Category Archives: Summertime

Heatwave Strategies

We’re used to 70 or 80. degrees. Not this.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, whining about the weather is like a sport. But this week it is hot. Record-breakingly, cook-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot.

A house with so-so insulation and older windows — what’s a girl to do? Cope, that’s what!

I’m a native Californian, raised in a corner of the San Fernando Valley that sizzles in summertime. When heat comes to call here in Beaverton, I employ my heatwave strategies.

  • Windows on the second floor open all night, box fans on high. Although Portland is 110 miles from the Pacific Ocean, we cool significantly once the sun is down. Unlike, say, Hawaii or the Midwest.
  • Lockdown by 8:00 a.m. All windows shut and draperies closed. No exceptions.
  • Once the sun is up, forget errands or shopping. You want it, you go and buy it yourself.
  • A rusty sunrise, thanks to distant wildfires. But the smoke kept us from reaching the forecasted 108.

    Housework / laundry finished (or ignored) by 10:00 a.m. Because the power might go out, right? Once it’s hot, why bother with chores?

  • Microwave those meals. If you run out of options, use the grill or follow grandma’s lead and set up an Outdoor Kitchen.
  • Quit thinking about an air conditioner. Our windows are too large for one of those clunky window units. And besides, it isn’t worth buying one for one or two weeks of use.

My “redneck” Outdoor Kitchen. Why sweat the heat?

Tell you what, though, this summer we cried “Uncle,” big time. With temperatures predicted to soar to an astonishing 107 degrees, we finally pulled the trigger. Yesterday the cheerful UPS guy delivered to our door a portable air conditioner. We hurried to haul it upstairs and get it running.

Bam! It promptly blew a circuit. What can I say? In the late 1970s, no one guessed that families would use so much power.

The blessed Sleep Enabler.

It’s always a comedy routine around here, right? My son has a similar AC unit — and it turns out that our bedrooms share a circuit. So now he has a contractor-grade extension cord that snakes under his bedroom door and into the bathroom. Which shares a circuit with the outside power outlet I’m using for the Outdoor Kitchen. (Turn up the roasting pan and Bam! The circuit will blow. But that’s another story.)

So during this scorcher, we’re rejoicing. Because now two of our bedrooms are blessedly cool.

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Learning Curves

and Earning Curves.

Curves2 About a month ago, I decided that eating right and losing weight wasn’t enough to make me healthy, so I started doing something I haven’t done in at least twenty-five years.

I started working out regularly. Five days a week. Yes, you read that right. Robin, the queen of avoiding exercise, is paying to work out.Curves3

That’s one of my cute little coaches checking out my progress at the laptop. (Curves has machines that spy on you and report back to the coaches. Very 1984.) I want to look like her. Can they make me lose about forty years?

My workouts take between 45 and 50 minutes and consist of 30 seconds on each machine, 30 seconds of aerobic motion between machines, and stretches. I do the entire circle twice, and all the major muscle groups are involved. The final machine tells me my workout is over by flashing “END.” How’s that for propping up a weak short-term memory?

CurvesHere are my results from Thursday. Green dots are great, yellow dots are okay but not great, and red dots are BAD. (Sort of like the colors on traffic lights, but I digress.)

And now for the life lessons.

  1. I have to pay for workouts to be properly motivated to do them. It’s just like everything else. We don’t usually fully appreciate anything that has cost us nothing.
  2. Most of the time, lack of progress is my own fault. My first two weeks of working out, I made very little headway. I wasn’t sore afterwards, and I didn’t sweat. At first, I thought the machines were too easy, but then I realized maybe, just maybe, the problem was me. I started pushing harder for range of motion and more reps. Guess what? I had no trouble working up a sweat, and I was plenty sore. It wasn’t the machines. IT WAS ME. Just like in every other aspect of life, when I have a difficulty, I should examine myself first.
  3. The harder I work, the more I achieve. Though music is my strongest intelligence, I didn’t learn to play the piano really well until I began to practice regularly. (Props to Austen’s Lady Catherine on this one. She was right.) I don’t succeed at anything without putting effort into it.
  4. Sometimes, good intentions aren’t enough. I thought I was doing everything right at Curves, but all my muscle groups weren’t sore. My abdomen wasn’t sore at all. I started paying more attention to the muscles which were supposed to be worked at specific machines. I isolated them and focused on using them, adjusting my body until I felt them. Guess what? It worked. My sore abdomen can attest to it.
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions. A few days ago, I noticed a lump on my arm and nearly freaked out, thinking it was a tumor. Then I realized it was a muscle! I hadn’t seen a defined muscle anywhere on my body in years. I’m flexing now!

