Thursday, May 27, 2021

Poetry on Thursday


This little book is magical. It was a thoughtful gift from Kym, and no matter what page I open it up to, I am thrilled and surprised to find a poem that speaks to me deeply. Here is the one that was chosen for me (and you!) today.

Any Morning
William Stafford

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.


You can read more about William Stafford here
Stafford, William. "Any Morning." How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews, Storey Publishing, 2021. p. 92.


I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, your own pieces of Heaven to pick up and save, and poetry as the week winds down.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday today. I've been involved in all the details of buying and selling houses over the last few weeks, along with spending time with my sister, so knitting and reading time has been minimal. But I think (fingers crossed and knocking on wood) that we are officially under contract with selling Ryan's house in CO, so I sat down last night for some much-needed knitting time.

It's still the second Nervous Breakdown and I'm alternating skeins. Once I finish with the tiny little ball (maybe another four rows?) I'll start on some stripes and be heading to the finish line. 

I want to finish (or almost finish) this Hitchhiker before I wind and start knitting with my Mother's Day gift from Ryan.

Behold Wollmeise Pure in Drachenblut:

I was very tempted to just wind it to get a better idea of the colors, but I know if I wind it, then I'll just cast on a few stitches. Before you know it, I'll be working on a new project and abandon the Nervous Breakdown. So I'm focused on finishing first!

Reading has also taken a back seat except for listening to audiobooks while I'm driving and falling asleep exhausted at night, but I still managed to finish two books. The first is a cute story entitled How the Penguins Saved Veronica. It was a solid three stars and just the thing to listen to when my mind was often in other places. I also read a stunning Elizabeth Strout novel that I was lucky to get from Netgalley, Oh William! It's the latest installment in her books about Lucy Barton, this time in the form of a novel rather than interconnected stories. It was a five-star read for me, and I may even go back and read the first two books again. 

I've started Writers & Lovers and Project Hail Mary, so I hope I can continue to make some reading time every day. (Part of my own Personal Compost recipe that Kym wrote about!)

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

It's Crazy!

And by "It" I mean real estate. With more people being vaccinated, at least a year of pent-up demand, and a low inventory of houses for sale, all bets seem to be off if you're looking to buy a house. Things are much better and there is a lot more control if you're lucky enough to be selling. Thankfully, we've been able to do both.

Ryan's New House

So we bought Ryan a house. He found it online, but John and I have seen it in person and it seems like just the right place for him. We don't close until July and moving plans aren't definitive yet because the sellers are building a new house. They may need to stay for another month after closing, but by the end of August, Ryan will live about 30 miles away from our place in NJ and it will only take me 50 minutes to get there.

There were multiple offers, and we had to pay over asking price and make the home inspection for "informational purposes only" (meaning no negotiations with the seller). That was a bit scary and we've never bought a house under circumstances like that, but luckily, it worked out and was a small price to pay to have Ryan back here. There are some possibilities for him to work online from home, and if that doesn't pan out, his new house is in a location with a lot of other possibilities. 

Ryan's Current House

Then we had to list his place in CO. At least this time we were sellers instead of buyers, but it was equally crazy. His real estate agents had several offers an hour after his house was listed, before it had even been shown. The listing agents decided to do an open house on Saturday and another one on Sunday rather than a bunch of showings, set a deadline of last night for any offers, and then we would have until 1:00 pm today to respond. We haven't yet made a final decision, but I got my wish that we would have multiple above-asking price offers to choose from.

There have been a lot of things going on around here, but I'm glad to report that despite the craziness, several of them have been happy, and Ryan will be moving back this summer. I can not wait. <3

Monday, May 24, 2021

Thank You

I took a break last week because my sister's youngest son died unexpectedly last Sunday. Bryan was only 33-years-old and his passing left the whole family shocked and deeply saddened. John and I drove home from Maryland, then he turned around and went back down as he had to be at work this week. But my place was with my sister, so I've spent the week with her, making food, folding laundry, and maybe most importantly, re-learning how to play Barbies. 

When I got to her house on Sunday, Jill had two of Bryan's three children with her, and it looked like she desperately needed a nap. The girls are four and six years old and were playing with multiple Barbie dolls and Barbie's multi-level pink plastic camper. Jill and I played with Barbie, Midge, Ken, Skipper, Alan, and Tutti quite a bit, so I thought I could take over while Jill rested a bit. Surely playing Barbie was still in my skill set and it would all come back to me, just like riding a bicycle. 

