Painting on Rocks: Whimsical Owls

Painting on rocks has become one of my favourite crafty pursuits. It’s challenging (and fun!) to transform a plain stone into a decorative keepsake. It’s also one of the most relaxing ways to spend an afternoon.

I went for a walk along Oakville’s Lake Ontario shoreline, where I gathered a treasure trove of smooth rocks in a variety of shapes and sizes. Once back home, I just used soap and water to wash all of the rocks.

After choosing four shapes that suited my project, I roughly penciled a different owl design on each one.

Next, I chose a different colour combination of acrylic paints for each owl. Working on only one owl per day, I painted a couple of coats of the base colours and allowed them to dry overnight. 

Once the base painting was complete, I used a black ultra fineline marker to carefully outline each of the painted areas. After allowing the marker lines to dry, I used a combination of both fineline marker and acrylic paint (with the finest size of paintbrush) to add intricate designs in each section. You need an extremely steady hand and a ton of patience to get it right!

Once I was satisfied with my finished owls, I sprayed them with Krylon Kamar Varnish, a clear, protective sealant. Next, I used black acrylic to paint a plain, leafless tree on an 8.5” x 11” white canvas board. Once that was dry, I used a heavy-duty glue (LePage Carpenter’s Glue) to affix each rock to a branch on the board.

Then, I sanded a light-coloured wood frame that I had in my stash, painted it black, and sprayed it with a protective sealant (Armor Coat Clear Finish Acrylic Spray Paint).

All done!

Here are both of my completed sets. Stay tuned for my next rock project.

Lest we forget

I just can’t shake that image. It’s something I’ll never forget…

Like everyone else, I’ve witnessed heinous sights online since the vicious attack on Ukraine began, but none so upsetting as that image

It was the anguished screams of a young woman that grabbed my attention and drew me toward my husband’s computer screen, where he sat watching a horrific scene as it unfolded in the Ukraine: a man and woman racing along a hospital corridor and stumbling into an examination room behind a nurse who cradled a small bundle wrapped in a blood-soaked blue blanket. The woman’s voice was frantic as she cried out, “Oh God, why couldn’t you save him?” Gently, the nurse laid the blue-wrapped bundle on a table—the blankets parted to reveal a beautiful 18-month-old baby boy. He was dead. The sobbing young mother bent over to place a gentle kiss on his tiny forehead. 

I promptly dissolved into a mess of tears as I remembered how, just the day before, I too had bent over a baby boy, my precious grandson, to plant a kiss on his forehead, laughing as he squealed with delight—something that this little boy and his mother would never again be able to do. 

This heartbreaking glimpse of just one of the many murders that have taken place since Putin waged his senseless war against the Ukraine is the one that I’ll never stop seeing. How is it even possible to process the loss of so many innocent lives, simply because a madman with a rotted soul happens to walk among us? It’s hard not to wonder Why?

History has provided more than enough proof that the suffering and loss of life that comes with war is never worth the price, but time has a way of making us forget the lessons taught from distant battlefields. 

Bad things happen, we assimilate, we go on with our daily lives, and quite often, we forget. 

Perhaps for that reason, every so often, the universe spawns malevolent souls such as Putin, empty of any real emotion other than their lust for power at any cost, and plunks them here on earth to wreak havoc on the innocent. It’s certainly the only answer I can come up with—it’s the only way to assign any kind of meaning to the horrific images I’ve seen.

I need to believe that such dark souls are sent here for a specific reason—that they are tools meant to teach us lessons of value: that in the end, good will always, always find a way to triumph over evil. 

I need to believe that God, or a higher power, or the universe, or whatever you choose to call the energy source that creates all of the miracles that make life such a blessing—also wants us to learn the importance of keeping our faith in the belief that good will reign

If you look at how quickly a whole world became united in our deep compassion for the people of Ukraine, as well as in our outrage against the abhorrent actions of a monster—that is proof that good reigns. 

The world will not tolerate evil, and the monster’s name will now forever go down in history as nothing more than a bad taste in the mouth of humanity—that is proof that good reigns.

