Category Archives: people

New Latitude, Episode 3: Mouse in a Boat

If you follow “New Latitude,” my ongoing saga about moving, you were left with a cliffhanger last week. Would my mortgage application be approved? Well, the short answer is: Yes! It was!

But the long answer is: Yes … but I want to wait until I can get the COVID-19 vaccine before driving cross-country (or flying, if that’s what I decide to do) … which might be March or even later … so I don’t know yet when I can move … and I can’t even start packing yet!

I feel a little like a very small mouse in a fragile paper boat, about to set out on a wild journey without a compass, a paddle, or a companion (other than a slice of cheese). Actually, I don’t feel that way entirely, but the picture was so cute I decided to build my entire blog post around it! And in case you missed it the first time, here it is again!

Artist: Victoria Borodinova via Pixabay

In order to deal with the stormy seas of moving, I’ve discovered a few ways to stay afloat:

– music

– cooking

– TV-watching

– daily walks, and

– writing.

If you happen to be moving, remember to take a step back from all the planning and immerse yourself in something relaxing instead.

As far as writing goes, I’ve recently discovered a new Facebook group, “The Isolation Journals.” If you’re interested in writing prompts, or just want some interesting topics to ponder, you may want to join the group. It’s described as “an artist-led journaling community founded by Suleika Jaouad.” (Ms. Jaouad is a writer associated with musician Jon Batiste. I only know of her because I Googled Jon Batiste one night after watching him on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That’s another way I maintain my sanity. Watching The Late Show, that is. Not Googling. Although that helps, too.)

I dipped my toe in The Isolation Journals a bit late (not until prompt #123, actually). Here’s that prompt:

How can your presence enhance the growth of your community?

I hastily scribbled a response and posted it to the group. I’ve already received two likes. Hey, maybe Jon Batiste will read my post!

Do you keep a journal? Have you moved or are you moving? I’d love to hear about your journey.

Happy winter solstice, everyone! And be sure to follow my blog so you won’t miss the next exciting episode of “New Latitude”!

New Latitude, Episode 2: Do’s and Don’ts

Previously, on New Latitude:

After having moved from upstate New York to Tucson, Arizona seventeen years ago in search of a decent climate and better job, I’d come to a realization. I’d had my fill of blue skies. I was sick of sunsets that bathed the mountains in rosy hues each night. I hated wearing sandals in January. Authentic tacos were the worst. And all those darned hummingbirds! I longed for upstate New York, where the winters are brutal, the summers are humid and mosquito-filled, and there’s only one hummingbird – the ruby-throated – to identify, if it ever shows up at all.

Ruby-throated hummingbird. Image by Susan Killian @ Pixabay

No wait … none of that’s true, except for the first sentence. Rewind!

What I really meant to say was this: I’ve loved living in Tucson, but the pandemic had called a sudden halt to my regular flights back home to New York State to see my family. Who knew when I could travel there again? Call me loco, but I decided to relocate – to Rochester, where I’d be within a day’s drive of my entire immediate family. Sure, winters would be less than wonderful, but I could at least gaze upon my family’s frozen faces in person, instead of on a computer screen. Besides, the lease on my apartment was coming up for renewal. It was time for a new direction, so I took my first baby step: “Zillow-surfing.” 

And now for Episode 2: Do’s and Don’ts (of buying a house)

Zillow-surfing brought me up close and personal with hundreds of houses, without ever having to set foot in them. I got to see the good, the bad, the ugly, and in some cases, the dirty laundry. Through Zillow-surfing, I made some major decisions, like:

rent vs. buy

1 bath vs. 2

¼ acre vs. 10 acres and a barn

fenced yard backing up to private woods vs. unrestricted view of the auto body shop next door.

Image by Harald Dona @ Pixabay.

Once I’d narrowed my choices down, I started to get excited. But the more excited I became, the more impulsively I acted. I guess I got carried away and ignored common sense.

If you, too, are considering buying a home, here’s some unsolicited advice:

