Everyday adventures

The Pedometer Broke*

April 30, 2012

At this time last week, I was eating breakfast at Tyger’s (the California Scramble: eggs, avocado, mushrooms, cheese and tomatoes—yum!) and reluctantly planning our final day in San Francisco. Laure Ferlita and I made the trek cross country to gather material for articles and scout subjects for a new online art class. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!

Even though I was born and raised in California, I’d never been to San Francisco for longer than an overnight stay with my sister-in-law about 15 years ago. I remember nothing about the city, except that we ate at an amazing restaurant where the chef cooked up some French fries (not on the menu) for my 2-year-old son so he’d have something to eat while the rest of us indulged in more grown-up cuisine.

I did some research beforehand, trying to make sense of the different neighborhoods (Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill, Haight-Ashbury, etc.) and how they fit together. The online travel boards agreed that having a car wasn’t necessary, that public transportation was readily available and reasonably priced, while parking and driving were headaches.

Well, yes and no. And yes. Public transport was available, but the size of the city made it difficult to get from location to location quickly—and while there is plenty of public transport, sometimes it’s a bit confusing to figure out which method will get you where you want to go (street car, cable car, bus or metro?) and how many hills you’ll have to climb in the meantime. (Being from flat Florida, we found even those hills described as having “gentle inclines” taxing to the cardiovascular system.)

We’d planned to rent a car for part of the visit anyway, hoping to get out of the city to Muir Woods or Point Reyes, and by the time we picked it up, we were ready to brave the traffic of San Francisco in order to see more in less time. The traffic was indeed headache-inducing and so was parking, but we managed. And no, we did not drive Lombard Street (known as the world’s crookedest street) but we did take pictures of the foolhardy brave folks who did. I did the driving and Laure the navigating, and I could not have done it without her. She also made a fine coach through what seemed to be constant parallel parking.

Even with the car, we still averaged around 10,000 steps a day, logging more than 16,000 on our busiest day. Some of the things we saw included (click to enlarge photos):


Fortune cookies being made at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company:

You can bring your own fortunes to be inserted into the cookies. We just bought a bag of already-assembled cookies. My fortune said, “Opportunity awaits you next Tuesday.” That was last Tuesday. I'm still waiting.

Brown velvet sea lions at Pier 39:

Life is good.
Japanese Tea Garden (located in Golden Gate Park):

They are not kidding. See below:

This garden has a real aura of peace and tranquility even if it’s busy with visitors. I'd come back here.

San Francisco Botanical Gardens (also located in Golden Gate Park), beautiful flowers and friendly squirrels:

Coit Tower/Fillbert Steps:

For some reason, the murals at Coit Tower, located on Telegraph Hill, charmed me. They were part of the Public Works of Art Project (under the New Deal) and are mostly done in fresco, according to Wikipedia.

"Old Man Weather"

Views from the hill are pretty spectacular:

Just steps away from Coit Tower, a hidden walkway and set of stairs winds between homes perched on the hill, giving us peeks into backyards and more beautiful views of the water (these are either the Filbert Steps or the Greenwich Street Stairs--I'm not sure which):

Wouldn't this make a wonderful place to write or paint?
Hope you’ll return Friday for part two of the San Francisco travelogue! We felt like we barely scratched the surface of what there was to see in the city. Have you ever been to San Francisco? What are your favorite memories?

*Not really—the battery just wore out!


7 x 7

April 27, 2012


Last week while I was out of town (more about that next week), Danielle at A Work in Progress tagged me with the 7 x 7 link award. So while I’m unpacking and organizing my photos and doing laundry, I’ll stop for a minute to complete this meme. Here are the instructions:

1. Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.
2. Link to a post you think fits the following categories: Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.
3. Pass this on to seven fellow bloggers.

1. Most of the bloggers are skipping this one, and there’s not much that nobody else knows (that I care to reveal, anyway!), but let me think… how about: though I don’t know if my shoulder tendonitis would permit it, I would like to learn how to fence—en garde!

