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My year of rediscovery 

I am part of a great online group. We are this interwoven, global network that have discovered we are more alike than different. I mentioned in a post that I was going to focus this new year on learning something new (or relearning something)  each month, as well as doing one DIY project a month. “Do a blog they said”… yikes. I have never considered doing a blog, but I actually think that it will fit well with my process of rediscovering and creating. So now I am a blogger.

Over the course of 2018, I hope to stimulate the old gray matter and learn about this amazing planet we call home. And because busy hands are happy hands, I will also do one specific craft project, randomly chosen and not necessarily related to my months’ learning topic.

This may not be the best blog, but in reality, it is about me and for me. So here we go.  A peek at whats ahead…

JANUARY:  Head in the Clouds. (Thanks group for the title)

I will be reading up on and gazing skyward to totally enjoy these magical wonders of nature.

I live in a beautiful place where the twilight on the mountains is echoed by the clouds above them. I am ready to lose my head in the clouds. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

March - Winter Olympic Fever, Months of discovery

Rules…

Holy cow! Where has this month gone!  It is already the 14th and I haven’t written at all about the Winter Olympics!  I have been doing lots of reading up on them and I have been thinking about them. I have also been wishing that there was better coverage (okay, ANY coverage) of the Paralympics! But that will have to be one of my blog posts because tonight I am talking about rules. SO many rules.

cartoon4-eng.jpgIn fact, there are so many rules that I am only going to be scratching the surface of what you can and cannot do as an Olympic athlete. It is serious business if one wants to compete to wear a gold medal.  Not only do the athletes, coaches and other officials have rules they must adhere to, but the sports themselves have tons of rules.

Let’s start with ice skating since that is a favorite of mine. Each year the International Skating Union (ISU)chooses the music for the figure skating short dance. A genre all skaters must use. This year Rhumba rhythm as well as Samba, Mambo, Meringue, Salsa, Bachata and any closely related Latin American or Caribbean rhythms were allowed. That explains why they all sounded the same.

surya bonaly.jpgI remember watching Surya Bonaly compete and couldn’t understand why she didn’t win a medal. Well, she did a backflip while skating. SHE DID A BACKFLIP while skating. But it is considered an “illegal figure skating move” by the ISU, because the landing is made on two feet and a ‘real jump’ must land on one. So what did Surya do? She landed the backflip on one foot at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. But the move was still considered illegal and she finished in 10th place. She will always have won the gold in my opinion!

This rule for speed skating makes perfect sense for me. It is a requirement that timekeeping is done both manually and automatically. The people with stopwatches are there so that if the automatic systems fail, times can still be determined and angry athletes with blades on their feet don’t come after the officials!

bobsledding.jpgSkeleton and Bobsledding have some similar rules, but in skeleton the rule is that the athlete must cross the finish line, if they need to leave their sled to run, push or move it, that is okay to do. In bobsledding, there is a maximum weight for the sled including the crew, runners, and other equipment. For the 2-man bobsled it is 860 pounds and for the 4-man bobsled, it is 1,389 pounds for the men’s team and 717 pounds for the women’s team. There is no maximum weight for luge and the athletes can use ballasts to increase their weight as desired.

Speaking of those events, men and women compete on the same track in bobsled and skeleton, however, in luge, the men travel .84 miles while the women’s route is .75 miles.

Hockey is very popular and there are rules. I just learned that it is legal to kick the puck. They can kick it, but if the athlete is kicking it towards the goal the puck must be smacked by a stick before going into the goal, or that point will not count.

Have you noticed that you rarely see fights break out on the ice during Olympic hockey games? In fact, there have only been eight fights since 1960. I actually really like watching hockey when there are no fights.

curling.jpgLet’s talk Curling! This is a very complicated sport with lots of rules. One of the rules was created in 1991, that being that stones in the ‘free guard zone’ cannot be removed from play until after the first four stones have come to a rest. They did this because the games were low-scoring and pretty boring to watch.  Boring to watch? Obviously whoever said that has never watched the team from Norway!

