Book Report: February 2023

When I tell people about my #TBR23in23 challenge for this year, they usually ask one of two questions. One is “Have you picked out the 23 books you’re going to read this year?” Absolutely not! Making a list of “Books I Have to Read This Year” is a great way to set myself up for failure in this endeavor. And while I know this to be true about myself, I could not have articulated why until I came across this quote on Ryan Hanley’s blog:

“I don’t know where I’m going to want to be in two years. So, to set a goal that’s long-term, in some cases you’re actually setting it for who you are when you set it versus who you are when you’re going to get there.” –Jason Fried, Founder of Basecamp

I know that I will definitely want to read books three months, six months, nine months from now, but I can’t predict what topics will be relevant, what stories will resonate with me at those points in time because I don’t know what I’ll be experiencing in those seasons of life. So while goal of reading 23 books from my personal collection is exciting and motivating to me, checking specific books off a list is not.

The other FAQ is “How do you decide what books to read?” In January and February, I made a bit of a game out of it. My local library posted a Winter Reading Challenge: to read a book in at least five of the fifteen categories listed. I decided choose books from my personal collection that fit the library’s categories, thus killing two birds with one stone. I’m proud to say I completed books in seven out of the fifteen categories:
Page Turner = Vanishing Hour by Laura Griffin
Nature/Outdoors = A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Speculative Fiction = The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Banned Book = The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Under 200 Pages = My Jesus: From Heartache to Hope by Anne Wilson
Author of Color = 12 Notes: On Life and Creativity by Quincy Jones
Audiobook = The Electricity of Every Living Thing by Katherine May (This is the only book that didn’t count for both the Winter Reading Challenge and #TBR23in23 as I purchased it after the 1st of January.)

Now I’m just waiting to claim my trophy coffee mug from the library. (I think it’s exciting that they had so many people complete this year’s Winter Reading Challenge that they ran out mugs and had to order more!)

February Reading Stats:

Books Finished: 4
Books Abandoned: 0
Audio Books: 2
Print Books: 2
E-books: 0
TBR23in23 Books: 4
Daily Reading Goal Achieved: 27 days

February’s Finished Books:

Vanishing Hour by Laura Griffin
Year published: 2022
Format: Print
I chose this book because: I had a random whim. In a few days, I was going to pick up a book I ordered from one of our local independent bookstores, and I thought, “If I can find a quick read that I don’t expect to want to keep, I can turn it in for credit at the bookstore and get rid of one book from the TBR shelves before I add another one to it.” Mission accomplished! This book also counts towards the #TBR23in23 challenge and the library’s Winter Reading Challenge (“Page Turner” category).
Did this book work for me? Yes.
This book was a solid romantic mystery thriller. It had interesting characters and a strong sense of place, along with good twists and turns in the mystery. I enjoyed the action-oriented suspense and plot as a change of pace from the reflective, character-driven books I’ve read recently. A very satisfying read all ‘round! (For anyone who likes a heads up on these, there was one open door bedroom scene.)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Year published: 1982
Format: Audiobook, narrated by Alice Walker
I chose this book because: I wanted to read the original story before I saw a local production of the musical based on this novel. This book also counts towards my #TBR23in23 challenge and the library’s Winter Reading Challenge (“Banned Book” category).
Did this book work for me? Yes.
I loved this story, these characters, their language, and their journeys. Listening to Alice Walker read her novel made this story even richer. It resonated so profoundly with where I am in my spiritual journey that I can’t find the words to adequately describe my experience (which is frustrating for me as a writer). I can only say, as Miss Celie did, “I’m here!”

