Monday, September 16, 2013

"Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story"

The Astronaut Wives Club: A True StoryThe Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Started out so interesting. I was born in 1971 so some of this happened before my time, and I loved hearing the history from this point of view. However, as more wives are added it gets more confusing. I think the beginning is the best. By the time you add the 9 and then the 19 I couldn't keep track anymore. Who was separated at the beginning? Who had been divorced? Why did the kids say these 2 were in love when so-and-so had been cheating.

Like others said, this could have been a lot better. It really skipped around near the end and I got thoroughly confused. I'm glad these women got their stories out, but maybe it should have been done sooner and by someone else. Maybe Rene Carpenter would have written it better.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

New review for "Massachusetts, California, Timbuktu"

Massachusetts, California, TimbuktuMassachusetts, California, Timbuktu by Stephanie Rosenfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. As others said this is the story of a girl who has to take care of herself, her younger sister, and her mother who is emotionally unstable. The author starts her story in California and moves them to the Amherst/Northampton area of Massachusetts. There is a sub-story where the narrator is doing a school assignment. She writes a pioneer story moving her characters from east to west. I was tempted to skip over this sub-story until I realized how much it was ingrained in the main story.

I found this book because I was looking for a story that used western Massachusetts as it's location. So for me, a western Mass local, it was fun to read and see how the author mixed up real places and fictionalized them. If you know the area you will recognize that she took places that are in Northampton and put them in Amherst for example. There is of course the disclaimer that this is a book of fiction so yes, she can do as she wants and that's part of the fun for me of reading it. The author herself did live in the Amherst area while going to UMass Amherst so she has some familiarity with the area. She's also lived in California, and I don't know where else. So she was able to draw on her memories and experiences for the settings.

Second, I grew up with a dysfunctional mother and a younger sibling, like a lot of people did. Now my mother didn't do ALL the things that happened in this story, but she did do some of them. So I could really relate to the characters and as tough as it was to read, it was good writing. I cried more than once.

I read a library copy, but I plan to buy a used copy so I can go back to it at my leisure again and again.

From what I can tell, the author has only published one other book besides this one. I haven't read it. She has a unique voice and I really enjoyed her writing here.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Finished a rough draft

It's been a week and I haven't gotten around to mentioning... during July I managed to finish the first draft, a very ROUGH draft of the novel I've been working on for about two years. Oh I know there is a LOT to edit but at least the story is down on paper. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. And that is something!

Yay for Camp Nanowrimo for inspiring me to finish it!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Umass Construction Update

The Commonwealth College dorms are getting ready for the Fall semester and the utility construction continues to move along.

Meanwhile a yesterday and today comparison from behind South College.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Love my daughter for making healthy choices- A blog about "Feast"

At the risk of saying "Yes I am home alone with my kid twice a week," I'm going to cross-post this from another one of my blogs...

This story has two bits of background and I'm not really feeling as coherent as I'd like to be, but I'm going to share this with you all anyway.

1. On New Years Eve in our family we have a tradition. Hubby goes out to his friend's party and I stay home with our daughter. We've been doing this for about five years now, ever since we realized that it's impossible to bring her to the party. So this year I decided that since it is just her and I for supper we would have a picnic supper in my bedroom. This picnic is basically munchies. I set up a plate that was hers, a plate that was mine, and several things in the middle. We both have our favorite foods on our own plates and then we pick and choose from the others. Some might call it a buffet, or family-style eating. I called it a Feast.

Now my hubby goes out on Saturday nights and stays out late. I value this time as my mother-daughter time. Really it's only a couple of hours that she is awake usually. Just 5pm-bedtime. I'm not a night owl anyway. So sometimes on Saturday nights we will have Feast... again, the picnic on my bed with a variety of whatever we happen to have. There is very little cooking to these meals usually, although I'm not opposed to making something.

2. On Tuesday nights hubby has another commitment  which doesn't go as late. On Tuesdays our normal routine is that I pick up our daughter from school (or camp as it is this time of year) we do something like visit the local library or go to the mall or playground and then we meet up with hubby at McDs or the local diner for dinner. We eat together and then hubby goes off to his thing and I bring our daughter home. School/camp is the next day so I try to get her to bed close to her normal bedtime (I'm really horrible at getting her to bed on time!)

