Saturday, December 26, 2009

Celebrate the Positive

It's the day after Christmas. Our spirits are filled with holiday cheer. Our bellies are groaning from cookies and egg nog. Any day now we're going to look at the calendar and start thinking about New Year's Eve and how we're expected to make resolutions.

It's like the Cosmos saying, "You've had your happy ho-ho-ho. Time to climb back aboard the guilt train."

I refuse to end a year setting myself up for disappointment. Instead of kicking off 2010 with dread wondering how long (or how short) it will be before I crash and burn on some lofty resolution, I'd rather bring to mind the cool, happy, wonderful things that made 2009 special. Here goes, in no particular order of importance or significance.

All year long I was heavily involved in getting a dog park built in our town. (As you know if you've read this blog before.) Our group held something like a dozen fundraising events, canvassed the town, stood up to opposition, nurtured support and got the job done. Thanks to everyone's efforts and the community's generosit, the park is almost finished and we're doing a ribbon cutting on January 2nd. Power to the Paws!

The dog park led to me meeting some truly outstanding people and forming new friendships. My life has expanded in the most wonderful way. I feel blessed and am grateful to have these new friends.

Some of these new friends helped me develop the confidence to buy my first boat. Without their encouragement, guidance and support, I might not have taken this step. Thanks to them, instead of looking back with regret, I can eagerly anticipate many good times ahead.

I went on my first cruise early in the year. What a blast. It certainly added to my life's experience list with snorkel trips in Jamaica and Grand Cayman, an appearance in a cruise show/activity called Peer Factor, and other fun events.

As a direct result of exploring social media more for work, I signed up for Facebook. Through this, I've reconnected with a number of folks that I'd lost touch with over the years. I think we're all having fun keeping up with glimpses into each other's lives.

Speaking of reconnecting . . . last spring, a dearly loved cousin flew down to visit. After not seeing each other for quite some time, we got to spend four lovely days together. This also reminded me of how long it had been since I'd seen her parents - my aunt and uncle - and I was able to arrange a trip to see them before I went to Cape Cod. Family matters and even if short, the visit was good.

As I type this, I'm sitting in the kitchen of my brother and sister-in-law's house. I've spent a lovely holiday time with them and my nephews. Each time, I remember how truly fortunate we are to be a family that loves and cares about each other. Even though I moved away to Florida eight years ago and don't get to see them often, there is no distance that love can't travel or medium that it can't use to keep hearts connected.

Yes, indeed. 2009 has been a year worth celebrating with high points and achievements. Here's to a 2010 that's just as great, if not better!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving.

December 25th is the day we've devoted to the giving of gifts. The fourth Thursday of November is a day we devote to the giving of thanks. Oh, sure, we stuff our stomachs with good food and watch a lot of football, but in between dinner, dessert and the fourth quarter, we hang out with family and friends and find time to be grateful for the good things in our lives.

I'm having dinner with my friends Emily and Mike and over 20 people I might or might not have met before. Em and Mike live at a Bahia Honda State Park and are preparing the holiday meal for the park's volunteers and staff. I think that's a lovely thing to do and am grateful to be part of the gathering.

Em and I also work together. Count this as something else on my gratitude list -- that every day I get to work with people I really like and admire. We share not only a commitment to a mission, but get to be friends while doing so. Bonus!

Speaking of friends, I've made several new ones over the last year or so. A dog park brought us together. We've planned, organized, and put on events together and since May have raised over $24,000.00! We set out to build a park and in so doing built friendships. Cora, Drew, Maye, Lori, Rick, Robin, Michelle, Jo, Dave, Jane . . . the list goes on and I'll never be able to include everybody but I say thanks for each and every one of you! I am grateful every time I think of the many things you've done, the hours you've worked and the successes we've enjoyed.

Cora and Drew also gave me the nudge I needed to look for a boat of my own, and then helped me find one. Once found, you also helped me bring it home, are helping me increase my skills, and patiently answer every question, including the ones that must seem dumb.

Is it silly to be grateful for a boat? Maybe to some. For me, it fits so well with my thankfulness that I live in a beautiful place like the Florida Keys. Being on the water makes me very happy and happiness is always a reason to give thanks.

If you thought the boat thanks were silly, wait for the next thing on my list. Facebook. Yes, Facebook, because it brought me back in touch with long-lost friends. Some from high school; some from my college years. We're spread out all over the country but connected again on one dot com.

Family and friends don't feel so far away when you can get glimpses into each other's lives so easily. I'm grateful for that, as I am for the times that I do get to see them in person.

What else am I thankful for? Well, for one thing, I'm glad that I know when I'm on the verge of going overboard with a blog post. I don't need to list every single thing here, particularly when I carry them all in my heart. All the time.

Thanksgiving might be a single day. Giving thanks goes on all year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This That and Everything Else

With so much going on in my life, you'd think that I'd have an endless list of topics about which to blog.

You'd be right. What I've lacked is time.

I thought, foolishly, that once Barktoberfest was over, I'd have hours and hours of time back at night to do lots of different things and catch up on stuff. Ha. I forgot that a week later I'd start a Coast Guard Auxiliary class on Boating Safety and Seamanship. Why, you ask?

Did I tell you that I bought a boat? I think so. I actually purchased the boat in late August but it sat out of the water at a marina for a couple of months while I waited for a boat lift to be installed at my house. To be absolutely correct, I waited for the permits to clear the different agencies so the work could be done. The installation only took two days. The permit approval took w-e-e-k-s. First through the Dept. of Environmental Protection, then the Army Corps of Engineers, then the city where I live. Normally these different departments take their own sweet time, but the regular process was further delayed by matters completely out of anyone's control.

The person at the Army Corps apparently came down with the swine flu the day before she would have completed and mailed out my permit.

The city inspectors couldn't get down my street to check out the plan because of the huge construction trucks installing the sewer infrastructure. (More on that later)

Finally, however, everything got done and my boat is now home, sitting on its lift where I can take it out whenever the opportunity rises.

I LOVE having my own boat. What fun.

I'll enjoy it even more when I've built up my experience, skills and knowledge. Hence the Coast Guard class.

