Monday, February 24, 2014



Happiness List 1: What Made Me Happy This Week


I’ve been enjoying doing the Gratitude List linkups at Laurel Regan’s Alphabet Salad, but I thought I’d try a different twist on it—that is, a Happiness List: a list of things that made me happy this past week.

I’ve decided to do this because I think it expands and enhances the Gratitude List to include things that we do for ourselves that make us happy, not only things that we’re given or that others do for us. I think it’s important that we remember that we’re responsible for our own happiness and remember to do those things that make us happy—which also include doing things to make others happy!

Looking back on these things is a great way to end the week and to start a new one! Reading over this list makes me feel like “my cup(s) runneth over”!


▪ Spending a fun evening with my husband playing trivia at a local pub.

▪ Meeting a friend for lunch.

▪ Seeing the first crocuses poking up in a neighbor’s yard.

▪ Seeing “Saving Mr. Banks” with my husband and having dinner out afterward.

▪ Getting my paycheck for the Monster Manuscript.


▪ Receiving the first issues of my subscription to “Relief,” a Christian literary magazine.

▪ Having milder weather and melting snow.

▪ Listening to the Billboard Top 100 from the early 70s—one year per night, about five hours of music each night, that took me back to my college years.

▪ Bringing home a piece of the world’s best chocolate fudge cake from Chelo’s restaurant—my last before Ash Wednesday, when my Lenten chocolate fast begins.

▪ Making a delicious vegetable chili for Sunday dinner—and having leftovers for tonight! Not having to make dinner makes me happy!

▪ Finishing the second book on the Plantagenets I’ve read this year.

▪ Knowing that the Olympics closed peacefully without any of the threatened terrorist attacks taking place.

▪ Continuing to work on the prayer shawl I’m crocheting for the ministry at church.

▪ Finding what I hope is the perfect pattern to use for the beautiful yarn I bought two years ago!


What has made you happy this week?




Friday, February 21, 2014

A Trivial Mind at Play

I have a trivial mind.

That’s what I tell people when they wonder how I can remember the name of a character actor from the 1940s or of an obscure one-hit-wonder band. My memory for unimportant things is impeccable.

So I should be a great trivia-contest player, right?

My husband and I do make a pretty formidable team when we play along with Jeopardy! on TV or when we play Trivial Pursuit with friends. I let him take the hard categories—science and geography—and I mostly handle the easy ones, like literature, art, and film. We complement each other well.

But the kind of high-stakes trivia contests they play in pubs? That’s another story.

The pub we went to the other night was jammed by the 9 p.m. starting time. We were lucky to get a table for two near the door. I looked around at all the tables and the bar, filled with teams of three, four, five or more people competing against just the two of us. It was daunting. Nevertheless, nourished by a glass of wine and a chicken pot pie, I made myself ready.

The host read off the categories, six rounds of ten questions each: pop culture; geography, history and sports; picture round; music; true/false round; and general knowledge. We actually did pretty well for the first few rounds. When we got to the geography etc. round I was very unsure but counted on my husband to help us at least keep from getting embarrassed. We blew all the other teams away on that round with 90 points (and I did help a little). Each round has a winner, and that one was ours. We actually won a prize--a set of coasters.


I was pumped. Bring on the rest of the questions; we were hot!

The peak turned immediately to a slope in the music round. I thought we made a promising start. On the first notes of the first song, we looked at each other and mouthed “Day Tripper” (so the people at the next table wouldn’t hear us—gotta be strategic). I happily wrote down “Day Tripper, The Beatles”. Wrong. Turned out it was a version by Jimi Hendrix (who knew Jimi Hendrix did a version of “Day Tripper”?). After that we correctly identified Tom Jones and Blondie. Then it fell apart. Halfway through the round, the host threw a country song at us, and we threw up our hands in surrender. No clue the rest of the way. “We’re too old for this round,” I grumbled to the host when he came to pick up our answer sheet. And I’m the one who likes new music!

After limping through the rest of the contest, we finished in tenth place out of about fourteen or fifteen teams. Oh well. We had a lot of fun, and we had our coasters to show for it.

