Columbus Day--This used to be a big day when I was in grade school. I remember all the build-up to the holiday, (which back then was celebrated on the actual day, not when it was convenient,) as my teachers would always try to bring whatever topic they were talking about back to Columbus and how he was the first person to discover America. The math teacher had us try to figure out the nautical miles he sailed, the English teacher had us write reports on him, the science teacher tried to teach us about the animals he might have seen. When I was young, I swallowed what I was taught and didn't think anything of it, like whether it was true or not.
As an adult, having lived in Mexico, studied foreign cultures, and read more books than I can count, I see how biased those early history lessons truly were and it often makes me wonder what other historical facts I learned as a child that really are not accurate. It's kind of sad, really, that history is so distorted, that people find the need to write down events not as they happened, but in a way that makes themselves or some important person of the time look better than he/she is or was.
When I think about it, I realize most holidays in the United States have moved so far beyond their original intent that it's difficult to fathom what the origins of a particular day actually were. Halloween, soon to arrive, seems to be nothing but a means to sell tons and tons of candy to people who are already overweight and certainly don't need the added calories all that white sugar and chemicals will dump into their systems. Thanksgiving is swallowed up in the pre-Christmas rush of buy, buy, buy...all those sales lead into the Christmas season, if there is such a thing now as some stores already have Christmas items for sale even though it's October. The Christmas of today seems nothing but a commercial attempt to get more and more items onto the shelves and off again and into the households of consumers as rapidly as possible.
Yes, I'm being cynical; perhaps because of the books I've been reading lately, perhaps because my birthday grows closer and I wonder sometimes why we bother with all the rush and bustle. Take today; it's a holiday for some, a work day for others. I worked this morning, editing a manuscript, then spent a couple of hours after lunch picking up firewood from our little piece of woods. Although it is cloudy out, and there are these really annoying clouds of gnats around, it was pleasant to scuff through the dry leaves that have fallen from the maples and birch and pick up logs and chuck them into the pick-up truck. It was productive, energizing work, and probably closer to something Columbus or the Indians he "discovered" might have done on this day hundreds of years ago than run to the nearest mall and buy something on sale.
Well, enough of being critical, this holiday like many others has morphed into something quite different than it was forty, fifty, a hundred years ago, and that's not necessarily going to change anytime soon. I do wonder what the history books of a hundred years from now will write about this period of time, though.
Four days ago, two girls I knew mainly through their friendships with my sons, died
in a tragic car accident. If they had worn their seatbelts, they wouldn’t have
been ejected from the car and that might have made all the difference.
I knew Brooke only for a short time when she dated my youngest son, Finn. She made
him happy and that made me happy. The puppy love of sixteen and seventeen year
olds always brings a smile to my face. That smile has turned to tears as I think
of how young Brooke was when she died, seventeen, headed towards her senior year
of high school. According to Finn, all she wanted to do was to graduate and head
out of her hometown of Jackman to see the world and experience all the good
things in life.
As Lady Gaga plays softly in the background, I cry, knowing Brooke will never hear
these songs again, will never dance at her prom or wedding…so many things left
undone. I try to imagine what Brooke's last thoughts might have been; in my
mind, I hear her say, 'I love you, mummy.' I hope I'm right.
I didn't really know Jessica, but she was friends with my oldest son, Yule, and he
always had fun tales to tell me of his times spent with the Worster twins,
Jessica and Jasmine. My heart goes out to Jasmine who has lost her other half.
Recently I read a book by Christa Parravani titled Her,
about her life as an identical twin and the horrible experience of losing her
sister, Cara. I hope someday Jasmine can read this book and experience what
Christa does after four years of extreme suffering, that "Cara had crossed into
the afterlife alone; this was her fate. There are places even a twin can't
follow. [Christa] stood transformed on a cold night in September, four years
after she had died [her] heart pumped warm blood, face flush with something
unexpected: hope . . .I was thrilled and terrified. I was alive."
I barely knew these girls and yet waves of sadness wash over me. They were both so
young; their lives didn't have to end this way. But they did, and we, the
living, whether we knew them or not, must move forward with our lives. The
answer I've found to help me with the surprisingly strong amount of grief I have
is to remember to love, love myself, love my husband, love my sons, parents,
friends, neighbors. When I let love wash over me like a soft white wave of
healing, instead of the deep blue, swirling waves of tears, I feel at peace. I
hope that all of those who are grieving right now, for these girls, and other
loved ones who have died, can find that soft white wave of love and have it curl
around them and hold them tight. Love and peace.
