Friday, July 3, 2015

Link Love, Independence Day Edition

Photo courtesy Edgar Olivera

Tomorrow is Independence Day for us in the U.S., and many people will celebrate with barbecues, parades, and fireworks. My family and I will be celebrating by trying to stay cool, as July 4th is typically one of the hottest days of the year here in Florida. While I know the U.S. is not perfect, I am grateful to have been born here. I know I have many opportunities and privileges others do not have, simply by the accident of my birth. So with that in mind, I’ve compiled an Independence Day edition of Link Love. Whether or not you celebrate this holiday, I hope your July 4th is happy and safe!

Click here for 15 ways to celebrate Independence Day. 

When we went to Washington D.C. a few years ago, one of my favorite experiences was seeing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives Museum. After all, the Declaration of Independence includes these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” You can learn more about the Charters of Freedom here.

Since it’s our unalienable right to pursue happiness, here are some suggestions from Dani DiPirro from Positively Present on creating happy moments.

Here are some (mostly) free ways to spark creativity and fun. 

Since many have died for freedom, not just for the U.S. but all over the world, we can honor their sacrifice by living a meaningful life. This post asks, “If you died right now, what would you regret?” It goes on to list the top five regrets of those who are dying, and some principles for living a meaningful life.

I loved this short video of a horse playing in a wading pool. Even horses like to cool off!

Happy 4th!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Photo courtesy Michal Kubicek

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I recognize the couple who are introduced in this poem by Patricia Frolander, of Sundance, Wyoming, and perhaps you’ll recognize them, too.


He called it “his ranch,”
yet each winter day found her beside him
feeding hay to hungry cows.

In summer heat
you would find her in the hayfield—
cutting, raking, baling, stacking.

In between she kept the books,
cooked, cleaned laundered,
fed bum lambs.

Garden rows straight,
canned jars of food
lined cellar walls.

Then she died.
I asked him how he would manage.
“Just like I always have,” he said.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Patricia Frolander, and reprinted from her most recent book of poems, “Grassland Genealogy,” Finishing Line Press, 2009, by permission of Pat Frolander and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004- 2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Monday, June 29, 2015

A Gift for the Remembering Self

A few months ago, Laura Vanderkam used a term in a blog post that intrigued me: the remembering self. Vanderkam described riding the train to New York (from her home in Pennsylvania) on a Saturday night to hear a Christmas concert, even though she was pregnant, the weather was bad, she’d endured a difficult week, and so on. She wrote, “The remembering self deserves consideration in decisions too, not just the present self.”

This term resonated with me so much that I commented: “I love the phrase ‘the remembering self.’ It reminds me that often it’s the things we don’t do that we regret later in life.”  She responded: “I think it’s as much that the remembering self and the experiencing self [or the present self] value different things. The experiencing self is never 100% happy, because it occupies a corporal body that experiences little annoyances like an itchy nose, needing a bathroom before the concert starts, etc. The remembering self looks back on the wash of the experience and doesn’t see all of these details. It’s easy to over-value the experiencing self because it’s what we’re currently occupying, but the remembering self deserves some consideration in all this too.” (Read the entire post here.)

Sometimes I let my experiencing self run the show too much. If it’s hard, scary, or uncomfortable, my experiencing self doesn’t want any part of it. (She’s kind of a wimp.) If I let her dictate what I do, my poor remembering self has nothing of interest to reflect on! Remembering self is not impressed by excuses.

All this is on my mind because last week I checked off an item on my summer bucket list: I took Tank to the beach.

All photos taken by Gayle Bryan

I confess that though I wanted (in theory) to take my horse to the beach, I was anxious about actually doing it. I knew it would be very, very hot, I knew I’d be riding with a bareback pad and halter instead of a saddle and bridle, and I knew that my horse can get excited and strong (i.e., hard to control) when he goes to a new place. I knew the trip would take most of a day, and that I’d be good for almost nothing after spending so much time in the sun, thereby throwing off my weekly schedule. I knew I’d have to wake up earlier than normal and to come up with the money to pay for the trip. My “experiencing self” was full of worries and complaints. But I managed to shut her up for a little while so I could give my remembering self this gift.

And while my experiencing self did endure some uncomfortable moments, they’re becoming hazier by the day. My remembering self is already delighted to look back on the adventure and proud of herself for stepping out of her comfort zone. I know Tank enjoyed the change of scenery, but he was less than enamored with actually going in the water, even though all three of the other horses marched right in, and a couple of them went in deep enough to swim. Some of his expressed thoughts:

“This stuff moves. Is it really safe to walk in it?”

“There’s too much slimy green stuff along the edge, it looks like it might grab me.”

 “WHAT IS THAT BLACK THING ON THE SAND?!” (It was a discarded t-shirt.)

Despite his skepticism, he eventually relaxed and splashed through the water with everyone else, and when we were on the beach itself, I gave him his head so he could explore, which he loved. And he especially loved snacking on the patches of grass we found. Instead of merely walking on the beach, we trotted and cantered on the sand and it was totally awesome. Even experiencing self had to agree.

When you feel overwhelmed at the thought of something you really want to do, how can you help the experiencing self to relax so you can give your remembering self this gift? It helps me to learn all I can about the upcoming event/experience, to look for support from friends or family, and to ease into what I want to do in a way that feels comfortable to me. And even if it’s still scary, I know my memory of it will likely smooth over the fear and remember the joy. Some things will just be more fun to have done than to do.

