Monday, September 30, 2013

September Comments and Updates

Here are my responses to your September comments, as well as some general updates on topics I have posted on in the past.

Thanks tRa and Andrea for your suggestions for what to do at the Minnesota State Fair.  Although it's over for this year, as you can see from tRa's list, there's still plenty to do next year.  At the beginning of her comment, tRa also references that great state fair song by Ann Reed. Here's a pretty cool video of it:

Interesting trivia:  Ann Reed wrote that song in a couple of hours using suggestions from the audience at the state fair.

Alias would like to know: Have you started a serious walking program?  

The answer to that is both yes and no.  I keep starting it but getting sidetracked.  Sometimes it's the weather, other times it's my schedule.  I am usually managing to walk at least six miles a week, even with the distractions.  On a related note, I am going to be unable to run in the 5k I had originally planned to run next weekend, as I will be attending my mother-in-law's memorial.  This is actually a good thing, as I am really not ready to run one, or even run/walk a 5k.  However, I am rebooting the training, and thinking about doing a Turkey Trot.  Apparently, Thanksgiving is a popular time to have a 5k race.

Thanks MA Reynolds for the advice about making sure I am looking at the true horizon on the equinox.

Although I don't know exactly how to find out what the true horizon is where I live, I do have to say that it is pretty flat around here.  No mountains in sight, more's the pity.

I did let the mostly positive comments from tRa, Stepdad and Kristi regarding attending my 30th high school reunion influence my decision to go.

Although I am going to attend, I do have to note, tRa, that you and my brother had a more positive grade school experience than I did.  I'll try to find out if the senior class president was in charge of planning it.  Most happily, while I was at the thrift store shopping for a dress for the upcoming memorial, I found a dress that I think could be 'cocktail attire.'  Woohoo for no more shopping!

Finally, I have to note that the application to be a judge for the Minnesota Book Awards is due tomorrow, and being the procrastinator that I am, it is not quite finished.  So besides writing this blog, working on my book, checking in with my online class, my schedule today includes walking 3 miles, finishing that application, and getting a cavity filled.  It's a jam-packed life.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

1915 — a different time

My mother-in-law Alice was born in 1915.

Times were different then.  The Ford Model T was a popular car on the road. Women didn't have the right to vote.  Jim Crow ruled in Virginia, her home state.  Although the trenches of World War I were full of soldiers, the United States had not yet sent men to Europe.  The Panama Canal had just been completed, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Neither Prohibition nor the Depression had even started.

Alice had a happy childhood, one of five children.  She grew up on a college campus where her father was a professor, and she had many fond tales of traipsing around the grounds, swimming in the lake, and generally gadding about.  She went away to camp, rode in a horse and buggy to her grandparent's home, and as a young woman, taught in a small, rural school.

I've recently been thinking a lot about Alice and the many stories I remember her telling because we will soon go to North Carolina for her memorial service.  It's amazing to me to think what a far cry her growing up years were from what children experience today, and yet how effortlessly she seemed to adapt to the many changes the modern era brought.  Although she had no interest in computers or the internet, she drove until she was 96, taught English to immigrants at her church, and was a volunteer for NAMI.

All in all, a remarkable woman.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I have been trying to write a post about anger for a couple of weeks, but it is hard to get my thoughts into a coherent whole.  I was recently exposed to a very angry person, and I am still trying to figure out how to handle it and them.  Luckily, I don't see this person very often, but it will certainly affect our relationship.

I don't usually get this deep on my blog, but the issue has been rattling around in my head for a while and I needed to write this.  It's complicated, and I still don't think I have captured exactly what I think about anger, but I'm putting it out there anyway.  Something to ponder.

Anger is a very powerful emotion.  Anger gets us charged up and can help us feel superior to whomever we are angry at.  It can feel good.  It certainly feels better than sadness or guilt or a variety of other mental states.  So maybe when we feel pain or grief, both of which can be devastating, if we can get angry instead, that avoids the hurt.  Anger can be so complex, mixing with all of our other feelings.