The madman never anticipated the fierce courage and spirit of the Ukrainian people, and that the world would rise to stand behind them—that is proof that good reigns.

The current plight of the Ukrainian people serves to further accentuate how devoid the madman is of basic principles of decency, like honesty or any of the other great virtues demonstrated in the past by the most admired and respected leaders in history. It has never been more clear why he must resort to lies, oppression and punishment to force his people to obey him—that is proof that good reigns.

No matter how Putin’s fruitless war plays out—in the face of so much suffering and loss of life, I have faith that good will win in the end… that we are meant to learn once again that evil has no chance of prevailing when there is still so much good in this world.

Free crochet pattern: Half & Half Pocket Scarf

Featuring WOW colours and convenient pockets for carrying your phone and car keys, it’s a scarf that’s as great-looking as it is functional.

Materials: Red Heart super saver yarn (or any worsted weight yarn in your desired colours) (7 oz/198 g/364 yds/333 m), 1 ball black, 1 ball hot pink / 6 mm hook

Instructions: You will make 2 panels, one in each colour, each panel approximately 9” wide x 31” long (unblocked). Then, with right sides together, you will seam together the ch-37 end of each panel, using a yarn needle and piece of black yarn. Next, you will make two pockets: one in black, the other in hot pink. The pockets are each approximately 7” wide x 5” deep (unblocked), or you can make them to your desired size.

Scarf Panel #1: Using hot pink, ch 37

Row 1: 3 dc in fifth ch from hook; skip 3 chs; sc in next ch; *ch 3, 3 dc in same ch as sc, sk 3 chs, sc in next ch; repeat from * to end. Turn.

Row 2: ch 4; sc in first ch-3, ch 3, 3 dc in same space as sc, *sc in next ch-3 sp, ch 3, 3 dc in same sp; repeat from * to end, ending with sc in last ch-3; turn.

Repeat Row 2 until approximately 31” long. Fasten off and weave in end.

Scarf Panel #2: Using black yarn, repeat same process above to make Scarf Panel #2.

Finishing Scarf piece:

Seam both panels together as described in Instructions above.

Pocket #1:

Using hot pink, ch 25 and repeat the same instructions given for Panel Row 1 and Row 2. Repeat Row 2 until pocket is about 5” deep, or repeat a couple more rows if you want a deeper pocket. Leave a long tail for sewing onto scarf.

Pocket #2:

Repeat above instructions, using black yarn.

Using long yarn tail and yarn needle, sew black pocket onto pink panel, and pink pocket onto black panel (placement as shown in photo).

Here’s the perfect analogy for anti-vaxxers

I discovered this brilliant article the other day in The Atlantic magazine, and I thought it was so spot on, I felt I had to share it here with all of you. I’ve printed the content below, and here is the link to the magazine: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2022/02/covid-anti-vaccine-smoking/622819/

Send a copy of it to the anti-vaxxer in your life. Perhaps it will finally help open their eyes.
But then again, probably not.

COVID Won’t End Up Like the Flu. 
It Will Be Like Smoking.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
By Benjamin Mazer

It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID is—or will soon be—like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” A few days later, David Leonhardt said as much to his millions of readers in the The New York Times’ morning newsletter. And three prominent public-health experts have called for the government to recognize a “new normal” in which the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more.”

The end state of this pandemic may indeed be one where COVID comes to look something like the flu. Both diseases, after all, are caused by a dangerous respiratory virus that ebbs and flows in seasonal cycles. But I’d propose a different metaphor to help us think about our tenuous moment: The “new normal” will arrive when we acknowledge that COVID’s risks have become more in line with those of smoking cigarettes—and that many COVID deaths, like many smoking-related deaths, could be prevented with a single intervention.

The pandemic’s greatest source of danger has transformed from a pathogen into a behavior. Choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID is, right now, a modifiable health risk on par with smoking, which kills more than 400,000 people each year in the United States. Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine, told me that if COVID continues to account for a few hundred thousand American deaths every year—“a realistic worst-case scenario,” he calls it—that would wipe out all of the life-expectancy gains we’ve accrued from the past two decades’ worth of smoking-prevention efforts.

