Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Hello from Sebago Lake in Maine. JB and I are here on a five day mini-escape from chores and obligations. Life is finally settling down after months of unexpected and important demands. During that time, I've done nothing to promote either of my already published books and instead, I've started a new one! I've already shared a couple of chapters of our pre-Covid Road Trip across America, but as of today, I've finished a draft one run-through and I'm beginning to edit. But the really fun part comes when I start adding photos. This will be a different kind of book for me; the pictures alone will make it different. But it's also personal, almost a memoir, and sometimes it's hard to know what to include and what to leave out. Other people and their feelings and reactions to my descriptions of them matter, but so does the honesty of my writing. And once something's in print, there it is--so I want to be extra careful about boundaries.
None of this is easy for me. My computer skills are lacking. Even the most basic formatting--setting up margins and indentations and paragraphs--is often too confusing, and sometimes I end up messing up what I already have.
But, aside from legitimate guilt in not promoting my existing books, this process of new writing is such a joy for me. I can tell that my writing has gotten tighter and more descriptive, all good, but I'm never sure whether anything I write is good enough. I know that's common and I know that's not a reason to avoid writing.
So here it is, fall in New England. I am currently looking out onto a vast shimmering calming lake. Around me I have my manuscript and laptop and colored pencils and a moleskin and a coloring project I just might finally finish. All good ways to spend a few days creating. Because we're on an island, JB and I have stocked up on interesting food and treats. Mattie is with us and where we are is isolated and private and beautiful. No TV, no heat. No demands!
I'm aware that this kind of 'escape' is essential from time to time. Otherwise my head fills up and my body gets depleted and I explode. Last week I got so frustrated over nothing important that I threw a coffee box and then a paper bag across the kitchen. That sounds ridiculous and harmless enough, right?--but I was mad and actually out of control. Too many problems that needed fixing were piling up and I reacted. Lucky that I didn't throw a plate or a bowl. I could have. So I'm aware that anger is too close to the surface for me, and I'm at least smart enough to know I have to break that cycle.
So here I am at Sebago Lake. It's been a brilliant decision. I wholeheartedly recommend a change of pace and a change of scenery from time to time. Especially now, with so many political and moral challenges adding to the human pot.
More to come about the road trip book. I'm excited to have the first go-round done!
Thanks always for stopping by.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Who remembers Thursday 13? This was a time on the blogs when every Thursday, artists, writers, photographers, nature lovers, and gentle chatterboxes (all of us!) posted 13 of whatever we felt like. If there was a theme at all, it was often snippets of our lives.
So here's my Thursday 13 this week. It's a lot random, because I'm at the mercy of bad computer skills (my own), but these photos do come from my life, one way or another.
1. This first shot is the Seagull Motel in Truro on Cape Cod, where my Godmother Marie vacationed twice a year for two weeks each time. Marie used to talk all the time about this beloved corner rental, on the Bay, where she and her 'friend'/partner Jean rode their bikes and picked blueberries and made blueberry pies for their local lucky friends.
Now, Marie doesn't talk as much about her time there or her many travels. She seems to be thinking more about her childhood, about her sisters, and growing up with my Father and my Grandfather, who took in and raised Marie age 12 and her four sisters when their remaining parent died.
I'm mentioning this because Marie is 105 years old and last week we managed to get her back home from a nursing home. She has a live in full time aide and she's much frailer than she was even a year ago, but she's remarkable. She's smart and observant and interesting. And she's transitioning, a respected elder, needing help in walking and self care and meals. I'm witnessing a life well lived.
2. JB's artwork is now in a prestegious gallery. This is a dream come true for her and she can hardly believe it. She's making incredible art. No doubt about that.
3. And here I am soundly asleep and so is Mattie. HaHa.
4. I KNOW certain people will recognize this painting right away. It graced Renee's blog, right to the end. Losing Renee to the cancer she did her best to kick around was an irreplaceable loss here on the Blogs. The way she befriended and uplifted dozens and dozens and actually hundreds of followers on her blog, as she wrote love letters to her family and wrote about the 'damn bats' that caused her relentless pain, was nothing short of amazing. Renee was a lover of life and an optimist and so much else. Her blog Circling My Head is still up. It goes back 11 years. And its worth every fantastic word.
