Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fanny's "Outing"

Many thanks to Rob Velella of The American Literary Blog for re-running my guest post about the "outing" of Fanny Fern by her ex-editor William Moulton.

If you are tired of reading about the Kardashians, but still want to feed your craving for a bit of juicy scandal, click on the link below to read about Fanny's horrible almost-New-Year's-Eve in 1854.  I wish you a much better New Year than Fanny faced 159 years ago!


 
 
 


Monday, December 23, 2013

Tee hee


 
Special thanks to Glenn McCoy (and www.papyrusonline.com) for his take on "Christmas Group Therapy."

Funny!

 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Word from the Wise

Jiddu Krishnamurti
“No expectation, no judgment.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti 

This is one of my favorite quotes and one I try to remember when faced with life’s “grand” events.  (Now, whether I’m actually successful in remembering this sage advice is sometimes another story.) 

Do you have a favorite tidbit of wisdom to share this holiday season?  Well, don’t just keep it all to yourself – do tell, do tell!

 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Must Listen


Pentatonix is an American a cappella group of five vocalists – Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola – originating from Arlington, Texas.  Pentatonix is also amazing.  Check out this infectious rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.”  It’ll make your day!
 
Click on this song title (link) to view/listen to Pentatonix's "Little Drummer Boy."
Now, smile.
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gratitude

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.  We spend a lovely day feasting and holding our dear ones close and then . . . we dash full steam ahead into holiday mode.  Keep that Thanksgiving feeling alive a little longer by taking a peek at these famous/infamous gratitude quotes.  Today, I like the Proust one the best. What about you?  
1.  " Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."  ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
2.  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy
3.  “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” ~ Aesop
4.  “Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
5.  “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie
6.  "Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." ~ Marcel Proust
7.  “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
8.  “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”  ~ A.A. Milne  (Winnie-the-Pooh)
9.  “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” ~ Maya Angelou
10.  “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder


Monday, November 25, 2013

Take Five

Meditation.  I know, I know.  You don’t have time.  You’re too stressed.  It’s weird.  But, before you roll your eyes and zoom off to Black Friday sales, take five.  Why?  Because a recent neuroscience study reported that just five minutes of meditation a day can reduce anxiety by up to 22 percent, not to mention reducing stress levels and increasing immune function.  Just the ticket for these super-charged weeks coming up.
So, quick – how do you meditate in just 5 minutes?  First, set a timer for 5 minutes so you don’t have to worry about time.  Then follow the steps below.
Step #1:  Breathe.  Get into a comfortable position (no, you don’t have to sit cross-legged) and simply breathe in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6.
 Step #2:  Breathe at your natural pace.  Stop counting your breaths.  Try to experience your breathing from nose to belly.
Step #3:  Stay focused on your breathing.  If random thoughts zip through your head, refocus on your breathing.  You will have the rest of the day to think.
Step #4:  Relax tight muscles by focusing your breath into tight areas.  Concentrate on typical tension zones:  jaw, neck, shoulders, stomach.
Step #5:  When the timer goes off or when you are ready to transition out of your meditation, think about something or someone in your life you are grateful for.
 
Step #6:  Tackle everything else.
 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stop the Princess Machines

Just in time for the holidays – a kick-butt, fun, alternative to “pink stuff” and Barbie.  GoldieBlox is a toy company that makes construction sets and other cool engineering-inspired toys geared toward girls.  The company was started by Stanford-educated engineer Debbie Sterling, who was frustrated by how few women there were in her field, and by how few options there were for girls to fall in love with engineering through their toys.
Check out this powerful GoldieBlox ad (that is going viral) Click here , and visit the GoldieBlox website Click here to order some amazing toys for the girls on your list. 
Then, sit back, all smug, and drink a toast to future gender equality in EVERY professional field.
 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Slow TV





It’s called “slow TV” and Norwegian public television, or NRK, says it just might be the next big thing.  Ratings, apparently, are good for shows that depict live log-burning (12 hours from kindling to ashes), start-to-finish steps to making a sweater (sheep shearing, spinning, knitting – the whole shebang), and the wait, wait, wait-and-see moments on a salmon fishing boat.  Programmers maintain these shows promote serenity in our harried world and let people, vicariously, experience the peacefulness of these traditionally calming experiences. 