A wise person I know said that anger is neither good nor bad, it just is.  I suppose that's true, although I'm still working on how I feel about that statement.  I suppose that anger can sometimes be healthy, but personally I haven't quite figured out how to harness it effectively.

At the same time that anger makes us feel strong, it can destroy.  It can be very corrosive, feeding on itself like a fire.  Once you get mad, it's easy to stay mad, and to get even madder.

It's important, however, to remember how toxic anger is to others.  If you are excessively angry at someone, yelling and saying mean things, you are making another person feel small and unimportant.  If your anger persists at them, they will certainly be fearful of you and very unsure of themselves in your presence.

Even if your anger is not directed at someone, but rather at that nail or screw that is refusing to do your bidding, extreme anger can still be unsettling for those in the vicinity.  It can cause people to see you in a different way and to treat you accordingly.

In a normal ending to a post, here is where I would add a lighthearted remark or comment that would pull the whole post together.  But all I really want to say is peace and love, baby!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Seeing the Dentist

There are things that you still have to do even if you are not working.  Making sure you keep up on all your preventive medical care is one of those things.  Yesterday I went to the dentist and the before, during, and aftermath rather colored my whole day.

The before part was dreading the appointment.  The during part was mostly just mildly uncomfortable until she discovered the small cavity that  exists next to the filling in tooth 19.  Then the after part was scheduling a drilling into my teeth early next week, and overthinking the cavity.  Have I not been brushing enough?  Flossing?   Too much soda?  Too many sweets?  Or just time and the elements triumphing over my enamel?

The only good part of the whole experience was that because I am not working, I don't have to take time off of work and prepare for a substitute.  I could schedule the next appointment for whenever I wanted.  As an educator, preparing for a substitute is a lot of work and I'm happy not to have to do it for 48 more weeks.

Here's hoping the anesthesia works well!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Sybaritic Life

Last week, a friend of mine greeted me with, "So, how's the sybaritic life?"  I thought I knew what she meant, but I decided to look it up to make sure.  And it wasn't quite what I thought.

Merriam-Webster has this to say:

Definition of SYBARITE:  

1  [from the notorious luxury of the Sybarites]:  VOLUPTUARY, SENSUALIST

       — syb•a•rit•ic    adjective

Synonyms:  debauchee, decadent, hedonist

Now, I don't know who the Sybarites were, and why their luxury was so notorious, but I would like to argue that I am not living a voluptuous life.

Yes, there are times when I can read or watch TV or do whatever I want, but most of the time I am living the routine life.  I am doing the dishes and laundry.  I write this blog every day and I am working on my novel every day, as well as researching the Prohibition era.  I am ridding my home of my paper piles.  Exercising and eating/cooking healthy food every day takes a lot of time.  My online class has started and that requires a time commitment as well.  In addition, I am volunteering in my community and I am planning on travelling to see my family.

I am not expecting sympathy of any kind, but I just want to make it clear:  I haven't yet had my nails or my hair done.  I am not sitting around all day in a lounge chair with a box of See's candy on the table next to me while I get a massage.  No servants to do my chores.

I'm doing all sorts of work.  It's just the kind of work that nobody is paying me for.  It is a delicious freedom to do the work I choose. It's just not sensuous.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

School Library Volunteer

Last week I went to my former school and volunteered for two hours in the library.  It was an absolute blast! Shelving library books is oddly satisfying.

I started out taping over bar codes to protect them. Then I got to check in books and shelve them on the temporary cart.  It was more complicated than I had thought.  There are a lot more categories than just fiction and non-fiction.

When the library opened for business later, I got the chance to see the students.  Some of them I were students I had taught and some were new to the school.  They were all polite and excited to be in the library.  By this time I had started taking books off the cart and putting them onto the actual shelves.  But whenever I saw a student ready to go, I would come back and bring up their record to check them out.

