We took two of our granddaughters to the zoo on Saturday. It was a typical fall day with changeable skies and chilly winds, so we dashed inside an exhibit building for some warmth. The girls were immediately mesmerized by the otters happily swimming in their outdoor water habitat behind a huge wall of viewing glass. I was, too. Their ease in the water and joy in their surroundings held me captive. Having closed our pool for the season over a month ago, I must also admit to a twinge of envy that they, at least, were still swimming.

Our zoo has taken an active role in reintroducing the otter back to Western New York waters after decades of over-hunting by trappers and fishermen who wrongly believe that otters compete with them for game fish. Otters’ habitats also face destruction from pollution and disease-causing parasites contained in runoff. Fortunately, the Endangered Species Act now protects these beautiful creatures.

When will people learn that their actions bear direct consequences on the balance of life on our planet?

Posted in My Blog | 3 Comments

Simon’s Hiding Place

My dog Simon likes to poke around the back edge of the yard where we’ve let the bushes grow to tree size. There’s enough room between the bushes and the fence for a leafy, little-dog-sized tunnel. He uses his tunnel to patrol the fence line for chipmunks and squirrels and occasionally exchanges barks with neighbor dogs or puts nose to ground if something smells interesting.

Today he got me thinking of childhood summer days I spent with friends in the woods bordering the neighborhood school. I hadn’t thought of those woods in quite some time. We felt safe and closed off from the world, spending hours acting out made-up adventures beneath the trees.

I wonder what Simon thinks of on his patrols? Does his tunnel seem as magical to him as my woods did to me?

Posted in My Blog | 1 Comment

Wake Up to Coffee’s Other Benefits

Coffee’s been in the spotlight this week with National Coffee Day on the 29th. Several major chains offered coffee for free or at reduced prices to celebrate. (Warning: Shameless plug coming.) My favorite chain, Tim Hortons (which sells fabulous coffee, by the way), sold its dark roast variety at a discount. I love Tim Hortons coffee so much that I regularly purchase a tin of their ground coffee for home consumption. No matter which brand of coffee I try, I always come back to Tims.

Today I came across a September 28th Harvard Gazette article that sings coffee’s praises for more than its effectiveness as a morning jolt. Scientists have learned that regular consumption can protect us from type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular damage, Parkinson’s Disease, and cancer and cirrhosis of the liver, among other things.

It doesn’t matter whether your coffee is regular or decaf, it’s coffee’s other compounds that do the trick. Take a look at this article, and you’ll feel much better about that first, or sixth, cup of coffee.

Posted in My Blog | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

On to the Next Phase of my Life

My adorable granddaughter is off to kindergarten, ready to face the world. Wasn’t it only last month that she learned to walk? Then it hits me, again. Time really does fly. It flew when my own children were little; it flew much more quickly now.

Today is the first day of my new daily routine, which goes like this: breakfast, morning news, writing. (I can’t complain about the two-second morning commute.) Then I take the dogs out, clean a bit, exercise, stop for lunch, and return to my desk in the afternoon. Occasionally I will mix things up with a French lesson or play my violin or piano for a bit of creative variety, to keep my brain fresh.

Focus, discipline, purpose. My workday mantra. Purpose. Don’t we all need it? Now that my granddaughter’s in school and my daughter no longer needs me to watch her on a daily basis, it’s time for the next phase of my life to begin.

Posted in My Blog | 1 Comment

The Ring of Fire — an Annual End of Summer Tradition

From Thank you for this beautiful photograph!

Friends have invited us to their annual Ring of Fire picnic the Saturday before Labor Day at their cottage on the shore of Canandaigua Lake, in the spectacular Finger Lakes region of New York State.

The Ring of Fire commemorates the ancient Seneca Indian ceremony of thanks for peace and good crop yield and, appropriately, closes out the summer season. It is held the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend when,  at 9 p.m., a bonfire is lit at the top of Bare Hill, near the south end of the lake. Bare Hill sits next to South Hill, the sacred location from which the Senecas believe their ancestors rose from the earth. Lake shore residents then light red road flares along the shoreline, making for a spectacular sight.

The cacophony of modern life often deafens us to Nature’s call. In the whirlwind of family and career obligations that consume our lives, we sorely need to take a step back from time to time for sanity’s sake. Nature’s gentle healing powers remind us of what it means to be fully human. This annual event connects us to an ancient tradition that honors Nature’s circle of life.

Posted in My Blog | Tagged | 1 Comment

Don’t Tell Me We’ll Have an Early Fall

This week, a forecaster predicted that Fall would come early this year.

I love to swim. I love my pool. The water is crystal clear and refreshingly cool. The exercise energizes me like no other form of physical activity, and I always stare sadly at the pool after my husband closes it down for the winter. Four months open, eight months closed. Sigh.

