Friday, August 28, 2009

Coming Up for Air

This week I was on vacation from my day job, and I spent untold hours working on various writing projects. Despite what you might think, for the most part, I found that restful and enjoyable.

I set up a new website and linked my new blog and site up to Statcounter as well as Google Analytics. I've discovered that for all of the things I've written on this blog, the most popular page is my recipe for Cabbage Rolls!

I've spent hours upon hours writing and proofing and editing some of my posts. I probably spent a maximum of 15 minutes on the Cabbage Rolls recipe.

Maybe that should tell me something about the value of obsessing over proofing and editing. (It's not going to stop me because I HATE it when I find errors in other peoples' books, and I don't want others to find mistakes in mine..... but I know they will.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Surprising (and Heartwarming) Moment

This morning, Dear Husband and I went to the beach, which is our normal practice on Saturday. We usually have the place more or less to ourselves early on Saturday, but today, the beach was so packed we had a hard time finding a parking spot. Hurricane Bill kicked up some of the biggest waves I've ever seen on our beaches (first hand, anyway). It looked like the West Coast beaches with the big, rolling waves breaking far off shore, and amazing surfers riding the waves for impossible amounts of time.

We arrived just before high tide; there was essentially no beach. The ocean reached almost to the dunes. At one point, a very big wave came all the way up to the edge of the dunes where we were standing. It swept away a garbage can and a recycling can. The recycling can had a lid. A guy standing next to DH grabbed it and took it back up into the dunes. Before anybody could grab it, the trash can rolled over and spilled its contents. We sort of stood there, not knowing what to do. I was barefoot but had pants on; DH was wearing shoes and socks with shorts. Neither of us wanted to get wet.

The Surfer Dudes were not so inhibited. One guy grabbed the garbage can and several other guys and one young girl waded into the water, picking up cans, bottles and bags of trash. The guy with the trash can waded in holding it out as though he were taking up collection at church. The kids made quick work of the cleanup, and then the Dude dragged the can up into the dunes and set it next to the recycling can.

DH and I stood there beaming. These kids made it clear by their actions (taken without thought or hesitation) they care about the beach where they practice their passion for surfing.

I walked away still not comprehending the attraction for the sport, but with a very different feeling for the tattooed and oddly dressed throngs who practice or follow it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For some reason, today I sort of meandered down the road of recalling people who have most inspired me. The first two names that popped into my head were Erma Bombeck and Mary Richards.

My self-image as a kind of literary type would love to have those first two names be Germaine Greer and Lucy Maud Montgomery, who were also authors I loved. [I would be willing to bet this is the first time those two ladies names have appeared in the same sentence and I bet they'd both love it!]

But, my heart remembered Erma Bombeck and Mary Richards, first.

Upon reflection, I have to admit that my heart did a bang-up job of dredging up the two people who I most wanted to be when I was a young woman.

First, I (and most other girls I knew) wanted to be Mary Richards. She was pretty. She had a totally awesomely cool apartment. She was a single, career woman living alone in a big city. She was a writer. She was everything I wanted to be. I don't think I missed one episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show during its entire run, and I probably watched most of the reruns. A lot of my friends were similarly inspired by that show. She was a free-spirited woman who was not a bra-burning radical. She offered a sort of middle way for women who did not necessarily want to pursue a life of marriage and motherhood, but who also were not particularly radical.

My adulation for Erma Bombeck is a little more difficult to explain. I never had any intention of getting married or having a family (I ultimately did both, but it was not part of the plan). I was going to be Mary Richards, remember? I didn't want to be a mom living in Dayton, Ohio, writing about laundry and cleaning products. The things about Erma Bombeck that lit me up and inspired me were that she was honest and she was funny ... and she was from suburban Dayton, Ohio, which I took to mean you didn't have to be an anorexic, Bryn Mawr educated woman living in New York to be a literary success. (That was important because I was a fat, small town kid from rural Ohio.)

Women in the Midwest in the 1960's were not encouraged to be honest or funny. Bombeck managed to be both a nice lady and honest as well as funny as hell. Not to mention a fabulous writer.

I wanted to be a humor writer, documenting the life of a single career-woman.

I ended up a married, career-woman, who writes stories. I'm still working on the "funny" part.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

'Fessing Up

I have been debating about this, and can argue both "fer it" and "agin it", but I've decided to do it anyway.

Those of you who follow this blog (and I hate to admit how few of you there are) know that I've referred to it, but I've generally kept my fiction writing out of my blog. Lately my fiction writing has taken off (which is one reason I've been ignoring this blog: there are only so many hours in the day even for someone who sleeps as little as I do).

Recently I created a pseudonym under which I plan to publish my stories. I did that partly because my real name doesn't have much of a ring to it, and because I want to reserve it for use in my day job. [My boss has no use for blogging, bloggers, or people who waste time on the Internet. Taking a lesson from Dooce, here.] After creating my alter ego Writer Identity, I set up a blog for my fiction writing, and even self-published my first novel. There are eight more in the pipeline!

I'm coming clean with this here and now, mainly because I'm trying to steer as much traffic to my fiction site as I possibly can, and to let anyone who might care know why I've gone "silent" around here. This blog will remain active for my personal ranting, raving and commenting. I'm going to use my other blog for writing on writing.

Here are the Links:

Fictional Life - Writing samples and writing on the subject of writing (plus a whole lot of bitching and moaning about the process of trying to get published).

Always Faithful
- A love story, on several levels.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Heartwarming Moment

As I was leaving the grocery store this afternoon, I saw an old beat-up car pull into the row in front of me.  A young man got out; he was maybe in his late teens or early twenties, dressed in old NASCAR regalia. He walked around the car, opened the passenger door and a female hand reached out. That's what got my attention. It's been ages since I've seen a young man open a car door for a woman.

He pulled a couple of times but the woman did not emerge. I expected to see a heavily pregnant young woman get out, given the tender effort he was putting into trying to help pull her from the vehicle.

