Thursday, October 28, 2021

Get Your Monster Mash On

Hello all! We're nearing the end of  the month, and I'll be sorry to see October go. We've had the most gorgeous weather, which will either make it easier or more difficult when the first snow arrives!

My sister belongs to a choir in Seattle, and last year they did this socially-distanced version of Monster Mash. I hope it helps you get in the *spirit* for Halloween :-)

And I also hope you have more treats than tricks

With some scares thrown in, if that's your thing!

For anyone who doesn't know this bit of Colorado lore, The Stanley Hotel in nearby Estes Park, CO was the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Find out more in this segment from the Today Show 2018. Happy haunting!

Thursday, September 30, 2021

#TBT: Why I Ban Books

For #ThrowbackThursday, here's a Banned Books Week repost: 

In honor of Banned Books Week, I have a confession: I ban books. Sometimes I do it regretfully, sometimes I do it with enthusiasm. Here are ten reasons why:

10.  Brain Ache – This occurs when a story is so convoluted, I need the ghost of Stephen Hawking to get me through the first two chapters;

9.   Ridiculous Character Names – I’m sorry, but I can’t read 300 pages about the adventures of Duffy von Winklesnout;

8.   No Story – If a story arc is flatline, my interest is, too;

7.   Adverb Abuse – When the characters smile happily, glare menacingly, skip gleefully, ogle lustfully, I put the book down. Hastily;

6.   Deus ex machina (“god out of the machine”) – No plot should need the equivalent of divine intervention to reach resolution, unless it’s in a book about…well, divine intervention;

5.   Weird Formatting – This includes lack of punctuation, phonetic spelling of dialects, anything that makes me overly conscious of the act of reading;

4.  Overpopulation – I’m from a small family. I’ve never taught a freshman-level course or directed a Broadway production. Too many characters overwhelm me;

3.  Apathy – If I don’t care about the plot or characters by page 100 (max), I’m out;

2.  Envy – When a mediocre book makes it big (huge! colossal!), I know that reading it will make me yank on my hair and eat too many carbs. (This ban is often trumped by curiosity, but not always.); and

1. No Payoff - Frank Conroy said: "The author makes a tacit deal with the reader. You hand them a backpack. You ask them to place certain things in it - to remember, to keep in mind - as they make their way up the hill. If you hand them a yellow Volkswagen and they have to haul this to the top of the mountain - to the end of the story - and they find that this Volkswagen has nothing whatsoever to do with your story, you're going to have a very irritated reader on your hands." Hear, hear.

My point is—yes, I do have a point, and thank you for asking—I have the freedom to ban any book from my personal library for whatever reason I choose. But I would never presume to do the same for someone else.

For more information, here's a recent NPR article about Banned Books Week. 

Take care friends, and I hope you're reading a good book this week, banned or not.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

August Good Things

Hi, everyone! It's the last day of August, which always feels like the end of summer. I haven't blogged much lately, for a variety of reasons. But all is well, and I'll share a few things I've enjoyed this month:

Seeing live baseball for the first time in two years!

This beautiful rainbow, which was even more beautiful in person.

My sister was here for two weeks, and we had a few adventures.

More sister fun...using homegrown and farmer's market veggies for this delicious (but rather labor intensive) ratatouille.

Participating in a local tradition with my younger son. Colorado State University used to be Colorado A & M, and the A on the hill has been painted annually for nearly 100 years. Here are the photos before and after the first shift. Go Rams!

A private party/concert with The Motones, a Motown tribute band. Fantastic music and a great time.

I'm so grateful to have had these outdoor experiences this summer. Our Covid numbers are climbing steadily, and I'm afraid we will soon be facing increased restrictions even for fully vaccinated folks like me. 

I hope you are happy and well and ready for September!

Friday, July 9, 2021

July Good Things

Welcome to the second half of 2021! Here are some things I'm enjoying these days:

A visit to the local butterfly house

My new crane birdbath and copper cattails
(the birds don't use it, though--probably because it's metal,
and the water gets really hot!)

