NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 2

Sunday morning, Oct. 2: Left at 10 am. Silver was good all night (slept on the bed) and Sophy slept well. So did we, despite having a smoke smell in the room. Silver didn’t have a BM so I walked him on his kitty harness when we stop. Although he walked well and was super cute, he didn’t do anything. I guess he can hold it for a while longer. I offered him water in his kennel and gave Sophy some, too.

Went through lots of tunnels:

Blue Mountain

Kittatiny Mountain

Tuscarora Mountain

Allegheny Mountain

The views are beautiful but there is a low fog on everything. Bucolic. Pastoral. Like a Charles Wysocki puzzle.

Thinking in a couple of directions today – gratitude for the wonderful send-off by friends and family members, and concern about remaining logistics.

Before we left, we were able to visit some of our favorite places and see some of our favorite people again. One of our favorite places is the Raptor Trust, a sanctuary for injured and sick birds like falcons, hawks, owls, eagles, and ravens. The Raptor Trust is next to The Great Swamp, between Berkeley Heights and Morristown. I spend a lot of time there or driving through it, just enjoying how serene and beautiful it was.

I got to go out with several of my favorite work friends and they treated me so kindly. Their good wishes have buoyed me as we go through this tough journey.

I also spent time with dear friends that I knew from outside of work. I am so glad to have been able to visit with Don and Claire Kissil, just to name a couple.

As we get through more of these marathon days, my concerns are, for the most part, settling down. The dog is doing fine and the cat is not complaining at all.

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NJ to Oregon travelogue, day 1

Jim holding the bag
Jim holds a bag of our stuff so I can put on my seatbelt in our overloaded Corolla before heading to his mom Marilyn’s house. We would need to further downsize to begin our journey to Oregon.

Saturday, Oct. 1:

Got a late start around noon because we needed to cash the security deposit check and trim down what we are bringing with us. Heartfelt hugs with Marilyn and Jessica, who is staying a couple weeks and flying to Portland from DC.

Our feast at Troegs. I loved the beet-marinated deviled eggs and the margarita flatbread. He had the charcouterie and cheese plates, and spiced roasted almonds.

Silver was quiet and well behaved and used his litter box like a good boy. The cat pan liners are a win! So easy to clean up. He did not try to escape even once, and did not disturb Sophy. He seems to really enjoy staying at Marilyn’s home.

Sophy was also great. Happy to report no accidents.

We stopped in Bethlehem and visited Marge, Nick, Chris, Paul and Cherie. Nick said a prayer to wish us well, a gesture i found very touching.

It will be his birthday tomorrow and Marge’s on Oct. 3. I hope they have very happy birthdays.

We stopped at Cabela’s to get Jim a rain coat. It rained on us as we left the store.

Didn’t make much progress today but we stopped for the night at the Econolodge in Harrisburg then drove down to Troegs Brewery for dinner. We had Sophy in the car and Silver remained at the motel. All was well when we returned.

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Male-female duets remind me of ephemeral beauty

On waking this morning, I found that a song was living in my head. The song is “Dust to Dust” by The Civil Wars, a duo that is no longer together. Listen on Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/track/5P6ZBMWS66FVo6deJaDdHy.

The Civil Wars
Joy Williams and John Paul White, The Civil Wars, were an amazing duo.

I discovered this amazing group too late, it seems. The haunting acoustic melody has a stripped-down feel and perfectly showcases the incredible voices of Joy Williams and John Paul White. The lyrics are also amazing:

It’s not your eyes
It’s not what you say
It’s not your laughter that gives you away
You’re just lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long

All your actin’
Your thin disguise
All your perfectly delivered lies
They don’t fool me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn it down
Let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flame
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’ve held your head up
You’ve fought the fight
You bear the scars
You’ve done your time
Listen to me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn them down
And let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’re like a mirror, reflecting me
Takes one to know one, so take it from me
You’ve been lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long
We’ve been lonely
We’ve been lonely, too long

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? It seems to me sometimes that the older I get, the more kinds of loneliness and sadness I know. Is it because experience teaches us the many variations that life can bring? Or that we simply endure more as time goes on?

This isn’t a negative post – these emotions are simply part of the mix that goes with being a human. It’s how we see beauty for what it is.

Hopefully you listened to the song and agree with me about its beauty. Knowing that they broke up makes the song even more precious to me.

I have a playlist on Spotify titled “Male Female Duets,” because what I have experienced with The Civil Wars was also the case with so many others.

Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole’s duet, “Unforgettable,” is one of the best examples. The father/daughter blend of voices is silvery and perfect, making me wish they’d had years of recording together. Nat King Cole originally recorded the song in 1951. Natalie sang for the remastered duet in 1991 – twenty-six years after his death. Natalie died in 2015. Sigh.

If you want to hear my playlist on Spotify, it’s at https://play.spotify.com/user/sylectra/playlist/538pZ9JkUM6XjKyIiIhZt9. Maybe you can suggest some other wonderful duets to add?

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Big and tall clothing store needs an in-store makeover

I visited a men’s clothing store with my husband today. He was there to buy a suit for a job interview (he had lost weight and the old one was too big). My husband is a big AND tall guy – a real teddy bear type. He’s hard to buy clothes for.

Teddy Roosevelt. (Image source: Wikipedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Teddy_Roosevelt_portrait.jpg)

I had never been in one of these stores, and it was an awakening for me. The staff was friendly and helpful and the selection was fine. However, they were missing some key opportunities to sell more clothing. Here is my list:

  1. Store employees – all men – should wear something other than polo shirts and jeans. They should be demonstrating that big and tall men can look sharp with a little effort. How about showcasing some of the merchandise?
  2. When a husband and wife come in and explain they need a job interview suit that sets him apart from the usual fashion-challenged tech worker, it’s an invitation to take charge of the situation. Don’t simply go along with the husband’s suggestion of a black suit. Or do so, but also suggest another color that is not quite as….funereal.
  3. Design your store so that customers don’t have to brush against the racks of clothing or each other as they move around. Big people feel awkward about that stuff already.
  4. Be ready with options for tailoring. Don’t just admit that your store doesn’t have it. Offer to hem pants for free with a purchase over a certain amount. These men don’t want to spend any more time fussing over their clothes than absolutely necessary, and they probably waited until the last minute to make a purchase decision because they hate trying on clothes in stores.

Contrast this with my positive experience in a Lane Bryant. Employees there did these things right:

  1. The employees gave women a little emotional space in the dressing room area – they know we would like others to pretend we don’t exist while trying on clothes.
  2. They avoided commenting on clothing that customers were browsing with comments like “that’s very slimming, it would look great on you.”
  3. Store designers spaced the racks far apart to allow customers personal space.
  4. Employees (all women) dressed nicely in the fashions on display in the store and were not all a size 2.
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How my delivery of groceries saved me some energy – and the value of that

E-mail sent to A&P Fresh Online regarding a grocery delivery I received yesterday:

Hi, I just received my order – delivery service was timely and polite – thank you. I am wondering why you do so many substitutions? Of my 42 items ordered, 10 of them were substituted. Most of the substitutions were fine, but in a couple cases I didn’t agree with the choices. I know I selected “allow substitutions” – if I do not allow them, does that mean I would only get 32 of my 42 items?

How can I select items that are more likely to be in your inventory? Why does your inventory match up so poorly with what you are offering online?

If I keep allowing substitutions, how can I get substitutions that are more likely to be satisfactory? Should I choose middle of the road pricing to allow the packers more flexibility?

Thank you,

Sylvie Dale

What I was trying to do was not spend a lot of my precious energy picking out, bagging, loading in the car, unloading from the car, and putting away groceries. I find this to be an exhausting and thankless task and frankly, I hate it. Some people love picking out their food. Not me – that is, not if I have to shlep it repeatedly from place to place. So when my work schedule swelled because of a major project and the house ran completely out of food, I spent half an hour on a grocery shopping site and had the groceries delivered.

Logistically this worked well, because there is almost always someone at home to take delivery. But the substitutions they selected are enough to make me re-evaluate my decision. One-quarter of the items I selected were substituted – that seems kind of high, doesn’t it? I won’t bore you with granular details, but give you just two examples: for people who prefer white NY style cheddar, yellow cheddar just isn’t acceptable. Substituting a box of raisin bran for a box of bran flakes is not a great idea if I already ordered a box of raisin bran in the same order.  So I am looking for a way to use the shopping site smarter, so that I have fewer surprises when the food arrives. And I may try the other service, Pea Pod, to compare how they substitute.

I read an article by the Harvard Business Review that you should manage your energy, not your time. This is a concept that makes a lot of sense. When you’re working as smart as you possibly can, it’s time to look at your energy. You may not realize it, but little dribs and drabs of your time are being stolen away due to spotty attention span or fogginess caused by being tired. If you are fresh and rested, your ideas are more brilliant, your remarks more on point, and your work is much faster.

