Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Gratitude/Happiness List  ▪ Week of July 21, 2014

Joining with Laurel Regan’s Gratitude linkup at Alphabet Salad. 
Here are some things I’m grateful for and that make me happy this week.

First and foremost, getting the cast off my wrist. It doesn’t feel perfect yet; I still have to wear a brace at least till I start therapy on Thursday, but I feel so much freer.

Having a short story accepted by Relief Journal for their next issue.

That I was patient when the journal took seemingly forever to reply. I was on the verge of withdrawing the story and submitting it to a strictly online journal, but I really, really wanted to keep trying to get it into a print publication. When their acceptance finally came, they apologized, saying they had been looking for a new fiction editor and finally found one. My patience paid off!

The support of friends and family while I was recuperating from surgery.

Receiving a lovely gift of flowers from a friend (thank you, Amy Morgan!)

Having the opportunity to guest post on Laurel Regan’s Alphabet Salad while she’s away at the BlogHer conference.

To once again be able to take a shower without covering my hand in plastic bags and to actually wash with my right hand. To be able to eat normally again (“normally” for a right-handed person, that is).

Lots of reading time over the past week and this one. I’ve finished five books so far.

Although I am normally a heat lover, I’m grateful that the recent weather was a little cool for July so that I wasn’t sweaty and itchy under my cast.

My husband’s thoughtfulness and support in taking two days off from work to take me for my surgery and to bring me to the doctor for my follow-up, as I couldn’t drive with the cast on.

Getting a professional shampoo and cut while my wrist is healing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Menopause: A Scientific Experiment


Now, please. Do you see this circle on the floor? Please step inside it. Good.

Now we’re going to set the circle on fire, and see:

How long before you take off your jacket, your sweater?

How long before you roll up the sleeves of your shirt, open it at the collar?

How long before your forehead, your torso, break into sweat?

Time check time check time check…excellent.

Thank you for your cooperation. And for your participation in this experiment, you receive this certificate of initiation: you are officially menopausal.

The culmination  of some thirty-, forty-odd years of monthly pain and bleeding.

Oh, and we must warn you that what you experienced today will come back,

six or seven or eight times a day,

we can’t say for how many years,

but when it stops you will be too old to enjoy the freedom,

perhaps bent with arthritis, osteoporosis.

Congratulations. You are a creature of blood and fire.

You are a woman.



Thursday, July 10, 2014


One of the most civilized British customs to have made it to this side of the pond is the Afternoon Tea. It seems we Americans are finally catching on to this little luxury, and tearooms are beginning to spring up in unexpected places, even here in Rhode Island.

After a quick Google search, I found the following in our local area. Most of these serve tea, small sandwiches and/or crepes, and desserts. 





And in nearby Connecticut:

These places have formal afternoon tea services and often require reservations. There are also places where you can just have tea and some pastry at any time, such as Tealuxe.

 As a longtime tea lover and Anglophile, I love this trend and hope it grows. If you also love tea, British customs, and/or islands of elegance in hectic everyday life, check out your own area for tearooms, and lift a cup to a lovely throwback to another century!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Chaim Potok once wrote, “All beginnings are hard.”

I’m not so sure that’s true.

I’ve rarely had trouble beginning things. The harder part, for me, is continuing. The harder part is taking that next step after the first. That’s the one that requires commitment and perseverance.

When you start a project in crochet, you need to begin with a foundation chain. It isn’t difficult to learn, but it can be tricky, even when you’re experienced at it--for instance, keeping your tension even so that your loops all come out the same size. But it’s the second row that many beginning crocheters have the most trouble with. For this row you need to work a stitch into each of the loops in the starting chain. The first trouble spot will arise right away if you haven’t made the starting chain loose enough: trying to work the hook into each loop. You also need to keep the chain itself from twisting so that you’re always working into the front of the loop. Step 2 is quite a challenge for the newbie.



Novelist Ann Hood, writing about learning to knit, called herself a “good beginner.” And, in fact, it isn’t always how long you’ve been doing something that determines whether you’re a beginner, because in a sense we’re always beginners as long as we’re always learning.

I’ve come up with some things I feel I’m a “perpetual beginner” at.

I am:

  a beginning runner

a beginning crocheter

a beginning writer

a beginning bike rider

a beginning digital photographer

I don’t feel I’m denigrating myself by calling myself a beginner at all these things.  It’s kind of like being a perpetual student, which I always thought I was. It’s acknowledging that there’s always more to learn, always higher levels to get to. Unless it’s the thing you earn your living at, in which mastery is necessary, it’s okay to remain a beginner in some things. In fact, it rather keeps things interesting and challenging—and challenges are good for the mind. They keep us from getting complacent and stagnant.

Not to suggest that I’ve never made any progress in anything. I have become a better editor, which is how I make my living. When I was bowling, I got better and better and raised my average considerably. I’ve progressed from walking to jogging to being able to run a 6.2-mile race. As a student I earned two degrees. As a writer I’ve had a few publications and am continuously working on a novel.

I take some pride in these accomplishments, but I don’t feel I need to be perfect at everything I like to do. Whatever level we reach in any activity depends on a lot of things: our interest, our ability, the time we have to put into practicing it, our willingness to commit.

But it’s never a “mistake” to have begun something new and not continued.

It isn’t failure if we decide it’s not for us.

It isn’t failure if we keep on doing it at one level if we’re enjoying it at that level.

We don’t all have to be competers, even with ourselves.

