Happy penguin

As good as life gets for a penguin.

I just heard the expression “Living Your Best Life” a couple of weeks ago and liked the sound of it—so catchy and original.  It referred to a U.S. senator who is not running for re-election and is therefore “living his best life” by saying exactly what he thinks.  Imagine that!  I did a little research into the phrase and learned that, as usual, I am late to the party.  The expression has not only been around a long time, it has achieved the status of a meme.  (I still can’t define “meme” with confidence but it sounds good.)

There are many descriptions of what it means to Live Your Best Life. WikiHow offers “14 steps (with Pictures).”  This is a bit much.  I don’t really need a picture of a “thumbs up” to understand “Staying Positive in Your Life.”  The ever-present Joel Osteen has trimmed the Best Life concept down to “Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential” but it will cost you $10 for the audio CD.  Buzz Feed’s advice is less spiritual and very practical, including getting enough sleep and being on time for appointments. As a bonus, BuzzFeed’s article includes a video of the adorable Lin Manuel Miranda dancing (as an illustration of “It’s more fun if you turn your cleaning chores into a dance party”).  Truly.

So what does Living Your Best Life really mean?  There are 113,000,000 responses on Google, so obviously it means many different things to lots of people.  For me, at this time in my life, there are the big reasons:  my family and friends, health;  and the small happinesses:  not having to wake up to an alarm, a comfy place to live, a cat who likes to settle down next to me wherever I am (as he is now, on the couch, in the living room). What does it mean to you?  Drop me a note.  I’d love to hear from you.

Photo by moi, South Georgia Island. 

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Woman leaping in the air.

Not my workout.

There are as many good reasons for not working out as there are for committing to an exercise regimen.  Among them:

  1. It’s fun to laze around in the mornings, read the news, play Words With Friends.  You understand—stop and smell the roses.  Enjoy the moment.
  2. Exercising can be painful—during and afterwards.
  3. Regular exercise requires not only effort but discipline.

On the other hand, the benefits are many:

  1. It feels good to be physically fit.
  2. Exercise is good for the brain as well as the body.
  3. It’s useful to maintain muscle strength.

The problem?  It’s easy to rationalize avoiding exercise. Who can argue with keeping up with old friends by talking on the phone instead?  Or vacuuming?  Surely vacuuming is good for the triceps.

Last week I once again began the “Seven-Minute Workout.” I was attracted to it a few years ago because it’s so short.  However, “short” doesn’t mean “easy.”  According to the New York Times, the workout “combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”  It alternates between exercises for the large muscles of the upper and lower body (30 seconds per exercise) with a ten-second rest between each. They are the longest 30 seconds and shortest 10 seconds I have ever experienced.  And the 30 minutes of panting afterwards doesn’t feel that great, either.

NOTE:  To keep it honest, after completing the above I went downstairs and did today’s 7-Minute Workout.  And now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to take a wee bit of Acetaminophen.

Have a good week!


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash.

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Pious Resolutions

When Benjamin Franklin was 20, he drew up a list of 13 Virtues, attributes he believed were worth striving for in order the live a righteous life. Ben Franklin was a genius, but at 20 years old, he was perhaps a wee bit too idealistic or at the very least inexperienced to understand that some of his thirteen virtues were unattainable, at least for most folks.

So here they are, with commentary:

  1.  Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. I sometimes have this argument with my husband—isn’t “elevation” part of the fun of drinking? Otherwise, why bother?
  2. Silence—Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. Silence is wonderful but occasionally “trifling conversation” is, as the lyrics of What a Wonderful World remind us, a way of saying, “I love you.”
  3. Order—Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. Okay by me.
  4. Resolution—Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. I like the “resolve” part but the performance part? Sometimes.
  5. Frugality—Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing. Okay by me, so long as doing good to myself includes new shoes.
  6. Industry—Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. Let’s remember that Ben was 20 when he wrote this.
  7. Sincerity–Of course.
  8. Justice– Absolutely.
  9. Moderation–Most of the time.
  10. Cleanliness–Who can argue with that?
  11. Tranquillity—Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. Easier said than done. Again, Ben was only 20.
  12. Chastity—Rarely use venery but for health or offspring. I had to look up venery; one definition is “sexual intercourse.” I guess it depends on what BF means by “health.”
  13. Imitate Jesus and Socrates. This is a reach.

Have a Good Week!

Photo by Chris Liverani via

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Sand, flower, hourglass

*The sands of time….

“Over time…” my dermatologist began last week, and I started to laugh. The good news was that over time, lots of spots and bumps appear that don’t amount to anything. The bad news is that things happen physically over time—or, as my brother says, “the wheels start coming off.” This is all I have to say on the subject of aging.