But I had forgotten a few things. The last time I played with Barbie was probably more than 50 years ago, Barbie and her accessories have changed quite a bit in that time, and I had completely forgotten that small children have a miniscule attention span. 

I was slightly fascinated with the camper's cab. It seemed to double as both the bathroom and the area where the driver sat. See those rear view mirrors? The sink flips over to reveal the steering wheel. I was amazed and amused at all of this and the girls thought it was funny that I was having trouble making Barbie drive from the bathroom. So instead we made the Barbies do flips and gymnastics, took them outside to climb trees, swing on the swing set, run races, and play hide and seek. Then we played with ipads so I could rest a bit. Jill reminded me that much of what we did when we played was spend hours setting up Barbie, her furniture, food, and wondering why the only clothing we had for Ken was a bathing suit and a tuxedo. 

Barbie has changed, I've changed, and our families have changed. The changes haven't all been for the better, but I'm glad I could be with my sister when the worst happened. 

I'd like to express sincere thanks to those of you that e-mailed, texted, and sent loads of support and strength. I could barely stand to see my sister in so much pain, but your kindness and thoughtfulness made it much easier for me to help her. I thank you.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Time for a Break

 We've had a terrible loss in our family, so I need to take a break for a bit. I'll be back soon.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Let's Watch a Movie

I'm taking a little break from poetry today, but you get some science instead.

A Beautiful Mind

I saw this piece about meaningful movies and was intrigued. How could watching meaningful movies help people cope with life's difficulties? What movies were considered meaningful and where could I stream them? It took some reading through a fairly boring research paper, but here are a few things I gleaned from it. 

First, I learned a new word — eudaimonic. It means the type of happiness or contentment that is achieved through self-actualization and having meaningful purpose in your life. In psychology, this is opposed to hedonic happiness, which is achieved through experiences of pleasure and enjoyment. It's not the kind of word I'll be able to casually use in a sentence, but still interesting. 

Next, results showed that people who recalled a meaningful movie were more likely than others to say the film helped them make sense of difficulties in life. For example, the film helped them "feel like struggles in life are for a reason" and "more easily handle difficult situations with grace and courage."

Meaningful films were also more likely than the other movies to help viewers accept the human condition. Participants recalling these movies said that the film left them with the feeling that "both happy and sad experiences give meaning to our life"

How did meaningful movies have these positive effects? The study found that the key elements of these films were their poignancy, the mixture of happiness and sadness; their emotional range; and their ability to make people feel elevated and inspired by watching them.

Gran Torino

Lastly, what movies did the researchers consider more and less eudaimonic? Here you go:

I think that overall I would agree with many of these classifications. I love The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, Good Will Hunting, and Gran Torino. I also like The Big Lebowski and The Princess Bride, and I could argue that they might be somewhat meaningful. There are also plenty of these movies that I haven't seen, so I will be looking for Slumdog Millionaire, Up, and The Usual Suspects. 

The Princess Bride (It's hard to believe that the Princess Bride became Claire Underwood!)

"We found that people felt better able to make sense of difficulties in their own life when they recalled a movie that focused on values that were important to them," Michael Slater (one of the authors of the paper) said. "That happened even when the movie was classified as one of the less meaningful films."

So basically, the message might be "just watch a movie." You might feel better!

What are your favorite movies, eudaimonic or not?

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with the second Nervous Breakdown once again.

It doesn't look a lot different, but some decisions have been made. Ryan would like it to be knit from mostly Nervous Breakdown yarn, with some contrasting vivid stripes, much like my original one. I wound the second Nervous Breakdown skein and have started knitting with it, alternating skeins so hopefully the changeover won't be obvious. Now that I'm done with taxes and no longer have them hanging over my head, I will hopefully have more knitting time. 

I finished The Invisible Life of Addie Larue (sadly, it just wasn't the book for me) but also read Gone to the Woods, Gary Paulsen's autobiography. This one was easily four stars, and I might bump that up since I find myself still thinking about it and his life. Gary Paulsen's books have been reading material in our house for several decades, and I thought this was one of his best survival stories. Justin was recently looking for his copy of Hatchet and the sequels and we were both shocked that we couldn't find them anywhere. His birthday is on Saturday, and I've selfishly ordered the whole Hatchet series for him (that way I can re-read them, too). I'm still reading The Premonition, but also casting about for some really good immersive fiction. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

What's for Dinner?