The Big Air Snowboarding was so exciting this year. Those people are downright crazy. These athletes have three runs to land their biggest, best jumps. The scores from their two best runs are added together. The strange rule is that in over for the score to qualify they must spin their jump or ‘trick’ in different directions. So, if the first run was frontside, the next run was backside.  I’m dizzy just thinking about it!

Lastly, women have not competed in a Nordic Combined Event. There is no rule saying that they can’t, but no one has ever done it. I think it is high time for that to change and perhaps we will see it at the next Olympic Winter Games!

 

 

March - Winter Olympic Fever, Months of discovery

Olympic Fever!

So this February, I was once again bitten by the Olympic bug – I was glued to my television for 17 days. I ignored house projects, stayed up way too late, and am now not sure what to do with my Olympic void.  Blog. I shall make March my All Things Winter Olympics month.  A great subject to focus in on and learn all I can.  I guess a good place to start would be with some general history.

Hoplitodromos_Louvre_MN704.jpgI guess we all know that the games have ancient roots. In Ancient Greece, a man’s overall education was not complete without sports. Education was viewed as a culmination, the balance, and harmony of intellect, as well as mental and physical strength. These ancient games were played from 776 BCE until 394 CE when Roman emperor Theodosius I banned the pagan practices associated with the Olympic Games and made Christianity the main religion of the Empire. There is a lot of discussion about this and it is actually pretty interesting. If you are a history geek, you might enjoy reading more about the Theodosian code and how this affected the games.

th.jpgDuring the dark ages and middle ages, common folk and the lower class kept the games alive. Ball games like Shinty, Knattleikr and Jeu de paume were played. There were local contests like foot races, pig wrestling, wife carrying, and pan tossing. The roots of the Highland Games stem from everyday folks holding tournaments of strength and cunning.

On April 6, 1896, the first modern Olympic Game was held in Athens Greece. 14 countries participated, competing in 43 events. There were 241 athletes, all men. Women participated for the first time at the 1900 Paris Games.

On January 25, 1924, the International Winter Sports Week took place at Chamonix in the French Alps. 16 nations competed in 18 events. There were 247 male athletes and 11 female athletes. In 1928 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the winter games official.

The Olympic torch relay didn’t join the tradition until the summer Olympics in Berlin in 1936.

In the history of the modern Olympics, the games have only been canceled three times, always on account of war. 1916 Summer games in Berlin, 1940 Summer games in Helsinki, and the 1944 Summer games in London.

I could go on and on – well that is what March is all about!  I’ve been bitten by the Olympic Bug!

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February - My Fictional Friends and Mentors, Months of discovery

The End is the Beginning

Tattered, taped, dog-eared and underlined is how my next book looks, but my beloved character shines new every time I revisit her. Jane Yolen’s Sister Light Sister Dark captivated me from the first time I cracked the binding. When I found out it was book one of a trilogy and my mind exploded! How much do I love this character, well, when I was pregnant with my first child I was going to name her after my fictional heroine. However, my newborn daughter was not a Jo-an-enna, Jenna or Anna.

At first, it was the writing style of this book that pulled me in. There are five ‘voices’ throughout the book: The Myth, The Legend, The Story, The History and The Song, which is actual sheet music with lyrics. These 5 voices weave the story together and quickly had me believing in Jenna and holding my breath for Jo-an-enna. Jenna, a girl orphaned at birth, raised in a Hame, who becomes a warrior Jo-an-enna, and who is the prophesied goddess, the Anna, White Jenna. To add an enticing hook, there is also Skada, Jenna’s shadow sister.

Jenna is resilient, stubborn, wise and compassionate. She is forced into a role that at first, she is unwilling to accept. She knows the land and she can read the signs of nature. She is beyond brave and she honors the old ways while needing to look toward the future and the changes coming. Jenna is quick to use a cliche to explain a solution or her reasoning. These ‘Wisdoms of the Dales’ are another favorite part of this book:

The heart is not a knee that can bend.
Spilled water is better than a broken jar.
Wood may remain twenty years in the water but it is still not a fish.
There is no medicine to cure hatred.

