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 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!

Testing, testing

Bear with, this is a bit of a test post. My brain is spinning with trying to offer what feels like should be simple: a way to "subscribe" and get notification of new posts via email.

OK, THIS (the below) is the little bugger I'm working to get in the right spot so y'all can have new posts emailed to you and stuff. But it's not so easy as it should be. Keep the faith, the light of knowledge will shine down ... any minute now....

Subscribe to Fine lines: Brave? Stupid? Crazy? by Email

Monday, November 23, 2009

Simple, cloudlike thoughts

I only have fleeting. fleecey thoughts, drifting across a rather vacant mind at the moment. It's been a gray day, rain coming toward its end. All the cozier to be indoors with the gatos. And I could feel virtuous for battling elements out on the river (well, there were a few buffeting wind gusts and a few times the river looked to be developing waves, which can be downright scary in a little, tippy boat) to then be curled and tea snuggly during the bulk of the day.

Oh -- there was unexpected morning excitement in two forms:
1) in the form of seven (count 'em, 7) firetrucks and emergency vehicles arriving at the house next to mine. And firetrucks had ladders extended onto the house from the front AND back, firefighters trotting around ... all kinds of exciting. Not sure what it was about, but all appeared to end well.
2) and in that three people (3!) wound up rowing Pepper this morning, so she got a total of 18 miles in one day! Now, if we could only replicate each day, but not so easy as a rule.

Job pokings continue, for you who have been too polite to ask, but I'm not launching into full-out effort as of yet. I can tell it's a balancing act, as I'm enjoying my time so very much, but also wanting and needing efforts for future and productivity to counterbalance the downtime. And, there will come a point when I need and will want to be more fully engaged, and of course I can't just hang out until then and expect to get quick results. So, it's nudging myself along, look at postings, build the network, follow instincts and interest.

In a similar vein -- can't remember if I've already said -- I can feel how not-ready I am to launch into something full-time in the now/immediate future, but that is a balance point, too. The tides will turn, teeter will totter, and I need to have already laid the groundwork and have some structure for full-scale construction efforts. To mix in three metaphors in one line. Awesome.

And now, it is past my bedtime. Apparently, not every post can quite be a laugh a minute, or deep and profound, just like the many moments of our lives. And because it's too late to fiddle with camera and uploading photos, you'll have to meet Drum tomorrow. The mysterious Drum....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The weekender (double edition)

It's been almost two days! Two! I've missed you, all of you, missed the tap tap tapping away. My weekend just passed in a great blur of excitement, and I'll share all the thrilling details. Well, maybe not all ... seeing as there's a slight (teeny tiny) chance they may only be thrilling to me ... I'll give you snippets, how's that? But, it HAS been two days of random thoughts vs the usual one (DAY, not thought!), so there could be much randomness. You're forewarned.

Oh, and I understand from my vast readership (hi mom!) there might be a few other readers occasionally added on along the way, which is lovely. Welcome aboard! I can't attest to the fascination level of reading about my daily exploits, but I'll sure try to entertain.

Let's start with a list!

Best uses of benches along the Charles on a mid November day (as seen from the water):
  • To do your tricep pushups off the edge of
  • To sit facing your sweetheart, look deep into each others' eyes, enjoy an autumn kiss
  • To put your foot on so you can roll up your pantleg - hey, it's warm out, and you're running
  • To perch on the edge and do sort of frenzied v-sit crunches on (note: they'd be WAY more effective if you slowed down)
  • To just sit, watch the rowers row by ... enjoy the beautiful fall day
As I sit down to write this, and I hear the sweet, adorable children upstairs pounding around like a herd of elephants, except elephants probably couldn't achieve this noise level, it suddenly comes to me in a flash: payback! I'm getting payback! How many times, no matter how much we were told and warned, did my brother and I tear up and down the hallways of our house? Now, this hallway was MADE for tearing up and down -- one long hallway that ran almost the entire length of the house? With a little jumpoff ramp (two steps down into the living room) so we could leap and complete the distance? Now, my dad's office WAS under the house, and he WAS involved in patching people's psyches back together and that was reportedly NOT helped by the sweet sounds of our pitterpattering feet above.... All this to say -- we hear parents talking about an alltime sweetest moment when their own kids call them, as parents themselves, wailing about the same behavior in their kids they inflicted on their parents. What could be sweeter? So, it seems there's a cycle that's been completed by the little children above....

Last night was another rousing game of Scattergories with friends, much fun. If anyone has inside scoops on a species of crocodiles classified as Nile crocodiles, has owned a "miniature Mighty Mouse" or can provide photographic evidence of a trapeze in a park ... you gotta let me know!

Mileage update! For those of you waiting for the day's numbers, I'm up to 258 miles on my own, and with a few friends' help, can tack on another 26 (totaling 284, if my math skills don't desert me). We're inching along! The temps are mostly holding, getting a little cooler, we're probably nearing the end of our 50s days. 40s are still doable, high 30s, OK, low 30s ... uh ... 20s? Uh-uh.

What's that? You want to hear about the gatos? Well, the gatos are ... sure sleeping a lot. Shocking, I know. They're passed out on either side of me, the famous gato bookend. They are having food troubles. It's troubling to all. Willa's getting a wee bit up there in years (9!) and is at that kitty stage where ... the technical term is she barfs a lot. I think I've mentioned this before? It's fun. Her favorite spot is my bed. Because all the wood and tile floors everywhere else are just too easy to clean up. So, after she got a clean bill of health from the vet, we're seeking a food that doesn't trigger the barfing. Apparently, though, when you switch to special foods known as "bland diet" they don't taste so great. Who would've guessed? So we now have THREE bags of bland diet food in the house to try and get her to eat. Four-year-old Sucio, quaking giant marshmellow of a cat, must suffer along. And - wow - in that very sentence, Willa oh-so lazily reached out her paw, tapped my water bottle, and over it went. Sucio ran in terror. Willa interestedly supervised the cleanup action (cool! look what I did!).

So, the other high jinks I got up to this weekend involved ... a photo shoot. Yes, I can hear you all gasping and laughing. I'd join you, but I had to do a PHOTO SHOOT. And now I have a million pictures to hunt through to find ONE that won't scare small children. My mother feels my pain. Yes. I forced two loving, loyal friends to come take my picture, well, many of them, an activity I hate. The picture taking, not my friends coming over. Let's just say I need them for certain online presences. I would share some of the more hysterical ones (by which I mean, quite bad) ... but I'm not a fool. This is the Internet. They'd be laughing up on the space shuttle. Perhaps I'll offer one of the more obscured ones. I also just attempted to start using Picasa, and I'm sure it's REALLY easy, really....OK , you get the arty She Walks in Trees shots....

