My Definition of Restful and Why That Might Be Weird to You

Recently, I’ve had text, email, or Zoom conversations with friends about books we’re reading, and in one of them, I made this statement: “I want a restful book.” Though you were not part of that discussion, I want to elaborate on what I meant.

By restful, I mean a book I can enjoy any hour of the day or night or during a pandemic. It is one that does not evoke feelings of righteous indignation, rage, depression, or mind-numbing fear. Though dinosaurs may or may not eat people and wealthy tyrants might be murdered in locked rooms by any number of suspects, I don’t fret about it, especially since I’m not the one being eaten nor the one whose murder is the basis of a cozy, but entertaining mystery.

My reading does not always involve murder or full-bellied dinosaurs, however. I thoroughly enjoy Mr. Darcy getting a comeuppance by Elizabeth Bennet (you know this one); Valancy Stirling experiencing life in a new way (The Blue Castle); and a small, unsupervised child crawling out of a window via a handy tree and going off by himself at night in search of a pillow. (Guess which book this is. No parenting advice will be forthcoming from me.)

 

  

Pride and Prejudice DVD case shown here, rather than the book cover, because I already had this photo in my blog library

Many of the books I’ve read in the last two months are restful in that they are familiar like well-loved walking trails. I’ve traversed these paths again and again and still appreciate the scenery.

What is restful reading to you? If books are not your thing, what have you been watching lately that you would categorize as restful?

The Blue Castle cover from Goodreads. Other photos by L. Marie.

A Birthday in the Age of COVID-19

As I wrote the title of this post, I thought about books like The Diary of Samuel Pepys, excerpts of which I read back in the Dark of Ages in my undergraduate years (Da Vinci was one of my classmates; that guy knew his way around a painting), A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, which I also read at some point, and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez which I have not read, but probably will someday. Others have probably mentioned these books lately, particularly those by Pepys and Defoe, who wrote about the Bubonic plague back in the seventeenth century (though Defoe’s book was historical fiction).

So anyway, this is how I celebrated my birthday this past Sunday in these days of social distancing. First, my fellow island villagers threw a surprise birthday party for me in the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which I’m playing on the Nintendo Switch Lite. I just wish my character had been allowed to change out of her night wear before the festivities began. Oh well. Back in college, birthday ambushes with me stuck in pajamas used to happen every year. But in these social distancing days, many people are using the game to have birthday parties, not just with NPCs (non-player characters, if you’re not into gaming but were curious) but with real-life friends who visit their islands to celebrate.

 

That was just one way of celebrating the day. Before I get to the rest of the Sunday festivities, let me add that the day before, friends dropped off breakfast, lunch, and dessert. There’s nothing like someone showing up in a mask to hand you a cup of coffee and a restaurant meal that says, “Celebrate good times, come on!” (By the way, the knight’s helm-looking hat on the sign in the first photo above is one I’ve worn while heading out in the world. The visor fits over my nose and mouth perfectly.)

  

Back to Sunday, I received a phone call from a friend (one of the pastors at church) who instructed me to come outside. Days earlier, she’d told me she wanted to drop something off, so not suspecting anything, I went out, expecting to see her standing by the front door. Instead, I was greeted by a line of people in cars honking their horns and shrieking “Happy birthday!” These are just a few.

 

So that’s how birthdays are celebrated in these virus days. I received some great gifts, part of the tradition of celebrating. Here are a few:

   

 

One of the above books was given by a friend who showed up with dinner on my birthday (not pictured due to having been eaten before I remembered that I needed to take a picture). The other came from my brother and sister-in-law. Speaking of books, one of the gifts I received that was not pictured was an Amazon card which I promptly used to purchase the book below, which is a must-have for the socially conscious person, especially parents looking to enhance their children’s understanding of classroom etiquette.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because you can receive what I received—a tradition around this blog. I can’t show up at your house even with a mask on to hand you a meal. But I can celebrate you, even if it’s not your birthday. So I am giving away TWO $25 Amazon cards or the rough equivalent at Amazon UK (easier to email).

That’s right:

Two $25 Amazon gift cards!

Comment below to be entered in the drawing.

Photos by L. Marie.

String-Pulling Bees and Other Things I Didn’t Realize I Needed in My Life

I don’t know about you, but I crave a bit of normalcy, a bit of adorableness. And what’s more normal than scientists getting some bumblebees to pull strings? (Those bumblebees must have some influence if they’re pulling strings. Am I right? . . . Okay, I’ll stop.)

