literary saturday: late april reading

Books:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Status: AAAGGGHHHH!! I have this purchased on my iPad, so I use it to put myself to sleep during especially difficult bouts with insomnia. It’s that interesting. Sorry, I know this is purported to be a genius undertaking, and I can see how the tiny threads of different far-flung stories are or will eventually be somehow connected, but the inner dialogue is just so dense. Like, quite dense. And I generally enjoy inner dialogue! Laboriously crafted characters, too. And I groove complex people! Maybe I should try reading this in broad daylight, filled with energy, on actual paper with ink. Maybe that would help. For now, this is firmly on my “difficult reads” shelf. The marathon of book attempts.

Freedom by Johnathan Franzen. Status: Completed. This book was beautiful. Absolutely orchestral in its telling and weaving of generational patterns, love stories, and self actualization. I need to talk about it. Gen? Available?

freedom

Sweet Surfing:

Ever since spending that luscious week with Jocelyn in Colorado, watching her transform her adorable cabin kitchen, I have had small spaces on my brain. Hers is so pretty, so perfect for a single young woman finding herself and exploring her world. I read Joy the Baker’s memories on her many tiny kitchen spaces and loved every conjured image. All the Kitchens We’ve Lived In.

joc kitchen

Do you ever read Live Your Legend? Oh man. It’s worth keeping on your list of  weekly haunts. Go back far enough and read forward and you will have quite a feast for mind and soul. Recently the website posted 10 Ways to Do Your Own Impossible Daily and I adore it. “Beliefs are not facts.”

Dee over at Red Dirt Ramblings adds new material often, which is wonderful for her readers! This article is several weeks old, but it bears mentioning again this weekend because now most of us are getting serious about summer garden planning. “Beautiful Foliage Carries the Summer Garden” is perfect for anyone in Oklahoma who craves consistent lushness despite the heat and wind and humidity and bugs and, well, Oklahoma-ness. Thank you Dee!

Dorothy Beal writes Miles Post, a running blog that reaches deep into my happy guts. The author writes directly, without pulling punches, about topics ranging from body image to food, family, and travel. In An Uncomplicated Guide to Running and Life she just nails it. Easy peasy.

With few exceptions, Handsome and I greatly prefer eating at home. This piece by Fit-Fluential gives us lots of reasons to feel even better about that habit. We have yet to jump on the fresh-ingredient-delivery bandwagon, as this article suggests, but some of our friends swear by it. Also? This piece says wear your apron. Amen.

Did you know I sell handmade apron sets? Drop me a line. I would love to set you up with something cute. xoxo
Did you know I sell handmade apron sets? Drop me a line. I would love to set you up with something cute. xoxo

Okay my next link is not for reading; it’s a TED talk. I hope you’ll give it a listen. Handsome and I heard it together while driving somewhere west, and we agreed it is lovely. “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers by Adam Grant actually does have some surprising research to offer. My favorite line has to be, “Doubt the default.” Yes!! Yes, please. Friends, every time you sense a default setting in your life, care enough about yourself (about everyone around you) to re-examine it. Make sure periodically that the habits you have established continue to serve you and the people you love.

I would be so happy to get a glimpse of what you’re reading, too.

Now… I am off to do some average farm stuff then prepare for our pup’s first birthday party. Watch for photos! Then a girls’-night-out. Then some romance with Handsome. Very excited for every bit of that!

Happy Weekend to you!

Doubt the Default
XOXOXOXO

 

marathon monday: gratitude trumps regret

Friends, to those of you who ran any of the amazing events yesterday at our City’s beloved Memorial Marathon, congratulations!! I hope you had the most wonderful time! I hope you were safe and felt happy, energized, and appreciated. Weather conditions Sunday morning were challenging, with high humidity and strong winds, but that just makes your accomplishment so much sweeter, right? Close to twenty people I know or sort of know were among the almost twenty-five thousand runners. Wow! Watching your updates made me super happy. This is, after all, much more than any road race; this is an act of remembrance and a declaraion that love overcomes hate. That communities can heal.

This chainlink fence stands all year long and is constantly adorned with flowers, wreaths, letters, and stuffed animals to remember those lost in the 1995 Murrah Building bombing. Runners in the different Memorial Marathon races also pin their paper race bibs here.

