Posted in Interesting Stuff, Non-book CPB Stuff

Paper Cutting

@annabrones’ beautiful paper cut, from her instagram

Last week, my husband and I took an → in-person ← paper cutting class at the Nordic Heritage Museum. It was the first time we’ve gone on something approaching a real date since the pandemic started 19 months ago. It was taught by the lovely Anna Brones, a local artist I follow on Instagram, and who I have so much in common with (PNW nature-loving, wild swimming, bicycling, sketchbooking, fika-obsessive) that I feel like we’re already friends. It was really lovely.

The class was celebrating a paper cutting exhibit that the museum just opened, and to inspire the group we started by walking through the dark room full of giant cut white sheets of paper sandwiched between big sheets of glass. They cast beautiful shadows on the floors and walls.

Since then I’ve been falling down a gorgeous internet rabbithole of paper cutting. I hadn’t known that Chinese paper-cutting was such an ancient craft, and I love looking at the gorgeous red pieces that range from super basic to crazy elaborate.

Rogan Brown creates these amazingly intricate organic-looking paper cuts, sometimes with subtle colors that make me think of sun bleached coral reefs.

Kiriken Masayo creates unbelievable paper cuts from a single piece of paper.

Aghhhh, so much beauty in such a simple art form. Check out more artists here.

my amateur contribution to the art form

Posted in Non-book CPB Stuff

Keeping 2020 Goals Simple

I normally get really carried away with my New Year’s Goals — most years I have upwards of a dozen of them, and I make a point of making each one Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant and Time-based (SMART). My lists often span a few journal pages and get pretty complicated. I think it’s a remnant of my overachieving days in tech.

This year I keep reading advice about taking it easy on yourself with goals given the pandemic. The New York Times has suggested making tinier resolutions or even down-sizing them. Given this, a simple approach like illustrator Julia Rothman’s More/Less list is pretty attractive. She has a drawing exercise for this in yesterday’s NY Times, but I prefer to stick to her earlier written word format, the one she shared on Instagram back in 2017.

So, here it is. My 2021 goals, super simplified: MORE doing stuff that’s good for me, LESS ingesting of things that aren’t. More reading, more writing, more making, swimming and exploring. More walking and biking. Less alcohol and less junk food.  Easy-peasy. Now let’s get those vaccinations done so we can do some of these things together!

Posted in Non-book CPB Stuff

New Year Fight Club

Monksville Reservoir

Yesterday afternoon my family and I took a drive around Sussex County, NJ, where we live. Lots of scenery—bare trees covering low and high mountains, farms with horses eating hay and drinking from a pond, a half-frozen reservoir where we stopped for a bit to stretch our legs at the edge of the mildly choppy water. And in the middle of nowhere, some construction company or other with a signboard out front that read:

The first rule of 2021
Don’t talk about 2020

Which made me laugh quite a lot. I love Fight Club, and I love random sayings on business signboards. And I even kind of love “2020 was so awful” jokes. Because it was awful in many ways, almost comically so at times. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any shittier, a new low reared its ugly head. Nothing was too rock bottom for 2020. You gotta at least admire its commitment to sucking so bad.

Of course, there has been the pandemic, and that’s no joke; in my house, it’s a constant source of anxiety and fear and sadness. We don’t go out much, and we rarely let anyone into our home, and it’s been that way since March 2020, when my job sent me to work at home for three weeks that has turned into eight months and counting. My nine-year-old son (well, he’ll be ten in a few days) hasn’t seen another child in person in that long either, except from afar on occasion as we take our walks around the neighborhood. We are essentially hermits. In my mind, it beats the alternative.

But to be honest, being at home so much has been pretty good for me. Despite all the misery in the world, I have managed to carve out a little bright spot for myself—which I feel bad saying, because how dare I feel good when so many others are suffering? I still watch CNN and doom scroll Twitter and take in all the stress-inducing news of the world; I’m not oblivious to what’s happening. And I definitely feel the horror and futility of what’s going on outside while I’m holed up in my cozy little house. Still. In 2020, I managed to feel a glimmer of something I hadn’t felt for a long, long time: happiness.

