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On “O” Rings, Dumping, and Speeding

19 Nov

Last night, “O” ring #20 failed. Snapped without a sound.

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Unlike those infamous “O” rings from the Challenger disaster, when this one failed, no one died.  Well, maybe no one died.

Or maybe someone did.   Continue reading

Home(s)ward Bound

2 Aug

Our family is heading to Boston this weekend on our first leg up to the island in Maine, where we’ll celebrate my father-in-law’s life and legacy. Apropos of Peter’s sense of humor, various family members have suggested that we give Peter a Viking funeral using his 18-ft. Interlake sailboat that we capsized last year in the around-the-island boat race;

BLI Race 2013 058

or bury his ashes with his beloved Mitsubishi convertible;


or send his ashes skyward with a hydrogen-filled balloon. This last one is a nonstarter for two reasons: hydrogen’s propensity to explode

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and environmental concerns about balloon detritus.

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Balloon misery

And we really don’t want to set fire to the boat, so maybe we’ll create a boat-shaped plot. 

In any event, Peter’s ashes will find their home on the island in the tiny cemetery where other island residents have been buried for many years. 

We’ll spend a little over two weeks in Maine with a stop in Salem, MA, the site of the infamous witch trials

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Beware of “Dangerous” Women

on our way back to Boston, and then head to Chicago to see a Cubs vs Giants game at Wrigley Field. The way things have been going for the Giants lately, the Cubs may actually stand a chance. Go Cubbies!

Then we’ll visit my family.

All this to say: I’ll be seeing you in September. Please do something wild and crazy while I’m gone! 

Photo: 123RF_ricardo38


Appalachian Trail Hikers on NPR

15 Jun

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about my husband’s cousins who are hiking the Appalachian Trail with their two children. The children were reciting from Moby Dick and Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled.” NPR caught wind of the family’s adventure and interviewed them on the trail.

While there was no recitation during the interview, everyone got a chance to have their say, including Cartwheel who told about the time they ran into some bears…

Continue reading

Moby Dick, Robert Frost, and Einstein on the Appalachian Trail

2 Jun

I’d like to introduce you to the Kallin family,

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my husband’s cousins who live in rural Maine. The father (trail name: All In) is an environmental lawyer and their mother (trail name: Mama Bear) is a biologist and farmer extraordinaire. They pulled their two kids, ages 7 (trail name: Cartwheel) and 9 (trail name: Robin Hood) out of school at the end of March to hike the Appalachian Trail from the southern tip in Georgia to the northernmost point in Maine, approximately 2,185 miles, the longest continuously marked footpath in the world. It should take them six months.

Along the way, they’ve been “trail schooling,” a more exciting version of home schooling. An example? One day they were observing cloud formations, noting the difference between cirrus, stratus, stratocumulous, cumulonimbus, and—

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Ominous. Yes, their education contains a certain amount of humor, including an observation from their father in a recent post:

Over these first two months of watching the kids draft behind other hikers, I’ve been working out my special theory of relativity. This is what I have so far:
E = m * (1 – 2c) ^ 2
Where ‘E’ is the kids’ energy level; ‘m’ is the miles per hour of the hiker in front of them; and ‘c’ is the degree of genetic relatedness they have with the hiker in front of them.

Thus, as c approaches zero, the kids have the energy to keep up with any hiker, but as c approaches 1/2 (the genetic relatedness between a parent and their child who always has half their genes), the kids’ energy level approaches zero. This special theory of relativity is still a work in progress, but in practice!while they might declare that they are too tired to hike when it is just the family, you will never hear such a complaint when they are drafting behind a non-parent.

One recent fine morning, the kids got up at the crack of dawn to hike with a fellow traveler (trail name: Wired, note that c=0) on a big mileage day. Along the way, she recorded Cartwheel reciting the opening page to Moby Dick and Robin Hood reciting Frost’s “A Road Less Traveled”—while walking uphill at a brisk pace. The sound of these young voices makes my heart sing! 





Not Just for Poets

3 Sep

“Halloooooooo!” says Tigger!

I’ve brought in a Caterpillar D-10

to move my email around after hiring a Caterpillar 797F off-road truck to haul it to my office.

My husband and son under the wheel of the Caterpillar truck hired to bring my email to my office

My husband and son under the           12,000 lb. wheel

Each wheel, attached to the axle with 47 nuts torqued to 2300 lb.-ft. each, costs $250,000.

Why, oh why, did I ever go on holiday?! Surely not just to visit the Caterpillar Museum in Peoria, Illinois?

