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Creative Play or Procrastination?

I am thinking about writing about teaching, and how I always return to it in some way or form. I know that it’s in my veins. There’s more to think about, so in the meantime, I’m talking walks, spending sometime at the beach, doing yoga, knitting, baking cookies, taking photos, teaching yoga and knitting… and thinking about teaching. Hope you enjoy this walkdoc while I keep thinking about writing my next piece.







Yoga- Next Chapter

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photo 1I have been joyfully practicing yoga for fifteen months, and am a different person because of this practice. It’s true that I no longer have back pain, can actually hold a plank for several minutes, and can do a headstand (sort of, it would be nice if I could keep my legs together, for the nuns’ sake!) I know more poses than I ever thought I could remember and can actually create a fluid sequence using them. Ah…Vinyasa Yoga…I love it!

A month ago, the studio I belong to (Innerglow at Mashpee Commons) announced a three week Intensive Teacher Training course. The class description says it leads to a deepening of one’s practice and a certification to teach yoga. When I first heard about this offering, I wondered if it might be for me. I’ve been a teacher “of something” all my life; did I want to teach yoga, too? Was I proficient or experienced enough to take this class? Did I need to get into even better shape before embarking on this adventure? Do I want to teach or just live a life with a very open, flexible schedule? So many questions, but I know I feel a driving passion to keep doing yoga.

As is often the case, I must have been ready to learn, and the teachers appeared; Sheryl Light and Michelle Itzkowitz work their magic on me and the six other yogis in our class. For the past three weeks, we have been present, working, thinking, learning, sweating, and laughing 10 to 12 hours per day. I don’t think I’ve ever used so many muscles or thought so much about the connection of breath, mind, and body. Yoga is more than poses and wearing LuluLemon pants. It’s meditation in motion and linking body and breath while clearing the mind of clutter.

In short, this intense class is one of the wisest and kindest acts I’ve done for myself in a very long time. Yes, it is a challenge physically, but also mentally. The physical exercise is only one part of the entire process. Landing on my mat and emptying my mind of chatter, to do lists, real and/or imagined worries, and the urge to find perfection is wicked hard. “Quiet your mind” says the teacher…Then like the shot at the beginning of a race, my mind starts to run…Oh, did I put the clothes in the dryer? Fish or pasta for dinner? Remember to call the vet for Blackie’s test results (he’s fine- don’t worry). Did I lock my car? When are the real estate taxes due? I am learning to listen to these mental interruptions and then release them instead of letting them lease space in my head rent-free.

One by one, I let them go and listen to what a silent mind sounds like. It’s quiet, and all I think about is my breath: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Move my body with my breath, not in opposition to it. Good stuff starts to flow and come together. Then I learn that the word “yoga” means “union” and it all starts to fit together.

At the end of our three-week program, I’m in awe of another “union” that has been created. There are seven of us in class and two teachers. We’ve formed a family of our own. In this short period of time, we have created “siblings by choice.” What a gift this is, and it is completely unexpected on my part. My guts tell me that these women will be good friends for life. Yesterday was our last class together—and graduation. It was bittersweet.

On the mat and off the mat, I notice the lessons learned in this class with these people. In so many ways, it is a gift that keeps on giving. I’m very grateful for it all and will be teaching my first community class on Saturday, August 30(Labor Day Weekend) at 4 PM at Innerglow Studio, Mashpee Commons. The fee is a donation that will be given to Heroes in Transition—a wonderful non-profit that aids veterans by providing appropriate assistance to those with special needs in four key areas:

Home modifications for disabled veterans

Transitional Support Group Therapy

Financial support for service families

Assistance dogs for veterans.


Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there!




Green Sprouts

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Some spring days try to fake me out into thinking it’s summer. That has happened recently. The sun shines brightly on the deck, the chairs look warmed and cozy, and there’s an ever so gentle breeze that bends the trees. It looks like it’s perfect for an afternoon with a book and a lemonade.


However, once out there, my feet are cold, I need a sweater, and I’m saying “Screw the lemonade, I need some hot black coffee.” So having donned woolen socks and sweater, grabbed a cup of steaming java, I persist in moving the chair around the deck to catch the most direct rays of the sun. Yes, I know, I’m pushing it. Jumping the shark or something like that. But I do long to bask in the sun with a good book… it will happen, just with layers for awhile.


