Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Red Badge of Courage

A friend of mine shared this and I have to pass along the favor.  A warning here, it is about what it says - PERIODS.  The only offensive thing here is the use of a Dora the Explorer doll as a prop by a twelve year old. Because really, if this is sleep away camp and the girls are twelve, who the hell invited Dora?

*And YES, this is real thing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday Tunes - Summer Session Part 2

This week's series showcases the magic that is Prescott Park.  Last week, in sweltering heat, there was an incredible turn out for Carolina Chocolate Drops, a relatively new band.  Tomorrow, in spite of a rainy forecast, I'm sure there will be an enormous turnout for these two well known musicians.  Make it down if you can!

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Why Shouldn't We

Mark Cohn - The Things We'e Handed Down

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hopping Right Along

Just a photo-heavy post here to chronicle our summer.  We've been spending most of it in our backyard but we're planning to hit the beaches soon.  In the meantime, we've been making the most of the woods behind us, the tent in the backyard, the fire pit and of course, the hose.  Summer in Maine is pretty perfect. Even during the heat waves with record humidity. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On The Stand

This is a confessional blog post.  I'm making myself accountable via the Internet. The confession?  I have a slight addiction to library books.  The library is an incredible free resource, but it's not when you keep racking up late fees because you take out more books than you can read.

I often make a list of books I'd like to read during the week, and then on my weekly solo Saturday excursion I get what is on my list.  Our library is small, but full of excellent titles, DVDs, magazines and lots of the newest titles.  The other thing they do - they display.  They display well!  Which is how they get me.  I can't resist the bookshelf that so casually flaunts all the new fiction and non-fiction. There are books here that aren't on my list, but should be!  I feel compelled to bring them with me, as if leaving them on the shelf is condemning them.  As though they will never have their "Date Due" slip stamped and will be mocked by the other books as unreadable.  No,I will not allow that to happen on my library trip.

Thing is, they don't end up getting fully read at my house.  They wind up in a pile on my nightstand and I open each one and read some of each one, but I don't always end up finishing them.  So, my new resolution is this.  I'm allowing myself to borrow one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time. My hope is that I will manage to finish both books in a reasonable amount of time.  This new plan kicks into action this weekend, so today I thought I'd share the view on my nightstand now.  Which doesn't look like too much at first, but when I list it out, it feels like a lot, and I've been dedicating at least an hour to reading every day this week and I'm still only halfway through the most engrossing read.  Time management, you are my nemesis!

This is a small stack for me.

Kindle Books*

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

I cannot stop reading this!  I've actually put down everything else in order to finish this before my loan expires.  It's not the best read, it's a basic account of her search for herself after her mother's death and the end of her marriage change her identity. It's full of some self-congratulating and self-loathing that can get repetitive.  But the overall story is captivating and the sheer fact that Cheryl was willing to take off into the wilderness on her own, without much (any) training and little preparation adds an element of suspense that is often hard to find in a memoir.

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

This book pulled me in from the first page.  The narrator's voice, Oskar, is incredibly engrossing. There are chapters told from other points of view which are enjoyable, but when I turn the page and hear Oskar's voice again, I'm reassured and happy to be reunited with him for the next leg in the journey.  

Hardcover Books On The Stand

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

I've borrowed this book for the obvious purpose of learning to become a better writer.  The best thing about this book is how King talks to the reader like an everyday person. Because really he is too, he just happens to have found his passion and honed his craft over years of practice.  He talks about his journey to success and his journey to find his voice as a writer.  I think it's clear from a young age that he was destined to share stories with the world, but the way he learns to make that a reality and his willingness to share that with us make this a read worth anyone's time.  Writer or not.

Marriage can be a real killer. 
      On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 
   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

I'm feeling very conflicted about this book. I feel like I'm on a roller coaster, but not in the fun, zig zag way but the part where I'm going up the long hill and can hear the clink-clink-clink of the chain hauling the cart up, but I can't see the drop yet and I'm starting to wonder if it's there.  Most of the reviews I've heard from friends and other library patrons have been mixed.  I'm about 200 pages in now and still can't decide if I should see it through to the end.  The premise is very intriguing and I love a good mystery as long as it's not too creepy or filled with gore and this book meets both of my requirements.  However, it's just slow. There's no nice way to say's just plodding along.  I'm reserving judgement until I finish it, if I do.  I'm hopeful that I will though because there has to be a twist that makes me feel like racing down the hill with my arms above my head, screaming.  No pressure Gillian Flynn. 

