Sunday, December 30, 2012

That (Not This) Time of Year

Thinking about your New Year's Resolutions?

Not me. I set goals for the coming year. My friends and I will get together sometime next week and recap  2012 and look at what we want to do in 2013. This is always a fun time.

I've had some successes: I now call my parents at least once a week. I was horrible about this prior to last year.  They won't be around forever. A weekly telephone conversation really helps keep us connected.

A couple of years ago, I added "Monthly date with TV Stevie" and this, too, has been a success. We usually go to a movie or something, but knowing that we're doing something together, not as parents, but as a couple, has added a nice dimension to our lives. Baseball games and work-related functions do not count. (I admit that I stole this from Kris Fletcher. That's the great thing about setting goals with friends: they sometimes have ideas that make sense to you.)

This year's list includes the usual: lose weight; exercise more; writing-related things.

In 2013, I am going to reclaim my music, so one of my goals is to have my guitar re-strung and play for at least an hour a week.

If you're not into resolutions or goals, author Holly Jacobs has come up with a fabulous idea: Word of the Year. Author Samantha Hunter has also adopted this. Check out their blogs to see how this works.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Before Television

Yes boys and girls, there was life before television.

I don't mean before working in television, although there is that, as there is life after working in television, too. No, I mean people had things to do before watching television became the American norm.

Here's a short list of things people used to do before watching television cut off other forms of human interaction:

  • talk
  • read
  • community bands
  • parades
  • Christmas caroling
Just because you don't understand it doesn't make it a bad thing, and there's no need for mockery or name-calling. Some people are happy and want to share their happiness. And that's a positive thing. We need more  joy in the world. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Especially This Time of Year?

A couple of weeks ago I started writing a blog complaining about the phrase "especially this time of year." I loathe and despise that string of words. Tragedy is tragedy, joy is joy. Helping others shouldn't depend on a date. The Salvation Army used to say, "Hunger knows no season." True. We have to do the right thing year round.

Yesterday, 20 students and seven adults were murdered in a school in Newton, Connecticut.

I waited for someone to say "especially this time of year," and I wasn't disappointed.

I heard it on the news last night. I saw it posted on FaceBook this morning.

So if these people--the adults as well as the children--were murdered in April instead of December, that would be better?

For whom?


Sorry, I disagree. Their deaths are an outrage, a travesty, and a deep, lingering sorrow that will never go away for their families and friends, and that doesn't change whether it's Christmas, the Fourth of July, or Arbor Day.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Working Weekend - The Writing Life

I'm taking this weekend to work at my writing job. Too often, especially this time of year, the physical act of writing gets shunted aside by other obligations, and when writing is a person's second job, it isn't always given the respect it deserves, much less the priority it needs.

Being a writer isn't only about writing. There is a lot of maintenance, even before one is published, that needs nurturing: websites, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. It's enough to make a woman want to give up her dream. But it must be done. Even during the holiday season. So I'm taking this weekend to not only reach the 1000 word mark on a novella project and rewrite (for the 2000th time) chapter two of my current work-in-progress, but here I am blogging. I need to freshen my website. I'm tootling around a bit on Facebook.

And I need to work on my goals for next year. I need to think about every part of my life and what I want to improve. Are the areas I identified last year still relevant for the coming year? What other areas should be addressed?

A lot of things to fit into two short days. When Monday morning rolls around and I'm back at the Day Job, I want to know I didn't fritter away my time.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Galette

Mom asked me to make either a sweet potato or squash side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. For the past several years, I've made butternut squash with baby spinach, but now spinach and cranberries have been added to the ever-rowing lists of foods that someone in the family can't eat. We also try to avoid dairy (two severe allergies plus sporadic lactose intolerance) and gluten (one severe allergy).  And the thought of marshmallows on sweet potatoes makes my teeth ache.

Luckily, I like to cook. I like to look at recipes. I decided to make a sweet potato galette. I made a galette once in the past, and I remember it as labor intensive. I surfed the web looking for recipes, but most sweet potato versions included cheese or sweet stuff. Time to just make it up as I go, using online guidelines for the process, but not the ingredients.

Step 1 - Mend my apron.

I love my apron. The pocket came unstitched in one corner. Yes, I mended it with purple thread because X-Chromo used up my black thread. Yesterday.

Step 2 - Scrub and peel sweet potatoes.

Please note that I bought long skinny sweet potatoes to make the slicing process easier.

Step 3 - Slice the sweet potatoes into 1/8" thick rounds with a mandoline.

Step 4 - Mutilate an onion.

The only time I miss wearing contact lenses when I'm chopping onions.

Step 5 - pour Wegmans Basting Oil into a large cast iron skillet.

If you don't have a Wegmans near you, perhaps your supermarket sells seasoned oils. If not, you should move some place where there is a Wegmans. Just not near me, because there are already too many people at my Wegmans. The parking lot is a nightmare.

Step 6 - layer the rounds of sweet potatoes, slightly over lapping, into the skillet. Top with some onion, drizzle with some basting oil.

Step 7 - Repeat step 6 until all sweet potatoes & onions are used.

Step 8 - Cover the sweet potato mixture with a round of aluminum foil. Non Stick. And make sure the non-stick side is down. Trust me.

Step 9 - Weight the foil with another cast iron skillet (slightly smaller than the first skillet)

Step 10 - Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Then put into a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Ignore my dirty oven. I do.

Step 11 - Remove top skillet and foil. Bake for another 25 minutes.