Multitasking, hailed in the 90s as a great way to get lots done, is now being understood as a time waster for some types of job roles. I am a trainer, so part of my time is spent developing curriculum in PowerPoint and also in an e-learning format. I must also keep track of student records and training schedules. These are tasks best done without interruptions, so it’s counter-productive (and tiring) to multitask when I do them.

I was a gardener when I lived in Oklahoma. I read about how plants do what they do and why, when you pick the dead flowers off a blooming plant, you can expect it to stay in bloom longer, and how sometimes a root-bound plant will flower better than one with plenty of wiggle room in the pot. It turns out we are like plants. We only have so much energy, and it gets channeled where we allow it to go. If we cut off an energy-wasting channel, like the pointless and aggravating task of grocery shopping, it naturally flows into the other channels that are still open, such as my work.

While the grocery delivery was not perfect, it did save me a lot of effort. Maybe A&P Online will give me some good pointers on how to use their system for best results.

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Injuries from running of bulls affirm my belief in human foolishness

Today I learned that 23 recently were injured in the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Some salient details from the USA article (link below for your perusal):
1. Two were gored and the rest injured in the actual stampede.
2.The stampede was caused by people falling and blocking the entrance to the ring, before the bulls arrived.
3. At least one of the steers that traditionally run with the bulls actually jumped over the people pile rather than bulldoze through them.
4. The stampede ended when someone opened another gate to the ring and the bulls ran away from the press of people.

What we should take away from this story is that it’s the humans who are to be feared, both for their savagery inherent in the design of such a spectacle, and their continued devotion to this spectacle.
Also, we should not underestimate the inherent foolishness of people as seen in their clumsy pileup at the entrance before the bulls even got there.
Finally, those who run with the bulls these days are neither as brave or as stupid as those who did 80 years ago. Gorings are rarely fatal nowadays, which is a shame, because there is less of a deterrent to participating in this cruel and stupid mob behavior.


Location:Watchung, NJ

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Mimsy thoughts while editing my email address book

One of the things I feel driven to do, at work or at home, is render order from chaos until something deep within me answers “Yes, it is now good.”  This is why I found myself, on a rare day off on the 4th of July, editing the duplicates out of my Gmail address book and adding my Apple contacts into that and eliminating the duplicates.

I love clean data. It allows you to have faith as you charge forth and generate charts for impatient bosses, or do hurried searches for your skin doctor, or look up the phone and address of your little brother who lives in Portland and is about to get married. Perhaps it is this imminent marriage of my 8-years-younger brother Alfredo which has me thinking in a mimsy way while editing my address book.

I love clean data and structure, but I also love the people whose names were flying by under my gaze. As I watched diligently for those names that were to go under the “Business” heading, I could not help but see the names of the people with whom I’d shared part of my life.

Start with those no longer with us, whose names I left in my address book for memory’s sake:

Louise Dale, mother, born in 1946, died in 2006 of cancer. Visionary, empath, kind soul to those who hurt and strive. Funeral included native American drumming and the presentation of an eagle feather to one undeserving daughter, the vicarious, accidental beneficiary of the joys of a life lived full of heart.

Jeanne Marcoux, grandmother, born in 1913, died in 2008 because she didn’t really want to outlive her daughter. Warned us for years that she would check out, and then did so after a nice breakfast in her favorite easy chair. Left me enough money to move my new family out of squalor and buy me an iPad which I stubbornly cling to, because it came from Grandma. Devotee to the digestive systems of all her daughters, granddaughter and grandson. Fudge and quilt maker extraordinaire. She did not understand her daughter’s death at age 60.

As I read and edited, I deleted the names of people whom I’d met a long time ago and, for whatever reason, with whom I had not kindled a friendship. It was with a sigh of regret for each person, though barely remembered. I knew I must have had at least one meaningful connection with them, to have put them in my address book. Like those unread books filling my bookshelves, I had hoped to eventually fill my days with their potential companionship. But now I know – time is limited and life is scant. Delete.

No one was deleted because I hate them now. That is no longer how I operate. Human beings are full of flaws and challenges. There is no room for contempt and no time for blocking out a potential meaningful contact.

Although I have plenty of confusion about the pain and sadness that still follows me, and bitterness does crop up, I am actively saying no to that way of thinking.

