Summer Vacation – Sort Of

I will not be posting next week. Unlike previous summer where we would probably be taking a summer vacation, I am staying home. I will be attending, virtually,  a Jewish women’s silent retreat.

I have always wanted to attend such a retreat but I have never had the chance. I am curious to see if I will be able to keep silent during most of the day, given that I live with someone.

I am going to be social media, email, and internet free for  at least the four days of the retreat. You are also supposed avoid reading materials, so no books. I might extend the device free time from the Friday evening before the retreat, which begins on a Monday, to the following Monday morning. That is the part that feels most like a vacation.

I  will let you know how it went when I resume posting on August 5th. Have a nice two weeks.

Maine, last summer.

Not Skating

Originally, for today,  I planned to write a post about the upcoming (March 29) skating show that I was going to be in. I was supposed to be part of a group number with other adult skaters. The theme for the show was Disney and our number was Chim  Chim Cheree. It is from Mary Poppins and is the  chimney sweeps song. We were going to have brooms and do a pinwheel as part of our number.

Of course, the show is postponed as is everything else. I have no idea when skating will resume and I really miss it. Skating also represents a big chunk of exercise that I do every week. My substitute for the three hours of skating and the half hour off ice training I usually do in a week has been walking for an hour four times a week. At least that is what I did last week and it is my plan for this week.

Usually I also take a sixty minute Tai Chi class at the Holyoke Senior Center. The four hours of walking is also making up for that lost time. I am also doing 2 days of thirty minute strength training. Hopefully all of this exercise will help keep my spirits up.

On Monday Governor Baker closed all non-essential businesses in Massachusetts and the Department of Public Health issued a “stay-at-home” advisory. Both are in effect until April 7. I assume that means skating is closed until at least then.

I am going to try to continue posting.  I am not sure if I should write  about non-COVID-19 topics or focus on the issues that social distancing raises.  Maybe I can do both since the virus is affecting the liquor industry as well as every other business. Let me know what you think. I hope everyone stays safe and well.

Most Viewed Posts

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my goals for 2020 but I didn’t say anything about my plan around posting and tweeting.  I will continue to post every week and tweet at least once a today.

I thought it would be fun to look at what were most viewed posts in 2019. By far, Methylated Spirits, which got 1,948 views, was the most popular. I posted this on July 8, 2013. Next was HomePage/Archives with 831 views. This is actually always my most current post.

My most viewed post that I wrote in 2019, besides the Home Page, was Schlenly Distillers Corporation with 295. A post, Skating, that I wrote about a test my coach gave me got 37 views while the post I wrote prior to competing, Skating Competition, Part 1, got 33. The post I wrote after I competed, Skating Competition Part 2, only got 9.

I don’t really know how to evaluate these statistics so I will probably just continue to write about what interests me and what I am doing. In April I am giving a paper about Faculty Wives Cookbooks at the Popular Culture Association  annual meeting so maybe I will attend a session that will generate as much interest as Methylated Spirits did.

 

Goals

My main goal for 2020 is to finish my book on faculty wives. I hope to complete chapter five, which I have been working on for over a year, shortly. I would then have five or six chapters left. At the very least, I need to pick up the pace.

When I was thinking about my progress, I realized that I would need more structure, focus and motivation to achieve this goal. Beginning the end of January, I will be participating in the year long non-fiction manuscript group that the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop offers. Most of the other members of the group will be memoirists but I think paying for the workshop and having regularly scheduled meeting once a month will provide a lot of structure and motivation.

The other writing commitment that I am undertaking is being part of Nerissa Nield’s Writing It Up in the Garden workshop for ten weeks. This is two hours once a week. Both of these writing groups require a commitment which I hope will benefit my rate of production for the book.

Besides writing the book, my other big commitment is to my ice skating. Having competed in October, my focus is now on being part of an adult group number, for the annual skating show of the Skating Club of Amherst. I hope I will be less nervous skating on home ice. My other skating goal is to complete at least one three turn this year. Here is link to a video, by a professional, of a three turn. After today I will have 357 days left to do it.

Because finishing my book is imperative, I am going to try to keep my schedule free from the other activities. This will not be easy; I have trouble saying no. The only thing I will consider getting involved in is efforts to defeat Donald Trump.

What are your goals for 2020? I would love to hear them.

Sisters

On Saturday, I went to see a Shakespeare and Company staged reading of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Kate Hamill wrote the play.  The actors played the story mostly for laughs, presenting the material more broadly than Austen’s version.

One serious moment which was deeply affecting was when Marianne is seriously ill, and Elinor pleads with her to live. “Don’t leave me Marianne”  says Elinor. I felt tears come to my eyes in response to this wonderful portrayal of the deep connection between the two sisters. I have a sister; our relationship is very complicated, but I don’t want to lose her. However, Elinor’s speech comes from the playwright not Jane Austen.

Thinking about this scene led me to reflect on other sisters in literature and movies.  The original Frozen is definitely about sisters. Elsa and Anna are the “heroes” of the movie; their sisterly bond enables them to triumph.

Another movie which is about sisters and is appropriate for the season is White Christmas.  There is even a song, “Sisters” in the movie. It stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen play the sisters. When I was little this was one of my favorite movies.

It is more difficult to come up with books that feature two sisters with as deep a bond as Marianne and Elinor. Little Women is all about sisters but there are four. Throughout the book, at various times, the sisters have different connections to each other. The relationships are not static.

I want to find good examples of sisters in a few novels for my Jane Austen book club. Starting in February we are reading Northanger Abbey. The rest of the year we will read gothic novels. Thinking ahead, the following year I might do Sense and Sensibility so I would need works that fit with the book’s themes, especially sisters.

