Saturday, December 29, 2007

Year in Review

This year has been a particularly stressful one for me. I have not been myself for some time. In March, I found myself without my best friend. Loss it seems was to be the theme of the year, from those I care about, and who were, and still are, a big part of my life.

With the friend and I separated by circumstances, I took to looking for and keeping myself busy and my mind preoccupied. I don’t always make the best choices under these conditions. Add to this, that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, messes with my emotional state.

Just when I thought I would be OK emotionally with one loss, the company closed the development lab where I work. We were more than employees all under one roof. To me, we were like family. The months that followed found me living and seeing the world as if I were under water. Change is difficult for most, and I am no exception.

To help me cope, Andy took me away every weekend. We would get on the motorcycles and go. I never asked where, but got behind him and followed. I just needed to be moving, going somewhere. During the long week-days, I occupied the same building, doing the companies work, with the ghosts of my colleagues taping me on the shoulder at unexpected times. I would see a shadow, look up, and like a flash, a bit of memory would strike me, and once again, I felt despair. Then more loss was in store for the family. My husband lost two of his brothers just a month apart from each other.

During the long lonely days, I looked around for a new place of my own. My endeavors to this end have been unsuccessful as of yet. The irons are in the fire, and patience and faith are now my daily companions. My new state of mind is now that of surrender. Surrender to the will of He who knows what is best for me and having the faith to wait it out.

It has not been all bad. I was able to spend time with my granddaughter while she experienced her first week of life early this year. She is a beautiful child with a happy spirit and curiosity for the world seen only in the very young. Her will to reach for, and attain each new milestone fills me with awe at the human spirit.

In trying to manage my stresses and strains of life, my fingers found the keyboard. The words race across the pages chasing the devil out of me and helping me find my way back to the Pat I miss. I found my short story about a spring motorcycle ride published in a rider magazine. I joined a writing group in the area and have a new set of people with which to share my passion. December found us reading a selection from our writings. I have gained new respect for others who put their thoughts on paper, and an appreciation for those who listen respectfully to mine. My self esteem is returning and a joy for life as well.

To those of you who felt my sting this year, I ask forgiveness. To those of you who continue to buoy me up when I am down, my heartfelt thanks. And to you my good friend, who through the miles, reaches out regularly to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that we matter, you are true blue.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Big Blue

There haven’t been any children living here for a few years now. That doesn’t mean I’m not still tripping over stuff that belongs to them. For every home improvement project, or re-arranging of furniture, there are a whole set of problems associated with the endeavor. “I still want that, don’t throw it out.” I will hear. Or “Yes, I still want Puppy!” This last statement is in reference to a stuffed blue dog that stands three feet tall. OK, I have to admit, Blue Puppy is special.

My youngest daughter was a great lover of Clifford, the Big Red Dog when she was a child. We even met Clifford once at a bookstore in town when he was there for a book signing. She won a drawing that day and came home with a video and new book. So it wasn’t any big surprise when on the day she took Pepere’s hand, walked to the neighborhood yard sale, she came home with Big Blue.

Pepere splurged all of two dollars for Big Blue Puppy. Two dollars very well spent. That night, as I checked on the girls before I retired for bed, there was Big Blue tucked in bed with my daughter. He took up more space in the bed than she did. I recorded the moment on film for my Father who was delighted at the enjoyment two dollars can generate.

Big Blue has had many secrets whispered beneath his big floppy ears over the years. I’ve witnessed a small child’s arm around his neck, while his matted coat was lovingly groomed with my hairbrush. He stood sentinel in the girl’s room, enduring all with a patient look upon his face. Popular toys came and went, but Puppy has withstood the test to time. His head slumps a bit these days, but he still possesses a sturdiness unseen in similar stuffed animals of his breed.

As the years went by, and one by one, the children left home, the living animals in the house looked lost and forlorn. In time, the pets would reconnect with a new best friend in the house. When I looked at Puppy the other day, after my daughter’s proclamation, I realized Puppy had the same forlorn look on his face. Compassion for Puppy swelled within me.

It’s evident that Puppy will be around for a few more years. Considering my grandson is all about doggies these days, (or “goggie” as he says) it’s time for a new generation to love Puppy. A doggie bed and rawhide chew toy are in order, and maybe even holiday themed ribbons for his neck as he stands sentinel for the next child’s visit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I pick up the receiver and speak politely to the caller with my “work voice” (as my husband calls it). “How may I direct your call?” I ask. “Graham Berkeley please” says the caller. I stop short, not knowing how to reply. Then, I simply tell the caller that Graham is no longer with the company. Everything in my day is now colored by this one phone call. Graham is indeed no longer with the company, because he lost his life on a plane that made its fiery contact with the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

That day and those that followed closely are unfolding in my memory. In the six years since, not much helps to soften the vivid images or the recollection of chaos that followed. At this time of year in particular, when family ties are so important, it’s difficult to think of families like Graham's, whose holidays are forever changed.

I often let the holiday season overwhelm me. I spend my time in worry of the right gift, the bank account, or getting it all done in time. I have a number of Christmases past that do not have the sweet memories written about in poems. The phone call has me thinking things over. I pray that all of Graham’s past Christmases with family were memorable. In this way, they will miss him, yes, but remember fondly the gatherings they once shared.

I think of my own Mother’s last Christmas. She lay in a hospital bed, sick with cancer and debilitated by stroke. I bought her a new nightgown that year. It was pink with a flowery print, silky on the outside, but fuzzy against the skin. By Easter, she had no more need of this nightgown. It came back to me, and each winter I wrap myself in it and think of Mom. It’s one thing to loose your mother, another to loose your child. Oddly enough, the name of Graham’s mother is the same as my mother. I wonder if Pauline Berkeley has something of her son to comfort her nights as I do.

I’m done with “baa humbug”. This year, I’m going to sit back, watch my grown children interact with each other. I’ll chase Aiden around the house and tickle his little tummy. I’ll top off my day by sweeping little Paulina into my arms and smothering her with Memere kisses. Before the year is out, I’ll say all the good things that need saying and hug those that need hugging. For this will soon be Christmas Past and memories often live longer than we do.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Plymouth Holiday House Tour

Sunday found me in historic Plymouth Massachusetts with my daughter and granddaughter for the Second Annual Holiday House Tour. This is the one time a year (for a small fee) you get to nose around some of the more historic buildings in town. Events like this are not unique to Plymouth. I have had the opportunity to tour homes in my own town in the past, and found it an enjoyable day out. Plymouth, however, by its very nature as being an historical focal point in our early American history, brings a charm and curiosity all its own.

I love historic buildings. The architecture, style, attention to detail in fine old homes is unlike anything you can find in today’s modern construction. If there were any disappointments at hand, it was that we did not find all the homes as elaborately decorated for the holiday season as we had anticipated. I did have my favorites in spite of this. The Bayberry Inn, Twelve Tribes at 35 Warren Ave, The White Swan Bed and Breakfast and Martha’s Stone Soup at the Tavern. The last on my list is not a home at all, but a restaurant in one of the town’s most historic buildings.

Martha’s Stone Soup at the Tavern was built in 1797 and was once known as the Wright Tavern. Originally, it was a stagecoach stop along the road between Plymouth and Sandwich. There are some modern renovations of course, that make it possible to run as a restaurant, like handicap accessible restrooms. Nevertheless, the early American charm is not lost among the wide pine floorboards or the two original fireplaces, one prominently located in the dining area. I want to come back here for their afternoon tea (or “high tea” as it is sometimes known.)

The most elegantly decorated for the season were the Bayberry Inn, and The White Swan Bed and Breakfast, with the White Swan by far the best. Baby had many brightly colored decorations to attract her attention and gave us an excuse to linger in each of the rooms. Baby was equally as popular as the houses themselves among the guests. Mirrors are popular with babies and I took advantage of every one I found so to linger longer, enjoy the home and the baby.

Lunch at the White Cliffs Country Club was one of the stops on the tour. The view of Plymouth Harbor is just beyond our table and we eat daintily, pretending we are members in our designer label clothing. Baby catches the eye of the chef and he flirts with her shamelessly. All the while, she smiles and coos in response, encouraging even more interaction with the guests.

With the last house, we enjoy yet more hot cider and sugar cookies, and then we are off to the real world again. It has been an enjoyable day filled with sights, sounds and smells of the season. While old homes may stand for decades, babies are babies so briefly. Baby’s presence brings to mind all the families that have lived inside these walls and of all the first Christmases enjoyed once again through the eyes of their youngest, as we did today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Speed Humps

The town has been doing road improvements to our downtown area. Recently, they completed a majority of the work, including paving Main Street. Along with that, they installed what most folks call “speed bumps.” Caution signs went up in town. SPEED HUMPS, the signs read. Speed Humps? Hump was possibly selected because they are wider (or broader widthwise) than regular speed bumps. I found the signs disturbing for some reason. Am I the only one that feels embarrassed by humps on Main Street?

I’ve been scratching my head over these signs for a few weeks now. I had some great material for this blog regarding humps in town. (It needed cleaning up for public reading.) Before I could have my fun, and display my wit, new signs appeared this morning. “RAISED CROSSWALK” is the new definition for the speed bumps in town. Well, that’s better in my estimation. It seems I wasn’t the only one after all to think that HUMP wasn’t the best terminology to display on a sign.

