Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To the Birds ... Hummingbirds, that is

Now that our backyard overhaul is finished, I thought it would be fun to put a hummingbird feeder in a Japanese Maple tree, nestled in a corner right outside the kitchen window. I love Japanese Maples--we have a couple of green ones in the front yard, too, and one dwarf that is the most spectacular plum color.

Lowe's has dozens of hummingbird feeders so it took about thirty minutes to weigh the pros and cons of each one (no rash decisions for me). I finally decided on one that, come to find out, is the most poorly engineered feeder that's made, but that's okay because this was my virgin experience with hummingbird feeders. (I now have my eye on one at "The Gardener" on Fourth Street in Berkeley--hand blown glass, red, ruffled glass around the mouth--perfect).

Once the water and sugar (four parts water one part sugar) were boiled, cooled, and poured into the poorly designed feeder, I hung it in the Japanese maple. Hummingbird swooping action and long drinking began less than ten minutes after it was hung. I stood at the kitchen window in awe.

Three hummingbird facts:

wing beat approximately 53 times per second (no, I didn't count :-)
heartbeats over 1000 times a minute
resting hummers breathe 250 times per minute

I've also discovered that when they fly over my head or past my ears they sounds like they're dive bombing, which is a little unnerving (I'm not going to think about a bird weighing ounces having the ability to scaring me!. And, they're territorial, too. So the one who sits on top of the feeder keeping guard we've named, "GP," short for "General Patton."

While I love the placement of the feeder, right there at the window where I can see these little guys up close and personal all the time,I do have to stop whatever I'm doing--washing, rinsing, cleaning, peeling--because once they see movement, they fly away. I I don't want to disturb them. And they drink for a l-o-n-g time.

I found myself getting a little impatient. Here I am trying to get dinner on the table and it's like I'm playing a game of "FREEZE," all of a sudden turning into pillar of stone. Can you imagine being irritated looking at nature's beauty? It got me thinking...I need to slow down!

So, I'm taking the Eckhart Tolle approach to all of this and use it as a moment of divine stillness. I watch, fully present, open hearted, loving -- who couldn't be gazing at such a miracle?

If you want to see them in action drop by OR click on the title of this entry to watch a quick little hummingbird clip!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Squaw or Squawk

A friend of mine submitted a body of work to Squaw Valley Writers and was accepted! Very exciting, very prestigious. I'm really excited for her, in fact, we critique each other's work, so I'm especially happy and proud of her.

I thought about submitting but decided to take a different path. I asked a published writer (of several novels) to review my work. Also, we're going to be out of town during the weeklong conference and I wouldn't be able to attend anyway.

So my husband and I were getting ready for bed the other night and as I was standing over the sink getting ready to brush my teeth, I told him my friend's good news and that as thrilled as I was for her, I still felt the bite of that little green-eyed monster lurking and he said, "How can you be jealous? you didn't even submit anything." He's right, I didn't but still ... you know?

Should I have applied anyway, even though I couldn't go? Suppose I applied and was accepted! What then? I had this great fantasy about Squaw while I stood in front of the bathroom sink brushing my teeth ...

I'm at my desk writing and I hear the mailman's truck drive up. I'm torn--write, get the mail, write, get the mail (I have little self control and I'm very nosey--but aren't most writers?) It's a Saturday afternoon, I walk downstairs, out the door and follow a dirt path through a meadow with wildflowers blowing in the breeze (don't you love make believe???) and make my way to the mailbox. I'm wearing something "writerly" (although I have no idea what that would be) probably something "flowy" or gauzy and my barefoot toes are sending up little puffs of dust as dirt quishes into them. Obviously, I'm clutching a pen in my left hand, too. I'm distracted because I'm in the middle of an important scene, but the call of the mail was too loud and I had to, just had to get to the box. I open the small mail door, eagerly stick my hand in and find an envelope with the Squaw Valley Writers return address (let's pretend it's a manila envelope) With trembling fingers I slice through the envelope and guess what? I'm accepted! I hoot and yell and jump for joy -- and then I sit down and pen a note saying, "Gee, I'd love to attend, I so appreciate the invitation and I'm thrilled that you like my work (Sally Fields you like me you like me) but unfortunately, I can't.