6-10 Family xoxo
12. Once there was a Magic Cottage
Sunday, May 22, 2022
Janet and I have decided to start our road trip today, a day early, even if all we do is drive thirty minutes to Orleans and head back home! But as of today, our kitchen is closed and we’re acting like we’re on vacation already. So on Day 1:
We give the car a good cleaning.
We have a burger and carrot-cashew soup at the sweet Sunbird Cafe.
And we both get pedicures and I get a manicure too.
There is a painted rock was in a corner of the bathroom at lunch. It says, Our days are happier when we give people a piece of our heart instead of a piece of our mind.
I make another split-second decision to follow that advice.
We live at the very tip of Cape Cod and it's always a big deal when we cross the bridge off Cape.
We’re giddy on our way to Jess and Mike’s house. We’ve planned a Chinese buffet dinner that includes Mike’s mother Pat and our four great grand kids. We have to soak in an extra dose of each of them, enough to last a couple of months. There is nothing especially special about our visit, but it's significant because this will be the longest time ever I've been away from Jess and the kids. (Fast forward: we send a half dozen or more postcards along the way, which for some reason don't arrive until two months later, when we're back home!)
Before we lived in Provincetown we lived in Florence, a section of Northampton, in Western Massachusetts. Greenfield is a small city about thirty minutes up Route 91, populated by gardeners and activists, and home to our friends Marsha and Norm. Both are officially retired, although Marsha is an LPN, Chair of the Building Department at her temple, Co-chair of the local Garden Club, member of a local chorus, assistant manager of the Farmer’s Market, and self proclaimed leader of her improvisation group. She can't sit still. Norm is a City Counselor and a board member of the Greenfield Food Co-operative and gardener and extraordinaire bird watcher. He moves and talks a whole lot slower than Marsha, and his day-to-day life is simpler. He's as frugal as Janet and I are impulsive. These two friends are like family: sometimes we snip at one another, usually involving our kitchens and our collective meals together, but mostly we operate like a family. A few times a year, we go to their house and they come to our house.
We have friends to see. We four meet our mutual friends Kevin and Ginger for dinner at Hope & Olives, a local favorite restaurant. Kevin and Ginger are just over the newlywed threshold: it’s not their first rodeo. We find them over the moon excited because they’ll soon be performing a reading ofA.R Guirney’s Love Letters onstage. We won’t be around, but I make a note to remind Marsha to be sure to buy tickets. As if she needs my advice.
The next morning, Janet and I meet our friend Lori at Jake’s Cafe in the our former very funky, very lesbian college town of Northampton. Janet and Lori worked together for a Disability Management firm until both of them broke off and started their own consulting businesses. Lori’s has grown internationally and we love hearing about her ventures and ideas and successes. She tells us to be sure to visit Cambria when we get to California. “It’s where I’d live if I could live anywhere in the world,” she says. I write this down in my appointment book.
With Mattie and her blue cloud fleece blanket comfortably settled in the back seat of our locked car, we have a wonderful breakfast. Jakes is one of those special breakfast places that local residents keep secret. There are no better giant buttermilk biscuits anywhere on the planet. We order an extra six to take back to Marsha and Norm’s. Then, with Mattie in tow, we roam around Northampton and drive the back roads of route 5-10 for hours, through the farming towns of Hadley and Sunderland and Ashfield, waving at the frozen tobacco and asparagus farms and checking out our old neighborhood, where we lived for twelve years. We leave a note for our former neighbor Lisa, hoping she’s well. At six, we meet our friends Teri and Rose at our mutual favorite Milano’s for dinner. We have met them there dozens of times, always ordering off the $10.95 special menu. Rose gets the Bella Canto pasta about as often as I get the Chicken Marsala. Rose tells us to be sure to visit Apalachicola on the Florida Panhandle. Like Lori, she tells us she could live there. I can’t pronounce Apalachicola, but I write it down in my appointment book.
