Emily M. DeArdo

writer

On The Town

journalEmily DeArdo1 Comment
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Tiffany and I have been best friends since we were freshmen in high school--so, holy cow, 21 years now. She and her husband, Bill, like to take me out for my transplant anniversary, so it's the one night a year we go out on the town to a fancy restaurant and eat great food and have fun together. 

This year we went to Mitchell's steak house, and then afterwards to the Book Loft in German Village, which is a bookstore in an old house. It's fantastic. If you've never been there, come the next time you're in Columbus. It's 30 some rooms of books, and fun things like Baby Lit buttons: 

It's really sweet of them to do this for me. They're good people. 

Creative Burst

behind the scenes, Catholic 101, current projects, knitting, writingEmily DeArdo1 Comment

The last week has been so exciting! I've been making progress on some big goals, including one thing I never thought I'd do, so I thought I'd share this with you today. 

First, as I said last week, I've got a cover for my ebook!

This was a big hurdle for me, because graphic design is elusive in my world. But I'm really pleased with how this came out. I took the photo during my last trip to D.C., when I visited the Franciscan monastery

Now I have to finish writing and editing a few pieces, then it gets sent to a few beta readers for testing, so to speak--and then it's almost ready for the rest of you! If you use an e-reader, what format do you use the most? Kindle? iBooks? Doesn't matter? Let me know!

The ebook is based on my Catholic 101 series, but there are also brand-new pieces, to make it worth your while. I'm hoping to have it on offer later in the fall! 

The second big thing--I've decided to start selling some of my knitted pieces. 

 

Whenever I post photos of my variegated basketweave scarves, people always say how much they love them. And that got me thinking--would people buy them? Turns out, YES. I have three orders already! I'm really excited about this. 

I'm not planning on making this a huge thing, but I'm excited to be offering these scarves, and some other projects, in various styles and colorways. Right now I'm posting most of the information about them on Instagram and Facebook. So keep your eyes out--I might also cross-post some things here, too, when the pieces are available. Right now I'm sort of behind the gun because I had to order yarn for the projects, but soon I will have some available! 

And in between all this, I'm still working on proposals for my memoir. Whew! There's a lot going on. But I'm using pockets of time to work on these things in a somewhat organized fashion. For example, the yarn for the next project isn't here yet, so I can use today to write and work on the proposal and the ebook. (And give my shoulder muscles a break--knitting so much really does cause them to work!) 

Thanks for all your kind comments and support with my projects! I really appreciate it and I can't wait to share these with you in the near future. 

 

Saturday Miscellany

books, behind the scenes, current projects, Jeopardy, knitting, writingEmily DeArdoComment

Normally, as you know, I don't do a blog post on Saturdays, but I had a stomach bug on Friday, which derailed my plans to do one then, so, here we are: Saturday! (Stomach's fine now.)

First, the winner of the Cultivate Book: Cristina! Yay! I'll get this book out to you in the next week!

Second: Next week marks a year since my appearance on Jeopardy!, which you can read all about here. The Tour de France, people! :-P (If you don't get that, read the posts....or try to find my episode online. I wish Jeopardy re-runs ran around here....)

Third: Take a look at this!

 

I'm kind of a fan. Do you like it? Let me know! I took the photo at the Franciscans of the Holy Land Monastery in D.C. a few years ago and I thought it was a good choice for the cover. 

And finally, in the knitting area: here's the second Christmas gift in progress. 

Yes, it's the same pattern as the first scarf. But man, I love this yarn too! This is called Sugar Cookie--same yarn as the last one, too. 

So, that's my miscellany for this Saturday! Hope you have a great weekend! 

Twelve Years, and a Celebratory Pork Chop

food, health, transplantEmily DeArdo1 Comment
Me as an intrepid toddler. 

Me as an intrepid toddler. 

Twelve years is a substantial amount of time, if you think about it. It's your entire education from first to twelfth grades. It's an entire pro sports career, if the player is lucky. Ad it's how long I've been alive with another person's lungs inside me. 

It's insanely lucky. It really is. When I consider the people who don't get listed, who don't get the call, and then who don't survive past five years (which more than half of female lung recipients don't)....it's amazing to be so gosh-darn lucky. It's miraculous, really. 

So I thought it would be appropriate to share a good bit of food with you. Before transplant, I hated food. I liked cooking and baking, but I really didn't like eating much of it. Post, I loved it. The entire world of food opened up to me. 

Just recently I've been working on tempering the two--eating what's good for me, in good portions, and not going overboard on the stuff that's delicious but not so healthy. I'm seeing results on a lot of levels, which is exciting, but I'm also learning how to embrace cooking really great food that's also not terrible for me. Thus, this pork chop recipe. 