Today a walk to the beach was truly an aerobic exercise in staying vertical against the wind. It was “refreshing”— ok- it was nippy, and I walked fast because if I stood still, I’d complain more. At WoodNeck, the windsurfers were out in full glory. Sails, black suits, full beards and huge smiles. One energized 60+ year old said the water was 50 degrees and the air was 50 degrees, so that makes it 100. I bitched about nothing after that.


It’s true that the daffodils have bloomed and the azaleas and forsythia are full color. Periwinkle and all types of short wild flowers have started to open. Spring is really happening, just a little late and a little slower than usual.


I’ve also noticed that I’ve got a couple of “anniversaries” that are happening right about this time. I’m marking the beginning of my fourth year of retirement from teaching at Bentley University. This is the first year that I was completely unaware of semesters, final exams and last day of classes. I’m having a blast doing exactly what I want, when I want to. The freedom is exhilarating and my list of “want to do’s” grows each day—in a good way. I’ve had the opportunity to read from my stacks of collected books as well as raid the library for some unexpected delights. I love the lack of curriculum and the full range of opportunities.


On a similar note, I’m celebrating my second blogiversary of Two years of writing generated 99 posts, almost 6000 views and a tremendous amount of fun and satisfaction for me. It’s a place where I can write about my passions: the Cape, my life, my books, my fun with fiber and anything else that captures my attention. Taking photographs has been a new skill to work on. The iPhone camera is a blessing. It makes learning by trial and error plus lots of practice very attainable.


I also just celebrated my first year of doing yoga. Now that is a very big deal. With the help of many compassionate, wise teachers, I have begun my practice and continue to expand it. My back no longer hurts me; I can move without aches and pain; I’ve lost weight and am much healthier than ever. All of this is exceptionally good news because I’m about half way to 122 years old, and I’d like to be flexible and balanced right up to the last breath. Three yoga classes and one Pilates class per week should help me get there.


So all of this spring/rebirth/new growth stuff is working. I have no complaints and am looking forward to it all. Life is good.


Nose in a Book: January 2014

The New Year has added fuel to my yearning to burn through some terrific books that have been waiting all too patiently for me. It has been almost two years that we’ve done away with television and cable, so there’s more time to get lost in books.

My current books in progress are quite an eclectic collection:

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling  audio book from

Moby Dick by Herman Melville, the Norton Critical edition

Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind  edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

The Last Elf by Silvana De Mari

I’m sure that all four aren’t are anyone’s college syllabus, and I love the variety and experience each is providing.

First, The Casual Vacancy is a J.K. Rowling book for grown ups that I struggled with when I had the hard copy in my hands. Nothing seemed to stick– not the characters– not the plot– not the book. I put the book down and decided to “let it go”. The plot thickens: my daughter Kate gave me a subscription to for Christmas. I hungrily grazed over the long list of possibilities and started my wish list. I put The Casual Vacancy on it because I just couldn’t believe that I couldn’t engage with that book. This was the author who kept me and half the universe mesmerized with Harry Potter. Maybe the audible format would change my perception of the book. I hadn’t used books on tape/cd’s/etc before and thought it would be a good experiment.

Well, I’m hooked. I downloaded the text, plugged in my ear buds and asked the rest of the world to leave me alone as I listen. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions or the newness of the toy, I don’t know. I’m now three fourths of the way through the book and want to see what happens next. I’m not sanctioning the novel as great literature, but it’s an enjoyable, adventure into the life of a small town with many degrees of dysfunctional characters. I listen while I knit and can manage to multi-task and do justice to both endeavors. I plan to listen to one book a month this way.

The next book is a tome that has been on my “to read” list for years: Moby Dick.  My Norton Critical Edition dates back to 1967; I was in high school from 1966-1970. The pages are yellowed, it cost only $1.95, and it contains not only the novel, but reviews, letters by Melville, analogues and sources as well as criticism. It’s a megillah and remained unread until this month when a friend of mine, Stan, mentioned that he was reading it. We volunteer together at the cat shelter and every time I saw him, he had something interesting to say about Moby Dick. He talked about the allure of the sea, the whaling industry, New Bedford, Nantucket, and crazy characters. Living so close to it all was another reason to jump in. Before I knew it, I was turning the pages and scribbling notes in the margins. Stan and I continue our discussions about the book and the narrative comes alive. I find myself reading and re-reading sentences that resonate; there are many. I also give myself permission to skim the passages that are dense and numb my skull. There’s no pressure– no quiz– just an exciting adventure at sea.  I notice patterns and think about what message might be intended, but that comes automatically to this geeky retired professor. A friend from my knitting group heard me talking about the book and said she wants to start reading it too.  It’s a movement!

