New website...

Hello readers, I have been trying to figure out how to create a link between this blog site and my new website but unfortunately, have not been able to import one into the other. So, my new blog is found at
Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010-- New Year's resolutions and all..

It's the end of another year--goodbye 2010. Overall, this year was a better year than a lot I've lived through with the highlights being my graduation from college, my middle son's graduation from high school, three trips to Mexico, one being a fantastic week with my oldest son, Yule, plus a steady paycheck for the past 6 months, something that's been missing in my life for years as I struggled to get through  college.
So, now it's New Year's Eve and we all should be making resolutions for the new year-- I've done it in the past and always wind up failing and then feel like crap for not following through on those resolutions like writing 5 pages a day, everyday, getting something published in the first six months of the new year, losing five pounds or at least shifting weight so I look better, etc. I never seem to follow these patterns for very long and then spend time beating myself up over not adhering to these self-imposed rules.
 So, this New Year's my resolution is to not make any resolutions. I want to just keep plugging away at my job to make the money to pay the bills, keep writing in my time off so I perfect the pieces I have, and enjoy my life with my family. If I make any resolution at all, it's to not beat myself up quite so severely when I fail at the uphill climb I have set before myself.
I wish all of us good health, sufficient money, good family and friends close by for the new year. Have a great 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30. 2010-- An hour in Border's...

Today I spent about an hour in Border's up in Bangor. The place was full of people, almost more than before Christmas, which kind of surprised me in a good kind of way. It was encouraging to see whole families in the store, moms with teenage sons looking at house decorating magazines, daughters with new fantasy novels clutched in their hands, dads with several half-off priced calendars stacked in their arms. It was comforting to know that some of the population of central Maine reads, and that they were willing to spend hard earned money on books and magazines. It gives me hope as a writer that there are still markets out there that I can tap into with the stories, essays, articles I am currently writing.
I used to go into a big bookstore like Borders or Bookland (back when it still existed) and get thoroughly depressed at the sheer volume of books that have already been published. I lamented at ever being able to come up with a somewhat original idea that would catch the eye of an editor long enough to make it into print. How could the world continue to sustain all these people and their ideas, I wondered?
Then, recently, this thought came to mind. There are voracious readers out there in the world, people like my mom who can read through several books a week. Now, if you figure the good writers can crank out a novel a year or at most two, then my mom can use up the yearly output of several authors in just one week. With fifty-two weeks in a year, she can run through two hundred authors or more. Which is good news for writers, because with people like Mom, or the family in Border's,  there will be a constant need for new work.
It's invigorating to go into a place like Border's now, and wander around for an hour, looking at all the titles-- I come home ready to work again, with new ideas for new books, ones that have been sparked by titles I saw or ones sparked by titles I didn't see.
And yes, I bought a couple of things in Border's today, too, so I'm off to have a good read about the ancient Mayans.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29, 2010--Manatees in FL

So, one of the headlines on the evening news tonight was about the extremely cold waters off the coast of Florida and how that is affecting the manatee population. Manatees need warm water to survive and the twenty five days of record cold temps in Florida is making it difficult for the manatees to live. I found it kind of ironic that the one place these large cow like creatures are finding warmth is near the outlets of the power stations along the coast. The waste water is bath temperature, just right for the manatees, who are hugging the outlet pipes and lolling around in the warmer water, near enough to shore so that many people are able to see them, some for the first time.
We, as a human race, are probably in some way responsible for the colder temperatures and extremes in weather, if one is to believe the scientists about global warming. Power plants are just one of multiple things that we do on this planet to add to the greenhouse effect and all and yet, the very thing that might be destroying the naturally warm waters for the manatees is the same thing that right now is saving some of them. Weird how the world works sometimes...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28, 2010-- Hearing voices....

Most people, if they hear voices in their heads, begin to wonder if something is wrong and begin to worry about their sanity. They refuse to say anything to anyone out of fear, fear that someone will insist they go to a doctor to have tests done, to see if they are sane.
As a writer, and I suspect this is true of other writers, when I begin to hear voices in my head, I get excited for it can only mean one thing--the muse is back and it's time to get to work. For those voices usually mean a character or two has come to life and wants me to pay attention to him or her.
Sometimes there are multiple voices and I am drawn to one and then another and can't decide which one to focus on. Then, I have to imagine all these voices as characters, in full costume, kind of like the dining hall of a movie studio where kings and queens from one movie set are mingling with the bank robbers and dope dealers of another movie. Each person enters into a line and has a few minutes to propose their particular story to me and the one with the strongest plot line and voice becomes the one I write about. I feel  a little sad for the others  as they go back to sit at their respective tables and wait for the next casting call as some of these people have been waiting for years and years. But, I know that they are there, patiently waiting their turn. I just hope that I can reach them all before time runs out.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010--The Blizzard...

The Blizzard and no, I don't mean one of those ice cream desserts from Dairy Queen... Like almost everyone on the East coast, we have been having a wild storm day here, with about 9 inches of snow and strong winds. Just after lunch, when I was reading the tail end of last week's TIME magazine, we heard a particularly strong gust of wind come racing down the road, then an ominous cracking sound-- I had just enough time to switch my reading glasses for my regular ones to see a large fir tree come crashing down about 100 feet from the house.
I had thought of taking a slog in the snow for some exercise, but after that tree crashed, I remained in the house and rode my exercise bike instead. Time enough tomorrow, when the winds have died, to go look at the tree and to see if any of it can be used for the sauna I want to build this coming spring.
The wind is still roaring outside and the temps are supposed to drop to the negative numbers tonight; looks like 2010 is going out with a bang.
Meanwhile, I get notices on Facebook from friends in Hawaii who claim it is a warm, rainy day out there--nothing like rubbing it in our faces I say. My only consolation is that this too shall pass and shortly the days will be noticeably longer and warmer as spring creeps round again. It is reassuring to know that there is a cycle to all of this and that no matter how cruddy the weather today, we can always know that it will eventually change for the better. And to help speed the time, I will spend a few minutes looking at seed catalogs and dreaming of flower gardens in full bloom. I think the contrast between the storm outside and the dreams in my head help me appreciate the good days all that much more. If everyday is perfect, like in Hawaii, how can one really appreciate them?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26, 2010--Adding comments to posts...

Several people have emailed me to say they are having trouble posting comments to this blog; I am trying to sort out the settings on the page and hope that it is now working...if not, I will try some other changes. Thanks to all who continue to comment, one way or the other. Peace.

December 26, 2010--Sitting in the dark...

I'm sitting at the dining room table, watching as the light outside fades and look around to realize that it is pretty darn dark here in the house. But, I am too tired to get up and turn the light on! So, I continue to type, hoping that I am hitting the right keys, as I am a terrible typist and also have a tendency to transpose letters--a dyslexia in typing, I guess I would call it. However,the smell of a ham roasting in the oven forces me to get up and check it and while I pass the wall switch, I flip the light on in the kitchen.
 As I open the oven and look at the ham, my stomach rumbles in anticipation of another feast. I am glad I have an exercise routine as I know it will take several days to work off all the food I have eaten in the past 36 hours.
The excitement of the past three days is finally catching up to me. Thursday was a marathon wrapping of presents in the afternoon, followed by an evening of baking cookies and making homemade chocolates. Friday was a run to the grocery store and the seafood market over in Newport plus an unplanned stop at Walmart for a couple of supplies that Hannaford's had run out of of, followed by a five mile bike ride, then an afternoon of baking cookies and crackers, making boiled lobsters for dinner and a fun party with our neighbors.
Yesterday was a busy morning of opening presents with my husband and two of my sons with a breakfast of mimosas, homemade blueberry muffins and bacon, followed by an afternoon with my parents, more presents, more food, more champagne...the evening was spent on the couch, watching a Netflix movie called "Australia."
So, today, I am tired, and am moving slower and slower as the day winds down to evening and towards the big blizzard that is supposed to hit us sometime in the night. I am glad I have food in the house, gas for the generator, and a full wood box. I am content to be sitting in the dark, gathering energy for the week ahead.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24, 2010-- And the stockings are hung by the tree with care...

Christmas Eve...the stockings are hung on the wall by the tree, already stuffed by little ole me... Just like I am stuffed from the huge Christmas Eve feast of boiled lobster, smoked salmon, stuffed shells and tossed salad, not to mention four types of homemade chocolates, chocolate cupcakes, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, lemon bars and peanut butter cookies, all washed down with ample glasses of champagne. How I do love Christmas!
Tomorrow morn the feasting continues with  mimosas, bacon and eggs, lots of appetizers, then a spicy seafood soup and homemade crackers and another round of desserts. Good thing I biked five miles today and will find time for a walk tomorrow!
Hoping all of you have a very Merry Christmas with the ones you love, a day full of food, love, laughter, a bit of wine, a bunch of nice presents... Feliz Navidad--Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22, 2010--Solar power in winter....

Many of you may or may not know, we live off the grid here in Wellington. We use four solar panels and a linked set of 6 12 volt batteries to run a system of lights in our house. We can also run the television, computers and washing machine on this system when the batteries have a good charge in them. We do have a gas stove and a gas refrigerator, so that helps with power usage. However, if we want to run a vacuum or any kind of power tools, like the table saw, we have to start the generator.
In the summer time, there's usually a lot of sun, so we don't use the generator that often but now, in the darkest days of winter, we must use it several times a day to keep the batteries at a certain level. When the days are overcast and/or snowy like they have been for several days in a row, our use of the generator escalates proportionately. We run around turning off lights as we move from room to room and limit the amount of television that the kids can watch or warn them that THEY will be the ones to start the generator this time (this usually causes them to settle in with their laptops instead of having to struggle to go outside and start the machine.)
It amazes me sometimes that we are able to make this system work at all considering we live in the north woods of Maine, not known for its long hours of sunlight even at the height of summer. And it also amazes me that in a place like Hawaii, which has far more hours of daylight than here, there is not much solar being used on the islands. It seems a shame that we want to use the sunlight to generate our electricity but can't really do it as effectively as it should be and others who would have it relatively easy, choose not to try this method.
I always look forward to the winter solstice as I know that the days will begin to get a little longer now. Every extra minute of daylight is a blessing to us, as it will keep the batteries charged for that much longer, reducing our need for the generator. This makes me feel as good or better than when I physically can get outside in that extra bit of sunlight--taking vitamin D has reduced some of the effects of the lack of sun on me personally.
So, as we move into the official part of winter now, I will start keeping track of the time when the light begins to fade outside, as I sit and work at my computer--it may be colder outside, but it will be brighter and that is a blessing in itself.
Unfortunately though, I just heard my husband go outside and start the generator to charge the batteries. :(

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21, 2010-- Christmas cards and basketball...

What do Christmas cards and basketball have to do with each other? Nothing, really, other than the fact that I will be writing cards while my husband watches the UConn women play and hopefully win, their 89th straight game.
Yes, I am finally getting around to writing cards-- every year I procrastinate later and later in the season about doing them until I feel so guilty, I sit down with a huge stack of cards and start cranking them out. Fortunately, these days I send most to people I am in regular contact with throughout the year, so I don't have to write a lot. But, there are those whom I only connect with at Christmas and they deserve a full update, which takes quite awhile, considering the year.
My oldest son, Yule, came home for Christmas and New Year's which was the first time I'd seen him in 14 months.
I went to Guadalajara, Mexico with my husband in March for a week.
I graduated from UMF in May! My middle son, Johann, graduated from high school in June!
I went to Chiapas, Mexico for two weeks in June.
We discovered a leak in our kitchen and had to remodel the whole thing, which took the whole month of August and into September and we lost our water for all that time and into October because it was such a dry summer.
My middle son was in a really bad accident the last day of September and could have been severely hurt, but was lucky and is okay.
I went to Guadalajara in October and spent ten days with Yule, which is probably one of the best gifts I've received, ever.
So, there is a lot to talk about in these cards. And because I consider it tacky to type it all out and insert printed versions of  this to people, I continue to write each card by hand.
By the end of the evening, I know my hand will ache as it is not used to writing so much any more. The computer has finally won me over and I find I can write more quickly and easily on it, than by hand. Gone are the days when all my drafts were handwritten and the only computer generated draft was the final one, where I could use spell check to make sure there weren't any typos!
So, the cards will get written, one by one, and as the evening progresses, they will probably be a little shorter and most definitely a little sloppier, too. But, I feel it's important to carry on this one tradition of handwriting Christmas cards as it forces me to slow down, to reflect on the person I am writing to,  and on my life as it has played out over the past year. There's a lot to be thankful for, and I will remember to say that, too.
So, if your card is a little late this year, now you know why...

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20, 2010--Appreciating what we have...

Why is it that  most of the time we take our health and the health of our family and neighbors for granted?
Unfortunately, it often takes an accident to someone else for people to look around and appreciate the fact that they and those around them are in good shape and able to carry out daily chores without a thought.
Today I received a phone call from a friend; her husband had an accident and will be out of commission for at least three months. I got off the phone with her and immediately hugged my son, who was in a bad car accident this fall and could easily have died if the tree had been six inches closer. Then I hugged my husband, who had spinal surgery on his neck vertebrae over a year ago to repair several slipped discs that were pinching the nerves to his left hand, making it numb. Both my son and husband are healing well.
This woman's plight reminded me of how lucky I am to have my men in my life right now, healthy and able to work and how much I take them for granted at times, accepting that they will be there to shovel the snow this winter or sand the road when it needs it. This woman will need to ask her neighbors and friends for this kind of support as she has a full-time job and won't be able to do it all herself.
It doesn't take much to change a person's life, in my friend's case, temporarily for the worse...the flip side to this is that it doesn't take much to change a person's life for the better, either. So, the next time you're at the store and the overly large lady in the wheelchair can't reach the milk on the top shelf, reach out and get it for her. The next time a friend is sick, make them some soup or offer to wash their dishes...stack some wood, stoke a fire, feed a pet, walk a dog.. reach out and help your neighbor... and appreciate all the good that you have in your own life, today and everyday.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19, 2010-- 88-0

The UConn women's basketball team just won their 88th consecutive game. Just take a minute to reflect on that--88 wins against all kinds of opposing teams, spread over a two year plus span of time, with seniors moving on last year so that the team is comprised of several freshmen and still, they are able to keep on winning.
Women's college basketball is finally getting some of the media attention it deserves, thanks to this UConn team and its coach, Geno Aureimma. If they can win Tuesday night's game, they will not only have beaten the record for an all-time streak for women's basketball (which they did at game 70 or so) but will have beaten the all-time record for men's basketball set by UCLA.
It's pretty amazing to think any team, male or female, can win that many games in a row, but for the women to do it seems even more amazing, since the funding for women's college basketball is less on average than the men's, the media coverage is definitely less, the women are generally shorter but the basket remains the same height regardless, and women have to contend with their periods. Which is something a short article in Time magazine  a couple of weeks ago pointed out.. all odds seem to be against the women and yet, this UConn team seems to be able to keep on going.
I hope that if any of you are basketball fans but have not managed to catch a women's game, that you click on ESPN Tuesday night and watch history in the making. I know I'll be watching and rooting for this team, along with my husband, who has been a UConn fan for thirty years or more. Power to these girls, they deserve it!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010-- On attempting to stay focused...

I don't know about you, but when I get into a writing mode, all kinds of ideas start to gurgle around in my brain. It's as if  still waters have been stirred so that all kinds of stuff starts to float to the surface, with one idea leading off to another and another and so on. My trouble is trying to stay focused on the project at hand while all these other ideas are floating around in the back of my head, begging to be recognized.
I feel excited, nervous, giddy, overwhelmed, stressed, tired,  and fearful that there is not enough time to write everything down, all at the same time.
I have gone through these phases before, leaping from one project to the next, until I have a stack of unfinished ideas that then remain stagnant in my computer for months at a time.
I have made myself an early New Year's resolution-- I can work on several projects at a time, but I have to continue on each of them until they are finished. I want to know I can carry a project through to the end, especially a big project, like the two books I am working on. So, the new ideas that came flooding into my head last night are written down in a notebook so they are not lost, but my main focus will be on these two books. When one at least is done, then maybe I can begin to look at one of these new ideas with fresh eyes and interest.
I wonder if other writers have this problem. I know some writers work on several projects at a time and seem to do very well with this method while others can't even contemplate a new idea while working on something else. What do you do?

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17, 2010-- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Part 2...

So, last night's blog was short because I was headed off to watch the movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you like suspense-thrillers with a foreign flavor, then this is a must see. The acting is superb, the plot is fast-paced, the scenery is beautiful, the tension builds and builds. Usually when a book is made into a movie, the results are okay but not an incentive to go read the book. This movie is different. Having just seen the movie, I now want to go read the book/books as this is the first in a trilogy.
The whole time I was watching last night, a part of me was saying to myself, "so how did this writer create these fully fleshed characters and how did he insert the little clues here and there so that the tension builds and the answer is not obvious at the end and how did he weave several threads together into such a complex piece of fiction?"
I really want to read the books with a writer's eye now and try to decipher the methods used to create such a great read. It will be easier to do with this first book, since I know the story-- I won't get lost in the story itself as I would if I didn't know the basic plot. I'm hoping I can gleam something from them to use in my own stories to improve them as I know I am far from this stage of writing right now.
If any of you have read the books and have some thoughts, drop me a line.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16, 2010-- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--

Today's blog will be wicked short, as the movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, came today through Netflix and my husband is eager to watch it. He's read all the books, so knows what to expect. I have been too busy writing, working, and trying to get things done for the holidays to be able to read much, so I have no idea what is coming, other than there is a rather gruesome rape scene in this first book/movie (ugh--may have to leave the room for a bit) and then a nice retaliation of some sort. Look for an update on this once I have seen the movie. Have a good night.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15, 2010--An article in The Sun...

I just started reading my latest issue of The Sun today. For those who don't know, The Sun is a totally ad-free magazine  published and edited by Sy Safransky. Full of thought-provoking articles, letters, essays, and poems, The Sun is one of the few magazines I read faithfully cover to cover. There's usually good stuff in it all the way through.
The December issue is a case in point. I just started it today and already am amazed at the thoughts beginning to swirl in my own brain as I read the article, "Written on the Bones: Kim Rosen on Reclaiming the Ancient Power of Poetry." Rosen talks about how poetry is like music, is a "sacred, mind-altering substance: you take it into your system, and it carries you beyond your ordinary ways of thinking....Like a shaman's drum, the beat of a poem can literally entrain the rhythms of your body: your heartbeat, your breath, even your brain waves, altering consciousness." I love this as a concept as lately poetry has been a love/hate relationship for me. I love to write it, but hate to read it as so often I just don't get what it is the poet is trying to say. Maybe I don't have to get it in the logical sense, but can just feel the energy of the poem in my body instead.
For years, writing poetry was  a joy for me, one of those activities where time and my surroundings slipped away for hours at a time. Then, I started taking classes in writing poetry and began to hate it; having to pay strict attention to meter, rhythm, word choice--suddenly poetry was work, didn't come easily at all and I felt my natural sense of rhythm disappear under the endless guidelines I was supposed to adhere to. So, I stopped writing poetry except for the mandatory ones for class and outside of class assignments,  stopped reading it, too.
Now, I am out of class, free to read and write what I want. Reading this article on poetry stirs a desire inside me again to go back to this form, try my hand at it again. So what if I am the only one who sways to its beat; at least I know I am alive and well. And maybe, I will return to the poetry of others and not feel so stressed to understand the poems in a logical way but will let my senses guide me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010-- Not exactly what I expected...