Here it is almost the end of May, Memorial Day weekend for crying out loud, and all my good intentions of maintaining this blog on a regular basis just keep going out the window.
I created a chart (I'm a big one for charts and lists) that should have helped me track the number of times I posted here each month, and on other sites like Goodreads, Pinterest, etc. and the chart sits empty. In fact, scanning my desk quickly, I can't even find the darn thing, let alone know when I last posted to any of those sites. Ugh!
So, on this yet another rainy day, I sit at my desk and ask myself, why aren't you posting? Why aren't you trying to gather a faithful readership which every freaking blog out there on writing says is an absolute necessity these days, not only for sales, but also to catch the eye of an agent and/or publisher?
I shake my head, stare out the window at the endless rain (nine days and counting, but hey, I am so grateful we don't live in Moore, Oklahoma and best of luck to all of you, I wish I could send you some of my extra stuff, like dishes and clothes that we don't need and you do, but I digress) and think . . . I don't write this blog because one, I'm not sure anyone ever reads it, two, I'd rather put what little writing time I do have into my novel, and three, I am just too darn busy trying to make a living editing and reading books for review--after six hours at the computer for work, another one for personal emails and a laugh or two at stuff on Facebook, I really, really need to get away from this screen and look at real light, even murky, rainy daylight. I read one-three hours each night so I can plow through ten or eleven books a month and with a garden, a husband, two cats, and a house to care for, that doesn't leave much time for anything else, like posting on a regular basis.
So, my apologies once again to those readers who have left comments from time to time--I didn't answer because I'm a snot, but because I just figured out the way to actually see your comments and I feel really bad that months have gone by without any kind of response. I thought I was writing this stuff and shipping it off into the endless void of cyberspace, but apparently there are a few of you out there who have connected and liked what you read.
For those of you who have been following, here's a quick synopsis of what's happened to me in the past couple of months--the knee injury has been a major setback for someone who is used to walking on a daily basis regardless of weather conditions, but I am thankful it is slowly getting better-no deep knee bends still or kneeling, but hey, I can climb a flight of stairs without pain and walked on the beach with my sons, although I had to wear a knee brace. My hubby and I spent eight days on Oahu and came back to all this rain. We stayed with my oldest son and had a grand time. Hawaii is definitely on the must-travel-to-again list and will be vying for time and money with Mexico from now on. I am back to work, glad that my inbox is constantly full, and the stack of books by my bed never seems to diminish as new titles appear on a weekly basis . . . those books give me hope that some day a reviewer will be reading my novel or memoir(s). So, if you read this and want to comment, that'd be grand. Living life keeps me busy and my writing time is precious, but I'll try to make more frequent appearances here for all our sakes. Aloha and Mahalo.
I never really stop to think about my health, until I get sick or in this case, hurt. About ten days ago, I was out collecting sap from our maples, the day was warm, the sap was running, the snow was soft underfoot. I stepped up onto a snow bank, a pile of snow that I knew hid layers of brush and boards underneath and emptied the bucket that hung from a tree. I took two steps and my left heel went into a hole in the snow, while my toes remained supported by whatever junk lay hidden underneath. I kind of felt something pop in my knee, but readjusted my stride, and went to the next tree to collect the sap.
That night, my leg was sore, so I took a couple of Ibuprofen and went to bed. All seemed well for the next several days; I was able to collect sap, able to walk the 1.5 miles up and down hill to the mailbox and back. Then, Sunday, I went for a longer than normal walk with friends and my knee was quite sore that night. More Ibuprofen then and in the morning and I refrained from a walk (it was cold and drizzly anyway). Tuesday I was fine and Wednesday I felt good, so I decided to go to my weekly Zumba class that night.
To be on the safe side, I wore a knee brace, one I've had for years to use when I ride my exercise bike because I did something to this knee about ten or eleven years ago (my ex didn't believe in doctors, so I never had it checked out) and spent six months walking with a cane. Zumba class was fun and things felt pretty good for most of it; by the end though, I was favoring my leg and didn't follow through on some of the twists and turns I might normally do.
Thursday, my leg was quite sore and swollen, so I taped it with an old Ace bandage and wore the knee brace off and on throughout the day. I didn't go for a walk but still helped bring in firewood and did little things in the house. Yesterday, I was even more sore, took way more Ibuprofen (not something I'm fond of doing but when I can't think well enough to work because of the pain, it's time for more meds), and yet, still was up and down the stairs a number of times between computer, printer, and tax forms. I even drove to the Post Office to mail the darn tax papers out.