The next book is Manage Your Day blah blah blah. Someone should have better edited the title, in my humble opinion. It’s another one of those books that I have a tendency to buy and then wonder why I did. The lessons are pretty straight forward: eliminate the distractions and make time for all that’s creative. Do the important stuff first, then fill in with the trivial tasks. I do like the advice to indulge in “unnecessary creation”; that’s using personal creative projects to explore new obsessions, skills or ways of working in a low-pressure environment. My photography, socializing cats, colorwork knitting, reading Moby Dick… are examples of ways to stretch beyond my comfort zone and try something different.

The last book on my January list is a treasure. My daughter Molly gave it to me for Christmas and described it as a book like the ones we read together when she was younger. The Last Elf is just that… I’m enjoying it as a novel, but also using it as a delightful vehicle to remember when we shared the Narnia series and so many other memory making books. When I see her, we’ll pour a cup of tea and gab about this for quite awhile.

I often think that there are so many books and so little time. I’m making more time to get lost in books, and it’s a fine way to start of the new year. I haven’t thought about what books I’ll tackle in February, but there’s no rush. They have a way of choosing me.

Fostering Chili


A few short weeks ago I took on the adventure of socializing a ten-week-old feral kitten, Chili. He taught me more than I ever expected. Here’s a brief run down of my light bulb moments.

  1. Chili is a cat, not a human. Listen to the cat and let him be a cat while you help him learn to trust a few humans.
  2. It takes a lot of time and a lot of one-on-one attention to make the smallest bit of progress.
  3. Celebrate the small steps or you’ll lose your mind. Hurray, Chili didn’t hide under his blanket when I entered the room. He peed in the litter box! He didn’t spit today! He rubbed his head against my sneaker. He purred. He sat on my lap! He gave me a kiss, and I didn’t have tuna on my hands. He ran to greet me and did figure eight’s around my feet.
  4. Food is the way to a cat’s heart… a little food builds a lot of trust. Probably true for humans too.
  5. Giving Chili more open space AFTER he was secure in his closer surroundings was the right thing to do. I gave him access to a secured spot in my studio and held my breath that he wouldn’t go hide or freak out. He did fine; I needed a drink.
  6. Time seemed to slow down while working on socializing Chili. I sat on the floor with him, had all types of conversations, yes, I even sang. No rushing, just slow, and steady consistency and love. It felt good.
  7. Quiet time with him on my lap, purring, giving a few kisses was better than any product I could have purchased… any “thing” within or beyond my grasp.chiliphoto
  8. Separation and good byes have never been my strong suit. At first I was incredibly conflicted because my goal was to socialize Chili and enable him to be adopted by a loving new family; yet, that meant letting him go. Ugh, this is like parenting…But somehow it clicked that Chili was ready for his next adventure, and I’d be able to be happy about it. He was ready, I could learn something here.
  9. On adoption day at the shelter, a dad and his daughter came looking for a kitten to fall in love with. Chili settled very comfortably in the little girl’s lap.  It was love at first sight. Yes, I teared up a bit, but I wasn’t sad.  I was part of the process, and it was very good for both Chili and myself. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!



The Zen of Pointy Sticks

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What A Hoot Mittens

What A Hoot Mittens

My name is Diane, and I am a knitaholic. Yes, it’s true. Give me a set of needles, a skein of wooly goodness and I’ve got happiness. Why????

Another Way Scarf/Stole

Another Way Scarf/Stole

Good question, I’ve been wondering about this addictive craft/art form. There is magic in being able to create something out of what seems like nothing. Every knitted creation starts off the same way: string finagled around a stick. There are two stitches—just two—knit and purl. Everything else is a combination or machination of these two simple actions. That, in and of itself, is exciting and infectious. It’s the complexity and pattern generation that results from repeated application of a simple rule. My hubby is exploring the same idea, but applying it to the universe. I love the connections but stick to yarn. Knitting is a big, fun puzzle with infinite solutions.

Vignetto Shawl-- lace, lace, lace!

Vignetto Shawl– lace, lace, lace!

