Day #20: Nancy Carlson

You’ll most likely agree, some days it’s tough to swing your legs out of bed and stand up to face the hours ahead.

On those days, I think of Nancy Carlson, author and illustrator, mom and wife, school visitor, grandmother, who cared for her husband during the years when he descended into Frontotemporal Dementia. Troubles mounting, finances threatening, her husband’s mind disappearing,

Nancy wrote a blog called One Foot in Front of the Other, sharing her challenges with all of us. She posted a doodle on social media every single day. And she kept speaking at schools and conferences, writing and illustrating books.

Nancy Carlson’s doodle above, “And we all looked out to God, although He is the color of the wind.” (Laura Nyro lyric) is one of many you can see at her A Doodle a Day: Ten Year Doodle Journey show on exhibit through December 28, 2018, at Artistry in Bloomington, MN. I am grateful for this brave and talented woman, who helps me believe in tomorrow. She is an extraordinary woman.

Follow Nancy on Facebook so you can see her work firsthand.

Day #19: Straws

A practical tip for this day: straws. Another form of plastic that contributes 500 million straws into our landfills every single day in the US. We only use them when eating out and we often ask the wait staff to skip the straw … but sometimes that glass doesn’t look friendly. Consider taking along your own straw. These bamboo or stainless steel versions are affordable, tuck easily into a purse or backpack or portfolio. By request, I’ve included manufacturer names so you can order your own. I am grateful for the ingenuity that is finding practical ways to lessen our impact on our Earth. For more info, The Last Plastic Straw

bamboo straws and stainless steel straws

Day #18: Blueberry Picking

When I was young, my grandfather would coax us all into the car after the Fourth of July to hunt for blueberries. He had a pretty good idea where they might be. He’d pay attention to where forest fires had occurred, knowing that a few years later there would be a fine crop of blueberries growing on the forest floor.

wild blueberries

We each had galvanized buckets, stooping over to pick the plumpest berries, trying hard not to put more in our mouths than we dropped into the buckets. We knew we’d appreciate them in January and February. We picked in silence, feeling a part of the forest.

On the drive home in the car, there would be stories of brothers or sisters who’d gotten lost looking for berries, or someone who curled up in the sun, or someone who came back with an empty bucket and blue stains on their teeth and hands. My favorite story gave me shivers: bear cubs!

Somehow, going to the grocery store for blueberries doesn’t generate memories of sounds, smells, discovery, and laughter. And those berries seldom taste as good. I’m grateful for the experiences of picking berries in the wild. #ayearofgratitude

Day #17: Games

Growing up an only child, I was happiest when friends or family would gather to play games. Each Christmas I received a game I could play on my own, which I appreciated, but it wasn’t as satisfying as playing with others. I am grateful to friends and family who love to play cards, board games, and home-designed games. I cherish the warmth, challenge, and camaraderie of those times we’ve spent together. And I look forward to encountering new friends for whom games are a vital ingredient of life.

Day #16: Patrick Ball

A modern-day bard, Patrick Ball is something of a legend in our family. We listened to his music even before we were married. It has seen us through some of the roughest parts of our lives, soothing, providing a touchstone, connecting us to time outside of time. Then, by happenstance, we met him. Now we are honored to work with Patrick. I am grateful for the stories and music he brings into my world. Listen to his music. Enchanting.  Learn more about Patrick Ball.

Patrick Ball Celtic Harp

Day #15: Ngaio Marsh

Among the top 10 on my list of influential writers is Ngaio Marsh (ny-e-o), who wrote 32 mystery novels set in England and New Zealand, featuring Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn, with plots that involved the theater, the art world, and the two countries she knew well. She was an artist and a theater actress and director, all the while writing a novel nearly every year from 1935 to 1982. I am particularly inspired by her memoir, Black Beech and Honeydew. She was a woman engaged in a life that brought her joy and I am grateful for the legacy she left her readers. (By the way, the audio book of Death in a White Tie is read by Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, it is.)

Ngaio Marsh

Day #14: The Gloaming

My favorite time of day, the ephemeral minutes after sunset and before the night turns dark, when the light is sometimes misty, sometimes glowing, but always causes wonder. We do our best to take note, looking up from what we’re doing to savor the changing gift each day’s gloaming brings.

Freeman Farm: Winter, Maxfield Parrish, 1935, in the collection at the Currier Museum of Art

Day #13: Spelling

I am grateful to my sixth grade teacher, Gordon Rausch, who put an emphasis on spelling in a challenging and visual way that made it important for me. It was an honor to have your name on Snoopy’s doghouse for your spelling achievements. This image was large on the classroom wall, unavoidable, a quiet reminder of the goal. By the way, one of these words knocked me out of the regional spelling bee. Yup, I still remember that word (and how to spell it) to this day.

Snoopy's doghouse
Charles Schulz, copyright Peanuts Worldwide

Day #12: Visual Connections

For more than two years, it has been all too easy to get caught up in drama and despair. I am grateful to David Cooper, at Lost Lake Photography, for sharing his daily photographs of nature and cityscapes on Facebook. These connections to reality remind me that life is good and nature is worth conserving. They lift my spirits. I am grateful for David’s skills with a camera and for his compassion. 

photograph copyright David Cooper, Lost Lake Photography

Day #11: Brushing My Teeth

With that title this can only be an everyday gratitude statement. When we made the decision to eliminate as much plastic as we could from our lives, it began to bug us that we were throwing toothbrushes into the landfill so frequently. Plastic handles and bristles—surely there had to be a better way? After some research, I discovered bamboo toothbrushes with nylon bristles, delivered in a paper box. I’ve ordered Weinisite toothbrushes from for a reasonable price. Now there are many more options available. Bamboo toothbrushes last for a long time with careful rinsing, they’re comfortable, and they get the job done. One billion toothbrushes go into American landfills each year. If we all switch to toothbrushes from a natural, renewable source, then we’ve removed one more non-degradable item from our waste stream.