You can eat it just as it is, or serve it with some buttered leeks

Here's to more celebratory pork chops. 

Celebratory Pork Chop

This is the best pork chop you will ever have. I guarantee it. 

Start with two thick pork chops, about an inch. Don't trim the fat off. Season with with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. 

Preheat the oven to 375. Drag out your oven proof skillet (cast iron is great). Heat it over medium high heat, and add olive oil to it. When the pan is hot, add the chops. Cook for three minutes on each side, then throw the whole thing, pan and chops, into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pan and put the chops on a plate to rest for four minutes. 

Make a pan sauce--in the hot pan, add 1/2 cup water or stock, let it reduce a bit. Add 2 teaspoons dijon mustard and a good knob of butter--about a tablespoon, but whatever odd pieces you have in the fridge. Whisk together. Serve the chop with the pan sauce. 

Enjoy deliciousness. 

(Also, are you an organ donor? Please be one. When I was first listed, 18 people died every day waiting. That number is now 22 people, and the national list stands at 118,000 people who are waiting for new organs.  Sign up here. ) 

Giveaway: A copy of "Cultivate"!

books, goal setting, give aways, transplantEmily DeArdo6 Comments

In honor of my twelve year transplant anniversary, which is tomorrow (holy cow, that sounds amazing to write--incredible to believe), I'm giving away a copy of Lara Casey's new book, Cultivate, which you've all heard me babble on about for months now. It's so good, folks. I'm so excited to share it with you! 

(You can read my review here, and my preview here)

What do you want to cultivate in your life? Share it in the comments! It can be anything, big or small! 

Charlie's Dignity

current events, healthEmily DeArdoComment

I love my parents. They've done yeomen's work the past 35 years, helping to keep me alive. I know parents who do not do a good job with their children's illnesses--my parents have been rockstars on every level. 

I love my doctors. They are also rockstars. They are the people who continually keep me alive, even when other doctors have told them that it was a waste of time and/or effort. I have a doctor who got an international pager (back in the day) so we could always contact her. I have nurses who will answer my emails at any time. I've worked with incredible medical professionals of all stripes. (And some that suck. But we're not talking about them today. We're talking about the awesome people.) 

Most of the time, the two groups of awesome are in agreement about what should be done. But not always. When I was in the ICU in 2001, and no one knew what was wrong with me, several of the ICU doctors were ready just to write me off. My parents weren't, and neither was my doctor, or the head of the ICU, who worked insanely hard to figure out what was wrong with me--eventually, they did. And I'm writing to you today. 

Doctors are awesome. But doctors can be wrong. And parents are awesome. But parents can be blinded by love. 

Which is why we need moral and ethical guidelines in place, in cases where the two groups of Awesome cannot agree on what is the proper course of action.  Except...what do we do when doctors want to embrace a course of action that will kill their patient, and the parents are vehemently opposed? 

If you aren't familiar with the case of little Charlie Gard, here's the nutshell: Charlie has a very, very, very, VERY rare disease--so rare that maybe 17 other people in the world have it. Since birth, Charlie has been treated at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Because of Charlie's disease, he cannot breathe on his own, and he cannot see or hear. 

GOSH wants to take Charlie off life support so he can die, because they feel he's not going to get any better, so it's time to embrace the inevitable. His parents, obviously, are against this, because Charlie is alive with the help of ventilators--like many other people, in ICUs the world over, or people who have tracheostomies. They are alive because of machines, but they are alive. A ventilator or breathing support really isn't an extraordinary measure, these days, on its own. 

The parents would like to take Charlie to the United States to try another treatment--GOSH won't let them. This case went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, which sided with the hospital.  (Isn't that just dripping with irony?) 

What's the hospital's argument? That the treatment the parents want to try will cause Charlie pain and suffering and it won't work, so they refuse to let Charlie's parents try it

I find the hospital's "reasoning", on multiple levels, insane. One because doctors are supposed to help patients--not kill them, which is what would happen if Charlie was taken off the ventilator. It's no different than removing a breathing tube for a quadriplegic. Now, Charlie's condition, as it stands now (and as I understand it), won't get better. He's going to die. But that doesn't mean the parents don't have every right to try another treatment, in another country, that the parents are going to pay for. The money's already been raised. Hospitals in the US, as well as Gesu Bambino hospital in Rome (which is run by the Vatican), have offered to take Charlie as a patient. But GOSH will not release Charlie to his parents' care. 