Saturday, April 30, 2022
Neither of us remembers how we made the decision to take a road trip. Most likely we were complaining about winter temperatures and slippery snow in our tiny coastal community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a peninsula at the very tip of Cape Cod. Probably we were motivated by promising two friends we’d come visit. And certainly we thought about if not now, when? So we mapped out thirty stops: no snow. Warmer weather. Friends and family. Dog Parks. American cities and small towns. Meeting strangers. Leaving vacuum cleaners and chores behind. Just Thelma, Louise, and Mattie, on the road.
Where to start? Northern Florida serves as our starting point. It’s 1,464 miles, 22 hours driving time to St. Petersburg from Provincetown. We look at a map of the East Coast and we look at each other. Janet and I don’t do well in the car. It’s a hot spot for us. We argue about directions and I complain about her tailgating, which she denies. We also stiffen if we sit too long. So first off, we decide to limit our driving to 4 or 5 or at most 6 hours a day.
We have to see our daughter and son-in-law and our grandkids, two hours away in Natick before we leave. From there we’ll drive to Western Massachusetts, to Greenfield, to stay with friends for a few days. We’ll catch up with them and several other local friends before we leave for a night in Philadelphia. And then on to Charleston South Carolina. But wait, we’re already breaking our proposed four or five or six hour driving limit, The ride from Philly to Charleston is ten-plus hours. So I look for a midpoint: according to Google, I’m not the first traveler seeking that midpoint—the question has been asked hundreds, maybe thousands of times. The definite winner is Rocky Mount North Carolina. Okay, that works. I book a pet-friendly hotel in Rocky Mount for a quick overnight and we’ll drive two hours the next morning to Charleston. We know very little about Charleston except for its reputation for Southern hospitality and Southern grits. (Fast forward: We didn’t know then about the plantations and the international slave trade based in Charleston from 1856 to 1863. That’s a heartbreak.)
From there planning the trip gets increasingly interesting. Thanks to Janet’s fill-in part-time job at one of Provincetown’s hotels, the manager who is also a friend has gifted us with four certificates for free stays at sister hotels, each one for two nights. Tybee Island GA. San Antonio and Austin Texas. And Memphis Tennessee. Tybee Island is barely fifteen miles from Savannah. We’ll plan on being there three days. The place is dog friendly and right on the beach. Next, we’ll head four hours to Flagger Island, Florida. Mattie has a dog friend there, a black lab named Mary Jane. Mary Jane’s owner tells us Flagger is a quaint coastal town like Provincetown, and we’ll run the dogs on the beach. Then St. Petersburg. New Orleans. San Antonio, Austin. Marfa Texas. Bisbee Arizona. Tucson. Phoenix. Mexico. and three stops in California: Palm Springs, Pismo Beach, and Topanga.
I decide to write and revise all these stops on an 8 by 11 inch envelope. As we keep planning, I add the miles and driving time from one stop to the next and high and low temperatures. For each stop I add the miles and hours to the next stop, the average temperatures, and the dates we’ll be there. (Fast Forward: that envelope worked like a charm, even when we changed plans.)
Where to stay? Neither of us are hotel chain types. We prefer quaint quirky places. But we’ve never used Airbnb and we have Mattie. As I begin googling, some things become clear: in most cases, we can find places to stay for around a hundred dollars a night. (Fast forward: not exactly.) I choose places that have the greatest number of positive reviews, and I look for those that include a free breakfast, not so much to save money, but so we can eat quickly and hit the road faster. The chains jump out. I choose mostly 3-star ratings, but I let a couple of 2-stars slip in because they look and sound just fine. (Fast forward: In several cases, I’d come to regret those slips.) I spend about ten hours (it might have been twenty. Or thirty.) booking our stays. I make copies of each confirmation and slide them into a plastic sleeve folder.