I’ve read in the paper a few of the concerns citizens have about the new design and layout of our downtown. This is typical of course. I’m sure the open meetings to which citizens were invited to review the plans, were sparsely populated. This doesn’t prevent criticism, as I know from experience with the build of our current office space. (All water under the bridge.) Here are a few items that bother people.

We lost some parking spaces in front of the town hall. There is now a curbed off area with grassy looking plants. I’m not sure what type of plant they selected. They are wispy and look unkempt. The spaces and sidewalk were removed because the town hall roof has slate shingles. Slate shingles are known to come loose and slide off a roof. This has happened at the elementary school in town. The committee, wishing to keep citizens safe from a slate shingle to the noggin, took out the parking spaces and some of the sidewalk along the building. Never mind, folks say, that since 1886 when the building was erected, there hasn’t been one incident of a slate shingle falling into the street or taking someone out.

Most people, it seems, are happy to have the dummy back in place. Dummy? Yes, the town dummy is a traffic post that stands sentinel at the end of Main. It has been directing traffic since the 1920’s. Restored to its original state, it is, in my opinion, a relic worth keeping and adds to the unique character of the town. Too bad a big yellow sign was jabbed into the ground right in front of it to obscure the magnificent restoration. I’ll wait. If the hump signs change is any indication, I KNOW I am not the only one to see this flaw.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Interlude

It’s been more than a week since my last blog. With the Holiday season upon us, there will be fewer posts than you are accustomed to seeing from me. Holidays can be a rough time for many and I’m no exception. I stress about how to get all I need to do accomplished, keep the family happy and live up to their expectations. That last part is a tall order and emotionally draining. Over the past few years, I have attempted to reduce the expectations others have on my time. It isn’t without its turmoil. Slowly we are realizing that Mom cannot maintain Super Mom status without a price. I’ve been successful in reducing the number of items on my plate. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the family does not often take kindly to changes in their expectations. I have even heard words like “tradition” held up before me in an effort to return me to Super Mom status. Change is hard, that’s a given. In time I’m sure they will come around. It’s time for new traditions. I think we are on the right track if our Thanksgiving feast was any indication. Prepared by my youngest, with much thought and love, it was a delicious meal from the heart.

I admit that over time, I may have inadvertently created the “expectation monster” I now wish to rid from my holiday life. If you are like me, it’s important to look at what is good, and what is not so good, and be wary not to “toss the baby out with the bathwater.” It isn’t an easy task, but worth every ounce of energy if you want to have a more relaxing time ahead into the future.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Out Your Front Door

Writers writing,
Grandpas rocking
Families struggling
Two friends smiling
Work stress piling
Freelance editing
Colleagues networking
Daughter sharing
Sisters bonding
Others grieving

There are names of real people attached to each of the descriptors above, which further personalizes the emotion, event, or circumstance, and calls us to be mindful of the world around us. All the above I witnessed in a twenty-four hour period. When we look beyond ourselves, we see the joys, struggles and emotional turmoil of those that touch our lives each day. We need only stop, listen, and be present. It’s what makes us human.

Let me give more structure to a few of those descriptors.

A writer’s memoir of their life’s journey, held so dear, and recorded before it is lost in time, connects with one who will edit for possible publication to share, that we may read and contemplate our similarities.

There’s a new grandfather, rocking his pre-term infant granddaughter. He is smiling, telling us she is getting stronger each day. They have bonded, these two, we can see it in the smile, and the sparkle of the eye.

A vicious cancer strikes a loved one, and one tells the family story of their struggle to come together and bridge great distances to be there for each other.

Two friends, smiling over coffee, glad for the quiet moment to reconnect.

A man, standing at my desk, grieving the lost of his father. We talk, and I tell him of my mother, and an e-mail to me from a stranger that said it all. “Mom is Mom, and gone is gone.” Can any words sum up the emotions of loosing a parent more than these?

When I hear, “where do you get ideas for writing?” you need look no further than out your door.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Virtual Wind Therapy

Tom carried in the newspapers and dropped them on the breakfast counter. We both stood looking at the headlines. Our heads bent, I spied a small photo in the top left corner. I squinted at the fine print to be sure I was seeing correctly. With confirmation that I was indeed reading correctly, I shrieked with excitement! Tom, thinking I was still reading the headlines, was completely confused. He mistook my excitement for shock at reading some bit of bad news. It wasn’t bad news at all. Here I was, in California for somber reasons, but the small inset photo was telling me I had arrived smack dab in the middle of Bike Week!

As many newspapers do, this one came complete with a set of inserts. One such insert, dedicated to the California Bike Week and Love Ride, (a charity ride sponsored by Harley Davidson) listed events and schedules. As our Saturday's free, we make plans to attend the event in Pomona at the Fairplex. Tom had given us the use of his truck for the week, but I turned to him and asked if they would like to join us. “Sure” they would join us, although they have never been to such an event, they seemed curious about our recent motorcycle talk.

Nothing starts the adrenaline moving in my veins then a sea of motorcycles parked at such an event. Add to that the roar of engines and the rumble of pipes and the flesh ripples with excitement. We make our way to the entrance and pay our admission. As is typical, the first booth upon entering is “manned” by some very lovely young women in skimpy clothing. I make Andy pose for a photo. Donna seems a bit shocked that I would encourage such a thing. If I want to continue to enjoy such events, I have to make sure everyone is having fun. That includes not being upset at someone taking in a little eye candy. What’s the harm?

We check the schedule and see that we are in time for the first exhibition called The Wall of Death. .Using vintage motorcycles, these guys race around a vertical wall traveling at speeds in excess of 50 mph. Yes, that’s correct, vertical! I have never seen this act before, although they have been at events in our area. Around and around they zip while doing stunts of every kind. They defy gravity using centrifugal force. The audience stands at the top on a platform, and the motorcycles get closer and closer to the top. All the while, I’m thinking one stalled engine would do them in. Or, if they misjudge, they could shoot over the rail and take us all out. They must really trust their bikes! I took some photos, which you can see below, but they are blurry. (Gee, I wonder why?) The best photos are at their website. The link is above.

After the Wall of Death, we continue on to visit the vendor booths. I’m inspecting an item at one, when I here “this bike has balls!” Turning, I expect to see some impressive motorcycle with lots of power. Instead, I see a buffalo-skin draped motorcycle, with what certainly appears to be a set of gonads hanging below the tail. Good grief!

We spend a good part of the day shopping and looking at motorcycles before the next event of stunt riding. Jason Pullen gives us a great show, complete with blowing the rear tire for a grand finale. . However, the best was yet to come. Back toward the far end of the venue, we spy the demo rides.

To Andy’s delight, and my dismay, there are trikes just waiting to be test ridden. It had taken me a year to convince Andy that he didn’t really want a trike. He eventually became the proud owner of a great motorcycle and I believed the trike wishing days were over. Before I know it, he’s marched himself over to sign up for a ride. He selects one and climbs aboard trying to convince me to join him as a passenger. Now I know there are many people who love trikes, but I’m not one of them. “I’m not going to leave Tom and Donna standing on the pavement waiting for us!” I proclaim as an excuse to stay off the trike. We go back and forth, and finally, I say to Tom “why don’t you go with him.” To my surprise, Tom says “OK!” without hesitation.

Helmets donned, they both mount up. I stand near them looking at the gauges and noticed that there is no clutch. “It’s automatic.” Andy tells me. “Automatic!” I exclaim with disbelief. “Geez! Get a convertible!” Andy waves me away, Tom chuckles, and off the two of them go. It all ends well, however, when upon their return, Andy has decided that a trike is not for him after all.

If you happen to be without your motorcycle during times of stress, the next best thing is to be around them. Motorcycling gives me pleasure, but the true benefit is the wind therapy it provides. California Bike Week was for me, wind therapy of the virtual kind, and well worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Desert, Wines, and Hot Air Balloons

While in California, we stayed with my husband’s brother Tom and his wife Donna. Tom and Donna live on a hilltop overlooking Lake Skinner in Temecula. It is a beautiful area. Their property abuts conservation land so they have an unobstructed view of the lake and Batchelor Mountain across the way. If you visit this link you can see an aerial view of the lake. Tom and Donna’s place is to the right of this photo just out of view. From their back patio, we can look left to see the edge of the dam, and across to Batchelor Mountain which is to the right in the photo at the link above.

Once acclimated to the desert terrain, one can begin to appreciate the beauty of the area. There are no green lawns here, as well water is the main source of supply, and a precious resource. Instead, Tom landscapes with plants native to the natural habitat. We also had a taste of the local wildlife. I awoke late one night, to the sounds of yelping coyotes traveling through the back conservation land. The eerie high-pitched yapping of the pack caused goosebumps along my flesh. We also saw rabbits, birds and even a crane that possibly stopped by while migrating. Although I didn’t see any myself, Donna had photos of roadrunners she has had visit the property. I was pleased not to stumble across any snakes. Tom, however, killed a rattlesnake recently and was showing off the rattle end of the tail that he had saved. There were eleven segments, which rattled nicely when shaken.

Tom and Donna’s beautiful home sits up on a hill right smack in the middle of wine country. This is also home to the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival. .They have some great photographs of a recent festival, and told how several of the balloons came to land on their property. We had the pleasure one morning of watching two balloons overhead while sipping our morning coffee. They came to rest across the way on the next hill. Check out some of the photos in the slideshow below.

