Inside

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each window
warms with light
and families inside

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– – –

Photo: A street in Waterford, Ireland, c.b.w. 2009

Words: haiku, c.b.w. 2016

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At Summer’s End

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I can’t believe it’s already been two months since the school year ended! Where does the time go? While I’d give just about anything for another month of summer bliss, I’m also anxious to get back into the classroom.

At the start of this summer, I made a list of things I wanted to do with my time away from work, (see Summer Plans). I was successful on some things and a total failure on others. Still, it was a nice summer full of unexpected discoveries.

  1. Start trail running, again.

This did not happen. Record heat made this goal almost impossible. When its 110-115 degrees more often than not, the health benefits of trail running go right out the window. I’m hoping to revisit the trails after it cools down a bit. I’ll take 90 degrees at this point!

2. Start cooking, again.

When I set this goal, I thought about pulling out the crock pot or the wonderbag, but the heat once again came into play. Instead, I played around with fruit salads, crackers, and cheeses. Light, cool meals that included all the major food groups became my mission … and it was fun! Rather than rely on recipe cards, I created my own combinations of fresh foods.

3. Knit.

I finish one pair of socks, four washcloths, one dog blanket (using scrap yarn), and worked on a few nearly completed projects that are being difficult, (sometimes the finishing phase is the most tricky). Overall, the knitting needles got a great workout!

4. Write.

My haiku journal is nearly full! It seems my muse just can’t get enough of those tiny poems!

The goal to send out query packages, unfortunately, was not met due to a surprise project that dropped into my lap, (see Getting All Nostalgic and A Weird Writing Dilemma). I plan on jumping back into this process very soon. I have all the pieces in place (i.e. query, synopsis, and agent list), so I just have to construct the packages and hit send.

5. Read.

I set the goal of being five books ahead in my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. In the next couple of days, I should reach that goal. I read like a lunatic this summer, happily devouring eight books in two months.

6. Learn something new.

I had no idea where this goal would lead and it ended up yielding the most surprises. When I came home from vacation with a new-to-me vintage Barbie doll, it triggered an entire summer of vintage Barbie madness, (see My Vintage Gals and Adding to the Vintage Crew).

Because my budget doesn’t allow for splurging on mint condition vintage Barbie and clothes, I instead purchased two vintage dolls and several fashions in need of repair. I had some basic knowledge of the restoration process, but not nearly enough to solve some of the problems plaguing the newest additions to my collection.

I learned how to:

  • clean deeply rooted stains on vinyl
  • reshape limbs
  • fix neck or torso splits
  • safely remove age stains and spots from vintage fabric
  • correctly identify vintage Barbie dolls (differentiating marks, face paint, and common issues that effect one doll, but not another).
  • correctly assess the value of a doll and fashions based on condition and availability

I’m still on a learning curve, but I’m loving the process as a whole. I’ve learned so much and I like knowing I’m able to do right by the dolls in my collection.

7. Binge on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Done! I caught up on my Top Tier shows, (i.e. Grimm, The Blacklist, Bob’s Burgers, etc) and explored a few more including, Doctor Thorne (Amazon Prime). Then, I re-watched Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, again. It’s sooooo good!!

8. Work.

As expected, I couldn’t stay away too long. By mid-July my dining room table was planning central for AP World History. I have the first two weeks planned and ready to go. In addition, I created a website for the class because I use a modified flipped classroom model.

9. Spend time with family, furkids, and friends.

Having so much free time was truly a gift. I was able to visit my dad and hang out more often with my mother and sister. However, being able to spend so much time with my remaining dog was the most precious part of my summer. He is elderly and does not have much time left – I made every day count as much as possible.

It was also a gift to spend time with friends I normally don’t see outside of work. I’m lucky to have co-workers I’ve come to count as close, personal friends. We said we’d hang out over the summer and we did. This was a big deal because we say that every year and never actually do it. I’m truly grateful to have such wonderful friends.

10. Clean out the house.

Done! The shed, closets, and hobby room all got purged of things no longer needed. A local charity and the dump received multiple visits. It’s a good feeling to clear out the clutter.

In the process I came across forgotten items that reminded me of the person I was before I lost so much. Its been a rough few years of grief and pain. Recently, I’ve felt the dark clouds lifting and this rediscovery is yet another piece that allows me to find my new normal.

My home and work spaces have been redefined and all feels new, yet I feel the old me resurfacing. The me that is overtly optimistic and isn’t afraid to be a little funky and push the rules a bit. I’ve missed that part of me and it’s nice to have it back.

All in all, it was a great summer!

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c.b.w. 2016

 

In Response

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April 21 was Poem in Your Pocket Day, so the poems in today’s post are written in response to another poem. I chose three of my favorite haikus from the anthology Haiku in English Ed. by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns.

By Gary Hotham

coffee
in a paper cup —
a long way from home

My response:

red eye flight
last at the gate
my coffee is cold

– – –

By Marcus Larsson

autumn colours
we let mother lie
about our childhood

My Response:

summer wind
we get into mischief
and point fingers

– – –

By George Dorsey

low tide
people seem
more honest

My Response:

new moon
I can’t find
the truth

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Image: Spell. New Moon – Nicholas Roerich, WikiArt.org

Words: Haiku by authors cited and c.b.w. 2016

Part of the 2016 April Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides on Writer’s Digest) for the April 21 prompt: response to another poem

My Annual Book Paradise

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Every year I look forward to the second weekend in February. An exhibition building at the state fairgrounds transforms into a book lover’s paradise with row after row of books. We’re talking thousands upon thousands of used books at ridiculously cheap prices all up for grabs for those willing to get up early and pick through the stacks. For 60 years, the VNSA Book Sale has offered this annual event.

