Wednesday, August 31, 2022

It's Grow Time

Well, well, look who remembered she has a blog!

(Awkward silence.)

Me. I remembered.

Actually, I never forgot, but you wouldn't know that because I have been AWOL all summer. And part of the spring before that. And here are my reasons:

1.

2.

3.

You get the picture. No good reasons.

Anyway, I thought I'd check in and let you know how my year of growing is going. So, you know how sometimes you can plant a seed and nothing happens for weeks and weeks, and you finally end up throwing away the cup of dirt that's been sitting on your windowsill? It's not quite that bad. I've had some fun, my cherry tomatoes and zucchini are holding their own in the garden, I've read books I've enjoyed and a couple I didn't really care for. I've written short fiction and watched The Sandman. I've gone to work and gone on walks and gone to bed at a reasonable hour most nights. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I broke one toe and maybe another.

Here's what I haven't done:

1. Sold books

2. Started the first draft of my next novel

Yes, those things are VIPs (very important projects) yet somehow I've put them off for months. If you find yourself in a similar boat on this last day of the last full month of summer in the northern hemisphere, join me in leaning into the September vibe. Gear up with some fresh school supplies and a renewed commitment to your labors of love. Restock the tea cupboard and have some dark chocolate on hand, because it's time to get back to work! 




Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Way to Grow, April Edition


Hello, friends! April is National Lawn and Garden month. In Colorado, it's still a bit early for planting most garden-y things, but there are plenty of other ways to grow between now and May.

The Blogging from A to Z Challenge: If you're doing it, great. If you're not, it's still a fun way to meet new bloggers and expand your blog's reach.

National Poetry Month: Poets are to words what composers are to music. They reveal so much of what makes us human, they evoke emotion, teach, commiserate, celebrate. Read some poems, write some poems. (You don't have to show them to anyone.)

Jazz Appreciation Month: Jazz is such an amazing blend of music and history. It is a very broad genre, stylistically and geographically, with something for everyone, even people who say they don't like jazz. It's also excellent writing music.

National Humor Month: Laughter is good for our bodies and our mental health. Stop by your library or bookstore and pick up something by your favorite funny writer. And for children, check out these resources from the Certified Laughter Reader Literacy Program.

National Afternoon Tea Month: Do you know what goes great with tea? Books! Do you know what goes great with books? Tea! It's a win-win!


World Autism Awareness Month: In the past few years, neurodivergent stories, characters, and authors have found much wider distribution in the book world, which is wonderful and overdue. (Hah, a little library humor for you.) The Seattle Public Library has put together this list, Scary Mommy has these suggested reads, and a quick internet search will return many more.

If these suggestions for April don't inspire you, keep digging (it's National Safe Digging Month!). Pecans, soft pretzels, celery, guitars, canine fitness. April has something for everyone.

Stay safe and well. See you soon!


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Mine vs. Theirs

Hello there! Spring has sprung in Northern Colorado, which means the weather swings wildly between winter and summer and every day seems to be windy. I'm starting to think about my garden, but conventional wisdom advises against planting before the second Sunday in May (Mother's Day), as we might still have freezing temperatures and/or a foot of snow.

My Chinese Lantern sprouts are holding their own...kind of. It's too cold to put them outside, and although my kitchen is pretty sunny, it's not quite the same. So they're looking a little wimpy:


In the mean time, I came across an online plant supplier that actually sells Chinese Lanterns. So I ordered one. You know, as a Plan B of sorts. And here it is:


Hmmm. It really puts my little seedlings to shame, doesn't it? If I were to plant them as is, we all know which one we'd bet on. Yep, the one formerly known as Plan B.

This has got me thinking about how comparing our efforts to someone else's can make us feel lousy. Am I a professional seed sprouter or plant propagator? I am not. Did I do the best with what I had? I did. Is there always going to be someone else who is bigger/better/more successful than I? Why, yes. Yes there is. 

We tell kids all the time, "just do your best." But adults also need to remember that it's better to make a good effort, even if the end result isn't what you'd hoped, than do nothing. At least you tried and maybe even learned something in the process. 

I'm not giving up on my sprouts, but honestly, I'm grateful for the company that grew this plant bigger and better than I could. And I'm looking forward to helping it thrive in my yard once spring arrives for real.


Friday, March 4, 2022

The Lessons of History


We're coming to the end of my local university's Holocaust Awareness Week, and Wednesday night I had the distinct honor of attending a presentation given by survivor Oscar Sladek. Mr. Sladek escaped the Nazi roundups in Czechoslovakia (though much of his family did not) and is a seemingly-tireless speaker and advocate. He's 86 years old, and though I hope he has many more years ahead of him, the day will come when the voices of the Holocaust survivors are heard no more. If you have a chance, please go and listen to the people who have lived so much history and are willing to share it.