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Year published: 2015
Format: Print
I chose this book because: I thought it would be hilarious to see the title The Book of Speculation listed under the category “Speculative Fiction” on the library’s Winter Reading Challenge form. (The librarian didn’t laugh, so apparently I’m the only one who finds this amusing.) This book also counts towards my #TBR23in23 challenge.
Did this book work for me? Yes.
Reading this book is like watching a black and white film or a movie with a very stylized color palette and cinematography–everything is familiar and recognizable, yet it looks nothing like the world you live it. Swyler’s prose is distinctive and poetic, making the novel beautifully atmospheric with a mounting sense of dread. It’s a story about the power of words, spoken and unspoken, the question of how we are drawn to certain people, and the tension of love and fear. This is definitely a story that I want to read again and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes gothic literature.

12 Notes: On Life and Creativity by Quincy Jones
Year published: 2022
Format: Audio, narrated by JD Jackson
I chose this book because: I was in the mood to listen to a non-fiction book and this qualified for both the #TBR23in23 challenge and the library’s Winter Reading Challenge (“Author of Color” category).
Did this book work for me? Yes.
I was not familiar with Quincy Jones or his music prior to reading this book, but what a fascinating and inspiring life Jones has lived! Some of his advice I’d heard before, but it was good to be reminded of it; some advice was a unique twist on familiar adages; all of it was grounded in stories from Jones’ personal experience–the tragic, the humorous, and the exhilarating. While the book focuses on music, since that is the foundation of Jones’ life, I would still recommend it to anyone doing creative work when you need a dose of inspiration to keep going, to be reminded of the power of making art and building collaborative relationships.

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Book Report: January 2023

When I committed to the #TBR23in23 challenge, I decided to set a daily goal of reading 15 minutes in print or e-book. I’d first heard of this type of daily reading discipline from one of Anne Bogel’s guests on the podcast What Should I Read Next? (Sadly, I can’t remember who the guest was or I would link to that specific episode.) As a child who spent hours reading everyday and as an adult who sought to recreate those golden memories with weekend binge reading, I originally scoffed at this person who claimed that setting aside 20 minutes for reading every single day was what enabled them to complete so many books each year. But here in 2023, as I surveyed my small mountain of unfinished books, their recommendation held more merit. These books weren’t abandoned because I didn’t like them, but rather because I couldn’t “find the time” to finish them, and when I finally returned to them, I was no longer in the mood to read them or I’d forgotten enough of what I’d previously read that I needed to start over from the beginning.

Having now read every day for 15 minutes (or more) since January 4, I couldn’t be happier with result: I finished reading FOUR books in print in January! Granted, one of those I’d started in December, but still, I don’t recall finishing more than one print book in a month’s time last year. 15 minutes a day works for me because it’s short enough that even on the busiest day I can squeeze it in somewhere and on the days when I come home feeling too tired to do anything but “veg out” in from the TV, I can tell myself, “It’s just 15 minutes; feel free to watch TV when the timer goes off.” 15 minutes is also long enough for me to get invested in the book’s story or ideas and no longer be interested in turning on the TV when I’ve finished my daily minimum. Most days I read more than 15 minutes this way, and while there have been a few nights that I’ve gone to bed later than I intended, it was 11:30 p.m. instead of 1:45 a.m. like in the days of binge reading. In the past I’ve justified some extreme reading sessions with the excuse: “The next few days are so busy, who knows when I’ll get to read again!” It’s a little easier to stop reading when I know for sure that I will get to read more tomorrow.

So here’s my reading stats for January followed by a brief reflection on each of the books I read. Since I am prone to ovethinking things like this, in these monthly book reports I’m replacing the 1 to 5 star rating scale with a simple question: Did this book work for me? (This is my stripped-down, modified version of W. H. Auden’s Five Possible Verdicts.

January Reading Stats:

Books Finished: 6
Books Abandoned: 0
Audio Books: 2
Print Books: 4
E-books: 0
TBR23in23 Books: 2
Daily Reading Goal Achieved: 28 days

January’s Finished Books:

The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole
Year published: 2021
Format: Print
I chose this book because: I wanted a light, Christmas-themed story to read over the holidays.
Did this book work for me? Yes.
This fun story of Christmas coincidence and romance was perfect for what I wanted to read at the moment. I loved the community of senior citizens who help Meg get back on her feet after the death of her father. The story reminded me to be open to the surprising, unexpected opportunities life offers for pursuing your dreams and to let other people support you (maybe even participate with you) in those dreams.