What serene practices do you think would make for good slow TV?  Watching someone do dishes?  Meditate?  Make soup?  Run along the ocean?  Chop firewood?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Space Debate


First of all, let's all agree that the lone picketer on the right who advocates a line break after every sentence is dead wrong.  That bald and lonely caricature belongs with people (ahem, mostly students looking to "stretch" a paper) who use line breaks after every paragraph -- also maddeningly wrong, in my humble opinion.

Now to the real issue -- one space or two after a period.  This debate is more heated than one-lump-or-two tea table conversations.  Oh, the judgment that ensues.  The animosity!

Personally, I am old school.  As you study this blog, it will become painfully clear to you that I use two spaces after periods.  I cannot help myself.  My fingers just do it.  And, yes, I also admit that every single piece of work that I've had published is edited and the number one edit always always always is to change my double spaced wastefulness into the more prudent, and popular, single space after periods practice.  In fact, lately, after typing in my old-fashioned way, I run a find-and-replace and usually fix the issue myself, in order to look more low maintenance to editors.  But, I still love the look of the two spaces.  I think it allows the writing to breathe a little.  To pause.  See?

What about you?  Where are your battle lines drawn?  If you'd like more information about this great debate, check out this thorough blog post, and be oh so informed:  One Space or Two?  (Don't say I never gave you fascinating dinner conversation topics!)


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Because you're still asking that question

Special thanks to Rochelle Melander for finding this YouTube wonder that nails, and I mean, NAILS, cultural coo-coo about gender (in)equality.  Joss Whedon, director of "The Avengers," was asked the same question about women over and over again.  His answer?  Perfect. 

Check it out here:  Same Dumb Question About Women

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thanks, Crunchy Betty!

This, to the left, is me taking a break from writing and cleaning my windows. Just kidding. I do take breaks from writing and I do sometimes clean my windows, but this isn't me or anyone I know. I do, however, like the blue sky and clouds reflected in those perfectly clean streak-free windows.
 
True confessions:  one of my pet peeves is looking at streaky glass – windows, mirrors, glass tabletops. Basically anything that has come within spitting distance of a Windex bottle (sorry, Windex). I hate Windex. But, I've been using Windex nigh these many years because I haven't found anything better to streak my windows, mirrors and tabletops with. You'd think a glass cleaner would, ah, clean glass, but I've, apparently, never figured out how to properly use commercial glass cleaner so that the glass products I am trying to clean actually get clean.  Maybe it’s just me.  Windex, forgive my outburst.  You’re probably fine in more capable hands.
 
Anyway, since I sometimes peer off into the distance during my writing time to refocus my eyes and get my head clear (ah, that window metaphor again!), I don’t want to be distracted by streaks.  I want nothing between me and the great beyond.  I want to look out and see the edges of the world.
 
And that requires a better glass cleaner.
 
So, I hunted and hunted around until I found some homemade glass cleaner recipes and tried one this weekend.  (Don’t worry, I did other fun things this weekend besides trying homemade glass cleaner recipes, I promise!)  I know you’re on pins and needles, wondering if my search was fruitful.  In a word – YES.
 
Thanks to blogger Crunchy Betty, whose "Alvin Corn" recipe is printed on her blog (and here), I have clean table tops, light fixtures, mirrors and windows.  Okay, once I realized how great this stuff worked, I went a little crazy, but I did not get all geared up and start cleaning skyscrapers.  Promise.  
 
But, I am so happy that I had to share the wealth with you!  Get our your pencils . . .
 
Alvin Corn Homemade Glass Cleaner
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups warm water
 
Put it all into a spray bottle and shake it well.  Shake it periodically as you use it because the cornstarch will settle to the bottom.  Enjoy sparkly clean glass.  Write the great American novel. 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Apple Time

What time of year is it?  It's apple time!  Rumor has it that one of these a day kept the  . . . oh, you know.  And a famous visitor to Oz once tried to pick one from a talking tree . . . but, you know that, too.  Here's something new:  my latest apple delight!  I poach peeled and halved apples in cinnamon-sprinkled red wine for 15-20 minutes, then spoon the warm lovelies into bowls, cover them with dollops of whipped cream, and . . . well you know this, too -- yum. 
What's your favorite indulgence? Pie, crisp, crumble, tarts, cake, muffins, or just eating a delightfully crisp Honey Crisp out of hand?  
 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cuckoo. Really. Sprint.