If you know me, you know my mental health is not always stable. There are bad times and times that are better, but in recent years it’s been mostly difficult. My mindset has become so negative; I expect everything to go wrong and worry endlessly about everything going wrong and spiral downward when something does go wrong (though what I anticipate—everything going wrong—never actually happens). And in the last year, somehow, I have managed to escape this vicious cycle. I have felt contentment; I have felt true joy. Mostly in the mundane moments of life: walking around the rooms of my house, which we moved into only a year and a half ago. Watching what we call “sad shows” (our favorites are Hoarders and My 600-lb. Life) on TV every night after dinner with my husband and son. Looking out the kitchen window while making coffee, hoping to see some of our resident deer family meandering through the woods. Maybe it is because of the state of the world these days, but I’ve found myself feeling so grateful for ordinary things. I don’t want to take any of it for granted.

A large part of this happiness, I know, has come from working at home. I am an anxious introvert, so not being in a crowded office with an open floor plan for 45+ hours per week has been a nice change. Some people complain about video calls and chat apps, but I could (and do) happily run my team of six copyeditors completely virtually. And I could do it indefinitely. I also don’t miss the hour-plus commute to the office. Morning traffic on Route 80 is as close to literal Hell as I ever hope to get. I’m saving miles on my car and the cost of gas; I can sleep an hour and a half later in the morning than when I was commuting. I get more time with my family. Even my job gets more out of me—I often spend the time I’d otherwise be driving home on my laptop. It’s really a win all around. And it’s taken a lot of constant, heavy weight off of my shoulders. Is it any wonder I’m feeling metaphorically lighter?

But as Vicky asked me during one of the college-roommate Zoom calls she mentioned in her top 100 list, what am I doing with all this good mood? Well, unfortunately, a whole lot of nothing. I’ve come to appreciate laziness in a way I never have before. Sitting around and doing nothing has always made me feel incredibly anxious—I always had to be doing something, usually working. If I wasn’t producing something in some way, I considered my time wasted. Now, I am quite content to watch TV and nap on the sofa every Saturday afternoon. In a way it’s good—I am really learning how to relax. In a way not, because I am getting nothing done. Nothing creative, anyway. I have sewing and crocheting projects I could be working on, blog posts I could be writing, bookbinding to do, a novel outline to flesh out. I’m doing none of it. And let’s not even talk about all the reading I’m not doing. I listen to an audiobook every once in a while when I’m cooking or loading the dishwasher, but even those I’m having trouble finishing.

At least, that’s how it was in 2020. But I’m ready for this sluggishness to come to an end in the coming year. If I have to be confined to my home, I want to come out of it at the end with something more to show than how many bad reality shows I binge watched. I need to work on that book outline. I have got to finish that blanket I started a year ago. And I definitely need to keep up with my Goodreads Reading Challenge (I won’t even mention how pitifully I did on it last year). In fact I have a long list of resolutions for 2021, some of which pertain to the topics of this blog, some that don’t. But all of them revolve around one thing: I need to do more. So that is going to be my word for the coming year: more. Whereas last year I might spend an hour once or twice a month writing, in 2021 I will make it a regular semi-weekly practice (I’d like to say daily, but I’m also trying to be realistic). Last year, I used the excuse that I worked so much as a reason to do nothing but veg out in my time off. This year, I will continue my commitment to my work and spend my free time pursuing other accomplishments. I will do more. Less time snoozing on the sofa, more time creating in my office/craft room. I know I have more to give to this world than working and sleeping. This is the year I will prove that to myself.

Posted in Non-book CPB Stuff

Top 100 Things About a Shit Year

I love Austin Kleon’s yearly top 100 lists and I was determined to do my own for 2020, almost as a kind of penance for the dismissal we’ve all had for this fucked up year. It was a hard year for me, just like it was for many, many people, but there was also an awful lot to be thankful for and I don’t want to let any of it go unappreciated.