Reading through the names, I rekindled a profound sense of gratitude and warmth at some people who aren’t immediate family, but who nonetheless played an important role in my life. Here is a small sampling of a very large list of caring individuals:

The fellow editor from Tulsa who escaped to Florida after being a balm to my hurts as my mother slowly died. “That’s some shit,” she would say after listening. “Come over and I’ll get you drunk.”

The best, and longest-held friend I ever had, who I met when we were both age 4 (we are one month apart in age), who after so many twists and turns of our lives carried us along separate paths, showed up with her baby and husband at my mother’s funeral.

The fellow editor from Washington who I met at a scholarly society meeting, and who inspired me to understand what I needed now that my mother had died.

The cheery woman who greeted me in an online world where I was still a stranger and welcomed me with open arms, helping me understand how Second Life can embrace a lonely person.

The creative and welcoming man who encouraged others to play and create with him in Second Life, and who listened with genuine sympathy to my troubles.

The quirky boss I had at LexisNexus who taught me how to make a website show up higher in Google, and how to explain that to customers and negotiate in any situation.

The sweet young woman who I was friends with in junior college and who almost fell out of our friend’s truck when the door gave way unexpectedly, but without thinking I yanked her back in and shut the door.

A fellow college newspaper editor, a self-described hick who was funny and warm, who stood guard over me in the campus parking lot with a flashlight while I changed my car’s water pump (insisted on dong it myself, too, and he respected that).

The older couple I met at a small Quaker meeting, who did more to settle my heart and draw me into a new spiritual community than all the religious texts and other churches I had visited.

The Jewish friend who, with her lovely husband takes me to New York some Sundays, to visit museums and eat good food, or just to hang at her house and have inspired cheeses and wines and good conversations.

The kind doctor of physics who loves good beer as much as I do, played Dungeons & Dragons, and talks engagingly about science fiction.

Thank you all, and I hope you are part of my life for a long time to come.





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Why I love bees

I was a gardener once, and when I was out among my blossoms I enjoyed seeing the honeybees and bumble bees visiting the bright blooms, their sonorous buzzing all around me.

I can tell when they are happy by their buzzes. Low-pitched means contentment; high-pitched means irritation. They warn you for a while before they get serious.

But most of the time, they just buzz happily and work around you. I’ve actually bumped my forehead on a bumblebee once, and he didn’t even mind.

Bees like blue-colored flowers the best, but they’ve visited my zinnias, dahlias, gladiolus, lilies, and hibiscus almost as much as my anise hyssop, salvia, lavender, chamomile, and mint. I like to think of them making really tasty honey with all of those sweet scented herbs.

Bees are fun to photograph if you have patience and a decent camera. The average iPhone does and okay job, but for those amazing shots like the one in this article, you need a macro lens on a single lens reflex camera.

Bees are not mean at all, except perhaps killer bees. The only bee that ever hurt me was a dead one I stepped on. I’ve been stung by wasps, yellowjackets and hornets – but never bees.

And their honey is heavenly, especially when the hive’s main source of forage was orange blossoms or clover. My vegan friend Valerie once told me that eating honey is frowned upon by vegan purists, because you’re basically eating their food source for their young and wrecking their shelter. In addition, sometimes bees get stuck in the honey as you pull it out and can drown, which I agree is unfortunate.

There is always agave nectar, which is coming down in price as it becomes more popular. It’s kind of neutral in flavor, but maybe you can season it with orange juice.

Sadly, the world’s honeybees are in the fight of their lives: these little champions of pollination not only have to fly farther and farther to reach decent nectar sources because of human population growth and the desctruction of natural open spaces, they must also deal with a virulent new strain of deformed wing virus which is being rapidly spread by the parasitic Varroa mite. And this isn’t just a catastrophe for our little fuzzy friends – the U.S. has a $10-15 billion honey industry.

I remember two very remarkable bees on film. The first was “Invasion of the Bee Girls,” about women that turn into “bee women” and kill innocent men by having sex with them. They wore shades at night so men couldn’t see their scary compound eyes before they went in for the kill.

Invasion of the Bee Girls

My other favorite bee appearance is the Bee Twins from The Tick animated series. El Seed, a matador-esque animated sunflower, is trying to take over the world with these sexy bee henchwomen.

The Tick Bee Twins

Perhaps the most inspiring and quirky thing about bees is the bee dance. When they go out into the world and find this totally awesome stand of prickly pear cactus in full bloom, or a tea herb garden, they have a way of helping others get there.