I'm not sure that today's recipe will be anything new for many of you, but it was new to me. I've eaten it plenty of times, at restaurants and at other people's houses, but I've never made it myself. During our last conversation, Ryan strongly encouraged (meaning he basically demanded) that I finally give it a try. With only a few ingredients, he assured me I would be up to the challenge. :-)

I was quite capable of boiling penne, sauteing garlic, and adding a can of tomatoes.

Once the penne was done, I whisked vodka, cream, and grated parmesan cheese into the sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Then I mixed the sauce into the pasta. 

John basically considers a meal without meat not worth eating, so I anticipated this and browned some sausage for him to add, which he did. 

Ryan says that John is like Homer Simpson, he won't try anything new unless he's had it before. That is pretty much the case, so I also made zucchini bread for dessert to sweeten the deal.

But I was quite happy with penne vodka, and will definitely make it again, no matter what Homer John thinks.

(Sometimes a Yuengling helps take the edge off when I'm dealing with 20 questions about what's for dinner and why does it have vodka in it.)


Be sure and check in with Kym today for her take on why you might enjoy reading and discussing Shuggie Bain.

Also, I've been having some issues with feedly picking up my RSS feed in a timely manner. While I've been assured that the RSS feed has not changed, if you use feedly to subscribe, you might want to re-subscribe with the "new and improved" RSS feed:

Or if you don't want to bother, I usually try to post Monday-Friday, fairly early (~6:00 am). I'm not much without you as readers of my ramblings!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day to pay the tax man.

I actually mailed our Federal and NJ state taxes on Saturday. I still have to e-file DE state taxes (John works in DE, but we live four miles away in MD) later today, but I have my fingers crossed that goes smoothly. Luckily, I don't have to do MD taxes this time around because we lived here fewer than 180 days in 2020. 

I blame the IRS, NJ, and DE for my procrastination. If they are going to give me an extra month to get taxes done, I'm going to take every available bit of time. I may be in for a rude awakening next year if they are actually due on April 15th. 

But it feels good to finally get all the odious taxes done and be able to put away all the multiple folders that have been cluttering my kitchen and dining room tables for months. Now I can do some fun stuff, like making zucchini bread to use up the zucchini in the freezer before John grows more this year, read a few books in my queue, and await arrival of my new yarn. Both Ryan and Justin were very thoughtful and got me yarn for Mother's Day; I was absolutely thrilled! It hasn't arrived yet, but I'll tell you all about it when it does.

I hope your week is off to an auspicious start, with plenty of good things to anticipate!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

More Poetry on Thursday

April and National Poetry Month are over, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop sharing poetry here. Today's post is the confluence of reading a wonderful poem and Justin's girlfriend Jess catching a muskie.

This impressive species (muskellunge, the largest member of the pike family) is one that Jess had decided she would like to catch this year, so she and Justin both got new larger fishing rods and reels, bought some really big lures, and Justin researched water in NJ where muskie are stocked. He warned Jess that muskie are often called "the fish of a thousand casts", meaning they are not easily caught and it takes patience and persistence. While they weren't counting their casts, Jess had this 30" fish on her line within 90 minutes. Justin stripped off his boots and socks and jumped in to make sure he didn't get away. And no fish were harmed to take this picture. They always fish catch and release, so the muskie swam away happily after some photos were taken.

The Fish 
Jane Hirshfield

There is a fish 
that stitches
the inner water
and the outer water together.

Bastes them
with its gold body's flowing.

A heavy thread
follows that transparent river,
secures it—
the broad world we make daily,
daily give ourselves to.

Neither imagined
nor unimagined,
neither winged nor finned,
we walk the luminous seam.
Knot it.
Flow back into the open gills.

Hirshfied, Jane. "The Fish." How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews, Storey Publishing, 2021.

You can read more about the poet here

I wish you mindfulness, peace, good health, a bucket list fish of your own (whether actual or metaphorical), and poetry as the week winds down.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Unraveled Wednesday

I'm joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with the second Nervous Breakdown once again. I've barely done any knitting on it this week (maybe just one tooth which is only 8 rows), but I took another photo of it anyway.

