Sunday, November 14, 2010

Losing it

I’m dieting. Again. Both my husband and I are, but I’m clearly the expert. He’s only had to start watching his weight in recent years, as he grew up thin and lanky, never to be bothered by the number of calories or the latest diet. (The Ice Cream diet was one of my early favorites.) It’s only aging that has him keeping an eye on his intake—damned aging—otherwise he’d be scarfing down pasta unregulated by those pesky portion sizes or calorie counts. I, however, have been dieting since I was about two. Adolescence was not my friend and even during my first pregnancy, my doctor put me on an 1800 calorie a day diet. There was no eating for two for me and I had to say good-bye to the Snickers bars that I had thought I’d be able to munch on to my heart’s content.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Idiot

Main Entry: id·i·ot
Function: noun
Date: 14th century
usually offensive; a foolish or stupid person

Often, when I was doing a workshop or class on technology, I would open with a joke. I would tell the assembled technology novices that, “Most all computer problems are caused by an I-D-ten-tee error.” Some of the rapt class would nod and murmur knowingly. Then I would write it out on the whiteboard - “I-D-10-T”. And I would turn and smile…and hopefully there would be a round of chuckling in response. Then I would self-deprecate: Most of the problems people have with computers are caused by the user - even the problems that I have. Even though I was lumping us all together in one I-D-1-0-T pile, I never really thought of my students as idiots. But it was an icebreaker that usually made them laugh and there are not usually a lot of laughs during a technology integration workshop. At least I could start out with one.




Saturday, July 24, 2010

Polibrity? Celetician?

Politician - a leader engaged in civil administration
Celebrity - a widely known person; “he was a baseball celebrity”

I’ve never claimed to be in the know about politics. I can identify most of the current players by sight on TV, but I leave most of the complaining and analysis to my high school list serv and Cokie Roberts. (Also, sadly, Daniel Schorr, but not anymore. RIP.) I tend to vote with my heart – with the other Democrats – and I’m usually pretty satisfied with the results. I listen to NPR when I’m in the car, so I’m hearing about politics all the time, I’m just not retaining the ability to make sense of it all. Like math. 
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Destined to Fail

I was looking at a portrait the other day that my grandmother, Helen Russell Cogger, painted. It is a painting of a young, dark-haired girl playing a cello. The portrait captures the smooth wooden grain of the instrument, the crispness of the girl’s white blouse and the seriousness with which the girl was playing her music. Helen was a talented artist and, besides amusing us grandchildren with her doodles of roses and poodles and clever drawings in the margins of short letters to us, she also used to paint portraits on the side. As an artist and single parent in New York City in the 40s, she made her living with her skill – in a studio with a stable of other commercial artists such as herself. She used to draw the little cherubic toddlers modeling frilly smocks in the Montgomery Ward catalogs before photography came along and made her job obsolete.

It occurred to me that my life as an artist – a writer – is mirroring my grandmother’s life as an artist.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ahhh....Maine

This is a picture of Mt Washington...way, way in the distance as we left the island on Sunday afternoon. Although I sat in the sun and read for most of the day on Saturday - and even got a little color on my face - Mt. Washington still has snow at its peak. The picture was taken out of the car window as the ferry started up and cleared the mooring. It's hard to leave. We always like a little cloudy-drizzle when we leave the island - it makes it easier to go. But Sunday lived up to its name - clear, blue skies; still, cool water. Frye Island is open as of Friday. We have about six months to go back up and clean and repair and enjoy until the island shuts down for another winter.We are so lucky to have this place to go and relax and recharge.  It's not fancy, it's not huge - but it's a little piece of heaven plunked right down in the middle of Sebago Lake.
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Most Important Day of My Life

The day that I walked into my new apartment, I clutched the keys in my hand, creating small red ridges on my fingers, as if releasing them might make my new home disappear. My Volvo station wagon was still packed to the gills in the driveway, but I had no desire to start hauling my meager possessions up to the second floor - yet. First, I had to go inside and look around. It had only been a few days earlier that I had found it, briefly spending minutes inside before rushing back to the real estate agent’s office to sign the lease. It hadn’t mattered what it looked like at the time. It was affordable and vacant - my top two criteria. Now, as I opened the door at the top of the stairs and walked into the empty kitchen, I felt a strange sensation inside my chest. It was relief.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How I Spent My Spring Break