Speaking of wine country, one of our nieces has membership at two local wineries. She, along with another niece and nephew, took me off for a few hours of wine tasting and winery tour. We stopped first at Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards. . My favorites here were the Almond Champagne and the Angelica Cream Sherry. My niece, Christina tells me you can purchase the Almond Champagne at Costco. If you can’t find it, you can of course purchase on-line.

Our second winery was the Ponte Family Estate Winery. You can only purchase their wines at the vineyard or on-line. I enjoyed the 2003 Zinfandel Port, which has a rich chocolate flavor. If you have $46.00 plus shipping to spare, order a bottle here .
There was a wedding being held the Sunday we visited. I took a few photos of the horse drawn carriage being driving by a stately looking gentleman in tails and top hat.

Each of the vineyards give you a crystal glass, etched with the name of the winery, for sipping the samples during your visit. You can purchase the glass as a souvenir, but my niece Monica had us casually walk outside while sipping and eventually “forget” to go back in and return them. I am now the guilty owner of three souvenir crystal glasses from Wilson and Ponte.

My only regret is that Jeremy "Twitch" Stenberg was not at home while we visited. Twitch is a gold medal winning motocross stunt rider. His home is just below Tom and Donna’s. His practice ramp is clearly visible from Tom and Donna’s front yard. At a distance from the end of the ramp is an enclosure filled with spongy looking foam cubes on which to land during practice. Donna seems to like this “nice young man” and tells us not to be fooled by the tats. Read more about Twitch and the X Games Best Trick competition here.,13190,1156543,00.html. Although Jeremy wasn’t at home, I got my fill of motorcycles at the annual California Bike Week held at the Fairplex in Pomona. . Yes, we had to “cage” it, but you can’t have everything you want in life. I’ll talk more about Bike Week tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blackout Over

Life resumes. Last week we packed our bags and headed out on the first available flight to California for some sad family business. It has been six years since we have visited this part of the country and many more years since we saw the whole clan. Although we were there to say goodbye to one, we reconnected with many. Present were faces that we have not seen in many years. Children we once new, are now grown adults with families of their own.

Seeing these children, now adults had me feeling as if I had stepped out of a time machine into the future. I do not feel any different from the day I kissed their chubby cheeks goodbye when last I saw them. However, there they stood before me, now taking charge of the world, holding the hands of their young children, who’s cheeks resemble their parents’ in days gone by.

The visit was not all somber. One niece, now a vineyard club member, along with another niece and nephew, carried me off for vineyard tours and wine tasting. Other family members, understanding our passion, ushered us to the middle of California Bike Week! Who else, but family, would know just how to cheer us up!

The blog blackout is now over. I’m back to the grindstone. In the coming days, I’ll give more words to the events of this past week and post some photos from the vineyards and Bike Week. You’ll want to come back if only to see the photo captioned “This Bike Has Balls”. Don’t miss it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Belly Laughs

One of our former colleagues had a small gathering at her home to celebrate the Red Sox victory. It was an excuse really, for a group of women, with their husbands or boyfriends in tow, to enjoy an evening out with friends.

The entire evening resounded with good-natured joking and personal stories told about ourselves that we had never shared before. It was laugh therapy at its finest. Until the end of that evening, I didn’t realize how much I needed it.

My two most favorite stories were of Woodstock and Our Lady of Guadalupe. As you might tell from both of those subject titles, there was a no holds bared theme to the story telling evening. The deliveries were better than any stand up comic could deliver. Considering the current writers strike, Jay Leno would do well to contact a few of these folk for their great story telling abilities.

During the course of the evening, we discovered, to our delight, that we had a Woodstock attendee in our midst. He became an instant celebrity. Nostalgic memories were evoked as he described the length of his hair, his mode of travel, and descriptions of the masses. Melodies of old favorites played in our minds, or sprang from the lips of some in recounting the bands there that weekend. An animated storyteller, with thinning hair and Red Sox tee shirt, he transformed before us into a youthful boy from 1969.

Where does Our Lady of Guadalupe fit into all this? Easy, mix two pious women, and electrified portrait and you have a vivid recounting of miracles in our daily lives.

J tells us a story about her Texan sister-in-law, with strong Mexican Catholic, roots sending her a portrait. “I saw this and it spoke to me,” says the sister-in-law. “I just had to get it for you.” To which J pulls from the package a large portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The portrait has a cord hanging from the back. When plugged in, the portrait lights up and rays of light flash around the image of Our Lady.

Having spoken with AM who is now reaching discouragement with the job hunt, and remembering the help she received from AM in finding her own job, J tells AM she will pray for her success and plug in the portrait for good measure. Not only does AM land a job, but she does so on a feast day of the Virgin Mary. Its nothing short of miraculous they proclaim. Our Methodist friends remark that, of course, it has nothing to do with AM’s diligence. To help us understand, D tells of a new product on the market that keeps one from absorbing fat. You take the product and the fat passes out of the body undigested. The label warns that it can on occasion cause unexpected voiding. So as not to have this embarrassment happen to you, they suggest avoiding fat in the diet. So does the product work? Or does the attention to diet have more to do with it? AM and J suggest faith has more to do with AM’s success. In the end, I ask J to plug the portrait in for me. I will however, continue to be diligent, but I’m not underestimating the power of an electrified portrait.

Where is the sports theme that was the excuse for this gathering? Why, with Hood’s Red Sox Ice Cream, of course! I chose the Comeback Caramel. Yum!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Collective Mind

This week has seen me on the social circuit and my writing in general has taken a back seat except for the wiki. Working on the wiki is enjoyable, and stress free. It releases the creative juices and gives me challenging problems to solve. I’m as content as a cat curled in the sun when creative projects occupy my time.

Although my writing took a back seat this week, I feel it equally important to stay connected with friends. My friends are so different from me in personality, in their approach to life’s problems, and in how they look at the word in general, that I find solace as well as fortitude in the words they have for me. I was not disappointed in looking to get my emotional batteries recharged when I turned to my social network.

One friend may have missed his calling in not becoming a motivational speak as his profession. His systematic and rational approach to problem solving amazes me. He does this while at the same time applying his particular brand of philosophy on any subject to himself as well. He does not just give lip service to what he suggests for his friends.

Our discussion led to talk about our work and my own personal job hunt. In exchanging information about where our friends have found employment, we discovered we each had valuable information about companies that we would not have discovered otherwise except for the inside information we now possess. This, for me, is important in avoiding jumping from the pot into the fire. Our network is keeping us informed. The parting words my friend had for me on this subject did more for me that all the pep talks I’ve had since June.

“Pat, the Collective Mind is watching out for you. Your place is not yet ready. When it is, you will know it.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Our Purpose in Life

A few nights ago, I tossed and turned but could not fall asleep. Random bits of thought would flash through my mind. After a few hours, I took an over-the-counter sleep aid. These don’t usually work, I think, as I will soon fall asleep from exhaustion anyway, but I take two for good measure.

The morning finds me in a blue mood. My thoughts have a theme; “what is my purpose in life?” It’s possible my brother-in-law’s terminal prognosis has me thinking this way and re-evaluating where I am and where I want to go, or even maybe where I should have gone. With that thought, past experiences flash from the earliest childhood memory to adulthood. If we all have purpose in life, then what is (or was) my purpose? That one question will have anyone thinking over the segments of their lifespan, I imagine.

I found myself creating a chart of the events of my life, possibly because so much of what I do for a living requires documentation. The document began to unfold as an outline. In looking at the outline with a critical eye, I realized that I was conducting a gap analysis!

A Gap Analysis can be useful in business to identify actual performance versus full potential. What areas need attention? What items were overlooked? What are the missed opportunities? Can this same process work in evaluating, improving and finding the purpose in our lives? That last question had me curious. I began the analysis in earnest.

Looking at the outline, my own personality became evident. I could see the paths I’d taken, but only I alone, know the reasons for them. I must then consider how the paths I’d taken led me to where I am today. I can imagine only, how it might have unfolded had I taken the alternate route. All I can do with the outline is understand my personality traits and how they guided my discussions. I can then use this going forward as my personal compass. A true understanding of how we think is essential here and requires a level of awareness we may not all posses.

My conclusion is this. To reach our goals we must be single minded. We must hold this plan as a focal point in order to manifest it into our lives. With the new awareness of our thinking patterns, and the courage to think in new ways, we can make progress in reaching our goals. Don’t get sidetracked. Repeat as often as you must, to those you love, what you want, and how you plan to achieve it. Say it aloud for it breaths life into your plan. Above all, strive for enlightenment, for it is by this path that we shall understand our place in this world, and ultimately, our own true purpose.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

On Writing

I’ve been a busy girl these past few weeks. Now that there is a lull in my personal writing project, I’m itching to start another. The process has begun. With me, a lot of writing happens in my head before it ever flows from my fingers onto the keyboard. When I was in high school, I took a creative writing class. In the evening, I would lie back on my bed and consider what I would write for the next assignment. My sister would ask, “What are you doing?” To which, of course, I would reply “I’m doing my homework!” I don’t think she ever really understood.

The current project I have just finished is a short story about an incident from my childhood. Short stories are what I seem to concentrate on most. I’m not really sure how authors come to write long novels. I hope to one day write a novel, but for now, the short story genre is all I have in me. I have colleagues that tell me about the books they’ve written, all technical. It’s interesting to hear them speak about what their struggles were, compared to what challenges me.

