Halloween Already?

October 31, 2012

Photo courtesy Karolina Michalak

I’m not alone in noticing how time accelerates as we grow older, and as the seasons grow ever more brief the holidays are gone in a wink.  This poem by Nancy Price about Halloween catches a little of that.  She’s an Iowan whose poems are so heartfelt, clear and useful that we could run them every week and none of you would complain. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Trick or Treat
The ghost is a torn sheet,
the skeleton’s suit came from a rack in a store
the witch is flameproof, but who knows
what dark streets they have taken here?
Brother Death, here is a candy bar.
For the lady wearing the hat from Salem: gum.
And a penny for each eye, Lost Soul.
They fade away with their heavy sacks.
Thanks!  I yell just in time.
                                                 Thanks for another year!

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Nancy Price from her book of poetry Two Voices and a Moon, Malmarie Press, 2007.  Reprinted by permission of Nancy Price. Introduction copyright 2012 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.


The Last Roll of Film

October 29, 2012

Something’s not quite right with the color of the photographs, and several are completely unrecognizable. The color problem probably stems from keeping the film on my dresser for several years before having it developed, but what’s up with the unrecognizable ones?

I just had my last roll of film developed, and it made me kind of sad. I entered the digital photo age kicking and screaming. I loved my 35mm camera, loved the packets of shiny photos I had developed, loved the photo albums and scrapbooks I made with them. I feared my digital photos would never make it off my hard drive into prints. (I was mostly right about that, too. I don’t know which is worse: boxes of unsorted prints or computer files of unsorted images!)

I’m totally a digital convert now—I love the ability to take tons of photos and, even better, the simple software that allows me to crop and otherwise enhance them so I have images I think are beautiful. I’m looking into websites that allow you to make photo books to replace the scrapbooks and photo albums I used to make. The excitement of sending my film away and seeing if the photos I took are as good as I think they will be has been replaced by immediately checking the images, then popping a memory card into my laptop. Now that I’m converted to digital, I’m going to sell my 35mm SLR camera. It makes me a little sad, but I don’t need it or use it anymore.

So what was on that roll of film? Before-and-after photos of our kitchen when we changed the countertops from Formica to granite and added a new backsplash. (We made this home improvement right before Christmas—that’s when we do all our home improvements. It adds that perfect touch of panic to the festivities.) My husband and I were thinner. Nick was shorter. And Crusher was still with us. (Sniffle.)

Look how young Nick is!
Sometimes technology makes life better—it certainly has made photography more fun and easier for me, even though I still have a lot more to learn. My husband says I’ll soon exchange my paper books for an e-reader, but I’m not so sure about that. There’s more to reading a book than seeing words on a page.

How has technology made your life better? Is there anything you said you’d never do/try/use that you now find indispensable, like my digital camera?


Link Love

October 26, 2012

Recognize the face on the mouse pad?

I’ve spent far, far too much time meandering through (in? on?) the internet lately. In order to justify that to myself, I thought I’d share some of my happy discoveries. Because I want everyone to waste as much time have as much fun as I do…

Puppy cam! Click here for a peek into the puppy room at the Service Dog Project in Ipswich, MA where mom Chaos is caring for her week-old puppies. 

Already thinking about the holidays, I found this post to have some really sweet handmade gift ideas. 

Scott Adams (the creator of “Dilbert”) on “engineering happiness”

Laure Ferlita shared this link with me. Gorgeous photography. 

For a good laugh (no pun intended), visit Jason Good at http://jasongood.net/. One of my favorite posts is here

I just discovered this blog, which has a philosophy I can agree with. I particularly liked this post

Have you discovered anything fun lately?


Little Decisions

October 24, 2012

“Happiness is not a brilliant climax to years of grim struggle and anxiety. It is a long succession of little decisions simply to be happy in the moment.”
—J. Donald Walters 

Note: Today is the 10th annual Take Back Your Time Day. Read more about it here or here.

Everyday adventures

Adventures in Orchids

October 22, 2012


Finally we had some gorgeous, fall-like weather this weekend, so my husband, mother-in-law and I checked out an orchid show and sale at the USF Botanical Gardens in Tampa. Lucky for us, there were only 12 vendors. We still managed to buy six orchids.

It’s a sickness, I tell you.