Intention is generally viewed as a pit-bull kind of determination propelling one to succeed at all costs by never giving up on an inner picture. In this view, an attitude that combines hard work with an indefatigable drive toward excellence is the way to succeed. However, intention is viewed very differently in this book. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer has researched intention as a force in the universe that allows the act of creation to take place. This book explores intention—not as something you do—but as an energy you’re a part of. We’re all intended here through the invisible power of intention. This is the first book to look at intention as a field of energy that you can access to begin co-creating your life with the power of intention.

I'm not sure what to tell you about this.  I'm reading a lot of self-help books these days and this is the current one.  I read them with an open, yet cautious mind.  I don't rule things out arbitrarily but at the same time, there has to be some take away that I feel fits my life and connects with my goals.  So I plan to finish this one as well and see where I feel afterwards.  I think it's very easy to get swept up into the hopefulness that many self-help books offer in their first few chapters.  It's harder to actually get through all of the information and then put it into practice, so we'll see how this pans out.  This is basically like my assigned reading and it comes with homework.  In summer no less.

*All of the italicized summaries are thanks to Without Amazon I wouldn't have discovered that the world of library books expands to the internet.  Ohh, my sweet, sweet Kindle.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday Tunes - Summer Session Part 1

One of the best things about living where we do is our proximity to great music.  Each summer the Prescott Parks Arts Festival  presents a wonderful mix of new and familiar artists to the seacoast.  Every Wednesday night you can head down here, sit by the water, and see a great show for about $5. (Donations are appreciated but there isn't a set fee for the concerts)  *It's not always this crowded, but even when it is there is a large yard to the right of this scene and the left.  Don't be deceived by internet pictures.

While you're waiting for the show to start you can walk around the gardens, which are absolutely stunning.  You can also visit a number of cute retail shops within walking distance, and you can walk to some great eateries and bring your dinner back to the park.  It's a perfect way to spend a summer evening, especially in the middle of the week.

This week, Prescott Park welcomes the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  They debuted on Nonesuch records (Wilco connection = instant appeal in my book) in 2010 and were nominated for a Grammy last year. They have an old style sound that is completely original.  Which I realize may sound like an impossibility, but take a listen yourself.  It's a very beautiful blend of jazz and folk that will pull you in. I promise.  If you aren't sure, do yourself two favors; 1) Watch all three of the videos below.  2) If you're local, go to Prescott Park tomorrow night and see them live.  You're welcome!  (Also, the lead singer's name is Rhiannon.  Seriously. How much do I love that?  And, they get bonus points because their bassist is named Leyla.  Which I'm assuming is pronounced the same as mine, because it's an awesome name and it'd be foolish to say it any other way.)

Country Girl

Snowden's Jig

Hit 'Em Up Style

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Seated Meditation

A friend once told me that knitting was her form of meditation.  I found it an odd comment at the time because my lack of skill left me feeling frustrated and annoyed while knitting.  I threw knitting needles back into the bag with a hopeless sigh, I tore out countless rows when an error was discovered too late, and I misread patterns that left me lost in a sea of unfamiliar terms and abbreviations. After some, ok lots, of practice, I've learned how to knit in that fluid way that is at once both mindless and mindful of the present moment.  It really is a form of meditation and deep relaxation. I can knit in the dark, I can knit while having a conversation, I can knit without looking at my work and let my mind relax and wander.  I understand what my friend was saying.

There is a unique kind of joy that can only come from creating something beautiful with your own two hands. Whatever medium used to create doesn't matter, just the fact that you are creating is worthy of your time, energy, and love. I tried to learn how to knit many times before it finally stuck.  I'm not sure what it was that prevented me from grasping the concept initially but something finally clicked during my second pregnancy.  I found myself less frustrated as I held the needles and lined up the yarn, and more determined.  I just plodded along, slowly.  So, very slowly and over time  I understood how a series of loops became something beautiful.  I had found my craft of choice.

Fast forward some years, and I've gone from being a solitary knitter to having a community of my dearest friends who share in this craft and love it the way I do.  Some even more devoutly than I do.  We get together every couple of weeks, sometimes more often, sometimes less, as our families and life dictate.  But every time we gather to knit and visit, a sort of calm settles in the room and conversations just flow right along with the rhythm of the needles clinking.  It might just be the common nature of close friends who are together and can relax, it may not be thanks to the needles and yarn, but without them, we wouldn't have this regular date and without that, we wouldn't have this special niche of a community.

I haven't been able to go to knitting night for a while.  Mostly due to my anxiety (which I will devote more posts to later, to help give context to this and other entries).  This past Thursday I decided to give myself a push and try.  It wasn't easy.  I debated going the entire day, and even up until ten minutes before I left the house.  It had nothing to do with my friends, the location, or knitting at all.
It is solely a function of my neurosis at the moment and the inner argument that is constantly going on in my mind.  This near constant "pit in the stomach" feeling that seems to follow me everywhere.

