Monday, August 25, 2014

Goodbye, but not yet farewell . . .

I woke up at 5:30 am this morning in order to make it to my new teaching job on time. Most of this past year, I was a night owl, so it was a difficult task.

Also difficult is saying goodbye to this blog. I have written every day since I started sometime last June. It's been an incredible experience and I'm not quite ready for it to end.

Especially since I haven't written all the blog posts that I wanted. I still need to share the results of the survey for my new blog's name, as well as our largest heirloom, my plans for a local writing group, a recap of the month and year, and so on and so on and so on.

So, today's post is my last  regular daily one. I have to admit that I'm not ready to give it up mostly because I'm not yet ready to start my new blog. I'm hoping to post a couple of days this week and then by next weekend have the new blog up and running. By then I should have figured out the schedule as well.

So have a good day today and I'll write to you sometime soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Teaching Work

The leave has been over for a while. But after getting back from canoe camping up North on Wednesday, and being in training or at my new school for the past two days, I know my mind has made the jump back to seeing teaching as my main job.

It's become harder and harder for me to concentrate long enough to write this daily blog. After today's post, there are only two more before it all comes crashing to an end.

But, I still have the dilemma of how to continue writing while the majority of my brain is trying to figure out how to teach English to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. There's still a room in my house that I would like to convert to an office. I plan on taking a short class in September focussing on a special software for writing.

But all of those topics are for the new blog, which will start next week. This weekend, I have to go shopping at the teacher store for supplies, search in my files for some papers I know I will find helpful, and figure out which sappy inspirational posters to hang in my room.

Maybe one of those "hang in there, baby!" cats? 'Cause that represents my life at the moment!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Air conditioning

What I wouldn't give for just one small window unit up in my bedroom, cooling everything off to a modest 78 degrees, making it easy to sleep through the night.

Instead, I drape blue ice packs across my wrists and neck, take a cold shower and then try to use evaporative cooling by standing in front of a fan. After that, I make sure that the two fans in the bedroom (one bringing air in the window and the other blowing on my feet) are on the proper speed.

And finally, I drift to bed, unable to sleep for much of the night due to the heat and humidity of this upper midwest.

And I wake very, very cranky . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mosquito Bites

Well, we're back home from canoe camping, a little bit sunburnt and with about 100 mosquito bites. More details tomorrow. . .

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hiking Trails

Often we choose campsites that are nearby hiking trails. There are a number of backpacking trails in the Boundary Waters. Although you can spend your non-traveling days exploring whatever lake you're on, going for a hike is a nice change of pace.

From one of our favorite campsites, there is a spur trail which connects with the Border Route Trail. It's a fair climb, but when you get to the top you get an awesome view.

Those are the border lakes I'm overlooking, which means that's Canada in the distance. It's a good spot to eat lunch.

For the three or four times we have hiked this trail, we've never seen anyone else on it. In fact, the only people we've seen have been far, far below in a teeny, tiny canoe. We have, however, surprised grouse, and we saw a baby eagle in an eagle's nest in a tree next to the trail.

This trip we'll be travelling next to the Kekakabic Trail, affectionately known as the Kek. I don't know if it has any vistas like the Border Route Trail, but I look forward to finding out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


We don't like freeze-dried food. So we carry in Tasty Bites Indian food, rice and veggies. It's bulky and heavier, but worth it. Besides, we're not backpacking, we're canoe camping. I know people who bring in boxes of wine, and I've heard of a group that brought in a keg!

If my honey has had luck fishing, then we have a little more protein in our evening meal. If not, enjoy Palak Paneer, Jaipur Vegetables or one of their many other choices. Round it off with water and it's a feast.

Our dishes consist of two bowls, two forks, two spoons and four cups. (We each need two cups in the morning, one for oatmeal and one for a hot beverage.)

The best spot to eat is always a rock overlooking the lake, and we use our life jackets to make the rock a little more comfortable. The sunset could be this beautiful.

After dinner and before it gets too dark, we do the dishes by digging a small hole. Then we use leaves and dirt to loosen the food scraps, rinse it all with hot water into the hole and cover it all again. We're told that the bugs will enjoy the treats we leave them.

Then it's time to brush our teeth, hoist the bear bag and crawl inside the tent for the night. Another good day in the wilderness.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bagging for Bears

Bearbagging is actually what you do to your bags so that the bear doesn't get all your food. It involves trees, a small rock, and many ropes and pulleys. It is made easier by a strong arm, good aim, and a lone, stout tree branch right where you want it.

