Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolved to Resolve

I've avoided thinking about resolutions--they are almost cliches--lose weight, exercise, eat better, stop smoking. All but the last could be my resolutions. In fact, they have been my resolutions over the years Of course, I added write more.

Reviewing 2011, I found that I didn't accomplish much. But then I realized that I hadn't set specific goals for myself. For example, in November, I thought about NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) but didn't commit to it even to myself. My November posts were sparse.

Earlier tonight, I goggled SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely. That's what I need to do if I really want to make resolutions or goals for 2012.



Friday, December 30, 2011

The Trap of Holiday Expectations

My favorite blog Shakesville recently had a discussion post about holiday dread http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/12/discussion-thread-holiday-dread.html.

We are under so much pressure to make the season bright and most of us fall short.

I remember bursting into tears at a shopping center on Christmas Eve; I had been too busy with college exams to shop and was exhausted.  During my first semester of law school, I was stressing about exams over the holidays after being diagnosed with hepatitis. Another year I was frustrated by relatives who spent Christmas day watching a Rambo marathon.

I realize these are minor concerns. The Shakesville thread made for some tough reading.

The thread got me thinking about all the pressure holidays generate. For Christmas you're supposed to buy gifts--maybe expensive or trendy, maybe meaningful, maybe personally crafted. There's also baking, decorating, cooking, throwing the perfect party. On New Year's Eve, you're supposed to be at some fabulous event preferably with a significant other to share a New Year's kiss. Let's not even get into Valentine's Day.

I think the worst part of these unrealistic expectations is that they are media or marketing created. Retail makes most of its annual profits after Thanksgiving. It's difficult to go out to dinner on New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day without a special (expensive) menu, Flower prices are hiked for Valentine's and Mother's Day.

Consumption rules.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Worst Is Over

Our renovations are almost complete. The last major part was the hardwood floor installation last Monday. Unfortunately, we need to deal with all the television cables that have been unearthed in the process. The cable guy who came this Monday was less than helpful. In better news, we've had our windows measured and ordered shades. They will take about four weeks.

I was overly optimistic and a bit naive about the recovery process. I had hoped that I could quickly put each room back together after its renovations were complete. But when you have only about 1,000 square feet, there's not a lot of leeway. And I want to do this right--make a conscious decision to keep every item we put away. I've trashed some items and have a box of clothes and linens for the Thrift Shop or Goodwill.

My friend Elaine said do a little each day. I would be fine with that normally but it's almost Christmas. I can't put up decorations when the condo looks like half of its contents have been vomited around the unit.

I'll just have to take some small consolation that it's now only half the contents.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Renovation Ravings

I am exhausted. Jeff and I finished emptying out both bedrooms tonight. Tomorrow morning I'll strip the bed linens, move the clothes we need for the next two days and move the few remaining items that we'll need such as the clock radio. The carpet installers will move the large pieces.

We are entering our ninth week of work. I've learned a few lessons that I may never have the opportunity to apply. For one thing, I should have started and given up on the wallpaper removal long before I did. We might be done by now if I had done so.

I should have made sure I had all the options before I decided on a change in the bathroom design. While we needed to make some change (the installers could not get the Corian wall piece into the bathroom) I let my fear of being without a shower make me make too quick a decision. We are still trying to make that decision right.

Someone recently asked me if we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. If I look at the steps in the process, we can see the light. The kitchen and baths are done (except for window treatments which we looked at yesterday) and a few paint touch-ups. Painting is completed in both bedrooms and the carpeting will be installed tomorrow. Next is painting the living room and dining area and installing the hardwood floors. The last step is window treatments. Well maybe not the last step. Jeff is talking about replacing the couch and I'd like to replace the loveseat/sofa bed in the second bedroom. Plus I want to only put things back that we really want to keep. That's what I did in the kitchen and it took me about two weeks. Pack rat Jeff is resisting me on this, but maybe the hard work we did to empty all the things in the bedrooms will help.

Soon our place will look beautiful--I can't wait to see it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Voted Today

We don't have any big elections this year in Connecticut so turnout was low. Some people are still without power after the snowstorm ten days ago or their polling places are being used as shelters.

Norwalk did have a mayoral election. I must confess I haven't followed it closely. It's a big difference from a 2001 campaign when I was a volunteer. I briefly toyed with the idea of not voting, because I hadn't been focused but I couldn't justify that.

Too many women gave up too much to give me that right. Women have had the vote for less than 100 years. I can't squander the right that they thought so hard to win for me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Seen

Bumper stickers on a car in the Norwalk Hospital parking lot:

Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about things that matter.

Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

Artists are here to disturb the peace.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

The needs of the many outweigh the greed of the few.

The Labor Movement "The folks who brought you the weekend."

Namaste

Abuse an animal, go to jail.


I'd like to meet the person who selected those stickers.

Fall Back

I still haven't written a companion piece to my "Spring Forward" poem
http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/03/spring-forward-poem.html but today is the fall back counterpart.

This is one time each year that I can trust in the government--it did return the hour that it took in the spring, but what about the interest? Shouldn't we be entitled to a few more minutes?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy 11th Birthday Spike!




Spike turned 11 today. We celebrated with a trip to the dog park and a filet mignon dinner with a Frosty Paw. (Although I have to admit that that sounds like a normal Saturday in many ways.)

Spike has been part of our life since he was just over a year old. Our life would be deficient without him. I hope he would have had a good life without us, but I know no one could love him more than Jeff and I do. I like to think that the three of us are destined to be together.

The photo above is from our first Bark in the Park at Shea Stadium. We walked the warning track around the field and Spike looks like he enjoyed it as much as we did.

Happy Birthday with love.


Last of the Dark: Mornings at the Dog Park

Jeff started working in lower Manhattan in late April. Most mornings I drive him to the South Norwalk railroad station at 6:30; there's a long wait to get a parking permit at the station garage.

At some point, I decided to take Spike to the dog park after I dropped Jeff off. Spike needs a morning walk anyway and it's nice to go to a place where he can be off-leash and see other dogs. We got into a routine doing a loop or two with Chris and Kira, sometimes with Roberta and Bugs, sometimes with Courtney and Cash.

The past few weeks,  the mornings have grown darker--we arrive around 6:45--I've been wielding a flashlight just in case. I remember that Balien was sprayed by a skunk in early morning.

The upside of early fall mornings have been: beautiful orange suns  (reminding me of this song. ) the silhouette of boat masts against the sound, and the rosy and violet glows of sunrise on the horizons.

Soon daylight savings will come to an end and our morning dog park visits will be in full daylight.

Part of me will miss the dawn.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back to (Kitchen and Bathroom) Business

For the past five weeks I've been obsessed with home renovations. We started with the kitchen cabinets, then the countertops and backsplash, followed by the floor. Unfortunately I didn't realize that I should have removed the wallpaper first. The wallpaper is proving recalcitrant and I am growing more and more frustrated. Wallpaper removal is delaying painting.

But at least the kitchen is usable. It took a long time to get there because the old contact paper was hard to remove. Plus I rethought all my dishes, glassware, etc. before deciding what to keep in the kitchen and what to donate to the Treasure House Thrift Store. I had no idea how many items were in those cabinets until I had to take them all out of the kitchen.

We're getting there. Painting is next, then carpeting in the bedrooms, hardwood floors in the living and dining areas. The last thing is window treatments.

Can we do this by Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Taste of Winter

On Saturday, we had an unprecedented snowstorm in October. We got off relatively easy here--only a few inches of snow in Norwalk (many towns in Connecticut got over a foot) and we were among the 68 percent in town who didn't lose power. Since Saturday, it's warmed up again so much of the snow has melted and we're seeing the odd juxtaposition of patches of snow and patches of flowers.

It's been just over two months since Hurricane Irene hit which also created many downed tree limbs and major power outages.

Something is wrong with this picture.

It's not just this corner of the world. Floods, droughts, extreme temperatures, tsunamis anyone?

Yet there are some who ignore all these signs and warnings. Those who extoll man's mastery over nature but claim we are too insignificant to effect earth's climate. The Republican presidential candidates seem to channel the anti-scientist views of the original series V. Lock them up and throw away the keys--how else can we solve our problems?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

As a kid, I loved Halloween. I mean what wasn't to like? Dressing up, enjoying a costume party at school, getting candy from everyone. My mother was a talented seamstress and could create whatever costumes we wanted. I remember one year I was Cousin Itt from the Addams family.

I believe that I am of the last generation to go out trick-or-treating. I remember heading out with a pillow case with my friends with no parents along to chaperone.  Today I rarely see kids out without their parents. I think parents take young kids around their neighborhood in the daytime or take them to supervised parties. We haven't had trick-or-treaters at our door in years.