Jeff and I went out Christmas shopping today in Bangor and after 7+ hours in the mall and various other stores, we found we had been in (did not necessarily buy in, though) 18 different places. That's a lot of places in a relatively short period of time. We came home to a dark and chilly house as the fires had long since gone out and our two cats have yet to take up the task of putting logs in the stove.
We were both tired and hungry, so I put the groceries away and hurried to get supper in the oven. Then I went into the living room to sort out the huge pile of plastic bags full of presents on the floor. I stepped onto the leopard print rug and felt something roll under my foot.
Having had little kids in the house years ago, I was used to the sensation of something, possibly a toy,  under foot and knew not to put my full weight down on whatever was bumping my sock. I stepped backwards and peered at the rug. At first, I thought, oh, it's just one of the tiny catnip mice the cats play with, so I went to kick it out of the way. That's when I noticed it was not a fake mouse, but the head of a real mouse, whiskers, eyes and all, lying there, staring up at me. And a few inches away, a bloody pile of innards.....
Not exactly what I expected or wanted to deal with at that moment, so my gallant husband came to my rescue with paper towel in hand. He scooped up the offensive piles  and threw the whole mess into the stove.
That's when I went and made myself a nice eggnog and put my Crocs on for the evening.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13, 2010-- O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

This past Saturday, Jeff and I went down to Portland for the day to have lunch with some old friends, drop in on a couple of craft fairs that were in town and to go to the new Trader Joe's that opened recently. On the way down, we decided to listen to some Christmas music, so I pulled out one of my old cassettes (yes, our car is old enough to still have a cassette player in it instead of a CD player.)
The tape was worn in places so the music wavered off key a bit, especially on the high notes, but because it was all Christmas carols, we had no trouble humming and singing along. When the song "O Christmas Tree" came on, I was instantly transported back several years to my old house, where I lived when my sons were little boys. I got a flashback in my head of the four of us sitting on the old couch, a bowl of popcorn perched precariously in between my knees, a warm glow coming off the wood stove while the movie "Swiss Family Robinson" played on the television. This used to be one of the boys' favorite movies, so we watched it over and over again.
The one scene I remember is when the family has been stuck on the island for quite some time and the older boys have gone off to explore the other side of the place and come back on Christmas Eve with a girl in tow. The mother is kind of gloomy as it's Christmas Eve for heaven's sake and half her family is still missing. Then, suddenly, while she is singing " O Christmas Tree" and playing on the piano, the voices of the boys and the girl chime in. It's quite a touching moment, really, even for a slightly hokey movie like this one and a scene that has always stuck in my head.
So, now the the song and that movie are forever linked in my head, kind of like how certain smells can transport you backwards in time. I don't mind, fact, I might just see if I can find that old VHS tape of the movie and watch it again sometime soon, just for old times sake.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 2010-- A snowy day in Wellington...

Ah, the lovely sound of sleet as it bounces off the metal roofing on my house is mingling with the clicking sound of the keys on my computer. And the sound of one of those Asian beetles that look like lady bugs as it scrabbles around on the mandala poster I have pinned to the wall.
Too bad the weather has warmed just enough to change the snow we had this morning to sleet. Now, my son will not have so much fun on his snowmobile, I will need to dig out my ice cramp-ons in case the path to the wood shed is icy tomorrow and my husband will need to make a run to the local sand pile to sand our driveway.
Days like today I know why my nights are filled with dreams of sunny, warm Mexico and the three trips I took down there this year!
Speaking of trips, is anyone interested in a possible tour, led by me, of Guadalajara, Mexico? My Mexican friend, Pancho, and I are contemplating running a tour of the city and surroundings. A week of excursions, authentic Mexican food cooked by  Pancho's wife, Alicia, an immersion into Spanish as accommodations would be at Pancho's house, which is sparse and clean... we are still working on a package price for 7 days which would include lodging, food, entrance fees to local sites, tequila and beer, car rental etc. Air flights would be extra as they are so apt to change overnight, we would be hard pressed to figure that in to the total. As details progress on this idea, I will keep you posted and if anyone is seriously interested in a trip in February 2011, drop me a comment.