Sometimes the little triumphs make all the difference.


PS: But next time we’ll try to recruit a couple of young people to come with us.






Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bad Blogger


I’ve come to a difficult realization.

I am a Bad Blogger.

When February began I decided, with more enthusiasm than sense, to commit to doing February’s NaBloPoMo challenge. That is, to write a blog post every day in the month of February.

I thought it seemed doable. There was a general theme that we could choose to use or not, and no other rules except to blog every day.

So, even though I was still working on Monster Project, I went ahead and threw my hat in the ring.  
As of and including this post, I have done 11 posts in 18 days. That’s a very good record for me, but it’s far off the pace I’d committed myself to.

So what went wrong?

I should have been more realistic about Monster Project, for one thing, but I thought somehow I could squeeze in some short posts, use photos for a couple of days, sort of make do until the project was done…but that didn’t happen.

My biggest problem is that I just can’t write fast—or short. What I thought would be short posts ended up taking more time than I figured on. My second problem is needing too much time to figure out what to write about. When I started, I had a few ideas that I thought could get me through the first week, then I trusted in coming up with more. But once I jotted down a few notes about the ideas, I felt hamstrung about how to develop them. In the little time I had each day, I just couldn’t think things through well enough.

Maybe I just don’t have enough to say and don’t want to clutter up the blogosphere with a lot of trivia.

So I’m withdrawing from NaBloPoMo. I want blogging to be fun and not feel pressured by it. However, I am enjoying blogging again, so I’m not bowing out completely—just “downsizing.” There are still two weeks left in the month, and I’d like to be able to post four or five more times. Maybe I can make that.

I confess that I’ve been a Bad Blogger in other ways, too—that is, in supporting other bloggers. I haven’t been keeping up with all of your blogs, and I feel bad about that. Maybe there should be a “National Blog Reading Month” so that we could all catch up on what our friends and fellow bloggers are writing? In any case, I am trying now to do more visiting and commenting on other people’s blogs, because I really do appreciate the support I get from the community and want to give that back.

In keeping with the February NaBloPoMo theme, I’m taking a new perspective on my blogging life; I’m knowing my limitations. Sure, it’s good to try to stretch your limits sometimes, but we also have to realize when it’s detrimental to other things in our lives. So my new perspective on blogging is:
Have fun with it.
Don’t feel pressured by it.
And give back to fellow bloggers!



Monday, February 17, 2014

My Gratitude List — February 17, 2014   

My linkup this week with Laurel Regan’s Gratitude List at Alphabet Salad
to share a few things (large and small) that I’m grateful for today in my life.

—Generous bloggers who share their expertise (e.g. in crocheting) with the rest of us.

—Sharing Valentine’s Day with my wonderful husband and a great dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in our neighborhood.

—Receiving roses and candy from said wonderful husband.

—Kind neighbors who help shovel others’ walks and driveways.

—Music that brings me back to other times and places in my life.

—Sharing Sunday breakfast with my husband at local restaurants before church each week.

—Being able to occasionally write a blog post that touches or moves someone or lets them know they’re not alone.

—That the sun is out today and I can hear the dripping sound of melting outside my window.

—Once more participating in the Trifecta challenge and receiving generous comments from other participants.

—That the cold I thought I was getting last week never materialized.

—That in spite of the fact that I didn’t think I could find enough to put in it this week, I still managed to make up this list!


What are you grateful for this week? Please share at Laurel’s  linkup!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Our Midwinter TV Break


We keep our television in our back room—the sunroom. This room was added onto the house about ten years before we bought it. It has skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, and French doors leading out to our deck. We love it in the summer, when we can open skylights and windows and the doors. But in the winter—no way.


On sunny days the room can be comfortable enough during the daytime. It also has supplementary electric heat (our home has gas). But at night it’s freezing, and it takes a while for the electric heat to warm up to a tolerable level.

Several years ago my husband went into the crawlspace underneath and stapled in some insulation, but it didn’t help enough, not with more glass than wall in the room. So in order to get me to watch TV in there, it has to be something very special. And this year it just hasn’t been worth it.