I'm saving tofurkeyday planning excitement (read: nutloaf) for tomorrow, I believe. Oh yes, and I'll introduce you to Drum. He's not really a drum, yet he's Drum. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The good life

It was raining, it was pouring, the old man was snoring, went to bed, bumped his hea ... and suddenly the sun was shining ... and now it's not ... OK, my song is disintegrating before my very eyes. Or ears.

It did indeed turn into a warm, sunny, glorious day, at one point. But it would be boring to stay. And so it didn't. Clouds and wind came for variety.

And now, at day's wrapup, I have peaceable gatos bookending me on the couch.
Oven is heated for pizza.
Water is near boiling for tea.
And a dear friend's on her way over.
It is the small things that remind me how dear and beautiful life is.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The badasses

Shoot, now that the promised images are up, I don't think Willa's collar shot came out well! She's a total badass, rocking the pink scull and crossbones, for sure. Sucio, skittish on the best day, is not at all sold on having his picture taken, so I had to sorta pin him down (note hand in picture). I'm taking to calling him Comandante Sucio Montoya these days.

Apart from hangin' with the badass gatos, today was another in the string of perfecto rowing weather -- no wind, flat water, 50s (down to tank top! bare arms!). Every rower I saw/passed had to exchange head shakes and sighs of "awesome" and "amazing." Tomorrow looks to be a little wind and rain, though still in the 50s, and Saturday some wind and dry, but cooler. We all know this has rowing implications! Tomorrow might just be a day off; I've already got an actionpacked day of chiropracting and haircutting, so I'm not sure how much more I can take. I might have to be brave Saturday. Mileage is at 244 and counting. I have a potential high-mileage body willing to put miles on, so cross your everything that comes through.

Beyond that, it was, well, kind of a lot of time on this cover letter. I haven't done one in some months, so even though I have many good phrases and my own brainpower to pull from ... it's a little rusty yet. It's also a very literal live audition for a writer or editor. If there's one typo or grammar error (not that there should ever be such things allowed), forget it -- I sure wouldn't bother with the person! And for a writer -- well, it's a little truthtelling within the sales package of everything you claim to be offering, right? My analogy is it's like a surgeon whose first contact consists of having to reach out and slit something open to show off her surgical skill. Or an opera singer, cold calling and immediately breaking into his finest high-pitch note. A little nerwracking, a little *boom!* right there! audition! sink it or it's the reject pile! So, no extra pressure or anything, it just makes a girl finetooth-comb her written materials to see if she's in fact DOING everything she SAYS she can and will do for the organization....

Uh-oh, acupuncture time is suddenly here, and if there's one person you don't want to piss off, it's the person waiting to put needles into you....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


And what can I tell you of my today? What would you like to know?

As time continues to do its melted-butter-in-hand trick, I'm realizing it's becoming time to get more specific, yet realistic, about what I'm aiming to achieve within my day. Sounds so very simple, and yet.
And yet.
And yet, that's the way the world works, so might as well build the skill and use to one's advantage.

For more nitty-gritty details, a potential position has popped up -- writing and editing for a nonprofit that promotes cardiovascular health in developing countries. Could be interesting. Very preliminary yet, but wanted to reassure everyone I AM looking to/paying attention to this stuff, along with all the rowing.

Rowing tangent - hardly any wind today! You know what kind of row that makes for! I actually went downstream, into the basin, which has much choppier water as a rule, but was divine today. I got some of that silky river glass to row on again. I rowed all the way to the Museum of Science - yep, that's what marks the end of the river on one end, before it narrows then opens into Boston Harbor. The fun thing about rowing downstream, apart from it being so wideopen [only a few bridges to maneuver under and no turns] is that you get the sense of rowing within a city. You have the city skyline along one side and big buildings along both [universities, hospitals, other important concrete monoliths], including the gold dome of the Capitol, and while only two bridges, they are much more major: Mass Ave and Longfellow.

It was chilly but with the sun beating down, the temps warmed, and eventually the fleece hat came off. A few cool sights along the row: seeing the grass growing from the base of Longfellow bridge -- neat part being who else but a rower gets this view? And this is a giant bridge that makes you feel like a little ant passing under. Also, getting to see blue sky and clouds reflected in the deck of my boat. Admittedly, she's Barney purple so the color of the sky might be a little distorted, but you could make definitely out sky and clouds. I'll grant this is a slightly cool thing that you don't see rowing in 5 a.m. pitch blackness. Oh yeah -- last super cool thing? As I was putting Pepper away, I got to chat with one of our older members who's getting ready to go row across the Atlantic. I kid you not. And his biggest concern? Just getting there, what with the potential for flights getting cancelled. I just love the craziness of rowers. Oh yes - 10 miles today! I did stop at the dock for a quick back stretch, which I think did the trick before going another 4 miles upstream.

Later this afternoon brought some giftcard usage and a visit to the vast, newish Natick mall. It's really the ideal sort of shopping -- purchases without any budget effect. Why don't the skies rain down giftcards on a regular basis?? I now happily have a smaller pot (just HOLD all the cooking jokes and snickers, y'all, just HOLD them -- I can heat cans of soup with the best of them! better than them now with my cool, small pot!) and some actual glasses for guests to use (the drinking-from-giant-water-bottle habit is hard to break. my poor mother). AND a new grater! This could easily provoke a rant, so I'll try to stay calm. I don't know WHAT happened to my graters! I can VIVIDLY see them, BOTH of them, that I used to own! But I don't know what happened to them! Anyway, now I have one again. I managed to skip the dual-action (not making that up) potato masher. Though god knows, I'll be needing it next week. Another exciting purchase was more bland diet/sensitive stomach catfood for the gatos to try and avoid the frequency of kitty barf piles, now that we're coworkers and all. Willa positively would NOT eat the last batch, and I think hunger was making her downright bitchy -- caught her in a yowling, snarling square-off with poor Sucio this morning. The even MORE exciting thing than this catfood (would I hold back on that? no, no I would not) is ... new cat collars! I'm tempted to describe them, but better to take pictures in the morning and share them that way, right? OK, agreed. An upcoming treat!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


First I must report that my radiators are in abundantly good health. This is a very good thing, as it's not so warm outside, even though they are making my hands hot.

I am skipping rowing as a topic, promise!