No! We went on holiday to capsize a 19 foot Interlake sailboat in the 64 degree F waters of Muscungus Bay, Maine during an around the island boat race:

Ashore at Bremen Long Island in Muscungus Bay

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Captain and Crew – My husband and I are standing on rocks behind the boats after we swam (pulling the boat with the boys on top) ashore.

There IS a reason they call this sailboat a “lake” boat. It’s wicked fast in light winds but knocks over easily in gusts above 20 knots (especially if your young crew is intent on pulling aboard seaweed and squishing it all over themselves instead of manning the jib sheet). I had been soaked from the waist down since we buried the rail earlier in the race so I was suffering from a touch of hypothermia by the time we got to shore (half an hour) and were “rescued” by the race committee boat. The boys were warm, singing and dancing on the foredeck after their initial dousing. My husband has a little more insulation than I. He was fine.

I did read a few good books while away. I just reviewed The Artful Edit by Susan Bell over at Dogpatch Writers Collective.

But now I want to share with you another:

book cover

I’ve known about this book for years, but I had never read it. From the start:

“You’ll never be a poet [or fiction writer] until you realize that everything I say today and this quarter is wrong.”

I fell in love. I’ve underlined many phrases in this book, but the one that rings truest for me is this:

“I believe that it is only in periods when you can transcend your competitive instincts that you can write. A sound analogy could be made with hitting a baseball. If you concentrate on beating a particular pitcher, your chances of hitting him [meaning hitting one of his pitches] are not as good as they are if you can ignore him until he disappears and you can concentrate on the ball. “

Many, many other lovely quotes in this book. Some of the “advice” is helpful, most all of it is entertaining. The Triggering Town is a slim volume that can help your writing practice, or at least give you bellies of warm laughs–something to consider when you’ve got hypothermia.

So folks, I’m now doing to make my editor and other writers disappear as I concentrate on my work.

Nuggets from Squaw Valley Writers Workshop

24 Jul

Well, folks, I have returned from Squaw Valley, but I haven’t come down from my cloud–the one with a “9” painted on it.

My stellar morning workshop group sessions were led by Peter Steinberg (agent), Lynn Freed (novelist), Ann Close (Senior Editor at Knopf), Amanda Ward (novelist), Louis B. Jones (novelist), and Gail Tsukiyama (novelist), respectively, over the course of six days. The afternoon open workshops were led by Sands Hall (novelist/playwright/musician). I took an additional daily workshop called “Finding the Story” (writing therapy on steroids) from Gil Dennis (screenwriter), and I had my one-on-one critique with Greg Spatz (novelist/short story writer/musician) in the middle of the week.

Then there were the craft talks by Lynn Freed, Gil Dennis, Amy Tan, and Richard Ford, a host of afternoon panel discussions, faculty readings in the late afternoon and evenings, and the nothing-short-of-spectacular Squaw Follies (talent show) on the final evening. Imagine a show opening with a veterinarian-turned-writer/opera singer. Some people lay claim to all the talent. Couple that with other writers who can sing, Greg Spatz and his wife (Caridwen) playing bluegrass violin duets, and an evening-ending band, including the Spatz’s (Greg on guitar, Caridwen singing and playing the violin), Sands Hall and Chris Kiefer on guitars, Amy Tan playing the ukelele, and perhaps others I may have forgotten. The place was rockin’!

The one afternoon and evening we had free, a couple of other writers and I took the gondola from base camp (elevation 6200 ft) to high camp (elevation 8200 ft)–not for the faint of heart.


Another view once past the first peak tower.IMG_1970

At the top, we could see Lake Tahoe in the distance.


A furry marmot checked us out, most likely tired of people wandering through its territory.


On our way down, we stopped at Shirley Lake to dip our toes in the cool water.


We lost track of the trail quite often, and the standard trail map wasn’t that helpful. It was usually marked with paint on the occasional rock, but we missed several turns and had to keep retracing our steps. Lots of scrambling over rock faces during the descent.


Toward the bottom, we finally reached a series of water falls and had to dip our toes once again. Really an excuse to linger in the wildness of it all after sitting on our bums for the past five days. Four hours after we started, we staggered into base camp, thigh muscles all aquiver.

The sign at base camp greats everyone who enters the village. The tram/gondola building is the large concrete structure on the right.IMG_1984

My body and mind are still recovering. Stay tuned for more posts in the days/weeks to come. I’ll be on the road, visiting family during the next 5 weeks, but will try to post more about the Squaw Valley Community of Writers–with the emphasis on “community.”

Rishi Valley

15 Jan


My friend, Keri, and her daughter, Mina, are visiting India this month. Mina, a budding young writer, has started her own blog. Here’s one of her posts: Rishi Valley.

Write on!

xo, Jill

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