Better yet, on Sunday everything is half off the sticker price!! It’s like the bibliophile and bargain hunter in me combine forces for an ultimate day of fun. I’ve written of this magical day previously, (see Bookapalooza and Another Great Book Adventure), but it never gets old. This year’s book adventure yielded some fantastic finds!

For my reading pleasure, I stocked up on some fiction from authors I know as well as a few I don’t. As usual, I relied on my Book Vibe to select a few wild card books to shake up my reading year. Out of the known authors, I’m thrilled to get my hands on works by Banana Yoshimoto and Milan Kundera. Nothing in my fiction stack cost more than $2.

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Hmmm … What should I read first!?

The Art History book sitting at the bottom is a golden find. I’m lugging that thing to work as an added resource for the AP Art History course I teach. It includes sections on African, Oceanic, and Korean art that my other textbooks lack. The best part is it was only $4!

My favorite finds of the day came from the craft section. I loaded up on knitting magazines and books. My favorite knitting magazine, Interweave Knits, was plentiful in supply at only 50¢ a piece. I snagged several knitting books for around $2 each; all full of new patterns and techniques.

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This should keep me busy!

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So much to knit, so little time!

However, my favorite knitting book find is Knitting for Peace. I’m looking to start a knitting club at the school where I work that teaches students how to knit, while also benefiting charity. This book offers charity information, patterns, and advice for setting up a club of this nature.

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Knitting can make a difference!

Buried in the craft section was a gem of a book called Japanese Stencil Designs. For only 50¢ I got a stunning collection of prints that are reproducible. I’m thinking these prints are going to look awesome when paired with some of my haiku –  a chapbook is on the horizon!

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Japanese Stencil Print

Along with a few other odds and ends, the grand total came to $36. Between cheap books and time with family (we always go together), it was a perfect day!

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c.b.w. 2016

Walking Through Grief

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When my grandmother passed away three years ago, I was flooded with so many emotions I couldn’t even process what I was feeling. There was intense sorrow mixed with relief, gratitude, and nostalgia. I know – that’s an odd mixture of feelings after losing someone I was incredibly close to throughout my life.

The sorrow was obvious,  but I hadn’t counted on the relief. Her death was not a surprise. I had watched her slowly deteriorate from dementia for more than a year. She wasn’t suffering anymore and there is a certain amount of thanks for that when someone you love is suffering. What’s more, I was with her the night before her passing and those last moments are now beautiful and happy memories.

Gratitude came from feeling unbelievably blessed for the privilege of knowing such a beautiful person. I had the kind of relationship with her the most people will never experience with their grandparents.

Nostalgia is probably the most painful, because all the memories I cherish are also the reason I miss her so much it hurts.  My only saving grace on this front is a poem she wrote to both me and my sister telling us not to cry over her. It hangs on my fridge as a daily reminder of how she wants to be remembered, (See In Grandma’s Words). This is where the gratitude comes in as well. Her poem continues to keep me grounded.

All of these emotions thrashed around inside of me with nowhere to go. There comes a moment when you realize there needs to be a release. I didn’t want it to be ugly or messy or traumatizing. I wanted it to be peaceful and joyful like my Grandma’s poem.

I did the only thing that made any sense to me. I put on my hiking shoes and went for a long trail walk. The desert sand crunched beneath my feat. Every step seemed to push the sorrow into the ground and replace it with a sense of purpose and assurance. Life will go on and it will be beautiful. The smell of creosote came with each breath. The sun lit up the mountains and sky in a glorious shade of coral. Life didn’t feel heavy with the enormous weight of loss. Not anymore.

Every emotion rolled through me, but they were no longer thrashing. The evening air, cacti, and stones all seemed to invite them to come out and simply exist. It was liberating and calming. In so many ways it allowed me to accept the natural course of life and all the feelings that go along with it.

Whenever the grief feels overwhelming I go back to that day on the desert trail.

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A view along my desert trail. c.b.w. 2012

When my grandfather died last year, I found myself dealing with the same emotions all over again. Even with experience, it isn’t any easier dealing with the loss of a loved one. I held onto those thrashing emotions a bit longer this time around. I wasn’t ready to let go of something so precious.

It wasn’t until I was on vacation a few months later that I realized what I had to do. Those thrashing emotions were going to tear me apart unless I found a place for them go. Once again, I laced up my hiking shoes and went on a trail hike.

This time a thick, mossy forest reminded me to breathe. Like the desert before, it’s like the trees invited those thrashing emotions to come out and simply exist.  To be surrounded by so much life – the green of the leaves and the warmth of the sun filtering through – the  weight lifted once more. Life is beautiful and will go on. We hold those we love close to us no matter where they are. The pulse of the ground  anchored me to this world, giving me a sense of joy that I am still here and must make the most of each day. That’s what he would have wanted me to do.

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Forest Park, Oregon, c.b.w. 2015

I don’t know that grief ever totally heals, but my walks have shown me there is more to loss than sadness. I miss my grandparents every day, but I find their absence isn’t as hollow as I once believed. The memories are always there and so is the love. If I’m ever in doubt that they are near, I just remember the crunch of desert sand and the shade of thick trees.

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c.b.w. 2016