There are two ways to get a student record.  They can give you their library number or you can type in their name and search the database that way.  As it is early in the school year, many of them can't quite remember their number.  It's not a big deal when it is a new student as you wouldn't be expected to know who they are, but it gets tricky and embarrassing when you should know the student's name, because you taught them just last year.

And so when I couldn't recall one young student's name that had been in my class, I asked him to spell his name for me.  He looked at me quite seriously and spelled, "L, E, E."

What a bad memory I have!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

High School Reunion —yea or nay?

This is the year of my 30th high school reunion.  Go Vikes!

I am trying to decide whether I will attend.  Because it's complicated.  It's always complicated.

I will be in my hometown the week before the reunion.  But actually going to the reunion would require me to stay an extra week at my parent's house.  On the one hand, more time there could be fun.  On the other hand, it will keep me away from my own home and honey for longer than I would like.  Of course, on my third alien hand, I could use some of that time to research my novel, which takes place in my hometown.

Then there is the question of whether I even want to go.  Normally I am all about building community.  I love community.  And as a friend told me yesterday, I am a joiner.  But are the people I graduated high school with even remotely my community anymore?  Part of the problem is that many of my friends were made through sports and therefore my circle was made up of students older and younger than me.  They're not included in this reunion, only people from my actual grade.

There was a core group of friends that were in my grade, but we have for the most part not managed to stay in touch.  Even that magician of time and connection, Facebook, has not managed to reconnect us all.  And I find I am mostly ok with that.  If it had been important, wouldn't we have stayed more in touch?  Or gotten in touch in the last 30 years?

In the balance toward saying yes to going is that I went to my 10th high school reunion and had a blast.  Especially at the beginning when I was chatting with all sorts of people that I hadn't really hung out with in high school.  I'm not sure why I didn't go to the 20th, did they even have one?  Did I care that I didn't go?  No.

That is an overarching question I try to ask myself.  Will I regret not going? At this point, the answer seems to be no.  To be fair, I don't think I would regret going either.  I am sure there will be some wonderful people there.  People that I used to know.  Names I recognize.  Is that enough incentive?

The dress code, however, is enough to kill me:  cocktail.  I know only enough about cocktail attire to know that I don't have any.  So that means shopping, which I hate.

Too many parameters to figure out.  Maybe I will let the airline prices decide.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Equinox!

Sunday was the first day of fall.  The equinox happened at 4:44 pm EDT.

Being somewhat pagan, we notice the equinoxes and celebrate the solstices.

Many of the streets around our house are set up exactly on the east-west line.  Must have been very sober and precise surveyors in the 1860s.

On Saturday we jumped in our car just before sunset to try to find a spot to watch the sun go down over one of these streets.  It was hard driving with the sun in our eyes, but we made it just in time to see the sun go down a few degrees north of the street.

So Sunday we were a little smarter.  We left home earlier on our bicycles and made it to a bridge over the Mississippi, where the street is wide and there is no foliage to get in your sightline.

We stopped at the top of the bridge, left our bikes on the sidewalk and for the next ten minutes every time there was a break in the traffic, we would walk out to the center line of the bridge to see where the sun was in its trajectory.

It was crazy and it was great fun, and that darned sun set exactly in the middle of the street.  Very cool! And rather amazing to remember that on Saturday the sun went down noticeably to the north.  I guess that means that if we went to the same spot today to watch, the sun would set noticeably to the south of the street.

I hope everyone has a wonderful fall season.  Mine sure started well.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gasoline leak

This is not the post I intended to write.

That one will toodle along later sometime. But for now, I will write about our adventurous Saturday.

It being a weekend day, we decided to do some chores and gathered up some brush that we had around our yard.  In order to take it to the county yard waste collection site we borrowed an old truck from a friend of ours.