Just because Charlie cannot breathe on his own, cannot hear, and cannot see doesn't mean his life has no value. OK? I can't hear without my CI, really. So does my life have no value? I've been on ventilators before. Did my life have no value then? Does Stephen Hawking's life have no value, because he has a tracheostomy? Or people in wheelchairs, or quadriplegics, who also need help to breathe and do just about anything on their own? Since when is the value of a person determined by what they can do? 

When a person is dead, then yes, it's time to let the child go. But Charlie isn't dead. This isn't the case of parents fighting a hospital over a brain death certification. Charlie is alive, and the hospital wants to stop that--because he might be suffering. And he's not going to get any better (they think. They might be right. But we don't know that.). 

I talk about this sort of thing a lot here, because people need to realize that life isn't about what you can do. Life has value because a person has value, no matter what. Pain and suffering are inevitable parts of life. 

But apparently no one told the folks at GOSH, or the European Court of Human Rights, this. Because Charlie's life, to them, isn't really all that important. They've kept him alive long enough. Now it's time to just shut of the machines and kill a little boy. And if we're going to talk about pain and suffering, they will basically suffocate Charlie by removing his ventilator. Is that going to cause pain and suffering? I think so.  

I'm not going to say the hospital doesn't care. I'm sure the nurses and doctors who care for Charlie care very much. But the state has clearly overstepped its bounds. 

Charlie can't make a decision on his own about his care. His parents have to do it for him. They would like to, at the very least, take him home to say good-bye to him, and let him die with them, in real dignity, not the fake dignity the state is suggesting.   If Charlie's parents decided that they wanted to pursue hospice care for their son, that should be their decision, and the hospital should give them the resources they need to make sure that Charlie can have a peaceful passing. 

Is it inevitable that Charlie will die? Yes, because we all will. But there is absolutely no need to hasten it, the way GOSH wants to, because The Almighty Doctors have decided that it's time for Charlie to die. 

 

What I Read In June

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A sample of what I read in the past month. Read all the way to the bottom for giveaway news!

 

June was, surprisingly, light on the books. I read twenty-three, fourteen of them new, so that's something. Here's some of the ones I liked the best. 

A Man Called Ove. I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I really liked it. It was so sweet, much like My Grandmother Told Me To Tell You I'm Sorry. I read his books in the wrong order. His newest one, Beartown, is what I read first--and it's very different from his previous books. But I liked it because HOCKEY.

Carve The Mark. The latest from Divergent author Veronica Roth, this book has been on my to-read list since it came out in January, but I finally picked it up when I saw it was 20% off at Target. So, win. This is a very good start to another trilogy, one that I hope doesn't disappoint me like the Divergent one did.  It's hard to describe, but it's good. Trust me. 

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. Yes, the bio that inspired the musical. I'm using the word "inspired" here loosely, because the musical plays fast and loose with a LOT of history (and no, not just the basics, like Thomas Jefferson et al. being black rappers). In fact, the more I read, the more annoyed I got at the musical...but all that aside, the biography is well-written and I encourage people to read it. Hamilton really does deserve to be better known. 

The Seeds of America trilogy: Chains, Forgeand Ashesby Laurie Halse Anderson. The story of the Revolutionary War from two teenage slaves' points of view. Amazingly well-researched, wonderfully written, and totally engaging, they're definite must reads for anyone who loves American history, in particular the Revolutionary War/ Colonial period. 

Isabel is a slave in Rhode Island who was bought by new masters and serves in a house of Loyalists in New York City in 1775. She and her sister are brutally separated by the mistress of the house, who sends her south. Will Isabel ever find her sister again? 

Also in New York, Isabel meets Curzon, who works for a patriot household. He tries to involve Isabel in the fight for independence, but she wants no part of it. The two become fast friends, and their relationship is what makes up the rest of the trilogy. 

And to celebrate my transplant anniversary, I'm giving away a copy of Cultivate! Yayyyyy! Giveaway will run all week next week, with the winner being announced next week. I'm so excited to share this book with y'all! Come back on Monday to get the details!

 

Yarn Along No. 60

books, knitting, yarn alongEmily DeArdoComment

I'm working on a few projects at a time here, which I've never done before, so it's interesting. I've decided that, while I'm making Christmas gifts, "my" knitting (i.e., projects for me) will be done on Sundays/holidays, while the Christmas gifts get first priority. This has worked out pretty well so far, because I'm almost done with the first Christmas scarf. 

The Supermoon Kerchief is coming along nicely, though. I figure I'm about to the halfway point. 

