When It’s All Too Much

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior.  It’s a book about which I have a lot of conflicting emotions, and I will hold those for another time. But just last night, as I was rendering Andouille Sausage for some Fat Tuesday Gumbo, my headphones delivered a thought that has clung to me like a dryer sheet.

Glennon was describing the despair she felt in the first moments and hours and days of the devastating dissolution of her marriage. She felt paralyzed, frozen–unable to do anything, or move in any direction as she considered the unfathomable damage divorce would do: the scars her children would carry, the very implosion of her own identity and existence. 

Then this whisper came back to her.

Just do the right next thing, one thing at a time.

It’s exactly what we need to remember, don’t you think, when the world becomes too much, when life overwhelms.

Just do the right next thing.

Oh, yes. I’m going to hold on to that one.

XXOO

 

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And then we experienced San Diego.

 

Y’all. San Diego. It’s all true.

We had just arrived and were still in the airport the first time I said, “It feels like we are in a futuristic city where they finally got everything right.” I mean. It was clean. Signage made sense. The bathroom stall walls and doors–each and every one of them–went all the way to the ground.

And then we got our rental car (which took approximately 22 seconds) and headed for three days in Oceanside. I shared that part of our journey with you last week–the post with too many pictures–and now I want to tell you about the next five days that we spent in San Diego.

Or since we’ve already set the precedence, may I just show you?

 

pretty San Diego, from Cabrillo National Monument

 

the lighthouse at Point Loma

 

Spanish Village Art Center at (magnificent) Balboa Park

 

(It is as awesome as you hear.)

 

Salad. Again.

 

Anteater alert!

 

Lunch at In-N-Out. Yes, it was worth it.

 

La Jolla

 

Rocks and Sea Lions. Everywhere.

 

We brought the rain to Southern California! (Plus I can’t resist a bird photo.)

 

top of the Torrey Pines hike

 

Looking down.

 

At the bottom.

 

lovely southern california

 

I love San Diego.

Get thee there, if you can. And fast.

XXOO

 

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California! Part One.

I want to share it all with you, every photo, every comment, every would you take a look at that. It’s my first time in Southern California, a last minute trip we planned so we could visit Eliza during her months of work here. (You know Tim and I will go just about anywhere, just about any time. There is so much to see in this world.)

We spent a couple of days in charming Oceanside, then drove Highway 79 up to Palm Springs where we walked Palm Canyon Drive, found Dinah Shore Drive (you have to, right?), then made the incredible journey across the rough and rugged San Jacinto mountains to San Diego. It gave us an incredible view of the Coachella Desert Valley.

And now we are here in San Diego. Eliza arrived last night to spend the long weekend with us, and we are all excited to see what this fascinating city has in store.

 

Ready for the journey!

 

Oceanside

 

a little obsessed with the cute beach cottages

 

Oceanside’s famous pier

 

love the retro vibe

 

the famous Top Gun house

 

(just because I like him)

 

Tim and Eliza on the jetty

 

Pacific Sunset, Oceanside Harbor

 

sunset and surfers

 

Let’s go to Palm Springs!

 

on the valley floor

 

Crazy landscape!

 

We’re here!

 

I’ll just have the turkey sandwich.

 

You got to, right?

 

 

fascinating desert landscape

 

looking down on the Coachella Valley, home of Palm Springs

 

We brought the rain to San Diego. But Eliza arrived safely!

 

XXOO

 

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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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the snow moon

 

The Snow Moon comes tonight.

Still I can’t help posting these photos from last night.

 

 

Because for the first time in many, many years, I happened to be where snow fell all day long.

 

 

 

 

Then as day began its slip to night, 

 

 

temperatures dropped to the low 20s

  

 

and a big ol’ moon rose bright over the tree tops.

 

 

I love February.

 

 

 

XXOO

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately

 

AROUND THE HOLIDAYS, Tim and I made a commitment to each other to spend more time reading (AKA less time watching television). Then we instituted a Reading Happy Hour, and three or four times a week, we (AKA he) builds a fire, pours a glass of wine and–while dinner bubbles away on the stove or broils in the oven–we sit, sip and read.

(It is as divine as it sounds.)

It has also been the perfect kickstart to get my reading on again.

 

 

THEN, INSPIRED BY ANNE BOGEL’S FANTASTIC PODCAST What Should I Read Next?, I decided to keep a reading log. As I made the January list I was surprised at its volume. I’m not someone who can read multiple fiction novels at once–I swear my brain is not developed enough for that–but I can juggle different genres on different platforms. In fact, I’ve realized this works really, really well for me because I love to read myself to sleep at night and sadly, at least in terms of reading volume, it never takes more than a few pages.

Voila–a short essay is perfect.

