Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goals, not resolutions

The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it.  
~ Charles DeLint

Taking a lesson from Twelve Step wisdom, which speaks of "progress, not perfection," I decided to set goals for 2014 instead of making resolutions. I may not reach the goals, but I can try to move toward them.

I thought I would set one goal in each of the following areas, listed in no particular order:

1) Personal growth
2) Spiritual life
3) Professional life [writing]
4) Health
5) Finances
6) Relationships

Personal Growth

I will practice saying "No, thanks" to drama -- my own and that of others. When I find myself dwelling on something of this nature, I will take six deep breaths and release. If I find I am still dwelling on it, I will take note of that and not get excited about it. No need to create metadrama -- drama about drama.

Spiritual life

My practice this past year has been to do some reflective reading and then spend 20 minutes each morning in meditation. In 2014 I will aim to increase my meditation time regularly to 30 minutes.

Professional life [writing]

I will complete and publish one novel during 2014. Towards this end, I will work on this project for an hour each day.


I will become more aware of my eating habits. Towards this end, I will record everything I eat each day using the My Fitness app. I will also record exercise.


I will set aside $100 each month to finance recommended dental work and spend that money by having the work done this year.


I will suggest one new thing for Tom and me to do together each week: a new place to eat, a new place to visit, a new movie to watch. I will gracefully accept his preference about whether we do it or not.

Monday, December 30, 2013

But baby, it's cold outside!

When we got up this morning, it was 18 below (-28 C), and here at noon it is still about five below. There seems to be seed in the birdfeeder, but when I glanced out onto the deck where the suet block is attached, there was actually a line of woodpeckers waiting to get at it. When the red-bellied female who had been there for a while finally flew off, she left an empty suet cage. I went out and put a fresh cake in. That's a downy woodpecker in the photo. A hairy woodpecker -- which looks like the downy only bigger -- was one of the ones that had been waiting in line, but it flew off when I went outside. Hope it comes back while there is still fuel available.

On my way back inside, Cassidy was standing at the door to get out, but she moved an inch towards the cold air and jerked back inside.

She chose wisely.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


I was watching a vlog about top ten resolutions and the one I liked the most was:

Say No! to drama.
"When someone says something dramatic to you (or in the press), let it go. Your reaction is always a choice."
Gonna give that one some thought.

FYI if necessary: A video blog or video log, sometimes shortened to vlog (pronounced 'vlog' or 'v-log') is a form of blog for which the medium is video, and is a form of web television. Vlog entries often combine embedded video (or a video link) with supporting text, images, and other metadata. Entries can be recorded in one take or cut into multiple parts. The vlog category is popular on YouTube.

FYI if necessary: Metadata is "data about data". The term is ambiguous, as it is used for two fundamentally different concepts (types). Structural metadata is about the design and specification of data structures and is more properly called "data about the containers of data"; descriptive metadata, on the other hand, is about individual instances of application data, the data content. Metadata are traditionally found in the card catalogs of libraries. As information has become increasingly digital, metadata are also used to describe digital data using metadata standards specific to a particular discipline. By describing the contents and context of data files, the quality of the original data/files is greatly increased. For example, a webpage may include metadata specifying what language it is written in, what tools were used to create it, and where to go for more on the subject, allowing browsers to automatically improve the experience of users.

FYI if necessary: I am not going to tell you what a browser is. Google it!

FYI if necessary: What does Google it mean? Okay, I give up ...

Hmmm. Maybe a resolution about patience is in order, Michael!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sunny Saturday

We had a sunny and (for us) warm Saturday today, with highs in the 40s. We took advantage of the nice day to go to Madison.

First we visited Olbrich's Garden for a very small train show. To quote their website, 
"Twinkling lights, festive poinsettias, tiny landscapes, and large-scale model trains:  all aboard for Olbrich's Holiday Express! Using large-scale model trains, Olbrich's horticulture staff will showcase miniature landscapes among hundreds of colorful poinsettias"
Like I say, it was a small to-do, but it was great fun watching all the little kids run from one side of the room to the other to watch the trains circle around. It kept parents and grandparents busy trying to keep the kids from grabbing the trains when they went by.

