Archive for the ‘Assorted and Sundry’ Category

Happening here and there

October 16, 2017 @ 7:35 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

What’s happening…

on my Instagram: I’ve been sharing glimpses of our daily homeschooling adventures on the feed and in my IG Stories. Been playing a bit with Live Stories, too. Need to decide if I’m going to archive/upload them somewhere, since they disappear after 24 hours.

on my Patreon: in this week’s subscriber-only post, I shared the most important piece of advice I give my writing students.

…in my backyard: the hydrangeas are stunning, and the hedge is beginning to turn red. Summer, meet fall.

…on my nightstand: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the December Arrow selection.

…on our speakers: The Girl Who Drank the Moon audiobook.

…in my inbox: Naomi Bulger’s “The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written e-course, which starts today. I’m pretty excited. Naomi’s work is lovely and her gentle, thoughtful approach resonates with me. I think you can still join the class, if you’re interested. (Affiliate link.)

…in my sketchbook: mostly rough pencil sketches of flowers, lately. Not as much of anything as I would like. I’m a bit buried under work, now that my radiation vacation is over. (Hahaha I slay myself. It was the exact opposite of a vacation. It was…not my favorite experience ever.)

(That reminds me: I shared these photos on IG but not here. If anything deserves to make the permanent archive, it’s this moment that Scott captured on the day of my final treatment. When you walk out of the radiation room for the last time, the staff is waiting with confetti, cheers, and a ‘diploma.’ I had no idea this was coming, so the celebration caught me by surprise.)

The next couple of weeks were pretty rough (side effects lag behind treatment, so my burn didn’t get ugly until a few days after I was finished), but hitting this milestone wonderful. And now, three weeks later, I’m feeling pretty good. Not quite my old self? But getting there.

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October 3, 2017 @ 5:12 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

I’m starting to feel better, for real. For the first time in weeks, I felt up to a nature walk with Huck and Rilla. Sure, we only went around the block, but after weeks of radiation fatigue, that felt like a really big deal. We wanted to see if the giant conifers at the end of our block are Douglas firs. They aren’t! But we found one in a neighbor’s yard one block over. And then another, and another. The cones are quite distinctive, with little upward-pointing bracts between the scales. Our pinecone collection is growing. Big excitement for my SoCal chaparral kids.

In one of the firs, we spotted a Northern flicker directly overhead. We watched him until our necks ached, then hurried home because Rilla needed to paint him before she burst. We know flickers pretty well through my parents, who have a nesting box with webcam in their backyard. Wee ugly baby birds every spring—very cool. So it was extra exciting to encounter one in our new neighborhood.

Northern flicker by Rilla

These days I find I dread opening tabs in the morning. The news has been unremittingly awful for so long. I’ve fallen quiet on most of the platforms I used to be chatty on. Facebook and Twitter have become outlets for activism (which annoys some friends, but I can’t help it; I can’t not try). Only on Instagram do I shut all of that out. I worry, sometimes, about sharing happy and peaceful photos over there, or here, when there are so many horrors unfolding everywhere. But I need it, I need that space for celebrating the good. And since Instagram is a stream platform where the feed, hosted and controlled by another entity, scrolls away and could disappear altogether some day, as platforms do, I’m compelled to bring those memories over here too, where I can keep them safe. Thus the repost of the thoughts above, which I shared on IG yesterday.

I find I’m using IG Stories more often, too, to show quick glimpses of our day-in-progress. I got a sweet note from a reader yesterday who mentioned that she appreciated the window into our homeschooling days. I know how she feels; I love those peeks into other households. IG Stories disappear after 24 hours, and although my online urge is always toward preservation and archiving, I like the transitory nature of those photo and video snippets. It feels like sharing just enough, not too much.

I started this post this morning, and now it’s dinnertime and I’ve forgotten where I was going with it. Ah, well. Back to the salt mines. (Rilla got curious about that phrase yesterday and we spent twenty minutes watching videos about actual salt mines. Because of course we did!)