Golden zucchini blossoms

Kayaking through quiet coves at Horsetooth Reservoir

Ferret Cam: 
Native black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct by the 1950s, but were rediscovered in Wyoming in 1981. Since then, conservation efforts have increased the population and continue to support this species. Our local Discovery Museum has a live ferret cam. A lot of the time, nothing happens, but it's exciting when the little guy pops out of that hole! Here's more info about black-footed ferret history:

What good things are happening for you mid-year?

Friday, May 21, 2021

Roadblock Season

Every spring, when we're (mostly) done with snowy weather, road construction season begins. Orange traffic cones pop up as prolifically as dandelions. Unexpected road closures and detours make getting from point A to point B a little more challenging. 

This is customary and expected, and it doesn't stress me out too much, unless I'm running late. My real problem this year is that the biggest roadblock in my life right now is...


Yep, I'm standing in my own way, impeding my progress as effectively as any "road closed" sign. Have you ever driven by a highway construction zone, creeping along behind a giant RV from Oklahoma for miles and miles, and it doesn't even appear that there's any actual road work being done?

That's my writing life right now!

To stretch this road metaphor, I've found myself at the intersection of discipline and passive resistance. Every time discipline gives that polite "go ahead" wave, resistance says, "no you first, I have (insert nonessential task here) to do." And on it goes.

I have things I need to do. Thing I want to do. I'm just not doing them.

Partly, I blame the enticing spring weather, which is a most welcome relief from pandemic winter. Growing season in Colorado is fairly short, and I have been working on getting flowers and veggies planted. But most of the blame rests squarely on my not-yet-sunburned shoulders.

Time for me to dust off 2021's word of the year again. The good news is that just as every ending can inspire a new beginning, every stop can inspire a fresh start.

How's your productivity these days? Are you running into any roadblocks?

Friday, April 9, 2021

Second Quarter Check-In

Believe it or not, we're a week into the second quarter of 2021. For anyone like me whose shiny new January commitments feel like they're wavering a bit, I'll share something I read recently about entering into contracts with yourself. 

The gist is that we are much more inclined to keep contracts/promises/agreements made with an outside party because we can better envision and anticipate the consequences. If you promise you're going to meet a friend for an outdoor, socially-distanced coffee and you don't, you know that without a very compelling reason for your absence, your friend will be a little perturbed. Plus, being reliable is common courtesy.

But we break promises to ourselves all the time, often without a second thought. The problem with that is, we become accustomed to our unreliability. A way to be more mindful about this is simply to write it down. 

Take one or two of the more important items from your to-do list and elevate them to the next level of commitment by writing a contract with yourself. 

  • Give each a separate slip of paper. 
  • Be as formal (I, the undersigned, hereby affirm...) or as casual (I'm Gonna _______) as you wish. 
  • Use specific language regarding what you will do and when. Big statements such as "I will clean the garage" can end up feeling wishy-washy and/or overwhelming. Give yourself a wide enough window to account for the life's unpredictability.
  • Sign and date the bottom.
  • Post it where you will see it every day.
  • When the contract is fulfilled, give it a big star or an A+ for a job well done.
  • If you don't manage to follow through for whatever reason, assign a consequence and renegotiate the terms.
The month of March showed me how easy it has become for me to not get much done. I have pandemic and work-from-home burnout, and I'm just kind of tired. So maybe a contract is what I need to recommit. But first I have to commit to making a contract.

How was your first quarter of 2021? Any changes upcoming for Q2?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Ready to Spring


Happy Friday! I had planned to write a different (i.e. better) post for today, but after switching to Daylight Savings Time last weekend during a snowstorm that dropped 30" at my house, I haven't had the most productive or inspiring week. 

Walter in his little "snow-asis"

Tomorrow, however, marks the spring/vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere, which is welcome news. Every year, spring brings the promise of renewal, but perhaps no year more than this one. Longer days, warmer temperatures, and increased vaccination will hopefully spread a little optimism after a long and bleak Covid winter. 

With not quite two weeks left in March, there's time to wrap up the first quarter of 2021 and plan for the second. Though I'm still trying to factor discipline into my daily life, I can feel some of my new year enthusiasm waning, so it's a good time for a bit of a reboot.

For a list of  9 ways to celebrate the spring equinox, including the Descent of Kukulkan shown below, check out this list from Mental Floss.