Cloudy with a Chance of Awesome

If you were a kid like me, cloud watching was an integral part of your day. But when adulthood beckoned, bills and boys and benchmarks and a plethora of worries crowded out the cloud-watching habit. I have since discovered the error of my ways and returned to cloud watching.

I’m so glad I did. Clouds are beautiful masterpieces painted on a heavenly canvas each day. And they have been really interesting lately. Like these clouds below. They look like letters to me. What letters, if any, do you see?

    

Or how about this one? I see one letter just above the tree at the left, in the center of the photo. Do you see it?

For some reason, this one gives me a Cinderella-going-to-the-ball vibe. It’s actually the first “letter” in the first photo before the clouds shifted a bit.

I see numbers in the photo below. Do you? The cloud at the left looks like a 4 or a 1 and a 7. The middle one could be another 7 or a 1. The one at the right looks like an upside-down 2, or even a Z. What do you think?

This one looks like a heart (top center) surrounded by a larger heart:

This one has a cloud that looks like a hand (at the right):

Here are some others. For the second one, I think, “Sheep May Safely Graze.”

   

Clouds remind me of infinite possibilities—of creativity and wonder. Honestly, I’d rather watch the clouds than continue to watch recent news events, which have frustrated and angered me, and nearly driven me to despair.

That’s why I look up. I can dream of a world where hate has no place; where fingers aren’t angrily aimed at people in blame; where voices are raised in praise and gratitude, rather than in fury.

That’s why I’m also grateful for authors like Steve Bramucci, who write books to take kids and adults on an adventure. What a positive goal! (How’s that for a segue?)

This is as good of a time as any to announce the winner of The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! by Steve Bramucci. (For the interview with Steve, click here.)

   

The winner is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

S. K. Van Zandt!

S. K. Van Zandt, please comment below to confirm. Thank you to all who commented!

P. S. Keep looking up!

Book cover and author photo courtesy of Steve Bramucci. Cloud photos by L. Marie.

When Delight Is in Short Supply

Don’t worry. This is not a tirade about the election. I think we’ve heard enough of those. Rather, this is a post to announce a random giveaway to a commenter. I will give away a copy of one of the following books:

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The book choice is up to you. If you click on each cover, you’ll be taken to Amazon, where you can read about the book. (By the way, the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia is by Pablo Hidalgo and Simon Beecroft, since that’s not obvious from the cover.)

Why these books? I just finished reading the Grace Lin book, which is utterly delightful and poignant. Don’t worry. I won’t hand you my used copy. You’ll get your own, if that is the book you want. And Pakenham’s book is marvelous. It was a huge help in my novel world building. As for the third book, I don’t own the Star Wars Character Encyclopedia. But I wanted to include a Star Wars book, since I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars universe for many years. While I can’t say I’ve loved all of the movies (maybe four out seven), I greatly admire the depth of world building. And I’ve loved most of the Clone Wars animated series. Totally love Star Wars Rebels. I also recently enjoyed Ahsoka, a young adult novel by E. K. Johnston. If you would prefer that novel over the encyclopedia above, please let me know.

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These days, when hate-filled messages crawl across the internet, and delight seems in short supply, I take comfort in whatever is life giving.

The stories we share we each other, the beauty of nature all around us, the limitless universe of the imagination—these things are life-giving.

I love books that remind me of beauty, truth, courage, faith, love, and hope. And now, I’m reminded of a quote by Paul from 1 Corinthians 13:13:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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So, now, it’s up to you. Comment below to let me know which book you would want if your name is drawn. If you like, please share why this book appeals to you. The winner will be announced on November 21, right before Thanksgiving. 🙂

Book covers from nationalbook.org, Goodreads, and Starwars.com.

What Do You See?

What do you see in the photo below? (This is not a trick question.)

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When I asked two people that question, both said, “Two trees.” One added, “One with pink leaves, one with white leaves,” for extra credit points, I guess.

Now look.

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It is one tree, or at least two that became so interrelated as saplings, that they are now one tree. Changes your perspective a bit, doesn’t it?

You’re probably waiting for me to correlate this image with diversity—the fact that we’re all different, yet we’re part of the same “tree”—humanity (humani-tree, I guess). When I began this post, I thought I was going to do that. But something else more obvious struck me: I walked by that same tree year after year, and never noticed that what I thought was one tree is really two until last week.

Observant much? Yep. That’s me. But sometimes, I get smacked in the face with something that’s always been there, waiting for me to finally take notice. Like a beautiful sunrise or a sunset I’ve been too busy to stop and admire.

Life surprises us in delightful ways, occasionally. Which is good, because lately, I’ve had enough of the bad surprises, like when I learned that a teen I know has to deal with cancer yet again—this time a much more aggressive phase, or when I heard of the sudden death of a friend’s mom. And there were other surprises that sent me reeling in the last few weeks. Even writing has been frustrating.

The blows we take in life can change our perspective too—toward the good or the bad. The choice is ours, of course. Unfortunately, I haven’t always chosen a good perspective. I struggled with that recently. Lately, I’ve felt like cracked clay. But breath-catching moments, like when I finally noticed the tree above, also are soul-sculpting moments. What do I mean by that? Moments when I feel my soul expand like clay taking shape on a potter’s wheel. In those moments, I’m reminded that beauty still exists in the world. And good surprises.

