Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gato breakthrough

I'm typing this in bed because my it's-the-middle-of-the-night-except-it's-light-out body is, well, easing back in, I suppose. But, BUT, more importantly, because it's the site of breaking news! A gato breakthrough! TWO gatos, BOTH gatos, ON THE BED! At once! Together! I have stirrings of hope for the Middle East. The only time this was previously attempted, there was a catfight over my body as soon as the light went out. So, pretty exciting stuff.

Of course, I have no idea what went down in my absence, what cataclysmic (ha) shifts of power or furry bonding may have occurred, but Willa was very vocally happy to see me and Sucio probably was, but It Was All Very SCARY. But while Willa played the role of bathmat warmer during my tubfest, Sucio apparently leapt to the bed. I was quite surprised. There were some position shifts, but I think the bulk of the night passed with Willa curled up alongside me, and Sucio perched at the foot of the bed, window side. Wow. We'll see if his bravery holds and Willa's kitty fury remains contained, but they're both up here now. Sucio finding the edges of Pixie here a fabulous face scratcher, Willa trying to sit on it. Yep, missed my gatos.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Airporting

Seems a chunk of my day will be air-ing in one form or another.

Right now, it's hanging in the very small San Diego commuter terminal for quite a long time. Monday after Christmas, recent flying scare, I mean, anything could've been possible, and I want to be sure I get home. Fortunately, it's all mellow and ordinary. So that means I get some quality time in a very small terminal space. Without many amenities.

There IS the young Indian couple nearby (not at all that they're an amenity, simply an unfolding drama), apparently just married based on phone conversations and gorgeous henna tattoos covering her hands and partially arms. And the large, sparkly ring on her finger. It sounds like the wedding didn't go particularly well. Apparently there were many hours of tears after. And lots of family drama. And 6 hours of her getting ready. I think such is how weddings often, often go. Which makes me so sad. What happened to the joy? When did all the things and wonderful rituals we do to mark special moments become giant productions, terribly expensive, stressful and unfun and not really what anyone wants in the end? How did we find ourselves so far down this path of devoiding our rituals of meaning and making them painfests? Repeatedly? So now it's accepted, maybe expected. Reason No. 92 I never want a wedding.

And unfortunately, the couple is now arguing. Replaying, rehashing, trying to make something about it feel better. It's always, always so much easier to observe others, see their clear unhappiness and wonder what is it they really need? What is causing their unhappiness and how can they stop or change that? Of course, with our very own lives, somehow it's not quite so simple to see, is it?

So she cries, in the airport, the morning after her wedding, that clearly went terribly for her. Her husband tries to comfort her, tries to say the right things, it doesn't appear to be helping. A cute little Japanese boy stops and stares outright at her tears. That must make her feel better. And so the circular conversation continues. She accuses him of only tuning in because she's in tears ... which may be fair and accurate, but then, how much does she ask him for what she needs/clue him in otherwise? Who knows?

I really do seem like a terrible vulture here, but it's really hard to escape, she's sitting right in front of me, in my direct line of vision. And the line "and what about your parents" was just uttered ... uh-oh, that never bodes well.... Those painful, spiraling conversations, we've all had them, driven by pain, fueled by confusion and miscommunication. There never seems to be a good resolution until we can find our way to the core of it all.

***

The postscript is the couple stayed with me until the LAX Hudson News shop (well, one of the many). They were a row back on the commuter flight, on the shuttle bus, then the shop. Then, off on their way. Things seemed to be better. I wish them the very utmost best.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

departuring reversed ... or, returning

The week away draws to a close. And it feels like time. Running on the beach tonight, I was doing all the Boston/San Diego compare/contrasts. San Diego predictably won on the beauty and ease-of-outdoor-living fronts, and Boston won on the more interesting real-live grittiness and cityness and historyness and seasonalityness and universityness and crazy-drivingness and intellectual-capitalness and in choice of governorness and politicness generally (hello and for deep deep shame, California, on equal rights and marriage equality!) ... probably a few more fronts, too, not that I'm at all biased toward my adopted city or anything like that. Yay, coming winter storms!

One interesting thing about the week has been that, sure, I'm on vacation and the holiday and lots going on, but just not being in my own space, and not having chunks of time that are solely my own sure seems to affect my ability to plunk down very many words. Not sure if that means this week will bring a torrent (oh what fun to wait and see!) or if my writing brain and typing fingers will simply need to take periodic sabbaticals.

I'm eager to get back to the gatos. Missy has been an entertaining fill-in purrball, but it's not the same. I miss my babies. Is Willa bullying Sucio? Has he taken to closet living? Or are they bonding in my absence? Is Willa leaving me a treasure hunt of hacked-up hairballs? I mean, serious questions for the ages, y'all.

Also eager to get back to the DOING. To the becoming-a-freelance-writer/editor-when-I-grow-up thing. Much to be done! The website creating (really, think, think, THINK we're down to fluidwords.com or wordbiscuit.net), the next-steps in Remarkable Marketing Blueprint (an idea is percolating to start a new blog! one more "professional' in nature -- not that me blabbing about the gatos and barf isn't highly professional), the talking to more people and researching and learning how I'm gonna do this -- yay!, plus the finding the right people with the money who need me, and yeah, all that.

[omg but typing lying on my side v leaning against headboard makes my low back SO much happier ... perhaps a sooner visit to my marvelous chiropracter is in order]

So, travel day tomorrow, and I can already tell how shocked by the cold I'm gonna be. Yi!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Perhaps not my most profound, nor coherent

So. We all made it through Christmas. One holiday remaining in 2009. 2009, what a year. What. A. Year. Don't think I'll miss it, but I am grateful to it. Suddenly, I'm flashing on that Frankie Valli song, Oh What a Night. NO, I'm not in the habit of channeling such music, and the subject matter of my past year and that song is really dramatically different ... it's just the title that's similar, really.

You know, I don't seem to have a ton to say here. Not that that's stopping me. I think there are related ideas that I could string coherent phrases together about (possibly), but my belly is very happily full of homemade mac & cheese and it's as ever waaaaaayyyyyyyy-aaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy-y past a Boston bedtime, which seems to turn my cranial matter to mush nightly. So. How about we sleep on it. And -- and -- maybe -- maybe ... web names ... down to ... 2?? wordbiscuit.net and fluidwords.com...? Maybe? I do love damnfinelines so, have to keep reminding myself I can love it madly and not wind up with it. Perhaps it shall have another purpose for me yet. Oh. My brain just went from mush to Jello. I felt it shift. Is that a downgrade? I'm in no position to know....

Friday, December 25, 2009

65 degrees of Christmas

  • Christmas Eve morn: beach walk + an earl grey latte with an old coworker, catching up on the past year
  • Christmas Eve day: in mom's kitchen prepping for dinner ... I make a passable chopper, a useful dishwasher, a good recipe reader, a handy lettuce washer
  • Roasted pecans with sea salt are freaking delicious (from someone who can barely stand them raw)
  • Sunset skies of electric salmoned pink over the deepest, truest blue ocean waters
  • Christmas Eve dinner with 5 -- great food (eaten in flights, due to unknown guest arrival time ... because said guests did not call when they were leaving as they were supposed to ... hi, Justin!), great stories, fun gift exchange (note: apparently only I, a word person, can count in this family ... we said ONE gift each, people ... ONE)
  • To highlight one random materialistic gain ... I got a polka-dot scarf! Polka dots! Yay! PolkaPolkaPolka. Note: Someday, I need to learn the polka. Perhaps in 2010? Anyone well-versed who'd like to teach me?
  • Given time difference, I begin serious fade around 9 p.m., approximately when we were finishing dinner, with the gift exchange yet to come ... the delicious individual chocolate bread puddings, hot from the oven, had to be ignored until the next day due to food/overall fatigue ... the dessert gods cannot be pleased
  • Christmas Eve eve, ended late, me sprawled on hardwood floor in front of fire, only semi-conscious

  • There aren't really going to be 65 of these, you know

  • Christmas Day dawned crisp (for San Diego) and clear ... off to perhaps the one uncanceled yoga class in San Diego with my dad ... we arrive 45 minutes early, look around a shopping mall parking lot ... decide to kill the minutes at the beach down the road
  • Beach down the road is predictably stunning and lovely
  • Yoga class is also lovely ... breathing, good, must remember, breathing, good
  • We seek post-yoga bagels ... alas, post-yoga bagels are not to be had (darn holiday)
  • BUT, IHOP is open! Hello, blueberry pancakes (I seriously considered the gingerbread ones. Seriously.)
  • Then, downtime, lovely downtime. A major amount lying in the sun with Missy, the Del Mar Calico ... then we migrated to the bed ... then it got SERIOUSLY, like greenhouse warm
  • Then, the lure of the beautiful day outside, the sure knowledge of lovely yet COLD Boston awaiting, leading me to ... that lovely place down the road
  • Beaches crowded with people walking, playing, surfing
  • Closing note, dinner at the La Jolla Shores hotel, beachside windows displaying waves breaking along the shore. Me wearing a new deep-red, appropriately festive, wool hoodie (y'know, the classy kind)
  • Seriously good lemon ricotta ravioli and "the best scallops I've had in my life," sayeth my dad. Not bad at all. Ooh -- almost forgot -- eggnog martini. Good stuff.
  • Now, some bullet pointing. And to-bedding.
  • A final weekend in 60-something sun, then home, ah, home!
  • Really wondering how many bullets be here ... enough to count??
  • The more random tidbiting ... my brain isn't working in quite those ways as of yet. More to come once the processor moves along/kicks in/takes effect
  • Ooh, right, for anyone still potentially following the Web naming, I'm down to: damnfinelines.com, wordbiscuit.net and fluidwords.com. If that doesn't feel like progress ... trust me, it is.
I hope each and every one of you got (and gets) what your heart most desires....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The other coast