December 11, 2010--Am I a part of Big Brother?

Am I a part of Big Brother? I wonder, considering my job as a search engine evaluator. A what? Yes, this is the typical response I get when I mention my job title--a search engine evaluator is someone who sits at a computer all day rating web pages so that when you, dear reader, type in a question in a search engine like Google, useful web links are displayed on the page that pops up. Hopefully if we are doing our jobs correctly, the best, most vital or relevant pages will be at the top of the list and those that are not so relevant or even off-topic are at the bottom or don't even appear until page 3.
I didn't really question my being a part of Big Brother until I started doing experimental tasks for the company I work for in the arena of tweets off of Twitter. The task involves a query, usually a name of someone famous, or a sports team, then several hyperlinks to tweets that contain that name in them in some capacity. I suddenly felt like I was reading some one's private mail while doing these. Just because the name "Carey" popped up, for instance, I was supposed to decide if the tweet had any relevance to Mariah...I felt uncomfortable performing this task and yet, since it is part of my job, went ahead with the project.
I wonder how the company plucks these tweets out of the air to rate, what kind of  software program that signals key words to flag is used, and more importantly, if people know that the security or privacy on things like their tweets is questionable and people like me are reading their personal comments. Maybe it is all for the greater good, but it kind of gave me the creeps. I'm glad I don't use Twitter and I have tried to protect what I do put out there in the world even more. I suggest you do the same.

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 2010--Bookmarks...

Bookmarks are wonderful and no, I don't mean those URLs you add to your favorites list on the toolbar of your computer. I got to thinking about real bookmarks in real books this afternoon when I was riding my exercise bike. There I was, sweating away last night's egg nog, surrounded by hundreds of books on all the shelves up in our bedroom and I  couldn't help but notice the number of bookmarks sticking out of all kinds of books. Some were slips of paper, obviously torn from the nearest piece of paper at hand at the time, like a tossed envelope in the trash or a ragged piece of a paper napkin, others were those stiff cardboard ones with funny sayings on them that you can buy near the cash register in your favorite bookstore, while others were cotton ones I had woven on my loom, bright fuchsia and purple or vibrant lime green and teal blue. Some were stuck near the beginnings of books, most were in the middle, and a few were wedged near the end of a book.
I hate dog-eared pages in a book, so bookmarks are the natural way to mark my place. And since I often read five or six books at a time, bookmarks help me stay connected with that particular piece. You see, I like to revolve my reading from night to night and find it difficult to read a book straight through unless it is really gripping (like Under the Dome for any King fans out there.) I may read short stories one night, a long chapter or two in a historical novel the next, a series of essays in a magazine or a chapter in a book in Spanish followed by a writing technique book--the bookmarks keep me on track from book to book, magazine to magazine. Without them, valuable time would be lost searching for the spot I had left off reading. I always have bookmarks and/or paper nearby to mark a book, since I  have a stack of reading material about a foot tall and two books width deep piled by my bed.
What about all the books marked on the shelves I noticed while biking? I'm afraid those books lost my interest at some point and have at least temporarily been shelved. There is hope for them, though as they still remain marked in some fashion. Someday, they may revolve back into the pile by the bed or I may need to use one for research and pull it off the shelf to look at where I left off the last time. Thanks to the bookmark left inside the covers, I'll know right where to start in again.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 9, 2010--Staying connected...

Today I went to the Post Office and spent $38 on postage: $5 to mail a box of candies to my father-in-law for his 87th birthday next week, $15 to mail a wreath to Yule in Hawaii and another $18 for books of stamps for the Christmas cards I still need to write. It is getting more and more expensive to stay connected the old fashioned way...which is why I like Facebook. Despite all its faults, it does allow a person to connect with many people at no cost. Especially if one uses the chat box at the bottom of the page--that is just like having a conversation with the person face to face...I really like it as it allows me to connect with old friends whom I haven't physically seen in ages (sometimes years) and yet, the chats we have are as if we had just met at the grocery store the week before. The flow of conversation is sometimes jerky because my reply may come in after the other person has already written something else, but all in all, the method is useful to me.
However, I'm not saying that one method of staying in touch is better than the other because I really like writing letters and mailing them out and especially enjoy receiving them. It's a special day when something other than sales fliers, magazines, pleas for money from some non-profit I've never even heard of and bills arrive in the mail box.
Staying connected is the important thing, whether I write a letter or use the computer to dash off an email to someone or manage a chat session with a friend. I think it's especially important to me because I work all day at my desk, at home, and rarely see other people other than my own family through the week. I am reminded that a bigger world exists out there and that I am a social creature. And, I like the fact that I can do my letters and emails and chats while wearing my pajamas and old wool socks that bag around my ankles!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8, 2010-- Imagine...

