Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Weekly Roundup 15: The Broken Precious Things

Recently, my sister and I were sorting through a couple of large boxes of Christmas decorations, one from our grandmother's house and one from our mother's. In our grandmother's box, we found a smaller box containing a nativity scene that had definitely seen better days:

We rolled our eyes a bit and laughed about it, calling it Nativity Apocalypse and wondering why anyone would have kept it for all these many years. Then I turned one of the figurines over and saw the word "Germany" stamped on the bottom.

My maternal grandfather's family was from Germany, and it was easy to imagine that at one time, this set had been very precious to them. Taken out every Christmas and lovingly packed away after. Maybe as a child my grandfather had looked at it under candlelight and felt a sense of holiday wonder. 

I don't know how the set got broken, only that it sat, completely forgotten for decades, in my mother's storage shed. But at one time, someone thought maybe they could fix it, that it meant enough to try.

We humans have such interesting relationships to our possessions. Sometimes, we throw them away too soon when they deserve a second chance. Other times, we hang on too long when they have outlived their worth. 

I have lone earrings whose partners have disappeared, clothes I like the look of but not the fit, a favorite cracked tea mug. I don't know if it's sentimentality or a sense of responsibility that compels me, but I'm trying to be more selective about what I allow to take up physical and emotional space in my life.

It's a work in progress, but I'm getting better at it. Even without reading Marie Kondo. (Which I still mean to do someday.)

Have a great week!


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Weekly Roundup 14: For Memory's Sake

Hello there, and sorry for the late post. The week has gotten away from me!

Not that many years ago, I had a lot of information committed to memory. Names, phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, passwords. Now, I have technology for that. Like everyone, I store lots of information in my phone. While I still remember my childhood best friend's phone number and address, I sometimes struggle recalling which three items I need from the grocery store. 

One day I wondered if I could memorize a poem, something I haven't done since junior high school. It sounded like a fun challenge, so I chose one I like--For C.W.B., by Elizabeth Bishop--and set about committing it to memory.

And, wow. Starting out was much harder than I anticipated, to the point where I got a little concerned and wondered if I had ignored my memory for too long.

I told myself, well, I don't write poetry. Maybe that's part of the problem. My brain just isn't used to thinking that way. But I kept at it, at an embarrassingly slow pace, and now I have the first two stanzas down. 

What's more, I'm discovering an unanticipated benefit: when my thoughts are stressed or anxious (which happens more than I care to admit) mentally returning to the lines of the poem helps me focus and find a bit of calm. If I'm awake in the night, I can sometimes recite myself back to sleep. 

This is no great discovery on my part--humans have been doing this for millennia--but I still appreciate how grounding it feels. Instead of looking at or listening to an app on my phone, I can turn to these words written in 1929 by a woman who would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Oh, and April is National Poetry Month, so if you'd like to memorize a poem, it's the perfect time to start/

See you next week!



Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Weekly Roundup 13: Eclipsed


In 2017, which seems like half a lifetime ago considering everything that has happened since, I made the trek north to Wyoming in order to be in the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse. From a hilltop in a historic mining village called Sunrise, we had clear skies and a perfect view of the solar show overhead. (The traffic after was apocalyptic, however, as the sleepy two lane roads were in no way suited for hundreds of thousands of visitors, but that's another story.)

Nearly seven years later, we took a much longer road trip to Georgetown, Texas for the 2024 solar eclipse this past Monday, April 8. We chose Texas for its high probability of sunny skies and booked our vacation rental a year in advance. We had our eclipse glasses and eclipse binoculars. We were ready.

A week beforehand, the weather was not looking good. Cloud cover predicted at 80%, a chance of rain, and the possibility of "damaging" hail. Still feeling hopeful, we packed up the car and made the two day drive south. Because what else can you do but hope for the best?

On eclipse day, we made a slight adjustment in plans based on the cloud forecast. As we drove to our destination, I couldn't help but think about how the eclipse itself was a sure thing. Thanks to the knowledge of our solar system gleaned over centuries, this cosmic event could be predicted down to the second with one hundred percent certainty. There was no guessing about where and when it would happen. And yet we humans down below were dealing with much uncertainty.

I'm happy to say that the cloud cover, which had been playing peek-a-boo with the sun all morning, broke just in time to allow us a view of the sun completely eclipsed by the moon. During the four minutes of totality, we saw the skies darken and felt the air cool. We heard roosters crowing from a distance. We were able to observe the eclipse phenomena of Baily's Beads and the Diamond Ring.

In other words, we were very lucky.

And the overwhelming traffic that was expected didn't materialize, perhaps because the weather forecast kept some people away. 

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to observe this awesome event twice in the last ten years, especially because I've been able to share the experience of true wonderment with very special people. 

Be well, friends! Oh, and in the spirit of eclipse week, here's a picture of my space-themed tiny garden:

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Weekly Roundup 12: Looking, Not Cooking

One of my favorite things to do is check out cookbooks from the library and look through them without actually preparing any of the recipes. Kind of like an old school version of scrolling through Instagram, I suppose, with the added benefit of no targeted advertising.

I picked up The Feast of Fiction Kitchen; Recipes Inspired by TV, Movies, Games & Books by Jimmy Wong and Ashley Adams on my last library run. Feast of Fiction started as a YouTube channel, which, judging by the recipes in the book, must be very fun. (I'm almost embarrassed to say it has 180 million viewers, but this is the first I've heard of it.)

If you've ever wanted to bake up your own Harry Potter Pumpkin Pasties, Breaking Bad Chicken and Meth Cupcakes (note: not actual meth), or Game of Thrones Direwolf Shortbread, these people have you covered. I wish my culinary skills were up to the task, but I'm definitely "baking fail" material.

Speaking of baking fails, check out this King Arthur Flour April Fool's fail blog post. Yes, even professionals occasionally make a giant mess of things.

And while we're on the topic of April Fool's Day...let it be known that this "holiday" is not my favorite. I think I have a pretty good sense of humor, but pranking people seems more mean than funny to me. But these April Fool's food pranks made me laugh. Old Bay Body Scrub, anyone?

Happy April!