After we had loaded all the brush into the truck, I noticed that there was something leaking from the engine of the truck onto our driveway.  I alerted my honey, the expert in all things automotive and he was fairly freaked out that it was the gasoline hose leaking.

'Cause gasoline is very flammable!

But even freaked out, my honey is incredibly resourceful.  He went and got some supplies: headlights, tape, clamps of various sizes plus many tools, pliers, a screwdriver, and I don't even know the other tools.  We even brought out our fire extinguisher, although he told me if the truck caught on fire to run.

He tried taping the hose, but it was too saturated with gasoline, so the tape wouldn't stick.  So he clamped the hose, which stopped the leak.  Then he had to figure out a place upstream in the gas delivery system to clamp down so that when he replaced the leaking hose gasoline wouldn't spew out everywhere.  After he managed that, he had to ride his bike to the auto parts store to get a new hose.  (Our car was trapped in the driveway by the truck.)

The final thing to do was to replace the bad, cracked gasoline hose with the brand spanking new one.  That was by far the easiest and quickest part of the entire ordeal.

Once it was all fixed, we put the tools away, and my honey went and dumped the brush at the collection site.  It only took about three hours extra.

Even though I know he's good at what I call "that stuff", it still amazes me that he had the tools and the knowledge to fix that truck in an afternoon.

Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Writing Contest?

Yesterday's post talked about a class that I am going to take at the Loft Literary Center.  But I didn't mention the other cool thing going on at the Loft — a writing contest!

Apparently there is going to be a solar eclipse on November 3rd of this year. It won't be visible where I live, but the Loft has made it the theme of their fall writing contest.

800 words or less that incorporates an eclipse due by October 3rd.  The prize?  $150 of restaurant gift cards plus publication in some local weekly journals not to mention the glory of bragging rights.

Sounds great, right?  Only problem is I don't really have any ideas.  And I've never written a short story in my life.  Then there's the fact that 800 words doesn't seem to give you much room to develop a plot, even a short plot.

Oh well, it's a challenge!  I promise to make some sort of stab at writing an eclipse short story and I will post it here if I don't take first place.

Any ideas from the peanut gallery?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Taking a class


That's what I want to work on this year.  Make a routine, try it out, figure it out, "just do it" as a good friend of mine and Nike would say.  My stepdad would also recommend this approach.

And I am writing.  Every day.  This blog is evidence of that.  But I am struggling a little bit with what to do with the novel next, how to jump start the revising.

So, being a teacher's pet, I decided to take a class.  That's right, a class from an expert will tell me what I should be doing!  (Well, it'll give me one version of what to do at least, which will be one more than I have now.)

I took a look at the offerings of the Loft Literary Center.   And I decided to enroll in a class entitled:  Your Book Starts Here:  How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book.  It's designed for writers who have a book concept or work in progress.

It sounds perfect for me, and one of the best parts of it is that it's an online class.  Why is that so great? Well, many classes meet after work, and I have enough commitments that take me away from home and honey in the evenings.

So I can log on to read (and watch) content from the teacher, chat with my fellow students in discussion forums, and other fun stuff, and I can do it all at 3am in my pajamas!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

All of my worldly possessions

Although I do have an office, I don't actually have any place to leave any stuff.  So every time I go to work, I have to carry everything I need in an overstuffed backpack.

There's a computer, a hard copy of my novel, my writer's notebook and the hardcover book on Prohibition I am reading for research.  I also usually have a couple of newspapers or magazines.  Plus my headphones when I want to block out the office music and ambient noise.  And my keys, pens, pencils, cough drops, etc.

Sometimes I stop by the library to grab  DVDs or books.  Or I might need to take an extra layer of clothing because the weather can change from morning to evening.

On those days my backpack is monstrous.  Not only heavy but sticking out really far.  If I swung around quickly into someone, I could injure them easily.

I could clean it out of all unnecessary items, but then it would feel like too light.  Guess I'll just keep toting it all with me, making me feel important.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Substitute?

