Friday Five: Doing the Shuffle

  1. Love’s In Need of Love Today – Stevie Wonder
    Songs in the Key of Life
  2. Bill – Talking Heads
  3. Nurds – The Roches
  4. Those Three Days – Lucinda Williams
    World Without Tears
  5. Lady of the Island – Crosby, Stills & Nash
    Crosby, Stills & Nash

Confession: I was tempted to alter the results so I wouldn’t look like as if I was completely stuck in the musical past. But these truly are the first five songs that came up out of a roster of 2,599. I swear. (This is Zebu’s old iPod and it still has some of his crappy modern country music on it so I guess I should be grateful none of those songs reared their ugly heads.)

Friday Five: The Marcel Edition

  1. This is Marcel.
    Marcel jpeg
    He looks like the typical cat who sleeps 18 hours per day, right?
  2. I will admit he sleeps a fair amount. In fact, he’s napping downstairs as I write this. But I’ve never lived with a cat who was better at entertaining himself. Marcel especially loves elastics, twist ties, and pipe cleaners (also my sweaty socks, but that’s a whole other blog post).
  3. The other morning as I did yoga, Marcel showed up with a purple pipe cleaner. I tried to maintain my yogic** concentration as he batted it around then snuck up on it to pounce. A few minutes later, Marcel showed up with a white pipe cleaner. After that, it was a black pipe cleaner.
    Pipe cleaners

    The white pipe cleaner is MIA, but these two remain on the floor as toys.

    If you look closely you can see Marcel’s white hairs on the pipe cleaners, (and if you have really good vision, the kind that sees across the miles and through walls, you’d see white hairs on my shirts, shoes, futons, hardwood floors, bathroom vanity, . . .)

  4. That third pipe cleaner prompted me to investigate and, sure enough, I found the source. Marcel had gone down to the drawers that Wildebeest and Zebu used way back when for storing their craft items. Marcel had opened the drawer holding the pipe cleaners.
    Craft drawer
  5. Marcel is a nappy cat, a food-obsessed cat, and also a pretty damned smart cat.

    Marcel woke up when I came down to photograph the scene of the crime.

    Marcel woke up when I came down to photograph the scene of the crime.

**Confession: I thought I’d made up a word but then looked it up and discovered I was inadvertently legit.

Friday Five: The Iris Edition

Just took a little tour of my front and back gardens. Last year I lost almost all iris blooms to a snowstorm so am thrilled at this year’s turnout. There are several stands of iris not yet in bloom, but these beauties are currently going all out:

Burgandy Iris

Brown Iris

Purple Iris

Cream Iris

This is one of my pure white iris planted next to several deep, deep purple iris, and I’m looking forward to that dramatic display:

White Iris closed

Wishing everyone a beautiful, blooming weekend!

Friday Five: The New-to-Me Edition

ONE: The right headlight on our 2004 Prius went out and Zippy fixed it with a new bulb (something he’s done four times over the years, thanks to the kindness of people who post YouTube how-to’s).

New bulb in the old car.

New bulb in the old car.







We replaced our garbage disposal splash guard (taking only three trips to the stores to find the correct size), again thanks to the kindness of people sharing DIY knowledge.

My new view from above.

My new view from above.








THREE: One night this week Zippy and I watched WILD, the movie based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, and an image from that film that’s stayed with me is Cheryl writing in her journal and then tearing out the page after it’s filled, and feeding it to the campfire.

WILD movie






FOUR: One of our two old dogs is suddenly walking like a drunken sailor and yesterday the vet told us Coco is (hopefully) suffering from “Old Dog” Vestibular Disease, so she’s now on some medication and we’re hoping she’s soon upright and back to herself.

Coco's got a new tilt to her head.

Coco’s got a new tilt to her head.










FIVE: Last fall Zippy and I dug out the raised bed on our patio that had been destroyed by our two old dogs, and replanted it with new perennials (before adding a barrier fence to keep out Coco and Zoey), and the new plants are poking through.

A new penstemon has joined the garden.

A new penstemon has joined the garden.

Friday Five: The Random Edition

(1) I used to be kinda indifferent about Led Zeppelin, but for the past couple months have been mainlining it at a LOUD volume.