Then we went by the Wisconsin State Historical Museum where they had an aluminum Christmas tree exhibit. The largest manufacturer of those 1960s icons was here in Wisconsin. Again, a small exhibit but a bit of local history. The museum itself, which we have visited many times, has three and a half floors of excellent displays. Afterwards we walked across the street to the Veterans Museum. Tom did a quick walk-through while I examined the shop, which carries things like Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln bobble-heads.

We walked down State Street to find Parthenon Gyros and had gyros and fries for lunch. Not fancy, but we both like them and don't often have a chance to eat them in the Dells. When we lived in Hyde Park, Salonika was just a few blocks away and gyros were a regular item on our menu.

After lunch we visited the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. They are featuring "State of Art: The Wisconsin Triennial," which is widely regarded as the state’s most prestigious showcase of contemporary Wisconsin visual art. The show reflects the diversity of twenty-first century artistic practice and conceptual concerns. My favorite was a large video screen showing a beautiful waterfall with people walking around the bottom taking pictures. If you sat on one of the cushions provided, you were treated to some classical music as accompaniment. It was relaxing and engaging.

Then back home. I gave the cats their mid-afternoon snack and went to run my car through the car wash. Of course, it being a warm sunny day, everyone else had the same idea, but the line was not too long. Tom took the time to clean up the end of our drive, preparing for the bitter cold weather due here in the next few days, with some nights down to 13 below and some days having a high of zero.

New Year's Eve it is supposed to get down to 11 below, but New Year's Day will warm up to 8 above.

Friday, December 27, 2013

December 28

This handsome man was my father's father, Gordon Jackson Dodd. He was born April 13, 1888 and died December 28, 1977. I only remember him as an old man, but he had a lovely smile. I think he was quite good-looking as a young man, although I don't know when or why this particular photograph was taken. I worked for him on his farm the summer I was fourteen. He was a difficult man in many ways and he and I did not see eye-to-eye on lots of things even then, but there is no doubt he had a big influence on my childhood.

The last time I saw him, he was in a nursing home and my mother and I went to visit. He was friendly, but I could tell he was trying to figure out who we were. You could tell when it clicked because all of a sudden he smiled that big lovely smile. Because I had become Catholic and was in a monastery, I suspected he did not approve of me. What he said to me, however, on that occasion was simply, "A man's got to do what a man's got to do." It felt like a blessing on my strange journey, whether he meant it that way or not.

Although I had begun my doctoral studies in Washington, DC in the fall of 1977, I happened to be in Texas when he died and was able to attend his funeral and serve (I think) as an honorary pall bearer.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some Christmas tree photos

Happy Feast of Stephen! Happy Boxing Day! Harambe Kwanzaa!

You might think with Christmas past, the partying was over. But people in winter always look for reasons to get together, get warm and get stuffed.

December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen the (Proto)Martyr. There are so many Stephens, Stevens and Steves in my life that I have to honor their patron and wish them all a happy day. The actual date of Stephen's martyrdom, of course, is unknown, as is the date of the birth of Jesus. The liturgical connection is usually explained as saying that Stephen, being the first (proto) martyr, was the first disciple to be born into heaven by his holy death, and so his heavenly birth is celebrated immediately after the earthly birth of Jesus.

December 26 is boxing day in Britain, Canada, Australia and other nations of the Commonwealth. The old custom was that people would give gifts (Christmas boxes) to servants and tradespeople on this day. It is a bank holiday (meaning obvious) in many of the countries that celebrate it. In South Africa it is called Day of Goodwill. Other countries, mostly Germanic or Scandinavian, celebrate today as Second Christmas Day.

 In Ireland it is also called the Day of the Wren, a tradition that may derive from pre-Christian mythology, as do other Christmas-season things like the yule log, mistletoe and the use of holly. On Wren Day people dressing up in masks, straw suits and colourful motley clothing and, accompanied by traditional music bands, parade through the towns and villages. These crowds are sometimes called wrenboys.

