Monday, August 30, 2010

Best Awards Show Opening E-V-E-R!

Okay. I admit it. I'm biased. That said, I still think that the opening of last night's 62nd Emmy Awards show was the best. How could I not love it. The cast of Glee, Tina Fey, Betty White, Jane Lynch, all led by Jimmy Fallon in a Gleed version of Born to Run.

Glee and Springsteen. One of my favorite shows meets the music of my all time favorite rock and roller. There was so much to love in those six or so minutes that I can't full describe it here. I don't need to because, if you missed it last night, you can watch it right here, right now.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Learning Curve

How are you at learning new things? Do you embrace new challenges or would you rather mentally cross your arms, dig in your heels and pout?

I'm a better student and more avid learner now than I ever was in my youth. Back in school, I loved to read so I did great in English, History, Philosophy and a few other areas of study. Math and Science? Not even close.

In later years, I get a greater kick about exploring new subjects. When I think of all that I've learned about marine mammals in the last ten years, and how much I enjoy the process I'm amazed. (Some previous professors would be surprised, too.) These days my co-workers and I have the opportunity to participate in a university-level Animal Cognition class. Fascinating!

Outside of "class work", I've experienced a number of different life lessons. Boat handling and navigation rules; snorkeling; the ever-advancing world of personal computers, the Internet, social media and phones that are hand-held computers as well as communication devices - Whew! When it comes to modern technology, we almost don't have a choice not to learn. I'm grateful that I continue to like the lessons.

What if you didn't? What if you collided with a huge life change that forced you to learn about things you'd never had to handle before -- and never particularly wanted to? I imagine that how you've lived your life to that point influences how well you handle this ball that's been pitched full speed at your strike zone.

If you're one kind of person, you might try to resist, and ultimately resent, the forced change. You might refuse to move forward and end up flattened. Another personality would stand, hands on hips, and say, "Bring it on." Still another might rub her hands together, eager to see what's coming her way and what new experiences she's about to see.

(Yes, I'm pondering for the sake of my story's character.)

Are you one of these personalities, or someone else?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cutting Spending

I don't normally discuss politics on this blog. I'm not really going to discuss this topic now, at least not in terms of the philosophies, beliefs and practices of the various political parties. To me, talking about politics is sort of like talking about food. Pick a food, any food, and there will be people who love it as the best tasting thing e-v-e-r while others make faces, turn up their noses as if sniffing the foulest stench, and, in general, look like they want to hurl big, disgusting chunks.

I'm sort of moderate these days. When I moved to Florida, I actually registered as an Independent which makes me NPA (no party affiliation). Apparently in Florida NPA is the fastest growing segment of the voting population. Either a lot of people are fed up with the largely two-party system or they're sick of getting campaign recordings every night on their home phones.

Yesterday the primaries were held in Florida. Thank God I no longer have to hear endless, continual television ads for Jeff Green and Kendrick Meek (Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate) or Bill McCollum and Rick Scott (Republicans for Governor)playing wherever I go.

If there has ever been a nastier campaign run than these two, I sure don't remember. They ripped each other apart and, in the process, stacked up huge advertising bills. It's estimated that Scott spent close to 50 Million dollars on the primary advertising and that Green spent almost 20 million. Out of their own pockets! Those are some damn deep pockets!

By contrast, the Florida legislature had to cut 46 million dollars from financial aid for students from the state budget.

I'm really having a hard time accepting that so much money is spent on campaign advertising, particularly when so many of the ads feature candidates saying things like, "I will reduce government spending" or "balance the budget". Cut back on your own spending first, bucko.

Can you imagine all the good that could be done for the people of Florida with that $70 million dollars alone??

I have a theory that there should be strict campaign funding limits placed on all candidates, including what you can buy with your own money. I'd like to see there be one campaign fund that all donations go into (again, limited in size) and that all qualified candidates get an equal share of that master fund. That would level out the whole playing field.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Porch Sitting

For those of you who stopped by to see if I ranted, I decided to employ the 24 Hour Rule. If I'm still stewing over the issue 24 hours from now, I'll rant. For right now, I'm attempting to keep things in perspective.

Instead I'm pondering porches. Down here in the Florida Keys (Up here if you're reading this in Central or South America), my little house overlooks part of a harbor. At some point every day I sit out on the porch, looking out at the water. It's a peaceful, calm location most of the time. I've seen manatees and dolphins swim by and tarpons roll on a summer evening. Sea gulls, pelicans and cormorants perch on the pilings or dive for fish. A Great White Heron occasionally struts along the sea wall or an iguana scoots along, hoping I don't see him. If I approach, he jumps into the water and swims a comfortable distance away.

