Wednesday Words 11.25.15: Give thanks


Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about his religion.

Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.

Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

• Tecumseh, Shawnee •

I’ve borrowed these words from Seth Godin’s The Thanksgiving Reader. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, I hope you have a good one.

Image via

Lots of nothing much


These days, I am clinging to fall as tenaciously as the few remaining leaves are clinging to our trees. Icy winds have been howling for days, and we finally have need for the sweaters I’ve been longing to wear since September.


Winds blew all the leaves into the side of the house, covering what’s left of our garden beds.

I love it. We have been lighting fires and candles, making soups, and snuggling in with blankets and sweaters and woolly socks.

I used to sleep under this quilt at my grandparents' house when I was a girl. My great-grandmother filled it with down from her own animals.

I used to sleep under this quilt at my grandparents’ house when I was a girl.


This dog finds joy in every day, in the smallest of things.

I am making slow progress on the napkins. Emphasis on slow.


So many, many tiny little stitches…

I have other projects I want to work on. Small, simple things. I’d love to stitch up some new cloth napkins for the holiday plates we’ll be using after Thanksgiving.


I’d like to make a variation on these wonderful paper snowballs that’s been knocking around in my head.


I want to make cookies, and then eat them while diving deep into another world. I encountered this book last spring, but I’ve been saving it for the cold, dark months that we’re finally entering. I’m sure it’s more of a winter book than a spring or summer one. (Do you think some books demand particular seasons, too?)


I want to spend hours lost in 14th century Norway, but that might have to wait until January because right now, I am stitching, stitching, stitching…


No, I am not neat and tidy with my supplies.

I’m behind schedule. When I started, I figured I’d need to complete one napkin per week. I’m at 1.6 for the past two weeks. Clearly, that will not suffice. Each flower takes about one episode of Friday Night Lights. (Oh, how did I miss that series for so long? Such delicious TV candy, that.) The stitching feels tedious at times, but at other times it is soothing. I’m getting better and faster at it, and that kind of progress is so satisfying.

This is absolutely a gift for myself as well as for my mom. As Marian helped me see in her post about knitting, the experience of making something for someone else is as much about what goes on in our heads as in our hands. As I stitch, I am grateful that I have the time and materials I need to make a gift. I am grateful that, although my eyes are definitely straining to get thread through the small eye of a needle, I can still get it through. I’m grateful my hands can hold and handle a needle. Mostly, I am grateful that I have people I love to make gifts for.

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I wish you a safe holiday and much to be thankful for.

How could we not bring this home from the thrift store with us?

How could we not bring this home from the thrift store with us?

Wednesday Words 11.18: Storybird Play

Last week I went to a seminar on instructional technology, and for part of the session we were presented with a list of online tools and told to use 30 minutes to explore and have fun with one of them.

There were others on the list with far more practical application to my work than the one I chose, Storybird. I thought that there might be some way to connect it to what I do in my job, but within minutes I realized it wouldn’t provide much (if any) clear value to the work I do in schools. (If I were still a language arts teacher or worked much on curriculum with ELA teachers, yes. But I don’t.)

The directions, however, were to “have fun,” and I decided that that’s what I’d do.

I made poems by selecting a Storybird image, and then playing with a palette of words provided by the tool. It’s like having a big digital box of word magnets.

At first I chafed against the limitations; it was when I surrendered to them that I began having fun. Limitations always lead to new kinds of creativity we wouldn’t otherwise discover.

If you need permission to play with words, consider it granted. Go have some fun.

Wednesday Words 11.11.15: Juxtaposition


Spring and Fall

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 18441889

              to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.


Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 18441889

Glory be to God for dappled things--
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
       And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                     Praise Him.

There is much I might say about both of these poems–and even more about them as a pair–but I am more interested in what you think. Let’s talk in the comments?

Poems via Academy of American Poets. Images mine.

The upside of getting knocked down


Friday morning I woke up to a spinning bed. I’ve had bouts of vertigo before, and this was a bad one. My initial reaction–once I got the bed to stop rocking–was to be ticked off. For the first time in weeks, I’d gotten to Friday with no migraine. I’d gotten so much done, and I was eager to finish a project I’d left at work Thursday afternoon.

Wasn’t gonna happen.

By mid-day with no relief, I called an advice nurse. Her advice:  “Try to move your head as little as possible this weekend, and see where you are at the end of it.”

At first, I was more ticked. And then I decided to surrender to it. Because, really:  What was the point of fighting it? It wasn’t going to change anything. I couldn’t move anything without feeling pretty awful, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Friday I got nothing done, but by Saturday afternoon I was able to move a bit more, enough to get the squares cut out for my napkin project.  I wanted to get that done so I would have scraps to experiment with.


I spent Saturday night with Netflix, some fabric scraps, and a needle. I had permission to sit and keep my head still, which was permission to work on this project. It was kind of a lose-win situation.

I got such great suggestions from your comments to the last post, and I decided to see what some of those ideas might look like when executed.

First I tried outlining a whole flower with one color:


And then I tried a few more other things:



I’ve used only a few basic stitches–mostly back stitch and satin stitch, but also some lazy daisy (directly above) and even some French knots! (I suck at French knots and I’m only batting about .500 on them, but you can see that I got a few into the center of the flower I did in solid satin stitch in the photo above this last one.)

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do on the napkins. I’d probably like the look of doing much of it all in one color, and then having just one colorful flower per napkin. Problem is, that would be much more boring to make than having a wide variety of designs.

There’s also the matter of time. I think it took me 2 movies and several episodes of Friday Night Lights to get through just these 4 flowers. Part of that pace was the fuzziness of my head and figuring things out for the first time, but still:  I need to be real about how much time it will take to do these.


And I could go more minimalist by not stitching the whole flower. I kinda like this as is.

It would be great to make design decisions purely from what would look best, but I think that rarely happens. Design is always part aesthetics/function, but it’s almost always part resources and process, too. What materials can we get/afford? What are we willing to do with them?

I’ll be heading back to work for part of tomorrow, and I might not get back to this for a few days. That’s good, I think. Some cooling off time is always good in any creative project. Gives things a chance to simmer. I’m grateful for the time to immerse myself in this, but also grateful that the bed has stopped spinning every time I turn over in it. 🙂

If anyone wants to chime in with opinions about the flowers above–or the project in general–I’d love to hear them.



Choose a path and follow it

fabric Collage

Last week I began a Christmas-present project, some handmade napkins for my mom. I decided I wanted to make something that would go with her lovely, silver-rimmed china and some delicate, hand-painted wine glasses. I bought a cream-colored tablecloth, which I thought the china and glasses would look nice on, in a dressed-up sort of way, and took myself off to the fabric store. I came home from the there with no clear direction (see above).

Thanks to Cynthia’s comment on that post, I decided over the weekend to keep it simple. I thought I would choose a solid gray linen and back it with a pretty floral fabric. Perhaps I would embroider one single flower on each one.

But then, another direction appeared over the weekend. I spent part of the rainiest Halloween weekend in recent memory at the library, where I found an Alicia Paulson embroidery book:


(Not familiar with Portland writer/crafter/dreamworld maker Alicia Paulson? Her Posie Gets Cozy makes me want to do nothing but sit in front of a fire with a lapful of yarn and fabric.)

I was struck by these curtains:


Such easy design–use the pattern of a fabric as a starting point and embellish it with embroidery floss. Sort of like this inspiration shot I shared earlier, but even simpler:

Image via Upcyclist

Perhaps, I thought, when I returned to the fabric store I would find a fabric with a pattern and know just what to add to it to make it as sweet as Paulson’s curtains.

When I returned to the fabric store, I wasn’t sure which way it would go. For once, I gave myself lots of time to stay there and explore. I pushed a cart around, and I put anything that was a serious contender into it.

Over the course of two hours I went quite a ways down at least three different roads before I finally chose one:


This road required me to abandon my original destination. The project is not going to end at a table appointed with a high thread-count cloth, fine china and delicate glasses. (In fact, the table cloth has already been returned.)

It is going to end at a colorful, humble table–one that feels much more like my mom to me. These napkins will be right at home with her everyday dishes, and I think cloth napkins can be an everyday thing, too. (They are at our house.)

landsdown life napkins

Love this gift tag from Landsdowne Life. Clicking on the image will take you to its post.

I have to say, I resisted this road. I really wanted my original destination to be the one. But I kept turning away from the fabrics that would take me there. Isn’t so much of life like that? We think we know exactly where we should go, but we often find ourselves making choices that don’t take us there. It’s like we can’t help it. (Maybe we can’t.)

I still don’t know exactly how this is going to turn out. At one point in the afternoon, I had a cart full of coordinating fabrics. I envisioned the backs of the napkins in an assortment of colors and patterns:


But then I got frustrated trying to figure out exactly how much of each fabric I needed, and it seemed there would be more waste with the assortment (and fabric isn’t cheap!). So I settled on using the green for all of them. I did, though, use the other fabrics to help me find shades of embroidery floss to use on the black-and-white print.

When I got home, I made a photocopy of the black-and-white fabric so I could experiment with designs. (Our printer is also a copier and scanner. So nice to have those options at home.)


I got out my Sharpies and went to town:


I also folded the paper so I could see how a napkin might look when folded  on the table. That was really helpful. I’d imagined there would be more in a row of flowers showing than there really are.


At this point, I think I need to cut out the fabric and see what a napkin will really look like. And then I need to do some practice/experiment flowers on some scrap fabric. I’m still not sure where this project will end up, but as is true with many big(ish) undertakings, you don’t need to know every step in advance. You just need to figure out the right next step.

Any suggestions are much appreciated–even if they take me in another direction! 🙂


Wednesday Words 11.4.15


The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost, 18741963

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I’ve long loved this poem, but not for the reasons most people love this poem. I now also love this commentary which explains why/how most of us get this poem wrong. 
Photo Credit: Rusty Russ via Compfight cc
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