The first time we did it, any bear larger than a cub could have reached up, swatted our food bag down to the ground, and eaten all our food. Luckily for us, we didn't see a bear on that trip. Nor have we seen one since. However, we continue to bag our food every time to keep our streak going.

Last year we had our best bear bag ever. It was a classic two-tree system and it looked like the picture in the diagrams, which it never has before. I'm not sure this photo shows how impressive it was, but it's far away from both the tree and the ground, which is important because bears can climb trees.

We can only hope that last year was all about skill and this year we will just keep improving.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


There is an art to carrying a canoe on your shoulders over rocky ground.

I have carried the canoe over short portages, but usually my honey does the hard work so I don't have to. Plus he carries a Duluth pack full of our food on his back so that we can walk a portage in one go. Way to go, honey.

Of course, this trip we will be back to using our own canoe, heavier than the Kevlar canoe in this photo. Someday we won't be able to lift all of our gear. Will this be the year? I hope not.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


One of the joys of camping is to slow down and really look at the details in nature. Here are a few of the beautiful details we have seen over the years.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Boundary Waters

Last year we were in the Boundary Waters from the 7th to the 15th of September. I wrote about packing, choosing a campsite, the dangers of fishing, animal life, skinny dipping, returning home, and more.

Well, that time of the year has rolled around again. The Boundary Waters is great! Canoeing, making fires, and sleeping on the ground. Plus, fishing and swimming naked. What could be better?

Thursday, August 14, 2014


My online writing group is like a slightly wounded Energizer Bunny. We post our excerpts late, forget to give feedback on other's writing until prompted, and we've all had times where something from our personal lives takes over our author personality for a while.

But through it all, we've kept our cool sunglasses on and continued to bang that annoying drum!

Here's where I'm feeling a little out of sorts. I feel like my two fellow writers are way, way better at feedback than I am.

I start out by mentioning parts of their writing that I like, either phrases, paragraphs, or situations. I add in some wonderings about their choices as an author, as well as any direct questions I might have. And finally, I point out spots where I think they might have erred in some factual manner.

As in, "if that kid is in second grade, unless he is pretty far behind in math, he shouldn't come home excited that he can count to 100." Or, "you write that it was a gift from the King of Spain, but your story is set in 1973, and there was no king of Spain at the time, just a Generalissimo." Yes, these are paraphrases of two actual nitpicks by yours truly.

My colleagues, on the other hand, speak about the depth and motivation of my characters, details that would make my historical time period come to life, and questions that they are hoping are answered further along in the text.

Just today I received a fully color-coded, annotated, edited version of the copy that I had sent out last week. It was in windows, but with sidebars and notes. I have no idea how she even did it. It was truly impressive.

So, I pledge to continue to give feedback the best way that I know how, but to carefully read their comments and criticisms, and strive to imitate the serious and conscientious way they assess my work.

But I had better get on it, because I'm already late in commenting this week!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Free Day

Looking back, it seems like I've been taking either Tuesday or Wednesday off for the last couple of weeks. Today is no exception. All day training yesterday and today has exhausted me, which doesn't bode well for managing to write at the same time as I have to work full time.

Oh well, that's next week's problem. For now, I'll learn lots of good stuff, build relationships with new colleagues, and ignore the lure of the world wide interweb.

I'll write to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Favorite Childhood Book?

Today is the first of four days of training on teaching Reader's and Writer's Workshop in the middle school grades. Although I am quite familiar with teaching the workshop model, all of my work has been done in the elementary grades.

All of the participants got an introductory email yesterday, letting us know where to park, what time to arrive and asking us to bring a title, sketch, or a copy of a "favorite book of our childhood". I decided that since it's middle school, I need to choose something I would have enjoyed during those years.

Being a voracious reader in my youth (in eighth grade, I was voted most likely to win a read-a-thon), I have too many favorites to choose from. In fact, I still have some of the exact books that I loved so long ago.

Should I choose The White Mountains by John Christopher? It was the very first post-apocalyptic teen fiction I read. Alien tripods that control humans thoughts somehow through metal caps.

Three boys that travel across Europe to escape the capping ceremony and hopefully find a band of guerilla resisting the metal triangle evil aliens.

One of my favorite things about the book — then and now— is trying to figure things out,  where the boys are, what remnants of our society they are encountering. It makes me feel smart, which I like.

Or maybe A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle? I'm not sure whether it's science fiction or fantasy, and I'm pretty sure I didn't understand the underlying science, but I do know that it was plain good.

Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsis, Mrs. Which, mitochondria, a fight between good and evil. It was all delightful and I read it over and over again.