(2) I’m still having to run back and forth on the one flat street in my neighborhood due to glute issues and yesterday did three miles with the help of Sly & the Family Stone.

(3) I’ve started working part time as a substitute library page which means I shelve books at various local libraries, and have developed a love-hate relationship with the Dewey Decimal System.

(4) I’m revising a manuscript and enjoying the process which I call a WIN.

(5) If this rain doesn’t let up soon, I’m gonna scream loud enough to be heard over the Led Zeppelin.

Friday Five: The Literary Travel Edition

I’m still (mostly) adhering to my read-what’s-already-on-my-shelves policy and here’s where the latest five books have taken me:

(1) Japan via KITCHEN by Banana Yoshimoto.
Kitchen cover

(2) England via JEEVES AND THE FEUDAL SPIRIT by P.G. Wodehouse
Jeeves cover

(3) New York City via THE BURGLAR WHO TRADED TED WILLIAMS by Lawrence Block
Burglar cover(4) Haiti via THE COMEDIANS by Graham Greene


(5) And I’m currently in Georgia with a young Japanese seaman (Hiro Tanaka) via EAST IS EAST by T. Coraghessan Boyle


All over the place without spending a dime. Ah, books.

Friday Five: The Swimming Edition

1) I used to swim and I loved to swim and I swam a lot. A mile per session. But then I got tired of smelling like chlorine and I stopped swimming and focused on running. For the record, I also love running. But right now my body isn’t doing as well with the running.

2) For quite some time after I quit swimming, I had dreams of swimming. Strong, efficient strokes and flip turns and the black line on the floor of the pool showing me the way. It made me sad to quit, but I couldn’t take the chlorine. Well, this week I dove back in the pool.
file0003550277033) Wednesday was my first time swimming laps in YEARS and I was so happy to be back that I took off too fast and went into oxygen debt which meant I never quite caught my breath. And so I started to chastise myself for being out of shape and such a mess before remembering that, hey, I’d been away from swimming for a long time and still banged out a pretty fast mile. So there, Nasty Voice.

4) Today I swam again and it was so much easier because I didn’t take off like a crazy woman delirious with happiness about being back in the water. I was still very happy, but I was a smarter happy and kept my breathing regular.

5) Downside? Despite my best efforts in the shower afterward, I’m now getting whiffs of chlorine PLUS it seems that I should’ve taken the time to adjust the goggles I wore because they were definitely too tight and I kinda, sorta gave myself two black eyes.
cat in goggles

Friday Five: The Next Chapter

(1) Zippy and Zebu were at the tail-ends of their colds when I got sick two days before we had to start our drive to Washington. Of course. We left on Thursday morning with a big box of ultra-soft tissue and the rental car trunk loaded with Zebu’s stuff. We’d chosen a chevy impala trunkChevy Impala for its impressive trunk capacity and ended up getting one equipped with satellite radio. We drove many of our 1600 miles laughing at comedy routines and only once did I fear for our safety when Lewis Black had Zebu and me (behind the wheel) in tears. I highly recommend comedy for road trips.


(2) Zippy and I are now officially empty nesters (if you discount the two dogs and two cats), and I’m handling the transition pretty well. We arrived back home late Sunday night and while I did wash my face and brush my teeth on Monday, I spent the day in my jammies on the couch, watching flawless movie stillmovies (Party Girl with Parker Posey and Flawless with Philip Seymour Hoffman, pictured here with Robert DeNiro), some television (The Mindy Project and Californication), and staring into space. I’ve since roused myself, put on real clothes, and rejoined society.

(3) Now that we have Zebu settled at college, I can no longer put off finishing my YA. I thought my slow progress was solely due to feelings of trepidation regarding what happens when a manuscript is polished Daggerand ready to go (something that feels like the equivalent of putting my heart on a platter so that others can stab it over and over again), but a couple days ago I had an epiphany about my slow progress. I haven’t just been procrastinating in an act of self-preservation, but have been writing slowly because I was headed in the wrong direction. I thought I knew the ending, but I did not. Rather, I knew the final scene but had a few key details wrong. I believe my middle-office mind knew that and was patiently waiting for me to wake up to the truth of the story.

