December 11, 2015

Illustrated Tweets: @dwatkinsworld

After a long, long hiatus, they're back! I take selected tweets from my feed out of context and illustrate them.

The race for blurbs @dwatkinsworld

November 30, 2015

Poem: Boat

photo illustration by S. King

i would be your boat
carry you
over deep chasms dark
and cold
protect you
from things that prey
and sting and
keep you
firmly secure 
in the air and light
if i could
if only i could float
above it all
i would be your boat

November 21, 2015


I found the following written on a piece of paper that had been folded and put in the back of an old copy of “The Dore Bible Illustrations.” I’m not sure what to make of it; I myself don’t have any spell books or magic keys. So I’ve transcribed it here, since I find these instructions intriguing and thought others might, too. 

 There is another world, the world of magic. You can control it, but you cannot see it. What good is that? Would it not be better to see what we are attempting to control?

 I have discovered a way to make visible the magic contained in the words of spells. I obtained it from an apprentice to the High Wizard himself, and can vouch for its accuracy.

 To do this, you will need a complete book of spells. If any spells are missing from the book, it will not work, so check for torn or burned pages.

 Once you have the book, take the table of contents and sprinkle the pages with a solution comprised of the decayed flesh of a waterfowl and fresh water from a moving body, such as a river or creek. Then sprinkle the pages with each substance separately.

 Next, you will need two webs from the same spider and two figs from the same tree. Soak one of the webs in the blood of a servant or slave who is the child of a servant or slave. Wrap it around the fig and place the bundle on an earthen plate. Put the plate into a string net. Wrap the second fig in the second spider’s web and put it also into the net. Sprinkle the net with a solution made from the sweat of a slave who is the child of a slave. Very quickly, open the net to ensure the figs are still there and that only one sits atop the plate, then close the net again. Set the net atop the table of contents in the open book. (If the list lasts several pages, set it atop the first page, though all pages should be sprinkled with the fowl-and-water solution.)

 Be forewarned, the source of these ingredients matter. The servant and spider must belong to your own household. The figs may come from a tree grown elsewhere, as long as both come from the same tree.

 Now, open the net. Demand to see the answer you seek, repeating every word twice, as “I I demand demand to to see see the the magic magic in in this this book book!”

 The solution sprinkled on the table of contents should make the name of each spell in the book appear before you without turning any pages. Touch the name of the spell you wish to see and aloud bind the pages of that spell to yourself. Many words and symbols will appear before you. Ignore them all except the spider web. You will need a piece of ice at this point.

 Every magical vision must be named. Create a name for your vision by saying it aloud. This name should be unique – you may only use it once and never again. As you say the name, throw the piece of ice at the spider web.

 In order to create the vision, you must get the book’s permission to see inside its spells. For this, you will need a Wizard’s Key. The apprentice from whom I learned this spell gave me a copy of his key, and I am giving you a copy of that. Do not make a copy of this key unless you have the permission of the one who gave it to you! This is the trickiest part of creating a magical vision, and without the correct permission, all will fail.

 Place the key inside the book, between the last page and the back cover. If permission has been granted, nothing will happen. If your key is false and the book rejects you, it may shut itself and never let you open it again, or make all its words invisible to your eyes, or some other such dismaying event.

 Since I know the key I give you is good, you should have no trouble.

 The final steps must be performed outside, with no structures nearby. An open field is an ideal location. Load the book and everything you’ve used to create the spell so far into a box and shut the lid. Point at the box and repeat the same demand you made previously.

 Now it is time to see the fruit of your labors. Say the name which you chose for your vision. The spell and all its secrets and inner workings should appear before you.

 As long as you keep everything inside the box, you can conjure this vision at any time. You may move the box to a more convenient location, even bury it, and the spell will still work.

 If you wish to see inside another spell from the same book, simply follow the steps described here. You will not need a new key, and for conjuring any subsequent visions you will not need to take the box outside. Open the box, remove the book, and follow the instructions above regarding touching the name of the spell, creating a new name for your new vision, and sealing it with ice. Then, replace the book in the box, close the lid, repeat your demand, and call the new vision.

 You may conjure several visions from the same book. How many varies from book to book, spell to spell. All I can tell you is, be prudent. Do not try to see inside too many spells from the same book or the book itself may be destroyed and its spells along with it. The High Wizard’s apprentice told me that a good rule to follow is, conjure no more visions from a single book than you have fingers on your right hand.

 Should the book or box come to be destroyed - for whatever reason - save the key. The key cannot be destroyed and may be used over and over again, and passed on when you are finished with it.