Then there is a bunch of books featuring magic by Edward Eager. I learned about Ivanhoe from one of the those. And we can't overlook Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner, who also wrote the book that the movie The Parent Trap was based on.

Oh! And The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series by C. S. Lewis. I always wanted to know what Turkish Delight tasted like.

Homer Price, Finn Family Moomintroll, Key to the Treasure, A Taste of Blackberries, The Forgotten Door, Snow Treasure, Detectives in Togas, the Zanboomer sports series, The Great Brain series. . .  And these are just the books that I still have on my shelves.

I could go on and on and on. What's your favorite chapter book from your childhood?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Your Opinion Matters

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this blog needs to be renamed when I go back to work. I thought long and hard about all of your comments about a new title.

There was some good advice that writing doesn't have to be in the title, as that leaves me free to blog about other aspects of my life as well. Then there was choosing an animal that spoke to me. From there I got two title ideas, prairie dog prose and meerkat musings.

Then I started to riff on some of your ideas that I liked. Alliteration has always spoken to me, so from the rosetta stone idea I came up with red rock writing.

It was also very handy to finally pound out the requested post on passion. That really got me thinking about what I love, about what's important to me. Those thoughts led me to yellow blue ramblings, sunny blue ramblings, blue water ramblings, and finally water and words.

But I thought it would be great to let my loyal readers vote, so I created an anonymous survey. Click here, and you can take the survey. Choose which names you like and leave any comments on my ideas. I can't promise that I'll choose the most popular title, but I am curious about what you think. And I will share the results with you before I announce my final choice.

So let me know what you think. Go on, do it!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Make 'em Laugh!

Although I check facebook once a day to see what the folks are up to, I usually don't laugh as hard as I did yesterday at these two very different, but very funny videos. Enjoy!

I'm sure I wasn't that clever when I was in fifth grade.

The Six Nations Rugby Tournament is an international tournament played between England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy. The following clip was an advertisement that got some complaints and  was therefore pulled from the airways. It cracked me up!

What are the funniest videos you've seen online?

Friday, August 8, 2014


Swiss river gorge
Today's topic is the last of the three requested from my readers. And it has been one of the most difficult for me to write about.

Merriam-Webster's primary definition states that passion is "a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something."

If you keep going down the list, though, you get to "a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept."

Then again, if you google images for passion quotes, you get lots of other ideas, i.e., energy, genius, oxygen, etc.

Why is passion so difficult to write about? Partly because I'm not sure exactly how I define it. And I've been thinking for a long time about what I am passionate about.

Surfers in the Pacific
As far as concepts go, family tops my list of passions. I am willing to do a lot for my family, sacrifice time, money and space to help and support them.

My friends come next, because they are the family I've chosen for myself, over and over.

The activities I feel enthusiasm for generally involve either water or words. From a passion for water comes my love for water polo, swimming, canoe camping, skinny dipping, streams, lakes, rivers and oceans.

My love for words shows up in my ability to read at length while ignoring all around me. It has surfaced in writing, this blog, my writer's notebook, my novels. And it is my enthusiasm for words that led me to teaching English to students whose first language is not English.

Family, friends, water, and words. Passions to be proud of.

* This topic brought to you by request of Alias.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Apparently, dealing with memory lapses is a sign that one is growing older. I must be growing older, because about forty-five minutes into our eleven hour drive to our recent family reunion, I had an episode.

I realized that I had forgotten "the Book", my jackpot genealogy purchase from Germany. I wanted to bring it for multiple purposes. I wanted to have it for the reunion, since this particular branch of the family also descended from the town on my visit in May. I also had planned on showing the book to the acquisition librarian at the local genealogy library, thinking that they might be interested in purchasing a copy.

But most importantly, I was going to bring the book to the reunion to give it to my mother, so that she could bring it back home with her and give it to the genealogist in the family. It seemed way too important to put in the mail, even with insurance.

So there I was, almost an hour away from home, wondering if it was worth it to return. At first, we decided to keep going, but I kept obsessing and my honey announced that he was turning around at the next opportunity.

By the time we stopped for gas, made it home, went upstairs and got the book and were back in the car to start over, two hours had passed. My honey never complained.

Just one of the many reasons I love him, as we grow older and more forgetful together!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Middle of the Week Holiday

I'm taking the day off, sleeping and reading on my couch. Maybe I'll even go swimming.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Returning Deja Vu

Back home yesterday evening after eleven hours in the car. Boredom, folk music and heavy rain punctuated the trip. The best decision we made was to get an automatic toll pass for the roads. The cost for the tolls with a responder inside your car is half the cash price. But rolling past all the toll booths that we used to have to stop at? Priceless!