Time is on my mind because we are putting our Hartford condo on the market and I am—once again—clearing out belongings. Bill and I stood in our garage yesterday and looked up at all the boxes, suitcases and sports equipment on the shelves and he said, “This is a whole lifetime of stuff.” I don’t have any problem bidding adieu to the windshield scraper but it’s hard to give away the Kachina Doll that I bought for my son, then age 6, on vacation in New Mexico years ago. He doesn’t want it; I don’t want it either, except I want to keep the memory of that time so I’ll take a picture of it and then haul it and dozens of boxes of similar items to a donation center.

As I was making notes for this piece, I received a blog, “My Old Wheelbarrow,” from David Marsden, The Anxious Gardener. Coincidentally, this week he wrote about his attachment to things. He is a wonderful writer and photographer and even if you don’t give a fig about gardening, you can enjoy his blog about working in a large estate’s garden through the seasons and its changes over time.

And speaking of Overtime—how about that UConn vs. Notre Dame game? We rooted for the Huskies, of course, but despite their loss, it was a thrilling battle. Watching those young women work together, playing so skillfully yet in a way very different from college mens’ teams, I thought about what great examples of teamwork, hard work and self-confidence they are. I’m glad our granddaughter is growing up with their example.

Have a good week!

*Photo by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

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FACEBOOK: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

FB logo

f = friend or foe?

I have always been a little uneasy about Facebook because it seems to know more about me than I’ve intentionally revealed. At first I joined because I wanted to see what my kids and close friends were up to. This had the unintended consequence of revealing that only one of my adult kids ever uses FB; the eldest didn’t have the time or inclination and the youngest is a quasi-Luddite. On the other hand, I found that Facebook is a good way to reconnect with distant friends and family and to keep up with local friends who are too busy to get together. For a while, I enjoyed taking all those quizzes that reveal, on the basis of five questions, who my true soulmate is or which goddess I most resemble. Then someone tipped me off that these “clickbait” quizzes might be a way to make my FB information available for less benign uses. And now we find out our Facebook data has been shared (or stolen) for illegal purposes, like election-tampering.

I still haven’t made up my mind what I’m going to do but this Wall Street Journal article is the clearest explanation I’ve seen about how to secure (and eliminate) personal information you don’t want shared, how to take a hiatus from FB, or how to quit altogether.

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Beautiful hawk

I searched “Stephen Hawking” on the web for a free photo and this* is what I got!

It’s been one heck of a week in our world, what with deaths of some good people, firings of others, and a wealth of quotes that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Here are a few that characterized the week of March 12 to March 19, 2018 in the USA.

About mankind:
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.”
Stephen Hawking, British physicist and cosmologist, who died on March 14,2018 at the age of 76.

About the British Stephen Hawking:
“I would like to send my condolences to the Hawking family, we lost tremendous asset to our country and EDUCATIONAL system. A GREAT AMERICAN!”
–March 14 tweet by Donald J. Trump, President of the United States

About Andrew McCabe:
“Andrew McCabe FIRED…a great day for Democracy!”
–March 16 tweet by Donald J. Trump, President of the United States

About and to Donald Trump:
“You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.”
–March 17 tweet by John Brennan, former CIA director

To my friends who voted for Donald Trump:
I know you wanted change, much as some of you previously voted for Barack Obama—for hope and change. My hope is that you are dismayed by Donald Trump’s conduct as president and that you will continue to examine where our democracy is headed under this president and this Congress.
–March 19 note from me.

And on a happier note: a quote that makes me think of Lefty Kreh, one of my fly-fishing heroes, who died last week at the age of 93. I love fly-fishing, even when I don’t catch a thing, and so I love this quote:

“The charm of fishing  is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable,
a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
John Buchan

Come to think of it, that is the charm of democracy as well!


*Photo by Quentin Dr via Unsplash

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Catman watching snow leopard

CatmanDeux watching his distant relatives hunting.

This isn’t a shameless bid for more subscribers, only a notice that whatever I post about cats gets gazillions more “opens” than any other blog/essay, no matter how well reasoned, thoughtful and incisive. I would love to dish about last week’s astounding amount of breaking (and broken) news but nothing I say can would be nearly as entertaining as the facts themselves. So on to kitties. Last week Bill and I were watching Planet Earth and there was a segment about snow leopards. These lovely creatures were filmed climbing up and down cliff faces so there was a lot of movement that caught the attention of that our feline child-substitute CatmanDeux, who was watching the documentary intently.

When I posted his picture on Facebook I got lots and lots of  comments from friends old and new.  One of my nieces alerted me to videos FOR, not about, cats. Sure enough, there are hundreds of them listed by Google. I played what I believe to be the most enticing for the Catman—squirrels with twitching tails, chirping birds hopping along railings—but he was quickly bored. But put on a rerun of Planet Earth with David Attenborough’s breathy narration of the hunting strategies of the big cats and he is mesmerized, ears up and tail twitching.  Come to think of it, I’m pretty interested myself.  It’s a welcome break from cable news, Stormy Daniels and the president’s bragging about other kinds of “pussies.”