(4) I applied to and was accepted into the Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference held next month, which is another motivator for finishing my manuscript. Yikes.

(5)  I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but as a result of all the preparations and then the emotional aftermath of getting Zebu off to school, I’ve largely ignored the fear-mongering and bloodlust dominating the airwaves. May I just say, for the record, that I am so very tired of the U.S. government thinking it can end fundamentalist ideology by bombing it out of existence? It hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. Also? Not only is it stupid, this latest bombing is illegal. But, hey, we’re Team USA! However, . . .


Friday Five: The TracyWorld Edition

1) While much of Bob Dylan’s HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED is good music to run to, Ballad of a Thin Man is not a song that will put pep in your step.

2) Zebu is binge-watching all six seasons of LOST (and luring me in from time to time), and what pops into my head at least once per viewing is How are none of these people badly burned and peeling?! Yo, Dharma Initiative, you remembered the lima beans but forgot the sunblock!

3) I want to live in a world in which cookies and beer have no caloric consequences.

4) I have SO. MANY. PHOTOS on my computer that haven’t seen the light of day, so here’s a random selection (capture of a Red-Tailed Hawk eyass from the Cornell Labs cam a couple years ago):Capture

5) I recently read T.C. Boyle’s WATER MUSIC and Zadie Smith’s ON BEAUTY (part of this effort), and am trying hard to be inspired by their prowess for description rather than allowing their mad skills to intimidate me so much I take a match to my manuscript.

Friday Five: The Farewell-to-Lebowski Edition

On Wednesday, July 10, we said goodbye to Lebowski. We adopted The Dude (known as “Harry” on his adoption papers) from the Dumb Friends League in November of 2004. I went to the shelter with the intent of adopting another female cat (I’d had two females before, Diva and Isis), and instead ended up with the friendliest (male) cat I’d ever met.

Lebowski would run ahead of us and flop down on the floor, inviting us to rub his tummy. At which time, he’d purr in the loudest tones. Writhing in ecstasy.Lebowski 027Making that constant contactWhen people came to the house, he’d hang back a minute or two but then stroll out to make introductions. Lebowski viewed everyone as potential friends and ear-scratchers.Batman and Lebowski 002He had a good relationship with Coco (pictured below) and Zoey, the two shelter dogs we adopted in the year after he joined us. He tolerated their sniffing and nuzzling, and he repaid them with friendly swats on their heads from where he perched atop their crates.Dogs and Cat 026This summer was The Gift of Lebowski. Expectations were that he’d die in May but he stayed with us for almost another ten weeks. I spent most of the summer with him. Lots of time on the bed or couch, but increasingly either on the deck, the patio, or wandering the backyard. He had quality of life as he watched (and sometimes chased) the butterflies and stalked beetles. In the final days, he was happy to curl up beneath the yarrow and valerian where he could observe everything around him. Lebowski 004I like to say that Lebowski won the lottery when we brought him home because for the rest of his life he had four devoted friends who loved on him and satisfied his hedonism. But that lottery feeling went both ways. I’m forever grateful the female cat I’d picked out to meet/adopt didn’t want anything to do with me and that the shelter volunteer then said, “You know who’s a really nice cat you should meet . . .”

Words can’t do him justice.

Friday Five: The Pain Management Edition

1) Coco’s acute back pain troubles have greatly improved, but it’s a fine balance between managing her pain and keeping her from feeling so good that she does dumb things like jump from the back of the car before I can stop her. Right after a massage session.

2) Due to lifting Coco and the stress of her ongoing health issues, I’m now experiencing back pain that isn’t alleviated by yoga but is improved by treadmill running.  Hooray?

3) We’re gathering estimates for a roof replacement and already feel enormous pain in our bank account that is further exacerbated by the fact that the roofing materials we can afford are bad for the planet. Asphalt shingles = nasty.

4) This morning while removing Zebu’s bread from toaster oven, the slice fell onto the heating element and burst into flames. Ouch.