 May the magic be with you, your vision clear and full of wonder.

October 14, 2015

Halloween Apple Treat

I saw this clever healthy treat on Pinterest and thought it looked like something that a) I could probably make and b) my kids might actually eat.

Silly Apple Bites from Fork & Beans

This past weekend, I had to bring "a salad" to our parish Fall Festival. I thought apple slices would be easy and kid-friendly, and would give me a chance to try this out.

I think they turned out really well! I used peanut butter & store-bought eyes instead of the allergen-free items recommended in the original recipe. I also only made 3 because that made the plate look festive without taking too much fussy effort.

October 9, 2015

Shortcut Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

I am not ashamed of my love for the PSL. When the weather dips below 70ยบ I'll drink one every day, given the chance. Since I work from home and am not made of money, I've learned to make my own.

The basic (no pun intended) PSL spice recipe is a 4:2:1 ratio of cinnamon to ginger to cloves. This is pretty easy to eyeball: I just sprinkle about the right amount in my hand, toss it in my mug, and add sugar. But first thing in the morning, even that can feel like too much work.

My favorite PSL recipe is more complicated. It's a paleo recipe, but I've found it works fine even with a lot of adjustments to the ingredients. Coconut oil & maple syrup are really delicious, but you can also use plain old milk & sugar. I wanted to be able to make this quickly and easily without searching for 5 different spice jars, so I put together my own spice blend by doubling the quantities in the recipe linked above. I added some sugar to make it easier to sprinkle.

Shake it up well, and you've got a ready-made PSL shortcut in your spice cabinet!

Now I have everything I need to enjoy my favorite coffee drink at home, even if I'm not fully awake yet!

September 24, 2015

Poem: Interrupted

Interrupted by
phone calls
Interrupted by
text messages
Interrupted by
instant message
washing machine chime
calendar reminder
"Are you sure you want to delete this?"
dog barking
oven timer
crashing breaking noise
Now, what was I doing again?

September 17, 2015

Going for a Black Belt in Life

My cousin had been going through a really rough time for the past couple of years. She had a really demanding job and the love of her life was very sick, in and out of the hospital. Emotionally drained, she realized she needed to take better care of herself, but wasn't sure where to start.

She read an article about the martial arts that, as she put it, "essentially reframed discipline as doing what you need to in order to protect what is most valuable to you". She thought about the things we do every day toward that goal, and decided why not work on earning belts for these life skills. Set a simple goal and achieve it. Then, when you've mastered it (whenever that is), you add another skill or set of skills to master.

For her, what she eventually decided she needed to master was "creative compassion and joyful justice." She decided to do at least 7 kind and compassionate things for herself each day to earn her yellow belt. The examples she gave were "eat healthy food and drink lots of water and tea, walk, spend some time in stillness, spend some time knitting, and spend some time with my sweetie."
And when she realized that she was doing these things without having to think about them or plan them, she awarded herself her yellow belt.

I thought this was a great idea, and thought about how I could apply it in my own life.
Where I often have trouble is watching out for my health. I don't get enough sleep, I eat unhealthy food, I forget to take medicine or vitamins, and spend too much time sitting. So I'm working on my yellow belt in health. I have a set of modest health-related goals I need to achieve each day, and once I've made them a natural part of my daily routine, I can start thinking about the next life skill I want to master.

In the martial arts, a black belt is never the end. Even black belts keep achieving new levels; there's always more to learn. So as my life and circumstances change, I can keep working on the things I need to learn to have a happy and fulfilling life.

If this idea appeals to you, think about what simple thing you'd like to make an everyday habit. What do you want to get your yellow belt in, and what do you need to do to achieve it?

May 26, 2015

Poem: The Spider

I found this poem while looking through some archived files from my old old computer. I wrote it back when I was in college at Sewanee.

photo illustration by S. King

The Spider

The other day I paused as I was walking down the hall;
I spied a tiny spider that was hanging from the wall.
Its silken thread shone slightly, its translucent body pale,
And it swung a little in the breeze I made when I exhaled.
I held my fingers out so that the spider hovered near.
It acquiesced to climb upon them without any fear.
From fingertip to fingertip, to knuckle, thumb, and nail
The spider spun its little web, and made my hand a veil.
I stood transfixed as I admired this fragile work of art,
This tapestry of gossamer of which I was a part,
When suddenly I felt the sting of brazen insect teeth;
I smashed my hand against the wall, the spider underneath.
It was a pity, but I feel no taint upon my virtue
For a thing of beauty is a joy until it tries to hurt you.

