Equifax Data Breach Time Sink

I’m watching the news on TV while I eat my breakfast. There’s a piece about what you should do to find out if you might be compromised by this data breach. Go to Equifax.com and check, the anchor tells me. Then you really should freeze your credit on Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

I was convinced…and the travail began. First it wasn’t so easy to find out where on the Equifax website to check to see if your security has been compromised. Mine wasn’t; my husbands was. We talked and decided to freeze security on all three sites. That’s six freezes since I have to do one for me and one for my husband at three different sites. My husband has hearing problems and that meant I needed to do all six.

I started with Experian. I called the number provide which led me to an automated system. After putting in all my husband’s information (this took probably 8 minutes) I got a message that it couldn’t be done and I’d have to mail in the information. Of course I couldn’t write it all down fast enough. Then I tried to enter my information on Experian. Same final words – you don’t qualify. Send us the info. I went to the Experian website thinking that would be faster. It wasn’t and I ended up with the same instructions – mail us the information. Certified mail preferred.

On TransUnion I would have to open an account to be able to freeze security checks. I didn’t want to sign on for 19.95 a month to be able to freeze security checks so I bailed.

After spending a couple of frustrating hours on websites, it boiled down to I’d have to send in information, preferably by certified mail. Since almost half the population of the United States has been affected by this data breach, I can’t even imagine the amount of mail that would entail. That’s if people didn’t just get frustrated and forget it.

Oh, and Equifax executives knew about this in July and then sold their Equifax stock. Can you say “insider trading.” How much you want to bet they get no fines, no jail time. They should be subject to the same treatment as Martha Stewart.

That’s my rant for the day. I’d really planned to spend the morning working on my manuscript. I need to sit cross-legged on my meditation cushion.

Writing Between Leaf Castings and Fig Condiments

It’s raining this morning. This rain doesn’t have anything to do with Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. I’ve been watching the coverage and can’t imagine what all those people are going to do after the rain stops and the clean-up begins. It’s going to take years. Honestly, I don’t know how the whole Houston area could have been evacuated. Where would everyone have gone? And, not everyone has the resources to be able to leave. 

I had a leaf casting workshop scheduled, but that’s not going to happen. Actually it got cancelled yesterday afternoon when the “student” texted me from Lowe’s to say they were all out of the QuickCrete patcher with vinyl which is what we’ve been using. Maybe we bought out their supply. 

My yoga buddy, Gail, and I made the one shown below. It is the largest one we’ve made so far. It took two buckets of QuickCrete – 40 pounds and was 40″ long. We had to get more sand for the form to put the leaf on. I now have about 150 lbs of sand on the table.

The photo below gives a better idea of the size. It’s in the trunk of my Honda Accord. I delivered it to Gail at our morning yoga class. And had two more people beg to have a class.

The top edge of this one isn’t perfect, but I remind myself that leaves aren’t always either. Gail’s leaf is a third bigger than the one I made for Laura for Christmas last year.

Figs

Another yoga buddy, Hanna, has a surfeit of figs this year and gave me a bag that weighed over 5 pounds. I made some fantastic fig chutney and then a double batch of fig jam. I think we have enough jam to see us through the winter. Here’s the link for the recipe that I pulled off the internet. It’s delicious. Fig Chutney.

Of course, Hanna got a pint jar of Fig Chutney.

I put the chutney and jam through a 10 minute hot water canning bath before storing. I made half pints of the jam for gifts.

During all of this our 10 year old French door refrigerator died. Higgins and Spencer, our local furniture and appliance store, quickly brought us a loaner late on a Saturday afternoon and put it in the garage. We transfered food and didn’t lose anything. Apparently 10 years is the expected life of big appliances these days. The replacement has been ordered but it may be another week. I didn’t want ice and water in the door. We had that in the old one and we never used it. And I wanted white which must not be a popular color. Old fart statement: I expect major appliances to last at least 25 years!

I’m hoping the dishwasher, stove and washer and dryer, which were all bought at the same time ten years ago, don’t decide to die for awhile.

Stepping down into the garage to the fridge is a pain, but I remind myself that in earlier times I could have been walking through the rain to the spring house.

Writing Update

The first book in the Caribbean series is off to the proof reader. I am now looking at the second book. I think because of a plot twist that’s crucial in the third book (not yet completed) that I need to add some fore shadowing to the second book. Republishing gives one a chance to fix some things.

Today I am having a phone consultation about the republishing process with Ally Machate. I know Ally from the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. She’s been one of our speakers many times. I’m hoping this will help me be clearer about the order of the steps to be taken.

So the writing continues every day with breaks from my desk for leaf castings and fig condiments.

 

 

 

 

 

My Writing Moves Forward as Our Country Moves Backward

Life moves forward, and then I watch the news and am—for a few minutes—paralyzed with grief.

I have never written anything political on this blog, but another blogger whom I read reminded me that hate is not political. I am beyond dismayed that our president is supporting hate and violence and that our political leaders are putting self before country by not calling him to account.