Step 12 - Remove from oven. Let sit for 5 minutes. Loosen edges with spatula. Flip onto a platter.

It's supposed to look like a large pancake, but with texture.  

Nope. But it tastes good. I put it in a shallow baking dish with a cover and will transport to Mom & Dad's, reheat in the microwave. I just wanted it to look pretty, you know?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Home-From-College Comfort Foods

X-Chromo is home from college for a little over a week. I went grocery shopping the other night, and stocked up on foods for meals we could eat as a family. When the children were young, we ate a lot of pasta. Once they went off to college, TV Stevie and I started eating a little healthier -- dinner salads, more beans, grains and vegetables, homemade soups, etc. Pasta isn't on our radar much anymore.

X made a snide comment on FaceBook the other night about 2 boxes of Rice Krispies and a gallon of milk not tough to buy. Well, there was a lot more in my cart for her than cereal (although I did forget her Nilla Wafers). And I had to make sure the basics were in house -- bread in the freezer, peanut butter in the pantry, boxes of mac-and-cheese in the cupboard, margarine for her mac-and-cheese in the fridge. Oh, and let's not forget the ingredients for baking molasses cookies. She is a molasses-cookie-baking fool. In a good way, of course.

But mostly I concentrated on meals, not what she eats between meals. Tried to remember her favorites. Tortellini soup. Broccoli stuffed chicken with rice. Tacos. Maybe we'll do Chinese take-out one night. When she's home on mid-winter break, I plan to make a chicken thigh-sweet potato-savoy cabbage stew that she adores. The thighs are already in the freezer.

I'm glad she's home, and my mommy-genes want to nurture her.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Myth Busting: Another Crackpot Theory?

Several years ago, I started examining the obits in the local newspaper, particularly those of women. I wanted to see if the "fact" that most women in the mid-twentieth century were, in fact, stay-at-home mothers.

My mom was (fifties & sixties) as were most of my aunts. My grandmothers were not. The mothers of most of my friends were not. Checking the obits gave me a broader base from which to draw my (very unscientific) conclusions.

Here's what I found (in my neck of the woods):

The Stay-At Home Mothers was a myth born in the post WWII and specifically post-Korean Conflict politicians, sometimes known as the Eisenhower Era.

Of every ten women listed in the obits, an average of two were stay-home mothers (professional housewives). Everyone else either worked outside the home (sales ladies at the department stores, teachers, nurses, secretaries, or factory workers) or were professional "volunteers".

Professional "volunteers" were the women who handled charity fund-raisers etc., doing most of the work for the organizations -- without pay. I once heard a male head of a not-for-profit proclaim -- in the early 1990's -- that women in the workforce has hurt charities because there was no one left to volunteer.

Yes. I really heard him say that.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I'm lucky enough to live in a city that handles "severe" weather pretty well. Still, it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

I won't rush out to purchase bread, milk, or eggs. We might need some D batteries for the big radio in the kitchen in case the power goes out, but I have my Walkman and we have a plethora of the AA batteries it consumes, as does the portable speaker unit we can plug into the Walkman.

I may hit the grocery store for silly things: Mexican cheese to top chili; more onions for sausage, pepper & onion sandwiches; apples, just because they're tasty this time of year. Other than that, my freezer and larder are already in winter preparedness mode. Cans of beans, broths, and tomatoes in various formats; rice and pasta; various types of breads and rolls (all in the freezer). Cheeses. All kinds of frozen veggies -- spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans. And there's the cooking water from last week's spaghetti squash experiment. I froze it so use in soups. Did I mention I have a gas stove, so cooking isn't an issue?

We discussed whether or not to keep our cars in the garage. If there's a power outage, we won't be able to get to them. We decided to risk it.

My children are both away at colleges that are used to severe weather situations and that have plans in place for the safety of their students. Y-Chromo is a Resident Advisor, so he's in on all of the preparedness planning. Besides, he's an old hand at it, having suffered through Irene last September. X-Chromo's school is more of a blizzard-survival kind of place, but high winds are high winds, and her school has a rep for high winds, including rumors of a minimum weight requirement for students (not true) and stories of ropes strung along all the walkways for students to grasp so they won't be blown into the lake (also not true).

So I'm not going to obsessively worry about them. Obsessive worrying will only make me crazy, which accomplishes nothing except making me crazy, which isn't one of my goals in life. I have to trust their good judgment and the people in charge of the facilities.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

City Living

We live in a medium sized city, best known for the basketball team of the university bearing the same name as the city. TV Stevie and I like living in the city. He is a Bronx native, and I'm from rural upstate New York. Our city is a nice compromise between the two.

When our children were in school, we debated moving to the 'burbs, but couldn't swing it at the time. We learned the public schools aren't as bad as people -- the press and others -- make them out to be. My children just as well on their state tests as children in suburban schools. Maybe they didn't have as many opportunities for after school activities, but that's life. That's reality. They were both accepted into every college to which they applied and both are doing just fine.

We like the convenience of being only minutes from the entertainment venues: the baseball stadium, the Civic Center, and the various theatrical venues. Our city is also located less than two hours from other things we enjoy. It's a good place to live.

But there are downsides, and in recent months, those downsides are becoming more prevalent. People now drop their unwanted electronics on our corner. The city says it's our problem.

