little love birds

 

 

Several sweet bird couples live with us here on Bickley’s Pond, but none are more devoted than the finches. They are demonstrative little creatures who, when courting time comes around each Spring, are not shy in stating their intentions. 

But theirs is also a full time love. 

Several times each year one or the other finds its way onto our giant screen porch where it becomes more and more panicked in its (in)ability to find a way out. We humans do our best to assist, propping open the door and attempting to shoooooo the bird in the right direction.

(This never works.)

And so the frightened little bird flits around from one column to another, clinging to this screen and that, not making a single rational decision about what might be the best course of action in making a way out.

 

Why does this always happen to me?

 

And then.

And then love wins.

The devoted mate appears.

 

I’ll save you!

 

Inevitably the devoted mate appears, and from the outside in, coaxes and calms in the sweetest bird voice until she steadies, looks around, and finally finds her way back out the door. 

 

Yes, yes. To your left. To your left.

 

Oh, courting is lovely and sweet. 

But having a mate who is there for you in the crazy times–when you are irrationally afraid, or ridiculously wound up, or simply overwhelmed by the events of an otherwise ordinary day–that, my friends, is love.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

XXOO

 

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What’s Saving Me Right Now*

First, a confession*. I don’t actually need to be “saved” from the winter blues. I love this flat white season, finding that–quite the opposite–the quiet fills my soul, steadying me, somehow, for the crescendo of Spring. Still I’ve enjoyed the theme as it has been passed blogger to blogger across the internet. And so I thought I’d take a minute to consider All The Things bringing me joy right now.

 

Reading. In winter, I make the time. Of late I’ve had at least three books going at once: 1) fiction, 2) memoir or essays, 3) audiobook–and this triumvirate is allowing me to make some headway in my vast “To Be Read” list. Since the list is lengthy, I’ll give some detail in my next post. Suffice it to say I’m excited about some of the suggestions.

 

some from my “read” and some from my “to be read” pile

 

The Crown. I’ve been reading more partly because we’ve committed to less television in my house. Except, except. Except for this. An original series from Netflix, The Crown tells the story of the current Queen Elizabeth II, her marriage to Prince Phillip and her ascension to the throne. It is remarkable, gorgeous and surprising. It is also the most expensive television series ever made. It shows.

 

My Brave Daughter. She inspires me. Seriously inspires me. She up and moved to California for three months with her job, doesn’t know a soul, and doesn’t have a community of young people around her (due to the nature of her work). And so she made a commitment to set off on an “alone” adventure every day, which she has been doing. Not only that, she’s making a point of trying out new things, like the area’s most famous Ramen restaurant. (She did not care for it.) Plus all along the way she sends me Snapchats that make me laugh. Like this one.

 

Podcasts in general, and The Making Oprah Podcast in particular, and the Making Donahue episode of the Making Oprah Podcast most of all.  I am an Oprah devotee, so much so that there wasn’t much new to me in this fantastic podcast series produced by WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station. It is so well done and so worth a listen, whether you know a lot about the making of the Oprah show or not. Of particular note is the bonus episode in which they use more material from their great interview with Phil Donahue and talk with him about the making of his show. It–and he–are priceless.

 

Those Fantastic Women’s March Signs. I did not attend the Women’s March although I am in full support of those who did, and of the march’s intentions. And heavens I enjoyed their signs as they rolled along my Instagram feed. I still think about this one–posted by my friend Joe–and it still makes me smile.

 

Prep Dish. After hearing about the menu subscription plan called Prep Dish for months and months on The Happy Hour podcast, I finally took advantage of the free week. It revolutionized my cooking life then and there. Each week Allison, the chef, sends you a gluten-free (or paleo) menu, a shopping list (organized by store department–brilliant) and step by step instructions for doing the week’s prep all at once. I LOVE IT. And I am not a paid promoter–just an enthusiastic subscriber!

What are you loving this winter? Do share in the comments!

 

XXOO

Gifts of a New Day

 