October Announcements

October 1, 2017 @ 2:50 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry


I first encountered Naomi Bulger’s mail art via her enchanting Instagram account. She has sent hundreds and hundreds of gorgeously illustrated letters around the world, and her delightful “Naomi Loves” newsletter often includes free downloadable templates for dressing up your own snail mail. Like this:

This month Naomi is launching an online snail mail e-course called “The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written.” It will focus on both the ins and outs of letter-writing—how (and why) to slow down and make time for snail mail correspondence, and how to dress up your letters so beautifully that just the sight of them will bring a smile to the recipient. The course includes writing prompts, tips for compelling writing, mail art tutorials and templates, and membership in a private mail-art pen-pal club. Lots more information here.

(Contains affiliate links.)


The hardest part of writing the Brave Writer Arrow for Kelly Barnhill’s gorgeous novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon was narrowing it down to just four quotes. What a rich and wonderful book. (It was this year’s Newbery Medal winner!) I’m so enjoying writing the Arrow guides. It’s a pleasure to choose passages from someone else’s work and dive deep into the writing, exploring language and craft. This week I’ll be working on the November issue, Johnny Tremain.

Other Arrow issues I have written:

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

This year’s Arrow guides include a fantastic new feature: Book Club Party School by Mary Hanna Wilson. Personally, I think Mary is a party genius, and I’m always excited to see what fun celebration ideas she comes up with for the books I’m writing about.


Today begins the two-week public nominations period for the 2017 Cybils Awards. Please visit the Cybils blog to find out how to submit your favorite children’s and YA books of the past year for consideration!


Now that I have finished radiation treatments and am slowly beginning to feel a bit more like my old self (for chunks of the day, at least), I’m looking forward to sharing regular weekly posts and monthly live chats with my Patreon subscribers. I began the Patreon to help pay medical bills and to support this dear old blog. If you’re interested in subscribing for $1 or more per month, click here. (And thanks!)

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He holds him with his glittering eye

September 7, 2017 @ 5:55 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Poetry

HMMM, I just realized my Diigo sidebar feed hasn’t been updating. If you like to check in on my Caught My Eye section, I’ve fixed the problem now. You especially shouldn’t miss Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s gorgeous and devastating poem, “The Sun Got All Over Everything.”

“…which seems like something I’d make up in a poem
except this time I actually did it.
I wrote: Grieve. Because we’re all so busy
aren’t we? And so broke.”

Lately it seems like poetry is the one constant in my day. (Well, and nail-biting.) We slid back into high tide about a week ago—albeit a choppy one, since I have to slip away for an hour in the middle of every morning to lie on a table that looks like something out of the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey—and what fits best into the allotted space are poems. Giddy over the thought of a Real Autumn, I turned to the “almanac” section of Favorite Poems Old and New and am working my way through all the seasonally appropriate verses. And then I’m reading “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” a section at a time—I can’t remember what prompted me to reach for it last week, but I’m glad I did because it’s been a big hit. You know it warms the cockles of this mama’s heart to hear her young children actually pleading for me to keep going, just a little more. I mean, of course they love it, it’s a good old-fashioned ghost story. Huck has joined the ranks of those tormented by the question of why the Old Mariner shot the Albatross. Why?

Side note: I had to chuckle over this stanza:

He holds him with his glittering eye— 
The Wedding-Guest stood still, 
And listens like a three years’ child: 
The Mariner hath his will. 

I know Coleridge had a pretty good handle on childhood—“Frost at Midnight” is in my top five favorite poems—but “listens like a three years’ child”? You mean the Wedding-Guest is wiggling and thumping his heels on the floor and interjecting questions into the tale every four seconds?

I remember reading to this three-year-old. It most certainly did not involve any ‘standing still.’


Thank so you much to all of you who have subscribed to my Patreon! I’m two people shy of 50 patrons, which is pretty darned exciting. I’m starting slowly with the special subscriber-only posts (trying to be sensible until radiation fatigue is over), but a new dispatch went out this afternoon. A monthly contribution of $1 or more gets you access to the private patron feed.


August 15, 2017 @ 6:24 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

I’m up early, enjoying the quiet morning light in my studio. The neighborhood crows woke up about the same time I did and immediately jumped on their social networks, which seem as well populated as Facebook and as heated as Twitter. I haven’t dipped into mine yet. Lately I want to preserve the peace of the morning as long as possible. I’ll catch up with the news over breakfast, in an hour or two.