I’m a basketball—Celtics—fan, and I’ve spent lots of winter nights over the past years suffering heat deprivation to watch them. We’d bring up a space heater and cuddle under afghans, but it still wasn’t as comfortable as I like to be. This year I’m boycotting the Celtics because of the trade they made that upset me. So nothing has lured me back into the refrigerator.

I thought the Olympics would get me back out there, but surprisingly I’m not enough into it this year to make the sacrifice.

And I’ve discovered something better.

More time eating in our dining room instead of in front of the TV. More time to talk with my husband, to listen to music, to play board games. And best of all, more time to read! I’ve just finished my fifth book since the beginning of the year, and I’m loving not having the distraction of TV. We really don’t watch any shows regularly, so I don’t feel I’m missing anything.

In a couple of months the Red Sox will be back, and we’ll be out there watching them. Hopefully by April the snow season will have finally passed and we’ll have more comfortable temperatures, even if we do need a blanket for a little while.

In the meantime I’m enjoying my “sabbatical.”


Friday, February 14, 2014

 Why I Write…

In response to a recent blog post by Laurel Regan (who continues to inspire me at Alphabet Salad), here are some of the reasons why I write.

I write out of my love for stories and for language.

I think I was born loving stories and remember from an early age being captivated when my mother would read to me.

My love of language, its sounds and rhythms, was also formed early in my life through Dr. Seuss’s books and Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So Stories (“the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees…”).

I write out of my need to create.

I think all of us have a need to be creative and that we do it in untold numbers of ways, whether we have and raise children, plant gardens, take photos, style our own or other people’s hair, knit, or tinker with cars. Writing is the one creative endeavor that I think I’m good at.


I write because I express myself much better that way.

I’m pathologically shy and reserved, and I find it hard a lot of the time to talk to people and to get the words to come out of my mouth the way they are in my head. In college my teachers praised my papers, but asked me why I didn’t say more in class. As an introvert, I need time to construct my thoughts, and writing gives me that time.


I write to lose myself in other people’s lives and to give myself a place to go that’s all mine.

Writing, like reading, is a great way to get out of your own perspective and into those of others.


I write to explore the mysteries of the human mind.

No subject fascinates me so much as this: the unknowability of the mind and soul, the secrets we all contain that we may not even be aware of ourselves. I love getting inside a character’s mind and experiencing with him or her—particularly characters who struggle with obsessions, passions, or some kind of mental illness.


I write because it’s challenging.

Sometime people assume that, because we can write, it must be easy for us to write. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best writers make it look easy by concealing the hard work they do. When you read a good novel, you have no idea how many rewrites the writer went through, how much thinking, rethinking, planning, improvising, changing plans, eliminating characters and creating new ones, cutting dialogue, and so forth. All of these things are part of the writer’s search for the perfect way to say what she or he wants to. It’s not easy, it’s not always fun, but it’s a journey well worth taking—even if we’re the only ones who ever read our writing. And writing is something you can always get better at! I hope to be writing—and learning—till the end of my life.


I write because it’s stimulating.

Writing keeps the mind active. When I’m not actually writing, I think about writing: about characters and plot situations, about how to develop a new idea, about where in my long-lingering novel manuscript I want to go next. It keeps my mind busy when exercising or taking a shower or doing housework. And there’s that rush when you realize you’ve just written something that’s exactly right!


I write to make things come out the way I want them to.

Which, as Woody Allen once said, is awfully hard to do in life.






Thursday, February 13, 2014

Trifecta Challenge

After a long “sabbatical,” I’ve decided to enter the Trifecta Challenge again this week:

This week we're asking for exactly 33 of your own words about love gone wrong.  But we're asking that you not use any of the following words: love, sad, tears, wept, heart, pain

After the Affair

My virginal self, shy, vulnerable, I brought to you.

In cars, hotel rooms, camptents.

In your home when you were alone.

I said Give me life. Give me meaning.

You did.