To my surprise, what emerged was not a fertile young thing, but an ancient crone, with an enormous dowager's hump and a twisted spine that looked painful even from a distance. Her hair was a mess from her efforts to get out of the car and she tried to smoothe it down, looking at her reflection in the windows of the car parked next to them. The young man helped her, gently stroking her hair.  It was still a mess, but she smiled up in gratitude and he smiled back with genuine affection.

She turned away from the car, took a moment to steady herself, and reached out for him, like a toddler reaching for Daddy.  He took her hand in his, and together they walked slowly across the parking lot.  She struggled to maintain her balance and forward momentum. He struggled to match her snail-like pace. 

As I drove by them, he looked at me, raised his eyebrows and smiled as if to say, "Whaddya gonna do?"

I smiled back with what I hope he perceived as admiration and respect, maybe even reverence.  

Blessings be upon you, young man.  You made my day! ..... and hers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Home Improvement

I totally and completely hate home improvement projects!! Once when I was a kid, I volunteered to help my dad paint a railing around our porch. It was awful! I managed to avoid any other similar jobs around the house as long as I lived at home, other than gardening, which I hated, but which my parent made me do for my good and to help the family save money.

When I got married, I knew I hated yard work and gardening, so I told my Dear Husband I had allergies that would preclude me from working in the yard. I haven't worked in the yard in a quarter of a century. (I have no idea if I have physical allergies to yard work; I sure as hell have emotional allergies to it.)

We learned early on that we did not work well together. We approach projects differently. We have different work styles. If we have to collaborate on a project, we usually work separately. He does his part, while I find someplace else to be. Then, I do my part while he goes away.

This weekend we embarked on a floor tiling project. DH has tiled several rooms in our house before. Previously, he did the floors while I was at work. These days, he is very busy at his job and didn't have the luxury of working on the project while I was not home. We chose this week to tile the living room because Daughter Dear is on vacation.

He started today. I can't just sit here and watch him work, so I offered to help, hoping to God he would tell me to get lost. I hate working on home improvement projects (as in HATE IT, HATE IT, HATE IT). As cheap as I am (and I am truly the cheapest person I know), once I decide to do something around the house (which I don't decide to do until the situation is truly and positively a dire emergency), it is with the assumption that I am willing to pay someone (who knows how) to do it. Unfortunately, DH did not see this project in the same way. He did most of the work, but he had me help him move the furniture and carry in the tile. Then he had me down on my knees sponging grout and drying it. I may skip my visit to Curves tomorrow!

We don't know what we're doing and our home projects always end up looking like crap. Granted, in addition to being cheap, I am anything but "particular" about my house, but it bothers even me when things look positively shitty. Right now, our house is a nightmare for even me!

I guess no matter what it looks like when it's done, it'll be better than the totally awful carpet (that I never liked) which the dogs have destroyed.

I just wish I didn't have to help.

God, I know that makes me sound like a terrible person, but I'm a writer and an office worker, not a home decorator.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dog Blogging

Little dog likes the new 'puter.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oops! Bye Bye, Windows.

I guess something I did while I was trying to resize the drives erased Vista.  Someday I may try to get it back, but in the meantime, I've got a boatload of space in Ubuntu.  How cool is that?

This is what you could call diving in to the deep end. 

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America

I recently read the book The Great Upheaval  by Jay Winik.  Right now I'm reading American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson  by Joseph Ellis. That's appropriate reading to contemplate on Independence Day, even knowing that the Revolution was already under way by the time they got around to signing the Declaration of Independence, and the outcome was anything but certain.  That odd cast of characters ranging from little Jimmy Madison to wise old Ben Franklin, and with guys like Washington, Adams, Jefferson in the middle -- not to mention Hamilton, whose genius was on some other plane entirely -- did the impossible. 

My God, it gives me chills just rattling off their names!  Men with a crazy  idea, or, more accurately, men with a whole array of conflicting crazy ideas but all of which revolved around the preposterous notion that people should not be subject to dictatorial rule by a king.  If that wasn't insane enough, these particular folks happened to be subjects of the greatest imperial power on the planet at the time (Catherine of Russia might quibble about that).  In any case, it seems to me the American Revolution was something akin to American Samoa declaring war on the United States! King George must have laughed his ass off when he first got wind of the idea. 

But, a few people with courage, passion and a big dream can change the course of history.  It's been done many times.  One of those times occurred in the American Colonies in the late 18th century.  It still astonishes me every time I read a new book about the period. Maybe that's why I've read so many of them.

For me the most remarkable thing about the period was the pantheon of dazzlingly amazing people who were alive at the same time , and who all had influence over one another (on which, by all means, read The Great Upheaval). Reflecting on the giants who gave birth to our country is both inspiring and a little depressing. I'm inclined to wonder where the greatness in our country is now. 

It would be easy to be frightened for our future when the country can come so unglued over the death of a really sick, sad and pathetic person who happened to be a musical genius while seeming not to care at all about the needless deaths and suffering of Americans and Iraqis in a war half way around the world.  It would be easy to get all self-righteous about the abysmal state of leadership in our country when I read about the antics of clowns like what's-his-name from South Carolina or Sarah Palin.  It would be easy to do, but it would be unfair, because there were corrupt and horrible leaders in the 18th Century as well.  (On which read the charges against King George enumerated in the part of the Declaration of Independence that nobody reads.)

Our country seemed to have taken a tiny step away from the brink of self-destruction when, in what I still consider to be something of a miracle, we elected Barack Obama to be our president.  That event still can make me a little weapy.  It won't be easy to turn the ship of state around, and the president can't do it all by himself.  He has to have the help of the Congress and the support and cooperation of We The People.  Considering what a motley crew we are, that's going to take some bodacious leadership on his part.  