Yesterday I started the process of becoming a substitute teacher.

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be taking a break from the little kiddos. Believe me, I know.

But to tell the truth, I will end up missing them at some point.  And teaching is something I'm good at, a skill I know how to do very well.  I'm aware there will be days where I am going crazy trying to figure out how to write a chapter better, something I'm not sure I know how to do.  To counteract those insecure moments, it would be great to have some time in my life where I feel competent and knowledgeable.

In addition, most likely next year will see me returning to the teaching day job, unless my novel blows up into an incredible sensation.  (I'm not ruling it out, just not counting on it!)  So if I'm going to be teaching next year, being a substitute is a good way to get to know different schools, different principals, and the all-important deciding factor, teacher break rooms!

I imagine I will sub once or twice a week when I am in town, but even that small amount of time will keep my skills fresh and pay for the office where I write.

The steps that must be taken in order to be put on the list of substitures are mysterious.  In the past the registration has taken six to eight weeks to complete.  That means I've got some time to prepare to have a Calvin or two in a classroom for the day.

I look forward to it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Building Routines

The trip to the Boundary Waters signifies the end of summer.  Now that school has officially begun and I am not working, I need to start establishing routines.

I want to create a lot of routines.  Some of them are big and life-changing, like writing every day and exercising most days.  Others are smaller, like actually flossing every night so that I don't have to lie to my dental hygienist anymore.

This blog has helped me to write every day.  I even managed it while I was away from internet access!  However, my sweetie reminded me recently that the blog shouldn't take precedence over editing the novel.  Because preparing the novel for initial rejection and eventual publication is the major goal for this year.  He's right, but I need to figure out how to do both.

As far as exercise goes, I walked two miles around my neighborhood this morning.  It was great.  The weather is forecast to be beautiful for the rest of the week and I imagine that for a short while it will be easy to maintain my exercising.  Still, when it gets cold and the winter storms blow, I know am going to want to hide inside.  And using a treadmill is boring, so I may not make it to that marathon if I don't figure it out.

To floss regularly?  I have put floss both by my toothbrush and my bedside table, so that if I forget to floss at first, I have another chance.  I hope it will help me speak truthfully at the dentist's office.

I'll keep you all updated.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Low Energy Day

I read a Facebook post recently that implied that the version of ourselves that we make public on social media is overwhelmingly rosy and shows nothing of the messiness that makes up our actual lives.

And I guess I have to plead mostly guilty to this, choosing to post about the positives in my life during this gift of a leave.  After all, any problems that I have are definitely first world problems.

But there are some days that my energy is just low.  You could put it down to a post vacation plummet, the grayness of the weather, or the fact that my body doesn't seem to be feeling well.  Perhaps it is all three of those reasons plus some I haven't even figured out yet.  Who knows?

All I know is that yesterday was one of those days.  So instead of happy paragraphs with an appropriate photo, what you get is this.

Hope your day today is full of color and energy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vacation is over

Yes, it's true, I am back at my messy house, made more messy by all the camping gear that needs to be aired out, but can't be because it's raining. However, my mind is still somewhere up north at the lake.

Beautiful morning, isn't it?
It was a great trip, five nights and six days being lazy in the Boundary Waters.  We camped on two different lakes, ate fresh fish three nights, and enjoyed watching the changing sky.

Of course, you learn something new on every camping trip.  Our chief learning on this trip was to not hang your extra rain fly over a trail, no matter how perfect the clearing and tree placement.  Trails turn to rivers in heavy rain, and eating your dinner standing in a river is no fun!

A big shout out goes to Nancy and Dave at Hungry Jack Outfitters who rented us our canoe.  They are always great at sharing their knowledge of the local area.  They are friendly and welcoming and have keen insight into the character of their customers.  Thanks for making everything easy!

Now all I have to do is clean my house.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back to civilization

There's something about the first shower in a week . . .

