"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Other Activities

Okay, it's safe to come back. I am so over myself now.

My resumption of my writing life was, as ever, entirely humbling.

In connection with that, a week ago today I participated in the Writers' Day conference held on a university campus in the big city. Our splendid keynoter, Jane Yolen chose revision as her topic--one near and dear to my heart.

She presented the 3 R's (or Re's) of Revision: Re-examine, Re-order, and Re-fine.

Furthermore, she offered up a statement that truly spoke to me, because it's my guiding principle:

"All writers should be in a constant state of revision, in our work and in our lives."

In my work, the revision process is near and dear to my heart. For me, it's where the writing comes to life. It's also why I don't receive lengthy revision letters from my editors.

In my career--I go round telling people that the aspect of my job I like the most is the fact that re-invention (or as she said, revision) is always an option. For me, anyway, it's the least boring career I can think of.

As for revising my life--that happens on a regular basis as well. The events of November 7, 2006 spring immediately to mind.

In the course of the conference day, I attended 3 workshops, 2 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. First up was The Plot Thickens: How to Create and Sustain Compelling Fiction. The leader did a fine job, but the exercise was a bit frustrating. We broke into small groups to tangle with an assigned plot. Plotting by committee is very difficult.

Next up was The Art of the Interview: Digging Deeper for the Story. The presenter was a reporter from our state's NPR affiliate, and as a constant listener I'm very familiar with his work. I chose to attend this session thinking it might get me back into my journalism groove. The book I'm not yet currently writing is nonfiction and would involve interviewing. Dan has a lot of experience with highly-charged or emotional topics, which he discussed in addition to laying out the familiar basics of interviews. He led us through the development of his radio story about a very young local Marine killed in Iraq.

I also had a pleasant and informative chat with Dan when we sat at the same table during lunch break. One of those "worlds colliding" moments--he's also a political reporter, covering the State House. (Where I ran into him a couple of times during this busy legislative week.)

My last event of the day was Landscape and Character: A Great Relationship. And a great workshop! Diane Les Becquets was grounded in her approach to the topic and at the same inspirational. Again, there was a small group exercise, but this one worked fantastically well.

In the "worlds colliding" department, also participating in that session was somebody who lobbies at the State House and knew the Chap.

I didn't stay for the readings and stuff at the end of the day.

I'm having a nice, quiet Saturday morning, waiting for Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" to begin. Adam will be a panelist today. Possible spoiler: usually when he turns up, he goes away the winner. (Hope I haven't jinxed him!)

One more thing before signing off...if you don't care about Presidential politics, avert your eyes.

This morning I RSVP'd for a Breakfast with Barack Obama.

For weeks I've been awaiting an event rather more exclusive, and a venue more intimate than the usual university sports arena or high school gym. This one is for legislators only.

I'm taking my camera.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Debut on the House Floor

I expected to make my debut address within an hour or so after my posting here on Tuesday. As it transpired, I had to wait a further 25 hours.

After lunch break we got caught up in lengthy debates--the bill to ban dog racing took up most of our afternoon.

Here's one of adopted greyhounds that greeted me on my way to Reps Hall.

And some pro-greyhound, anti-dog racing folks--plus a chihuahua. Dogs of other breeds showed up in support of their greyhound cousins!

They were far outnumbered by the people drawn there by our Judiciary bills. Most of the sign-carriers favored constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man-one woman, and opposed any civil union or similar legislation. They were loud and I heard they confronted legislators on their way in.

I took the above shot while sneaking around to the side door, concealed by shrubbery. The better part of Valour!

The dog racing bill failed, as did an amendment which I personally found very palatable.

Eventually we became mired in other bills from Environment & Agriculture, then knocked off a few Finance bills until we recessed at 7:10 p.m. The Chap had a nonprofit board Meeting, when he arrived at the Lodge shortly after we had a late dinner together. All night I continued editing and refining my speech, which I expected to be giving first thing on Wednesday.

Such was not the case. The remaining Finance bills passed on a voice vote. We picked up some Environmental and Agriculture bills we'd postponed from the previous day.

