Still time to buy flowers for mom!

Don't forget, Mother's Day is coming up. I think it's in June. I'm pretty sure it's on a Tuesday this year. Which is a nice change.

Blue fence

pink tulips

By the way, I just had the most delicious sandwich ever.

More here (flowers, not sandwiches) .

On a creative roll ... and in a negative mood

I got my issue of Pacific Yachting, in which one of my photographs appears ... very small and with no photo credit.

I also found out that one of my photos is going to be published in a photo book ... maybe. Unless it's a scam. And it's probably a scam.

I also dropped off a photograph today at the Marblehead Art Association, which is having an open juried show. I won't get in. I never get in. And if I do get in I won't win an award.

My mom says to me today "how do you know you won't get in?"

And I say, "Um, because I never win anything? And nobody ever likes my photos? And I suck?"


Five dollars for your thoughts

This weekend was the Writers Weekly Spring 24-hour short story competition. Pretty self-explanatory: You pay $5, they send out a writing prompt mid-day on Saturday, and you have 24 hours to submit a story that's inspired by the prompt. I did it in 2005, too, and wrote Small Sacrifices, which didn't win anything but a random door prize.

I had my heart set on writing something funny, but the prompt was decidedly dark and mysterious. I decided to go for it anyway, using the prompt according to the rules but trying to turn it around a bit. I mapped out the story out on Saturday, wrote it Sunday morning, did a word count and realized it was two times longer than the 1,000 word-limit. It took a while to edit it down--and the clock was ticking. That's a lot to cut--some of the funny parts had to come out. Not sure if what I was left with was any good. But I think it wasn't bad. Probably worth the $5, at least. It won't win anything because I never win anything.

Anyway, I like this contest because the entry fee is next to nothing and yet it's just enough to motivate you not to blow it off. The deadline forces you to get started right away (late entries are eliminated). And it forces you to finish a story rather than languishing and fussing over it for days and weeks and months.

With non-fiction or reporting the pace is fast. At work, I get pumped up when a story is going well and the deadline is approaching. The parameters are finite: You pick a topic, you gather the facts, you analyze and organize and make sense of the information, and then you put it all together in a format that makes it easy for the reader to understand. You bang it out and you pass it in. You hope people enjoy reading what you've written. But it's more important that you clearly convey to them the information that they need. Ideally, the writing is so clear that it fades into the background, transparent, even invisible. At work I type fast and loud ... the only time I slow down is when I'm doing a final read-through or trying to think of a good headline.

When I'm writing fiction, I type slowly and quietly. I don't have notes or transcripts of interviews or research or background articles. I want the story to make sense but I don't care about making it easy for the reader and I don't want it to be simple. I don't hand them an inverted pyramid of facts. There are no facts. There is nothing concrete, nothing indisputable. It's all in my head. And I'm thinking about everything all at once--the plot and the setting and the characters and the exact right words and phrases. The process of putting those elements on the page (or the computer screen) is delicate and painstaking. If I don't remove them carefully from my head they float away.

And writing like that is exhausting. I took a long nap on Sunday afternoon and slept deeply enough to have that recurring dream about trying to graduate from high school. It makes me laugh when I do spend time writing: What if I wrote fiction for a living? I'd have to write every morning and nap and dream away every afternoon.

Actually, that might not be so bad after all ...

Earth Day for the birds!

This weekend I went for a walk at Breakheart reservation. It was great to see that lots of people are taking advantage of this wonderful natural resource.

The main trail, in particular, is obviously quite popular (we didn't venture into the woods--tick season): The trails were festooned with lost mittens, candy wrappers and snack bags, empty plastic bags, and one large wad of what looked like toilet paper. It was very festive. The dogs are clearly enjoying themselves, too--plenty of unscooped poop right smack in the middle of the walking path!

I also found a deflated baloon attached to a long plastic ribbon and a plastic six-pack ring: Someone throwing an Earth Day celebration, perhaps? I sure hope the birds, bunnies, and other wildlife were included in the party--you know how they love that kind of thing.

What impressed me most, however, was the number of people using those new eco-friendly Poland Spring water bottles--they were everywhere! They're lighter, made of 30% less plastic, and require less energy to produce. They even have a smaller label. So, you know, when you leave them on the side of the trail, you are really just doing your part to save the planet.

Spring training (or not)

Now that the weather's getting warmer, my walks with the dog should (in theory) start getting longer. Last night we went for a whopping 35 minutes. Not sure if it's a sign of how short our walks were for most of this winter or the fact that I'm a yoga-class dropout (sing it: "No graduation day for you"), but I think I sprained an ass muscle.


That's right, goal.

Now for the easy part: Keeping the weight off.


Bringing my total 2008 income from photography to $40

This is for all the people who walked by my booth at the arts and crafts fair last year and said things like "Why are you selling these photographs?" Or "Oh, so you're a frame-maker?" I just got a check in the mail from Pacific Yachting magazine (Western Canada's #1 source for boating enthusiasts); payment for the right to publish one of my photographs in an upcoming issue. That's right, jerks, someone paid me actual cash money for one of my little pics.

(I'll bet you anything, though, that they spell my name wrong in the credit.)

Dusty trails to you

Couple more of the horseback riding adventure ...

Duncan the photography horse

I was assigned to Duncan because I insisted on bringing my big camera with me, and that freaks some of the horses out. So Duncan is the special photographer's horse. They told me his nickname was "Killer" and said "Wait 'till you see what he does when you take a picture. It's so funny." That's him in the foreground. Obviously he started bucking wildly the moment he heard the click of my camera.

Guide dude Guide dude-ette

Don't remember his name, but the boy guide was a cutie from Texas, and this is his new three-week old pony. She was so pretty, with one brown and one blue eye.