So, here goes, in no particular order:

  1. Even though my husband Keith felt like crap much of the year, he did have consistently good test results, and his cancer has been hanging out close to remission.
  2. Some of the people we love got COVID, but no one had it too bad. Hopefully this trend continues into 2021.
  3. I was surrounded (in a socially-distanced way) by real friendships this year. Friends checked in on me, and I on them, and we all made it through this trying time together. Circumstances of the pandemic prevented surface-level relationships from taking up more than their fair share of time.
  4. I reconnected with my college roommates, and enjoy regular Zoom check-ins now. When we talk it feels like no time at all has passed since we were together, and I hope that lasts for a long, long time.
  5. My sister and I have had what feels like one long ongoing text this year, and it’s nice to have her always checking in and sharing little parts of her life.
  6. I had a Zoom call with my sister-in-law and two nieces the other day and I remembered just how much I love them. I’m so lucky to have gained great people when I got married.
  7. I made our friend Joe a photo banner for his birthday in October and it reminded me of all of the great times we’ve had in our long friendship. So much laughter. The same (but also different) experience making a banner for Brooke’s birthday.
  8. Hanging out in the backyard with a fire and some cocktails isn’t the social life I expected this year, but it’s the one we got, and it was pretty awesome in its own way.
  9. I started swimming in Seattle’s Lake Washington in August, spurred on by my friend Shelley. Then I got really into it and made myself a goal of swimming outside all year round, at least once a week, and have been keeping to it. I AM NOW CERTIFIABLY OBSESSED.
  10. I find great inspiration on Instagram following #wildswimming. Those Brits are really into it and waking up to their new posts every morning is the best kind of social media experience.
  11. Swimming in Puget Sound is exhilarating and COLD and amazing. The temperature on Monday was 48.7 degrees, which is brisk to say the least.
  12. I went swimming in the rain for the first time in Lake Washington and there is something magical about watching the rain drops from underneath the water.
  13. Swimming at high tide at Alki, when the water comes all of the way up the steps and it feels like a giant wild swimming pool.
  14. Making new swimming friends, especially Shelley and Rachel. They are both brave and hard core, each in their own way, and I love having people to push me to try harder simply by their actions.
  15. Being welcomed by Mary Sue at Edmonds beach. I was shy and alone and she was so wonderful and welcoming — what an ambassador for a group of crazy delightful people.
  16. My favorite way to swim these days is just before sunset at Golden Gardens. If we get any sun at all, it’s pretty damn magical. I wonder how many of these winter sunsets I have missed in my time in Seattle.
  17. I went night hiking three times; the first by accident, and I hurried along without really enjoying it. The next two with Krystn and Shannon, and we ended with a big fire and some hot toddies, and it was so beautiful. I want to keep doing it throughout this winter.
  18. On my birthday trip to Palm Springs, we discovered Wyld pot edibles. They’re fantastic, make me laugh and laugh, and have the loveliest packaging.
  19. After four years of trying to get an appointment with the talented Alice Kendall, I finally got my gorgeous new tattoo. I love it so so much. Totally worth the wait.
  20. This summer I got itchy for a little road trip and took Doris out to the Pacific coast for two days of driving and swimming, and a night in a tent at Kalaloch. This place where I live is so beautiful.
  21. I discovered Itchy Boots on YouTube and then Keith and I spent many hours watching her ride her motorcycle through Asia and Africa by herself like such a badass.
  22. The excitement around Ian MacEwan’s long-awaited Long Way Up, and getting to discuss it with my friends as it came out — even though it ended up being not very good.