These gems are sprinkled throughout the book. I find that when I am overwhelmed, unsteady or even at a loss for words – I turn again to Jenna and these bits of truths from the Dales. I turn to the amazing women of the Hames. I find comfort there, I find companionship there, and I find sisters there.

February - My Fictional Friends and Mentors, Months of discovery

Always

There is not much that hasn’t already been written about my next fictional friend. It was easy for me in my head and heart to come up with what I wanted to say, but what I wasn’t expecting was just how hard it was going to be to put into written words what he means to me. Hence the break in my blogging (well, that and the winter Olympics)!

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I have been a Harry Potter fan from day one. I pre-ordered the books, waited in line for my copies and devoured them on the spot. I have read them over and over to myself,  we have read them out loud as a family, I even have electronic copies of the series on my smartphone. I carry an HP-inspired tattoo that I hope someday to turn into a nice cuff, weaving together several of my favorite themes of the series. I am also geeky enough that I listen to HP themed rock bands such as Riddle TM, The Remus Lupins, The Whomping Willows and Swish and Flick (just to name a few).

Chapter 7, page 126, Severus Snape entered my world with his greasy black hair and hooked nose, and my life has never been the same. What was it about this man that drew me to him? Perhaps it is me asking what I don’t know, perhaps always trying to see the good in everyone, but with book one I just knew that Severus was more than what we were seeing on the surface.

FB_IMG_1518661837064.jpgSo full disclosure, my obsession with Snape runs deep.  People who really know me know it is not a joking matter with me. It has gone so far as to be gifted his wand and a life-sized cardboard cutout. One January 9th (Snape’s birthday), my family threw Severus a surprise birthday party with decorations, cake, and even invited guests. When I got home that night-SURPRISE! I have one friend who refers to him as my fictional lover. I’m okay with that because I do love him, always.

It is now difficult to separate the book character from the brilliant work of the late Alan Rickman. They are woven together into eternity being one and the same. When Mr. Rickman died many of us felt the loss of Professor Snape all over again. Yes, he was a fictional character, but the life lessons that many of us credit him are very, very real. Some lessons like:

It is ok that people don’t like you: Snape was an easy character to hate, from the first time he is introduced. From his description to the way he treated the trio (Harry, Hermione, and Ron), his character was written to misguide us, to put mistrust in him, the reasons behind these choices, of course, become apparent in later books. To put this Snape lesson in other words, “what others think of you is none of your business”.

Loving after Heartbreak: Snape loved Lily and she rejected him for James. Snape made mistakes, big mistakes, even putting her family in danger, but he did everything in his power to protect her. The scene where he is cradling Lily’s body still makes me cry. Nowadays it seems that after a breakup there is SO much hate. Snape shows us that if you truly love someone, you won’t be consumed by hatred when things don’t work out.

How about don’t judge a book by its cover or not all Slytherins are bad: Stereotypes run rampant these days and it is easy to put people (and wizards) into groups based on one trait. Severus was an intelligent, ambitious, clever, caring, giving, loving man, who made the ultimate sacrificed for the woman he loved, protecting her son.

It is never too late to do the right thing: Once again, JK Rowling wrote the character where he had made some big mistakes. Snape spent the rest of his life making amends for them. Risking his own life to make right. This is a running theme in any religion, in any heroes story, and it is one that we need to humble ourselves to honor.

Bravery comes in all shapes and sizes: throughout the books, we see brave acts, some small acts of Neville trying to stop the trio from leaving the common room. To those who gave their lives during the final battle (wiping tears thinking of Remus and Tonks holding hands). People thought Snape was a coward, it is revealed that he was anything but. Harry goes so far as to call him the bravest man he ever knew.