May 22, 2015

Bottle Cap from the Future

My husband often leaves bottle caps lying around. It's something we used to argue about, and now, after more than a decade of marriage, joke about. I've given up trying to break him of the habit and just throw them away myself.

This morning I picked up a Stone IPA bottle cap off the kitchen counter and was going to throw it away, but paused, struck by what was printed inside it.

I know exactly what every one of those icons and symbols mean. I know exactly what Stone Brewing is trying to tell me and how to get in touch with them, should I desire to do so.

But how would this bottle cap look to someone from 20 years ago?

In 1995, I had already built my first web page, but the internet was still in its infancy. Enough people were familiar with Windows 3.1 and Mac OS 7 that these logos might remind them of computer icons, vaguely. But they'd have no idea what the symbols stood for. They might interpret it as meaning something like "Please do good and protect nature by recycling this metal object." (Anyone else remember the dolphin icons on cans of tuna from back then?)

What if this bottle cap traveled back in time 30 years?

A person from 1985 might be impressed by the quality of the printing. They might think these symbols were some sort of nifty logos or decorations that the brewing company put there as branding. Or they might think they were some kind of instructional relic from the bottling plant, telling the bottle cap quality inspector where this cap was made, which beer it should go with, and how much pressure to use on the capping machine. Like laundry symbols for manufacturing.

If I traveled back in time with this bottle cap, what would people from the past think if I told them that these four symbols and this one string of letters were enough to find out everything there was to know about the beer company, to see pictures, learn how the beer is made, find every variety made and discover where to buy it? The closest analogue from back then would be a 1-800 number, and that really doesn't even come close.

I think if I told people from 20 or 30 years ago about how we communicate today, it would blow their minds. They would really think we're living in the future.

March 24, 2015

Poem: Acorns

photo by womanimal
Be careful when you walk this path.
Your huge, galumphing feet cannot feel
The many tiny things they trample.
An acorn is just a seed,
A small nut, 
Until it's broken.
Stomp on that acorn, crack it,
And it will grow
Tenacious tendrils into the soil.
Sufficient broken acorns 
Convert a clear path
Into an unyielding thicket of scrub oak.
Acorns cannot choose where they land,
How or when they fall
From the mother oak.
They did not willfully place themselves
Along your path.
So, please, tread carefully.
Mind how you step
On the little nuts in your midst.

February 17, 2015

When Taking Is Giving

"What can I give you for your birthday?"
"Oh, nothing, please! I already have everything I need."

It's a conversation I've participated in many times, both asking and answering. We want to give gifts to our friends and family to show that we love them. But the longer you live, the more material stuff accumulates and the less you find you actually need. So it becomes more and more difficult both to give and receive gifts that are truly welcome and appreciated.

My house is filled with decades' worth of accumulated junk. Some is sentimental, some valuable,  some useful, and quite a bit is none of the above. I'm guessing I'm not the only person I know in this predicament. Things get put away when they're no longer needed - baby clothes in the attic, vases in the back of a closet - and the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon kicks in. Eventually the unneeded stuff starts taking up so much space that the things I do need and want spill out into the living area, turning it into a storage area.

Simplicity is serenity. I want to get rid of the things I don't need, but I become overwhelmed trying to sort through it all. I make periodic trips to Goodwill. I shred, trash, recycle and consign, but still it seems that there's always more stuff lurking in the corners of my home.

And so I imagine a party that's like the opposite of a birthday party. An un-birthday party, if you will. The guests don't bring presents for me. Instead, I give things to them. I picture them roaming my house, like the guys on American Pickers, finding treasures in my closets and attic.

"What a nice purse!"
"Like it? It's yours!"
"I've been looking for a lemon juicer like this."
"Well now you've found one. Take it!"
"That baby puzzle has the pieces ours is missing!"
"Great! Now you've got a whole one."

I wrap all the gifts in festive paper and bags and put bows on top, then hand them back for guests to take home. I tell my friends that no thank-you note is necessary, because they have just given me the best gifts imaginable: space, time, and peace of mind.

"What can I take from you for your birthday?"

February 15, 2015

Poem: Forgotten

My socks are cotton,
Not silk;
Not black or argyle or paisley.
When I sit with legs crossed
My ankle is exposed.
It's obvious I don't belong
Here among stone columns
And gilt ceilings
And echoing marble floors.
In theory, I own this building.
In practice, it belongs
To the silk-sock comped-lunch hunt club crowd,
Those men who know and recognize
Others of their kind.
Me, they can safely ignore,
Sitting and waiting
In this elegant hallway:
A forgotten stranger
With white cotton socks.