Archive for the ‘Assorted and Sundry’ Category
(Am I capable of being quick? Probably not.)
1—I took some time this month to assess the ways I’m using social media and other online activities—and that was before I began reading Cal Newport’s excellent book Digital Minimalism, which hit my Kindle a couple of days ago. Highly recommended; I’ll be asking my older kids to read it, for sure. I’m going to be changing the way I use several platforms, but that topic will have to wait for later because I can’t possibly be quick about it. But one fruit of my contemplations has been an idea for a change I’m making at my Patreon. Short version: starting tomorrow, subscribers at the $3+ tier are invited to join me for a weekly live chat via Google Hangouts. Before, I was offering a monthly recorded live chat; this new thing is weekly and unrecorded. You can read more about it here (it’s a public post; you needn’t be a Patreon subscriber to read it). Think of it as an invitation to drop by my studio for a gabfest once a week. (Starting tomorrow, March 1, at 1pm Pacific time.)
2—My friend Julianna Baggott has launched a six-week audio course on Efficient Creativity. You can listen to the first episode for free; the full course runs $25 (the price of a hardcover, Julianna points out). Julianna’s the most efficiently creative (and creatively efficient) person I know, and she’s endlessly engaging to boot, so I’m really excited to listen to this course.
3—I’ve just started three different sentences and scrapped them because they aren’t quick topics. Argh, this is always my problem! I’m forever trying to fit a novel into the space of a haiku (figuratively speaking). All right, never mind. Here, I’ll just say what else I’m reading. (When in doubt, etc etc.)
• lots of poetry, especially books by Olav Hauge (forever grateful to Holly Wren Spaulding for introducing me to him), Basho, T’ao Ch’ien, Maxine Kumin, Kimiko Hahn, Rachel Zucker, Nayyirah Waheed, Danez Smith, and Julia Hartwig (with regular doses of Mary Oliver and Billy Collins because OBVIOUSLY)—and yes, that’s a good many books, but that’s what’s nice about poetry; you can dip in and out. These days, I’m mostly in.
• When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams—I will have to circle back to this in a future post, because it is blowing me away.
• The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett—readaloud to Huck and Rilla
• also In the Beginning by Virginia Hamilton (collection of creation myths from various cultures)
• The Haunting of Hill House because it finally came in at the library, but then so did Digital Minimalism and I’ve been ignoring Hill House for a few days.
How about you? What are YOU reading?
Ha, joke’s on me: I carefully mapped out a new morning routine to allow myself a regular, daily (or near daily) blogging time, but here I sit and all the topics I thought I’d tackle have flown clean out of my brain. I mean, yes, I do keep a list of post ideas, but everything on the list right now wants more time (and brain) than I have free at the moment.
—newsletters I like (and actually read)
—books Huck is reading
—our most-beloved picture books that Scott read to the kids between long novels
—the fix-it fair (this one’s been in drafts for months)
—Chronologically LOST (much to say about this!!)
—my best homeschooling purchases ever (things we’ve used over and over)
—booknotes, especially about the poetry binge I’ve been on
—online art classes/sketchbook update
—recent handwork projects
…and that’s only one of my lists. All too time-intensive for this brief morning window.
Anything in particular you’d like to chat about?
Facebook flashback from this day in 2015:
Forget left brain/right brain. The two halves of my mind are the part with the foresight to stock up on extra cartridges for the 11yo’s beloved labelmaker, and the part with no earthly idea where I stashed ’em.
Still checks out!
We spotted the first crocuses of the year this week!
This is the first week in ages and ages when I had just a normal workload, not a bananas one. And I felt a bit like a cat in winter, prowling the house trying all the doors but balking at walking through any of them. Last weekend I had actual free time and no idea what to do with it—or rather, too many ideas, a bewildering array of options and a seeming inability to commit to any of them.
(I used to be like this as a kid whenever I came home from the library with a pile of books. Couldn’t pick which to read first, and sometimes it would take me days to make the choice and commit.)
What lovely thing to do first? Handwork? Read? Paint? Take a walk and bumble around some of the artsy shops on Hawthorne or Alberta? Tidy up the houseplants? Write a letter? I had to make myself a list, not a to-do list but a Fun Stuff list, with checkboxes and everything. I’m 100% more likely to do something if I’ve given it a checkbox. (But only if it’s my checkbox. Other people’s checkboxes, especially the homeschooling kind, send me running.)