A short list of a couple'a things showing themselves as different on this other coast:
  • the obvious: temperature ... it's a couple degrees warmer ... about 40 or so
  • palm trees & space ... woke up to see a palm tree whipping in the wind and what seemed like a huge expanse of sky ... everything here is bigger, more sprawling, taking up more space because there is more space to fill
  • along with the palm trees: birds of paradise all around
  • footwear ... flipflops rather than Uggs (important note: in a shoe store today, I DID see some fleecey sheepskin flipflops ... would I make such a thing up?)
  • outerwear ... given the super wind today, a fleece sweatshirt was key, but slightly different than a sweatshirt, wool sweater, gloves, hat, scarf and winter coat
  • vehicle ... I got to borrow my mom's sleek, spiffy car to get around ... almost, but not quite a Honda hybrid
  • freeways ... with 12 lanes instead of 2
  • evening activities ... 1) I seem to be watching ... TV, how odd and 2) it seems to be a country holiday show ... uh....
  • bedtime ... not that it's drastically different, but the fade begins around 7
And speaking of that fade....

Monday, December 21, 2009

departuring

before:

already missing the gatos a full 2 days before leaving
missing Boston as I'm packing
almost ready to come back before I've left

so the transition begins
return to a different world
return to an old me's stomping grounds


during:

seeing a barelegged woman in Dallas airport shocks me ... not really seeing much flesh as of late in a Boston winter

airport/airplaning makes me want to go outside and run a few miles, at least
a desire spurred by sense of slug, abounding crap food, the sight of so many unhealthy folks

my but airplane seats are ... cozy


after:

sooooo tired
3-hour time difference huuuurrrrrtttsssssss

but I'll bravely soldier on, sitting here in bed with the balcony door open, hearing the ocean crash ... like me....

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blizzard watch

The storm is comin', the storm is comin'! (You're supposed to hear echoes of "Redcoats are comin'" in case you didn't quite get that). Today's layered sky was white to light grey to the barest bit of blue mixed into steel. Not dark and ominous but bright with the blanket of white lying beyond the sky, on its way, getting ready to drop. Excitin'!

***

Now, midnight, I get to witness its beginning. It started about 10 minutes ago, and there's already a light sugar dusting on the ground. Am a bit bummed the full-force "severe weather" warning is in effect for the next 5 hours, but a girl's gotta sleep. Am excited for what morning will show. Honestly, it feels like tomorrow's Christmas -- same anticipation as when you were a kid -- what will you wake up to??

They're saying 10 - 15 inches right now. Wow!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Swearing about burritos in a stormy website

Tonight, it looks to be shaping up as a collection of a few randoms....

Creative swears! Send 'em!
Gimme your creative swear words! I'm on a new quest. I need 'em. If you were raised to not say such things in public ... email 'em!

An exciting word-form change
Burrito can be a verb. Yes, to burrito. I can't quite remember its Latin derivation, I'll have to get back to you on that. But, yes, a verb, as in: "My friend and I burritoed today." "What are you doing on Friday? Want to burrito?" "How was burritoing? Oh, excellent, you can't go wrong with burritos." This great new word usage might just come in handy next week as I'm off to sunny San Diego! Yep. And this is where every New Englander gets massive weather envy and starts resentfully asking, 'You sure you coming back? Why'd you move here again?" And I can only sit and sigh a little, knowing I can't explain it to someone who grew up with freezing temps and snow shoveling, knowing that it's a rare person who buys my earnest explanation that "no really, the weather's boring, it is, it's always the same (boring), there aren't any storms...."

Coming (predicted) weather fun!
Storm! Storm coming! So they say! So they promise! Tomorrow night - a nor'easter, right now they're saying six to 12 inches o snow, depending where you live. I say -- exciting! It should be cleared out and fine for a Monday flight. The storm watch even used the word "blizzard" along with the word "potential."

That dratted website name
I'm tryinggggggg. I am. I'm close. This is hard! Top contenders are: damnfinelines.com, fluidwords.com, wordgoodness.com, wordbiscuit.net, wordsphere.net, wordsplash.net....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm not gonna lie, it's a weather post, y'all

Guess what? It feels like -2 outside right now at 7 a.m. Now that's getting to be something. And THAT's the kind of day to help a friend move! I've never moved or helped someone move in the winter. My moves have generally been of the hot, sweaty summer-day kind.

Turns out, winter moving is just like summer moving. Just like it. Except for the wool turtleneck sweater. Over your 2 layers under. And your thick, lined coat over that. And your hat. And your gloves. And your face and fingers going numb in spite. And, it turns out you say "it's fucking* freezing!" as you pass the other helping friends instead of "fuck, it's hot out."

The high was supposed to be 20, but that's without windchill. Low? Let's see, hourly weather says that at 3 a.m., when it's 10 degrees, it'll really feel like -5.

And, let me be clear I'm not complaining. I'm not. I'm in awe. I'm impressed. I love that the weather is a living being here, capricious, moody, changeable and uncontrollable by anyone, certainly not puny little humans. It's like some ancient god, still in our midst, stalking around, doing whatever the damn-well hell it feels like. I love that.

What's cold this cold like?
  • Warm and toasty indoors, you can hear the cold in the wind whipping outside.
  • Venturing outside, and even looking out the window, the crispness of the light and the acuity of all you see cut just like the coldness.
  • Walking outside at night, when the crispness is now knifelike, you can't help but make high-pitched squealy sounds like "eeeeeeeeee" or little bursts of "eee eee eee" or "mmmmmmmeeeeeeeeee" or just "fuck."
  • Every time you step out, you're continually surprised by just how. cold. it. is. "It's so fucking cold!" is the constant refrain in your head.
  • I'll keep adding to the list through the winter, fear not. This is just the start.
*Sincere apologies for the amount of swearing herein ... but it's really cold.

***

Zee naming
Website name, website name, o how challenging you be. Since today was move day, there wasn't a ton of pondering. There was a little back-o-the-mind burbling. Thank you all who have sent votes and feedback, all is appreciated. Right now, damnfinelines.com and fluidwords.com are in the lead. But another candidate might burble on by.

Follow-up naming note: Some of the alternate names burbling closer to the surface are

• wordgoodness.com

• wordbiscuit.net

• wordsphere.net

• wordsplash.net

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clyde, the Christmas plant

[But shhhhh, he thinks he's a tree!]

Yes, a lovely little green being came into my life last night. Behold, Clyde. Spreading his Christmas cheer....

But I found some dirt on the floor this morning ... Sucio's gonna get coal in his stocking if he doesn't change his ways!


***

I come in from outside, face totally numb and tingling, legs reddened to numb beneath jeans, nose sniffling in adjustment to warm indoor air. But in spite of temps, had to take a walk outside, breathe in that cold air. I headed out at dusk -- beautiful as the light starts to turn, magic, in fact. Went to the (yep, nearby) park ... OK, I confess, I did swing, too, I did. 'cause it's FUN and wooshy. Those winter branches against the dusked sky are stunning. Piercing. Thought about why I like them so much, and I realized it's a tree stripped down to its essence, its very core. Leaves are pretty and green, and shade is wonderful in hot sun. But what a tree really, truly is, is revealed in its branches against the sky.

***

After a conversation today about some tough, tough family stuff (not mine), I'm soberly reminded that as fun as the holidays can be, as hectic and crazed as they can be, as stressful as they can be ... they can also be really, really tough to heartbreaking for so many going through hard times, going through their first Christmas/holidays without someone, wading through all the family dynamics that inevitably bubble right on back up from our ancient patterns. So, I guess just a reminder to take care of yourself and each other, first and foremost -- more important than ANY thing/gift/party/"should"/pressure/unfair expectation.

And I sure don't mean to lecture. Just -- take care out there, is all.

The web naming! exciting!

Oh, exciting! It's exciting, y'all! Trust me if you can't quite feel it.

It feels closer.

Some new possibilities:

A genius in our midst pointed me toward the obvious ... like, the name of this-here (wordbiscuit) blog, which isn't quite available, but, options:
  • damnfinelines.com
  • superfinelines.com
And, a few new ones I'm liking, with a few variants:
  • fluentword.com
  • fluentwords.com
  • wordfluent.com
  • fluidword.com
  • fluidwords.com
  • wordfluency.com
Also
  • wordsculler.com
  • wordgoodness.com

Oops, almost forgot, I rethought tossing out the .net ending, so availables of the old favorites are
  • wordbiscuit.net
  • wordcat.net
  • wordstorms.net
  • wordgloss.net
  • wordwonder.net
  • wordsphere.net
  • wordwind.net
  • wordrich.net
  • wordsplash.net
  • wordsilk.net

A narrowed list of oldies:
  • wordpearl.com
  • worddream.com
  • wordtea.com
And, in case anyone wants a visual on what a brainstorm looks like....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Little moment pearls

Those little pearls of life, sometimes you gotta stop and peer....

