“The Lanyard” by Billy Collins

I was lounging on the couch between shows on the local public-television station when Billy Collins‘s wry reading of “The Lanyard,” recorded for the PBS series Poetry Everywhere, first captured my attention. His delivery cracked me up, especially because I remember weaving lanyards myself at 4-H camp and not really knowing what to do with them.

Here’s the text of the poem.

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

(video via PBS Arts; text from The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems)

I only ever wished I looked this badass and beautiful when I boxed. :)

Here she is below on a June 16 visit to train with super bantamweight world champion Nonito Donaire and the unrivaled strength & conditioning coaches at Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos, California.

More on Marlen: “Marlen Esparza: Going the Distance” (Vogue, July 2012) || “CoverGirl Gets Olympics-Ready With Two Fresh New Faces” (People StyleWatch, April 3, 2012) || (photo via Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr.)

NBC Latino

When you think about boxing, you don’t necessarily think beautiful. But in the case of Olympic hopeful Marlen Esparza, that’s exactly what CoverGirl thought when they saw her in action.

Houston native Esparza will be making a slash in two fronts as the first woman boxer for the U.S. Olympics team and the first Hispanic Olympian to be the face of CoverGirl.

“I feel that I embody the image of CoverGirl and that anyone can be beautiful, and is deserving of beauty no matter what your personal situation is,” Esparza, 22, told PEOPLE. “You don’t have to be famous to look good.”

CoverGirl’s Marketing director Bruce Katsman says Esparza appeals broadly to the Hispanic community and she has many fans and supporters across all ages and backgrounds, which made her a perfect addition to the CoverGirl family.

“Marlen’s role goes beyond advertising, and includes helping all women feel beautiful and…

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One of the reasons I love farmers’ markets in the Bay Area is that they remind me of the базары I knew and loved in Ukraine. These images remind me of those markets…and of the бабушки at the train stations selling cметана thicker than the richest crème fraîche I’ve ever had in the States. I remember too that some Ukrainians would sell gallon glass jars of grass-grazed milk so fresh, I could smell its creaminess just as I passed by on the way to market. The sellers would carefully lay out dishtowels on the hoods of their cars and set the jars atop them.









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I think my secret place was always books, especially childhood favorites that felt familiar and yet also opened me up to the possibilities of learning about other worlds (the Anne of Green Gables series, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). But it was also the almond orchards behind my parents’ house, where I’d wander on balmy afternoons and pretend I was hunting in a jungle. After I moved away to college, it became the coast, where I’d watch and listen to the waves crashing against rock or lapping the sand.

It also became the front stoop of my parents’ house, where upon homecoming I’d gingerly sit down past midnight after the rest of the house had gone to sleep, just to be alone and look up at the stars. Their distance put my world in perspective but also reminded me of the continuity of the ages, and gave me such a feeling of wholeness and peace. I remember it being so quiet except for the faint chirping of crickets and a distant train whistle occasionally punctuating the silence.

Flandrum Hill

Whether you’re six or sixty, if you don’t already have a secret place where you can be uninterrupted by yourself, perhaps it’s time you found one.  Either in nature or near it, such a place offers you the opportunity to escape from the world for a few minutes and just… enjoy the view.

Your secret window on the natural world allows you to be refreshed and restored with a minimum investment of time.  You needn’t engage with anything except your imagination.

Your secret place need not be large or spacious.  You only need room enough to hunker down for a short while to take a moment from the demands of the world.  A woodland setting is ideal, but  less remote places offer good possibilities too:  a spot beneath a special tree or the quiet corner of a deck, balcony, rooftop or beach.

Even a secluded park bench or stone can…

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Dutch baby

On my lesser bucket list I’ve had “try a Dutch baby” for a long, long time. Look at it. It’s just so golden and puffy and eggy, with crisp edges perfect for melting a little whipped butter and a dusting of powdered sugar, then dunking into some syrup. So today, after a dental check-up no less, I headed over to The Original Pancake House for a shot at one. Behold.

Work had decided to give us a five-day weekend for the Fourth of July and Summer Friday…woo!…and doing whatever I like on a weekday that would otherwise find me at the office just feels so giddy and decadent. Clearly this is a case of pancake matching mood. And now I can say I’ve tasted one.

To make a version of the Dutch baby at the home, check out David Eyre’s Pancake from food52 or this version from Gourmet.

A Collection a Day

Speaking of Lisa Congdon and her project 365 Days of Hand Lettering, I also like her Collection a Day series. First became acquainted with it through 20×200, when her print Day 256: Vintage Airline Tags caught my eye.

I bought an 8×10 copy and propped it up on one of my bookshelves at work. It appeals to my inveterate love of collecting ephemera to arrange neatly in my scrapbook. Amsterdam! London! Athens! New York! Baggage tags are just slips of paper that tell whole stories of trips.

Later I discovered that Congdon also sells A Collection a Day notecards in her Etsy shop. Shelled out for series #1 (check out series #2 here); the card stock is silky soft to the touch, adding another dimension to the tactile nature of letter writing.

Vintage light bulbs, painting tubes, and sewing supplies
from Lisa Congdon’s A Collection a Day Notecard Series Number 1

Note: Everything in the shop is currently 15 percent off through Friday, July 6. But if you’re too late, be sure to check her Facebook page for future discounts.

“Collectors are happy people.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe