Panama, Jan 11

I think it’s primarily me who feels like we need to get up and get the day started!  Anna is used to this slow travel; she lived it during her semester in Granada.  Aaron and Charlotte both love a good sleep-in, and no one else really seems to care when we get going for the day.  I am adjusting.  So, the plan was for the girls and I to go to the pool and beach for the morning, so Aaron could work.  The children weren’t even vertical until around 10, so I used the time to make plans for our upcoming Boquete trip. By the time we had breakfast, Anna did her crossword puzzle, Charlotte had some more fussing about her new swimsuit, it was after 12 by the time we headed to the pool.  It’s a bit of a walk (less than ten minutes) but I think we could all get used to the pool life!

We bathed, read, went down the water slides, and shortly before we were to leave, Anna remarked that my hair had a green tint to it!  Swimmer’s hair!  Upon return home, I immediately texted John, my hairdresser in Glens Falls, for advice.  At my last hair appointment before we left, I decided to let my hair go back to its natural color (grey?  white?), with John’s total encouragement. (Him telling me I would be a Nordic beauty sealed the deal).  It turns out my hair really is mostly white, and at my appt, he added toner to create a very light blonde as a way of transitioning to where I never need to color my hair again if I don’t want to.  I love it, and am pretty sure I’ll let it stay this way, but I did need to figure out how to prevent chlorine green.

His advice was to dissolve 8 cheap aspirins in water and rinse hair, then always wet hair before going into the pool, something I wasn’t doing.  So, with my instructions set, we left for our next activity, the BioMuseo, and planned to stop at the grocery store on the way back.  Anna kindly suggested that I wear a hat to the BioMuseo, as my hair tint, to her, was still noticeable!

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The BioMuseo is really amazing.  We got there around 3:45, so had until it closed at 6 to explore the building and the grounds.  In a nutshell, it is a remarkable presentation of the biodiversity of Panama, and how the country’s geographical history and placement has created some of the most diverse and precious flora and fauna in the world.  We loved it.

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We rounded out the day with a stop at the coffee shop attached to the museum, Kotowa, and a stroll along the promenade overlooking the Canal.  It was really lovely, and filled with families and Instagram couples doing photoshoots enjoying the gorgeous sunset and weather.  20200111_19451920200111_174521

The girls got a bit sunburned, despited my tutorial on applying sunscreen liberally!

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Right before we left, we stopped at a shave ice cart and with Anna’s help, Charlotte bought a strawberry lemon one topped with sweetened condensed milk, a deliciously odd flavor combination. We made a quick stop at the giant grocery store at Westland for aspirin for my treatment and few other items, then made a simple dinner and headed home. Off to Boquete in the Chiriqui highlands tomorrow!

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Panama, Jan 10

The past few days have been slow and enjoyable.  On Friday, the family slept in and we spent the morning reading, researching activities and excursions, and taking it easy.  Charlotte and I ventured out to the enormous Westland Mall around noon to look for a swimming suit for her, my first time driving in Panama and our first trip without our family Spanish speaker!  The mall is less than ten minutes away, and Friday it was crowded and lively – maybe school was out  because of the holiday weekend?  We found a budget department store, Titan, and looked for suits and other cheap clothes.  After filling our cart and finding the dressing room (vestidor) we learned that you are not allowed to try on any swimwear in the store!  How is one supposed to have any idea of a fit!  Well, the suit Charlotte liked was only $9 so we took a leap of faith and bought it, along with a few other items.  I found a vestido marron for $3 and Charlotte found a lovely vestido blanco for a few bucks more.  We left the store and wandered more, though the crowds and noise were a bit much. We checked out the massive food court with every possible American fast food available, then opted to drive home and get lunch here.

It should come as no shock that the swimsuit was a giant failure.  We will keep trying and not buy anything from a place that does not allow trying on!20200110_171225

After lunch, the four of us went to the pool for a bit and met an American man from Atlanta, who has a vacation place here and whose wife is Panamanian.   He was nice but we didn’t talk much after our brief introductions.

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After swimming, Anna and I went to the Super 99 grocery store, the closest one to us, and bought a few more dinner items (we haven’t gone a day without going to the store!) She was in the mood for some comfort food, so spaghetti with Ragu it was!

With the heat here, I’m reminded that life does need to move more slowly, so our days thus far have begun this way.  Sleeping a little late, taking it easy through coffee and breakfast, then coming up with a plan.  It takes some getting used to, but I know it’s good for all of us.

 

Panama, Jan 9

Click for today’s photo album!

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Yesterday we decided to head out on our first excursion that wasn’t a grocery store!  My attempts at getting everyone up a little earlier were, unsurprisingly,  unremarkable. Our goal was to leave by 9am for the BioMuseo in Panama City, but that shifted to 10am and it ended up being just fine since the rush hour traffic had subsided.

We packed snacks, lots of water, sunscreen, our guidebooks, and headed out.  The drive in was easy and relatively traffic free, and as we crossed the Bridge of the Americas, the breathtaking view of the Panama City skyline came into view.  Off to our right we could see the multicolored roofs of our destination, the BioMuseo, so after the bridge crossing, we bore right and drove to the Museum.  Surprise!  We pulled up to the entrance and the parking lot and found nothing to be open.  Was it a holiday?  Was it closed on Thursdays?  We were a tad mystified, but later learned that Jan 9 is Martyrs’ Day in Panama, and many businesses are closed.  Now that I think about it, that would explain our lack of traffic for the most of the day…

Out of curiosity, we continued down the Amador Causeway and found ourselves at the entrance of the Smithsonian operated Punta Culebra Nature Center. At the ticket booth, there was a retired couple speaking English.  They are from Calgary and escaping the winter, and were hot and tired from walking so I offered them a ride from the ticket booth to the main entrance, which ended up being only about 50 yards!

The nature center is really amazing.  For starters, there was a sloth sleeping in the tree next to where we parked.  From there, we spent time in the frog exhibit and learned about this deadly fungus, chytrid, that is wiping out much of the Panamanian frog population.

Some of the sights along the nature trail included giant (to us) iguanas in trees, another sloth, a rambling raccoon, and pesty birds (magpies, I think).  Out on the water, we could see the ruins of a yellow fever quarantine building, luxury yachts anchored, and a long line up of cargo ships waiting to pass through the canal.

So, in the end, it was a good thing that the BioMuseo was closed, as Punta Culebra wasn’t in either of our guidebooks and not at all on our radar. We did a little driving around the area, and it quickly became obvious that we were in the area where cruise ship passengers disembark for their onland excursions.  We found a great place for lunch, Beirut.  Aaron, Anna and I had wraps (falafel, kofta, shwarma), Charlotte had fettuccine alfredo, we shared a hummus appetizer, and Anna and I ordered delicious mint lemonades.

Next stop: Miraflores Locks! By this time, Charlotte was hot and hungry, and no amount of cajoling could convince her that watching boats pass through this indescribable feat of engineering was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Oh well…her mind was on getting back in time for the swimming pool and having pizza for dinner.  At least she will be able to say that she has been to the Panama Canal! We explored the Canal Museum, then tried to join the throngs on the 4th level deck to watch the boats go through, but it was really hot, really crowded, and really, really loud.  We ditched the crowds and went to the 4pm showing of the IMAX movie, The Panama Canal (narrated by Morgan Freeman),then went back up to the 4th level after that once the area had cleared out.

It was finally time to head home, but we first stopped at CC Market Plaza to buy our SIM cards, grab some groceries for dinner (tostadas again) and a cheese pizza for Charlotte from Pizza Hut.   After being gone all day yesterday, we’ll keep today low key.  First, we’ll probably head over to the Westland Premium outlets just up the road, then come home and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool!

Panama, Jan 8

On our first full day here, we opted to take it easy and get to know our complex and surroundings a bit more.  I was the only one up early (family pattern) and everyone else slept in pretty late.  Breakfast was cereal, a leftover empanada, and several cups of the delicious coffee we found at Ribi Smith.

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The morning was so slow and leisurely that before I knew it it was lunchtime, so we found snacks and filled up with those.  We still had a few grocery items we had missed from the day before, so Aaron and I went to the Super99 grocery store just up the road, but not before I managed to open the car door right on my head and end up with an enormous goosebump for the rest of the day! Our Super99 experience was interesting, in that we did not have Anna with us for any interpretation, so were on our own to figure out if we indeed were buying body wash, bandaids, etc.  We managed!  On the way back, Aaron dropped me off at the pool and beach area so I could talk with the beach club folks about how to get into the pool.  With my absolutely painful Spanish, and the women’s lack of English, we still were able, thanks to Google translate, to communicate and I did indeed learn how to get in and out of the pool.  So I then walked over to the pool area and spoke with the attendant, a young man who did NOT have Google translate at his disposal, so through gestures, and my knowledge of numbers, I learned that the pool closed at 5pm and we should get there quickly in order to enjoy the time there.