The COVID vaccines are, without exaggeration, among the safest and most effective therapies in all of modern medicine. An unvaccinated adult is an astonishing 68 times more likely to die from COVID than a boosted one. Yet widespread vaccine hesitancy in the United States has caused more than 163,000 preventable deaths and counting. Because too few people are vaccinated, COVID surges still overwhelm hospitals—interfering with routine medical services and leading to thousands of lives lost from other conditions. If everyone who is eligible were triply vaccinated, our health-care system would be functioning normally again. (We do have other methods of protection—antiviral pills and monoclonal antibodies—but these remain in short supply and often fail to make their way to the highest-risk patients.) Countries such as Denmark and Sweden have already declared themselves broken up with COVID. They are confidently doing so not because the virus is no longer circulating or because they’ve achieved mythical herd immunity from natural infection; they’ve simply inoculated enough people.

President Joe Biden said in January that “this continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” and vaccine holdouts are indeed prolonging our crisis. The data suggest that most of the unvaccinated hold that status voluntarilyat this point. Last month, only 1 percent of adults told the Kaiser Family Foundation that they wanted to get vaccinated soon, and just 4 percent suggested that they were taking a “wait-and-see” approach. Seventeen percent of respondents, however, said they definitely don’t want to get vaccinated or would do so only if required (and 41 percent of vaccinated adults say the same thing about boosters). Among the vaccine-hesitant, a mere 2 percent say it would be hard for them to access the shots if they wanted them. We can acknowledge that some people have faced structural barriers to getting immunized while also listening to the many others who have simply told us how they feel, sometimes from the very beginning.

The same arguments apply to tobacco: Smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Quitting the habit is akin to receiving a staggeringly powerful medicine, one that wipes out most of this excess risk. Yet smokers, like those who now refuse vaccines, often continue their dangerous lifestyle in the face of aggressive attempts to persuade them otherwise. Even in absolute numbers, America’s unvaccinated and current-smoker populations seem to match up rather well: Right now, the CDC pegs them at 13 percent and 14 percent of all U.S. adults, respectively, and both groups are likely to be poorer and less educated.

In either context, public-health campaigns must reckon with the very difficult task of changing people’s behavior. Anti-smoking efforts, for example, have tried to incentivize good health choices and disincentivize bad ones, whether through cash payments to people who quit, gruesome visual warnings on cigarette packs, taxessmoke-free zones, or employer smoking bans. Over the past 50 years, this crusade has very slowly but consistently driven change: Nearly half of Americans used to smoke; now only about one in seven does. Hundreds of thousands of lung-cancer deaths have been averted in the process.

With COVID, too, we’ve haphazardly pursued behavioral nudges to turn the hesitant into the inoculated. Governments and businesses have given lotteries and free beers a chance. Some corporations, universities, health-care systems, and local jurisdictions implemented mandates. But many good ideas have turned out to be of little benefit: A randomized trial in nursing homes published in January, for example, found that an intensive information-and-persuasion campaign from community leaders had failed to budge vaccination rates among the predominantly disadvantaged and low-income staff. Despite the altruistic efforts of public-health professionals and physicians, it’s becoming harder by the day to reach immunological holdouts. Booster uptake is also lagging far behind.

This is where the “new normal” of COVID might come to resemble our decades-long battle with tobacco. We should neither expect that every stubbornly unvaccinated person will get jabbed before next winter nor despair that none of them will ever change their mind. Let’s accept instead that we may make headway slowly, and with considerable effort. This plausible outcome has important, if uncomfortable, policy implications. With a vaccination timeline that stretches over years, our patience for restrictions, especially on the already vaccinated, will be very limited. But there is middle ground. We haven’t banned tobacco outright—in fact, most states protect smokers from job discrimination—but we have embarked on a permanent, society-wide campaign of disincentivizing its use. Long-term actions for COVID might include charging the unvaccinated a premium on their health insurance, just as we do for smokers, or distributing frightening health warnings about the perils of remaining uninoculated. And once the political furor dies down, COVID shots will probably be added to the lists of required vaccinations for many more schools and workplaces.