People let their dogs do their business on our lawn and don't clean up after the beasts. Or, as has happened a couple of times, do clean it up, but place the bags of excrement in our garbage can. Seriously. And last weekend, TV discovered that someone is letting a large dog walk up the driveway of the house next door to us, where the dog does its business on the strip of grass belonging to us that TV tries to keep mown. People, I don't let my children crap on your grass. Please return the courtesy!

A few weeks ago, TV discovered a bag of batteries on our lawn. Someone just tossed them there, so it became our responsibility to recycle them.

Speaking of recycling, since our supermarket has installed machines to handle bottle & can recycling, we've debated whether or not recycling is worth the aggravation. But don't despair! Our bottles and cans won't go into a landfill. Every garbage night, the scavengers roam, looking for anything they can recycle (they once woke me up while beating apart our old sleeper sofa for the metal). Maybe putting our cans and bottles in our recycle bin will put food on a poor person's table or school supplies for an underprivileged student.

Someone else recycling our cans and bottles could be another benefit of city living.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jury Duty Observations

Several weeks ago, I received a questionnaire with regard to jury duty. I replied on-line. A few weeks later, I received a summons.

Unlike many people, the thought of jury duty doesn't annoy me. I'm fascinated by the process and would love to sit on a jury. Plus I'm a reader, which means if there's a chance I'm going to be sitting around waiting for something, there's going to be a book in my bag. What's not to like about a day off from work reading?

I had to report on Tuesday, as Monday was Columbus Day observed. I arrived early enough to park in the garage where I could get a discounted rate. (Yes, it still cost me $4 to park, something that irks me, but it's part of the free enterprise system, right?)

While going through the metal detectors and other processes required to become a juror, I noticed there are a lot of smokers left in the world. Most of them seemed concentrated in that room. Around me. There's nothing like the stench of cigarette smoke mixed with heavy perfume to annoy a person. I was also surprised at the number of people wearing jeans.

I was in the first batch of jurors to be assigned to a case. Manslaughter.

My number had yet to be called when we were dismissed for lunch. I was lucky and found a hot dog vendor and a bench in the warm autumn sunshine. Perfect day to sit outside and eat.

I was the final potential juror called before the mid-afternoon break. The prosecutor asked me one question (several versions of the same question): did I understand the difference between intent and premeditation? The defense ignored me. I was dismissed at around 4pm.

The consensus of the other dismissed jurors was the same as mine: the defendant was going claim bullying as a motive, the prosecution was going to say the defendant waiting too long (another day?) to defend himself.

I enjoyed listening to the responses of the other potential jurors, especially one young man, Respiratory Therapist. When asked if someone were beating up on him, would he use a gun to defend himself, RT replied that he might. Not to shoot someone, but if he had one, he might pull it out to intimidate his attacker. RT also had many disparaging things to say about the site of the crime. "Everybody knows the southside is a bad section," he said.

Then the topic of bullying came up again. One potential juror said, "It's been around forever, but now it's a societal issue." He did not speak in a positive manner. RT carried the discussion even further: "It's like giving last-place teams a trophy because they participated. That's what's wrong with the world today. So people get bullied. Get over it. "

Wow. As a clutch of us walked back to the parking garage, RT admitted he might have laid it on a bit thick so he'd be dismissed, but he also didn't lie about his beliefs.

And now I'm done for at least ten years.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

September: The Real World Resumes

The real world has resumed. For a lot of people, that means school is back in session. My chromos are in college, and they return to their respective campuses in August. Triple A Baseball is over for the season, so TV Stevie and I aren't at the stadium every night there's a home game. Summer is over, even though technically that won't happen for another week or two.

This morning, TV Stevie suggested we do the Creekwalk. We haven't been since spring. I liked the idea, so when he returned from his meeting, we put on our walking shoes and went. Instead of walking from the Inner Harbor to Onondaga Lake, we decided to try the Inner Harbor to downtown Syracuse route, which we've done only once.

Geese (or ducks?) resting in the shade
It's a nice day for a walk. And the Creekwalk is lovely.

There was something going on at the Dinosaur Barbecue. The band sounded pretty good.
The police car is NOT there because of a crime,
just crowd control

We didn't walk all the way to Armory Square, but turned around at the Niagara Mohawk Building.

It's funny how last weekend was still summer, still hazy, hot, humid, and yet today is definitely autumnal.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Five Star Night

I have not been to the Great New York State Fair since about 2006. I wouldn't have gone this year, except the Happy Together 2012 tour was playing for free in the Free Concert Court.  After Davy Jones died earlier this year, I vowed to take advantage of seeing the musicians of my youth in person any time I could. So that meant attending this year's State Fair.

We arrived about 90 minutes before the show. Not a seat to be found in the court. We went off in search of dinner -- sausage sandwiches, of course. We wandered back to the court and found a grassy area to the right of the stage near a big screen and plopped ourselves down on the ground to wait. Eventually the concert was intro'd by local radio personality Gary Dunes, who, in turn intro'd Senator Chuck Schumer (who forgot to mention the Grass Roots in his version of the intro).

First up: The Buckinghams. I have never seen the Buckinghams in person. I love the Buckinghams. They were awesome.

During their set, security walked around our area and made people sit. They were applauded for their efforts. Some people just don't get it. Like the tripod guy. He thought he'd stand during the whole concert and record it and didn't understand why the people behind him kept yelling at him.

Next up: The Grass Roots. I've seen the Grass Roots in concert before, but not since Rob Grill died. The band was good, but the lead singer didn't have the same quality of sound as Rob Grill. They covered  CSN&Y's "Cost of Freedom" before launching into "Live for Today" in honor of the vets in the audience.