What to pack? Eight weeks on the road. With a dog. And a separate trip to Mexico. That feels like a lot of packing:
Snacks for the car. Single bags of popcorn, Kind bars, peanut butter crackers, chocolate, oranges, pistachio nuts, breath mints. Bully sticks and other treats for Mattie. We’ll be gone almost eighty days and we’ll happily eat our meals out. But we could easily drop ten dollars a pop on quick road side stops, and maybe we wouldn’t want to take the time to stop as often as we want to munch. Plus we don’t know how leaving Mattie in the car alone in strange places will work out. Our solution is to shop at BJ’s and buy plenty of munchies. I pack a good supply in see-through plastic bag that we’ll keep up front in the car, and the rest goes in a grocery box, stuffed in a corner of the car’s way-back.
Weather appropriate clothes? Figuring this part out is challenging and I feel like a genius when I come up with a plan.. The Rav has a good sized trunk area and should hold our suitcases and supplies well enough, But who wants to lug suitcases and dog supplies in and out of hotels night after night? I’m a light packer (so I thought) and Janet is not (no surprise there!) We’ll start off in cold East Coast weather and warm up in the Southern states and along the Southern border. But none of the temps are exactly sun-bathing weather, except for when we fly to Mexico. Mexico will definitely be pool ware, so we decide we’ll each pack a suitcase specifically for there and we’ll put them the furthest back in the car. We won’t have to touch those two suitcases for weeks.
For our day-to-day travels, I come up with this idea to pack each outfit separately—for example, a top, a bottom, and underwear-in a see-through plastic bag, I figure we’ll separate the plastic bags by cold weather or hot weather. So over a few days, an hour or so at a time, Janet and I pull out the clothes we want: summer, winter, sweaters, blouses, tee-shirts, pants, shorts, socks, underwear, pajamas. We sort and match them in some almost random order. Some plastic bags have long pants and long sleeves and others have capris and tee-shirts. We decide to each make a separate bag for beachwear: a bathing suit, a cover, slip flops. All in all, we end up with close to thirty see through bags. Each day, when we check into our hotel or where ever, we’ll simply pull out one bag each, along with one shared suitcase that has our nightwear and toiletries and medicine and Mattie’s blanket and food and munchies. It seems pretty efficient.
We pack the plastic bags in grocery boxes, upright for easy identification, one box for warm weather clothes, and a second box for cold weather. We quickly realize we have four pretty good sized boxes that take up room more room than expected.They compete for space along with our three suitcases. I fail to factor in Janet’s ginormous toiletry bag—it’s the size of an adult raccoon. It’s all a tight fit but it’s workable. We put the plastic bags right in front and easy to reach; the Mexico suitcases go way in the back; Mattie’s supplies and food fits on the left side, snack replenishments fit on the right side, and my laptop and Mattie’s foldable soft crate are tucked behind the passenger seat. We make a make-shift shelf for Mattie’s food and water behind the driver’s seat. She has herself a little apartment back there: a small soft bed, a window to view the world, her food and water, and a squeaky toy and bully stick.By the time we leave Provincetown the car is pretty darn pretty organized. (Fast forward: Ha!)
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
This is the first chapter of a nine week cross country road trip JB and I took in 2020, just before the pandemic began. God only knows when if ever this adventure will find its way to publication, but it may just find a home here on my blog. It was QUITE a trip: I recommend hitting the road 100%,
Signs From The Road
My fourteen day state quarantine hadn’t even ended when I was pretty sure I had the Corona Virus.
At first I felt a heavy weight on my chest, and then a headache on my left temple. I waited it out for a few days before I called my local health center. An aide called me back, asked a half dozen questions about my symptoms, and a half hour later a clinic nurse called and asked me the same questions. As soon as I told her I’d been traveling in California, she set me up for the test the next day. I’m seventy two and I’ve had pneumonia twice. I pep-talk my lungs to stay strong. But two months after a fantastic cross country trip, I was curled up, lethargic, with a slight headache, and an on-again off-again sore chest. The little guest bedroom off the living room was black, and so were my thoughts. These were the early days of the pandemic when New York body bags were too many to store, and being paranoid, and scared, and talking to myself left me questioning if I had the courage to get through dying on a ventilator, no family allowed in my final moments, myself aware and alone. That was the Corona Virus in March 2020.
I had to wait four days for my test result. Negative.