And today? Yep, I'm on the couch with ice packs, my knee elevated, and still more Ibuprofen. I stepped out of bed and felt shooting pains race across under my patella this am and knew I'd be calling the doctor come Monday. Ah, the joys of overdoing it! What's the lesson here? Not sure if there is one; I'm just thankful that my work is done on my home computer and that I can still edit, write, and read books for review while this laid up. And grateful that my husband's sore arm is better, so he can do dishes and firewood for a bit while I recuperate.
Be thankful if all your body parts are functioning and never take your good health for granted.
Hello one and all,
For the past couple of weeks, I have been putting serious effort into coming up with a new blog name that more aptly represents what I am trying to do here, which is not to waste your time, but to inform and entertain you on the things that interest me: my life in Maine, my adventures in Mexico and Hawaii and travel in general, writing, books, living off-the-grid, being a mom of three rambunctious young men, cooking, gardening, well, you get the idea, just what makes me and my life tick.
So, after about twenty attempts, this is what I've managed to come up with: From the Leeward Side of Life: Where Books, Cooking, and Travel Converge. It was easier than trying to figure out some kind of that would only make sense to me and some of the other titles I came up with have been used by other writers. Plus, I liked the play on words. So, there you have it. I hope you like it. I do and feel it will prompt me to write here more frequently.
With that said, I need to go check out the Notre Dame-Duke women's basketball game. I am a UConn women's basketball fan and need to see who they'll play against in the Final Four.
I recently returned from a ten day vacation in the Yucatan region of Mexico. The sunny and hot weather was a welcome reprieve from the steady cold and snow of central Maine. One place I hoped to visit was a restaurant named The Kinich in the town of Izamal, about forty-five minutes from Mérida where I was staying. I had been to this restaurant before and really wanted my two travel companions to see the place and to experience the wonderful food. Mayan women make corn tortillas by hand and cook them over a hot griddle so the mouth-watering aroma of roasted corn fills the restaurant. The tables are set up underneath a giant palm-thatched roof and beautiful flower beds surround the area, giving one the sensation that you are dining outside in the jungle, instead of just off a busy street.
The last time I had been to Kinich, I had ordered their chicken panuchos while my dad had ordered their chicken salad. When the salad arrived, I almost changed my order as his plate was so beautiful and tempting. He did let me take a picture of it and generously shared some of his many tomato slices with me. So, I was really looking forward to hiking around the town of Izamal, examining the pyramids and little shops, and then ending the day with a yummy dinner.
Unfortunately, illness struck one of my friends and we weren't able to make it to Kinich or Izamal. So, I never got to have the salad or show the town to my friends.What a disappointment! So, on this rainy spring day, I'm going to try and recreate this salad in my own house. I just wish I had some of those hand-made tortillas to go with it.
It's a few days away from Valentine's Day and I thought I would make something special for my husband this year, so I baked up a couple of batches of crackers for him. I made Lemon Crackers and Rosewater Crackers using a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I added a couple of drops of food coloring to each of the recipes, to make the crackers more colorful.
The Rosewater Crackers have a tiny bit of granulated sugar sprinkled on top which makes them taste extra special. Jeffrey loves to spread them with cream cheese, but I like to eat them plain.
If I close my eyes and stand in front of the open oven door after the crackers are done baking and let the heat rise up into my face, I can imagine that I'm standing outside in my garden in the summer, the sun on my face, the rosa rugosa in front of me in full bloom.
At this time of year, with two feet of fresh snow outside, anything that takes me out of my space, even for a few minutes, is totally worth it!
What are you doing for Valentine's this year?
Blustery winds today, with the temperature only at 2 degrees-I don't want to know what the wind chill factor is, I just know I'm glad to have plenty to do inside. But, this cold weather has been here for over a week, so it's beginning to feel like Mother Nature has put us on house arrest or sent out a double-dog-dare-you to see if we are brave enough to venture outside for more than the ten minutes it takes to bring in more firewood.
Yesterday I did go out but there was no real wind. Even so, with it only about 10 degrees, I put on layer upon layer--long johns, jeans, wind pants, wool socks, shirt, wool sweater, down jacket, ear muffs, hat with ear flaps, down hood, scarf, wool mittens inside leather chopper mitts and heavy boots before venturing out for a walk. My glasses instantly fogged up so I took them off and walked semi-blind out to the mail box and back, about one and a half miles. I was still warm once I got back to the house, but was glad I hadn't gone any farther. This morning, one tiny spot on my cheekbone feels a tiny bit frosted where it was exposed yesterday. I will have to be extra careful today if I decide to brave it.