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan
Year published: 2011
Format: Audio, narrated by Simon Vance
I chose this book because: I wanted a change of pace. I’d read a few books in a row at the end of last year that were more character focused than plot driven, and while I loved them, I wanted a more action oriented story that wouldn’t make me cry.
Did this book work for me? Yes and no.
It was definitely the palette cleanser I wanted and Simon Vance’s narration was delightful as always. I liked Charlie Howard, the titular “Good Thief”, who supplements his income as a mystery writer with discreet burglary jobs. Charlie’s escapades were entertaining enough until the end of the caper when he staged a far-fetched denouement with police and persons of interest that was convoluted, tedious, and went on for way too long. (If you’re not as a clever as Hercule Poirot, you shouldn’t take a page out of his book.) While I don’t regret reading the book, when it was all said and done, I think re-watching “To Catch a Thief” would have been a more satisfying experience.

My Jesus: From Heartache to Hope by Anne Wilson
Year published: 2022
Format: Print
I chose this book because: It qualified for both #TBR23in23 and my library’s winter reading challenge (“Under 200 Pages” category). But honestly, the main reason is the book kept nagging “Pick me! Pick me!”
Did this book work for me? Yes.
This book is a beautiful portrait of a devout, loving family and how they dealt with the sudden death of their son/brother and the unexpected opportunities that came in the wake of that tragedy. I appreciated Anne’s detailed honesty about her and her family’s experience of grief, the comfort of their religious faith along with the devastating pain of their loss, and (at least for Anne) the necessity of counseling to heal from it. It reminded me that to truly live life well, I must embrace the full measure of “and/both”–neither rejecting nor denying the incredible beauty, love, and grace that exist simultaneously with devastating cruelty, pain, and loss. This is definitely a snapshot memoir, a small slice of someone’s life. Since Anne is barely twenty years old now, I’d be curious to read more about her journey when she’s a few decades farther down the road.

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
Year published: 2020
Format: Print
I chose this book because: It was the novel picked for the February book club meeting.
Did this book work for me? Yes.
I have loved some of the books I’ve read for this book club, and I’ve liked most of the others. (I’ve only hated one so far.) This is the first book club pick in which the writer’s craft impressed me. I can’t believe this is a debut novel! It’s the story of how one event affects a cluster of people in Atlantic City, NJ, in the summer of 1934, and Beanland used alternating points of view masterfully. I loved how rich the characters were and how much I learned from the description of a gesture or a character’s dialogue. In this book, the larger themes are revealed in the minutia of daily life. It’s a story about grief and secrets and how love plays into them. I’m grateful the librarian chose this novel for the book club, because I don’t think the blurb would have inspired me to pick it up and I would have missed out.

The Electricity of Everything Living Thing by Katherine May
Year published: 2021
Format: Audio, narrated by Katherine May
I chose this book because: May’s first book, Wintering, fascinated me, and like May, my spouse discovered he is on the Autism Spectrum as an adult, so I wanted to hear her insights on that specific journey of self-discovery
Did this book work for me? Yes.
I loved getting to hear the author’s story in her own voice, and I’m grateful for May’s ability to describe her internal experiences in a way that gives a neurotypical person like me a sense of it. It was interesting to recognize similar experiences within myself (especially as an introvert) that are heighten or expressed differently in a neurodivergent brain. This memoir reinforced that there’s no “Right Way” to do life, that being healthy is foundational to everything else and thus giving yourself what you need (even if that’s different than what someone else needs) is true success. It also demonstrated how labels can give you helpful information, but not the whole story. Guarding against assumptions while cultivating humble honesty and kind curiosity create better experiences for everyone.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Year published: 1998
Format: Print
I chose this book because: It qualified for both #TBR23in23 and my library’s winter reading challenge (“Nature/Outdoors” category).
Did this book work for me? Yes.
This book snuck up on me. In the beginning I thought, “Oh, this is a humorous telling of a hiking trip with historical tidbits sprinkled in. What fun!” And it was. But it was also a surprisingly tender portrait of friendship and a meditation on permanence and transience, expectations vs. reality, and how we adapt. It wasn’t until the end, when I looked back at everything Bryson did with his book and how effective at all was, that I thought, “This is impressive!” Bryson’s experience helped me understand the truth in the cliche “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”.