Then there is Kwanzaa, an eight-day celebration founded/created in 1966, which has blossomed into the only internationally celebrated, native, non-religious, non-heroic, non-political African-American holiday. Its concept is neither religious nor political but is rooted strongly in a cultural awareness. This is not a substitute for Christmas, though gifts may be exchanged. Kwanzaa celebrations incorporate a number of symbols chosen for their African significance, but most have universal meaning.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

May your days be merry and bright ...

Oh, that's what Twitter and Facebook are for!

Everyone is now here and the noise level reflects our new status.

Cognitive dissonance

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.


Posting on LinkedIn:

Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun

  • Entrepreneurial executive with more than twenty years of proven leadership in Merchandising with an extensive knowledge of the Global Luxury Goods Market. Motivational management style with a record of building and retaining high performing teams to achieve company goals. Proven leadership in management of Design, Product Development Project Management, Category Management, New Vendor/Material Development, Quality Management and Luxury Brand Management with extensive experience in Supply Chain Management, Demand Management and Public Relations.
News item today:
A former Tiffany & Co executive was sentenced to a year in prison on Monday after admitting to stealing more than $2.1 million of jewelry from the New York luxury store.
Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, a former vice president of product development, broke down in tears as she told a federal judge in Manhattan her regret for engaging in a years-long theft of merchandise from her longtime employer.
"I can't express my remorse enough," Lederhaas-Okun said.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

That's the view from the deck this morning. Someone said that the best thing you can do about rain is let it rain. Here that applies to the snow. We had over six inches fall Saturday night and Sunday morning, followed by a couple more inches later Sunday night and Monday morning. We expect more to start tonight and get an additional two to four inches for Christmas morning.

Peter and Lucy are here; the rest of the crew should arrive middayish. Then two days of wrapping, cooking, unwrapping, eating, dishes, movies, cleaning, trying to sleep, packing, waving goodbye, all followed by collapsing. Somewhere in there Tom will probably be out shoveling snow or running the snow blower and the kids will go shooting into the snow. Puzzles will be assembled, sugar highs will be endured, spills and stains will create minor disturbances.

My mantra through it all, if I can hang onto it: May all be happy, may all be well, may all be safe.

"'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the house,
Sundance was prowling, but finding no mouse.
Cassidy slept on my bed with a snore,
While Tom bundled up and pushed the snowblower.
Peter is lying all snug in his bed,
But Lucy is up and wants to be fed."

Sorry, that's all for now. Be grateful!

Oh, yeah. Did I mention it's 14 below? (-25.5 C) Seriously. Gonna warm up to 10 later, though. (That's -12.2 C for my European readers.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Frito Pie

I was planning to make chicken enchiladas suizas for dinner Christmas Eve, but I mentioned Frito Pie jokingly and Tom and Peter outvoted me, demanding that I make it instead. If you are unfamiliar with this dish, here is something I found posted online.
This was a real favorite when I was a kid (yes, they had Fritos back then), and it still is. With the Frito-Lay Company being based in Dallas, this dish is about as Texan as you can get. We made this comfortably in a 9x9-inch pan, but you can easily double this and serve it to a crowd in a 9x13-inch pan.
  • 3 cups Fritos corn chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2-1/2 cups chili (your favorite -- homemade, canned, whatever)
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread 2 cups of Fritos in a baking dish (an 8-inch dish works great). Sprinkle half the onion and half the cheese over the Fritos. Pour the chili over the onion and cheese. Sprinkle the remaining Fritos, onion and cheese over the chili.

Bake for 15 or 20 minutes and cheese is bubbly. Serve hot.

Prep time: 5 minutes; Cooking time: 15-20 minutes; Total time: 20 minutes
I have to admit it is a lot less trouble than the chicken enchiladas and quite tasty, because it contains a year's supply of sodium! At any rate, that's what the people wanted, and that's what they are going to get. Yee, as we say in Texas, haw!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Utah and marriage

The Beehive State

I note that the flag has two dates -- 1847, when the Latter Day Saints came to the Salt Lake Valley, and 1896, when the territory was admitted to the Union as the 45th state. That had become possible when the leaders of the Church agreed to ban polygamy, a political decision that split the Mormon community to some extent. Small groups of Saints have continued to practice polygamy up to the present day, claiming that they are remaining faithful to the teaching of founder Joseph Smith. There is ambiguity about when the practice actually began, whether under Smith or under Brigham Young. There is no question that it was viewed for many years as an essential part of God's revelation for the Mormons. Mitt Romney, as is well known, was descended from polygamous Mormons who fled to Mexico in order to escape persecution for practicing multiple marriage. His father, George, was born in Mexico, to monogamous parents.

A recent court ruling was widely reported in the press as restoring polygamy by throwing out part of the Utah's ban on the custom. In fact, the ruling only did away with a ban against cohabitation, thus bringing Utah's law into conformity with that of the other 49 states. Multiple marriage is illegal there and in other states, like Texas, where various polygamous Mormon groups exist and occasionally run afoul of local law enforcement.

Too late for Christmas, but ...

Another delight from our friends at Think Geek:
Click on the arrow in the center to start the video.

Part of what makes this a great geek gift is that it comes as a kit. You have to put it together yourself! With your own tools and solder. Which, you being a geek and all, you have at hand.

Useless Box Kit
  • Build this fun kit and amaze everyone with how technology can do incredibly simple things.
  • Turn the Useless Box on, and it will turn itself off. That's all it does.
  • Oh, and it also makes cool people smile (and scares away the squares).
  • Box made of space-age acrylic panels.
  • Over 50 pieces install easily, with some basic soldering and screwdriver skills.
  • Tools, solder, and batteries not included.
  • Batteries: 2 AA (not included)
  • Skill Level: High beginner / low intermediate
  • Completed Dimensions: approx. 5.5" x 4.125" x 2.75"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A gentle reminder to myself

Not just a river in Egypt


And, having taken far too many psych courses over my lifetime, I can tell you that some say it is not technically denial (which is an unconscious defense mechanism) if you know you are doing it.

 But then, again, those people may just be in denial.


Today (for what I am sure will be all of my readers) is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of this year. The good news? From here until next June, the days will be getting longer and we will be getting more sunlight. Some days we won't see it for the clouds, but just remember: Gray days are just clouds passing over. 

Of course, Christians celebrate Christmas this time of year because they adopted the already-existing celebrations of the turn of the year for their own purposes to celebrate the coming of the One they believe is the Light of the World. Any number of Christian communities don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday in part because they remember the feast has pagan roots. That was the case with the church in which I was raised, which also points out that Christmas as a feast is never mentioned in scripture. (Unlike, I note in passing, the Jewish Feast of Lights -- Hanukkah -- which Jesus did celebrate, as mentioned in this blog before.) And as we all know, Christmas celebrations were associated with Roman Catholicism in the minds of the Puritan settlers of New England. Such celebrations were outlawed in the colonies for a while, as they were in England when the Puritans were in power.

So, if you are uncertain whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, you might want to consider Happy Solstice! Since that is an astronomical phenomenon that affects everyone, it would seem totes safe. And Christians who know their own church history -- which, sadly, too few do -- they will recognize that it is fine. As far as I can tell, no one has yet gotten excited about a War-on-Solstice!

Oh, yeah? Yuletide Greetings? Yule (which shows up in all sorts of Christmas songs and pictures and such) is a reference to the winter celebrations among the Germanic peoples in pagan or pre-Christian times. So folks who wax nostalgic about the good old Christmas tradition of the Yule log are unintentionally waxing nostalgic about a custom rooted in a pagan winter festival.

So Happy Solstice to you all, and may the Light, however you understand that, shine on you in the middle of winter.

My remarks reveal a northern hemisphere bias, of course. In the southern hemisphere, this is the longest day and they are about to head into shorter days ...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Predicted and predictable winter weather woes

My trip to Texas had to be cancelled due to icy roads along part of the route and an approaching winter storm. I knew there was a reason I didn't try to drive halfway across the country this time of year! It's a disappointment, but I will go in the spring and try to arrange it so that I don't have job-related time restraints.

Meanwhile, I will have Christmas with Tom, our guests and the cats.

I hope all of your Christmas plans go more smoothly!

Thursday, December 19, 2013



The movie version of Mary Poppins was on television last night -- mainly to hype the new movie about the making of the move. (This is all very meta-meta, don't you think? Indubitably.) I watched bits and pieces of it.