I am disappointed to not have participated this year. No doubt. My enthusiasm was so high going into training, and I had been learning so much about myself (mind and body) this past year, that I really believed this April would be a big deal. I harbored pretty fantastic ideas about how things might go down, around Lake Hefner and along Classen especially. But that ankle injury changed everything. Thankfully it is pretty well healed now, just not in time to build up the stamina needed for long distance. And that’s all I want to do, really.

 denial run

I was tthhiiiisss close to registering anyway, last minute, without even warning my husband. It was Friday night and I was clicking on links left and right looking for options. Maybe the half?

But then I scrolled through the hundreds of photos on my phone. Having spent the previous week with Jocelyn in Colorado, I was overcome with gratitude and in many ways still felt like I was there with her. We had such an amazing eight days together! I visited her fit and healthy enough to really enjoy exploring her version of paradise. Hiking up snowy mountains with this beautiful young woman is a pleasure I could never have predicted. It is beyond a dream come true. So… deep gratitude for health and love and life in general quickly overwhelmed that nagging race regret.

My ankle and stamina were not lacking; they were exactly where they needed to be.

joc me hike

I halted all plans and mind games about desperate registration and actively gave thanks for the time spent with her, for being healed and strong enough to really enjoy Colorado with her a second time and makes some irreplaceable memories.

false peak

Isn’t life amazing? How wonderful that gratitude is so consistently powerful, too.

Once again, friends, my warmest hugs and congratulations if you ran any of those events on Sunday!! It’s quite a feat. Also congratulations if you trained for something and had to bow out for any reason. I now understand how frustrating that is. Take care of yourself and look to the future with me, okay?

More importantly, let’s look at the present moment and count our abundant blessings hard. Let’s invite gratitude to fully overwhelm all our stabbing little regrets. It feels so nice.

 

 

It’s As It Should Be.
XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

the legend of how the iris survived a famine in japan

Have you heard the legend of how the elegant iris survived a famine in Japan?

I am going to paraphrase it for you without bothering to fact check, because the best legends possess more magic than facts, anyway. xoxo

Once upon a time in feudal Japan, either a century or five or nine ago, the people were starving. The land was stricken hard by famine. So little was growing, and yet the population was exploding so greatly, that the government made a decree: In order to maximize their limited farmland it was ordered that only edible plants could be cultivated. The island nation could afford to waste no fertile soil on ornamentals like flowers.

But the Japanese people loved their flowers, their irises especially. Irises were heritage plants, like they are for us now: Legacies handed down from one generation to the next with great care. Beautiful, fragrant, voluptuous tissue blooms growing year after year in the toughest conditions. The villagers could look at their irises and glimpse decades and centuries of familial connection, a vital life force in their culture. To many villagers, growing irises seemed as important as growing food.

So they found a way.

The people gently unearthed their coveted rhizomes from garden spaces that would then be dedicated to growing food exclusively. They secreted the woody treasures up to the thatched roofs of their homes. In little pockets of earth out of view of the soldiers and farm overseers, they maintained their iris legacies.

Food grew below, in the open, and the famine eventually passed. The land healed. And irises grew above, in secret, and their legacies remained in tact. The people healed.

irises april 2016

As I sit here typing this story a very old cut-glass vase faces me, filled with yellow and white iris blooms. I brought them inside yesterday, and they have been perfuming the downstairs ever since. Like most people, I grow irises that were gifts. Some are from my Mom who got them three decades ago from my Dad’s grandmother, whose parents brought them over from Germany. Some are from my wonderful gardening friend Kevin. A few are wild transplants, but not many. All of them are gorgeous and strong. Resilient. Colorful in different ways but all heady with that unmistakable scent.

Plants come and go in our lives and in our culture for a variety of reasons. Lots of people are quick to dismiss a loss or even to claim “brown thumb” when growing conditions are tough, as they frequently are here in my home state. Okay, gardening isn’t for everyone. But beauty takes many shapes and can come and go in our lives for a variety of reasons. The next time you are faced with losing something beautiful and precious that perhaps you could salvage, take heart. Consider the faith and determination of the Japanese people when they were faced with losing something dear to them. The evaluated their resources, re-purposed everything, and found a way. They made a way. They valued beauty as much as sustenance and then quietly, without fanfare or violence or a noisy protest, fulfilled the desires of their own hearts. And it was plenty enough.

This story speaks to me on many other levels too. If you were here drinking coffee with me we could talk it over for a few hours! But we both have stuff to do, right? I’ll leave you to it and get on my way as well.

Seek beauty, friends. It is a meaningful gift. Live with beauty. Aim for legacy. Seek it. Value it. Make room for all of it in your life, even if you have to secret things away to your thatched roof for a season. It can heal you.