Maybe some of you remember my blog about dealing with bureaucratic craziness. I wrote about my three-year battle about a 72 cent credit I had with Sprint (which has become my four-year battle about a 72 cent credit with Sprint). Stay tuned for . . . ah, more. Read on to Post #3!

Here are my old posts, to refresh your memory:

Post #1:  Yes, frustration. That's what you get when you deal with bureaucratic craziness. Here's my latest example: I used to have a cell phone contract with Sprint. Yes, I'm naming the carrier. Probably not a good idea. Definitely poor taste. But, whatever. Anyway, I used to have a cell phone contract with Sprint, as I said. That was three years ago. I didn't mind Sprint. I was reasonably happy with Sprint. But, we found a better plan and changed to it. It was with a different company. A company that is not Sprint. Another decent company not much better and not altogether worse. Whatever. However, lately, I have begun to hate Sprint. Detest Sprint. Have horrible dreams about Sprint. Why? Sprint is a prime example of bureaucratic craziness.
It seems I overpaid the last payment of my last Sprint bill by 72 cents. Yes, that's right, 72 cents. So, Sprint dutifully sent me a statement informing me that I had a credit of 72 cents. I called them and told them that I am no longer a customer and therefore, would never be in need of my 72 cent credit. Could they send me a check for 72 cents? No, Ma'am, they couldn't. They can't cut checks for less than a dollar. Well, then, I said, just keep the 72 cents. No, Ma'am, they couldn't do that either. Accounting controls. Well, what should we do? Did they want me to send them 28 cents so they could cut me a $1 check? No, since I was no longer a customer, there was no way to pay into my account. 

X*&!#Z!

So, what happened? For the last three years, I have received a monthly statement from Sprint telling me that I have a 72 cent credit with them. I've called them several more times and had repeats of the above conversation with different representatives.

Grrrrrr.

So, if Sprint goes bankrupt because they have had to send me a hundreds of statements in the mail, each with 42 cents worth of postage, and have had to buy the paper to print those statements and have had to hire the people to process those statements and to keep track of my account that is closed . . . well, don't blame me. I tried.

Post #2:  August, 2013 – Thrilling update: In Milwaukee, I moved from a suburban condo to a downtown condo. I dutifully filled out change-of-address forms for my contacts because, as the post office warned, mail is only forwarded for six months. No exceptions. An evil grin broke out on my face as this awareness settled into my marrow. I could move and not let Sprint know about it. I could move and, eventually, the mail forwarding would stop, and I’d be . . . FREE from Sprint!

I carried out my plan, merrily tossing the Sprint statements that were forwarded. It wouldn’t be long, I knew, before those statements wouldn’t know where to find me. 

After six months of getting statements –nothing. No Sprint statements! Could it be true? I had champagne. I had caviar. I booked an around-the-world cruise. (Just kidding about that last one.)

Then, the nightmare ensued. They found me. I don’t know how, but they did. Today, when I got my mail, there it was, like a gremlin – the danged Sprint statement, addressed to me at my NEW address.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

I considered banging my head in frustration on the mailbox, but thought better of it. (Violence never changes anything.) Perhaps, I could contact my Sprint people one more time and plead my case . . . again.

After being transferred from person to person for fifteen minutes because I hadn’t been a customer for four years (ah, yeah), I finally landed with a sane Sprint customer service representative. When she heard my story she burst out laughing. 

“Please,” I pleaded. “Can we fix this?”

She hesitated and I braced myself for the usual replies, but then she said. “Of course. This is crazy. You’ve received 51 statements about your 72 cent credit.” She didn’t know how the statements made it to my new address but told me I could expect a check for 72 cents within three days.

The clouds broke up and the sun shone brighter. Birds sang (or were those angels?) and I felt a thousand-pound weight lift off of my shoulders. Sprint would no longer be sending me 72 cent credit statements. Never ever again.

I hung up the phone and dabbed away the tears as I realized I had finally succeeded in breaking up with my phone carrier.

About time. 

Do you think I'll get multiple 72-cent checks?

Post #3:  October, 2013

I GOT ANOTHER DANGED STATEMENT WITH . . . no, not a 72-cent credit.  How could you be so silly.  Why on earth would they send me a 72-cent credit after they realized how nutty they have been for the last almost four years?  No, I did not receive a 72-cent credit.  Yes, breathe deeply.  That part got fixed. 