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New Year’s Resolution: Read More Books

I’ve gone through reading deserts before. Back when I first started my career and was working three jobs (two in my field, one to help make ends meet), I would go for months without picking up a book. At some point the longing would become undeniable, and on my next free weekend, I would hunt for an oasis and plunge into the depths of some author’s magic well. Several hours later, I would resurface at the story’s end, shake myself off, and hike back to the salt mines. Life would keep me busy there for the next few months until my parched soul could stand it no longer, and I would seek another escape. Eventually, I moved into a less frantic season of life and reading resumed it’s previous status as one of my regular hobbies.

The reading desert of the past two years has been a bit different. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, but rather that I couldn’t stay focused long enough to finish a book–at least in print. That was the other difference: in 2015 I joined Audible and discovered the world of audiobooks. In 2021 as the stress robbed me of my stamina for sitting in silence with words on a page, I leaned hard on the fabulous audiobook narrators to bring stories to life for me. So much so that sometimes I felt slightly anxious if I got to the end of an audiobook and didn’t have something already in my digital library that I was excited about reading next. This fed my justification for purchasing one (or several) titles on nearly every Audible sale. (Either that or shortages in the physical world created an irrational paranoia about a shortage of books in the digital world. 🙂 )

But just because I wasn’t reading many books in print doesn’t mean I stopped buying them. Like any true bibliophile, bookstores are my happy place and I justified purchases here as doing my part to support local businesses in these challenging times. Thus, I found myself with a bookdragon’s hoard of over 150 audiobooks and around 200 print books–all unread.

Thankfully, I’m currently at a better place with my mental and emotional health. When my spouse sent me a text detailing the 2023 book challenge he had created for himself, I was intrigued and I began searching for a reading challenge that would be a good fit for me. I found it in Rose City Reader’s TBR 23 in ‘23, a challenge to read 23 books in 2023 from your personal collection. Library books and books acquired after January 1, 2023, don’t count for this challenge as the goal is to work on your backlog of TBR books. This will be a bit of a stretch for me, since I participate in one of my local library’s book clubs, so at least one book I read each month will be chosen by someone else. But with the combination of print and audiobooks, I think this goal will be doable. I’m excited to be at a point where I’m well enough to tackle this challenge and make progress on my backlog of books.

If you’re interested in following my progress, I plan to post an update once a month on this blog. If you’ve set a reading goal for yourself or are participating in an organized reading challenge this year, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Christmas Eve 2020


Cradled in morning’s solitude
by sofa cushions
and the sleeping dog,
I watch bright rays stretch over rooftops
while tasting cold, creamy cereal
and warm, tangy tea.
I hear the carol
waltz out of the speakers,
feeling emotion rise on the melody
and fall in wet drops of relief
and gratitude
at the annunciation:
          “Sing it out loud
          Sing it out clear
          Christmas is here”1
I needed this assurance
in a year of misgiving.


Spurred by the clamoring chimes,
I chop cranberries,
zest oranges,
cream butter and sugar.
Thrilled by the sweet silver bells
          “Throw cares away
          Christmas is here
          Bringing good cheer”2
I abandon the mixing bowl on the kitchen counter
and blithely dance to the
ding, dong – ding, dong.
I’m not efficient in my baking, but
I am deliciously happy.