Two classes a week. Two and a half hours each class. Three weeks. We covered safety equipment, chart plotting, navigation, weather, radio usage, rules of boating, signs/markers. Each chapter was at least 20 pages long and crammed with information. I studied like I haven't since college. (My father in Heaven might be rolling his eyes wishing I'd studied this hard IN college.)

I truly thought that the chapter on weather would do me in with the various types of clouds, the westerlies, the trade winds, the high and low pressure systems and everything else.

Happily, I passed the final exam, correctly answering 79 of 80 questions! I gained a boating license and, finally, more time at night.

More time at night, which I'll no doubt enjoy more now that the big weekend event at work is over. Oh, and I'm sure that I'll enjoy that extra time, once I'm done preparing for and working at Bark Bingo on Wednesday. After that, I really don't have much to do to prepare out booth for the City's 10th Anniversary event on Saturday.

Yes, surely, with all this extra free time I'll be 100% percent better at blogging on a more regular basis.

I promise!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dog Parks, Determined People & Packets of Soup

Allow me a moment to be one of those bloggers who doesn't post for weeks and then comes online to talk about how oh so busy and hectic her life has been. Sure, an excuse is an excuse is an excuse, but I have really good ones -- honest!

You've read about the effort I'm involved in to bet a dog park built in our town. I've been working on the project in one way or another since May of 2008. After months of proposals and appearances in front of City Council, TPTB finally approved a parcel of land for a dog park. Our dedicated group made the commitment to raise all of the necessary funds. That's what I've been doing since May of 2009 -- fundraising. Thanks to a series of events and an outpouring of fantastic support from the community, our group has raised over $22,000.00!

Yep, 22 grand in a relatively small town during lousy economic times in a period of five short months.


We've bagged groceries for tips at the supermarket, held a Gold Party where people sold their old gold pieces for cash and the jeweler split her commission with the dog park; benefited from a dog wash put on by a local vet hospital; put on a few Yappy Hours; a Yard Sale; a big Beach Party; a Barktail Hour; and, this past weekend, Barktoberfest with a Pet Masquerade Parade.\

Nine fundraising events in five months requires a lot of work.

We're mega-excited because we have earned more than enough money for the necessary fencing and are on our way to raising funds for the other things we need.

This is why new blog posts have been few and far between.

But I'm back with a doozy of a story.

Last week, I dashed into the supermarket to pick up something to make for dinner. When zipping past the sushi section, I spotted a colorful box that said, "Quality Soup Packets." I like me a good quality soup, so I stopped to read more. The individual packets said:

Cock-Flavored Soup.

It was all I could do to hold back the laughter that threatened to erupt from my throat.

Oh sure, I know I was in the Asian section and cock is a perfectly acceptable synonym for rooster. The packet even had a brightly colored rooster image.

That logic had no impact on my off-color sense of humor. I don't care what culture originated the product, in this country, cock-flavored soup is an entendre begging to be doubled... or trebled.

It gets better. I rushed home and immediately called my friends Jen and Joe. I knew their senses of humor would appreciate this situation as much as I. Jen put me on speaker phone and I'm positive that I heard Joe actually choke on his laughter. They demanded that I buy some packets and send them up to Jersey so Joe can give them as holiday gifts to his brother, brother in law and friend.

I did so yesterday. Guess what price they charge for cock-flavored soup?

69 cents.

I can't make up this stuff! It's priceless.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Memory of Kate

The publishing industry lost a giant this past weekend. Kate Duffy, editorial genius for Kensington Publishing passed away.

Kate was feared by some; revered by many; respected by everybody I know.

She wasn't my editor. I never even pitched a book to her. Instead, she was my friend and I'm proud to be able to say so.

I met Kate several years ago at a convention. We were introduced by mutual friend, author Heather Graham. It took all of ten minutes of conversation to realize that when it came to information or opinions, she could shoot straight from the hip with sharp aim and then settle back to savor her drink.

I can think of half a dozen times when I'd start to disagree and then stop because, again, Kate was absolutely right.

Intelligent, insightful, inspiring (although I bet she'd scoff at that one), intimidating, she could deliver a critique or pinpoint a problem in someone's work with laser-like precision. The truth wasn't always easy to hear, but a smart writer knew that if they listened to what she said, their work would be that much better. Even though I never worked with her, I saw her in action in numerous panels and workshops at conferences and learned from the experience.

Gracious, generous, funny as hell. An entertaining raconteur. I swear if you'd put Kate in the middle of a state dinner at the White House or at the famed Round Table at the Algonquin, she would not merely have held her own. She'd have held everyone's attention with her wit and stories.

I saw Kate mostly at conventions and conferences. I can't tell you how many times someone might pass by, realize who she was, and then widen their eyes with an expression very close to awe. The woman was a living legend, particularly among romance writers.

Yet, never once did I see Kate act like she was anyone special. Maybe she didn't feel it or realize that she was viewed as such by many. God, I hope that she knew what a major difference she made in the lives of many writers. And in the lives of those who are proud to have been considered her friend.

A couple of years ago, I threw a 50th birthday party for myself in my hometown Atlantic City. I'd seen Kate a few months prior at Heather Graham's Writers for New Orleans Convention, so I invited her to my party. To my delight, she immediately accepted. I will always remember her dancing in a group with me and several writer friends. We had a blast.

When I heard the news this morning that Kate has passed away I was shocked, although I knew that she'd been fighting illness since early this year. I prayed that it was an incorrect rumor and we'd find out that she was fine. Unfortunately, confirmation came pretty quickly. The shockwave spread quickly around the Internet. Heather Graham said it best in two words: Beyond sadness.

That's how those who knew and loved Kate feel -- a grief beyond sadness, but we also have our memories. One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that it really is a web that keeps us connected. Kate's friends and authors are spread out all over the country, and the world, but on the Internet, in blogs, on Facebook, on listserves, we can share our thoughts, memories, stories and tributes.

We lost a friend. Publishing and romance lost a legend. In the writers she taught and the books she edited, her legacy lives.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

I hope they have a Kindle waiting for you in Heaven.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Action & Adventure!

Well smack my mouth and point your fingers. I have been awayyyyy far too long from this blog. Now, it would not be illogical to assume that I haven't blogged in a month because my life was boring and completely lacking in bloggable material. That makes sense. It's not the case, however.