Now, listen up.

I received a 79-cent credit!  I am not kidding.  I am actually earning money here.

Seriously, what can I do?  Does anyone have Sprint stock?  If so, I’m so sorry to be ruining your retirement savings account.  Does anyone know a smart, sane Sprint employee?  If so, please let him or her know that they need to quit working for such a cuckoo place.  But, first, before they quit, please please please have them wipe me out of the Sprint system . . . before I lose my mind.


Cray Cray

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Spot of Tea

In our fast-paced world, we often need small rituals to help us slow down and savor the moment.  My husband and I like to start each day with a leisurely cup of tea.  If the rest of the day whizzes by, at least there will be peace each morning, if only for ten minutes.  My favorite tea is an Irish brand –  Lyon’s original blend, which my mom and I discovered during our trip to Ireland.  According to official tea-gurus, there is a definite method to tea heaven.  Follow these steps, and you, too, can make yourself the perfect cup of tea.

1. Boil the water quickly and keep it boiling for five minutes to make it softer.

2. Use a little of the boiling water to warm the pot.

3. Put your teabags or loose tea into the pot, then add the boiling water. Use two four-gram teabags to a liter of water, or one teaspoon of loose tea per cup.

4. Leave the tea to brew, but not for too long; after about five minutes, the tea can get bitter.

5. Remove the teabags and give the tea a stir to ensure a consistent taste (otherwise it will be stronger at the bottom of the pot).

6.  Pour into cups or mugs and add milk, honey or sugar, as desired.
 
What's your favorite tea?
 

Monday, September 23, 2013

My newest favorite thing

That, to the left?  Why, it’s my newest favorite thing – a real, live, authentic professional baking book that used to belong to my grandpa.  (Thanks, Mom!)  My grandpa has always held a sweet spot in my memory banks, and, it turns out, we share our love of baking.  As a young adult during the depression, he, like so many others, did his share of odd jobs.  But, he often fell back on baking as a way to make a living – starting off as a baker in a lumberjack camp in Northern Wisconsin, and working on and off in various bakeries for several years afterwards.
You may not be able to read it, but the book is called “Cakes and Pastries,” and is the sort of cookbook used to feed the masses.  For example, there’s a recipe for Pecan Butterscotch Rolls – makes 27 dozen (there is an annotation that “these rolls are a very good seller”), a recipe for 10 dozen “cheap” cupcakes, and a recipe for 10 dozen sheet cakes that you are supposed to “bake fast.”


Printed in 1925, the book was written in the days of less-than-fancy ovens.  Bakers are instructed to bake confections in “moderate,” “cool,” or “hot” ovens, and it is assumed that the recipe readers know their ways around recipes.  Instructions include such specifics as: “give rolls some proof,” “let dough rest for some time,” add enough water to make a good mixture,” “extra icing can be set aside in a stone jar and covered with a damp cloth,” berry cream pie “keeps well and eats well,” and cheesecake should be “cut into 10 or 15 cent slices.”

The book covers all the basics – French pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, tortes, candies, and, of course, breads and rolls.  There are recipes for things I’ve never heard of, like “Hermits” (dark and light, no less) and “Sally Lun Muffins,” and recipes for things like “Pepper Nuts” (no nuts in the recipe), “Cocoanut (sic) Rocks” (no rocks in the recipe), and “Spanish Strips” (that apparently had to have pink frosting) – all labeled “Hard Goods for Showcase.”


I have loved perusing this artifact of my grandpa’s life.  But, the showstoppers are at the back of the book where he penned his own recipes and notes.  So, readers, here, in my late-grandpa’s own lovely hand, is his tried and true recipe for 100 loaves of bread.  It's the ingredients, anyway.  A real baker knows what to do with them.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Go get your dose of green!

