New Decade

Since this is the first day of a new decade, I am going to reflect a little bit more deeply than I usually do in this yearly post. The years 2010 -2019 had some real highs and some real lows. During the decade my older son graduated from college, I had a bat mitzvah and my son got engaged. The lows included both of my in-laws dying as well as my brother. My brother died of ALS and this past June, my beloved cousin, Lowell received the same diagnosis. The decade was what you would expect out of life;  both good and bad occurred.

Moving to this past year, 2019,I did compete in ice skating which was a very memorable if not entirely positive experience. I have been working on the fifth chapter of my book for over a year which is not a very good pace.

I had 43 posts which is less than last year but, given the turmoil of my life from June until November, I feel pretty good about that number. Posting every week was difficult; I did the best I could. I tweeted 585 times which is 1.6 a day. This year my tweeting came more in spurts depending on a particular political moment or not. I feel good about my tweeting.

Next week I will talk about my plans for the new year. Happy New Year!

 

 

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.

Stalemate

I was having trouble finding a topic for today’s post. The end of last week was very stressful if not traumatic and I am still getting my bearings. I feel like I have been on a roller coaster for the last twelve days.

From November 8 to November 10, I attended a writing retreat in Northampton, MA. Nerissa Nields runs writing groups and retreats under the rubric, “Writing it up in the Garden.” This retreat was women only; the Kali Retreat. The group was 11 women, including Nerissa.

The retreat was a great experience both for my writing and my psyche. Thinking about a retreat was most enticing; the idea that I would be able to focus on my writing and nothing else was incredibly appealing.

My feelings about the writing part were more mixed. I write non-fiction from an academic background and I thought most of the people would be creative writers. I feared that my work would not resonate with the group.

The retreat exceeded my expectations in both areas. The two and half days were a wonderful escape from real life stress and the group couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive about my work. I was incredibly productive; writing almost ten pages during the retreat. Another great benefit of the retreat was that the motivation it engendered lasted into the following week.

On Thursday I had to go to New York City to attend a legal hearing, concerning a civil matter on Friday. I spent the late afternoon on Thursday prepping with my lawyer for several exhausting hours. Thursday night my husband and I had a lovely dinner with our son, his fiancée and her parents.

Friday was the hearing, which was definitely not a pleasant experience; it did not go my way. Because of privacy concerns I cannot say much more about the proceeding. However, my friends and family know the judge’s decision was wrong. I appreciate their love and support.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Travel, Part 1

This post is a bit like “what I did on my summer vacation”; more accurately it is some of things I have been doing this summer, with pictures. In June,  Horizons for Homeless Children had an event for volunteers at the Smith College Botanical Garden. I am a volunteer; I go once a week and play with children who are living in a shelter.

In July, we went to New Orleans to visit my cousin and his wife. It was very hot but we  had a great time.  July is not usually the time I would visit New Orleans but my cousin was recently diagnosed with ALS and I wanted to see him. My brother died of ALS so this feels like a cruel joke. ALS is a terrible disease and I hope there will be a cure very soon.

While we were there we visited the World War II Museum. During the war my father helped produced parachutes while stationed in England and in Scotland.

Next week, I will tell you about what I did at the end of July and the beginning of August. I bet you can’t wait.

Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper, erstwhile presidential candidate, is also a former craft brewer and former Governor of Colorado. He has an online only ad that highlights his career as a brewer. In 1988, he co-founded  Wynkoop Brewery.

The ad is full of brewing references; comparing the country’s polarization to debates in the brewing community over “hazy IPA and pastry stout.” You can read more about the ad here.

In 1988, Hickenlooper and three other men including brew-master Russell Schehrer started a brewpub with pool tables in Denver.  The brewery did produce beer for retail but stopped that in 2016.  Hickenlooper divested his holding when he ran for governor in 2010.

Wynkoop and Breckenridge Brewery merged in 2011,  forming Breckenridge-Wynkoop. The company sold Breckenridge Brewery to In Bev Anheuser-Busch in 2015. Colorado has over 400 breweries and is fourth in  in the country for number of breweries.

Although Hickenlooper has been successful  as a brewer, businessman and Governor, his presidential campaign has not gained much traction.  The New York  Times has an  article, “The Extraordinary Humbling of John Hickenlooper ,” which details his lackluster performance. I would be very surprised if he was on the debate stage in September.

As you may have noticed, I failed to post a blog last week. We had been traveling and my life has been really hectic; dealing with various personal issues. I am posting today because I will be out of town on Wednesday. I will also be unable to post the following two Wednesdays. I hope to and have every  expectation  of resuming my regularly scheduled postings on Aug. 21. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Sleep Hypnosis

As I have mentioned before, I often have insomnia. Recently I have been a sleep therapist who has taught me self hypnosis. I wanted to try hypnosis for my sleeping problems since I felt I had tried everything else.

Before the first visit, I thought that she would put me under, give me a command and then I would automatically go to bed and  fall asleep. It doesn’t really work like that.

The therapist gave me tools to use to focus sufficiently so I could fall asleep. The idea is to put yourself in a trance through counting down, visualizing going downstairs while counting from ten to one, using a mantra with deep breathing and other techniques.

The cognitive behavior aspects of insomnia also comes into play. Being on a set sleep schedule is key as is avoiding devices for a period of time before you go to bed. To me, the hypnosis feels close to guided meditation with the purpose being a successful night of sleep.

Off Schedule

As you may have noticed, I did not have a post last week. I have had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life and I was away from home visiting a sick relative from Monday to Wednesday.

On Sunday June 9 my website was suspended because the renewal date for Bluehost came and went without my realizing it. I have been planning to change my hosting situation, but I never got around to actualizing those plans.

My idea was to switch to a paid WordPress site where I supposedly wouldn’t have to worry about paying separately for security. I currently pay Site Lock $70 a month for that service. I think I have been reluctant to make the move because I don’t believe that WordPress will be user friendly and free from security issues.

My ambivalence led me to procrastinate; when the site was temporarily suspended, I just renewed for six months. Now I can spend that time reevaluating what I want to do.