Since I have traveled so much this year I feel I have written the returning blog post multiple times. And I am correct. For a glimpse into how I am feeling you could read Home Again from last August, or Back Home Again from December, or even Recovery from November. Hmm, repetition, never good.

On the other hand, travelling never gets old. And the chance to hang out with cousins, visit cemeteries and eat fresh sweet corn is one I'll take every time. Can't wait for the "big" reunion next year!

PS Someone asked me what the difference between this reunion and the "big" reunion was. The answer? About 300 people. That's a big family!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer School

Last night someone asked me when my school started. Here is what I answered, word for word:

"Well, I have a half day training next Monday the 11th, then full day workshops on the 12th and 13th. My department has a meeting all day on Thursday the 21st and I think I'm supposed to go in for two hours on the 22nd. But officially, teacher work days start on Monday the 27th."

I'm hoping all that training will help prepare me for the first day of school the day after the Labor Day holiday. I'm learning about iPads, co-teaching, reader's and writer's workshop for the middle school, and many other things I don't even know about yet.

So it turns out even when I'm not working at summer school, I still have to attend summer school.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Family Reunions

It's important to attend these semi-regular gatherings. You'll see lots of relatives, some close and some distant. You'll tease and be teased. And at least one person will call you by name, give you a big hug and tell you how happy they are to see you,  all while you have no idea who they are.

The recent reunion I attended was a blast! I couldn't play in the golf scramble, but I did talk and talk and talk with many, many cousins. And I learned some things I hadn't known about our family.

It turns out that my grandpa is an honoree in the local bowling hall of fame. When he was alive, he ran a variety of bowling alleys and was always an excellent bowler. His nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews still call out his name in one particular bowling situation.

Apparently, Grandpa was convinced that if a split is bowled in the lane next to yours, chances are good you will also bowl a split.

He persuaded everyone else of this fact, so they refuse to bowl until the nearby split is clear. If a bowler is not paying attention and doesn't realize that there is a split next door, a cry of "Uncle Art" is raised by more attentive team members and the bowler slowly backs away from the approach, thereby preventing the split by association.

Grandpa lives on!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saturday Photo

This weekend you're getting a Saturday photo instead of a Sunday one.

Reflections of Century City architecture

Friday, August 1, 2014


So I have sprained my middle finger (yes, that one) and it is hard to type. The splint looks a little like this one, although mine is longer. Luckily, if I'm wearing the splint, the sprain doesn't hurt.

How did I do it? I have no idea. I am easily injured, much to my dismay, but the only activity that could have caused it was that I went to the gym for a session with a trainer on weights. No trauma, just silly wear and tear.

So, I'll work on getting the hang of touch typing with only nine fingers better tomorrow, but this is all you're getting at the moment.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Review

It's been a quiet month for comments. But any lack of quantity has been made up by the amazing quality of your thoughts.

Zeppelin playground outside the museum

Thank you Jim for explaining the differences between a zeppelin and a blimp.

Even after spending more than two hours at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, I'm not sure I understood the distinction.

Trying to figure out a new title for the blog that will come after this one brought out the most comments, both on the blog and by email. 

tRa likes "Roving Hedgehog" as a blog title and wonders if I have a totem animal. Ironically, the hedgehog has always been my totem animal, so that won't work. Her point that the word write does not need to be in the title is a good one.

Jim, Shirley and Michael offer up a variety of new names. Jim, in particular, was impressive in both number and range. Some of my favorites include wordsmithy, popupmeercat, and rosetta stone. Unfortunately, some names are already taken.

In any case, I'm still pondering that name choice. Hopefully, I'll figure it out before August 25th.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Growing up, every Saturday I was supposed to weed for an hour. It did not make me fond of gardening. I'm still not excited by the thought of grubbing around in the dirt.

However, plants grow and need to be managed. Weeds grow very fast (like weeds, in fact) and need to be pulled out. And if you don't want cranky neighbors, you should really police your borders. Unfortunately, we have been traveling a lot this spring and summer, and when we've been home, I've been pretending I don't have a front garden.

So, of course, it looks like this:

Flowers, weeds, and more weeds, all intertwined and overgrown. But last Sunday morning before it got too hot, my honey and I went out and started working in the garden. I was determined to pull out my least favorite weeds and work on the plants threaten to overtake my neighbors' newly landscaped yard.

We already had a brick barrier, but I discovered that their landscape engineer had put in a second brick barrier on their own property. Smart man.

After working for an hour or two, I am very proud to say I had created a nice no-man's-land for weeds.