One of the first men I trained when he entered the monastery told me once that I reminded him of Mary Poppins.

"Why," I asked, "because I am practically perfect in every way?"

"No," he smirked. "Because you never explain anything."

New Mexico

Land of Enchantment

Tom's sons Peter and John attended and graduated from St. John's College in Santa Fe, and at one time we thought about moving there. It is a beautiful natural setting with a rich multi-cultural heritage. Of course, it has a thriving arts community and is a lovely town to walk around.

Unfortunately  for us, it also has a very high cost of living, and I could not find any likely job opportunities at the time. Had I realized how bad the job opportunities were going to be in Wisconsin Dells, I might have given Santa Fe more consideration.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just sayin' a bit more

What I did not mention in my earlier post about health insurance is that I will still be paying over $6,000 a year for insurance. And I will have to meet a $5,000 deductible before the insurance will kick in. So I pay $6,000 that does not directly pay for any health care for me at all. After I have paid another $5,000 for actual health care, then the insurance company will start paying.

Had the Affordable Care Act not been passed, for the same coverage I would have had to pay $12,000 and meet the same $5,000 deductible. Also, I would not have been able to keep the same company and would probably have had to change providers and travel further for care. And I would have been out $17,000 before seeing a penny in return.

I should mention that because of the Affordable Care Act, I could have chosen a less expensive plan. I chose the one I did because it enabled me to keep my current local care providers -- but I can only get sick in three counties in Wisconsin. If I need health care outside of those three counties, I will only be eligible for insurance reimbursement for verified emergency room care or for reduced reimbursements for specialized treatments not available in Sauk, Dane or Rock Counties. Which will cost a fortune, of course.

And that is what you get for $6,000 + $5,000 a year.

Stay well, everyone!

Just sayin'

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I will save about $6,000 on health insurance next year. Keeping the same insurer, same health care providers and everything.

Six thousand dollars.

Thanks, guys!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Tis the season ...

Earlier today I composed and then decided not to post a couple of snarky things I had seen online about incredibly wealthy people being ... well, less than inspiring. I thought putting it on the blog would just be spreading the uninspiring example and rousing more negativity. So when I ran across this article, I thought the story needed to be shared.
A winner will donate $40M of his massive jackpot to Canada after keeping his fortune a secret for months. The big lottery winner, Calgary’s own Tom Crist and a born Canadian, revealed his plans this week after coming forward to claim his prize. He has claimed that he doesn’t need the money, and that charities in Canada can use it much better than the lucky man ever could.
The winner donating $40M of his sudden earnings to charity found out the incredible news back in May while he was golfing. Crist was with a couple of friends when he learned he had been the big winner of the massive jackpot, which has been called the very biggest in the history of Calgary. The man, who is now retired, had initially signed up for a lottery subscription while in Canada that alerts them whenever the fortunate winner has the correct combination of numbers via email.
"As soon as I hung up from my cellphone call from Western Canada Lottery I never thought about it. We finished our lunch, we went out golfing. I’ve kept it a secret, even my kids didn’t know until today," Crist said on Monday.
Soon after discovering he’d claimed the $40M lottery, Crist opted to put all of that money into a new family trust that he would then be able to donate to various charities that meant a lot to him on a personal level. One of these receiving donations would be the Canadian Cancer Society and the Baker Cancer Center in local Calgary.
Crist lost his wife to cancer only two years prior to winning the lottery, and said that he wanted to keep his fortune a well-kept secret until he knew for sure where he wanted it to go.
"She was fairly young and stuff. She beat it for six years before it finally caught up to her," Crist said.
"I’ve been fortunate enough, through my career, 44 years with a company. I did very well for myself," Crist told CBC News. "I’ve done enough that I can look after myself, for my kids, so they can get looked after into the future. I don’t really need that money."

Monday, December 16, 2013

The jacket

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I had a presentation for a writers group this afternoon to discuss my experience with self-publishing and such things. It went very well and they were such an enthusiastic audience that I was there much longer than I had expected to be.

As I was leaving, I put on my jacket and one of the women said, "What I want you to write is the story of that jacket, with all those patches."

This bomber or flight jacket is real leather and has a map of the Normandy Invasion (D-Day) printed on the satin lining.