My list goes on and on. Loyalty, that heroes can hide in the most unlikely of places, forgiveness, patience and hard work will pay off (but often goes unappreciated), that sometimes words are not needed and that true love lasts a lifetime.

There will never be another Alan Rickman or another Severus Snape, but hopefully, there will be many more fictional heroes we can learn from and carry with us…

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February-Crafts and Creativity, Uncategorized

Friendship = Inspiration

output.jpgMy dearest friend lives in a tiny house with her daughter and their tiny dog. Prior to their move to the west coast, we would get together several times a week to share a meal, watch the recent episodes of our favorite shows, dumpster dive and find ways to reduce our personal waste and carbon footprints. She lives 11 hours away now, but we chat almost daily and we still make each other laugh. Having a like-minded friend who encourages me in being a better person is priceless. This months craft project is because of her.  Please check out her amazing blog for your own inspiration.

My house is far from zero waste, but we have taken some steps in the right direction and it feels great. One night while we were sitting around, drinking tea and discussing life, Lea mentioned her switch to paperless paper towels and reusable wipes. After showing them to me, I was hooked. The wipes could be used for cleaning up spills, wiping down counters, even removing makeup! I have a sewing machine and I knew these were items I could easily make. I decided to take it on as a craft project.

20180204_114923.jpgI started by looking at existing wipe containers. I knew that the switch would start with a one-time purchase of wipes or a sturdy container with a lid. I decided that I would make enough individual wipes that after each use, the dirty wipe could be tossed in the laundry and still have enough clean ones to get me through laundry day. Having decided how many I was going to make, I went searching for flannel scraps. My local fabric store had some fun scraps at a greatly reduced price, but I needed more. I put a request out on Facebook and had several friends mail me leftovers from their sewing projects, which made my upcycling wipe project even better! For the non-flannel side of my wipe, I repurposed microfiber kitchen towels.  In the end, I had a collection of wonderful fun patterns and colors to use for my sewing project.

20180204_120340.jpgThe sewing portion of the project ended up being pretty straightforward. I cut the pieces of fabric so the finished product would be approximately 3.5″ x 6″ and able to neatly fit in the container I was using. I pinned the pieces together, right sides facing in, and sewed it like a pillowcase. I flipped the fabric, exposing the finished side and I finished sewing the wipe with a French seam.

I was having so much fun mixing patterns with colors that in the end, I decided to make a set of paperless wipes for my mother, my college student daughter, a housewarming gift for a new friend, as well as a set for our home. The last step of the project was to print labels with the recipe for the solution the wipes are stored in. Because I was gifting these, this information would be important to pass on.

20180204_120357.jpgThere. Done. My step towards reducing waste has extended from my home to several others, and I’m not done yet. I am still sewing these and gifting them out!  I hope you will give them a try.

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February - My Fictional Friends and Mentors, Months of discovery

Fiery Muse

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Inkheart is the first book in Cornelia Funke’s young adult fantasy trilogy. They did make a movie which like most movies, is different than the book. I enjoyed the movie but I love the book. Each new chapter in Inkheart is started with a quote from another book: The Jungle Book, Fahrenheit 451, The Fellowship of the Ring, etc. making it a rich read. Out of all the characters, I love Dustfinger. He is my muse, pulling me to look at all sides of situations, seeing the good and the bad and to not ‘judge a book by its cover’.

We are first introduced to Dustfinger on page two where it is a dark, rainy night and a motionless stranger stares up at a house. I read that, and from that point on Dustfinger became a haunting figure in my imagination.

Dustfinger is a performer, a fire-eater to be exact. Under the stubble of his beard, he carries three scars. He has been transported against his wishes from his world to ours. His only desire is to be reunited with his family. This character is sly and skilled at remaining unseen, barely more than a shadow. His one companion is Gwin, a horned martin that was transported with him.