***

Last night in Harvard Square, taking leave of a friend on a street corner, we were accosted by a rather drunk, charming-accented Irishman who hailed us with the greeting "hey ya yuppie bastards." He proceeded to ask where Beth Israel hospital was (he was gonna "fall right over," you see), to say he didn't have any fucking money for a cab, and to indignantly tell a story of a cop on the T pouring out his $9 bottle of ... something special. And then he meandered right off.

***

Have you seen a willow tree in winter? They're lovely. The wisps turn into what look like feathery drooping branches, gorgeous silhouetted against a late winter afternoon sky. (No camera with me to try and capture for you.) I happily observed winter willows from a playground swing at my nearby park (Note: There were no trapezes at this park. Just in case anyone were ever wondering. In case someone ever thought you could find trapezes at parks. Because I continue to maintain that you can't. Know otherwise? Please, do tell in those comments!)

Also, swinging as an adult? Grand. Especially when you find quality swings that don't, um, squinch nonchild hips. My nearby park has such quality swings, I'm pleased to say.

The exciting web name update
The web brainstorming continues. Oh, such excitement. Can you feel it build? Today I had the thought that I might just throw a dart at my evergrowing list. Or maybe -- pin the tail on the web name?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A name, a name, my kingdom for a name!

This website domain name business ... crazy! Still brainstorming. Officially inviting you to join me! Comments, emails, whatevs. Want to hear the list? Of COURSE you do. And I'm just gonna keep adding (I don't mean that to sound threatening, really). I'd set tomorrow as my deadline ... not written in stone, but how long do I want to drag this out. How long do YOU want to be hearing about it? So the list (all are available), with some comments....

It started conventionally:
  • shanamcgough.com - easy, professional and available, but I'm increasingly not wanting to use my last name; but it's not an easy name and I don't have deep attachment to it (with all due respect, it's been perfectly upstanding for three-plus decades)
  • shanamarie.com - still my name, simple, using "marie" would be new, but OK by me; but it doesn't feel quite as professional or something - as one friend put it - it's just too pretty
  • shanamm.com - yeah ... simpler but kinda clunky
Slightly branched out:
  • shanawithwords, shanaofwords, wordsbyshana - possible, not totally grabbing me
Then, I branched out a little more, came up with wordstorm, which I love (taken). But:
  • word-storm available - don't love the idea of using a hyphen, you'd always have to SAY it, less simple
Then, while reading a restaurant review, I hit wordbiscuit, which I really kinda love (also taken). But
  • word-biscuit
  • wordbiscuits
So, then I starting thinking food, elements, what are things I dig ... the door busted open. So:
  • wordpearl
  • pearlsofwords
  • darkwordchocolate
  • worddough
  • wordspeare (tho wordspear taken) - kind of cool, but presumptuous?
  • wordopal
Ooh, just breaking:
  • worddisco
More to come ... you know it!

Like:
  • glossywords
  • wordsandlime
  • wordfuzzy (like, warm fuzzy, get it??)
  • worddream
  • wordbutter
Hey, it's brainstorming....

For Justin (the big firefighter brother)

So, yesterday wasn't solely tears and barf, there was other stuff, but it required picture-loading, which didn't occur until today. This post, as titled, would be for my brother, who may or may not read this, but the pictures are here for him in any case.














So, there was the cool old fire engine....






















































And, fire helmets, they had a thing for fire helmets, hanging from the ceiling ...
















Displayed in cases (check out the sign -- 1865!)...






















Even just a whole box box o' them, guess they hadn't found homes yet ...
















Cool museum, definitely a labor of love, work in progress. There was an old fireguy there, telling stories, but he had a captive audience of a bunch of kids, so I didn't get any myself....

OK, and still in theme (thank you, hydrant), but when I talk about how cold it's been, let our puddles speak for themselves....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

When everything's teary ... and/or barfy

Warning: not a post with any conclusions.

I don't know the what then or what next or what-all conclusion. Some days, some days you apparently need to lay on the floor and cry. Or maybe just tear. Even when your face is in the sun. And sometimes, you don't really know why. So it sometimes goes. And so you tear. And when you open your eyes, the tears flow down into your ears. So then you have ears full of tears. Rhyme-y and ultimately, soggy.

***

This thing called life, what do you think it's all about? Really? I'm not being rhetorical, really, I want to hear. Ever have the feeling you get it on some levels, but are missing it on others? What're those blank levels about?

I'm pretty sure the gatos know, but they aren't telling.

***

Turns out, it's apparently a hard-on-the-bodily-fronts kind of day for all. Both gatos, barfing. There's a message here, somewhere ... anyone? anyone?

Friday, December 11, 2009

And what did YOU see in the world today?

Just a few observations from our strange and wonderful world as I close out my Friday ...
  • An interesting mural on the side of an Allston pizza joint:
    A green, nature-y background with the question "Is this it?"in all caps. And below it two YES and NO checkboxes next to each other. OK, not so very odd. But, in the background, a Santa Claus figure...? I don't get it.

  • A storefront sign I always misread in Newton:
    It's really Bead Art, not Dead Art, yet every time I see it....

  • Today in the middle of Pilates class, I look out the windows near the top of the back wall and see a large, chopped-off tree trunk. Hanging out amongst its shortened, stumpy limbs are two squirrels. They sit, munching on something, watching the class. I am quite sure we are a squirrel movie; they've got their popcorn equivalent, we are their live action.

  • And, it's really, quite, for-suredly, freaking cold outside. Someone flipped the winter switch in a big way. It was 24 degrees out tonight, but with wind, putting it somewhere in the teens, I'm sure. Ah yes, it officially feels like 9 degrees outside, folks. Nine. Impressive.

  • What wonders did you see and feel in the world today?
Congratulations on finishing the workweek. Here's to lovely weekending. Due something grand for yourself, preferably right NOW.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's the simple things

I really like toast.

It's so simple. So tasty in its buttery goodness. Some days, life should just be more like toast. We should ALL be more like toast. Perhaps I will make that my goal today: to be like toast. I'll let y'all know how that goes.

Now, take the gatos. They're totally toastlike. (Except when Willa turns evil at nightfall and stalks poor, giant, marshmallowy Sucio around the house. Altho, to be fair, at times Sucio decides what would be REALLY fun is to play with Willa. Like -- chase her! Yeah, yeah, let's chase her! The results are predictable.)

Oh my god. Let's take a break from butter-melty warm toasty-toast for a moment. You know what I just found out? Saturday morning at 7 a.m. it will feel like 10 degrees outside. Um, 10? TEN? Guys, that's cold. Guys ... I might be done rowing (til the thaw ... of the not-yet river freeze).

OK, let's get back to the toast. Know what helps with channeling inner toastness? Lying on your floor and having the sun hit your face. Know what puts the butter on that toast? Lying snuggled up with your cat and having her purr to you. OK, in the name of species equality, I bet having any species purring in your arms would put the melted butter on your toast. And, um, really, I don't mean that sexually. It just came out that way.

Today was a day of much brainstorming. Much with the index cards and the giant post-its (remember those?? they're beginning to fill their destiny!). And the thinking and the writing. And some with the Interneting. It's all very much in the yummy-and-goopy-but-raw-eggs-in-the-dough phase as of yet, so I'll hold off salmonella poisoning any of y'all. That would be bad. The first blogger to literally sicken and kill off her readers. Sure, there'd be a certain notoriety there, a certain fame, but bet I'd have a hard time finding new readers! Unless it would be like the women-taking-up-with-convicted-scary-felons-in-jail phenomena ... maybe it would skyrocket my readership.... OK, and just maybe? There's enough brainstorming that's happened in my day. May be time to turn the brain OFF!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remarkables

OK. suddenly, I have this recurring problem. It's after (AFTER) 10 p.m., and we all know all things being right in the world, I should be asleep, but I'm not, I'm just starting my post because I just can't not say hi, and this is the SECOND night in the row this has happened!

The culprits:

3 hours of out-loud reading (Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic again, love it), followed by an inquiry about volunteering directly through them (rather than through BostonCares, this super-cool kind of clearinghouse agency that's essentially volunteer by calendar, so great and non-overwhelming), which led to the guy excitedly doing a 30-minute pitch ... yeah ... guy, I'm already ASKING, no pitch needed! So, home late.

Oh, one other recording note, no, make that two -- tonight's assignment was reading the Notes from the back of a James Fenimore Cooper bio. I kid you not. There were some extensive notes, man. And, two, apparently "iconography"is really difficult for me to pronounce. I had many laughing fits, many stops, rewinds, re-records as I tried to get it right, and my patient volunteer partner tried not to laugh.

And then, then, Culprit No. 2: this cool new community I'm suddenly a part of, I've mentioned before (to be referenced henceforth as Remarkables) ... there's just so much there! Interesting people doing cool things, helping each other, giving support and insight and feedback and resources. So much for my little spinning brain to mull and ponder.

So, ZIP, did you see that? That was time ... you (and I) just got streaked by time.