Ahhh...Arizona. Although not my first trip west, it was my first trip to the last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the union; usually, I just fly over it on my way to more glamorous states. Well, California.  Angelo and I went a week ago last Friday to visit his daughter who is both in school and teaching school there. Arizona's public school schedule coincided with my community college schedule so we were both on spring break at the same time. We had about four days to pack in our sightseeing, but since we were limiting it to the Phoenix area (where she lives) we were pretty confident that we would see everything we wanted to see and spend some quality time with Justine, too. That is, until Monday morning. Monday morning is when Justine's Jack Russell Terrier, Lilly,  decided she didn't want me out in the backyard with her and snapped her sharp little teeth into my forearm.
In my defense, I didn't provoke her. I thought I was helping to keep dirt clods out of her little throat by reaching down to grab one out of her mouth. But when she snarled at me and clenched harder, I decided that it wasn't my job and moved away from her. But not fast enough - she sprung - as Jack Russells are wont to do - and took a small chunk out of my arm. Ouch.
So, instead of spending the morning here...
We spent half the day here....at the Urgent Care facility conveniently around the corner. (Corners aren't like here in Connecticut - it was still about a mile and a half away...that's close in Arizona.)
Unfortunately, it was neither Urgent nor was there much Care. They weren't bad - obviously they had to take care of the little girl with a scorpion sting first. But still...I was in pain. I spent most of my time in the waiting room. The doctor spent about 5 minutes in the exam room with me - and most of the time he was talking with Angelo, impressed because he knew what "anaerobic" meant. We were talking anaerobic because the tetanus shot topic came up. I declined. I also declined the antibiotics because they caused photosensitivity. I was in Arizona...it wasn't likely I was going to take drugs that would make me break out in hives if I went out in the sun. Instead I slathered a topical antibiotic cream on my wound. And that made me break out in hives. And swelled my arm. And itched. There was only one thing left to do....
I love Spring Break.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pets as Children

A couple of weeks ago, we were invited over to have a glass of wine with some new friends. After a quick tour of their home, we settled in on the sun porch with several platters of tasty cheese, veggies and bread and several glasses of wine. Our hostess took the wicker loveseat - by herself - because one of the two cats they own was asleep, taking up half the cushion. That's okay - there was plenty of seating. Naturally, after we took the obligatory toll of who has how many kids and where they all are, we got to the more important discussion - how cute is our cat? We talked about other stuff, too; travel, work, family, etc. But clearly, the cats - because eventually cat #2 showed up to say hello to company - were the center of attention.

I am not quite sure when this happened, this pets-as-children thing. It's not like we carry pictures of our cat around with us, but do we earnestly join the funny-things-our-cat-does conversation? We most certainly do. I think it might have happened slowly and insidiously over the last couple of years. For the most part, all of our kids have gone their separate ways. They all come back and visit - and sometimes take up residence briefly - but the separation of needing us as parents has occurred in all three. And there we were...in an empty nest with no more parental duties save the occasional distress call, which actually allowed us to continue to feel needed. And then we got Maia, who, as a cat, is pretty independent. She no more needs us than she needs a little yellow kitty slicker to go out in the rain, but she tolerates us because of our ability to buy food and open it for her.  But it's starting to look like we might need her. My husband will call me insistently into the living room from the kitchen - and when I get in there he'll say, "Look how she's sleeping - isn't she something?" Like she was a baby three days home from the hospital. Ridiculous.

But even more ridiculous is the recent behavior I found myself guilty of.  Since our cat is so much smarter than the other cats on the block (shhhh...the neighbors think theirs is!) I thought I'd try a little training experiment. I put all her toys in a little basket on the floor to see if she would return them when she was done playing with them. She is so cute because she will bring one of her toys upstairs when she comes up to bed with us and leaves it on the floor - as if to have it available when she wakes up. Adorable. So I thought I'd give her a place for her things, you know, to keep things in order. When I'd see the stuffed fish or fake leopard-skin mouse, I'd pick them up and put them back in the basket. Sometimes, when we are watching TV at night, she'll meander over to the basket.  I'll shush my husband, pause the show and we'll watch her stare at the basket and make her choice. So discriminating.