  1. DON’T rule out renting an apartment before buying a house you’ve seen only on the internet. Photoshop can give houses an instant makeover that’s even more amazing than the ones you’ve seen on Fixer Upper.
  2. DON’T cancel your Disney Channel and Hulu Plus subscriptions in the hopes these sacrifices will enable you to afford a house above your means. You’ll soon come to regret your decision, especially if you haven’t seen enough of “Cuomo Prime Time” or “Hamilton” yet.
  3. DON’T fool yourself into believing you’re a skilled negotiator. You’ll just be disappointed in yourself.
  4. DON’T buy a house in a “hot market” city, especially if it happens to be during a “seller’s market.”
  5. DON’T waive an engineering inspection.
  6. DON’T commit to making up the difference between the purchase price and the bank appraisal.
  7. DON’T mail a sizable deposit to the seller without confirming you’ve written the check on the correct bank account — the one with sufficient funds — and not the other one, the one with only $33 in it.
  8. DON’T buy a house in the winter and plan on leaving the house vacant until spring. Pipes in vacant homes have been known to freeze and burst.
  9. DON’T buy a house during a pandemic without knowing when a vaccine will be available. You’ll want protection while driving cross-country, and I’m not talking about a bodyguard (although that would be nice).
  10. DON’T buy an 8-foot couch and two recliners immediately before deciding to move.

By the way, I’m guilty of all of the above.

Image by Gerd Altmann @ Pixabay.

Oh, and DON’T hire a moving van without shopping around. Luckily, I HAVE been shopping around, and the estimates differ wildly — as in a low of $2,800, and a high of — don’t laugh — $14,000. That’s not a typo! “Two Men and a Truck” wanted to charge $12,000 to $14,000 to move a two-bedroom apartment. That must be some classy moving truck they have. And speaking of trucks, did they think I just fell off a turnip truck?

Yeah, those are pumpkins, not turnips. Good eye!
Image by Sweethearts82 @ Pixabay.

On the plus side, interest rates are low right now, so I took the plunge. I bid on a house, and my offer was accepted. And don’t worry, I think I got a sweet deal, an engineer looked at the house before I bid on it, the bank waived their appraisal, the check eventually cleared, and I’m hoping the vaccine will become available soon … for everyone’s sake.

Yes, moving is going to be a pain, and yet I feel good about my decision. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and DO some of the DON’Ts.

Tune in again next time for the next exciting episode of New Latitude, in which I’ll reveal the outcome of my mortgage application! (It’s still a mystery to me.)

New Video (Please Share)

November 3rd is fast approaching. On that evening, we may (or may not) know the results of the U.S. Presidential election. I’m hoping it’s a decisive landslide for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and that we Americans will not have to endure weeks of legal wrangling over who actually won.

More than anything, I hope we will never again have to endure the abuse of a donald j. trump Presidency. That’s right. I’m calling it abuse, and if you don’t agree with me, I’m sorry. You can always choose to unfollow this blog.

I don’t have to spell out what I’m talking about. You’ve seen his mocking, derisive speeches, you’ve read his Tweets. You’ve heard him joking about sexual assault, and you’ve been subject to his lies and denials, a.k.a. “gaslighting.”

You’ve heard him refer to bigots as “good people,” and to Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists. You’ve cringed when he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

You’ve watched while he intentionally exposed his staff to COVID-19. You’ve noticed as he’s ignored the more than 200,000 American deaths due to the pandemic, downplayed its severity (meaning more vulnerable people will contract it), and used racial slurs to describe it.

You’ve even heard him call himself “the chosen one.” If I sound angry, it’s because I am.

In recent days, I’ve tried to keep a semblance of a sense of humor by matching up song lyrics with current events. For example, on my Facebook page, I’ve referred to “Creep” by Radiohead and to “Paper Moon” by Harold Arlen. But my sense of humor is beginning to wear thin. In fact, I think I can see through it.

That’s why I feel it’s time to ask you, my dear 200-plus followers, to help me.

Please comment below, so we can commiserate together! We need each other more than ever in this strange new world, while we manage to get through the next 27 days without losing our minds.

And also, if you would be so kind, please give a listen to the new (and, I hope improved) version of my original song/video, 2020 (2.0). You may remember my post about it in 2018, but don’t bother listening to that one. I’ve since changed some of the lyrics, added strings and glockenspiel, and re-recorded the audio. The rap in the middle is now accompanied by written-out lyrics. You can sing and rap along with me!

I’d be extremely honored if you’d like it and share it with your friends. The purpose is to get a message out reminding and encouraging people in the U.S. to VOTE (like their lives depend on it, as Michelle Obama recently said).

The song is also fun to dance to.

Here’s the link again: 2020 (2.0)

Thank you.

Zooming and Blooming

Today’s post is about Zooming (video conferencing with my kids) and Blooming (photos I took about a month ago).

I haven’t been outside with my camera for several weeks, for fear of encountering someone on the trail who might sneeze on me. That actually happened to a friend of mine. Maybe my next batch of photos will be of the still life variety, taken indoors.