There are always boats anchored on mooring buoys in back of the house. In the winter, there might be 30 or 40 at a time. On any day tall-masted sailboats and solid cruisers could be my temporary neighbors. In the meantime, boats of all sizes and kinds cruise by the house on their way out to or home from the ocean. Sometimes it's the vessel of people I know and we call out hellos and wave like you might to a neighbor strolling past your house.

Earlier today, I watched and listened to a man calling for his dog while he rowed from his boat to the island across the way. The dog went for a spontaneous swim at low tide and then decided to chase some birds. The whole time that the man rowed, he kept up a monologue about wanting the dog to come back, he wasn't happy, the dog was being bad. The dog did not reply but eventually he jumped into the boat. The man hugged him, ruffled his fur and began to row them home.

Seven or so years ago, a drunk jerk kicked his dog overboard and yelled that he hoped she'd drown. Someone jumped in his inflatable runabout and fished the pooch out of the water. I took her in and got her to shelter. A friend of mine later adopted her.

My porch is the perfect spot to watch our town's tremendous fireworks display on the Fourth of July or the holiday boat parade in early December. (Note to self: I promised to enter my boat this year. Must enlist help from friends to decorate and ride with me.)

I enjoy having friends over to relax on an evening, sip wine, nibble on snacks and talk. Some say this porch is one of their favorite places in the Keys. I know it's one of mine.

Porches have a high social value. My childhood home had an open front porch. I remember late summer afternoons with family and friends gathered together. We kids sipped juices or soda and played on the sidewalk and front yard while our parents enjoyed gin and tonics or whiskey sours. Up and down the street, neighbors were out on their porches, enjoying the ocean breeze.

The house we moved to when I was 12 or 13 had a "sunroom" with big plate-glass windows instead of an open porch, but there was an open deck on the second floor. During the day we'd sunbathe up there. The sunroom provided year-round street viewing. The neighbors never walked past without waving. We were only a few houses from the beach and boardwalk so there was usually a steady parade of people that ambled by or rode their bikes in the evening. One year we noticed that a particularly good looking guy jogged by every night. Mom teased my friends and me that no matter what we were doing, we made sure to get to the sunroom when he was due for his nightly run.

There's a big chunk of time in my life when I didn't have a porch on which to sit and connect to the neighborhood. Various apartments didn't provide the same social setting. I wonder now how much I must have missed, what I might have seen, or with whom I might have chatted.

There are always stories outside waiting to be discovered and all you have to do is spend aome time sitting on a porch.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Expectations play a big part in the story I'm writing. The woman, let's call her A for now since I'm still not settled on a character name, has devoted most of her life to fulfilling other people's expectations. Her parents, teachers, then husband and children, all expected her to be or act a certain way. She expected herself to meet those other expectations. She got pretty fed up with this over the years but instead of redefining her goals for herself, she got weighed down by doing what everyone else wanted.

It's hard to break that pattern of behavior and for her, a gradual descent into self-medicating evolved. Right before the book opens, something happens that finally proves to be her snapping point. Someone expects something of her that is simply intolerable. How she recreates herself and her life, how her actions affect her known relationships (estranged husband, grown kids, etc.) and what happens when new relationships knock on the door, are the heart of the book.

Lots of pondering for me as I navigate this world. So, for the sake of discussion, pick an expectation, any expectation and explain how you feel about it. Is it your expectation of how your relationship(s) should be, or your reaction to what someone expects of you? How do you handle the conflict when opposite expectations collide? Are you always to thine own self true, or do you establish an acceptable compromise, or do you completely rebel? How do you decide which expectation takes priority?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Uncommon Courtesy

I just spent forty-five minutes writing a new blog post. I thought I'd saved it. I thought everything was fine with my Internet and Browser, even though there's a storm crashing outside. I went to post and poof! No post. Forgive me if I don't reconstruct the entire thing, but try to make my point more succinctly.

On my flight home Wednesday, an 11 year old boy sat next to me. He offered me gum, apologized for bumping my elbow, thanked me when I reminded him to buckle his seat belt and asked the flight attendant if she needed help when he accidentally knocked over his cup of ice. We discussed books, school and football during the flight. He was an engaging conversationalist but never veered over into being annoying. At one point in the flight, I dozed off and he never bothered me.