This morning when I came downstairs, I found the fish and the leopard-skin mouse on the stairs and in the dining room, the new purple mouse was under the table. I gathered all three and headed towards the living room to put them back. And it hit me: Someone was being trained to put all the toys back in the basket, but it wasn't the cat. She was leaving her toys around more frequently and in new and different places - for me to find and return! How funny is she?

Wait til I tell the neighbors...
Maia (in my chair)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another one from the vaults


Okay, I really don't have a vault with shelves of essays and writings carefully categorized into topics and sections. It would be cool if I did - but I don't. I have a brand new office space (see below) and the closest thing I have to a vault is an opague plastic crate with a snap-on blue lid. It'll do.

On my other website, I post my longer essays. I started almost five years ago and the idea was to post weekly to keep my writing chops in shape. In my defense - sometimes it is weekly - but realistically it has dwindled to about once or twice a month. One way I've found to keep up with my own (sometimes unreasonable) demands is to pull out some old columns I wrote over ten years ago for the Waterbury Observer and here is another one. I wish I had thought to post it last month - say, around the 14th, but I was not that forward thinking.  But it's about love and who says you only get to read about love in February? Certainly not me....

So, here... for your reading pleasure is On Love and Other Related Illnesses.
Thanks.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Bad (day)

My new discipline is to post every Tuesday and Thursday. This morning I had to run out to get some bloodwork done - early, because if I can get in and get out before 7:30 it's a 15 minute ordeal. One minute later and - - no offense but if I get there after 7:30 the waiting room is filled with um, older people. And it could be an hour. So, I was up early.

I came home ready for my morning at home. No classes, no visits or appointments. Just time for me, me, me. I made a quick bowl of oatmeal and had a neat shot of espresso (I know - you thought I was going to say scotch...) and headed upstairs. I had a post to write. But first I had to reduce to at least one, the four piles of - I'll just say it - crap that obscured any open space on my desk. I've written about my home office before, but the last time was when it was planted in the middle of our living room. Which worked just fine until we had company or wanted to use our table or any number of small and large distractions that keep one from working at home. Like its proximity to the kitchen. Now I've got a whole desk - with drawers and everything. It became my desk a week ago when my husband and I decided that he had all the office space he needed in the building where our Mom and Pop Therapy business is. The room at home, which he used to use, was now declared mine. He moved out most of his books and paperwork, I shifted my books and paperwork upstairs from the living room. All I had to do was clear it off and begin working.

You'd think I was handed a shovel and told to muck out the Aegean stables in a day by the way I was acting this morning. The piles I had to clear contained textbooks, old calendars, worksheets, lesson plans, pictures and cards from my 50th birthday. (Everyone keeps all their cards from their 50th, right? I'm not weird to do that, am I? Please say no...) I had a new and spacious place for everything, due to hearing over and over in my head one of my Dad's mantras as I was growing up: "A place for everything and everything thing in its place." But I whined at every turn.  And then it got worse...

The bag I had been tossing old papers in split and erupted its contents as if powered by a volcanic plume. The books I placed on the shelves crashed over and spilled to the floor - not in alphabetical order. The post I started this morning about annoying people in the medical field wasn't working out because my vocabulary would not come when summoned. The station I had playing on Pandora was irritating - who told Mary J. Blige she could sing?  I banged my fists, I stomped my feet. I yelled out bad words. The cat fled the room. Why was life so unfair?

And then, to distract myself, I visited my daughter's blog. Her last few posts are about cheese, snow days and happiness. Oh, so cheery, blah blah blah. Wishing everyone a happy Friday and an inspired March. Oh, please. How could she write about such wonderfulness? What made her so perky? Why isn't she writing about her stupid subway ride home or how hard it is to start her own business in a shaky economy?