Just when Fish & Game was (finally) in the on-deck circle, a member rose to move special ordering of the extremely combustible resolution opposing the continuance of the Iraq War, which was way, way down our list in the State-Federal Relations & Veterans' Affairs section. In addition to requesting that the government bring our adventure in Iraq to a conclusion, it also demanded full funding of veterans benefits (medical and otherwise) and affirmed support of the troops.

The reason for moving the bill up: half-a-dozen uniformed soldiers from a National Guard unit that served in Iraq were present in the gallery. Opponents of the bill wanted us to act on it in their presence.

Needless to say, it was a protracted and very emotional debate, lasting hours. Ultimately the resolution passed, unamended and in its original form, pretty much on party lines. Then the minority rose in formal protest, with members marching to the well and making a verbal denunciation as they handed over a printed protest. (This was planned in advance, obviously.)

The resolution is non-binding, of course--our state can't really expect the Congress and the President to do or not do anything. It falls in the "send a message to Washington" category. And because so many in the majority party feel they won their seats as a protest vote against the war and the Administration, they wanted to assure their constituents of a shared view that an end is necessary sooner than later.

We broke for lunch, giving me even more time to polish my speech, and returned at 2:00.

Next in line--the one and only Fish & Game bill.

I stood with my Chairman against the wall next to the open windows--ah, that cool breeze--and waited for Madam Speaker to call on me. I assumed I would come early in the line-up. Two people spoke in favour of the legislation. Another committee member spoke against it. Surely I was next....

No. The primary sponsor came forward, carrying books, proof that we were in for a lengthy address. He has a very histrionic style, and in fact likes to give long history lessons in making his points. We heard about Louis XIV and Peter the Great. Brilliant and energetic in his oration, he's very controversial in his own right. And seems to relish it.

And waiting on the sidelines was little me, conscious of the fact that there's only one first time for anything. I knew my big moment at the microphone would be memorable only to me. I didn't want to blow it. I didn't think I would. I felt so ready, so prepared, that my only nervousness was the good kind--anticipatory rather than fearful. All weekend I had wrestled with the decision to speak at all. Once my mind was made up, I was determined to do my very best, to support my committee in their difficult but in my view, perfectly reasonable and correct decision. I looked forward to explaining it to my colleagues.

After the representative finished, the Speaker announced that there was one more speaker (who, at this point, could only be me). She also announced that there would be a roll call vote and would members please make their way to their seats.

I could practically hear the planets aligning for me. All those who had drifted out during the preceding rant and world history lesson entered the Hall as I began. The term "captive audience" comes to mind.

In taking on a task, I strive to do it well, and more important, do it effectively. I am fully satisfied that I met my own high standards.

I know this because even before the roll call vote, I got a "Good job!" from my Chairman.

I know this because the decision was 224-117 against the bill. That's based on my memory, I didn't write it down and the journal of the session hasn't been produced yet. It's a much broader margin than our committee dared to hope for.

I know this because afterwards, members from both parties, people I knew and complete strangers, political veterans, other freshmen, other committee chairs, approached me with compliments--which I believe were genuine. Or to say that they hadn't been sure how to vote and that I convinced them to vote "YES" (to kill the bill).

I know this because when I phoned the Chap later he told me he and his office mates were listening to the debate on the the live streaming audio over the Internet, and when I finished his co-workers burst into spontaneous applause. He wouldn't make that up.

Pretty heady stuff for an anonymous back-bencher freshman.

Was I surprised by success? Yes and no.

When I think of all the debates that happen in that chamber, the ramblings, the emotional appeals, the rhetoric, combined with the wide variety of speaking skills, I'm surprised that anyone could be much impressed by an individual address. Yet I know how deeply moved I was by the power of those speaking to issues far more weighty than mine--so I know it does happen.

But I was also equipped with a secret weapon not everyone possesses--my long experience using words. I mean, if after nearly an entire lifetime as a writer, I can't string together some sentences and craft paragraphs that will provoke a desired reaction, then something's wrong. If after a career on the stage and nearly two decades of public speaking and teaching, I don't conduct myself moderately well at a podium, something's even wrong-er.

I recognise my debut as a fleeting moment of personal glory during a long and continuing slog through extremely important legislation. I remind myself that the work is far more important and lasting than the workers or their words.

I remained buoyant as the hour grew later. We made it through only one of the controversial Judiciary bills before recessing at 7:15. Yesterday was our final deadline to act on bills, and after 2 very full days we hadn't got very far. Instead of staying till midnight or beyond, we voted to suspend rules so we could come back next week. One of these days we really will run out of time, and not escape at a reasonable hour.

The Chap had a Planning Board meeting last night, so it wasn't till 11:30 that we got to talk over my Debut.

I'm enjoying this very quiet Thursday, playing with the dogs, catching up with email. It's not especially warm, and terribly windy, but this morning I went outside to look for flowers.

In my front garden, I found these snowdrops!

I completed my brief garden tour (still clad in my bathrobe) and found Jewel and Ruth waiting expectantly at the gate to the big deck.

After days obsessing about Fish & Game matters, I was ready for Fun and Games. We played with the red ball till they were tired enough to let me sit at the computer without being interrupted by attacks of affection. Lola, the babysitter, seems glad I'm around. I think they've all missed me this week.

I know I've missed them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Capital Capers

I'ts my lunch break. I'm sending something out from the Cyber Room of the Legislative Office Building.

We're having a very busy and very controversial day. A huge mob of protestors and advocates stood before the capital this morning to welcome the legislators. People with signs, microphones, greyhounds on leashes. I took photos before slipping into a secluded side door.

Off to study the notes for my (gasp) maiden speech.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Snowy, Sappy, Syrupy, Sheepish Sunday

We woke to a white world this morning.

Three inches of heavy spring snow decorated our landscape beautifully.

Our drive to church was simply magical. By midday, the sun was out and the snow but a memory.

We decided to visit our favourite sugaring establishment after all. When we arrived the parking lot was filled. Lots of other people were taking advantage of the annual Open House Weekend!

Here's a lesson on maple syrup-making, in 8 easy steps.

Note: You can outsource (insource?) some of these steps if you've remembered to reproduce, thereby providing your own workforce.

Step 1: Tap the Trees.

This is the old-fashioned, less efficient, more picturesque method.

Step 2: Deliver gallons of sap to the sugar house.

Step 3: As the sap is piped into the sugar house, it passes through the filter.

Step 4: Maintain your supply of available wood.

Step 5: Stoke the furnace.

Step 6: Let the evaporator do its thing.

Step 7: Pour off the syrup.

Step 8: Bottle and label.

In the shop, I bought a bag of maple sugar candies. I'll carry them with me into Representatives Hall to sustain my energy during long session days!

Then I dragged the Chap into the farmyard, as usual, to see the sheep and their lambs. I took countless photos.

This one smiled for the camera.

"Put me on the web, please please please!

Backtracking somewhat, the Writers' Day conference was outstanding. I will share, promise. When I recover from today's activities!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Feverish Friday

I've had a bad case of spring fever ever since the cold weather departed at mid-week. It's only getting worse!

After my committee Executive Session yesterday, I ran errands around town with my car top open. This proved to be unwise when I drove beneath an overpass where the snow was melting rapidly, and dripping down. I nearly got drenched, only I leaned out of the way just in time!

My committee acted on the last of our House bills. We won't convene again until we receive our Senate bills, and we expect only a couple of those. Our chairman told us we can expect to go on some informational "field trips"--visiting the wildlife division and the marine fisheries division, and even taking a boat ride!

The snow in the front yard is receding, my garden is now exposed and I'm eager to get outside and hunt for sprouting bulbs. In the back, the young girls chase each other across the slush, soon to become mud. Memo to self: gather up some of the "dog towels" so we can wipe off those paws before they cross the threshhold!

Here's the pack on the big deck, after I returned home yesterday. Our dogs come in every size--small (Ruth on the right), medium (Jewel on the left), and large (Lola in the middle, relishing her snowy bed.)

There's a lot less snow out there today, it continued melting during the night.

Tomorrow is Writers' Day, so I will leave the Chap here to oversee the pack while I attend the annual writers' conference. I'm signed up for three very interesting workshops and look forward to hearing our Keynote Speaker.

This is also the Open House Weekend at the Sugar Houses around the state. We'll probably wait till next week to visit our favourite, the one with the lambs and the calves.

