Summer Vacation

I’m ditching today’s writing prompt because it was about coffee and tea, and I already covered that extensively.

Instead, I’m going to focus on my holiday! Hooray!

Honestly, I’m considering taking a break from the daily writing. I’m finding it hard to fit it into the holiday schedule.

Busy Schedule

We’re in a place with lots of sunlight, few blackout curtains and a hellovalotta birds. We’re lucky if the morning is a little overcast and we can sleep in past 6am.

The days are full. Full of the wonderful things that make a summer vacation.

We’ve been cycling, to the beach, out on Bompa’s Boat, had ice cream… Moments full of pure joy.

We’ve also been busy fixing things up around the house and preparing it for the coming summer season. Cleaning windows, trimming hedges, airing out rugs.

When Evening Rolls Around…

I’m bushed. Just wiped out.

Not the kind of fatigue I feel at home. Often at home it feels like there’s a weight on me.

It’s physical exhaustion. We’re on the go all day, and even though we’re the same four people and we have a lot of the same things to do (cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes), being in a different environment changes things.

A Special Place

Just being in this gorgeous, special place makes it different. Here, the only worries we have are the here and the now. We’re not thinking about next week, last year, two months from now.

Sometimes I wish we could stay here longer. But that would be like having Christmas every day.

It just wouldn’t be special anymore!

So yeah, maybe I’ll set aside the writing while we’re here. Make it a real holiday.


38. Fire-starters: Write about building a fire.

It starts out small.

A tiny spark. A sideways comment. Perhaps a passive-aggressive remark.

The paper catches quickly. A little flare as the kindling catches. The tension increases, tempers rise.

Now the logs have caught. We’re really going at it. Voices raised, gesticulating wildly. The fire’s blazing, the flames dancing, casting shadows at the back of the fireplace.

Suddenly there’s a blip. The connection cuts out momentarily. Long enough to break the tension. The logs burn up quickly, and before we know it, the fire is dying.

The embers are still smoldering, though. We can’t quite let go.

Soon enough, even that fades. As quickly as it started, the fire is out. We’re quiet. Feeling kind of sheepish.

“So… Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Yup. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”

Inspirational Wall Art

36. Frame It: Write a poem or some phrases that would make for good wall art in your home.

Nope. Not for me, thanks.

I was never one to hang inspirational quotes on my wall. But then for Christmas the year after my mother died, one of my two amazing sisters-in-law gave me a print by Michelle Brusegaard.


More than an inspirational quote, this was reassuring.

It now hangs at the foot of our bed, and I read it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I’d like another one, though. But the new one would be a phrase my mom often repeated to me after our first son was born.


The Joy of Arguing

I missed writing yesterday because we did an epic one-day car trip with the family. Thank GOD we scored a minivan with a built-in DVD player. Today’s article is coming to you from a different location. A very relaxing location.

35. War and Peace: Write about a recent conflict that you dealt with in your life.

Conflict? Me?! Never.

Well, perhaps not never.

Most of my life, I’ve studiously avoided conflict. A lot of people do, especially (dare I say it?) women.

I’ve apparently internalized the desire to avoid conflict so much that I often respond to conflict with—I’m embarrassed to say it—tears.

Arguing Joyfully

In the last few years, though, I have tried to learn to argue joyfully.

You read that right! Arguing can, in fact, be a joyful experience. When you find yourself in a heated debate with someone you love, it can be a satisfying (and rather exciting) experience to disagree, to even get angry and argue about something.

The key is to always remain respectful, because in the end you do want to see this person again.

A Recent Conflict

Recently, I got into a heated argument with my husband on the way to the grocery store. I got so mad that I stormed out of the car and slammed the door behind me.

With each step I took away from the car, I felt my anger dissipating, and by the time I’d gotten into the store, I was able to do my shopping with a clear head.

Though I made a stormy exit, up until then I had vented my frustration verbally. The fact that there were no tears was a big victory for me.

Tears = Emotional Blackmail

I used to burst into tears when we fought, changing the situation from a mutual argument to making my husband feel ashamed for upsetting me so much.

Bursting into tears at the moment an argument breaks out is emotionally manipulative. I wasn’t sad in these cases; I wasn’t hurt. I just didn’t know how to express anger. I thought anger was the worst feeling you could possibly have.

I thought that it was a horrible thing to be angry with someone I love.

Recently, thanks to the therapy I started after my mother’s death, I came to understand that anger and love are not mutually exclusive. It IS possible to be seriously mad at the person you love.