My faith in our system and our potential for continued greatness remains strong, at least it has most of the time since the Bush Brothers left office.  But, beyond our political leaders, I hope and pray that the everyday folks will continue to serve as the backbone of our republic, doing what needs to be done when it needs doing and taking care of business.  I'm a liberal wacko, but I'm also a capitalist and a republican (note small "r").  

As a general rule, I don't go in for patriotic displays because most of it is sentimental mush, but I make two exceptions:

On Veterans Day and Memorial Day I buy a Buddy Poppy (and I keep one in my car, one in my purse and one in my office) to remind myself to be grateful for the sacrifices of our veterans. 

On the Fourth of July, I stop to ponder the wonderful miracle of the American Revolution and to be grateful for the courageous (and crazy) men who signed it, and (in a phrase that rarely is quoted), who were willing to "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

 The Document is here.  Bios of the Signers are here.

Ubuntu - Day 2

Well, I spent all evening last night and a good chunk of today trying to figure out how to resize my disc partitions to give Ubuntu more room. It installed itself on only 2G of my 140G hard drive. I've spent hours reading instructions and trying several different utilities to resize the partitions, so far without success. That's a bummer, but I know that (a) I'll figure it out eventually, (b) it works just fine as it is without all the other crap I was going to download and install anyway, and (c) I store all my files on the DATA drive anyway, which has a lotta Gigs just waiting for me to get creative.

I get frustrated when I can't figure something out, so I dig in and get determined to figure it out, or else. Right now, however, I am taking a time out from my "IT" work to play around with my new computer so we can get to know each other. So far, I like what I see. I like the way the menus are arranged and the ease and speed with which I can move from program to program. Most of all, I like the speed. I'm so looking forward to the legendary stability of Linux, too (after twelve years of watching Windows crash periodically and always at the worst possible moment).

I'm still stuck with Windows as a backup until I find a way to have Ubuntu recognize my printer, but that is a problem I can live with. For one thing, I rarely print anything at home and, on the rare occasions I do, I have three other computers in the house that I can use to print from, plus a fourth one most days when Wonderful Boyfriend brings his over to do homework.

And so now, I have the rest of the day to simply play around, and maybe do some actual writing. Dear Husband is braving the dangerous heat and potential storms to go sit outside with a hundred thousand of his best friends to watch cars careening around in a circle (technically it's a tri-oval, but I have no earthly idea what the hell that means) and wrecking into each other. I was kind of thinking about going to the Race with him until I saw the weather forecast.

I am staying put, inside with the A/C cranked up, playing with Little Smoke, and comforting the dogs while the neighbors set off fire-works again tonight, as they have been doing for days.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I have been saying for years that my next computer is going to run on Linux because I hate all the quirks that are built into Windows. After setting up Daughter Dear's computer with Vista, I was pretty sure I didn't want any part of it. It was my intention to buy a computer with Linux installed instead of Windows. That wasn't exactly how it happened. I got such a great deal on this computer, I bought my new computer in spite of the fact that it was pre-installed with Vista. Given the huge savings and my general cheapness, I figured I could manage to learn to love Vista.


After only a couple of hours of sitting around waiting for the computer to respond, I was ready to send it back or throw it out the window. Since I had done no customizing yet, I decided to download and install Ubuntu. I figured if I didn't like that, I could restore the original settings. The downloading and testing out was easy. I liked what I saw.

I logged off from the trial version and tried to restart the computer, but something had gone terribly wrong, and the computer seemed to be totally dead. I thought I was going to have to send it back, but I got online on my old computer and found instructions from Acer's website for a "power reset." That did the trick and I was soon back in business ... not without a dangerous spike in blood pressure.

Ubuntu does not support my printer, so instead of overwriting Vista, I installed Ubuntu along side of Vista. That means I can run either one. I'm betting that if I want to print something, I'll use my old computer that runs on XP and boots up in less than a half hour, but at least I have the choice to run either Vista or Ubuntu.

The good news is that Ubuntu came with Open Office already loaded, saving me the hassle of downloading it.

I am still exploring and getting acclimated to the Windows-free Universe, but so far I like it. It's FAST! I like fast computers.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lots Going On

My new 'puter arrived yesterday, but I was so distracted by work issues I didn't even open it until tonight. I have spent the evening watching the computer set itself up. (Yawn.)

New computers are totally fun ... and scary.

I can't wait to use it for fun stuff, but right now, I'm spending the evening watching it set itself up, and burning backup discs.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have a chance to use it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Caught in a Vortex

Lately I have been caught up in a whirlwind of demands from many sources. I am unbelievably busy at work. The issues with my mother have been temporarily eased a bit, but they have not gone away. Other family issues continue to grow, and there is no reason to expect they will get anything but worse at least for the next year or two. After that, they will change, but not necessarily for the better.

Faced with so many demands on my soul and psyche, I feel as though I have only a few options. I could give myself over to depression and panic, which would only make matters worse on all fronts. I could run away, which -- tempting though it might be -- is not really an option. Or, I could find a way to cope. My way of coping has a lot in common with running away, with a twist.

My way of coping is to stay where I am and to do what I have to do to respond to the demands, but in every spare moment (and some I probably shouldn't spare) to throw myself into writing fiction in order to "process" the issues I'm facing. That has worked for me in the past. I need it to work for me now!

Until recently, I have not shared my fiction online because I was hoping to be able to publish my stories in the traditional manner. Lately, I have become increasingly unwilling to play that game. I know my stories are more entertaining than some I've read, but I can't get anyone to read them. I have only a limited amount of time to write (and that time is even more compressed than usual). I can't afford to spend time querying agents who send rejections via auto-responders.

I've been thinking a lot about it, and I've decided to self-publish. I haven't totally decided what form that will take. I'm researching my options.

When I am in crisis mode, I need to create. I'm in full crisis mode now, so I plan to get very creative, in some form or another

Saturday, June 27, 2009

'Puter woes

I haven't taken the time to look up the exact date I bought it, but approximately four years ago, I bought an Acer Aspire computer. I took it out of the box, plugged it in and less than five minutes later I was online, downloading all the shareware I use because it's way cool and I'm cheap. From that day until about three weeks ago, I never had a bit of trouble with the hardware. Software "issues" and operator stupidity occasionally provided opportunities for heartache and loud swearing, but the hardware was totally reliable.