Lola and I have enjoyed a quiet morning. Ruth and Jewel spent it romping like maniacs and now are sleeping peacfully in various corners of the Lodge.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Busy Day for All

This morning I showed Jewel this week's calendar for the House of Representatives, and the dozens of bills that we had to act upon today.

I advised Ruth to catch up on her reading while I was away doing the People's Business.

The session started at 10 a.m. We broke for lunch from 12:30 to 1:40, and the freshmen had a pizza lunch in a historic house across from the State House. We legislated like crazy, morning and afternoon. Both of the bills I had blurbed passed easily on a voice vote, no debate.

The session ended at 6 p.m. I was exhausted.

On my return to our forest, my three girls and the Chap greeted me warmly.

Lola, Ruth and Jewel have morphed into a mostly unified pack. Yesterday Lola and Jewel napped at my feet in a heap, and Jewel used Lola's back for a head rest. Ruth and Jewel are able to share the sofa with a minimum of fussing. The young ones play hard and sleep hard.

Before our supper tonight (the Chap was making a big omelette for us to share), I put the girls out back for a few minutes. We noticed flashes of movement among the trees--two snowshoe hares racing about in the woods, hopping along in the snow. I watched, enthralled, as the dogs barked and peered through the gaps in the fence.

I always wondered if the hare I've seen so often had a mate. Or perhaps I've been seeing two different hares and never knew it!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Back to Work

I've got loads to do...and I don't mean laundry! Website updates...final touches to our parish blog so it can go live...writing a novel...taking the two young dogs to the vet later for well-checks.

Here's a nifty shot from the front yard. It's the head of a garden statue--a kneeling mermaid, about 16 inches high.

Beneath the snow, she's naked--except for the scales along her tail--and is surely shivering!

What, you say, no dog pictures?

Well, if you insist....

Sunday afternoon. A typical configuration, Lola keeping clear of the young dogs--one never knows what madness will erupt when that pair are together.

Sofa-cam, during last night's screening of Mira Nair's version of Vanity Fair. Ruth claims my lap. Jewel watches the television intently. She heard a barking dog on the soundtrack. And barked back at it.

Trading spaces: Jewel supplants Ruth, now curled up on her special cushion.

We had a good night and a crazy morning. Much puppy romping, indoors and out. Many lessons in the dynamics of canine relationships.

Lola, who was rather cranky on Day 1, has adjusted admirably to the presence of a new youngster. Jewel can now approach her with more friendliness than fear, and all the respect an impresively large dog with seniority deserves.

Ruth engages with Jewel enthusiastically, chasing and being chased, play-attacking and being attacked. But she's spoilt enough to have some challenges. She's not used to sharing my attentions, or her toys, or space on the sofa that was exclusively hers and mine. For so long, she's been the sweet, submissive little beta dog. Jewel's arrival demonstrates very clearly that Ruth is an Alpha bitch-in-waiting. Lola dominates everyone, but Ruth is determined to dominate Jewel in certain situations.

Jewel is easy-going, submits to their tyranny with amazing grace, and doesn't protest her lowly status. Her bond with the humans gives her confidence and she is wonderfully good-natured.

I left the threesome alone long enough to drive to the Town Offices to pay the dog tax on Jewel and pick up her licence. Returning a short time later, I found that they were all friends still.

Taken a few minutes ago: Jewel stares in the direction of my computer speakers, because she heard barking dogs in a BBC Radio 4 news story. This prompted her to bark as well.

How will she ever cope with The Archers?

The pups are snoozing on the sofa. Peace has encompassed the house. And I'm about to take advantage of it!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Three Dog Morning

The young girls wore themselves out in yesterday's snow-romping. Last night while the Chap and I watched a German film on DVD (Schultze Gets the Blues), Ruth and Jewel slumbered on the sofa with me, too exhausted to consider territorial issues.

First Jewel was sprawled across my lap, comatose, while Ruth occupied the cushion. Then they switched places and Ruth nestled against me.

Getting everyone settled at bedtime was somewhat challenging, but eventually we worked it out. Jewel is a flying dog, so soaring onto the high fourposter is much too easy. It's a lot safer up there, too. So we use our "correction" voices and gently but firmly shove her back onto the floor. She's getting the message.

I'm snapping plenty of pics, but fitting 3 dogs into the frame is a new challenge for this photographer.