You don't really know how much you miss it until you can feel heated water pouring out over you on demand.  All of a sudden, a hot shower with shampoo and soap is an incredible luxury.  Not stinking up the car on the ride home is probably something enjoyable for your partner too.

And don't get me started on how good a mattress feels!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Skinny dipping?

I'm a water baby.  I love swimming, playing water polo, even playing marco polo.  Anytime spent in lakes, oceans, or bathtubs is time well spent, at least in my view.

And in the Boundary Waters I get to swim in my birthday suit rather than my bathing suit.  It's great!

The excellence of swimming in the nude probably can't be explained to anyone who hasn't already been skinnydipping.  (Where did that word come from anyway?)  But those of us who have experienced it know that it's wonderfully freeing.

It's the only situation in which I could possibly imagine getting naked in front of other people.  But the beauty of the Boundary Waters is that there isn't anybody else there!

So I can swim however I like and the fish don't seem to mind.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dead end lakes

What are dead end lakes?

They are lakes with only one entry point.  Most canoers pass them by, because if the campsites are occupied, you have to turn around and portage back to the lake you just came from.  That fact makes dead end lakes quieter.

Both of our alltime favorite campsites are way down the far end of the lake from the portage, which means a long paddle down and back if the campsite's not free.  But if they are open, how sweet it is!  You can see any canoe coming from a long ways away and it's not uncommon to see absolutely no one for several days.  You can make believe that the lake is all yours.  It's the illusion of absolute seclusion.

I may have made up the phrase dead end lake, or maybe that's what all the canoe country experts call it, but either way, they're perfection.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wild Kingdom

There are a lot of animals in the wilderness, but they are not always easy to see, and even harder to catch with a camera.

Our best sight was one we didn't manage to snap, a moose mother and calf swimming by our campsite and getting out of the water close enough to watch.  Another great experience, if a little alarming, was being followed by a river otter, huffing and spitting as it swam.

Here is a photo of an amazing wildlife experience.  We watched this beaver on and off for two days. She came right up to our island camp, not bothered by us in the slightest.  She proceeded to chop down and eat a small tree in shallow water.  The next day she came back with a kit, who acted just like a bored kid playing around while his mom worked chopping down another small tree.

Besides having multiple moose, river otter, and beaver encounters,  we've also seen loons, eagles, ducks, voles, chipmunks, grouse, frogs, turtles, fish, and spiders (sometimes the spiders are huge!)

We're thankful that so far the wolves and bears are keeping themselves to themselves.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fishing can be dangerous

My honey likes to fish when we are camping on pristine northern lakes.  I don't fish, but sometimes on windy days, I help steer the canoe where he wants to go.  But the fishing is all him.  And the cleaning too.

The only problem is that the knives you use to clean the fish are very sharp. And there are times where the knife slips and you cut yourself.

knife and bandaged hands
We haven't had any major slice and dice, but the minor ones abound.  Here's hoping we never have anything past small nicks and cuts.

The fish is delicious, though.  Totally worth it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Is it an official site?

Every official wilderness campsite in the Boundary Waters has two things:  a fire grate and a pit toilet.  The fire grates are usually easily seen from shore and are often works of art made of stone and logs to create a kitchen area.

On the other hand, the toilets have to be a certain distance back from the lakes, so they are at the end of a trail, sometimes short, sometimes long, every once in a while up a steep hill.

Over the years for some bizarre reason I have taken pictures of these lovely latrines.  I share these photos with you now.

Deluxe pit toilet, with lid

Basic pit toilet, no lid
I must admit, I don't envy the Forest Service rangers that have to dig the pits. They need to find a site that they can dig down six feet in an area where you often hit bedrock after a few inches.  I'm sure it's the major reason preventing me from applying to become a Forest Service ranger.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Packing for the Boundary Waters

The first time we went to the Boundary Waters, we didn't have a clue what we were doing.  We took way too much gear and I'm not even sure what we packed it all into.  The only thing I remember is that we had too many bags that were difficult to carry across portages.