In the busy few weeks that just passed, I attended my first meeting of the Monadnock Writer’s Group. They had a guest speaker, who naturally, was selling a copy of his book afterwards. Someday, I hope to stand and speak about my book, and sell a few copies too, so I bought one of his. At the beginning of the meeting, we are asked to introduce and tell a little about ourselves. In doing so, I mentioned my published article in Biker Ally. I had a lot of questions about how I came to be published in the magazine. I explained that I felt the story was published because of the editing skills of my friend Tim. “Would he edit their stuff?” I was asked, and “How much does he charge?” Tim is happy to hear this, as freelance editing is a dream of his.

I have also begun in earnest the wiki project Tim told me about last May. Wiki is new to me, and I’m on a learning curve. All I’ve managed to accomplish at this point is to add a page with a short description. We are all trying to understand the intent, look, and how to manage content at this point. It is slow going until I can grasp the concepts they have in mind. It’s exciting to be a part of this project.

My short story is off to four different destinations. I feel the content and style are worthy of publication. Tim seems to feel that since it reverberated in his mind, it is a sign of a good story. I feel Tim’s instincts are good, and I’m optimistic about the outcome. Because this is a story from my childhood, it was sometimes difficult as the emotions return with the writing. That, however, may be what gives the story life.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Halloween Trick on Readers

This morning, as I sipped my coffee and thumbed through the newspaper, I came across some recipes in the food section that astounded me. They were recipes you could use for leftover Halloween candy. “Leftover Halloween Candy” is an oxymoron, isn't it? I personally, have never experience “leftover” Halloween Candy. Leftover apples and bags of popcorn? Sure! Candy? Never!

I was intrigued by this phenomenon I new nothing about and read on to learn more. I read two of the recipes. One was for candy bar cookies and the other was for peppermint patty brownies. Both sounded like tasty treats I might enjoy. Then my eye spied the note about caramels. “Melt caramels and drizzle over sliced apples.” Now there is a suggestion I could have used when I was a kid. It would have saved me from all those rotten apples under my bed. My sister would have appreciated this too, as she wasn’t too happy the day I presented my caramel to her in the schoolyard, with my molar imbedded in the center. That melted caramel idea would have been handy for popcorn too. Just imagine the great popcorn balls I could have made from all those bags of popcorn that I eventually fed to the birds.

As I continued on, my coffee mug poised mid sip, there before my eyes were suggestions for candy corn and Peeps! My eyebrows raised in disbelief. No one ever has leftover Peeps! While I was trying to “swallow” that one, I spied the next section of the food page. There before my eyes was a recipe for “Mild Mexican.” Another oxymoron or just a work of fiction? I decided today’s food section was the newspaper’s version of “trick” just in time for Halloween. There is no other explanation that makes sense to me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


When I was a kid, cream cheese on crackers was a big deal. Mom would keep a container of cream cheese in the fridge and when we wanted a snack we’d spread some on crackers. In a family of eight kids one container of cream cheese didn’t last long. The other “staple” Mom kept on hand was Marshmallow Fluff for making Fluffernutters. For those of you not New England born, this is a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow crème.

My sister often brought her snack up to our bedroom when doing homework. Inevitably I would ask “what are you eating” and with the answer, I would go make some for myself. One evening, tired of hearing me ask this question for the 100th time, (or maybe the cream cheese was running low) my sister replied “Marshmallow on crackers.” I went right downstairs and spread some fluff on saltine crackers. It was an interesting combination of sugar and salt that pleased my tongue. I became a big fluff and cracker fan. Years later, my sister, snickering at the memory, confessed that she had lied about what she was eating. I think she also discovered that day how gullible I was. I still wonder to this day in what other ways I had been mislead.

My love of Marshmallow Fluff led to experimentation with other types of crackers. Graham crackers are at the top of the list. There is also the breakfast fare of toasted bread with butter and fluff. So you can imagine my joy at discovering Peeps! How ingenious to make tasty shapes of marshmallow and top them with sugar. What a rush!

My love of Peeps did not pass on in the genetic code to my daughters however. Despite the knowledge that the kids did not like Peeps, the Easter Bunny persisted in leaving some in the Easter Basket each year. I always obliged in taking them off their hands. Blue Bunnies, Yellow Bunnies and Pink Bunnies, I ate them all. (I’m such a good Mom!)

One year, my daughter Stephanie spied snowman Peeps in the store. Being all grown up, she long understood why the Easter Bunny would leave Peeps in her basket. She bought a package then and there, eager to see the look on my face when presented with Peeps at Christmas. I was overjoyed! Finally, someone actually gave me something I liked, and not something I needed.

This past weekend, we headed to Plymouth to visit our oldest daughter for her birthday. After our visit, we headed to our Cape vacation home to spend the night. It had been a long day. Tired and groggy, I walked into the house and flicked on the lights. There on the kitchen counter, propped up against the coffee maker, were TWO packages of Peeps. There was one package of Ghost Peeps and one Package of Pumpkin Peeps. Stephanie, once again, couldn’t resist leaving me Peeps. All the girls think its funny their Mom loves Peeps, including Stephanie. But somewhere deep down, she respects it too. When I find a package of Peeps from Stephanie, I know it’s her way of showing love for her Mom.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Part of the daily routine in our home is the pushing of the “play” button on the answering machine upon arriving home in the evening. We enter, push the button and listen while removing coats or unloading our daily baggage. Most often, we reach over and hit delete for the telemarketers and political ads. Then there are those rare occasions when we stop mid jacket removal and stand still to listen, paying attention to every word, only to hit the play button again to be sure of what we just heard.

Yesterday was just such a day. As the message plays, we both stop mid-action. A call from a relative with bad news of the life altering kind flows out by voice messaging. We play it twice to be sure we have heard correctly. Our evening is then filled with phone calls and getting the details. Cancer is the message. We begin to process the ramifications of what this bad news means for our loved one.

Our mortality, something we choose to put to the back of our minds, accosts us full force. We must face the truth that we all will travel our own path to our ultimate end. As the evening unfolds, we must discuss other topics to make arrangements and plans as all families do each day. This night, we realize, some items on the list now seem less important than they did previously. Other items move closer to the top of the list. Our discussion turns to what is important to us. Which item should we continue with, which make our life feel fuller, what will we regret not having done should we receive such news for ourselves tomorrow.

Are you trudging through life? Is what you are doing have impact? Are you paying attention to the ones you love? How would you feel if certain aspects of your life disappeared tomorrow? What makes you angry that would seem inconsequential if your life ended today? Unfortunately, we only think seriously about these matters when faced with mortality first hand. I suggest you arrange your daily checklist by what matters most.

Time is not a commodity to be trusted. We are not guaranteed any number of days or hours. There are those who express time in terms of “wasted” or “fleeting”. While others never seem to have enough, or spend their current time with worry over future or past time. Some people “take” time or “spend” time. All we are really blessed with are moments. If fortunate, we may be able to link the moments into the days of our life. Make what you do with your moments count.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

All in a day's Sojourn

Saturday found Andy and me on the Annual Fall Foliage Ride with the New England Riders. This ride, as always, is a pleasure. Wingman plans his route with care so that we come away with the best motorcycling experience New England has to offer. It isn’t the ride in particular that I want to write about, but the aftermath, which could have resulted in a much worse scenario than how it came to unfold.

Last week, I struggled with a head cold. You know the symptoms, headache, sore throat, cough and general body ache. Despite feeling fine Saturday morning, the afternoon found me feeling fatigued and bit out of sorts. Add to this, a foreign substance irritating my eye, and you start to set up circumstances that should be given more attention that I was willing to give them at the time.

Our last leg home found us riding down Burton Highway from Temple into Wilton. This stretch of road is narrow and twisty, with some rough patches here and there. It’s downhill all the way to route 31 in Wilton. Just at the junction of Burton Highway and Isaac Frye, I hit gravel in the roadway. My back tire started sliding out from under me. To right the bike I began to counter steer, which alas would take me straight into the woods. Not a scenario I wanted. The shoulders are soft here, and I hit this hard. I corrected the steering and rode the soft shoulder as if I were in some freestyle motocross competition, while at the same time progressively braking harder and harder to slow Jade down. I didn’t want to lock up the brakes, spill the bike or hit trees. I estimate I did this for about 500 feet before I slowed enough to eventually coax Jade back on the pavement. All the while, I prayed that this was not one of the roads washed out by the summer rains. If that were the case I was in danger of hitting the granite stones used to fill in all the washed out shoulders in town. I was thankful not to encounter any granite chunks. I made the rest of the ½-mile trip home without incident.

Here are the factors I believe led to this unfortunate end to a wonderful day. I was cold, fatigued and hungry. My eye was hurting something fierce and I couldn’t see very well once sunset occurred. If I had paid attention to all of these, I would have realized I should not be riding. I could have pulled over, and let Andy know that I needed to pick my way home carefully instead of trying to be the female version of macho. Once home, my legs cramped suggesting dehydration as well. The eye still hurt like a son of a gun. When I woke on Sunday, my eye was blood red. Andy thought I looked possessed; an extra just stepped out of the cast of Exorcist. I’m now nursing a damaged cornea and trying not to scratch this itchy eye.