He was truly a nice, polite kid and it was a pleasure to share the plane ride with him.

By contrast, as I waited for my suitcase at the baggage claim, some jerk shouldered me aside to grab his bag, and swung it from the belt right into me. I think he said, "Sorry", but it might have been "Outta the way, bitch" that he muttered as he rushed off. The 11 year old definitely could have given him lessons in basic courtesy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Family You Make

I have a very good family of origin. I was born into a loving family with strong, close relationships to not only my parents and brother but also aunts, uncles and cousins. We aren't perfect, of course. We had our share of trials, tribulations, losses and sadness, but I really couldn't have asked for more.

I also count myself fortunate to be part of other families. There's my work family and, yes, we consider ourselves such. This is particularly important and valuable to me because I left my blood family and friends back home in the Northeast when I moved to the Florida Keys almost 9 years ago.

Right now I'm up in Cape Cod with a tribe of friends. We call ourselves Pastafarians. It all started 37 years ago when some college buddies, friends of my brother, got together and camped on Nantucket. Two challenged each other to a spaghetti sauce cookoff. It's grown since that time and every year the tribe gathers for vacation. We always have a Pasta Match with our own ceremonies, taste testing, voting, etc. There were around 50 of us here yesterday. Not everybody stays the week but for however much time the fluid group is together we share big meals, numerous discussions, pool parties, music jams, board games and the pleasure of each other's company. Young people who weren't even born yet are grown up and bringing their fiances. There are a couple of 3rd generationers running around and a lot of Old Geezer references as the original college buddies approach 60.

After years of sometime attending, I've made the pilgrammage annually for the last 11 years. I love reconnecting with these people and growing new friendships along the way. I also love that the cooler Cape temps provide a nice respite from August in Florida.

My family of friends is extensive and spread out in several states. Many are back in New Jersey and today, one group is very much on my mind. I'm waiting to hear about the safe arrival of a new baby - born to a woman who is like my little sister. I became friends with her family almost 20 years ago. She and her mom are also romance writers. We've loved and supported each other through various experiences, good and bad.

Any time now, I'll get a call that my new little niece has arrived. I can't wait. She's proof that no matter how big our family - the one to which we're born, or the ones we make for ourselves -- we can always make room in our heart for more.

While I wait, I'm heading out for this year's book club discussion. We're honoring To Kill a Mockingbird on its 50th Anniversary.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Art of Being Alone

On another blog I frequent, we've been discussing marriage, being alone, relationships and all manner of related topics. 30 years ago, I figured I'd meet Mr. Right, we'd have a long, solid marriage, children, and go on to our retirement years until death did us part.

Needless to say, my life didn't turn out that way. Yet, as I've discovered, not having the husband, the marriage, and the children has not meant that I miserably failed in my life's journey. Quite the contrary. I've made a good life for myself and am happy living it. Did I have to do some work to get to this happiness in head and heart. Yes, indeed, but I did it.

In mulling over the story I'm writing, I've thought a lot about the main character. It is really her story. She's in her mid-40s and has been married for over 20 years. Now she's left that marriage and, for the first time ever, is living alone.

I think that situation must be worse. It must be harder for someone to have to learn in her 40s how to be alone and how to construct her own happiness. At least,I think it must be holder, but I realize that I might believe that because I grew into this life. It was, for me, a gradual progression over the years. It didn't just suddenly happen in a matter of weeks or months.

When the end result is the same -- you're living alone in your 40s or 50s -- does how you arrived there mean that the result impacts you differently? Again, I think it must, but I only have my own experience to go by.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

New Beginning

I'm starting a new book today. There. I said it. I can't take it back.

For those of you new to this blog or new to me, I wrote two books that were published in '04 and '05. The sales experience was not kind. Whether the problem stemmed from low print run and light distribution or the overall toughness of the market with a lot of titles competing for readers' dollars or what, the stunning lack of success knocked me on my ass. I tried to invest myself in another story. I ended up starting three or four new books, but fell into a mindset of, "Why am I doing this? I suck. What's the point?"

Writing is not an easy task. Writing a book takes a hell of a lot of commitment in time and creative energy. While I am 100% a writer down to my soul, I truly questioned why I was giving up so much of my life to complete a book, only to spectacularly fail. Like most writers I know, I have a day job and in that job I write all of the time. So, my need to create is met every day.

After a couple of years of trying and not being able to sustain the book-writing effort, I sank from disappointed to completely demoralized. Every time someone asked me, "When is your next book coming out", I cringed inside and felt the failure even more strongly.

