Monday, December 20, 2010


I miss Bear so much today. 

'Not sure why today I feel so sad about it. 

I guess I'm just tired and hormonal. 

But I am feeling so lonely for him.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lake Effect Snow

I grew up in Parish, New York, where it snows a LOT because it is located downwind of Lake Ontario.

When I first moved to Buffalo to attend college, I remember people asking me if I was ready for the snow here. Oh yes, I was ready! But disappointment followed because the snow in WNY usually falls south of the city, so what I experienced was nothing compared to what I was used to.

What exactly is "lake effect snow"? I distinctly remember a teacher drawing a diagram on the board as he explained it to us, and I was fascinated. I love weather in general, and meteorology is something I could really get into.

Lake Effect Defined

I wish I had some photos of the "mountains" of snow from home. Dad ran the snowblower and the rest of us shoveled where the plow couldn't reach, including the roof. There would always be a period of weeks each winter where my horse was unable to be in her pasture because even she couldn't walk through the snow. Everyone had snowmobiles and snowshoes, everyone had a "snowmobile suit", not "ski pants".

When people here in WNY complain about the snow and cold I have to chuckle. This is nothin', and I miss it. My dad also loved blizzards and snow, and the weather seldom stopped him from hunting and fishing. I think of him often when I am walking in the snow, sans snowshoes but with him just the same.

~ thank you, Google images ~

Some links to snowy Parish and Central New York pics...

Central New York Snow Photos (from 2007)

Great Flikr Photostream of Parish Snow (from various years)

Digital Music

Listening to Katie Perry's Teenage Dream on the way into work this morning made me think a lot about the evolution of music, especially in terms of what going digital has done to music in general. First I have to mention how absolutely dirty the lyrics and suggestions are in Teenage Dream, and I would imagine that multiple teens have had sex for the first time because of lyrics like ...

Let's go all the way tonight
No regrets, just love
We can dance until we die
You and I
We'll be young forever...
We drove to Cali
And got drunk on the beach
Got a motel and
Built a fort out of sheets
I finally found you
My missing puzzle piece
I'm complete...

Let you put your hands on me
In my skin-tight jeans
Be your teenage dream tonight...

Yikes. And then there's the music video to complete the appeal for teens to engage in very risky behavior. Now I'm no prude but I can feel myself falling further away from trends in popular music, I suppose like our parents' parents did with Elvis and the Beatles. Part of what scares me about music like Teenage Dream is that I enjoy singing along and it makes me want to - well - dance. So how many teens are guzzling So Co and getting wild to it? I shudder. Being a mom of a teenage boy will definitely change your perspective on music and its influences.

Also. What's up with how digitized vocals are these days?? You hear the song on the radio and think "wow great voice" but you hear them perform live and if they aren't lip-syncing you think "wow they stink". That's because of Auto-Tune which is essentially for audio what Photoshop is for images. There's an article about this plug-in at Time that does an excellent job of explaining the evolution of this phenomenon beginning with Cher in 1998.

Music is a foreign language to me, but I do listen and it does make me feel. And think.

~ Katie ...

~ If Smells Like Teen Spirit was released today (never mind the typos)...

Thursday, December 16, 2010


If for a moment we make way with our petty lives, wish no ill on anyone, apprehend no ill,
cease to be but a crystal which reflects a ray -
  what shall we not reflect!
       What a universe will appear crystallized
  and radiant around us." ~ Henry David Thoreau

"Foolish, ignorant people indulge in careless lives,
         whereas a clever man guards his attention as his most prized possession."  ~ Buddha

"At the end of all things, the blessed will say
        'We never lived anywhere but in heaven.'" ~ C.S. Lewis

"To make all life
more poetical, more sane
more living, loving
   To experience
the true of all things
     this moment ...
        this moment ...
  this moment."         ~ William Segal

"Always we hope someone else has the answer. Some other place will be better, it will all turn out.
            This is it.
       No one else has the answer. No other place will be better. It has already turned out."  ~ Lao-tzu

"...the genie-magic is you."     ~ the last line of a poem in my dream, circa 1999

Christmas colors: late summer geraniums

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sleep Away Camp

Mari is going to spend two nights at Fort Hyde Kennels while we are away after Christmas. This will be the first trip when she will have to stay behind, and it makes me sad. Traveling by car is stressful for Mari because she is such an uptight girl ... she never lays down for more than a couple of minutes at a time. The trip to my mom's takes a minimum of six hours on dry roads, and that is simply too long for her to stand in the back of my car. As Mom lives north of Lake Placid in the Adirondacks, getting there involves not only driving through hills and mountains but also driving through Lake Ontario's snow belt region. A winter commute can take eight hours or more depending on the weather.