I credit keeping the bike up with all of the parking lot practice I have done over the past few years with the motorcyclist friends I used to work with. I haven’t had much practice this summer, but I will begin again during lunch hours again next season. They saved me from going down. In addition, all the books I read of David Hough’s were a considerable benefit. I strongly suggest reading any or all of his books. He has spent a lifetime on motorcycles, has studied accident scenes and reports, and states call to him for advice when investigating the cause of motorcycle accidents. The advice and tips in these books flashed through my mind at lightning speed while keeping me and Jade out of the woods. Christmas is coming, so consider giving one or more of these titles to the motorcyclist in your life.

Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well
More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride
Street Strategies: A survival Guide for Motorcyclist (my personal favorite)
I’m happy to report that the worst thing the doctor told me was not that I had to wear a patch, or could not drive but that I could not read or (gasp!) write for a 24-hour period. I still look possessed by the devil, and I have no idea what got into my eye. As my handle on the forum would suggest, it is all in a day's Sojourn.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mercury in Retrograde

If you watch CSI than you heard in last nights episode how the heat has an affect on crime. With each degree the thermometer rises, at more crime scenes the investigators find themselves. The other phenomenon is the strange behavior people exhibit during a full moon. You may phoo phoo this as nonsense. We also like to brush aside full moon or weather stories as coincidence. I have evidence that the celestial bodies and the weather do indeed affect us.

Recently I have begun to pay attention when Mercury is in retrograde. Susan Miller ( admonishes us never to make purchases of electronic items or sign contracts during this time. Mercury rules electronics and moving parts. They just go haywire. Contractual agreements tend to go south. I took her advice as mere speculation. I am no longer a skeptic. Here is the evidence to support my experiences.

We purchased a new combination DVD/VCR. With this new unit, I hoped to copy all my family videos to DVD. The machine has never worked correctly. In fact, soon after installing the unit it locked us out of the VCR feature. We sent it back for repair. It was in the shop for two months. (That was not a typo, two months, not two weeks.) This unit was purchased during a retrograde period.

The next item we attempted, knowing full well that Mercury was in retrograde, was to sign a contractual agreement for new windows on the house. These windows were attractive to us for their lifetime guarantee. The windows were measured for, and payment was discussed. Although we had the cash, we opted for the loan payment. The reason for this, of course, we knew Mercury was retrograde; we didn’t want to put down the cash deposit required under the cash terms. With the loan, all we needed was a minimal deposit and we could pay off the loan anytime. For us, that would be the first payment notice. We put down ten dollars cash.

Months later, we receive a call that the company cannot guarantee one of the windows. “Do we want to do the rest of them?” we are asked. Of course not! This one window was the whole point of the replacements. Not only did the contract fall apart, we have yet to see our ten-dollar deposit returned.

You think I would have learned my lesson with these two incidences. Pat requires the “three strikes and your out” routine it seems. The next purchasing adventure I endeavor is a new laptop. A friend helps me with the requirements and I place the order. Yup, Mercury is in retrograde. I have to send the laptop back because I have the wrong software installed. Can they send me a disc? No, it needs to go back and be rebuilt. I get the machine back, and it is struck by a rogue lightning bolt while the battery is charging. Was a storm predicted? No! Was there any evidence that an electrical storm was on the way? No! Just “BAM” and the screen has a nice vertical line right down the middle. Off it goes for repair again.

Each of these incidences is disruptive to our daily routines. Attending to the forms, shipping and follow-up are all tedious aspects easily avoided had the alignment of Mercury been taken seriously. With the DVD/VCR problem, I let myself be completely annoyed at the trouble and the delay in repair. When I signed the contract for the windows, I was not surprised at the delay and then the actual cancellation of the job. My laptop upset me, because although I new I should wait, I wanted it NOW. Instant gratification is the bane of our society, and I am as susceptible as the next person. My upset was more at this aspect than at the laptop trouble itself.

Mercury is now testing me with her power to the fullest and it is this last item that has me the most distressed. My GPS will not work on my motorcycle! Yes! I can hear you now. “Say it isn’t so!” Alas, it is true. Something has gone haywire on the motorcycle that is affecting my GPS. The motorcycle is the only place it will not work properly. I have spent countless hours troubleshooting, including a complete re-wire of the power system for the GPS. This included removing the gas tank, and even purchasing a new battery. That’s right, Pat is wrenching!

I have now pitted my wits against a celestial body. In my fight to win one battle, I have solicited help from every source. The Garmin folk, the good people of the NER and the Giant Brain himself. All offer good advice and troubleshooting techniques. Despite our best efforts, Jade and Quest will not get along. I have thrown my hands up in surrender and will wait out the retrograde period. Come November 1st, I anticipate that Quest will suddenly be right with the world but too late for my Fall Foliage Ride this weekend. If a sad looking woman on a green and white motorcycle asks you for directions this weekend, kindly point her home. Otherwise, she will ride around in circles until November 1st.

PS: If you wish for follow up come November, drop me a note and I’ll tell you if Jade and Quest have resolved their issue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Time Waits for No Man" Danish Proverb


I hope my children look back on today,
And see a Mother who had time to play!
Children grow up while you're not looking,
There'll be years ahead for cleaning and cooking,
So quiet now, cobwebs; dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.

...Unknown Author

Aiden has been ravenous these past few weeks, so his mother reports. His little 21-month-old body can’t get enough. One morning recently, while entering his bedroom to get him up for the day, a little boy’s face greeted mother, where just a few days before the baby had been. The change in his features from baby to little boy was so profound; his mother could not keep her eyes from marking this day permanently in her memory. Upon dressing for the day, his clothing was suddenly too small. The arms and legs were well beyond the cuffs of shirt and hem of pants. The reason for the eating frenzy became quite evident.

Paulina’s mother is reporting in on her progress as well. It appears that she is able to sit up by herself for extended periods of time. While mother gives me updates, I can hear Paulina’s non-stop babble in the background, punctuated at times with little baby giggles. One evening the phone rings. “Can you hear that?” Paulina’s mother asks. I hear the sound of a tinkling piano in the background. Like her mother, Paulina, it appears, has an interest in the piano. Mother propped her in the baby seat up against the keyboard, and baby took to it immediately. This is not some random pounding of the keys. Her tiny fists push this key then that key in a deliberate manner. She also seems keenly aware that the keys just out of her reach to the left and right will also produce various sounds and reaches for these with effort.

As I listened to their stories, I wondered what has happened to the years and recalled the poem above. As a young girl, summer days would stretch interminably before me. I would whine to my own mother “there’s nothing to do!” When I became a mother, the days began to elude me. There never seemed enough time. I didn’t often heed the advice given in the poem above, and the days passed swiftly. Soon the children were grown.

The older I get the more swiftly the days seem to pass. My imagination views time as water flowing to the ocean. In my childhood, it was a meandering brook. As a young adult, the current moved swiftly along. Now, the river has reached the rapids. The kayak of life nearly snatched from my control. Before the rapids reach the falls, I feel it necessary to find a new poem to use as my own snapshot in time. The one below seems suitable.

Grandma's eyes are never dry!

These children
with their red apple cheeks
and runny noses
fill my heart to the brim!
They frolic like puppies
turning end over end
again and again and again.
How innocent and clever
their eyes are...full of love
for Grandma and
her cookie jar.
They joyfully exclaim
throwing their arms open wide
when I arrive
give exquisitely sweet
kisses and hugs and waves
My oh my oh my !
Grandma's eyes are never dry!
~ Martha Meshberg ~

Saturday, October 6, 2007

You Can Never Go Home

Yesterday, I took an online course entitled Navigating Change. I didn’t take it voluntarily. The company has a set of courses that combines logging into a web based manager, and using a set of CD’s in conjunction with this to complete the loop. Our task this fiscal year is to complete the entire series.

I also had some news that under most circumstances I would appreciate. My boss called to let me know about my raise. It’s good to have a raise, but my joy is tempered by the series of events that have taken place this year. It was because of the news about the raise that led me to take this particular course. I consider my self a fair person. They kept a promise to do their part, so I will do mine.

The concept discussed in the course that I found most interesting were the three phases of change. In the first phase, we fight the change and cling to the past. In the second phase, there is yet no clear direction from management on exactly what are tasks are or how to complete them. In this phase we are free to experiment with our new, yet undefined positions. In the third phase, we accept and understand the need for the change and become empowered by our creativity to make the change work. I have not yet reached the third phase, but believe I may just have entered the second.

My raise helped move me to this second phase. I am experimenting with tasks and trying to make sense of what I see. It also helps me better understand how others have been affected by the change. Watching others cope leads me to better understand my own emotional state.

What prompted me to pay more attention to the others, were the three conversations I had yesterday with former employees. One caller wanted to deliver some suggestions for me in reference to other companies and the contacts I know there. We chatted for a bit, and then disconnected. The second caller has and continues to try to help me into the company he is at now. One of our other colleagues is there also and sits close by his station. Both he and she where the second and third I spoke with yesterday.

What I find in these conversations is that all three wanted to hear something of the old place. They were also interested in any news I might have of other colleagues and where they may be. It occurred to me, that when we all worked together, I was the glue that kept the communication and information line open. It was interesting to see that they still, to some extent, depend on that from me.

Then the telling series of statements from the woman gave me insight into their emotions I had not had before. While true that my workplace has changed considerably since June, I still come to the same location day after day. I have an ear to the ground on how the company is doing, changes that are being planned, or hear news of people I have worked with for almost 7 years.