My husband and I go for variety in both size and color. I’m partial to scented orchids, my husband likes the dramatic and unusual ones. (If it’s variety you want, orchids are your flower: according to Wikipedia, orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants, with more than 20,000 species found in 880 genera. Horticulturalists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars since the introduction of tropical species in the 19th century.)

The new additions joined their brethren on our lanai where I hope they’ll be happy. One of my next chores needs to be writing down what types of orchids I have and what conditions they like.

I never thought I’d be interested in orchids. I’ve always preferred flowers like peonies, hydrangeas, roses. I can’t grow those here in Florida—at least not very successfully. (I’ve also become resigned to the lack of tulips and daffodils in my life.) But I can grow orchids—they thrive in our humid climate, so I’m going with the flow. If I can’t have a cottage garden, I’ll have a tropical one instead. At least I have flowers.

Here are the new additions. This one is tiny:

Oncidium Tsiki Marguerite
At the other extreme, this vanda is huge: 

This one, also a vanda, is scented:

Just love the color of this:

Miltassia C.M. Fitch ‘Izumi’...or so says the label...
This was unlabeled, but I think it’s a phaleonopsis:

I don’t know what this is, either, and am not sure of what the label says. Any ideas?

It felt good to be outside (and not be sweaty), to drink in the beauty of the flowers, to be with people I love, while at the same time fanning my passion for orchids. A satisfactory Saturday.

How have you fed your passions lately?

Everyday adventures

A Room of My Own

October 19, 2012

I mentioned here that I’ve taken possession of my new office after my husband moved to his new space in our formal living room —really it’s my “old” office as it was mine (hence the lavender walls) until my husband took it over three years ago. I’ve spent many happy hours in here in the past week and a half—would you like a little tour? (Click on the photos to make them bigger.)

I’ve shared pictures of the shelves before, but this is what they look like now. A few things moved around, a few books disposed of and a few more purchased. 

Under my window, I have a white bench with some magazines, an African violet and some storage boxes for hiding messy projects (if only I could remember I put the projects in there…).

My desk—so wonderful to have room to spread out, and to have my little bits and bobs displayed. Last week I had some fresh flowers in that bare space on the left. On top of the hutch is my collection of old Nancy Drew books

I love this glider rocker for reading, writing (I write most first drafts in long hand) and thinking deep thoughts. I’ve had this chair since before my son was born, and I spent countless hours in it, feeding, rocking and singing to him. We recovered it a few years ago so it could go in the office. When I’m not in the chair, one of Scout’s dog beds is. She divides her time between my office and my husband’s.

Next to the rocker is a lateral filing cabinet and hutch. I still need to purge the files as well as arrange the photos and books a bit better.

This is the armoire desk we bought for me when my husband and I were trying to share the office. It’s now my—trumpet fanfare—art station. I keep all my supplies here, and can use the desk top to sketch and paint. It also stores some random office supplies I don’t have room for elsewhere.

Having my own space means a lot to me. I can play music. I can shut the door. I control the ceiling fan, a major bone of contention between me and my husband. It means I (we) take my work seriously because we’ve made a space for me to do it, rather than keeping me bouncing from one place to another.

I didn’t realize until I had to share how much having my own space meant to me. Every other place I tried to work (except my bedroom and that was an issue in itself) made me feel I was on display and I was frequently interrupted. I felt like I “wasn’t doing anything” when I was sitting quietly reading or thinking or even web surfing for work. Now I can daydream, think, and read to my heart’s content and no one looks over my shoulder while I do it. Or asks me what’s for dinner or if I’m doing laundry later.

And that, my friends, is my new artistic space.

I am very happy.

Scout is happy, too.
Do you have a space to call your own?


Wanting In

October 17, 2012

Photo courtesy andrechinn via Flickr

At the beginning of the famous novel, "Remembrance of Things Past," the mere taste of a biscuit started Marcel Proust on a seven-volume remembrance. Here a bulldozer turns up an old doorknob, and look what happens in Shirley Buettner's imagination. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]


While clearing the west
quarter for more cropland,
the Cat quarried
a porcelain doorknob

oystered in earth,
grained and crazed
like an historic egg,
with a screwless stem of

rusted and pitted iron.
I turn its cold white roundness
with my palm and
open the oak door

fitted with oval glass,
fretted with wood ivy,
and call my frontier neighbor.
Her voice comes distant but

clear, scolding children
in overalls
and highbutton shoes.
A bucket of fresh eggs and

a clutch of rhubarb rest
on her daisied oil-cloth.
She knew I would knock someday,
wanting in.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. From Walking Out the Dark (Juniper Press, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Shirley Buettner and reprinted by permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2012 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.



