The Power of Poetry

Four poetry books stacked on a counter

While searching for Monday’s Quote of the Week, I found myself traveling down a rabbit hole of poetry about autumn.  I don’t often take the time to read and contemplate poems at length, but when I do, I’m rarely disappointed.  There’s something about a poem that can communicate a feeling so profoundly.  Free from prose’s need to explain everything in complete sentences, poetry can make its point through images and metaphors, playing with rhythm and structure in ways that make the reader appreciate language like never before.  A great poem has the power to make me feel connected to its author through universal human experience, conveyed with just the right words.

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The Pleasure of Wandering

Black and white photo of stacks in a library

Last Saturday morning, my husband asked if I wanted to drive to a nearby town and have breakfast.  I glanced at my to-do list and replied that I had too much on my plate for the weekend and would rather just stay home and start on my chores.

One of those tasks was to replace a perpetually leaking tire on my car, so at about 11:00 AM, we drove together to the tire shop.  By the time we left, I needed to eat something (pregnancy hunger can be sudden and intense).  Rather than swinging through a fast food drive through lane, we decided to stop by a downtown coffee shop that we rarely visit.  Though they had healthier options, I indulged in a delicious cinnamon roll and a chai latte.

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Grammar and Usage Rules that Aren’t

An abstract image of crumpled fabric.
Monotype, 2004.

As a lawyer, writer, and general nerd, I consider myself a bit of a grammar and usage stickler.  Language is always changing, though, and there are many rules to keep straight, so when I’m not sure about something, I look it up.  That’s what I did recently when I came across a post on social media declaring that people shouldn’t use the word “entitled” when they really mean “titled” (when referring to the name of a book, for example).  This person vehemently insisted that a book could not be “entitled” anything, but could only be “titled.”  It turns out he was wrong, though I’m not sure he could be convinced. Read more

Feeding Ourselves: Thoughts on Cooking and Convenience

Drawing of a bowl a fruit and a pear and orange on a table

I came across this article yesterday that reported the findings of a study showing that “[o]nly 10% of consumers now love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it.”  The 10% number surprised me, as many people in my social circle cook most of their meals and seem to enjoy making their own food.  I’ll admit that I tend to fall into the lukewarm category, though it’s more accurate to say that my desire to cook ebbs and flows.

I know that cooking my own meals is generally healthier and more cost-effective than eating at restaurants.  Cooking can be a lot more satisfying, too.  I don’t live in a big city with an endless number of restaurants, and sometimes I’m just not that excited about my options for eating out.  On occasions when I want a specific dish, my chances of satisfying the craving are sometimes better if I make the dish myself rather than trying to find the precise offering at a local restaurant.  I also imagine that for families with kids and hectic schedules, eating at home is probably easier than going to a restaurant.

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Guest Post: My Journey Towards Minimalism

Today’s post was written by Courtney Miller. Courtney is a Financial Analyst from South Central Pennsylvania. In her free time, she is the Vice President of Internal Affairs for a local nonprofit, Animal Advocates of South Central PA. She also likes to travel and eat too much food. Thanks for sharing your story and tips with us, Courtney!

Decluttering, KonMari Method, tiny homes, capsule wardrobes… These terms have been trending lately, and with good reason. Actually, many good reasons. How often have you misplaced something and spent more time searching for it than you’d like to admit? Maybe you’ve looked “everywhere” and couldn’t find it. It got lost somewhere among your stuff. How much time have you spent organizing, dusting, and cleaning your stuff? Or bought something and had to “make room” for it?

How much stuff in our lives is necessary? How much of it do we actually use? Do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I even have this thing?” You’re not alone.

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In Praise of Old-Fashioned Letter Writing

Embellished stationary, matching envelope, and a pen, perfect for writing a letter

In the wake of my father’s death, I received a number of cards from friends and family members expressing their condolences.  I truly appreciated these tangible expressions, which came in a slow stream over the course of several weeks.  I could read the cards and display them in my home to remind myself of the sentiments they shared, and I didn’t have to immediately come up with words to reassure the sender that I would be ok.  Unlike when I received a call or text message, I didn’t feel the need to say anything.

Receiving these cards led me to think about letter-writing, something I used to do fairly often.  When I was in college, before texting had reached its current level of ubiquity but well after emailing had taken hold as a common means of communication, I regularly exchanged letters with long-distance friends.  Reading and writing them took time, but that time was enjoyable.  Rather than dashing off quick texts in the middle of everyday activities, I would set aside half an hour or so to think about what my friend had written to me, respond thoughtfully, and share what was most important in my life at that moment.  I had no real expectations with respect to these letters.  Sometimes a friend would respond fairly quickly, and other times I would not hear back for weeks, or longer.  I didn’t take the delay personally.  I understood that my friends were busy people who were living their lives and would respond when they had the time to do so.  Receiving a letter in the mail was always a pleasant surprise that brightened my day; it was never something I expected.

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Why Do We Create?

A tiny gold sculpture of a goat
A small gold sculpture of a goat, discovered during the excavation of Akrotiri

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Akrotiri archaeological site on Santorini island in Greece, along with a couple of museums housing works of art discovered at the site.  Observing items that were created thousands of years before the common era led me to think about humans’ desire to make art.  The pieces on display were not limited to pottery designed to hold water and foodstuffs, nor to religious symbols.  There were elaborate wall paintings and meticulously crafted sculptures of animals and human figures.  Like other artists throughout history, these people of the distant past devoted time and scarce resources to producing beautiful objects that served no obvious utilitarian purpose.  Our drive to make things that we don’t really need is unique to humans and appears to be deeply ingrained.  Why do we do it?

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How to Pack for a Two-Week Vacation with Only a Carry-On

A carry-on-size suitcase, tote bag, and water bottle - all you need for your vacation

In response to my last post, several people expressed surprise at my ability to pack for an international vacation with only a carry-on suitcase. As a follow-up, I thought I’d share some details about how I pack. Most of my longer trips have been in the summer, and some of these tips apply best to warm-weather travel, but others are useful year-round.

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Summer Slow-Down: Learning to Relax

A beach with two people relaxing under a pair of palm trees

As my mom will tell you, I’ve never very been good at relaxing.  Since about sixth grade, I’ve been involved in all sorts of things.  As an adult, you will rarely find me sitting down when I’m at home.  I tend to spend my evenings and weekends working out, doing yard work, doing laundry or other chores around the house, attending a meeting or event, visiting friends, or working on some kind of project.  I pretty much never sit in front of a television, and my relaxation time is usually scheduled (e.g., yoga class, meditation group, occasional massage or mani/pedi).

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