 
 

To do before the leaves change:  forest bathe.
You’ve probably been forest bathing without even realizing it.  Called Shinrin-yoku in Japanese, forest bathing is an officially recognized leisure and stress management activity touted for its health benefits.  You find a wooded area.  You enter it.  You breathe deeply of the wood and leaf essences emitted by trees.  You feel better – emotionally, psychologically and physically.  Like with any aromatherapy, part of the benefit comes from deep breathing, part from stillness, and part from the essential oils themselves.  Wood essential oils, called phytoncides, are antimicrobial, not to mention, a sensory treat. 
So, quick, while you still can – go forest bathing one more time this year.  You know you want to.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Connection


Thanks to: CinemaBlend.com for this instructive image

Everything is connected. 
That sounds like a cliché, but it is interesting how often I need to be reminded of the phrase’s importance.  I may be the last person around who has finally encountered the amazing story of “Cloud Atlas."  The 2004 novel, by David Mitchell, and the 2012 film, Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski (which I just viewed via Netflix), explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives, delivered in six nesting narratives, impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future.  Reincarnation?  Maybe.  Connection?  Absolutely.  A fantastic story?  Well, I saw it two weeks ago and am still thinking about it.  So, yes. 
Read it.  Or rent it.  But, do enjoy it.



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Contemplation Day

Each new season seems to beg for a little personal introspection.  As we ease slowly into shorter days, consider these ten inspirational quotes and decide if any of them speak to you.
1.  “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut
2.  “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
3.  “It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
4.  “I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.” – Edgar Allan Poe
5.  “Imagine there's no country.  It isn’t hard to do.  Nothing to kill or die for.  No religion too.  Imagine all the people living life in peace.” – John Lennon
6.  “I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” – Vincent van Gogh
7.  “You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
8.  “It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth
9.  “Why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage.” – Ayn Rand
10.  “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.’” – Jim Jarmusch
Which quote do you like best today?  Is there another quote that you’re drawn to lately that you’d like to share?



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cray Cray II

 


Maybe some of you remember my blog about dealing with bureaucratic craziness. I wrote about my three-year battle about a 72 cent credit I had with Sprint (which has become my four-year battle about a 72 cent credit with Sprint). Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion! 

Here is my old post, to refresh your memory: Yes, frustration. That's what you get when you deal with bureaucratic craziness. Here's my latest example: I used to have a cell phone contract with Sprint. Yes, I'm naming the carrier. Probably not a good idea. Definitely poor taste. But, whatever. Anyway, I used to have a cell phone contract with Sprint, as I said. That was three years ago. I didn't mind Sprint. I was reasonably happy with Sprint. But, we found a better plan and changed to it. It was with a different company. A company that is not Sprint. Another decent company not much better and not altogether worse. Whatever. However, lately, I have begun to hate Sprint. Detest Sprint. Have horrible dreams about Sprint. Why? Sprint is a prime example of bureaucratic craziness.
 
It seems I overpaid the last payment of my last Sprint bill by 72 cents. Yes, that's right, 72 cents. So, Sprint dutifully sent me a statement informing me that I had a credit of 72 cents. I called them and told them that I am no longer a customer and therefore, would never be in need of my 72 cent credit. Could they send me a check for 72 cents? No, Ma'am, they couldn't. They can't cut checks for less than a dollar. Well, then, I said, just keep the 72 cents. No, Ma'am, they couldn't do that either. Accounting controls. Well, what should we do? Did they want me to send them 28 cents so they could cut me a $1 check? No, since I was no longer a customer, there was no way to pay into my account.  

X*&!#Z! 

So, what happened? For the last three years, I have received a monthly statement from Sprint telling me that I have a 72 cent credit with them. I've called them several more times and had repeats of the above conversation with different representatives. 

Grrrrrr. 

So, if Sprint goes bankrupt because they have had to send me a hundreds of statements in the mail, each with 42 cents worth of postage, and have had to buy the paper to print those statements and have had to hire the people to process those statements and to keep track of my account that is closed . . . well, don't blame me. I tried. 

August, 2013 – Thrilling update: In Milwaukee, I moved from a suburban condo to a downtown condo. I dutifully filled out change-of-address forms for my contacts because, as the post office warned, mail is only forwarded for six months. No exceptions. An evil grin broke out on my face as this awareness settled into my marrow. I could move and not let Sprint know about it. I could move and, eventually, the mail forwarding would stop, and I’d be . . . FREE from Sprint! 

I carried out my plan, merrily tossing the Sprint statements that were forwarded. It wouldn’t be long, I knew, before those statements wouldn’t know where to find me.  

After six months of getting statements –nothing. No Sprint statements! Could it be true? I had champagne. I had caviar. I booked an around-the-world cruise. (Just kidding about that last one.) 