I did wind up reading, quite a lot actually because I’m still working my way through the YASF Cybils finalists. (Two to go. Reading’s on the fun list tomorrow, for sure. Of course, so is all the other stuff. The question is: will I DO it instead of waffling between options?)
(Answer: yes. I’m determined to Have Some Fun. Or else Do Nothing Much At All, which is just as important as Fun Stuff. But I am putting my work away for the weekend. Housework doesn’t count. I like mopping floors, and we’re overdue.)
All right, enough browbeating. Here are some things that are working well these days:
• My morning ritual of reading poetry and writing…hmm, writing things that will grow up to be poems when I come back to them. The bones of poems, or maybe just the marrow. The pluripotent stem cells that will become poems, eventually. (Hmm, there’s another poem there, actually.) I get up at 5:30 or 6—alarm is set for six but I often wake up early and then I can’t wait, cannot wait, to get back in the chair to read and write. I turn on the electric kettle, the studio lights, the warm blanket because I am a creature without much in the way of natural warming abilities.
I do a few stretches in the kitchen while I wait for the water to boil. Then I curl up in the gray chair with the red blanket, the turquoise mug, the green notebook. I start with poems: this week it was Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents, which smashed my heart into smithereens, I’ll never be the same; and Olav Hauge’s The Dream We Carry, who is full of quiet surprises. Then I write for a while, until quarter of seven when Huck pads in, pajama-clad, and climbs into my lap under the warm blanket. He always stops to turn off the overhead light (there’s no convenient place for a lamp next to my writing chair), so that the window goes from glassy reflection to backyard view. The sky is perfect today, he whispered yesterday morning, settling in. It’s been a sheet of gray lately but yesterday it was five or six shades of blue fading one into the other, almost green where it bumped the neighbor’s rooftop. The bare arms of the trees, the morning flights leaving PDX, the rumor of sunrise just beyond the garage. These are good moments.
• The Wee Free Men, which has been deemed utterly enchanting and is the first thing we want to reach for when we begin our homeschooling mornings together.
• The “pick one chore today” list on the family chalkboard, when I remember to write it!
If you’re on Instagram: I accidentally invented a new hashtag today and you are welcome to play along. In Stories, I posted a stack of the books that Beanie, Huck, Rilla, and I are reading (we were the only ones home at the time) and tagged it #ourdayinbooks—and later discovered that tag had never been used before. I wrote a post about it, and now others are joining in the fun. If you’re not an Instagrammer but would like to play, feel free to share your list or link here!
At long last, hitting send.
Chickadee at the feeder! First one we’ve seen in weeks.
We finished our readaloud of Through the Looking Glass and today we began a new one: The Wee Free Men. My first Pratchett, can you believe it?
This baby turned ten. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT.
I posted an explanation on Facebook today:
A wee reminder. If you are looking for my discussions of books, art, nature, pop culture, homeschooling, and joyful family life, you’ll find that at my blog and on Instagram.
Here on FB, I write (since 2016) almost exclusively about current events and policy. (Occasional book-related announcements, and sometimes quips that later make their way into a real post elsewhere. But 90% policy discussions and political commentary.)
If you prefer my rhapsodies about pine siskins and Betsy-Tacy books, they’re still happening, just not here.
It was HARD to pick just two items for rhapsody examples. 🙂 It’s a long list, my enthusiasms. Fountain pens, Pacific Northwest skies, Cybils books, Lisa Congdon, Cozyblue Stitch Club, sketchbooks, Creativebug, Scott Peterson, poetry, Ritter Sport Bars, Portland adventures, Journey North, Chronologically LOST, the northern flicker at my feeder this very moment, Holly Wren Spalding, Small Meadow Press, raisins raisins all we are is raisins, the Snoopy cast album, the Bravewriter Arrow I’m writing (Harriet the Spy this time), historical fiction, cherry cobbler…you Bonny Glen readers know better than anyone what lights me up. I could link almost every one of those off-the-top-of-my-head items to a post (or many posts) here. I won’t, because that takes too long.
(The WordPress SEO plug-in is constantly yelling about my failure to include internal links. It also berates me for writing long sentences. I laugh and ignore it. I can’t remember the last time I looked at traffic stats for this blog.)