The dark chips are my neighbor's yard and the light chips were put in by me. I feel that I can successfully keep weeds out of that thin strip of land, at the very least.

It's true that my front yard is still totally overgrown and needs a lot more attention. It's also true that it probably isn't going to get attention from me any time soon.

Too bad that proud feeling isn't quite enough to make me want to do it some more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vacation Day

I'm taking the day off today. Everyone have a sunny beach day and you can catch my writing tomorrow . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Camera? No!

The lack of a camera is starting to interfere with my ability to write this blog. I know that the words are the primary way I tell stories about my life, leave and the pursuit of authorness. However, a photo or two breaks up the paragraphs, adds a little visual spice and generally improves my writing.

So, what are the options? I can use pictures that I took before my camera broke, but I'm pretty much done writing about all the topics that those pictures illustrate.

At times I use images from the internet, but I'm not sure how ethical it is and besides, generic photos aren't always the best at illuminating my personal story.

For example, I had originally planned on writing about the work my honey and I did on our front garden yesterday. But I wanted to have some photos to highlight my main points. I tried to take a photo with the photo booth function on my computer, but it's not really designed for outdoor shots.

Then I hunted up my old camera, because I thought it might still have some functionality, although I couldn't really remember what was wrong with it. I don't need a memory, though because I have this blog. And all I need to do is find the post where I wrote about the camera's problems!

It needed new batteries, which I installed and went out and got the photos of my garden in the evening light. Now all I have to do is find the cord that attaches the old camera to the computer in order to download the photos so I can upload the photos onto the blogosphere.

I'm planning on that happening today, so look for a garden blog tomorrow. And here's hoping that soon the new camera comes back fixed, or they send me a replacement. That way, my words and photographs will continue to complement one another on these pages.

Sunday Photo

It's been hot here and last night we went to the lake and had a picnic. I swam to cool off and I was reminded of this picture I caught of a kid jumping off a pylon into Lake Neuchâtel. It looked like he and his buddies were having fun.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Recurring Theme

There are a number of topics that I know I have written quite a bit about. Pain — from broken toes, strained backs, and water polo. Life goals — how I'm not very good at setting them, or following through on them, or even remembering them. Writing — of course, 'cause that's what I do every day, and what I'm trying to figure out how to do for life.

But the subject I want to touch on today is the value of friends, especially old. Often when I am thinking about something to write about, I search old posts to make sure I'm not repeating myself. Today, though, I know that I am most definitely repeating myself. I searched the blog for posts that contained the word "friends". I got to fifty before I gave up and stopped counting. That's more than 10% of my writing!

I have a lot of friends, from the many different stages of my life and it's hard to keep in touch with them all. (That must be why facebook is so popular. As my niece said, "It's a way to communicate without actually interacting." When I repeated that to my sister, she replied, "Isn't that the same as your blog?" Which it is, I guess.)

That being said, however, in our latest trip to Europe, my honey and I had the excellent fortune to connect with some really good friends. We've known all of them for over twenty years. Two of them from International House, one I played water polo with at Berkeley, and one friend was someone my mother and stepdad met backpacking through Mexico twenty-nine years ago this summer.

Although I've written before about the special joy of hanging with old friends, I feel like I need to write about it one more time. (After all, it's been more than six months since I wrote on that topic.) I want all my friends, old and new, to know how much I appreciate their presence in my life.

Just some of the activities we enjoyed with our friends on our recent trip: eating dinner, drinking a beer, enjoying summer pie, playing croquet, meeting their children, touring museums and towns, seeing their workplaces, learning new games, marvelling at their different customs (Danish graduation rituals, I'm talking about you!), and generally just hanging out together.

I am in awe at just how comfortable these relationships continue to be. And how wonderful and welcoming our friends were. They picked us up at airports and train stations, cooked for us, welcomed us into their homes, and saw us off after our visit was over.

Our conversations ranged wide and far. We talked about our shared experiences in the past, the World Cup, Danish history, economics, American politics, the Gruffalo books, Swiss taxes, scuba diving, and the future. And I want to continue the conversations that we started, but were unable to finish due to the lack of time.

It's hard not to gush about how brilliant my friends are. But what I have realized as I have struggled with trying to express what I feel about my friends, is that the genius of all friends is how amazing they are. And that thought helps me to understand why I feel so upbeat in my life.

Yes, life can be a struggle, and my life hasn't always happened the way I wanted it to, but my wonderful family and friends have always been there for me. Sometimes right beside me, often in the background, and at times so far away I could barely see them. But no matter where they are, my friends support me in being me and figuring out life positively.