When they get back to the hive and run into their buddy, they do this little “nectar dance” where they turn this way and that, frst clockwise, then counterclockwise, like a combination lock. This means something to the bee watching the show along the lines of “go tree tree tree tree turn right go tree tree tree turn left turn left go tree turn left turn left.”

There ya go. Don’t tell anyone else you know where the nectar is.

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Thoughts on hope

It’s Easter Sunday, a time we Christians look to for hope and joy as we reflect on Jesus’ journey and what it means for us. But I was not raised a Christian, although I began attending church when I was 13. So for me, the Easter holiday was always a little bewildering.

One thing I think about Christmas and Easter is that we gather to deliberately bring a little light and hope into the hearts of those we love.

Pastor Keith Wiseman at the First United Methodist Church in Big Spring, Texas, gave a wonderful sermon for Easter in about 1984, around the time I elected to be baptized and joined that church. I still hear his voice when I long for hope:

“Feed my sheep. Tend my lambs.”
“Faith, hope and love.”

For me, I cannot feel hope just because it’s Easter. Peeps and colored eggs are awesome, but that’s not a source of hope for me, and neither is reading about Christ being risen from the dead.

Heather stood up in my Quaker meeting today and said love is not an act, but a process. So true.

From my life experience, I understand that happy and sad things will happen in my life, and in my forties, I find the balance of events to have been sad.

Perhaps hope is a deliberate choice, like contentment. I have a harder time with it, though. There is a child within me that still cries out for reassurance that everything is going to be okay. And I am not good at providing that reassurance, having lost my mother and many others dear to me.

I see vast and wonderful potential in my stepkids, who are all teenagers. But I also know that they have already and will continue to experience many unfair and sad life events.

I have been worried about My husband’s back pain, because I see that it has struck him down in so many ways. So many things are now excruciatingly painful or just impossible for him. He doesn’t appear to have a good way forward back into health, and as he waits, his body suffers more and more. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of hopelessness yesterday while I sat with him. I told him I couldn’t feel any hope and that it was so painful to feel that despair.

He held my hand and looked me in the eyes, and told me that this was only temporary, that he would take steps to get better. Eventually I was able to take some hope from his assurance and let go of my cares for a time.

In thinking about hope this morning, the truth in my heart is that hope is a choice, just like happiness is a choice. And we must help each other to make that choice. And every day is a new day with new potential for both hope and despair, contentment and sadness.

Mom often said, “Sylvie, you get discouraged too easily! Stop defeating yourself with negative thoughts!” My reaction was frustration; I thought of her as being incurably Pollyanna-ish.

Years later, my boyfriend Rich told me while playing a game of Magic that I gave in to my despair too easily. He said it’s not over until it’s over, even when I m only a point away from a loss. I resolved to try to hang on a bit longer, and discovered I won at least half of the games I had found to be hopeless. This informed my thinking on hope.

I also remember my own experience listening to my heart when I feel despair. What I know is that there are certain things I know to do which give me hope if I do them. They are the small things that, taken together, could turn the situation eventually. In this way there is hope in the process and process in the hope.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Chatham, NJ

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Tunisian ‘morality cops’ make asses of themselves over topless feminist

A feminist protester in Tunisia who goes by ‘Amina’ has been going topless with provocative phrases written on her chest in Arabic. Lately she’s been inspiring death threats by the local moral authorities who worry that her behavior could spread.

It’s so chilling (and backwards) that Almi Adel, head of his little virtue club, is advocating savagely killing her for this nonviolent expression.

“Tunisian newspaper Kapitalis quoted the Wahabi Salafi preacher Almi Adel, who heads the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, saying: ‘The young lady should be punished according to sharia, with 80 to 100 lashes, but [because of] the severity of the act she has committed, she deserves be stoned to death.

‘Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women. It is therefore necessary to isolate [the incident]. I wish her to be healed.'”

So, viciously and painfully hurling rocks at a harmless female is healing? I think he’s cutting off his nose to spite his face.

The weird part is that because he feels honor bound to one-up her little rebellion, that makes me feel like all females in that country should rise up and make it understood just how much they are needed by the male half of the society.

These guys are behaving like thugs – bullies. Because they have more strength and savagery than a woman they believe that gives them the right to control, force, beat, whip, and stone their women with very little oversight or review.

The Commission for the ‘Promotion’ of Virtue and Prevention of Vice should be ashamed of themselves!! I hope they get leprosy and western hospitals refuse to treat them because they’re dangerous criminals.

Here’s the Huffington Post report

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