No regrets.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What I’m grateful for today…. (February 10, 2014)


Another linkup with Laurel Regan’s Gratitude List at Alphabet Salad
to share a few things (large and small) that I’m grateful for today in my life.


I need to make this list after a hectic day!

 —Having an essay featured on the blog of the literary magazine The Quotable.

—A warm, comfortable home in snowy, freezing weather.

—That having a dog forces me to get outside at least once every day for a walk in snowy, freezing weather, when I’d otherwise hibernate inside my warm, comfortable home.

—My precious, funny, slightly (okay, more than slightly) neurotic dog, Honey.

—Little doggie boots to protect Honey’s paws from treated salt on sidewalks.

—Finishing up another big work project.

—Getting my car out of the ice and snow so I could get to UPS to return my big work project.

—Having work that I like—just having work at all—at a time when so many people don’t (regardless of the fact that I sometimes complain about it); and, relatedly:

—Having finished college at a time when it was possible to get a job after graduation.

—SpellCheck: for all the absurdities it’s capable of, it’s invaluable in catching little things like spacing errors and misplaced punctuation—mistakes that are easy to make in Track Changes and hard to catch when proofing on screen.

—Bailey’s Irish Cream.

—Spontaneous conversations with strangers in public places.

—Having a vital theater and music community and two art/independent movie houses in our city and state.

—That spring training starts next week! When baseball comes, can warm weather be far behind?



Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Monster Manuscript


I’ve already fallen behind on my February blogging, but with good reason. Here it is:


This is the editing project I’ve just finished—30 chapters and around 1000 pages. Due next Tuesday. Because of tight publishing deadlines, I was given four weeks by my client to do this, whereas I normally have about six weeks on a project this size.

The first pass is DONE!! Now to go back through over the next few days and VERY quickly review the pages with Track Changes turned off to catch anything that jumps out at me.

So with no further ado I head back to my edited files. Hopefully once this is done I’ll catch up somewhat on my NaBloPoMo commitment. Was I crazy to sign up? Probably. But hey.

Sometimes pressure is good for us, right??


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Perspective (February 4, 2014)
Millennium Park, Chicago


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shorts on a Winter Day—February 3, 2014

My husband and I are short-film fans. You know, the ones you never get to see on movie screens, the ones that are less than feature length—sometimes as short as just a couple of minutes, sometimes close to an hour. Unfortunately, usually the only way you can see any of these films is at a film festival, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your area. (We are fortunate to have one in Rhode Island every August, and short films make up a big part of it.)

Over the weekend one of our art-film houses (we have two in Providence! aren’t we lucky?) presented two programs of the Oscar-nominated short films: one program for the animated films and one for the live-action. We saw both. Both were very much worth seeing, although I slightly preferred the live-action ones.

It made me wonder why something can’t be done to give these wonderful films wider distribution to make them available to larger audiences.

The filmmakers who create these little gems are highly talented writers, directors, actors, and so forth who put their hearts (and their money) into doing what they love. Short films give them opportunities to be as creative as they can be and run a spectrum from innovative to weird to funny to serious. Many short-film makers have gone on to become directors of full-length features.

These films are like the short story is to the novel: a story told concisely and compactly, something that requires great skill and discipline (as any writer who’s written short stories knows). Some of them are even closer to poetry, the poetry of the image.

They deserve to be seen.

I remember a time (I know, I’m old) when it was common for theaters to run short films in front of the feature. Now they run commercials. (A rant for another time, but it makes me furious to pay ten dollars or more to see a movie and have to watch ten minutes of commercials before it.)

I know every business has to do all it can to make money these days, no matter how exploitive or inconvenient to its customers. But each time we’ve gone to a program like this it’s been a sellout. I believe there’s a big audience for these films if only they were more readily available.

How great would it be if someone finally recognized that?
PS: For the record, my favorites were M. Hublot and Room on the Broom in animation and The Voorman Problem and Just Before You Lose Everything  in live action. If you watch the Academy Awards, see if I’m right!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day (Perspective #2)

 Today is Groundhog Day, and people here in the States wait eagerly to see whether a little creature in Pennsylvania tells us we’re going to have six more weeks of winter.