Happy springtime wishes from Oklahoma
XOXOXO

 

 

 

“My Life on the Run” by Bart Yasso (book review)

Friends, I know the title My Life on the Run might give you the idea that this book is only about running, and maybe that’s just not your thing and maybe you are tired of me talking about it, but I am writing this review for every single one of you. I want all of my friends to read it, okay? If you are nice and share your tortilla chips, then you can even borrow my copy, but you will then want to buy your own. I have read the entire book twice and several excerpts a few times.

Whether or not you consider yourself a runner, just you being a human being full of dreams and faced with challenges, just you all by yourself on a unique life journey filled with both triumph and difficulty, pain and laughter, means that Bart Yasso’s memoir can feed you. In fact, it will feed you if you open up just a little.

And those among us who appreciate a great story telling pace and lots of jokes will enjoy it all the more.

Of course, if you are a runner then this book is a must read. You already know that running has trans-formative powers, and as Mr. Yasso says:

It’s an affirmation of life. Running was magic, and I never wanted to lose my ability to conjure up that altered state again.

I first heard of Bart Yasso a couple of years ago while researching online how to achieve a faster marathon time. Seasoned runners are probably familiar with his proven 800-meter pacing method, and in fact he devotes an entire chapter to how he developed this training strategy. Trust me, as technical as it sounds, even this chapter is funny. He is pseudo-proud and self-deprecating in the best ways, describing his professional interactions and private thought processes with just the right amount of detail and insight. This is one of the chapters I read three times, partly for reference and mostly for entertainment.

Reading about how to run faster put his name in my brain, so when I showed up in Lawton, Oklahoma, to run that Spirit of Survival half marathon last autumn, I saw his name advertised as a guest and was more than a little curious to meet him. He was shaking hands, autographing books, and being truly the nicest person in the hotel that Friday night. Inside my purchased copy of My Life on the Run he wrote, “Marie- Never underestimate where running can take you. –Bart Yasso.” If you know me very well at all, then you understand how my throat seized up and I fought back tears. I have a lot of places I want to go in life. Running has been taking me there already.

bart yasso book signature

And don’t you dare ruin this for me by saying he probably wrote that in everyone’s book, haha! I already know that.

Mingling in the crowd, Mr. Yasso was infinitely approachable, and the talk he gave to runners and media at the pasta dinner that night endeared him to me. I sat with this sweet couple. Remember them, the local pair who posed for a photo with Tiny T?

bart yasso couple tiny t

We all three (four if you count Tiny T and you better) laughed so hard the entire time! You just cannot believe some of the adventures Mr. Yasso has had while running! I tried taking notes but only succeeded a little because his stories were strung together in a very casual, life-of-the-party kind of way, not stilted at all. Not terribly outlined but still rhythmic. He’s the exact opposite of that speaker who puts the audience to sleep. However long he was at the microphone that night wasn’t nearly enough for the crowd. It was just plain fun and deeply motivating.

And the thing is, his book is written is exactly that same smart, affable, witty voice. His writing is purely conversational with several moments of either confession or transparency that draw you closer, just a little hushed, like he is sharing a secret he doesn’t want the whole room to hear. With the written word his tone softens and you know it’s serious. Then? It’s all fun and laughter again. Page after page with the brightest of outlooks, the strongest of wills.

You might recall that before sunrise on the morning of that particular race Handsome and I bumped into Bart while walking to the start line. We had the loveliest conversation during that five-minute commute, and his positive energy multiplied my excitement tenfold. He indulged me in a photo and wished me luck on the run. I was giddy.

So now you have an idea of why I am so engaged with this runner-writer He’s just a wonderful person! And his ideas are effective. He is not just sharing his personal experiences; he also works for Runners World magazine and travels the globe promoting events and helping people. He wins races. Difficult ones. He overcomes incredible obstacles like injury and chronic disease, but you have to read about that for yourself.

Worth mentioning is that he was not necessarily born a runner.

But then I started running. And when I started running, I started dreaming. It couldn’t be helped.

Can you relate to this? I sure can. In many ways my life turned a supernatural corner at the age of 39 when I finally started.

And if you have a tendency to see the glass as half empty, consider this:

I made peace with it after recognizing that running isn’t about how far you go but how far you’ve come.