The second time we went canoe camping wasn't much better.  That time my memory is of a hotel room with all of our stuff spread wide out on the floor and trying to figure out where to put everything.  There's an actual photo somewhere, but know that it was way worse than this one.

Most of the fights we had in those early BWCAW years were about packing, before we had even left our driveway.

However, in the almost twenty years since we started going canoe camping we have gotten a lot better at packing for it.  First of all, my honey has a list which helps us both.

Also, over time we have acquired some really excellent gear that helps us with packing.  This is our granite gear pack and we have a great Duluth Pack with a basket. Plus, there's seat bags and map cases.

I guess that it all helps, an organized list, the right packs, and lots of experience.  With all that going for us, it's been years since we had a fight over packing. (Hope that doesn't jinx us next time!)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Up North

There is a power in those two words.  Many people where I live have a cabin up north.  The cabins are usually on a lake and can range from mansions to hovels.  I have one friend with a cabin somewhere in between the two.

It isn't very big and it has no indoor plumbing.  You go to the bathroom in the outhouse in the back and you either bring your water in with you or you go down to the lake and bring it back in a bucket to boil.

But there is electricity, and comfy beds and a gorgeous view of an amazing lake.

Plus there's a regular kitchen and I hear that the newest, exciting addition is a full-sized fridge.

I go there mostly on one end of a canoe trip, or for a long weekend with my book club buddies.  But my friend has been known to spend most of the summer up there with her family.  Sometimes I wonder what that would be like.  Calming, I think.

Maybe someday I'll have to get me a cabin up north.

Friday, September 6, 2013

How to comment without being anonymous

Several people have told me that they can't comment on my blog without being anonymous.  And since I requested that comments not be anonymous, they can't leave their thoughts.  But I really want to read everyone's questions, comments and recipes.  So here's a short post to let everyone know how to do it.

First, write your brilliant comment to my amazing post.  Next, click on the no comments (or 1 comment) tag and a box will open up for you to write in. After you have written whatever you want, you have two options.  You can choose the OpenID option and type in your name.  Or you can choose the Name/URL option.  Put in your name (or your alias) and leave the URL box blank.  Blogger will let you do that (the URL will show up as empty parentheses.)

Some of you clever folk have used the anonymous option and then put in your name at the end of the comment.  Whatever works best for you.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


There was an article in my newspaper today, originally published in the Los Angeles Times almost a month ago.  The main premise of the article was that although Ishtar was initially hammered by the critics, another look at the film has "healed its reputation" and those same critics now see that Ishtar has some good qualities.

But I already knew that, because back when it came out in 1987, I went to see it with my stepdad.  I'm sure my mom was there too, but I really remember watching that film with my stepdad.

And to all of us, Ishtar was hilarious.  Mostly because it was hilarious to my stepdad.  His laugh is one of the best things about him.  It is so infectious, you can't hear it and not want to laugh along.  So if he thinks a film is funny and laughs throughout it, you're going to laugh too.  His laugh ranges from a giggle to a guffaw and back again in an instant, and the more ridiculous the situation, the more he laughs.

It's one of my very clear, very good memories.  Besides, how can a film where Dustin Hoffman plays the bongos, alongside a shy, awkward Warren Beatty not be great?

So, if you're trying to decide about a film that the critics didn't like, think about whether you think you'd like it, and go your own way.

I can only hope that you have someone as great as my stepdad sitting in the movie theater next to you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bootlegger's Ball

The history center has an upcoming exhibit entitled American Spirits:  The Rise and Fall of Prohibition opening on November 9.  It seems quite the coincidence that my novel is set in that exact era.

To kick off the exhibit, they are having a Bootlegger's Ball.  And my honey and I are going to go!  (I already got his agreement to wear a suit, a rare event indeed.)

