Today, my Dad would have turned 101 years old! He’s been gone for 27 years now, but I cherish my very special memories of him. They keep him close to me every day. The last time we drove past our old family home (pre-pandemic), his rose garden was flourishing! It warmed my heart to see his beloved roses in bloom, still gracing the old neighborhood with their beauty.
My reading in April really dropped off, due to some happy busy-ness. Reading time was given over to Spring garden projects, a visit from our daughter for the first time in most of a year, and the call to be outdoors by the return of very pleasant weather.
I was able to finish two books in April. The first one was Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell, (which I loved). The second one was The Consequences of Fear, by Jacqueline Winspear, (a fun addition to her Maisie Dobbs series). I also made a little more progress in my long-term project of reading The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a book that is both painful and fascinating to read.
I must confess that not spending so much time reading during the day was delightful. It is simply wonderful to be outside in the sunshine after the long gray days of rainy winter/early spring in the Pacific Northwest.
Byron and I met 52 years ago today. I cherish these 52 years of silliness and humor!
The word I chose to guide me through the year 2021 is CHERISH. I am keeping this word ever present in my mind, every day, and I thought I’d start sharing with you some of the people and daily kinds of things I am cherishing right now.
I was so happy to welcome this January and this new year! After all the difficulties of 2020, how nice to have a “new beginning”! And the month was filled with LIFE.
Weather-wise, January started with unusually warm weather and all our bulbs thought Spring had arrived. Mid-month, we had a week of major rainstorms with flooding and the closing of many streets in the area, and with water in our basement (110-year-old home with a leaky foundation). After the rains and the flooding subsided, we had a storm that dumped a couple of inches of snow on us! It didn’t stick around very long, however, with the temperatures warming back up to 39-40 degrees during the day, but we enjoyed it while we could.
Hubby and I were able to get our first dose of the Covid vaccine (Moderna). Hubby has some health issues that put him into the first phase, and because of that, I was also able to get my first dose. We are now anxiously waiting to make appointments for our second dose. So far, we haven’t been able to do that. Yikes!
My reading this month was both productive and enjoyable. Productive in that I focused on reading more books from my Classics Club list. I have now read 45 out of the 50 books I planned on reading for my 5-year period of time. My favorite reads this month were from that list: The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim; The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame; and Most Secret, by Nevil Shute. Another favorite was the audiobook of Stacy Abrams’ book, Our Time is Now. I will be reviewing that one soon.
I am really looking forward to my February reading! Because it is Black History Month, I’ve decided that my focus will be to choose from the wealth of excellent books by black authors– from classics to modern fiction to non-fiction to books for young people! I have so many good books already waiting for me!
Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting, and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.
I have had this book on my shelf for ages. But as I move into the years she wrote about, her seventies and eighties, I decided to finally read Florida Scott-Maxwell’s, The Measure of My Days. It’s a quiet book, with many thoughts about her daily life, about aging, and about death. I do not live alone at this point, but I am touched by her thoughts on aging and being alone, and think of my mother and how she handled those years. I see them coming ahead of me, sooner than I would like, and look for guidance and wisdom to help me along. And she most definitely has wisdom and guidance to share with me! Here are a few examples of some of her thoughts that resonated with me…
I wonder if living alone makes one more alive. No precious energy goes in disagreement or compromise. No need to augment others, there is just yourself, just truth—a morsel—and you. You went through those long years when it was pain to be alone, now you have come out on the good side of that severe discipline. Alone you have your own way all day long, and you become very natural. Perhaps this naturalness extends into heights and depths, going further than we know; as we cannot voice it we must just treasure it as the life that enriches our days.
It is not easy to be sure that being yourself is worth the trouble, but we do know it is our sacred duty.
The crucial task of age is balance, a veritable tightrope of balance; keeping just well enough, just brave enough, just gay and interested and starkly honest enough to remain a sentient human being.
When a new disability arrives I look about to see if death has come, and I call quietly, “Death, is that you? Are you there?”. So far the disability has answered, “Don’t be silly, it’s me.”
I want to tell people approaching and perhaps fearing old age that it is a time of discovery. If they say “Of what?” I can only answer “We must find out for ourselves, otherwise it wouldn’t be discovery.”
One cannot be honest even at the end of one’s life, for no one is wholly alone. We are bound to those we love, or to those who love us, and to those who need us to be brave, or content, or even happy enough to allow them not to worry about us. So we must refrain from giving pain, as our last gift to our fellows.
When I bought the book, I hadn’t heard of her, I just liked the concept of the book. So, for those of you who have never heard of her, either, I’m including a short biography of Florida Scott-Maxwell from The Poem Hunter.com:
Florida Pier was born in Orange Park, Florida, and educated at home until the age of ten. She grew up in Pittsburgh, then moved to New York at age 15 to become an actress. In 1910 she married John Scott Maxwell and moved to her husband’s native Scotland, where she worked for women’s suffrage and as a playwright. The couple divorced in 1929 and she moved to London. In 1933 she studied Jungian psychology under Carl Jung and practised as an analytical psychologist in both England and Scotland. She died in Exeter, England. Her most famous book is The Measure of My Days (1968).
I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.
When I taught Sixth Grade, there were times in the afternoon that I would occasionally bag the lessons I had planned and call for a catch-up time, which my students affectionately named “Ketchup time.” Life and responsibilities gets overwhelming sometimes and it’s good to remember to give yourself a break from what you think you should be doing and just give yourself (or your students, in that case) a gift of time to catch up with yourself. The students would cheer when Ketchup time was called, and would finish assignments, read a good book, draw, create art projects, or watch what was happening out the window. Those were many of the happiest times in my classroom over the years, for the teacher and for the students!