I walked back home and we all changed into our suits and walked over to the pool, which is really just perfect.  It wasn’t crowded, and I greeted two teenagers there who spoke a little English.  The girls tried the slides, but we eventually all ended up just relaxing and enjoying the warmth and water and the sun, features that do not exist in a Vermont winter.  We can see the beach from the pool, and the tide was wayyyy out while we were there.  We watched a group of people, several who seemed to be police officers, wandering along the water, seemingly looking for something.  Murder mystery?  Lost wallet?  We will never know, but it was intriguing for sure.

It was a bit of an adventure getting out of the pool, as no one told us we needed a passcard to hold to the gate so we could exit.  We had to ask other swimmers to let us out, but now I need to figure out how we can swim and not be trapped once the attendant leaves for the day.

We had decided earlier in the day to go out and find someplace to eat for dinner, but by the time we got back from the pool, it was after 6:00, so we opted to stay in and have tostadas with the ingredients Aaron and I had bought earlier (refried beans, corn, sour cream, queso fresco, green onions, tomatoes, salsa…so delicious).  Charlotte’s eye was really bothering her – she thought maybe it was an eyelash or something and I hope that’s all it is.  We watched some Gilmore Girls, but her eye was bothering her so much, she turned in early.

Today, our plans are to go to the Miraflores Locks and Visitor Center, then maybe see if we can get into the city if traffic isn’t too bad.  Otherwise, that’s all we’ve got so far!  In a few days, we’ll head out on our first adventure to Boquete, where we shall zipline through the mountains and drink coffee in the mountains!

 

Panama, Jan 7

Yesterday we set off on our six week adventure to Panama, after about two months of living with parents as the cottage was too cold to live in after November 1st.  Our time spent with family both in Vermont and Maryland was rich and meaningful, and while we are so excited about our adventures here, I know we will also miss the comforts of being home with family over the holidays.

After a night spent at Don’s house in Silver Spring, and one return trip to Sandy Spring for a forgotten backpack, we woke up around 4:30 and took a 5:00 am Uber to Dulles International Airport.  The trip was smooth, and it surprised me how quickly it went and also how much rush hour traffic there was at such an early hour.  Our driver was from Nicaragua, and was very friendly and excited to learn where we were off to.  He said that Copa Airlines was wonderful, that the service was very good and attendants friendly.  Spoiler:  I would argue differently.

At the airport, we quickly checked our bags and went through TSA.  Anna was flagged, as the machine detected METAL IN HER GROIN AREA.  Who knows what they thought could be there, as of course, she was found completely clean after her frisking. From there we found coffee and breakfast, in the form of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts’ new Impossible (meat free) breakfast sandwich.  Coffee was much needed and quite good, and the sandwiches were ok.  The airport was pretty quiet in our corridor, so we sat by our gate A19 until boarding at 8:00.

We were seated toward the rear of the  plane, Aaron, Charlotte and I in row 32 and Anna in 27 (her flight is booked separately since she’s leaving in earlier).  The plane and flight were just fine.  Because it was an older model, there were no seatback screens, the seats were very close together, and we couldn’t access any onboard wifi to even watch something from phones.  Aaron, in the middle, was especially crammed in there, as the passenger in front of enthusiastically put her seat back all the way and didn’t raise it until it was time to land!  At least this was a daytime flight and no one really needed to sleep.  The food served was good – scrambled eggs or french toast, but the onboard coffee was terrible.  We later learned that Anna hadn’t even been served a breakfast, and also that they were supposed to give us the family customs form onboard and never did.  So there were a few gaps in service, but overall, it was all fine.

I think we may have been some of the only English speaking passengers on the plane – most folks seemed to be headed home to either Panama or another central or south American destination.  During the flight, Aaron read his new Rolling Stone magazine, Charlotte played on her phone, and I mostly just dozed and looked out the window.  We flew over what seemed to be the length of interior Florida, then over the Keys (I could see the Dry Tortugas if I squinted) then Cuba, then a few islands that seemed occupied but I couldn’t figure them out on my phone’s undetailed map. From the air as we approached landing, we saw he Canal, then flew out past Panama City, across the water, above dozens of ships lined up to go through the canal, and over the beautiful, skyscraper-filled metropolis.

We got off the plane, found our bags, then easily passed through customs.  It was very hot, the girls were hungry and hot, and it took a while to meet up with our Uber to take us to the house.  At this point, Charlotte was having serious doubts about our family plan to be here.  Fatigue, heat, and hunger will do that.  The car ride was about an hour, and the driver took us up and around the city to avoid traffic.  The living conditions were certainly ones the girls had never seen before, but it was very similar to my experiences in Niger and travelling around Africa.  Houses of many colors were crammed together on hillsides right on the highway, and while it was vibrant and interesting, the level of poverty came as a surprise to them.  As we drove into the neighborhood (Vacamonte) where we were staying, similar sights continued until we turned left into our gated, newer community of Playa Dorada.

We showed our letter of entry to the guards, who took a while to figure out who we all were.  Thankfully, we had Anna and our Uber driver with us, and shortly thereafter we pulled up to the house at A67 Los Olas neighborhood. We thanked our driver and let ourselves in.

First impressions, for me, were pretty good, though because the a/c was off and the curtains were drawn, Charlotte was taken aback and announced immediately she would like to go home. The house is charming!  It is small, in a tight development with many similar looking houses, and once we got the air going and opened curtains, she felt much better.  We have 3 bedrooms, so each girl claimed a room and we settled in.  I poked around the kitchen to see what food and supplied we needed, and Aaron checked out the car we’ll be renting (2010 Mazda cx-9).  After a while we changed into hot-weather attire and drove to the find the waterfront and the pool area.  The complex has some cool features – a fitness trail, basketball court, giant chess game, playground, and a lovely beach area.  The tide was out last night, so I’m sure the beach vibe will be much different when the water is back.  The pools look really fun, so we need to figure out how to actually get there more easily and tell the beach club we have a six week membership. Then, we will be beach and pool bound every day, perhaps!

I made a grocery list, tossed some of the old fridge and freezer items left by the previous renters, and we decided to head out to CC Market Plaza, a shopping area about a ten minute drive from here.  We were again surprised by the clear line of difference between our neighborhood and the houses and neighborhoods just outside.  We drove in rather heavy traffic to the shopping area.  Traffic is pretty unruly here – no lights, really, and a system where drivers just go for it if they want to get in the lane.  Aaron, driver extraordinaire that he is, was great at all this.

The CC Market Plaza will have everything we need.  There is a giant hardware store, the largest grocery store I’ve ever been in, and numerous charming storefronts with restaurants, clothing boutiques, and more.  Charlotte was desperate for a slice from Pizza Hut, but we all poo pooed that for the time being, choosing instead to grocery shop without purpose at the very overwhelming Supermarket Ribi Smith. We came away with I don’t even know what, as the four of us meandered exhaustedly through the store, dropping into the cart anything and everything we were in the mood for after our long day.  At check out, everything was done for us.  Young guys unloaded the cart, filled the bags (we had to buy a few – no plastic here),  while we stood around and waited to pay. Easy!

With the car loaded up, we made our way back home.  It took some time and effort to get the gas range working, but Aaron figured it out and we heated up our empanadas.  Dinner was very simple: Tostitos with salsa and queso, an orange pepper, frozen pasta alfredo for Charlotte, and empanadas for the rest of us. We enjoyed dinner with an episode of Gilmore Girls, then I had to go to bed.  Charlotte was sure that her sheets were dirty (they were not) so she came in with me, feeling a little better about her day than she had been earlier.

Now, I’ve been the only one up for an hour and half and everyone else is enjoying a good sleeping in after a long day yesterday.  No plans yet for today. Aaron has a call at 11 and I think the girls and I will check out the pool and the beach. From there, we’ll see!

Vermont, winter #4

This has been another mild winter, but last week we had a few blasts of snow, so I went to the cottages and tramped around in my Christmas snowshoes.  Later I visited with a few horses at Horse Amour (where C rides), and this week have started going through my utterly overwhelming and unorganized photo library.  I’m in the depths of a years-long writer’s block, so pictures from my wonderful phone camera are all I’ve got these days. Enjoy!

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Cheerio cabin, Lake Hortonia, Vermont

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Horse Amour, Castleton, Vermont

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Western view of Lake Bomoseen from above Route 30

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Horse Amour, Castleton, Vermont

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Stillwater cabin, Lake Hortonia, Vermont

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The girls and their cousins, Christmas 2016, Middlebury, Vermont

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Sunset on frozen Lake Bomoseen, Vermont

Blog burnout.