I decided that I would drive to our lovely hostesses's house and if I felt too anxious I could always turn around and come home. I had a plan, which is a huge help for me and I felt confident about seeing this through.  Here's the thing with that plan when you live where we do though - "driving over" equals at least twenty minutes, sometimes up to forty.  When I've made that investment in gas, time, and left my kids, I feel more compelled to follow through.  I suppose this is a good thing in the long run, and maybe it'll even help me overcome aspects of my disorder, but it has a catch too.  It leaves me with another decision to make, and I do not handle decisions well these days.

I sat in my car at the end of the driveway for a good ten minutes before getting up the courage to walk in. And this is where the irony of anxiety comes in - I felt like I couldn't be there, like I shouldn't be there, that something bad was going to happen to me, that I was going to get sick or embarrass myself only because I was thinking it.  Once I walked in and got settled, I was fine.  I had about thirty minutes of awkwardness at first, and again it was all in my head.  Again.  I pushed past the nerves, I pushed past my inner fear and made myself stay. I'm so thankful I did.

The time passed too quickly.  I found myself looking at the clock in disbelief when it read 12:30.  How had it gotten so late?  I just got here!  I finished one project that had been looming in my knitting bag for over a month and I dug into a second with furry.  I laughed at my friend's jokes and stories.  I made jokes and people laughed at them.  I listened, I shared, I smiled, I felt safe, I had fun, and I remembered how lucky I am to be here.  To have these friends, to have this life, to enjoy it.  It's too easy to forget that when battling this inner voice that has been turned up to high lately.  These friends drowned out that voice for hours and helped me feel like myself for an evening. I'm lucky. I'm really lucky.

"The rhythmic repetitive movements of knitting are important - quite how, we're not absolutely certain of yet, but we have our theories. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that they induce a form of meditation very similar to Mindfulness. Recent research has shown that Mindfulness can be very effective in treating depression and chronic pain. It can also help those who are fit and healthy to combat stress and to manage life's downs. It helps you to put into perspective any traumatic issues that would normally dominate your waking thoughts helping you to find a stable balance between problematic events and feelings and more positive, pleasant sensations within the current moment. It's a state of mind where you're not mulling over the past or fretting about the future."  
 Courtesy of  Knitonthenet 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm So Vain, I Think This Blog Is About Me

I'm in a standoff.  On one side, my shoulder length hair that I've waited ages for. The other, my short hair that I've had for the majority of the last six years.  Two hairstyles will enter, one will leave.  Or win.  My hair will look different or stay the same. That line really didn't work did it?  Anyway, this is the fun decision I'm troubling myself with lately.  Should I cut my hair short again or not?

It comes down to a pros and cons list for each and I can't see a clear winner. So I've done the most logical thing and turned to the internet for help. That's where you, my readers, come in. I present the following for your consideration. I cannot figure out how to put a poll in here at the moment, so if you'd like to vote please leave a comment here or on FB. There are three categories:

1) Short
2) Long(ish)
3) Write About Something Else, This Is BORING!
(If you choose this option please leave a topic that you'd like me to write about. Like Feeding Three Ridiculously Hungry Children Multiple Times A Day, or  Internet Anonymity and Its Effect on our Social Construct, or How To Knit Something Awesome!)

Circa 2010 - My first true Pixie Cut                                               Tonight - Wavy Bob in bad lighting

 Long(ish) Hair

  • I've been growing it out since August of '11.  That's a long time in the universe of  "My Hair". I've had a few trims but haven't taken any major length off until last week when I chopped off an inch. That said, it was just down to my the very tops of my shoulders.  My hair grows very, very slowly.
  • The waves.  I have NO idea where these waves came from but I'm in love with them.  My hair is kind of fun now.  It doesn't just lay there, it's not limp and straight but has a little volume.
  • I've worked hard for this, did I mention that?  Read - I've resisted the temptation to cut for two years! I haven't really had to do any work but I've had to fight the urge to pick up the scissors.  It's a big temptation.
  • I can DO more with long hair.  The thing is, I don't really go anywhere or do anything that requires me to do stuff with my hair.  More to the point, I don't have the time or patience to do stuff to my hair.  I hate blow drying, it doesn't hold a curl with a curling iron, it's very fine so braids rarely stay in place.  I end up wearing it in a ponytail about 99% of the time.  The ponytail also causes a lot of damage to my hair.  Lots of broken hair, lots of damage that makes it look tired and unloved.