  23. Keith and I watched all of the BDR (Backcountry Discovery Route) Documentaries and I got good and obsessed with learning to ride my motorcycle offroad.
  24. Keith and I talked for months about which motorcycle would be good for me to learn riding offroad, and I went to try a few out, and then all of the sudden one day Keith showed up with a 2015 Honda CB500X for me in the back of the van. And I love it! Can’t wait to start riding next spring.
  25. Ended up camping twice with the Shifty Clams, my ladies motorcycle gang. It’s so lovely to ride with a group of people, especially knowing that they’re the kind that will never leave you behind, and never force you outside of your limits. It made me want to be better and faster.
  26. My Go Fast, Don’t Die t-shirt. It makes me feel brave to wear it.
  27. My dog Claire is getting old and she is really showing her age. On the days that the other two go to daycare, Claire and I have been going on very special walks, any way she wants, as slow as she wants. She also gets to eat anything out of the fridge that she wants and snacks all day long.
  28. Our youngest pup Doris has become a super snuggler, and curls up in bed or on the couch with me, laying partially on top of me, often with her chin pushing down into me.
  29. My special needs dog Connie has finally learned to play. She now does that adorable play bounce every time I walk in the living room or any time I’m making the bed.
  30. Connie also jumps up on the bed and crawls on Keith’s chest for a good pet. This isn’t really new to 2020 but because we’re home so often, and Keith has spent so much time in bed, she’s done it a lot more than ever before.
  31. I watched a ton of online art classes, mostly at I think my favorite has been Oil Painting Daily Practice with Erika Sears, who I also ended up buying a fantastic painting from for Keith (kind of but not exactly this one).
  32. So much time for reading. I read 86 books this year to a goal of 75. I’m going to work on my Top Ten for the year, and will post them soon.
  33. I found a new favorite poem, The Girl Who Goes Alone by Elizabeth Austen.
  34. I watched so much good TV, too: Ted Lasso. Queen’s Gambit. Bob’s Burgers. Bojack Horseman. Uncle Frank. The Watchmen. The Crown.
  35. I loved watching “late night” TV during the pandemic — a little bit loose, no stupid audience interactions, very little band playing. And I could always just watch the monologues (although I did realize this year just how similar Trevor Noah’s monologue is to Stephen Colbert’s is to Jimmy Fallon’s, etc).
  36. Two new Taylor Swift albums and especially that track with Bon Iver on folklore.
  37. Listening to Toxic Airborne Event after reading the amazing Hollywood Park by the lead singer.
  38. Rebecca’s list of cover songs. I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the Spotify playlist.
  39. Year six of the Quitters Club Book Club. I didn’t finish a few this year, but that was mostly because my interest in books was pretty specific this year, and I didn’t seem capable of forcing myself to read anything that wasn’t capturing my attention.
  40. This was a really good Cutie season and we ate upwards of 100 little clementines. So far. I just bought another 5 pound bag today.
  41. With all of the hoopla about Washington’s new Cosmic Crisp apples (disappointing), Keith and I had a couple of apple taste tests at home, where we bought one of every single apple at the fancy grocery store and rated each one. We very clearly prefer Envys and then Kikus, but also like a good Fuji. I love the Honeycrisp, but he does not.
  42. When we were camping with the Parkers at Dosewallips, Keith felt really terrible, which sucked. He went home as soon as the sun came up, and I hung out with everyone else for a few more hours. Even though I was worried about Keith, I went for a nice hike with Allison and then we found a wonderful swimming hole with deep cold water and two otters swimming nearby. (A month later I’d take the Shifty Clams swimming in that same place and the otters would hang out with us for much longer.)