Let’s see … I could artfully arrange that pile of work folders that’s sitting on a stool in my living room. I might create a colorful collage from the pile of fabric rectangles stacked up next to my sewing machine. Or perhaps the world is ready for a sculpture I’ve created out of my pile of dirty laundry — the laundry I’m hesitant to do in the community laundry room. Then there’s my dwindling pile of toilet paper rolls … I really had better photograph it before it’s gone.

I’m doing okay, though. I just had a fun three-way video chat with my daughters. Tomorrow is the older one’s 40th birthday, so we celebrated by using Zoom. After the initially unsuccessful attempt at connecting, there we all finally were on the screen, looking like a pared-down version of the Brady Bunch (without the makeup, weird hairdos, or fake smiles). Well, in my case, I had put on a touch of makeup. They may have, too, but I couldn’t tell because they always look beautiful to me.

It wasn’t exactly the birthday party my daughter would have wanted, but it definitely made my day. I got to see with my own eyes how they’ve been coping during the pandemic, and it was reassuring. They even hilariously modeled their new masks, which they’ve made by cutting up the many pairs of leggings that they own, and making holes in them to place over their ears. It’s genius!

As always, they made me laugh, demonstrating how the stretchiness of the masks enables the wearer to quickly change them into long earrings, headbands, or a clever way to hide a double chin.

It was also a chance for me to visit with my grandsons. The 4-year-old (who tells his parents every day that he’s “so sick of the coronavirus”) said “I love you” (unprompted) and the almost 1-year-old smiled and waved and blew me an almost-kiss, touching his open palm to his mouth and holding it there for about 20 seconds. I have to say, it might have been one of the longest kisses I’ve ever received. It was definitely one of the best, anyway.

I hope you enjoy these photos of budding life and the promise of spring.

Bud 1Bud 2Bud 3Bud 5Bud 6

 

 

 

Learning Curve

It

was

early

in March,

nearly spring,

the season of hope,

and my grandson Elliot

would soon have a birthday —

his first. I couldn’t wait to see him.

I had my ticket. Flight 351. April 24.

 

Then, like a giant evil raptor, the pandemic

swooped in, wrecking havoc across continents.

The world was shocked. Thousands fell ill. Many died.

I cancelled my trip. Elliot would have to wait to see Grandma.

People are saying: “It feels like a sci-fi movie,” and “This is weird.”

Some say, “I’m scared,” or even, “It’s like living in the Twilight Zone.”

I watch the news. It’s real. I learn about mitigation and flattening the curve.

I live alone. The silence is deafening. When this is over, I think I’ll get a puppy.

 

We are in this together. We all buy wipes, wash our hands, stand six feet apart.

We cough into our elbows, sew masks, sing from windows, applaud helpers.

We call our parents, record funny songs, take up new hobbies, practice yoga.

We praise our essential workers. We send them big tips and free pizzas.

Our houses are spotless, our cupboards are bare. We’re okay with that.

We try to embrace love and deny fear. We don’t always succeed.

We check our wipes and toilet paper supplies on a daily basis.

We tell ourselves we’ll get through this. Most of us will.

 

When this is finally over, I will visit family.

There will be laughter, and also tears.

As for the rest of the world, will we

reflect on things? Will we know

what we did right? Appreciate

how we cooperated? Mend?

Will we ask ourselves

“What did we learn?

What

was

it?”


Written for Cheer Peppers as part of a daily writing prompt for the month of April.

From My Isolation Outpost to Yours

Greetings from Lori’s Isolation Outpost, otherwise known as my home office. My disembodied voice is coming to you through the wonders of a website called WordPress. It’s an apt name for a space that allows me to figuratively “press” you (as opposed to shaking your hand or otherwise coming within six feet of you).

Isolation Outpost is actually my spare bedroom. It has an old oaken table, a sewing table, a dresser, a keyboard, a guitar, and a fake oriental rug where I do a few exercises each morning. (OK, maybe not every morning.) This is where I do office-y things like writing and editing photos. It’s also where I do non-office-y things like online shopping, checking my Facebook page for likes, watching YouTube videos, and researching important topics like how to copy and send mp3 files via email. No home office deduction for me, not after the IRS sees this post, anyway.

I guess since this site’s called WordPress, it would be appropriate to have a Word of the Day. Well, in that case, my word for the day today is PALPITATION. My heart’s been going ker-thump and ker-thumpity thump on and off for about a week now — in fact it’s doing it as I type this sentence. Palpitations can be brought on by any number of conditions, but in my case, I’m pretty sure it’s stress.

You wouldn’t know it to see me. In fact, you wouldn’t even know it to BE me. I look, act, and FEEL very calm most of the time. But I have a feeling this pandemic is getting to me in insidious ways. It may be my new normal. But I’m going to fight it. I’ll reduce my coffee intake, I’ll meditate, I’ll go for a walk, and I’ll watch more comedy. Yes. That’s my plan, anyway.