2. Posts for the following categories:
Most Beautiful Piece: Personally, I like the dreamy feel of After the Rain.

Most Helpful Piece: The Good Enough Blog Post.

Most Popular Piece: Judging by number of comments, I’d say So Much More has been the most popular. 

Most Controversial Piece: I don’t “do” controversial—but maybe this one comes close? 

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece: The reading challenge posts last year here and here seemed to attract a lot of interest and comments.

Most Underrated Piece: Life Lessons from a Panda.  Not everyone likes to take their life lessons from cartoons…

Most Pride-worthy Piece: Discovery: Ellen Glasgow. I loved reading Barren Ground and researching Glasgow, and was proud of how this piece turned out.

I had fun reviewing nearly two and a half years of posts. Do you agree with my choices?

The seven bloggers I tag are:

Elizabeth at More to Love

Kathy at Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy

Michelle at A Reader’s Footprints

Sage at The Path of Possibility

Kelly at Red and the Peanut

Elizabeth at A Nature Art Journal

Don’t worry if you don’t want to play, and if you’re not mentioned and this meme sounds fun to you, consider yourself tagged also!



April 18, 2012

“Don’t ever forget that God speaks to us in pleasure, as well as challenges and growth pains. Our genuine desires and yearnings, they don’t feed the greed that is destroying our world if we keep listening.”
—Jennifer Louden, The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life


It Happened at the Post Office

April 16, 2012

It occurred to me as I was watching the last disc of the second season of Lark Rise to Candleford (more about that later) that a number of enjoyable books and movies are set in and around post offices. For instance:

Rita Mae Brown’s series of cozy mysteries starring Mary Minor Haristeen (“Harry”) and her animal companions, Mrs. Murphy (a cat) and Tucker (a Welsh corgi). In the first of the series, Wish You Were HereCrozet, VA postmistress Harry sets out to solve the mystery of who killed a wealthy local contractor. Her pets, and all the other animals in the books, communicate with each other and help to solve the crimes.

My new obsession favorite show is the afore-mentioned Lark Rise to Candleford, a BBC adaptation of Flora Thompson’s semi-autobiographical novels about the countryside of northeast Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, England. These stories were first published in the 1940s as Lark Rise, Over to Candleford and Candleford Green. (They're now printed as a trilogy in one volume.)

According to Wikipedia, Thompson writes in the third person, as narrator “Laura Timmins” and this device allows her to comment on the action without imposing herself into the work. I feel real affection for the show’s characters—young Laura, postmistress Dorcas Lane, Laura’s poor-but-noble family, even the gossipy Pratt sisters. Once I finish with the four seasons of the TV program (two down, two to go), I’m going to hunt up the novels themselves.

The Postmistress is set in both Cape Cod and Europe. The story follows three women affected in various ways by the war. Publisher’s Weekly described it like this: “Weaving together the stories of three very different women loosely tied to each other, debut novelist Blake takes readers back and forth between small town America and war-torn Europe in 1940. Single, 40-year-old postmistress Iris James and young newlywed Emma Trask are both new arrivals to Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod. While Iris and Emma go about their daily lives, they follow American reporter Frankie Bard on the radio as she delivers powerful and personal accounts from the London Blitz and elsewhere in Europe. While Trask waits for the return of her husband—a volunteer doctor stationed in England—James comes across a letter with valuable information that she chooses to hide.”

In the movie Dear God, a scam artist (Greg Kinnear) must perform community service in order to avoid a prison sentence. While working in the Dead Letter Office, “a mix-up with a letter addressed to God soon has Kinnear and his fellow employees sending gifts and goodwill to the needy,” according to the description on Amazon.com. This sweet movie also stars Laurie Metcalf and Tim Conway.

While looking up descriptions of Dear God and The Postmistress, I happened upon the following two titles, which I haven’t read:

The Post-Office Girl, by Stefan Zweig. Described as “an unexpected and haunting foray into noir fiction by one the masters of the psychological novel,” The Post-Office Girl follows the ups and downs of post office girl Christine, who works in a provincial Austrian post office while also caring for her sick mother.

