The ABCs of Thankfulness

I’ll be honest, I don’t feel very thankful this year. I feel scared, worried, confused and when I don’t feel that way, I’m almost immediately drawn back into it. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I’m grateful for, especially my husband, my dog, my sisters, friends near and far who have been a comfort these past few weeks.

Almost every year since having a blog, I’ve done the ABCs of Thankfulness. I’m not ready to give up that tradition, despite everything else. This year it’s a little bit different, though. My greatest comfort lately has been words. I’ve been reading in a way I haven’t in a long time. I thought this year I would recommend books, poems, authors, songs, A-Z, that might be a comfort to you as they have been to me. (Ok, I had trouble with V, X, & Z and life’s too short, so not quite A to Z.)

Alejandro Zambra, Multiple Choice – A biting, darkly funny and poignant book in the form of a standardized test, about life and authoritarianism.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott – I think Bird by Bird is worth reading, whether you have writerly aspirations or not. Lammott is funny and motivational.

Cutting Season, The by Attica Locke – Locke is quickly becoming a must-read author for me. I loved everything about The Cutting Season.

Didion, Joan, Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem was so familiar, almost as if I’d read it before, because it’s so iconic and so clearly such a major reference for essay writers today. “Goodbye to All That” was so true, still.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – This book is a beautiful gift.

Flood Coming” by Ada Limón – “the ink bleeds out the day’s undoing/and here we are again: alive.”

Graham, Lauren, Someday, Someday Maybe (and also Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life) – So grateful for new episodes of Gilmore Girls tomorrow and also for surprisingly fun, delightful easy reads like Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday Maybe. I can’t wait to read Graham’s memoir Talking As Fast As I Can, either.

Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees – This book is so expertly crafted it was a joy to read, despite its dark subject matter.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” by Kevin Young – “Loneliness is a science – ”

Jones, Diana Wynne – I’m hoarding Jones’s novels and perhaps it was just for this year. So far, I’ve only read Howl’s Moving Castle and Fire & Hemlock. There’s still so much to read.

Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF – I was surprised at how charming and delightful this was. If you’re feeling grumpy and terrible, this might improve your mood.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr. – A must-read, especially now.

Making a Fist” by Naomi Shihab Nye – “My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.”

Ng, Celete, Everything I Never Told You – Atmospheric and such a great debut. I can’t wait to read what Ng writes next.

O‘Brien, Tim, The Things They Carried – I have a feeling this deserves a reread in 2017.

Portrait of a Figure near Water” by Jane Kenyon – “we think we burn alone/and there is no balm”

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile – I haven’t had a chance to watch the show based on this book, but the book is great and I can’t wait to watch.

Russel, Mary Doria, The Sparrow – 

South” by Natasha Trethewey – “of understory – a dialectic of dark/and light – and magnolias blossoming/like afterthought”

Tower of Song” by Leonard Cohen, covered by Martha Wainright

Upstream by Mary Oliver

Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang

Youn, Monica, Blackacre – “your hands trace tentative arcs–/anticipating a familiar/tension, some unseen strand–“


Quotes & Words – Week of Nov 13

The past 10 days have been hard and I think things are only going to get harder. But words, books, stories still have power and they’ve been a comfort this past week. I hope that continues, so this post is an effort to share with you the books, words, quotes that have made a difference to me over the past week. 

Books read:

Upstream by Mary Oliver
Blackacre by Monica Youn
A Woman of Property by Robyn Schiff
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Poems read:

“The Break” by Bettina Judd at The Offing
“Making a Fist” by Naomi Shihab Nye

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” – Mary Oliver, Upstream

“How wonderful that the universe is beautiful in so many places and in so many ways. But also the universe is brisk and businesslike, and no doubt does not give its delicate landscape or its thunderous displays of power, and perhaps perception, too, for our sakes or our improvement. Nevertheless, its intonations are our best tonics, if we would take them. For the universe is full of radiant suggestion. For whatever reason, the heart cannot separate the world’s appearance and actions from morality and valor, and the power of every idea is intensified, if not actually created, by its expression in substance. Over and over in the butterfly we see the idea of transcendence. In the forest we see not the inert but the aspiring. In water that departs forever and forever returns, we experience eternity.” – Mary Oliver, Upstream

epiphyte, n – a plant that grows harmlessly on another plant

deodand, n – a thing forfeited or given to God, specifically, in law, an object or instrument which becomes forfeit because it has caused a person’s death

“one siren stains the morning in concentric rings” – Monica Youn, Blackacre

“you are possibility’s possibility” – Bettina Judd, “The Break”

“There are entire worlds that exist just beneath our notice of them.” – Nicola Yoon, Everything, Everything

“Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.”
– Naomi Shihab Nye, “Making a Fist”

In which I admit to buying 43 books in one day.