So if I haven't been making much way in the way of knitting, what have I been making? I've made the bed, made lots of dinners (steak on the grill and pasta salad tonight), made a big decision (more about this later when I get more details), and made lots of phone calls. Hopefully, I'll have some time to get back to some making of the Nervous Breakdown. 

I did finish Iron Lake (a mystery that was a bit too gritty for me) and Shuggie Bain (heart-breaking and wonderful at the same time). I finally got The Invisible Life of Addie Larue from the library and started that (interesting, but my opinion will depend somewhat on how it ends). After seeing Michael Lewis on 60 Minutes last Sunday, I had to get The Premonition. It's subtitled A Pandemic Story, and though I've only just begun reading, it is a real page-turner.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Ten Years and 32 Rejections

Hello and welcome to the second Read With Us edition of Why We Think You Should Read Shuggie Bain

Last week Carole told us that while it might be a difficult book to read, it was completely immersive and full of humanity. I would certainly agree with her, but I was also pleasantly surprised that it wasn't quite as difficult to read as I had expected. This may be partly because I was lucky enough not to grow up in poverty with an alcoholic parent so I had some distance from the pain and sadness in the book. 

But there is also love, vulnerability, ambition, and perseverance contained within its pages. I read several articles about the author, Douglas Stuart, wondering about how this remarkable book came to be. It's his debut novel, took him ten years to write, and was rejected by 32 publishers before being released during a pandemic and winning the Booker Prize for Fiction in 2020. Mr. Stuart told the Irish Times, “I don’t mean to be too Pollyanna about it, but you’re looking for someone who loves your work as much as you do. So the rejection was just part of the journey.” This is definitely an author who interests me!

While the novel isn't autobiographical, it is based on Stuart's experiences growing up in Glasgow. He didn't know his father, his mother was an alcoholic who died when he was 16, he was bullied for being gay, all set amongst unemployment and a recession. The book speaks of the shame of poverty and otherness and how people cope and go on.

Douglas Stuart's mother in 1973

"When you grow up as a child of trauma, you have no control over that. Especially when it’s a parent suffering from addiction, it’s really a black hole, and you’re just whipped around it, trying to cope. So if you can take that trauma and turn it into art, and take control over it as fiction, it’s an incredibly powerful place to be in.

When asked if he ever wondered "How did I get here?", Douglas Stuart said, "Hard work? ... I think when someone comes from the working class there is meant to be an overabundance of luck in there. I know there’s a lot of really lucky things that have happened to me in my life. But kids that are standing behind the starting line have to put in twice as much effort just to catch up. We don’t all win the lottery, Simon Cowell doesn’t call, the Booker doesn’t just give it to you unless you can first of all show up with the goods. That’s part of my Scottish upbringing. You just get your head down and you carry on with it.” (Emphasis mine)

The books that I love the most and stay with me are the ones that make me feel, think about things, and that I learn from. For me, Shuggie Bain may the one of the top books in that category, and it just might be for you, too.

Be sure to check in with Kym next Tuesday for her post about this exceptional book, and put June 8th on your calendar for our Read With Us blog discussion and Zoom night.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... is a day for a slow start. I hadn't slept well at all on Friday and Saturday nights, and after we came down to MD yesterday I had a terrible headache and had to go to bed at 7:30. It seems as if sleeping for 12 hours was what I needed to cure whatever ailed me, so I am feeling much more like myself this morning.

I went for a long walk in between the rain drops and saw some lovely azaleas and columbines. When I got back I puttered in the garden for a while, checking the peas, planting some corn, spinach, and carrots, and moving some volunteer tomatoes to a better location. 

I have two blueberry bushes in the back corners of the garden and I was glad to see how well they are doing. If you look behind the blueberry in the second photo below, you will see a sassafras tree! I have no idea where it came from, but I was thrilled to see it. My grandmother and I used to dig sassafras roots every spring and I love the tea. I have a vague idea that it has since been found to be carcinogenic, so I'll have to research that a bit before I drink any more tea, but just having a sassafras tree makes me happy.

Then I walked around to the shady side of the house and was glad to see that the ferns, mint, lily of the valley and hostas are all off to a good start. 

Even though I got off to a slow start this morning, it's turned into a decent Monday, and I even feel like I might clean the whole house! It's tiny enough that I can clean pretty thoroughly in about an hour, so I better take advantage of the cleaning mood while it's upon me. It doesn't happen very often!

However your Monday began, I hope your week is off to a good start!