  43. On Christmas Day, Keith and I drove up to Marblemount, with Matt in his car behind us, and we went eagle spotting along the Skagit and Sauk rivers. We saw nearly a dozen, and just enjoyed the beautiful views and socially distant company. When you free yourself from the traditions of the holidays, you can really enjoy some special times.
  44. All of the holidays were quiet this year, starting with my birthday, which happened right before the COVID lockdown. We were lucky enough to be in Palm Springs, the last trip we’d take for a long time.
  45. While we were in Palm Springs, Keith and I rented some three-wheeled scooters and rode through Joshua Tree National Park. The roads were just gorgeous and it was so fun being on the scooters together.
  46. The pandemic reinforced the fact that I don’t find cooking enjoyable but I did learn to make potato pancakes from my mom’s Marco Polo video, which I really love.
  47. I made the simplest dip from Bon Appetit — greek yogurt and Chinese chili crisp. YUM.
  48. I discovered the Camano Ridge Trail, my new favorite day outing. The hike can be a good six miles, nearly all flat but also feels deep into the forest pretty quickly.
  49. I went to Carkeek nearly every day in November, and I tracked the spawning salmon. There are few natural things I’ve seen that make you appreciate the cycle of life so clearly. So sad, and so beautiful, and so amazing.
  50. I used the excuse of the travel ban to get to know Carkeek park better. It’s my local park, just under a mile from my house. I know every single trail in the park now, and there is so much in a pretty small package — the beach, the forest trails, occasional natural art pieces, the streams with the salmon, and the big open playing fields. Also lots of mushrooms.
  51. Early in the pandemic, and before I had a job, I dyed my hair blue, like I’ve wanted to just about forever.
  52. I’ve actually been dying my hair myself all year, just like I did when I was in college. They’re not the best dye jobs but who cares? There’s no one around to judge them. I’ve saved a ton of money, too.
  53. I went for some (but not enough) bike rides with Krystn this spring and summer, and we christened ourselves #teamcamobutt since we were both wearing camouflage leggings. Riding my bike always makes me feel so strong and I love every minute with my adventure buddy.
  54. This spring Keith and I went up to the University of Washington to go see thousands of crows roost for the evening. I’d read about this years ago but it took the restlessness of the pandemic to actually go check it out.
  55. Once I was back at the foundation, I started regular Friday walks with two of my favorite coworkers. Every week we go somewhere new and they never fail to teach me something about the work we do. They’re better at their jobs than I am, and I try to soak up everything they have to share with me.
  56. Speaking of the foundation, I’m back there as of September. For some reason I wasn’t that excited about going back but I’ve ended up really loving it this time around. I feel more confident in what I’m doing.
  57. I took lots of after dinner bike rides this summer, with my electric bike, down into the neighborhoods west of us, in search of a great sunset.
  58. The new peony I planted in 2019 had its first bloom. It only made two all season but they were pretty spectacular.
  59. July 4 weekend at Lake Chelan: fireworks, playing our favorite songs for one another in the dark, and a gorgeous sunset drive with Keith.
  60. I bought a backyard swimming pool ostensibly for the dogs to cool off but Keith and I enjoyed many afternoons back there cooling our feet and enjoying a frosty beverage.
  61. I spent a good amount of time exploring tide pools this year.
  62. I went on a few sea glass excursions with Rosemary up in Edmonds, but didn’t make it back to Pt Townsend this year like I hoped.
  63. The motorcycle camping trip at Mt Rainier was great from start to finish. That area is so beautiful, and it was a blast to explore it with my girls.
  64. Floating on my back at Cascade Lake on Orcas when I was camping with Sarah. All I could see was the blue sky and the tips of the pine trees. It was a calm moment of heaven.
  65. The next morning, when Sarah and I rode our motos up to Mt. Constitution for breakfast.
  66. Buying dahlias from our neighbors down on 112th.