I have envied those who have been successful in finding new employment and moving on with their lives. I did not consider what it is they are navigating on their own. They were not given the opportunity of time to let go of the past as I have. By coming to the same location each day I have had to face that it will never be the same again. My colleagues were ushered out. No goodbyes, no last looks. They miss the people the used to work with, and they cannot even stop by to say hello. There is never any “coming back”. No one is home.

I cannot decide if I have been fortunate or set up for continued disappointment in the future. The work atmosphere under which I had worked and the people who made up the teams the worked under the same roof where unlike any people I had ever worked with before. We were truly a family. It will be hard to recreate that atmosphere anyplace else. Numega was unique in this. We can never go back home. We can make our lives in new places but we must never think we can recreate the past. I will let go, and for now, take care of the family that is there. They are navigating change too. As for those who can never come home again? It may be time for a quarterly newsletter that keeps the “family” connected.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Poet Wannabe

Ears strain to catch some sound
Eyes scanning left to right
A steady hum is all that’s heard
Of air pumped through and ‘round

A plant still potted and alive
Beside the door does it still stand
Awaiting those it used to greet
Whose feet shall never again arrive.

The air now fills with bitter scent
From one sole pot upon the brewer
Its contents black and scorched
Too much for those whom it was meant

My notebook lay upon my desk
Once listed many busy tasks
Its pages blank of any script
Or any questions one might ask

The vehicles are sparsely scattered
Upon the tarmac freshly painted
Shrink and stretch their shadows mark
Another day that hardly mattered

I hear the echoes of days long past,
Whispered sounds of those I knew
And with the plant, I mark my time
To contemplate how long I’ll last.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nails for Breakfast

I know a few people who have giant egos. This statement may seem like a derogatory statement, but I find it a compliment and something to aspire too. The people I know with the trait I am describing have a faith in their abilities that nothing and no one can shake. Their self esteem is rarely crushed by set-backs in their endeavors. In fact any variation from the original plan is viewed as a learning tool to take forward and apply to their effort and bring it to fruition. They never wallow in self pity or bemoan a missed opportunity, but rather make opportunities for themselves. Strong in mind and will, they take no offense at insensitive barbs. You may actually have to point out to them that they are being offended before it is even recognized.

It is no wonder the people I admire are able to achieve their professional goals and attain the positions they desire. Their single minded confidence in their abilities leaves no room for failure. Should they not be where they want to be now, it is only because they are not there yet. The plan is in place and it will happen soon. I have noticed that they never lose sight of the goal. All else is external and peripheral or gauged in its value as useful to the plan.

I am watching them in order to recreate this in myself. I need a bit more inner strength to withstand the sense of rejection that comes with the employment search. Can anything leave one feeling more vulnerable than exposing on paper the achievements of your life, and posting them for the world to see? No one reading this short script can imagine the toil and trauma behind the starched and pressed words on the page. This is your one chance to catch the attention of a potential employer. The selling of your self has begun.

If you are fortunate, you will be summoned for an audience. You prepare a script for any possible question. You practice your best smile. In their hands are your starched and pressed words being picked apart and analyzed for their worthiness. You are thanked for your time and ushered back out the door…to wait. To wait and wait some more until finally you realize you have been rejected.

It is under just such a series of events that found me a victim of self pity. I indulged in a full hour of it, filled with self reproach. “I should have said this” or “maybe I should have” that, forever second guessing the process. It was then that I reached to retrieve an item from my tote bag. My hand stopped short, I wiped at the angry tear that threatened to flow, and pulled the bag up onto my desk. There, I perched it at an angle I could view for the remainder of the day. On this bag, is a quote I learned from my ego filled, self esteemed friend. This quote has carried me through tougher times than this mistake at not recognizing my greatness. In fact I would have been a perfect fit and a great addition to their team. However, they will suffer the consequences of not hiring a strong and capable woman such as me. A pressed and starched resume cannot reveal that “I Eat Nails for Breakfast!”

Friday, September 28, 2007

Life on the Edge

My writer friend Tim contacted me this week about a writing project that we spoke about last May. This project is finally getting off the ground. The title of the project is Life on the Edge of New Hampshire Granite.

Life on the Edge, as I like to refer to it, will be a wiki site where members can add and modify content. Linked to the companion sites "" and "", it will be an integral part of the whole. Tim, a fabulous photographer, posts his best work at these sites.

The intent of Life on the Edge of New Hampshire Granite is to present snippets of life as experienced by those who make their home here. Contextually, we hope to limit the stories to personal experiences only so the collection captures life in the Granite State. In May, we collected a considerable volume of snippets by simply scouring our personal e-mail files. It was a great place to retrieve stories that we shared with friends and family.

The Wiki format is new to me. Collaborating, contributing and learning are all the features that attract me to this project. I have the time, talent and desire to work and make this project a success. These days, time is what I have of most. There are those who are not so fortunate.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Words are Windows

As the sun rises, the humidity of the day is evident in the way the rays reach out opaquely through the thin cloud cover. The traffic is light this early in the morning. I watch a flock of geese in V formation in flight across the pale pink clouds. The wild turkeys are foraging along the roadway. The serenity in the dawning of a new day is in stark contrast to the blackness of my heart and soul. In one thoughtless moment, words revealing one’s true nature, have cut me to the core, and I watch the geese with envy.

“Insecurity is love dressed in a child's clothing.”
~Gaelic Proverb~

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


“You look so bored!” John says to me as he passes by my station. He doesn’t know the half of it! I am so utterly and completely bored that I believe I have mastered the art of snoozing with my eyes open. I have even contemplated setting the alarm on my cell phone so that when it vibrates on my hip at intervals, I’ll wake before the snoring starts.

I was pleasantly surprised to find there are many of us in the world that are bored at work. There is a unique web site dedicated specifically to this genre. The title, of course, is “Bored at Work.” When you access the link there is nothing there but links to other sites. “How insightful!” I think. If you’re bored, there is no way you want to read some introduction that will make you yawn even more. Just click the darn link for some amusement.

My favorite is the link entitled Fast Food: Ad vs. Reality. Not a lot of wordiness here either. The author has simply posted photos from fast food chains of some item they are promoting, and beside it is a photo of the ordered item on your tray. My two most favorite are the burrito and the egg and cheese croissant. Looking at the photos side by side reminded me of the days I did art project with the kids. There is a product on the market called Modge Podge. You dip your art project into the white glue like substance, pull it out, and let it dry. The stuff dries clear, and whatever you dipped into it is set forever as you intended. I think that is what they used for the burrito ad. The egg and cheese croissant looks flaky, the egg and cheese balanced perfectly within. In the photo of the item served the customer the item looks squashed with contents dripping off the edge of the pastry.

I suppose I could pass the time composing my next short story, or better yet, the masterpiece novel that will make the best sellers list. I have noticed an anomaly with boredom. The more you are bored, the less motivated you actually feel. It is a no win situation.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rest Stop Vigil

I wake to pea soup fog outside my window and my hopes for all day riding are dashed. “What happened to the bright sunshine that was predicted!” I exclaim to a squirrel just outside the door. He scampers away and his gray coat becomes one with the fog. This is not what I had in mind. The phone rings, it’s the friends I plan to ride with. We agree to a meeting spot despite the gray day with the hopes that the fog will lift.

I leave early because I have to get fuel. I can never tell if there will be lines or if the roads will be busy. It turns out there are no lines at the pumps and the traffic on the roadways moves right along. The spot we have chosen to meet is the rest area just north of the Hooksett tolls.

I pull up at the toll to hand the attendant my change. I pull each quarter out of my coin holder, one at a time. It’s tricky with gloves. I don’t want to drop any coins, or stall the bike. That would be an embarrassment. The toll attendant is a woman. I judge her to be older than I am. She looks wistfully at Jade as I pull each coin one by one and proclaims that I’m sitting on her dream. I take it as not Jade specifically, but that she hopes to get out of the toll booth one day and ride for herself. I smile politely, but my thought is “dreams are what you make them. Just do it.”

I get to the meeting spot thirty minutes ahead of schedule as a result of leaving home early. My windshield is covered with mist, and the temperatures are not that warm. My leather pants are in one saddle bag and the rain gear in the other. I also have an extra long sleeve shirt and a fleece dickey for my neck. I don’t really want to use any of them today.

I settle in for the wait, and sit side-saddle against Jade. I’ve chosen my spot carefully, at the curb near the facility. The location is perfect for people watching and it’s not long before the show begins.

It is quite busy at the rest stop this morning and I wonder what could be going on when I spot a kilt clad young man walk toward the restrooms. The tartan is one that resembles the Cunningham Green, but I’m no expert. “Oh yes! It’s the Scottish Highland Games this weekend.” I fondly remember a few highland games I’ve attended and think maybe I should make a suggestion of my own when the friends arrive.

There are plenty of motorcycles coming and going. Some arrive solo, some are two up, and there are small groups of threes and fours. One group of older men is taking photos of each other. They throw their leather sheathed arms over each other and snap away. Those that have hair are sporting locks that are nearly white. All except one appear to enjoy the diners along the routes their motorcycles take them.