That's no way to live and enjoy life. Finally, I owned the fact that I did not want to write for awhile. I put an end to figuratively slamming my head against the wall and gave myself permission to not write another book. The switch to my mindset and emotions was instantaneous and powerful. Instead of wanting to duck and run from the next book question, I could smile and say, "I'm taking a break right now" or "I'm not currently writing."

I stopped feeling like a failure and gave up the guilt. I distanced myself from the previous experience, got involved in some other activities, and enjoyed myself.

After awhile, the expected happened. The urge to write fiction returned. The desire rekindled and a story idea germinated. I signed up for a course called Discovery, taught by outstanding author Lani Diane Rich. (Registration for the fall course is now open at For six weeks in this class I engaged in the process of discovering this new idea, the characters, the concept, the backstory. I put together a soundtrack and listened to it daily. Picked photos of actors to serve as placeholders for the main characters and put them into a collage. I wrote backstory for the woman who is the heart and purpose of the book.

Out of this Discovery process the characters developed and they grew as people. I've come to know them, to understand what makes them tick, what they're fighting, what they want, and what they need. Pivotal scenes have manifested in my head. I'm excited about writing this story, but I haven't opened up a document to start page one.

I'm a little scared. Okay, I'm a lot scared. No matter what happens, once I start writing this book, I'm not quitting until it's finished. There will be no repeat of getting 50 pages in and then giving up. One day at a time, one page at a time, once the journey starts, the book and I are in this trip together until The End.

That's my commitment to my story and to myself. I'm not concerned right now with submitting or selling the finished book. Until it's written, there's nothing to sell.

I won't do daily updates. Maybe not even weekly, but I'll let you know my progress from time to time. For today, the commitment is that I will write the opening scene. It's in my head. Now, today, it's time to get it out onto the page. A new beginning in more ways than one.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Prescription for Recycling

First off, thank you for playing the Menopause is like the Mob game with me. I tossed your names into a hat and picked a winner. Kelly, please email me at with your name and address and which book you'd like a copy of -- All Keyed Up or Key of Sea.

I need to rant a little about recycling, specifically, a complete refusal to consider the possibilities of recycling, as demonstrated by someone at the local chain pharmacy store today. I take four prescriptions. Every month, I peel the labels off the pill bottles and then have to chuck them in the trash because they aren't made from recyclable plastic.

I currently take four prescription meds a day, so that's four bottles a month that go in the garbage or 48 a year. I'm sure that there are other customers who take less and other who take more. So, for the sake of discussion, let's say that the average customer takes two meds a month. I don't know how many customers frequent this store, but lets say, arbitrarily, that there are 300. So, at minimum, the pharmacy dispenses 600 pill containers a month. That's 7200 a year from a single store.

I'm sure that the chain buys these in bulk, so maybe they only cost .05 each, but what about the cost to the environment. Don't you think they'd want to recycle or at least reuse the containers? How difficult can it be?

I brought this up to the pharmacist today in casual conversation. I received one negative response after the other. Here's a general recap with the gist of the conversation.

Me: Wow, too bad that we can't bring the bottles back to CVS so they can be reused. Him: The labels contain confidential medical information.
Me: I peel them off every month before I throw them out.
Him: Not everyone does. It's too hard for some older people.
Me: Maybe there are easier labels.
Him: But the pill bottles aren't made out of recyclable plastic
Me: But couldn't they be?
Him: Labels don't stick well on all kinds of recyclable plastic
Me: (With confused look) But there are labels on milk jugs and other plastic containers.
Him: Those kinds of labels can't be printed easily on the laser printer.
Me: Well, instead of recycling, could customers return them to the store so they could be reused?
Him: No, there'd be too many for our staff to take the labels off of.

At that point, I realized the futility of continuing the discussion. All he can see are the reasons why it can't be done, instead of seeking possible solutions for how it could be accomplished. As I left, I thought it ironic

Think about all of the people in all of the towns who fill medication prescriptions. Imagine all of those bottles hitting the landfills day after day, month after month, year after year. Surely someone can figure out a solution.

How difficult can it be to create a recyclable plastic pill bottle to which laser-printer compatible labels will adhere and yet be easy to remove? Barring that, how hard is it to create a laser printer label that can be removed from any plastic so that the bottle could be reused instead of trashed?

Anybody out there work in these fields and want to take this on as a project?

Anybody have a kid who wants to take this on as a project for this year's school science fair?