Monday, January 28, 2008

The Byline Moves to Wordpress

I've moved the Byline to Wordpress -- click here to follow me there, and don't forget to update your bookmarks and blogrolls!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sunday Scribblings-Miscellaneous

Helloooo....anybody out there?

Oh, there you are! How kind of you to stick around after I've rudely ignored you all for the entire week. I do apologize for neglecting this space - in all honesty, I've been a bit consumed with that
new blog of mine. You know how it is with fresh toys, they're new and exciting, and ever so much fun. That's how it is with Bookstack, and if you haven't been there yet, you should go! Really, you should.

But I promised myself I would not neglect the Byline. If Bookstack is my place to blog about all things bookish, well the Byline is for blogging about...well, everything else! All the miscellaneous and sundry things that happen in an American woman's Life in General. So thanks
Sunday Scribblings, for giving my muse a well needed push in the proper direction.

A couple of my
regular blog buddies have written about their efforts to incorporate exercise into their lives, and so I've been thinking a bit about "healthy lifestyles." We're on a bit of a health makeover at our house these days too, instigated largely by elevated cholesterol levels (both of us) and a recent diagnosis of pre-diabetes (just Jim).

I've had varying degrees of success with weight loss programs. Probably my most successful initiative was just after my son's birth, when I lost about 45 pounds, and then managed to drop an additional 15 over the next several years. But after midlife, I've found weight is much harder to lose. I get frustrated very easily at the lack of progress.

So, I'm approaching this a different way, trying to adopt better eating habits and an exercise program as part of an overall plan to improve general health and well being. (And who knows, perhaps I can trick my body into thinking I really don't care if it tones up or not.)

Yesterday morning, I went walking, and it felt wonderful! The air was cool and crisp, I was all alone so I could clip along at a good pace, swinging my arms merrily, watching the herons tiptoe around the edge of the ponds. Great stuff!

Along my route, I pass the community's fitness center, where stationary bikes and treadmills are arranged around the perimeter of a large bay window overlooking the main lake, providing a view of the sparkling water as you pedal or trudge away. From the corner of my eye, I can see legs busily pumping, arms swinging, wires from headphones trailing along in rhythm.

I've been one of those people on occasion. But you know, I sometimes think about the absurdity of the whole concept of "working out." Perhaps it's because I'm only one generation removed from farmer's, people who walked miles every day in the regular course of their daily life, who got plenty of upper body toning in scything and hoeing, and did their riding on horseback, actually going somewhere in the process. How they would stare in disbelief, my grandfathers, at these automatons in their shiny workout clothes!

And I think the only way an "exercise program" can work for me is if it comes naturally, is almost intrinsic, like walking or dancing. Bike riding is great, because it involves forward movement, and I like that-gives me the sensation that I'm doing a lot more than I really am. I have trouble with exercise equipment that just "stands still." I guess I'm not a stationary kind of girl.

I hope to keep up my walking and biking, although it's much more difficult in the frozen waste-oops, I mean wonderland-that is Michigan in winter. Harder yet is keeping my husband on a lean diet. Who would have believed a grown man could react so childishly to mashed potatoes and Oreo cookies (or more precisely, the lack thereof).

There, I think I've effectively taken a broom to the stray thoughts that have been circling in my mind, and gathered them up into a neat little pile for you to read.

Hope you enjoyed the miscellaney!


Monday, January 21, 2008

Working for A Living

Though I don't talk much about it, I do have a real job (other than reading blogs and penning these little morsels for your perusal). I work in a small office of medical case managers, and my job position morphs between technical writer/executive assistant/receptionist. My attitude about my job duties undergoes a similar course of shape shifting, although most of the time I enjoy them (well, perhaps that's not the right word). At least I find them pleasantly tolerable.

By far the best aspect of my job is the people I work with. In the six years that I've been here, we've seen a lot of personnel changes, but the core group that remains are really neat women. There are also some women who no longer work there, but that I continue to socialize with on a regular basis.

The owner of the company is a woman just slightly older than I - her two daughters work with her. There is no sense of entitlement about these young women, they are bright, energetic, and hard working. Oh sure, they get a few extra perks, but I'd do the same for my kids if I were able.

So, we have a good time at the office. We get our work done, we commiserate about our partners, we gossip about our clients (shh, don't tell!), we go out to eat once in a while. It's about the most fun you can have and still get paid.

What I'm getting around to saying is that I like working. And it's a good thing, really. I recently received a little statement from the Social Security Administration. You know, the one that tells you how much money you'll receive if you retire at age 62, age 65, and now, age 70.

Naturally, if you work until you're 70, you get a lot more money.


A couple of years ago, my dad went back to work. Nearly 80 years old at the time, and status post two angioplasties, back surgery, and most recently colon cancer followed by six weeks of chemo. He said he needed the money, and I really don't doubt it. The cost of living in Naples is pretty high, after all. But I was upset about it. The thought of an elderly man, once a respected and successful business owner, now working in Walmart to make a few extra bucks -well, it bothered me.

But you know what? After two years, I notice he's standing up straighter, his thoughts seem a lot sharper, he always has some stories to tell about how much better he could manage things over there (and I don't doubt he lets them know it either!) And I remember how much my dad loved working at his business, meeting people, getting the job done.

Sometimes, working is good. It keeps us motivated, helps maintain our sense of integrity, and gives us a feeling of accomplishment that's important to maintain, especially as we age.

While some might think -work until I'm 70?? No way!! I tend to think - work only until I'm 70??? What then?

How about you? How do you feel about your job and working for a living?


Sunday, January 20, 2008

If It's Sunday, It Must Be Jane

A reminder to all you Austenites - Masterpiece Theater airs Northanger Abbey tonight, the next episode in its series of Jane Austen novels. I don't believe this novel has ever been dramatized, at least not recently, so I'm anxious to see what they make of dear Catherine Morland and her Gothic fantasies.