Boogie Pants isn’t burning me out because I don’t post enough for that to even happen.  That would be a good problem, maybe.

Nope, everybody else’s blogs are burning me out.  There really are too many and they tend to run into each other theme-wise. They have me wondering why I even keep this fellow Boogie Pants alive.  I just read a blog post on rebranding and monetization and sponsors and GOOD GRIEF THAT ALL SOUNDS LIKE A NIGHTMARE.  What do bloggers really want?  Fame? Readers? An income? How many more people can write about healthy cooking, fit pregnancy, DIY and parenting without burning us all out?

Why even keep Boogie Pants alive? It’s aimless and meandering and I hardly ever post anything that I really like.

For example, I wrote a draft yesterday about my nightmare drive during yesterday’s snow event and how my Nokian studded tires kicked ass. I wrote how I faced my fear of driving  on untreated snowy mountain roads  in the dark while it’s still snowing because I had no choice but to pick the girls up from school and get us all home.  Then, when I proofread the post, all I could think was, well, shit, that’s boring. Vermonters do this every day.  They drive in the mountains in the dark in the  snow because they need to get their kids and they do not make a deal of it.

Why should I make a deal of it, then?  I had no answer, so didn’t post because then it all seemed silly and trivial and quite shallow. It would be nice to write material that is somewhat more substantial than how much I love my studded snow tires.

But now, as write THIS post, I’m thinking, well, driving in snow like that was new to me. With some thought, that bit alone could be worth writing about, so for now I’ll leave my snow  driving draft where it is and think about putting it up later.   Seriously, though, why do bloggers blog and as long as I’m asking, why is the word “blog” even a word?

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron

Thanksgiving snow Danby

When we lived in Maryland years ago, every winter, right after Christmas, melancholy slipped into our house unannounced and definitely uninvited. It draped itself over me, an annoying, itchy shawl.  Once there, gloom dug in like a briar, refusing to leave until months later when the first crocus peeked through the grass.  I didn’t understand why I had these blues; all I knew for sure was that as soon as spring came, this seasonal cloud of melancholy lifted and stayed away until the next winter.

I felt really victim-y and off-track during those first grey winters. Feeling so glum ticked me off and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. This book, Winter Blues, found its way to me. I didn’t even get past the introduction when it all suddenly made sense.  My unofficial but spot-on self diagnosis? Seasonal Affective Disorder. I bought myself a light box, booked a Christmas trip to Florida instead of New England, and did my best to take control of those winter blues. This investment seemed to do the trick for the remainder of our time in Maryland.  I quickly saw results from the lightbox; after a few weeks of intense exposure, everything lifted just a bit and winter felt more manageable.

fireplace in danby

When we moved to Vermont for the first time, in 2001, I was worried that with the long winters, the Green Mountain State would not bode well for my SAD.  The surprising thing is that this didn’t happen.  In Vermont, once the snow comes, it stays. The ground is light and white and people get out and move in the world because they have to. We bundled up and did stuff outside and made ourselves embrace winter.  We didn’t hibernate, we didn’t let the hazardous weather scare us or get us down, and as a result, I found that winters in Vermont were indeed much easier than winters in Maryland. And now, we’re back in Vermont for a second time, after ten years in southern Ohio, where the weather is similar to Maryland, and I’m ready for it.

Today the weather is rotten.  It snowed a little bit last night, but now we’ve got sleet and are under a winter weather advisory.  We live at the end of a long dirt driveway off a long dirt road, but we have to get out and go and drive and do stuff every day.  I can’t afford to be nervous about it. I’ve got four studded Hakks, a cord of firewood, and my lightbox set permanently to ON.

Victim = out, Heroine = in.

snow from driveway

 

Didn’t finish and pretty happy about it.

Nanowrimo 2013 did not get done! I didn’t finish this year. I quit just before Thanksgiving, and for no reason other than I was boring myself silly.  Time and solitude were on my side more than ever before, with both girls in school and days completely to myself, yet it felt impossible to escape my tired old ideas, characters and plotlines. This nano-apathy started a couple years ago when I realized that every novel I’d written repeated the same theme with the same characters in rotating locations They always had the same problems, same motivations, same adventures, same quirks.  Blah, you know? 

Last December (2012),  I accidentally saved a short article I had written over my completed nano novel and I lost the whole 50K in a second…with a single, thoughtless click.  It was definitely startling.  I expected to be devastated, but I wasn’t, and to lose that body of work was strangely liberating.  To read about it, click here.