Anyway, I ran across this video at the SciNews YouTube Video and a follow-up—scientists teaching bees to roll balls—and was mesmerized. If only they could teach wasps to be kind. (If somehow the video disappears, click here for it.)

See? You needed it too, didn’t you? (For more info on the bumblebee experiment, conducted at Queen Mary University of London, click here.)

Recently, a friend sent photos of her newest acquisitions, which turned out to be something else I needed:

  

As I looked at the photos, I could feel my blood pressure drop and something broken within me starting to mend. Maybe you feel the same way.

This also made my day (photo below). Chalk art courtesy of the kids who live in my apartment building.

Also, I saw these at the grocery store. Maybe they’re not as essential as water or toilet paper, but they’re essential in a soul-building sort of way.

  

What have you seen this week that helped lift your spirits? Please share in the comments.

Farm animal photos by Colleen Yang. Other photos by L. Marie.

What Is Beauty?

In case you’re wondering, this is not a review of the movie Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, nor a review of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. Neither was the catalyst for this post, though each has beauty in the title. I’ll tell you what was in a minute. (Oddly enough, I mused about this subject four years ago. You can find that post here.)

   

I sat down with Lippy Lulu, Beauty Guru, to ask her opinion on the question, “What is beauty?” Before you ask, I didn’t give her that name. You can thank Moose Toys for that. She came with tiny lipsticks, a makeup case with brushes, and an eyeshadow array.

    

“Are you asking for a makeover?” she asked, as she reached for her makeup kit.

“Um no. Just want to know what you thought of beauty. What is beauty?”

She didn’t have an answer. And I shouldn’t have expected one from someone who makes her home on my desk.

In a BBC.com article, “The Myth of Universal Beauty,” author David Robson posted the question, “Do standards of beauty change over time?”

At first, I thought about writing a post about his findings, which you can discover for yourself if you click here. But I soon discovered that I wasn’t so much interested in the prevailing standards of beauty as I was in wanting to feel secure within myself if I don’t fit those standards. So, only one statement in the article really resonated with me:

The deeper you look, the harder it is to define beauty.

Ain’t that the truth?

The catalyst for today’s post was my discovery that an acquaintance (let’s call her Sue; not her real name though) was soon to undergo a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. This happened in the same week that a friend (I’ll call her Amy; not her real name either) had a biopsy. I mentioned that in my last post.

Throughout our lives, starting in childhood (Lippy Lulu is a child’s toy after all), we see various images or hear opinions about beauty, particularly what’s beautiful about a woman. Makeup ads advise women to accent their best features through various products. But when you’re a woman faced with the loss of something that is a fundamental part of being a woman, you can’t help pondering the whole subjective notion of beauty and why a paradigm shift might be needed.

When faced with the prospect of having a mastectomy like Sue, Amy asked her husband how he would feel if she had to face that loss. He said, “I’ll take you as you are, no matter what.”

Now, that’s beauty.

Robson, David. “The Myth of Universal Beauty.” BBC Future/BBC News. BBC, 23 June 2015. Web. 07 May 2017.

Collateral Beauty poster from blackfilm.com. Beauty and the Beast poster from impawards.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Lippy Lulu Shopkins™ Shoppie doll by Moose Toys.

Take a Leap

Man LeapingEver been to a place with water so clear, you couldn’t wait to leap in? The Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios was such a place for me. As I contemplated what to write for Leap Day, I couldn’t help thinking of the waterfall there and how I leaped in. But this post isn’t about that trip, which happened several years ago, so don’t expect a travelogue or personal photos. 😀 But I’ll at least leave you with this one:

Dunn Falls

Happy Leap Day! What a great day to post! After all, February 29 only comes around every four years!

leap-day-2012-a-text

You’ve heard people talk about making a bucket list—places to go or things to do before you die. Ever thought about making a leap list? I think of this list as things to do to help you live the kind of life you’ve always wanted to live. Perhaps a bucket list and a leap list might seem to be the same thing. But so many people make a bucket list for the future. A leap list includes things you can do right now. You don’t have to make a long list. Just decide to do one thing.

Maybe you’ve been on the fence awhile. Could it be time for you to come off that fence? Maybe you could . . .

Become a fighter for a cause. My mom’s surgeon became a doctor to fight against breast cancer. But at some point, she had to make a commitment to do what was necessary to be an effective fighter (i.e., go to medical school). What cause will you champion? How far are you willing to go to fight for that cause? Think of a simple step you can take to start. When you engage in a fight, expect to get knocked down sometimes. The important thing is to get back up and keep fighting. What do you believe in so strongly that you’re willing to keep going toe to toe in a scrap?