And stop over at Bookstack before the show for a Jane Austen giveaway.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sunday Scribblings-Traveling Companions

While I'm not averse to traveling alone (and in fact often prefer my own company to being in a crowd of others) I've become more appreciative of good traveling companions, especially when setting off on a new journey. Two years ago, approaching a landmark birthday, I decided to embark on a creative journey, to take up the practice of writing once again. I ventured into the blog world, clueless and wide eyed, wandering aimlessly for a while through a totally foreign landscape.

Before long, however, I encountered the outstretched hands of fellow travelers, eager to share their own tales of the road and graciously enthusiastic as I offered mine. We've traveled quite companionably on this creative journey, never interfering in one another's plans, supportive of each one's desires, encouraging flagging spirits when the road gets rough.

Small gifts along the way have served to enhance our relationship, friendly notes, occasional packages and photos, and public recognition for faithful friendship and inspiration. This week I was fortunate to be gifted with two such gifts, both Bella and Marcia extending this lovely acknowledgement to me:

And so, in turn, I'd like to pass the honor along to some of my new traveling companions on this creative journey. I've just recently met these ladies, and I'm so glad our paths have crossed.

Sherry meets life head on with a joyous exuberance and enthusiasm, as well as a deep well of creativity, which she shares in both her daily blogs. Her posts and comments always stir my emotions with laughter or (sometimes) tears.

Bella Rum relates her experiences in caring for her aging father with compassion and a good dose of humor as well. She inspires me as I travel through this rather daunting task of caring for the elderly in my life;

June's pithy informative posts, gorgeous photography, and "on the mark" poetry always brighten my daily reading.

And a nod of thanks to everyone on my long list of daily reads, only about 1/3 of which are listed in the Byline's blogroll. (How do I ever get anything else done???) You all make the daily journey more interesting and satisfying.

Godspeed to each one of you.

for more tales of traveling companions, go here


Friday, January 18, 2008

Domestic Life

Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. The staples of domestic life. Whether you're single or attached, childless or parent to one or many, these things never go away, do they? Someone has to be in charge of keeping the home fires burning (once a very literal task requiring a body-usually female-to go from room to room and rekindle the flames in the fireplace or woodstove).

I've been "keeping house" for almost 32 years now - keeping the same house, actually, so we've both grown a bit frayed around the edges together. I'm not the world's greatest housekeeper - certainly nothing like my mother in law, who kept this house before me. She worked full time outside the home, yet devoted every spare remaining minute to cleaning. Washing windows, buffing the basment floor every Saturday, removing the light fixtures weekly. She was the type of woman who would make up my father in law's side of the bed if he got up in the night to go to the bathroom (and I'm almost not joking about that).

My mother was quite the homemaker too -it was her full time job from day one, and she took it seriously. When I was a toddler, my grandparents lived with us, and most of my memories are of my grandfather and I playing together while my mother and grandmother cooked, cleaned, and decorated.

Well, that sure isn't me. When I was younger, and the whole housekeeping thing was new, I was a lot fussier. I wasn't working outside my home at the time, so I had plenty of time and energy to invest in domestic life. But raising a child quite effectively cured my penchant for neatness, and I decided early on that it was better to play with my son than worry about whether the sink sparkled.

Nowdays, domestic life just plain makes me tired. It's so endlessly dreary - the same floors to sweep, the same furniture to dust, the same bric a brac to shuffle around from season to season.
And the grocery shopping-my god, don't even get me started on how much I hate the grocery shopping.

I have completely lost my heart for all of it.

One day not long ago, I was leaving my mother's house after one of our marathon trips to the market. It was a typical cold, wet, Michigan winter day. My sinuses were clogged, there were huge dark circles under my eyes, and I'm sure I resembled death warmed over.

My mother looked at me and I could see her eyes fill with tears.

"You know, I didn't want this for you," she said softly.

And it struck me that of course she had other plans for me, a bright child who came of age in an era when women were not only encouraged but expected to have more than a domestic life.
Perhaps she envisoned me a doctor or lawyer, with a large home and servants to do all the work for me. Or maybe she supposed I would live a single life, and be responsible for no one but myself.

For the first time, I wondered what her dreams for me might have been, for if she had them, she never shared them with me when I needed to hear them. And while she may have hoped my life would be different from hers, she wasn't able to help me see the potential, or allow me the freedom necessary to find it on my own.

And so I have lived a largely domestic life.

But though domesticity may have occupied a fair portion of my time, it has never been the essence of my existence, as it was for women of previous generations. For as long as I can remember, books, writing, music - those have been the things that fed my soul, irrespective of dust on the table tops or dishes in the sink.

How thankful I am, for that has been my oasis in the desert of domestic life.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Write on Wednesday-I Am Writer...Hear Me Roar!

My friend Michele at Writing the Cyber Highway honored me with this award, and I'm so pleased and grateful!

Of course, since Michele is all about encouraging aspiring writers, the award comes with an assignement. I'm supposed to share three writing tips that will make your writing powerful.

1) Keep a journal or a notebook of some kind and write in it every day. Writing "morning pages" each day are the way I jump start my writing. Sitting down every morning and writing whatever comes into my head is something like the warms up we do in choir, or the stretches a runner does before a marathon. Some days it's nothing but drivel, but other days, some really good ideas come out on the page.

2) Read fiction, poetry, biography, essay's. Find authors who inspire you, and study their descriptive techniques and the way they construct sentences, and create dialogue.

3) Write what you know, write what comes from your heart, from your experiences and feelings. That's the only way your writing will be meaningful to the people who read it.

So, how about you? What do you think it takes to make your writing roar?