So thanks to all my friends and family for all that you do and all that you are. I love all of you!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Creative Scaffolding

Scaffolding is a term used in education to describe a method of supporting students' learning. Af first, the teacher provides strong support. Then as time goes by and students' abilities grow, the scaffolding is slowly "dismantled" or lessened until the student becomes proficient.

But today I want to discuss actual scaffolding. Here in the United States, scaffolding is usually completely utilitarian, covering up construction on large buildings. It is often quite ugly. In my recent travels in Europe, I had the interesting experience of being very impressed with the creativity builders use for their scaffolding.

In Italy, a building on the Grand Canal was being redone. That doesn't mean, however, that the tourists have to gaze on frightful scaffolding.

No, much better for the scaffolding to have the image of what will be when all the building is complete.

Germany, on the other hand, promotes a version of "green scaffolding". Plants and flowers crawl all over the tubing.

The fragrance as well as the beauty must make a more pleasant work site.

This is not to say that all the scaffolding in Europe was beautiful or unique. There were plenty of ugly construction sites. Still, any time I saw one of these different ways to dress up the ugly business of progress, it made me smile. Hope it does you too.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stuck. Stuck!

I haven't really written much about writer's block, because I haven't suffered much from it yet. Yes, there are times when I haven't been working on the book as much as I could. Or times where I abandoned one post topic that I was having trouble writing in order to write about something completely different.

But I haven't struggled a lot with writer's block . . . until now.

Calvin puts a kid's spin on an odd term, and an even odder feeling. From the cartoon, Hobbes looks unconvinced. I'm unconvinced too.

I can't seem to get any further on the profound post I'm trying to write, and no other themes seem to interest me. On the other hand, here I am with my butt in the chair writing.

"They" say that if you can't think of what to write about, then you should just write that over and over until you do think of something to write about. Sounds kinda boring to me, but I suppose that's what I'm doing right now, just a jot more creatively.

Here's hoping I get "unstuck" tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Internet Rocks!

Last week when I was trying out possible new names for blogs, I searched "writing disease" on the internet. Amazingly, it turns out there is actually something called hypergraphia, a desire to write so intense that it could be called a disease. There is also a condition known as skin writing, which is a disorder where your skin is so sensitive you can "write" on it.

But what was more interesting to me were the websites that were lists of the best blogs about certain diseases. seems to compile and rate blogs by, for and about living with many diseases. Crohn's disease, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis all have a list.

I clicked on the website entitled "The 14 Best Parkinson's Blogs of 2014." There are a wide variety listed. Some are written by people afflicted with the disease, others by doctors or foundations. One blog is even funded by a pharmaceutical company!

Kevin Mazur/MJF/WireImage
While I was clicking around, I found one blog post that wanted to introduce everyone to the foxtrialfinder on the Michael J. Fox Foundation website. It helps increase the flow of willing study participants. Studies need patients with Parkinson's and control patients that do not have the disease.

The foxtrialfinder asks you questions about where you live, what you're willing to do, your relationship to Parkinson's and after doing some magic calculating, lets you know what studies would be interested in having you as a participant.

It absolutely floors me at times how cool the internet can be!

PS I'm still working on that difficult post. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I'm taking an extra day to write a post that I want to get just right. The extraordinary heat (no air-conditioning in my life) made it impossible to stay up late last night to finish. I'll be the manipulator of words today and get it out to the world tomorrow. 

Stay cool!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Seeking a New Name

One of the very first things that I learned about writing a blog is that I picked the wrong name for this one. Wrong name, wrong web address. OK, not wrong, but not good either.

Although it exactly explains the legal term for my year off, and sets it apart from a sabbatical, it's too long, too clunky, and just a wee bit odd. I could have called it gap year, my fantastic leave, or simply woo-hoo!

The reality is that this blog will end sometime in late August, but a new one will rise. It will need to be called something else, because no matter how you look at it, my leave will definitively be over once I start back to work.

At the moment, I think the focus will be squarely on writing, but other than that I have no details. Except that it needs a new name.

I thought about newbie writer, but that's already taken, and if I keep writing for a long time, I wouldn't want to still have that be the name. Some twist on the writing disease, from Saturday's quote by William Carlos Williams is intriguing, but I'm not sure exactly how to word it.

And lots of the good names seem to be taken: livelaughwrite, writerlylife, livewrite. I don't know, maybe I'm trying to be too clever. Or maybe the word write shouldn't be in the name at all.

This is a request for any of your ideas or thoughts on the subject, dear readers, punny, clever or just plain good. What should the new name of my weekly blog be? Thanks for thinking about it. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can't stop writing . . .