It’s one of those things you wonder how you made it a lifetime not knowing.

~~~~~~~~~~~

We’d come to the mountains for a long weekend just the day before, arriving late and promising that since it would be Saturday, we really were going to sleep in. But morning came and our eyes opened and before you could say October we were out on that deck, coffee in hand.

There was the tiniest thread of light just along the ridge line.

 

moonrise1

 

We inhaled, exhaled, and gave thanks for another day.

But then I looked closer. There was also a rising crescent, a sliver so slight I wondered if my eyes were playing tricks. There, just above the mountain. What is that? I said to Tim. It looks like the moon.

I think it is, he said.

But it’s morning, I said. And that’s about where we expect the sun to rise.

I got my big lens, and this happened next.

 

moonrise4

moonrise5

 

It’s difficult to tell since the zoom changes from image to image, but just as the moon began to disappear, sure enough, right behind it (and just slightly west) came the sun.

 

moonrise3

sun1

 

sun-2

sun3

 

It was the New Moon, I’ve since learned, one that all these years, from the beginning of time, has risen with the sun.

Wow. And thanks and praise!

 

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This is Us.

 

I REALLY DIDN’T HOLD OUT much hope, to tell you the truth. The commercials were on ad nauseam and the promotion seemed too much. It was like one of those films for which all the good moments are shown in the previews leaving nothing to delight in during actual viewing.

But there is so little television Tim and I watch live these days. A new show, we both agreed–one with even with the tiniest modicum of promise–seemed a worthy spend of an hour.

What a good decision that turned out to be.

 

THIS IS US is a new drama on NBC that has stolen my heart. The storyline is meant “to challenge your everyday perceptions about the people you know and love,” a fine line to walk if ever I’ve seen one. In less skillful hands this show could go so wrong so fast. But so far, so good (there are a few exceptions*), and Tuesday night’s “The Game Plan” resolved nicely in a lovely and surprising way as Kevin shared a Painting of Life with his nieces.

 

 

AS I WATCHED I couldn’t help but think what an important message this is for our world today, for our country today, for each and every one of us, on every side of every issue.

What if we’re in the painting before we’re born, what if we’re in it after we die, and these colors that we keep adding—what if they just keep getting added on top of each other until eventually, we’re not even different colors anymore. Just one thing, one painting…There’s no you, or me, or them. There’s just us. 

 

image: NBC, This is Us
image: NBC, This is Us

 

And this sloppy, wild, colorful, magical thing that has no beginning, has no end, is right here. I think it’s us.

It’s us. There’s just us. Yes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*His making of the painting, perhaps. But the looks on the faces of those girls as he shares it way more than makes up for that bit of willing suspension. Right???

On little ideas, big anniversaries and great joy

My dear friend and business partner, Teresa Coles, wrote this post in honor of our company’s 29th birthday on October 19th. So many amazing things have happened since she brought her smarts to C.C.Riggs (now Riggs Partners) a quarter of a century ago, not the least of which is CreateAthon. A joint thought brought the initiative into the world, yes. But it has been Teresa’s vision, drive and passion that has turned the little idea into a national movement that has generated $24 million in marketing services for nonprofits around the country. What a joy and honor it is to bask in the glow of her work and heart. We have just completed our 19th CreateAthon at Riggs, and in celebration, I am happy to share the love here.

 

On Riggs. CreateAthon. And more than a little grace.

by Teresa Coles

Twenty-nine years ago today Cathy Rigg said enough. Enough to mediocre thinking. Enough to creative short cuts. She left her job on a Friday, bought a Mac SE with money from her grandmother, and opened up C.C. Rigg’s on Black Monday, October 19, 1987.

 

dsc_6686_ccriggs_sign_circa_1987
what a little vision and a lot of believin’ looks like

 

There were a million reasons why this company would fail.

And yet, here we are. 

Nineteen years ago, she and I wondered if there might be something more for our company. A higher calling, if you will. So we came up with the notion of pulling an all-nighter to help nonprofits that couldn’t afford professional marketing.

There were a million reasons why this idea would fail.

And yet, here we are. 

So what matters in all of this? What have these markers in our collective history taught us about our work, our lives and each other?

Consider it all joy. 

On this birthday of Riggs and the eve of CreateAthon 19, I’m mindful of the cords of grace that have bound us over the years. The unspoken covenant that held us together when we just didn’t think we could do One More Thing. The willingness to listen generously to each other’s point of view in order to solve the unsolvable. The abiding sense of teamwork that pulled us out of chaotic seasons and returned us to a place of peace.

I’m grateful for every one of these challenges and foibles. They are testament to both our humanity and to what can be accomplished when we uphold each other in pursuit of something that’s bigger than any one of us.

Riggs Partners hasn’t been in business for 29 years because we’re smarter than anyone else in marketing. CreateAthon hasn’t delivered more than $24 million in pro bono service because we came up with the idea first.

It happened because we had faith in each other. And we knew that by standing as one, there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish – even if it wasn’t always perfect along the way.

Tomorrow morning, CreateAthoners will walk into the WECO building and breathe air that is electric, inspiring and humbling. We will bear witness to our very best selves. And we will see that as much as our CreateAthon clients may benefit from our gifts, the joy we receive will be tenfold.

That, my friends, is more than enough to say grace over.

 

 

Reasons to Rejoice

IN 2012 I LISTENED to the audiobook of the best new book of the decade*, Rules of Civility. It took about three pages to make this proclamation, and by the end of the story I confidently pronounced Rules to be the perfect novel and a new American Classic.

Guys. It is SO. GOOD.

It was also the debut novel of Amor Towles, a New York investment banker who wrote the thing from the perspective of a female character. Wow.