Then, there’s the Zen element. The needles gently tap each other and create a soft, soothing tick tick tick. The stitches interlock one at a time to what has already been created… and it grows like cells. A new design requires attention to detail, and I sometimes speak the pattern as I’m knitting it:  “Knit 3, Knit 2 together, Yarn Over, Knit 1.” After a short while, muscle memory often takes over, and I’m in the “zone”. Knitting is like being in a trance.

Colorwork Hat

Colorwork Hat

Another aspect of this work that causes addiction is borrowed from Woody Allen:  “I like the eggs.” I like the product as much as the process. Having yarny creations that are one of a kind, made by me is a gift to myself. Lacy shawls wrap around my shoulders and provide warmth and so much more. Handmade socks feel a zillion times better than commercial socks; they’re hugs for your feet. My latest adventure on this woolen trip is to knit a handmade sweater that actually fits—and looks fabulous. The challenge has been a bit intimidating, but serves as another way to push through my comfort zone to find more comfort.

Treats for the Feets

Treats for the Feets

Unlike my years in Catholic school, there are no mistakes in knitting. You always get “do-overs” and can undo what you don’t like. There’s no punishment, no guilt. You just get to undo the stitches and then stitch some more. I also make it a point to learn something new from each project: a new technique, different color play, something more complicated, or a remake with improvements. I just figured out how to make a warm mitten that has an opening for one finger to do texting. I’ll be publishing the pattern soon.

Sheep Texting Mittens

Sheep Texting Mittens

My usual menu of what’s on my needles includes a pair of socks, a shawl, a sweater, a hat, blanket, and something that will be a gift. I know—why so many?  Because I like them all and can’t do just one thing at a time. All of these projects sit delightfully in their bags on the living room floor next to my chair. It sometimes get out of hand, but who cares, it’s all part of creative chaos.

Hitchhiker Shawl in progress

Hitchhiker Shawl in progress

I’d love to write more, but I really have a yen to get back to my knitting.

Yep, that's me!

Yep, that’s me!

Book Groupie

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Often my reading habits follow criss-crossing lines with unexpected, often interesting, consequences. This is definitely the case these past few weeks.

I’m continuing to read Academically Adrift and appreciating the hardcore research on the academic behaviors of college students. In short, students are under-prepared and universities are failing to meet most needs. This research is validating my observations in the field. I routinely confronted these issues firsthand when teaching in the classroom, and now I’m writing a book that includes my observations and remedies to these problems. That is happening, slowly, but surely.

Next on my nerdy agenda: I joined a new book club because I needed more literary oxygen and book talk. It’s the Non-fiction Book Group at Falmouth Public Library. Wow—what a smart group of well-read, articulate folks. We just finished reading and discussing a book I probably would never have read on my own: The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp. It’s a fascinating account of Clapp’s attempt to discover ancient ruins whose existence waiver between myth and reality. This book shows the power of intellectual curiosity and the rewards of the inquiry method in practice. Clapp, a documentary film producer, has a fire in his belly to learn all he can about this ancient community. It encouraged me to push beyond the text and check out other resources. The book, itself, was an adventure. And best of all, the book group members are a most welcome addition to my literary life.

This begs the question: “So what do I really want out of a book group?” I want to read a text that is challenging and have bright folks engage in a lively, smart discussion ABOUT THE BOOK. I don’t want it to be a food festival of recipes that are vaguely connected to the title and devoured by a book group that never cracked the book. Also, I’m finding that I want our monthly selection to be more than a leisurely beach book; I need it to stretch and expand what I can already do on my own. So, I’ve joined two new book groups—one non-fiction and one fiction—both run by my local libraries. The non-fiction Ubar selection was great—fingers crossed for the fiction choice which is Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I start that next week.

One literary device I really hate in books is cheap trickery. I found this to be the case in Barbara Shapiro’s, The Art Forger. This “novel” focuses on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. It reads as an interesting mystery that I thought was based on actual fact. Here comes the problem: the blurry line between fact and fiction. The author says it’s a novel, but includes so many “factual” details and references to reality that it reads like a true narrative of an actual event. It is about forging art, and the book itself is a forgery—how clever, no, how annoying. The end of the book reveals that most of what the reader thought was true, is not. Even the Boston Globe article that looked so authentic, is faked. Needless to say, I didn’t find it effective or satisfying. The last time I remember getting so irritated at a cheap trick was after I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha and found out that the “geisha” was really a young man from Brookline, MA, not even a geisha in the family. Ugh!