The second Christmas scarf is the same pattern, just a different colorway. And after that, I have a dilemma. I have an idea for a gift, but I've never done the pattern before. It's really simple--just stockinette stitch with slipped stitches at the beginning of each row (A slipped stitch means you just move it from needle to needle, without actually knitting it). But I'm loathe to dive into a gift knit without having tested the pattern first, so to speak, by making one for me. Dilemma time. It's big--the same size as the Supermoon Kerchief--but it's easy, so I figure once I start it, it won't take long. Right now I'm planning the "test knit" to be my vacation project. 

Quince and Co. Sparrow yarn in Truffle, for the "test knit". 

Quince and Co. Sparrow yarn in Truffle, for the "test knit". 

As far as books, you can see them above: Mansfield Park, as part of the great Jane Re-Read, and then The Vengeance of Mothers, the sequel to One Thousand White Women. This book isn't actually out yet--I won an advance reader copy in a Goodreads Giveaway. Love me some free books. :) So that one came in the mail on Monday, and I've started reading it. I read One Thousand White Women awhile ago, so that's made the beginning of this book so of difficult, as I try (in vain) to remember what happened in that one. (I'll have a better review of this one once I'm done with it.) 

So that's the state of the yarn the day after Independence Day. 

 

 

Independence Day Meditation: True Independence

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

One of the most memorable aspects of my pastoral visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America's historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart o every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation's founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a comittment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature's God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly oppossed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposed unchanging moral truths by proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, either constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power of majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitable comes impoverished and falls prey, as the late [St.] Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.  

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truths. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane, and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church's defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that the law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a "language" which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future. 

The Church's witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation. 

In light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic Community in the United States come to realize the grave threats tot he Church's public moral witness presented by radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres...

No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church's presence and witness in American society. The hope which these "signs of the times" gives us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of a civilization of love. 

--Pope Benedict XVI 

 

Book Review: Lara Casey's Cultivate

booksEmily DeArdoComment

I know that if you follow me on social media--particularly Instagram--you've seen me almost jumping up and down with excitement about this book. :) And let me tell you, it's merited. 

Lara Casey's first book, Make It Happen was a big step forward for me. After I left my job and began freelancing, I was sort of stuck. I had lots of dreams, but how do I make those reality? Make It Happen helped me, especially in conjunction with Lara's Powersheets--and without it, I never would have written a completed draft of my memoir, never mind started soliciting agents. I've made things happen because of Lara and her book. 

So with Cultivate, I was wondering how the story would be different. How many times can you talk about goal setting, after all? 

This book isn't about goal setting, really. It's about living a cultivate life--a rich life, one that's full of things that matter, and doing the things that God created you to do. That's so different than just checking things off an arbitrary to-do list. Lara talks to her readers from the heart, addressing several big lies--and I've believed some of these! They include: 

  • I have to do it all. 
  • I have to be perfect. 
  • I can't start fresh. 
  • Small steps don't make a difference. 
  • I have to know all the details of the plan ahead

and five more. These make up the chapters of the book. 

Do you recognize yourself in any of these? I sure do. 

In Cultivate, Lara  shares with us how to cultivate a rich, meaningful life--right here, where we are, with what we have. She doesn't ask us to fly to Indonesia and enter an ashram, or run off to some spa in the Berkshires. She asks us to cultivate our lives right where we are

"But I'm afraid to get messy," you might say. "If I start thinking about these things, it'll be stressful and hard and I don't want to do that. Better just to play it safe." 

NO! 

Don't you want that fullest life? I sure do. And with my twelfth transplant anniversary coming up next Tuesday, let me tell you: It's no fun to play it safe. It's no fun to wonder. We are made to do . We are made to live

Lara's books and products have helped me live life big, and Cultivate is the perfect answer to all of us who feel rushed, defeated, unsure...Trust that God is always with us, always loves us, and always has a better plan. 

In the wait, cultivate, Lara says. And it's true. I'm terrible at waiting. I suck at it, to be honest. You would think, having been on a waiting list in order to survive, I'd be OK with waiting for anything else, but not really. 

Lara's message of growing in the wait is a powerful one for me. I want everything right now! I wanted it yesterday! I want it all to be perfect, now! I don't want to wait. 

But in the waiting, God might be doing amazing things that we can't see just yet. 

This book isn't just a book you read--there's a study guide in the back, for sharing with friends; there are journaling prompts and questions. It's a book to really internalize and dialogue with, and ponder and pray with. It's a tool, like a garden spade or a rake. 

Give yourself the gift of a cultivated life. I promise you, you will not regret it. 

Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes, books, politicsEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I. 

I haven't done one of these in awhile, but I thought, since I had a lot of linkage to share, I'd bring it back! :) 

II. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been so excited about the launch of Lara Casey's Cultivate book! I'm so excited, in fact, that I'll be giving away a copy next month! So watch for details! Here is my preview of the book (my real review goes up soon!).  If you can't wait for the giveaway, you can get your copy on Amazon here or at your local bookstore!

