Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On The Way Out


I just made some pate (how do you put the damn accent over the e?) and cleaned out the fridge (one after the other, they weren't connected). I have clean sheets on the bed. I took a deeply cleansing shower. In a little while I'll get dressed, don my new hat that I made with my own two hands (and two other sets of hands more expert than mine), and head out to a neighborly get together. From there we'll head to the local art and architecture school for the annual letting off of steam (whistles). It's going to be a good night. I'm looking forward to it.


I'm looking forward to 2014, too. 2013 was good to me, don't get me wrong, but it was, perhaps, so good to me that I'm excited about what's going to happen next. I'm still going to be careful what I wish for, there's actually some guaranteed heartache built in to next year, but I'm ready to buy my ticket and take the ride.

Bobby and gift wrap

 Wishing you a happy night and a glorious new year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Boom, Done!

DeliciousTo recap, this year I started out with a goal of writing 15 minutes a day. I kept that up for over three months. After that I wrote consistently but not every day. In July at Blogher I attended a session on finishing long writing projects. Before we left the room we declared our goals publicly. Mine was to have the first draft of my novel done by Christmas.

As Christmas neared I began to get antsy. I had trouble writing every day then trouble even writing consistently. It seemed obvious that I was afraid of the success of finishing but that didn't make it any easier to conquer. Finally I got myself in front of the pages for about an hour a day and one day, the Wednesday before Christmas, I came to the end of the book. I was so surprised, and still not a little afraid, that I went back and re-read the last two pages to be sure I was finished.

A full week before my deadline I finished it.

Even the day after I finished it I was thinking about how much it will have to change in the next revision and how that revision will certainly not be the final one. I resisted the urge to dive right in. I know at least enough to know that this project needs to cool a bit before I go back at it. I also need a chance to cool a bit. I want to savor the fact that I did it.

I wrote a novel.

Damn. I didn't know I could do that. I suspected but I did not know.

Now I do.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

So Many Questions to End a Year

UntitledHere is, possibly, my favorite wrap up for each year. It's not easy - last year I had to amend my post - but it's comprehensive in a way I find useful. In other years I've grabbed it from another blogger's rendition but this year I went back to my own archives and found it. I guess I must have finally made it my own.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Called myself a dog trainer and was called one by someone who knows. Performed at a new venue, The Duplex.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I crossed a few more things off my life list, which was nice. Walking a meditation maze, for instance, was such a small, simple thing but wonderfully satisfying. I am headed out in the next few minutes to meet Sara and make new plans and notions for 2014.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
At least one Facebook friend/former college classmate. My boss gained another grandchild. A former colleague.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank goodness.

5. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
More time away from my desk job and therefore more time doing the things I'm finding happiness and success in - dog training, writing, performing. 

6. What countries did you visit?
I stayed here in the US this year. Had a fabulous trip to Chicago, though!

Untitled 7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
A sort of vague idea of the 2nd weekend in June because that was the reprise of my cabaret show at The Duplex. It was an epic rain storm, a completely fabulous time, and a gigantic success.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finishing the first draft of a novel. More on that in a later post.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Still being in my desk job - not a failure exactly but a slowness that's become obvious since I recently realized I'll have been in this job I called temporary for 9 years come March. That's a long time. Not even close to temporary

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I still struggled with my breathing some but no huge illness or injury. My eyesight, though, is getting pretty bad and needs some help.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
All of the dog training classes I took.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Every state that passed marriage equality, Pope Francis (to some extent), everyone who achieved a goal they thought was nuts. (Does that last one apply to you?)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Same community member as last year.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food, training, health care, and accessories for the pets.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Performing, training dogs, finishing a novel.

Untitled 16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Bury My Lovely by October Project - It was hard to learn this one.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?  Happier
ii. thinner or fatter?  Fatter
iii. richer or poorer?  Tiny bit richer perhaps

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Dog training, performing

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying, office work

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent Christmas in New England as happily usual. Super low key this year, in a good way. Much time for eating and knitting and chatting.

21. There was no #21. I don’t know why there was no 21.

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Nope. I'd like to in 2014, though.

23. How many one-night stands?
Zero. Again, such a slacker.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
New Girl, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad and many more.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Still pretty much the same as before.

26. What was the best book you read?
I'm going with three. I can't choose. Ocean At The End of the Lane, Culture Clash, Homeland

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I sort of rediscovered a lot of stuff as I learned to sing it. So, Carole King, October Project, Bobby Darin, Carolann Solebello.