I'm also reading The Choice, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. She survived imprisonment in Auschwitz and after a great deal of healing and forgiveness went on to help many others through her practice in clinical psychology. It is harrowing and beautifully written, and though I'm only about a third of the way in, I know it will be unforgettable.



The Holocaust was a time marked by astonishing human cruelty but also courage and hope and resilience. The world is still a complicated place where some people--I'm looking at you, Putin--feel they have the right to choke the destiny of others in a stranglehold. I will not pretend to be an expert in geopolitical affairs or history, and the injustice in the world is at times overwhelming. But this simple advice is pretty sound: Be good. Be kind. Be tolerant. Smile often. And when things go sideways, as they are wont to do, help when and how you can.

Be well, my friends.



 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Word Love

Love is in the air this week, so I want to give a nod to all the logophiles out there, the word lovers, sometimes known as word nerds. 

I don't claim to have the world's most expansive vocabulary. In fact, I've been known to forget the meaning of a word moments after looking it up. (I also experience lethologica, the it's-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue inability to remember the right word, more often than I'd like.) 

When asked the impossible question of what is my favorite book, I have occasionally answered, "the dictionary," which sounds too sassy and/or too snobby. But I genuinely enjoy spending way too much time leafing through a dictionary, on a scavenger hunt for fabulous words.

Here are two other word books I'm enjoying right now:

Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition, by Ben Schott (2013)

I don't speak German, but I love that their words are often famously long and almost poetic in their translations. Take, for example, Winterstrumwonnemondwende, (winter-storm-bliss-moon-turning), which means delight at the changing of the seasons. Or Schwiegermutterkurvenlanghals (mother-in-law-bend-long-neck), which means the morbid urge to slow down and stare at a road accident. With plenty of annotations, this book is a fun read even for those of us who don't speak the language.

Author John Koenig begins The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (2021) with this quote from comedian Steven Wright: 

I read the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.

The book, Koenig writes, is "a compendium of new words for emotions." All the words are either resurrected and repurposed, or coined for the sake of helping "translate" emotion. The dictionary is divided into six chapters with evocative titles such as Between Living and Dreaming, and Boats Against the Current.

Perhaps you have experienced pax latrina (the meditative atmosphere of being alone in a bathroom) or have felt tillid (humbled by how readily you place your life into the hands of random strangers). When I'm caught by the afore-mentioned lethologica, I never knew that I was feeling pithered (frustrated that you can't force yourself to remember something).

The words are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes profound. I understand why The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a New York Times bestseller. Give the book a look or visit the website to find yourself some new favorite words. You won't be disappointed, fellow word nerds!


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

February Seed Update

 Guess what, friends? I have sprouts!




Only three so far, and they're still tiny. But seeing them reminds me that spring will come eventually. And that makes today's weather a little easier to handle.


As we ease into February, I'm also thinking of ways to grow better habits. Google, of course, has hundreds of suggestions, but this one caught my eye:

Plan your day the night before

I don't often do this unless I have an unusually big day ahead. But planning the ordinary days is just as important. It's so easy for me to lose a sense of accountability when the daily stakes feel small. So, planning my day the night before is my #GrowGoal for February!

Have a wonderful week, and thanks for all good the seed-sprouting vibes!



 


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Germination


When I was a kid, we had a few Chinese/Japanese lantern bushes lining the path along the side of the house. I loved how the puffy green seed pods turned orange in the fall and looked like glowing lanterns. Every few years, I think about getting one of these plants for my current house, but I can never find one in a local greenhouse. 

Lacking an established plant, I've tried starting them from seed. Usually, I can get most any variety of seed to sprout. It might not do too much after that, but I've at least seen it poke out its tiny green head. But these lantern seeds are stub-born. I've tried them in the ground, in pots, in wet paper towels, and...nothing. (I'm beginning to understand why greenhouses don't carry them.)

Because 2022 is my year to grow, I'm trying again. I found new instructions that suggested refrigerating the seeds for 6 weeks. I did that, and on January 1st I planted them in a little pot. Here's what it looks like:


Not very inspiring! But it reminds me that before growth happens, germination must occur. And that part of the process can require patience and persistence. Sometimes, we have to start over and over again before we make any progress at all. And that's just the way things are, in seeds, in writing, in life.

Send my seeds some good growing vibes, and hopefully I'll have some sprout pictures to share one of these days!