The dog breed of the day is a Golden Retriever. Good thing dogs have a keen sense of smell, as I can’t keep track of which dog came from which car. The dogs however, know just were they belong. One of these dogs has odd behavioral body language compared to the other Goldies. As I watch the interaction from this vehicle, it soon becomes apparent that of the three occupants, the woman passenger and the dog are ill at ease. The man struts around with a stogie clenched between his teeth. The woman stands at a distance from the car, holding her sweater tightly around her. She is extremely thin and her clothes are ill fitting. The man marches around to the back, opens the hatch, looks at the dog and points to the back of the car. The dog, on trembling legs makes two attempts before she makes it into the back. At each attempt she keeps a safe distance from the man, and one eye on him at all times. The man gets into the vehicle and startes it up. The woman makes a few tentative advances toward the car, but doesn't actually get in. When the car begins to roll away, she grabbes the door handle and jumpes in. Off they go and the whole scene that has just played out left me very uncomfortable.

A fifteen passenger van pulls into a handicap spot and a passel of teens spill out onto the pavement. At first I think it might be a church related outing. I soon realize by their interaction that it is one very large family. The kids all head off to the restrooms and the man I presume to be Dad, helps a woman out of the van. She is one large woman! I estimate her weight to be at least four hundred pounds. She is wearing shorts and a top. I watch the fabric flutter in the breeze. She steps aside and there is a duplicate of her inside the van. I am reminded of my mother’s humor. Having put on a few pounds in her later years, she would often proclaim that she was off to see “Omar the Tent Maker” when she went dress shopping. As I looked at these women, I chuckle to myself thinking that Omar is keeping busy these days.

The parking spot beside me has vacated, and soon three bikers come rolling in. Two Road Kings and a Softail pull up beside me. The man on the Softail is closest to me, and as he removes his helmet I can see that he must be in his late sixty’s. He looks over to me, points to the sky and in good humor, asks “What the heck is that?” All three examine the mist on their windshield trying to determine if it’s a result of fog, or if it is indeed beginning to rain. We each discuss what we know about the weather forecast. I tell them that there is a 30% chance of rain and it doesn’t seem to get any better going north. They don’t like the sound of that, but I remind them that it also means there is a 70% chance of staying dry. They chuckle and admit they never thought of twisting the percentage to suit them. I have just made three new friends.

Despite their admiration of the 70% prediction of staying dry, the youngest rider on the silver Road King pulls a small black zippered pouch from his saddle bad. The price tag is still attached and fluttering in the breeze. He holds it up for the buddies to inspect and says that when he bought the rain gear enclosed in the pouch, he told the sales girl he would be back after he used it so she could get it back in the tiny pouch. “I hope you got that in writing” I say. “After I opened my rain gear, it has never fit into anything smaller than that.” I inform him as I point to my left saddlebag. They are all silent for a moment and silver Road King shoves the packet back into his gear. Red Road King looks on and pronounces that if it should start to rain, not to expect that he will stop. The other two grunt acknowledgment, knock back the kickstands and start their engines. “Keep the shine side up!” I yell as they wave me goodbye.

The friends pull up. We decided to have a big breakfast in Concord and see how things look out the window while we eat. The pea soup thins, the temperatures begin to rise, and we decide to head north. At the next agreed-to stop, we can see that things are improving and the day unfolds as planned. Canopied scenic roads, sun dappled lakes, and enough open road to satisfy any wanderlust.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I have been so mentally distracted all summer that I find that I’ve become forgetful. There are many reasons why people would forget dates, appointments, or even simple routine tasks. My brain has had some very big changes to contend with so I’m not too worried that its some serious age related issue. Well, maybe it might be the usual middle-aged woman transition thing going on, but nothing that should have me worry. I’m discounting all these possibilities however, because I’m aware of the thoughts that have been preoccupying my mind and crowding out all else.

So I don’t know why I was so surprised to dream that I carried my thoughts around on my flash drive. You techies know what this is of course, but for those of you who don’t; this is a small portable memory stick you can store information on just like the hard drive on your computer. Some MP3 players are essentially these portable flash drives. It is also affectionately referred to as a thumb drive or jump drive. They are so handy! I am currently carrying around my entire career on my flash drive, including my thoughts, articles and blog notes. Essentially, my life is stored in a 1-gigabyte drive the size of my pinky finger. Sad but true.

In my dream, whenever someone asked a question that required me to dig back into my memory for the answer, it wasn’t my brain I would use. I simply held the flash drive in my fist and lifted it near my head. The thing would light up (some drives do to indicate they made a connection) and I would search the files for the correct reply. No one in my dream found this odd! They all waited patiently for me to retrieve the information.

I actually like this dream! Can you imagine the scientific breakthrough this would be! To be able to transfer your thoughts and memories onto such a device would open endless opportunities. First, there is the global need to record the memoirs of people who influence historical events. Or, imagine being able to store vivid visual memories of eyewitnesses from such events as 9-11, to the more mundane recording of what your kid said to you that they later deny. Witnesses in court could just plug in their flash drive and get the scum convicted. We would have to write protect the files of course to prevent manipulation. This could open up a completely new segment in the technology industry. We do after all have prosthetics that operate through electrical impulses from the brain so I don’t think it’s so far fetched. I wonder if someone has a patent on this yet?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


In the past few days, I have been especially grateful and blessed for the people in my life. The encouragement, advice and actual help I get from those around me have me feeling emotionally better than I have in months.

It isn’t only those I know that have encouraging words, some are from total strangers. While out to dinner on Saturday, the waiter who came to stand before us was none other than the personal trainer who encourages me to smile. His recognition of me was instantaneous. I made sure to give him my best smile. He had some philosophical words to say about how smiling affects our health in ways that exercise alone cannot. He seems to have a grasp of my state of mind in a way only those who know me well would understand. It was a surreal experience. He then remembered where he was and stood up straight and announced, “Hello, my name is Michael. I will be you server tonight!”

When Michael proclaimed his name with dignity and pride, I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck. I had recently called upon Michael the Archangel to help me in the belief that the angles of the Lord are near, waiting for us to call upon them for assistance.

“Ask and you shall receive.” We have all learned this from our childhood, but how often to we practice asking for help or guidance. I intend to make it a regular habit making sure to express my thanks.

When next I saw Michael, he was quick to ask for a copy of my magazine article. I found delight in his request for my signature as well. I am far from a celebrity, but Michael reminds me that we are all special in our own unique way. It’s good to be me!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jade Lives!

My brother Roger stopped by the other day with a buddy of his. My brother is a remote control aircraft enthusiast. He loves building, flying and talking about remote control planes. It was because of planes that he found himself in our neck of the woods with his friend in tow. It wasn’t long before I wanted to talk about my passion as well, and pulled back the door of the shed, and introduced the friend to Jade.

Jade isn’t just a motorcycle to me, she is my companion. She talks to me and we share moments together that only we can understand. When we are out together, she communicates with me in many subtle ways. I try to always treat her with respect and in turn, she lets me know when I misstep. So this day, when I slide the door open to show her off, I can feel her energy and I know that I am looking at something that no one else can see. Jade has a pride that radiates and affects me on an emotional level. The friend is polite and inspects her up and down. As I watch, I realize that Jade has a dignified presence as well. We find ourselves standing before her with the respect that is her due.

I have often felt such energy in the presence of what others would consider inanimate objects and wondered at the tingling sensations I felt when standing in close proximity. I had no explanation for this until I stumbled upon the principles of vibrational energy. Everything in the universe emanates from the ethers and has varying degrees of vibrational energy. Thus all matter has its own level of frequency. All life emits this energy, some at a higher rate than others. Other sources of creation, such as the elements of the earth, also posses their own vibrational energy. It may be at a lower frequency, but it is energy none the less. If you have trouble with this theory, think about the fuel in your car or the power of wind or water. We harness the energy from these sources without a second thought.

Jade is not biological, but designed from elements of the earth. She has a vibrational frequency that can be felt for certain and by which she communicates with me. One of my children, when very young, needed a bit of speech therapy to help her train her tongue. I can remember many times when I was the only one who understood her words which baffled many in her own family. It could be that I understood her because I spent so much time with her, or it could be that I chose to be in tune not only her words but her body language as well. So it is with Jade.

It took me a while to understand the ways that Jade “spoke” to me. When I fire up the engine, does she cough and sputter or does she roar to life? When we ride together is there a vibration that I haven’t felt before? When I test her limits, how does she tell me of her displeasure? At times, it is none of these things at all. I will be clutching the grips and I feel the life beneath me and give her the respect she demands. We have kept each other from trouble in this way. When next I introduce Jade, my guest may not realize it, but I know that Jade lives!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


“Is that a rash?!” Karen asks as she enters the lobby. “Oh geez,” I think. Here I go again. I always break out in hives whenever my nerves are on edge. Today it’s a combination of events all hell bent on rattling my nerves and disrupting my composure. The transition team has finished their three month stint of knowledge transfer. It’s their last day. I’ve been expecting this day since June. However, the realization that Monday morning will present me with an office that is considerably changed from what I knew is sinking in. To top things off, I’ve had a call on my cell phone with a recruiter. The call is not as promising as I had hoped.

Today’s emotions and yesterday's are as far removed as night is from day. Yesterday found me arriving home to a bulky package in the mail from a motorcycle magazine. To my elation, there are five issues of the magazine enclosed. There is only one reason why I should receive five copies, and I quickly scan the index. My heart skips a beat. There, listed in the index is the title of the article I submitted. I flip to page ten to see my headshot along with the other photos and my article nicely wrapped around all. The thrill is intoxicating!