The patch on the right shoulder says 78th Lightning Division; the patch over the right side of my chest is of a helicopter and says Authentic 1re Escadron; the patch over the left side of the chest shows three bombers in flight and says Professional Flight Training, Cheyenne, Wyoming. The patch on the flap of the front left pocket is a winged star. The points of the collar are covered by brass triangles with winged stars again and the initial W at the point.

According to what I found online,
The 78th Infantry Division was activated on August 23, 1917 at Camp Dix, New Jersey. It consisted of four Infantry Regiments - the 309th, 310th, 311th and 312th and three Artillery Regiments - the 307th, 308th and 309th. Twenty thousand soldiers made up the original division.
In France, during the summer and fall of 1918, it was the "point of the wedge" of the final offensive which knocked out Germany. The 78th was in three major campaigns during World War I - Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel, and Lorraine. Demobilization at the end of World War I took place in June 1919.
In World War II, the 78th Division was reactivated at Camp Butner, North Carolina on August 15, 1942. After two years as a Training Division, the 78th embarked for the European Theatre. There, in combat in Belgium, France and Germany our men brought even more honor to an already proud name. The Siegfried Line, the Roer and Rhine rivers, the Cologne plain, the Remagen bridgehead, the Ruhr pocket - all lay along the road to Berlin, where after six months of occupation duty, the Division was officially deactivated in May of 1946.
The World War II Honor Roll lists: One Medal of Honor Winner: Nine Distinguished Services Crosses; 599 Silver Star Medals; 3,909 Bronze Star Medals and 5,454 Purple Hearts. 1,368 Officers and Enlisted men paid the supreme sacrifice.
In November 1946, the 78th Infantry Division was reactivated at Newark, New Jersey and in May 1959 it was reorganized as a Training Division.
The 78th Division again responded to the nation's call in 1990 and 1991 during Desert Shield/Desert Storm when the Lightnings 920th Transportation Company (Medium, Petroleum) was deployed to Southwest Asia and provided vital fuel for the Thunder of Desert Storm's troops and machines in their victorious campaign. The 1018th Reception Battalion, the 2nd Brigade OSUT Headquarters, and the 1st and 3rd Battalion of the 310th Regiment as well as the 1st Brigade's3rd Battalion, 309th Regiment with a composite detachment from the 78th Training Support Brigade, provided assistance in necessary Training Base Expansion at Fort Dix. The 348th MP Detachment conducted protective service missions for key national leaders throughout the world during the mobilization period. Coupled with the 78th's many individual fillers and volunteers for other mobilized units, the 78th Division's proud tradition of service was once again illustrated.
In 1992, the Division transformed into an Exercise Division under the Army's "Bold Shift" initiative. The new mission is to conduct small unit collective training (Lanes) and computerized battle simulation exercises for client units in the First Army East area.
One of five Exercise Divisons in the United States, the 78th Division is headquartered at Edision, New Jersey with subordinate units located in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.
The 1er Escadron is a French infantry regiment. I found an exact duplicate of the Professional Flight Training patch on ebay listed as a vintage, WWII item.

I bought the jacket for $8 (yes, eight dollars) at a thrift store in Chicago seven or eight years ago. The leather is obviously worn -- distressed, I believe, is the fashion term -- but it is in good shape. The map-imprinted lining is beginning to fray now around the edges. Whenever I wear it, people comment on it, often asking if I was in the service. I just tell them that my father was and let it go, usually. Daddy was in the Navy, but if they want to think this is something I inherited from him, fine.

Further investigation of the label in the jacket led to disappointment, though. It turns out that my jacket was made by GIII Apparel in the 1980s, and it is not authentically WWII at all.

This is what happens when you give something like this to a librarian: we research it and kill the romance. 

That is the real story of the jacket as far as I know it.

But it would make a good jumping off point for something, don't you think?

Michael's Monday

Woke up to zero degrees and a forecast of one to three inches of snow later in the day. Checked seven-day forecast. Looks like light freezing rain on Thursday but okay for leaving for Texas on Friday. Should be okay all the way until I run into thunderstorms in Texas itself on Saturday.