We have been doing this for at least two years now, since we became a 2-vehicle family in 2011 I think.

That's the back story if you will.

So.... yesterday afternoon I picked up my daughter and she says we are having Feast for dinner. "But what about daddy?" She doesn't care. So... we went to the mall and played some skeeball, walked up to Target to get a couple things, and came back to the arcade. Hubby shows up to surprise us (it is now 6pm) and we give him some hugs and kisses and then we left. Hubby in his direction, us in our direction. We had literally parked in different parking areas.  We went to the grocery store to get the ingredients we needed for our Feast--
2 apples
3 bananas (not for feast, just for later)
dinner rolls (for dessert, didn't eat them though)
turkey sub/grinder for me
and of course I had to pick up some non-Feast groceries too because I did actually need groceries.

So at home after I got everything put away, my daughter and I made this for dinner-

Her "plate"-
cut up cucumber (no seeds allowed!)
low-salt soy sauce (for cucumber dipping)
carrot sticks
small bowl of sliced almonds
cup of milk

My plate-
turkey grinder/sub/hoagie/whatever you call it where you live

Shared plates/bowls-
apples (neither of us actually ate them but they were there)
watermelon (we both ate)
chips (I ate some)
Doritos  (she ate)

Dessert was supposed to be dinner rolls with marshmellow fluff, but after dinner neither of us had any desire to eat dessert.

So all and all, a very healthy dinner for both of us. Yes mine wasn't as healthy as hers, but what a great kid to turn down a trip to McDs and eat this instead!!

Very proud of my 7-year old girl!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Random rambling

Had to stop for gas this morning before I went to work. Got the camera out as I drove down Route 116 toward Staples in Hadley. This was around 6:30am.

Beautiful morning, so perfect, and a wall of fog ahead of me blocking the view of the mountains.

On mornings like this I wish I could just keep driving, to the ocean, to the west coast, to Canada, to anywhere.

There was a time when I was in my 20s where I just about could (and sometimes did) as long as I got back in time to go to work in a day or two. Those days are long over of course, but mornings like this... so early, so peaceful.... man, I wish I wish I could just hit the gas pedal and go.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jury Duty and my poor neglected blogs

I realized this morning that it has been over a month since I've posted to my blogs. Sad. I need to be better about that. Unfortunately I have another Camp Nano starting next week, where once again I will be trying to make progress on that novel-in-progress. I'd like to finish the rough draft so that I can start something fresh for November. Then I could let it set for a while before coming back to edit it later on.

While I have been away from you readers, I had the chance to serve on jury duty. Even better, I happened to serve with a gifted journalist. He wrote about the experience and I just discovered the article online today.

For your reading pleasure, from Chris Collins, as published in The Recorder earlier this month on June 7th--

Thank you Chris.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Camp Nanowrimo wrap up

I didn't make it to 50,000 words but I did well. I am proud of myself. I am taking a short break, maybe a week or two, to do other things. Then I will get back to it. I promise.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Camp Nanowrimo

I posted my thoughts about what happened in Boston on another blog. I am not ignoring it. Just trying not to say the same thing over and over again.

As far as Camp Nanowrimo goes, I have not only done 10,000 words but I have passed 30,000 words. I'm even doing some editing. My new goal is to get 50,000 words this month, and maybe, maybe even finish this first draft. I'm already beginning to craft the ending in my head, but I still have some words to write between where I am now and that scene. Still, I have made much more progress than I expected and I am feeling pretty good about it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Quick update on my novel- NaNoWriMo project

Some of you may recall that back in November I was working on a novel. I have never actually attempted something this long before. I was very proud to reach my goal of 50,000 words that month. However, a novel is longer than that, and really I am not even sure if that is the halfway mark.

Well the folks over at have something called "Camp NaNoWriMo" for April where participants do a scaled down version. You can set your word count goal to be whatever you want. I've set mine low- 10,000 because that is more than I have managed to write during December, January, February, and March combined. I'm still working on the November project, and the last I checked I'm only on page 114 of this thing. I've got some new ideas though so I am hoping to make some more progress.