Janet and I had rushed home, condensing a two week return trip from California to Provincetown in four days in order to stay ahead of the rumor that New York would be closing entry in order to control the already rapid spread of the virus. This rush return trip home was the exclamation point of a very worthy nine week road trip. For three wild days we drove the empty highways with our dog Mattie, fourteen wheeler truckers, and pelting rain and fog.
It was a wild end. Eight weeks, 25 cities, 20 states, 15 friends and family, 20 hotels, 8500 miles, one 2012 Toyota Rav, one good dog, and one damn pandemic. A pandemic, like the plague of 1812.
When my partner JB and I first got the idea for a road trip, I bought a few road trip books from Amazon. We hadn’t mapped out our trip yet and mostly I wanted a sense of how to think about it all--how to plan and how to pack. In our case, two months on the road in our own car with our dog. We’d be gone for weeks. We’ll be in all kinds of weather and temperatures. How should we pack? How far should we drive? We’d need dog-friendly accommodations. Where should we stay? What should we see?
The road trip books I chose disappointed me. So here I am now, based on our actual hits and misses, presumptuously writing my own travel guide for how to hit the road in your car with your dog, with all weather clothes, with snacks, and with a promise to control our frustrations and tempers.
It turns out road trips are a lot like life: it’s tricky to balance planning ahead with savoring the present. This book aims to achieve both. The chapters are organized as journal entries, by date and location, each entry dotted with practical information (planning the trip, mapping the stops, budgeting time and money,) but also with our very human and often laughable exchanges and experiences along the way. We meet a pregnant dog sprawled across two bar stools in Tybee Island, Georgia. We have ten minutes of total and misguided exhilaration thinking we won $ 10,000 on a Florida lottery ticket. We sink into six inches of mud in Topanga, California (not our car, our feet!) We giggle at an electronic flashing road sign on the Sopchoppy Highway: This Saturday: Fish Fry for Doris!’ And I can’t even remember where this gem of a sign found us: “Fold Your Worries Into Paper Planes and Turn Them Into Flying Fucks…”
So dear reader, if you’re ready to hit the road, here we go!
Wednesday, April 06, 2022
The last few months have been a whirlwind. Just as my favorite cousin was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my 105 year old Godmother, who lived in her house for the past 93 years, fell and ended up in a nursing home. JB and I stepped in to help both women transition, Maureen to a too-soon death two weeks ago and Marie to a profound loss of independence.
My cousin Maureen planned every aspect of her remaining 3 months, including her funeral services. In later life she became a Crew Mom in hot air ballooning, and her wake had miniature hot air balloons hanging from the chapel rafters, and behind her casket on the altar there were giant posters like this painting. She spoke about dying in practical and no-regret terms. Her hospice death was more difficult than she and we had hoped, but the send off was everything she wanted.
My Godmother is now in a nursing home, heavily restricted because she fell while there, for reasons still unknown. So she's gone from the isolation of 2 years of Covid to a chair alarm that alerts the nursing aides every time she stands up or moves. We are trying our best to get her back home with a live-in aide. This has meant major renovations to her house and weekly lengthy trips from my own home. I'm her primary family and I want to help her however I can. I'm increasingly confident she'll be home again.
Did I mention that at 105 years old Marie entered the nursing home on zero medications, with a pretty good working memory, and in excellent health except for a very bad knee? Amazing in every way.
So JB and I are depleted and exhausted. No regrets, but no rest. We'll be heading to a 5 day spiritual retreat in mid April, and with spring now arriving in New England, I'm looking ahead with renewed hope. Hope is in short supply in this troubled world right now: I can barely follow the tragedy for the Ukranian people and the very real threat to civility and democracy in my own country. Do tyrants always fall? I surely hope so.
No active writing for me these days, but my two books are out there, on Amazon, and my finished family saga is waiting for renewed attention. My back surgery hasn't been as successful as I hoped, but I'm better than I was and I'm ready to resume my gardening ways. I have optimistic genes. I'm thankful for that.
For the hundredth time, I'm still so sad that blogging has taken a back seat to other social media options. I miss the almost daily backs and forth so much. But I appreciate being here and I appreciate everyone who stops by. Mwah!