A few weeks ago, my 'puter started overheating and freezing up, occasionally even shutting down altogether. I can't begin to express how irritating and frustrating that was when I'd be in the "flow" of writing!

Mind you, everything on my laptop is backed up, and the really, really important stuff is backed up in several places. (Anal? Who says I'm anal???) If my laptop were to die in the next five minutes, the only data I would lose would be anything in this post that Blogger hasn't saved yet. But, I love my little 'puter and we've been through a lot of adventures together. I hate to see her getting old and feeble.

Surfing the net and reading zines and blogs is what I do for entertainment. Writing (both blogs and fiction) is what I do for survival. I need my 'puter for both.

I do the routine maintenance on my computers on a regular basis. Beyond that, I'm not to much for tinkering, tweeking and fooling around with the computer operations. I like to use the computer as a tool. I'm not really interested in working on the machine itself.

Today I saw an ad for an Acer very similar to the one I have -- only newer and with a lot more speed, memory and hard drive space, plus a DVD burner. Price was $299 with free shipping! I called Dear Husband and told him he had 20 seconds to give me one good reason not to buy it. He told me to go for it (probably because he heard the tone in my voice that indicated if he came up with a good reason for me not to buy it, I'd be pissed as hell).

New 'puter should arrive next week. If it's half as good as the Little Princess here, I'll be totally thrilled.

The downside is that I will probably spend my holiday weekend setting up my new computer, and I hate spending my valuable spare time working on my computer as opposed to using my computer to do my work.

If I play my cards right, I'll end up with a new, fast souped-up computer, and still have this one (complete with the duct tape that's holding on the cover) for a backup. I can hear DH now muttering, "How many computers does one person need?"

I understand that. Hell, I am constantly on my Daughter Dear's case for her purse-and-shoe habit. (I call her Imelda -- but she doesn't know what that means.) She is always looking for a new purse or the coolest new shoes. I have not owned as many shoes or purses in my life as she has in her closet right now.

Generally speaking, I am a person of simple tastes and limited needs. I have one purse (well two, because I recently bought a travel satchel that will carry my laptop) and I can count my shoes on one hand (if flip flops don't count). The only jewelry I wear any more is my wedding ring and occasionally a pearl necklace my mother gave me. I buy my clothes at thrift stores. I eat out only about once a week, and then it's usually for lunch or takeout Chinese. I don't go to movies or concerts or plays. I cut my own hair. All in all, I'm a pretty thrifty gal. So, if I want to collect a bunch of electronic crap, well, by golly I think I'm entitled!

New laptop should arrive next week. Cursing and gnashing of teeth may/may not follow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Day In My Life

Below is a summary description of one of my days last week. Compared with the days since then, this was a kind of slow day. I'm posting this mainly to take the Nazi reflection off the top of my blog.

Based on events today, I am not sure when I'll check back in here.

6:00 a.m
I wake to the sound of my alarm.

I should have known I was in for a bad day. I hardly ever sleep all the way until my alarm goes off. Usually I wake anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes before the alarm goes off, providing me with the opportunity to ease into my day slowly and pleasantly.Most of the time I'm already in the shower by 6:00 a.m. I set the alarm as an emergency backstop only. This does not bode well.

6:45 a.m In the car on the way to work. Call my mother in convalescent home.

Mom gets on the phone and she's chipper and alert. Loves it there. Just before I get to work she tells me they told her she could go home tomorrow, maybe. She was supposed to be there for a month before we have to decide what to do next. (Leave it to my mother to make a miraculous recovery!)

My guardian angel is with me because I manage not to run into a ditch.

7:05 a.m Log on to work email

Send frantic message to sister regarding the situation with Mom.

Begin work day. I do not write about work here, other than to say that it is fast-paced, stressful and totally CRAZY. Among fending off dozens of emails and phone calls (all bosses out of the office, so I was "in charge"), my main goal for the day was to finish a draft of a report I have been working on for a week. Started that at about 7:10.

10:00 a.m Sister calls

Nursing home has scheduled a care conference for this afternoon. May release Mom early next week.

3:00 p.m participate by phone in care conference

Nurses report on almost miraculous recovery by my mother Plan is to release her on Monday.

3:20 p.m send email to sister

Please call. Let's discuss.

3:30 p.m sister calls

Discuss various options. Decision is that she can deal with moving Mom on Monday. No need for me to go back again right now.

5:20 p.m almost everybody's gone from the office. Phone is quiet. Working on report.

If I'm going to go work out at Curves, need to leave soon, but I'm almost finished with report. Blow off Curves and finish drafting report.

6:20 p.m finish draft of to desktop.

I pull up the document I just saved to my desktop in order to email it to one of my supervising attorneys for review. It's gone!! The version that is there is from hours and hours ago!!! I have lost all the good summary stuff I just wrote!! There is screaming and yelling. I believe the word FUCK is used more than once. Legal assistant is still there. She runs in and calms me down long enough to recover document from Recent Documents (Thank you, K-- and thank you, you miserable bastards at Microsoft.) I email document to attorney (for safe keeping if nothing else).

6:45 p.m arrive home.

Husband not ready for dinner.

7:00 p.m head out for walk (forgetting bug spray).

Walk is wonderful. It's very hot but there's a nice breeze and I'm walking in the fresh air with my music (Thank God for Jimmy Buffett.) The day is looking up!

7:45 p.m heading home, sun behind clouds, very sweaty.

Mosquitoes love sweat!

8:15 p.m home

Doctoring Skeeter bites, reading newspaper. Husband leaves to run errand.

8:45 p.m pour glass of wine. Log onto computer to "process" my day


9:10 p.m Husband not home. Dogs sleeping. It is peaceful and quiet.