What I didn’t like about my novel this year is that even though I didn’t want to write about the same stuff of the past ten years, the same stuff kept trying to be written, and from my vantage point, this stuff was a snore. So, last week, when I hit the 30K point just before our company came for Thanksgiving, I faced a choice.  

Choice #1: I could hunker down, remove myself from much of Thanksgiving, write the last 20K words and cross the finish line in time.  I type really fast and I’m great at generating lots of bullshit very quickly.  I could get it done!

Choice #2:  I could cook, hang out with family that we don’t get see as often as we’d like, enjoy our new house in Vermont, actually READ, learn how to play (and love) Chinese checkers, make fires in our enormous fireplace, and go with the flow. I could quit!

Should I break my streak when I still had the chance to win it?  Why not, you know? It really didn’t take long for me to decide to stroll through that door marked “STOP WRITING.” I closed the document, shut the laptop, poured myself a glass of wine, and relaxed.  

I really DO want to write a novel, just not the kind I’ve written that has helped me win nano for so long. It’s time for me to get out of the nanowrimo rut that I’ve gotten myself into.  Maybe I’m done with nanowrimo for good, or I might simply need a break.  Either way, December is here and I have lots of novels I want to READ and lots of old -fashioned journal writing I need to catch up on.  

We’ll go from there.

 

Starting.

This morning I wrote a beginning.  For years I’ve wanted to explore my college friendships, the ones that began the first day of freshman orientation in 1984 and continue through today.  I started with a scene from freshman orientation at Wooster, with the girls in my campus house sitting in circle being told by our RA that we were now WOMEN and should no longer call ourselves or each other GIRLS.  The term GIRLS, as of that day, no longer applied, we were told, and I remember thinking it very silly because if there ever was a day I felt like a little girl, it was that first day of my life living away from home.  I wrote about my friend, Heather, whose birthday it was, and who shared birthday cake or cupcakes or some kind of treat with a houseful of potential friends.  I wrote how Heather came to college with a collection of brand new monogrammed wooden hangers.  As I always do with nanowrimo, the story becomes autobiographical, at least in the desire, feelings and motivations of my my main character.  It’s my go-to way of generating lots of words in a very short time, but every year I sincerely want to make what I write a little deeper and more developed.  We’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, my prologue starts with a gang of young women (old girls?) meeting on the first day of college.  After that, I’m really not sure, but at least it’s a start, and I desperately needed to start.

It’s back.

Is today really November 1st and the onset of National Novel Writing Month?  Wasn’t it merely a few weeks ago I was sharing the sad tale of erasing my entire 2012 novel just days into December?  No matter.  Novel time is upon us and once again, for the 11th year, I enter into it with no ideas at all. Last year I thought it wasn’t possible to have any less of an idea than I did, but this year I have even less of less of an idea.  Okay, that’s not entirely true. I do have a handful of ideas, but they are skittish and elusive and won’t let me catch them yet.

Still, even without an idea, I CANNOT WAIT TO GET STARTED.

This year’s November will be different for a few reasons, and I’m hoping that I can channel these changes into something that for once is a little different and keeps me excited.

What???? It’s already 1:30 pm and I haven’t started yet. Time to unpack my cans of Whoopass and zap that pesky procrastination fairy that’s hovering over my shoulder.  And by Whoopass, I mean these helpful folks:  MacFreedomWrite or Die. and Stay Focusd..  One alone works just fine, but as a team, they mean business.

Holy procrastination, Batman.

You have no idea how many times since May I have started a new post and just given up.  I wouldn’t even have any idea except that my dashboard is filled with automatically saved drafts, daring me to revisit, revise, to simply pay attention to them.

For lack of anything else to post, here’s what I’ve got:

From May 8, 2013:

It’s been 31 hours since the family left for a 3 day/2 night trip to visit family in Maryland.  I had some high hopes for my alone time.  Here’s the list I made yesterday:

  • dishes
  • clear coffee table
  • write 3 articles
  • gather trash and recycling for Thursday a.m. pickup
  • Take a few loads to New to You, the only thrift shop in town that allows after hours drop off.
  • clean C’s room
  • clean front hallway
  • sew

Here’s what I’ve done from the list so far:

  • dishes
  • clear coffee table
  • write 3 articles
  • start gathering trash and recycling
  • start putting stuff in bags to take to New to You
  • start cleaning C’s room

