Sunday, December 25, 2011

As we move into a new year, I think about all that I left behind and all that lies ahead.  I flip through the yellowed pages of photo albums, memories of a time, a place and a lifetime.  I think about the past, the future, and the news I shared one August day, before the curtain came down, for good.  I think about the course I set in 2007.  A steadfast compass still points in that direction--destiny.  Onward I march, into a new year filled with promise.  Ring it in and bring it on!

Photo - My mother in Mexico, living life.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Excursions in Learning catalog is out for the K-2 classes I'll be teaching at Manchester Community College in February 2012.  We are going to learn a lot and we are going to have fun!

I noticed you can now listen to a published article in EBSCO.  I listened to my article about hiking a glacier and was quite amused at the pronunciation.  The article, by Linda Zieyack, was about a glacier in Wrangell "S" "T" (St.) and discussed fearn (firn).

I spent this past week trying to find answers to seven crit group questions.  My article is now done and I'm really pleased with it.  Hopefully, I'll get the opportunity to interview the scientist.  Next up is photo research for two articles.

I took this photograph back in early October at Hammonasset Beach, but I never got around to posting it.  These plovers were scurrying along the sand as mega waves smacked the shore.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Last week, I had additional things on my task list.  As if holiday shopping and five projects were not enough, I took care of a preteen and a cat all week.   Surprisingly, I got a lot done.  Since it saved time and gas, I ended up spending the week in another house and the time there was more like a writing retreat.  I didn't do much in the way of cooking and realized that cooking related tasks chew up a lot of time.  For some unknown reason, I was able to use the internet, but I couldn't email out, so I didn't spend any time writing emails (except the one day I went to the library).   I wrote an article and made some sizable revisions to another.

On Thursday, I spoke out at an Inland Wetlands meeting.  They probably don't hear this too often, but I brought up climate change and its impact on songbirds.  
 Potential effects of climate change on birds of the Northeast
 Projected Impacts of Climate and Land-Use Change on the Global Diversity of Birds
Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment
 2010 State of the Birds
Some birds have shifted their range northward (Audubon)
In this time, when the climate is changing and carbon dioxide and temperature are rising, why do we allow proposals that hack into water resources like wetlands?  

I got a new tripod about two months ago that I used to photograph the cardinals on the back deck.  It's lightweight and portable and should easily fit in my backpack.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm getting very adept at working on multiple things, something I could never have envisioned years ago. In addition to some photo research, I've currently got five projects in various stages of completion. Two are large projects and two are small. Lately, I'm yearning for closure on one long article, so I'm gravitating toward short quick writing. One article I'm writing is a really cute story that I've wanted to write about for a couple of years, the other is wildly exciting.

Now that the leaves are down, I am treated to gorgeous sunsets like this one. The tree limb that was hanging over the end of my driveway has been trimmed (a little too far!). The remnants of the oak tree remind me of a towering spear of asparagus.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I finally conquered the supply lists for my hands-on science classes in February. That took more time than I anticipated. It didn't help that I had some very specific brands in mind. When I couldn't find one product, it took me a while to find a suitable substitute. I know there is a big emphasis on teaching hands-on inquiry based science, but it's time consuming to put hands-on activities together. In addition to thinking up the activities you have to prepare and purchase materials. The time invested in preparation pays off because the classes are way more fun for kids than sitting through a straight lecture. Retention of the material is higher too.

After nearly a year, I finally received some positive feedback on some magazine work! There are so many things I want to write I've got to pick one and get moving.

Every fall, the crimson leaves of my Japanese Maple glow in the sunshine, but Storm Alfred forced them to do backbends. Note: the truck in the top photo is delivering my new fridge!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yesterday at the Connecticut Appalachian Club Annual Gathering, I spoke about climate change. The audience was engaged, answering my questions and at the same time asking plenty of their own. They were astounded during the hands-on science portion of the presentation. It was the same reaction I got when I demoed this presentation in front of a group of Toastmasters. Overall, it went well although I plan to tweak a few things next time.

At the Gathering, I enjoyed speaking with Russ from the Conservation Committee. He built a great display of energy saving devices that many people aren't aware of. It seems the biggest hurdle for AMC, the Climate Change Education Communication Group (formerly the CT Climate Change Education Committee) and myself is finding the proper channel to get information out to as many people as possible.

Today, I volunteered at the CT Children's Book Fair at the University of Connecticut. There was quite a crowd. I peeked in as Mo Willems was giving a dynamic presentation to a crowded room of kids. They had a great lineup of authors, Jane Yolen, Tomie DePaola, and David MacAulay to name a few.

Since I didn't take any photographs at either event this weekend, I will post more more on Storm Alfred. The October snowstorm sent trees limbs crashing down all over my neighbor's lawn. I was in the street when I took the third photo--and so was the tree. The storm left so many fallen limbs that now four foot high brush piles line the streets like fences. Despite the destruction some good came out of the storm. I love love love my new energy star refrigerator and we also picked up an LED camping light!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Last Saturday, a freak October snowstorm dumped heavy wet snow on gold and orange foliage. Tree limbs ripped. Power lines snapped. By the time the storm was over, one half of Connecticut (sliced diagonally) had lost power.

We got pummeled with thirteen inches of snow. On a street 2/5 of a mile long, the storm severed enough tree limbs to damage eight power lines. On Saturday at 9:15PM our power went out and we've been "camping" ever since.

Despite the challenges, I am forging ahead on three separate projects. Nightly, I read and write via booklight. Wifi at the jam-packed library is slow and often reaches capacity. Yesterday, I was in absolute heaven in a sunny cubicle at a less crowded university library.

I miss a hot shower and the freedom to do research at all hours. I like candle time and viewing the pock-marked moon and the stripes and moons of Jupiter through a telescope without any light pollution at all.

The downed wires in these photographs are all within walking distance. The second photograph is of the line connecting our house and the neighbors to the street. One extremely dangerous oak limb (bottom photograph) is hanging precariously over the spot we normally park one car. If that falls, it could kill someone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Yesterday, I was in Hartford for the National Science Teachers Association Conference. It's interesting to note that what I got out of presentations often differed dramatically from what I thought I'd get out of them. For instance, there was a workshop about how the NSTA committee picks award winning books that I thought might be depressing (I have lots of magazine articles!). It was excellent. I got a whole sheet of what reviewers look for in science books, things to think about when I write. They spoke highly and enthusiastically about their selections and mentioned subjects they rarely see. Another workshop about how we learn was quite interesting and material about standards made me feel like I'm right on target with my subject matter.

I could have spent more time in the exhibit hall where I entered a dark semi-spherical moonbounce structure, a digital starlab. The larva of a Mexican jumping bean trying to repair its broken bean captivated me for a long while. I viewed it with a microscope that worked like a computer mouse. As a kid, I had jumping beans.

I drove into Hartford on a raw rainy day and came home to find October snow on the back deck. Some of the stuff I got at the conference is in the top photograph. The thin sheets of antibacterial soap were really nouveau, although I surely contaminated them when I pulled them all out. Shhhh. It's my little secret. Anyone need some dirty soap?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey, New Hampshire

I pored over an outline this week. One chapter was too big and got split. That left me with a new question. Am I losing the story? I think I've got it under control.

Then I shifted gears to work on a chemistry article that needed more chemistry (heaven forbid!). I chose workshops and presentations for a conference next week. That task took a good 1.5 hours because there were so many choices to sift through. Today, I made copies of a brochure and an article that pertains to my talk. I will bring them to the Appalachian Mountain Club Annual Dinner on November12th.

I learned that Columbus Day is the busiest hiking day at Mt. Monadnock and that is clearly evident in the second photograph. Enroute to the summit, I stopped several times to admire the beauty around me. Amidst the sawtooth leaves of the mountain ash were clusters of Christmas berries. White birch, red berries, yellow and tangerine leaves were all framed against a bright blue sky. Simply stunning and I wasn't even at the peak.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Next February, I'll be teaching two three-hour hands-on inquiry based classes for K-2 at Manchester Community College:

Wolf Tales and Trails on February 4th from 9am-12pm

BH 101: Bear Hair Basics on February 11th from 9am-12pm

My outline for a new project is done. Or so I thought. It is so helpful to have another set of eyes, or two, on the material. I understand what I'm trying to convey, but I didn't write it for me. My writing friends loved the hook at the start, but thought the organization could use some adjustment. Hm.....

