Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Weekly Roundup 27: State Flowers

When I was in Texas in April, the wildflowers were gorgeous. After I got home, I bought seeds for two of the iconic varieties: the poppy and the bluebell. I planted them in pots and awaited my own wildflower superbloom.

Well, it didn't quite turn out that way. The poppies sprouted but then sort of disappeared, and only two of the bluebonnet seeds made it to the flowering stage. But it's better than nothing! 

Last weekend, I saw the last of the spring columbines blooming in the Colorado mountains. 

I realized that I know very little about the state flower program, so I did a quick internet search. 

The first state flower was the coastal rhododendron, adopted by Washington State in 1892. Fifteen thousand women voted for it and started a national trend. But it wasn't made official until 1959.

The columbine has been the Colorado State Flower since 1899, beating the Texas bluebonnet by two years. Oklahoma was the last state to adopt their flower, the Oklahoma rose, in 2004.

Flowers are chosen for their regional significance and are often assigned a virtuous quality such as resilience, serenity, or hospitality. They are as varied as the Arizona saguoro bloom, the Maine white pine cone and tassel, the Nevada sagebrush, and the Delaware peach blossom (sorry, Georgia, they beat you to it).

I would imagine that every governor who signed state flower legislation was happy to do it, as a state flower truly is a beautiful (and hopefully uncontroversial) part of a state's identity.

See a list of the state flowers here.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Weekly Roundup 26: Beach Reads

Odds are slim that I will find myself on a beach this summer, but I still enjoy a beach read. Though everyone has their own preference, my informal survey/internet search indicates that beach reads are usually fiction, either contemporary or historical, and most often fall into the categories of love/romance and crime/mystery. Horror is a distant third, but there are still plenty of readers, me included, who prefer their chills in the summer.

Non-fiction choices span a wide range, from food/lifestyle to history/politics. Memoir makes the list, but some of the most popular non-fiction choices include collections of personal essays, many of them humorous. I can see that. They're short, engaging, cover a variety of topics, and are easy to put down and pick up again without having to remember plot points such as whose great aunt once-removed lived in the groundskeeper's cottage a generation ago. 

Lists notwithstanding, the perfect beach read is one that will keep the reader engaged and invested without making them work too hard. Even grownups who have been out of school forever still don't want their summer books to feel like assignments.

Author Curtis Sittenfeld, who has written seven novels and one short-story collection, has cooked up a fun experiment. Using five reader prompts submitted through The New York Times, she's going to write a 1,000 word "beach read" story. She's also going to feed those prompts into ChatGPT, with the instruction to write a story in her style. 

Fun, yes, but also a little scary because what if AI manages to pull it off? Curtis is rooting for herself--what she calls Team Human--and I am, too. I can't wait to read the finished products later this summer.

Grab a good book, and I'll see you next week!

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Weekly Roundup 25: Mid

You cool kids already know this, but "mid" is a slang term that means mediocre, of low quality, inferior, boring. We've reached the midpoint of 2024, and if the first half of the year felt mid, the internet is full of suggestions for a mid-year reset.

If you have a chunk of time and really want to be intentional about the process, this post from Living In Her Moment has a 12-step life-audit plan. Be prepared to spend some quality time with your journal, evaluate your habits and routines, and tidy up your space.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself for a Mid-Year Reset will also get you thinking about where you've been and where you're going. I particularly like "What is the best thing that has happened to me in each month of this year so far?"

If double-digit tips feel overwhelming, 3 Techniques to Regain Motivation and Move Forward is short and sweet but no less helpful. It addresses some of the science behind our often contradictory behavior around setting goals and taking action.

The internet being what it is, there are thousands of books, articles, podcasts, and videos addressing this particular time of year when we might feel at once stuck and re-energized. I had to be careful not to fall down that rabbit hole, because I might not resurface for a week. (It's kind of funny how reading about productivity feels productive in a way.)

I sometimes get frustrated and ask myself how many times I'm going to hit the reset button. I guess the answer is "as many times as it takes."

Welcome to July! I hope the month is fruitful for you!