Today is my radiation planning appointment—a dress rehearsal of sorts. They’ll figure out how best to position me in the machine and give me a tiny dot tattoo to mark the zapping spot, a little blue freckle. Or maybe two. I’m amused by the cliché of it all. Move to Portland, get a tattoo. 🙂

Things we have seen growing in our neighbors’ front yards on our daily walks:

• corn, including a thick stand of it along the road across from our nearest park;

• figs, ripening;

• raspberries, lots;

• blackberries, growing wild at the edge of the schoolyard fence;

• plums;

• apples;

• tomatoes in abundance;

• vegetables of all kinds, often in large raised garden beds on the strip of land between sidewalk and street;

• giant Russian thistle, utterly to swoon for;

• countless pollinator plants, thrilling me no end;

• loads of Queen Anne’s lace growing like weeds in the grass and along the verge;

• walnut trees, including two in our next-door neighbor’s yard;

• and all sorts of interesting things.

Yesterday Scott and I had just arrived home from the store when a car pulled over in front of our house and the driver took a picture of it. I got out of our car, and the driver saw me and rolled down her window. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “it’s just that I lived here when I was a little girl!”

Her grandparents were the original owners of the house. She and her mother moved in with them when she was eight years old, 61 years ago, because her mother was dying. After her mother’s death, L. continued living with her grandparents and aunt for another five years. She had lots of stories about her neighbors from that time, including the family who had refused to sell when Fred Meyer bought up a bunch of house lots to build a store on a main road nearby.

Image source

We gave her a tour and she told us all about what the house used to look like before some remodeling was done. Turns out my studio was her childhood bedroom. The spot I’m sitting in right now in my comfy gray chair used to be a doorway. “A glass door that led to my grandmother’s bedroom,” she told me. “The closet is exactly the same.”

The big old tree her bedroom used to look out upon is gone, but many of the neighboring trees are the same—the very same treetops serving as a morning gathering-place for the local crows. From my cozy chair I can hear three or four of them gabbing away, probably telling stories they learned from their grandmothers about the little girl who used to live here sixty years ago.

Sunday, August 13

August 13, 2017 @ 8:23 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry


–I grieved and fumed over Charlottesville;

–We have been in Portland for a month;

–It rained for the first time since we arrived;

–My older girls went to Powell’s (another first);

–I made final tweaks to the September Arrow on Esperanza Rising;

–I finished a chunk of work for one of my other jobs;

–We passed wild blackberries growing through the schoolyard fence on our walk;

–I did my weekly planning and paid bills;

–I watched bees tumbling in and out of oregano blossoms on the hanging basket I assembled; and

–I grieved and fumed over Charlottesville.

august 7: turning the page

August 7, 2017 @ 7:00 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

early bird

The early bird gets breakfast in Mom’s studio…


The calendar says we’ve been here 3 1/2 weeks, but in some ways today feels like the Beginning. A new tide, I guess. The first page of Chapter 1, after an action-packed Prologue. We arrived on July 13th and spent a few days waiting for the moving truck. Then it was a blur of unpacking—surgery—recovery—arrival of my younger kids and my parents—follow-up appointments—recovery, still—a work day in Salem—and finally, the mustering of enough brain power to finish writing the September issue of The Arrow, which I turned in last night.

It sounds overwhelming when I write it out like that, but the truth is, next to my surgery, the recovery time has been the hardest part. I loathed the mental fog brought on by pain meds. I’m not a patient patient.

I hardly knew what to turn to first, this morning. Our readaloud, neglected these past six weeks? The unpacked boxes in the basement? The garden store, for a few of the pollinator plants I require for peace of mind? Eventually, I decided on a walk with the younger kids. The rest of the family has explored a lot more of the new neighborhood than I have. We walked down our long street and across several short blocks and back up the long block a few streets over, and on the third corner of the rectangle we met some neighbors, including this rather fabulously coiffed chick.

Disco Chick

Her name? Is Disco.

After lunch, I retired to my studio to work for a bit. Work feels good right now. I’m at the beginning of some new projects—and you know how beginnings thrill me. And for balance, there are some old, ongoing tasks to take back up—calm, steady work, as comfortable as picking up a scarf you started knitting ages ago.

