Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Black Friday—or Black Hole?

 When Black Friday comes,

I’m gonna dig myself a hole,

Gonna lay down in it

Till I satisfy my soul.

                Steely Dan

For the past few weeks, when I open my email in the morning, I see a long, long list of messages with subject lines containing the words “Black Friday”—from department stores I shop in, from online businesses I’ve bought from, even from nonprofits (e.g. the Metropolitan Museum). No one, it seems, is above the hucksterism that’s taken over the day after Thanksgiving. To me this has become second only to (the month of) Halloween in overhyped, excessive, self-indulgent manufactured pseudo-“holidays” for the sole purpose of making money. The day has become a black hole that sucks the gentle gratitude of Thanksgiving and the good feeling of Christmas into it and grinds it into sawdust.

It has not always been like this. There was a time when most people—anyone remember?—actually worked on the Friday of Thanksgiving week. Even people who didn’t work in retail.

And truth be told, I was an early adopter of this shopping day—way back when, before it was given a name and an almost religious status.


When I was growing up, we usually had company for Thanksgiving. One or another set of aunts, uncles, cousins would drive up from New York or New Jersey to stay with us here in Rhode Island over the Thanksgiving weekend. On Friday my father went to work; school was out; and my mother, brother, and I would go shopping with our guests. My aunts especially enjoyed seeing stores they weren’t familiar with (before the days of cookie-cutter malls).

The day was a little busier than ordinary weekdays, but nothing like the near Gotterdammerung it is now. We browsed, maybe got some ideas for gifts but bought very little, looked at the decorations (which back then were not put up at the beginning of November), had lunch, visited another store or two, and went home to hot turkey sandwiches. It was a pleasant day and part of our own Thanksgiving tradition.

So what’s happened? When did this day explode into chaos? Was it the Cabbage Patch doll craze that first got people standing on lines through the night? Was that the first falling domino that led to stores opening earlier and earlier, until now many are opening on Thanksgiving itself? Is that what led to the crazy onslaught of advertising starting around Halloween?

I don’t know. Not having children, I was never under overwhelming pressure to be sure they got the absolute newest and most popular (i.e., most heavily advertised) toy every year. I never felt the “need” to stand sleepless and shivering in a line for hours before dawn. I remember a few other fads like that one, if not as crazy. I don’t think there’s been one in a long time, but the genie is out of the bottle now and can’t be put back.

I can’t help but imagine what people in other, poorer countries think of us when they hear about this insanity. Wonder why they don’t like us? Here’s one good reason. While they struggle every day for food, we fight each other to throw our money away on the latest completely unnecessary luxury item. They wait in lines for something to eat; we wait in lines for the newest tech gadget.

I’m afraid there’s no way to turn the clock back on this. “Buy-Nothing Day” has barely made a blip on the radar. I hope at least that people will listen to the message of “Small-Business Saturday” and save some of their money to spend in local shops. For my part I intend to stay right here in my warm, comfortable home, going nowhere, just crawling into that hole with Steely Dan and finding other ways to satisfy my soul.




Monday, November 24, 2014

Microblog Monday: Aid for the Injured Crocheter

I want to share this little tool that has helped me get back into crocheting after my wrist surgery:


This is a Boye ergonomic crochet hook handle. It’s soft and easy to hold and work with. It opens up so that you can insert several sizes of crochet hooks, each with a washer to match its size. I can hold it lightly and it keeps me from having to close my fingers tightly around a thin hook. I got this from Annie’s catalogue, but I’ve also seen them in Michael’s and Jo-Ann’s. If your fingers tend to cramp or ache when you crochet, this is a perfect tool!