I don't have a website name to whip out with a flourish yet, but I'm getting good feedback, I'm mulling, I'm brainstorming. I'm aiming for a decision by Monday, if not before. And no, that doesn't mean everyone can send last-minute votes on Monday, dang it.

(GASP) I was ALMOST ready to wrap up and I ALMOST forgot to talk about the WEATHER! I'll keep it short: This morning? We had:
1) snow
2) rain
3) sleet
4) hail?
5) winda, LOTSA wind

It was downright excitin'! The snow stopped pretty early, and it eventually turned to rain, then just wind, so everything's washed/blown away ... but it was a good, interesting weather day. You will see the key accessories of the day....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Four things

OK. The first thing I have to tell you is that IT IS SO DANG HOT IN MY HOUSE. The radiators are, like, nearly smoking. And, no, I can't actually turn them down or off. But I DID just open the window. Heaven! The relevant factoids I should share are:

1) I live in a 104-year-old building
2) There is ONE thermostats for all five condos
3) I do not control it

The second thing I have to tell you is ... it happened today.
(You're all wondering - oh god, is it something about the weather? again? that girl and the weather! or is it rowing again...? could it be a job something??)
So I get all ready and gathered, get in my car, drive there, stand outside and think ... nahhhhh. So sad.
I'm standing on the boathouse dock, it's sunny, beautiful and cold. There's a bit of a breeze whipping, the air already feels close to frigid, and I'm thinking ... nahhhhh, even though I so want to row! I'm not at complete surrender yet, not yet, but tomorrow promises snow, rain and wind, so no attempt tomorrow. Maybe Thursday?? ??

The third thing: Other excitement of the day -- today was voting day, a special election to replace Ted Kennedy's seat in the Senate. There are 4 Democrats running, 1 I easily discarded, but I was torn between the other 3. But I decided. Because it's late and my knowledge isn't as sharp as it should be, I'll leave it at that. Election Day! I voted!

The last random thing I'll share is ... I'm torn all ovah the place about a website name! Availablities include: shanamcgough.com, shanamarie.com, shanam.net, shanamm.com, shanawithwords.com, shanaofwords.com, shanawords.com. Or some other shana+ something that hasn't dawned on me. I know I want my name in it, and I'm leaning away from my last name. shanamarie.com was my first lean. I don't want to be so specific to use "writes" or "edits," I want to keep it short and simple, clear but not so specific I have to worry/change if my focus shifts. And it's not just me debating which sounds better, there are some good articles out there making me think about how will I use the website, how do I think traffic will come there, branding v easily searchable names ... many other thoughts, but I think we'd ALL rather I not recreate the articles here in this post. Anyway. Anyone have a strong opinion, voice it now, and don't be miffed it I do the opposite.

UPCOMING TOPIC: boxing
Yes. Get excited. Not as in men pummeling each other and blood flying. No, not that. But me and my love of boxing classes! Yes! Yay! Since rowing talk is going to fade down to me moping, you'll still hear plenty about weather, but in addition to my Saturday class I've been hooked on (ha! "hook"ed on? get it? like, left hook ... oh, never mind) for ... hm, over a year now? I found a new class tonight at another gym, so much more to come, I'm sure. Note: one woman told me I looked fierce or ferocious or something. I thought it very funny. Awesome. Hey - there's a website: ferociousshana? shanatheferoicious? Fantastic way to rake in freelance clients....

Monday, December 7, 2009

The head, she spins (But not like in The Exorcist. Not like that.)

Today was a bit about headspinning and some overwhelm. It's bound to happen. The good news is, I have some pathways to follow to lead me out. As I think about what I want not just out of the right-now phase of my life, but the "what am I seeking/building here," I know what the key elements are: Writing. Words. Editing. Communication. Gaining and fostering understanding. Really nailing what someone's trying to get across. Really having a sense of the intended audience and talking to them directly, reaching them, affecting them. These are beautiful things that I get super excited about. It's great to be a word dork.

But, the good thing is at least I know what work I need to be doing. And, I can do this for most anyone, but I'm going to be more effective if I like and understand the subject matter I'm communicating. Which brings me to the fitness/wellness/healthcare realm where I've spent my professional life thus far. And, I do have a soft spot for nonprofits that are striving to make this world better. (If only we could all be so motivated -- not that we all have to do so professionally, but to have some shared intent within ourselves we could access and act on -- to make things better, to improve, to help.) Anyway, it's nice to look back and see a connecting professional thread in my life! It's all stuff I like, I'm interested in, I have passion for. It is still a pretty large realm, but better than "well, anything."

So, I have some sense of direction, This is good. But then ... it's a pretty wideopen world! So many ideas, so many ways to go about -- do I go talk to that person or this one? Wait, talk to both, right. But not at the same time, no. Do I do that right now? Or do I research my list of organizations? Oh wait, what about those 5 pages of great notes I jotted down when talking to that person a few months ago, I should go back to that. Oh -- I was supposed to follow up with that person. Wait, I didn't order those business cards yet! And how am I actually going to make money from this...? And on and on. True, these are the busy, jumbled thoughts most of us have in some form or another as we go about our daily work. I guess it's that usually there's someone to guide us and direct us as to what's most important, even if we don't agree. The beauty and overwhelm for me is that I can do it any damn way I want. But that's a lot of damn ways, potentially.

So, I go out and find wisdom, out there in cyberspace. There's a lot of it, which is great ... and sometimes overwhelming. So then you have to choose. I've made a few choices, and one of them has led me to this site/program/thing called Remarkable Marketing Blueprint. The person behind it talked about how she wished she'd had a step-by-step plan for how to go about it when she started a freelance copywriting business. And I'm like, yeah, I could use a step-by-step something! I like her site, I like her blog, there's a low monthly price, and I'm like, let's do this. Just the sense that I have a path and a plan, following someone who's done this, and getting access to a community of a few hundred other folk who are also aiming to do this, well, it makes it a little easier.

So, today, was diving into the first lesson, spending time on the site, absorbing, feeling my head spin and swirl. And doing a little of my own outreach as well. Key stuff. And hey, sometimes I forget, but this is exciting stuff, too. Thanks for listening -- today's probably not the most entertaining post, but it's deep in what my day's been sunk in. And if I haven't said this lately or at all, I love this blog. I love being able to write every day, knowing some of y'all might just stop by, so I want to have some words ready for you. I really dig it. Thanks for being part of my support net and for reading whenever you're able to.

***

All right, enough serious stuff ... let's talk about ... the WEATHER! How I've come to love weather! It's COLD out there! Frosty air hovering outside the door all day long. In fact ... [toe scuff] ... [whispering] I didn't even row today. I was gonna. I was. But ... my throat is achy, my head is spinny (not with illness, just info), and I woke up with a killer neck ache, ow, for real. So, the afternoon came and passed ... and ... I decided I'd go for a run. Which I did with fleece gloves, hat and sweatshirt on! Soon stripped down, but still -- key winter indicator. And, weather.com's saying this is how it's gonna be. I'm not totally done rowing yet, but it may be upon me sooner than I want to admit. I aim to try tomorrow afternoon. There just comes a point where the danger of flipping and hypothermia is too strong a fear. So wimpy, I know. I'd sure like to get to the 400s mileage-speaking. Think there's only about another 20 to go....

OK. I have some index card brainstorming to be done, and I think my neck is clamoring for a hot bath. Stay warm out there (Californians, I'm not talking to you!)!

***

Post-bath, I have to tack one more thing on -- the amazing people I'm so fortunate to know (yes, I'm talking to you reading this) and the amazing insights and wisdom you share, not to mention the piles of love and support ... it positively humbles me. This brought on my a message from my dad sharing some kind words for me about resiliency. It feels gooey-sappy to say, but I have so much, and it's ultimately just all pretty darn great, this thing called life. OK, I'll try to be really hardass tomorrow as a balance.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A winter's day

The snow- and ice-coated branches on all the trees glitter in the sun. Blue skies today. Not a lot of accumulation, but definitely snow. Look out the window -- you live in a place that snows. Look out the window -- you know that winter has opened the door and stepped through the threshold.

I keep thinking about the homeless man who's been sleeping near the boathouse along the river. Heading in to the party last night, I saw someone shuffling along the river, I suspect him. Did he find shelter? Did all the homeless living outdoors find shelter, even in this era of budget cuts and shelter cutbacks? I wonder. I don't know how to help this problem that we've all come to accept as a part of our modern world, me as much as anyone.

***

I look at the weather for the next 10 days. Hi, winter. Highs in the low 40s some days, mostly 30s, lows in the 20s. I look at hourly weather for the next few days, I see low wind ... and cold. What's a cautious rower to do? For now, row cautiously, realize I'm in my final rows until March.

Took a fun fieldtrip to Pawtucket, Rhode Island -- my first-ever time there! Enjoyed a friendly pub, attempted to walk along the river in Providence but it was brrrrrrrr out -- turns out, winter's doing more than stepping through the threshold. Wound up stumbling upon RISD (that's said riz-dee, W Coasters, as in Rhode Island School of Design) Museum's free holiday open house. My favorite was the exhibit inviting viewers to make a clay pot in remembrance of someone lost. I made one for Michael. As with most of my crafts efforts, it wasn't pretty -- but it DID have good thought/meaning/story behind it. I intentionally allowed some of the clay at the bottom to split and tear, my reasoning being -- loss ISN'T pretty and neat, it's a hole torn open, gaping, jagged, painful, not pretty to live through, messy, like life and emotions.... Now, if only I could've written an essay and left it alongside, right?? It was cool to see all the other pots there from folks who had passed through.