Then, the nightmare ensued. They found me. I don’t know how, but they did. Today, when I got my mail, there it was, like a gremlin – the danged Sprint statement, addressed to me at my NEW address. 

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! 

I considered banging my head in frustration on the mailbox, but thought better of it. (Violence never changes anything.) Perhaps, I could contact my Sprint people one more time and plead my case . . . again. 

After being transferred from person to person for fifteen minutes because I hadn’t been a customer for four years (ah, yeah), I finally landed with a sane Sprint customer service representative. When she heard my story she burst out laughing.  

“Please,” I pleaded. “Can we fix this?” 

She hesitated and I braced myself for the usual replies, but then she said. “Of course. This is crazy. You’ve received 51 statements about your 72 cent credit.” She didn’t know how the statements made it to my new address but told me I could expect a check for 72 cents within three days. 

The clouds broke up and the sun shone brighter. Birds sang (or were those angels?) and I felt a thousand-pound weight lift off of my shoulders. Sprint would no longer be sending me 72 cent credit statements. Never ever again. 

I hung up the phone and dabbed away the tears as I realized I had finally succeeded in breaking up with my phone carrier. 

About time.  

Do you think I'll get multiple 72-cent checks?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Candy is dandy . . .


 
A dear friend of mine recently gave me the book The Best of Ogden Nash.  What fun to peruse these funnies!  Here, for your mid-week boost are a few of the quotes that jumped out at me.  Read.  Grin.  Share.
"Happiness is having a scratch for every itch."
"If you don't want to work you have to work to earn enough money so that you won't have to work."
 "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of."
"The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late."
And, of course:  “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.”
What's your favorite?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My virtual hammock


This is where I've been -- at least mentally -- for the past few months.  As I've eased into my sabbatical, I've fully immersed myself not only into uninterrupted writing time, but into some luxurious amounts of personal R&R time.  And I cannot recommend the practice enough!  Down time, my friends, is not overrated in the least, but is the necessary balance to productivity.  So, take some time to sway in your own virtual hammock, especially if you have big projects looming . . . and let me know how you fared.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mary Oliver

Because my last post prompted some of you to publicly praise Mary Oliver's poetry (and rightly so), and because I would like to pay tribute to my recently-departed kitty, here is one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems for your enjoyment:

To Live in This World


Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Source: In Blackwater Woods
 
 



                                               In loving memory of Callie

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snow Day!

It's the third snow day in less than a week, here in Missouri, and I wanted to share the magic.  There's something about snow days that bring out the kid in everyone.  What a weird phenomenon -- first crouching around the radio or T.V. to be extra sure your school or place of business is, indeed, closed; then the celebratory jig or sigh; then the "free" day to spend shoveling, cooking, eating, playing.  Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins nails the essence of a snow day in his poem bearing the same title.  Enjoy!

 
Snow Day
By Billy Collins
 
Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,  
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.


In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,

and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,  
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
 
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news


that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School  
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School. 

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.
 

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,  
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Billy Collins, “Snow Day” from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (New York: Random House, 2001). Copyright © 2001 by Billy Collins.
 
 


Monday, February 18, 2013

Exhausted Workforce



Warning:  This post has no suggestions for solutions.  It is full of observations, some of which might make you cranky.

A recent New York Times article about gender inequality cited various statistics comparing the United States' workplace policies and practices to roughly 190 other countries of similar economic and political development.  The results were heartbreaking, but did help to explain why so many people feel like the cartoon man in the above picture -- exhausted and overwhelmed at work.

According to the article, the United States places "dead last" as far as family-work policies and ranked among the very highest in the hours most employers required their average employees to work.  Many Americans now clock 50 or more hours per week at work, far more than any other industrialized country, including Japan.  Add to this the increasingly-popular practice of hiring young people as "interns," for no wages, and we've certainly got a workforce crisis in the making.

There's a myth that the United States is the most progressive place around, that we are the world's leader, the most-progressive of the progressive.  This article is one of many that challenge that myth.  The question, of course, is:  What can we do about it?

The lengthly article discussed much more than the increase in work hours.  Click here to read the article for yourself:  NY Times Article

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tearjerker

With the Academy Awards coming up, I'm sure more than a few of you have seen the wonderful Les Mis.  Talk about a tearjerker.  There's something satisfyingly cathartic about crying through a film and if that's your goal, this film is the ticket.  In fact, if you aren't already singing all of the musical's songs, take another look at Anne Hathaway's version of "I Dreamed a Dream."  It'll turn on your waterworks -- in a good way -- because her rendition is utterly convincing.