As an adult, I wasn't particularly into Halloween until we met Jenn and John at the dog park. They are true aficionados--they have a party every year with a theme (this year was Heaven and Hell) and they decorate their house inside and out. This year Jeff and I dressed as devils--not particularly creative but kind of fun. The most creative costumes were made by the couple who channeled angel food cake and devil dogs.  (I had thought that Jeff could go as Mets outfielder Angel Pagan who would have been relatively easy to recreate and I could be devil's food cake which I had no idea how to accomplish.)

I'm already thinking about next year's theme: Tim Burton films--my favorite is Ed Wood.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thoughts on the Regular Season--non-Mets Edition

Both the National and the American League wild card races went to the last game of the season.

They called it the most amazing night of regular season baseball.

On Wednesday September 28th, the Cardinals easily beat the Astros to advance while the Braves struggled against the Phillies, falling 4-3 in the 13th. It was labeled an unprecedented collapse--the Braves had led the Cardinals by 10 1/2 games on August   26th.

But then there was Boston. The Red Sox lost a nine game lead from September 3rd. It was the worst September in Red Sox history and beat the 1964 Phillies' record (the name Gene Mauch filled my sister with terror) for the worst collapse.

As they lost, the Red Sox may have figured that they would still have a chance in the one-game playoff against the Tampa Rays. But the Rays made an incredible comeback against the Yankees: down 7-0, they scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth and added the tying run in the 9th before securing a walk-off win in the 12th.

Anything can happen in baseball; therein lies its charm.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thoughts on the Regular Season--Mets Edition

I'm watching the playoffs. I love baseball and hope to see some great games. I don't have a particular team I'm rooting for--I'm okay with the Brewers or Phillies in the National League. I'll root for anyone but the Yankees in the American League.

Back to the subject of this post with an understatement: the Mets gave us little to cheer about this year.

The little: I got back to Citi Field and saw a good game. I enjoyed games with scrappy play and clutch hits (and tried to forget the others.) Jose Reyes became the first Met to win a batting title. (His exit from Game 162 immediately after his first at-bat was strange, but nothing that bothered me very much.)

In the eternal spirit of wait till next year, let's do some rose-colored speculation for the 2012 season.

I believe (hope) that Reyes will stay in New York.
I like Terry Collins--he seems like a good match for the team. 
I'm hopeful about next season's contributions from Tejada, Turner, Duda, Gee and Dickey.
The Madoff mess may not be as bad as feared.

Let's go 2012 Mets!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's Happening to my Kitchen?

Renovation.

I didn't realize how many things I had in my kitchen.

I didn't understand that I would lose my kitchen sink on day one.

But in a week or so, it will be gorgeous, right?

Sigh. It's only the beginning...bathrooms, flooring, painting and window treatments will follow.

Sometimes I wish we could just move into a new place instead.

Too Little, Too Late

On Saturday afternoon, we went to Citi Field for a Mets game for the first time in two years. RA Dickey took a no-hitter into the seventh inning (after being perfect through five.) I joked at the end of the first inning that he had a no-hitter--hope I didn't jinx it. A no-hitter remains an elusive goal for the Mets.

The Phillies scored first in the seventh and I had a sinking feeling that Dickey's great performance was wasted. Enter Valentino Pascucci (who?)  in the bottom of the seventh who homered. David Wright doubled in the winning run in the eighth. We returned home to watch the Mets beat the Phillies again in the nightcap.

A sweep was a pleasant surprise: I had prepared myself for defeats. But I couldn't help but be disappointed that the games were essentially meaningless--the Phillies had already won the NL East and the Mets' poor home stand ensured that they would have a losing season.

Regardless of the mounting disappointments over the past five years, I am a Mets fan. Being a Mets fan has become a part of my identity. I hope their current lows will only serve to enhance their future highs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Summer's Almost Gone

This song has been going through my head for the past month http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwpA3AV1jT8 ever since a cool morning at the dog park when I wore a jacket. Either Chris or Roberta said that summer was over.

I thought that comment was premature. I knew we had several weeks of warm weather to go. But the cool weather this past week seems like a harbinger of the cold to come. And if it's anything like last year, it will be a tough winter.

I don't feel melancholy about the end of summer because autumn is my favorite month. I regret that I haven't done many of the traditional summer things: barbecues, picnics, beach visits. But I will still relish the cool, brisk days ahead.

Atrophy

For me, blogging is like working out.

It's good for me.
I enjoy it especially when I do it on a regular basis.
It's easy to forget about it when I don't do it on a regular basis.

Just as my muscles atrophy from lack of working out, so too do my blogging/writing muscles atrophy from lack of working them. My last post was August 13th and my last gym visit was August 18th. While I have legitimate reasons for missing both activities for a few of the respective 30-plus days, I have no good reason for the others. (Not that I have to make excuses here, but it's something that I'm trying to figure out.)

Let's start working those muscles again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Woe was me

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aahtK6W7l78

I had been stuck in the funk that I recently wrote about. Willpower wasn't enough to get me through it.

Today, I woke up feeling pretty good--I wonder if it was the days wallowing in self pity that got me through.

It reminds me of something I learned studying for the New York bar exam. When I got too stressed, I'd imagine the worse: I'm going to flunk, I'll never pass, I'll never be able to get a job. Somehow giving myself permission to worry allowed me to get beyond my troubles and back to work. (I passed.)

Allowing myself to feel sorry for poor, poor pitiful me with my ten thousand troubles and million woes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRv_FLqvnR4 helped me look beyond myself. I guess I got bored with my troubles and woes. I know I'm a lucky and privileged person. I've got skills, resources and support, therefore, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OO9LloDSJo


Monday, August 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Lucy!

One day late.

Lucille Ball would have been 100 years old yesterday. TCM named her star of the day. Hallmark ran a marthon of I Love Lucy episodes focusing on California, Europe and Connecticut.

I'm much more interested in I Love Lucy than Ball's movie career. The California episodes make up my favorite story line. LA at Last, with William Holden is my favorite episode. I missed some of my other favorite Hollywood shows with John Wayne and Richard Widmark. But I did catch the cheese episode, my favorite of the Europe story line, when Lucy tries to disguise 25 pounds of cheese as a baby on a transcontinental flight.

The Connecticut episodes never particularly appealed  to me, but I love the barbecue episode. This morning I rediscovered the episode in which Lucy, Fred and Ethel pretend to be gangsters to get the Ricardos out of their purchase of the Connecticut house. It was awesome.

Lucy was a comedic genius. Desi also had his moments as a performer and was a great producer.

Happy Birthday Lucy.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's the Little Things...

that mean a lot.

When you're in the middle of a funk, you look to small things that make you happy.

Spike gave me many: a tilt of his head, a smile, the way he looks at me with his stuffed cow Eleanor in his mouth when he wants me to chase him.

Taylor Farm offered: a particularly blue sky, the heron in the tidal pond, a salty sea breeze off the sound that brought back memories of rising and falling in the gentle swells of the Atlantic.

Little things keep me going.

Out of Balance

I thought awhile about the title of this post; should I say off-balance or out of balance? I decided that off-balance connotes a temporary condition, e.g. standing on one leg. My condition has lasted longer than off-balance--I must be out of balance.

It's been almost three weeks since my last post. I started one but actually fell asleep over the keyboard. I'm not getting enough sleep. I've only been to the gym three times in three weeks. Recent heat waves have wiped me out. 

The worst part is that I did much of this to myself. I've let a series of annoying things throw me off track. Instead of a knock-out punch, I was jabbed and poked at from all directions until I fell.

It's on me to figure out how to stay on my feet, ignore the accumulation of mundane, annoying problems and just keep on going.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seen

Sunday evening as Jeff and I were watching "The King's Speech" (good film by the way), I glanced out our living room  window and saw an osprey perched on a cable across the street. We got out our binoculars to take a closer look; he was beautiful.

I first noticed an osprey on the roof of our condominium a few years ago. Our super said one did hang around here. I like to think it is the same bird returning each year, like the heron http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/06/seen-today.html I recently wrote about.

I saw the osprey again yesterday: this time on a wire high above Maple Street.

I'll keep my eyes open.

Certified

Got the word that I've been officially certified to teach the ACT college admission test.

I'm waiting for my written feedback but feedback from the first week was better than I expected so I feel really good. (I was rated "Rockstar" in eight of 10 categories. Yea me!)

I still have a lot of prep work to do: all the homework in the manual, four diagnostic tests and The Book of 1,296 ACT questions. Yes, I do the questions myself. I don't just copy the answer keys; that wouldn't help me help my students.

I'm looking forward to my first ACT tutorial.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back Again

Today I went back to the gym after a week's absence. I had been proud of my routine for the previous three weeks, hitting the gym four times each week.Working out--especially lifting weights--makes me feel stronger and more comfortable in my own skin. Plus I enjoy feeling virtuous about something.

Today also marks a return to blogging after a week of not posting. Basically I've been pre-occupied with my ACT training. I had several hours of video training and reading to complete before live training last Friday night and all day Saturday.

It's not over yet. I've got another full day of live training next Saturday and more prep to do before then.

I wish I had something profound to say. But at least I'm back.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Finding Good Lines in Unexpected Places Part Two

Last week we watched the movie, "The Manster Half Man and Half Monster"  (1959.) I only heard of this movie from the book, The Golden Turkey Awards. It was nominated for The Worst Two-Headed Transplant Movie Ever Made but lost to the classic, "The Thing with Two Heads" starring Academy Award winning actor, Ray Milland.

Now I love good bad movies, such as "Plan 9 from Outer Space" so I had to record this film from TCM. Surprisingly I found some good things in this film.

First, the lead actor Peter Dyneley as Larry Stanford was charming and effective. I believed his brash reporter was ready to leave his globetrotting ways and go home to his wife.

The second thing I liked--the title to this post refers to a line by Larry when his wife Linda suggests that he might be ready to settle down (and after his transformation into the manster has started) "Settle down, like mud in a pool."

I loved that line. Like my first post with this title--it was definitely unexpected http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2010/07/finding-good-lines-in-unusual-places.html.

To post his complete speech:

"Settle down, that's a good way to put it. Settle down, like mud in a pool.
Bridge on Wednesday, cocktails on Thursday, PTA on Fridays."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What I've Been Reading

The Lady in the Tower The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345453212/aliwei-20

It took me a long time to finish this book. That's not criticism of the content or the style. Despite the book's narrow focus--Anne's last days--it goes into great detail with much of her work based on original sources. It also serves as a kind of review of literature and research about Anne. Alison credits some theories and disagrees with others. I found myself often flipping to the notes section which I rarely do.

Alison has written several historical biographies including Henry VIII: The King and His Court. I enjoyed her historical novel, Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey.

I'm sure I'll read her new novel about Mary Boleyn.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Seen Today

I'm teaching a college admissions essay class from 5 to 7 pm, so I've been taking Spike to the dog park in the morning. My pleasure in watching Spike run across fields, explore scents and savor dog park grass, outweighs the annoyance of mosquitoes biting me and pollen threatening to close my breathing passages.

This morning I saw a white heron in the tidal pond. I wrote about one last summer http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2010/07/another-dog-park-morning.html  and like to think it's the same bird. Too late, I remembered that my new cell phone has a camera.

Later today,as I walked Spike down Prospect Street, I saw a woman walking a cat on a leash. If that wasn't odd enough, the woman was also reading a book.

Two Grand Slams? Who are these guys?

On Monday night I wrote (but didn't publish) this:

The good thing about an off day after a big win is the opportunity to relish the win. To many, a .500 record is nothing to celebrate, but hey--I'm a Mets fan. This is the first milestone; the Mets  need to build on this.

Dillon Gee got his eighth win without having his best stuff. The Mets rebounded from a horrible Friday night 8-1 loss to the Texas Rangers and won the series against the reigning American League champions.

Let's go Mets!

***

Tonight the Mets are in Detroit. As I write this in the middle of the 9th, they are up 14-3. This was the Mets' second 14 run offense in the last three games. After 299 games without a grand slam, the Mets hit two (Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran).

Dare I believe?

Friday, June 24, 2011

One Cool Point for Me

I visited jezebel.com the other day and saw this: "The New Trendy Drink Everyone But You Already Knows About."
I clicked on the headline, expecting a cocktail invented by a celebrity bartender that's the toast of the town.

Instead the story was about tea http://jezebel.com/5814198/the-new-trendy-drink-everyone-but-you-already-knows-about. Specifically Rooiboos tea.

At least there's one trend I'm in on. I just made a pitcher of iced Rooiboos yesterday.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Last Morning of Spring

Summer began at 1:15 Tuesday afternoon (how do they get it so precisely?)

Spike and I spent the last spring morning at Taylor Farm dog park--unsure if the first summer afternoon--the solstice--would usher in high humidity and thunderstorms.

Enjoyed Harry Smith's comment that the beginning is also the end of summer.

http://podcast.streetiq.com/streetiq/?GUID=18772258&Page=MediaViewer&ChannelID=4192

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hovering Around .500

For a brief moment, the Mets were a .500 ball club.

Last week I was psyched to watch Tyler Gee get his eighth straight win; unfortunately that didn't happen. Two rain delays combined to knock Gee out without five innings to secure a win. He would have been the Mets' fourth pitcher in franchise history to start a season 8-0. At least the Mets prevailed 4-0 over the Atlanta Braves and made it back to .500.

.500: the start to respectability.

But then the  Braves beat the Mets the following night. I was happy to salvage a Mets' series win but damn, the loss also dropped the Mets back below the line of respectability. And what a way to lose. Frankie Rodriguez blew his first save in months and then the Mets lost on a balk by DJ Carrasco in the 10th inning.

It hasn't been easy to be a Mets fan over the last few years.

In 2006, we got close but fell short. 2007 and 2008 brought devastating season-ending collapses. 2008 was especially painful as the Mets last loss was also the end of baseball at Shea Stadium and dampened post game honors and celebrations.

In 2009, Citi Field opened. That didn't give the Mets the fresh start they needed. A season that began with high hopes ended with a 70-92 record. 2010 was better, but a 79-83 record stings.

On Opening Day, everyone begins with a clean slate. While some pre-season favorites will prevail, we'll also see upsets. A team may leap from worst to first. Miracles happen. But the Mets started the season under dual clouds: doubts about team performance and doubts about ownership finances. I don't expect miracles this year.

2011 has a  few silver linings: Reyes is playing the best baseball of his life; Turner and Tejada have impressed. And I already mentioned Gee.

I'll keep watching.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Divine Discontent

"There was always a kind of divine discontent within him." Patrice Wymore Flynn on Errol Flynn (thanks to TCM Word of Mouth.)

"Divine discontent" is such an incredible phrase that I had to post it. I'd love to take it for a title if I could write a story behind it.

Thanks Patrice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tech Troubles

Thursday morning when I tried to go online, I couldn't. I worked through the onscreen suggestions--the usual turn-off and unplug variety. Then I called my Internet provider and spent about 30 minutes working through an automated help process. Most of that time I was saying, "continue" or "I need more time." My land line (same provider) wasn't working when I first called. My ancient cell phone was dying: I made the call on it, tethered by a charger to outlets while moving from room-to-room to unplug the modem or turn the computer on and off. The next day I had to borrow a friend's cell phone when mine could not store enough battery charge to power on.

These mishaps made me think about how dependent I've become on computer and phone technology. I was one of the last cell-phone adopters. I wasn't comfortable with being always reachable by phone. I hated to see a parade of people walking down the street on their cellphones. Even worse was seeing a similar parade of drivers.

Within days of getting my cellphone, I got stuck in a traffic jam due to construction on I-95. I was relieved that I could call Jeff to let him know why I would be late. I soon got used to that kind of convenience.

I was also slow to get used to writing on the monitor screen. In the olden days, we used to write out things longhand before typing them up. Pen and paper seemed more creative somehow. Now I realize how much easier it is to write directly onto a word document.

Then there's the Internet: research reference, phone directory, repository of records, entertainment center, point of contact.

Sometimes I wonder what it was like to live without electricity. Obviously, electricity is not a necessity; people lived without it for millennia. I romanticized about living in accordance with daily rhythms--working in the daylight, going to bed with the dark, enjoying live concerts and plays instead of listening to CD's and watching TV and movies.

But now...I don't know. I can't romanticize living without the Internet. Barring some catastrophe, I won't have to worry about it.

Back to the cell phone situation. On Sunday, Jeff and I decided enough is enough and ditched our old cell phones for 4G Droids. Now I just have to learn to use them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dog Park Mornings

I recently heard a doctor on one of the morning shows say that pollen is worse in the morning than later in the day. So I've avoided morning visits to the dog park. But yesterday and this morning, I decided to risk pollen rather than deal with temps in middle-to-high 90's.

We arrived each morning around 6:45--a relatively quiet time between the 6 o'clock and 8 am regulars. I felt peaceful as we walked through the shade of the woods, listening to birds and inhaling sweet scents of honeysuckle and mountain laurel.

Yesterday as we walked across the field, I saw a pair of mallards--a male and a female--emerge from the bushes. Spike was intrigued; he moved slowly towards them. Then the female squawked a warning and the two flew off. I wondered about their mating habits and whether they were protecting a nest. It occurred to me that I had never seen ducks at Taylor Farm park before--at least not in the bushes.

Sometimes it's the small things that leave a big impression.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review of the Writing Retreat

At Saturday lunch, I told everyone that I had written four stories that morning. It sounded impressive until I added that the four were six-word stories. I did more writing that afternoon--nothing that I was ready to share--but it was a start.

A presenter at an International Women's Writer Guild retreat once said that retreats aren't about the writing but are about the camaraderie.I disagree; both are important. Getting uninterrupted time to write is a gift.Often writers have to squeeze their writing into spare moments here and there.

I don't mean to dismiss the camaraderie. There's something about being with other writers who understand what you are trying to do and the challenges you face--people who won't be offended when you don't socialize because you need to hide yourself away somewhere to write.

I hope I can get to another retreat before next year.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Not Writing at the Writing Retreat

I've been here at Wisdom House wisdom house litchfield ct since Thursday night and have done virtually no writing. To be precise, I've written my usual morning pages--big deal. I've also written six stories--that may sound impressive until I tell you that these were six-word-stories.

I'm usually fairly productive at these retreats. I relish the opportunity to write without the everyday distractions of chores, errands and other obligations. I show up at appointed times for meals and the rest of my time is my own.

So what's my problem anyway?

I spent about three hours yesterday working on my ACT manual (only to find out last night that the training  may be postponed until mid-July.) I've also spent time socializing and attending workshops.

I fail at finding justifiable excuses.

I still have all day today and a few hours tomorrow to make up for my current lack of production. But willing myself to write because I have to write this weekend is like willing myself to sleep when I have only a few hours until I have to get up. It just makes things harder.

So, I'll try not to pressure myself--just open a notebook or new Word doc and see where I go from there.

Hey, can I count this post as writing?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Time Mis-management

I had planned to spend most of the weekend prepping for ACT training. I want to add ACT students to my tutoring clients.

But it was Monday morning before I finished a practice test. 

I had gone to a craft show Saturday, had brunch with my mother Sunday and there were other diversions and distractions.

On Monday, I realized how much work I had to do.

Since then, I've watched several training videos and worked on my official practice test and manual. Tomorrow I'll hand in the test  before I head to Wisdom House for a writing retreat.
  ***
I need to do some ACT work this weekend.

It's not that big a deal--I got a lot done Monday and Tuesday: I have plenty of time next week--but it's a reminder of something I could have done better.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Holiday Weekend

I prefer to stay close to home on holiday weekends. On a holiday getaway, you have to be prepared for traffic jams, crowds and increased expenses.

A few people asked me about my plans. They were probably surprised to hear that I will be studying to take the ACT http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACT_(test.  This will give me the opportunity to train to teach/tutor the ACT as well as the SAT. I've been wanting to do this for a few years but training wasn't offered. I'm glad that training does not start next weekend--I'm going on a writing retreat then.

Back to the books.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Concerts

The other day I started thinking about musicians I've seen in concert and decided to make a list.

In roughly chronological order:
Wayne Newton - with Jack Benny at some summer music fair
Dave Clark 5 - NJ
Fifth Dimension - Cherry Hill NJ
Chicago - Philadelphia Spectrum, PA
Rare Earth - Cherry Hill NJ Arena
Janis Ian - University of Delaware
Led Zeppelin - Madison Square Garden
Who - Madison Square Garden
Leo Kotke - New York City
Rachel Sweet - Bottom Line New York City
Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Doobie Brothers, John Hall, etc. No Nukes Concert, Madison Square Garden
Who - NJ Meadowlands
Billy Joel - New Haven CT
Howard Jones - New York City
Joe Jackson - New York City
Cyndi Lauper and Eddie Money - New York City
Ramones - Port Chester NY
The Band - Stamford CT
Platters, Drifters, Coasters (licensed bands) Foxwoods Casino CT
Joni Mitchell - Madison Square Garden
Eve 6 - Stamford CT
B-52's - Stamford, CT

That's all I can think of right now. I may add to the list later.

ETA: Howard Jones

Second ETA: Joe Jackson

Third ETA (7-6-11): Cyndi Lauper and Eddie Money

Fourth ETA 2-15-12 B-52's

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Frustration Dreaming

The other night I dreamed that I couldn't submit my work hours online. My boss had just told me that I should submit them at 12. Here it was 12 and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. A coworker told me that I didn't have the second power switch on.

I've always wondered about the real v. fantastic elements in dreams. I do submit my tutoring hours electronically but the computer in my dream looked more like a cross-trainer at the gym. My boss and co-workers in the dream came from two different former employers.

This dream is the latest incarnation of my frustration dreams. Usually I dream that I need to call in sick to work and can't get the telephone to work--the rotary won't turn or the buttons won't depress. Sometimes I realize it's 4 pm and I never called in.

Another variation is that I can't find a restroom to use. They are either out of order or the toilets are completely out in the open.

My sister used to dream that she couldn't remember her locker combination.

I don't think the details are important but frustration is a topic to explore in my journal.

Birthday Getaway Part Two

We were gone only a day and a half, but it felt much longer--a relaxing and mellow getaway.

We left around 10:15, much later than our soft goal of 9 am. But by leaving later, we could go to White Silo Farm & Winery http://www.whitesilowinery.com/ on our way to Interlaken. White Silo specializes in both dry and sweet fruit wines. We tasted a few and checked out the current art show with furniture. We were especially impressed with a piece that looked like a wardrobe but opened into a workstation/desk. It was beautiful but cost $3700.

Our next stop was the Merwinsville Hotel. I suggested we drive down the South Kent Road to see if the old White Peach restaurant had reopened. Apparently a burger place will replace the Peach. We continued down to the hotel http://www.merwinsvillehotel.org/. I checked the calendar on the bulletin board but there wasn't any information that I hadn't seen before (I'm on the Merwinsville Hotel email list.)

On to Kent, where we had brunch and shopped at my favorite store, Foreign Cargo http://www.foreigncargogallery.com/.  Next stop: Kent Falls http://www.stateparks.com/kent_falls.html where we hiked the short but steep trail.

We had been listening to the Mets in the car. By the time we checked in, they had blown their lead against the Yankees. But we didn't let that drag us down. We walked down to the lake and threw the ball for Spike, had wine and cheese and watched the third season finale of Jersey Shore. (To be accurate, I watched Jersey Shore while Jeff took a nap.) Dinner at Morgans was excellent as always http://www.interlakeninn.com/morgans.html.

Monday morning we headed over to Millerton, New York. We did a little antiquing but spent most of our time in the tea tasting room at Harney's http://www.harney.com/visitus.asp

A great mini getaway--I got to go to my favorite restaurant and store and combine many of the things I love to do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Blogiversary to me

One year (and a day) ago I wrote my first post.

In this 145th post, I am still answering the question I raised then, Why a Blog?

For one thing, I enjoy blogging. I get satisfaction of seeing some of my thoughts and my work preserved (for lack of a better word.)

Blogging has helped me to write more consistently although I haven't reached my goal of writing daily. Sometimes I question if I should try to post daily. I don't want to post drivel but if I wait for profound insights, I'll never write.

Last November my goal was to post every day. I missed Thanksgiving, but managed 33 posts. I found if I don't give myself a blogging goal, I tend to forget exactly how much writing I'm doing--more precisely I underestimate the time between posts.

April was a bad blogging month for me; the first half of May was only slightly better. On May 17, I resolved to post daily for the rest of the month to get to some kind of acceptable blogging average. That will also make May my biggest blogging month of 2011.

Today I start my second year of blogging with the goal of posting more...even if no one else is out there reading.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Birthday Getaway

In minutes, we'll be leaving for Interlaken Inn on a petaway package http://www.interlakeninn.com/a-pet-away-package.html. I'm looking forward to a delicious birthday dinner at Morgan's. We'll also go to Harney's Tea and antique stores in Millerton, a winery or two and do a little hiking. Unfortunately, it's misty outside now and my brother told me it's raining in Danbury, but I'm hopeful it will clear up.

Interlaken has become our go-to getaway spot. It's less than a two hour drive, pet friendly, in a beautiful setting with lots to do. And there's Morgan's; my favorite restaurant.

Time to go.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Judgment Day

Today's doomsday prediction got more publicity than most.

I guess it had to do with the billboards; paying for all of those must have conferred some kind of legitimacy on the prediction. CNN broadcast two different experts debunking it in just one hour.

Jeff and I joked about what would happen if the world really ended. If Spike were raptured, would he put in a good word for us? We thought about things we could do before the end. Here are some ideas: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/05/18/things-i-have-never-done-that-i-would-like-to-do-before-the-world-ends/.

Despite all the world's problems, I'm glad to be still be here. If for no other reason, today is the wedding anniversary of my sister-in-law and her husband and tomorrow is my birthday. I want to celebrate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guilty Pleasures: Soap Operas

I've had a love/hate relationship with soaps for over 40 years.

Like many, I started watching the soaps that my mother watched. I remember coming home from school and going down to the basement to say hello. That's where my mother set up her sewing machine and a small black and white TV. I watched Days of Our Lives and General Hospital with her.

My mother. however, wasn't much of a soap fan. She watched soaps because they were the only option in those days--at least until late afternoon when talk shows with Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas aired. We'd laugh about the bizarre coincidences and outlandish plots of soaps.

But then I came back from a family vacation to learn that a friend had discovered that the man who had raised her was not her biological father. Her mother had altered her birth certificate by adding her stepfather's name. My friend only found the truth when her biological father came to claim her after her mother's death.

At that point, I figured that maybe soaps weren't that outlandish after all.



Thursday, May 19, 2011

It was 475 years today...

May 19, 1536 when Anne Boleyn was executed at The Tower of London.

To some she is just the first beheaded in the rhyme about Henry VIII's six wives: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

Some of us are fascinated with her. I wrote my senior term paper about Anne; I have 13 books about her; I have an Anne Boleyn doll, paperweight, pin as well as Six Wives of Henry VIII paper dolls and coffee mug. (The Six Wives dish towel from Hampton Court disintegrated a long time ago.)

I went to London for a week in the early '80's. Hever Castle was closed but we made it to Hampton Court. I think that was our only trip outside London. I was thrilled to look up and see the intertwined H and A in the archways at the gatehouse.

Anne endures.

Anne continues to enthrall us.

We will never forget her.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meanderings and Musings Redux

Perhaps Spike has gotten bored with our usual walks. For the second consecutive day he varied our route.

Today as we passed houses I thought about how they might have looked long ago before they were subdivided into multi-family units or expanded into condominiums. I bemoaned the current trend of builders to squeeze as many units as possible into a lot obliterating any hint of greenery.

A few blocks up the hill from our street is Highwood Avenue. A block down the hill is a large rectangular stone column inscribed "Highwood." A while ago I decided that Highwood Heights will be the name of one of my novels.

Titles are one of the hardest things for me to write; I consider it a good omen to have a title before I have any semblance of a story. In the context of my real neighborhood, I imagine Highwood Heights as the original enclave of the well-to-do doctors who worked in the new hospital. What kind of wood? A former neighbor once told me that the only remaining Chinese chestnut trees in Norwalk are located on the hospital grounds. Perhaps the neighborhood changed as the elite moved to a new area. I haven't figured that out yet--my best bet is to create a new neighborhood on the water.

Could this be my next nanowrimo?




Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Meanderings and Musings

Today was the third of five predicted rainy days. Downpours gave way to misty rainfall; it was almost 12:30 before I got Spike out for a long walk. We took a different turn off one of our usual routes and walked down two blocks where we haven't been for a long time.

I gazed at the homes we passed and thought about what it would be like to live there. Would it be difficult to park? I wondered about the costs of roof repair and replacement. I placed myself onto porches and into back yards. Then I imagined myself into a small garage/tool shed that I had converted to an artist's/writer's studio.

I looked at a Cape Cod with a real estate sign in front. The house was painted a pale turquoise with pink shutters. Its shutters were carved with something like heart shapes; other areas decorated with shell designs. Although I had seen the house many times before, it suddenly occurred to me how feminine it looked. I wondered about a man living there and imagined one angry at the feminization of his home.

A little later, I saw a bumper sticker: Republicans Democrats Same Shit Different Piles.

During our evening walk around the block, the wind picked up enough to blow off my beagle baseball cap. The weather felt more like early April than mid-May, but the greenery belied that. It was bracing and I hoped that the rain would at least get rid of some of the pollen that was plaguing us.

I smiled when I saw a large patch of lily-of-the-valley in front of Prospect Gardens. When I saw the sidewalk covered with maple keys http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple I remembered how we used split them open and stick them across the bridges of our noses.

I had gone to the gym for the first time in six weeks this morning. I felt good because I could feel muscle strength in my legs and I felt virtuous for finally getting back for a workout. If only I could keep that up.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Other Side of the Story: The Sisters

Yesterday, I recorded two Bette Davis movies from Turner Classic Movies: The Sisters and All This and Heaven Too. I've seen both films several times but not recently.

I re-watched The Sisters. Bette plays the quintessential good girl, Louise Elliot Medlin. At the beginning of the film, she plays a mother figure to their two younger sisters, although they have a real mother in their lives. For example, she discusses the acceptable amount of powder to be worn by a girl of sister Helen's age.

Louise is living her life day-to-day, passively awaiting the next phase. When asked when she's going to marry Tom (Dick Foran playing the banker's son) she and her father both respond he hasn't asked her yet.

She is such a good girl that when she ditches Tom at the Election Night party and spends most of the night with San Francisco sports reporter, Frank Medlin (Errol Flynn) her father refuses to even consider that Louise could do something wrong. Even when Louise runs off with Frank after only knowing him for a week, they get married. Louise is obviously a respectable lady.

There is no explanation for Louise's behavior except Helen's proclamation that Louise is in love. Louise goes to live with Frank in San Francisco. Helen marries an older man (Alan Hale) the father of a friend. Grace, the youngest sister, who has long admired Tom, marries him.

I watch this film first for Bette. But I also love the supporting cast. Beulah Bondi and Henry Travers play the Medlin parents. The other sisters are Anita Louise as Helen and Jane Bryan as Grace (who played Bette's sister, daughter and rival in various Warner productions.) Did Errol Flynn have a contract clause that required Alan Hale as a costar? Donald Crisp supported as a newspaper associate of Frank; Lee Patrick was a neighbor Flora who may have been a floozy. Harry Davenport and Laura Hope Crews also make appearances. The scene with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was quite impressive (according to Wikipedia, Warners spent $200,000 on sets and included scenes from the 1927 film Old San Francisco http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sisters_(1938_film)

After seeing this movie several times, I started to wonder about the plot line in which the sisters force the woman who is allegedly having an affair with Tom out of town. We see the typical set up of movie proof of an affair: Tom has been buying himself new suits; he overreacts when an employee of milliner, Isabel Taylor, stops by the house during Tom Junior's birthday party. Soon the employee tells all; apparently Isabel is working on Tom to keep her property safe from foreclosure.

Grace writes to Louise; Louise and Helen immediately return home to help. Although Grace criticizes Tom for not living up to his marriage vows, the sisters don't confront him directly. Instead they discreetly and delicately threaten pillars of the community to get rid of Isabel or the sisters will turn to the men's wives for help.

I had viewed this scene as a triumph of the three sisters banding together to protect one of their own. Now, I wonder about Isabel--whatever happened to her? I think of Claire Trevor in Stagecoach--did she share a similar fate? Did she deserve it? Was she the amoral corrupter of gentle classes or was she just an target for their advances? After all, did she have anyone to protect her? Is she so different from Flora--who became Louise's only friend in San Francisco?

A few pages from the original novel appear on screen as transitions between scenes. Isabel was summarized as "Tom's problem."

Isabel. Less than a minor character--she doesn't even appear in the film--she was just a plot point, an obstacle.

I like to think Isabel was more than that.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

This morning Spike wasn't interested in a walk. He quickly peed and then was ready to go back inside. I figured he was more concerned about what Jeff was cooking for brunch. After we ate, I took Spike out again.

He sat down on the stone wall in the front of our building. I waited for about five minutes, then tried to get him to walk. He still wasn't interested, so I settled on a tree stump and he sat beside me on the grass. Soon I noticed a bird traveling from the tree in our front yard to other trees and bushes and back again.

She was carrying twigs and leaves to build a nest for her children.

I hope to see more of her and her family.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Half Way Day Spike!



I mentioned half way day before http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/03/happy-half-way-day-jeff.html. Today is Spike's half way day; he is now ten-and-a-half.


He's been part of our lives for over nine years now. Every day I am thankful that we found each other.


We love you Spike.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gettysburg Weekend

On April 9th, the first anniversary of my father's death, Jeff and I headed to Gettysburg with his cremains. It was my brother, Jim's idea to spread his ashes there. I thought it was a good one; my father had been a Civil War buff. We had spent many summer vacations touring battlefields. But for some reason, I had never made it to Gettysburg.

The Gettysburg National Military Park was dog-friendly (except for the cemetery and visitor's center) so we took Spike. Although Jim decided to make the round trip in one day, Jeff and I decided to head down Saturday and return the next day.

We selected the Battlefield Bed and Breakfast for our overnight stay http://www.gettysburgbattlefield.com/ and that was an excellent choice. The B&B was conveniently located and offered delicious breakfasts and complimentary history programs. Our room was large with a sitting area and private bath.

We also liked the town itself. I only wish we had allowed more time to explore it and to enjoy the B&B property. It was definitely Jeff's and my kind of place.

But then we weren't there for a vacation. We met Jim on Sunday morning at the Visitors Center of the Park. We first went to Little Round Top but it was too crowded for us to discreetly spread cremains. We saw no tour buses at our second stop, the Peach Orchard so that is where we said our final goodbyes.

I guess I got the sense of closure I had been looking for. Unfortunately, the sense of peace that I had hoped for still eludes me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Other May Day Celebrations

In my last post, I wrote about May 1st as International Workers Day. May Day is also an unofficial dividing line between winter and summer (with apologies to those in North Dakota who experienced snow over the weekend.)

The Celtics celebrated Beltaine, a springtime festival of optimism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltane. The traditional spring festival of Walpurgis Night http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpurgis_Night is associated with dancing and bonfires in northern and central Europe.

Here in southwestern Connecticut, May day was beautiful, appropriate for the occasion: warm sunlight, budding trees, singing birds. That's a holiday that I can get behind.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Workers of the World Unite!

May Day represents many things--one is to celebrate workers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers%27_Day.

It wasn't that long ago--just over 100 years--that police attacked striking workers to keep them in line. One of the ironies of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/03/sad-anniversary-thetriangle-shirtwaist.html was that the policeman who beat back the 1909 strikers were among those trying to save the same workers two years later from the fire. Perhaps a successful strike would have curbed some of the practices (e.g. locked doors on the factory floors) that contributed to the deaths of many workers.

In an age when politicians are practically rabid in their zeal to blame union workers for economic problems, we need to remember why unions are needed to protect workers. We need to remember the sacrifices made by workers who didn't have protections.

For the workers all over the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Kxq9uFDes,

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blogging Blues

April has been my worst blogging month since I started almost a year ago. In fact, none of my writing has been going well--that is I haven't done much writing. I've been keeping up with my morning pages (even though the term "evening pages" is more accurate for a a few entries), made some half-hearted attempts at working on a poem, but that's about it.

It's not for lack of subject matter: I had many ideas--things I'm reading, TV shows and movies I've been watching, the cancellation of One Life to Live and All My Children, our Gettysburg weekend.

I guess I've just been pre-occupied with other things--a surge of last-minute tutoring students for the May SAT, research for the condo renovations that we're finally ready to start, schedule adjustments to Jeff's new project in downtown Manhattan.

I miss writing--I need to do more of it--blogging, poetry, essays, longer pieces.

I feel a little awkward writing about not blogging. It's not that I have a big audience clamoring for my posts. As far as I know, I have five readers. But I know how disappointed I get when I go to a blog and it's not updated. I owe it to myself--if no one else--to post more.

May will be better.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Anniversary

I usually think of anniversaries as happy occasions, celebrations. But sometimes they represent sad memories such as my recent post about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/03/sad-anniversary-thetriangle-shirtwaist.html.

Today is the one year anniversary of my father's death. Today we head to Gettysburg for one last farewell.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Republican-Threatened Government Shutdown: A War on Women

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/07/pelosi-there-is-a-war-on-women/ Federal funding for abortion is already banned under the Hyde Amendment. Regardless, abortion should not be a part of a budget debate. I am shocked at the Republican attack on Planned Parenthood even though I said thirty years ago that Republicans were against contraception http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/03/not-posting.html.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Writing Poetry

One of my recent posts was about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/03/sad-anniversary-thetriangle-shirtwaist.html. After I wrote that post, I watched an HBO special about the fire. It was compelling--I transcribed several lines as I watched. There was a poem somewhere in there. I made my first attempt. It didn't flow. Sometimes poems have to be birthed over a long period of time. Sometimes they end up as something other than a poem. That's what happened with my Mets piece. Whatever. I'll keep working on it because I know something is there.

Spring is Here

I watched the weather report this morning--for the next week--the highs are forecast in the 50's--the end of this long damn winter. Yes I am apparently obsessed with weather just like I said here: http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/03/weather-watching.html.

On my morning walk with Spike today, I saw forsythia and daffodils, the other day I saw crocuses. Ah spring.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Sad Anniversary: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire in Greenwich Village in New York City.

The building where the fire took place is now part of New York University; a plague commemorates the 146 victims, mostly young women--recent Jewish and Italian immigrants. This catastrophe is credited with leading to legislation requiring new factory safety legislation and the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

In 2011, many Republican politicians are demonizing unions, scapegoating them as the cause or symbol of our economic problems. They paint school teachers and government workers as overcompensated and greedy.

I have no illusions about unions--they can be as corrupt as any other organization that gains power. But we cannot succumb to the fallacy that deregulating business and industry--putting our well-being in the hands of business owners--is the answer to our economic woes. The short sighted pursuit of profit--even when couched in terms of increasing value for the shareholders--will not cure our problems. It can only lead to devastation of the environment and the ever increasing gap between the super-rich and the rest of the world population.

Too many workplaces around the world are subject to abuses that can lead to disasters similar to The Triangle Fire. The least that we can do is to stop the decimation of unions in our own country and give the working people a fighting chance.

Happy Anniversary Spike (one day late)



Jeff and I had both grown up with pets and wanted one of our own. We talked about it for a long time debating: cat vs. dog; walking a dog every day vs. litter boxes. Was it fair to have a dog in a two bedroom condo?

A stint watching Clyde Harold, a charismatic Maltese, helped us make up our minds. Our place was big enough for a dog; we didn't mind the daily walks.

Porthos, a beagle on the television show, Star Trek: Enterprise gave me the idea that a beagle would be a good choice. Shortly after that, I saw a flyer in the window of a neighborhood grocery store. A beagle needed a home; it was Spike.

Spike's first owner had been transferred to Georgia and left him with a co-worker. That co-worker, Sarah, was later transferred herself. She had two dogs and could only take one with her. She chose Leroy, the doberman-German shepherd mix that had lived with her for four years.

Sarah lived two blocks away from us. We walked over one day so we could meet Spike and Sarah could check us out. I remember she said something like, "If you want him..." She didn't even finish her sentence before Jeff said, "Of course we want him."

On Sunday March 24th, we went to pick him up. Sarah was waiting on the front lawn with Spike and his toys, dry food and bowls. She and I cried as she said goodbye and we took Spike to his new home.

It was a tough adjustment for Spike. Whenever he was left alone, he howled, scratched at the door and dug at the carpet. But he did make the adjustment to his new home.

That was nine years ago.

Some people say that Spike was lucky. It's true that no one could love him more than we do. But Jeff and I know that we are really the lucky ones.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dog Park Friday

Today is the nicest day of the year to date; that is no hyperbole. With daylight savings time in effect, it's the first Dog Park Friday of 2011.

I'm not sure how long Dog Park Friday has been around; I'm guessing at least five years. I do remember who started it. Our friends, Jenn and John showed up one Friday of a holiday weekend with a cooler of cocktail fixings: cosmopolitans and apple martinis. After we made a loop around the park, we stopped and enjoyed drinks.

For the past few years, Dog Park Friday's been a gathering of people with dogs who meet in a certain spot at Taylor Farm dog park with beer and wine on Friday evenings. We relax and talk as our dogs relax, run and play. Sometimes we move on to dinner together.

We've created a new community; I'm happy to be a part of it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Half Way Day Jeff!

Several years ago Jeff and I spent our anniversary at Ortley Beach on the Jersey shore. As we headed out to dinner on Sunday night September 17th, we didn't know what we would find--many places had closed for the season. We just hoped for an open place with decent food.

We found much more in Lavallette--a bar/restaurant with a live band. We asked why the place was decorated with shamrocks. That's when we learned that our anniversary was the halfway day to St. Patrick's Day.

I love St. Patrick's Day and I love the concept of halfway day--it gives us an extra reason to celebrate.