Note: This is simply my own opinion. I have no connection with Annie’s or Boye. Just sharing what might be a helpful tip for others based on my experience.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My First Colored Zentangle

Since I mentioned my interest in coloring my Zentangles yesterday, I'll share the only one I've colored so far.
This is actually a ZIA (Zentangle-inspired art), as true Zentangles don't use color and I put in some lines that aren't part of any official tangles. I'm sharing the black-and-white version and the colored one.
The coloring was done with pencils. I had already shaded the original tile, so that affected the color somewhat. Also, if I had done this originally in color, I would've used blocks of color instead of those of black.
I really enjoy doing the color and hope to get better at it and try different methods!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gratitude and Happiness List—November 3, 2014

My gratitude list this week is all about beauty and poetry, and who could not be grateful for those things in our lives? Linking up with Laurel Regan’s AlphabetSalad today to share gratitude and happiness.

That an old, abandoned amusement park from my youth has been opened as a city park on 120 acres on the shore of Narragansett Bay.


For local arts programs like the one we saw at a historic mill: poetry readings from Poe and Tennyson interspersed with chamber music from a live group.


Finishing the first work project I took on since my wrist surgery.


Having not one but two of my haiku published online on the same day.


Lunch with a friend and a tea date at a lovely tearoom with two other friends.


Joining a couple of Zentangle groups on Facebook and feasting on the beautiful work posted there.


Buying some colored pens and pencils so I can try coloring my Zentangles!


Rediscovering my love for poetry. While my husband was bowling the other night, I read Louise Gluck’s Averno and half of a collection by Mary Oliver; now I want to go back to my poetry collection and read more!


Spending a cold, rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon practicing and learning some new tangles.


Buying prepared lasagna at Whole Foods and having an easy dinner in front of the TV and watching “Columbo” and one of my favorite “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” episodes on MeTV.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beginning Zentangles, Part 2

Earlier this month I posted the first few Zentangles I did. Here are a few more.

Tornado (done with Isochor, Printemps, Shattuck, and Tipple)

Forest Primeval (done with Mooka, Flux, Amaze, Tipple, and Printemps)

Beehives (done with Isochor, Printemps, Shattuck, Flux, Poke Root, Festune, Tipple, and Fescu)

I like these, and I think I'm making slow progress, but I clearly have a long way to go! Onward to learn new Tangles!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Microblog Monday: Re-Hooked!

For months before and after my wrist surgery in July, I was unable to even think about crocheting, so my poor WIPs (works in progress) just lay around mournfully, neglected and getting dusty.

Now, finally, my hand is well enough to let me get back on the hook—moderately. I’m taking it slowly and carefully for a while, but am psyched to pick up my supersoft bright red Malabrigo merino again and get back to work on the sweater pattern I bought especially for it!


It’s been a long time!



Monday, October 13, 2014



Microblog Monday: My Writing Challenge (17 Days)


I previously posted my personal Writing Challenge and goals. I pledged to check in on my blog periodically with my progress, and this is my first report.

First of all, I have to say that I did not write every day, but writing on consecutive days was not part of my original challenge—just to write on 100 days. I took time off for our weekend trip to Baltimore and again to attend my father-in-law’s funeral in Florida. Nevertheless, I did write for seventeen days, and I have written almost every day, so I feel successful.

The results: over seventeen days I wrote approximately 4,900 words. This works out to an average of about 288 words a day, well above my self-chosen minimum of 100 words a day.

For the most part my writing was on the second draft of my long-held-in-abeyance novel, “A Certain Shade of Blue.” I also have to admit that not all of it was original writing—I took some parts from my first draft and some from my voluminous files of notes for the second draft. Nevertheless, I did actually get the words into the manuscript, so I’m counting that, because after all that’s where the words need to be! I also wrote a few blog posts during that time, and all writing counts.

All in all, I’m very pleased with what I’ve done in my self-created challenge so far and am looking forward to pushing ahead in the next eighty-three days.




Sunday, October 12, 2014


Struggles of a New Zentangle Learner

Over the summer I decided I would finally start to learn the wonderful art of Zentangle after seeing so much lovely work displayed on the Internet.

I've always longed to be an artist and never had the slightest iota of drawing talent. But this looked like something even I could learn, and the testimony of Zentangle artists I followed was encouraging.