I got to do one of favorite volunteer activities tonight - read out loud! For three hours! Awesome, right? Talk about a win-win situation. I think I started reading out loud a lot during car trips between home and college, and it continued when I moved even farther north and the drive only got longer. Whatever its point of origin with me, I totally dig it. So there's this organization called Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic that does, well, essentially exactly that. So, you go sit in a recording booth and read out loud for as much of three hours as you can. Me? I go for almost all of it, pausing for water breaks, of course. The tongue, it does get tired. I was paired with a girl who hadn't done this before (I say girl because she looked so young -- I'll intersperse a quote from my acupuncturist: "now that you're nearly 40...!" -- but it turns out she's getting her PhD!). According to her, I'm a natural radio talent. Funny. But this prompted the guy who works there to start talking about opportunities with Radio Cuba. So, huh, if the local job search doesn't go well....

The other super cool thing I reflected on as I walked to my car afterward, was that I feel like I'm turning back into myself. It's a grand thing. Getting to row again, daily, getting to read and write, volunteer -- all these things that got obliterated by all the effort I was pouring into the job are now getting restored/returned to me. It's so lovely.

Also had this bolt of clarity yesterday that I have two equally important missions right now. To enjoy the HELL out of this interim time that I have, to relish the break that so many folks don't get to take, to live life to the utmost and wring the gratitude from my days. The other, of course, is to leap in and have fun pursuing what the next step is to me -- both in finding a place where I can use my word/communication powers to contribute, further some org's great mission, and yes, make our world a better place (a do-gooder to the core, I fear) and also in pursuing freelance opportunities in the now. It's an exciting world of opportunities before me, which is really something.

Now I must asleep.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Perhaps I'll talk a little more about rowing?

Because, I'll admit, my days are becoming pretty halcyonic here, and we apparently all need occasional heart stops to appreciate all the goodness we have, or perhaps the rightness of a thing when it returns to what it should be. All this to say, I just completely lost the last post, it was just gone, after over an hour writing and then perfecting. And I SAW it save! Multiple times! SAW it! But, thank the back-button gods, the slight wisp of a chance of the back button reigning indeed brought it back to me again, now safely posted. Despair averted! I had a moment thinking -- if I retype it RIGHT now, will I remember the essence of what I said? Of course I would, but getting the nuances of it all right, saying it the way I'd settled on as the right way, that would have been altered, and there's nothing like that to drive an editor-type mad....

I managed another 7 miles this morning (count: 218.5 miles and growing!), but with some wind and tiredness from yesterday's late-afternoon row, I admit today was much more about putting the miles in than the bliss of yesterday. S'OK, it all makes for a balanced existence, right? I'm debatably pleased to say my hands were what were giving out first, followed by that little connecting point between one's glutes and hamstrings that nothing, but nothing, like sculling can exactly, perfectly nail. My abs also frequently, helpfully pointed out that apparently I'm not working them often enough except in Saturday boxing class. Aches, pains, creaks, torn-up skin ... I'll happily take it in the name of rowing.

I do seem to talk a fair amount about rowing, don't I? It's been a pretty key facet of my being for the last, wow, 9-plus years. And, as every rower knows, it has that addictive quality that gets down under your skin, way deep inside.... But, yes, there is plenty more than rowing in the world (I guess) and my existence, so I'll work on broadening here. But I sit here and think about my life, that I'm in this transition state from one world to the next -- well, to an interim world, perhaps, then a next. And I think as with other big life transition points, rowing sure helps me along. It's funny, it's a combination of opposites -- of intense physical work, and equally intense mental focus. It's the power of the drive, and then the relaxed glide of the recovery. It's got a million technical aspects to think about, and yet it's also the same motion, stroke after stroke. It can be the challenge of syncing up of eight individuals, or the insularity of just pulling yourself together in a single. It's taught me about pushing to limits and beyond, about team, about individual responsibility and accountability, about grace and inner steel, accepting at times crushing defeats with head held high, and celebrating every victory along the way. And so much more. That you'll all get to hear about, lucky you.

Huh, so in trying to talk about things OTHER than rowing, I talked a lot more about rowing, didn't I? Well, no matter, tomorrow I get to try again with additional topics.

Yesterday's post

All's I have to say: Time -- positively Daliesque. A little morning, a little yoga, a little lunching, stretching, rowing, a little much-needed showering, some good times with Scattergories, and *poof* -- the day! Gone! I contemplated a late-night (for me) posting, but suspected it might be something like:
Dear Diary, Today was a very good day. I had a lot of fun. The End

Yesterday broke as another day of greyness, following pretty consistent rain all day Saturday. But rain brought warmer temps, so it was another stunning, stunning day on the water. 9 more miles! I think it hit 60, making for another mid-November day rowing with bare arms and legs (my concession: 2 tank-top layers), with zero wind, which made me positively giddy. I used the term river glass before, thinking it a pretty turn of phrase, but it turns out, it's exactly accurate. There came a point on the way back that the water was so smooth and unbroken, the surface such a crisp reflection of the ready-for-winter branches above it, that I couldn't put my blade in the water, couldn't do it. I stayed in a lopsided glide, leaning away from the perfect reflection as long as I could before marring the glass surface. This, the embodiment of glorious.

And the row sped by as most of the row upstream was me zipping along (as fast as a twingey back allows one to zip, mind you) by the presence behind me of a rower from CRI (an upstream boat club). The exceedingly odd thing about her was that she was wearing headphones. People caution about female runners wearing headphones as a safety hazard -- a rower wearing headphones is sheer, simple insanity, in my book. I, for one, want to HEAR the cries of "heads up!" "single!" "sculler!" "Riverside!" whatever someone may choose to shout to warn me I'm about to hit a bridge, a log, another boat, or some other hazard up ahead. Needless to say, I COULDN'T be passed by this headphone-wearing sculler. And I wasn't. She did have bouts of speed, I'll grant that, but they were happily interspersed with slow rowing or breaks, allowing my slow-but-steady tortiseness to remain ahead. (Victory!)

The way back, dusk was settling in, I'd neglected to run back to my locker for lights, still in denial you need them on the water by 4:30 or so. Once back to Riverside, I began to spin my boat to dock, and came face to face with the pink sky opposite the boathouse, the clouds across it making stripes of lavender. I stopped in wonder, the water below catching and mixing the pinks and purples in with darker patches of shadow. Once on the dock, Pepper (the boat, people!) put away, I emerged to see brilliant pink and orange lighting up the sky. I stood and witnessed, clad in rowing shorts and two tank tops, on a mid-November night, amazed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Down it comes

Awoke to rain. I love (love love) that tapping sound on the roof and windows (maybe I need to look into a tin roof?). All the more when I can dive back into a cozy nest of a bed for just a little bit more. But, my early-morning wiring seems to be alive and well (OK, combined with the pounding from above of those sweet, sweet neighbor children, rarin' to go before 6 a.m., apparently).