 

III. 

Since we're talking Health Care (again), I thought I'd share some links on a series I wrote earlier this year: Parts one, two, and three. I might have something else about the Medicaid stuff next week. I know some of you enjoy my policy wonk adventures, but not all of you, so I try to keep it to a minimum. :) 

Essentially, what it comes down to is this--if we want to expand something--or even create something-- we have to make it solvent. I'm reading the Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton right now (the one that inspired Hamilton, although the more I read the book, the more I am annoyed at the liberties the musical took....), and Hamilton wrote something I found prescient: "Creation of debt should always be accompanied by the means of extinguishment." 

Or, in other words--how are we going to pay for this

IV. 

As we're heading into the Fourth of July weekend, here are some of my favorite book/movie suggestions for you. They either talk about the revolutionary war, or revolve around July 4th: 

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, and the movie, Gettysburg, which is based on the novel. 

Laurie Halse Anderson's Seeds of America trilogy: Chains, Forge, Ashes

The movie 1776 (the musical. It's great! Mr. Feeney is John Adams!) 

The miniseries John Adams, and the David McCullough bio upon which it's based. Also McCullough's 1776, which is amazing. 

V. 

Also, read the declaration, and the preamble to the Constitution: 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

(And also realize the difference between the two--please?) 

VI. 

If you love candles, but have a hard time finding a good summer scent, then you need this candle from the Laurel Mercantile Co. (It's run by Erin and Ben Napier, of HGTV's Home Town.) It is a divine floral smell that smells just like being outside in the spring and summer

 

 

Not only does it smell great, but it also burns very evenly and cleanly--both big bonuses. And, in fitting with the American theme of this post, it's made in Mississippi, so go American manufacturing! (Which was also something Alexander Hamilton supported. He wrote an entire paper on manufacturing and the sort of things he thought we should make.) 

VII. 

Finally....

I've been seeing a lot of "lose" vs. "loose" on the Internet this week. Y'all know the difference, right? :-p 

 

This moment of June

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There really is just something to love about June. I'm not sure what it is. But it feels like the beginning of summer, of everything just stretching out and opening to vacation season, and summer reading, and just...ahhh

(In general, I don't post toooo much during the summer. It's that whole relaxed vibe. :) But I'll still be here at least once a week.) 

 

Yarn Along No. 59 (We're back!)

knittingEmily DeArdo2 Comments
IMG_5162.JPG

After a crazy long hiatus, we're back to the yarn! 

So, above you see some gorgeous Sparrow yarn in Truffle from Quince and Co. Seriously, isn't it gorgeous? I'm using this to test drive a pattern I want to make for a Christmas gift. Before I make a gift for someone, I make a prototype for me, to make sure I can actually do the pattern (ha!) and make any notes. I don't mind messing up so much on things for me--but I obviously do for gifts for others.  

The yarn came like this....

So I got out my swift and wound it up. 

I ordered more yarn for a Christmas project for my mom, and I have three skeins that need wound today, so it's just all yarn all the time over here. I know it's early to be thinking about Christmas gifts, but when you have to make them, it is not early at all! 

More yarn wound and ready to be made into a Christmas gift!

More yarn wound and ready to be made into a Christmas gift!

As for current projects, I'm still working on the Supermoon Kerchief (also using Sparrow yarn, but this time in the Venice colorway). I'm on the second skein now (out of three), so I'm approaching the halfway mark. I really love working with this pattern and this yarn. Since this is a "for me" thing, I might have to put it aside to start some Christmas gifts. 

 

 

Sketching Summer

drawingEmily DeArdoComment

I seem to sketch a lot more during the summer. Not sure why--maybe because there's so many fun things to sketch? Winter gets boring fast. Maybe what I need is a tinted paper sketchbook so I can draw the whites of winter without it being boring? A thought for the next "daily" sketchbook I need. 

I always have my travel sketchbook but I realized recently that I'd been neglecting my big Moleskine Watercolor book. So I got that out and took it to Pittsburgh. I also got my Stillman and Birn Zeta book (my daily book) into my bag for some daily pages. 

The top sketch here is my "daily page" in the Zeta book for June 7. I really love the shading and coloring I was able to get on the mint tea, and I'm glad the cardigan looks  like a piece of clothing. The first few I'd drawn were awful! 

art journal 6.8.17 1.jpeg

 

This one was just fun. I was at a stoplight--a very long one near my house--and I decided to draw this really, really fast with a Tombow marker. I added the black pen lyrics later, at home.  (It can take three light cycles to get through this particular intersection. I had a lot of time.) 