Happy half way day, Jeff. I love you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

20 Fun Things to Do

Listening to my Artist's Way tapes, I was reminded of this exercise: Name 20 fun things to do.

1. hiking
2. antiquing
3. going to craft shows
4. going to bookstores
5. going to museums and art galleries
6. traveling
7. walking
8. swimming
9. doing yoga
10. watching classic movies
11. dining al fresco with Spike
12. wine tastings
13. trying new restaurants
14. beer tastings
15. walking labyrinths
16. dancing
17. listening to live music
18. reading
19. going to crafts stores
20. going to retreats

This list is a source for artist's date ideas.

Weather Watching

I'm afraid I've become the stereotypical bore who talks about the weather all the time. It didn't happen overnight. For years my morning routine has included watching the weather channel before heading outside.

This winter has pushed me over the edge. It got too cold too soon in early December. Then the snow came--a major storm after Christmas was just the beginning.

The ground is mostly clear of snow now but small patches appear here and there. And large snow mounds are still piled in the corners of yards and parking lots.

In five short days--spring will arrive. That doesn't necessarily mean that we are done with cold and snow, but I'll take even a symbolic end to this relentless winter. Last Friday on our afternoon walk, Spike sat down on the grass to check things out--my personal harbinger of spring.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Five Words

I'm not sure where I saw this: describe yourself using five words:

woman
USian (thanks Shakesville for the term)
feminist
writer
wife

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Forward -- A Poem

The government stole an hour from me
2 am Sunday morning
when all decent people are asleep
no witnesses

The government stole an hour from me
they don’t admit to stealing; they call it legislating
but the two aren’t mutually exclusive

The government stole an hour from me
they’ve got everyone in cahoots with them
big business, schools and the media
I can’t fight them all

The government stole an hour from me
they say they’ll give it back in October
But I want it now
Who knows?
In October, my time may be up

The Artist's Way--Revisited

In the ongoing cleaning--organizing--de-cluttering I've been doing since January, I came across cassette tapes from the Artist's Way week at Omega Institute about fifteen years ago. I've been listening to them in bits and pieces over the last few weeks while driving.

I've taken the Artist's Way workshop as a weekend, a five-day and a twelve-week course (the preferred method). I've also used the book on my own and I still write morning pages. Obviously, I like the Artist's Way.

But...

Many people report brilliant results from the process. Novels written; awards won. I do not.

While listening to the cassettes recently, I heard Mark Bryan say something like--for some people the Artist's Way is just about making more creative lives for themselves.

I do have a more creative life than I used to:

I write morning pages every day

I have two pieces in a published memoir anthology

I write this blog

I am ready to submit a piece

I call myself a writer without feeling odd about it

I make artist trading cards and collages; I have an art journal

I notice little things more that make me happy: colors in the sky, full moons, flowers, fall leaves, winter branches outlined across the sky.

The last item sounds kind of silly and small, but it's big--a change of outlook. I also have to credit my daily walks with Spike for helping me to notice things more--to be more in the moment.

In her workshops, Julia Cameron talks about making small changes. I'll keep going down that trail.


Real Gone With The Wind: Lucy Writes A Novel

Hallmark Channel is running a I Love Lucy marathon including one of my favorites, Lucy Writes A Novel.

I live in fear that I will share Lucy's fate: excerpts from my novel included in a textbook about how to write a novel--heading up the chapter entitled "Don't Let This Happen To You."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Not Posting

I haven't done much posting lately. There have been a number of reasons.

I've been missing my father especially after seeing cousins from his side of the family at Barbara's surprise party. My father was the last survivor of his immediate family; his three sisters predeceased him by decades. My brother and I are the only ones among those cousins that have even one parent alive.

I've also been doing work to settle the estate, trying to meet a deadline of March 31st to avoid another fiscal year. It's brought up a lot of the anger and frustration that I had repressed.

The current political atmosphere depresses and angers me--i.e. the right wing attacks on Planned Parenthood and other "spending cuts" that won't even make a mark on our deficit. Hey, let's cut funding for poor women to get pap smears but continue important programs such as funding a NASCAR race car.

Thirty years ago I was a volunteer on John Anderson's campaign for President. He had been a Republican congressman before Republicans became synonymous with anti-women positions. I remember telling another volunteer that I thought the right wing Republicans wanted to get rid of birth control. She thought I was overreacting.

I'm sorry to say that I was right. It is frightening. Forced birth is frightening. The issue is rarely framed in those terms: "Do you favor forcing women to risk their lives to give birth to children they don't want?" Instead the question is, "Do you favor regulation of abortion?" Of course. Who wants unlicensed people performing abortions in unclean conditions.


***

I saved but didn't publish this post for a few days. I didn't even come back to this site. I haven't worked through these issues. Unfortunately there's been more bad political, economical and natural disaster news. It can be overwhelming. But I can't let it overwhelm me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Surprise Party

Jeff, my mother and I headed down to New Jersey on Saturday for a surprise 70th birthday party for my cousin Barbara.

We all met at a restaurant in Tom's River just before the bridge to Seaside Heights (official Jersey Shore locale.) My cousin Greg (Barbara's nephew) and his wife Steph brought Barb to the restaurant about a half hour after she said she hated surprise parties.

Barb's brother and two sisters who had traveled up to 20 hours, joined her at the head table. The people who spoke described how Barb was the one who kept the family together.

At first I was surprised that I knew only about half of the people there. At the after party at Barb's and at breakfast the next day, I was with family members. We exchanged stories and memories--how Cindy and I played UNCLE and Honey West, Thanksgiving dinners at our house in Audubon.

It was fun to compare notes; I enjoyed reminiscing. It was a pleasure to be among family members who genuinely care about each other.

What a novelty.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Did You Expect?

Several years ago I ordered a hot dog from a vendor in the stands at a Mets game. After I bit into it, I complained that it was cold.

"What did you expect?" said my nephew Matt.

I expected a hot hot dog. They're supposed to be warm--it's in the name--plus they're wrapped in metallic paper and stored in a metal box.

To paraphrase Rick from Casablanca: The temperature of my hot dog doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

But "What did you expect?" is often used to try to keep people from hoping for something more, to keep people in their place.

Currently I'm thinking of CBS journalist Lara Logan. She's been getting that reaction after she was sexually assaulted in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution. There are two strains to this argument: women shouldn't go to dangerous places because they can be raped; and blond, attractive women can't be near dark/swarthy/foreign/Muslim men without inciting them to rape.

I know bad things happen. I know optimism is considered naivety and cynicism is thought to be the smart, sophisticated attitude. But damn it, we all lose something when we expect the worse, when we blame people (usually women) when something goes wrong as they live their chosen lives.
I'm reminded of Bobby Kennedy and GB Shaw: Some people see things as they are and ask why, I dream things that never were and say why not?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Seen 2-11-11

Spike and I walked through the hospital parking lot this morning where I saw the following bumper stickers.

1. Hillaryous

2. When fascism comes to this country, it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

I thought the first was clever, although I don't agree with the sentiment. The second sounds frightening but true.

Monday, February 7, 2011

And in the Winter...

extra blankets for the cold
fix the heater, getting old
you are with her now, I know
I'll live alone forever
Not together now--

Janis Ian "In the Winter" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II8gvM03Fdk

I found myself singing some of these lyrics yesterday--of course, another winter song. http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2011/02/winter-songs-mellow-and-melancholy.html

In my arbitrary, incomplete analysis of winter songs, the "bad" (Sometimes in Winter; In the Winter) outweigh the good (It's Now Winter's Day). I could add Winter Wonderland to even out the score. It's usually considered a Christmas song, but there's no specific mention of Christmas in the lyrics.

How do other seasons fare in songs?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow-Cramped Lifestyle

Last week my friend Debbie complained that the snow was so bad, it was starting to affect our lifestyles. She's had problems getting out to find a new location for her business.

I don't have a full time job, so I don't have to drive every day. Instead I can arrange my tutoring appointments and errands around bad weather. That's a luxury many can't afford.

Snow and ice are piled along every street, in every yard and parking lot. Cars parked in front of our building block an entire lane of traffic. Walking anywhere is difficult. Some sidewalks have not been shoveled at all making people venture onto the roads. Other sidewalks are are covered in a blend of snow, ice, sand and salt.

Going anywhere is such a challenge, it's easier to just stay home. I'm not alone in feeling this way: http://jezebel.com/5752792/cabin-fever-is-serious-business. January's poor economic results are even attributed to bad weather; people can't shop if they can't get out.

The only good thing right now is that the days are getting longer. I cling to the hope that it will get warm. someday. soon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tudor Tuesday?