To compare vaccine resistance and smoking seems to overlook an obvious and important difference: COVID is an infectious disease and tobacco use isn’t. (Tobacco is also addictive in a physiological sense, while vaccine resistance is not.) Many pandemic restrictions are based on the idea that any individual’s behavior may pose a direct health risk to everyone else. People who get vaccinated don’t just protect themselves from COVID; they reduce their risk of passing on the disease to those around them, at least for some limited period of time. Even during the Omicron wave, that protective effect has appeared significant: A person who has received a booster is 67 percent less likely to test positive for the virus than an unvaccinated person.

But the harms of tobacco can also be passed along from smokers to their peers. Second-hand smoke inhalation causes more than 41,000 deaths annually in the U.S. (a higher mortality rate than some flu seasons’). Yet despite smoking’s well-known risks, many states don’t completely ban the practice in public venues; second-hand smoke exposure in private homes and cars—affecting 25 percent of U.S. middle- and high-school children—remains largely unregulated. The general acceptance of these bleak outcomes, for smokers and nonsmokers alike, may hint at another aspect of where we’re headed with COVID. Tobacco is lethal enough that we are willing to restrict smokers’ personal freedoms—but only to a degree. As deadly as COVID is, some people won’t get vaccinated, no matter what, and both the vaccinated and unvaccinated will spread disease to others. A large number of excess deaths could end up being tolerated or even explicitly permitted. Noel Brewer, a public-health professor at the University of North Carolina, told me that anti-COVID actions, much like anti-smoking policies, will be limited not by their effectiveness but by the degree to which they are politically palatable.

Without greater vaccination, living with COVID could mean enduring a yearly death toll that is an order of magnitude higher than the one from flu. And yet this, too, might come to feel like its own sort of ending. Endemic tobacco use causes hundreds of thousands of casualties, year after year after year, while fierce public-health efforts to reduce its toll continue in the background. Yet tobacco doesn’t really feel like a catastrophe for the average person. Noymer, of UC Irvine, said that the effects of endemic COVID, even in the context of persistent gaps in vaccination, would hardly be noticeable. Losing a year or two from average life expectancy only bumps us back to where we were in … 2000.

Chronic problems eventually yield to acclimation, rendering them relatively imperceptible. We still care for smokers when they get sick, of course, and we reduce harm whenever possible. The health-care system makes $225 billion every year for doing so—paid out of all of our tax dollars and insurance premiums. I have no doubt that the system will adapt in this way, too, if the coronavirus continues to devastate the unvaccinated. Hospitals have a well-honed talent for transforming any terrible situation into a marketable “center of excellence.”

COVID is likely to remain a leading killer for a while, and some academics have suggested that pandemics end only when the public stops caring. But we shouldn’t forget the most important reason that the coronavirus isn’t like the flu: We’ve never had vaccines this effective in the midst of prior influenza outbreaks, which means we didn’t have a simple, clear approach to saving quite so many lives. Compassionate conversations, community outreach, insurance surcharges, even mandates—I’ll take them all. Now is not the time to quit.

Benjamin Mazer is a physician specializing in laboratory medicine.

        Numb—

I plunge
chest deep
into a rippling pool
of wildflowers.


My shadow stains
what was once vibrant
         with sun
     with birdsong
with the joyful dance
of delicate wings.


        No pain—

as I drown
in this fragrant lake
          of milkweed
      and thistle,
goldenrod and clover.


A ragged, mighty gasp
fills my lungs with
           itchy
      scratchy
squirmy things
that rend and devour
the tattered shreds
of my heart.


          Numb—

Those serrated words
that curled from your lips
in a sinister tangle of shards


         No pain—

as they pierced my skin
to release the last crystal drop
     of my trust,
         my innocence.


         Empty—

I watch the drop as it descends,
its lustre now tarnished.


It vanishes into the soil
to become one
with other scattered, broken bits
of nature’s detritus,
long withered
and brown with decay.

Despite the pandemic, it’s without a doubt the best time ever to be alive!

How can I say such a thing when this pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives?

Well, here’s how…

1) Technology has opened doors to endless new choices available to us. It’s never been easier to keep in touch with old friends, new friends, and extended family. For those of us who grew up during a time when the only forms of communication available were to (A) mail a letter, or (B) use the one corded telephone that we shared with everyone else in the household, the options we now have today are magical. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, and so on, are the communication tools of our science-fiction dreams. We can blog, text, video conference, and chat on the phone no matter where in the world we happen to be.

We can shop for pretty much anything we need online and have it delivered to our doorstep. We can find answers to just about any question that pops into our mind simply by calling out, “Hey Google, Siri or Alexa.” Many of us can work from the comfort of home without having to tangle with rush-hour traffic. We can fix a plugged drain or build something in our basement workshop just by watching an instructional YouTube video.

I could go on until tomorrow, but I’m sure you get the message. Sometimes we forget that life is so much easier today in so many ways.

2) The municipalities where we live do a great job of keeping conservation parks and forests welcoming places where we can meet up with family and friends for a walk together while immersed in the great glory of the outdoors. Opportunities to connect with nature are never far away. There is no better conductor than fresh air and nature to fill the soul with the most heavenly music on earth.

3) Public libraries are the most precious resource within our communities. Library systems are set up to make it easier than ever for all of us to simply sign in and borrow electronic reading material from a massive database of books and magazines—whatever your heart desires is available for you to download right onto your computer or reading device for FREE. You can choose to satisfy your interest about anything that stokes your fancy, or be entertained with your favourite story genre, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year… and did I mention that it’s COMPLETELY FREE?

Pandemic (or anytime) Pastimes

You can choose to view these times through a lens of optimism… we’ve been given the gift of more free time than we’ve ever had before, which means that we have an opportunity to enjoy activities that we might not have considered doing pre-pandemic…

1) Immerse yourself in an afternoon of creativity that takes you back to your childhood. Think popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, finger paints and huge sheets of paper, Ivory soap bar carvings, paper mache with a balloon, newspaper strips and paste. With a Dollar store around every corner, materials are inexpensive and easy to find. Need some inspiration? Check out Pinterest for endless ideas, or try an instructional video on YouTube. 

2) Look for an online class at your municipal website, or on the site of any college/university in your vicinity. Scroll through the many course selections and choose something that you never thought you’d ever attempt. Of course, if you visit your public library website, you’ll also find an educational selection filled with free courses on more topics that you could begin to imagine. 

3) Embrace nature. It’s winter and you probably feel more cooped up than ever. So put on a warm coat, hat, scarf and boots and try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Go for a hike on a groomed forest trail in a regional forest or conservation park. Take a few sandwiches and a thermos of hot chocolate and turn it into a winter picnic. 

4) Has it been eons since you’ve attempted a puzzle? Next time you have to pick up something at the store, also pick yourself up a crossword or Sudoku puzzle book. Or challenge yourself with a jigsaw puzzle. I recently finished my first jigsaw puzzle in a long time—talk about being completely absorbed in something. At times, it was hard to tear myself away! 

5) Go on a journey with your memories. You once made the effort to put together all those photo albums that are collecting dust in your cupboard. Now is the time to dig them out and look through them. Have old vacation videos? Watch them all.

6) Dust off your collection of old recipe books and try choosing some new dishes to try. Select a different one every week. You just might discover something new to love.

7) Increase your capacity for joy. Get a blank notebook and make a point, every day, of writing down one thing that you feel grateful for. Just one thing. When you look back at your notebook a year from now, you will be impressed at how much you have to be thankful for.

8) Seek out someone you’ve lost touch with and call them for a chat on the phone. 

Treasures to give thanks for no matter how dark your day has been:

1. Standing before an open field at dusk, watching sunset’s cocktail of colours spill across the sky. 

2. Gazing out over any body of water: a pond, a river, a lake, or an ocean. Water is life.

3. Deeply inhaling the fresh scent of pine as you meander along a groomed path in an evergreen forest.

4. Lounging before a picture window with a hot cup of tea while watching the flutter of snowflakes as they fall to the ground.

5. Absorbing the unconditional love of your pet as you run your fingers through its warm fur.

6. Having even one good friend that you can chat and laugh with.

7. Two legs that enable you to walk, two arms that enable you to hug, two hands that allow you to hold a book or cook a meal, two eyes that enable you to see that a whole world of beauty still exists around you.

8. A roof that shelters you, a warm bed to sleep in, food in your cupboard.

9. All of the simple things in life that we take for granted.

If I still haven’t convinced you that you’re living in the best of times, just imagine living in…

536 AD: Apart from falling empires the world over and general political chaos, the year 536 also marked one of the worst global famines in human history, thanks to a giant volcanic eruption in Iceland that resulted in an ash cloud that kept the northern hemisphere in the dark for 18 months, and dropped temperatures to their coldest period yet, leading to mass crop failure and starvation. 

541-542: The plague that ravished large parts of the world between 541 and 542 led to an estimated 25 to 50 million deaths. A quarter of the world’s population was wiped out within two years.

1316: Most of Europe’s harvests failed, leading to widespread starvation and death.

1347: Welcome to the peak of the bubonic plague, with about 60% of all Europeans dying swift, but agonizing deaths.

1520: Europeans brought smallpox to the Americas, wiping out most of the indigenous population.

1816: This was “the year with no summer,” as millions of tons of volcanic ash and sulphur spewed into the skies from Mount Tambora in Indonesia, causing temperatures around the world to fall below freezing in July.

1918-1919: The Spanish flu epidemic infected approximately one-third of the entire human population, with total casualties somewhere in the ballpark of 20 to 50 million. The virus acted so quickly that in many cases, victims would die within a few hours of infection. Of course, doctors back then simply didn’t have the capability to respond effectively.

1933: The great depression reached its peak, with some 15 million Americans unemployed (one-in-four adults) and half the nation’s banks defaulting. Unlike today, there was no unemployment insurance or welfare or gazillions of social services for the taking.

1939-1945: We all know about the horrors of WWII. Actually, any year in history stained by war would have been a devastating time to live, wouldn’t you agree? Let’s just pray that our world leaders have learned some valuable lessons from past history.

Easy Crocheted Wrap: Peppermint Tea on a Cloudy Day

This shawl pattern is one of the easiest I’ve worked on. It’s really just a case of repeating two rows over and over until you reach your desired length.

I found the free pattern at CrochetKim.com (thanks, Kim!). Here’s the link: https://crochetkim.com/berry-bubblegum-fling/

For my shawl, I used one ball of Lion Brand Mandala yarn (5.3 oz/150 g/ 590 yds/540 m) in “Genie” and a 5 mm hook.

My finished, blocked shawl is 51.5” wide x 14” deep, and I added fringe to both ends.

The most peaceful way to spend one hour of every day…

In the past few years, I’ve made it a habit to walk outdoors for about an hour every single day, no matter what the weather is like. If it’s raining, I wear waterproof gear. If it’s snowing, I bundle up warmly. 

I spent most of my years pining for summer weather. The other seasons were lousy, in my book. 

My daily walking habit opened my eyes to the beauty that abounds in all types of weather. You need only be dressed appropriately to reap the joys of Mother Nature all year round.

During my walks, I listen to audio books that I borrow online from my local library and load onto my audio device. Listening to an author’s voice while I walk is like having a special companion who tells me the most interesting stories as we stroll along side-by-side.

Of course, during this festive of months, I’ve been listening to Christmas-themed audio books while I walk. I’ve found that at this time of year, the most beautiful time of day to go for walks is after dusk, when Christmas lights are ablaze throughout the neighbourhood. 