When I casually mentioned the other day that I “bought 4o books at a book fair,” Jenny rightfully called me out for not sharing more. “Know your audience,” she said. I KNOW, BUT I’M ALSO SLIGHTLY EMBARRASSED, JENNY.

Still, I wouldn’t want to disappoint.

Do you want to feel good about your book buying habits? This is the post for you! When I started writing it, I thought, “40 was surely an exaggeration!!” Turns out I’m much better at guessing exactly how many books are in a pile than I thought. My husband and I bought 43 books in one day. 


I already had too many books. I already vowed to actually read them before we moved next so I didn’t move books for a third time without reading them. Is this a sickness?

My shame aside, the Green Valley Book Fair is a magical warehouse in the middle of the mountains in Virginia (very near to Cabeswater, if that’s your thing) that has thousands of books for less than $5. Because I am a nerd, I had a lengthy conversation with the cashier about where all the books come from. Many of them are remainders, but the book fair also buys overstock from big companies like Costco.


I loved all the pins and paper from people who have visited the Green Mountain Book Fair from around the world.

Beyond the cheap books, there were just so many people there excited about books. And you never know what you’re going to find. There were lots of bestsellers, but also lots of undiscovered gems.

So here’s the list – anything I should read first??????? Help me. I need to do a lot of reading.

  1. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
  2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  3. Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King, Mark Jude Poirier, Nancy Ahn
  4. A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing Practice by Jordan Rosenfeld
  5. Etta & Otto & Russell & James by Emma Hooper
  6. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  7. The Write Brain by Bonnie Neubauer
  8. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  9. Love, Anger, Madness by Marie Vieux-Chauvet and Rose-Myriam Rejouis
  10. The Duff by Kody Keplinger
  11. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  12. Dishing Up Virginia by Patrick Evans-Hylton and Edwin Remsberg
  13. Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
  14. Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane
  15. The Wizard’s Dilemma by Diane Duane
  16. Wizards at War by Diane Duane
  17. A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane
  18. Wizard’s Holiday by Diane Duane
  19. The Final Descent by Rick Yancey
  20. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
  21. Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  22. Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco
  23. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  24. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  25. What Do I Want to Do With My Life? by Po Bronson
  26. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  27. Tuna by Richard Ellis
  28. China in Ten Words by Yu Hua and Allan H. Barr
  29. The Chinese Brush Painting Bible by Jane Dwight
  30. Butterfly People by William R. Leach
  31. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  32. The Boneshaker by Kate Milford and Andrea Offermann
  33. The Broken Lands by Kate Milford and Andrew Offermann
  34. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
  35. The Moment of Everything by Shelly King
  36. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
  37. Schooling by Heather McGowan
  38. Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall
  39. Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin
  40. Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone
  41. A First Course in Cheese by Charlotte Kamin and Nathan McElroy
  42. The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook by Erin Coopey
  43. Meals in a Jar by Julie Languille


Weekly Treasures – September 9



Bingsoo, shaved milk, wicked snow. Perfect for the last hot days of summer.

Did you know how cute wombats are? Maybe you’re like me and you have a general understanding that wombats are a thing, but you don’t know just how cute they are. Let me tell you… they are adorable. Did you also know that you can have a wombat experience in Australia? I mean, I just think that’s a good enough reason to go to Australia.

“May it be infinite while it lasts.” Quoted in the comments on Elizabeth Gilbert’s post about her new relationship with her best friend, Rayya Elias: a Portuguese love poem by Vinicius de Moraes.

African violet granny square – just what I was looking for, literally. I found a similar image on Pinterest, with no pattern of course, and googled every variety of “flower granny square colorful” that I could think of. I finally found the pattern while looking for something else entirely. Thank you, search engine gods. Here is my version. I’m in love:


Mahjong. Michael and I played mahjong for the first time this past weekend and we had such a great time. (And, if I do say so myself, we were naturals.) We’re currently shopping for our own set, which lead me down the rabbit hole of trying to find a vintage set. Many of the vintage sets I came across were from the 1920s and had English translations on them. Turns out, there was a huge mahjong craze in the US in the 1920s. This article is fascinating and discusses mahjong in Chinese American and Jewish American cultures, and the US at large. We’re still on the hunt for our perfect mahjong set. I’ll let you know when we find it.

Edited to add: I bought a mahjong set!

What were your treasures this week?

Readers Imbibing Peril


Hermine, destructive though she was, brought delightful, cool weather this Labor Day weekend, and though I know the temperatures are going to skyrocket back into the 90s later this week, I’m enjoying this preview of fall. With the arrival of cooler temperatures, fresh school supplies, and colorful leaves, is simply the best time of year for reading, too: Readers Imbibing Peril.