Fort Hyde comes highly recommended from friends who use the facility regularly, and the lady I spoke to on the phone was incredibly friendly and professional. Mari is the type of social dog that even loves going to the vet's office. "People who like me! They might pet me! They might give me a biscuit! How hard can I wag my whole body??" I can pay an extra $5 to have someone play with Mar which somehow seems wrong yet is totally understandable. I guess. One look into her big brown eyes and there is no resistance to her request to play. She used to be indefatigable - literally - but now her spirit is more willing than her body. She still loves her tennis balls and sticks, and her squeaky balls and squeakers. Mostly, though, she now loves her soft bed. And I love her. I hope she has fun at camp!

I found the following oldies in an obscure file on my computer ... Mari is now 13.5 years old and Chandler is now 15.5 years old : )

Mari & Chandler, 2003

Mari & Chandler, 2005

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Modern Family

ABC's Modern Family is surprisingly fresh and well-written, and it has become my new favorite weekly television series. Its based on a pretty common television topic ("family") and the story lines tend to be simple, but this is oh-so-well-told. I love each of the characters and as pathetic as it sounds I wish they were all my friends. They each are at times funny, selfish, caring, snarky, loving, impatient, dense, sweet, quirky and insane.

I do not dv-r anything. I would feel pressure to watch the things I recorded, and I do not need any more pressure. Instead I enjoy channel surfing and stumbling upon things that I would never set out to watch. Pawn Stars is boring, yet when my husband settles on that channel I find myself interested. Unwrapped is geeky, but I find myself fascinated by how all this fun food is produced. Who knew that five gajillion gummies roll out of the Acme plant every stinkin' day? Hoarders is disturbing but watching it makes me realize that my junk drawer hoarding isn't so bad after all. I never get sick of SeinfeldThe Office, or Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, and I can almost always find one of those shows on some channel somewhere. 'Guilty pleasure: the Housewives reality shows and their shallow selfish characters. Television is an escape for me, and I tend to watch it from my bed during the hour or so before I fall asleep. I do not want anything heavy such as doomsday shows and crime shows. Entertain me. Make me laugh.

Modern Family is indeed entertaining and even thought-provoking as it breezes through each episode. It is the only thirty minutes a week that I make sure I am watching.

love love love these characters

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Recipe: White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies


  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup candied cherries
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chunks


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, with electric mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until just combined. Set aside.
Sift together flour, soda, and salt. Add milk to the butter mixture and then add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Batter should be stiff.
In another bowl, combine nuts, cherries, and white chocolate. Then add to batter, stirring only to blend. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Yummm! Thank you, Paula Deen : )


The word popped into my head this morning. Muse. I was thinking of Bear and realized what an impact he made in my life, and how he not only made me laugh but it was through research and training him that I gained the confidence to consider a book project. 
This "muse" thinking made me realize that I did not know the history of the word itself, only its application for artists:
Muse (myo̵̅o̅z)
GR. MYTH. any of the Muses 

the spirit that is thought to inspire a poet or other artist; 
source of genius or inspiration

BB (Before Bear) I certainly felt inspired, but it was Bear himself that inspired me to write a book. I suppose that would make him my muse.

The history of the word is filled with very long Greek names and I do not pretend to have memorized much of it, but here is a Wiki excerpt:

The Muses (Ancient Greek αἱ μοῦσαι, hai moũsai : perhaps from the o-grade of the Proto-Indo-European root *men- "think") in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths. The compliment to a real woman who inspires creative endeavor is a later idea.

The entry goes on to explain many details, but what stands out for me is how many classic writers include an invocation of the Muse, including Homer, Virgil, Milton, Shakespeare and Chaucer. The Muses also appeared in 1980's Xanadu and the 1997 Disney flick Hercules. Interesting.

Maybe I need to add to that Wikipedia entry the soon-to-be famous "Beary Muse" who continues to inspire me.

~ my muse ~

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chicago ~ Cell Block Tango

Okay, so this is the number to watch when you are feeling angry toward the man in your life. When Chicago came out in 2002 I was just wrapping up my divorce, and I memorized this particular song without even trying. (disclaimer: I am a nonviolent person)


Monday, December 6, 2010


I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that's where I renew my springs that never dry up.  ~ Pearl Buck

I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. ~ Albert Einstein

Conversation enriches the understanding; but solitude is the school of genius. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude. ~ Voltaire

An artist is always alone -- if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness. ~ Henry Miller

Delight in meditation and solitude. Compose yourself, be happy. You are a seeker. ~ Buddha

Slate Article: Modern Parenting

Modern Parenting

If we try to engineer perfect children, will they grow up to be unbearable?