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Today I am biting the bullet and sending off the contract for the first book in my Caribbean novel series to be proof read. I’ve made some very minor changes, but needed to spend the money to make sure nothing is misspelled and all the puntuation in correct before I send it off to CreateSpace. Proof reading costs more than it did ten years ago. I had to wrap my brain around spending the money on a book that had already been proofed and published (ten years ago), but my wise husband said it’s still the proof reader’s time that’s at issue. He is right.  So the contract goes in today’s mail.

Next I have to take a look at the second book in the series (also previously published) and keep moving forward on finishing the third book. Sending the contract to the proof reader means I am really doing this—getting the books republished with my name instead of a pen name.

Another decision is about the covers. I had planned to have new covers done, but other print books are out there with the old cover and they will never go away on Amazon. I don’t want potential readers to be confused. Lots to consider in this process, but I am moving forward.

And in between there are tomatoes to be made into sauce. We’ve had alot of rain and cooler temps so the tomatoes are not ripening as quickly, and they are just not as plentiful this year. That’s okay. I have sauce from last year on the shelf. I am cutting them up and putting them in bags in the freezer for making sauce on a day in the fall when the canning kettle won’t steam up my kitchen.

A couple of leaf casting appointments are still outstanding. My goal is that in two weeks I will be able to get the casting work station out of my driveway.

So my life moves forward, and then I watch the news and am—for a few minutes—paralyzed with grief.

 

 

Hummingbirds and Elephant Ears

Early this summer I bought two hummingbird feeders. I mixed up the sugar water, filled the feeders and waited. I put fresh sugar water in them weekly and waited…and waited…and waited. No hummingbirds found my feeders. Perhaps I had too many flowers in my yard.

 

Yesterday I saw a hummer visiting the bee balm. So I mixed up a new batch of nectar and moved the pole. I am hoping for visitors.

Those large elephant ear plants behind the feeder now have big enough leaves that I am having a rolling leaf casting workshop. When I made them last year several people said they’d like to learn how to do it. I have everything set up in the driveway, but one person at a time is all I can handle. This is my friend, Diane, who made two castings last week.

Here are her finished castings. I don’t know if she’ll want to paint them. That will be another project. You can see that one has a hole in it where the stem of the leaf was. She wants that one for a birdbath, so I will plug the hole with cement tomorrow morning when I have another friend coming.

It’s fun to do projects with friends on these cool mornings. That leaves the afternoon for working on my novel. The castings have to stay on the table for a day before they can lifted off the sand support. The sand can then be reshaped for my next student. And while we are working, I can keep my eyes open for visiting hummers.

Overlooking Plein Air

Easton, MD has a Plein Air painting event that is considered one of the best in the country. People paint around the area for a week and significant prizes are awarded. On the Saturday of Plein Air week, activities center on Harrison Street. This painter was smart to put down a piece of cardboard to keep his feet off the hot asphalt.

About six years ago Laura had the idea to get a small group of women together to have lunch at one of the restaurants on Harrison Street and people watch. The first years we had lunch on the porch of Masons. Two years ago the restaurant closed so the following year we had lunch on the porch of The Bartlett Pear. People on the street wondered who we were to have such a great viewing location. Some asked if we were judges. We just nodded.

Bartlett Pear is now on the market and its restaurant is closed. Laura, being the master negotiator, rented the porch for us and we collaborated what each of us would bring for lunch. We started with cheese, crackers and fruit. Betty Ann brought two large pitchers of white Sangria. That was followed by a chilled carrot soup. Then a tomato filled with chicken salad. A mini-croissant completed the main course. Dessert was cookies I’d bought at the St. Michaels Farmers Market that morning and cut into quarters.

We had extra sangria so we shared it with the band. The left over cookies were given to the Bartlett Pear owner’s daughter to share with her friends. While we were still on the porch, artists would occasionally make their way up the stairs to get out of the sun and have a glass of sangria.

One of the signatures of Plein Air is that it seems to occur during the hottest week of July. This year was no exception. Temps in the high 90’s with Eastern Shore humidity. We had an occasional breeze on the Pear porch, but most of us were wearing as little clothing as possible that women of a certain age can get away with. After lunch we walked the streets for a little while and then took shelter in the air-conditioned Armory and the Art Museum where juried participant’s work was displayed and for sale.

I often think the palettes should be framed and sold.

By mid-afternoon we had sweltered long enough and went home. I took the remaining sangria fruit thinking I would cook it up, strain it and use the juice to make jelly.  I never want to waste anything. The juice is in the fridge and I will make Plein Air jelly tomorrow. There were so many kinds of fruit in the sangria that there won’t be one dominant flavor. I’ll see what kind of liquor I have in the cupboard that I could add to make a palate focal point. Peach schapps? Cassis? Port wine? Cointreau? I’ll let you know how it turns out. If it doesn’t jell, we can eat it over vanilla ice cream.