Took the car to get an oil change and a check-up for my trip. All is well. Tip of the hat to Lee for reminding me, although I had already done it. Great minds think alike.

Made a list of things I have to remember to pack for the trip.

Left myself a note on my bulletin board to remember to renew a prescription in time to pick it up to take with me. (I can't call in a renewal until tomorrow or Wednesday.)

Put together some handouts for a presentation this afternoon for a small writers' group at St. Cecilia Catholic Church. (NB: not a small writer's group -- it is the group, not the writers who are small.)

Took down an old shower curtain, cleaned shower stall and installed new shower curtain. Lucy and Arman will be using my room over Christmas, and they and other guests will also use the adjacent bathroom. I will clean the rest of the bathroom up on Thursday.

Put in time on the stationary bike.

Read a lot of email, mostly last-minute Christmas ads.

Responded to a couple of comments on an earlier post on why one writes.

Played games on the tablet to get my mPoint total up. Should be able to redeem points for a $5 card on Amazon tomorrow.

Did enough searches using Bing to get those points up, too. Tomorrow should also be able to redeem Bing points for another $5 Amazon card.

On another note, the dark-eyed juncos arrived from Canada today, just in time for the afternoon snowfall. They are a sure sign of winter up here. They look like feathered Dominicans, fluttering around the base of the bird feeder.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why write?

“There are three reasons for becoming a writer: the first is that you need the money; the second that you have something to say that you think the world should know; the third is that you can't think what to do with the long winter evenings.”
~ Quentin Crisp

Snoopy needs his scarf and stocking cap, I think, if he is going to write out in the snow.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

St. John of the Cross, rabbits and slumber

Today is the feast of St. John of the Cross, about whom I have written a great deal over the years. Most people know little about him, and most of what they know is inaccurate. I love the monument, pictured above, which is in La Carolina in Spain, near where John spent several months in the last year of his life. If you look carefully, you will see that a rabbit is sitting at his side. under his left hand. It represents an incident that took place near this spot. A grass fire got out of hand and was burning towards the monastery. A rabbit, flushed out of the brush by the fire, ran into the group of friars who were working to control the fire. John was directing them, and the rabbit ran over and hid in the folds of his habit. Some of the other friars kept shooing the rabbit away, but it kept returning to the safety of John's habit. Sounds like a story about St. Francis, but it is well-documented.

Anyway, that is a story few people know. A quote from the saint that few people know is one of my favorites: "To saints, their very slumber is prayer."

It reminds me on something the Dalai Lama said: Sleep is the best meditation.

In the monastery, we spent an hour each morning before breakfast in meditation. Then we spent another hour in meditation before dinner each afternoon. I assure you, slumber was a big part of my religious practice!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The End of the World As We Know It!

There is a never-ending business in predicting the end of the world, of course. And that business will never end, I guess, until the world does. It used to be mainly religious folk who got caught up in this, but lately it seems to me lots of political figures (I don't call them "leaders") like to predict the end of the world if _______________ (Fill in the blank as you wish.)
Meanwhile, I love this t-shirt and its many variations, here almost a year after the much-ballyhooed end of the world prediction credited to (or blamed on) the Mayans.

Just be glad it isn't Tuesday the 13th!

The fear of Friday the 13th has been called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom "Friday" is named in English and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen), or paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen") attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning "fear").

Since my November novel dealt with superstitions, I found out that in Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered unlucky. Greeks consider Tuesday unlucky in general, and Tuesday the 13th is particularly bad. Italians traditionally considered 13 a lucky number, and they dreaded Friday the 17th. Now it seems that, due to Americanization, young Italians fear Friday the 13th. Or maybe they just dread those movies!

All I can say is, let's all be careful out there!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Okay, not quite this bad ...

It hasn't hit 30 below or anything, but it has gone below zero (and yes, that's Fahrenheit!) a few times already at night. Right now it is 7 above, with a wind chill of 2 below. Tomorrow the actual  high is supposed to be 2 above with a low of minus 6.

On the plus side, we have had a bit of snow, but with the temps this cold, it is very soft and light, making it easier to shovel/sweep away. But to do that you (meaning mostly Tom) have to go out into the frigid air. The cats sit and stare out onto the sunny deck and want to go out. Until I open the door and they stick their noses outside for a second. Then it's back inside, thank you very much.