Dinner? Wine?

Wine? Dinner?

Can Triscuits be considered dinner? On a day like today?!! Hell, yes. Husband can fend for himself when he gets home.

On The Amazing Power of Denial

Over this past weekend my Dear Husband and I watched the movie Downfall, which is about the final days of the Third Reich seen through the eyes of Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge. It wasn't quite as soul-shaking as Shindler's List (thank God), but it was very powerful -- perhaps because it was a German-made film about the Third Reich.

Visually, the movie was amazing. The performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler was perhaps one of the all time greatest screen performances I have ever seen, albeit one of the most creepy and disturbing. The soundtrack was magnificent. Overall, the movie was very powerful and moving, despite being in German (a language I can't stand to hear spoken -- sounds like people clearing their throats) with English subtitles.

For the first 98% of the movie, I kept asking (as I have every time I've watched a WWII movie) how the Germans could follow a maniac like that and, at the same time, how they could profess not to know what was happening. This movie gave me an inkling of how each of those things could happen. The seduction of a Dream (even if it is a Big Lie) is a powerful thing. The human ability to ignore gruesome and painful facts is one way the species has survived, because it has kept people moving forward when all the facts weighed against it. It is also a way for people to ignore obvious but inconvenient evils that exist right under their noses.

The people who supported Hitler could have and perhaps should have known what was going on. The German people have protested for more than 60 years that they didn't know the full reality of the horrors the Nazis unleashed on their country. I always thought that was disingenuous. How could they not know?

Maybe they didn't know because they were so busy living their lives and trying to get through their days, they didn't look. And for some -- like Traudl Junge -- they were so close they could see the human side of the face of evil, and they were far removed from the reality of the evil that had been unleashed on Europe outside the inner circle.

I found myself feeling compassion for Junge, who was young and clueless and who chose not to see the inconvenient and horrible truths that surrounded her.

The most chilling parts of the movie for me were the scenes in which the True Believers expressed their absolute, unconditional, and eternal faith in Hitler, despite everything, the most significant of which involved Magda Goebbels poisoning her six children.

I have always asked, incredulously: How could that be?

I sit here tonight and feel sure that, as incredible as it may be, it was possible then and it is possible today. Perhaps I should rethink my reluctance to keep apprised of the news!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Great Bumper Sticker!

Dear Husband gets credit for seeing this one on a large pickup:



Up, Up & Away....

The first time I flew in an airplane was in 1973, when I went to Europe with a class trip. We flew to New York, where we had a long layover, and then to Luxembourg where we hopped a train, with all the hippies schlepping around Europe that summer. I can't remember what airline we flew from Ohio to New York. We flew Icelandic from there to Luxembourg, along with all the hippies. The meals were amazing. I tasted cognac for the first time on that trip, and a life-long love affair was born.

After spending my childhood taking long road trips with the 'rents, I discovered air travel, and I loved it.

In the years following college, I took a lot of trips on planes, I visited friends and relatives around the U. S. A few years after I graduated, I got a job that involved a lot of traveling, mostly to New York, Washington D. C. and San Francisco. We stayed in five star hotels and ate at extremely nice restaurants. Flying was fun. The stewardesses on Delta called the passengers "honey" and "sugah". They pretended they appreciated our business. They refrained from saying "bless your heart" to anyone but the total Yankees who wouldn't understand, anyway.

In the early 1980's, I married a man who hated to fly. We took one airplane trip together, and I swore I would never let him get on another plane, considering that my palms were positively bloody from his nails digging into them by the time we landed in Las Vegas. For most of the next twenty-plus years, we traveled only to places we could reach via four-wheeled motorized vehicle that did not leave the ground.

In recent years, I have had to travel occasionally for business and also on several occasions for last-minute trips to visit ailing parents. Flying in the post-9/11 world totally and completely sucks.

In the "olden" days, when a flight was delayed the airline apologized -- and often provided free drinks to soothe the jangled nerves once the passengers were aboard. These days, after hours and hours of delays, the airlines do not offer free drinks to anyone except first class (maybe). Hell, they don't even apologize!

Pardon me for being cranky: this was written after a delay of more than seven hours and three gate changes.

The good news was that my luggage arrived on the same plane as me. That's cause for celebration.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hello!? Hello!? Hello?!

Talk about communication gaps!

My daughter is a college student. She has a smart phone, which she carries with her all the time, but keeps in her purse. The purse is often (allegedly) left in the car, in a bedroom, under the table, or someplace else inaccessible, so she does not always answer it (at least when one or the other parents call).  (I believe that, oh, yes I do.  I also believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy.)  She is generally available only by email or text message.  Occasionally she answers the phone, mainly in order to throw me off.  The key thing is that, while I can rarely actually talk to her when I want to, I can always leave a message in one of several ways, and she can tell how many times I tried to reach out to her.

When my mother lived in her own home, she had a portable phone with caller ID. She was usually home, but if she was out or on the phone, she could always tell when I called, so she, too, knew when I was thinking of her.  Sometimes she would even remember to turn on the damned answering machine so I could leave an actual voice message. (Not very often, but sometimes.)

My mother is now in a convalescent center where she is undergoing rehabilitation therapy. There are only certain hours of the day when she is in her room. She has a basic phone in her room, with no answering service and no caller ID. I spoke to her on Monday for a while, after trying several times and getting a busy signal (I hadn't heard a busy signal in so long, I thought there was something wrong with my phone). Tuesday she had company when I called, so we spoke for only a minute. Today I have tried five times to reach her and the line has been busy every time.  Now it is too late to call because it's almost her bedtime!

Lord, I may have to actually resort to writing letters and mailing them.... then again, maybe I'll try calling her early in the morning when I'm on my way to work! That's worth a try, anyway.

Anything to avoid printing out an actual letter and having to buy a postage stamp! What does a stamp cost these days, anyway? 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Aging Parents

We admitted my mother to a nursing home last week.  