I Dreamed a Dream -- Anne Hathaway





Monday, February 4, 2013

Snaggleteeth

 
What's wrong with this picture? Yes, you may have noticed that the model's teeth are not perfect. But, that's not what's wrong. What's wrong is that she is a model for a dental procedure popular in Japan (and getting popular elsewhere) that causes teeth imperfections.
 
Call it the opposite of braces. Apparently, some young women are now afraid to have perfect teeth because no decent man is going to be attracted to someone who is too perfect -- in fact men, in general, the logic goes, will feel most secure with a flawed woman.  Such teenagers beg their parents to pay hundreds of dollars to mess up their mouths. Specifically, most want the "snaggletooth" look -- a vampire-like look where plastic fronts are affixed to the canines, or eye teeth.  Called yaeba in Japanese, cultural studies theorists say the look is “pre-orthodontic,” a look that suggests delayed baby teeth or a too-small mouth. 

 
How surprising that, once again, the latest craze not only emphasizes youth, but sexualizes younger and younger "looks" and makes perfectly normal women willing to change their appearance primarily for male approval.  Sigh.
 
 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sick and Tired


With this horrible flu season busting everyone's chops -- not to mention the formidible plethora of colds, the myriad of other viral disorders and a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of the usual amounts of work and stress -- it is no surprise that people are dropping like flies -- into bed.  Or not.

For those of you who take nature's gentle hints (fevers, body aches, swollen sinuses, dizzying exhaustion) as permission to crawl beneath the sheets, even in the daylight -- I applaud you.  I honor you.  And I hope to be more like you in the future.  For the rest of you -- pay attention!

Too often, we (and I include myself in that reference) think we cannot be spared, that our work will never be done or our missions accomplished if we take even a second off to restore and repair our ailing, tired selves.  We must march forward, trudge onward, and fight the good fight.  Our bodies simply must cooperate with our agendas -- the agendas, of course, being written in stone with blood (or in some other such permanent manner).  That way of thinking, of course, couldn't be further from the truth.  While we all probably logically agree that the sick and the tired need rest and should, therefore, make an immediate beeline to bed, it's a lot harder to impose such logic upon ourselves.  We're really not that sick, not too tired, to stop the clock and . . . egads, waste some precious time.

But, of course, we should and we must.  I love reading the scenes in 19th-century novels where someone catches a cold and every one rushes that person to bed to sip broth and tea and drowse away several days or a week.  What luxury!  What good sense!  What a luminous goal! 

Even if you don't spend a whole week in bed everytime you sneeze, please remember that it is okay to stop and rest for the afternoon, for the weekend, or even for a longish lunch.  All of you who are sick and tired of being sick and tired . . . take to your beds -- if even for a nap -- and let nature help restore you to balance and good health.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is, without doubt, a leader in every sense of the word.  His numerous speeches are loaded with inspiration.  Here, I've compiled but a few of this civil rights leader's most memorable lines.  Which are your favorites?


1.  “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

2.  "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

3.  "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

4.  "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education."

 5.  "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.  This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."

6.  "We must accept finite disappoint, but never lose infinite hope."

7.  "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

8.  "The time is always right to do what is right."

9.  "We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear."

10.  "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.  It is a sword that heals."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.








Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NBCC Lifetime Achievement Award



Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, circa 1970s
 
I couldn’t be happier that Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, two leaders of the feminist movement, have been named winners of the 2013 lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle. Their twelve books, especially The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) and The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women (1985) have been broadly read and taught, and have changed the face of literary criticism and influenced generations of students and scholars. I’ve personally used both books extensively in my women’s literature and Women’s Studies courses, and am grateful for the work these two women have put into their scholarship.

The two friends met in the early 1970s when they were teaching English at Indiana University. They designed a new course together on literature by women and went on to collaborate on a dozen books, working by phone and through the mail after Gilbert went to teach at the University of California at Davis. Gilbert’s and Gubar’s voices have long spearheaded feminist literary criticism and Women’s Studies, and they richly deserve this award, which will be presented Feb. 28 in New York. Here, here, Gilbert and Gubar – enjoy your well-deserved accolades!