Short Hair

  • It's fun.  That's really all there is to it.  It's fun and I like having a "style" once I get out of the shower that doesn't involve a lot of work.
  • Catch - Maintenance.  The nice thing about having hair that takes forever to grow out is that I don't have to get it trimmed quite as often. But it still has to be done, and that's money and time.  Two things many of us are in short supply of.
  • Haircut Hunting - Thanks to the beauty that is Pinterest I've created an entire board dedicated to solving this dilemma.  I'm not sure how productive this is, but it is a lot fun, which is good enough for me.
  • Badass.  I've always seen women who rock a short do as total badasses.  A short hair cut takes some courage. There's an element of confidence that is just inherent in wearing your hair short and I covet that. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tuesday Tunes - Running Edition

This is my current running playlist -  Full Disclosure - I haven't actually run in two weeks, thanks mostly to the nonstop rain we had which was followed immediately by heat and humidity.  Boo!  I'm hoping to get back out this week though.  This week is already much cooler than last week so I'm hopeful.  In the meantime, all of these songs are fun and keep me moving when I have to get back home.  I start off strong and then tend to lose momentum. But, the brilliance of running outside is, that if I run a mile from home I have to turn back and run another mile back, or at least walk it. This music helps keep me moving at a respectable pace and it makes the miles go by much faster than silence.  So, my playlist is kind of like my running buddy, it keeps me company, motivates me and makes sure I get back a good run in.  My personal trainer lives in my iPod.

Michael Franti - I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like)

Pink  -  True Love

Passion Pit - Little Secrets

Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis - Can't Hold Us 

Ellie Goulding - Anything Could Happen

Daft Punk - Get Lucky

White Lies - There Goes Our Love Again

Capital Cities - Safe & Sound

Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines

Grouplove  - Ways To Go

Enrique Iglesias - I Like It

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Mimic

Like most moms with more than one kid, I thought I had things pretty well figured out by the time our third came along.  I'd already been through the newborn, infant and toddler stages.  Twice.  With boys.  A little girl? I've got this shit handled.  Then I met my little girl.  My sweet, wonderful, fearless, brazen, wild, lovable little girl.  Ohhh universe!  This one should have come with a manual, or at least a warning label.  The following are a few examples of what life with Syda is like these days.  Just in case the pic below leaves you guessing.

She reached for a roll of paper towels still in the wrapper.  I attempted to take them from her.  Mama Mistake #1.

"Syda, let me have the paper towels."

"No, it's toilet paper.  It's mine."
"Those are paper towels and they need to go back."
"They mine. They go with me"
"Syd, they go in the closet."
"They are mine.  I be gentle.  I hold it like a baby."  (read: "Really mom, I can handle this.  Back off would you.  I'm almost four.  Seriously.)

She started to saunter off cradling her paper towel baby, as if the promise her gentleness was all I needed to hear.  The resulting flood of crocodile tears when I did put the paper towels back was impressive. On the plus side, this is going to make shopping for her birthday present so easy and cheap! Maybe I can get a case at BJs for her, you know, really go for it.  I'll have to see if I can find a case where each roll is individually wrapped.

She stole my seat on the couch. I know, I know. You're thinking, really?  Who's the preschooler here?  But I had my knitting set up on one side of the couch and moving it while Syda is on the couch usually results in knitting casualties. It's easier to move her than try to keep a long string of yarn from being attacked as she sticks her legs out, grabs the yarn, lays on the knitting get the idea.  I gently made the suggestion that we switch back to our original places.

"Syda, do you want to sit on this side?"
"Do you wan go bed?"

(read: "Do you need a timeout mama?")  Wan = Want    Almost-Four-Year olds get more bang for their buck when they leave off final consonants. It's a truly evil combination of snarkiness and cuteness.  It renders this parent defenseless.

Her response was said in a very Mama voice.  It's one of those times that all parents know.  If you don't know it yet, it's only because your BABY is too young to mirror your words yet.  Wait for it, it's coming.  I promise you.  I'll give you a brief walk through though, so you'll be prepared.

Your child says some phrase that you've said sometime in her life.
Usually, a phrase that is repeated and is not your proudest moment of parenthood.  Some examples would be:

"Where are my damn keys?"
"Can I pee ALONE please?"
"You're hungry again?!"

This little voice pops out of nowhere and suddenly you can feel the hairs on the back on your neck go up. She's not singing Old MacDonald anymore, she's reenacting your worst parenting moments, and she's a very convincing actress.  If kids could have their own Oscars this category, Humiliating Mama Mimickry, would be the equivalent of the Best Picture and my daughter would have a shelf full of them on display in the living room.