Perfect kid. Click image to expand.Last year, a friend of mine sent a shipment of green rubber flooring, at great impractical expense, to a villa in the south of France because she was worried that over the summer holiday her toddler would fall on the stone floor. Generations of French children may have made their way safely to adulthood, walking and falling and playing and dreaming on these very same stone floors, but that did not deter her in her determination to be safe. This was, I think, an extreme articulation of our generation's common fantasy: that we can control and perfect our children's environment. And lurking somewhere behind this strange and hopeless desire to create a perfect environment lies the even stranger and more hopeless idea of creating the perfect child.
This fantasy of control begins long before the child is born, though every now and then a sane bulletin lands amidst our fashionable perfectionism, a real-world corrective to our over-arching anxieties. I remember reading with some astonishment, while I was pregnant, a quiet, unsensational article about how one study showed that crack babies turned out to be doing as well as non-crack babies. Here we are feeling guilty about goat's cheese on a salad, or three sips of wine, and all the while these ladies, lighting crack pipes, are producing intelligent and healthy offspring. While it's true that no one seemed to be wholeheartedly recommending that pregnant women everywhere take up crack for relaxation, the fundamental irony does appear to illustrate a basic point: which is that children, even in utero, are infinitely more adaptable and hardy and mysterious than we imagine.Of course, for most of us, this perfect, safe, perpetually educational environment is unobtainable; an ineffable dream we can browse through in Dwell, or some other beautiful magazine, with the starkly perfect Oeuf toddler bed, the spotless nursery. Most of us do not raise our children amidst a sea of lovely and instructive wooden toys and soft cushiony rubber floors and healthy organic snacks, but the ideal exists and exerts its dubious influence.
And yet the current imagination continues to run to control, toward new frontiers and horizons of it. A recent book generating interest in the US is called Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives. It takes up questions such as whether eating more fish will raise the intelligence of your child, or what exact level of stress is beneficial to the unborn child. (Too much stress is bad, but too little stress, it turns out, is not good either. One doctor reports that she has pregnant women with blissfully tranquil lives asking her what they can do to add a little healthy stress to the placid uterine environment.)
Then, just last month came the well-publicised British study that suggested that a little drinking during pregnancy is healthy, and that children whose parents drank a little bit were in fact, if anything, slightly more intelligent than children whose mothers refrained entirely. One might think this new evidence would challenge the absolutism of our attitudes about drinking and pregnancy, the near-religious zeal with which we approach the subject, but it's equally possible that it won't actually have much effect. Our righteousness and morally charged suspicion that drinking even the tiniest bit will harm an unborn child runs deeper than rational discussion or science; we are primed for guilt and sacrifice, for the obsessive monitoring of the environment, for rampant moralism and reproach, even before the baby is born.
One of my friends asked me, very sensibly, "Is it worth even the smallest risk?" about a glass of wine late in my pregnancy, and of course the answer has to be no. What kind of Lady Macbeth would place her own fleeting desire for a glass of wine above her child's health, or ability to get into an excellent college? However, the question itself betrays its own assumptions: our exaggerated vision of risk and sensitivity to the impossible idea of control may also be damaging to a child.
If you drink a little, the popular logic goes, your child might be a little dumber. He won't be damaged per se, but he'll be a little dumber. Behind this calculation is the mystical idea of engineering the perfect child. But perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is, even if we can engineer him, will he grow up to be unbearable?
You know the child I am talking about: precious, wide-eyed, over-cared-for, fussy, in a beautiful sweater, or a carefully hipsterish T-shirt. Have we done him a favor by protecting him from everything, from dirt and dust and violence and sugar and boredom and egg whites and mean children who steal his plastic dinosaurs, from, in short, the everyday banging-up of the universe? The wooden toys that tastefully surround him, the all-sacrificing, well-meaning parents, with a library of books on how to make him turn out correctly— is all of it actually harming or denaturing him?
Someone I know tells me that in the mornings, while making breakfast, packing lunches and laying out clothes, she organises an art project for her children. An art project! This sounds impossibly idyllic – imaginative, engaged, laudable. And yet, is it just the slightest bit mad as well? Will the world, with its long lines in the passport office and traffic jams, be able to live up to quite this standard of exquisite stimulation? And can you force or programme your child to be creative?
The bookshelves offer bright assistance: Amazing Minds: The Science of Nurturing Your Child's Developing Mind with Games, Activities and MoreRaising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, EnergeticFree-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Kids (Without Going Nuts with Worry). These books, and the myriad others like them, hold out the promise of a healthy, civilised venture, where every obstacle, every bedtime, every tantrum, is something to be mastered like an exam at school.
Can we, for a moment, flash back to the benign neglect of the 1970s and '80s? I can remember my parents having parties, wild children running around until dark, catching fireflies. If these children helped themselves to three slices of cake, or ingested the second-hand smoke from cigarettes, or carried cocktails to adults who were ever so slightly slurring their words, they were not noticed; they were loved, just not monitored. And, as I remember it, those warm summer nights of not being focused on were liberating. In the long sticky hours of boredom, in the lonely, unsupervised, unstructured time, something blooms; it was in those margins that we became ourselves.