A little work partyin' to be done at the boathouse this morning (club requires a minimum of 10 volunteer hours per year from every member) -- there may be some toilet and/or shower scrubbing in my very near future, oh boy. Boxing class this afternoon (yippee -- whoever would've guessed punching things [that's things, not people] would be such an amazing release?? LOVE it), followed by some quality mellow hangout + productivity time with a friend -- looks like the weather will preclude our walk idea, but we'll concoct dinner, have some great conversation, get some things done.

Tried to take a picture out my window to show the lovely rain (novelty for San Diego folk), but funny how those shots just don't turn out....

Friday, November 13, 2009

*blink* Week over!

Well. The gatos are fighting, at least when Sucio isn't wandering around, wailing his little kitty heart out for unknown reasons. (Wanted to upload peaceable pictures of the gatos, but it'll require disconnecting and reconnecting, so, tomorrow.) It's a grey day, windy, not looking promising for rowing today OR tomorrow. [big frowny face] And it's Friday. The happy day for weekday workers. Marker of the end of my second week of a new life.

It's surprising to me, even though I'm already well familiar with the increasing fluidity of time, just how quickly time evaporates. Like I wake up (early, mind you), and then it's 10, then I'm showered and ready to do something, and then it's nearly noon. It's like: blink, blurrrr. Blink, blurrrrr. And the day's over. So, my productivity will come back to those boring essential buildingblocks of setting specific goals, carving out chunks of time and planning when precisely I'm going to use those chunks. And so on. Lists, structure, goals. The true essentials of life. This stuff about fresh air, sunlight, drinking water, shelter? Naw.

Got a few interesting glimmers of possibilities -- something involving social media (those of you who are positively guffawing right about now with my facebook credentials can just STOP), another something that might allow me to try my hand at a grant proposal. Yeehaw. We'll see, you know you'll hear the details!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Radiator cats

Last night I met with a very cool woman who handles communications for a specialized group within Mass General hospital. We chatted about her work history and job finding and various ideas and masters' programs, then moved on to talk about rowing (she was a member of my club several years back) and then world adventures. She backpacked around the world -- Asia, Africa, a little time in Europe. Quit her job, put her stuff in storage, and went for it. Alone. For 16 months (people joined her a few times for a few weeks). I like to think I'm adventuresome and independent, but that sorta blows my mind. She said it was amazing.

Although hourly was projecting wind, I went for it this morning, had a good row (8 miles! -- my back def complaining by the end, but manageable). So, reminds me what I already know -- my favorite weather site is a useful tool, NOT an end-all, be-all. Also helps to head upstream for flatter waters. I went out late in rowing time (around 7), but still early enough to have some other rowers out. It's kinda fun to have the steering component around others boats to think about -- I was in a middle of a flock of college crews for a bit -- entertaining when there aren't so many boats to maneuver around that it turns into a stresser. Oh yes, and I bypassed the 200-mile mark. We can't really cheer because, well, there are 300 to go. Yeah. I would be psyched to reach the 400s, but don't think that's going to happen. Oh yeah, since I talk about rowing so much, here are a few shots from my boathouse dock, one looking left, one right. After rowing in San Diego's Mission Bay, it still seems funny sometimes to be rowing in the middle of a city with freeways, big buildings, busy roads and industry around, depending on where on the river you're at.

(Wish I could figure out how to manipulate the photos better, but they're at least pretending to not be mobile.)

Other bits of the day's productivity that don't make for good stories involved more computer stuff -- trying to get loaned laptop all cleaned up (not quite as simple as I'd hoped), and then upgrading my wireless modem (look left, she's cute) to get me above snail's pace for the cheap wifi I've been using. Like I said, no good stories, but think of it as building the foundation -- not very sexy, but quite necessary for this new-life/next-steps I'm setting upon. Acupuncture tonight -- when I went last week, first week into jobfree state, he told me I was like a different person in terms of my body's responses (for example, there's this stress point in your foot I always get needled, and often jump about a mile from the response, and last week - nothing. not a twitch. crazy what can happen when you take away a giant stresser, huh?)

All right, onward and upward. Wait, how about some lists? Haven't done in, what? a few days?

Listening to: David Gray, A New Day at Midnight
Drinking: Lady Grey tea, sweet, in my red-with-white-etched-flowers mug
Gatos: Willa, passed out in front of living room radiator, Sucio? ditto in bedroom
Daylight: Decidedly dusk, at 4:30!
Pilates: uh-oh, no update
Boat miles: 202.5
Discovery of the day: There are almost NO Rite Aid Pharmacies left around here anymore!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The secret to all life mysteries?

Today ... today, no grand stories. Projected wind speed made for a day off rowing, but I'll have to be brave tomorrow, see how it goes. A little element battling strengthens character, right?

As I write, John Lee Hooker has awakened Sucio from his happy closet slumber (he nests on my fleece scarf; I'm gonna be bummed in the near future when I'll need it to keep warm, but I don't have the heart to take it away from him) to come trotting out for a little headbutting, purring and drooling (the couch is his safe zone; everywhere else is pretty darn scary). If only we were all so open with our emotions and needs, right?

And now, I must give in to the calling to go buy one of those giant post-it pads at Staples and begin to organize my existence. Plus, Sucio is leaving drool spots on the couch. And licking my hand.


Today also marked a return to lists. I just love lists. Aren't they grand? Somehow, they make everything in life feel containable, doable, even if that proves to be illusory and fleeting. And, to set the stage for the master plan of all master plans, the granddaddy of all lists, I have indeed obtained a giant wall-hanging pad of mega post-its. It's very exciting. I'm pretty sure it holds the key to solving all life's mysteries. You just wait. Of course, I might not be able to share. You might have to go get your own giant post-it pad to figure it out....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The amazing

The day's exciting news:

I'm tapping away on a lovely new keyboard belonging to my lovely new little MacBook, the one, the only ... PixieP'dough. (Interesting name I have to little bit agree, but that's what's emerging. I just channel 'em, folks, just channel 'em.) So, yep, the newest family member has been migrated, and while I still have some playing to do, it is essentially like having my old computer in a faster, sleeker, shinier, spiffier new body!