Apparently I am addicted to writing a daily blog. Because more than two weeks after I said that I was going to take some days off, I haven't really done so. Oh, I know that I have missed at least one day completely, and then there was the forgetfulness of yesterday.

Funnily enough, though, those were both accidents. The first time, I thought that I had pre-scheduled a post. Who knows what yesterday was about, but I was already thinking about writing this post for then!

I'm not quite sure why I can't stop. I really should be spending any time I have left working on the novel. I wish I wrote in my writer's notebook more. I don't want to always be thinking about the next post. I certainly know that I won't be able to continue once school starts.

There are obviously positives too. Every day without fail my butt is in a chair and I spend time writing. Many friends and family let me know that they appreciate my writing and will miss not "hearing" my voice in their ears. There are probably other benefits that I haven't even figured out yet.

But, I'm going to have to start the process of stopping. Otherwise, it will be too much like cold turkey in late August. So I am hereby announcing that I am going to take Sundays off. That's right, I'll take a vacation day once a week.

However, because I don't want to leave my followers with nothing, instead of writing, I'll post a photograph from this amazing year of leave.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I forgot!

So jetlagged, apparently I was so tired last night I completely forgot to write a post or even remember I had a blog.

Don't let anyone tell you that jet lag goes away after a day or two. See you tomorrow with a little more coherence. . .

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Demon Camera

For the last four or five days of our vacation, our camera was possessed. Or perhaps more accurately stated, it seemed to have a mind of its own, and what it wanted was to control the photographs we took.

As soon as it was turned on, it automatically set the exposure it felt best suited the scene. And once it had decided, there was no changing any setting. No forward zoom, flash, or panorama. Nothing. And if we quickly managed to reset it, the camera responded to our efforts by not allowing any photo to be taken.

The main result of this bizarre malfunction was that I could take no close-ups. I would have liked to have had a zoomed-in photo of the mama coot on her nest, and of the nearby Alps in an unclouded moment.

On the other hand, I managed to get some good photographs in spite of my camera's obsessive control. I learned to manipulate it. If I didn't get the exposure I wanted, I would shut off the camera and try it again.

Long range view from Chaumont — 1100 meters
Yesterday I took the devil camera back to the store I bought it from. Its behavior perplexed the saleslady as well, but she determined that the best course of action was to send it back to the company for them to fix. Worst case scenario? It'll take six to eight weeks to resolve.

I'm hoping for faster, but I'll keep you informed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

European birds

As I looked through my many, many vacation photos to create an easy post for the jet lag sort of day that today will be, I realized I had a number of photos of birds.

Because we were often near the water, we saw all sorts of birds that I could not possibly identify. They were always fun to watch.

One bird I could identify easily were the swans. They were very common and always elegant.

My last swim of the trip was yesterday morning quite early. As I was exiting the lake, I heard a strange hurmphing noise behind me. Startled, I looked back to find that a pair of swans had swum to shore only five feet away!

This bird was having fun diving again and again to nibble on something down below the pier we were on. The water was clear enough to be able to make out what it was doing.

My camera started acting up a couple of days ago, so I never managed to get a good shot of the coot that was nesting nearby the boat we were living on. It made me quite curious about the precise details of our coots' lives. 

Such amazing creatures, birds!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thoughts of Home

We are winging our way home today. In the morning, we started by Lac Neuchatel in our small boat, walked to the train station, and took a two-hour train to the Zurich airport. Then we flew to Amsterdam, and about the time this post arrived, we hopefully made our connection to America.

It's a curious phenomenon. When you first start a trip, you stop thinking of home fairly quickly. However, the closer you get to the end of your trip, the harder it is to stay in the moment.

We have been doing some lovely hiking and biking, plus the lake views are beautiful, but my mind is occupied with tasks I will need to complete once I return. Pick up the mail, write some bills, make sure not to forget a doctor's appointment . . .

Every time I felt my brain shift, I tried very hard to shift it back to whatever was happening: looking at a river flow down a gorge, dropping my potato in the fondue pot, drinking absinthe with friends, it's all been pretty amazing.

And I am very lucky to have experienced it all.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Boat Life

It's an interesting life, staying on a boat. I have never done it before, and I would have thought that my tendency toward motion sickness would have made it impossible. However, with a steady diet of crackers and carbonated beverages, I seem to be managing. (It helps that we have only left the harbor once.)

Waking up mere steps from the lakeshore is fantastic and eating many of our meals in the open air is great too! What is surprising to me is that I like it so much, considering that it is a motorboat. I have always had a preference, some may snobbiness, in favor of sailboats. But I find that a motorboat seems to be just as comfortable.