Here’s some encouragement for you, lovely readers. Set your goals and go for them.

You can do it!

Eclipse Sisters? That’s us.

Today we have a sunrise–a real one–after a week of soaking rain. And oh, the difference sunshine makes for the Pacific Northwest. Spring at last!

And spring brings hope for summer.

Tell you what, this summer I’m looking forward to the Great American Eclipse. August 21st has been on my calendar for a while, although it doesn’t need to be. If our skies are cloud-free that morning, we won’t be able to miss what happens.

Map courtesy of GreatAmericanEclipse.com

It’s also cool for us here at Jane Started It because of its path. The total eclipse lies just south of Susan Kaye and me here in Oregon. It also lies just south of Robin Helm and Gayle Mills in South Carolina.

We met on-line, we share a blog. And now we will share the path of the sun’s shadow.

All of North America will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse, according to the Great American Eclipse website. Do have a look around. There’s fascinating stuff there.

How about you? Are you in the path of the eclipse?

Laura Hile (1)

Of little boats and books …

Photo: Toy Boats by Toby Oxborrow (Creative Commons Flickr)

Our books, like little boats, go sailing … Photo: by Toby Oxborrow (Creative Commons Flickr)

Rita's Beach Read

Rita took Darcy to a surfside resort

A writer releases a novel,
sending it out, alone,
to make its way in the wild world.

It’s like something out of a fairy tale.
Not the end of a fairy tale, the beginning.
The “cold, cruel world” part.

You know, like the three pigs?
Or Hansel and Gretel? Or Puss ‘N boots?
Leaving home on the toe of a boot?

Meredith added Darcy to her library

Meredith added Darcy to her library

Yeah, we writers pitch our books out there.

“Off you go, little book.”
“Make your fortune, live your life.”

And then the little book DOES.

I sit back, amazed. Oh the places books go! Who knew?

Here are a few Darcy By Any Other Name “book selfies” readers have shared. I love them.
 

Anita showed him a perfect wave

Anita showed Darcy a perfect wave

 
Where Go the Boats?
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand,
It flows along forever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating –
Where will all come home?

Mark won the CIR a giveaway

Mark won the CIR giveaway

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill;

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more;
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.

Sue's Darcy lives in the country

Sue’s Darcy lives in the country

Kelly took him along to the pool

Kelly took him along to the pool

Laura Hile (1)

 

My books are like those little boats.

And “Book Selfies” show me where they come ashore.

Safe harbor, home at last.

There’s an app for that…

 

Who knew the coffee house vibe was so productive?

Many creatives swear by the coffee house vibe. I can see why. Photo: Wonderlane (Creative Commons Flickr)

Ah, the hum of the coffee house. For me, it’s an inexpensive place to chat with a friend. For others, this atmosphere offers a lifeline to creativity.

There’s a special combination: The upbeat music, the muted conversations, the hiss of the espresso machine–ha! and the caffeine. It’s a synergistic thing that gets many people working, writing, thinking, and doing. Me, I go there to talk for hours. And I come home smelling like coffee grounds.

Not walking two miles to Starbucks

No! Not walking those two miles to Starbucks! It’s 90 degrees today!

Home’s the best workplace for people like me.  See, I work on the cheap. I make coffee here–already paid for– and get the laptop up and running. Then I start in. These days I’m sharing a car–our latest experiment. To go to a coffee house, I’d have to drive my husband to and from work, or else walk to Starbucks–a mile each way–toting my not-so-small laptop. The hike home is all uphill. Uh, no.