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So, yeah, in the midst of a sobering week, I celebrated the fact that this tree surprised me. I also celebrated my birthday last week. Because I posted an author interview (and arranged for others), I didn’t post my usual birthday giveaway. But rest assured—there will be surprise giveaways in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of craft projects I’ve been working on in my spare time to unwind after a hard week—making doll furniture and crocheting friendly looking dragons (a change from the T-Rexes I had to crochet for a kid’s party weeks ago; patterns for fiercer looking dragons are not free, however). To make the doll sofa (it is about 7″ wide and 5″ tall), I watched a tutorial on a great YouTube channel—My Froggy Stuff. The sofa was made out of cardboard and a fabric remnant that I paid $1.49 for at Michaels. The pillows were made out of felt (39 cents at Michaels). The dragon came from a pattern that can be found here.

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How have you been surprised in a good way lately?

Clay on the wheel image from somewhere on Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie.

When Your Mojo Stops Mojoing: A Spa Day L. Marie Style

This has turned out to be one of those weeks when I’ve struggled to write anything of significance. Scenes I’ve written in my story have fallen flatter than the last batch of brownies I attempted. (Who fails at brownies made from a mix? Um, me that’s who.) Sigh. I had to be honest with myself: my mojo wasn’t mojoing.

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Some of this had to do with various points of worry that the week dredged up. The stress of those worries trickled into my writing, which added to the flatness.

Ever feel like that about your writing or other projects?

Some people turn to yoga or take a spa day to recharge. Since the cost of a spa was prohibitive, I had to DIM—do it myself.

Here’s how you do a spa day, L. Marie style:

First, spend a couple of hours with a friend at Ikea enjoying an ultra cheap breakfast, followed by a leisurely look at baby furniture. (Her unborn child will need it soon.)

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This was only 99 cents.

Second, when you return home, watch movies like

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and call it “research.” After wishing you lived in Pixie Hollow and had a lightning bug for a friend, decide to watch something else, since that wish will not be granted. Binge on several episodes of the Pemberly Digital show, Emma Approved, a modern-day retelling of the Jane Austen classic. You can find it on YouTube. It’s like Clueless, except with adults playing adults, rather than adults playing teens. Each episode is around 5½—7 minutes long. If you’re like me, you’ll sigh over Alex Knightley and Frank Churchill for at least an hour, which is almost as bad as wishing you lived in Pixie Hollow.

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But third—and this is very important—procure some viewing snacks like

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These snacks are courtesy of a friend.

Fourth, work off the calories by getting plenty of outdoor time, traipsing among the flowers. Be sure to greet the bees while you’re there. They’re buzzing about, ready for their close-up. But don’t expect them to stay still if you want a photo. None of the bees I greeted did.

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These are blooming in the yard.

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These can be found at my local library.

Fifth, watch more episodes of Emma Approved. Consider whether or not you would want your life to be like the retelling of a Jane Austen novel.

Sixth, after dinner, try again to make that troublesome scene work.

Seventh, believe in yourself. While you’re thinking about how to make that scene work, crochet a flower for a friend’s birthday. Use it to remind yourself that if you can produce this, you can produce a compelling scene.

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What do you usually do when your mojo stops mojoing?

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Sad man from goodgeorgialawyer.com. Breakfast plate from ikea.com. Emma Approved logo from tvtropes.org. Other photos by L. Marie.

Remarkable Trees

I often head outside to write and relax under the welcoming arms of this tree on the grounds of my apartment building.

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Hullo.

Don’t let this picture fool you. The lowest branch is at least ten feet off the ground. (I gauged the distance based on my height—about five four and a half inches—and the fact that I was only halfway to the branch.) So a ladder is a necessary tool if you want to climb this tree.

I don’t know what kind of tree this is. If you are a tree aficionado, can you tell, based on the leaves in the photo below, what kind it is? (Yes, I know the photo is not the greatest.) Some kind of locust tree maybe? I’m far more used to maple trees. We had those outside of our house when I was growing up.

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With the temperature at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), and the wind on the chilly side, I was not inclined to sit outside. (It rained anyway.) But I wanted to snap a few photos of this friendly tree.

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This is my good side.

Lately, I’ve been in need of a soul expansion. Ever have a season when you experienced too many battles and too few victories? Like the Grinch who stole Christmas (look here if you’re not sure who the Grinch is or look below), lately my heart has felt two sizes too small. But one quick way for me to regain good cheer involves placing myself near trees and other beautiful plants.

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I’m not a gardener, but I appreciate the efforts of others to beautify the grounds. I love the fact that I can look out of my window and see lilacs, vivid green grass, and trees.

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Tulips and lilacs at the front door

One look at a tree or flowers causes my blood pressure to drop and my hands to unclench. I love seeing birds flitting in and out of the tree the photo of which appears above. Robins are frequent visitors, though I’ve heard a sparrow or two in the vicinity each morning. I’ve also seen a blackbird perched on a high branch, singing a spring song.

As I type this post, suddenly I’m reminded of a book on my Amazon Wish List:

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Click here for more on this book. I’ll pick up a copy of my own at some point. I first learned of it at the library, where I borrowed a copy. I’m fascinated by books that discuss trees, especially ancient or huge trees like the cedars of Lebanon or redwoods. They remind me of how big the world is and how small I am.

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Cedars of Lebanon

Since the remarkable tree book came to mind, I thought about trees I find remarkable and would love to see in person someday. I’m not alone in my assessment. These trees appear on many lists of remarkable or beautiful trees.

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Banyan

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Japanese Maple

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Jacaranda

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California Redwood

Just looking at those trees makes me feel better. And this great post at Nancy Hatch’s blog, Spirit Lights The Way, has the same effect: https://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/relax-youre-on-island-time/

Which tree not currently listed which you add to the remarkable trees list? Why?

Book cover from Goodreads. Jacaranda from exploreaustralia.net.au. Japanese maple from boredpanda.com/falcor88. Banyan tree from en.wikipedia.org. Redwood tree from bigsurcalifornia.org. Lebanon cedars from habeeb.com. Grinch’s heart from adventuresforlife.wordpress.com.