It’s okay to be a beginner!
What things do you consider yourself a "beginner" at?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gratitude/Happiness List (Week of July 6)

Joining with Laurel Regan’s Gratitude linkup at Alphabet Salad. 
Here are some things I’m grateful for and that make me happy at this point in time.

  Modern medicine. My upcoming surgery will be outpatient and will be quick; recovery time is approximately ten days. Not fun, but much, much better than it used to be!

That filmmakers are still making independent films that are intelligent and thought-provoking and not designed to be Big Box Office.

That there are still theaters dedicated to running these independent films, and that we have two of them in Providence.

● Meeting our new neighbors and finding them a nice, friendly midlife couple with 13-year-old twins and a huge dog!

The wisdom and courage of the founders of our country, who put their lives on the line for freedom.

Sleepytime tea.

● Having curbside garbage and recycling pickup, unlike some other states where people have to bring their own recycling to a center.

Having adopted our dog, Honey, four years ago.

Good, supportive friends.

● Fresh strawberries and blueberries.

Friday’s torrential rain holding off long enough for Tim and me to do a road race in the morning.

A lovely Fourth of July weekend with a PawSox game, a free pops concert and fireworks on the waterfront, and lots of walking!

● The possibility (fingers crossed!) that we might have found a buyer for our other house.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Happy Adoption Day! (Revisited)

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day we adopted our dog, Honey. Two years ago, for her second adoption day, I wrote a blog post about it. I’m revisiting that post today, with some updates and edits.

It was four years and a week or so ago that my husband finally said to me, “We can get a dog.”

I had been wanting a dog since we bought our house in 1996. He kept telling me, “In a few years.” Those years kept going by.

At this time we had my mother living with us in the multifamily house we had bought. I was her primary caregiver as her dementia progressed. It was a very stressful, emotional time. I think my husband knew that and thought that having a dog would be a stress-reliever and give me something to be happy about.

And yet when he said this I was a little reluctant. I’d gotten used to living without a dog, and I loved the freedom we had to travel anywhere for short or long trips or to spend an entire day out. But this wasn’t an offer I was willing to refuse. Besides, with my mother to care for, we weren’t able to travel anyway, and I had no idea how long the situation would last.

So the next day I was on the Internet, checking out adoptables. I’ve always had mixed breeds and loved them, and I wanted my next dog to be a “pound puppy.”

This is where I saw Honey. She was featured on the site for the RI SPCA. A cute picture of her little wrinkled head, with a bandana around her neck, captured me right away. She was about the size I wanted. She was female, which I also wanted.  “A shy Shar-Pei–terrier mix,” the profile said. Okay, she’s shy. So am I. It sounded like we’d be good for each other.

It turned out that “shy” wasn’t the whole story. Even the receptionist flubbed a little when she told us that Honey had been there “a long time.”

When we walked back to the cages, we saw her little curled tail in the third one from the left. We approached the cage gently. Instead of rushing to greet us eagerly like the other dogs, Honey hung back. She walked around her cage, through the door to the run, back in again. Obviously nervous. Once she came up to the front of the cage as if to take our measure, but made no attempt to make friends.

In spite of some trepidation, I knew she needed us. Later we found out that she had come into the shelter with her sister, who had been adopted a while earlier (she was friendlier) and that Honey herself had been adopted out but brought back because she was aggressive with children. Well, we didn’t have children, so we didn’t have to worry about that. Still, those weren’t things I was happy to hear.

On Wednesday, July 7, my husband’s day off, we went to pick her up. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she jumped right into the car and seemed fine on the way home. At home, we kept her out in the yard for a while. She sat. We sat. We petted her, stroked her, talked softly to her. She didn’t move, didn’t try to get to know us, didn’t look at us.

I was afraid we’d made a bad mistake, taken on too much. I was stretched so thin with my responsibility for my mother, I just didn’t know if I could handle another one. I didn’t know if I had the love to give her. We had bought a crate for her, as is now recommended (though we’d never done that with any of our family dogs when I was young). She wouldn’t go near it, even when we put treats in it.

The burden of trying to train this standoffish, timid dog seemed to be too much. I considered taking her back, all the while thinking, how can I do that to the poor little thing?

And yet she won me over. Once I accepted our commitment to her, I began to see the cute, endearing things about her. Her funny expressions. Her enthusiasm for walks. How quickly she bonded with us. No, she isn’t an easy dog. She’s reserved and reactive to children, strangers, and other dogs. She turns into a raving maniac when she sees a squirrel. But we’ve learned to live with and appreciate her eccentricities, which make her special to us.

And she has made considerable progress, with training and the security we’ve given her. Although she doesn’t express love as much as other dogs do, she has her own ways. She jumps on the couch with us and cuddles between us. She rolls over to ask us to rub her belly. When I crouch down next to her and put my face near hers, she pushes her nose up against me in what I call her “Honey hug.”

She is family, and we love her, and we know she loves us. And each year on July 7 we celebrate her Adoption Day, the day she came into our lives and changed us.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors (UBC and NaBloPoMo Day 6)

I’m taking part in the Weekend Writing Warriors Snippet Sunday. Today I’m posting eight sentences from my novel-in-progress, A Certain Shade of Blue. This is the opening. Any and all comments are welcome. Thanks.


            A child half wakes in the night, stirred by the sounds coming from down the hall. Oh, Toby, stop, she thinks hazily. Her baby brother seems to cry constantly. She’s used to it, but she’s tired. She covers her ears with her pillow and sinks back to sleep.        

Then the shocks ravage her body and her eyes shoot open; the sound of the scream is shivering in her bones.

It wasn’t a dream. It was her mother.