Driving across the plateau into the hills,
I marvel.
The half-moon’s expectant glow
makes the cold dark shimmer.
Jupiter and Saturn slow dance
as their conjunction’s afterglow lingers.
A gentle hand reaches for mine.
          “Do you see what I see?
          Do you see what I see
          Way up in the sky little lamb?”3
My Beloved’s presence begets conversation
and contented silence
through the hours of travel.
I am favored
to make this holiday pilgrimage.


Standing tall and broad behind me
after supper
Dad cloaks me in a hug.
Held in his embrace,
I am found safe,
generously fortified,
just for the virtue of being here.
          “Grateful for this sheltered place
          With light in every window
          Saying welcome, welcome share this feast”4
I would endeavor any journey
for such a homecoming.


Deserting the slumber party
of cousins, aunts and uncles
camped around the Christmas tree,
Beloved and I retreat.
Downstairs the vacant den welcomes us
and we celebrate
our sweet tradition:
          two books
          one chocolate bar,
          exchanged and shared
          between us alone.
In mutual society
we are life partners,
book lovers,
and dark chocolate devotees.
We savor
Bourbon Cask Aged Raaka.
We set off
literary fireworks with volumes of weird fiction and poetry.
We revel
in delighting the one heart knit to our own.
          “Come darkness, come light
          Come new star, shining bright
          Come love to this world tonight
I am awed by this holy day.


1 “Christmas Is Here” by Geron Davis
2 “Carol of the Bells” by Peter J. Wilhousky
3 “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Noel Regney
4 “Thanksgiving Song” by Mary Chapin Carpenter
5 “Come Darkness, Come Light” by Mary Chapin Carpenter

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The Four Sisters

2020June28There is a stand of trees just a little way off in the neighbor’s yard. I call it The Four Sisters. Not counting the brilliant sunsets and the holy moon, these trees are the most captivating piece of nature in my view from the guest house patio. I can tell they are deciduous, but I don’t recognize the shape of these trees. Since I can’t get closer to glean more details, The Four Sisters flaunt an air of mystery as they nod to each other.

Last Friday was a good day in many respects. Getting to exercise is always a good start for my days and in addition to that, I managed to make a quick stop at the grocery store and still get to work early. All of my work appointments went well and I finished all the paperwork that was due that day. I ate dinner at the office so I wouldn’t miss meeting up with some friends via Zoom at the appointed time.

While all these external aspects of life went well, for much of the day my internal emotional landscape was tumultuous, a churning storm of sadness with flashes of anger and rumbles of despair. It made it difficult to engage in the dinner conversation at times. It made me restless and agitated on the drive back to the guest house afterward.

Arriving home for the night, I stepped out of my van into an irresistible summer night. So after unloading my things, I headed for the back patio. The waxing crescent moon provided a surprising amount of light and I easily navigated out into the grassy yard. Then I heard it–the voices of The Four Sisters, rising and falling on the wind. Enthralled by the sound, I made my way to the lone pine tree near the north fence. Together we stood silently, listening to the irregular meter of the gentle lullaby The Four Sisters chanted. Soon my restless emotions stilled and I felt grounded again, grateful to be held in nature’s embrace.

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Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao


My personal rating: 5 out of 5

My three sentence synopsis: Mei Lu is doing her best to stay on the track her Taiwanese parents set for her: attend an Ivy League school, become a doctor, and marry a successful Taiwanese man. But the longer she’s at MIT, the more difficult this becomes as Mei struggles with her overwhelming fear of germs and her growing attraction to Darren Takahashi, a handsome Japanese classmate. Figuring out how to honor the sacrifices her parents made for her without forfeiting herself is not so black and white for this Taiwanese-American girl.