(I feel the same about knitting. I love the challenge of a difficult pattern and need one to keep me excited about picking up the needles. But sometimes you just want a simple Knit and Purl so your mind can be somewhere else (AKA watching too much television). 

 

ANYWAY. The magical simultaneous reading triumvirate–fiction, memoir or essays, audiobook–is allowing me to make some good headway in an endless and thrilling To Be Read list.

January, here goes.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave 
I learned of this book from the What Should I Read Next? podcast and have to say it is my favorite of the World War II novels. Smart, sometimes witty, and beautifully written.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance
Vance reads the audiobook, and I believe this format masked what others have noted is less-than-steller writing. And because it is a memoir, hearing family stories in the author’s voice added to the experience. As to my opinion about the theme of the book–I am a child of Appalachia and should therefore have complicated emotions about Vance’s perspective. I don’t. I found the stories of his family engaging, and I think his conclusions are fair, given his experience. What I do feel conflicted over is the wild popularity of Hillbilly Elegy. I think it was a good read (listen) but not one that I find to be incredibly important. 

Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan
A heartbreaking story about prejudice on Mississippi’s Delta. Jordan’s debut novel, it received a huge boost via recognition by Barbara Kingsolver. Tight, well-written–and I enjoyed her use of multiple first person narrators.

Stitches, by Anne Lamott
The audiobook of this collection of essays on “meaning, hope and repair” is read by Lamott (already one of my favorites) and it is a treasure. I clung to every word and listened to much of it twice. Plus–if you are an Amazon Prime member–you can listen for free under their “Channels” section in the Audible app.

Someone Will Be With You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life, by Lisa Kogan
I first read  Lisa in O Magazine and loved her writing so much I tracked down this work. She’s funny, honest and easy to read. That equals a win to me.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, by Myquillyn Smith
I enjoy Myquillyn’s “don’t let the thought of it overwhelm you” interior design style on Instagram so much I decided to download the book. The design tips are great, of course, but I also love her easy-going life philosophy–and I found much to inspire me to Just Chill.

NEXT UP

A Snow Garden, by Rachel Joyce

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, by Glenn Taylor

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

News of the World, by Paulette Giles

Love Warrier, by Glennon Doyle Melton

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

It’s a fluid list, of course, influenced heavily by what comes in from my library HOLDS list as well as the coveted Kindle Daily Deals on Amazon. (I’m a fan.) I’ll let you know how it goes.

And if you have thoughts or other recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any other suggestions you have! 

 

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help cover the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

Oh–one other thing. On the days I find a great deal on one of my favorite, favorite books, I often share it on Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

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

Mother.

 

 

 

I’d like to introduce you to Mother, the grande dame of our mountain property. From the moment I saw her I knew she would be a fierce spirit guide for my adjoining studio.

How grateful I am for her abiding presence. I am awed by her fortitude; fascinated by her wizened shape; amazed at her faithfulness as she continues to sprout tender green shoots each Spring.

Even now, in this harshest of seasons, Mother stands by. Resilient. Proud. Unrelenting in the face of winter here in these ancient mountains. 

 

XXOO

 

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all tuckered out

 

He was just sitting there. For the longest time, just sitting there.

 

 

Not standing.  Not flitting around. Not doing anything.

Just sitting.

 

 

I was a bit mesmerized, I don’t mind telling you.

I’d never seen a bird do that, plop down on the squirrel guard and just hang out there. Not in all the years of looking out the big kitchen window, not in all the thousands–or tens of thousands–of bird sightings there.

Not once.

Not ever.

Was he okay?

I watched, and waited.

Finally, he turned to me.

 

can’t a guy just take a load off???

 

Well…yes.

Yes, of course.

And so I turned and left him to it.

 

 

XXOO

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two thousand three hundred eighty-one miles

I DIDN’T GO WITH HER to the airport this time, an action easily justified with the cruel and early departure time. I did wake up, however, before the clock clicked over to our agreed-upon 4 am rise and shine. She wanted to shower; I wanted to be upstairs to check–for the  ten thousandth time–that she had everything she needed for the long journey ahead.

It’s what we do as parents, right? Worry, and plan, and counsel, and cajole. 

You’ll want some room in this suitcase to bring new things back.
Let’s get a strategy for what to do when you feel lonely.
Here’s my friend’s number. You can call her anytime, no matter what you need.

We’re so proud of their courage, but so worried for their safety. And happiness.  And their comfort, for heaven’s sake.

That portable charger. Carry it in your purse. Is it in your purse?

“Yes, Mom,” she said. Over and over and over again. “Yes.”

And then we hugged, and waved goodbye, and just like that,

she was gone.

 

a sweet travel journal from her friends

 

 

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