And then, of course, it sometimes turns out that the perfect environment is not perfect. Take for example, the fastidiousness a certain segment of modern parents enthusiastically cultivates. The New York Times recently ran an article called "Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You", which addressed itself sotto voce to parents who insist that everyone who enters their house takes off their shoes, who obsessively wash hands, or don't allow their children on the subway and carry around little bottles of disinfectant. Apparently, there is, from a sensible scientific point of view, such a thing as being too clean; children, it turns out, need to be exposed to a little dirt to develop immunities, and it seems that the smudged, filthy child happily chewing on a stick in the playground is healthier than his immaculate, prodigiously wiped-down counterpart. I like this story because there may be no better metaphor for the conundrum of over-protection, the protection that doesn't protect.
Homework offers parents another fertile opportunity to be involved, i.e. immersed. I can recall my own mother vaguely calling upstairs "Have you done your homework?" but I cannot recall her rolling up her sleeves to work side by side with me cutting out pictures of rice paddies for a project about Vietnam, or monitoring how many pages of Wuthering Heights I had read. One mother told me about how her 7-year-old, at one of New York's top private schools, received an essay assignment asking how his "life experience" reflected Robert Frost's line in "The Road Not Taken": "I took the one less traveled by." And, of course, that would be a question calling out for the parent writing it herself, since the 7-year-old's "life experience" had not yet thrown up all that many roads.
One of the more troubling aspects of our new ethos of control is that it contains a vision of right-minded child rearing that is in its own enlightened way as exclusive and conformist as anything in the 1950s. Anyone who does not control their children's environment according to current fashions and science, who, say, bribes their child with M&Ms or feeds their baby non-organic milk or has a party that lasts until 2 a.m., is behaving in a wild and reckless manner that somehow challenges the status quo. The less trivial problem is this: The rigorous ideal of the perfect environment doesn't allow for true difference, for the child raised by a grandparent, or a single mother, or divorced parents; its vision is definitely of two parents taking turns carrying the designer baby sling. Mandatory 24-hour improvement and enrichment, have, in other words, their oppressive side.
A quick perusal of a random calendar for a random Saturday for a random member of this generation's finest parents will reveal shuttling to gymnastics class and birthday parties and soccer, and Feeling Art and Expressing Yourself Through Theater—entire days vanishing into the scheduled and rigorous happiness of the child, entire days passing without the promise or hope or expectation of even one uninterrupted adult conversation. (Those who fall a little short can only aspire to this condition of energetic and industrious parenting.)
One sometimes sees these exhausted, devoted, slightly drab parents, piling out of the car, and thinks, is all of this high-level watching and steering and analysing really making anyone happier? One wonders if family life is somehow overweighted in the children's direction—which is not to say that we should love them less, but that the concept of adulthood has somehow transmogrified into parenthood. What one wonders, more specifically, is whether this intense, admirable focus is good for the child? Is there something reassuring in parental selfishness, in the idea that your parents have busy, mysterious lives of their own, in which they sometimes do things that are not entirely dedicated to your entertainment or improvement?
I also can't help but wonder if all of the effort poured into creating the perfect child, like the haute bourgeois attention to stylish food, is a way of deflecting and rechannelling adult disappointment. Are these parents, so virtuously exhausted, so child-drained at the end of one of these busy days, compensating for something they have given up? Something missing in their marriage? Some romantic disappointment? Some compromise of career or adventure? One can't help but wonder, in other words, what Tolstoy or Flaubert would make of our current parenting style.
The effort to control is prolonged, too, later and later into the child's life. Colleges in the US have begun to give parents explicit instructions about when it is time to leave after dropping students off at school, because otherwise they won't. Even at college, even with 17- and 18-year-olds, these parents are lingering, involved, invested, tinkering; they want to stay, in other words, and control more.
Built into this model of the perfectible child is, of course, an inevitable failure. You can't control everything, the universe offers up rogue moments that will make your child unhappy or sick or broken-hearted, there will be faithless friends and failed auditions and bad teachers. The one true terrifying fact of bringing an innocent baby into the fallen world is that no matter how much rubber flooring you ship to the villa in the south of France, you can't protect her from being hurt.
This may sound more bombastic than I mean to be. All I am suggesting is that it might be time to stand back, pour a drink, and let the children torment, or bore or injure each other a little. It might be time to dabble in the laissez faire; to let the imagination run to art instead of art projects; to let the imperfect universe and its imperfect children be themselves.
This article originally appeared in Financial Times. Click here to read more coverage from the Weekend FT.