October 12, 2012

Twice on Wednesday I found myself talking to someone about how lucky I am. The first time, I was sitting on the back of my horse, talking to my friend and trainer, Gayle, about how my experience with Tank has been one of the best things in my whole life. We talked about how lucky I feel first to even own a horse, and also to have one that I’ve been able to bond with so closely. I mentioned that my life is so much better than I ever imagined it being. Though I was speaking out of the emotion of the moment, glossing over the pain and emotional storms I’ve weathered, it is true that I am lucky. If I started to list the struggles and problems of my life, that lucky feeling would certainly fade. It was then that I realized it’s my choice what version of my life to dwell on, and ultimately my choice whether I feel “lucky” or not.

In the second instance, I had emailed my friend Laure an image of some sketchbook pages I loved, expressing a desire to have my sketchbook resemble them. We emailed back and forth about developing artistic style, and I finished one email with, “I’m lucky to have some lovely artists to be influenced by, aren’t I?” While I’m still learning the basics of drawing and painting, let alone working on my “style,” between the support and encouragement of my friends (my classmates in Laure’s classes as well as Laure herself) and the wealth of material available in books and online, I have the ability to enjoy and learn from many different artists. I can’t help but be inspired. This may seem like an insignificant matter to feel lucky about—but isn’t life made up of “insignificant matters”?

Coincidentally, we have a new resident at our barn, a tiny, elderly pony whose name is Lucky. Poor Lucky was essentially starving to death because his previous owners (well-meaning but ignorant) didn’t realize the condition of his teeth made it impossible for him to eat normally—his food needs to be soaked into soupiness. Aside from his thinness and the neglect of his hooves and coat, he seems healthy.  He’s lucky to have been found by caring people who hope to help him, and a vet who is willing to take on some of his care without compensation. With any luck, he’ll live out his life in comfort, being spoiled by the girls (and the adults) at the barn.

Lucky doing what he does best
I guess what I’m trying to say is that feeling lucky is to some degree a matter of perspective, acknowledging the negatives but choosing to focus more on the positives. It’s part of my “Catching Happiness” philosophy, when I remember to live by it.

What makes you feel lucky?

Beautiful moments


October 10, 2012

“There are few things more sacred than the moment you come to peace with your pieces.”

—Marney Makridakis


Checking In

October 09, 2012

The craziness continues, but it’s good craziness.

After “sharing” home office space with my husband for three years (translation: I had a desk in there but I was rarely at it because our working styles were not compatible), he moved to his new office in our unused formal living room last week. I’ve spent much of the past few days cleaning and organizing my space and collecting my things from where they were scattered throughout the house. I’ve still got some organizing to do, but at least I know everything is here (somewhere) and I again have a door I can close when I need to.

I took the day yesterday to relieve my horse of his winter coat. (Click here to see what that entails.) Yes, even though it’s still near 90 degrees and humid, Tank was sporting his usual premature wooliness. I’m not quite finished—I have three legs left and some tidying—but he’s much more comfortable. Since he’s now shorn, that means it’s likely a cold front will come through and drop the temps. (Bring it on! I have a horse blanket.)

I expect to have a more “normal” schedule in the next week or so and will get back to more regular posting soon.

So what’s new with you?


Autumn Descends

October 03, 2012

Much of the poetry that has endured the longest is about the relentless movement of time, and in ways all art is about just that. Here’s a landscape in which time is at work, by Geraldine Connolly, who lives in Montana. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Flathead Lake, October

The eagle floats and glides,
circling the burnished aspen,

then takes the high pines
with a flash of underwing.

As surely as the eagle sails
toward the bay’s open curve,

as surely as he swoops and seizes
the struggling fish, pulling

it from an osprey’s beak;
so too, autumn descends,

to steal the glistening
summer from our open hands.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Geraldine Connolly, from her most recent book of poems, Hand of the Wind, Iris Press, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Geraldine Connolly and the publisher. Introduction copyright  2012 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.



October 01, 2012

What is this thing? It smells like treats.
Nope, can't fit the whole thing in my mouth...
Maybe if I use my mind powers on it.
C'mon, man!

Ohhh, if I roll it, treats fall out!