Finally, finally, dear reader, a big cosmic hand came through the haze of my self pity and smacked me on the forehead. What the hell is wrong with me, anyway? What am I complaining about? Of course she's perky - she's an energetic and enterprising young woman who is doing what she wants to do. And I am clearing a place in my very own home so I can have a private place to work; a move suggested by my supportive husband so that I wouldn't have to work in the middle of the living room. And, oh, yeah...wah... I can spend all morning doing this because I don't have to go into a 9 to 5 job where I'm working my tail off for someone else, but have the luxury of time to follow my dreams. Is that what I'm complaining about?

Well, yes, I suppose it was. Yes, it was pitiful, but thankfully, I'm better now.  I'm fortunate to have people in my life who remind me how lucky I am without even saying a word. No one yelled at me, no one scolded me. They're just there...being themselves. And you, dear readers, totally dodged a bullet as now you won't be subjected to my tirade on irritating medical personnel. (Well, you might, but not today!) And even though some hippies with a dog have already memorialized this on T-shirts and other 100% cotton accessories - Life is good. Shame on me for forgetting that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Day

 
Brrr.... it's snowing again. 
But that doesn't stop me. I live in Connecticut - I'm used to dealing with the snow. Besides half the time the forecast isn't - shall we say - accurate. I had a doctor's appointment early and then a date for morning tea with my friend Elisa in Torrington - about 20 miles away. Snow? Pshaw... where are my boots?  After Elisa and I caught up and we headed outside to our cars, we noticed that the snow had picked up. It was coming down in big, fluffy puffs - like a snowglobe.  I decided to take the backroads  home and enjoy all the Christmas card-like scenery.  Unfortunately, I ended up behind a skittish driver for half the trip home - the plow driving behind me was bold enough to pass us and kicked the speed up to 25 mph. After the turnoff in Litchfield to Route 63, I was ready to pick up my own speed up to 25 mph and enjoy the rest of my drive - but it was not to be. I caught up to two cars early on and followed them at 10 mph all the way home. It was not the tranquil drive home I anticipated. 

But once I got home - I realized that my husband had left to go to his own appointments. I didn't have anything on my calendar, except to return a few emails and do a little planning for school. Suddenly I realized what I had on my hands. A full on snow day!  The first thing I did was to build a fire. Ahhh.... The next step, of course, was to pop some popcorn.  I got my comfies on and made a cup of hot cocoa. I nestled into my spot on the couch, set up my laptop on the footstool, made sure all the necessary appliances were within reach: cell phone, TV remote, house phone. After awhile, I even made some oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. It was official...Snow Day!

Here's the thing about having a snow day when you're over 50: it's all yours. There's no way that I regret one minute of wet scarves dripping in front of the stove, wet noses dripping in front of the fire or the countless snow angels and snowmen I built with my kids on snow days of years past. Those days also involved popcorn, hot cocoa, homemade cookies and videos. (Oh, right - I watched 17 Again. Yes, I watched a movie with Zac Efron - what can I say? It's a perfect snow day movie.) I suppose I should feel a little badly that my husband didn't get a snow day for himself, but that's what he gets for having an office within spitting distance of our home. I wasn't a complete couch potato - I went out and shoveled a little bit to keep the walks clear and to prove that I wasn't a complete couch potato when my husband came home. But all in all - I had a day to myself;  I didn't feel compelled to go out and run an errand or drop the mail at the post office. I caught up on the things that I wanted to and didn't touch the things I didn't want to do. That's the beauty of a snow day. It's a free pass, I don't even think calories count on a snow day. I'm sure I'll get tired of the relentless precipitation soon enough, but for now - today - it was just what I needed.




Saturday, February 20, 2010

Square Peg/Round Hole

From time to time, I will publish a relic of my long and nontraditional writing career. This essay was the first for my new column, "Enough Rope" which debuted in March 1997 in the Waterbury Observer. Unfortunately, my career as a newspaper columnist ended about six months later when I received the infamous "Don't call us - we'll call you" message in a handwritten note in the mail.
But I have copies of all of them, so you, dear reader, will be able to relive - with me - my short-lived career. Lucky you.
Click here to read: A Square Peg Living in a Round Hole World.
And thanks.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Dangers of Self-timers...