5) Okay, that last one was just silly. It’s not as if I burned my hand or stabbed myself with the knife I used to remove the flaming bread. Who am I trying to kid?!

And on that note, here’s a dapper little House Finch on this late-February Friday:Bird shots 025

Wishing everyone a wonderful, pain-free weekend!

Friday Five: The Rejoice Edition

1) We survived the onslaught of election calls and advertisements mostly intact.
Bronco Bama girl


2)  There were some awesome outcomes on Tuesday, including:

  • Elizabeth Warren is now Senator from Massachusetts!
  • Tammy Baldwin is now Senator from Wisconsin!
  • Alan Grayson is back as Representative from Florida!
  • Allen West was voted out of office and no longer represents Florida!
  • Joe Walsh was voted out of office and no longer represents Illinois!
  • Messed-up-in-the-head, anti-women Todd Akin gone!
  • Forced birth nutso Richard Mourdock lost senate race in Indiana!
  • Raul Grijalva is still Representative from Arizona!


3)  Gay marriage was legalized on Tuesday:

  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Washington


4)  Marijuana was legalized on Tuesday:

  • Colorado
  • Washington


5)  Karl Rove (aka Turd Blossom) and his $300 million Super PAC
had a 1% success rate in the elections PLUS he suffered a public
meltdown on FOX News as he begged them to not yet call Ohio for


6) BONUS: Here’s Jon Stewart documenting the collective FOX meltdown.

Rejoice and laugh!

Laughing girl for post 11.9.12
image from

Friday Five: The Spawn Edition

It’s been a while since I shared anything about Wildebeest and Zebu
so I dedicate this Friday’s post to the boys.

1) Wildebeest opted to not attend college and is living in a duplex
with a bunch of guys, some of them students and others co-workers
from Casa Bonita. He’s quite content with his life, and he and I have
lots of phone conversations. Now that we no longer live together
we’re free to like each other again.

Face 002
Self-portrait from years ago.

2) Wildebeest has a new friend he calls Bernice. He adopted her
from a cat rescue place and they love each other very much.  I
bought her some cat toys and only felt slightly grandma-esque.

3)  Zebu is a junior this year and last night I went to his teacher
conferences. He’s doing very well and I was an especially proud
mother when two teachers in a row told me they appreciated
his sarcastic sense of humor.

passport Harlan 002
Old passport photo we just updated this week.

4)  We’re easing into basketball season and Zebu is looking
forward to being a taller, stronger player this year. He lifts weights
at school and the club but is kind enough to help me with my form
as I lift at home. (Turns out I was rocking my body during hammer curls).

5)  Wildebeest is coming over on Monday night to watch the Broncos-
Chargers game and while I usually take those opportunities to disappear,
I think I’ll stick around and watch the game with the menfolk.

Wishing everyone a beautiful, autumnal weekend!

Friday Five: The Kathleen Duey Edition

So what do you do when you’re more than a year into a project yet
still confused regarding the viability of said project?
Hire Kathleen Duey – Writing Consultant Extraordinaire.

Kathleen Duey pic

And how does that consultation take place?
Via Skype in which you’re face-to-face across the miles,
looking into Kathleen’s friendly face below those flaming tresses,
as she shares her reaction to your opening pages and synopsis.

Will she automatically like what you’ve written and advise you to
continue in that vein?
Not in my case. But that’s good because the reason
I contacted Kathleen was to jar myself from the space I was in with
that project, and to get me thinking in new and different directions. If she’d
told me I was on the right track I would’ve wanted my money back.

Did she share brilliant insights and suggestions?
Yes and yes! Kathleen offered a plot device I hadn’t considered which
will make the storytelling easier while adding complexity to the plot. She also
had oodles of general insights and if I had to choose a money quote from our
session it would be “I don’t really know this kid yet and I’m thinking you
don’t know him much better.” That was painful to hear but not unexpected;
it was the wake-up I needed. (She then shared techniques for
getting to know him, getting to know all about him…).