  67. Learning about the u-pick dahlia farm from Gracie and spending a very hot afternoon out there picking dozens of beautiful flowers.
  68. Delivering those flowers to some people that I love.
  69. Went for a long walk/mushroom hunt in the rain with Krystn and Kha on Camano Island.
  70. Ate the four chanterelles I scored the next morning in some scrambled eggs. So delicious.
  71. Learning to use a GoPro. I still kind of suck at it, but I’m slowly figuring it out. I love learning new things.
  72. Finding natural art works in walks, especially in Carkeek, Shoreview, and in Boeing Park.
  73. Dipping into the Poulsbo bay with Allison twice. She’s so tough.
  74. Seeing Tom Skerrit take a boat load of photos of his dog down at the lake.
  75. Good election results. Thank the fucking lord. I was so nervous the days leading up to the election, I was too exhausted to react on election day or even really that week.
  76. We got a new green carpet that the dogs love. They drag their bellies on it, and wrestle with one another more than ever before.
  77. Quilting with my sister, three thousand miles apart.
  78. Sketchbook exchanges with Daphne, Alex, Shelley, Lola, and Amanda. They’re all really good right now, and I’m looking forward to continuing them all next year, and maybe even starting a couple more.
  79. Zoom calls for Thanksgiving. They were frustratingly hard to get going but it was lovely to see everyone on the screen.
  80. So many naps.
  81. No more aimless shopping trips. Everything online with no guilt.
  82. Rachel’s Ginger Beer. I bought a couple of growlers early in the year and have been meaning to get more ever since. It’s so good and spicy.
  83. The surprising sense of relief from K’s end-of-life conversations. I feel so loved that K wants to take care of me as best he can, even when it’s so hard to do.
  84. The thick new wall-to-wall carpet we put in the basement. It’s luxurious on my bare feet.
  85. The new couch/bed set up for watching TV that Keith dreamed up. I love it.
  86. Finally getting rid of our oil furnace.
  87. My favorite massage therapist Marjani and the health insurance that covers them.
  88. Hoka One Ones! I bought a pair of these orthopedic-looking sneakers and they’re like walking on clouds.
  89. I made a decision to invest in two new coats so that I could overcome bad weather this fall and winter. Both ended up being heavily discounted at REI and they really do make a difference in how easy it is for me to throw one on and go for a walk/hike/bicycle ride.
  90. Ann Patchett, as annoying as I find her personally, continues to blow me away with her masterful writing. I loved Dutch House last year and this recent piece in the Atlantic.
  91. Lola shared her secret to enjoyable grocery shopping: headphones with either great music or audiobooks. I hate grocery shopping and this has made it at least bearable.
  92. Listening to Caitlin Moran’s More Than a Woman while walking Claire and snort/laughing out loud.
  93. Two words: athleisure wear.
  94. Cup-sized bralettes and the end of the underwire bra prison.
  95. Keeping in touch with my Justine, even though she moved away not once but twice this year. Thank god she’s agreed to come back to Seattle next year.
  96. Got off of Facebook (90% anyway) and cleaned up my Instagram so it’s full of posts that inspire me (to get outside, to be more creative) and keeps me in touch with people that I really love.
  97. This was my fourth year of keeping a daily journal, and it was the hardest yet. Somehow with all of the free time the pandemic gave me, it still got extra hard to get to dreaming up an entry for every day. I missed a few, but most of them are filled in with either text or drawings, or ephemera from the day.
  98. All of the Christmas lights that Keith put up on the house, including the colored ones in the front yard, but especially the six white trees in the backyard that light up in the evenings and make the yard look magical.
  99. Our morning ritual — waking up, making coffee and toast, and sitting together at the window reading the news, playing with the dogs, and staring out at the backyard planning the day.
  100. So much time with Keith. 
Posted in CPB, Non-book CPB Stuff, Uncategorized