Then there’s Charles Bukowski’s post office, the story of Henry Chinaski, a postman, whose “three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze and racetrack betting.” I’m not sure this one sounds appealing to me, but it’s described as a “classic.”

Why, I wonder, does the Post Office figure in these stories? Perhaps because the PO is the center of life in many small towns. The postmistresses (or masters) know everyone, and everyone’s business, and the threads of life seem to weave through the PO and out to every corner of the town. What do you think? Where have some of your favorite books been set?


Fantasy or Lies?

April 11, 2012

Photo courtesy Martijn Hendrickx

Some of us have more active fantasy lives than others, but all of us have them. Here Karin Gottshall, who lives in Vermont, shares a variety of loneliness that some of our readers may have experienced. [Introduction by Ted Koosner.]

More Lies

Sometimes I say I’m going to meet my sister at the café—
even though I have no sister—just because it’s such
a beautiful thing to say. I’ve always thought so, ever since

I read a novel in which two sisters were constantly meeting
in cafés. Today, for example, I walked alone
on the wet sidewalk, wearing my rain boots, expecting

someone might ask where I was headed. I bought
a steno pad and a watch battery, the store windows
fogged up. Rain in April is a kind of promise, and it costs

nothing. I carried a bag of books to the café and ordered
tea. I like a place that’s lit by lamps. I like a place
where you can hear people talk about small things,

like the difference between azure and cerulean,
and the price of tulips. It’s going down. I watched
someone who could be my sister walk in, shaking the rain

from her hair. I thought, even now florists are filling
their coolers with tulips, five dollars a bundle. All over
the city there are sisters. Any one of them could be mine.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Karin Gottshall, whose most recent book of poetry is Crocus, Fordham University Press, 2007. Poem reprinted from the New Ohio Review, No. 8, Fall 2010, by permission of Karin Gottshall and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

National Poetry Month

Why Read Poetry?

April 09, 2012

I like poetry—or at least I do when I take the time to read it. Every year I vow I’ll read more, and I make one or two purchases in hopeful expectation of doing so. I keep a small stack of poetry books by my bed, thinking that a poem or two taken at bedtime will be just the ticket. (Usually, however, I doze off while reading the latest novel I’ve checked out from the library and never get to that poem reading. Maybe I should do it first thing in the morning?)

Newest poetry purchases
I’ve decided that’s OK, though. I’m not going to make reading poetry into another “should.” And you *shouldn’t* either! Even David Orr, New York Times poetry critic and author of the book Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (a book I want to read) told NPR’s Linda Wertheimer, “I don’t know that people ought to bother. I think that poetry is one of those choices you make in life that’s…it’s not really susceptible to reasoning or arguments…. I think a better way to approach the question ‘why bother’ [to read poetry] is not to answer it—but rather just to say that if you do bother, it can be worthwhile.” 

So I’m not going to try to convince you to read poetry—but in honor of National Poetry Month, I am going to share with you a few ways you can make poetry part of your life, if you want to.

I continue to love American Life in Poetry with their weekly emailed poems (I post one here every other week), but you can also get a poem-a-day from Poets.org. 

To capture the poems (or parts of poems) you like, start a “commonplace book.” You can also add quotes and sayings that are meaningful to you, and end up with a beautiful and inspiring volume.

Start an online poem notebook here

Listen to poems read by their authors here or look for Poetry Speaks, a combination book and cd package, at your library or at a bookstore (or online). I found it thrilling to hear the voices of T.S. Eliot, Edna St. Vincent Millay and e.e. cummings reading their own work. 

Do you have a favorite poet or favorite poem? One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s A Line-Storm Song. I just love the lines: “Come over the hills and far with me,/ And be my love in the rain.” 