My sketchbook sat idle for weeks, but I returned to it once or twice last week and am itching to resume the daily habit. Perhaps I’ll do a spell of nature journaling as we get acquainted with all this new flora.


I spent the first hour of my work time making lists.

—A list of clerical chores that need doing (phone calls, insurance paperwork, and so forth);

—A list of houseworky things to do or assign;

—A list of little fun tasks like making labels for the storage drawers in my studio, or setting up research files for the New Project;

—A short list of things we need to get for the new house (chiefly: a vacuum…we had no carpets in the old place!); and

—A list of work-related tasks that need attention this week.

There’s a big juicy High Tide list to be made, too, but that wants more time than the hour I’d allotted for the joys of listmaking. Anyway, High Tide lists are best developed Here in the Bonny Glen. 😉


It stays light so late here!

highlights: week of may 15

May 19, 2017 @ 8:02 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Fun Learning Stuff


Huck, tearing down the hall: WHOOO, I’M ON AUTOPILOT!

Rilla, tenderly: Honey, I turned your autopilot off.


S. got his new hearing aids—big excitement. His old pair were over five years old, and after a while the quality degrades. The new ones have some bells and whistles we’re still getting used to.

I just realized that the next time he’s due for new aids, he’ll be eighteen. Holy cats.


I’m teaching my second class for Brave Writer this month, nearing the end of Week 2. This one is called “Penning the Past” and is about writing historical fiction. And I’m having a ball. My students come up with the best stuff! I’m going to have to raise the bar on my own writing to keep up with their inventiveness.

I’ll be teaching another section of Comic Strip Capers this summer and possibly another one next fall. Registration for the summer section opens June 5th. I’ll share the registration link in the coming weeks.


Readaloud update:

Finn Family Moomintroll is our daily delight. I just about have all the voices down now. I may roll right into Comet in Moominland when this one is done; we’ll see.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond: you know, I don’t think we touched it all week. We kept getting swept along by the Moomins and forgetting to come back to the Puritans.

In part our neglect of history this week is because Rilla and Huck and I got swept into a collaborative Minecraft project. We’re building a fairy tale village. (Photo to come later.) So far, we have Rapunzel’s tower and the Three Little Pigs’ huts. I think today we may begin work on the gingerbread cottage. So much fun. We got the idea from my friend Christy, whose kids made their own Minecraft fairy tale world a while back. I often pull Minecraft into our studies…for example, when we were reading about Jamestown, we found some videos showing Jamestown replicas people have built in the game.


I had more to share but the 9:00 bird just chirped and it’s time for me to live high tide instead of write about it. 😉 I’ll toss this post up now instead of waiting to finish later—because lately it seems like later never comes! Hope you’ve all had a good week.


May 1, 2017 @ 8:01 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, These People Crack Me Up


Beanie’s take on the Romantic poets: “I was into childhood before childhood was cool.”


Have just been informed there are two crane flies in the patio room. Their names are Bert and Arugula.


My kids have been setting up this game of Catan for so long it’s an entirely new generation of settlers from the ones who left the homeland.


—writes funny tweet
—nah, that’s 100% snark, doesn’t further convo
—okay, I’ll just send it to Scott instead
—he asks me to marry him again


Neighbor just rang our bell. Dead crane fly in her hand. “Thought your crew might want a close look!” She gets us.


Huck: Can I get some short jeans?
Me: Short jeans?
Huck: Yeah, like Rilla is wearing.
Me: Ah yes! Jean shorts!


One of the sweet kids whose classroom I visited on Thursday wrote a thank-you note to “Melissa Lively.” Wondering if it’s too late to change my pen name.


Personal aesthetic: buttered toast.


Beanie: You and Rose think in words. Rilla thinks in pictures. I think in colors and sounds. I’m not sure what Jane thinks in. Me: Elvish runes, probably.


I completed a downright lyrical grant application for a wetland restoration project in LA County today, but my proudest accomplishment of the day is photoshopping* a pic of Adam Driver dropping a cup of coffee on the ground.

*very poorly
*not actually in Photoshop
*in Powerpoint, all right? Look, I was busy.


In the car on the way to piano lessons, there’s a heavy sigh from the backseat. Rilla: Sometimes…sometimes I just wish I were a mantis shrimp.