 

 

This is my sketch kit bag. It's a Vera Bradley cosmetic bag that my friend Tiffany gave me a few years ago for Christmas, and I felt it deserved its own sketch! I drew this in the cafeteria at Children's before my first volunteer shift. 

 

When we went to Pittsburgh I knew I'd have a chance to draw some fun things. So I did a few different spreads in both books. 

This is a sketch of a bridge over I-70 E near Zanesville. The flowers in the corner are representative of what grows along the highway in Ohio (clover and ox-eye daisies, in this case). 

 

And since I only have about 8 pages left in my current sketchbook, I ordered a slightly different one for my next "daily" book. This is a softcover Alpha from Stillman and Birn, as opposed to the hardcover Zeta I have now. The paper isn't as thick (150 gsm vs. 270 gsm), but I really like the pages (at least based on the one I've used so far). Like Liz Steel, I do a sketch of my palette on the first page. Not only is it easy, but I love having a reference of what colors are where in the palette at the front of each book! 

This post contains some Amazon affiliate links

Weekend in the Burgh

family, journalEmily DeArdoComment

It was a good weekend in the 'Burgh.

Normally, any weekend I get to spend with my extended family is a good one. But when it's a chance to celebrate my youngest cousin's first communion (he's the little guy in the above photo), and the Penguins win their fifth Stanley Cup? It's a great weekend. 

I've been a hockey fan since I was about seven years old, and saw my first Penguins game at the old Civic Arena against a team that doesn't even exist anymore--the Hartford Whalers. So I've been alive for every Penguins Cup victory, which is special in and of itself, but watching them win is just tremendous. I was so happy, especially since the game was so crappy for the most part (Nashville, learn to make better ice! Come on!). 

And seeing my grandma is always great. I love her house and getting to spend time with her, probably because I'm aware that she's 87 and not going to be around forever, and partially because I just adore her house. She's my only grandparent left, so that makes every visit with her even more important/special. 

Justin is my youngest cousin and he is hysterical. He's eight, he wants to be a librarian when he grows up, he keeps itemized shopping lists (labeled "Toys R Us", "Dick's", and "Amazon) and is a YouTube video master. He also has some sweet dance moves. It's always fun to spend time with him and his older siblings. (Sorry, Paige, for having a party at your house that went until almost 1 AM the night before your finals week started.......) 

We usually get up to Pittsburgh to visit once or twice each summer. I hope we go back again, because I have to go to Kennywood, as is tradition. 

Surgery update!

health, transplantEmily DeArdoComment

Part...I have no idea. Three, maybe? 

So just to recap: had stitches in my head. (Wear sunscreen!) Had a follow-up two weeks ago, where the doctor checked out the healing. It's progressing well, but he wanted to keep the stitches in for a little longer. 

Today, I had my second follow-up and the stitches are out! 

Yayyyy!

So now I just have to apply vaseline once a day and I can't totally submerge my head in the pool--but I generally don't do that anyway. 

Happiness! 

How to successfully contact your elected representatives

politicsEmily DeArdoComment

(Or, Please be short and sweet)

Some of you long-time readers will remember that I worked for the state and federal government for more than a decade. In that time, I did a good share of direct work with constituents--meaning I answered the phones, read their mail, and saw the emails that poured into the office from all directions. I learned, very quickly, that some people have no idea how to properly communicate with their congressmen/women or state representatives.

In the spirit of Civic Education, I offer:

How to Communicate Well With Your Elected Representatives

1) Be polite. That's the most important. The person answering the phone is not the state representative himself. It's an aide. No matter how angry you are, or how passionate you feel, I guarantee you that the person answering the phone did not cause all your problems and is in no way responsible for them. BE NICE TO THIS PERSON. 

2) These offices are not well-staffed, especially at the state level. At the congressional level, yes, there is more staff--because there are D.C. and district offices. But even then, there are not thirty people all manning phones who have endless amounts of time to listen to constituent spiels.

So please keep your speech SHORT. As in, one succinct paragraph. Do not get on the phone with a script from your Advocacy Agency of Choice that's multiple paragraphs--especially multiple long paragraphs. The aide doesn't have time to listen to all that and she will not write everything you say down. She will probably write something like, "Against pigeon welfare bill. Says pigeon hunting is fun" on her notepad, no matter how many minutes Mr. X is talking about the joy of hunting pigeons. 

(I honestly don't know why advocacy groups give these hugely long speeches to their supporters. They're not the best way to make your case. The poor aide just starts to tune out or freak out that the person won't stop talking.) 