There is a fridge, well-stocked with wine and beer by our friend. Electricity lights the evenings, and a coffee machine starts my honey's day out right.

For entertainment, besides the constant interplay of blue sky, clouds and rain, we have a mama coot nesting on a nearby boat, while her mate brings her plastic to line the nest. This morning we witnessed a fight between two waterbirds with mohawks.

And, of course, any time those clouds clear to the south, we have a view of the not-so-distant Alps.

The lake from the top of the city
Our friend says that he has had a series of boats since he was eighteen. He has had this boat for ten years and he only switched to sailboats because you need sun, wind, and no rain for a sailboat, while for a motorboat, you need only gas. He is on his boat every day, sometimes for breakfast and/or dinner, but almost always for lunch, as he works quite close to the harbour.

The only downsides to the boat are the small toilet and the bed. The bed is  a little better than sleeping on the ground, but not by much and it's a funny shape that requires a bit of contortion for tall people. The harbour has showers, which we used this morning, but otherwise we've been swimming in the lake, as we do when we're camping.

All in all, we're happy to be living on the boat, but we're not sad that tomorrow night we'll be sleeping on a regular bed. We'll miss the lake, though.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

No W-Lan!

Sorry, staying on my friend's boat! No internet service. Check back tomorrow!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

German road signs

Last week when we rented a car, we realized that we didn't know very much about German road signs. And although most of them don't have any words on them, we still couldn't always understand them.

It took us a while to figure out that this sign, for example, means no passing. It was especially difficult to interpret because we most often saw it on a divided autobahn with two or three lanes and no apparent reason that one shouldn't pass. (And it seemed to be frequently ignored in those circumstances.)

This sign also perplexed us. It means the end of any speed limit, and we decided we knew what it meant when all the cars around us immediately increased their speed by at least twenty kilometers.

All in all, we did a fairly good job. No accidents, not even any close calls, and my honey had fun driving fast. Still, if I rented a car in a foreign country again, I would do some homework ahead of time. After all, isn't that what the world wide spidernet is for?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Quêlle fromage!

Gruyere cheese is my honey's favorite cheese, so while we are in Switzerland we decided to visit the town of Gruyères in the Swiss canton of Fribourg. We moved from the German speaking part of Switzerland to where they speak French.

We also travelled from a lakeside to halfway up a mountain. Switzerland has many mountain ranges, so I'm not exactly sure which group we are currently in. For all I know, they are all part of the Alps.

Gruyères in the mist
In any case, Gruyères is a charming medieval town which is probably usually crawling with tourists. The persistent rain seemed to keep their number somewhat in check. And it was cold enough to enjoy fondue, a dish rarely eaten in summer.

Yesterday we toured a demonstration dairy and today (still raining) we will take a "dairy hike". The demonstration dairy was a little hokey, but they process more than 12,000 liters of milk a day, sending it on its way to make excellent Gruyere cheese.

One of the coolest things about the tour were the vials of scents of the many different kinds of plants that the cows eat. I never knew I liked smells that much. We're looking forward to tasting Gruyere d'Alpage, which is cheese made from milk from cows that are eating the summer grasses and wildflowers of the high Alps.

PS Today's title is courtesy of a dear friend, who often used that mangled Franglish phrase!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Graf Zeppelin

Turns out that zeppelins, also known as blimps, were named after the man who invented them. And he was a count!

It also turns out that Graf (Count) Zeppelin was from the Bodensee area and he started his company building Zeppelins on the north shore of the lake.

We learned these facts and many, many more during our two-hour visit to the Zeppelin museum in Friedrichshafen a few days ago.

The museum took us from LZ-1, the very first luftschiffe, or airship to the modern blimps that mostly seem to exist for advertising. A large part of the museum was devoted to the Hindenburg, the 129th version of the Luftschiffe.

Inside and outside of a zeppelin
There was a replica of parts of the Hindenburg, as well as a variety of artifacts. Uniforms of crew members to menus, and even some twisted girders. Additionally, you could watch films of the disaster and read the newspaper reports. (German newspapers stressed the number of survivors rather than the number who died.)

It was an amazing place and I could go back again, because my brain filled up way too fast and I was unable to fit in any more facts. One interesting fact that I did manage to absorb was that the US demanded a zeppelin as part of the reparations from World War II. I wonder what we did with it.

Somewhere over the Bodensee

Not surprisingly, we saw at least two blimps in the air during our bicycle ride around the Bodensee.