I am so far behind on my reviews of books I’ve been reading! So I’m going to give myself some “Ketchup time.” I’ll write reviews, or make a list of books I’ve read during the pandemic (without the pressure to review them), or just spend some time looking out the window. So please bear with me as I Ketchup with myself and my blog. Reviews will be coming.
The year 2020 has been a cruel one in so many ways. It has felt like one thing after another, and each time we think the worst has happened, another challenge pops up that takes even more to deal with…
There. I’ve stated my overall view of this year, but the way I am choosing to deal with it all is to continue to look for the good, the beautiful, the special, and all the little things that bring meaning and happiness to my life. The word I chose for this year is “Gratitude,” and that word has helped me get through the many trials that we’ve faced in 2020. In the midst of the chaos and cruelty, I have been mindfully grateful for so many things. Here are a few of them:
I am grateful for my husband who, in my opinion, is the best person on earth to be quarantined with! I love our long walks and long talks!
I am grateful that my daughter, son-in-law, son, and grandson have all been healthy this year and able to stay safe during the quarantine.
I am grateful that my oldest brother, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 in late May or early June, was asymptomatic and recovered without any damage.
I am grateful for the weekly Zoom calls with my brothers and their wives. We call ourselves the “Famnet,” and share weekly updates of our lives (next week is call #38!). Our parents would have loved this new way of family communication! These Zoom calls definitely beat the family meetings my parents used to hold when we were little…which we dubbed “Gripe Sessions.”
I am grateful for my exercise class and my tai chi class being taught online so I can continue with them despite the restrictions of quarantine.
I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds us. My husband and I have been making a couple of trips a week (short drive) to the coffee shop and then to Fern Hill Wetlands in the early morning hours to watch the geese and ducks, the bald eagles, and the Redwing Blackbirds…and to talk over all of life’s little and big problems while we look out over that beautiful and life-filled view.
I am grateful, this year especially, to be retired, an introvert, and a reader, which made staying home less stressful than so many other people’s months of quarantine!
And I am deeply grateful for the medical people, the caretakers, the scientists, and all the essential workers who have have given so much and helped us deal with this pandemic, and who have cared for our loved ones when ill or dying.
The list is actually endless, I realize now. GRATITUDE was the right word to choose for 2020. And I already know which word I will choose for 2021, but will talk about that later.
September, this year, was an unusual month. The first half was filled with smoke and anxiety due to the many fires burning here in Oregon. The air quality was at the very hazardous level, and so our family all had to stay inside even more than usual — a quarantine within the quarantine! Many (but not all!) of the fires were finally brought under control, and the air cleared, so we could begin to enjoy the outdoors again, within the limitations of the pandemic.
With all of this necessary indoor time, I filled my hours with lots of reading. I focused mostly on reading mysteries for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge, and thoroughly enjoyed myself! But I read other things, as well, including starting the first books for my annual Holiday reading. So all in all, September was a good, and very enjoyable, reading month for me.
This year, 2020, is the strangest year! I posted this 2020 version of the calendar on my Instagram account, and we’re all just hoping (but not holding our breath) that December will be like that…nice and normal! But the quarantine days in the middle there are exactly what it has felt like to me. One big jumble of days!
But I’m checking in here to say HI to everyone, and report that we are all well here, although the summer has not been without stresses and anxieties. I am so grateful, though, for our wellness, our resilience, and all the love and support of family and friends!
Some time in April, my oldest brother tested positive for Covid-19. It was such a shock to hear that news. But he was without symptoms, and couldn’t believe that he had tested positive. He was in isolation (at home) for 10 days, then in quarantine for 24 days beyond that. He never developed any symptoms that he could discern, and at the end of the quarantine time, he and his wife were tested again and both results were negative. Also, he requested an antibody test, and that returned negative, as well. We will never know if he was simply one of those asymptomatic cases, or whether his test was one of the 5% false positives. We are all just deeply grateful for his good health.
Our summer projects are moving along slowly. I ended up not planting a vegetable garden this spring/summer, but the butterfly garden is doing really well and looking quite pretty. I’m getting ready to plant some autumn veggie crops in the raised beds, and look forward to planting lots of bulbs for the spring. Hubby has been working on the patio cover next to the new shed in backyard. Our pace on these usual projects seems to have really slowed down. I think it’s due to what I call “quarantine fatigue.”
My reading, however, has NOT slowed down, but sped up. I finished Deborah Crombie’s mystery series, and read a number of books for my anti-racist self-education. And then, at a friend’s suggestion, I tried out the first book in a “romance” series. I hardly ever read books from that genre, but I thought I’d give it a try for some lightweight summer reading, and now I’m already on book #9. I got completely captured by Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, which takes place in a very small town in the mountains of northern California. Once I met the people of the town, I was hooked. Robyn Carr does relationships (and sex) very well, the men are all decent and kind, the women (almost all get pregnant) are strong and independent, and everyone cares about and helps each other. So Virgin River has not been a bad place to spend this crazy summer!
I hope that you and yours are all healthy and safe this summer, and I hope you are enjoying your summer reading.
Stay safe, my friends.
everything here seems to need us
~Rainer Maria Rilke
This poem by Ellen Bass speaks to my heart today, so I wanted to share it with you. With the news filled with sadness and madness, we must try harder each day to feel that “invisible tug between you and everything.” The beautiful words of Ellen Bass remind us that each one of us is a precious meaningful being, and that each one of us can and must make a positive difference in a world gone mad.