And I’ll keep taking photos. Here’s a juvenile vermilion flycatcher. He looks pretty chill.

Juvenile Male Vermilion Flycatcher-4

Adult vermilion flycatchers are brilliant red. (I once wrote a song inspired by one.) Young males like the one shown above look like they’ve been partially dipped in a bucket of orange paint. This one’s spreading his tail feathers to sun himself. Maybe I’ll do that today — sun myself, that is. A walkabout in the Arizona sunshine would do my heart good. And maybe it’ll inspire another song!

Here’s a roadrunner I saw a few days ago, also sunning its tail feathers.

Road Runner Preening

He or she (hard to tell the difference) seemed very content to stand still and preen itself while I took its picture, although it did warn me to stay at least six feet away.

Whatever you do today, I hope it’s relaxing and good for your heart … and soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Jumble of Emotions

Dear friends,

HUGS.

cartoon-1296501_1280

I hope you are well.

To say I’m going through some weird feelings at the moment because of the pandemic is an understatement. It feels dystopian. Unreal.  It’s a little like the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some days, I experience all five. This post is going to be a jumble of emotions. So be it.

Two days ago, I think depression was winning. But I’ve been trying to cope by reading, writing, watching TV, going for walks, and taking photos. Here’s a cute black-tailed gnatcatcher I saw the other day :

Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher-2

I admire his optimism. I hope some of it rubs off on me.

I’m worried, especially when I think about those of you in parts of the world, and in my own country, who are struggling the most. Italy, New York City, nursing homes, hospitals. The unemployed, parents who need childcare, people in prisons, the homeless, the sick, the elders … it’s mind-boggling and I know we’re in for a long ride. I never imagined being here. None of us did.

And I’m sad because my family lives 2,000 miles away. I’ve even fantasized about driving there, sleeping in my car along the way so as to avoid hotel germs, and arriving on their doorsteps with sanitizer in hand (which I don’t actually have because the stores were out of it) … but I’d just be a possible carrier, adding to their problems, so it’s best if I stay away. (Which reminds me: Have you seen Mel Brooks’ video where he tells his son to “go home”?)

I guess I’ll have to rely on texting, calling, and even dreaming to stay in touch with family. I literally dreamed about my two young grandsons last night. They will each have a birthday that I will miss this year.

My city, Tucson, just closed all restaurants and bars today. I think take-out is still an option, but sadly, I’m sure that doesn’t apply to bars. Glad I stocked up on wine, but three bottles doesn’t seem like nearly enough now.

On the bright side, scientists, medical professionals, some political leaders, small businesses, ordinary people are actually pulling together and making sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.

And I’m actually pretty impressed with how many of us humans are acting humanely, and are even finding and spreading humor on the internet. Is there a reason that the words “human” and “humor” are so similar?

By the way, here’s what made me laugh today:

90357626_10156672820196326_781163901562650624_n

In the days to come, I hope to continue with my emotional outpourings. In the meantime, please let me know how you’re doing. Are you coping? Do you need a virtual shoulder to cry on? If so, I’m your person. Comment away.

 

 

 

 

20 x 20: A Chart to Inspire You

My friend has come up with a brilliant idea for the year 2020, and I think she should patent it. But since she hasn’t done that yet, I’ve stolen borrowed the concept — and today I’m passing it along to you, free of charge!

I’m calling it a 20 x 20 chart. Here’s how it came about: One day, my friend got to thinking about the year 2020. She liked the fact that it was a “double year.” Double years are rare. Since the year 1 C.E. (A.D.), double years have occurred only 20 times.

Yep, there’s 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, 1010, 1111, 1212, 1313, 1414, 1515, 1616, 1717, 1818, 1919, and 2020. (I admit it, I counted them. Duh.)

She especially liked how 2020 looks in Roman numerals (MMXX). Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and write out the other 19 double-digit years in Roman numerals. My brain hurts just thinking about it.

Anyway, my friend wanted to do something special in honor of the year 2020. She quickly discarded the idea of making one grandiose New Year’s resolution, since resolutions tend to get broken, and once that happens, that’s it for the year. Instead, she decided to do something more ongoing — and something she could actually accomplish. The result is her 20 x 20 spreadsheet, seen below. (Side 2 would have columns 11-20.)

20 x 20 Spreadsheet

At the top of each column, she wrote a mini-goal for herself (20 goals in all). Each goal was something challenging, yet do-able — to be done 20 times during the course of the year. (For example, “Write a letter to a friend.”) As she accomplishes each task, she places a check mark in the appropriate box. By year end, she should have 400 check marks.