I was scheduled for wrist surgery in July, so I knew I’d be disabled for a while, but I couldn’t resist the urge to bring this beautiful art into my world. With a Christmas gift card, I went to Barnes & Noble. I bought two books: One Zentangle a Day and The Joy of Zentangle. As I looked through them I was chafing at the bit to be able to start learning.

When my hand was well enough I began. Before buying the official tiles, I wanted to practice a little. I had a sketch pad, and I measured and drew the 3 ½” by 3 ½” squares that mimicked the tiles. I started drawing a few individual tangles, some one at a time, some together with others in one square. Some I was pleased with; others made me feel like a five-year-old trying to draw with a pencil for the first time.

Nevertheless, I kept on going, and I began to discover some favorite tangles, as well as those I needed much more practice on. And soon I did buy those tiles and began making my own official Zentangles. They were rough, to say the least.

This one was my first attempt.

String of Pearls

This uses three tangles, Crescent Moon (on the left and right edges), Static (probably self-explanatory, in the middle sections), and Tipple (the different sized circles), which quickly became one of my favorites. Because I so much liked the way the thin band of Tipple looked crossing over Static, I decided to name it String of Pearls, and since then, just for fun. I’ve been naming my Zentangles according to what they remind me of.
(Note: in these early tangles I haven't yet experimented with shading; there's a little more in later ones.)

The next two incorporate Poke Root (the ones that look like cherries with stems), Festune (the flatter ovals), and Hollibaugh, the crossing bars. To my surprise, because I usually prefer curving designs, I really liked Hollibaugh. It reminds me of the kind of spotlights you see at the Academy Awards, and the black areas give dramatic interest to the design. The other two, though, I’m not satisfied with. I need to practice them more, especially Poke Root.

In the following I used Tipple and Hollibaugh again, along with Jonqual (the black-and-white squares), Nipa (the bubbles and wavy lines), and Shattuck (the “bulb” in the center).


You can probably see why I like Tipple so much: it’s wonderful for filling in wherever you have empty spaces, its mixture of large, small, and tiny circles is pleasing to the eye, and it can look like many different things, from bubbles to stones in a stream.


Thus began my Zentangle “journey.” In a future post, I’ll share a few of my more recent attempts.

And, like other Zentanglers, I definitely encourage anyone who’s interested in creating art to try this. It’s fun and challenging and very satisfying. I love looking at my completed Zentangles, and I’m eager to go on learning and improving.

What more can you ask for from a hobby?




Monday, September 29, 2014

Microblog Monday—My New Personal Challenge


Having seen a number of all kinds of challenges on Facebook, from blogging every day to taking a photo every day to doing something or other for a certain number of days—and participating in several with not-always-successful results—I’ve decided to create my own challenge. Since I don’t seem to do well at being accountable to a lot of people in my Facebook/blogging world, I’m going to be accountable to myself alone this time.

So here is my personal challenge:



I am challenging myself to write at least 100 words a day for one hundred days. If I can stick to this, I will have written 10,000 words at the end of the challenge.

I actually began this challenge to myself one week ago and have managed to stay on track, some days writing much more than 100 words.
Now I’m making it public on my blog.

So far I’ve been mostly writing in my novel manuscript, second draft, but I may apply this challenge to other writing as well—sometimes a blog post, maybe working on a short story. The point is just to get the writing done. To pull myself out of my procrastination in as easy a way possible. One hundred words can be written in one paragraph. One paragraph takes only a few minutes.

To make sure I keep myself going, I will check in on my blog periodically to track my progress—maybe on Microblog Mondays.

In the meantime, if anyone else likes this “personal challenge” idea, please do jump in! It’s not quite NaNoWriMo, but it would be nice to have some company!



Monday, September 22, 2014

Microblog Monday: Heavenly Art

I love medieval art. The brilliant tempera colors, the gilt, the intricate carving in ivory, wood, and bone, gold filigree and gemstones, the beauty of illuminated manuscripts, take my breath away. We were able to visit the Walters Museum in Baltimore this weekend, which has one of the best medieval collections I’ve ever seen. Being in the midst of it made me feel like I was walking into Heaven. How craftsmen created these works without sophisticated tools is something I find hard to imagine.
Look at the faces of these tormentors of Jesus! Aren't they so perfectly grotesque?