Untitled 28. What did you want and get?
A spot in the NYC Listen To Your Mother show.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Either Enough Said or Dallas Buyers Club

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I performed my cabaret show and had dinner with my parents and a friend. Pretty awesome celebration! I was 44. Still am...for a couple of weeks.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Less time in the office. More kissing. That's two but they could go together.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Jeans + Color = Good enough.

34. What kept you sane?
Friends and dogs.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I've got to stick with Craig Ferguson. I almost switched to Eddie Izzard for variety but I'm still watching Ferguson 5 shows a week and I'm not watching Izzard that much so...

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The mayoral election here in NYC and the continuing reproductive rights hell.

37. Who did you miss?

38. Who was the best new person you met?
My friend and fellow dog trainer, Alison.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
With persistence and commitment I can accomplish all my goals. (When I apply this to dating it kind of turns my stomach but for other stuff it works!)

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
From Carolann Solebello's song, Falling is Easy:

I am not proud, but I’m not ashamed
Finding myself here at sea
But fate is unkind so I can’t be blamed
For letting you happen to me
Falling is easy
Make no decisions and lay down your guard
Falling is easy
Getting back up is so hard

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Photo Challenge: FAREWELL

This is it, you guys, the final photo challenge of 2013. Thank you so much for continuing to play my reindeer games. I'm looking forward to what we will see through our lenses in the new year. Please scroll down for the first prompt, to be posted on New Year's Day!

My dog is a good traveler. Things were getting hairy in the car so he offered to take the wheel. I think he's a good example as we point ourselves toward 2014.

Mom's picture
Our Janet took this photo not knowing that a few hours later her mother would pass away. I am honored that she shared this memory with us.

Our Cindy is good at mindfulness. She works at it and that attention has paid off. I like to think of her stopping for a moment in an ordinary day to mark the sun's departure.

river burial
Our Bethany's boys gave a Viking funeral to a bird who passed away near their home. I think of his tiny pyre floating peacefully out onto the water and it's the perfect farewell to 2013.

I'm going simple with the 2014 kick off prompt. Let's make it GO!

Please enter by 9am Tuesday December 31st for posting on January 1st 2014 (!). Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and GO. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How We Did Today


Today, as you've probably heard, is the anniversary of the Newtown, CT shooting where 20 young children and 6 adults were murdered by a mentally unhealthy gunman using weapons with high capacity magazines. It's one of those horrors that, as much as you support changing the circumstances that made it, it's hard to feel...worthy of saying anything on the subject.

I will say this; I don't want it to happen again but I'm pretty sure it will.


By chance I honored the kids of Newtown both living and dead by spending time with one of my favorite kids. She towers over me but she's still, for me, a kid.


In years past we have gone to Macy's and visited Santa. She's 12 now. The possibility that she would want to visit Santa every year for the rest of her life was slim. I knew that.


Last year illness and busy-ness kept us from that tradition so we addressed the idea of change with a by-blow. This year she told her mother and me that she'd rather not do the Santa thing because it felt "kind of creepy." If you're uncomfortable it's no good. Carmencita suggested we meet for breakfast and see the tree at Rockefeller Center and maybe some store windows to give ourselves jolts of each other and holiday spirit.


Today dawned cold and snowy and as windy as you ever hope it not to be. The child woke cold and stormy and as reluctant as you ever hope her not to be. But we persevered (and nudged and cajoled) and we met and it turned out to be lovely. Turns out that if you cover the bridges and tunnels with snow (and fear) the crowds at all the attractions are much thinner. It was lovely!


As we stood in front of the tree taking selfies Alita continually, but genially, berated her mother. "Moms don't take selfies." "See? You don't even know how to do it." But when the shutter clicked she smiled every time. She's opinionated but she is in no way sullen. I appreciate that more than I can say. When she leaned her chin on my shoulder for our annual in-the-ornament shot in Bryant Park it was officially the perfect new tradition.

She makes me grateful. My heart goes out to the families of Newtown.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Humbly Submitted

Neil Kramer is kind of a blogging legend. I had the pleasure of meeting him in person this summer in Chicago and we had the nicest chat. That conversation gave me the inspiration to join in Neil's Eighth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert.