And, rowing -- 9 miles today! Yes, NINE! Water like the silkiest river glass, amazing. I could feel the glide, actually feel the slide into that hypnotic flow state for little pieces of the row. And, of course, rowing in shorts and short sleeves (in November!) never hurts. Never. Also that I had almost the entire river to myself. Saw two scullers on the way up, then a few boats on the way back when I was nearly done. Once I rowed past the Harvard area and out of Cambridge where people flock to the lawn alongside the river, perch on the benches, and picnic, read, study, sleep, once past all that population, the river gets a little wilder, trees line both sides with increasingly bare branches, and there's only the distant hum of traffic (and occasionally a closer roar -- there ARE roads on both sides of the river, though blocked by trees farther upstream). Upstream the river was a mirror, occasionally the reflection so sharp I had to pause for a second, make sure it wasn't something on the water to avoid. The only thing disturbing the surface is the puddles from my blades, and the ripples emanating out. Yellow leaves are beginning to congregate on the surface in patches. Yes, today was something special, something to absorb and try to press in as many fleeting sensory details as possible to hold close through the coming winter, like a squirrel cherishing its most-prized nut.

Migration begins

Happily, today dawned better and brighter -- not literally, we have white-gray skies above, but the temps are still 60s. Today looks to be the last day of such, then back to high of 50s we go (which is still not so bad, given what's coming our way ... BLIZZARDS, y'all! sorry, got a little excited there).

Today feels like a day to start sifting and sorting and planning. Good stuff. I've already bravely attempted to tackle computer file migrating, only to realize the two dear computers, sitting back to back on the little green cube, connected with a wire, couldn't find each other. Such is it with many of us in life, right? So, I'm cheerfully off to the friendly local Mac shop to let the pros handle it! But because the gleaming little dears are headed off to their own brave new world, had to give a heads-up so that if there's a pause in word flow, you'd know why. If all goes well, they should be safely nestled back in their home chicken coop tonight, but y'know, brave new worlds contain unknown monsters that sometimes require slaying, so we shall see....

Monday, November 9, 2009

A day "off"

Today was hard, y'all. Not in any major-happening, big-deal, life-occurrence kind of way, just not happy or flowy. Just "off," really. Nothing quite worked, nothing quite grooved -- in small ways that feel like whines, but these days are bound to happen.

First lesson of the day: Late starts to my "workdays" are just no good. Even in a flexible, mostly schedule-free world. Second one: I think I really do need more than seven hours' sleep. Kind of a bummer, really. I want to be one of those people who only needs a few hours, thus gains more hours to live. But I think there maybe something to accepting reality, rather than being tired and fighting to wake up every morning.

So, for a little placement of where are we in the grand scheme of things (otherwise known as: my universe): Start of Week 2 of the Brave New World:

The lookback
Found myself really enjoying life last week, as the reality crept in with each passing day. No anxiety or fear, just relaxing, loosening, breathing. Starting this blog, muy fun. Reading, enjoying downtime, rowing at the warmest and least windy parts of the day, spontaneous, small efforts toward future employment -- recipe for a pretty good life. And yet, that alone of course isn't enough long term, can't sustain that (on several levels). But as a start, it's pretty good.

The now
The late start that sent the whole day spinning off began from waking from a dream of having violated an unspoken etiquette (I wound up asking for too many free muffins, if you must know. oh hush, I felt BAD), plus waking later than I wanted to gain a little more sleep. Result is, I awake anxious.

The row
Then, somehow, it's two hours later. I don't know how this happens. And that sets the tone for the day: me, feeling late (never mind there isn't anything set in stone here), time, like melted butter in the hand. I rush off to get my row in before the wind picks up ... aaand, sorta miss that boat (ha, I know). It's warm and lovely, so I head downstream toward "the basin," which always has choppier water and more wind, but somehow I think I'll just go a little ways for variety then spin for the usual upstream route, and the water gets progressively uglier (picture yourself in a tippy boat as wide as your hips that responds to ANY movement you make, now add wind and choppy water), but then I'm almost to the Mass Ave bridge, which gives me a mile marker, so I'll just go a little bit more....

Rowing in the wind is not my forte. Not most people's. I find it nervewracking, scary, yet I can also appreciate it for the focus it demands and the ensuing boildown to technique basics. It also garners awe, respect and fear at the elements -- especially with the incongruity to such a warm, mild day where I pulled my rowing leggings up to my knees and was down to a tank layer (I even got whistled at as I was heading under the bridge, but by then was too focused on survival and uprightness to pay any attention -- 'cause that would be an awesome moment to flip).

All in all, the row left me feeling ... embattled. Ultimately, good experience, good toughening, but not really enjoyable (yes, some parallel life lessons that I won't go digging out). Oh, and I did the worst docking job in probably the last year or even two -- got close enough to get my oar on dock, but too far away to grab it and pull myself in. Awesome. (I got to awkwardly back the boat up, in the wind, then retry, nearly missing the entire dock.) Only thing better would've been an audience. Afterward, I saw a guy on the dock who I know relishes the wind, and his comment was that, like running hills, he's brainwashed himself to think "yeah! hills/wind!" and take it head-on as a challenge. I completely approve, think it's totally the right attitude, but am simply not there. Something to shoot for. (You counters: only 5 miles today, but all my back and nerves could take in the wind.)

Further excursions: Nahant
All right, I need to do something about how long these keep getting. I think it's just the glee of writing, y'all. But, maybe it's little mini separate posts so my *vast* audience can skim or pick and choose or something?

Anyway, my day's grand plan had been to deal with getting these two laptops plus one external hard drive all consolidated into one, so this meant potentially dropping off at friendly, local Mac shop and then taking off for the coast to soothe myself with the ocean and get a day away from electronica. This did not happen. As I finally got to shower at 1, I realized, to hell with it, I'm dealing with computers tomorrow, I need to get the hell OUT, into the world, to (figuratively) run a little. So, I'm psyched, I rush around, gather too much stuff, head out the door.

Yes! Freedom! Beautiful out! I'm in FLIPFLOPS and TANK TOP! I remember/realize where I am NOT on this fine Monday afternoon, and that's glorious, too. So, away I go, up 1A north ... and then I hit traffic, roadwork. No matter, no matter. I'm scheduled to give blood later in the day, and it's such a late start, I can't run for Marblehead or Gloucester as I'd thought, but as I peer at the map at stoplights, I see the little spit of land called Nahant. Hey, I haven't been there, it's coastal, a little closer, looks lovely, perfect!