Imagine says John Lennon.... today is the 30th anniversary of his death...remember all that has changed in the last thirty years, in your own lives and around the world and imagine how those thirty years might have been if people didn't kill other people, if there were no wars, if there was peace... now imagine what the next thirty years might bring and imagine how you might influence those years so that people live in peace, there are no wars, people don't  kill other people.. imagine...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010--It's all relative...

"It's all relative," I said to myself as I hung up the phone from talking to Yule, my twenty-year old son who lives in HI. He had mildly complained about the stretch of cold weather he was experiencing out there...62 F last night; he threw his clothes in the dryer this am to warm them before getting dressed. I looked out the window at the four+ inches of snow we now have, the wind swirling fluffy flakes around and around, while smoke from the woodstove danced in the air as well...Yule's weather would be warm to us now and we'd be opening the doors to let the heat into the house.Of course, when you're used to 80 F, then 62 is going to feel cold.
As the days get shorter and shorter, I learn to adapt, to make the most of my break at lunchtime to get outside and take a walk or at least to bring in the firewood so I'm not doing it in the dark. Later in the spring, I'll be able to see at 5 pm and can bring in wood then, or go for a stroll before dinner but not now. Now, the days are short; I have to remember to take a flashlight with me when I go out grocery shopping in the afternoon as it will be dark by the time I get home. More time is spent inside, reading, organizing, working, writing.. I adjust to the slower pace, thankful that it is slower after the hectic rush of summer when the days are long and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done in the day. It's all relative, all part of the process and I wouldn't change it if I could.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday December 6, 2010--Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

Just finished listening to a segment of NPR that was on this morning's edition-- I found it on the NPR website about this Hawaiian guy, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who was a ukulele player and singer. He has a beautiful rendition of Over the Rainbow on this excerpt. Unfortunately the guy was obese, weighing almost 1000 pounds and died at the age of 38. According to the report, many on the island of Oahu paid tribute to him at his funeral by honking their horns and the sound echoed off the mountains and out to sea. I liked this story not only because the guy had a beautiful voice but also because it reminds me that we all need to do what we are destined for in this life. This guy knew he could sing; he also knew he was obese and would die young like most of his family before him, so he sang until he couldn't, not worrying about the fact that he wasn't famous or making a lot of money.
Isn't this what life is all about? Going forth and doing what we really feel deep down we are here to do without worrying about money? Money is a man-made invention and ties so many of us to jobs we hate, doing things we don't want to do because we need the security of money. This guy sang for  the love of singing and found his spot over the rainbow-- I hope to do that, too by writing-- what do you want to do with your life, what is your golden spot over the rainbow?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010--A Villanelle...

According to The Poet's Companion by KIm Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, a villanelle is "a nineteen-line poem of five tercets (three-line stanzas)  and a closing quatrain (four lines). Two lines in the poem get repeated throughout the entire poem, in a particular order; additionally, there's a rhyme scheme: the tercets rhyme aba, the quatrain abaa." (161)
It looks like this:
a1 (repeating line)
a2 (repeating line)






A good example is "The Story We Know" by Martha Collins.

Here's one I wrote a few years ago:
Unexpected Treat

Relentless winter winds blow
from dark of night to day’s full light,
chilling to the marrow.

One blue black crow
sits swaying, his tree top perch a fight-
relentless winter winds blow.

He stares across the meadow
searching with piercing eyesight,
chilling to the marrow.

He spots a shape, a distant shadow-
this whets his appetite.
Relentless winter winds blow.

It’s a dead, white-throated sparrow,
covered in parasites-
chilling to the marrow.

He flies like an archer’s arrow,
eats it in three swift bites.
Relentless winter winds blow,
chilling to the marrow.

It's not an easy poetic form, but can be fun...give it a try.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010-- My remedy for the common cold...

Ahh, that lovely time of year when you go visit family and/or friends and wind up sick! Yes, I have succumbed to the common cold that is passing around the state of Maine, and apparently NY, too--the sneezing, achy, stuffy head cold that still leaves you enough energy to get to work (in my case, I have no real excuse to "stay home from work" since my job is on-line and my commute consists of climbing the flight of stairs to the second floor and my desk.)
Now, all this week, I have tried the normal remedies like extra doses of vitamin C and D, lots of juice, hot tea, eating light but healthy foods, extra sleep when possible etc. and still I have continued to snuffle and sneeze. Until I went one step further with my tea--Stash's lemon-ginger tea with a tiny bit of honey and then I added a half shot of ginger brandy. Now that my friends, seems to be working...I wait until late afternoon to drink it, knowing the alcohol will make me sleepy and don't want to be on the clock in that condition, but within an hour of drinking a large mug, my head clears, I stop sneezing and I really feel a lot better.
I didn't really know that much about ginger until I looked it up on the Internet--turns out it is used in Burma, China and India among other places as a cold remedy. Usually the root is soaked in hot water, making a tea, or is boiled in a sugar syrup and turned into drops to fight off coughs and colds. Now how come no one in the US is making ginger cough/cold medicines? Not only does it settle the stomach but does seem to help with the symptoms of the common cold... try it the next time you get sick and see if it helps, it sure has for me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday December 3, 2010-- Disssociative Fugue...