CPB Goals 2018

How many posts can I write about my 2018 goals? We’re going to find out!  

(Don’t know what a commonplace book is? Read about it here.)  

So as you saw in the previous post, my co-blogger Vicky is quite prolific with her commonplace book. Me, not so much. As with many things in my life, I love the idea of a commonplace book but find it hard to keep up with. Well, not hard exactly. The truth is that I’m lazy. I have a backlog of audiobook clips to transcribe into mine and Kindle notes to copy. I keep lists of words I look up in the dictionary, and they have found a home in my CPB as well, but at the moment I have several of those sitting on stickies on my desktop waiting to be added. I can pull out that old “I just don’t have time for it, with everything else going on in my life” card, but that’s getting a little broken record-ish, no? I think it’s time I start making time instead of complaining that I have no time to begin with. The time is there. I just have to find it. That is my new mantra.  

That decided, I have a few questions I need to answer first:

1. Do I enter things in my CPB right away, as I read them, or wait and do one big dump on a schedule, say once a week or twice a month? 

Right now I’m basically doing the big periodic dump. I’ve added a few things as I come across them, like clips from other blogs’ posts and snaps of snippets from magazines, but for the longer works, I’ve been lax. I highlight and note as I read in my Kindle, but then when I’m done with the book, I let it sit for quite some time without adding those highlights and quotes to my CPB (which, like Vicky, I use Evernote for). I have to find the right balance. I feel like posting as soon as I’m done reading the book is the way to go, so I’ll try to do that instead of procrastinating.

2. How do I handle print books? 

 One of my reading goals for this year is to read more print books. So, how do I record quotes from them in my CPB? Vicky’s post outlined how she’s able to take pics of print materials and edit them down to include only the text she wants quoted—I’m going to have to pick her brain on that one, because my attempts at same have not been successful. This seems like a better, quicker method than typing up every quote I want to save and less complicated than highlighting quotes and going back to snap them later (as I’ve tried…so time consuming), so I must master it.

3. And what about those word lists, anyway? 

So I have what the kids these days call a side hustle as a book editor. My clients are all self-published authors. It’s interesting, and while I complain about it a lot because hey, who wants to work two jobs, I do enjoy it. I love editing in and of itself, and I get some satisfaction from hopefully helping people who have chosen the nontraditional publishing route to put out the best product possible and maybe become better writers in the process. 

I also have a full-time job as a copy editor, where I edit audiobook descriptions. Yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds, but again, I love editing, so I like it. Anyway, between these two jobs, I look up a lot of words in the dictionary to check for proper spelling, hyphenation, compounding, etc. (I wrote a blog post about that a while back. I have a lot of feelings about editing, okay?) And I keep lists of these words, have done for a while. Why? Well, there’s a practical side to it—once I look up a word during an edit, if I list it, I can just refer back to the list and won’t have to look it up if it appears again. Largely, though, it’s all about self-amusement. Curiosity. And a plain old love of all things wordy. Maybe I’m just a word hoarder. I don’t know. 

So now that I have a CPB, I have someplace to collect these lists, rather than just amassing a myriad of sticky notes on my various computer desktops. Which is great! But I feel like I need some larger purpose for these words. Recording them is fine, adding them to my CPB is brilliant, but what then? This is what I must figure out. How do my word lists fit in to my larger CPB goals, and what inherent weight do they hold? Is there something more I can be doing with them?  

These are all questions I will answer in time. The most important thing is to jump in and start posting in my CPB more often. In fact, I think I’ll go and catch up on some of that audiobook transcription right now. 

Posted in Non-book CPB Stuff

Insta-poetry and Insta-piration

I’m sitting in the Phoenix airport waiting for my sister’s plane to arrive. We’re spending a long weekend together, living it up in Sedona with a little side trip to the Grand Canyon, a present I gave her months ago for her 50th birthday.

I’ve been so torn about this trip.

I adore my sister and absolutely don’t get enough time with her. (This will be the first time I will spend more than a couple of hours alone with her in more than 25 years.) I love the desert southwest and am in sore need of some exercise and some serious stress relief.

But I feel so much anxiety about leaving my husband.

He’s been very supportive of me going and wouldn’t even entertain any talk of cancellation or rescheduling. And I know he’s probably needing some alone time and normalcy himself. He’s tired of my fussing and worrying over him — I’m sure he is because I’m sick to death of it myself. But who goes on vacation while their husband is in chemo?

And then as I’m sitting here waiting, feeling this tension about allowing myself to enjoy anything when things are so seriously fucked up, this quote surfaces in front of me like magic.