The first morsel of prose: The stench of the restaurant’s specialty walloped my senses as soon as I entered. Even with seventeen years of practice, I didn’t have a fighting chance against a dish named stinky tofu. I gagged.
My mother sniffed and smiled. “Smells like home.”
Mmm. Who doesn’t love the scent of athlete’s foot with lunch? I held a fist to my face, desperately inhaling the pomegranate scent of my hand sanitizer.
She swapped my hand down. “Don’t touch your face, Mei. Give yourself pimples for no reason. There are no ugly women. Only lazy women.”
In my head, I counted to ten in English, then Mandarin. Two more hours, three tops.

The reason I chose this book: Four weeks ago I was attempting to get home in the wake of the lockdown being used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted a book that would take my mind off the long hours of airplane travel, make me laugh, and remind me that happy endings do exist.

My experience with this book: I loved this book! Despite being twice as old as Mei and my family having lost their immigrant identity generations ago, her journey of coming to terms with her parents’ expectations and her own desires for herself really resonated with me. I think we can experience the friction of expectations (from society, institutions, or family members) vs our personal values and identities in many seasons of life, not just adolescence. Author Gloria Chao enabled me to really live inside Mei’s skin (one of the perks of good fiction). Chao also gets points from me for making the romance sweet and believable, not eye-roll inducing. I loved that the story showed the evolution of several of Mei’s relationships, not just her and Darren, as she began to live more authentically.

I highly recommend listening to this as audiobook. Emily Woo Zeller made the Chinese words and phrases come alive for this non-Mandarin reader. Zeller’s delivery also highlighted the humor of Mei’s internal monologue and verbal jabs.

I will offer one caveat for this book: if you prefer your language in books to be G or PG-rated, this may not be your cup of tea. There’s a fair amount of f-bombs, sh*t, and similar phrases throughout.

What this book is about: Finding the courage to answer the question, “What do I want?” and be honest about that; reconciling different experiences and parts of yourself.

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Some art classes include an exercise in which a photograph is place upside down in front of the students and they have to draw or paint the photo from that perspective. At the end, the photo and the art pieces are all turned right side up and the students can see how well they’ve represented what the photographer captured. Often, students find they were better able to copy this photo than previous examples. That’s because when we encounter objects we recognize, we don’t really “see” them in all their unique aspects and components; we see our mind’s idea or label of them. Turning a photo upside down makes the objects in it less recognizable and we’re forced to look at things as they actually are instead of what we assume or expect them to be.


Our whole way of life has been turned upside down in this pandemic. For some of us, aspects of our lives are jarringly altered. For others, our whole lives are almost unrecognizable from what they were before. It’s scary and stressful. We feel grief at the loss of the familiar in our present lives along with the grief of shattered expectations for the future. It is hard to navigate our lives in the upside down.


One of the ways I am coping with this altered experience of daily life is taking time for reflection. Peering into this gazing pool of sorts, I begin to question my assumptions as I am forced to examine aspects of my life from a new angle. The different rhythm of these days gives me space to notice what I didn’t allow time for in the past and how things truly affect me instead of being too busy to see the correlations between what’s going on in my life and how I’m feeling. In reflection, I find better ways of doing and being, discover what I drawn to when a significant amount of expectations are removed. I am grateful for this silver lining in the pandemic that has clouded the last three weeks.

In the midst of the pain and fear, I encourage you to grasp whatever moments of reflection you can. You may discover incredibly valuable treasures you can carry with you on the other side of this crisis. As Dave Hollis said, “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”


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Loose Ends


Tails of brown, lavender, and mint green yarn along the edge of crocheted afghan, my latest creation.

I’m a sucker for the number “1″, especially if it’s on a calendar page. It’s the siren song of beginnings for me, a chance for a fresh start on new adventure or a renewed attempt at a previously failed project. Like an fresh blanket of trackless snow, the first day of the month excites me with all it’s unblemished potential!