The rules state that one can post one's video on one's blog or on YouTube  or send Neil the audio file. I know how to do the first two but I'm not sure my files are small enough to email. Below please find the entry that Sara and I (and a couple of guys you may recognize) recorded last night. We did four versions. This is #2 of 4 but all 4 are on YouTube. I may work on sharpening my editing skills by making a gag reel from all the outtakes not included in those four versions but that won't be done before Neil's concert!

We had such a good time doing this. We already can't wait until next year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Am I Doing Wrong?!

Every time I work on video I remember that I'm related to a professional videographer and can't help but wonder if he shakes his head sadly when he sees my beginner efforts. I was just going to share this on social media to get feedback from my dog training-savvy friends but I decided to share it here as well because, who knows, maybe fresh eyes will see something.

A few years ago Ed and I took a tricks class and one of the tricks we worked on was skateboarding. He, of course, did super well but it was a short class so we only got as far as getting him to move with the board, sometimes getting three feet on. Only a couple of times has he ever had 3 feet on the board and pushed off with the 4th, which is the goal. I'm pretty sure that the hang up we haven't gotten over is due to the way I'm working. Maybe where I'm putting the treat is confusing, maybe where my body is placed is giving him conflicting cues, maybe it's something else.

Last night I finally took a little video of us practicing and cut together the "useful" bits into what you see below. I reduced the volume on most of the sound because I'm not really talking to him (is that the problem?!) and there was ambient noise* in the apartment but I haven't replaced it with anything else. I'd be interested to hear what you see and think but, of course, positive reinforcement suggestions only, please.

*I was watching Hill Street Blues. It holds up over time, truly a great series. You should go back and watch a bit of it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

10 Things About Snow

Winny & Sonny Loving the SnowIt's that time of year again. I think I can manage ten things!

1. It's the first "real" snow of the year.

2. I'm excited about it.

3. Wearing glasses in a snow shower is bullshit.

4. I remain firmly on Team Umbrellas Are Not For Snow (unless you have a baby in a front carrier and are protecting it because I'll forgive you the umbrella when you aren't running me over with your SUV-sized stroller).

5. Black ice is not just a hazard to vehicles.

6. Your boots may be waterproof but, depending on the temperature, there may be ice at the bottom of that puddle and I bet your pants aren't.

7. The snow is much prettier from 37 floors up.

8. I had the same number of people give me the stink eye for being late for work as I did ask me, "You don't get a snow day?"

9. I don't know if "smaller flakes mean more accumulation" is an old wives tale or not.

10. The dogs are loving the snow (see above).

Photo of my friend, W, and her dog, Sonny. He was so happy about the snow we could barely get him to sit still!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Feeling Understood

Present at CreatonThe holidays can be stressful. Over the course of this weekend I realized that the calm I was feeling was the fact that I haven't done anything toward completing my holiday tasks. Once the veil of ignorance was lifted my anxiety levels skyrocketed. At times like this it's the little things.

This morning I woke up to an email from Our Bethany. She recently returned from a family vacation with a new camera. Apparently in the middle of the night as she processed and uploaded her photos she thought of me.

"Just added a bunch of snake pics to my flickr feed, sorry!  Will be putting set links up on FB, so you can avoid those.  Telling you they're gorgeous really won't help, will it?"

It seems kind of silly, doesn't it? But if you're me it's living proof that Bethany knows me and cares about how I feel. She probably even knows that I know that being so frightened even by pictures of snakes makes me feel silly but it doesn't lessen the fear one little bit. When she was posting those pictures she thought about her audience and she spent a few minutes taking action.

It was a really kind thing to do. I am grateful on many levels.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

12 Long Years

I saw 12 Years A Slave yesterday. It's a true story based on the memoir of a free black man in the 1800s who was kidnapped and sold into slavery until his rescue 12 years later.

My movie going companion and I have had this flick on our list for a while but kept allowing ourselves to put it off. Earlier this week we put our viewing on the books and I insisted that we stick to it. My reasoning is that, as tough a watch as it is, it's an important story to see and to know. We could have read the book, I still might, but either way bearing witness to a first hand account of the truths of slavery in America is something we owe ourselves and our fellows. Racism isn't over and the more we know the better equipped we are for the necessary conversations.

So, obviously, those are all the reasons I think you should see it, too. Yes, there are physically graphic scenes. Yes, there are emotionally graphic ones. Yes, it's possible that you will feel wildly uncomfortable in your seat through much of the film. You should still go see it. Then you should come back and read the spoilers (below the row of asterisks) so we can discuss them. Before you see the movie this is all I want to say.

