It wasn’t the horses

David Jan Dan fireworks display photo

Decades of tension evaporated
when she loved her grandchildren,
my children, so she came along
to the dude ranch with us.

She thought the horses caused her backache.
It wasn’t the horses.

So, newly close,
I could help her die,
in peace.

Jan horseback riding 2004

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Riddle on a Plate: What Am I?

Stone walls Aran Islands Ireland

Vitellus stares out from its wreath of albumen;
cured and smoked belly strips dare.

Fermented endosperm thanks magical fungus;
lycopene flaunts from its sphere.

Tuberous nightshade’s with musical fruit;
spore-bearing wonders are near.

Sliced pudding’s sincerely iron-ic.
Clearly, there’s plenty to share.

{Update: The riddle is explained in the comments, and you can check out a photo here: Gargleblaster page, #24 of 42}

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An Invader Crept

View from hotel Todra Gorge Morocco

I’d thought my boys
were locked in snug
against that hostile land,
and sleep in the empty night
would restore us,
but they hadn’t been secure;
an invader crept.

Crushed under an angry heel,
the menace turned to dust;
my dread lingered.

Scorpion Todra Gorge Morocco

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Fitbit to be Tied, Part 2

Fitbit activity tracker{Previous post: Fitbit to be Tied, Part 1}

Strapping on a Fitbit activity tracker did indeed make me more active this summer. I’ve worn a pedometer in the past, but the Fitbit offered a new twist in the form of social connections.

I linked up with some friends who also have a Fitbit, and our names climbed up and down the leader board, which shows how we all rank for total steps for the last seven days. It’s motivating to take a peek (on an app on my phone) after lounging around all morning and see my friends’ totals have climbed above mine.

Fitbit leaderboard

I’ve been getting over 10,000 steps a day, thanks to a lot of tennis and walking. This month, I completed a special mini-goal to get at least 15,000 steps for five days in a row while my husband was away, and I rose to the top of my leader board for the first time. I was excited to break 20,000 steps on a couple of days, too.

Wearing the activity tracker helped me avoid long stretches of lethargy, which has been great, but it can get ridiculous at times. Once when I took my Fitbit off to charge the battery, I caught myself not wanting to get up to get another cup of coffee because my steps wouldn’t count.

And then there was the time I joined a friend to walk a few miles in a full-on downpour. (We thought the rain had stopped when we set out.) A mutual friend saw us from her car and pulled over to laugh at us. It was pretty funny to be soaked to the skin and sloshing through puddles. We got in our steps, though!

activity tracker quotation

Overall, I have increased my activity and my fitness. I remember back in early May, I got sore after only one set of tennis, while last week, I played three sets against my teenage son, and then I took a long walk.

I also am avoiding the obsessiveness that made me stop wearing a pedometer in the past. After all, my body is the ultimate activity tracker, and it’s feeling stronger.

{I have no affiliation with Fitbit.}

What do you think about activity trackers? Anyone want to link up as Fitbit buddies? (Email me at

Wear a Fitbit

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Might have been the fish tacos

Atlas Mountains Morocco

For ten miserable hours,
I leaned my weary forehead
against the cool glass of the van.

You don’t want to know what happened
in every squat toilet between the Atlas Mountains
and the sea at Essaouira.

Let’s just say I tipped generously.

Blue boats, Essaouira Morocco

#22 of 42 (Gargleblaster page)

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Pura Vida Cruise

Dolphin Costa Rica

We ignored dark clouds in the distance,
snorkeled drenched in sunshine,
cheered dolphins that torpedoed by.

The sky blackened
and unleashed a whirlwind,
thunderclaps and lightning
booming, slamming, smashing.

I cowered,
but they cranked the music
and danced Salsa on the deck.

Related posts:

#21 of 42 (Gargleblaster page)

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I Peppered His Feet

Reading the classics

I explained an idiom,
but he brushed me off,
pretending he’d already learned it.

‘Cause he knew it all,
that old Swiss boyfriend.

My greatest victory:
He told a new friend,
“That really peppers my feet”
and thought it was perfect English.

One of my favorite scenes featuring another know-it-all, although apparently he really did know it all, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

(Video link)

#20 (Gargleblaster page, with my favorite comments and Gargleblasters from the grid) What is a Gargleblaster? Respond to a prompt in exactly 42 words.

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Abandon All Subtlety


Languishing in a boring bank,
we talked music for hours
and grew close through mixtapes
we shyly exchanged.

From “Purple Haze”
to “Dixie Chicken,”
friendship crept toward
something more.

How’d my next one end?
“Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”


#19 of 42 (Gargleblaster page, with my favorite comments and Gargleblasters from the grid) What is a Gargleblaster? Respond to a prompt in exactly 42 words.