These photographs were taken at Misqamicut Beach in Rhode Island. The monarchs were flitting their wings in a strong wind. A few days later I read that migrating monarchs were spotted in New York City enroute to Mexico. It made me think of how much wind there is blowing across the ocean and how exhausting that trip must be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yesterday, I spent three hours at the university doing research. I came home with quite a stack of research papers on two topics. Now, I am enthusiastically diving into an outline on a fresh subject, readying it for review by my crit group.

Bolton Notch was a two-garter snake hike. This snake was the first and biggest of the two. As we approached the tree in the bottom photograph, I reached down and picked up a round nut. My friend said, "oh that's a horse chestnut." I looked at it and shook my head. "No, it's a hickory." When I turned to look at the bark, peeling like loose shingles, I knew for certain it was a hickory tree.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Research on a new topic is going well. Yesterday, I put together an outline. Today, I realized it's not quite right. One chapter actually happened before another, so things are getting shuffled a bit. I have SO many questions. What else is new?

A scientist emailed a research paper. I'm hoping the contents answer all my editor's questions enabling me to complete the final revisions.

At Valley Falls, we encountered this fallen tree that grew on top of a rock. It had a shallow root system making it easier to topple. The unusual butter-colored lichen reminded me of a frozen waterfall.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I decided to attend the NSTA conference. I couldn't pass it up because it's right here in CT. I won't need airfare or a hotel. As I reviewed their website, words from a wise editor echoed in my head. "Invest in yourself."

Was it worthwhile to become a member of NSTA? Spend $75 to save $5 on admission = no.
Should I go half day or full day? A full day was the better deal.
Which day should I go? That was real tough. It came down to either Thursday or Friday.
What do I want to get out of this? In order of priority:
1. I want to see a presentation by a writer/author to see what they are all about.
2. I want to hear about the standards
3. I want to see the exhibits, presentations and workshops

I've done some preliminary research on two new ideas. The one that is really exciting me came from Melanie's notebook from a college science course. INTERESTING stuff!

Last week, I hiked at Bolton Notch with my friends, Maureen and Emily. I showed them the tunnel, the cave, the flag rock, the cliffs, and the pond. It was the end of September and all three of us took off our shoes and socks and walked into the swimming hole (that was closed for the season) up to the bottoms of our pants (or shorts in my case). In the hot sun, the water was refreshing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When I first started writing nonfiction, it was all about research and writing. Now I find myself doing a whole host of tasks that I never realized were in the job description:

1. I will be speaking at the Appalachian Mountain Club Annual Dinner in November.
2. I am once again volunteering at the CT Children's Book Fair. This time, I may be in costume. Think Clifford.
3. I filled out course proposals for two 3-hour hands-on science classes that I've taught before (subject to approval). Before I completed the paperwork, I reviewed my supplies in the cellar just to make sure they were all there. Wow, did I ever prepare a LOT of stuff for those K-2 students.
4. I am contemplating going to the National Science Teachers Association conference in Hartford.

Moments ago, while Walt counted turkeys, I hid behind the Honda and tried to get pictures of them parading through the backyard, single file. It was an eleven turkey evening.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mount Higby, Middlefield

I will be speaking on November 12th in Cromwell, Connecticut, at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Annual Gathering. Click on workshops and schedule on the left side of their web page. The presentation evolved from an article I wrote for ChemMatters.

This week, I continued revising my latest chemistry article.  It was quick work when I finally realized what the editor had been looking for all along. He told me it would be published in February 2012.

These shots were taken last Sunday on a hike to Mount Higby. Mount Higby is in the background in the bottom photograph of my brother and I. With a wake the following day, it was hard to smile for that photograph. We parked at Guida's at the intersection of Route 66 and Route 147 in Middlefield.  It was a relatively easy hike along a traprock ridge with excellent vistas. I'd love to go back in a month or so and soak up the colors of autumn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's been a tough week. I'm dedicating this blog post to the memory of my mother.

She was an avid blog reader, but she only read one blog. Mine. After the early loss of my father, she raised 4 kids under the age of 6. Growing up, we heard over and over that we should take every opportunity because it won't happen again. That was the way she lived her life. She loved adventure, travel and her garden of flowers. I see myself in those words. Before she passed, I told her about an opportunity I had. She turned to look at me and her eyes widened with excitement. She will be missed!