Oh, and one more thing, it's 133 minutes long. Don't be like the ladies sitting behind us and schedule something directly after the movie, not check the run time, and make a noisy exit 15 minutes from the end. Someone might stab you with an umbrella. Just sayin'.


Lupita Nyong'o is beautiful. She plays a character whose master is obsessed with her. As a result she is repeatedly physically injured in a variety of ways. Somehow, despite the injuries she remains stunning in a way that puts the audience in the position of her master. We can't help but love her no matter how broken she gets.

One of the injuries, well it's not just one injury but one instance of her being injured is a whipping. It is graphic on a lot of levels. It is wrenching for many characters but it is especially physically disgusting. I mean, that's what whipping does to a body. Remember when Mel Gibson made a movie about Christ and there was the extended flogging scene and people were vomiting in the theatres, fainting and having to be carried out, running out of the cinema traumatized? I've seen both. They are at least equally awful. Hear about anybody having any of these extreme reactions while watching 12 Years a Slave? Yeah, me neither.

Alfre Woodard has one scene and she deserves some kind of award. She plays a slave whose master fell in love with her and actually married her so she is mistress of the house with slaves of her own. She enjoys hosting slaves from other plantations for tea on Sabbath. She loves having people wait on her. She lived through all that they did, though. The actress rides a line of understanding that is both gorgeous and horrifying.

The movie is produced by Brad Pitt's company, Plan B. I'm often impressed by the choices his company makes. Pitt makes a short appearance late in the movie at a pivotal juncture. He is, basically, just being himself in some period clothes. It's distracting and I wish they'd made a different casting choice.

I wonder what it was like for all the actors to make this movie. It feels like one of the ones that could bring you to a place of insanity, having to live in that world every day.

A lot of people in the theatre reacted vocally to the movie. The reactions sounded, though, kind of exasperated. I'm pretty sure they weren't exasperated at the story but more at the fact that someone was "making" them watch it. I think that's telling about how we view the hard stuff. Nobody wanted to have to see something that we wished hadn't happened.

There was one black person in the room. It was an art cinema on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on a Friday afternoon. Of course the long time ticket takers are all black.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Photo Challenge: TOGETHER

We got some cute ones here, you guys. Enjoy! And please scroll down for the last challenge of 2013. Yes, really. I checked the calendar thrice to be sure.

Scooter Love @mrevolution42
It's a good thing Our Cindy and her beau are wearing helmets otherwise the abundance of cuteness might crack them over the noggins!

Table Manners
Our Lisa is a kind and tolerant mother, daughter-in-law, and cat minion. She and I are both impressed that her father-in-law allowed this sort of shenanigans and we thank him for the photo op.

I was afraid that, with all the extra security measures, people would be prevented from jumping onto the course and running alongside their friends for a block or two. I'm glad that didn't happen.

Our Janet was on a trip for her husband's first birthday since he took that title. This is what she and her traveling companions sent him to make up for her absence. If I know Dave he loved it. (Apologies for my inability to center video and for the fact that, due to other tech challenges her video is uploaded from my Flickr account. We just had to do what we had to do to get this into the challenge today!)

As this will be the last prompt of 2013 I'm going with FAREWELL. Keep in mind that I'm loose about this stuff. You can do FARE, you can do WELL, you can do FAREWELL, maybe WELL FARED, or anything else your crafty little brain comes up with. I'm open to crafty. I like it, even!

Please enter by 9am Tuesday December 17th for posting on December 18th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and FAREWELL. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The new appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Better Out Than In

ColdReading a friend's blog post I suddenly realized that I wasn't absorbing the words. I'd gone to a different place. It happened to be the place where someone said what feels like the worst thing ever said about me. I'm still not entirely sure why it was the worst but I know it must be the element of truth it contained.

A little later I was reading this post that was specifically geared toward Thanksgiving and that thing someone said about me came up again. It wasn't said on a holiday or by a family member but it had that same edge and certainly the longevity of one of those horrible family things that only scabs, never heals. I encourage you to read both of those posts and to remember that we might be on either side of the table in the latter. Then I hope you'll share the worst thing ever said about you (no attribution necessary) because, as many a grandmother has noted, better out than in.

"I'm not like that. I'm not made to be alone like you are."