When I was assessing my lapses here last fall, I realized I knew exactly how I wanted to use this space—the way I always have: a chronicle of my enthusiasms and the hilarious or thought-provoking things my kids say. Those are the things I want to remember, and to lavish words upon.
Two years ago, when I became compelled to do some writing about policy and advocacy, I decided Facebook was the best space for that—the place where I seem to connect most directly with the largest number of people. (I have more followers on Twitter, but I seldom tweet anymore. My FB connections are almost always people I actually know, and therefore the chances of a real discussion are higher than in the Twitter flood.)
A while back, I started compiling these little happy lists—the sorts of things I’ve been posting here in the past couple of weeks—in my notebook at first, and now spilling onto the blog. Two years in a row, I had the Flow Magazine “Tiny Pleasures” page-a-day calendar (I miss it!) and it was easy to jot down two or three or ten tiny pleasures of my own on a planner page. But I write to share, and I believe in habits. It’s a habit worth cultivating: recording those little happy lists here where we can talk about them. I mention something, and you mention something back, and next thing you know, Isabella Tree’s Wilding is on my nightstand waiting its turn…that’s what I always loved about blogging, those sparks flying back and forth.
It does feel, sometimes, like half a picture, or an indulgence. Serious and dangerous matters require our urgent attention. I’m doing my best to further discourse (especially around practical policy solutions) and spur compassionate action. I’m…just not doing it here. My kids love to tease me about my passion for containerizing. Show me a jumble and I’ll give you a nice basket. When things heated up after the 2016 election, I realized I needed online containers, too, in order to maintain balance and composure. In order to do the work, but not be consumed by it. In order to keep noticing and celebrating the many riches all around me—those pine siskins, this beautiful book. The way Scott keeps me supplied with specially extra-caffeinated cocoa so I can get up before dawn to write. The way the sunrise begins with deep blue, not the pink or gold you expect. The delight of seeing Bean and Rose walk down the street to have lunch at a favorite café. The broad expanse of crocuses that will bloom in Wilshire Park only a few weeks from now.
The happy jolt I get—still, a year and a half after the move—every time I see Klickitat Street on a sign.
So. Little happy lists here, and serious policy discourse there, and occasional light snark on Twitter, and whatever it is I do on Instagram. (It’s seasonal, I guess? My Stories tend to be a mix of day-in-the-life homeschooling glimpses and Portland adventuring. My grid is 85% swooning over nature. I guess it’s like when I sweep everything off the counter into a pretty box to be sorted later. People who’ve helped me pack for a move know what I’m talking about.)
Do any of you compartmentalize your social media this way? I’d love to hear what balance looks like for you. I know some of you don’t do FB or IG at all, and with Facebook especially I see the wisdom in that.
As a postscript I’ll add that lately, my favorite thing about this blog is clicking the ‘related posts’ button at the bottom. It keeps tumbling me into moments I had no memory of, and I’m grateful for the archive.
Hawk by Rilla, 2014
New-to-us birds to add to our lifetime list: a pair of pine siskins visited the feeder yesterday and obligingly hung around long enough for us to make the ID. And it was a Project Feederwatch bird count day, to boot!
When I took down the Christmas tree on New Year’s Day, I filled its corner with the card table we do jigsaw puzzles on: our strategy for the early dark of a winter afternoon. There’s nothing quite so hyggeligt as listening to Scott and the kids giggle at our readaloud (specifically: Alice’s encounter with the White Knight, who is immense fun to voice) while they work on a puzzle.
Drove to Salem and back today for the monthly meeting of the Oregon DD Coalition. Counted nine hawks meditating in bare trees alongside the highway on the way home.
Speaking of nine—we (here in the Pacific Northwest) are up nine whole minutes of daylight since January 1st!
Reading log: Finished two of seven Cybils YASF finalists this week. Mum’s the word about them for now, of course. Also reading Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents (shattering) and continuing to soak up Franz Wright’s Wheeling Motel.
What Scott & I are watching: Westworld Season 2. BOY HOWDY, that’s some good TV.
Early-morning chat with our Jane before her flight back to California. But oh, we miss her.