I particularly like these photographs because, as my friend said, they show her living life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Monday was a day where I sat out front instead of out back and it did me a world of good. It sure helped to be on a dead end where there weren't many distractions. Was it the change in scenery, the backyard activity that was out of sight, the decision not to disrupt my thoughts with a visit to a nursing home (I went the following day) or was I just at that point in the process where the words came easier? I don't know, but I have learned that I write best when I'm relaxed, well rested, and not worried. Easier said than done sometimes.

That one day, I finished the article I was working on and fact-checked probably 85% of it! Woot!(added to the Oxford Dictionary this year). This morning, the Big Kahuna went out the door, but not without giving me plenty of grief beforehand. I made FIVE piddly-buns changes before shipping it out. I read a book once about people that died hiking Mount Washington. It was called Not Without Peril. Why does the title Not Without Grief come to mind?

This, BTW, is a Rose of Sharon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This whole week, pulling words out of me was like yanking a knotted skein of yarn. When I was pregnant with twins, knitting was about the only activity I could do during three months of bed rest. I would get up from my three hours of mandatory bed rest and go rake leaves.

Today, it took me all day to come up with 3.5 paragraphs at the start of the article, but they were 3.5 exceptionally good paragraphs. For some reason, I was working backward through the changes this time doing those that came last first. I finished a big chunk of these revisions already. The beginning was saved for the end because it needed a rewrite and I didn't have a clue. Not one clue.

I found this spider's web in the back yard. I was amazed at the spider who traveled from one rhododendron bush to another in a nearly horizontal line (bottom photograph). When I measured the distance, the spider silk stretched over nine feet across! There must have been a strong wind that day. That spider had a long walk home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The past few days have been filled with plenty of worrisome distracting things. Despite the hurricane's howling winds, I managed to chip away at some revisions to a chemistry article. The chips were about as big as 10X sugar, but that's besides the point. I posted a few photographs of the hurricane. We were lucky, we never lost power and there were only sticks and leaves all over the yard. Local damage was in the form of downed trees, power outages, roads blocked off, and traffic lights out. The eastern portion of CT got socked with major power outages and on the coast, a few houses slipped into the sea. EEK!

Also, I spent some time pointing out and trying to get to the route of my mother's increasing confusion. Some bozo prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. GET HER OFF OF THEM NOW! I think/hope they've got a handle on the problem now, but geesh, you REALLY have to watch in these rehab/nursing facilities.

I took another look at the large project that I'm itching to ditch. I did some minor tweaking, stuff like jacking up the font size by one increment and indenting one whole space on a few lines. I did find one word that needed to be replaced. That one word made it all worth my while. It was a place and it didn't match the place I listed in the rest of the material. Phew! Spared myself some embarrassment (wow, that's a first!).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Some times it's a challenge to get any work done as a writer. In the work for hire world you have five days to get your changes in. If you don't get them in on time, then you don't get more work. There was a time in my life that this may have worked for me, but not now. Take this week for example. There was an earthquake, a pulled lower back muscle, a vasovagal response, and a night in the emergency room. If that's not enough, two kids were dropped off at college and a hurricane is on its way. I can see the little note in my file, "forget this one!"

My big project is done and ready to ship out! I hope this one takes me places. A critically important email arrived last week and boy was I ever excited to get it!

There was a turkey convention in my backyard and I slept through it. Drat! The bottom photograph is Melanie's new roommate at college, a handsome fellow named Zach.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Last night, at 2:43AM, ideas came churning out. I was unable to find my small notebook, so I ended up going downstairs to write down this growing list. Forget about sleep after that.

The to-do list can be categorized as:
1) Chemistry Article
2) Presentation related
3) Other writing

It's pretty clear that this writing journey is taking me in a direction far different than most nonfiction writers. I like that. I think it's much harder to break into the field of narrative nonfiction and stay true to writing stories versus writing nonfiction not in a story format. After hearing about the work-for-hire scene, I came to the conclusion that from a financial standpoint, it seems to me that fiction rewards bestsellers or those with literary merit and nonfiction rewards speed. What's with that?