He kept making up stories about the danger of being attacked by wild animals and deadly spiders and such. The most dangerous part was when we went by the golf course. Fore!

The girl guide (here leading Duncan) was also super nice and yes, I forget her name, too.

Pima Crossing Stables

The stables were hilarious--really done up (or down?) for the tourists. Like these fake storefronts and an aluminum trailer that was covered in rough-hewn wood on the outside.

Me and JW? We're tight.

Me and JW? We're tight.I feel very safe when John Wayne is with me--especially if has his gun with him. You just never know when you might have to shoot a rattler or a wild housecat. (They will jump right up on the horse's back. When that happens, there is only one thing you can do: Hold on tight).

Oh, you didn't know that I am a cowgirl?

That's me and Duncan

More proof here.

Hello from Arizona

Arrived in Arizona yesterday. I'm actually here on business, but flew in a day early so I could spend my Saturday off in a slightly different locale than cold and rainy Boston at springtime. The hotel is lovely ... I have a little two-room suite, which is always nice. I'm right near the adult pool, I had the place to myself yesterday afternoon. There's also an outlet mall right nearby ... I am going to have to use the "expand" feature on my suitcase. I got an Ann Taylor Loft wrap dress, a couple of really nice, soft, long-sleeved cotton tops, more dressy than tee-shirts, but just as comfy, and what is seriously the cutest little clutch pocketbook ever for just $12. It is soooo much more fun shopping for clothes when you're happy with your dress size.

The mall is enormous, and set up in a big loop with no cut-throughs ... so once you finally get halfway around it, you realize you might as well keep going--it will take just as long to turn back. I'd say it took me a good two hours to walk all the way around. That should make up for the Wetzle pretzel I scarfed down toward the end of the loop, when I was feeling very weak (physicaly and mentally). Definitely not Weight Watchers friendly. But, to my credit, when I saw her take out a giant housepainting brush, dip it in a vat of butter, and slather it all over the pretzel, I asked her to give me another one without it. There was a time when I wouldn't have bothered. Maybe even licked my lips and said "yum." Looking at that glistening, dripping, pretzel was horrifying, though. Like she had just dipped it in poison. I might not lose any weight during this trip, but I'm going to do my best not to eat poison.

I haven't taken any photographs yet ... It's pretty here, but not exactly photo-inspiring. My ususal "view from here" shot from the balcony of my room will be of a big parking lot and little else. But if I can stay awake long enough tonight, I'll take a picture as the sun is setting, which should make it a little nicer. Or maybe a night shot, with the lights of what I assume is downtown Pheonix showing. (Saw those this morning, since I was up at 3 a.m. and then again at 5 a.m.) Last night I fell asleep around 7, while it was still light out ... combo of the time difference and mall walking.

Hopefully there will be a better chance to take photos today, as I am heading out into the 17,ooo acre South Mountain Preserve on horseback ... I haven't ridden a horse, I don't think, since Camp Fleur de Lis, so that should be interesting. I also have a massage scheduled for later today. I'm sure I am going to need it. Also planning to hit the spa's hotpool and/or sauna and/or what it the really hot but dry one? I love those. Or is that the sauna? Which one is the one with the steam? Oh, that would be the steam room, right? I need to go to spas more often.

Weather here is beautiful, warm in the morning and early evening, about 80 degrees yesterday mid-day. But, you know, it's a dry heat.


No bunnies yet, but I'll keep you posted as to any developments on that front.

Surgery, stray dogs, mini-facelifts (dot dot dot)

Haven't had time to write about everything I've wanted to, so I'm catching up from the last couple of months in one post. I'll try to be brief ...

My dad had his surgery ... two days at MGH ... everything turned out OK ... some scary/stressful moments ... some funny moments ... he says I should put the funny ones here ... can't remember them now.

Shout out for Pete's birthday ... Got him a really funny present ... and a very serious card ... that jerk scared me, laying there all pale in that hospital bed.

Forty years old (and four months) ... face gone completely mental ... more mental than usual ... blotchy, dull, wrinkled, ugly ... plunked down $20 at drugstore (too cheap to buy fancier stuff) ... bottle promised "mini-facelift" overnight ... wake up the next morning ... look in the mirror to check out my "new face" (sarcasm when alone cannot be good) ... Holy crap it actually worked ... Bought buckets more of the stuff today ... Need to hit hardware store for a trowel.

Found lost dog ... Australian terrier named Riley ... wicked cute ... peed an awful lot ... inside and out ... stayed for a few hours ... played well with Sadie ... returned to happy owner with little tears in his eyes ... it was fun while it lasted ... one dog plenty for me.

Went to Ikea ... bought lots of cheap furniture ... surprisingly heavy for pieces of crap ... rode home with large, long boxes between front seats ... potential for decapitation in event of a sudden stop ... drove 20 m.p.h. on the Expressway ... Had to open the boxes and carry the heavy cheap crap Ikea furniture into my house piece by piece ... took at least one million hours to put together.

Reorganizing the office ... went through lots of papers ... stocked new Ikea bookcases ... put away massive piles of crap ... took me a few weeks ... can't find anything now.

More travel coming up ... this time to Arizona ... hope to see bunnies (cause you know what I always say) ... hope to take pictures ... still editing, uploading pictures from trip to LA ... and Martina's visit from Germany ... and party pics from New Year's Eve, 1999 ... Not really, but still.

New new upstairs neighbors ... this time three boys ... young and stupid but in an endearing way ... extremely polite ... at least they don't call me ma'am.

Busy at work ... what else is new ... Missing Calvin-roo ... How about you?