With such a range of emotions in such a short period of time, it’s no wonder I have hives. The only way I have found to prevent hives is to have a good cry. That is not an option at work. I’m relegated to following seven people around, one at a time, to look over their equipment. They have each prepared an inventory sheet for me to sign as witness. I don’t mind doing this for them. It will save a lot of headache should something be misplaced.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived in 500 BC, is credited with saying, “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.” It is also evident that all things new are all too soon old. Why then does change cause us so much unnecessary anxiety? We usually adjust, the change is soon old hat, and something else comes along to replace it. Simple, right? Not so simple for me or for any of us, I imagine. With change comes uncertainty. With uncertainty, sometimes fear.

We all have our coping mechanisms. Hard work, dedication to our goals, perseverance and faith that all will be well, are some of the ways we keep from losing hope or succumbing to fear. I too do all these things, but sometimes there is nothing like a nice itchy red rash to distract your mind from your worry and help you get over yourself.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Total Strangers

"When you travel alone you meet many interesting people.
If there are 2 of you, you will meet some interesting people.
If there are 3 or more, you will only meet each other,"
~German man traveling alone in Dunedin, NZ~
quotes from the Open Road

I am starting today’s blog with a quote that I came across a few years ago. I had been to a motorcycle event solo. What I expected and what I discovered were so very far from each other that when I stumbled upon this quote I felt compelled to save it. In traveling alone, I found that people approached me and engaged me in conversation unlike when I travel with other people. I made many new acquaintances and the trip turned out to be quite memorable.

There have been some interesting people popping up around me these days and I feel it is a direct result of going about the world solo. My lunch hours, errands, the gym or even just a walk around the block is alone, unlike the days when the company was teaming with life. In those days, we only saw “each other” and the world carried on around us. I find that I am grateful for these strangers. They reach out in ways that make me feel a part of the bigger picture and help me realize that I am not isolated or alone.

In the past twelve hours, I have interacted with individuals who seek to engage me in conversation. I always feel special after these short encounters. Last evening, while waiting for the stock clerk to return from the back of the store, a young man knocked over a display. The boxes tumbled about and one even bounced off the young man’s head. I half notice this as I was watching for the clerk. The young man, possibly embarrassed, looked me squarely in the eye and pronounced how he had intended things to tumble just that way. I looked around and complimented him on the box bouncing off his head directly into the basket. “You must play soccer,” I said. “And if you don’t, you should begin.” Thus ensued a lively conversation cut short by the clerk’s return, but we both left with smiles on our faces.

During my short break today, I carried a roll of paper towels and some glass cleaner outside to the parking lot. This morning when I decided to ride the motorcycle, I had forgotten how much splatter it had accumulated from riding in the rain on Sunday. It bothered me so much I wanted to clean the windshield and polish off the chrome to maintain my biker dignity. From around the corner comes a Suburban that screeches to a halt right beside me. “Now that’s the way to spend a lunch hour!” the man announces. He has one of those long mustaches that reach to the bottom of his chin and he is grinning ear to ear. On his head is the typical scull cap riders are so fond of wearing. I realize I’m speaking with a kindred spirit. He then hears my riding-in-the-rain story to which he asks many questions. This pleases me, as there is nothing I like more than bike talk.

It is his turn to tell me his bike story. It seems his teenage son has decided school was not an option today. As a reward for the son’s good judgment, this man has assigned his son the task of polishing all the chrome on his own motorcycle at home. If the chrome does not gleam when the man returns, the son will have the pleasure of repeating the task. I suggest that since his son enjoys staying home to polish chrome, maybe he could add my bike to the list for good measure. The man’s eyes twinkle with devilish pleasure at the thought. We exchange a few more words as bikers often do, lamenting at the waste of such a fine day indoors instead of out riding.

As he drives off, the quote above comes to mind. Although I am not traveling on vacation, I am traveling the road of life. How fitting it is that my handle is Sojourn. It suits me well as I travel each day and meet many interesting people. I may be alone, but I am far from lonely.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Beware of Maine Polar Bears

Why are there thirty motorcycles in this resort parking lot? We are here for the New England Riders Birthday Bash. Seven years ago a small group banded together to promote the enjoyment of motorcycle riding. No one ever imagined it would grow to what it has become today. So we are here to celebrate. The weather is sunny and warm, perfect for motorcycle riding. We decide where we will go and connect with like-minded souls. The roads are fabulous with long sweeping turns, lakes and rivers, and the scent of evergreens strong in the air. Those in my group are rewarded with a moose sighting. However, I am distracted by the polar bear on skis in front of a chalet. You think it would be hard to miss a moose! I’m teased about this the rest of the day. Back at the resort, some others are being teased for missing a moose lying on the side of the road. An unfortunate road kill victim. I’m feeling better at having missed one that was actually on the move. So goes the weekend and all too soon it is Sunday morning and time to go home. The sky has turned slate gray. We head out.

We have been on the road for a while and stop to refuel. I’m wearing the rain gear over the riding gear which makes everything feel too bulky. However, the layers add warmth. Soon we are off again picking our way along the back roads of Maine, inching our way home to Southwestern New Hampshire. The rain has been steady and at times heavy, which makes visibility poor. My concern is not so much for seeing where I am going, but for those behind me. One small tail light can be overlooked in a downpour.

We stop again for lunch. I have an ache that begins at one shoulder, radiates across the back just below the neck, and ends at the shoulder on the opposite side. My gloves are clinging to my flesh and it is an effort to pull them off. As I twist to wring them out, I notice the wet leather has turned my hands black. I take a step back and I not only hear, but feel the squish of my soggy boots. Those looking on may have pity on me. Am I uncomfortable? A bit, but I am hardly miserable. A few hours in wet boots can’t overshadow a memorable weekend with friends riding the glorious roads in Maine.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Recurring Themes

There are two themes that have repeated themselves during the course of my lifetime, that until lately, I haven’t much appreciated. I am often too busy admiring the qualities of others, or spend time in envy of circumstance I wish were mine. So as you can imagine, it is pleasant, when on occasion, others find appreciation in the qualities I possess.
I have been going to my girlfriend's hair stylist for the past year. Over the course of our friendship, this woman’s virtues have been touted repeatedly. I eventually became one of her clients. My one instruction to her was that my hair had to look good when I pulled off my helmet. I was sure she wouldn’t be able to accommodate that request. I was wrong.
Not long after I had been going to Rose, I received compliments on more than one occasion, while on group rides. No one is sure what is different. “Did you cut your hair?” Or, “What is different with your hair?” Or simply, “your hair looks great!”
I went to Rose on Tuesday for my three-month haircut. Why do I go only every three months and not more often? I am following a routine for growing out hair that encourages trims at three-month intervals to prevent splits from destroying the whole hair shaft. The only resolution for split hair is to cut it all off. That would be counter to my plan. Rose is very accommodating and tolerates the three-month interval plan.
While Rose is cutting my hair, she stops suddenly. With both hands, she envelopes my head, smoothes it all down slowly and exclaims what a joy it is to work with such nice soft hair! She then explains that most of her clients have treated hair, and she is accustomed to the straw feeling that results.
I have a flashback from high school. Gym is over and we are all in the girl’s locker room changing. As I’m leaning over to untie my shoes, a classmate runs her hands over my hair and exclaims how soft it is. She wants to know what I do to make it so soft. I of course am too busy wondering if she is gay to appreciate the compliment.
Is my hair perfect? Hardly! It’s unruly and has a mind of its own. However, it is soft, and it’s nice to know I have something of envy to others.

Then there is my smile. Smiles are something people just do, but for some reason, people remark about mine. The first time I recall having someone comment on it was at age six. My bad eyesight became evident at that age. Mother began taking me to an eye doctor for treatment. He was a gentle gray haired man who loved to refer to me as “smiley”. Over the years, this has repeated itself in many variations. Still today, I often hear from others about my great smile. Lately, however, I have been hearing comments about its absence from my face. “I really miss that terrific smile you used to have.” one employee said upon arriving one morning.

Yesterday, after I finished the cardio portion of my routine, I stepped over to see if a bench is available in the weight room. As I approach, I step around a few folk and look through to check the benches. I wasn’t paying attention to the two directly in front of me. I realize one of them is trying to get my attention. I pop the headphone off my ear. “Excuse me?” I say. “Things can’t be all that bad? Smile! You have such a pretty smile!” says a personal trainer who is working with a client. He then looks at the client and says “Doesn’t she have a great smile?” I smile for the client; he nods and continues his repetitions. “Oh, sorry.” I say, “I guess I’m just into my tunes.” The trainer calls me on this. “Well, they're your tunes! They should make you smile.” He looks at his charge and says, “I’m still counting.” The young man grimaces and continues his reps. I decide to ‘fess up. “OK, well, I’ve had a bad summer” He doesn’t let up. “What could be so bad that you can’t smile anymore?” I tell him that on June 10, I worked with 130 people. On June 11, I worked with 20. He tells me that he has worked four jobs this summer. He lost his job while in a foreign country and he couldn’t speak the language. “OK, you win.” I tell him. I look at his client and say, “he’s still counting.” We all have a good laugh. I see an empty bench. I’m anxious to extricate myself from this conversation. “I’m going to grab that empty bench!” I say with my most pleasant smile. He nods approval and waves me off.

I have a long weekend planned with lots of people around. I think I will practice smiling. I want to reclaim my smile along with my inner and outer beauty. I’ll bring the Mojito mix and bottle of rum. That’s always good for a smile or two.