Summer flies by here in the Great Lakes region. I’ve learned to savor every moment I spend outdoors during the warm months of the year. Glorious warm breezes rustle through the bushes and trees that form a natural privacy screen around our property. A more diverse sampling of bird breeds, like goldfinches and wrens, has stopped by our yard this year. A small brown bunny also resided for a short while under the bushes. I love swimming in this small oasis of natural beauty we’ve built in the middle of an urban neighborhood.

Great Lakes winters can be long and brutal. Come February I’m anxious for the weather to turn and dream of the days when I can once again walk outside wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals.

Would I trade my Great Lakes life for a warmer climate? Not a chance. It’s the color that explodes most vividly on sunny fall days. It’s that first shot of warm air after a long, cold winter that breathes hope for the summer to come. And, believe it or not, it’s the interesting winter weather events I’ve witnessed residing close to Lake Ontario.

So, do I look forward to Fall this year? Not yet. Not yet. I haven’t got swimming out of my system. But when I do, I will happily settle down with a pumpkin spice latte and a good book and wait for the snow to fly.

Posted in My Blog | 1 Comment

What Shall I Write About Today?

I have a lot of things on my mind. The train derailment outside of Philadelphia and Congressional Republicans’ failure to see that as a cry for more funding for rail safety. Recent events in Baltimore that brought to the surface the still-simmering racial tension in this country. The clown car that is the ever-widening field of 2016 Republican presidential candidates. The airwaves fill with chatter.

So it’s no wonder that I’m looking forward to a trip to the Desert Southwest. Standing in Badwater Basin in Death Valley (or, in my case, sitting in an air conditioned car while my husband stands in Badwater Basin) you hear only what’s essential: absolutely nothing. You see what’s essential: absolutely nothing. Desolation as far as the eye can see. It’s so quiet you can hear the earth hum. Mother Earth’s primordial rhythm. The pulse of life eternal.

I can’t wait.

Posted in My Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

National Library Week

OK, so I’m late to the party. I just learned that National Library Week ran April 12-18. Oh, well. I was always a late bloomer.

Libraries hold a special place in my heart. An avid reader from the time I first learned how, I was thrilled to land my first paying job at the main branch of my local library. All those books at my disposal! It was heaven on earth!

I still remember how I’d scour the library shelves after school, at times checking out more books than I could carry the rest of the way home. A wonderland awaited every time I walked through the door. I still feel that way.

A town without a library is a sad place indeed. Where else can kids find the stuff to fuel their imaginations? Video games can’t serve the same purpose as a favorite book that transports readers to distant worlds. They can’t fulfill the same longing of the soul that a book can. My love for classic science fiction began with one book — just one book — by Robert Heinlein. Maybe it’s my generation, but boy, no video game will ever have the same effect on me.

And English literature? One of my high school English teachers introduced me to Thomas Hardy. The Return of the Native remains one of my favorite books to this day. Hardy treated the natural world populated by his characters (the fictional Wessex) as a character in itself. His description of Egdon Heath — the setting of the aforementioned story — captivates.

I think I’ll go re-read that chapter now …

Posted in My Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Powerpuff Girls and Me

Image result for powerpuff girlsDo you know these girls? Initially made famous by Cartoon Network in the late 1990s, they’re adorable little kindergartners with a difference: they’re superheros! Townsville is lucky to have them. So are their human counterparts — kindergarten-age girls who need strong role models that support their developing sense of femaleness.

Granted, Craig McCracken probably didn’t have such lofty goals in mind when he created the girls. I’m playing it as I see it, though, through the eyes of part-time caregiver to my young granddaughter. She loves superheros and has recently latched on to the show.

I watched them in the late 90s for the fun of seeing sweet little girls train their super powers on evildoers bent on destroying them and Townsville (“The City of Townsville … is under attack!”). However, one could also glean that more subtle message mentioned above. No matter your age, your size, your gender (especially your gender), you can do anything once you set your mind to it.

Posted in My Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy World Book Day!

As a way to mark today, I’d like to share the following websites with children’s book writers and parents of young girls.

The first, created by Naomi Burman-Shine, describes Naomi’s inspiration for her rhyming picture book, Stonely’s Pet Dinosaur, and the work she put in to its post-publication launch. Anyone aspiring to success as a children’s picture book writer will find valuable information about the book launching process in this blog post.

The second post, The Best Feminist Books for Younger Readers (from the Book Riot website), summarizes the author’s favorite feminist books for younger readers. We need more books like these! Girls matter. Girls count. Girls ROCK. Let’s give them positive literary examples to follow from the very start.



Posted in My Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment