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.


My “Online Life”

My online life is not at all extensive.

I have no online “home” like many people do; I rent one where this blog lives, or more precisely, borrow it, since I pay no rent.

In spite of this I have myriad neighbors and acquaintances and even a few good friends in this “world.”

I come into it almost every morning. I open my doors and windows and see who’s around. We may just exchange quick greetings. We may stop and chat for a few minutes, finding out what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Then there are the ones I particularly look for every day, the real-life friends as well as the ones I’ve gotten to know here in this world, the ones who come into my heart and stay there.

I have no clandestine life here; I use my own name, I am who I am, however uninteresting I may (or may not) be. A few years ago I would never have expected to have any kind of life at all here, yet somewhere along the way my obsessive, introverted nature hooked on to the new possibilities of communication and creativity available in this world, and here I am.

Could I live without it? I’m sure it would be hard for a while, having gotten used to it, but I don’t think it would be a major deprivation. I would hope that I would keep writing, keep in contact with people I care about, keep taking photos, keep learning and growing.

But I think this world has led me to grow in ways I might not have without it. In retrospect, who can say what might have happened, what we might have been, if such-and-such had not occurred?

I do believe I probably would not be writing if I had not, a good number of years ago now, been involved in an online fan group and started writing fan fiction. That resparked my long-dormant interest in and love of writing, and from there I learned to create my own characters and situations and to develop my own style. I probably also would never have the nerve to share my work without the various online writing courses and communities I’ve been involved with, nor would I have developed friendships with other writers as I have.

The topic is a two-headed monster for me. In many ways I’m still a Luddite. I think fondly of the days of paper and pen. I dread the disappearance of books. I think many people are too attached to their screens. Yet I can’t deny the things that have enhanced my life, either. Word processing, email, Facebook, and blogging have all made my life easier in some ways and richer in others.

I just wish there wasn’t such a rush to make everything that came before obsolete. I’m afraid technology develops much faster than our ability to make intelligent use of it and to know what things truly make our lives better and which only make them more frantic. (No, I don’t own a smartphone.)

Now it’s time to go read a real paper-and-print book. The online world will still be here tomorrow.









Friday, July 4, 2014

A Great American Family

(UBC and NaBloPoMo Day 4)

In the United States today we celebrate Independence Day, the day that the Declaration of Independence from England was signed in 1776 by a group of farsighted and courageous men who have come to be called our Founding Fathers.

My own particular favorite among them has long been John Adams, a feisty, opinionated, cantankerous, and brilliant lawyer from Massachusetts (our next-door neighbor) who was the sparkplug of the Revolution and a thorn in the side of many of his compatriots. My interest in Adams began when I saw 1776, the Broadway musical, in which Adams is the lead role. William Daniels fit the part perfectly both on stage and in the film, which I own and try to watch at least every other Fourth.

I’ve read several biographies of Adams (by far the best, in my opinion, is the two-volume work called simply John Adams by Page Smith); I’ve read a book of letters exchanged between John and his wife Abigail over their lives; I own DVDs of both the John Adams miniseries starring Paul Giamatti and the older PBS series, The Adams Chronicles.
My admiration extends to the entire Adams family, especially Abigail and their son, John Quincy Adams (our sixth president for readers outside the U.S.), also a brilliant man and a president far ahead of his time, in my opinion. John Quincy was undoubtedly the most vociferous opponent of slavery up until that time; his defense of the Africans in the Amistad trial was portrayed in the film Amistad, starring Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy. (Another of their descendants, Henry Adams, was a famous writer and historian.)

Neither of the Presidents Adams was popular in his time—they were far too honest and unyielding to be popular. Nor has history done them much better. Washington and Jefferson are seen as the biggest heroes of independence. John Adams has never even been honored on a piece of American currency (until the recent Presidential gold dollar series). Yet without him the birth of our young country would have been a much more fragile and questionable enterprise. And without John Quincy, so might the eventual end of slavery.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Presurgical Thoughts

Day 3 of UBC and NaBloPoMo challenges 

Most of my Facebook friends know that I will be having surgery on my right wrist on July 11.

The official diagnosis is de Quervain’s syndrome, defined in Wikipedia as “a tenosynovitis of the sheath or tunnel that surrounds two tendons that control movement of the thumb.” (Tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the tendon sheath.)

More than a year ago, in late winter, I began to feel pain in my hand and wrist. I had been crocheting a lot at that time and, of course, working on the computer every day. I bought an elastic-bandage-type wrist brace and began to wear it.

Around April I was still having the pain. I had an appointment with my doctor, and he  gave me a cortisone shot. Within a day or two I felt much better and resumed crocheting.

I was fine for the summer, but shortly into the fall I began to start feeling twinges of pain again. I eventually got another cortisone shot, but my doctor warned me that if it happened again he’d have to refer me to an orthopedic surgeon.

It happened again, around springtime this year. I began to get frustrated. After the second cortisone shot last year I was able to finish an afghan for my sister-in-law for Christmas and became active in my church prayer-shawl group again. I had finished two shawls and was at work on another when it hit again this time.

As the old saying goes, “the third time is the charm.” Or, in this case, the final blow.

I saw the orthopedic surgeon, who gave me a (mostly incomprehensible to me) explanation of the anatomy of the wrist tendons.


He gave me a choice: another cortisone shot, “conservative” therapy (mostly wearing a huge Victorian-boot-type thing around my wrist), or surgery. But, he said, since I’d had two cortisone shots and neither of them cured it, he didn’t expect that another one would, either. Wanting to resolve this once and for all, I opted for the surgery.

I told him I’d have to finish up my work projects first; as a freelancer, I have no one to delegate my work to. I’d need till about the end of June. In the meantime he gave me a pain-relieving cream and the aforementioned Victorian-boot brace. “Wear it while you’re using the hand,” he said. Well, there was no way I could work or do anything with that manacle on my hand, so I continued with my elastic brace.


So now I’m waiting. Surgery date is set, my work is cleared up, I’m free for another week. I had an EKG with my primary-care doctor. I have my presurgery instructions. Two days before surgery, start taking Vitamin C. On the morning of, nothing to eat or drink; just two Celebrex with a sip of water. He gave me samples of these.

Although I’ll be glad to have this problem resolved, I’m thinking about what the aftermath will be like. I’ll have to wear a cast or brace for ten days. Will I be able to use the hand at all? Will I be able to eat, wash, brush my teeth? No instructions yet about any of those things. How big will the brace be? After the ten days I’ll begin rehab. When will I be able to resume my work?

I know one thing: I won’t be able to do any housework. But I know with a little “reminder,” my dear husband will do it willingly and well!



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July, July


Ah, July, July—if only you didn’t go by so fast!

 I am a summer lover, and July is my favorite month of the year—possibly because, here in New England, it’s the most prototypical and consistent summer month. June is often cool and rainy, as it was this year, and in late August we can start feeling some of the chill air of upcoming fall. But July—July is summer in all its greatest glory.

July is canopies and carpets of green. Even in the city we are blessed with abundant trees, parkland, and beautiful gardens all around the neighborhood.


July is long days and warm nights and walking our dog much farther than we do in the winter.
July in the United States is the Fourth, Independence Day—the only real summer holiday—with its cookouts and concerts and fireworks.

It’s Pawtucket Red Sox games, walking to the stadium a few miles away, relaxing with a book between innings, eating hot dogs or chicken salad wraps balanced unsteadily on our laps, cheering for great plays.

 It’s getting your hair cut short and feeling so much freer.

July is al fresco dining at local restaurants that we can bring our dog to, sometimes a healthy walk away, sitting at outdoor tables watching people go by, saying friendly hellos and exchanging a few words.

It’s being able to open all the windows in the house. We are not air conditioning people; we bring up our large fans from the basement and position them for the best cross-breeze and enjoy the feeling of the natural air blowing around us and the sunlight, sounds, and smells of summer coming in.

July is special in our small city. It’s WaterFire in downtown Providence: fires in braziers running up and down the center of the two rivers that converge in a round pool within an open amphitheater near our mall and our train and bus stations. It’s concerts in local parks—classical, folk, pop, jazz—just about every kind of music, and open-air theater.


July is warmth coming up from the pavement, heat shimmering in the air.

 It’s sitting on our deck to eat or read in the open air. It’s opening up the new French doors in our back room while we watch the Red Sox and the MLB All-Star game.

It’s getting caught in sudden rainstorms while out running or walking, laughing as we scurry from tree to doorway for shelter, trying to make it home as fast as possible. It’s watching thunderstorms from a screened porch.

It’s knowing that we still have another month of summer ahead of us.

July is the center of the year. It’s far enough away from winter on both ends to make us forget (for a while) the miseries of cold and ice. It creates a paradise of warmth and sunshine and beautiful growing things. It’s almost feeling time stop even as we know it can’t last.


July is sweet.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Gratitude/Happiness List: Week of June 29–July 5

 This month I am participating in NaBloPoMo and the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I’ll be blogging (or trying to) every day this month, and hopefully having enough posts done in advance so that my hand surgery won’t be an impediment.

My first post is a linkup with Laurel Regan’s Alphabet Salad to share some of the things I’m grateful for and that make me happy at this moment in time.


Getting to meet a Facebook friend from England on her trip to the U.S. and sharing a lovely lunch in Newport.

Having finished all the work I had in advance of my wrist surgery and having almost two weeks free to myself.

Finally having a date for my wrist surgery and looking forward to resolving this problem and being pain free.

My Georgia in-laws—Tim’s dad, sister and brother-in-law, and our four nieces—wonderful people whose family I’m so glad to be part of.

Being able to walk to the stadium of our local Triple-A baseball affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox, and enjoy games for a very reasonable price.

Dinner and lunch dates with friends.

Learning that there will again be a free summer concert series along the walking path on Blackstone Boulevard, just blocks from our house.

Classic novels that feature love stories with happy endings—like the one I just finished, Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

The return of WaterFire to Providence.

Being able to walk to downtown Providence, as well as so many other places in our city.

Special arts events like the Womanimation festival featuring short films by women.

A weekend of getting out for long walks and a run.

Always, date nights with my husband!