Sadly, although I asked for and got the Dragon Speaking software for my birthday, I haven't actually had time to learn how to use it so I'm still plugging away the old fashioned way- jotting down notes when I have time, and plugging things into my very large Google Doc when I'm ready. Like before, I actually have two files going. One is the actual novel, and the other is the notes and pieces. Sometimes I can actually copy and paste directly from the notes file into the novel, but mostly it's a place to jot down a quick idea or a link to a website for more ideas, and then follow up on those things later.

Anyway, "Whispering Hills" is still a work in progress, but hopefully in the midst of insanity that April is for me, I will make progress. Not expecting to complete it this month, although who knows? Anything could happen!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Photos of the farm

If you've ever clicked on the "Where is Clessonville?" tab, then you know it's a fictional place that references Buckland, MA. My father's family has lived in Buckland for many generations, and my maternal grandfather's family used to as well. My father still has a bit of a farm on Walnut Hill. I went for a visit on Sunday, which happened to be Easter. A calf was born on Saturday. Her name is Ester. She was one day old when I got to see her.  She will probably be the last calf born on the farm until next Spring.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Umass construction continues

I haven't posted about it in a while, but many construction projects are still continuing at UMass Amherst. The 7am arrival of the construction workers for the new dorm continues to happen every morning, and I also see their departure just after 3pm every day. The last project is at Dickinson, the former home of the Umass Police Department. I'm not sure what they are doing really, but they have had to dig up the ground all around at least 2 sides of the building. They also dug up the road during Spring Break. I wonder if maybe it is to hook up the utilities for the new dorms, but I don't really know. I can't imagine working in that building though, surrounded by construction. I'm not sure if any of the ROTC programs are still in there, or if it's used for classroom space or what. Air Force ROTC was in there but I can't tell if they still are.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I write

I write reviews on Tripadvisor.
I write for “Stories from Clessonville”.
I write for “Tari’s Steps”.
I write and photograph for “View from Lake Wyola”.
I write poetry.
I write short stories.
I write letters for my daughter.
I write editorials, that once or twice have even been published.
I am writing a novel even though I know it is junk.
I scatter my life story through the social media of Facebook.
I tweet when I can.
I don’t write letters enough.
I don’t write “thank you” enough, but I try.
I am a writer and a poet.
Always have been, always will be.

To my daughter- I hope some day you like to read.

Supreme Court hearing arguments regarding same-sex marriage

This stuff is important. Pay attention. Legalizing same-sex marriage on a national level is important. Worldwide would be wonderful, but we can't control the rest of the world. It has been legal in Massachusetts for ten years now, but it needs to be legal in the whole country. Everyone deserves it. Legalizing same sex marriage gives children and spouses the same rights that straight couples take for granted. Things like being able to visit in the hospital, family sick time, being a 2-parent family in the eyes of the IRS, adoption rights, and many many more that I can't even articulate without more coffee. It also means that the non-birth parent doesn't have to adopt his/her own child. That is something right there that I hadn't even wrapped my head around until just a few weeks ago.

It's good for families, and it needs to happen. I hope it happens soon.

Here's a good article on the current situation-

And she's gone

It's been a week now, since my neighbor passed away. On Monday, March 18th, just before the snow started she slipped away. I wrote about her a few months ago here:.

I didn't go to the candlelight vigil on Wednesday because I was sick with a cold that knocked me to sleep before suppertime. There is a memorial service on Saturday that I plan to attend. I don't think there will be a burial. Seems strange to me, but I have to accept it.

She was only 35 years old. Younger than me. Life can slip away too fast. A reminder to the rest of us to make today count. Don't procrastinate. Do IT, whatever IT is.

Cancer sucks.

Chance of Rain

"Chance of Rain"

The weather said “chance of rain”
I packed my umbrella and put on my sneakers
I was tired of my old winter boots
It is spring now, although still March.
I stepped outside into a snowstorm
and reached back in the door for my winter hat.
It is just getting light out as I reach my car
I take my camera out for a photograph.
Past the lake and up the hill it is still snowing.
In the center of town it is a blur of white.
I come down the other side
by the time I reach the bottom
the snow is only a memory.
Not a flake to be found anywhere.
I take off my hat finally and unzip my coat.
I step out of my car under a gray sky and continue on my way.