SINCE THEN I’ve googled, oh, a hundred times(?) to see what Towles is working on, where his work appears, what book has been released as a follow-up. Google has been pretty quiet on the matter.

Until now.

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.49.04 AM

 

Released yesterday, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW is Towle’s second novel and one highly anticipated by critics and readers alike. It’s the story of Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922, is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. As Towle’s website states his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

This one I will read with a hardback copy in my hands.

AND THERE IS THIS. I learned of Towles’ new release not via Google but in listening to a podcast with which I am also a bit captivated. What Should I Read Next is the brainchild of Anne Bogel, a mom of four who blogs at Modern Mrs. Darcy and talks books via the podcast. Her format is simple and interesting: She asks a guest to name (and describe) three books she/he loves and one she/he hates, and from that she plays matchmaker, suggesting three books that meet the guest’s reading profile.

She’s a book whisperer, if you will, and it’s interesting to hear her choices. It’s also entertaining and informative to listen to the guests and their picks. Hear more at this link: What Should I Read Next.

A new Towles’ novel and a podcast that pairs readers with books they’ll love: two great reasons to rejoice even if the calendar says summer is over!

*in my opinion

 

 

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A Christmas Letter to Lee Smith re: My Favorite Christmas Book Which She Happened to Write

~ AN HOMAGE ~

December 8, 2011

To Ms. Lee Smith,

First may I say Merry Christmas to You and Yours. Second may I apologize, for this letter has been a long time coming, too long some would say.

You see I have been reading your books for many years and feel like we are close although I have only met you in person on two occasions. To hear Mama tell it we are practically kin, on account of our families were in the same business all those years ago, there in those beautiful Southwest Virginia mountains. And then you attended Hollins College, as Mama did, but I did not, a decision about which I was sure back then although now I think perhaps I was mistaken. You were from Grundy, I believe; I was a Wise girl.

(I especially like it that you choose to have “our” Piggly Wiggly show up in most all your books, a recurrence about which I am most pleased.)

There are many things about which I would like to write and tell you (like the fact that the first book I ever loved was The Last Day The Dogbushes Bloomed, which I read ON MY OWN when I was a girl who worked at the Wise Library one summer and I didn’t even know it was you who wrote it) but I will save all that for another letter. For now I will leave it at this: I am writing to tell you that I am re-reading your book, The Christmas Letters, because it is a very good Christmas story that is not at all sappy and if it is, it is sappy in a good way.

I have read it before and as a general rule do not re-read books because there are so many goods books in the world who could have the time? And so I tried to find another Christmas book, it being December. But every one reads like a Lifetime Television for Women movie, in which there is always a single girl and a lonely boy, and a well-meaning (quirky) friend, and a school Christmas play. Sometimes there is also a choir, which can be a children’s choir, or a choir of men who are down-and-out but who have really good voices, come to find out.

Anyway, what I want to do is this: Sit by my fireplace with a cup of hot tea and the quiet of the snow outside (I must confess that is not likely as I live in South Carolina now) and to read something with a genuine heart during this season of Christmas when my own heart is longing for it. And I think your story of Birdie Picket, and Mary, and Melanie, and them being women connected by experience, as well as family, and how you tied it all together with those recipes (mostly old-timey), is just exactly perfect.

With wishes for a very good holiday there in North Carolina (or wherever you might be now, and I hope it is somewhere writing a book like On Agate Hill which is my very favorite, except for Oral History. Or maybe Fair and Tender Ladies, it is so hard to decide),

Catherine Carter Rigg Monetti
daughter of Eliza Rose Sutton Rigg
of the Kennedy’s Piggly Wiggly stores in Wise, Virginia

ps: I have decided to make Mary Pickett’s Award Winning Carrot Cake for dessert on Christmas Day. I think my Eliza (the one who is my daughter, not my mother) will really like the cream cheese frosting, with all that “confectionary” sugar, as she calls it.

pss: Now that I think of it, my mother Eliza would like it too, except for the carrots.

proof we are connected

 

This post first appeared on The Daily Grace in December of 2011. Since that time I have had the great honor of studying with Lee Smith at the Key West Literary Seminar Writers’ Workshop. Life is so good!

Halloween, I Love

Several years ago my sweet husband decided it would be fun to have me standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon the day I turned 50. It was a great big item on my life list, after all, and so I was quite happy to oblige.

There was so much I loved about that trip, not the least of which was this fabulous find.

Jerome, Arizona October 2009
Jerome, Arizona October 2009

 

How fun it is to have a birthday nudged right up next to Halloween!

Here’s wishing you a night filled with ghosts and goblins of the friendliest kind.

October Rolls In

 

photo copy 18

October rolls in like pumpkins unloaded from the farmer’s truck, a riot of shapes and sizes welcomed with wide open arms. It’s time to get your Charlie Brown on and put an autumn vignette on the doorstep. Time for carrot soup with pumpernickel croutons, hard cider, tart apples swirled in caramel. Days are shorter, brighter. Color palette of sky blue, Hermes orange, glittery gold. Grab a sweater and see the neighborhood in a new light. Don’t let a single tawny leaf float to the ground without paying homage. Fill the candy bowl! Soon Dracula and Dorothy will come bobbing up the sidewalk, with dozens more to follow. A big white owl watches from high in the oak, the sasanqua tree blossoms, tea olives perfume the air. Everything’s alive, astir. Magical October.

 

This post first appeared on the lovely blog Very Truly Julie. A huge thanks to my dear friend (and one of my favorite writers), Julie Degni Marr, for letting me share it with you here.

 

 

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