Besides being the first to see the exhibit, you can also:

wear period dress and have your picture taken
learn to Charleston and shimmy
taste Prohibition era cocktails

I'm really excited.

But I'm nervous too!  Mostly about my dress.  What will I wear?  How can I find something that is roaring 20s like?  Do I have to make my own? Rent?  Thrift store?  Are costumes off the internet sturdy enough?  I love beads and bangles and I hope that I can find something fun.

Maybe I should go see The Great Gatsby and rent Boardwalk Empire to get a feel for what to wear. On the other hand, I have been avoiding watching those shows, so that it doesn't affect my own writing.

What a dilemma!

But also what fun.  Anybody want to join us at the Bootlegger's Ball?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Holiday Blues

Three day weekends are wonderful, but when your regular days are something like a holiday, they somehow lose their specialness.

I'm not asking for sympathy though.  I know all too well that it's next to impossible to get any worker to feel sorry for you when you're not working by choice.

All I hear is, "Isn't it all holidays for you now?"  Or, "What do you do all day, anyway, lounge around?"  And, "It's all right for you to stay up late, you don't have anywhere to be in the morning."

And I guess the people who say those things are not wrong.  I know that I am incredibly lucky to be able to take a year off of work.

I'm fortunate to be able to say that today my plans are to go for a long walk, take some books and DVDs back to the library, then bike to the U to go to lunch with my husband.  After that, I'll go into my office and work for most of the afternoon on blogging and novel revising and historical research, until it's time for the Tuesday evening 'Beer and Chat' at the Coco office.

On the other hand, besides luck, it takes hard work and planning to be able to have a year off.  It also takes a willingness to give up the job you are familiar with and exchange it in the future for a position that may not be as good.

I seem to be rambling a bit.  I must have the blues you get when your three day weekend is over, and it's back to the grind, however relaxing that grind may be.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Why I write

I came across a blog recently about why writers write.  Does anyone remember the Writer's Strike from 2007-2008?

It lasted 14 weeks and for most of us, its only cost was a shortening of the television season.  But for the writers involved it was a difficult time.

I don't exactly know the rules, but I think if you are a member of the Writer's Guild of America (WGA), you are not allowed to write anything for payment during a strike.  Maybe you're not even allowed to write anything that you would later get paid for, I'm not sure.

I just know that it would be challenging for me to not be allowed to write.  And so, a few writers started a blog, and invited WGA members to share why they write.  Many of them are funny, some are profound, and a few are really long.  But if you enjoy television and movies, you should be as familiar with the writer's names as you are with the stars who mouth their words.

And some of these writers have written for shows and movies you know:  The Big Bang Theory, Boston Legal, Buffy, Groundhog Day, Letters from Iwo Jima, Murphy Brown, Sex and the City, and many more.

So, if you wonder about why television and movie writers write, go here.  The blog has the most recent entries up first, so go back to the beginning if you want to read it in order.  And enjoy!

Why do I write?  Writing makes me happier than if I didn't write.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My State Fair Rocks!

Why?  Here are some of my favorite things about the Minnesota State Fair.

This is Princess Kay of the Milky Way having her likeness carved in a 65 pound block of butter. These sculptures are called butterheads.  Each day another member of her court gets their face carved.  After the fair, they get to take their butterhead, plus the shavings, home.

The Miracle of Birth Center is where they bring pregnant pigs, sheep, cows, goats so that they can give birth live in front of fairgoers.  They also have chicken, turkey and duck eggs hatching all the time.  The spectators often get to touch the baby animals.

Crop art is a visual art, kind of like mosaic, but with seeds instead of glass.  Our state fair has a wide variety of crop art displayed in the agriculture building. Making one of these works of art must be incredibly time-consuming.

Where else can you watch, for free, a dog or a cat being spayed or neutered?  And it happens several times a day!  Only at the Pet Center.

All of these things and more are what make the Minnesota State Fair an experience to remember.  What's your favorite thing to do at the fair?