Driving down to Rhode Island was such a classic winter postcard. The trees alongside the road prettily snow-dusted, sparkling in the bright sun, the ground beneath dusted with bright-white snow. I WAS the born-and-bred- Californian exclaiming "wow!" "oh my GOD!" and even "it's fucking beautiful!" Yes, I was that girl. It was gorgeous. But cold; I had gloves in my coat pockets, even if I didn't bust them out quite yet.

Planning on rowing tomorrow afternoon at its warmest, mid-30s.... Not much water time left, not much.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snow!

Winter Weather Advisory for Southeast Middlesex, MA
from 7 pm EST, Sat., Dec. 5, 2009 until 7 am EST, Sun., Dec. 6, 2009
Issued by The National Weather Service
Boston, MA


Exciting, no?? Not the first snow of the season, god knows we got that during my race at Head of the Charles! But still ... snow! Yep, it still thrills me. Probably because, after all, I didn't move to North Dakota or anything, not even upstate New York or Maine. What that means, W Coasters, is that, sure it snows here, but it doesn't SNOW snow here.

Walking outside this morning, it felt like snow was coming. True, I knew snow was forecast, but there is a feel to the air and sky and light when snow's coming. Almost a certain thickness that presages the coming blanket of white.

It'll come as no surprise to anyone who's read a few of my postings to hear that I love weather advisories. They're ... so exciting ... so filled with promise. In fact, I'm going to share one with you! Just look at their all caps! I'll edit down, leave the exciting parts, how's that? If you skip over, I won't even know. (OK, because some parts are SO exciting so as not to be missed, I'm making them red! Oops, red!)

... WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 7 PM THIS EVENING TO 7 AM EST SUNDAY...

RAIN IN RHODE ISLAND AND EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS WILL GRADUALLY CHANGE TO SNOW ... PROBABLY ... IN THE INTERSTATE 95 CORRIDOR FROM WESTERLY TO PROVIDENCE AND BOSTON... BETWEEN 4 PM AND 7 PM.
SNOW IS EXPECTED TO FALL HEAVILY FOR A TIME THIS EVENING BEFORE TAPERING OFF BETWEEN 3 AM AND 6 AM. STORM TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS ARE EXPECTED TO RANGE FROM 2 TO 5 INCHES... BUT LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS ARE POSSIBLE DEPENDING ON THE DEVELOPMENT AND PLACEMENT OF HEAVY SNOW BANDS.
THE SNOW MAY BE WET AND HEAVY AND THIS COULD ALLOW FOR SCATTERED POWER OUTAGES TONIGHT. THERE IS A LOW PROBABILITY THAT A PORTION OF THIS WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MAY HAVE TO BE UPGRADED TO A WINTER STORM WARNING IF IT LOOKS AS THOUGH SNOW AMOUNTS WILL BE HIGHER.

More Information
... FIRST PLOWABLE SNOWFALL OF THE SEASON FOR MUCH OF SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND LATE TODAY AND ESPECIALLY TONIGHT...

The rowing part
During the morning's row, I do my usual pauses to stretch my back, stretch my hamstrings (best as I can while remaining upright in a boat), gaze around me, marvel at the river, drink some water. (This might be part of the reason why I'm not so very fast. Too much stopping to drink in, literally and figuratively.) I'm slowly realizing my favorite part of the river is at the farther upstream point, which means every time I get up there, I don't want to turn around and head back, I'm always tempted to go a little farther. And then on the way back, my back will remind me it's only so strong as of yet.

[Commercial break for emergency watering of the drooped-over plant in the living room, Seven. Sorry, Seven!]

But, it's beautiful up there -- wilder somehow, even with the same roads running along both sides of the river ... it's just less trafficked. On the way up, I stop short in laughing surprise at two ducks perched on a branch protruding from the river. Just hanging out on the branch, you know, as ducks so often do. Passing under the farthest upstream bridge, Arsenal St, I see my favorite rowing graffiti (the undersides of the bridges carry the paint of rowers' words, taunts, pride, jokes): "anything is possible," in green all caps. True in rowing, true in life.

On the way back, passing under the Weeks bridge, the tight turn, I plow into the midst of a flock of geese, who immediately begin honking and scolding. I stop and laugh, I see their point, but this is where I have to be to stay on the right side of the river and get home. They part, annoyed.

At another stretch, as I stop and look around, I am struck by the palette of mostly greys to browns in varying hues. The water, a deep grey, maybe even black; the gravel along the water's edges, a deep grey, fading lighter, chalkier as it recedes from the water. The trunks and spiky tree branches are nearly all variants of grey to brown, a few darker rust patches where leaves were red, a few slender white trunks interspersed among the greys and browns. Occasionally , a few splashes of green yet -- in the trees that look to be pine-y, in some moss along the banks, in patches of grass on an embankment across the road. A vivid spot of iridescent green in the nearby mallard's head. Otherwise, the hues are mostly drab, similar, but on a closer look, a whole spectrum of hues, even within these few shades. There's a stark winter beauty to the landscape, maybe it's the signal of passing time, or of our season of cold and hibernation, a brief death before renewal.

Post-row

Afterward, home, showered, oatmeal eaten, I sit in jeans and soft t-shirt, hearing the radiators cozily hiss, listening to the slightly otherworldly/medieval chanty Dead Can Dance, happily tired after the row (8 miles! now up to 319) and work partying (lest you get the wrong idea, this would be for my mandated boathouse volunteer hours, today's consisted of sweeping floors and bagging large piles of leaves). Uncharacteristically, all I really want to do is sleep and cozily wait to welcome the coming snow. But -- things to do! Peppermint brownies to make for tonight's boathouse party. A choice of which black dress to wear. A local arts sale I want to hit. Trips out for photocopying and cat food. Plans to be hashed out for tomorrow. All the exciting things I must do. There's also my beloved boxing class, even as I feel tuckered and sleepy right about now. I'm drinking Awake tea to help matters. And switch on the light to see if that helps matters....

Post-post
Post-party, late for me, wanted to share a few photos ... no, not of the party, I'm not really slick enough to take photos of actual PEOPLE yet.

This was from Friday's row.













And these, from my deck tonight....


Friday, December 4, 2009

Just a few blips

You think I'm a little crazy (fair enough, see blog title), or a little exaggeratedly (also fair enough, I do get excited), but in this case, I'm neither! Yes, this is about the weather again. But listen -- yesterday we BROKE a RECORD, that's exciting, right? 69 degrees, think it was, topping our previous high for that date of 65. And it was 70 somewhere or other. And then, THEN, I read that it's gonna snow tomorrow! See! This is just weather awesomeness. Nice & sunny out now, so I'll get in a row today and tomorrow morning ... then we'll see! Maybe I'll ice skate the river Sunday! (Kidding on every level there.)

***

Ohhhhh ... that's the sound of a tired rower, or of any rower, really, past the 10:00 hour ... and it's almost left that hour behind entirely! Ouch. Went to a charity holiday party in E Boston, our rowing club is in the same Senator's district and he does a big toy/money donation event every year. Open bar, pretty darn good food, a large room filled with toys -- not bad! But my brain cells have gone to sleep. And the gatos are fighting, sigh. I do believe this day is over!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A wonder a minute

I awake to the sound of steady rainfall, feeling contentment -- what better sound to awake to? I see red Severe Weather Warnings on weather.com -- strong winds! lotsa rain! Then sitting on my couch, beginning my efforts of the day, is that a patch of -- blue sky? And there's the sun, streaming through the front windows. But of course.

A few hours later, as I head out the door for Pilates, it's warm. WARM. Do you know how odd this sensation is on the third day of December?? I had no jacket anywhere near me, and running home was downright for-real warm. In fact, I decided it was summer -- running along in short sleeves and strong sun, that's a fair decision.

So, from now on, I think I'll solely blog about the weather. Every day, near to every minute, there's always something fascinating happening.

I'm kidding. Not about the fascination, but I'll try to keep weather as only one segment.

***

It's later now, quiet but for Robert Johnson's ancient-sounding blues. Not sure what it is about this music that gets me, but it's something fundamental. Willa's trying to climb into my lap atop the laptop, Sucio is probably at his usual post, sitting in front of the stove/dishawasher in the darkened kitchen, expectant. I can't tell if it's abject food disappointment or if there are little mice running back there that he's waiting for. Neither possibility makes me happy.