I first came across the terms "dissociative fugue" while reading Tony Cohan's book, Mexican Days. And he first discovered the terminology in a copy of The New York Times and a review of The Merck Manual of Medical Information which describes this as "one or more episodes of sudden, unexpected and purposeful travel from home...during which  a person cannot remember some or all of his past life" (pg21). Now, I can't say that when I have travelled, I have forgotten my past life, but I do think I have experienced " dissociative fugue" this year in the sense that I have travelled  purposefully several times, actually three times, to Mexico. All the trips have had definite purpose: the first was paid for by a scholarship from the University of Maine Farmington to enable me to do research on the creative non-fiction book I am writing (thank you UMF), the second trip was also partially funded by UMF when I went as part of a research team into the mountains of Chiapas to study fair trade coffee growers and their families, and the third trip was a result of my oldest son, Yule, telling me he had "island fever", needed to get out of HI and wanted to meet up with me down in Mexico.
Now, the reason I am writing about all of this is because I think I have had a form of this "dissociative fugue" all my life, but I always called it "the travel bug" and I think I can thank my dad for instilling in me a love of travel, foreign and domestic because he always was and is restless and ready for new adventures.
And because my telecommute job now requires me to spend long hours on the Internet, researching and analyzing other people's queries, I notice that as the days grow shorter here in Maine, the number of searches for warm, tropical destinations grows. Which leads me to believe that others are experiencing the same thing I am--an itchy restlessness that won't go away, despite the trips I've taken this year. In fact, those trips seemed to have made my condition worse...I long to travel to just about anywhere in the world other than the Middle East, to lie on warm beaches, walk the narrow streets of some foreign town while sipping a glass of the local wine, or wander through the street markets buying small gifts for those I have left at home...

Do any of you feel the same way?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday, December 2--Traditions...

 Now that it's the holiday season, my mind starts to reflect on my family my sister sending me an advent calendar every year for the past twenty years. My husband brought home the mail yesterday and sure enough, there was a large manila envelope in the pile from my sister and inside a brand new advent calendar to start off the countdown to Christmas. I"ll  faithfully open one window a day all  month, just like I did with the calendars my mom bought me when I was a little girl and I"ll still get excited to see what little drawing will appear behind that window...
Tuesday night found me curled on the couch with my two cats watching Rudolph. When my three sons, Yule, Johann, and Finn were little boys, they'd jump into their red pajamas and curl up around me to watch the show. Now they are almost grown men, off in Hawaii or college or an apartment of their own, so I watched alone, singing the songs and reciting the lines that I know by heart. I couldn't not watch, as it's part of the family tradition...
Soon, it'll be time to find a tree and decorate it with the hundreds of ornaments that are packed in boxes in the closet under the stairs; Christmas music on the stereo and a rum spiked eggnog will round out that tradition...
And once Christmas is over and it's several days past New Year's, I'll slowly pack away all those ornaments again and then pick off several small branches of the tree and stuff them into the corners of the boxes, as that is a tradition, too. My grandmama used to do it, my mother has always done it, and I also stash a sprig or two of each year's tree in every box to mingle with those of Christmas' past.
These little acts tie my family together and I hope my boys remember and keep the traditions going as they move on and have families and Christmas celebrations of their own.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rabbit, rabbit or Happy December First!

So, today is the first of December, a gloomy day here in Wellington, Maine. This is my very first blog...Friends suggested I start one and all the writing magazines that I read recommend that writers, regardless of whether they are published or not, have a presence on-line--writing a blog seems like a good way to get started on that and makes me feel like I am taking myself more seriously as a writer.
About the title: Rabbit, Rabbit-- my mother taught me this when I was a young girl, something to say on the first day of every month, before I get out of bed, in the hopes good luck would follow me throughout that month. If you figure I started this practice when I was seven and have faithfully said it every month since then, then I have said "rabbit, rabbit" a total of 468 times so far (yeah, go ahead and do the math and figure out my age, I don't care.) I not only say "rabbit, rabbit" for myself, but have included my three sons and my husband as well for the past twenty years, so really the numbers are much higher. And, if I'm feeling particularly superstitious, I'll repeat the phrase for a variety of things that may or may not be happening in my life that month--like whether my essay will be accepted, my exercise program will begin to really be noticeable to others, my tomatoes will ripen before it frosts, stuff along those lines. 
So, next month on the first, which also coincides with being the first day of a new year, give it a try--say "rabbit, rabbit" to yourself and think about the good things you want to have happen that month--it certainly can't hurt and it just might help.