So I fake the coffee house vibe with apps. My  fondness for mental wandering needs help to stay focused. One app I use is a pomodoro-type timer called Clear Focus. It keeps me on task for 25 minutes at a time–no backtracking, no stopping. No Facebooking or Tweetiing. It’s amazing how much I can accomplish when I stay at it.

And then there’s CoffitivityThis is a white noise app that mimics the atmosphere of the coffee house. I originally downloaded this for use on the train, because conversations around me can be distracting. This week I’ve been using it for the creative sound vibes. They help!

Tools of the trade: calendar, Kindle text, laptop

Tools of the trade: strict calendar goals, Kindle text, laptop

The Mercy’s Embrace re-release is a giant project, and I’m running for daylight. Proofreading is something I can do during the school year, but typing?  Rather than hire a firm I’ve decided to type out the text from the Kindle edition of my books. Another real life illustration that you need to back up your back-up files–because you never know.

No whining from me! This project is an excellent opportunity to make good writing even better. Honest. I’m loving it.

And hey, it’s still summer. For Robin and Gayle, Monday, August 15th, is the first day back in the classroom. A sobering reminder that the school year, it is a-coming.

Laura Hile (1)

Sisters’ Summer at the Sea

Last Sunday afternoon, my sisters and I left for our first (and what we hope will be annual) beach trip. We stayed in my former brother-in-law’s condo just across the street from the ocean, close enough to walk on the sand and wade through the estuaries in the warm breeze.

IMG_0864

Layne, Gayle, and me

It was a trip of inaugural events. I hadn’t worn a swimsuit in at least twenty years, but Gayle brought two along with the intent to change that, and she did. We have both lost quite a bit of weight, thirty-three pounds for her and thirty-two for me, and she was ready for us to celebrate. Layne has never been heavy, but we love her anyway.

20160801_174632 (2)

Our view at dinner on Tuesday evening

 

We ate out, shopped, and went to a movie. We talked of childhood memories and updated each other on our children and grandchildren. We did what we wanted to do without worrying about whether or not husbands, children, or grandchildren were entertained.

As Mrs. Bennet would say, “A little sea bathing set me up forever.”

There’s nothing any of us love more than being with our families, but it’s nice to have no one to answer to occasionally. 20160801_112435 (2)

Who knew being in our sixties would be so much fun? It’s liberating to accept yourself for who you are and how you look. If others cannot love you without changing you into their image of what you should be, they aren’t very good friend material.

It reminds me of a poem  by T. S. Eliot.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

I grow old… I grow old…

I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.

Do I dare to eat a peach?

Walk barefoot upon the beach?

Well, yes. I do.

~~~~~~~~

Southern Fried Austen will return next week.

Let Freedom Ring

 "Bridgetown" Photo: Gerrit Quast (Creative Commons Flickr)

Downtown “Bridgetown” Photo: Gerrit Quast (Creative Commons Flickr)

Tonight we will be heading downtown for fireworks. That’s what you get when your kids are in their adventuresome 20s. Scorning inconvenience, they want to go out and do stuff.

Freedom gives us this right. As citizens, we can peaceably assemble in public places. Although this is Portland, so weirdness will be present too. I’ll keep on the watch for the Unipiper. (That’s him below, yeah, in the Darth Vader mask playing flaming bagpipes.)

I also have the right to own property, to protect my family, and to freely share my thoughts. I can publish books, too, and send them out into the wide world. It’s an amazing freedom, one I hadn’t thought much about until this spring when I did exactly that.

Photo: Southwest Bible Church

Photo: SW Bible Church

And today I walked to church for morning prayer and coffee.  We sat down together like we do every weekday and prayed openly–in a lighted room in front of enormous plate glass windows. Freely, without fear of interference. (Except the sleepy kind. Coffee helps with that.)

Portland's own Unipiper (Photo: Twitter)

Here he is, Portland’s own Unipiper (Photo: Twitter)

In these troubled times, we dare not take our freedoms for granted. I can take no credit for them; I stand on the shoulders of my forefathers and fellow citizens, who scorned Liberty’s cost and dared to make a stand.

Freedom from tyranny is worth celebrating. Happy 4th of July!

Laura Hile (1)