t do the necessary work of filing papers with the Office of Government Ethics for financial disclosures and conflict-of-interest forms. I'm not placing any bets that this will happen anytime soon. 

If you'd like to read more or find out more information about your specific state, these are good places to start:

National Conference of State Legislatures


If you've gotten this far, thanks for sticking with me to the end! I promise a return to knitting and reading tomorrow.

Monday, November 9, 2020

This and That

I've got some bits and pieces, some of this and that for you this Monday morning after what felt like endless Days of Waiting. 

First, we have a date change for our Read With Us book discussion of The Women of Brewster Place. After an email discussion on Friday morning, we decided to postpone the discussion for a week until Tuesday, Nov. 17th. While things looked close and hopeful, they were still not official. We all felt exhausted and kind of unable to do any in-depth thinking to prepare for a discussion tomorrow. We'll share further details as we figure them out. 

Kym found the Oprah miniseries adaptation on Amazon Prime in case you are interested in reviewing or watching. You can watch it for free with ads or rent it for $3.99. I watched the version with ads and didn't mind them at all. It is three hours long because it was originally a miniseries, but it didn't feel that long to me and it might give you something to watch besides a sore loser's legal challenges.

I'm quite excited about another book that is available today, The Hitchhiker Collection by Martina Behm. All of the Hitchhiker patterns are gathered together in this book, along with three new ones. Janelle was kind enough to alert me to this breaking news, and I was so excited to see it that initially, I didn't pay attention to the availability date of November 9. My copy has now been ordered and it remains to be seen whether it will be saved for Christmas or not. 

This graph only goes through Friday, but was a fairly accurate portrayal of my week through Saturday, and maybe yours, too. 

John Fetterman is the Lieutenant Governor of PA and quite an interesting guy. My cousin is a CPA in PA, and she conducts audits of school districts and some state-related agencies. Because of this she has had dinner with Fetterman on several occasions and says that he really is a forthright speaker. You can't file a lawsuit against math and he also said "The president is no different than any other random internet troll saying crazy things that have no basis in reality." When asked about Trump's legal challenges, Fetterman said “The president can sue a ham sandwich." I appreciate your honest statements, Mr. Fetterman. 

Joe Biden has finally been named as the winner of the Presidential election. I know there won't be a magic turnaround, and it won't be all rainbows and unicorns on January 20th, 2021. And let's not forget about the important GA Senate runoff races on January 5 with control of the Senate likely at stake. But I will be much happier and feel much safer having an empathetic, politically-experienced President who will pay attention to science. Here is an Esquire essay about the kind of person Joe Biden is, and a link to the Popular Mechanics story mentioned in the essay. I think we have elected a good and decent person, who along with Kamala Harris, and much of the electorate is ready for the hard work ahead.

Several people liked the photo of a smiling alpaca that I posted last Monday. Today I'll leave you with one of a smiling sheep and goat. I hope you have a Happy Monday and a good week ahead.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Poetry on Thursday

Because we all need hope, I chose this poem on Tuesday. I hope it works today. 

A Portable Paradise
Roger Robinson 

And if I speak of Paradise,
then I'm speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can't steal it, she'd say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief, 
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room - be it hotel,
hostel or hovel - find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep.

Robinson, Roger. "A Portable Paradise." A Portable Paradise, Peepal Tree Press, 

You can read more about the poet here, and listen to this poem read aloud by the wonderful Pádraig Ó Tuama here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, fresh hope, your own portable paradise, and some poetry as this week winds down.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. Kat worked the polls yesterday and I want to give her a big round of applause along with a big thank you! I've got a nearly completed Hitchhiker to share with you. 

I couldn't watch any results yesterday but woke up at 4:00 am and couldn't resist checking my phone. I can't not watch this morning but since I also saw a mouse at 4:00 am I will be taking a break from knitting, breathing, hoping, and worrying to walk down to the hardware store for some traps. Thanks for the diversion, little mouse!