A diptych of St. George and the Virgin Mary; he was considered to be her special messenger.

An etched gold cross

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gratitude/Happiness List—September 17, 2014
Once again linking up with Laurel Regan’s Alphabet Salad to share some things that I’m grateful for and that have made me happy this week.
—To have reconnected with old friends from high school on Facebook, to have met with two of them over the past month, and find that we still “click” together and have so much to talk about.

—Having a reliable, professional boarding place to leave our dog when we go away—even though I always hate leaving her, they make it a little less wrenching by telling me how sweet she is and how much they enjoy having her. (They may be lying, but it makes me feel better anyway.)

—Anticipating the fall restarting of our church book club with a discussion of what may be my favorite book of the year, “The Goldfinch.”

—Discovering a wonderful new tea, Belgian Mint—slightly chocolately and to die for!

—A cozy rainy Saturday night listening to the radio as the Pawtucket Red Sox won the International League championship.

—Being able to run a 5K and coming in second in my age group, thereby winning a prize!

—Having work coming in again after a nearly two-month pre- and postsurgery layoff.

—Having the date set for the closing on the sale of our other house.








Monday, September 15, 2014

Microblog Monday: Happiness Is Tea and an Old Friend

 I’ve been fortunate through Facebook to have reconnected with some friends from high school—more than forty years ago! Over the past month I’ve had the joy of being able to get together with two of them face to face and talk for hours—just like nothing had changed.

I had a lovely afternoon on Saturday with Sue Munroe at a delightful little tearoom in Warwick called Trinity Confections. Wonderful food—soup, salad, quiche, and delicious pastries and homemade chocolates—and great talk.

So people I didn’t think I’d ever see again have reappeared in my life, and I’m so grateful for that!



Friday, September 12, 2014

Gratitude/Happiness List

Week of September 7

Joining with Laurel Regan’s Gratitude linkup at Alphabet Salad. 

Here are some things I’m grateful for and that have made me happy this week:


My hand and wrist are nearly completely healed. My last therapy visit was today, and my doctor cleared me to go back to work. I can even start crocheting again—slowly and for short times.


Delicious whole-grain bread from our local bakery. 

That we had a last week of hot summer weather before fall starts moving in.

Our upcoming weekend trip to Baltimore.

Having some time to start and work at practicing Zentangle,  which I’m really enjoying.

Community events like Cyclovia, in which about a mile of the street is closed to traffic for the benefit of walkers, bicyclists, inline skaters, etc., and including food trucks, entertainment, health and fitness information, and a dog dress-up contest!

Getting maybe our last chance this year to eat outside at a restaurant with our dog.

Having the Boston Red Sox’ Triple-A team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, playing just a few miles from our home and being in the playoff finals.

That said, I’m grateful that my husband is patient with me when I get cranky because a ballgame goes into extra innings. He loves it; I just want to go home (it’s after 10 o’clock and getting chilly!), and I grumble things like “Why can’t baseball games end within a civilized length of time like other sports?”

Gentle, warm breezes.

The beautiful flowers (even roses!) and flowering bushes that are still around in nearly mid-September.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Microblog Monday, September 8, 2014: What Is Wrong with People?

Melissa Ford at Stirrup Queens has initiated Microblog Mondays. You can read her post for more information here.

I love the idea of writing a tiny post on Mondays. Whenever I sit down to write a blog post, I get so tangled up in more and more words that sometimes I don’t ever finish it. Microblog Mondays lets you post something as short and instantaneous as a Facebook status update, so it’s great for the wordy among us, like me! So here’s my first micropost.

What Is Wrong with People?

I find myself asking (sometimes screaming) this question more and more these days as I read or hear about some of the silly, brainless things people do. The latest case in point: a story in our paper yesterday about new “wedding fads.” One: bridesmaids pulling up the backs of their gowns and exposing their asses for the purpose of photos to be put on the Internet. Two: some brides having plastic surgery done on their ring fingers so their fingers will “look better” in the photos.

