How Many People Does It Take…

Last Thursday we stuffed tote bags for the upcoming Bay to Ocean Writers Conference scheduled for Saturday, February 28, 2015. It’s the 18th conference and we’ve never had to cancel because of weather. All the volunteers involved are hoping the weather gods smile on us writers once again.

We were supposed to stuff the bags at Laura’s office in her conference room on Wednesday night this week. Because of the snow and ice we moved stuffing to Thursday night. Laura emailed that her parking lot was icy and not much room to maneuver, so we decided to stuff the totes Thursday afternoon. My husband said he would help so even if it was just the three of us we could have gotten most of it done.

We arrived at 12:15. The first thing we had to do was use the hand truck to move boxes of tote bags and the stuff that was to go inside them from an office at the front of Laura’s office building to the conference in the rear. Then we opened boxes and put piles of items on the conference table in the order we wanted them picked up. By 1:00 we were starting to stuff bags.

My husband, Roger, is a number cruncher guy. I totally don’t get it, but he sometimes does it to amuse himself (so he tells me) and to keep his brain occupied. Before he saw what went into the totes, he told me that if the three of us took one minute per bag, we would finish in four hours and twenty minutes. (We had to stuff 260 bags.)

Once we got everything laid out, and a fourth person arrived to help, he revised his estimate. He said the four of us were assembling five totes per minute. That meant we would be finished in 52 minutes. Then three more people showed up to help.

At that point he recognized that we had already assembled six boxes with ten packets in each box. We had 200 left to go. At ten per minute he estimated we would be finished in 20 minutes and had to restrain himself from calling that out to the workers. We were like donkeys circling a grist mill, walking around the oval conference table picking up assorted magazines, Delmarva Reviews, Digital Treasure Hunt handouts, the conference evaluation form and the Conference Program and sliding them into a waiting tote held open by another donkey.

The boxes of filled totes were then transported back (using two hand trucks) to the front office where people will stop by and pick them up to deliver to the conference. We were finished in less than two hours. If we’d had more people, they would have gotten in the way.

[I often wonder what it is like to live in my husband’s brain. Occasionally he can’t help himself like the time we were in an airplane and calculated if the passengers were an average weight, how many pounds of passengers were on the plane. To give that sort of information to an anxious person like me who really doesn’t understand how airplanes even get off the ground, is just cruel. He learned his lesson and while he’s probably still doing those calculations when we fly, he no longer shares.]

The BTO tote bags are stuffed and ready to go. All we have to stress about now is the possibility of a “weather event” and presenters getting sick. All of us who volunteer love the conference, but we’re always glad when its over. We take a six week hiatus and then begin planning for the next one.

Note: I’ve been trying to add photos to this post for three days, but WordPress is not cooperating, so I am publishing without the photos.

Temporary Snow Birds

Both Laura and I were able to spend some time in warmer climes recently. My husband and I were in Key West for two warm weeks, and Laura and her husband happened to be there as well for one of the weekends before they headed off for a week in Cancun.

I always try to go to the Butterfly Conservatory while I’m in Key West and this time Laura joined me. Best time to go is early in the morning when the butterflies are most active, and before the tourists arrive in droves. Laura kept walking away when I tried to take her picture, so she’ll have to cope with a rear view.

Laura at butterfly conservatory

I had a couple of goals for Key West (in addition to having warm feet). One was to walk as much as I could and see if I could do some 10K step days. I actually managed that 7 times in the two week period and most days got at least 8K steps in. I usually start out about 7 a.m. before the sun gets too high and there aren’t lots of people on the streets. I love walking in Key West because there is so much to look at. I vary my walk every day and don’t run out of new routes in the two weeks we are there. Below is an amazing mural on the side of a building. My husband is the one with his feet on the sidewalk.

Roger with Key West mural

My other goal was to work on book three of my Caribbean novel series. I wrote the second ten years ago and never got back to the third book. The first thing I had to do was reread the first two books: A Dream Across Time and A Circle of Dreams. I suppose it’s not really surprising that I had lost some of the threads of those stories that follow several Caribbean families.

Then I had to figure out what the story arc for book three is. I’m still working on that, but am closer than I was. The love interest for one of the characters showed up in Key West and that was a breakthrough. It is incredibly frustrating how the creative process marinates in my brain and shows up when it is ready, not when I demand. But I love how it is there, all the time, just at the edge of my consciousness. In the meantime I keep writing dialogue or description or a scene even if I don’t know where (or if) it will go. This morning in the shower I realized how I think I want to start this book, so I dried off, got dressed, and sat down to write for ten minutes before I headed off through the frigid air to yoga class.

Update on Key West weather: It was in the 70’s and 80’s when we were there the last week in January and the first week in February. Today when I looked on Wunderground the projections were for highs in the 50’s and 60’s. That is cold for Key West!

Let It Snow!

We got snow night before last. About five inches. Nothing to brag or even whine about compared to people in Boston. But the weather predictions were enough to make us stop and think what would happen if we got 12 inches or the power went out for a couple of hours. It’s been really cold and we need electricity to keep the furnace going.

While the husband got the generator cranked up, I made a trip to Easton to fill a prescription. God forbid I should be without my miniscule (probably placebo effect) dosage of anti-anxiety medication. Then I stopped at the Acme with everybody else in the world. I wasn’t there for TP, but thought I might get a pork roast, maybe a few more fresh vegetables and some fruit. The store was a mad house and I only bought a few items. It was a good thing because there was no parking – none – by the store. But, hey, I had my FitBit snugged on my bra and managed to get in some additional steps. When it’s this cold, I am not going outside to walk so I’ll take anything I can get even though it doesn’t get me close to my 10K goal. That will have to wait for spring.

I made a pot of bean soup. One of the ladies in my morning yoga class gives everybody a bag of assorted beans as a Christmas present. This bag must have 10 kinds of beans and peas. I forgot to soak them overnight, but the recipe had an option for that.


You’re supposed to make this soup for New Year’s Day and the black-eyed peas in it bring good luck. My friend told me she started doing this when she had a business in Baltimore and totally embarrassed her children by also giving bags of beans to their teachers at Christmas. Now she and her husband give out at least 300 bags of soup beans every year. She must buy beans in bulk.

I added a piece of a smoked pork shoulder that I’d cut into cubes and we will be eating soup for days. I actually like that kind of cooking. A bowl of bean soup for breakfast is my idea of heaven. Truth be told, any leftover I can heat in the microwave for breakfast is my idea of heaven.

The snow arrived as predicted. We never lost power although others dis. The snow was beautiful. Light and fluffy – the kind that doesn’t break your back to shovel. Our drive got shoveled, my car was cleaned off and I went to yoga this the morning. We’d brought more wood to the porch in preparation, so we built a fire last night and sat down to a bowl of soup, some gluten free crackers and a spinach salad. Life is good.