This has been a harsh winter throughout the country. We in New England have been known for our bad weather, but this year we’ve been outdone almost everywhere else—even Georgia. We have had more snowy days than usual, but no major storms, no paralysis—as yet.

I’m a heat-and-summer-loving person, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that there is beauty in all four seasons—even winter. So, in the interest of perspective, I’d like to call out a few of the good things about winter.

The grace of winter is in slowing us down.

All our hectic activity of the other three seasons can fall prey within hours to a strong, fast snowfall, and we’re left to stare out of our windows in awe at a power that’s bigger than we are.

A few precious times a year, winter gives us the chance to “hunker down”; to realize we’re not going anywhere, to curl up in our warm homes with our favorite hot beverage and a book, and let time have its way.

These days that’s no small blessing.

I have to confess that I’m lucky in working at home, so I don’t have to make my way into and home from an office in snow and on icy roads. But having a dog forces me to go out at least once a day for her walk.

My dog loves the winter and the snow. She’ll happily stop every few feet to sniff at it, zigzagging her way from one drift to another, burying her face in it, and bringing me into her time.
While I wait for her I look around and notice the way the sun shines through bare branches and spills onto the sidewalk, running silver; the shocking blue of the sky without any heat haze to filter it. And when I pull myself into the moment I can even almost enjoy the cold, the bite of it on my face that makes my blood run sharper.

Winter allows me to wrap myself up in soft, warm, comfy clothes: corduroy pants, sweaters, shawls, long flannel nightgowns.  I’m a lover of outerwear. Right now I have four or five winter coats, and one always seems exactly right for the kind of day it is: very cold, mildly cold, not so cold. I have soft scarves and cozy hats and warm gloves and knee socks. When it’s chilly inside the house I wrap myself in my own hand-crocheted shawl or cover up with a soft blanket. There's nothing like cuddling up inside something warm to make you feel secure.

Take a walk the day after a blizzard, when all the streets haven’t yet been cleared and cars are at a  minimum. You can walk right down the middle of a normally busy road. People are outside, walking, trying out cross-country skis or snowshoes, shoveling. And they’re smiling and friendly, with that “we’re all in this together” sense of congeniality. We talk, smile and wave at each other, even strangers, proud in a way that we’re the ones venturing outside.
Our familiar neighborhoods look different. Colors seem brighter against the white background.

And then there are icicles.


When winter gives us icicles, no further defense is necessary.





Saturday, February 1, 2014

 “Perspectives” on February

 Thanks to a little gentle persuasion (pointing at you, Laurel Regan) and maybe a touch of masochism, I have signed up for my first National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo . This means committing to post on my blog every day throughout the month of February.

Why did I get myself into this when I have so much else to do? I asked myself that question. Here are some answers:

1.    My blog needs some nurturing. I’ve been neglecting it shamefully for various reasons. No time. Too many other things to do.  Sometimes I’d get an idea for a post, maybe even make a few notes, but then never get around to writing it up. So clearly I need a little discipline.

2.    In the past two years I did A-Z in April, but this year I’m planning to let that go—no good ideas for a topic, for one thing. But I still felt like I wanted a challenge. I just didn’t know what to do.


3.    The NaBloPoMo theme for February is “perspective”. Now this is a topic that definitely allows for a wide range of ideas, as perspective is important in so many things, from art to daily life. And when I thought about it, I realized that that, after all, is what blogging is all about—sharing our own perspectives on the world and on our lives. There’s no obligation in NaBloPoMo to write on the theme every day, yet it’s one that’s almost always implicitly there. So even when I don’t directly address perspective, it’s sure to creep in somehow. And it’s one that lends itself well to use of photography, too!

4.    February is such a blah month that it’s good to have something to look forward to. Besides, it’s a short month! Only 28 blog posts necessary!


5.    It just sounds like a lot of fun!


So I hope you will follow me during this month and sign up to do it yourselves. There’s a blogroll at BlogHer where you can list your blog and follow others who are embarking on this journey.

Onward to March!