The key is to learn to argue with joy.

How to Argue Joyfully

  1. Use your words. Anger can cloud our judgment and make it hard to find the words we want. Try to keep your head about you and clearly state what has made you angry and why it makes you angry.
  2. Do not make attacks. This is especially important when arguing with your partner. This is your chosen life companion. You don’t want to say anything you will regret later.
  3. Know when to end it. When frustration reaches a boiling point and you find yourselves arguing in circles, it’s time to stop. Walk away. Cool down. Clear your heads.

Last Rule

Oh, and for Pete’s sake and the sake of your mental health and personal well-being, never EVER engage in an argument on social media.

It is impossible to argue joyfully in social media.

Lookin’ Out My Front Door

34. Sounds: Sit outside for about an hour. Write down the sounds you hear.

Wind rustling through the trees;
Geese honking across the sky;
A cheerful little mocking bird!
A dog barking in the distance.

Airplanes overhead, coming in to land;
Traffic going by on the boulevard;
Someone mowing the lawn;
Music blaring out of a passing car.

Whirring of a bubble machine and
Shrieks of joy from my children.
Chalk scraping on the sidewalk.
Water spilling, feet in crocs stomping in the puddles.

“Mama?” I open my eyes. “I’m bored.
“Can we go inside now?”

The Dinner Ring

33. Jewelry: Write about a piece of jewelry. Who does it belong to?

Oh, the indignity!

That I, a fabulous dinner ring, should be trapped here on your left hand! Mashed up against your wedding band!

This is NOT where I belong!

Time was when I was a show-stopper, only worn for the most special occasions. I was a dinner ring (not to be confused with my rather gaudy and tacky cousin the cocktail ring).

While a cocktail ring was worn in the speakeasys of the 1920s and designed to be so blindingly bright that you wouldn’t notice how terrible the moonshine was, I was born of a much classier generation.

The Origins of Dinner Rings

My kind came about in the 1930s and 1940s when the dinner party came into vogue. Back then, you know, people actually dressed for a dinner party.

I was given as a gift to Frances Reid (nee Cardo) by her husband, then Col. Samuel L. Reid, in 1943 or 44. I can’t remember. It was before the end of the war, I know that.

I was worn on the right hand. My job was to catch the eye and communicate class. I was not designed to stupefy with my brilliance, but rather to say, “Here you see wealth and taste flawlessly combined.” Unlike other dinner rings, I am a diamond surrounded by smaller emeralds. Normally, it would have been the other way around. But the fact that my diamond is my largest stone shows my value!

And now… Now!

The glory days of the 1940s, 50s and 60s faded. Fashions became more casual. As Frances became ill in the 1970s, I spent most of my time in my box, nestled in her vanity table. I longed for the clink of crystal classes, and the ringing of true silver on fine china.

When Frances died, I feared I would be forgotten and passed along most indignantly. I was relieved to find myself given to her daughter. Resized to fit a rather larger hand (she had been a basketball player, after all), I once again saw the light of day.

But this time, I found myself in the strangest situations. At the theater! Playing bridge! What?? These are not the scenarios I was designed for! I am a DINNER RING! I was meant to catch the light reflected from a chandelier!

It Got Worse

I should have counted my blessings then, though. At least with the daughter I was worn at rather more formal occasions.

Now, I’m with the granddaughter. With her, there’s not even bridge! Has this woman EVER been to a dinner party? Judging from the way she holds her fork, I should say not.

These days I’m lucky if I don’t get smeared with hand cream or worse, butter. I’m worn daily, but on the left hand! I’m supposed to stand out on my own on the right! Instead, I’m shoved up next to a plain little wedding band (who has more cheek than such a simple ring ought to have).

Frequently I am removed and placed in a tray high up on the raised kitchen counter. At least from here I can watch and don’t have to feel the flour, dish soap and other kitchen elements rubbing into my old joints.

I’m exhausted. I don’t belong here.

But when I cast my memory back to those long years, closed in the box in the vanity table, sometimes I tell myself this isn’t so bad.

So I’m not being treated with the dignity and reverence I deserve. I seem to have been mistaken for an engagement ring. All the same, I must tell myself that at least I am being worn.

And what is a ring, if not to be worn? And to bear witness to the lives of those who have worn me?

(If only she’d clean me once in a while!)

Two Very Different Poems

32. Rewrite: Take any poem or short story you enjoy. Rewrite it in your own words.

I’ve cycled nearly 24km today hauling 13.5kg of kid in a trailer. Then we came home to make the boys pizzas. I’m bushed.