I've been busier than a one-armed paperhanger at a design showcase. Busier than a gang of sharks in a feeding frenzy. Busier than a troop of monkeys with one day to . . . okay, you get the idea. I've had a lot going on. I thought about blogging but in a time-honored tradition that's part Scarlett O'Hara, part pure procrastination, I kept putting it off until tomorrow. I apologize to all of you and thank you for not abandoning this blog all together.

So, just what has been taking over my days and nights? Where shall I start?

The day after posting the last blog, I left town for vacation. I stayed one night in New York with a dear cousin, enjoying Boeuf Bourguinon and the movie Julie and Julia with equal gusto and delight. I then visited with my aunt and uncle in Connecticut whom I haven't seen since I moved to Florida almost eight years ago. I am so glad that I did so. It was wonderful to see them, and another cousin, and spend several hours just talking.

From there, I headed to Cape Cod for the annual gathering of family and friends known as the Pasta Match. Food, fun, frivolity, conversation, camaraderie, cooking, music and mayhem. A good time was shared by all.

I got home and finished buying a boat. She's beautiful, handles well, and is going to be so much fun! I can't wait to take friends fishing and snorkeling. I need some additional practice on my boat handling skills but it shouldn't take me long to become more confident. Right now, she's at a marina getting cleaned, detailed and named. We're waiting for the permits to be approved and then the boat lift can be installed for easy access! Can we say Psyched!

Works has been super busy and my non-work hours are taken up with dog park activities. I am blessed to be involved with a group of people who know how to put the fun in fundraising as we work to obtain the money to build a dog park in our town. Last month we held a successful Yappy Hour. We have five additional events from now to Barktoberfest in mid-October including a yard sale, beach party, blessing of the animals, and Bingo night. It's a darned good thing that all of us can multi-task. Power to the Paws!

Last weekend I flew to New Orleans for the annual Writers for New Orleans Conference put on by my dear friend, and fabulous author, Heather Graham. Bourbon Street, riverboat, karaoke, workshops, fine food, delicious drinks, casino gambling -- it's amazing that we fit that much fun into less than four days!

You would think that after all this, I'd be ready for a restful weekend, right. Well, it might not be restful, but it sure will be fun. I have a dog and people party to go to Saturday afternoon. Then, Sunday night, it's BRUUUUCCCCCCCCCCEEEEEE. That's Bruce as in Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, live in concert in Ft. Lauderdale.

That's so fitting. With a schedule like I've experienced this last month, clearly I was born to run!

So tell me... what have YOU been up to in recent weeks?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Postal Issues

Is there a guideline in government agencies that they should never make things easy when a more complicated process is available?

My case in point. Today I wanted to mail something via the U.S. Postal Service's Express Mail service. At work, we had the proper labels, and I could run it on the postage meter, but we didn't have Express Mail envelopes. At least not plain, run of the mill Express Mail envelopes. We had only Flat Rate Express Mail envelopes -- the ones that you can cram as much paper into as possible and then send for the same rate. In this case, that would have been $17.50, versus $13.05 for regular old Express Mail.

Since we didn't have government-issued Xpress Mail lopes, I went on line to see if I could use my own packaging. The data was inconclusive.

Now, I've seen most USPS supplies. There's not a whole heck of a lot of difference between the flat cardboard mailers except for the words printed on them. So it made sense to me that I could cross out the words "Flat Rate" and still use the Express Mail things we had in house. Right? That doesn't seem too confusing, particularly since I was using the right label.

I should have known better.

The carrier picked up the package and a couple of hours later I got a phone call from the post office. They were holding the package there because it was in the wrong envelope. I could either run down and switch the packaging or they'd send it out "postage due". I had until 1:30 to haul it to the post office in town.

Unfortunately, I was in a meeting until 1:25. I called as soon as I got the message. Oh joy, the truck had not yet left. I booked out, grabbing a manilla envelope because the postal clerk told me they didn't have any of the regular old Express envelopes and rushed to town.

In the midst of switching envelopes and filling out a new label, the clerk told me that since it was past 1:30, the best they could guarantee was second day afternoon delivery.

Uhhh. The package was going on the same truck as the other ones that had come in before 1:30, so why couldn't they still guarantee next day delivery? What, my package was going to be too far in the back of the truck or something?

All this because of two words -- Flat Rate -- on an envelope. Never mind that I wasn't cramming in reams of paper -- just a single sheet. Never mind that even if I'd wanted to send it in a regular Express envelope they would not have been able to supply me with one. So what that it didn't specify on the website that I could use my own packaging and still send it Express.

I refrained from suggesting that crossing out the words Flat Rate made my package unique and "mine" so they should let me send it out that way instead of wasting the package and my time.

Sadly, I've learned that when it involves the post office, it's their way or no way.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

No Retreat, No Surrender

On October 27, 1975, Bruce Springsteen hit the covers of both Time and Newsweek. Jon Landau proclaimed, "I have seen the future of rock 'n roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen."

The album (Yes, album) Born to Run had burst onto the scene. Springsteen was 26 years old.

I was 17 years old and a freshman in college. The first time I heard Thunder Road on the radio I was awestruck. These days, my superfan status is just as strong. My opinion of Bruce as the greatest rock and roll songwriter/performer/star hasn't changed.

Other things have, of course, changed.

Today I went to the mailbox and pulled out the September/October 2009 issue of AARP The Magazine. Yes, at 51, I've qualified for AARP membership for over a year. On the cover of this issue, brandishing his guitar, nobody else but the Boss. He'll be 60 next month and he's still filling arenas and rocking out concerts that last two or more hours.

In Thunder Road, there's a famous lyric that says, "So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore. Show a little faith, there's magic in the night." Nine years later in No Surrender, Bruce sings, "Well now young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold. We swore blood brothers against the wind. Now I'm ready to grow young again."

I don't think he ever grew old, and if there's anybody that doesn't seem to fear that he isn't that young anymore, it's Bruce.

From the time I became a fan, Bruce has inspired me with his songs and his life example. 34 years later he still does. Can't wait to see him and the E Street Band in concert again next month!

I don't feel like I've ever grown old either, which does not mean that I don't take full advantage of the AARP discount at hotels and Borders Books.