Gary Puckett followed the Grass Roots. Gary Puckett's vibrato gets worse by the year. Weakest spot in the lineup. He, too, honored the vets.

Then came the performer I'd come to see: Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees.

Mickey honored Davy Jones by singing two of of Davy's songs ("Daydream Believer" and "Little Bit Me, Little Bit You"). A montage on the big video screen of magazine covers, photos from recording sessions, etc. brought tears to my eyes.

Mickey reminded the crowed that he sang "I'm A Believer" before Shrek did.

Mickey was always my favorite Monkee, so being able to scream his name at a live concert . . . well, scratch that off my bucket list.

Several people were escorted from the court by state troopers during Mickey's set.

The final act was The Turtles: Flow & Eddy. As usual, they were amazing. Their set started out with a Lady Gaga video, which they interrupted with the question: "What happened to our music? It's not supposed to sound like that! It's supposed to sound like this!" And they launched into "Only Wanna Be With You."

The Grand Finale turned out to be each of the acts coming out to perform a portion of one of their songs again. It was fabulous.

Stereo Steve Becker, along with his wife & son, sat near us during the concert. Stereo Steve would periodically come over to say something concert-related to TV Stevie. After the concert, we hung around talking for bit, then wandered to the area behind the stage. That's where Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna of The Buckinghams spent a very long time shaking hands and signing autographs.

 I did catch a glimpse of Mickey Dolenz as he came out of his dressing room and got into a car to leave. "Mickey!" Wow. I got to scream it twice!

While there, we ran into the ubiquitous Bill DeLapp of the Syracuse New Times, who was busy snapping photos of the musicians.

All in all, it was a five star night in more ways than one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One for the Money: Reflection on the Movie

I have been waiting since 1997 for the motion picture version of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money.

My sister had lent me the first two books of the series. They sat in my TBR pile forever. When I finally picked up the first one, I read it cover-to-cover, then picked up the second and read that cover-to-cover. No sleep that night. The next day I borrowed the third book from the library. Fabulous stories, fabulous characters.

These will make great movies! I thought. Maybe I can option the books. Not that I know anything at all about optioning books, but I looked into it and learned SONY/Columbia Tri-Star (or whatever they were called back then) had beaten me to the punch.

I would pre-order the next installment from Amazon. When it arrived, my co-workers and I would  lock ourselves in a conference room during our lunch hour, and I would read the first chapter aloud to the others, so we'd all know the answer to the cliffhanger from the previous installment. We asked each other, "What would Stephanie do?"

Around book nine or ten, a little disgusted with dog poop and Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) behavior on the parts of all the characters, I stopped buying the books, but I kept abreast of the saga of Stephanie, Joe and Ranger via the library.

And I waited 15 years for the movie.

The movie came out to poor reviews. I put it on hold at the library. I could wait a few more months.

For 91 minutes of my life I will never get back.

I'm a writer. I understand that novels aren't written like motion pictures, that internal angst doesn't interpret well in cinema, and that scenes have to be combined, dropped, dramatically changed. I understand that the characters in my head created by the author's words aren't necessarily going to be someone else's vision of the characters.

But come on already. Evanovich created memorable characters, filled with sass and vitality, none of which made it to the movie. Funny, snarky dialogue never made it to the script. Sexual tension was more like old Silly String than a tight rope.

If I'd been able to option the books, the script would have been a lot closer to the characters Evanovich wrote than the insipid stuff I watched last night.

Monday, August 13, 2012

When in Rome . . .

TV Stevie and I just spent three days and two nights in Rome, NY, home of the Capitol Theatre and CapitolFest. TV Stevie has been attending CapitolFest since its inception 10 years ago. I'm a relatively recent devotee, 2012 being my third or fourth year. Maybe my fifth. Time flies when you're having fun and all that.

One of the great things about this film festival is its use of the original installation Moller theater organ.

Bernie Anderson, Avery Tunningley, and Dr. Philip Carli (and others) breathe life into silent movies using this magnificent instrument.

Ran into several people we know.

Bill DeLapp, Syracuse New Times
Gerry Orlando, Syracuse Cinephile Society

Some of this year's highlights:

The Friday session opened with a TV documentary from Sweden about Warner Oland, this year's CapitolFest tribute star. The documentary was introduced to the CapitolFest audience by a distant cousin of Oland. The screening on Friday was only the third time the documentary has been shown. The first time was on Swedish television, the second time was in China (where many people were allegedly shocked that Charlie Chan wasn't Chinese).

Although Oland is best known for his portrayal of Charlie Chan, we saw only one Charlie Chan trailer. The rest of the program focused on his other roles. I personally liked A Passport to Hell.

Another highlight had its roots in CapitolFest 8. A partially reconstructed version of Paramount on Parade was on the 2010 CapitolFest schedule. The film had been edited for television, for length, for a variety of reasons, and in the process, elements were lost, including the original audio discs. Turns out projectionist Bob Hodge actually has one of the missing discs in his personal collection. For the whole story, check out Bill DeLapp's article. This year, CapitolFest 10 attendees were treated to the reconstructed segment,'Isador the Toreador', which might never have happened had it not been for CapitolFest 8.

Besides Oland, there were one or two other themes: car commercials (Studebaker and Oldsmobile) and golf (Warner Oland was in the first, but never spoke; Bing Crosby sang in Spanish in the second -- the only time he ever did this). I thought both pieces ran too long, but then, I loathe golf. Oh, and there were dogs: a short with Lightning (a serial) that was worth watching for Gary Cooper and the finale was a Rin-Tin-Tin movie that was good. Dr. Carli's accompaniment made it better.