But in reality, the calendar is an artificial construct. It’s a (mostly) agreed upon convenience for cataloging our journey through time. The calendar has no portent of in and of itself, but only the significance we bestow on it. And sometimes I let other people assign their significance and standards to my days. It may be something silly like buying donuts on the first Friday of June for National Donut Day. But sometimes it feels more important like the motivational videos that claim if I want to make this year better than last year I have to make a plan January 1st and start working on it immediately!

One of the lessons I was given in 2019 that I’m still working to master is the importance of choosing to live my own life, not the life some other person or society at large thinks I should live. As a perfectionist being obsessed with THE Right Way to do anything, I was often trying to validate myself by meeting external standards, usually without regard for what I truly wanted or even needed. As a recovering perfectionist, I recognize there are many ways to do any given thing, and I’m setting aside the question “What is THE Right Way to do ___________?” Instead, I ask myself, “Is this what I truly want to do? If it is, what is a way to do it that works well for me?”

Case in point, starting a bunch of new things in January doesn’t work well for me. It’s not that I don’t have new ideas for what I want to do this year, but rather that I need to tie up some loose ends and put some old things to rest so I am free to fully pursue the new dreams I have. So while my pot of dreams for 2020 simmers on the back burner of my mind, I’m putting away Christmas decorations, cleaning out my office, and finishing an incomplete blog post from 2019. I’m even tying up some literal loose ends on the last baby afghan I crocheted. As I do these things, my feelings of being overwhelmed diminish, my discouraging self-talk fades, and I find myself gaining momentum and optimism for new projects. With any luck, I’ll be able to give my full attention to those 2020 dreams on February 1st. But if not, I’ll start on the 9th, because it doesn’t matter what number I start on; it only matters that I get started!

So here’s my blessing on your New Year: may you do what works well for you in this season of your life, regardless of what other people are doing in this season.

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A New Scarf for Me!

It all started with this.


A luscious cake of rainbow striped yarn!

A skein of vibrant blue, purple, pink, yellow, and orange fuzzy yarn. The kind of yarn that begs to be touched and caressed against your cheek.

I should have been working on Christmas stockings. But I’d been working on them for more than a year and every time I thought about sitting down with this project last fall, it felt like…more work. I needed a break. Something fun. Something for me. (The vast majority of my crochet projects in recent years have been gifts for other people.) So I bought this Restful Rainbow skein of Lion Brand Shawl In A Cake and began scouring the internet for the “Perfect Pattern” for this bewitching yarn.

I knew I wanted a scarf (as opposed to a shawl) and once I found the Spring Market Mod Scarf pattern, it was easy to imagine wearing my own version with this gorgeous self-striping yarn. I began diligently crocheting this new project in an effort to finish my scarf in time to get back to completing the stockings before Christmas.

As the scarf took shape, the yarn worked up just as beautifully as I’d hoped! In my excitement, I even justified buying a new sweater in “just the right shade of blue to set it off”. Alas, it soon became apparent that the yarn the pattern was originally designed with created taller stitches than the yarn I was using did. Thus my scarf would be far short of the length needed to wear it in the way I’d envisioned. I tried adding extra rows (24 to be exact!), but in the end, even that addition didn’t create the full length of the original pattern. Plus, 12 of those extra rows contained increases, which made the center of the scarf wider than I wanted. It was with great disappointment that I frogged the entire scarf (rip-it, rip-it, rip-it-out) and resumed finishing the last of my nieces’ stockings for Christmas. (It was down to the wire as I finished assembling the final stocking on midnight Christmas Eve, but done at the last minute is still done. Huzzah!)


Four Christmas stockings made from crocheted granny squares.

After the holidays, I considered my options for going forward with this “Scarf of My Dreams” project. I quickly rejected the idea of switching to a traditional rectangle scarf pattern. I already had several scarves in that style and I wanted something different. Besides, I hadn’t envisioned wearing a rectangle scarf with the new sweater; I’d pictured the shape of the Spring Market Mod Scarf on that perfect blue background. I would either make the Mod Scarf work or I wouldn’t wear my new sweater! (A ridiculous ultimatum, to be sure, but my genuine feeling none the less.)