Hey, AARP scored Bruce for its magazine cover. That makes it totally cool in anybody's book.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ripe for the Plucking

During lunch today I was enjoying the remainder of an excellent chicken poblano burrito and musing about financial vagaries. (I wonder if chicken poblano burrito and vagaries have ever before appeared in the same sentence.) This delightful dish cost me $8.65 as take-out last night from the local Mexican restaurant. The chicken was a tender, thick breast slice and the dish blended the hint of heat from a poblano pepper with cool, creamy cheese. All that taste for less than $9. Up the road away, a restaurant sells a pistachio encrusted chicken wrap that is also delicious but at a higher price. Another place has a coconut encrusted chicken dish that's probably twice as much. Hence my musing. If the chicken's just as good on one side of the road, why is it so much more expensive on the other side?

As if musing and eating weren't enough, I multi-tasked by web-surfing during lunch. I chanced upon yet another article about yet another industry adversely affected by the economy. Apparently, prostitutes and mistresses are feeling the recession. Wealthy men are finding it too expensive to cheat in the old ways. Hookers charge too much per hour. Mistresses or "high end girlfriends" as the article called them, come with a bunch of expenses like big ticket gifts, apartments and the occasional luxury weekend getaway.

Who knew that the economy could impact adultery? Apparently, this presents a real dilemma because financial woes are the number one cause of problems in a marriage and can lead to infidelity. What's a stressed out spouse to do?

According to this article, those who are compelled to have an affair are finding it easier and less costly to hook up with a honey who is also married. So, you don't need to finance an apartment (occasional hotel rooms are cheaper than rent), purchase expensive gifts that might be questioned by the partner's spouse, and, for a real bonus, there's less risk that the person you're sleeping with will rat you out or black mail you since he/she is also cheating and has just as much to lose.

Nature abhors a vaccum, so of course there are businesses cropping up to facilitate the affairs. Yes, there are website services where you can troll for a married person who also wants to cheat. I haven't googled them but one can only imagine the possible names. Affairtoremember dot com? Snatch dot com?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Hair and Goat Poop

Let's all just admit it now. We do some strange things to ourselves in the quest for beauty, great hair, and younger-looking faces.

When the world is filled with perfectly good razors, we willingly hold still while an esthetician spreads hot, melted wax on our faces or bodies, presses down a linen strip and then yanks out hair.

When age brings the onset of some wrinkles or furrows in once-smooth foreheads, lots of people willingly let doctors inject Botox -- a protein derived from a toxin that "decreases the activity" of the facial muscles.

Rumor has it that the Japanese used ground nightingale droppings and urine in their facial products. So.... some of the same women who cringe when their dog rolls in a fragrant pile of bird crap, might pay big chunks of money to have bird crap powder rubbed into their faces.

That totally weirds me out.

Earlier tonight, while tilting my head back on the chair so Angelina could wax my eyebrows (Okay, so I might think some things are strange but still choose to have them done. I draw the line at bird poo.) I asked her about Moroccan Oil products. I have the actual oil and see good results on my hair. My stylist suggested I look into one of their styling creams. Why is this line of products so hot, I wondered.

Angelina told me that the argan oil in the products really enters the hair and helps it, rather than just sticking to the top. I wanted to know how argan oil accomplishes this and others don't.

I'm not sure I ever heard the answer because Angelina proceeded to tell me a story about argan fruit, goats in trees, and goat poop. Huh? Apparently, over in Morocco, goats climb argan trees to eat the fruit. Then, a while ago, people harvested the argan fruit seeds to press out the oil. From the goat poop. They sifted shit to get the seeds.

So.... does that mean that the products I like are made from goat poop? I'm not sure why, but this struck me as outrageously funny and I couldn't stop laughing. This is not the wisest action when someone is trying to apply hot wax to your eye brow. I finally settled down long enough for Angelina to finish. She then walked over to the computer to show me the video of argan-eating goats feeding and then jumping out of the trees.

Wikipedia says:
For centuries before modern times, the Berbers (indigenous people of Morocco) of this area would collect undigested argan pits from the waste of goats which climb the trees to eat their fruit. The pits were then ground and pressed to make the nutty oil used in cooking and cosmetics. However, the oil used in cosmetic and culinary products available for sale today has most likely been harvested and processed with machines in a verifiably clean and sanitary way.

I'd like to believe that the modern harvesting process bypasses the goats' gastrointestinal system but, you know... How far can we trust Wikipedia?

Think on it while you watch the video of tree goats.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Musings and Mutterings

I'm watching Deception, a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor. McGregor is a somewhat nerdy corporate accountant, Jackman appears to be a little bit of a shady corporate guy. Jackman's character correctly surmises that McGregor doesn't get much sex and somehow involves him in a private sex club. So, why isn't this movie hotter? Ewan's getting all sorts of action now. Watching my dogs chase geckos is more interesting. Maybe I'm just shallow beyond belief and am disappointed because Hugh hasn't had any naked monkey-sex scenes yet. *le sigh*

Some people make lists before they go to the supermarket. I'm putting together a list of books that I want to buy this weekend. I have a dogsitter and am going off the rock which means I'll be near full service bookstores. One needs to take full advantage of this opportunity. I already have three must-buy books on the list. (Pardon the way the covers are arranged. I'm still trying to figure out picture layouts on Blogger.)

I was really dreading the Michael Jackson memorial yesterday. I fully expected a complete circus. I wouldn't have seen any of it, except for news programs, but I always record General Hospital so, of course, the DVR captured the last hour of the memorial service. I was really moved by the tributes that I heard, the songs that were performed, and the loving words of his heartbroken daughter. I went into work this morning and asked if anyone could tell me the name of the woman who sang the lead on We Are the World. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who didn't recognize her so I'm not tragically unhip. Her name is Judith Hill. I think she has an amazing voice and we will now hear more from her.

How was your Fourth of July? I had an amazing day. I spent the afternoon with friends on their boat moored at a sandbar with a few dozen other boats swimming, talking, and partying -- in the water. This rolled over into an impromptu get-together at my house where I have an excellent vantage point for viewing the city's terrific fireworks show.

I want a boat. That's my new goal. Stay tuned. I'll keep you posted.