BlueHost

This week I was going to write about beer, for a change, but, I had another BlueHost issue. I got an email that said the server for my BlueHost email  was being “decommissioned in the next week. In order to ensure full email functionality after this server’s shut-off date, you will need to update the server name in your email client settings.”(their bold). This was pretty anxiety provoking and reading the rest of the email didn’t alleviate my panic.

I looked at my current email settings and I couldn’t really understand what they were talking about so I decided to contact BlueHost for help. When I went to their website, the most immediate form of help was a live chat so I did that. Twenty-nine minutes later, I was still completely perplexed about what I was supposed to do.

I did tried changing the settings to  what the emails suggested but then my email didn’t work so I changed them back. The person chatting with me was no help so I decided to call.  Ray, the tech support person I reached, was helpful. After ascertaining that the email was legitimate, he concluded that I didn’t have to change anything since my email was working.

This is the  fourth time since my website was hacked in February 2018 that I have had a problem with my website and BlueHost.  In October, my website was offline for two days or so because BlueHost had changed servers and SiteLock, my security provider, couldn’t access my site and therefore shut it down. Again chatting was useless but a real person did help me by contacting SiteLock and getting my website restored.

In looking over the various posts I have written about website problems, a common theme is that I would like to make a change but I still have not managed to do that. In June I renewed for six months. The six months have come and gone and I am still with BlueHost.

Since I was hacked, the main issue has been security. I pay SiteLock $70 a month to prevent my site being hacked again. If I switched to WordPress.com, I supposedly wouldn’t need SiteLock anymore which would save a lot of money. The problem is I don’t believe that. Not being sure about the advantages of WordPress has kept me with BlueHost.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Skating Competition, Part 2

I competed for the first time, Saturday, at the 33rd Halloween Classic, Winterland Skating School, Rockland, Massachusetts. Here is a picture of me before I went on the ice.

Despite all my preparation, I was extremely nervous and did not skate the way I had planned.  My legs felt like jelly but I did go on the ice and skate, which I feel was a big accomplishment. I was the only skater in my event, so I skated against “the book”. I am not sure what the criteria for judging was, but I got second place and received a medal.

I also earned four points for the Silver Lining Club. The club came in second for the competition so I contributed to that result.

I can’t say I enjoyed myself but it was a learning experience. If I compete again, I will try to find an event where Kiara, my coach from the Skating Club of Amherst, can be the one takes me. She knows me really well and I have complete confidence in her.

I would also practice skating my program from different places on the ice so I would be comfortable no matter where the judges were and where I had to start.  Connecting certain moves to specific points in the music would also help.

It turned out that competing in a spotlight event meant that the rink got dark, very dark. The only light was a spotlight the followed the skater. I didn’t realize what spotlight meant until I got to the rink. Next time, I would know, be more prepared, and not get so freaked out.

The nicest part of the experience was the support I got from the audience, other skaters, Kiara, Andrea and Aaron. I appreciated that so much and I am very grateful.

Website Troubles, Again

Earlier today, I sat down to write a blog post. As I tried to access  my website, I got an account suspended error message. I was puzzled since I knew that I was all paid up. I got worried that  I had been hacked again.

I called BlueHost and also tried to chat with them. I eventually got through and a nice tech support person named Casey told me Blue Host had changed the server ip address. I don’t completely understand it but the upgrade or change meant that Sitelock couldn’t search or contact my website anymore. This led to my website being suspended.

Casey contacted SiteLock, which provides security for my website, and the problem got fixed.  It appears, from my Jetpack Statistics, that the website was probably down since Friday. I asked Casey why I wasn’t notified of this change. He said they has wanted to send out an email to all the customers who were affected but somehow it never got sent.

That was very disappointing and had made me think once again about changing my hosting situation. If any of you have any advice, I would love to hear it.

I am posting this today because tomorrow night is Kol Nidre and then Wednesday is Yom Kippor. L’Shanah Tovah.

 

Life Lessons

As you may have noticed, last week I didn’t post anything. On Tuesday I was getting ready to go to New York City on Wednesday for a legal matter pertaining to a relative. Once again, as has been happening all year, life intervened to prevent my blogging.

My relative is a single person and has not designated anyone to be their power of attorney. They also do not have a will. A health care proxy is in place. This legal matter has made me realize how important it is to proactively plan for your old age and eventual demise.

People in sound mind and body may be reluctant to grant authority over either their financial or health concerns to someone else. However enunciating your wishes when you can will save both time and money later. A lawyer told me that she tells clients “spend $700 now to avoid $10,000 later.”

It is also prudent to plan for your funeral and burial. Buying a plot or deciding to be cremated as well as stating where you would like your funeral to be held will make everything easier for your grieving relatives. Everyone should designate a power of attorney and execute both a health care proxy and will.

 

2/3 of the Year Gone

I wrote the following last week but then I completely forgot to actually publish. This debacle accurately proves that it has become very hard for me to maintain a once a week schedule for posting. The result is that you get two posts this week. Here is this one today and there will be another one tomorrow, as scheduled.

It is September so I thought this would be a good time to look back and see, if, so far, I have been meeting my goals for the year. As I have said many times, this year it has been hard for me to post every day. When I came back from my twenty-three day break, (I know you all missed me) I came up with ideas for the first six weeks back. That has been a big help. The strategy of pre-planning so you don’t have to spend time thinking of what topic to write about, is a good one that I will try to use more in the future.

Tweeting, as always, has been easier. Politics gives me most of my material as well as tweeting picture of my travels. Of course, I still can’t tweet my URL. I have given up trying to get it fixed. Recently Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account was hacked. At least he felt some pain also.

My actual writing is going the least well. I haven’t really worked on my book since June. I got stuck in what is probably a diversion from the main project and then life intervened. I am hoping that I will get back to my writing next week. I will keep you up-to-date on my progress.