Here they are this morning on the deck, Jewel at the door.

Lola checks out Jewel, Jewel checks out the front yard, Ruth checks out Wolf Mountain.

Doin' some 'splorin' behind the house, Ruth leading the parade. It was cold overnight, making the snow crusty on top, just hard enough to stand on.

What inevitably goes on inside the kneehole of my desk while I sit at the computer blogging.

Before heading off to church this morning (I stayed home to referee), the Chap gazed down at the tangle of young dogs under the dining room table. He and Lola wore identically bemused but resigned expressions.

"Is this the way you imagined it?" he asked.

Nodding, smiling, I said, "Pretty much, yes."

A quick kiss, and he departed, leaving me behind.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Meet Jewel

My name is Jewel. I'm a Border collie cross.

This is me coming off the dog transport. It looks like I have two heads because I was moving around. I'd been in a crate ever since I boarded the trailer yesterday in Tennesee.

In the car on the way to the Lodge, we listened to a CD by Jewel the singer, in honour of my arrival. (Not her first album, which I understand was way better. This one sort of sucked, so we soon switched to the alt-rock radio station from Boston.)

The Lodge, where I now live with 2 other dogs, is nice and roomy.

I really like to sit on this box.

Ruth says it's time for me to come down.

I'm between 18 months and 2 years old, so I'm a little bit younger than the little dog, and a little big bigger than she is.

I look exactly like the kind of dog that should live here, don't I? Is this me, or Ruth?

It was me! Here's Ruth.

Lola isn't too sure about me. She has some hierarchy issues, but we're working them out.

There's a lot of cold, white stuff on the ground here, very deep. Ruth and I ran around in it all afternoon. We're having so much fun together!

I think I'll sleep really well tonight.

St. Patrick's Day

These are some stoic sheep and lambs I met one spring morning at Dunbeg, when last I visited the Dingle Peninsula in the West, a lovely stretch of mountains and rugged coast at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Don't you love the way the lamb perches on its mum's back?

I do believe the grass there is the greenest in all Ireland. We keep returning, just to make sure.

I'd give a shout out to my Irish ancestors, from the Republic and what is now Northern Ireland, but it would take up a lot of space. I'll spare you.

In stark contrast to the scene above, our St. Patrick's Day is white, not green. The Lodge received upwards of a foot of snow, topped by an icy crust of sleet. It's hard to tell exactly how much snow accumulated here, the wind blew it around a lot. But the Chap, who has been out there shovelling and snowblowing, provided the estimate.

I've just checked the call-in number for the dog transport. Despite encountering what must have been some hellatious weather in the mid-Atlantic and Southern New England, the driver is only running about 15 to 20 minutes behind schedule.

More later, perhaps.

Friday, March 16, 2007


There's a Nor'easter slamming into New England today, tonight, tomorrow, bringing snow, sleet, and freezing rain, to be immediately followed by several inches of heavy rainfall as temperatures rise. It promises--no, threatens to be very messy, and there are flood warnings already for some of the rivers.

Not sure what impact this will have on the transport and delivery of our new family member. Expect to find out later on. I'm trying to stay out of anxiety mode, so I'm keeping busy.

The Lodge is in the 6" to 12" inch snowfall band.

In preparation, I stopped in at our new library yesterday to stock up on DVD's. (After I stopped at the Dollar Store for an armload of cheap doggie toys and another feeding dish!)

Happily, I've just returned from my twice (thrice?) postponed hairdresser appointment. At the salon, the impending storm was the Big Topic. Along with Soup. And Food, in general.

As I drove away, freshly shorn and coiffed, the very first snowflakes fell. When I passed the river dam, I said a little prayer for it to hold firm. (It was greatly challenged by the notorious and fearsome 2006 Mother's Day Flood.)

I may be spending much of my weekend housebound, but I will be looking fab. Or if not that good, at least a lot better than I looked before this afternoon's excursion.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beware the Ides of...

Oh, hell, just beware March altogether. It messes with your mind.

Yesterday it was 74 degrees and bright in the capital city. Simply heavenly. During a public hearing in the afternoon, we had the windows open in our committee conference room. (We're on the 3rd floor, it gets warm up there.) When we finished, I went walking along Main Street just for the fun of it, being outside was so pleasant. All the delivery men were wearing their shorts.