Until ten minutes later when they have forgotten how cold it was and stand at the door wanting out again.

Trapped inside, I have been working on getting the novel+novella+ short-story into printable format. I am having more trouble than I remember having with the previous books. MSWord is no doubt improved and less cooperative now. But I'm working on it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy birthday, Mama!

Today I wish my mother, Roxie Mitchum Dodd, a happy, happy birthday!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dashing through the snow

This morning I finished up with the candy packages for the neighbors. The candy turned out okay, but the Christmas bows we bought to decorate the containers would not stay on, not even with tape. So much for getting fancy-shmancy!

One set of neighbors had dropped in for a chat and some coffee, so they got theirs right away. It began to snow late in the morning, and I took the other packages around in early afternoon. There was not that much snow, less than an inch, but the road was a bit slick.  I was able to deliver all the gifts I took except for one. That neighbor was not home, and I thought if I left the box by her door, animals were more likely to get it than she was. So that one will have to go later in the week. I did not deliver any to the people building the house next door, either. They have four kids, and I am putting together a more substantial offering for them. I expect a thank you note from the family dentist.

Works hard for the money

My first paying job was working at a drive-in theater snack bar. I was fourteen and living at home.

Later in high school and through college, I worked at a university-related but family-run bookstore. I made $1 an hour. About five years ago, I got a job working part time at a small, family-run bookstore downtown here in the Waterpark Capital of the World. I won't say what I was paid, but when I did an inflation-calculator check on it, I was being paid -- as an adult with advanced degrees and years of work experience -- the equivalent of that $1 an hour I had made back in 1970. And the bookstore wage was competitive for jobs in this area for many adults raising families. Wages are low, there are no benefits because you do not get to work full time. So many people have to work two-part time jobs at below minimum wage, often meaning they put in 60 hours a week. Too often both parents have to do this to make ends meet ...

I don't know how they do it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Candy time

I started making candy today for gift giving. Most years I put together small packages of homemade fudge and other candies to give to our neighbors. Normally I use dark chocolate and make two or three kinds of fudge -- plain; with walnuts; and maybe one with a touch of peppermint. I add a couple of other things for color and variety. Today I experimented with almond cashew clusters, which taste pretty good, but not as good as I had hoped. And they don't look all that different from fudge, which is what Tom thought they were.

I also made cherry almond bark, which is colorful as well as tasty. That's it in the photo. I want to get these done, packed and distributed this weekend. Friday (December 6) is the feast of St. Nicholas, which would be perfect, but I work Thursday and have appointments on Friday. So it will probably be the weekend before I get it done.

Who was that White Squirrel?

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when ...

Okay, this has nothing to do with the thrilling days of yesteryear. But our neighbor Rich has reported seeing one of the local white squirrels on our property. There are small colonies/communities of white squirrels at each end of our road, but this is the first time anyone has reported seeing one on our property. So far it is an isolated sighting, but hope springs eternal. And, no, that photo is not one of the local squirrels.

We also have coal black squirrels living down the road. Someday the stars will align and I will be able to get a photo that contains a black one and a white one in our yard.

Pretty cool

I tutor a young woman in the Dells in English. She grew up in Mexico, but she and her husband have lived here for about ten years. Besides English, I help her with other things, like learning to e-mail and recently how to use Skype. This morning I had an e-mail from her telling me that last night she was able to use Skype to see her family in Mexico for the first time in years. She is very happy.

Pretty cool.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Double gobble

Just  checking in for a second. We had a great Thanksgiving dinner with our neighbors at their house on Thursday. Then, because guests we had expected on the weekend had to cancel, we had the neighbors over to our house on Sunday to eat a second Thanksgiving dinner of sorts. Tom had already thawed the turkey and it had to be cooked. As a result, we had another good meal and a nice time was had by all.

Gobble, gobble, one might say.

Then Sunday afternoon I heard from someone I knew when I was at Michigan State. We chatted online a bit -- a first for me. And, Sunny, he is from the States but just returned here after 15 years in England.