Here’s what I’ve done that not on the list

  • eat frozen pizza
  • eat Thin Mints (not sharing how many)
  • drink wine
  • get an amazing cut and color at Station Street
  • make a new friend

August 25, 2013

Huge family changes are underway and whenever this happens I attempt to write about it, but the many words inside me feel like they are trying to escape from behind a locked door. I can barely get started. This year is going to be a transition year – a big one.  The girls and I will be spending the school year in Vermont so they can go to school, while Aaron stays in Ohio for now and works towards joining us as soon as possible.  There will be lots of visits, mostly from him to us since we’ll be locked into an academic year schedule and won’t be as flexible.  We have a place to live, the girls are almost set up in their wonderful (we hope) new schools, and I’m looking, for the first time in years, at full days to myself.  This is something I am really looking forward to but also a little nervous about.  It will be really strange not having Anna around all day like she’s been for the past three years.  We’ll need to pack lunches.  There will be homework and catching buses.

I cannot even begin to explain this past summer.  Every day was a moving target.  We put 10K+ miles on our van.  Anna spent a month in Germany with a youth orchestra.  We spent a lovely but super hot week in Slaughter Beach, Delaware with Aaron’s extended family.  My brother and his wife welcomed their first baby. Nine family members ages 4-73 spent a week in Prague for my host sister’s wedding. We drove from Ohio to Michigan to Vermont to Washington DC to Maryland to Delaware to Ohio back to Michigan to Vermont to New York City flew to Prague and back then to Ohio then to Vermont.  And now, suddenly, the girls start their new schools this week. I have handled the summer in a pretty calm and cool fashion, but then last night it got to me just a little bit how fast this all happened.

September 11, 2013

How did that happen? That I last posted on May 2?  It was that kind of summer.  On May 2, we were calmly and rather mundanely living in Ohio, looking ahead with equal parts excitement and anxiety at the months to come.  Now, on September 10, we’re on the other side of all that.  We’ve welcomed a nephew to the family, taken a family trip to a wedding in Prague, sent our darling Anna to Germany with a youth orchestra for four weeks, spent a hot week in Delaware at a lovely but sweaty family reunion, and, well, moved to Vermont. Around the end of July, we decided to move forward with the plans we’d previously thought of tabling for a year and we enrolled Anna as a 10th grader at the Long Trail School in Dorset, Vermont.

I’m still processing everything that led up to this, and there are certainly thousands of words wanting to be released.  For now, though, they’re all stewing in my head.  I’ve been debating whether or not to start a spinoff blog called something like “The Dutch Hill Diaries” or “The Danby Diary” (this is where we live) but,, as always, I struggle with how to start.

For now, though, I’ve got some pictures, and they’re lovely.  And since both girls are in school and A is holding down the fort back in Ohio, I have the days to myself.  Whether or not I use them to write is all up to me.

In the meantime, pictures.

September 19, 2013

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Heads up, dog walkers.

One piece of advice I’ve read about blogging is that if a blog is going to succeed and keep readers, it must have a specific purpose and it must be consistent. I definitely believe this to be true and this is something I know I need to work on, but  I have a super hard time doing this. My mind is too much of a crossword puzzle, full of unrelated words or ideas with only a letter or two in common.  I often feel like a real life creative writing class brainstorm assignment that never made it into outline form.

With this post, one thought led to another and I ended up in a rather unexpected place, but I’ll guarantee it’s something we’ve all thought about.

What people do when their dog poops on a walk.

There are three types of dog walkers: those who leave the poop where it falls, those who bag the poop and hold onto it until they can dispose of it properly, and finally, those twisted, considerate(?) folks who bag the poop then leave the bag in the middle of the the sidewalk.

Walking around with a poop-filled bag for most of a long walk is gross.  No matter how airtight the bag is, you’re holding a bag of poop. Gross, right?  It’s bad enough when the poop happens at the beginning of a walk around the neighborhood and there are no public trashcans.  Then there’s the morally conflicting situation when your dog poops twice or thrice but you only brought one bag.

Worst of all is when the bag has a hole in it or something else traumatic occurs because when  I you tied the knot there was still poop at the top of the bag and it got all over my your hand. And maybe this happened blocks from home in a residential neighborhood with no public trashcans or water sources there to assist in clean-up.   Okay, that happened to me. Point is:  I carried the bags all the way home, poop-on-my-hand-be-damned. I am dog-walking citizen #2, the one who carries poop through hell and high waters just to dispose of it properly. Someday I would love to witness someone bagging their doggy deposit and going through the steps of whether or not to leave it at the scene. Do they leave it right there, or do they nonchalantly walk with it for a while until they think no one is watching…then, like a child might casually let a booger fall to their feet next to their desk, they release it to the ground without breaking their stride.