There, done. I love fantasy ... maybe that's why writing works for me. But what I also know is that when I feel this way (with the green eyed monster) it means there's something I need to be doing. So I always use things things in two ways:

1) as a sign from the Universe that something related and very exciting is coming my way


2) that I have work to be done -- otherwise I wouldn't feel any pangs of jealousy

All of the above said, it's sort of silly to be jealous, although I am very happy for her, because I didn't even apply. It's like being sad you didn't win the 10K when you slept in...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Com"pout"er problems...

I've been away from my blog for too long but I have a good reason ...

My computer, Marcel, has been sluggish for the last month or so. But, I'd gotten so used to him being slow (or maybe I've slowed down so much) that I just didn't notice how bad it had really gotten until Saturday morning. I could have prepared a gourmet meal before I could finally get online. And, since I often have newspaper deadlines, I thought perhaps the time had come for me to take Marcel in for a thorough examination.

My daughter told me about WEB DISPATCH ( where she recently took their computer. Apparently her screen looked like it was off when it was really on--just black all the time--she didn't know if one of the kids did something to it, it was in the process of dying, or already dead.

She was so impressed with Web Dispatch's customer service and service, that I thought I'd give them a try. In the past, I've taken Marcel to his birthplace in Dublin for service, or I've used one of their guys who, for a hefty sum, will make a house call. Even so, I'm always concerned that Marcel will end up in the wrong hands. And now I know why...

I called Web Dispatch and after talking to Scott on the telephone, I drove my little Marcel down to their store in San Ramon, which would be his home until Monday morning. As soon as I walked in the door, I was helped immediately. Immediately. Now, when was the last time that happened in a major computer store? For me? Never.

The tech, I mean The Prince otherwise named Walt, who worked on Marcel told me this morning that the spyware hadn't been installed properly and that one of the programs in my less-than-two-year old computer (remember this is the year 2008) was a reinstall of a 2002 program!

I don't know how long Web Dispatch has been in business but the word needs to be spread. I think their service is less expensive than major computer stores, they're willing to go the extra mile for solid and quick service, and I think they're pretty honest. If I were a movie critic, I'd give them two thumbs up!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sleepover Success...

Who says a old dog can't learn new tricks? When my grand kids slept over last week I did. For example:

~who knew that beverage coasters could be used as hockey pucks and zip across the floor like it's ice--and more fun than a suitcase full of cars and trucks?

~or that when you took a bath you could be totally entertained with two clear plastic caps and bubbles (NanaBanana forgot to bring toys upstairs for bath time entertainment after the kids were in the tub and had to get really creative)

~or that it's almost more fun to cuddle in bed and make up stories instead of reading them every so often

I'd forgotten that "why" is the chain word of the English language, sewing one answer to the next--and makes for very long (why), long (why), long (why), conversations

I also rediscovered just how much fun it is to marvel at pink, lemon yellow, and red rose petals, gather them up (along with a few sticks) in a Baby Gap bag, and glue them onto paper.

I learned that I don't know the names of many bugs, can't explain the aerodynamics of birds, or what that little clicking sounds was that kept JD from falling asleep until 10:30 p.m. while Sams was sacked out long before.

I also found out that several of the playgrounds in Danville were still closed for renovation, but that the bulldozer and tractors sitting at Diablo Vista unused at 11 a.m. on a Friday, were fun to imagine operating.

Osage Park was and is open, ready for climbing and romping, with little nooks and crannies for hiding in. And who knew that NanaBanana would be so nervous that one of her grand kids would fall, trip, or be kidnapped at the park, that she now has many new gray hairs (if that's even possible) to cover up with Loreal?

Ah to be three or four again~

Friday, June 6, 2008

Oprah -- Choosing Brilliant Health ... right

I read an Oprah and Friends email a few minutes ago called Choosing Brilliant Health. I'm wondering -- do three waffles with real butter, real maple syrup and a bowl of fresh strawberries for breakfast -- and lunch (minus the strawberries)-- count toward choosing brilliant health?

I had a bucketful of strawberries this morning because as we all know, that's what Costco carries -- bucketfuls. So, that part was healthy ... which means it was okay to eat the waffles for breakfast.