Well. It was this perfect, picturesque little New England town that was also so completely inhospitable -- a beautiful little fortress with invisible walls. Apart from large, beautiful homes and lovely scenery, about all it had were lots (and lots) of No Parking signs everywhere. Certainly anywhere near water, views, strips of beach -- forget it, you are NOT parking here. I even got followed around by a local cop at one point (maybe because I was the only car in the vicinity, just me and the No Parking signs).

In my search for signs of life, for parking ANYwhere (OK, to be fair, I DID see 30-min parking near one playground!), I found myself meandering right on away (remember morning theme: things not quite going as planned). Apparently I need a local to show me the sights. On the way back, I find myself in Lynn (Lynn, Lynn, city of sin, would be the chant here for you W Coasters). Now, Lynn has seen some better days, I think, or maybe Lynn has never had better days, I'm just a New England upstart, so how would I really know. BUT what Lynn DOES have is a strip of beach and A PARKING LOT right NEXT to it that you are allowed to PARK at. I found this enormously exciting and welcoming. So, there was my ocean comfort. Of course, by now, I really need a bathroom, and of course, there are no public bathrooms in all of greater Boston (including at the poor Lynn beach facility, now closed and boarded up). So, I don't tarry too long before moving on. I stop at a Dunkin' (as in, Donuts, W Coasters, as ubiquitous as Starbucks in these here parts, albeit the blue-collar version) to get decaf tea and bathroom use. In the bathroom, I realize all the skin on the end of my nose is peeling off from Saturday trauma/repeated nose blowing. It's a good look.

The last thing: a blood theme
So, then I'm home, I gather my library card and head off to the local library for the blood donation. Where I get to wait, squished in with the do-gooding masses, finally get called in by a girl who talks faster than I do (really, Mom) and so obviously doesn't want to be there, I'm flat taken aback. And I find I'm .1 too low on the anemia scale for a blood donation. Awesome (see repeated theme: didn't quite work out). The upside was that I finally visited the main branch of my local library (gorgeous), just down the road (I swear, I'm getting better about THINKING about camera and picture taking, I'll work more on DOING now). I get my Metro Boston library card (not used in a few years, I'm sorry Aunt Genie! [an awesome former children's librarian, y'all]) to now also work in the "Minuteman Network" (cool, right?) and got myself Elizabeth George and Alexander McCall Smith mysteries to lose myself in. Which was what I was about to do, until I sat down here and wrote a book. Really, am going to actively work on shorter solutions here, people.

The messages
The day's themes and emotions suggest the following:
-Learn how to insert bullets (really, no idea how to do this)
-Wake up early or make myself crazy all day!
-Actually take PICTURES with the camera to show y'all
-Start plotting, creating a structure for my time and efforts to find freelance work and ultimately, gainful employment (My starting plan is not for this to be a full-time effort quite YET [like, today], but soon)
-Learn to row bravely and better in the wind
-Derive joy from the knowledge that sourdough toast somehow makes everything better and more bearable
-Use that beautiful library down the street!
-Put extra moisturizer on nose after repeated blowing
-Stop writing, like, right now!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday, lite

As temps hit a rare 62 today, the outside world irresistibly beckons. I'm off to row in glorious sun and warmth, then need to find an outside spot to perch myself. That means it's a "word lite" day for all of us....

Tonight: the facebook showdown! at Sam's! no matter how he tries to squirm out of it.
We'll see if my skepticism can be overcome (I'm skeptical).

Oh yes, I've begun to welcome a lovely new addition to the family (OK, I got her out of the box, then was paused at the seemingly simple introductory screen about transferring files from another machine): she's sleek, gleamingly white, weighing in at just 4.7-pounds (name finalization underway). I hope to be posting from her shortly, soon as I can figure out the surely simple process of migrating files (cakewalk, cakewalk).


Before taking off for the facebook facedown (clever, right? yeah, I don't think so either), had to mention the noteworthy fact of rowing in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt! Walking around in flipflops! Crazy, wonderful warmth on a November Boston day. Exposing skin to warm air while gliding along the river, its surface mirroring the yellows, oranges and reds of fall foliage ... pretty stunning. Tomorrow supposed to be even warmer! Wednesday I think reality will return. Oh yes, for you counters: managed 8 miles today (bringing us to 180.5 ... out of 500 miles ... yeah).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

An alarming start

A weekend following a non-workweek -- whatever shall it be like??

To judge from progress so far ... ALARMing. Damn smoke detectors. Why, WHY must they ALWAYS cheerfully, earsplittingly, chirpily remind you in the middle of the night to think about changing the battery?? Why? And, how do they even PROGRAM for that? I mean, we somehow have this impressive ability to make this many people remotely insane in the middle of the night, we should sure as hell be able to solve more of the world's problems than we have thus far.

So, "exciting" way to kickstart a weekend, right? I'll give you full, gory details (wait for tomorrow's post if you don't want said details). It goes down as Ellen is trying to leave my place last night, so we can both toddle off to bed because the clock is striking the late hour of 10, when suddenly, there's earsplitting beeping, and all in the vicinity have separate (not joint, 'cause that would be weird) mini heart attacks -- me, Ellen, Willa, Sucio. Poor Sucio, a skittish kitty to begin with.

So, four beating hearts stop, then all pound. Fortunately, for the first time ever in my life, I have SPARE weird extra-large square batteries for the damn monsters. So, drag out ladder (I hate climbing ladders), stand upon it, doing mini backbend, wrestle with cover, remove battery (far easier than last time), replace battery, feel strong sense of accomplishment. Ahhhhh.

Few more minutes of chatting at the door, ready to depart, and BEEPBEEPBEEP BEEPBEEPBEEP (that's earsplitting, mind you). Four more heart attacks. Now with swearing. WTF to do? We decide on battery removal, to hell with it. Back on ladder, another backbend, this time the demon with the green (sometimes red) eye comes detached from its ceiling plate (have I mentioned my high ceilings yet?). After wrestling, ladder moving, swearing, we get battery out.

Ellen makes her escape before next crisis. Because, somehow, we all know there will be another. Sure enough, damn thing, WITHOUT A BATTERY, begins a periodic BEEPBEEPBEEP while I'm brushing my teeth. It's now 11:15. I'm tired. I want sleep. What to do? I call my dad. In California.

He persuades me back up ladder, is confused by continuing beeping with no battery (me too); we discuss the setup with me atop ladder. He tries to get me to cut one of the wires. I am afraid the BEEPBEEPBEEP will become a permanent backdrop. We discuss options. I settle on looking up the nonemergency number for the local fire department (big brother firefighter, consider yourself lucky, you were next on the list of calls). Somehow, in the midst of all this, the beeping (sometimes chirping, how cute) has stopped. I resolve to deal with in the morning. And I firmly intended to. But the day's turns include some heartbreak, and it no longer seems so important (I'll fix it, Justin! I'll fix it! there's another one a few feet away in my bedroom!).

That's more than enough words for today, sleep is rattling her cage loudly. (Tomorrow I'll introduce you to Pixie, still in her box as yet.)

Oh yes, I forgot the now-stale news that my mom not only made her way to an actual, real-life, honest-to-god blog (yes, mine), but she reports LIKING it. It's a brave new world, folks.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What billows?

That was lots of words yesterday, y'all. Lots. Great, billowing piles of words (I say words can both pile AND pillow. Prove me wrong.)

I'll go easy today. Just watch me be light and airy and streamlined.

Real problem is, I ran out of my hours in the day to break yesterday's mass up in pieces or otherwise chunkify it. It's a learning curve, bear with.

There's a chiropractor in my morning, then a friendly coachly reality check, and later I think a Pixie purchase (gulp)!

As I tap away here at my kitchen table, I suddenly spy a suspicious object -- is that cat hair on my placemat?? *disappointed sigh* I raised them with better manners than this.

OK, so maybe these look slightly less damning than they look in real life, but trust me -- that IS a piece of cat fur! I think they cleaned up a little before the photo. And, the REAL point here -- I not only TOOK a (soulstealing) digital photo ... I got it onto a COMPUTER ... and then onto a BLOG. People, there are no words. My mother & family are shocked and stunned, trust me.

Pile of words aren't the only thing billowing today, wind is too, so my back gets a rest day (hear that, back??). Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow with it entirely healed?? (My delusions are precious to me.)

I'll also make moves on that Pilates to-do and just LOOK at what I've done on the soulstealer promise....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blowin' and flowin' with the wind

Had this realization: Funny that I can schedule at least one key portion of my day according to's hour-by-hour weather ("detailed" tab gives you wind speed, thank you very much). Isn't there just something a little bit right about living by weather's guidance? Accommodating its vagaries, rather than superimposing our own?

This living according to how the wind blows brings me to: flow. Something sifting up in the relaxation of downtime, the absence of daily, deadline stress and pressure, about flow. That elusive state, where life events smoothly roll from one to another, easily, and well. When things feel like they should. The fully fledged thought here still brewing/percolating yet.

Today. Today was actionpacked, man. Alarm at 5, and it was real today, so up with me, grope for cat food for the gatos, grope for shower for me, out the door by 6:30 to volunteer at a teen writing conference. Figured it would be a combo of fun, entertaining, do-gooding, interacting with outside world (key to remember I'm not *actually* a cat), possibly inspiring, possibly networking-helpful, all that.

It wound up being that, and less, and more. There's something just fundamentally cool (to me) about a whole conference (2 days, no less) about kids and writing. In the first session where I was a "helper" (turns out, a very key function for me involved obtaining working dry-erase markers -- it's the little things), there were teachers who came in from Toronto. That also struck me as fundamentally cool.

(Side note to helpering: walkie-talkies are kind of a pain in the ass, tho useful, and headsets are really pretty hard to put on, keep on, and not suffer monumental ear aching from. Trust me.)

But it was the second session I helpered at, that second one that's still resonating. The first was for teachers, about using writing to think across curriculum, the presenter quite good. Second one had actual kids in it, titled: My Writing, My Voice: Writing Biography. There wound up being 8 kids, not the expected 20. Sophmores through seniors, only one boy. Various ethnicities and backgrounds. All fundamentally teenagers, combining smiley/giggliness, shyness/withdrawnness, dorky/coolness, each bringing her (and his) universe of experience. The presenter, director of a local nonprofit to help inner-city teen girls find their voices, larger than life in every way, black, with cool blue eyeshadow and braids, and a Presence, connected with these kids in a core way, in a way that only those who work with, like, and get kids, can. And the kids, their power and potential.... She led them through exercises that sparked discussion about reading, writing, themes and tactics that clicked for them. It all built into each kid writing their own opener of their biography. Every one amazing. Many began with death. Or loss. Or isolation. Some common teen themes, some decidedly not -- or we think should not be.

Here's the thing -- these were kids, just kids, great kids, kids we pass every day who we might make assumptions about, positive and negative, but kids who have already, in a decade and a half, lived through more hell than my three-and-a-half(ish) decades, through more than you'd want anyone to. And, they're not objects of pity or desperation or violence or fear. They're not even particularly rare. They're just kids. Great kids. Kids of every color and background, connecting, teaching, learning, sharing, being their resilient selves. It was something.

So, where does one go from there?
To the outside world, naturally, to motion and movement to process it all.

At 1:15, raindrops were beginning their splatter. The sky alternating from gravel to storm gray. It wasn't warm, folks. My twinging back suggested I head straight for the gatos and tea on the couch. It had me convinced. But then I thought ... really? maybe? I could try? I could go see? so, to the boathouse. And, another successful rowing mission without a backsnap.

And, I should pause to explain, while I'm often fixated on rowing, my current fixation involves this fine, fine balance between holding my back together; maximizing rowing while river still open, temps nonfreezing, water flat ... oh yeah, and there's this TINY matter of needing 500 miles on this boat to keep my rack space for next year (short case in supply & demand: more boats than racks, plus desire to encourage more avid rowers than boat dust-collectors, yields minimum mileage requirements to keep a rack space).

SO, this is fine & fair & good & certainly known. But, the year, it has this way of creeping.... I was just getting warmed up, really, struggling to fit rowing in amongst job, then summer travel hit, 2 crazy months later, I'm ALL ready to get down to serious mileage business, then it's *poof* Head of Charles season, with sudden daily team practice craziness, frenzy for water time, then that ends, really getting to serious crunch time, good thing I'm leaving my job and can row for 10 miles a day when ... ZAP, back outage. Two weeks later, I'm crawling my way back, seriously, starting at 2.5-mile rows [there is a giant frowny face here, tilt your head & squint & you'll see it].

What's that? What mileage am I actually AT? Well. Well, I'd rather not say. OK, OK onehundredsixtyeightIthinkmaybepointfive? Yes, working on it. Thinking on creative solutions (sort of the opposite of the Ferris Bueller solution?).