Thus, I began my second attempt to make this pattern work with my yarn which involved substituting treble crochet for double crochet in the pattern. This changed the drape and body of the scarf significantly, so I quickly abandoned that idea and only had to frog a dozen or so rows. Thankfully, the third time was the charm and changing the rows of single crochet to half-double crochet worked beautifully. I still added an extra 12 rows to the pattern (6 increasing, 6 decreasing), but this only increased the width by 1″ and put my final length at the pattern’s exact measurement of 68″.


My completed Spring Market Mod Scarf

Despite it taking multiple attempts to adapt it to my chosen yarn, I really like this pattern. As long as I completed the pattern’s 6-row repeat before stopping any given crochet session, it was easy to keep my place. Megan’s instructions were clear and her PDF printed beautifully if you choose to purchase it like I did. (You can also read to the full pattern on for free.) Honestly, it’s a credit to Megan’s technical writing skill that I was able to effectively adapt this pattern. It was totally worth all the effort and I couldn’t be happier wearing the result!


Jennifer K. wearing her new scarf with her Just-the-Right-Shade-of-Blue sweater.

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Unexpected Clarity


Zentangle Art by Jennifer K.

Last week I had a snow day–that magical event in childhood that becomes increasingly rare in adulthood. Plans were cancelled, travel suspended, obligations put off. I was excited by the opportunity to get a lot of writing done. Instead I vacuumed the house and spent four hours on Facebook. That last hour as I was scrolling through absurd memes, it felt like I was trying to create a reason to beat myself up. As I turned off lights in the living room and headed for the bedroom, bleary-eyed and numb, the light mantle of shame draped over me seemed almost comforting. The berating whispers in my mind caused a small thrill, like the voices of old friends do.

I climbed into bed with my journal to write out what the whispers were saying so I could clear my mind for sleep. This wasn’t the writing I’d excitedly envisioned earlier in the day. “But something is better than nothing,” I muttered to myself as I picked up my pen to give shape to the emotions swirling inside me.

“See what foolishness your dreams are, silly girl,” the whispers chided. “You don’t have what it takes to forge some new path. Why, you can’t even manage to make good use of day with no obligations. You had a day of complete freedom and accomplished nothing important. How can you possibly think you can forge a new career track in the midst of the daily grind?”

And a part of me felt some sense of relief at this. Some part of me responded with, “See? I’ve failed so completely today there’s really no point in trying to pursue these scary dreams of being an artist and a writer. It will take lots of work and today proves that I’m not a hard worker. I’m a lazy, undisciplined girl with no follow-through. My words and my art couldn’t possibly inspire anyone. Whew! What a relief that I don’t have to try this scary, new path you’ve been fantasizing about. That’s all it is really–a fantasy. It would be like LARPing; you trying to live as an artist is just a game of make-believe. How foolish! Glad we’ve got that sorted and can go back to trying to get your real life responsibilities in order–which, I might point out, you’ve been doing horrible at lately.”

How illuminating to see this interior chatter laid out in black and white! And so I found myself grateful for a day of blowing fuses to such an extreme extent because it brought to light what was hidden in the shadows of my heart. These fears, half-truths, and lies have been weighing me down as I’ve tried to move forward. I could feel them, but couldn’t see what they were until that night. And now, with hope shining from my eyes and gentle amusement rounding up the corners of my lips, I can say, “But none of that is true. These dreams and aspirations are real treasures worth pursuing. And I am competent and capable of pursuing them. I am a powerful and beautiful human being so I can dance in the irregular meter of life gracefully with purpose. I do not need a perfect day in which to do great things. Little steps each day will add up to great leaps on the path that I have chosen. Thank you for helping me see this more clearly!”

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