But for lunch, well, for lunch it was too late to be picky, or go to the store, or think about it too long or hard, because by the time I returned home from runnin' around this afternoon dinner time is closer than lunchtime.

I snarfed those pups up like candy and they pretty much are once they're smeared with butter and swollen with syrup.

So there you have it.

You know, it seems like it takes a lot of energy (which if I'd eaten some protein I might have) to dedicate myself to eating healthy. I do want to improve my dietary habits, but I think I'm just kinda lazy or maybe it's weak minded (translated: little will/won't power).

I start the day with good, make that fabulous, intentions (okay today doesn't count--but what about the strawberries?) but by 10 pm I've consumed either (and sometimes both) too much of something or a calorie laden dessert held together with lard.

I think if I eat more berries--strawberries, elderberries (make that "younger"berries), blueberries, and blackberries, because they contain the highest of antioxidants, I won't have to worry as much as I think I do, er, should. Anyway, I've included the link if you want to see the article, just click on the title above. I liked that it saves one from beating oneself up, but rather suggests a change of mind. (change your mind, change your life)


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Writer's Cramp

I have writer's cramp. No, no, no, it's not my hand, but my head.

I need to write a few additional scenes for my book and I can't seem to get into a creative mood. Sort of like getting excited about planning your own surprise birthday party. . .knowing I have to do it has taken the fun out of it.

It's been such a long time since I've written anything off the top of my head, except for my blog, articles for the newspaper (those aren't really off the top of my head) and my almost-without-fail-every-morning free writes, but still, Monday morning I sat down at my messy desk to write. Nada. So, I thought, I need to get out of the house.

I slipped my Alphasmart into my snappy red leather case and raced off to Borders and found myself sitting with the rest of the late morning throng I didn't expect to bump into and still couldn't write (noise pollution, cinnamon bun smell pollution, new book smell pollution, turning page pollution, sniffing pollution, slurping pollution, etc). See my problem?

I'm feeling like I've been so confined to
in the box writing
(because I've been editing and rewriting for so long)
that I don't know how to write out of the box this week
I have to admit, this is a frist, I mean first. Usually I pick up a pen or plunk my fingers onto the keyboard and one, two, three--go!

Who knows why???

Anyway, this has absolutely nothing to do with the youtube I've posted here. If you click on the title above, Writer's Cramp, it will take you right to it.

For many of us writers, it's a dismal look at writers ability to market,(which we'll identify with) and for those who aren't writers, a) you'll be grateful you don't, b) you'll see just how insane we are and c) you'll see how sometimes un-savvy we are when it comes to marketing ourselves and our work. Mostly it's funny ~ enjoy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sleep Over...with me...Nana Banana

I miss being a mom. I miss having my kids under my feet and wiping their noses, drying their tears and feeling needed. I mean, I'm needed in a different way now, at this stage of my life, but anyone who needs me has someone else who needs them more--except my husband, I suppose. But, he's so darned independent he doesn't really need me either.

Okay, so Jake needs me but only because he doesn't have opposable thumbs to open the door to let himself out to pee.

So, to fulfill my need to be needed two of my grandchildren are sleeping over on Thursday evening. We're going to eat lots of gooey food and play games and stay up a little late (they're only four and three).

Sammie's had her overnight suitcase packed since I mentioned, on her last day of school, that maybe she'd like to sleep over this summer. She's ready: several changes of clothes, special books she wants me to read (or maybe she'll read to me), and the directions to make clay!

And JD was so caught up in Sammie's excitement, it turned out that it included him, too, saying things like "Nan, when we sleep over...." or "Nan, should we bring our suitcase when I sleep over" or "Nan, where are we going to sleep..."

So this complicates things just a bit. He's got a little more energy than Sammie who tends to be more cerebral. She's perfectly happy to sit someplace and do something--crafts, read, color, those kinds of things.

JD is a bit more "active." This means I'll be running up the stairs and in and out of the workout room where he'll be wanting to ride the elliptical. And, he's curious about everything--what it is, how it works--he asks hundreds of questions--he's more of a hands-on sort of guy.

I'm tired already. I think I should take an old person's nap before the kids get here...except I'm too excited to sleep!