Today it's cool, damp, grey, and foggy.

Tomorrow we're supposed to get about 3 inches of snow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I've been watching the Publisher's Weekly review pages awaiting a review of my cousin's debut novel, A Good and Happy Child. PW has followed its progress, from sale, to film option, to spring publication announcement, so I knew it was most definitely on their radar screen.

This week's issue has the review. Even better, it's a starred review.

Here's the first sentence: This stunning novel marks the debut of a serious talent. There's an enticing plot summary. It concludes with, "The intelligence and humanity of this thriller should help launch it onto bestseller lists."

One of these days, fairly soon, the entire review will be posted here.

Mind you, this rave review is no surprise whatsoever to his loving cousin, I wouldn't expect anything less. I'm so, so proud and pleased--words can't describe. Can't wait to read it!

My anticipation meter is well into the red zone for another reason.

On Saturday, we'll meet the new four-legged member of our family. Godspeed to her as she begins her journey to New England.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Family Planning

"Why," he wondered on Saturday morning after I dropped the bomb, "would we need another dog now, when everyone is doing so well?"

Asked and answered.

Far better, and kinder, to introduce a new pet into a household of health and happiness and sanity, than one of crisis. It's not unprecendented around here, having three. When Killian and Daisy were in their golden years, Shadow came to live with us. After Daisy left us, during Killian's declining years, I wanted Shadow to have a companion nearer her own age, and brought Lola home.

I'm such an optimist. I believe that a good situation can be made better.

Our girls get along wonderfully well. Lola is patient and sweet with the bouncy wee one. But because she's a lot older, and a lot bigger, and has that Northern breed tendency towards aloofness and dignity, she doesn't engage in play with Ruth to the extent that Ruth would like. Ruth is so little, we say, that Lola hardly recognises her as a real dog.

"After our (mumble, mumble) years together," I add, "don't you know you can trust my instincts about dogs?"

He was silent. It definitely sounded like a you've got a point but I don't want to admit it yet sort of silence.

By afternoon, we were working together on a list of questions for the foster parent of our future dog.

By evening, we were going through the collection of baby name books I sometimes use for character-naming, being silly and laughing.

I was in state of happy hopefulness until yesterday. I was working with Great Dog Rescue New England, the wonderful shelterless rescue organisation through which we obtained Ruth.

The first candidate, it turned out, was already involved in an adoption process. He was already destined for a good home. After I inquired about a second possibility, newly listed, my hopes rose again. Later I learned that she was returning to her owners, who had built a fence to stop her getting out and roaming. Good news for everybody but me.

What a weird karma I've got. As soon as I communicate our interest in an animal to an adoption counsellor, it's almost instantly assured of a happy ending elsewhere.

I keep telling myself--and the Chap and the girls--that time is on our side. We're not in a rush...however, once I begin a process, I can't help being impatient to see it resolved.

My optimism is in high gear at the moment. I think, I hope, our Shadow is somewhere up there pulling strings again as she did when Ruth came into our lives.

Looks like we've found the ideal dog, through a different shelterless rescue group. Our application was just approved. I'm about to make a deposit.

Please send good vibes our way.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spirited Sunday

It was a spicy Friday night...because I made curry with the leftovers from the Thursday night chicken. As always, I washed mine down with cider.

It revived memories of our nontraditional Thanksgiving dinner in London.

It was a reflective and thoughtful Saturday, because we're contemplating enlarging our family...lots of conversation about that. I won't say any more because while I'm optimistic about the outcome, I don't want to jinx it.

Watched Breakfast at Tiffany's on Turner Classics. In my opinion, the feline who portrayed Cat is one of the best actor animals on film.

Last week my dear friend lost her cat, a companion for 13 years, leaving her pet-less. My heart breaks. At least it was a peaceful end.

It was a spirited Lenten Sunday. We had the Old Testament lesson of Moses and the burning bush--how freaky is that? The focus of our Via Media Adult Forum was the Holy Spirit--yes, such a simple topic to explore. We were up to the task, resulting in an interesting session.

While in the Undercroft, I admired the handiwork of our church school participants, who made models of animals.