It is hard for me to imagine my fierce and powerful mother as an old lady who submits to being diapered and bathed and having her meat cut up by others. Right now, we don't know if this is a permanent arrangement or if she will -- with physical and occupational therapy -- be able to go home at some point. Personally, I rather hope she decides not to even try to go home. I want her to be someplace where she is safe.

During my entire life, my mother had two desires:  she wanted to spend every possible moment of her life with my father (to the exclusion of all other desires) and she did not want to be a burden on her children.  

After more than 60 years of marriage, my father died a few years ago.  I frankly did not expect Mom to live long after that.  Neither did she, which is why she planned and paid for her funeral when they were arranging his.  

Turns out she's tougher than any of us gave her credit for, and she actually had a few good years, maintaining her independence, doing some things that Dad never would have wanted to do and muddling through her days in a world without the man who was the center of her universe.  

After Dad died we gently suggested that she divide her time between my sister's home and mine.  We each offered to build out mother-in-law apartments in our houses.  Mom wasn't ready to do that.  She didn't want to "burden" us, and she wanted to be independent.  It would have been no burden, but as a stubbornly independent-minded people (who got that from our parents) we respected her desire to live in her own home as long as possible.

Recently, Mom began to have more and more physical and mental "issues".   She fell several times -- three times that she has admitted to (I think there have been several falls she hasn't told us about).   This last time she ended up in the hospital with a whole array of mysterious and scary symptoms.   

It was abundantly clear that this time, she wasn't going home by herself. We found in a very nice place that is clean, and where they apparently do a good job of doing physical therapy to help their residents operate at the highest level they can, as well as keeping them busy and entertained.  We could not ask for more.....  

... other than for her to be young and strong, fierce and stubbornly proud again.... but, well, I'm not going to go there because I've cried enough for one week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Family Issues

I'm off to the old homestead to deal with some family medical issues. Not sure when I'll be able to catch up here.  

Requesting prayers/good thoughts. This will not be an easy trip.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

These are NOT your Aunt Hilda's Cabbage Rolls, but...

... we like 'em. 

I have had a 20+ year obsession with the search for the perfect cabbage roll recipe. (Don't ask me why.)  My BFF used to make them on New Year's Day for a big party. Up until the time I met her, I had never voluntarily eaten anything with sauerkraut in it (except a Reuben sandwich every so often, which I usually regretted).  Her cabbage rolls were good.  No, they were great!  

After we moved to Florida, we no longer had access to our annual cabbage rolls orgy. So, my Dear Husband and I decided to learn to make our own cabbage rolls. We had a general idea of the ingredients my friend used, but her party was usually for a hundred people or more, and we were cooking for just the family, so we had to scale back the proportions.   The first year our effort was okay.  The second year we (I mean, I) decided to make them spicier, and I went overboard. I loved them but nobody else could get near them.  After that I gradually reduced the spice.  Eventually I ended up with a reliable recipe that we all liked.

A couple of years ago, I ran out of sauerkraut before I ran out of meat and cabbage, so I made one small pot of rolls with no sauerkraut, just extra cut up cabbage for filling between the layers.  When we tasted it, we all thought it was the best batch of cabbage rolls we had ever had.  (Because the fact is no one in my family actually likes sauerkraut.)

This year, we did not make cabbage rolls for New Years.  A couple of weeks ago DH came home with a bunch of heads of cabbage that someone gave him. He suggested we make a batch of cabbage rolls.  Initially I balked because it's starting to get hot and cabbage rolls are "winter food." But, then again, I am not one to turn down free ingredients.  So I spent Mother's Day afternoon making a small batch of cabbage rolls.  We have been eating off them ever since.  They get better each time they are reheated.

I am sharing my recipe here because something so good deserves to be shared. This was not created by the Betty Crocker kitchens, so the proportions are anything but exact. Sorry, but that is the way I cook. 


Cabbage - However much you have.  I usually start with anywhere from three to five heads of cabbage.   You can increase, decrease depending on the size of your crowd or your freezer (these things last for months in the freezer).

Sausage - Equal parts of mild bulk breakfast sausage and hot bulk breakfast sausage.  

Onions - Rough chopped, about one large or two medium onions for every two pounds of sausage

V-8 Juice (or equivalent store brand) - I (personally) like to use the spicy version, but my family says that's too "hot", so I've reverted to the regular vegetable juice. Use a cup or two for every two pounds of sausage.


Chop onions and mix with sausage in a bowl. Set aside.

Blanche the cabbage - discard the tough outer leaves and then submerge the entire head of cabbage into a stock pot of boiling and well salted water for 10-15 minutes, pushing it down in the water to keep it submerged.  When the head of cabbage is beginning to become tender, remove it and put it in a bowl of water to cool.  

When cabbage is cool enough to handle, peel off outer leaves and put them in a large bowl and set it aside. Slice or very roughly chop the inner part (as you would for sauerkraut). Set aside.

Put a layer of the chopped cabbage** in the bottom of a roasting pan or dutch oven.  

Make meatballs out of the sausage/onion mixture. (The proper size is a matter of opinion: I like small meatballs, about 1 - 1-1/2 inches in diameter. DH -- the meat lover -- prefers larger ones, about the size of a ping pong ball, or larger if he thinks he can get away with it.) and roll up in large cabbage leaves, like a burrito. 

Pack the rolls fairly tightly in a single layer.  When you finish a layer of rolls, cover it with another layer of chopped cabbage the then continue to add layers of cabbage rolls and chopped cabbage. 

When you get near the top of the pot. Pour V-8 juice over the cabbage rolls and press down hard, pulling in the edges with a spatula to let the juice go to the bottom. 

Cover the top with some of the large, tough outer leaves.

Cover the pan tightly and bake at 350-degrees for 4-6 hours if the pan is relatively small. Large roasters may take longer.  For a large roasting pan with several layers, you might want to cook it at 320 overnight.  (You may need to add more V-8 as it cooks.)