Some more of the same vein of progress today, but no new exciting stories to tell. Just the increasing sense that if I were able to support myself through writing, freelancing or contracted but in some way with freedom built in, boy, would that make me happy.... Willa, she'd rather eat the envelope next to us on the couch. Sucio? He'd rather eat any damn thing.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Progress, there's progress

Oh, such excitement in one day. Little possibilities burbling up, good stuff, but also makes me aware of "stuff" I as yet need to pull together. Like making final decision on business cards, and getting them ordered already. Like those suggestions a few folks made to think about creating a website, pulling together a showcase of my work ... well, as it turns out, when folks approach you about potentially freelancing ... the first thing they want to see? Your work. Of course. This isn't a surprise, I've certainly pulled together and submitted writing samples before, but as I look to freelancing in a new way, I have a new sense of a need for a higher level of professionalism, which suddenly feels front and center. I take my writing seriously, I care about it deeply, and I need that to come across to others, especially those who might be thinking about giving me money for the words I plunk down for them. All quite obvious, but there's nothing like a potential prospect to shift me into high gear and scramble to get myself pulled together. Yeah. But -- yes, I have a potential possibility! An agency I respect deeply and greatly, so it's pretty exciting. Thus all the stronger my desire to come across professionally. And I'm already getting some grand assistance on the "so maybe I need a website" front, so that's awesome and deeply appreciated.

In a funny testament to raining/pouring, I also got a response from the associate editor position I applied for, also looking for writing samples. Naturally. And the theme today, boys and girls.... But it's great and exciting to have some nibbles and maybes, so I'll take it, even with the added stress of "I've gotta get my act (more) together!"

The inevitable rowing update
Eight-mile tow today, so I've crossed over the 300-mile mark with my own miles! So I'm probably at 350 with everyone's miles. It was gorgeous when I launched, the flat water you keep hearing me go on endlessly about (but if you could only feel it), sunny/warm (all fleece layers quickly removed), temps heading for 50s ... so yep, this meant a mini trip to the basin again! Only went as far as Mass Ave bridge, as water was picking up a little. As high, light clouds moved in, I got a dim reflection of a weak winter sun on dark water. Winter is surely hovering, right up there in the clouds diminishing the sun's rays.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A cookie sandwich of cool

Two cool experiences today, with a row sandwiched in the middle.

The first, a visit to two of my friend Sam's sixth-grade classes where he teaches music. I got to be the guest and thus interviewed by the kids. The 12-year-old South Boston charter school, serving grades 5 to 12, has a simple mission: to get its kids to college. I didn't get hard numbers, but in talking to an 11-year-tenure teacher, it's apparently succeeding. There's a lottery to get in (the only requirement is that the kids live in Boston), and its standardized scores are good and rising.

Schools are a fascinating, entertaining world, especially for those of us who don't live a daily existence there. The kids were great. They asked interesting questions that I won't be able to remember the bulk of, but about me, my life, my interests, my work, my challenges, my family ... and whether I liked stuffed artichokes (that was one of my favorites). They grilled me a little on leaving my job -- why hadn't it worked? With a follow-up question to let me know that the convenient adult phrase "it wasn't a good fit" just wasn't going to fly in these kids' serious reality.

As for the creme-filling row between the cookies of the day's experiences, it was one where I debated turning around most of the the way out. It was a split personality day where the sun was brightly shining, sky was blue blue blue, and it was cold. A breeze was running, not terrible, but enough to make me think about turning back every mile or so. And then I would hit a patch of river silk, and find myself unable to stop, not yet, then a gust of wind and roughed-up water, OK, maybe I should, then more irresistible glide. I stopped at the mark for a 6-mile roundtrip and basked in the sun, the stillness of the river. A squirrel busily foraged near the waterline, ducks floated on the surface, a few bottom-up doing their own foraging. The way back offered a lot more smooth water for glide, more warmth, much less wind, but this time, I knew what waited on the other side if I were tempted to add more miles. Two bridges away from the boathouse, a flock of geese flew low overhead, a formation of seven.

The bottom-layer cookie was a new book reading for The Good Men Project. Two of the contributors were in attendance, one a man who was adopted from a NY orphanage when he was two, with two other siblings adopted from Korea. He was a former Army Ranger who survived his sister's suicide, his recovery from addiction, and subsequent transformation into a yogi, a husband and a father. The other contributor was a poet with braids; he shared his memories as a child listening to the women in his mother's beauty salon, how it cast an impression of what male-female relationships were and set the stage for some of his beliefs about relationships and gender that took a little work and releasing/reformulating later in life.

Both contributors were entertaining, well-spoken and inspiring, as were the book's editors who were also present. They've presented the book in NY and Boston and will go to LA next week to continue a dialog about what it means to be a good man in our world and the work that needs to be done yet. They recently took the book to Sing Sing prison and shared stories with life-sentence convicted murderers, realized their commonalities, found unexpected compassion. It was awesome. Oh, and proceeds of the book go to a foundation to help at-risk men and boys mainly, but girls as well. Check it out at www.goodmenproject.com. Inspiring stuff.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The eyes are crossed

(Little black xx's? Tongue poking out mouth? Maybe.)

Wow, the day, it did a GOOD disappearing act on me! Like, not your average, going pretty fast, whoops, it's gone. No, like it VANISHED. I suspect several hours of computer work/Internet searching helped do the trick. In fact, because my butt (sorry for the adult content) has taken on the exact form of the couch, and I think each side of me is coated in gato fur from each respective gato flanking me ... I had to up and move ... a whole room away ... hello, kitchen table!

So, what do I have to report? Mainly what you already know, that many hours of computer work and research makes you tired, makes your eyes cross and brain swirl ... and makes your butt conform to the shape of the couch. Don't have any shiny exciting finding to dangle before your collective eyes, but I found some good information, blogs and newsletters from all those smart people out on the InterWeb, already doing what I seek to do. Operation Don't Reinvent Wheel, in other words. Which reminds me of my idea for Operation De-procrastinate. Remind me to tell you about that one....

In other news, I'm down to my last birthday brownie, but they've lasted THIS long! A miracle! Hear that, mom? (She'd comment, but she's having comment troubles. We'll see if we can't fix that at Christmastime. And then my blog will be complete with mother comments. Hm. Do we want this??)

Today brought more rain, that's pretty exciting, right? Managed to get on the water first. The wind was rearing her ugly, unlikeable head (only when I'm on the water, I swear, I dig her EVERY other time), but temps were warm, definitely warmer than the projected low 40s, so it was frustrating to not get more time and mileage on the water. Mileage alert! I'm at ... 2 ... (I just forgot!) ... 2 ... 89! 289! And guest mileage is ... (crap) ... 48, I think! Gettin' there, gettin' there. Anyway, the water, it be cold. Cold. I dipped my hand in to splash water on the creaking oarlock and ... it was cold. Not pleasant to think of one's body immersed in that. The time, it's coming....

An interesting little river note on perspective -- from one side of river to next, I was reminded there can be totally different conditions, like little micro microclimates. Heading upstream, I was keeping a close eye on water surface and wind bursts (I'm a safety gal ... just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman ... wait, no, not quite like that) and finally decided I should head back. So I spin, head downstream, the water's great, where's the wind? So I decide to do another mile lap in the middle, cross the river ... whoosh! Wind! Little waves! And we're not remotely talking a giant open stretch of river here, maybe ... OK, I'm TERRIBLE with distance, but not that far! Like ... 50 feet across? (I'll have you know I'm mentally imaging how many lengths of my brother it would take to cross the river. Yes, the Charles River, as measured in Justins.) Other note, the feel of the water today ... something about it, it just felt good, grabbing the oar blade just so. Even with the wind (which wasn't that bad) it just felt comfortable.... I think I am getting a weeny bit more comfortable rowing in wind, and the warm temps were reassuring, the sun even broke through at one point, and probably being off the water for 3 days helped (2 days of high winds, and yesterday, after my first return to the Harvard stadium in 6 months, then yoga ... I just couldn't....).

The last note of significance (deep significance, mind you) would be that my body is helpfully pointing out about 20 ways in which I'm not in great shape, thank you, Harvard stadium walking tour and boxing class for the reminders. Made it to a Pilates class today -- it's been a LONG time, used to go all the time, now I'm like, what's with all the breathing, now? Do what with my leg, arm, head, torso? All at once? But winter, she's a -comin', gotta start branching out for the river freeze (sad puppy-dog eyes)....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A love of words, a reality check ... and some gooey mud

I'm heading into Week 5. Seems impossible, but there it is. Every day, I'm enjoying this time and space and choices. Every day, I'm making choices with my space and time. I'm making good choices; I continue to feel this sense of return, of coming back to myself. In this same time and space, I need to pay attention and act on this growing instinct, of this need to write -- in different ways, with some freedom, to seek both pro bono and paying, in new and familiar industries, on varying topics and materials -- in short, to really start exploring freelance writing/editing.

In a professional online profile, I listed myself as a freelance writer and editor. Someone asked me in an admiring vein how one gets to be a freelance writer. My laughing response was that, while there are many paths, in my case, one quits a challenging job that one is not a good fit for. And voila, a professional freelance writer/editor is born! So simple, so complicated.

But moving beyond mere words to the actual doing, that freelancing of the writing and editing -- that's simple and complicated as well. Simple in some ways, as through word of mouth, which begins with friends and others I know. A friend, refining his cover letter for a much-hoped-for job -- "hey, could you take a look?" Yay, editing! Other friends, busy with grad school applications -- "hey, deadline's tight, but could you...?" Yay, more editing! Another friend, with a dream of a book project -- "what do you think...?" Could be fun..!