For most of the last two days, Jeff and I have been staying inside because of the storm (insert corny snow name here.) Yesterday Jeff happened to find a show on the National Geographic channel about the secrets of Elizabeth I. I caught only part of the program. It focused on possible theories why Elizabeth didn't marry and produce an heir: she was scared by her bad parental example, she was a hermaphrodite, she was in love with Robert Dudley. The most bizarre--Elizabeth died as a young girl and was replaced by a boy.

The next program was on the body of Henry VIII. This show was more fact-based and less speculative than the show about Elizabeth. I was particularly interested in the discussion and recreation of Henry's jousting accident. He was either unconscious or unable to speak for two hours afterward (the reports are ambiguous.) Ironically, Henry's attempts to show his strength and vigor by jousting led to injuries that aged and weakened him. This accident also contributed to Anne Boleyn's downfall and death; she miscarried a male fetus upon hearing about the accident.

That wasn't the end of the Tudors last night. TCM showed The Private Life of Henry VIII, A Man for All Seasons and Anne of the Thousand Days. I had seen A Man for All Seasons recently. It's been years since I've seen the other two: I recorded them to watch when I have more time. I'm curious how I'll react to Anne of the Thousand Days--that film may have started my fascination with Anne Boleyn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Songs: Mellow and Melancholy

According to CNN, the current storm is affecting as many as 100 million people from New Mexico to Maine. Here in Connecticut, we've only seen part one of this storm--a few inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain. More freezing rain is on the way.

I'm holed up inside--only going out as necessary to walk Spike. Thinking of a warm, loving cocoon, I remembered this song by Tommy Roe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmJU8CDlxXo.

I then thought of another winter song--sadder but also beautiful--by Blood Sweat & Tears http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3nu-qmxM0w.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dog Park Weekend


Our camera is broken so I couldn't take pictures of Spike at the dog park this weekend. This is a photo from a few years ago.

On Saturday, the temperature reached the balmy mid-thirties. With more snow and ice on the way, it was a good opportunity to take Spike to Taylor Farm where he could run off leash.

Previous visitors had created makeshift paths through the snow. Spike crossed the field and then suddenly took off down a path along the trees. I haven't seen him move so fast in a long time.

I tried to make a new path by walking in someone else's footprints and stomping down more snow. It didn't work very well--I got snow in my boots and then fell down. I was laughing so hard, I could barely get back up.

We had fun, so we returned on Sunday. It was a little colder with a biting wind. Spike didn't seem to mind as he ran across the field and up the hill into the woods.

Unfortunately, it will be our last visit for a while.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Art Journals

Last winter I picked up an issue of Art Journaling by Somerset Studio. It inspired me to start my own art journal.

I re-purposed one of my blank notebooks. In it I wrote traditional journal entries, doodled, stamped pages and added postcards, photos and stickers. I even made a few attempts at drawing and watercolor.

The other day I came across the magazine again, pulled out my journal and played. I wrote a little, doodled, drew a picture of Spike and pasted in a picture of my father holding me when I was about one.

I couldn't help but compare my journal pages to some of those highlighted in Art Journaling. Bad idea. I know not to compare my first drafts to published works. It's the same principle. I reminded myself that you have to do something badly if you ever want to do it well.

At least I've got the first part down.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Who knows...

where the time goes? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ycaoV0WXfk


Beautiful song though I can't say that:

I have no thought of time
I do not count the time
I do not fear the time.

Like many, I worry about filling time, managing time, wasting time.

It's been 11 days since my last post. What have I been doing with my time?

Not enough.

In addition to new beginnings, January is a time to get back to work. In December, I did only what I had to do. Everything else got procrastinated into January. So I started January with long to-do lists, feeling behind schedule at the start.

I realize that I am privileged even to have the time to blog about my time. I won't attempt to give advice or "helpful" hints to others. I just want to find some answers for myself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More Snow and Recipes

In the past day, we've gotten another foot and a half of snow. In my last post, I wrote about getting into the cooking mood with the previous snowstorm. I made the lamb that I wrote about, and then over the next few days I made chili and chicken parmesan.

With the new snow, I was happy to stay in and make a butternut squash, carrot and pumpkin soup. I used a vegetable broth base, sauteed shallots and garlic and added red curry spice.

I also made two loaves of avocado bread after finding this recipe http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/avocado-quick-bread/Detail.aspx. I would never have come up with the idea of avocado bread. I glad someone did. It's delicious. I made a few adjustments: I didn't have allspice and orange zest, so I substituted pumpkin pie spice and a little tangerine rind respectively and skipped the raisins and pecans. This bread may become my new go-to recipe when I need to take something to a party.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snowing and Cooking

It started to snow in Norwalk sometime between six and nine this morning and continued for most of the day. It's nothing like the December 26th blizzard, but we haven't gotten rid of all of that snow and have six more inches.

I went food shopping yesterday. Staying inside today gave me the urge to cook--maybe a butternut squash-carrot-apple soup and/or buffalo and black bean chili. Unfortunately I didn't get around to making either.

I did cook a good dinner: lamb leg shank with roasted garlic, roasted fingerling potatoes, roasted asparagus and red leaf lettuce salad. We don't have lamb often and this was the first time I cooked a leg shank. I found a simple recipe online and it was pretty good. For dessert, we ate Christmas candy.

I also want to make chicken parmesan in the next few days. I can finish the sauce I made last week. I also need avocado recipes. I bought 10 for $10 yesterday.

Too often cooking is a monotonous chore. I enjoy these bursts of wanting to cook favorite dishes and trying new things.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why a blog?--Revisited

A few weeks ago I went to my second Writer's Cafe at the Westport Arts Center. I wanted to discuss blogging--specifically the notion that posting a blog is considered publishing. I said that blogging unlike traditional publishing does not have the step where someone besides the author deems the writing "worthy." I also talked about how excited I was to get my first comment (that wasn't from my husband.)

Maybe I didn't articulate my point very well because the conversation moved into what I thought was a snobbish dismissal of bloggers that Very Important Writers at the Writer's Cafe were too busy to read. Apparently these bloggers had nothing of interest to say to the Very Important Writers.

At the end of the hour, one woman told me that I had to decide what I wanted my blog to be. I just stared at her. I thought she was presumptuous and pretentious; she probably thought she was gracious.

Obviously this discussion has been on my mind otherwise I wouldn't bother to write about it now. I've written about my decision to blog a few times here http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-blog-i-cant-resist-answering-why-no_23.html and here http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-blog-part-two.html. Basically I am blogging because I want to write more and I want to write somewhere besides my daily journals. For the most part, the blogging is working for me. I also found that I enjoy reading blogs even if the authors aren't famous or otherwise very important writers. Maybe other bloggers feel the same about me.

I didn't start this blog with a narrow focus. I don't want to limit my potential topics; I want to write about whatever I want to write about. So if I write too much about Spike for Very Important Writers' liking, then they don't have to read my posts.

It's that simple.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Motivation

About two weeks ago, I pulled a book off my shelf: "The Little Book of Big Motivation" http://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Big-Motivation/dp/0449909468/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1293932830&sr=8-1. I'm not sure when I bought it, but its copyright is 1994 when I was in the midst of corporate life, buying into all the self-improvement crap. I figured I would succeed if only I did x, y and z.

Now I'm not saying the book is worthless. I read through it again--some ideas were obvious, some wouldn't work for me, some would. One that caught my eye was number 20. Be enthusiastic about the littlest things.

In previous posts, I have written about small things that have made me smile: a heron in the tidal pool at Taylor Farm, three hardy roses, a streak of blue across the evening sky.

This morning was another opportunity to enjoy something small. December had been unseasonably cold with biting winds and the grand finale of a blizzard. It got warmer and less windy over the last three days.

Today I walked Spike without gloves--it was over 40 degrees. I still wore my snow boots--Spike loves to run through snow and jump over snow banks. Today we walked and ran across the lawn in front of the hospital. It felt downright balmy.

I consider today to be an omen of the new year: warm and bright. That must mean something good.

Happy New Year!

Had a good New Year's Eve dinner at Little Tokyo last night http://sushihenry.com/Menu/index.htm: beef negimaki, harumaki and sushi. We went early around 6:15 which was perfect because the restaurant got more crowded the longer we were there.

Today we went to a friend's open house. I had gone to a girls only party the week before Christmas and saw some friends then; it was great to catch up with others that I hadn't seen in months.

A few shared my negative view of 2010; we're hopeful for new beginnings.
Try to forget the past--Things Can Only Get Better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OO9LloDSJo