Serve with mashed potatoes and bread & butter.  It's good the first day and even better the second.  By the third time it is reheated, it's just damn fine, but by then you're probably getting sick of it. Freeze the rest in small packages. They keep for months and make great quick meals.

**If you like sauerkraut, by all means use it for a more authentic dish! Personally, I think sauerkraut makes the dish too strong.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sticking My Head Up For A Second

After spending all of Lent intentionally abstaining from writing fiction (and saving up lots of  ideas for new fiction stories), I have a logjam of creativity built up.  On top of that, I have been unbelievably busy at work (and travelling to boot). Therefore, I have neglected this blog for a while. My apologies to anyone who might check in regularly -- especially you, SP.   

Right now, I'm furiously working on a new story in the evenings following marathon work days. 

Before bedtime, I am reading an amazing book called Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire  by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebbecca Ann Parker.  I'll have more to say about that (I'm guessing a LOT more) in the future.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For Mother's Day: Mama and Baby

Last Sunday the mother dolphon and her baby were hanging around the restaurant again.   Mama is still teching baby to fish.  This week Baby stayed out of sight most of the time.  Mama was very active: jumping and pushing fish up and out of the the water in front of her.  I took a whole bunch of still shots, but missed her antics on every one of them. I caught a little of her activity on this video.  Of course, as soon as I put the camera away to eat lunch, she went nuts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaaack

I'm back.  Here are a few pictures from my trip to Seattle:

Downtown and Pike Street Market

The Space Needle Reflected in a building

Beautiful Flowers Everywhere

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taking A Break

I'm off again travelling on business, this time all week. 

Here's hoping I can manage to find a seat on the plane other than Seat 29E.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Helen is feeling better .. and in fine form

Helen Philpot was sick for a while and hadn't been posting much. Lord, I missed her.  For me she's kind of like a real-life Maxine, only politically edgier. She's back and in fine fettle.  Here's my favorite part of her latest post:
If you want to preserve Christian values you might start with living like a Christian and not some racist asshole who can’t stand how many Muslims have moved into your neck of the woods or what your neighbor is doing in the bedroom.  And if you want to preserve American values then don’t elect a President who condones torture.  But if you want to stop the globalization of nations and the blending of the world’s population then use a condom, support Planned Parenthood and legalize gay marriage.  Because those are the only things I know that actually don’t add to the growing population on this finite planet we call home.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Blessing

Today while eating lunch at our regular Sunday lunch spot, we watched a mother dolphin fishing with her tiny baby.  It appeared to me as though Mama was teaching baby to fish.  At one point, Mama was a bit distracted and the baby headed directly for the navigational channel. When the mother noticed that, she streaked off to herd the baby back to safer waters, where they resumed swimming in tight circles. (I noticed the escaping baby before the dolphin did and, in the manner of mothers everywhere, my heart skipped  beat.)

Unfortunately, I had left my camera in the car, so I didn't get a picture. Bummer.

But, I have the memory.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

Update: My First Month

This past week marked the end of my first month of working out at Curves For Women.  I have never in my life been so rapidly sold on something -- except maybe Ghirardelli chocolate or Mrs. Fields cookies (but, that is another story entirely). 

After working out three times a week for a month, this week was the dreaded "weigh-in".  Only I didn't really dread it because I could feel that my body was different, and better. I felt taller, stronger and more energized. I was surprised to learn that I only lost one pound on the scale.  

They broke it down however, and showed me that I had actually lost 3 pounds of fat.  What is more, I lost 6 inches.  I am not happy with what the scale says I weigh, but I am thrilled with the way my body looks and feels.  I can continue to lose one pound a month, or less, provided I continue to feel so energized when I leave the workout room and so comfortable in my clothes!  

When I first read about Curves, I thought it was another of those ripoff franchises that preys on women's insecurities about their bodies.  I was predisposed to be suspicious about the whole concept.  I was totally wrong!  It is all about empowering women and helping us to be the best we can be.  Very few of us will ever look like Catherine Zeta-Jones or Angelina Jolie (they are my idea of the two Most Beautiful Women in the World), but we can at least do the most we can with the bodies we have.  

For me it is not about looks (although looking good is a nice side effect).  It is about health (managing my weight and diet are important with a body that tends to manufacture a lot of cholesterol) and mental well being (my stress levels are off the charts some days and exercise is the best way for me to manage stress). 

I have never been one to pamper myself or to take the time to do all the personal self-care stuff that our contemporary culture tells us is important.  I resorted to therapeutic massage a few times at one point when I was in so much pain, but I hated the experience of getting naked in front of a stranger and spending money to have someone "pamper" me.  I quit as soon as the pain became bearable.  I have never had a manicure or pedicure.  I quit going to the hair salon almost a year ago: I cut my own hair. My attitude has always been that I have too much to do to spend time and money on girlie frivolities.

For the past 20+ years in one way or another, however, I made time in my life for exercise, mostly walking.  That was good.  It helped me manage my weight and was great for my mental health as well.  But, it wasn't enough for my post-menopausal body.  I would have given anything to find another alternative that did not require me to pay money and/or make some kind of commitment to add to all the other commitments in my life.  I couldn't find it.  So, I bit the bullet and signed up.

Working out at Curves requires me to leave the office earlier than I would ordinarily do.  That is annoying when I'm in the middle of something. It is a good thing because I need to not work as much as I do on my job (gives me more time for my writing, for one thing). It is a good thing, too, because it gives me an opportunity to practice self-discipline.  The combination of flexing my actual muscles and exercising dicipline over my rambunctious Will makes me feel good. It's all about that "control what you can" thing. I can't control anything in the world but myself.  I take full advantage of that little zone of disciplinary control.

In any case, I was motivated to work really, really hard on my susequent workouts this week, and came out feeling great. [Image: Rocky Balboa pumping air at the top of the stairs. Background sound: James Brown singing "I Feel Good"]

Now, it's time to get back to work.