3) Please make it clear what you're talking about. Don't just get on the phone and start rambling. Say, "I'm a constituent of Senator Y (maybe add where you're from, which will alert the aide that yes, you have a higher change of being a real constituent), and I am against/for Legislation whatever, and this is why. Thank you." That's it! That's all you need to say!

(Yes, people call offices of representatives that do not live in that area. I don't know why. This bugs me. If you don't live in Speaker Ryan's district, for example, then why are you calling him? Call your own dang representative! Just because he's the Speaker of the House doesn't mean that his poor aides want to hear from the entire country!)  

4) If you really want to say all five paragraphs, or you have pages and pages and pages of things to say on the Joys of Pigeon Hunting, then send an email or a real letter. Mail that is received on legislative topics is indeed noted. We were always aware of how much mail was being received about legislation. Email. Send a letter. (But still be polite!)

5) Actually talk to them about something they can help you with. When I interned for my congressman, I was in one of his district offices. People would call to talk about the city's trash collection. 

That's not a federal problem. Call the city. Not us. 

In summary: Be Polite. Be Succinct. Call your actual representative/congressperson/senator. If you have a lot to say, email/use the USPS. 

What I Read In May

booksEmily DeArdoComment

Sharing some of my favorite books from the past month

(this post contains affiliate links.) 

Beartownby Frederik Backman. This is the first of Backman's books I read, and I've since read two others. If you're familiar with Backman ( A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Told Me To Tell You She's Sorry, Britt-Marie was Here), then this book is a departure for him--it's much more serious in tone. However, there's also his trademark wit and humor, even though the subject matter is much more serious. 

Here's the publisher's copy: 

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

The ending doesn't do what you think it will do--which is nice. 

 

Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner.  The story of two couples who met in their early twenties and have gone through life together, at varying levels of closeness, comes to a climax as one of the women is dying, and wants one last summer reunion. The story moves back and forth in time, showing how the couples met and how their relationships evolved, moving to the present day. Stengel is a fantastic writer with glowing prose and rich characterizations. It's not a long book, but it's a very satisfying one.

 

Mr. Rochester, by Sarah Shoemaker.  I didn't think I'd like this one, because of my issues with Jane Eyre.  (In short: Jane running off to the moors drives me crazy.) But I adored this book! The story tells the life of Mr. Rochester, the brooding owner of Thornfield Hall and Jane's eventual husband, from his childhood relationships with his father and older brother, to his marriage to Bertha in the West Indies, and finally to his meeting Jane. It's so well-written and well-crafted that I almost hated for it to end. I'll definitely be re-reading this soon. If you haven't read Jane Eyre, read that first. Definitely. 

 

The Dry, by Jane Harper. The first in a series of mysteries set in Australia, The Dry follows Aaron Falk, who returns to his childhood home after the death of Luke, his former best friend, his wife, and his young son. Aaron doesn't think Luke would have killed himself, much less his family, but how much did he really know about him? Secrets are all over the tiny town, and the severe drought that's slowly squeezing the economic lifeblood out of its residents isn't helping anyone's ability to remain calm and rational. The exotic setting and colorful characters made this a winner for me. 

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn. THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. It needs all caps. If you're a Janeite, I think you'll adore this. 

Rachel and Liam live in the future--but they're part of the Jane Austen Project, which will send them back to 1815. Their mission? To retrieve the lost manuscript of Jane Austen's The Watsons, and bring it back to the future. However--they have a finite window of time in which to do this, or they'll be stuck in 19th century London forever. The plan is to become friends with Jane, get the manuscript, and head home. 

However, their plans are foiled when Rachel and Liam manage to get deeply entangled in the Austen family's lives.  Jane's real life family, friends, and circumstances are vividly and perfectly woven into a novel that also has traces of Interstellar in its plotting. 

 

The Killer Angels , by Michael Shaara. If you haven't read this Pulitzer Prize winning telling of the battle of Gettysburg, you need to. Now. It's the basis for the movie Gettysburg and is told from the perspectives of various combatants, including General Lee, General Longstreet, Colonel Chamberlain, and others. A fantastic read. 

Also, if you haven't pre-ordered Cultivate, do it now! I've already read the book and I can tell you it's fantastic. Plus, pre-ordering means you get fun freebies!

What good books did you read last month? 

Memorial Day Weekend

books, Jane Austen, journalEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Memorial day weekend means a few things. Usually. 

1) Swimming--except this year, because stitches in my head. Yes. Still there. Will be there for at least another two weeks. Sigh. So anyway, no swimming, but I am greatly looking forward to the moment I can do that!

(I'm not really missing anything--the complex pool isn't open yet. Whew.) 