 

What Were We Thinking Turned into So Glad We Did

Last Friday Laura and I flew to Los Angeles. Four months ago we had signed up for a two day Dramatist Guild workshop held in Culver City. On Thursday it was one of those “this seemed like a good idea at the time” commitments. Laura had been out of town and flew back on Thursday morning. She had the day to sort things out at her office. I was busy moving sprinklers around my garden every thirty minutes trying to save parched plants. It’s been really hot and dry the last couple of weeks on the Eastern Shore.

Laura had arranged for a driver to take us to the airport on Friday morning. Getting dropped off at the Southwest gates saved a bunch of time and parking hassle. A smooth flight to Los Angeles and we Ubered to Culver City where we had a reservation at the Culver Hotel.

The six story hotel was built in 1924 and considered a sky scraper at the time. The Wizard of Oz was filmed nearby and locals know the Culver Hotel as the Munchkin Hotel as many in the Oz cast stayed there. The hotel was essentially abandoned by the 1980’s and slated for demolition. But by the 1990’s it had been partially restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The renaissance was completed when the hotel was bought and fully restored in 2007.

Today it’s a charming hotel where historical touches remain.

Culver City used to be a down and out area, but has been revitalized. The center of town is full of shops and restaurants. The entertainment company, Sony Pictures, is nearby and fueled the renewal.

The first night we were at the hotel we dined on the outdoor terrace. The weather was gorgeous. We’d left east coast temps and humidity behind.

We had a wonderful breakfast every morning. Tiny croissants, little ramikens of butter  (with a sprig of dill on top) and raspberry jam, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and granola. And of course, lots of coffee for Laura and a selection of teas for me. That’s my breakfast below. Laura is not a breakfast eater. She had half a bagel with cream cheese. Typically her breakfast is a diet coke at McDonalds that she takes to the office.

We could walk to the Kirk Douglas Theater where the conference was being held. Just 50 participants. We were the only people from the east coast. Most Dramatist Guild workshops are held in NYC but the DG is trying to extend learning and networking opportunities to its west coast members. If you are a member, check out their online classes.

Right away I met Bradetta. See my previous blog. I still can’t fathom the odds of that happening. Add to that the fact that I am a true introvert, so the fact that I actually struck up a conversation is remarkable.

 

The first day of the conference was terrific. Lots of information, good handouts and engaging instructors. The morning session was The Artist as CEO – Marketing & Social Media. The instructor was Zack Turner. I was thrilled to learn that the only social media he uses is Twitter. I, like lots of other writers, get overwhelmed with social media.

After a boxed lunch, the afternoon session was a panel called Playwrights in the Writers Room. They were all much younger than I, but it was particularly interesting to hear the experiences of the two women panelists in a man’s world. I guess some progress is being made.

That evening we walked to dinner where we met my daughter who lives in the area. What fun to see Kira and connect in person. She had asked a friend, who knew Culver City, for a restaurant recommendation and made reservations for our group at Akasha. We ordered a variety of delicious small plates. (I always forget to take food photos until we’ve made a dent in the items. There were way more shrimp to start.)

Sunday morning’s conference session was a continuation of The Artist as CEO – this time focused on the Business of Writing for the Stage. The instructor was Ralph Sevush. He’s an attorney with years of helping playwrights and was an engaging and knowledgeable speaker.

The afternoon was a Masterclass on Structure, taught by Gary Garrison. What a fabulous teacher! So much of the material also applied to writing fiction. We felt like we were double dipping.

That evening we had dinner with our friend, Shar McBee, who used to live in our area of the Eastern Shore. After years of speaking about nonprofit leadership (because of her book “To Lead is to Serve”) Shar just launched a new project “Leadership & Yoga.”  She is starting with workshops and train the trainer events.  Maybe it’s because she’s in California where there is a yoga studio on every corner, but Shar says she’s stunned at how people are responding to her new material.  It has opened up a whole new path of activity.  The week we were there, Shar had five speaking engagements about “Leadership & Yoga.”  www.JoyofLeadership.com

If you live on the Eastern Shore, you may remember that Shar organized the Leadership for Women Conferences that benefitted Chesapeake College.  Even then, she was including yoga sessions led by Freya Farley.

After breakfast  on Monday, we Ubered to the airport, boarded our flight and got home a little after eight on Monday night. A driver picked us up and took us across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It was a whirlwind trip, but surprisingly relaxing, fun, full of connections, and crammed with learning.

It turned out to be an “I’m so glad we did this” trip.

 

Someone Actually Reads My Blog

Laura and I were in Los Angeles last weekend for a two day Dramatist Guild conference. We were the only east coast people of the 50 participants. The first morning I am sitting next to a woman from CA, chatting, exchanging business cards (which I actually remembered to bring). The usual drill. She looks at my card, then at me and says, “I read your blog.”

I couldn’t believe it. I know that friends and family and some others read my blog but what are the odds that I would be in CA, at a conference and sit next to someone who actually reads my blog. What a high!

So a shoutout to Bradetta (named for her father Brad) whose contact info I now cannot find. If you read this, send me your email. And thank you for following my blog!

I’ll write another post about the conference, the cool hotel we stayed in and the meetings we took. I may not have said that right. You probably have to live in LA to take a meeting.