So instead of rewriting, I will simply reproduce here (probably illegally) two of my favorite poems, and just say a couple of words about why I love them.

Oh the thumb-sucker’s thumb
May be wrinkled and wet,
And withered and white as the snow.
But the taste of a thumb
Is the sweetest taste yet
(As only we thumb-suckers know).

~Shel Silverstein

This poem is absolute perfection. The meter, the length, the rhyme, and the punchline. I like to imagine my nearly three-year-old thumb-sucker would agree that Silverstein has hit the nail right on the head.

The following poem is about faith. Emily Brontë was arguably the weirdest of the three Brontë sisters, and the most reclusive.

I have read that she was deeply shy, and was mortified when her (rather overbearing) older sister Charlotte discovered this poem among her papers and published it without her prior knowledge or consent.

I’m glad Charlotte overstepped, though. Here’s why.

After my mother’s death in 2017, my father sat down at the family computer to start pulling himself and some administrative things together. My mother was the main user of the desktop computer. When he opened the web browser, he found this poem open in it.

Read it, and you’ll understand why it gave us such comfort. We knew then that she had not been afraid.

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

~Emily Brontë

The English Teacher

31. The Professor: Write about a teacher that has influenced you.

She made it look so easy.

About ten minutes earlier, students had started to trickle into the classroom. It was the first day of their B1 English class at the Munich Volkhochschule (continuing education center). There were awkward nods and smiles as students took their seats, careful to leave at least one empty chair between them.

I sat with the trainees at a table along the side wall. It was our first day, too. At 13:30 on the dot, the Professor walked in. She closed the door behind her, and smiled in a business-like manner, saying, “Hello everyone.”

There were murmured replies here and there. She placed her things on the table at the front of the classroom, and looked up as if in surprise. She repeated, “Hello everyone!”

This time, the students took the cue. “Hello!” they all responded cheerily.

And with that, the Professor launched into an apparently effortless demonstration of excellent teaching.

Without engaging in any chitchat whatsoever, she invited all the students to stand and come into the middle of the classroom. With clear and concise instructions, she made them all stand in a circle with her.

They proceeded to do a warm-up get-to-know-you game. By the end of it, the students all knew each other’s names, and the Professor knew theirs. (“There is no excuse for not remembering your students names. Learn them.”)

At the Helm of the Class

From then on, she kept the class moving smoothly ahead. There was never any doubt about who was in charge or what the task was. But what was so remarkable is that she gave instructions and taught concepts all the while seeming like she hardly spoke a word.

She must have spoken! The students somehow knew which page to turn to, which activities they were doing, how they had to engage and respond. Within ten minutes of starting the class, the students had been paired off and were on their fourth or fifth activity of the class.

The other trainees and I sat there in complete awe. It was a two-hour class, and before we knew it, it was over.

It wasn’t until afterwards that we learned how much work she had put into her preparations. She knew her timing and her lesson plan by heart. She had gone so far as to script her instructions so that they were as clear as possible.

My Turn

The following day was my first day of teaching. I had prepared a 40 minute lesson. I’d mapped out the lesson plan, and even had my instructions scripted like the Professor had.

But five minutes into my lesson I was off track. I could hear myself talking nervously, causing confusion amongst the students.

Teacher Talking Time

The first feedback I got was about TTT: teacher talking time. It was too high. The Professor said, “I guessed this would be a problem for you, Jane, and I was right. You’ve got to let the students do the talking.”

Luckily, I had enough self-awareness not to be surprised or hurt by this. And I was absolutely determined to show that I could take feedback and apply it.

I beamed with pride when it came time for feedback after my second day of teaching. She looked at me with surprise in her eyes and said, “I am very pleased to see you took my feedback so quickly to heart. Your TTT was way down today.”

Coming from her, it felt like the best feedback anyone had ever given me.

Why She Impressed Me

What struck me so much about the Professor was her no-nonsense, matter-of-fact approach. She wasn’t unfriendly, but she didn’t seem to worry about making you like her. She smiled and laughed with students, but never let things get off track.

She was there to teach, to help you learn. She was not there to be your friend.

I admired her professionalism, the way she wasn’t bothered whether you liked her or not. She never seemed to use more words than absolutely necessary, but she knew exactly which words were required.

She was an excellent communicator and a gifted teacher. She made it look so easy.

I wanted so badly to be able to teach like her.