Isolating People By Age

Recently my Dear Husband and I went to a concert at a 55+ community.   For those who don't know about these communities they are manufactured home communities with restricted deeds such that you have to be over 55 to live there. Most of the people are retired.  They have all kinds of community activities to keep the residents occupied, including a community chorus.  One of my husband's customers is in the chorus. She was supposed to do a solo in the concert and she invited my husband to attend.  He dragged me along. I didn't want to go, and didn't really intend to cooperate, but he guilted me into it, so I went.  

The concert itself was actually a surprise.  The choir was not as horrible as I expected and a couple of the soloists could even sort of sing.  The selection of songs was very good for the most part, and I rather enjoyed parts of it. The pianist was just fabulous, and  would go to one of her piano recitals anytime.  

But, the whole experience was jolting in several ways.

On the one hand, it made me miss singing in a choir. Singing in choirs is a whole lot more fun than listening to them.  When you're singing in a choir you think it sounds like the Robert Shaw Chorale.  When you're sitting in the audience you know it sounds more like the church choir on the Andy Griffith Show.

Nevertheless, I miss singing.  I want to figure out a way to bring singing back into my life.

On the other hand, I had mixed feelings about the whole show. It was a very well done production. The women who were in charge were probably music teachers before they retired.  All of the singers had probably sung in community choirs and/or church choirs for years. Their voices may have been somewhat ravaged by age, but they were very professional in their attention to the director. I thought it was cool that they spent their time doing something so healthy and creative.  I loved that.  

But, it was kind of creepy to be in a place where everybody was the same age.  I saw exactly one kid in the audience.  It was not surprising that somebody's grandchild would be there. What was surprising was that there was only one. The rest of the grandchildren were probably "up North" someplace.  The creepiness went beyond fact that there were no extended families there.  It was a little like The (Elderly) Stepford Wives.  The women all dressed similarly, within a certain range. There were the flashy old broads with the sequined shirts and the casual old broads in Capri pants and sneakers, but they all wore makeup and they all wore earrings (dangle earrings). Most of the men were wearing striped golf shirts, with white or khaki pants. I was creeped  out by the fact that these wonderfully talented and capable people had isolated themselves from the  rest of society.

As much fun as planning that concert was for them, it seems to me they might have done better by putting on a show at a nearby elementary school that would include the children, or entertaining at a hospital or nursing home.  

My bottom line is that I have a problem with people who wall themselves off in gated communities that amount to upper-crust ghettos.  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blog Surfing Sunday

While procrastinating in order to avoid doing any actual creative writing of my own today, I wasted a couple of hours link hopping around the blogosphere. I found some potential kindred spirits (and a bunch of folks that left me scratching my head and wondering WTF?) ....

I just stumbled across this blog by Honey Pie Horse.  I might quibble a tad with her take on the Bible, but I totally agree with her take on religion in general.  I also agree with her take on The Devil Wears Prada (perhaps the only book/movie combo where I have liked the movie (much) better than the book. Of course how can you go wrong with Streep? [Leaving aside, The Bridges of Madison County, anyway. What was she thinking?])

The folks at BlogHer were a little lathered up about a recent episode of Oprah. Evidently a bunch of mommybloggers were on the show and the topic was mommy-angst. Here's an interesting post on that subject.  I should not comment because: (a) I did not see the show  [I think I may be the only person in America who has never watched an entire episode of Oprah.  Five minutes is probably the longest I have been able to stay tuned to her show.] and (b) I would not have continued watching it once the whining and sniveling started (see above on giving up on Oprah in less than five minutes). 

However, I am qualified to speak on the subject of motherhood from a blogger's perspective. I have been an at-home mom and I have been a working mom.  I am not exactly an Earth Mother, but I do the best I can.  

No doubt about it: Being a mom is not a Sunday picnic: Sleep deprivation during infancy; Establishing authority and consistency in toddler-hood;  The ups and downs of Elementary School; the horrors of Middle School, etc.  Being an at-home mom can be isolating, but it can also be seen as a blessed gift of alone-time to think and ponder and experience creativity from the inside out -- at least that was my experience.  Being a working mom can be exhausting, but it has its compensations as well; I like to think that it is good for my daughter to see me as a competent professional apart from being a mom.  

Motherhood. Marriage. Career. Life. It all involves juggling, making choices. Some days are better than others. Some days totally suck, in fact, but there are other days filled with love and wonder and glory.  Tell me that it is not worth everything when you kid or your husband gives you an unexpected hug and says, "I love you"!!

Writing about the bad experiences is fun and cathartic for those of us who express ourselves with words.  We exaggerate and turn into humor what may have been initially a painful experience.  What we write often originates with a kernel of a true experience, but storytelling and writing techniques take over, and the end result is a "story", not necessarily a factually accurate account of what really happened, but it may [we hope] be entertaining as hell, perhaps because it's just a bit scandalous.

Were those women really just sitting around pissing and moaning about how excruciatingly difficult it is to be a mom and confessing to egregious behavior .... or were they a bunch of writer/storytellers sitting around trying to out-do each other with their tales.  I betcha half of those stories could have started with, "Oh, yeah?  Well, listen to this...."  I'm guessing those women were engaging in intentional hyperbole and outrageous storytelling: perhaps even satire.  It was probably all supposed to be funny.  The problem is those daytime talk shows don't understand satire. They are all about people crying and spilling their deepest, darkest secrets for the entertainment of the masses. 

These women go on TV and tell outrageous stories that are supposed to be funny in order to plug their blogs, and people take them seriously?  Sad.  So. Very. Sad. 

Erma Bombeck is probably spinning in her grave ... or maybe she's knocking back a few at St. Peter's Pub with Molly Ivins and talking about what a bunch of twits women can be.

And besides, don't people have anything better to do than sit around and watch Oprah?  Um... or read blogs, for that matter.  [NIW puts head in a paper bag....]