Having the capacity and ability to apply these skills I've honed through my work at college, my years at the magazines, my years as an editor in a corporate environment, and my lifetime of simply reading and writing, is a pleasure, all the more so for those I know, who help me in turn, and who are helping me build my story -- "so, what kind of writing and editing have you been doing since leaving your last position?"

Next, scarier steps are pushing our farther, finding others/organizations (yes, paying) where I can apply these skills, see if I can support myself in a new way with my love of words. It feels like a huge world, of wideopen, abundant opportunity. It also feels like a huge world, with high-walled mazes and doubleback turns, unknown etiquette and rules, and a few quagmires along the way. Perhaps this is why I've been standing along the edge, wanting to poke my toes in the gooey mud because it's fun and who knows what surprises lurk, but then -- who actually wants to poke their toes in mud that contains surprises, no matter how fun the goo?? Well, apparently I do. Time to go a mud-wadin'.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The irony of wanting

I'm sitting here thinking about ironies. And of course we can't think about irony is this day and age without the accompanying soundtrack of Alanis Morrisette's Ironic. Though catchy, the song always makes me stop and think about the words too much, wondering -- is that situation really ironic, Alanis?

But, having looked up irony in two online dictionaries, I now feel better about her use of irony. So, if nothing else, every time I hear that song going forward, it should be easier listening for me. That's an important result from my labors here. For the record, dictionaries yielded:
• coincidental; unexpected
• the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
• incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result

But none of that was really my point. About irony. In my case, I was thinking of the third definition. About how who we are and who we project may in some cases be ironic (incongruous). About how what we think we want and actually want might also be incongruous.

What brought this to mind specifically was the wonderful world of online dating profiles (yes, they're wonderful, almost all of you will be nodding in agreement). For example, a vegetarian, peace-loving woman might get matched with a man whose greatest passions are "HUNTING AND FISHING." In all caps, no less. Or, a substance-craving woman might find a profile of a beautiful man, and only partial profile answers, or answers of no substance. Or, a person might find a profile that's laugh-out-loud funny, with the accompanying realization that short of being the last two people on the planet, there's just no way they could mate with the person in the photographs.

All of which led me to thinking about irony. About how what we want and what we find can be, well, ironic. Not well matched, in spite of all the efforts of an online matching service. And yet, how out in the "real" world, we can find either no one we encounter of interest, perhaps not being privvy to the self-marketing and inside information you gain from an online profile, so that you just KNOW before meeting the person that this SHOULD work, because you're just so well-aligned on paper.... Or, you find someone of tremendous interest and spend the whole time wondering as to their status, to learn later of their lovely partner (yes, Alanis, we feel your ironic pain).

So, is it online v real-world irony? Or is it an overarching, greater span of irony of that which we want is either so hard to find or perhaps so easy to find we can't see it before us? Or is it not findable because we don't know what we want, much as we protest otherwise?

Oh, the endless rabbit warrens of irony.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pie crusts and other life fragility

Happy Day After Turkey/Tofurkey/Thanking! I surely meant to post yesterday, but the morning brought a 10-mile row (SUCH flat gorgeousness of water! I got to head downstream again, through the sometimes-impossible/windswept basin -- I keep thinking "this is for-real my last row downstream" and then I get another. Conditions made me want to row forever, whereas many of my body parts were begging for a halt by the end), and then a whirlwind house tidying and an emerging pie crust crisis and frantic phone call to my mother (who handled with her usual genius skill), well, then my people started arriving, and we didn't seem to stop until after 11 p.m. So, the words just bounced around in my head. Oh, the shot to the left I took from my car on Comm Ave. on the way to rowing. I stopped at a light, looked over and saw the cornucopia of bread atop the electrical box and thought "wha-?", wondered if it were a Thanksgiving offering. I wouldn't even know how to prepare a suitable offering for all I have to give thanks for. Maybe an Everest-sized mountain of bread products, so please the gods?

I'm working on getting the "real deal" shots that Ellen took with the table fully set -- it was absolutely gorgeous, and just like the meal, the most amazing blend of Thanksgiving dishes (both food and china), pulled from the traditional (descendant of Southern family, in my case) and adapted (descendant of Guyanese and his own unique culture, in Sam's case, and in Ellen's, a blend of Eastern/Southern/Western U.S. background that shaped her and her approach to cooking). Here's at least see an aftermath shot that still shows off Sam's table artistry.

The favorite dish, incidentally, was Sam's adapted cheesy/rice/bean loaf. It's SO good. Lotsa cheese, black-eyed peas, some other beans, rice, spices ... SO good. Adapted from the recipe my mom found for a cheesy walnut loaf and his memory of his mom's bean loaf. Love it.

I didn't think to take a picture of the finished pie product until after we'd sliced and devoured, so I'll have to use mere words for what I think of as the "stubby" pie crust update. Bottom line, it was certainly edible. It wasn't pretty. It did cause me to briefly meltdown. I secretly was quite pleased with how well it was going prior to the rolling out. Hardly any handling of dough, minimum of water added, ball o dough formed, popped in the fridge. Yay. I got a dinner invite the night before, so didn't do the pie making then. Figured I'd get up and do it first thing, no prob. Well, by the time I got home that night ... got enough sleep ... realized no way was I sacrificing a long row in perfect conditions ... then got myself and house presentable for guests ... well, it was about half-hour before their arrival. Now, these are supremely lovable and loving mellow guests but, still, guests. And we had cooking to do!

So, I grab the dough outta the fridge, grab my marble rolling pin, flour everything to all get out, and try to roll. It cracks. I push back together. It seems too small! I hope. Then, opt for a smaller pie pan. I take a deep breath, I try to carefully yet confidently pry dough off surface (I floured! it's marble!). It comes off in pieces. I desperately try to drop it by pieces in the pie pan. I curse my confidence for not buying a premade crust as a backup. I swear at the dough, try again. F&%# it with the manhandling, I'm TOUCHING this dough! I form a ball. Flour, flour. I try again. I realize the world will not end if there is no pie, as my stubbornness simultaneously kicks in that this pie crust WILL be made! I call my mother in a panic. No answer. I contemplate grownup aloneness in the world. I mush the doughball between my palms. My mother calls back. I don't attempt to sound calm or collected. We realize MY recipe called for way less butter/Crisco (the glue, if you will) than hers -- how is this fair?? I started my first-ever pie crust attempt at a disadvantage?? Too late, too bad. She advises to add cream (then talks me down when I take the cream out and OH MY GOD IT'S SOLID! WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE CREAM?! It's probably too cold, she says, shake the container well. Oh. OK.), talks me through rolling out (pointing out that, apparently, you're supposed to let the dough WARM before rolling out. Oh. How would one KNOW such a thing??), gives me a few last-ditch options (oh, thank god for last-ditch options, thank everything for a mother who can provide them).

So, I flour, flour, flour, carefully, lightly (with a nigh 50-lb rolling pin) work the dough out, pausing to turn, turn, don't let it stick, roll, roll, pause, turn, turn, flour. It could/should be thinner and bigger, but I decide, I am done, I can't ask more of myself or the little dough ball. I carefully fold it in half (no breaking, exhale), carefully pry it up (no breaking, exhale), plop it in pie plate. It's not quite big enough, as I knew it would be, so I improv with my mom's last-ditch instructions to press it into the pan. So, the crust comes up the sides, but certainly doesn't do the crimped rim thing that most pie crusts do (mine's a trailblazer, naturally). I make the pecan filling easily, pour it in, stopping just below the stubby little pie crust (all the filling would've fit in the larger pie plate I just bought, but no matter), pop it in the oven. The pie and crust are declared tasty by all lovable and loving mellow guests. And my mom has promised to walk me through the process at Christmas, so I promise to all assembled to redo a pie post-Christmas. Anyone need a pie crust? I'll be needing the practice.

So, pie crust is a fragile thing. It will take practice, patience, guidance, a good recipe and plenty of flour to master. Like any/everything in life. Reading today's paper, I was struck by some much deeper life fragilities, offered/exposed for the world's reading (caring?). There's apparently a Chinese dissident who's being denied return to his homeland, though he's tried eight times. Finally, in despair, in protest, he's stopped at the Tokyo airport, refusing to pass through customs into Japan, refusing to cede defeat. So he lives in the airport, only wanting home. I wonder how he can possibly live. And then, an account of the increasingly harsher life turns for the homeless folks living along the river/under the bridges in LA. These people all came from, have/had families. They tried/try to make their way in the world. This is the best they can do for now. Poverty, addiction, physical and mental illnesses. This unimaginable, impossible life. My own life, so impossibly, wondrously, good. So full, so blessed in every way, from birth.

***

Today's holiday aftermath was lovely. Awoke to cozy, snuggle-in-and-stay rain and soft grey skies. Spent the morning reading the paper over multiple cups of tea, flanked by Sucio (WIlla isn't much for leaving bed these days, making her, once and forever, Bed Cat). Perfect setting to fight back the whisperings of a cold that tried to push their way back into my throat. Lovely, loungey day. Took a stroll through the neighborhood at dusk, found a few more spots to check out. I love the glimpses of people's homes and lives as I walk by, all the stories and living happening within. Ellen and I were just talking about this as we did a post-dinner stroll yesterday. One of the things I dig so much about the Boston area generally, is the combination of all its compactness with its twisty-turny-ness, so that I can still get lost in my own neighborhood, still find new spots nearby, emerge in a place I can't anticipate, then recognize with laughter. I love that about this place. In a world of fragility and unknowns, some of them can be delights, alongside the heartbreaks.