It's bedtime, y'all....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New heights of wild & crazy

It was a wild & crazy late night (home close to 10! gasp! on a "school" night!) so a late start this morn - nearer to 6:30. And, is it a bad sign if on Day 3 of a new blog about my new existence I'm reduced to bedtime & wakeup times as fodder?? Probably.

Part of the evening was a discussion with my mom of laptop as tax writeoff (yes, still debating - several hundred cheaper refurbished v new MacBook - yes, cheaper than Mac exist, but I'm not looking to shoot myself with frustration this early into a lovely new existence. really, people. anyway, resolution to come this week). This discussion led to me excitedly proclaiming to her that I've started a blog! A blog! Yes, so it's fun and great, I get to write, answer everyone's FAQs, put it out there in the public realm, even if not in print, and (picking up on decidedly unenthusiastic silence) ... do you know what a blog IS, mom?? "Yes, but I've never see one." OK, fair enough -- true for most of the world, right? So I try to explain: "It's like a website [just caught myself writing per NH style guide! changed course pronto], well, it IS a website, and it's a little bit like a journal, it archives for you by date, but you can [me, faltering] ..." really not garnering much on the enthusiasm front. So, I'll send her a link, and maybe the link won't work for her, or maybe the mere existence of the link will be enough for her ("That's nice, dear ... no, I never clicked on it....").

2 proclamations regarding me reluctantly making my way into this century
1) I don't even want to say the f word. No, I can't bear it. And I am NOT (not) saying I will, but I am going to EXPLORE the prospect of so sadly making my way into f*&#%&ook land. EXPLORE. We'll see if it can alleviate my privacy fears. And I'm dragging Sam with me! Hear that, Sam??

2) I shall hereby (heretofore) explore the possibility of maybe taking pictured with those newfangled digita-wha? devices that can steal your souls, people, and look to place said soulstealers upon this very site. I shall try.

I will now pause the writing, as everyone who knows me is lying sideways on the floor in astonishment, maybe clutching their chests, and there are a lot of worried sig others & childrens in the world right now. Too much for my conscience.

Listening: Ray LaMontagne's Trouble
Reading: Water for Elephants
Wearing: Jammies & fleece sweatshirt
Gatos: Perched approvingly around me on the couch (Sucio claiming a corner of the laptop as his personal facescratcher)
To-do list: Find Pilates class (aim for middle of the day! hell, revel in this existence), see if I can recreate muscle tone in my body

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A little rowing, a little reflecting

Day 2: steadily moving onward. Well, at least time is. Cats stepping up efforts to make me a respectable cat through accelerated hair-shedding (and sharing) - now that we're coworkers, I think they worry I'm really failing at the furry dress code.

I realize I can actually read the paper again in the morning. Stunning.

And I don't know, but this creeping realization is starting to whisper in a little rustley voice to me. It says: this life? this reading, writing, rowing, couch-with-catting, little-daily-accomplishmenting life? THIS I think I could get used to....

What else of note?
- I'm now reachable/back on all you W Coasters' morning commute rounds - got to hear about some work trauma/drama and a new baby still in the baking - pretty exciting vicarious living!
- Also, that Charles River, high noon, was absolutely lovely. Sunny, just a little wind, 50-something temps at least, just a few other scullers to exchange mad grins and shouts of "amazing weather!" with. Then I succumbed to a little dock lounging to store up the memory of what it feels like to have sun beat down without innumerable layers impeding movement.

(Irresistable weather segue:)
Were those really possible snow showers I saw for later this week? Well, of course. Wonderful, ever-changeable New England. You San Diegans who tease me about always talking about weather simply have no idea of how endlessly INTERESTING it can be. I'm not even kidding. Like tomorrow - wind looks lowish (under 10 mph) around 6 and 7 a.m., and the real-feel temp forecasts high 20s. Huh. That'll be cold. Or, I could wait a few hours, head out around 3/4ish, same winds, and get mid-40s. I think I know my decision. But - it is strange and hard to row at off hours - as nice as it is to have the river to myself, it's just so darn weird - full daylight, maybe even sunshine, an eerily dark and quiet boathouse, no standing on the dock, holding the boat over your head waiting for space to clear ... just doesn't feel right. But, I'm working hard to persuade myself that my back appreciates any increase in degrees in its efforts to hold itself together.... (Still, odd. But - what is a sabbatical if not to row at crazy hours, while warm & toasty at home with cats and tea at 5:30 a.m., right?? A few of you might have other ideas about what to do at 5:30, but, there's my nod to the "crazy" in the title....)

A mini NH reunion tonight, should be fun to see a few faces - god knows it take us small eternities and 986 emails to get our acts together to meet.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 1

Day 1, morning 1 of a new world. All open pathways, no defined workspace, work hours, wow.

Since I have that sickness in the blood (thank you, rowing) that craves witnessing daybreak, and makes me feel I've missed out if I awake to daylight, I woke up at 5:30, gathered fleece layers (it was 30-something out, Californians) and headed for Walden Pond.

Was greeted by multi-hued fall foliage riming the pond, not a ripple across its mile(?) circumference, and a gliding, wisping layer of fog, dissipating upward into the morning light. And the only soul I had to share with was a dark-blue figure clumping along the far concrete-reinforced side, yellow-tipped boots flashing.

Other than Walden's early-morning glory, beginning a long line of emails to the outside world, including a few NHers (hi, guys! sorry you're still toiling in cubeland - enjoy the free coffee!), some home puttering and tea drinking, the other two accomplishment of note were:

1) to confirm that my beloved 5-year-old iBook, Nixecai, is not only dead, but "obsolete" (so sayeth the nice computer store man, wish I could've sniffed dismissively and stomped out, but he wasn't the first to say it, only the last to confirm it). Alas, sweet Nix, you served me well and I already MISS you! Plus, have to figure out how much I can fork over for a new or refurbished MacBook (name to somehow include Pix or Pixie - hey, not my fault if I channel computer/car/appliance/plant/etc. names).

2) to be pleased that I am old and wise enough to know that, when scanning Craigslist writing gigs, to know that "female writer wanted for web advertisement" (well, that's weird, how could gender dictate writing style/ability?), that clicked in to a call for a "female sensual writer" for a "sensual" (how DID that poor, worthy word become so degraded??) advertisement with "compensation discussed once we chat over phone" was not something to go near with a 10-, 20- or 100-foot pole. Gratitude for small mercies/wisdoms, indeed....

All in all, not a bad start to a "brave" (this my favorite adjective folks have bestowed upon me - b/c the flip word is undoubtedly crazy/stupid - the former not so bad, the latter not so desirable) new existence.