On the news tonight, they ran a story that the airlines are starting to implement huge fare sales for travel this fall. If memory serves me correctly, around this time last year the airlines were telling us about how they just HAD to start charging higher fares and making us pay to check our luggage because of all the higher fuel costs. I think it's only fitting that now they have to lure us back to travel.

How often do we see something that flashes us back to our youth? I just caught a glimpse of a video on television (Totally lost interest in Deception and switched channels.) of a young woman portraying a fairy godmother in a school play. Something about her costume made me think of an early class play -- 4th grade, I think. I wore an outfit similar to that costume when I played Princess Subtraction in our production of The Court of King Arithmetic. In my one memorial line I had to gush that the character who was played by the class bad boy was "sooo cute". I was mortified. Maybe that's what set me up for a lifetime of mathematical suckitude.
What are you musing or muttering about these days?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

From sea to shining sea, across the amber waves of grain, up the purple mountains majesty and o'er the ramparts, celebrate, Americans.

It's Independence Day.

Enjoy your picnics and barbeques, hug your family, settle in to ooh and ahh over the fireworks. Each and every one of us deserves to party in honor of our country.

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 29, 2009

I've Been Playing

I probably should have posted that I was taking a short blogging vacation. Sorry for the absence, but at least I left you something pretty to look at while I was gone.

I've been playing the last couple of weeks, in between working. First, my dear cousin Joan flew to the Keys for a few days and we logged some serious beach time along with a trip to Key West, a swim with dolphins at Dolphin Research Center, and lots of wonderful conversation.

This past weekend, I spent the night in Key West in a house filled with friends.

One should always make the time to hang out and have fun with the people we care about!

Since I last posted, so much has gone on in my world as well as the world at large, I can't seem to settle on only one topic for this post. So, I'm going to skate by with a couple of observations.

Rest in peace to all of the celebrities who passed in the last couple of weeks. Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays. I can't help thinking that like many things, stardom is a matter of degrees. While people gather and leave tributes at MJ's estates and childhood home or Farrah's star on the Hollywood walk of fame, will anyone bring flowers to the supermarket and leave them on the floor by the Oxyclean in honor of Mr. Mays?

If I ever bump my head, or get hit in the head and feel even the slightest bit off, I'm going to the E.R. There are lessons to be learned from Natasha Richardson's seemingly little skiing fall and Billy Mays getting conked by some luggage on a recent flight. (If that's what they end up saying led to his death.) Clearly we need to take these things more seriously. Considering the number of concussions suffered during football season, it's a wonder more NFL pros haven't suffered similar complications.

While in Key West yesterday, our group decided to go to the "pirate store". I never knew that this is really a section inside the big adult toy/fantasy clothing store. There under one roof, you can find a tricorn hat, lacy baby doll ensemble, a replica saber, brush-on chocolate, and vibrators in an array of colors. I'm sure there are more than a few people who combine the products and come up with some truly creative, erotic pirate fantasies. I didn't investigate all corners of the store to see if there was a fetish department with a real cat o' nine tails.

I was greatly heartened to see numerous signs cautioning customers that intimate novelties cannot be returned.

Oh thank God! Not that I was shopping for a dildo, but I'm greatly relieved that if I was, I could be sure that it had not been used by someone else and then returned for a refund or store credit.

Monday, June 15, 2009


One night last week, I looked out the window at the view I see every day and physically gasped at its beauty. I've seen this scene thousands of times over 30 plus years, but on this evening it was magic.
I don't know what atmospheric illusion turned the sky and water almost identical shades of pure, breathtaking blue. I don't know why the wind died down at the same time so that the harbor was transformed into an endless, still, reflecting pool.
I only know that I wanted to capture the image and keep it with me forever.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blame it on Bejeweled

I've neglected this blog. I'm sorry. I have all the good intentions, but, well, there, here's the thing . . .

Hi, my name is Mary and I'm an addict. It's a terrible disease. Eventually addiction steals quality time away from your life and loved ones. It sucks you in and consumes you until all you want to do is devote yourself to your addiction. It calls to you, lures you to its side with bright, glittering promise. "Play with me," it whispers in your head. "You know you want to. You think you can beat me. You're willing to try."

The ante always increases. You're never really satisfied. You keep going back, desperate to score. Higher and higher.

My dogs stare at me with pleading eyes. "Mommy, please. Don't do it. Play with us instead."

"One more time. One more minute," I promise. "That's all and then I'll stop. Just. Once. More."

I can't stand the disappointment in their little doggy eyes but the addiction has me in its thrall.

*deep breath*

I don't want to give it up. It's so much fun. I know I can beat it on my terms.

Yes. On my terms. I'll play but I won't let it take over. I can do this. Really.

Hi, my name is Mary. I'm addicted to Bejeweled Blitz.

(If you play, you know exactly what I'm talking about!)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Summer of Postcards

I just wrote out ten postcards and I'm not even on vacation.
"Why?" you ask. Well, long ago in the Jurassic days before Twitter, Facebook, email, cell phones and text messaging, my brother and his friends communicated by post cards. I'd make some out of boxes and other materials and send them to my bro wherever he was living. He'd send home some classics, too. Jackalopes and popes and anything that wasn't a typical vacation-style card.

Over the years, everyone pretty much got out of the habit. After all, technology makes things so much faster and easier.

But is faster and easier always more desirable?

A few weeks ago, one of the Pastafarians (Those of you who are familiar with my annual visits to Cape Cod for the reunion of friends and family know what this means.) suggested we go back and recapture the joy this summer. I've embraced the card adventure -- that's cod if you're from Massachusetts. Yesterday, I picked up 10cards at a souvenir shop and bought stamps at the post office. Post card love takes some effort.

You folks on Twitter who are proud of yourselves for communicating in 140 characters or less, eat your hearts out. I wrote my messages as haiku on seven of the ten cards.

I look forward to mailing these out tomorrow. I also look forward to eventually receiving some from others who are participating in our summer of postcard love.

When did you last send a postcard to someone?

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I'm watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee final round on television. It is by turn an exciting, heartbreaking, humbling experience. I've always had a pretty good vocabulary and excellent spelling apptitude, but any one of the 11 finalists would absolutely kick my ass in this competition.