Several of the comedies were fabulous.

CapitolFest 11 is scheduled for August 9-11, 2013. If you like old movies -- and I mean old movies -- you should check it out.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ups & Downs

The past couple of days have been a teeter-totter of emotion.

First thing yesterday morning, my sister let me know that our school bus driver had passed away. Now, many people think it's odd I even know who drove my school bus, but it was the 1960s and rural upstate New York. He was not only my bus driver, but a neighbor. We bought our horse from him. When the horse developed a habit of charging at us when we wanted to saddle her, he made me stand in front of her with a big stick and face her down: my first lesson in standing up for myself. The first few times, I backed off. Ever have a full grown horse come galloping at with the intent of running you over? It's a bit intimidating. Art forced me to stand there. Forced me to face my terror, but not surrender to it. Thank you, Art.

In the afternoon, one of my best friends in the universe, Kris Fletcher, sold her book to Harlequin's Superromance Line. This is the news that is keeping me afloat today. Supers are great books, Kris is an awesome writer, and this is just an incredibly awesome thing to happen. She's worked hard and long for this moment, and I hope she savors it forever. I'm so very, very proud of her.

Today, I woke up to and learned of the shooting at the new Batman movie in Colorado. I'm sure every other blogger in the USA will be commenting on this. Let me say only this: not a good thing. My prayers are with the families of the victims.

Then I finished a round of revisions on my current WIP, and somehow ended up cutting 20+ pages. Don't quite know how that happened. Not even sure if it's good or bad, but now I don't have the rewrites hanging over me. My vacation writing goal was accomplished. Yay!

Then I learned that my favorite uncle died. It was a peaceful passing, in as much as death-by-cancer is peaceful. I was able to say goodbye to him earlier this month. He was at home with my aunt. My mom (his sister) and my dad were also there. I think at least one of my cousins was there, too. This is rough. He was not only my uncle, but we lived 40 feet apart for a good chunk of my early life. He was like a second father. 

My mom is feeling the loss. Except for the three years he was in the Army, Mom has been with this brother her entire life. My dad and uncle met in the army and ended up marrying each others younger sister; they bought land together and built houses side-by-side. I don't mean had house built: they built their own houses. And it was literally 40 feet from our back door to theirs.

In the early 1980s, my grandmother was badly burned. I rushed to the hospital ER so my uncle wouldn't have to wait alone. He'd followed the ambulance to the hospital and for many reasons, I was the only one able to meet him there. As is my habit, I pulled out a notebook and started writing. My uncle asked me what I was doing. "Working on my novel," I said. "Are you still doing that?" he asked.  

Yeah, Uncle Ray, I'm still doing that.

Goodbye. I'll miss you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Avengers: A Movie Review

I liked it. It was good.

IMHO, however, it did not live up to its hype.

My nephew said he hadn't laughed so hard in a long time. I merely chuckled.

I felt as if I were missing pieces of the story. I've been assured that not seeing The Hulk didn't matter. X-Chromo said I should have seen Iron Man 2 (it's TV Stevie's fault I haven't seen it) to learn more about the Black Widow.

If a person isn't familiar with the comic book canon, one might feel the same way I did.

There were three things that really irked me.
1) all the women wore really tight clothing and too many shots were of their butts as they walked away from the camera, fannies swaying.
2) After September 11th, Manhattanites are not going to stand in the windows of their office buildings and watch the destruction of their city.
3) The Hulk can't control his rage. The Hulk can't control his rage. Now the Hulk can control his rage? What's the motivation for that abrupt change?

My biggest issue is I was expecting a fabulous story and didn't get it. What I got were special effects, which bore and annoy me after about 60 seconds. As TV Stevie and I have discussed almost every time we see a movie based on Marvel Comics, he found the same problem with the comic books themselves: not enough story, too much BAM! POW! KA-ZOW-EEEEEEEEEEEEEE! (We're DC people at heart, but DC can't do movies worth a hoot.)

What I loved: Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark.
Iron Man is still the best superhero/comic-book based movie I have ever seen.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Apologies to Mark Gotham

Mark Gotham teaches/taught 7th grade math at Y-Chromo's middle school. At open house that year, Mr. Gotham told me that "Y has a mathematical mind."

I started laughing. I mean, really. Come on.

I'm not laughing any more. Mr. Gotham, you were right and I was wrong.

Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Summa Cum Laude, with departmental honors.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Family Ties: Prologue

No, not my family. I have cousins by the dozens and I've always loved having such a large extended family.  TV Stevie wasn't quite as lucky growing up.

After his father's death (when TV was 10), there wasn't a lot of contact with his Dad's side of the family, except through Uncle Bill. The final breech was when Uncle Bill died. TV was in college.

Not long before Uncle Bill's death, a young man approached TV in one of his film classes and introduced himself as TV's cousin. TV's response was: no you're not. But he was. Richard is actually TV's first cousin once removed.

A few years later, when TV was working as a director at the PBS station in his college town, a "famous" psychologist who dealt with agoraphobia was a scheduled guest on one of the programs TV directed. Turned out Julian, too, was another of TV's first cousins, once removed.