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I have always been surrounded by books. My parents deal in antiquarian paper items: maps, photographs, and books. I was always read to as a child and taught that both printed and spoken words are magical. Inkheart captivated me as the characters are read out of the books to this word. In my imagination my father was Silvertongue and I was Maggie. To this day, every time I read, characters are brought to life from the pages.

I have always been drawn to the old carnival, caravan and circus style of performing, specifically the jugglers, the slight of hand, and the fire-manipulators, like Dustfinger. I remember even as a young child wanting to run away to be a gypsy performer. When I tell this to people now all they can picture is me as a carny, but for me, it is much older. Who knows, maybe in a past life I was such a performer and my soul still carries a yearning to return to it.

Dustfinger is a man who is innocent and gullible and will do what it takes to get home to his family. He can appear cruel and manipulative, but he only has his end goal in mind. It is through him that this brutal reality of the world is shown. Murderers go free and get to live happily ever after. The very best of people die. Nowadays I hear talent means nothing if you are a jerk but the jerks still get the jobs. It is just the way of the world. Not a very comforting lesson from my muse, but a valuable one.

I find it interesting that my main connection to Dustfinger is through music. There are instances when I will be listening to a song and I find that I am not listening alone. I can sense him saying, “That is nice, I like that one.” Anytime I listen to Scalliwag by Gaelic Storm or Chevauchée Celeste by Mathias Duplessy I can count on a visit from my fictional muse.

I find it comforting to know that Dustfinger is always there for me to pull strength from. I try my best to see all sides of the story, to ask myself what don’t I know about the situation or the other person. Dustfinger also reminds me that it is okay to be passionate about what I’m good at and to have my family always as my end goal.

May the heat of his flames always serve as my muse.

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February - My Fictional Friends and Mentors, Months of discovery

My Friends of February

February is upon us! With it comes a new month of discovery in my year-long quest to focus on one topic a month. Since February is the month that holds Valentine’s day, I have decided to focus on the love I have for some special friends.

A friend is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of affection. I count myself lucky to have the friends that I do. They are an eclectic group of misfits who have blessed my life journey. I can always count on them to make me laugh. They have shared their mistakes that I might not repeat them and they constantly share their wisdom so I can carry it with me, always.book quote2.jpgThese dear souls are invisible to everyone but me. They are fictional, pulled from the pages of literature. I sound crazy saying this out loud, but I feel there presents. I look for their influence to guide me.  Confession, I actually have heard music and thought, “so and so would love this song”. I have one friend in particular who I do this with on a pretty regular basis. He will be one of my first blogs. I always thought everyone did this with books they liked, but apparently, that is not the case. Am I worried about this? Not at all. I think I am healthier for having them on my journey. I dedicate this month to my beloved characters, my fictional friends, my muses, and mentors. I will be, in no particular order, diving into why I find these people so endearing. I will also be taking the time to do some introspective looking at why they have moved me, stuck with me and perhaps changed who I am for the better. book quote1.jpgI am looking forward to what I may learn during this months quest!

January - My Head in the Clouds, Months of discovery

Shadow Play

hand-shadows-864.jpgI have very vivid childhood memories of shadows. Times up at a friend’s mountain cabin as well as in the family tent while camping. Using my hands to cast shadows on the wall, trying to make the usual bunny and elephant. As long as I can remember I have loved the magical images of shadows.

Shadow play or shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling. Flat cut-out puppets are held between a light source and a screen, casting a shadow.  This is similar to the hand shadows that I attempted as a child.

Cloud_shade.jpgCumulus clouds are masters of shadow play. As they dance over our heads they cast shadows down to earth. I am most aware of this shadow play during the summer. On many a hot, sunny day, I am thankful for the shadow of a cloud.  The brief dimming of the suns rays brings a brief respite from the heat of the day. It is mid-winter right now, but I am going to do my best to really enjoy this fact this summer when it is triple digit and there will not be enough shade to keep me cool.