What are some memories your remembering self especially enjoys?


Friday, June 26, 2015

Seven for Summer: My Summer 2015 Reading List

Despite the hot weather we’ve been enduring for the past two months, the official start of summer was just a week ago Sunday. And you know what that means…it’s time for cool drinks, embracing air conditioning, and a new summer reading list. Sifting through my shelves and list of unread books is one of my favorite simple pleasures.

This year’s list will be long on delight, so I’m choosing books I really want to read, rather than books I “should” read to fulfill a reading challenge or some other self-imposed criterion. After all, come fall, I don’t have to write a paper on what I read during summer break!

So here is a tentative list of the books I want to read this summer:

The Law and the Lady—my summer Wilkie Collins. Looks like a good one—described as “probably the first full-length novel with a woman detective as its heroine.”  There is also a free Kindle version available here.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin. I loved both of Rubin’s books on happiness (The Happiness Project, Happier at Home) and fully expect to love this book, too. In fact, I already have a copy from my library and will probably eventually buy my own. Rubin has helped me understand my own nature better, and she has a knack for breaking down concepts in such a way that you can take action that makes a difference in your life.

Jack of Spades, Joyce Carol Oates. I’m becoming fan of Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve only read a couple of her books, and wow. This one sounds kind of scary, but I’m intrigued. I’m in line behind quite a few people on my library’s hold system, so it may be later in the summer before I can start this one. 

A Writer’s Diary, Virginia Woolf. I love reading diaries, and a writer’s diary by Virginia Woolf? How can I resist? 

My local used bookstore is going out of business (sniffle) and I picked up six books for a dollar there this week (and I wonder why my TBR shelf never gets any less full). I’ve already started The Three Weissmanns of Westport, and I also hope to get to The Bat, by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  

Cotillion, Georgette Heyer. The irresistible lure of romance and humor. 

I could list more—in fact, I’m sure I’ll be reading a few mysteries over the summer, too. But I want to leave some room for meandering, for picking up a book just because it sounds interesting. The last thing I want to do is turn the simple pleasure of reading into a stressful experience. Where’s the delight in that?

What’s on your summer reading list?


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What You Should Do This Summer

Photo courtesy Filip Kruchlik

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
—A.A. Milne


Monday, June 22, 2015

Act Now!

Photo courtesy Jake Hills

No, this is not a late-night TV ad: “For just three payments of $29.95, you can have this beautiful Whatsit! But wait, there’s more…”

No, this is my current motto. Lately, I’ve been feeling stuck, overwhelmed, frustrated…all squirmy and uncomfortable inside. As tired of complaining to my long-suffering friends about my frustrations as they are of hearing me complain. And the more I’ve stewed, the more drained and frustrated I’ve felt.

June 10th’s quote offered me a clue about the answer to this problem. I’m certainly uncomfortable, unhappy and unfulfilled…what am I going to do about it? Sit and think some more, or act? 

In the past, I’ve noticed an immediate surge of energy and lifting of spirits when I do something, even if it’s as mundane as cleaning out a drawer in the kitchen. So that’s what I did. I cleaned out two drawers in the kitchen. Then I reglued the wood trim on the breakfast bar. Then I dropped off the comforter set at Goodwill that I had been carting around in my trunk for literally months.

These small actions relieved one tiny, itchy part of my brain, but they were just the warm up. Lately I’ve felt especially stuck and unsure of myself as a writer. I’ve been plugging away here on the blog, but I’ve let all other aspects of my writing slide. I’m ready to get back into freelancing, but I have a number of issues to deal with, including feeling terribly rusty and out of practice locating markets and pitching articles. So I took a small step towards correcting this by joining the Freelance Writer’s Den, and exploring the resources available there. My first goal: get a writer’s website up as soon as possible. And, in the meantime, I’ve already collected a number of my writing clips on a portfolio site, which you can see here.

Yes, I do believe in the value of contemplation and that doing is not always better than being, but sometimes you must act. It doesn’t matter what the step is, as long as you take one…and then another.  So that’s where I am. Taking baby steps, looking for “different ways [and] truer answers.”

If something is frustrating you, what action are you going to take?


Friday, June 19, 2015

Field Trip Friday--First Orchids

Did I need more orchids? Well, no, I didn’t need any, but when my orchid-loving friend Barb asked me if I wanted to go to a wholesale orchid nursery, I said yes. I counted my empty orchid pots (there have been a couple of casualties lately) and decided I could buy a few. How many did I buy? We’ll get to that.

After a two-hour drive, we came to this unprepossessing exterior:

Which led into this:

No, I didn’t drool.

But I did spend a happy hour with my friend examining orchids, choosing which to add to our collections, trying to guess what the ones without open blooms would look like. Prices ranged from $3 to $12, depending on the size and variety of orchid. We filled a large box with our choices, paid for them and loaded them in Barb’s van. Definitely a delight-ful field trip.

I bought nine. Most are in some stage of blooming, but I have one that will be a surprise. Its buds are tightly closed and I don’t know yet what it will look like.

Here are some photos:

Have you taken any field trips lately?