Readers Imbibing Peril is hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings and it’s always a delight. Get out your mystery, suspense, thrillers, horror, gothic, and dark fantasy novels. Join us.

Last year, my blog was dormant during RIP X, I did manage to read The Cutting Season by Attica Locke, which was a great thriller if you’re still looking to round out your list.

This year, I’m trying hard to not buy anymore books (I should admit, this is because I bought about 40 at a recent book fair) and I’d really like to read through some of the books that I did buy. And for someone who loves RIP-type books, I really don’t seem to buy that many. My list is small, but that’s probably for the best.


Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The Dark Tower by Stephen King
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
What You See in the Dark by Manuel Muñoz
Ghostly by Audrey Niffenegger

Happy reading!

Weekly Treasures

typewriterJust a list of the little things I’ve loved this week. 

My new Olympia typewriter. She’s so pretty.

This playlist to make all your Stranger Things synthesizer dreams come true, by tumblr user sashayed.

Searching for “melancholy” on 8tracks and finding this beautiful mix. Sometimes I just need rainy day music, even when the weather is perfect.

8tracks in general has been a gift this week.

A long weekend, with plans, but lots of free time, too. I’ll be reading lots of books and knitting blankets.

Leftover wedding Prosecco.

A delightful Jane Eyre pin that I just couldn’t resist.

This yarn bowl. I can’t even describe the sound I made when I saw this cutie.


Book sale PSA: Barnes & Noble has a 40% off coupon. Go, buy books!


To grow, to change, to expand.

Welcome to This is the Refrain. 

Refrain (n.) – A phrase or line repeated at intervals within a poem, especially at the end of a stanza. (Poetry Foundation)

Refrain (n.) – late 14c., from Old French refrain “chorus” (13c.), alteration of refrait, noun use of past participle of refraindre “repeat,” also “break off,” from Vulgar Latin*refrangere “break off,” alteration of Latin refringere “break up, break open” (see refraction) by influence of frangere “to break.” Influenced in French by cognate Provençal refranhar “singing of birds, refrain.” The notion is of something that causes a song to “break off” then resume. OED says not common before 19c. (Online Etymology Dictionary)

To break up, break open. A repetition. To stop, reflect, and begin again.

A refrain is the thing the grounds us in a poem or song. It’s the moment we know all the words. It can be a comfort. It can be a return. It can be jarring and uncomfortable.

The singing of birds. I don’t know what to say about that, but it’s beautiful.

You might know me as Lu or Leslie, blogger at Regular Rumination. A long time ago, I lost what made blogging and writing about books great. There was a fire that had gone out. For a while, I kept up appearances. But between moving, getting married, moving again, blogging and reading took a backseat to the rest of everything. Unlike the other times this happened, I found it difficult to return to Regular Rumination when things settled down. In many ways, it just felt like a relic from a different time in my life, one that hadn’t grown with me.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to give it one more chance or just start fresh, and it’s pretty clear what I’ve chosen. It’s time to find a blog that fits this version of me.

Here’s what I know: something is missing and I intend to find it. “This is the Refrain” came from the idea of getting back to the core of why I started writing about books to begin with: a love, not just of words and books, but of story. Regular Rumination was never supposed to be a book blog, though that’s what it became.

I don’t know what This is the Refrain is yet. I’m not giving it any labels. But there are four things that I feel are missing from my current day to day that I would like to find again:

Creativity, curiosity, spark, practice. 

Creativity: Can I tell you a secret? I found wedding planning to, mostly, be a joy. It was such a fulfilling outlet for my creativity and now that it’s three months past, I’ve had a hard time filling that gap. I hope to not only have a creative outlet in This is the Refrain, but also to explore new ones.

Curiosity: It’s easy for me to fall into cynicism, to feel like I’ve seen it all. I’m trying to break that habit. I want to explore, to ask questions, to recognize that I don’t know it all. I need to ask for advice. I’m working on it.

Spark: I’m going to be honest. In first drafts of this post, spark just spoke to me as one of the four, but I’m struggling a little bit to decide what it means. I’ve tried substituting other words, tried to get to the root at what I was getting at, but nothing sounds quite as good as spark and the poet in me is inclined to go with my word-choice gut. Maybe it’s not ignoring the flash-in-the-pan, lightning moments of inspiration that take a little care to ignite. Maybe it’s sparking life and light back into my writing, art, and reading. Maybe it’s a place holder for now.

Practice: The other three are useless if there isn’t also practice. This is a lesson I know logically, but one I need to learn practically. Here I am, ready to learn.

But beyond art and story and reading and writing, I’ve missed the connections that I made through Regular Rumination. I know it’s not going to be the same, but I hope that we can connect again.

Welcome to This is the Refrain. I’m happy you’re here.