The girls have had their walk, so the Lodge is littered with napping dogs. I might get some writing done, although I'm really more in the mood to read something somebody else wrote. Probably because of the time change (don't get me started...) my brain is very fuzzy and I have a tendency to yawn a lot.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I Knew This Would Happen

Yesterday was the coldest day of the year. This entire week, the coldest of the year, has been very atypical for March. It's supposed to be the start of mud season, frost heave season, and maple-tapping season--not hard freezes and wicked bad windchills and subzero temperatures.

Unfortunately, it was also our busiest week in the State Legislature, so I was unable to hibernate through the frigid spell. I had to be out in the cold and the wind, marching along the streets of our capital city, moaning and mewling under my breath.

Mercifully, the cold snap is over, and the climate will gradually become more normal.

Yesterday, my committee had public hearings from 10 till 3:30 (I lunched with the Chap in the Dungeon). Raced to the church where we hold our Diocesan Council meetings, and moderated the meeting from 4 till 6.

The cumulative exhaustion of the past few days caught up with me. I slept really late this morning.

During breakfast, I listened to a radio interview with this guy. Tried to phone in but the caller lines were busy the entire hour.

Today I'll be proofing the results of my annual It's Almost My Birthday and A Blizzard is Raging so it Must be Time to Update My Author Photo session. (The catalyst for that hairdresser's appointment I had to cancel last week to take Ruth to the vet.)

So I did my own hair. Made some dodgy clothing choices. In some instances, the effect was scarily Raine Spencer-ish. (The late Princess Diana's stepmother, aka "Acid Raine".)

The other pics are better than okay, nothing as brilliant as I wanted. After I get my Spring Makeover, we'll try again.

Returning to the title for this blog...not only did I know this would happen, I waited for it with equal dread and hope.

The Next Book has presented itself.

Yes, just as I'm well into the most important phase of my novel, the siren song of a new, different, tempting book calls to me. And of course, it's The Perfect Book, unlike the one I'm slogging through. It's nonfiction, it's highly marketable, it's on a topic near and dear to my heart, it will be easy to write--and fun. So naturally, I want to drop everything and focus on this fantastic idea, develop it, nurture it, cherish it.

This always happens. It's as inevitable as the sunrise.

What will I do?

I'll listen to the siren for a little while. Draft an outline, refine the theme, throw together a prologue.

Then I'll muster some discipline, set it aside, and get back to the book for which my agent has been patiently waiting--or not waiting--for longer than I care to confess.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Extreme Cold and Exhausting Activity

Yesterday morning on leaving the Lodge for the State House, our household thermometer was at -2. I found the legislators' parking garage totally full and had to park in the overflow Chamber of Commerce lot--way, way over by the disused railroad tracks. The winds were blowing at about 30 mph, heaven only knows what the wind chill was...I climebed out of the car and started walking. Luckily, the shuttle van was pulled up by the garage, waiting for me, and I hopped on.

Yesterday's legislative calendar was very full. After our party caucus, we were in session from 1 pm to 3:30. At which time I bravely--and swiftly--walked across to the diocesan offices for a 3:30 to 7 pm committee meeting. We had a fun and productive time. During dinner break we demolished pizza and Girl Scout Cookies, and somebody made me laugh until I nearly cried.

One of the staff members was accompanied by his 9-week old black lab puppy.

I was one of many adoring committee members who snuggled him.

After we adjourned, a different staff member very kindly drove me to my car, which was acres away by the railroad tracks. It was dark, and still windy, and the car thermometer was -2 with an unknown but dreadful windchill factor.

March is being a real Lion this week.

When I arrived back at the Lodge, the girls detected that I had been Cuddling Another Dog.

They gave my coat and all my garments a serious sniffing. Especially Ruth.

This morning, we had a party caucus at 9, and the House session started at 10. I made sure to be there in time to score a spot in the official parking lot. The temperature was a couple of degrees above zero (woo hoo) and no wind.

Today was the deadline to act on bills that are referred to a second committee, and we had a ton of them. Lots of bills on our consent calendar had been pulled yesterday and moved to today, or postponed till today because of expected length of debate. We knew that we'd be at work all through the day and possibly into the night.