If the announcer wasn't able to give the language(s) of origin, the part of speech, the definition and use the words in a sentence, I'd accuse him of making them up as he goes along.

Yet, kid after kid meets the challenge and spells complicated, multisyllabic words that I've never even heard or seen. So far, I've recognized only four -- Reykjavik, Anasazi, blancmange, and goombay. The only reason I know that last word is because they hold a Goombay Festival every fall in Key West.

I think the simplest word thus far was simnel. It's a good thing the kid asked for the definition because I sure as hell never heard of this cake often made in the Mid-Lent season.

Axolotl... herniorrophathy... hypallage...plaidoyer... arrhostia.

These kids are 13. I'm pretty sure they've been practicing spelling since they were six months old. I don't know how they aren't cracking under the pressure. I'm not related to any of them and I'm tense enough to break the bones in my jaw.

Oh no. The bell dinged, signalling that the competitor spelled his word wrong. He's crushed and covering his face with his hands as he walks over to his parents. Don't cry, young man. Be proud! Just to get to this round you spelled words that 98% of the adults around you couldn't pronounce without the phonetic spelling in the dictionary.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Joy of Fishing

Friends came down from Miami yesterday and we went out yellowtailing at the reef. That's fishing talk for we went out to the reef to try to catch yellowtail snapper. A couple of us had fished before. A couple hadn't. An excellent charter captain took us out on his 28 foot boat on a weather-perfect day. Depending on depth, the ocean colors varied from sparkling London Blue topaz to deep sapphire. A light breeze kept us cool under the glowing sun.

On the surface, fishing is pretty basic. You bait a hook, drop it in the water, and hope a desirable fish takes the bait so you can reel it in. Humans are the big brains in this situation so we ought to be able to figure it all out and fish the limit no sweat.

What happens is often vastly different from what ought to be. Even though I've yellowtailed before, if I'd rented a boat and taken out my friends, we could have soaked bait and lines for hours and never caught a fish. Even an experienced fishing captain is no guarantee. Fish might not have humongous brains, but they don't exactly line up to jump on your hook just because you choose to show up in their territory on any given day.

The captain had all of the tools. A good boat, his experience, his knowledge of the habits and habitats of this particular type of snapper, his fish finder, etc. He found a likely spot, anchored us up and put out a chum line. He instructed us on the technique of fishing with the bales open on our reels, constantly letting out line so our shiny bait drifted out like any other bit of chum. We'd know we'd hooked a fish if the line began to zip off the reel, at which point we were to close the bale and start winding it in -- quickly.

So. We went to work. We waited. And fished. And waited. And fished.

There's a question you'll hear around here from time to time. Did you fish or did you catch?

At that first spot, we fished a lot but caught very little. The one keeper sized yellowtail that one of us eventually hooked, we almost lost. A hungry barracuda can swim faster than a human can reel in line. The water was so clear, we saw the predator snap at the fish! Luckily, he only got the tail before my friend brought the remainder of the fish on board.

For whatever reason, the fish did not cooperate. With so few strikes, after awhile, the captain decided to move us to another spot. He found a promising one that the fish finder indicated was loaded with fish. We chummed again, put out a couple of lines and waited. Before long, one of our lines took off. Gus flipped the bale but, in his excitement, started winding in the wrong direction. Another lesson -- It's difficult to reel in a fish when you're really letting out more line.

Zip! Zap! The fish began to hit, and the anglers discovered new ways to screw up. Some of us are accustomed to setting the hook. The captain told us that ripped the bait out of their mouths. I apparently didn't lift my rod fast enough or high enough, but let it point to the fish's head for too long and he escaped into the reef rocks.

Vicky was taking a turn, when a monster fish hit her hook. She squealed like a, yes I'll say it, like a girl and said it was too strong, so I grabbed the rod from her and reeled in like crazy. The captain gave me incredible coaching -- fight it with the rod, now reel. Lift the rod, get him headed in your direction. Keep winding!

This was both fishing AND catching. I've boated a fair number of yellowtail in my life, but never fought one like this. I also felt just how much more strengthening I need to do with my left wrist. The surgery in April left me with some residual weakness. Let's just say I'm glad that I managed to get the fish to the surface before my wrist gave up. I would never have survived the humiliation!

The fish looked to be about 25 inches long and weighed nearly 5 pounds. Considering the average is 1-3 pounds and the Florida record is 8, it was definitely big.

The biggest fish of the trip also set off the biggest debate. Vicky claimed responsibility but I maintained that I caught it since I did the hard work. She says that if she hadn't hooked it, I'd have had nothing to catch. We finally decided in favor of teamwork and are now sharing the claim.

We could actually see the fish flashing beneath the clear water off of our stern. For a good chunk of time, we continued to catch fish. Some were keepers; others didn't make the size limit. We continued to lose fish through the occasional boneheaded error in technique. (Captain Chris, must have mentally been tearing out his hair.) We also saw other interesting things -- like large remora swimming up to attack the chum and a gigantic leatherback turtle swimming several yards off of our portside bow.

All of a sudden, Gus's line took a big hit. He flipped the bale and, this time, started reeling in the right direction but to no avail. Line screamed off of the reel and there was nothing he could do. Captain Chris exclaimed that a shark must have grabbed the yellowtail. He took the rod from Gus and tried to help. All of sudden, we saw a dorsal fin surface. That was no shark that had robbed Gus of a big fish. It was a dolphin!

"There goes our yellowtail fishing," the captain announced. "Once dolphins show up, it's pretty much over." He and I then talked about how opportunistic and smart dolphins are when they happen upon some active fishing. We'd gathered up the yellowtail for them by chumming them up close to the surface. When we caught one on a hook, the fish then became more focused on trying to escape us than on fleeing the dolphin.

Now, I know this must be super annoying if it happens early in your day when you're just starting to catch the big ones, but we were near the end of our trip and had caught enough for a good dinner and then some. It's hard to be upset when yu've enjoyed yourselves and then also got to see dolphins!

The Joy of Fishing probably means different things to different people. For me, I love to catch, certainly, but there is a great deal of pleasure for me in just being out on a boat on the water with good friends enjoying the adventure and whatever it brings our way.

I also view it as a great life lesson. You can prepare to the max, bring your best weapons and strategy to the battle, and success can still turn on what the opponent does, or doesn't do.