One would think that two relatively smart and technology-savvy adults well past their 40s would be able to easily take a snapshot commemorating their weekend away together. Well, it's not as easy as it looks...

"Did I remember to set the timer?"
Now that's an attractive candid shot....
 "Stop fooling around - it's about to go off!"
 "Really? Now you're tired?"
 Almost there, except it looks like we've both just gotten a whiff of low tide.
 Closer...
 Finally, one we both like.

(Whew...glad that's over! Next trip the camera just may conveniently get forgotten!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dinner for Two

 
I think it might have been several years ago, right about the time when our nest emptied out, that my husband and I started eating dinner in the living room, in front of the TV. There were several factors, really. One of them had to do with the fact that we didn't have a kitchen table anymore. We had just moved into our new home and along with all of its wonderful features, it also had a - well, challenging - kitchen. We never did figure out how to put a kitchen table in it although we've had several variations. We even pulled down the dish cabinets suspended above the L-shaped counter - but that's a whole other bottle of wine as they say. 
(Or do just I say that...?) Anyway - over the years the dining room has been the go-to room for holidays and bigger family-type dinners, but when it was just me and him - we defaulted to the living room - and the TV.

A couple of weeks ago, I moved all the Christmas wrap that I got for 50% off at Target off of the dining room table and put on a tablecloth. I polished the two pewter candlesticks that were stashed in the china cabinet and blew the dust off of the candles. I pulled out two of the Lenox china plates that my husband had salvaged from his divorce (seriously...that's what he had to have? Not the  better car or the house...the Lenox china set? Oh, well....) and two of the nice wineglasses from the set of four that belongs to my daughter, but that she stores at home. Hers came from Crate and Barrel - mine come from Ikea.  

When my husband came home, he was shocked. Not because I had also made dinner, but that the table was set and we were finally going to do what we had been saying we were going to do for years -- eat in the dining room. The easiest thing to do when you come home exhausted from a long day is to fix a meal, put it on plates (or "plate it" since plate is now a verb) and head out to the sofa and the TV tray with your condiments and utensils in hand. To his credit, my husband always put a cloth napkin down under his plate - even on the TV tray or the coffee table (Ah, I guess now that Lenox china thing makes sense...) but our focus was on the TV and rarely did we have a converstation that lasted more than your average commercial break. 

Now, since we've been doing this pretty regularly since we started, we have long conversations about our day, what's going on with our family or just interesting stuff we heard on the radio or saw online. We share in the cooking and the cleaning (mostly he cooks, mostly I clean) and we linger when we're done, because the candles are still lit and the conversation is still going.  Eating in the dining room has carved out a place in the day where there isn't something else going on that we have to pay attention to. Actually, we seem to be paying attention to each other. And isn't that nice? 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mid-winter getaway

 
This is what we saw when we checked in to Room 211 at the Water's Edge Resort and Spa this past weekend.  My husband booked the night away for my birthday on Thursday - February 11th - so how appropriate was that room? 
 
And this is what we did immediately after checking in to that oh-so fitting accomodation...

Yes, of course that's a bottle of champagne. Just the one, because we also had reservations in the dining room for a three-course dinner later in the evening. The Water's Edge is famous for its Sunday Brunch, but we were happy to have dinner instead. Even though we felt really badly for our neighbors and relatives to the south getting pounded by a winter snowstorm, we were able to put it aside for the evening and enjoy a quick but much needed break. I recommend it - birthday or not!

Oh, here are a couple more pictures...I can't resist sharing. It was too cold to go play outside, but we did sit on the balcony (I'm posting pictures of that soon!) and we did take pictures of the gorgeous day - calm wind, sunny skies, blue ocean. Nice, isn't it? I was one happy birthday girl! (Thanks, Ange!)

 
One more look off of the balcony before going down to dinner

 
Red sky at night, birthday girl's delight! 

 
And then a perfect morning! 

 
Almost makes you want to go dive right in!...but we didn't.