“The true test of poetry is sincerity and vitality. It is not rhyme, or metre, or subject. It is nothing in the world
but the soul of man as it really is.”
—Amy Lowell


Happiness Is

April 06, 2012

When I was in elementary school, my school produced the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (As a chorus member. I did understudy Lucy, but my friend Roxanne refused to get sick or break a leg so that I could assume the role.) One of my favorite songs from this play is, fittingly enough, “Happiness Is.” The lyrics, written by Clark Gesner, sweetly show how children know that it’s the simple, everyday things that bring happiness, things like: learning to whistle, two kinds of ice cream, five different crayons (obviously written in a simpler time!) or sharing a secret. (If you know the song, it’s playing in your head right now isn’t it? For those of you who don’t know it, click here.) 

There are plenty of things to be happy about in my life, and sure enough, plenty of them are simple. I made a list of some happy things—there’s some overlap with my list of 100 things I love, but it was a good reminder to me how simple happiness can be.

Here’s a partial listing of some of my happy things:

The smell of a horse.

The taste of chocolate.

Taking a nap, wrapped in a cozy blanket.

Slipping into a bed made with fresh sheets.

Sitting outside listening to birds sing.

Getting lost in a really good book.

Starting a new journal.

Waking up in the morning with a free day in front of me. (Yes, it happens, but only if I schedule it.)

Singing along with the car radio while driving with the sunroof open.

Go ahead and make your own list. Then come back here and share some of your happy things—I want to know what makes you happy!


What's So Ordinary About Ordinary?

April 04, 2012

“Heaven doesn’t rank courage, so why do we? Comparing the exploits of heroines, adventuresses, sky divers, explorers, and survivors diminishes every day’s profound feats. The ordinary stuns with soulful intensity.”
—Sarah Ban Breathnach, Romancing the Ordinary


The Importance of Mistakes

April 02, 2012

“The greatest mistake you can make in life
is to be continually fearing you will make one.”
―Elbert Hubbard

I’ll just tell you up front: I hate making mistakes. Actually, more accurately, I hate admitting I made a mistake.  I know this is holding me back in life—it makes me less likely to step outside my comfort zone, take risks and be honest with myself and others.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never
tried anything new.”
Albert Einstein

For me, there are a couple of levels of mistakes: The first I’m only a little bothered by: when I’m learning something new and therefore can’t be expected to “know it all” (yet), or when it involves something that doesn’t matter much to me. Mistakes like this seem “acceptable,” even to my perfectionistic little soul.

“Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom.”
—William Jordan

The second, more difficult level, involves mistakes made when I “should” know better or when something matters very much to me. In the first instance, when I make a mistake it only reinforces the fact that I am, indeed, human. (I don’t know why this is so difficult for me to feel comfortable with!) In the second instance, when it’s something that matters to me, the stakes seem higher. For example, I find it excruciatingly painful to admit I’ve made mistakes parenting, as I most certainly have. (And I especially have a hard time admitting this to my husband—why is that?!)

I seem to want to keep up a façade of being, if not perfect, at least nearly so. By this time in my life, I feel I should be competent, intelligent and accomplished.  The mistakes I make just show me how very far I have to go to be the person I want to be.

“Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience comes from bad judgment.”
—Rita Mae Brown

In theory, I know the importance of mistakes. I know that without risking mistakes, I will learn nothing, and completely cease any kind of creative or spiritual growth. Denying mistakes makes them impossible to correct, hiding mistakes simply causes them to grow.  It’s just the practice of accepting and admitting mistakes is so hard!

Maybe my resistance to admitting mistakes has something to do with my ongoing battle with perfectionism, with always wanting to do things “right,” with the sometimes impossible standards I aspire to. I simply can’t be a brilliant writer, loving wife and mother, caring friend, perfect homemaker…you get the idea. I’m afraid admitting a mistake in any of these areas only draws attention to the ways in which I believe I fall short.

I wish I had some profound lesson to share with you about how admitting my mistakes has made my life richer, but I’m just starting to see the extent of my resistance to this topic.  I can only tell you that this is now something I hope to stay aware of and work on.

How do you cope with mistakes? What have you learned from them?

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include
the freedom to make mistakes.”
—Mahatma Gandhi