In 1991, when Richard was living in Ithaca, TV and I had dinner with Richard and his wife, plus Richard's parents. Richard's father, George, was TV's first cousin. There is quite an age difference between TV and his first cousins on his father's side of the family. His dad was the youngest child by several years, married late, and Steve was the youngest of his siblings.

Flash forward to November 2011. TV Stevie and I arrived home one Saturday evening and checked our phone messages. "This is Calman G* and I'm looking at a lovely photo of my Uncle Kermit H*, and if you are the Steven H who is his son, please call me because I'd like you to have this photo."

Chills ran up and down my arms.

That single phone message launched an on-going journey of discovery and re-connection.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Underworld and a Super Moon

Gorgeous spring evening. The Super Moon is stunning. Venus is also very bright tonight.
Super Moon
TV Stevie and I went to the Capitol Theatre in Rome to see Underworld, a 1927silent film which essentially gave birth to the gangster genre.  Bernie Anderson accompanied the movie on the Captiol's original installation Moller organ.
Original installation Moller organ at the Capitol Theatre in Rome
Unfortunately the moon was behind us as we drove home, so I watched Venus instead.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Note on Team Work

The other day, someone said something to the effect of, "Well, we're all on the same team."


On a baseball team, the 2nd baseman plays 2nd base, covers 1st base if needed, and works with both the shortstop and catcher to ensure runners don't successfully steal second.

The 2nd baseman does not sit in the stands and chuck empty peanut shells at the catcher.

If the 2nd baseman (or any other team member) isn't doing his job, he is traded, sent to the minors for more training, or released.

That's the team on which I want to play.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Placid Weekend

Baseball season has started, so that's consuming a lot of my time and energy. I'm still writing -- just started a rewrite of my "second" baseball novel, Summer Fling.

This past weekend, I had a chance to go with TV Stevie on business to Lake Placid, NY. We honeymooned there 24 years ago, so it was a nice jaunt for us.

View from our hotel room
April is quiet in Lake Placid. We did run into a former co-worker as we wandered through the town. Shelli Carlisle was there with her husband Andy, who was playing in an ice hockey tournament. It was good to see her. She looks great.
Lake Placid Public Library

Lake and Mountains

More mountains
We saw The Hunger Games on Friday night. I enjoyed it more than TV Stevie, but then I've read the books.  

TV Stevie had to work on Saturday morning, so I holed up in the hotel room with my laptop and started working on my rewrite. It was very productive.  That afternoon we did some walking and shopping. After TV's late afternoon work shift, we holed up in the room and watched All-Things-Titanic: The Unsinkable Molly Brown; Titanic the Mini Series; A Night to Remember. I thought the latter was the best.

We had a leisurely drive home through the Adirondack Mountains, stopping at the Old Forge Hardware Store in Old Forge. I love that place and can wander forever. They have marvelous yarns. No yarn today, though. Instead, I replaced my missing cast-iron grill pan. So much easier than a Foreman grill.

And somehow it got to be Sunday night again. Where did my weekend go?

Monday, March 05, 2012

China Clipper Calling Alameda

Last night I saw a Monkees Greatest Hits CD sitting on the kitchen table. I borrowed it to transfer to my mp3 player. Listened to it at the DayJob today and wanted so much to jump up and start dancing. The music made me happy.

Came home for lunch, where I ran into TV Stevie, and we started talking about Monkees trivia and our personal memories. We both listened to the third album (Headquarters) more than any other album by the group. We liked the same songs on that album.

Trivia: even when the Monkees TV program was repeated, it wasn't the same as it was the first time it was broadcast, because the producers would change the music segment to whatever the newest release was.

TV Stevie's Most Memorable Monkee TV Show Moment: He missed just one episode. A religious observance ran too long.

My most memorable Monkee TV Show Moment: I was at a friend's house with a slew of other girls, for a Monkee party and sleep over. We all settled in the living room to watch the program and just when the show began, the power went out. Actually, the hostess's dad and older brother were in the basement and pulled the fuse when they heard the Monkee theme. Didn't they realize that adolescent girls can be traumatized by that kind of practical joke?

TV Stevie and I both liked the song, Zilch. The challenge became to remember the four lines in the song. I got two (okay, I garbled one of them, but I had it.) TV gave me hints on the other two, and I remembered them quickly. Then I asked him which of the four lines from Zilch was used in the Monkee song, No Time. It took him a minute, but he got it:
Never mind the furthermore, the plea is self-defense.

Can you name all four lines?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Six Degrees of Davy Jones

When I heard the new today that Davy Jones was dead, I went numb. Some of my friends on FB posted that they always thought Peter Tork would be the first Monkee to "go".

Any of them "going" is inconceivable.

The Monkees were probably the first records (45s and LPs) that I purchased on my own with my saved-up babysitting money. They were definitely the first posters hanging in my bedroom, and the only time I ever purchased teen fan magazines.

My earliest forays into fiction writing was also Monkee-centric. It wasn't called fanfic back then. We called them "Monkee Stories." I remember my 6th grade teacher confiscating one, reading it, and telling that it was good, but I shouldn't pass it around during class.

TV Stevie saw Davy Jones on Broadway as the Artful Dodger in Oliver. He still has the playbill around here somewhere. Long before I ever met TV, he'd recorded all of The Monkees TV show off MTV. Later, when the Chromos were very young, they watched those tapes. So did I, lost in my memories.

TV had a chance to meet Davy several years ago, at the New York State Fair. It was TV's responsibility to escort Davy from the stage where he was performing to the news set of the television station for whom he worked. He said that Davy was less than gracious about it.