My Ideal Shopping Splurge

30. Shopping: Write about your shopping wishlist and how you like to spend money.

I am a terrible shopper. At least, when it comes to clothes.

I lose patience quickly, and get grumpy and tired. I am not motivated whatsoever by clothes or shoe shopping. When I need new clothes, I make a marathon shopping trip. It’s so much of a marathon that I’ve learned to notify my credit card company in advance, otherwise they freak out.

But there is one thing I like to shop for. One thing that I don’t get tired of, and I could shop for it until my budget was spent.

Have you guessed it yet?


C’mon! What else could it be?


That, and knitting patterns.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to only buy yarn for a specific pattern. I would decide what I wanted to knit and either buy the recommended yarn or a cheaper alternative.

This was especially true when I crocheted exclusively and thought that the only yarn available was the acrylic stuff you can get at Walmart.

The Wonders of Wool

But then I discovered the wonders of wool. Once you start knitting with wool, you cannot go back.

The amazing properties of wool are many, and if you are a person who is trying to make eco-conscious fashion choices, I highly recommend you look into wool products (biodegradable and flame retardant? What’s what you say??).

You can even buy wool bedding! (I’m saving my pennies.)

But I digress.

The Yarns I Crave

I’m not going to lie, mostly I buy affordably-priced yarn from Knit Picks. What can I say, their selection is great, the colors are always consistent and vibrant, and their prices are unbeatable.

But sometimes, I like to splurge… Here are some of the yarns currently on my wish list:

The Neighborhood Fibre Co is a Baltimore-based indie dye company founded and run by Kalida Collins. They are currently running their Pride month special, and I am drooling over their rainbow dyed mini skeins.

Ever since living in Montreal, I have swooned over Julie Asselin’s range of yarns. I have knitted things with her yarns, and the color and quality never disappoint.

Tanis Fiber Arts, by Tanis Lavallee is also a Montreal-based dyer and knitwear designer. I have never used any of her yarns, but I have them on my wish list. One of her patterns is in my to-knit pile and I cannot wait to get cracking on it!

What I Love about Yarn

The thing I love most about shopping for yarn and is…

The Possibilities

The endless possibilities contained in one skein of yarn. You can make anything! A hat! An elegant sweater! Even an adorable plush toy!

I have to remind myself that I cannot knit all that quickly. My shoulder protests and life intervenes.

But that doesn’t stop me from making purchases I shouldn’t upon occasion. Someone should really hide my credit card when my browsing history shows up a lot of yarn stores.

(Who am I kidding? Hiding my credit card wouldn’t help! I know all the information by heart!)

Reading for Change

29. Good Vibes: What makes you smile? What makes you happy?

You all know I’m a knitter. I’ve written about the joys of being a process knitter, and how much pleasure knitting brings me.

Right now, in these times of isolation, stress and turmoil, I’ve turned to knitting more than ever.

Reading to Escape

Reading is also one of my favorite activities. Mostly I read novels, but I also enjoy biographies and histories.

For me, reading is a way to escape. I’ve read challenging books, books that take me out of my comfort zone.

But, especially now, I’m reaching for more escapist literature, or comfort reading. Jane Austen, Alexander McCall Smith, lighter fiction, mystery novels…

Time for a New Reading List?

As the country seems to be coming apart around us, we’re all feeling anxious, stressed, angry and frightened. I feel helpless and powerless to make change.

Now is the time to take one of those activities that makes me happy (reading) and use it to become more informed.

Many people have published lists of recommended reading to learn about racism, white privilege, and how to become an ally. What has struck me, however, have been the lists of books for children.

Reading With the Kids

Reading is also one of our boys’ favorite activities, and seeing them read is one of my greatest sources of joy. Author Christine Taylor-Butler tweeted earlier this month that for every one book about racism you read to a child, please “provide 20 joyful books.”

But not just any joyful books. Books in which children of color are featured as the main characters, doing the same things that white children do, because all children do them.

One book like this that I grew up with was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Another that we recently listened to on the Julie’s Library podcast was Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina and illustrated by Claudio Munoz.

Some Resources

Here’s an article from the New York Times that lists some great books for kids—not just books on racism, but also books in which children of color are the protagonists.

On the Julie’s Library website there is also a link to a list of books to read to kids to help support conversations about race, racism and resistance.

Learning Together

While I delve into a new and challenging reading list, I can introduce more diverse literature to my children and help them grow into anti-racists.

We can learn together as a family. That makes me feel empowered.

That, and donating to organizations I believe in.