Elizabeth Gilbert had posted it on her Instagram feed at exactly the right moment for me. Eat, Pray, Love wasn’t my thing but in general I’m very fond of her (I loved last year’s Big Magic). I have a whole collection of quotes and short poems saved on my Instagram feed.

I love poetry but do not read or know enough of it. It’s a surprisingly hard thing to dabble in. I have my favorites for sure — Mary Oliver, William Carlos William*, Sharon Olds. And over the years I’ve tried to explore more. Looking at websites, browsing the poetry section in bookstores, buying collections. But it’s been hard to find things that really speak to me. The best thing I’ve found, surprisingly, is Instagram. I’ve found three poets I really love there: Nayyirah Waheed, Yrsa Daley-Ward and someone named Atticus. I’m going to start putting these into my commonplace book.


* Oh my god, did you see the movie Paterson yet? Love, love, loved it.

Posted in CPB, Non-book CPB Stuff

​The Dunning–Kruger Effect

This weekend we were driving down to Tacoma and because it’s a long and boring ride we listened to a This American Life podcast on the way. Ira Glass talked to two researchers, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, who conducted some very cool studies. They gave a bunch of college students some quizzes — on grammar and logic and humor — and then asked them how they thought they did. They found that students who did poorly consistently thought they did better than they did. If a student was in the bottom 20% in terms of scores, they almost always thought that they did much better, sometimes as high as 80%. From the interview: “in short, there seemed to be a direct correlation between incompetence and an overweening sense of self-confidence. It wasn’t apparent in every poor-performing student, but it was in the majority of them. Most people who did badly thought they did just fine or even great. They had no idea.” This in itself is funny to me but the research said something else really interesting — this doesn’t happen because these people are assholes, it’s because they answer the question of how they’ve done with the same base of knowledge they used to answer the questions. Meaning you don’t know what you don’t know. And that happens to all of us sometime or another.

So, anyway, I’m with you — I keep hemming and hawing about organizational structure and categorization but in the end, I just decided to get started and learn as I go. Admittedly I have an advantage over you here — because I’m choosing a digital route, making course corrections is much easier for me. I decided to use Evernote for my CPB.

I’ve used Evernote for years and years now, but never to its full advantage. I mostly use it to keep track of accounts and logins but I know that it’s capable of much more and I figured if nothing else this testing would help me better understand how to utilize Evernote.

Why Evernote? I like that it’s always with me. I can access it on my work computer, on my home computer, or via the app on my iPhone. Evernote also has pretty cool Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning so I can take photos of text and it will recognize the text in a search. The downside is it is kind of unattractive, so that’s one of the things I’ll want to solve for.

So here’s my basic set-up:

Within Evernote I have two notebooks for commonplace books, one for quotes (the actual CPB) and another for the construction of a commonplace book (blog posts on how other people have set up their CPBs, for example). Both of those together make up a Commonplace Book stack (this doesn’t really mean anything other than it looks tidy when I view my notebooks).

In the CPB Quotation notebook, each entry is for a single body of work. This is easy to do but kind of ugly. ​
The body of each entry is just a long listing of everything of note I found or thought about the work.
Here’s an example of the OCR: I read an excerpt of Alec Baldwin’s new memoir in Vanity Fair and took a photo of a quote I liked (I, too, find making a good hire pretty damn satisfying.)

There are surely still lots of tweaks to make but this is where I am today.

PS: Love the convention of listing something from a recent CPB entry as the title of a post. I’ve obviously stolen it from you and will probably use it a ton.

PPS: Tell me more about looking things up in the dictionary. One of my favorite things about my Kindle is the ability to easily look words up but I always feel like I should do something with those words. I’m sure I don’t remember most of them after only looking them up once.

PPS: I think the question of quantity or quality is much clearer when you’re using a digital CPB: you definitely want quantity. There’s no downside to having too many quotes or entries. Search and an easy copy and paste solve for that.