Again with testing

Patience, patience, I do this all for you....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The sentinels

OK, to get into the proper mindset here, you'll need to channel Oscar the Grouch, singing his furry, green little heart out: " 'cause I loooovvvvvve trash!" That gives you a snapshot of my morning.

I know because you mostly all know and mostly all adore me, you thought you'd get a certain level of ... depth ... or thoughtfulness? with this blog. Important, worldly thoughts from the East Coast? No, no, you sure don't. You get Oscar the Grouch singing about trash. But that's how I started my day, so it seemed appropriate.

Let me explain: We have five trash barrels that live along the side of our building, and I'm pretty sure only I and the family above use them. Guess who generates more trash? But, in good neighborly spirit, we're all supposed to rotate taking the trash out ... except among the five units, I think we're the only ones using, so you can see how the rotation might not exactly be even. But that's a side note. From time to time, we have random trash that accumulates, that everyone refuses to deal with in a perfectly unspoken way. This would be things like: bags of leaves (two of which were from last year, swear to god), some ancient hockey sticks that arrived one day, a recycling bin that's been filled with so much crap (recycling, sure, plus leaves and dirt and branches and trash ... I don't get it either), you know, fun things like that. So this morning was the breaking point -- no more! I was going to deal with all the stupid trash piles myself before another winter came and they were all snowed under for another year. Hence, the trash song. It was kind of rejuvenating, really. Rubber gloves and all.

And, I want to reassure you that I was out and showered and running errands and then back home, all before 10 a.m. Yes. And I made some exciting forays into procuring business cards for myself, for the freelance/new world of it all. Kind of a key tool. Vista Print offers some free/cheap options, although I see how costs start to slide in (nicer paper! glossy finish! back of the card!), but it's something I've been meaning to do for a few months. I'm leaning toward a simple, but powerful design - red card, white printing, minimalist. But -- to do gloss?? Another version I like has a black or maybe dark brown background with a little spring-green and white design in the corner, and a line sweeping across the page. It's cool. I'm sure there's some way to get the images in here, but I'm a little tapped out on the learning-new-technology front just now.

Also, got in 8 miles in Pepper, bringing me to 272, with another 42 miles, I think, from others. We're in the 300s! The temps look to stay cooperative for the next 10 days (as far out as weather.com predicts), but seeing no lows in 20s and highs staying in 40s/50s -- that's rowing weather! Tomorrow promises no wind, so I'm going for a repeat of my 10-miler in the morning. The water was nice and flat today, the sky grey and the air misty; if temps had been colder it would've classified as raw. But the world from the river looked softer and duller, all the edges blurred by grey variants. I hit a few spots of liquid glass that were gorgeous, and the wind and rippley water only reared their ugly heads once or twice. I paused on the way back in front of Harvard's boathouse, and realized looking at the trees lining the river that all the leaves are gone in this stretch. The long, unbroken line of trees reach upward with only brown spikyness, faded grey-brown sentinels for the coming winter.

I've been trying to come up with an analogy for the way it feels when you nail the catch (when the blade of the oar drops into the water) just right. Such a simple motion, so hard to get right -- it's all about the speed of the catch and timing -- the nanosecond when your blade drops vs when your seat stops moving (blade should be in the water first, and we're talking just nth fractional seconds). But when you get it just right, it feels RIGHT. The best thing I've come up with is the taffy-pulling machine. You know what I'm talking about? Those simple-looking contraptions that work the taffy, its mechanical arms repeatedly, rhythmically stretching and pulling the taffy. There's just something about watching it that's mesmerizing, satisfying. Nailing the catch just right is entirely different, but the feel is somehow similar.

As I rowed along, my thought for pondering was what stops or pauses me from following potential career sparks. Sometimes a something comes along, and it's just easy to chase it for excitement. Other times, something comes along, and the interest and excitement is there, but sometimes fear or reluctance as well. And, it's true for life in general, of course. Those things that scare us on some deep, subliminal level, what are they about? Is it an instinct whispering that something isn't right? Or the sheer rightness of a thing that scares us away? Been trying to do some excavating into my prehistoric, nonthinking mind and habits. I didn't emerge from the row with the answers, so you'll have to stay posted for full enlightenment.

And, why can spellcheckers never fix my constant typo in "course"? Mysteries for the ages.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some key life lessons

Today -- an interesting day. Excuse me, an "interesting" day. Not quite the same as when my grandmother told me my shade of lipstick was "interesting" but somewhat akin.

Today reinforced a rule I instinctively made for myself at the outset of this new life: I must leave the house every day! Now, before you assume I'm turning into a recluse like that evil spider and need to be swatted with a shoe, I DO generally leave the house every day -- multiple times even (she says proudly)! But today, I woke up with a sore throat that I realized I should (could) not ignore. It was grey, windy, supposedly rainy, but that was a thinly fabricated lie by the weather gods. So, I'd already decided it was Day Off Rowing, and -- oh yeah, remember my to-do from weeks ago? about finding Pilates classes? did it! So, originally thought I'd check out a Pilates or boxing class ('cause they're so similar) at the Newton branch of my gym (haven't been there in a very long while, as there are now three closer branches), but on advice from sore throat, decided to forgo that as well.

THEN, then I got all kinds of sucked up in trying to figure out the seemingly simple matter of offering y'all a way to "subscribe" to this here blog via email. It should just be a little button thingie! In fact, it IS a little button thingie! But it's a wily, COMPLICATED little button thingie! So, I shall spare you the details, except that it's an ongoing effort involving a Google Feed Burner Help Group (like I could make that up), which seems to be ignoring me thus far. And many hours passing as my stubbornness kicked in, as I just knew I could figure it out on my own ... peering at HTML code ... swearing ... OK, I'm stopping. Just know I'm working on it. For YOU.

So, my point ... right! That I didn't leave the house until 4! Not such a good move, really. I was starting to think maybe I WOULD wind up homeless under the bridge and what would be the odds of getting a date then (well, maybe not so bad, actually), and that just spiraled into all kinds of other anxiety. That then miraculously wasn't so bad once I left the house. Until I reached the Trader Joe's parking lot. Damn. You'd think with this free flowin' schedule, I'd manage to get there at a smart hour, wouldn't you? But no. In fact, I completely gave up on my nearby Brookline T.J.'s with its RIDICULOUS parking lot and drove to Cambridge because it's one of the few places in this entire region that has a real (as defined by SoCal standards) parking lot. And there I stocked up on mashed potato and pecan pie makin's. I'm gonna attempt my first pie crust! Already got the careful instructions from my mom ... apparently you're supposed to manhandle the HECK out of the dough, really, really knead it ... KIDDING! So yeah, don't TOUCH it! Be careful with the liquid! This should be entertaining.... If it's a dismal failure, I'll take a picture.

I wasn't the only one having a rough day ... Willa, poor Willa ... it was a barfy day, folks. Like, my trailing her around the house, repeatedly (because it's necessary to run from room to room, repeatedly, when you are barfing, didn't you know?), roll of paper towels in hand, alternately feeling really bad for her, and really wondering WHEN SHE WOULD STOP. This exercise also made me REALLY glad I'm not a parent. I mean, the amount a little child can hold and expel vs a cat, damn. Although I guess it's possible a kid wouldn't run from room to room. But they would probably barf on themselves without steering help ... like Willa's poor little paws ... yep, a sad sight.... If she would just stop RUNNING, it would probably really help matters. But, that's not the way the barffest goes down. So, here's a shot of Willa at the end of a hard day:











Oh, right, and you've been waiting to meet Drum! World, meet Drum, Drum, the world:
In his first shot, he's got the Joy of Cooking, all ready for some tofurkeying. The other shot shows off his unique figure. And, please note, the roll of paper towels in the background, this from the barffest 09. What's that? What is he? He's DRUM! According to West Elm, he's a ceramic something-or-other, drum. Given finances, a real coffeetable won't be coming down the chimney anytime soon, but I could use a few more faux coffeetable-esque objects in the living room, and he was free with "design dollars" (from prior curtain purchases -- I actually went back for one more curtain panel and got near laughed out of the store by the awesome, hysterical, very gay Stephone who helped me with Curtains, Round 1. He found it hysterical I thought they'd still be hanging around. So, Plan B.). Turns out, $100 is a very tricky amount to spend in the store -- near enough to small, random, entertaining things (I coulda had a cool silver branch!) but not close enough to the larger, arguably more useful ones.... So, Drum came into my life. He's pretty cool. The gatos have accepted him. He can hold a laptop, or a mug, perhaps a bowl, or a cookbook.... What more could I ask for?

So, it was a long 'un today, let's review what life lessons we've learned: Manhandle the heck outta your pie dough! Don't step in (or worse yet, sleep in) kitty barf! Be sure to run from room to room when you are in the process of barfing! Leave your house before 4! Buy your curtains in bulk! Don't go to West Elm with precisely $100 to spend, unless you're in the market for a silver branch!