You win some; you lose some.

Some days you catch; some days you fish. Any day you can have a great time!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Supermarket Observations

Yesterday, our dog park group bagged groceries for tips and collected other donations for the park we want to see built in Marathon. I sat at the table for at least half of the time outside greeting people and answering questions. This gave me ample opportunity to form some impressions. My data is totally unscientific, of course, and could be prone to generalization. I'll factor in that it was a holiday weekend and that might also impact the observations, but what the heck. It's my blog and I can generalize if I want to.

Families on vacation who are staying in a home or vacation condo as opposed to a couple of hotel rooms, apparently consider grocery shopping a group activity. I wonder if the father and kids ever go with Mom back home.

If two families are traveling together, the above does not apply. The women know that they can more efficiently gather what they need if they go as a team. They will hit all of the major food groups, including several bottles of wine, and still remember to buy three different varieties of chips. I bagged for two such women yesterday. They filled three carts and the bill was almost $1000.00.

Local men who are out doing errands with their ladies would rather drop her off at the supermarket door and sit outside in a hot car or with the a/c running than go into Publix for a full morning's shopping. If alone, they will run in for beer and a sandwich.

Men who came into the Keys for a fishing weekend without their wives, hunt (i.e. shop) in a pack. They come out with steaks, chips, corn on the cob, already-fried chicken, brats, and beer. That's their version of fitting the nutrition pyramid.

Local women are more likely to come in with reusable shopping bags. I think I saw one man carry them into the store. Perhaps he was the single man who preplanned his trip and needed something other than beer and a sandwich.

Someone should start a supermarket shopping service for single dads, particularly those with young daughters. A professional shopper would say no and make it stick when the kids are crying for balloons, candy, cheap toys, and thirteen varieties of cookies.

The rare man who appears to enjoy the shopping experience is more likely to balance the red meat in his cart with fresh vegetables and fruit.

Some men are on overload with the whole hunter/provider thing. Two men came in with their wives to stock up for the family barbeque. Among massive amounts of other things, they also bought two big packages of the freshly fried chicken. The swipe had not cooled from their debit card before they dove into the packages. They'd also bought a package of paper napkins and thoughtfully opened that up, too. The men then served the rest of their family members with pieces of chicken, all while still in line. (It was a big order that took time to bag.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Four Days Off and Much to Do

It's Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S. Not only do I have Monday off, but I also took off Tuesday because friends are supposed to come down and visit. A lovely four day weekend stretches out ahead of me like a lovely blank canvas just waiting for me to paint in recreational activities.

Right after I take care of some responsibilities. Tomorrow I'm joining several members of our dog park group to bag groceries at the local Publix. Tips for our service will be collected as donations toward building the dog park. I spent the last hour printing out additional invitations to another fundraising even we've planned (A Gold Party!) and creating a letter/receipt form that we can give to people who hand us cash donations.

After the bagging adventure, I have major cleaning to do around the house. There are some serious dog hair tumbleweeds lurking under cabinets and in corners. Beware, dog hair. You can't hide from the mighty Oreck vacuum.

I wish I could rent a handyperson for a few little tasks around the house. My porch needs to be pressure washed and painted and my front door should be painted, too. I could probably handle the front porch painting. It's just a big rectangle. No big challenge. Technically, the door is a rectangle, too, but it has the door knob and lock which are circular. I think I'd have to remove them first to make my brushstrokes straight and that could be courting trouble. I'm sure it isn't that big a deal to unscrew the screws that hold those things in place but what if I can't reinstall them correctly? I'd have to call a locksmith to fix things and probably pay extra for a Saturday. This would negate the money I might have saved by attempting to paint the door myself.

So why not just cut straight to the checking account and get that handyperson?

I could make a list of other projects. Okay, I already have a list of other projects in my head. I just haven't tackled any of them. For this weekend, the basic cleaning chores will suffice. Vacuum, dust, mop floors, polish the appliances, make up the beds in the guest bedroom, tackle the overflowing towers of books in my bedroom, do laundry, give the dogs a bath, clean the algae off of the aquarium. Joy at the thought of all this domestic bliss builds inside me until it wants to bubble over like... like... acid reflux?

Okay, Mary, quityerbitchen, I remind myself. It could be worse. I could have all of these chores to accomplish and have half the time in which to do so.

Rainbows might be faint, but at least they're still rainbows!

After all, I'd like to embrace the "holiday" part of holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

American Idol - The Big Winner

I'm not actually talking about Kris Allen. I meant me! After months of intense competition, when the final points were tallied, I kept my spot at the top of the AI Pool and won the first place prize. After a donation to my favorite organization in honor of the awesome Jen and Joe Schmidt who organize and run the pool, I will put my winnings to good use.

While I bask in victory and bragging rights (Hey, this was a serious competition!), here are a few final thoughts on last night's final.

Adam didn't need to win. He'll go light years farther and faster with his career than Kris.

I like Kris. I think he'll have a career, but it will be more on the level of Josh Gracin (who isn't doing half bad) than Carrie Underwood (who quickly achieved superstar status).

For his big finale costume, Randy shopped at the House of Urkel.

Adam incorporated scraps of Thunderdome in his outfit for the Kiss number.

They should do montages that mock the judges at the beginning of each week's results show.

Rod Stewart should change the lyrics to Maggie May so he sings, "The big spotlight when it's in my face really shows my age but that don't worry you none cause in your eyes I'm a super rich, baby-making, sugar daddy."

The producers were cruel to make Scott McIntyre learn all of those dance routines. Just let the man sit at his piano and sing!

Steve Martin performed on banjo while Megan Joy and Michael Sarver butchered his song. His expression said, "Jaime Foxx got a mentor gig and I'm stuck with these second rate bozos."

They should do away with the "Idol Awards" that lets them trot out the worse performers and mock them again. Either that or make one award for "Biggest Whacko".

Until next season, Stella out!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

American Idol - The Final

Weeks of performances, vote-offs, judge debates over song choices, booing of Simon Cowell for the least non-positive comment, and inane analogies and ramblings by Paula came down to tonight. Adam Lambert and Kris Allen performing three songs for their last chance to be named American Idol. For me, it was sort of a let down, like popping the cork on expensive champagne only to have the bubbly be flat.