My irritation about The Art Forger was not in vain. Several months ago, David and I made a day trip to the Outer Cape and back again. We stumbled upon Parnassus Bookstore, and I asked my favorite question: “What should I not leave today without buying? The wise salesclerk put a copy of Mrs. Jack by Louise Hall Tharp in my hands and said “You’ll love it.” Mrs. Jack is a biography–to my surprise–of Isabella Stewart Gardner: a smart, feisty, accomplished Boston woman who created the Gardner Museum. I am more than half way through this book, and it is unadulterated joy. Her life is worth reading about; the author’s voice and style are addictive. I try to read just one chapter a night before I go to sleep, and that is impossible…like chocolates, just one more, just one more. What a refreshing change from The Art Forger. I must revisit Parnassus Bookstore and ask for another recommendation.

Life is short. So many books, so little time. Be picky.

Read More

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IMG_3407So you say you want to read more? How can you make that happen? I’ve got a few ideas, and the timing is perfect—summer is coming.

I’m a firm believer that there are not many “non-readers”; there are just a lot of people who haven’t yet discovered what they like to read. The solution is not to “force feed” what is unpleasant, but rather to arrange a buffet of choices to encourage book tasting. Please note that this strategy works well for children, young adults and the rest of us. I’ve found success using this approach with former students (middle school to university) who vehemently announced they didn’t like reading and wouldn’t read for pleasure. I took several to bookstores myself and let them roam until they found something that might be possibly, vaguely, a bit interesting. It works… many of these students (now adults) still write to me and tell me about what they’re reading and how grateful they are. One book leads to another, and it all starts with looking for the spark.

1.   Think about subjects, issues, categories that you find interesting in real life. Make a list of these items and use it as a beginning point for your book hunt. If you love CSI, then criminology, crime stories, mysteries are worth looking into. Or if you prefer cooking, in addition to cookbooks, there are biographies and memoirs of successful chefs that might whet your appetite. This will get you going in a direction that you already find pleasing, so it’s a smart beginning.

2.   Ask someone you enjoy being with, what they’re reading or what they’d recommend. Write down the titles because you will otherwise forget them quickly. Add them to your list of possibilities.IMG_3399

3.   Go to your local bookstore and talk to the clerk. Tell him/her what your interests are and ask for suggestions.

4.   Sample some books on your list. You can do this many ways: go to the library and browse, visit a bookstore and collect the books and find a comfortable chair, or go on line and preview a chapter or two of your possible suggestions.

5.   THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS PROCESS: You do not have to like the book you’re sampling. You have my permission to put it down and even make a face at it. This is all about YOU having a choice. The Tetreault Golden Rule is as follows: If the book you’re reading doesn’t make your heart go “pitter patter” by page 30, drop it immediately, like a bad boyfriend/girlfriend. This gives you the freedom to pick and choose what YOU enjoy and that’s what encourages more reading.

Let go of value judgements about whether a book is challenging or cool enough – save the hierarchy for later. Your goal is to find a book that captures your interest now.  You don’t get extra points for selecting or not selecting best sellers, award winners, books you didn’t read in high school, classics, graphic novels, books that you’ve already seen the film, or books you’ve already read. The choice is yours, and there are no wrong choices. Please note that it is perfectly acceptable to cycle through several books before you find one that you’d like to read, and you will find one that you want to read if you keep sampling.IMG_3411

6.  Try checking out collections of short stories by different authors, just to get a sense of the author’s style. Non-fiction collections, likewise, offer a sampling that you can later follow. I also really love looking through college writing/literature anthologies. My favorite is The Writer’s Presence because it contains a broad array of excellent pieces of writing—fiction as well as non-fiction.

7.  If you get stuck, just go browsing through book reviews or the stacks in the library or in a bookstore. Ask a librarian or salesperson what they’d recommend… or what is the best selling book of the day… anything to get you jump started. Trust me, it will happen—you’ll make a connection to a book and want to read it.

8.  What do you do once you find that book and read it? Hmmmm, there are lots of possibilities. You could find other books written by the same author or other titles on a similar subject or check out on line bookstores’ recommendations. There’s always some version of “If you like this, you might like that.” I also look at the list of what other people who liked this book also purchased. You can also find out what authors inspired a writer that you like…or what titles s/he enjoys reading, just to give you more avenues to travel.