Truly, friends, I could quote and attempt to retell this book all night long. Please just read it. Watch out for the burro racing chapter and the rhinoceros story and the banana bread especially, and call me the minute you read each of those. I want to hear your beautiful voice laughing out loud! Then I want to hear you tell me how this book inspired you. Because I know it will.

bart yasso book review sticker

Thank you for so many friendly interactions, Bart, and for sharing your life with the world. Thank you for plunging into running as a teenager and for staying open to it all these years since, despite the painful setbacks. I am honored to have met you and really loved your memoir.

“The starting line beckons.”
~Bart Yasso
XOXOXOXO

 

 

motivation monday: life lately & 5 ways to keep up positive momentum

I can’t remember the last time I went for almost two weeks without blogging, ha! Not that big of a deal, but I do miss writing about the farm and connecting with you. My reasons for neglecting this space are good: Life is full to bursting with happy writing deadlines, interesting volunteer activities, and general momentum. I feel amazing bodily and heartily. Gratitude is seeping out of my bones.

Here’s the low down:

Gardens are awake! All over the farm! This consumes my senses as well as my imagination day after day. I want you to come walk through it all with me. Stuff is sprouting that I do not remember planting; and treasures are blooming that I had feared were lost.

Chickens are laying eggs again like gangbusters.

The statewide spring Beekeepers’ Conference was so fun, and I am just weeks away from new honey-makers. (squeal!!)

Running has picked back up, and my ankle feels amazing. I logged 23 miles last week and have 35 planned for this week. I feel like myself again. I’m beginning to look myself again, too, though happily that is now a lesser concern. Still unsure what races are in my immediate future, but I’m not worried about it.

Handsome and I have been cleaning out, organizing, and freshening up the farm in wonderful ways. Weekend warriors we are. The turnpike might be a phantom worry after all, and together with the weather inching toward true springtime, that happy news is giving us such a boost. We have that old craving to really improve our home. Our nest. Our beautiful sanctuary from the world.

Speaking of which, we have big delicious plans for the sunny, sandy front field. If you say it backwards, it’s nolemretaw.

Gardening class with Maddie is just downright pleasing my soul. She is insightful, sensitive, interested in growing her own food, and simply a pleasure to be with every Thursday. Last week we planted her first round of potatoes on Saint Patrick’s Day! Isn’t that cool? And she has been amending her flower bed with rotted horse and chicken manure (from our farm) and will soon be tackling early veggies. Love it all.

Handsome is blazing through obstacles at the Commish. He makes me so happy and proud. Oklahomans should know that your utility regulators work their guts out and care deeply for doing the right things. Balance, fairness, clean business. Three cheers for PUD!! xoxo

I signed up recently for my first trade/craft show. As “Green Goose” I will be selling handmade textiles at a cool little place not far from here, and locals… I would be thrilled to see you there! If it goes well, I will continue to show up once a month and will add fresh eggs and seasonal produce to my booth.

Let’s see… What else?

Hmm…

Well there is this small detail that soon I will be flying to Colorado to visit Jocelyn!! For the second time in a year I get to spend a week with her in her natural habitat. This time, no hotels. She has her own place now, and (can you even!!) she asked me to help her fix it up. Paint, organize, decorate, etc. We plan to cook together. Hang out. Work in her garden. She even asked me to babysit her beautiful puppy while she’s at work. I MEAN!!! xoxo

dream big, work hard ... xoxo
dream big, work hard … xoxo

So yes, life is wonderfully full. Week to week, day to day, we have no shortage of lovely ways to pursue happiness. And we tend to catch it too, which is amazing. I feel abundantly blessed and motivated right now. Maybe it would be worth sharing a few easy strategies for keeping up this healthy momentum:

Five Ways to Maintain Momentum

  • Eat well. Not too much, not too little, and plenty of whatever makes you feel amazing, long-term. You know what your body actually needs. Everyone has a different chemistry. For me it’s lots of raw fruits and veggies, some Greek yogurt and nuts, and more eggs and chicken than you can shake a stick at. Sometimes a salty snack or bowl of kale soup with lentils. (Magic elixir!) Also at least a gallon of water daily, plus caffeine. When I stick to a mellow eating plan (without severe dieting or endless indulging) I feel like I could do anything for hours and hours. And still be in a great mood.
  • Stay active, especially when you’re exhausted! Running is such a paradox, right? It’s kind of odd that when you feel deeply spent, you can force yourself out the door for just half an hour of hard running and suddenly feel re-energized. Have time for a longer run? Oh man. Make those to-do lists long. But of course you can stay active in hundreds of ways besides running. Even on “rest” days if I stay moving during most of the daylight hours I sleep so great and think so clearly. You too? Physical activity begets more energy and drives out mental fogginess for sure.
  • Yes, also sleep. Stay active but still make time to stretch and sleep, haha. My Fitbit has the peculiar ability to measure sleep patterns (sorcery!) and on my best nights I sleep an unbelievable 7 1/2 to 8 hours. This weekend I was alone in a hotel room on Friday night and slept less than 5 hours. Staying alert for the conference was at times challenging, especially because I was sitting a lot. (How do you office dwellers do it??) I got back to the farm Saturday night and made up for the sleep loss and inactivity with almost 9 solid hours of dreamless slumber, pure bliss! Needless to say, Sunday was grand. I had energy to spare and felt happy all day.
  • Mind your surroundings. I get so much more done and feel so much better along the way when my environment is bright and healthy. Happy. When the house is tidy, smelling great, and somewhat shiny ( no need for perfection every day), our laundry and ironing are caught up at least for the immediate future, and the middle field is (mostly) scraped clean of manure. Each of these are ongoing systems, of course; but that’s why doing a measurable amount of work every single day matters. And it just feeds the positive inertia.
  • Practice Active Gratitude. Every chance you get, notice small, beautiful details. Train your senses to zero in on beauty. Write that stuff down if you can. Say them aloud, even if you’re alone. Celebrate it! Share your excitement about life with others. At the end of every day, rather than bemoaning what didn’t get done or what could’ve gone better, give thanks. Count instead what went well, what you did accomplish, what grace and mercy were shown to you. Say thank you and smile all day, every day. Remember that your mind and body listen to each other and that life tends to reflect your attitude toward it in what it throws back at you.

Okay, can we chat about positive inertia in a different way?

Weekly Goals Instead of Daily Goals

One new ritual I am playing around with is using a master weekly goals list instead of a daily goals list. I tend to make my daily lists too long anyway. So long, in fact, they take several days to accomplish, so why not just admit that? haha! I tried this new approach last week and it helped so much. Last Monday morning I grabbed one of those ginormous wall-hanging white poster sheets of paper, like what you use on a flip-board for meetings? Using a permanent marker I filled one big page with concrete tasks that needed to be completed before the weekend. Many of them were either time-sensitive or required gradual progress. Not average daily jobs: stuff I would likely forget or procrastinate without some mental supervision. My list was red-inked and packed full and nearly grid-like in symmetry and kind of gorgeous. Since no one else is here to motivate me, this big red list served as my mental supervision, and for some reason it was so much better than a notebook-style planner or small paper on the fridge.

Daily Routine

Every single day I started with lots of coffee and happy chatting and life planning with my guy (Hot Tub Summit still reigns supreme). Then came tidying the house, planning our dinner that night, feeding the animals, and running however many miles my plan called for that day. Then I ate some feel-great food (see above), showered, and started nibbling at the master list. First most important thing first. Each day was a little different with regard to how much time was left after basic work for making progress on my goals, but pretty much Monday through Friday I was “done” and ready to get serious by 10 or 11 am. That lefts six or seven hours to focus before the after-office-evening rituals start with my guy. Well, 6 or 7 hours minus snacks and Facebook. : )

Focus

This approach kept me so focused you would not believe it. I felt more and more excited crossing items off the list each day. I was able to scan everything in one spot, looking for the next most important thing (remember Handsome’s excellent advice?); and my energy stayed strong. It was so great. By Friday afternoon when Maribeth and I hit the road for our conference, only two items remained undone, and I was able to finish those this the weekend. All of this made my little road trip waaaaaaay more enjoyable! It made for a restful, productive Sunday too, and now I am looking forward to writing a new ginormous list for this week.

Multi-task, or no?

One final thought, take it or leave it: I have largely abandoned multi-tasking, except for letting household machines work for me while I am doing something else. (Laundry, dishes, etc. Start those super early and be done with it.) I know multi-tasking used to be wildly popular and may still have its place, but this simpler approach seems to save me tons of time and also yields better results in my projects. No more trying to fulfill Master Gardener social media duties while blogging. No more trying to do beekeepers’ data entry while listening to a podcast. You get the idea. Maybe I can sew while listening to meaty stuff, but that’s about it.

One job at a time is great. And please… let’s soon talk about making more deliberate, life-affirming choices with what those jobs are. I have so many thoughts on choosing life instead of being dragged around by it.

Okay, thanks for checking in friends! Lots happening here at the W, as I am sure you’d say about your corner of paradise. Hope to meet again soon.

Carpe the heck out of those diems!
XOXOXOXO