Picture this: I’m bundled up all warm and toasty, walking along the snowy sidewalks, breathing in crisp, fresh air that often carries the scent of burning logs from home fireplaces, dazzled by the myriad of colourful lights adorning most houses, while listening to the most wonderful Christmas stories. 

The end result…exhilaration saturated in a profound feeling of peace. 

In case you’re interested, here are a few of the audio books I’ve enjoyed on my walks:

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry 
(This was so incredibly heartwarming. If you like the classic holiday movie,
A Christmas Story, you’ll love this!)

NPR Holiday Favorites – NPR Susan Stamberg

NPR Tinsel Tales: Favorite Holiday Stories – NPR Lynn Neary;

NPR More Tinsel Tales: Favorite Christmas Stories – NPR David Greene
(NPR offers such an entertaining variety of holiday stories—all are so much fun to listen to!)

I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas by Lewis Black 
(LOL! Enough comic nastiness to balance out all the sweetness of the season.)

With tons more great audio books on my to-read list—I always look forward to my next walk!

Donna’s Darla Asymmetrical Shawl

How cute is this shawl? I’ll be throwing it over my shoulders this winter to jazz up a sweater.

A big thanks to Clare at Truly Crochet: Simple & Modern Crochet Patterns, for sharing this lovely free pattern. I’ve included the link below.

Materials I used:
Lion brand Mandala yarn (5.3 oz/150 g/ 590 yds/540 m), colour: Pegasus /5.5 mm hook

You’ll find complete instructions for the pattern at the link below:
https://trulycrochet.com/darla-asymmetrical-shawl-free-crochet-pattern/

Note: I used the Mandala yarn to make two-tone pom poms to attach to each of three corners.

My Girl, Your Boy

I was inspired to write the story below back in 1987. The images that flooded my mind as I pushed my baby daughter on a swing in the park were too vivid not to be developed into a short essay once I got home.

Over the years, my thoughts would return every so often to this story I’d written. I wondered about the very special boy who would someday steal my daughter’s heart. I would think about his mom, as well—and I just knew that she loved him as deeply as I love my girl. 

Yesterday, as I scrolled through my files, I stumbled upon “My Girl, Your Boy” again. And guess what? My story has become reality. That wonderful boy married my beautiful girl, and now, his mom and I are overjoyed to share twin grandbabies—a little boy and a little girl. 

My story has come full circle.

MY GIRL, YOUR BOY

I am pushing my baby girl in a swing at the park when you first enter my mind.

It’s a perfect spring day: watercolor blue sky, warbling Robins, a breeze as soft as a whisper carrying a hint of new blooms, mown grass, clean wash on the line. 

The park unfolds at the foot of our street, just a few steps from our front door. The ancient swing set, anchored between thick iron chains, has wide leather seats that have been worn smooth from use over the years. There is also a tiny basket seat, tailor-made for babies. This park is perfect for us.

My seven-month-old girl is strapped into the basket seat. This is her first time on a swing and her feelings are evident—downy head flung back, mouth gaping open in a grin that bares two tiny white crescents breaking through the top gum. Her dimpled, sausage-roll legs jerk about and she squeals with each gentle push that I give her. The purity of her joy causes my heart rise into my throat. Out of the blue, I think of you.

Perhaps you, too, are in a park right at this moment, as your mother pushes you on a swing… or chases behind you as you creep with surprising stealth through the grass. I can feel you. I also know how helplessly, hopelessly, heels-over-head-over-heels in love your mom is with you as her eyes capture these fleeting images and preserve them in her mind: the curve of your elbows, the creases behind your knees, your round eyes sparkling with mischief as you pause, mid-crawl, to glance back at her over your shoulder.

I hope that she will teach you all the things that are truly important: please and thank you, the value of honesty, respect for others, respect for yourself. I hope she will prepare her boy just as I am preparing my girl.

In my mind, I reach out to her and we share a smile. I know that someday, she and I will laugh joyfully together across a kitchen table set for tea, as we bounce the grandchildren we share on our knees. I know that you, baby boy, and my baby girl are destined to share a wonderful life together, pushing park swings of your own.

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