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Initially I decided to self-publish both my books after learning that it would be up to me to market and promote them anyway, with little if any help from the publisher.
The Light Stays On first came out in 2008. The reviews and responses were heartwarmingly good, but I did very little to publicize it. This love story was (and still is) listed on Amazon, I did a couple of book fairs, got the book into several independent book stores, and had a hilarious reading in Provincetown (me sandwiched in between two very erotic lesbian writers, one with a story about Buffy the Cheerleader and her gym coach. I crouched in embarrassment!)
I also got a nibble from a publisher I had contacted, who was interested but only if I expanded the story by 50 more pages. I didn't follow up. Fast forward to today and The Light Stays On is finally getting my attention. I'm always thrilled when someone says that the story of Alex and Lily meant something and touched them in some way. I've made a few small changes and have recently 'republished' the book on Amazon, also making it available as a e-book and in countries outside the USA. This time I'll be more involved.
At the same time I'm promoting my recent book of poetry, Love & Other Annoyances. Same deal: it's on Amazon, in a few select bookstores, and I've done a couple of book signings. What's different this time around, is that I'm also laboriously trying to learn about algorithms and meta data--the secret sauce that puts a book in front of Amazon readers instead of buried under thousands and thousands of competing titles. Learning anything about this computer-generated approach is no fun. I pretty much hate even reading the basics.
It's all harder than I expected.
I've done a bit of paid advertising on Amazon and I've nagged just about every kind person who's bought my books to leave a review on Amazon. I expected 30 reviews the first month the poetry book came out, without realizing that writing a review isn't an easy ask for many people. Reviews can help a book take off; that's for sure. So I'm still pushing and hoping, now, shooting for 50 reviews. (I'm hopelessly dogged.) But I also know this goal isn't going to move ahead without a real effort on my part. I also know I can't be nagging people!
Which brings me to my current Turtle way of life. These days I stop what I'm doing, whenever I can, when I start to lose interest or get tired or feel frustrated. So for my book promotions, this means there are many days when I do just a little. This especially means that my attempts to navigate the computer skills and knowledge I need are driving me crazy! There are some days I could throw my laptop against the nearest wall or window.
But this is also true: every single time I see a new review or there is a new sale or someone acknowledges my writing, it's gold.
Sigh. Every single time......xo
Saturday, January 15, 2022
Here's JB waving from our local beach, our dog Mattie beside her, at low tide, last summer, one of my favorite photos of all time. We are so lucky to have a bay and beach within a block of our house. Today, as I write this, the temperature outside is barely 14 degrees F, and I'm no fan of winter. Mattie and I rely on JB to brave winter with one or two walks a day, a huge gift to sedentary cozy me.
I love these two.....
It's now a new year and so far it's a terrible mess: continuing Covid and masks and social cancellations wrapped around very scary politics and a shocking decline in truth and civility and integrity. The USA and the world are in trouble. I haven't given up hope, but I'm teetering. Still, I wish each of us a good year and the ability to love and to enjoy ourselves, our work, our spaces, and the people who share our tribes.
Here's JB again, another favorite. This time she's in our fabulous renovated kitchen. Not a day goes by that we don't marvel at this kitchen, with its light-filled windows and open shelving and ample room to store things properly. Only one junk drawer in the whole room!
And finally, here I am with my 8 year old granddaughter Miss Reesie. Not much else needs to be said, except how much I love her and her three older brothers. It's a joy to have these kids in my life. It's a joy to see my daughter as a wonderful mother.
Oh yes: A word about my books. I'm learning the commerce of promoting and selling books. It's not fun. Metadata, algorithms, categories, keywords, sales reports. I'm tackling all of it little by little--relying on my turtle approach--and I'm selling my books--but slowly. I didn't expect it would be so hard, for example, to accumulate reader reviews on Amazon. It's like pulling teeth. That said, every time a review appears, I'm overjoyed. (Hint Hint: If you're reading this, and you've read Love & Other Annoyances or The Light Stays On, and you haven't already: please please write a review on Amazon. I can't offer bribes but I might if I could!)
Thanks for stopping by. I hope over time to rebuild my blog here. I'm so glad you're along for the ride.