It took hours to dispatch two bills. Both were controversial: repeal of a parental notification bill (when a minor seeks an abortion) which last year the US Supreme Court declared unconstitutional, and designating a portion of the rooms and meals tax to the Fish & Game department.

At 1:20 we took an hourlong lunch break.

We returned at 2:20, and carried on till 7 without a break. Tedious. Informative. Frustrating. Divisive. Occasionally amusing. Dehydrating. No food or drink is allowed in the hallowed, historic chamber, so I had to nip out to the anteroom whenever I needed to sip from my water bottle or devour a candy bar.

We endured numerous time-consuming roll-call votes, on bills and on amendments. Everybody panicked when vote-tallying apparatus (which is old and temperamental) broke down, or seemed to. Fortunately, the technician who was called in was able to fix it promptly and we carried on...otherwise, I'd probably still be there.

Made it home just in time for the American Idol ladies. They saved the best for last--Melinda!

I look forward to watching tonight's newscast and reading the morning paper to find out what exactly I was doing today. I confess, I'm so buzzed and weary that memory is but a blur.

No doubt I'll be pressing "red for no" and "green for yes" buttons in my dreams all night.

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Fifth of March

Day 11: Final Day of Winter Break

For some Legislators, break is over. But I had no official duties and got one more day to play.

Thanks for all those birthday good wishes streaming in via this blog, in emails, and by snail mail. (Those of you who posted cards really outdid yourselves this year! I've got the entire collection displayed upstairs in a line-up, and each is gut-bustingly hiliarious.)

This morning I drove to Portsmouth to meet a friend for a long-delayed brunch and talk of life and writing, not necessarily in that order.

Despite last night's birthday dinner at a capital region restaurant, I was still feeling celebratory. On my friend's recommendation, I therefore indulged myself with Banana Crunch French Toast with maple syrup and whipped cream. The "crunch" comes from almonds. This is what it looked like before I demolished it.

I really couldn't eat it all, but I had fun trying. I might be hungry again later this week....

After she and I went our separate ways, I headed downtown to the Aveda store on Market Street and the pricey boutiques (I had some b'day $$$ rolling around.) I took some pics of the historic shopfronts. The light was okay, but my Portsmouth shots never can compete with the truly artistic and interesting stuff Ron gets.

Didn't buy any clothes. Thought about it, but didn't.

Moving along to Fox Run Mall, I bought a lip liner/brush at Macy's.

Especially for all my friends and relations dwelling in the South (or England), where my birth date is associated with spring flowers and mild temperatures (and tornadoes--on this side of the Pond) I snapped the giant mountain of plowed snow. Half as tall as the light pole, it simply screams "March!"

As do the ice chunks floating into--or out of--Great Bay.

It was a sunny day on the Seacoast. But somewhere in Nottingham, about 15 minutes beyond the ice chunk, I ran into snow squalls. White-out conditions, very dramatic.

Closer to home, it wasn't much different. The Lodge is somewhere on the other side of that ghostly ridge (on the topographical maps, it's designated a mountain. It's our personal mountain, 'cause we own a piece of it.

It was a nice day of little accomplishment but good clean fun, and wonderful conversation. I was quite thrifty, purchasing only the bare necessities (not that they were cheap, exactly.) I never deviated from my "next time I'm in Portsmouth" shopping list.

Off to cook some supper for which I have absolutely no appetite....

Sunday, March 04, 2007

March Forth!

This birthday is extra fun, because I'm sharing it with Ruth, who most likely was born Sometime in March. (I also share it with my father-in-law, as I've done every year.)

Ruth is now 2 in dog years. That equals 14 in people years.

Relying on the Chap's most excellent knowledge of mathematics, we determined that in dog years I am between 6 and 7.

Ruth wonders, "Is this my gift bag, or hers?"

This morning over breakfast I opened cards and gifts from my spouse and my parents and Ruth and Lola.

My dear mother, whose sense of humour can be a bit too rich, sent me this photo scan.

Proof that I was destined to serve on the state Fish & Game Committee. And that my affinity for mountains and lakes is nothing new.

This morning Liane Hansen of NPR woke me by announcing that this is the one day of the entire year that also expresses a command:

"March forth!"

And so I shall. The celebrations continue....