I’ve decided to take the 20 x 20 plunge, and you may want to try it as well. If you do, I’d love to hear what challenges you’ve come up with. Here are mine. Remember: My goal is to do each one of these 20 times by December 31.

  1. Send a card to my grandson
  2. Learn to play a new song on guitar
  3. Watch a movie
  4. Read a children’s book
  5. Learn to say “I love you” in a new language
  6. Attend a yoga class
  7. Write a poem
  8. Learn the capital city of an African nation
  9. Write three things I am grateful for
  10.  Contribute food to the local Food Bank
  11. Listen to a classical music piece
  12. Watch a Ted Talk (5 of them in Spanish)
  13. Read an article about an artist whose work hangs in the Louvre
  14. Give up social media for a day
  15. Walk 12 miles (20 km) in a week
  16. Practice piano at least 20 minutes
  17. Try a new type of tea
  18. Read a short story
  19. Visit the gym
  20. Write a blog post

So far I’ve managed to check off 20 boxes — wait, 21, counting this blog post! Only 379 left to go. Hugs to my friend for inspiring me, and hugs to you for reading this. Happy 2020!

Oh My Gluten (Free)

My sister is flying across the country tomorrow to visit me. She’ll be staying with me for five whole days. YAY! I love family visits. I don’t get them very often, so I hope to make the most of it, with the usual food, fun, and frivolity.

She’s gluten-free (and I’m not), so that just adds to the fun of preparing for her stay. I’m not being sarcastic. I actually enjoyed my gluten-free scavenger hunt at Trader Joe’s tonight. I googled “Trader Joe’s gluten free” and found a list that included these yummy items. (I can’t wait to try that almond cashew macadamia drink.)

d2

For dessert, we can snack on Lara Bars. I love the cashew/date ones. I hope she leaves those for me. Actually, they’re the only ones I’ve tried. That lemon bar looks good right now. Hope I can wait till she gets here.

d6

I also bought some fruits and veggies, and made a centerpiece to welcome her into my home. Luckily, my sister gets my sense of humor.

d1

Is wine gluten-free? Oops. I just might have to consume these all by myself.

d4

I KNOW these aren’t gluten free. Impulse purchase!

d3

Tucson is an International City of Gastronomy, which means we’ll definitely be going out to sample some gluten-free tacos, tamales, burritos, salads, baked goods, and Margaritas while she’s in town. I’ve got my Best of Tucson issue on the coffee table so we can find all the best places.

d5

Needless to say, I might not be posting anything for the next five days. But after that, I just might have some food photos to share!

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This is post #5 (but who’s counting?) of NanoPoblano2019. Don’t know what NanoPoblano2019 is? Just click the link! It’s gluten-free, too!

 

A Little Play about a Little Prince

Have you read The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry?

(If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you stop reading this, go find a copy of The Little Prince, and read it. It’s much better than this blog. But then please come back!)

Do you have tears in your eyes now, the way I did tonight when I saw the stage production of The Little Prince? My eyes started watering with the VERY FIRST LINE and were still wet when the actors came out to take their bows.

IMG_6710

I’ll admit I’m a little biased. I’m a huge fan of the book, and I’m not alone. It’s sold 140 million copies worldwide, and it’s been translated into 300 languages and dialects.

In college, my very good friend Margo gave me the hardcover edition (shown above) as a gift. I love the book on its own merits, but also because it reminds me of Margo.

Several years ago, my daughter, Katie, gave me a Little Prince kitchen magnet.

IMG_6718

She also gave me some Little Prince postcards. I’ve got one of the cards tacked up on my wall at work.

The other day, I found a Little Prince plastic cup in my work mailbox. I asked around and found out it was from a teacher, Ms. S.,  who works there. “Ms. S. does things like that,” someone told me. “It must have been her.”

Sure enough, it was Ms. S.  “I noticed the card in your office,” she said. “I love The Little Prince. He’s been my inspiration for years. I even have a Little Prince tattoo!” Wow. That’s some serious inspiration.

The next day, a pair of Little Prince socks appeared in my work mailbox, from — guess who? Ms. S. strikes again! I wore them to the play tonight.

The character of the prince was played by seven different actors who took turns wearing his royal blue costume seen above. I don’t want to give away the plot, but this is perhaps the sweetest, most poignant story ever told.

The first line of the play, the one that made me start crying right off the bat, is this quote from the book:

“One truly sees with the heart; what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

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(This is post #2 for NanoPoblano2019.)

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