9.  If you’re hoping to encourage children and young adults to read more, give them the gift of going into a bookstore and getting three books for themselves. The decision regarding specific titles is solely up to them. The power of free choice regarding books is priceless.

On the last day of school, my folks used to let me pick out the number of books that equaled my age plus one. What a fabulous way to begin the summer: we continued the tradition with our kids. It’s an affordable investment in the future.

10.  I always have a small notebook in my bag to jot down book titles, authors’ names, ideas that I want to explore. The older I get, the more useful this little notebook is.

The bottom line is that once you get hooked on books, there’s an unlimited amount of bound volumes and e-books to discover. It no longer becomes an issue of “Will I find something to read?” but more so, “Will I find enough time to read everything on my wish list?”

Happy Reading—go find a book and fall in love.


Pushing To Spring

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Coonamesset Farm in bloom

Coonamesset Farm in bloom

This past week has been filled with all sorts of reasons to celebrate. It’s May. There are graduations, Spring is in full force, and, of course, Mother’s Day. All good stuff.

I have had the pleasure of mentoring Gordon since he was a junior at Waltham High. Together we worked on writing critical essays, how to read challenging texts and how to remember to set your alarm to get to class on time. For the past five and a half years, he has put up with me, and I have put up with him…but joyfully so!

Gordon   Class of 2013 Bentley University

Gordon Class of 2013
Bentley University

This past week Gordon successfully completed his final semester at Bentley and will graduate next Saturday. He has invited me to the ceremony, and I’ll sit in the audience, yell and make noise when he receives his diploma, and then I’ll probably blubber into several tissues. He never gave up; he’s the first in his Haitian immigrant family to attend college, the first to graduate, and it’s a very proud moment that I know he’ll savor and appreciate. I can’t wait to see him in his cap and gown.

Mama and Molly

Mama and Molly

Mother’s Day Weekend has been absolutely delightful. Molly and Josh arrived and spoiled me rotten with her fabulous cooking and their wonderful company. Books, recipes, knitting ideas were shared and explored. We reconnected as if we were never apart. Kate and Matt will be visiting soon, but in the meantime, we did our first video Ichat. What a kick–I get to see her face and hear her voice! We gab over hot coffee as if she were next door. I really appreciate that I’ll always love my kids, but just as importantly, I really like them! I’m a lucky lady.

Coonamesset Lettuce

Coonamesset Lettuce

David and I had brunch at Coonamesset Farm today. The food was good, but the farm in springtime was something to behold. There are fallow fields, some lined with small seedlings and others more fully developed.  Everything is in the state of “becoming”. It’s filled with good intentions, hope and demands hard work. It’s also beautiful.

Alpaca deep in thought

Alpaca deep in thought

The farm animals are always a joy to visit. It’s their home and they let us drop in. The alpacas look like little kids with their big eyes and sense of wonder. Their “wool” is spun into the alpaca yarn I’ll be knitting warm hats and shawls with this winter.

IMG_3353 IMG_3360

The ducks and chickens are now located together in a large fenced in area. The ducks are laid back, and the chickens seem manic. One unusual, very pretty breed of chicken  has a duo that pace back and forth as if they’re thinking about solving a quadratic equation.


During the past month I’ve started to practice yoga. I know— I’m clumsy, don’t have an athletic muscle or bone in my body, and have trouble staying still for more than three seconds. This “yoga thing” is amazing. Both of my daughters do it and encouraged me to try. I found an excellent teacher who is succeeding in turning me into a yoga-mama. After four weeks, my chronic back pain is gone, I am more relaxed and centered, and I like doing it. I even speak softly for at least an hour after I’m done. Go figure! It is a most welcomed addition to my life, and I’m grateful.


Last, but not least, Smitty’s Ice Cream opened for the season this past week. I confess David and I drove on an empty tank of gas to get there. Yes, he got coffee ice cream smothered in butterscotch, and I tried two new flavors: coconut and orange/pineapple. Yum, yum, yum. This cannot become a habit…well maybe one can substitute a cup of ice cream for a lunch???

All of these events (except possibly Smitty’s) share the theme of hope and rebirth that comes from inspiration as well as perspiration. It resonates with me…optimism based on hard work and realizing one’s potential by doing good stuff with focus and determination. Gordon learned how to be a student and reached his goal. The farm will be worked and produce good food and lots of beauty. My daughters have grown up into adults that I am so very proud of; parenting is work and it works. I am learning how to do yoga without falling over; I practice every day. Smitty’s Ice Cream is my exercise in moderation. That might take some time.


Nose In A Book

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The past few weeks have been prime reading time for me. I think it might be due to a combination of cold weather, great coffee, and a rich stash of books. I’m also finding that requesting titles from the Falmouth Library means that they do show up unexpectedly and have due dates—so they get bumped to the top of the list.

Good Prose, The Art of Non Fiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd is one of those titles that came recommended somewhere on the internet.This is a rewarding book that keeps delivering treasures in every chapter. The two authors have written stories and advice from a lifetime of writing and editing. It reveals “wordsmithing” as a way of life—and a very enjoyable one. It’s writing well about good writing.

Each author peppers his paragraphs with references to pieces of literature I actually am familiar with, and I am able to make the connections to their arguments. Their text is fully amplified, engaging and rich. My usually complaint about non-fiction is that a typical 300 page book could/should be reduced to a three page magazine article and be done with it. That is not the case with this book. Each chapter explores a topic of interest about writing, and I kept wanting more. Many nights, lights went out on David’s side of the bed and I found myself saying, “just one more chapter and I’ll hit the sack”.  Potato chip reading… ahhhh!

So what makes this book so engaging and delicious? It’s an honest, authentic look at non-fiction writing, and it is full of useful advice. Both Kidder and Todd reveal the truth in the adage, “Writing is Rewriting.” I love the F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation and wish I had it on hand when I was teaching writing: “Rewrite from principle. Don’t just push the same old stuff around. Throw it away and start over.”

It’s also clear that writing is hard work and requires self-editing as well as an editor’s sharp, critical eye. The literary relationship that evolves between Tracy and Todd is a good story in itself…they’re exploring better ways to tell a story. So there are levels and layers of wordy goodness between these covers. If you like to read or like to write, you’ll love this book.

Good Prose also offers a voyeur’s peek into the business of publishing. How shocking to learn that 80% of the books published lose money. Kidder shares that it usually requires ten or more completed drafts and more than a year before one of his publishable books is born.

The reader witnesses the evolution of Kidder as a writer and the role that errors, gross and small play in his work. He pulls back the curtain and let’s us see the story behind the story and how does writing “happen”. Over the years, I have enjoyed Kidder’s other books, and this one helps me figure out why. It also gives me fodder to think about my own writing… and that’s always worthwhile.

There are a few more books that I devoured lately. The first is The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. It’s a memoir of her experience farming in Essex, NY, the town next to where I spent my summers on Lake Champlain as a kid. This well educated, NYC girl falls in love with her soul mate who happens to be a devoted, persistent, tenacious farmer who lives his beliefs as he works the soil from daybreak to dark. He’s not all talk; he’s all action. The love story here is really about the love of the land and the community that supports this noble effort.

This memoir certainly takes away the shiny façade of “Isn’t farming fun”. The hard work and constant barrage of uncontrollable events often seems like the life of Job. Days are never ending. “To do” lists have to do with survival, not frivolities. The most significant lesson I learned from their experience is that the hardships of rigorous labor, loss, and self-doubt encountered are seen as the counterbalance to the joy, satisfaction, and appreciation of what is simple and good. It’s all part of a cycle.

Last, but not least is The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. This novel put me on an oceanic liner for a 21 day journey from Ceylon to England along with three young, unsupervised boys. It is Huck Finn with an international, contemporary twist, complete with coming of age revelations that are golden. Ondaatje recreates the perspective seen by children and allows the reader to make connections. I love this book; I thought about the characters after I put the book down each night and wondered what they were doing while I was asleep.

His writing is artful; I re-read many sentences just to hear them again. The author explores the consequences of adults behaving poorly, loneliness, the excitement of risk, love and camaraderie. We feel what it is like to be the outcast as well as in the “in crowd”. He captures it for us and puts it on a page.

I’m in the middle of two other books that could be game changers for me: More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger further pushes the boundaries of living with less and giving more away. It’s straightforward, not preachy and comes complete with “assignments” to put these words into action.

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD is yet another healthy diet book. It came highly recommended by one of my favorite students, so I dove in. So far it looks like a diet of practically no meat, a ton of vegetables and fruits, a lot of beans and no processed foods.

The author recommends abiding by the rules or six weeks before giving up. Not sure about this one…

Let me know what you’re reading. I love having my nose in a book.