At least it's warm inside and we have plenty of food on hand and lots of books to read.
Plus, I am tackling the enormous task of rewriting my novel. After having several beta readers give me feedback, I realized the whole structure needed to be revised, so am starting over from page one. It actually feels good to shift everything around and find a new flow to the whole thing. And since it is set in ancient Mayan times, I can forget about the cold outside as I wander with my characters through the warm Mayan jungle. Sometimes I am so immersed in the book that I forget where I am in real-time and get a jarring surprise when I come up out of writing to look out my window and see all the snow and hear the wind!
Keep warm, stay bundled up if you go outside!
So, here it is the middle of January already; how the heck did that happen so fast?
The little tracks we saw in the snow around New Year's turned out to be an ermine who took up residence in our woodshed for about five days before moving on to another site. It was a little unnerving to have it around as it liked to jump out of the wood pile when we went to get firewood. But, it was fun to see it skimper across the snow from the big picture window in the living room.
My next-door neighbor planned to make crackers today, but she was nervous about the whole process. Mainly because her oven is not working quite right and she was afraid of undercooking the crackers. I told her just to keep an eye on them and pull them out when they are a nice golden brown on the bottom; the temperature and timing can fluctuate from oven to oven and even day-to-day as moisture and humidity can affect baking, so any of the baking times in the book are an approximation as cooking and baking are not rocket science but more trial and error.
Some women in the next town over from mine plan to have a cracker bake and exchange later this month. About ten of us plan to gather and make a variety of cracker recipes, then divide the results up so everyone gets to take home an assortment of crackers. It should be fun and far healthier than those cookie swops we all went to back around the holidays.
What recipe(s) have you tried this month? How about planning a cracker exchange for Superbowl Sunday? While the guys watch the game, (okay, some of us girls will be watching, too) how about making some Barbecue Crackers or some Cheddar Cheese Crackers? They are big hits at football parties.
We will be rooting for the Patriots this weekend even though my husband's daughter is married to an avid Ravens fan. Sorry Steve!
Until next time . . .
Wow, 2013! Seems like a year out of one of my childhood sci fi stories rather than an actual date but here it is....The wind is up today, blowing the light powdery snow that fell last night around the yard. Looking out the back window, I can see tracks of some animal that wandered through the fruit trees and berry bushes last night and I need to get outside before too long to identify the mystery visitor.
The month of December was a bit rough emotionally as I moved from daily mom to empty nester when my youngest son, Finn, joined his brothers out in Hawaii. My oldest, Yule, has had his own construction company out on Oahu for four years now and over time has hired his two brothers and three other young men from the Jackman, Maine area to work for him. According to Facebook, they were all headed to the humongous party in Waikiki last night, with firework shows every hour from nine o'clock on until the grand finale at midnight. I can't wait to hear what it was like. I know Finn must have been thrilled as he is a little bit nuts about fireworks and has talked of wanting to become one of the men who detonate them.
With the new year, people set resolutions--I used to do this, then always felt like crap by February when I realized I was not able to fulfill the promises I had made. Now I set year-long goals and that feels better to me as it allows me more flexibility in my life and my work. Although I didn't achieve all my 2012 goals, I did meet some of them. I got a finished manuscript for a cookbook into the hands of a publisher and saw the book come to life and be for sale by the end of November. I reorganized my work space and made myself more of an office, so I feel more professional when I am writing. I vowed to increase my income and actually exceeded my daily goal for the past four months. That feels really good as I can see a potential light at the end of my debt tunnel--bills accrued while I went to school for several years to get my Bachelor's in Fine Arts. I applied for a prestigious writing grant and even though I know my chances of winning are very slim, the process of having to write essays on why writing is important to me helped me focus my intent. I am more determined than ever to get more of the stories in my head down on paper.
With that thought, I turn to my goals of 2013 and know I need to spend part of today writing the new list. Two things come to mind immediately--pay more attention to connecting with other writers and readers and finish writing the novel I started two years ago. Two writing lapses of six month's time each has delayed the completion of this story for long enough. 2013 is the year to finish it and find an agent for it. Not to mention the new cookbook idea(s) I have in my head--those need to come to light as well.
What goals do you plan to achieve this year?
Best wishes to all of you!
About Ditched the Niche
One woman's perspective on