The best performances happen in the first few minutes. So, I'm left without a clear feeling on which contestant "won" the night. Not that it matters, since the title will go to the man with the biggest legion of fans that have unlimited texting accounts.

Some things that stood out for me. Did you catch Randy criticizing the song choice of What's Going On for Kris's second number? Kara tried to save him by subtly reminding everyone that the boss of American Idol, Simon Fuller, chose the song. Way to go, Randy. Dis the boss.

Not even that really compares to Simon's obvious dislike of the so-called "Winner's Song" that Kara co-wrote. Unfortunately both Adam and Kris had to sing it. I'm sure Adam meant to project true emotion in his facial expression, but instead he resembled a guy trying to evacuate a watermelon through his butt. Perhaps it dawned on him that if he wins, he'll actually have to record that as a single.

I felt really bad for Kris. When none of the judges want to judge you on that specific performance and hope that all of America votes based on your season, you just know that you last impression sucked like a late-on-rent hooker.

Paula puts the hyper in hyperbole. She declared Adam "iconic". Next to "catatonic", that's her favorite "ic" word. Ten years from now when he's impersonating Cher at the Legends show in Vegas, and trying out for the umpteenth revival of Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat, I hope she remembers those words.

Paula, you have never looked so bad. Did you fall asleep in the tanning bed, sweetie. Maybe you passed out in front of someone you pissed off and they took revenge by slathering on a self-tanning lotion. Your face was so bronze and your makeup so wrong that it looked like your cheek bones caved in. Sort of like an overbaked cake left out in the rain.

Sometime before tomorrow's results show, I have to figure out how I'm voting in the American Idol pool. Tonight, it isn't about which performer I think will win, or which I think America vote for. It's all about looking at the rankings of my opposition in the pool and figuring out how the points will stack up depending on how THEY voted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Water Water Everywhere

The rainy season started last week. May 10th, to be exact, according to the weather forecasters on television. True to form, we operated on "Keys Time" so no rain actually fell until May 15th.
We're making up for it now. It's one of those rare days when the clouds blanket the entire sky and send down sheets of rain. This could last for hours, or minutes. Who knows?
Well, those of us who automatically check the radar on a weather website know. Much to the pleasure of my cousin and his girlfriend, once this storm cell passes over, we should be in the clear for awhile.
I love the rain -- in small doses. We need it to overcome the drought conditions.
The Superboat Grand Prix race could be in jeopardy. I don't imagine they want to power those big expensive boats at high speed over rocking seas. If I hear helicopters and motors in a few minutes, I'll know.
Right now all I hear is the deep rumble of thunder, like the sky is dyspeptic and about to belch out lightning.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Free Story

Since I'm a newly-minted Jack Kilborn fan, I'd like to share the wealth. Why should I be the only one huddling in the corner with the lights on, jumping when branches scratch the windows or some unexplained something rattles the trash cans outside at night?

Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouche (Hmm... King, Koontz, Crouche, Kilborn -- what is it with horror writers and that hard "kuh" beginning to their last names?) have teamed up to write Serial.

They've also teamed up to offer you this horror novella for free.

Check it out on the blog of Kilborn's alter-ego JA Konrath.

I'm going to download it myself and read it later. After I turn on all of the lights at home.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Under Construction

Hi, Everybody,

I've recently migrated my blog from Bravejournal to Blogger. It'll take me awhile to get everything situated in my blog's new home -- not unlike a retiree moving to Florida from anywhere else.

In the meantime, if you're a regular Postcards reader who followed me over here, thanks for taking the trip. If you're new to the blog, thanks for dropping in.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Read Afraid -- BE Afraid!

When I was 18, I read The Exorcist. I then slept with all of the lights on for several nights.

I used to read Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Then Twilight Eyes made me wonder what if ghouls and goblins really were all around us but most of us couldn't see them behind their human faces. I was so freaked out by The Stand that I stopped reading when everyone was in the Lincoln Tunnel and never finished the book.

I've never seen a Halloween movie, Nightmare on Elm Street or any version of Friday the 13th. Less you think I'm a total wuss, I read a lot of psychological thrillers and mysteries with plenty of evil serial killers and psycho villains, but given the list of things I won't see or watch, you might correctly surmise that the horror genre generally scares the shit out of me.

So why did I demand to read Afraid by Jack Kilborn instead of running far from the author's table at the RT Booksigning? Well, during Kilborn's March-long blog tour, he all but dared readers. Challenged us even, with his description of the torturous evil and relentless string of murders he promised his book would inflict.
You know me. Can't back down from a dare. Besides, I love the Jack Daniels mystery series by Kilborn's alter-ego JA Konrath. How horrific could this book be?
Very. A red-ops team with scientifically-enhanced brains and bodies honed in Spec Ops warrior skills crash lands near a small, isolated town in Wisconsin. The fighters are programmed to fight terrorist strongholds with a very clear, three-point mission -- Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate.

So what if there isn't an Al Qaeda operative to be found. So what if these are innocent people?

Imagine sick, twisted, psychopaths that achieve maximum pleasure from inflicting torture and fear on a target before killing them in the most painful way possible. Think about them showing up in a neighborhood with the freedom to do whatever they want to whomever they find. Then imagine them doing all that to hundreds of people... while you read about it in evocative, gut-twisting detail.
Wouldn't that scare the hell out of you? Really, if anybody started to do to me what some of those sick bastards did to characters in the book, I'd pray to die of a heart attack first. So why, I hear you wonder, did an admitted horror-weenie continue to read this book?

Simple. It's terrific.

Kilborn is a master storyteller. Even while he served me a severe case of the heebie-jeebies with the bloody descriptions of what happened in that high school locker room, told through the terrified eyes of a woman desperately hoping to escape the same fate, he compelled me to find out what happened on the next page after page after page after page.

He weaves in a number of twists and sets up an ever-increasing tension. He gives us characters to root for that we pray will survive. We have to believe in our guts that heroes will rise to defeat the evil. So we embrace a core group of people and hope that they'll be the ones still standing at book's end. This continues to propel us through the story.

Are our hopes realized or are they crushed in merciless detail?
I'm not telling. You'll have to read the book for yourself.

Leave the lights on.

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