--Rebecca, March 26, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Broken but healing

Want a laugh? In the hopes of being a "good parent" I finally gave in to my daughter's pleas to go rollerskating. I even put on skates. Quads as a pro told me. I didn't go with blades, although a cooler parent told me I should have. Three hours of skate time we had. I fell hard 4 or 5 times. It wasn't the skating, it was the stopping. No, I didn't fall on ice. I fell rollerskating. I was excited for the calorie burn. Excited for the fitness points I would log on (check it out, it's free). I was not expecting to make a fool out of myself.

I thought maybe I would break a leg, but I wasn't a wuss. I was ready to set a good example for my daughter and get some winter exercise in, in a place that was warm and wouldn't hurt my lungs.

The next day I went to Urgent Care. My elbow was swollen (still is). My wrist hurt too. Left side, and I am a lefty. X-rays were done. Very painful x-rays. I cried from the pain and sat stunned when they were over. I couldn't turn my arm all the way (still can't).

A follow-up a week later and the wrist isn't broken, although probably sprained. The elbow is cracked though. It is holding itself together and that is a good thing. As far as injuries go, this could be a lot worse. It still takes time though.  It's been just over 2 weeks so far. Will be halfway to healed at the end of the week I hope. Another follow up is scheduled for the 18th. Probably more x-rays. I don't want to think what this is costing me in medical bills.

Anyway, I hope I will skate again, and when I do I will wear the protective gear so that hopefully I don't crack and break again.

Watch out Interskate 91 North! I will return!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

UMass History in the words of our current chancellor

We just got our usual "welcome to the new semester...." from the university chancellor. There are some interesting tidbits about UMass history in here so I thought I'd share it.:

Dear Campus Community,

Welcome to spring semester!

I invite you to share in my enthusiasm as we kick-off our 

For those of you who may not be familiar with the significance of our 
sesquicentennial, I offer a very short history lesson. 

In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Land 
Grant Act of 1862.  States were given federal land and the proceeds from 
the sale of that land were used to fund public colleges of agriculture 
and mechanical arts. These public institutions had what was then a 
radical vision: any deserving citizen, regardless of wealth or social 
status, should have access to a college degree.

One year later, the Massachusetts Agricultural College (MAC) opened its 
doors. The campus boasted 4 faculty members, 4 wooden buildings, and 56 
students. Like the other land-grant universities opening across the 
country, “Mass Aggie” would be guided by the core principles of teaching, 
research and engagement (service to the community).

Over the years, the campus continued to educate the citizenry of the 
Commonwealth, and to evolve and grow. In 1931, “Mass Aggie” became 
Massachusetts State College. By 1947, “Mass State” had become the 
University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Today, UMass Amherst is a nationally recognized public research 
university with an internationally renowned faculty.  Our student body, 
the brightest in our history, embarks on a journey defined by personal 
and intellectual growth across every discipline – and then some. Our 
campus of over 1,450 acres is undergoing a facilities renaissance.
Our emphasis on innovation is far reaching and has brought the university 
to heights beyond anything our founders could have anticipated 150 years 
ago: we are undeniably an engine for change. 

In the coming months, as we participate in sesquicentennial events on 
campus and learn more about our history, we will no doubt find that we 
have much to be proud of – and we will build on this pride as we move 
this great university into its next era. 

Best wishes for a productive semester and I look forward to seeing you 
about campus as we celebrate our 150th anniversary.


Kumble R. Subbaswamy

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Politics- gun control

I know gun control and the 2nd amendment is not a subject that my friend here agree on, and I'm not looking to start a debate. I wrote this as a Facebook status and I'm copying it here. Yesterday my husband had Active Threat training at work (I did it a long time ago). Today my daughter is going to have her 2nd Lockdown Drill at school. Obama is talking about using an Executive Order to take guns away from people who have proven they are law-abiding citizens and have gone through extensive background checks in order to have their gun permits. Personally, I do not feel very safe right now. Criminals do not care about laws. If Obama and the rest of you get what you want, then I am pretty much a dead woman because if anyone breaks into my little house out here in the woods then there won't be anything stopping a thief from becoming a murderer. At least now with my husband having a gun permit and a decent sized brain, we'd have a chance. I'm having lots of nightmares about what our future looks like in this country, and I worry for my daughter and the generations to come.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

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