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The Princess and the Peed Off Copy Machine Woman

Too Much! Image by Ross Berteig (CC by 2.0)

During my first year of teaching, I learned a tip: get on the good side of the secretaries and the janitors. What I didn’t know, though, was that there was another person more powerful than they: the copy machine woman.

Jackie ruled her domain with an inky fist. She had exacting rules for filling out a copy request form. More important, though, was the unwritten rule that newbies didn’t know about. The experienced teachers knew to ask her about her cats, which she photographed in holiday costumes.

Instead, I dropped off my copy requests with only a perfunctory greeting.

Jackie didn’t make any of my copies, not that day, not that week.

Bumblebee Cat Costume Image by Pets Adviser (CC by 2.0)

Now that I’ve been teaching forever, I can deal with whatever technical difficulties come my way. As a new teacher, though, my lesson plan was my life-preserver, and my lessons all centered around those unobtainable copies.

Out of ways to stall my classes, I went in early to ask for my copies. With a huge smile, Jackie told me they weren’t ready yet.

“I’m sorry, but do you know when I could get them?”

“I’ll get to them just as soon as I can,” she said.

I looked past her at the bulletin board and focused on a tableau of one cat wearing a feather headdress and another cat wearing a tricorn. Columbus Day? A Thanksgiving preview? Dear God, what were those poor creatures having to endure? I considered fawning over her cats.

Ambush in costume Image by Brett (CC by 2.0)

I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I did the only other thing I could think of. I walked down the hall to her supervisor, and, feeling like a nerdy student, I tattled on her.

Her supervisor was appalled that I had fallen victim to the Great Copy Stonewall of 1997, and I got my copies, along with a new title every time I spoke with Jackie: Princess.

“Why, hello, Princess! Do you need those quizzes run off right away?” she asked.

“Well, no hurry. If I could get them by Thursday, that would be great.”

“Princess, for you, I will do them right now.”

This went on for weeks.

Other teachers complained that we weren’t allowed to make our own copies, and one of the machines was deemed touchable by teachers for three periods a day.

I skulked in and approached the machine.

“It’s Princess!” she said. “How can I help Princess today?”

“Oh, no thanks. I’m just going to make a few copies.”

I was then guilty of the greatest scourge on a copy machine Jackie had ever seen. I started to copy a textbook without putting paper over the uncovered portion of the glass. The resulting black band of toner would wreak havoc with Jackie’s machine.

My senses bombarded by the mechanical whirring, I had no warning that Jackie approached me from behind. She put one hand on my shoulder and another on my hand, all while leaning in to shout in my ear to stop.

Between the shock of her shouting, and the half-a-second-later realization that she was manhandling me, my circuits overloaded. I pivoted around, and, an inch from her face, screamed: “Don’t touch me!”

There’s no easy way to take it back once that particular cat is out of the bag. I apologized, but I had hurt her to the core. We were enemies.

She never called me Princess again.


Angry Rudolf Image by Ross Berteig (CC by 2.0)


  Thanks to the Bronze Lounge at yeah write for critiquing the first draft of this essay.

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Cruising Solo and Lovin’ It, a guest post by Diane

Today I welcome Diane who shares this guest post about going out of her comfort zone by taking a cruise by herself. Diane blogs at Thoughts, Tips and Tales.


Cruising Solo and Lovin’ It

By Diane

Ten years ago, I’d never have dreamed that I’d take a cruise alone. I thought only a pathetic, weird person with no friends or family would do that…

It began with a breakup right before a planned cruise where I told my ex that I was going, but he wasn’t. And I just returned from my eighth solo cruise — a seven-night Caribbean trip that was fabulous.

I had nice dinner companions and ate in the formal dining room every night, went on several shore excursions, took Zumba classes and line dancing lessons the three days at sea, walked the deck for exercise, listened to live music, spent hours lying by the pool and reading, relaxed on my own private balcony, and watched recently released movies every evening on the top deck. The week flew by, and it couldn’t have been more fun!

The key to enjoying a cruise alone is to remember that you’re never going to see any of the people on the ship again! Never. In your entire life.

So it really doesn’t matter what they think; you’re there to relax and have fun. I like to believe my fellow passengers (if they even realize I’m cruising alone) think I’m a confident, adventurous woman with a zest for life. I truly believe that’s what my friends at home think! (I convinced one workaholic friend to cruise alone and she loves it and does it often.)

And remember: what happens on the cruise ship stays on the cruise ship…

Thank you, Diane! You can read about more of Diane’s experiences at Thoughts, Tips and Tales.

Would you go on a cruise by yourself?

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