2) The Great Jane Re-Read Commences. Every summer, I re-read all of Jane between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This year I did it backwards, so I started with Persuasion

I knocked it out on Saturday afternoon and enjoyed every minute I spent with Anne Elliot. As I always do, because Anne Elliot is the bomb. 

Next: Emma. 

(Can I be honest? Emma drives me nuts. I really only like her starting about halfway through the book, when Mrs. Elton shows up. But I do want to go to Box Hill and have a picnic.) 

3) Time with friends and family.  

This was most of the weekend. :) 

On Friday, Mary and I went to Chuy's, because that is what we do, all the time. (Well, most of the time. But we love Chuy's. Some creamy jalapeño and some dulce de leches cake makes everything in life come into focus.) 

There's so much I love about Mary....

There's so much I love about Mary....

Chuy's art

Chuy's art

We also went to Elm and Iron, which I adore, to check out some home-y type things.

The purple rimmed candles are called "Wildflower", and totally smell like some!

The purple rimmed candles are called "Wildflower", and totally smell like some!

 

I managed to replay my Sperrys, which died last summer (after I wore them for about six years) when the upper became separated from the sole. I don't replace shoes until they DIE, people. I'm not a big shoe person. 

I am, however, a big rose person. I love these.  

Love these roses outside Macy's! They're so blowsy pretty. 

Love these roses outside Macy's! They're so blowsy pretty. 

I have big plans for my place this summer. Obviously funds do not allow me to do it all at once. :) But browsing is always fun and that's how I get my ideas and figure out what I'm looking for. I did manage to hit a TREMENDOUS sale at Macy's where I got half off the pillows, and then 25% off that. They basically gave the pillows away, guys! (Well, OK, not really. But seriously, 75% OFF? What crazy world is this?!)  So my bed is a nest now. And I'm so excited to just love on it.  

Caroline The Rabbit is the second oldest denzien of the Bedroom. Coach the Bear is the oldest, but he didn't want to pose. 

Caroline The Rabbit is the second oldest denzien of the Bedroom. Coach the Bear is the oldest, but he didn't want to pose. 

My bedroom doesn't get as much love as it probably should these days, since I spend most of my time on the first floor of my place. But now I've got the Great Chair in the office, so I spend more time in there, and now my bedroom is really starting to come together. 

Sunday started with some watercolor work. It's true--sometimes I love what I draw and sometimes I hate it and want to rip the page from my sketchbook. But I don't, because that would mess up the book. Sigh. Roses are hard to paint, y'all.  (And yes, I'm a midwesterner, and I say "y'all." Because why not. I also say "slippy", which is what people in the 'Burgh say for "Slippery." I think "slippy" is a much better word.) 

Sunday morning coffee in my Eat 'n Park mug, because my hockey team is in the Stanley Cup Finals! Which means my Nashville mug is verboten--because the Pens are playing the Predators (Nashville's team). I cannot drink out of the (temporary) Enemy's Mug. 

The parents and I got lunch at Marcella's, a cute Italian place, where menus speak the truth: 

 

And then we did some shopping. 

Then I came home and had tea, brewed with my new tea ball. 

Chocolate tea, people!

Chocolate tea, people!

Monday I played a lot of skee ball and arcade games with my parents at the bowling alley arcade, and there were hot dogs for dinner. I won a stuffed monkey! 

And hockey. Hopefully my hockey team wins. :) 

 

(edited. They did. In the strangest game EVER--a disallowed goal, a catfish on the ice, and no shots on goal for over half the game. But they won anyway.) 

 

 

 

My nest

journalEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I love those cloudy, rainy days when I can just curl up in this spot on my couch with tea, books, maybe knitting, and just be. It's one of my favorite spots in the house. 
And on my other side.....

Because I always need good pens, notebooks, a book or two, and a phone charger by me at all times. Who doesn't?

And blankets. Oh my gosh, blankets. I loveeeee  having lots of blankets around. They are vital for building the proper nest. There are actually three blankets on my couch, but you can't see the bottom one (it's this one, from Garnet Hill. I got it on sale yeaaaars ago--it was one of the first things I got when I had my own place). The blue one is a promotional blanket from the live action Cinderella that I got at the movie theater when the movie came out, and the top one is a gift from my brother's fiance. Disney, blankets, and Vera Bradley--three of my favorite things in one package.

I sort of miss exercise. Is that weird? It's weird to me! But I see my doctor tomorrow and then I'll officially be "cleared" to exercise. I really can't do my yoga/pilates stuff anyway, because that involves head dropping and all that--things I probably shouldn't do with a hole in my head.  (Right?) So I'm trying to just walk around the house as much as I can. And read.