So I ask again: What is wrong with people? When did our society become so narcissistic?


Friday, September 5, 2014

Just an Arrangement


Our “other” house is under contract and set to close within a couple of weeks. This will be a relief to us, both financially and psychologically. So why do I feel ambivalent about it?


The two years we lived there were among the most difficult years of my life.

It’s the place where I watched my mother’s mind deteriorate into dementia and her body slip inexorably out of her control.

But it’s also where I saw her every day, made her coffee, laughed with her, enjoyed the sense of humor she still had.

It’s where I came downstairs from our second-floor apartment several times a day to check on her on the first floor, where I might find she’d been incontinent or left the teakettle on to boil dry or was wearing the same clothes she’d had on the last two days or was trying to call my brother, having forgotten he had passed away.

It’s also where I came downstairs one day to find her sitting in an armchair in the foyer with the door open, watching the rain fall, in peace and contentment.

Where I saw her little smile of pleasure each time I reminded her that my husband and I lived right upstairs from her. “Over my head?” she’d ask, pointing to the ceiling. Yes, mom, right over your head. And where I saw her face collapse in grief every time I had to remind her about my brother.

It’s the house where I became her full-time caregiver, taking away the independence she’d had living on her own but giving her safety, security, and care in exchange.

In my office in our apartment I tried to juggle my freelance career with my responsibility for her and didn’t always succeed. Part of my mind was always on her. Was she sleeping safely in her recliner, or had she gotten up and fallen? Had she forgotten where she was and was feeling panicky? Would she open the downstairs door and yell up, “Is anybody here?”

Every night, after spending the evening downstairs with her, I would come back into our apartment and breathe a sigh of relief at having gotten through another day. I’d pray to God to give me strength for the next day, and for the unknown number of days ahead of us. Until the day we were able to get back to our own home in Providence and resume our normal lives.

I thought about that day so often and always felt guilty for wishing for it, because when that day came, I thought, it would mean she was gone.

As it happened, though, that day came before we lost her. It came after her fall and broken hip, when in spite of successful surgery she no longer had the cognitive capacity to do rehab and so was unable to walk again.

When she went into assisted living, we began planning for our move back to our own home. We gave our tenants two months’ notice. Yet, although I had thought I’d be nothing but happy about going back, something else had happened.

Our temporary house had sent roots into our hearts.

It’s where we were living when we got our dog. When I discovered the joy of crocheting. When I first started doing morning runs, into the village a mile away, past the river and cove where the sun sparkled on the water.

It’s the last place where we were together with my mother.

We always knew we’d be returning to Providence. This house was always just an arrangement for my mother’s care. Yet in spite of the difficult circumstances, we’d become attached to it and to the neighborhood.

Even now, almost three years since we moved back, I still occasionally miss that house. I sometimes wonder whether it might not be smart to keep it as an investment. But the market is so uncertain, and we were never cut out to be landlords. Selling is logically the best thing.

And yet.

I used to think my memories of the time we lived there would be painful and hard. But the difficult memories have blended with the good ones. When I look back now I see a complex and intricate tapestry of two years of our lives.

So I do feel a little sad. But I have that tapestry now, and that’s nothing to regret.




Saturday, August 2, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors


Once again I’m taking part in the Weekend Writing Warriors Snippet Sunday. Here are eight sentences from my novel-in-progress, A Certain Shade of Blue. In my previous snippet, six-year-old Claire was awakened by her baby brother’s crying, then by a scream. This snippet follows. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

She sees her mother leaning on her father by Toby’s crib, half drooping, he trying to support her, hold her up, like trying to hold water. The sounds coming from her mother’s mouth are unearthly, frightening. A shocked, scared hiccuping noise rises from the child’s own throat. Her father looks up. Claire, go back to bed, his voice cracks. What’s the matter, Daddy? Just go back to your room, he says. She runs back, collapses into her bed, and curls up under the covers, shaking.


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.