Here's a photograph of my niece on a hike at the Worcester Ecotarium. I think these fish were expecting some food, instead, on a very hot day, she dumped her water bottle in to give them a drink. How thoughtful. Needless to say, a little while later she mentioned she was thirsty.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I got my article back again for a second set of changes. Hopefully, I can come up with a better beginning. I am about 97% done with another large project I'm working on. I plan to ship it off on Labor Day with or without the pieces that will surely make it stronger. If I get all the pieces, it will be one small miracle.

Today, I volunteered to help at the NESCBWI conference next year. If it comes to fruition that would be great. A number of years ago, I volunteered, but was not needed. In 2010, I volunteered again, but oh what a year that was. A dump truck of really awful personal stuff unloaded as that conference was heating up. Like everything else, I have to keep on trying.

I came up with a great idea for another class for kids. I think (have to check on this) that it would be geared for middle school students.

We passed these bald eagles before entering the Worcester Ecotarium. Along the side of the cage, I was able to bypass double fencing and really get my camera lens between the chain links. Such a shame no one was there to stop me. Actually, the spot I was in was well worn so I wasn't the only one with that idea.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recently, I was reading an article in Discover magazine by esteemed NASW science writer Carl Zimmer. I was really drawn into the article by the gruesome action packed beginning. It got me thinking. I had an action packed beginning in my chemistry article, but the editor replaced it with a summary. I know the American Chemical Society does a lot of reader tests to get feedback. I'd really love them to test two versions of the article to see which captivates students more--the summarized start or the action packed start. Personally, I think a better place for a summary is in the extensive teacher's guide they produce with each issue.

In New York, I picked up another tidbit of information from a marketing class presented by Mary-Alice Moore of Boyds Mills Press who grew up in here in Connecticut. She mentioned that people spend too much time on blogs, reading and writing posts. I definitely think I do and I've made a conscious effort to cut back on my blogging and focus on writing and research. Instead of posting every other day, I'm cutting back to about twice a week.

It's been three weeks since my return from the workshop and I'm just now starting to feel like I can relax a bit. I still have pages of notes, hours of recordings and piles of books to pore over.

I could have watched the river otters at the Worcester Ecotarium all day long. They were so cute I couldn't stop snapping photographs. Here they look like they are kissing each other. Some day maybe I'll write about river otters and submit some of the better photographs I took.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I've been moving non-stop since my return from Chautauqua New York. The queue has been jam packed with things to keep me busy. Yesterday, I emailed a revised article, so that's out of the way. In Carolyn Yoder's session, From Research to the Printed Page, I learned that words taken from other sources usually cost money, so I asked about the excellent quotes I found in videos. I was told they are usually not allowed, so I removed them. That was disappointing. Next up, I'll be digging a fat envelope out of the cellar and dusting it off. I can't wait to get back to this one!

About a week ago, I took my niece to the Worcester Ecotarium for the day and took these photographs of a boa constrictor. The snake's dirty laundry is hanging in the bottom photograph.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Roger Tory Peterson Institute

One evening while at Chautauqua a bus whisked us away to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown New York where we had a barbeque (the salmon was yum). Roger Tory Peterson created the "Field Guide to Birds," first published in 1934. While we were at RTPI we had the option of taking an architectural tour of the building and/or a tour of the archives. Mark Baldwin of RTPI showed us one drawer of extinct birds and held up an Ivory Billed Woodpecker and a Passenger pigeon, both extinct. I couldn't help but think how exciting it would be to be let loose in those archives to open the drawers, examine the birds, turn them over in my hands and feel their tiny feet, but that was a no-no.

The photographs of bird artwork were Peterson's first and last illustrations. He died in 1996. The unfinished illustration left an impression on me. It was a stark reminder of how quickly and unexpected death can be. He was so passionate about his work that he was doing it until the day he died.

If you're interested in getting other writer's opinions of Chautauqua or RTPI, I've assembled a list of blog posts from friends I met there:

Marie Powell-Mendenhall - RTPI
Betsy Devany - how I landed in Oz
Kathy Mirkin - 10 reasons to attend
Gail Handler - The charm of Chautauqua

Here's a place to find information about Chautauqua 2011 alumni