Here's a snippet of a chain of e-mails flying back and forth between TV and me this afternoon:

From: Molly
To: TV Stevie
How can you joke at a tragic time like this?
From: TV Stevie
To: Molly
I'm not joking. Besides he dissed me when I walked him to the W--- booth at the Fair. Acted like I wasn't there when I was talking to him.
So cheer up, Molly Jean.
Oh what can it mean?
No more Day Dream Believin' or Pleasant Valley Sundays
Here we come...walkin' to the Pearly Gates...get the funniest looks from...everyone we hate.
Then I saw his face. Now I'm a Believer.
(Yes, my middle name is Jean).
TV Stevie can always make me laugh, and today I need it.
Davy Jones is dead. Bits of my past keep slipping away.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Woman in the Mirror

I had a birthday this week. Not a huge milestone, but I'm creeping up there in age. I had the day off from work, so spent it writing and playing with my mp3 player, then took a late afternoon shower to get ready to go out to dinner with TV Stevie.

When I climbed out of the shower and looked in the bathroom mirror, I saw my grandmother.

It was a shock. I never thought I looked like her, yet there she was, staring back at me.

I would have been 10 years old when Gram was my current age (our birthdays are two days apart).

Gram was honest and a hard worker. She lived to age 98, well-loved by all. She had 80 great-grandchildren by then, and I'm not sure anyone knows how many other generations there were past that . . . rumor had it there were a total of 6 (including Gram) when she died. That's pretty impressive.

Back in the mid 1980's, when my generation was talking about a cousins reunion, Gram was pleased that her grandchildren wanted to do that. There are a lot of us. That's what makes getting together so much fun.

In her later years, she lived with my aunt, next door to my parents, so we all got to see her more often. X and Y Chromo knew her pretty well.

I guess if I'm going to look like someone not me, looking like Pearl Nancy Caples Compton isn't such a bad thing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Car Crap: On Being a Spoiled American

I have a love-hate relationship with automobiles. I know they are evil. I know they are a huge cause of what is killing Mother Earth. I know that I am a Spoiled American for wanting my 'luxury sedan'.

Unfortunately, the Spoiled American wins.

Last week, the transmission in my Buick Regal went. Again. I could still go in reverse and 2nd gear so was able to park it until my amazing insurance company sent a tow truck. After searching through my messy office for hours this past weekend, I finally called the Transmission Repair Establishment that rebuilt the tranny the first time. My warranty (guarantee?) was for 24 months or 24K miles, whichever came first. Three years ago. Not even 10K miles, but 37, 38 months. Still cheaper than a car payment.

TV Stevie and I talked about where we could come up with the money to rebuild the tranny again. I asked a co-worker if she ever had problems with her Buick Regal (same year) and the tranny. Nope. We got to talking about vehicles, and she told me she was going to sell her Taurus and the dollar amount she mentioned was the same amount of money I would need to spend on a rebuilt tranny for the Regal. I talked to TV. I called my co-worker at home that evening and asked if I could have my mechanic look over her Taurus. We were definitely interested.

I dug out the title to the Buick. I found an empty box to take with me to the mechanic so I could clean out the Regal while he looked over the Taurus. Plus my co-worker told me of two problems with the vehicle and dropped the price even more. One of the problems was tires. I have three new ones on the Regal (unfortunately, not the same size).

The upshot: the price on the Taurus is really good (my mechanic's jaw dropped), but there are still too many issues that in the long run would cost more than having the Regal's tranny rebuilt. Plus the Taurus didn't feel like my car or that it could be my car. Weird, isn't it?

I called my dad and brother, both highly gifted in manly blue-collar arts, and explained everything to them. They each advised me to go with my gut. TV came home from work and said that he thought I would never be happy with the Taurus (he looked it over in the parking lot at DayJob, and thought it looked great), and he and Car Buddy at his DayJob crunched some numbers and repairing the Regal would be a better deal.

"Too bad one of the Chromos doesn't have their license," TV said last night while cutting up tomato for his salad. "We could buy the Taurus for them. Of course, we have no place to put it, but we could. Oh, and we don't have the money either, but it's a great car."

I still have to find money to pay for a rebuilt transmission.

I'm dependent on TV and co-workers for rides to-and-from work. Although I live 1.7 miles from DayJob, public transportation being what it is, I would need to take a bus downtown, then transfer to another line and it would take forever. While the concept of walking is very tempting, there are no sidewalks in the town of Salina -- at least the part in which I'd have to walk -- and traffic is too heavy and too fast for pedestrians to be safe on that particular street. Please note that I'm not even mentioning the likelihood of snow. This is Syracuse, and we're having a mild winter, but that could change with a breath of wind.

I need to renew my driver's license this month, and I want an enhanced license in case TV and I ever run away to Canada, so that requires a trip to the DMV.

I need to go to the bank.

I have books that need to be picked up at the library, and books, DVDs and CDs to return to the library.

I need to stop at the Supermarket in the strip mall for a couple of items Wegmans doesn't carry.

I am a Spoiled American.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Music & Me

Several years ago, I bought an mp3 player. Loved it. Loved the portability, loved having 4 gigs of audio in the palm of my hand. I listened not only to music on it, but also audio books downloaded from the library, and RWA workshops. I kept my favorite workshops on it so I'd have interesting listening when unexpected delays presented themselves (like standing in line for 5 hours to pay my respects to a new widow). Great for flying, too. I once lost my CD case in flying between LA and home, probably in Cincinnati. The mp3 made all of that moot.

Creative Zen
Then my computer began having issues. I lost access to the whatever that allowed me to make changes to the unit. Annoying, but still workable. I listened while exercising, I listened at DayJob. Life was still good.

Then the battery refused to hold a charge. I could plug it in at work if I stayed at my desk, but I'd lost my portability.

TV Stevie bought me a new, 8 gig mp3 for my birthday last year. I had to start rebuilding the library from scratch. The new mp3 is about a third of the size of the old one, but has twice the memory.

Sansa Clip

Then my computer crashed. As my nephew explained, "it sounded like a pinball machine tipping over." I lost everything that was on the D drive. All my music. Irreplacable photos of the Chromos.

And once again I lost the ability to manage my music. Grrrr. My nephew fixed my computer so that I could access the C drive again, which returned my ability to manage content on the new mp3.

One night, goofing around, I tried to sync the old mp3 to the computer, but learned the drivers were no longer supported. Fortunately, I was able to download new drivers, which then enabled me to reverse transfer music from the old mp3 player to my computer and then sync it with the new mp3 player.

Whoa! I have duplicate-triplicate-quadruplicate songs now. I need to go through and weed. Not exactly sure what happened, and I need to rebuild all my playlists (Workout #1, Country Workout #1, Dylan Says It Best, etc.) but I'm a very happy woman. Vivaldi's Flute Concertos in the morning, Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon after lunch.

Life is fabulous.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Last night, X-Chromo came into my office and asked, "What's this?"

She handed me my great-grandmother's autograph book.

The earliest entry I can find is April  5, 1891. That's 102 years and 5 days before X was born.

Edward Sargent of Candor, New York wrote:
May you be happy
Each day of your life
Get a good husband
And make a good wife.
Lena Mae Ross married Charles DeWitt Compton in 1895. My parents have a cranberry glass and cut-crystal creamer from that wedding in their china cabinet.

I have a quilt Lena made. When I was a child, it was the "sick blanket": we were only allowed to use it when we were sick. It's in poor shape now. Pretty battered. I think my mom used to wash it in the wringer washer.

Lena died young. She left 3 children, the oldest of whom was my grandfather. My grandmother once told me
she promised Lena she would take care of my grandfather. She ended up marrying him.

When Grandma moved -- I think when she moved in with my aunt after she was too old to live alone -- Grandma gave me Lena's autograph book, because she knew I liked things like that.

Since November, TV Stevie has been learning about his father's family in an exploration of joy and discovering his heritage. I forgot that my children also share my heritage.

Lena's autograph book is a tangible part of that. I'm so glad I have it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I go through stages of noticing people's hands. I don't know why. Maybe it's the writer in me absorbing details to use in a book.

My hands now look like my grandmothers, with aged skin, kind of "wattly".

I once read a book -- possibly The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath -- in which the protagonist claimed her hands, when she wore white gloves (a public "must" in early-to-mid 20th century), felt like Minnie Mouse hands: too big for her body. I've never felt that way about my hands, but I've encountered a couple of women who should.

That wasn't a slam at those women. The shape and size of our hands is not something over which we have control.  I think it interesting that both of these women are slender and fine-boned, but have these enormous hands at the ends of their dainty wrists. They are both number crunchers, too, which makes me wonder if mathiness is linked to big hands. Another Molly Compton Herwood Crackpot Theory.

I know another woman who is not slender or fine-boned, yet she has some of the most delicate hands I've ever seen. Each time I notice her hands, it strikes me anew that those hands don't fit her body or her personality.

I usually don't notice men's hands, but there is one man of my acquaintance whose hands completely gross me out. He's a nice man. A lot of women I know think he's attractive. Yet every time I notice his hands, I shudder. They are plump and hairy. And I'm assigning them to an antagonist in my current WIP. Because I'm a writer and I can.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Synchrony, Purple Style

Every year, a group of my writing friends, commonly known as The Purples, get together around the end of December or early January for a goals session. We review the year past and plan for the year to come.

No, this is not yet another blog about writers and the goals they should be setting. There are plenty of those out there. And most of them are very good. The blogosphere does not need me adding my take on writing goals.

This blog is about synchrony. Simultaneous occurrence. This year, our goal setting session was rife with synchrony.

There's the to-be-expected (from a group of middle-aged women): lose weight. And of course, the writing goals. Those seem to migrate year-to-year on everyone's list.

This year, several of us focused on two things. We didn't discuss this in advance, so it was very weird when it came up during the session.

1) Our parents. Trying to stay connected to the people who raised us. I'm probably the worst of the bunch. My parents are both living and local . . . and I never call them. I see them on holiday's and such, but I never call them. My husband called his mother weekly until she passed away. I expect my children to call me weekly from college. And yet, I never call my mom or dad. So one of my goals this year is to call my folks once a week.

2) Stop confusing obligations with goals. One friend wrote: "clear distinction between goals and duties," and that's a biggie.  I'm guilty of the same thing. When I initially started setting my goals for 2012, I wrote, "treasurer of my local RWA chapter". Well, that's not a goal. It's what I am, and I have duties corresponding to being such. Y-Chromo graduates from college this year, but that's not a goal. So why was it on my goal list? It was something that I know is scheduled.

Our lists also seem to grow shorter each year, as we realize that by attempting too much, we set ourselves up for failure. Or maybe we're just becoming more focused on what is really important to us.