Huck in my writing chair, reading me the day’s entry from what has become, these past three months, our favorite poetry anthology: Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year. “Mom, listen! This poem describes exactly how I feel about January.”
a clean white sheet, newly ironed;
an empty page;
a field of freshly-fallen snow
waiting to be mapped
by our footsteps.
The moment this tome came to us last fall—a review copy from Nosy Crow edited by Fiona Waters and gorgeously illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon—Huck claimed it as his own. He has announced his plan to enter his name in the “This book belongs to ______” blank as soon as he can write it in cursive. (This melts me. The tattered copy of Alice in Wonderland I read to Huck and Rilla in December is inscribed, in the handwriting of a young Rose, with: “To Rose from Mommy, July 3rd, 2007, With Love.”)
Four frenzied squirrels scrambling across the pergola and flinging themselves into the overhanging magnolia tree. Clearly they don’t have a seasonal poetry anthology because their antics were straight out of spring.
Ron stopping by with a delivery of homemade chocolate chip cookies so delectable they would make a hobbit weep.
This fun art tutorial by Lisa Bardot: part of her Making Art Everyday series. Rilla perched beside me and taught me how to get around in Procreate. Boy am I glad I’m homeschooled.
(I had a little trouble with the blending. Rilla’s was one thousand times better. But hey, baby steps!)
While I worked on my orange (with much merriment and coaching from my daughter), Huck worked on the cursive letters he learned yesterday. How beautiful is that u, I ask you?
Appointment with my new primary care doctor today. She was awesome, and her office is all of six minutes from our house. For this I am profoundly grateful.
Overheard (Rose): “He’s the most boring serial killer, in my opinion.”
These lines from “Planet” by Catherine Pierce, from HERE: Poems for the Planet, a new anthology forthcoming in April from Copper Canyon Press, edited by Elizabeth Coleman:
This planet. All its grooved bark, all its sand of quartz and bones and volcanic glass, all its creeping thistle lacing the yards with spiny purple. I’m trying to come down soft today. I’m trying to see this place even as I’m walking through it.
The sunrise was bonkers this morning. Huck and I watched its first faint tintings together, and then he went off to do his Huckleberry things and went back to writing—or trying to write—mostly I was watching the streaks of scarlet and coral paint spread across the sky. Just breathtaking. And…a minute earlier than yesterday.
Water vapor billowing off our garage roof as the morning sun melted the frost on its mossy shingles. The kids’ delight at our very own cloud machine.
Northern flicker at the feeder—hadn’t seen her in a few days.
Huck’s beaming satisfaction at his first cursive letters. His three careful lowercase t’s especially—the first looking rather like a capital A, the second nicely formed but floating in mid-air, and the third one darn near perfect. He’s been very critical of his (print) handwriting, so it was lovely to see him feeling proud of the accomplishment.
Belly laughs from my youngest two at the White Queen’s backwards antics in our Through the Looking-Glass readaloud. Six impossible things before breakfast!
Lunch with Scott and Jane before she (sob) heads back to California tomorrow. I was captivated by the large black-and-white photo of the restaurant (circa 1941) on the wall above our table. Careful pincurls; a fur stole and plush hat (at a diner counter!); the skinniest watch-strap I’ve ever seen.
A walk to the library with Scott. Crisp air, pretty clouds, and the best conversation.
A 94-point word in a game of Words With Friends (acolyte/as, triple letter on the C, triple word score)
These lines from “Day One” by Franz Wright:
…We should really examine
your life, the one you bought,
and what happened when you got home
and attempted to assemble it:
that disfiguring explosion
no one witnessed, no one heard,
and which you yourself cannot recall,
and by whose unimaginable light you seek
to write the name of beauty.
—from Wheeling Motel
How I rang out the year:
* got up at six to write—I dared not break the habit over the holidays for fear I’d never get out of bed early again
* fought with my Kindle, which has decided to shun our wifi
* helped Huck build a spider robot or robot spider–not sure which it is but it’s creepy and awesome, thank you grandparents
* took a walk with Scott. Just to the drugstore, but still.
* paid bills & did medical busywork
* wrote a blog post
* revised two poems and submitted for critique
* got caught up on a major project for the advocacy gig
* am supposed to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark with the gang tonight and stay up to welcome the new year in, but for some unfathomable* reason I’m feeling kinda wiped and wondering if I can get away with celebrating on Central Time
(*Narrator: it was totally fathomable)