It is not just here on earth that cloud shadows play, cumulus clouds also cast shadows from one part of the sky to another. Reflecting back on this month of clouds I know that cumulus clouds are huge towers. These majestic clouds cast shadows not only down to earth but onto other clouds across the horizon and into the atmosphere. My much loved ‘god rays’ are also cast upward, almost acting as a bridge from earth to the unknown. These are sometimes called ‘crown rays’. I love them even more now that I know that!

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As my month of learning about clouds comes to an end, I know that I will continue to be ponderous and reflective of them. I hope to continue appreciating there unique and wonderful abilities to bring magic and awe into my day. I will notice what types are overhead and what that means as far as the weather changes I can expect. To be honest with you, I think my head will remain in the clouds for some time to come!

 

 

January - My Head in the Clouds, Months of discovery

No, Really – I’m Cirrus!

Let’s face it, sometimes there are days when the dark side sucks the joy right out of you. I know after listening to the daily news I can find the doom and gloom settling in. Fortunately, I tend to be a pro at playing the ‘Glad Game’. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it is time for you to rewatch the classic Disney film, Pollyanna.

Laughing draws people together. There is nothing better than watching someone laugh.  It is contagious and pretty soon you are laughing with them. Laughter is said to strengthen your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Children laugh all the time, in fact, they laugh hundreds of times a day. But somewhere when we become adults, we lose our laugh and it is damaging our health. Don’t want to take my word for it, the Mayo Clinic even wants us to laugh!

They say laughter is the best medicine. We are encouraged to turn our frowns upside down. So laugh we will, even if the jokes are bad.  I present to you Cloud Humor!peanuts1.jpgWhat does a cloud wear under his raincoat?  Thunderwear!

What did one raindrop say to the other? Two’s company. Three’s a cloud!

Why shouldn’t you fight with a cloud? He’ll storm out on you.chickenclouds2.jpgWhy do meteorologist pay so much attention to wispy clouds? They take the cirrus-ly.

I’d tell you a joke about a cloud but it would be over your head.

How do you wrap a cloud? With a rainbow.dadadvice.jpgWho is a cloud’s favorite relative? Her anticyclone

What is a cloud’s favorite reptile? A blizzard.

What’s a cloud’s favorite drink? Mountain Dew.chickenclouds.jpgWhy did the cloud date the fog? Becuase he was so down to Earth.

Why did the cloud cry? Someone said it looked like a hippo.

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January - My Head in the Clouds, Months of discovery

The Sunbeam of my Soul

god4.jpgDid you know that the word cloud(s) is used in the bible 17 times and that storm is used 14 times?  I didn’t but I looked it up today because of ‘god rays’. Maybe you call them ‘sunbeams’ or ‘sun rays’ but in my family, we call them ‘god rays’. These breathtaking visions are not clouds but can be seen because of them. There have been times when I have seen ‘god rays’ and they have stopped me in my tracks and taken my breath away.

The scientific name for these is Crepuscular rays and they are created when sunlight makes it through gaps and thin areas in stratocumulus clouds (or between other objects like trees, but I am not focusing on those).  A quick refresher on stratocumulus clouds. These are lower altitude clouds (usually below 8,000 feet) that are made up of large dark masses. Crepuscular comes from the Latin word “crepusculum”, meaning twilight. So that being said, these beams of sunlight are usually seen more often around the hours of dawn and dusk when the contrasts between light and dark make them more visible.

Railroad_Tracks.JPGWhen the sun comes through the cloud it appears to be separated by the darker portions of the stratocumulus cloud, giving the impression of columns of sunlight or ‘god rays’.  These rays seem to come from the point in the sky where the sun is located. This is an optical illusion, the rays are in fact near-parallel beams. This is the same reason that railroad tracks seem to meet at a point in the distance.

When I was in college I took a poetry class. Perhaps it is because my brother’s name is Robert Lewis, or perhaps it is because the teacher loved RL Stevenson’s words, but whenever I see ‘god rays’ I think of the first stanza of his poem, Summer Sun

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

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