I did have some other ideas for this post, good and serious ones.  Dog poop was very last minute. It came out of left field when I was starting to write about a failed hike the girls and I took with the dog yesterday. Fingers took over the keyboard without my permission, and voila! Dog poop.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

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Last month we spent a few days in Jupiter, Florida.

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It was the Saturday before Easter.  I looked up from the beach and saw this plane. (click pic to enlarge)

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And then I looked up at these palm trees at the edge of the DuBois Park parking lot. I’ve never lived among palm trees, so to me, they could be at the top of a landfill and still be exotic.

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Here’s the Jupiter drawbridge.  Up.

On learning new stuff.

The words Twitter and Tweet are so silly to me I’ve had a hard time bringing myself to learn anything more about how the whole thing works. It has just not seemed important enough to figure out.  That all changed yesterday when I quickly realized how badly I wanted to follow the progress of what is happening in Boston.  I first went to the Huffington Post‘s live updates, but they didn’t seem fast enough, so I clicked on one of their links to Twitter, AND I FINALLY GOT IT. It took my need for instant, real-time knowledge of one event for Twitter to make sense to me.  Until yesterday, I had no interest.

We all learn better when it matters to us.  We all have the tools to teach ourselves, to “figure it out,” if the result is that we get what we came for.  We took our 7-year-old out of school last month for a number of reasons, and one of them was her increasing math and standardized testing anxiety.  The wall had gone up; even the most seemingly simple addition equations on a math worksheet stumped her.

She’s got a head for numbers, though.  She thinks it’s very important that her sister is 7 years older than she is, so she can almost instantly calculate that when she’s 11 Anna will be 18.  We’ve observed her figuring out basic fractions, calendar math and time – all because it matters to the little universe she’s created for herself.

Math and Twitter.  They didn’t matter until suddenly they did, and then we got it.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

We spend as much time as possible every summer at our simple, small cottage on an uncrowded Vermont lake.  We never forget how blessed we are to have this place to call our home, and we try hard not to take for granted the easy access to such natural beauty and still waters. Whenever I look closely at this picture, it changes.  One moment, it’s what it is: a raft on the water.  The next moment, if I don’t blink, it’s a Magic Eye illusion: a raft not on the water, but floating over clouds. It’s easier if you click on the image to enlarge it. Can you see it?

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On my mind…the heavy and the light.

The heavy: CHF

Late last night we got a call from my sister Beth that she and Mom were at the ER with Dad.  On his birthday.  Turns out that his lingering cough, disorientation, fatigue and lack of appetite all add up to  mild congestive heart failure.  Things are going to be different from now on. I’m still processing all of it, but I’m not surprised at this diagnosis at all.

The light: The Ninja

On a lighter note, a few days ago we bought a Ninja Master Prep and the whole family is in love.  Why doesn’t everyone own one of these?  We have made Cashew Queso, Black Bean Dip, fruit smoothies and green protein shakes.  It’s easy to use, easy to clean and fast as lightning.  Love, love, love, love it. I love it so much I used this phrase, “OMG OMG I LOVE OUR NEW NINJA” in a facebook comment.  At my age, that’s embarrassing, but that is how much I love the Ninja.

The heavy: Home?

We decided back in January that we are ready to leave Ohio and move back to Vermont as soon as we can make it work, which of course might be never.  My job can go on the road, both girls are homeschooling now, and Aaron is working on a flexible arrangement for the upcoming school year.  I don’t know if it will work.  Whenever I have an Athens moment, I wonder if we really want to go as much as we think we dodo.  We live in a wonderful, wonderful town, and leaving, whenever it happens, will be emotional and fraught with doubts.  Still, no matter how hard we try, when we leave our cabin in Vermont at the end of every summer to return to Ohio, it feels increasingly like we are headed in the wrong direction.  Plus, Dad’s got that bad ticker and being a 12 hour drive away from my family has not sat well with me for a while now.

The light: Quitting Camp Nano

Quit?!  I never even started.  About a week ago, when I had a few free moments to get started on an April novel…I had nothing.  Emptiness.  I’m not even bothering.  What really happened to all my novel ideas?  I had them, but they ran away.