I haven't read anything since last week but hopefully, things will settle down in the next couple of days and I'll be able to settle down enough to read. I have Anxious People and The Mill on the Floss ready when I'm better able to concentrate. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Fingers Crossed

 This is what I see as soon as I step out the front door in MD:

And this is my view across the street the other way:

I feel lucky to live in a pretty nice neighborhood! We'll ignore all the gigantic Trump flags that I've been quietly (and maybe just a little childishly) giving the finger to whenever I see them. May we all have an abundance of patience, remember to breathe, keep hope alive, and may Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win this election. 


Just a reminder and a note: next Tuesday, November 10th is our Read With Us book discussion of The Women of Brewster Place. We're not yet sure about the format of the discussion, but will let you know as soon as we know. Kym found the Oprah miniseries adaptation on Amazon Prime in case you are interested in reviewing or watching. You can watch it for free with ads or rent it for $3.99. I watched the version with ads and didn't mind them at all. It is three hours long because it was originally a miniseries, but it didn't feel that long to me and it might give you something to watch besides election news.

Monday, November 2, 2020

It's Monday ...

 ... and I'm back! My ten-year-old laptop died last week, so my blog posts came to an abrupt halt. I've been taking good care of it and backing things up often, but all technology has a finite lifetime (and it's often much shorter than 10 years). A new laptop isn't in the budget right now, but luckily I've managed to set up an old one of Ryan's for basic things like paying bills and blog posts. I've been keeping up with your posts but haven't been commenting because I hate doing that on my phone. I've missed all of you, and I'm glad to be back (until the next technology glitch). Many thanks to all the kind people that emailed and texted to check on things. 

Since it's November 2nd, this seems like a good time for a Right Now post.

Watching - The Queen's Gambit on Netflix. I stumbled upon this and found it fascinating. It's about a chess prodigy, how she came to play chess, and how her life unfolds as she deals with her abilities. Ryan tried to teach me to play chess when he was in elementary school (the cheat sheet he made for me because I couldn't remember how the pieces moved is above), but I am really terrible at the game. No chess knowledge is needed to watch the series although there are many quietly intriguing scenes of chess being played.

Reading - I found The Queen's Gambit so interesting that I had to read the book it was based on by Walter Tevis. The show follows the book fairly closely and I found it to be just as good. I may be reading more by this author.

Avoiding - The news, in all forms. Even though I'm trying to stay away from it, some still penetrates my embargo (my chatty neighbors and at the grocery store). I'm just hoping to survive this week (and possibly beyond) with some of my sanity intact.

Baking - Pumpkin Chip Muffins. The combination of pumpkin and chocolate chips sounded strange to me when my MiL first suggested I try these several decades ago. But she was right as she so often was about good baking, and now they are among my favorites. 

Ordering - I finally broke down and bought a fake Christmas tree. We didn't have one at all last year, and I found I really missed the ornaments. I can do without many Christmas decorations, but I really like decorating the tree and revisiting memories through the ornaments we've collected and made through the years. I ordered it online but haven't received it yet, so I hope it looks okay. 

Enjoying - Cooler temperatures (finally)! We had our first real frost in NJ on Friday night, but I'm not sure MD has gotten any yet. We may still get a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden.

Wearing - Hitchhikers! I have a bunch of them and wear most of them, but I tend to reach for this one most often. It goes with everything and has lovely memories (buying the yarn at The Loopy Ewe six years ago) associated with it. 

Raking - Leaves. I've done this a couple of times so far, but they haven't even started collecting them in NJ, so the pile in front of our house is growing ever higher. We're supposed to have heavy rain and wind, so maybe all the leaves will be down and the next time I rake might be the last time this season. 

Feeling - Sad that it's been a year since I've seen Ryan. I was in Fort Collins a year ago to help him buy a new (to him) car after he totaled his in an accident. It feels like it was a decade or more ago. 

Hoping - That lots of things change so we can all feel safe traveling again and Ryan can sell his house in CO and move back east. 

Smiling - At this smiling alpaca. 

What's going on in your world right now?