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trash bin

Emptying the Garbage.

I often spend the previous week thinking about what I will write for this Monday blog. I take a few notes, look up a couple of sources and let things marinate. By Saturday I have a pretty clear idea of what I will write. On Sunday I write the beginning, the end and reshape the middle. It’s kind of fun. However, these past two weeks I am having trouble focusing. Random thoughts appear, then are carried away, only to show up in an altered state. I’m sure this situation will correct itself after I empty the garbage, so come along with me as I sort through the bins.

I am a sucker for Clickbait despite whatever awful things might happen to my computer. A slide show of Twenty Celebrities Who Have Aged Horribly? I’m on it! Ten Flattering Hairstyles for Older Women? Sign me up! This morning I clicked through a slide show about an octopus a family rescued who returned to the beach the next day “to thank his rescuers.” I would like to see a citation (ala Adam Ruins Everything) that an “octopus thank you” is possible.

Who can resist cat videos? My favorite this week is the cat trying to pet a bird. Dogs make good subjects, too–especially the “guilty dog” videos.

Words and Phrases I Would Like to Eliminate From TV News
“Got out over his/her skis”

And by the way…..
“Less” does not mean “Fewer.”
“Literally” is seldom used correctly.

Television Advertisements and PSAs I Can Do Without
Any ad for prescription medication (without the dire warnings, there would be no narrative at all).

The brand new Public Service Announcements that show a man and woman talking at work, then he pretends to check out her earrings and instead kisses her neck, followed by the caption, “This is Sexual Harassment.” Do men really need such basic instructions? Truly?  I think they know it when they do it.

Have a good week and don’t forget to empty the garbage!

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Pinkish flower

Nobody sees a flower–really…

Nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small it takes time—we haven’t time—and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
–Georgia O’Keeffe

In the past two weeks I have spent time with old friends and it has been wonderful. One was Vivien, my first best friend; we met in Kindergarten 67 years ago and continued our friendship despite starting families, changing jobs and the distance between us (she lives in Switzerland). There was a lot to catch up on and even more to laugh about. I also spent time visiting a friend who was vacationing in Arizona. Bill and I met Joy and her husband, Larry, on a trip to the Galapagos ten years ago. We all got along so well that we took many trips in different parts of the world after that, then last summer Larry was killed by a falling tree and our concept of time changed.

Many of us view time in two contradictory ways. One is that we think we have all the time in the world to do this, go there, learn that. The other is that we feel pressed for time, so much so that we don’t stop to read a book, call a friend or “see a flower.” Not long before he died, Larry told his wife, in a different context, that “we need to ratchet up our hellos and goodbyes.” Nine months later, I think of that as a reminder to treat my friendships as I do my garden–that is, take the time tend to them.


Photo by Tavin Dotson courtesy of Unsplash.

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This past weekend I spent three hours with Photographer David Coleman, learning how to tell a story with a photo. Although I have always tried to do that, it is difficult. Coleman, who considers himself a storyteller, made it seem easy.

Here’s an attempt of mine from the past.

3 puffins on a rock

Three’s a crowd.

In this photo, I see two companionable puffins having a good time while ignoring the guy on the right, who can’t shut up. It takes a leap of imagination to find a story in this photo.

I came to photography late in life—that is, about five years ago. I wanted to share the experience with Bill (an excellent photographer since his youth) and also to give myself something to do while he was taking pictures. It became clear early on that a lot has changed since my first Brownie Starflash. You need to understand and use a lot of tools to take a technically good photo. On photo shoots, I carry with me a cheat sheet that explains how to deal with Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Without it, I would be lost. It is my version of Dumbo’s feather.

Enter David Coleman. Using Henri Cartier-Bresson as an inspiration, Coleman’s method of street photography emphasizes capturing “the decisive moment.” This is something I am good at recognizing but hadn’t been able to capture because I was forever fiddling with the settings and thus missed the moment. Settings still count, but Coleman’s are easy to remember and when the settings and scene align, the results can be very cool. If you want to learn more about his methods and classes, contact David Coleman here.

These are some shots I took yesterday.

Man looking angry.

Is that a camera?

The only story in this photo is that I captured the moment when the fishmonger discovered I was photographing him and I beat a quick retreat.

photo of people talking

Street photograph in Chinatown

In this picture, these folks were enjoying themselves and it was great fun to catch their interaction on a sunny day in Chinatown.

And then there’s this little fella, amusing himself by posing for me while he waits for the parade to start.

Little boy upside down

Hanging around in Chinatown.

Have a good week.


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