Boxer Kitty
Take a leap of faith. This could be as simple as making the leap from doubt to belief. Or it might involve doing something you’ve been afraid of doing, because you were afraid to fail. I can’t help thinking about my friend, Jill Weatherholt (many of you know her), who took a leap of faith by entering a Blurb to Book contest. You can read her story here.
Kick a habit. You don’t need a pair of rain boots or fancy sneakers to kick a habit. You just need willingness and determination that this time, nothing will stand in the way of your success. Don’t let your doctor be the one to force you to do it!

Boots
Forge a new relationship or renew an old one. Perhaps you have an acquaintance whom you’ve wanted to get to know better. Or, perhaps a relationship has been interrupted in some way. Are you willing to be intentional about building or rebuilding a relationship? Make a memory as my friend (and a friend to many of you), Andra Watkins, talks about on her blog.
Try something new. Choose something you’ve always wanted to try. Or, return to something you loved before. As for me, I’d like to return to my art roots and take an illustration class. I’m a bit rusty!

When you’re about to leap off a diving board, do you tend to look behind you? While there are some dives that require you to stand at the edge of the board with your back toward the pool, generally you face forward before leaping off. That’s what we need to do when taking a leap. Looking behind at past failures might be a detriment to taking a leap.

Of course, taking a leap doesn’t mean throwing common sense out of the window! I don’t know about your mom, by mine used to ask, “If all of your friends leaped off a bridge, would you leap off too?” as a caution against giving in to peer pressure. So facing forward still means looking before leaping!

By the way, Marie of 1WriteWay, get ready to leap! You have won The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. Congrats! Please comment below to confirm.

674749

Leap Year image from prettylittleliars.alloyentertainment.com. Man leaping from thankingthespoon.com. Dunn’s River Falls from islandbuzzjamaica.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

The View from the Waiting Room

phcc_waiting_roomOkay, once again I disappeared from cyberspace! Perhaps you wondered what happened. Last week I headed to the Houston area to be present for my mom’s surgery. (If you’re wondering why she needed surgery, click here. I avoided taking photos for the sake of privacy.)

Last Tuesday, bright and early, my dad, my older brother, and I headed with Mom to Memorial Hermann Hospital for the procedure, which took place in a surgical center on that medical campus. Yes that’s right. A surgical center. (Have you noticed that lately more and more procedures are done outpatient than in? I certainly have.)

Mom squeezed my hand as the nurse called her name, as if I were the one in need of reassurance. (She was right.) As she followed the nurse to get ready for the procedure, she seemed calm—totally ready to get the thing over with.

After Mom was prepped, her surgeon came out to the waiting area to talk to us about the procedure. I liked her immediately. Her warm, compassionate nature makes liking her easy. After looking her up on Google, I learned the inspiration for that compassion. When she was 13, her mom died of breast cancer. That gave her the impetus to pursue not just medicine, but breast cancer as a specialty. In fact, she’s one of the first surgeons in Houston to make breast cancer a specialty.

While we waited, we knocked back cup after cup of hot apple cider (my older brother drank that, since he gave up coffee) and coffee (Dad and I) thanks to the Keurig in the waiting room. Since I seemed to know what I was doing with the Keurig, I had to help others who were a little mystified by cup sizes.

hot-cup-of-steaming-coffee-hi

While my dad dealt with paperwork, my brother and I slipped easily into a conversation with a man who waited for his mom’s surgery. That’s what happens in waiting rooms. You meet other people who would rather talk than sit there anxiously twiddling their thumbs.

Two hours later, out came the surgeon again with good news: the procedure went well. The tumor was a bit larger than she’d anticipated, which meant Mom had to have a drainage tube for a few days to prevent swelling. It came with a clear plastic grenade-shaped container that would have to be monitored and emptied every few hours.

When we took Mom home, monitoring and emptying that container were my tasks. But it was a privilege to do even that for the woman who did much more than that while raising me.

Having surgery was not the kind of birthday celebration I could have wished for Mom. But the procedure at least ensured that she would have more birthdays. After she heals up, she’ll undergo radiation to make those birthdays even more possible.

Watching Mom deal with cancer reminded me of the fragility of life. And soon after I returned home and the news broke about the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was reminded of that even more.

Cancer and acts of terror can cause us to push the panic button. But instead of giving in to helplessness and hopelessness, we can do what we need to do. Pray and take care of the people around us.

214640-Pray-For-Paris

Waiting room from onlythegoodieyoung.wordpress.com. Cup of coffee from clker.com. Pray for Paris image from lovethispic.com.