Well, it kinda sounds as if your project needs a major overhaul so aren’t
you a little overwhelmed?
Absolutely. But I also finally, finally feel as if I might be able to do this concept
justice (a concept Kathleen very much loved) and so am trying not to look
too far ahead as I begin at the beginning (again). This project is my Grow
and Learn and Mature as a Writer project, and I want to embrace the

If you get the chance to hear Kathleen speak at a conference, do it.
I heard her years ago when my energy and drive were flagging and
she made me not only want to write again, but to write well. She’s smart
and passionate and incredibly supportive of other writers.

Thank you again, Kathleen!

Friday Five: The Catching Up Edition

1)  Zebu turned 16 this week and got his driver’s license.
Knowing him, that’s what he was dreaming about in this old photo:
passport Harlan 001

2)  Zippy is training for the MS 150 Colorado Bike Ride next weekend
and has been going on looong rides in the 90+ degree temperatures plus
commuting to work via bike which means a return ride of 12+ miles uphill.
(It’s a good cause and he’s low on fundraising so if you have a couple bucks
to toss his way he’d be thrilled).

3)  Wildebeest is living with Casa Bonita workmates and enjoying
the freedom of a home so messy he temporarily lost his phone.

4)  I am waiting to hear back from a critique partner on my revisions
before I can finally, finally send them off. In the meanwhile I’m revisiting the project
I set aside several months ago and tweaking the synopsis with a new perspective.

5)  The nest cam is still running at Cornell University and here’s the youngest
hawk looking quizzical on her return visit to the nest the other day:
Hello #3

I’ve been out of the loop here but hope everyone is doing well.
Wishing you all a great weekend!

Friday Five: The Taking Flight Edition


I'm noticing lots of amorous behavior from the male doves in the neighborhood
and admit to chuckling at the way they follow the reluctant females from limb to
limb, wire to wire, hoping for attention.

© Tracy Abell and Zippy 2012

The females will put up with that behavior for only so long before taking wing.


Friday Five: The Slice of Life Edition

1)  Whenever fifteen-year-old Zebu winks at me, I swing between feelings of admiration and intimidation since I’ve never felt confident enough of my winking ability to do so.

image from

2)  At my suggestion eighteen-year-old Wildebeest is reading Stephen King’s MISERY, and enjoying himself mightily.

3)   Zoey and Coco want me to remember that when I choose to bathe them and
spray them with water, I must be prepared for the relationship to suffer a loss of trust.

© Tracy Abell 2012

4)  Zippy is reading a library e-copy of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, a 944-page
novel, and was thrilled to discover even though his copy is overdue he can
still read it as long as he doesn’t close the file.

5)  I’ve been battling flu-like symptoms much of the week but plan to get
on the treadmill in a couple hours for my cardio workout, and hope to feel
those “endolphins” kick in (so I’m, in the words of Zippy, “swimming in the dolphin tank.”)

image from

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!

Friday Five: The Round-and-Round Edition

1)  As mentioned before, I’ve had to circle back and work on opening chapters some more  and have been mostly pleased with my progress.

2)  Then yesterday I hit a bump and realized I needed to circle back yet again to tweak a scene so brainstormed characterization and plot issues to prepare myself for today’s work.

3)  This afternoon I revised and revised, then printed out the pages and congratulated myself on a job well done.

4)  Except when I began jotting notes about a tangential issue on my enormous whiteboard, I started doubting myself regarding the characterization and plot line I’d supposedly just wrestled to the ground.

5)  So I went outside and shoveled very heavy snow while talking out loud about all this stuff and came up with this answer: there’s such a thing as over-thinking a story and it would be wise to relax and enjoy the ride. 

image from

Wishing everyone a whirly-twirly, fun-filled weekend!

Friday Five: The Round-and-Round Edition


1)  As mentioned before, I've had to circle back and work on opening chapters some more
 and have been mostly pleased with my progress. 

2)  Then yesterday I hit a bump and realized I needed to circle back yet again to tweak a scene
so brainstormed characterization and plot issues to prepare myself for today's work.  

3)  This afternoon I revised and revised, then printed out the pages and congratulated myself on a job
well done.

4)  Except when I began jotting notes about a tangential issue on my enormous whiteboard
I started doubting myself regarding the characterization and plot line I'd supposedly just wrestled to the ground.

5)  So I went outside and shoveled very heavy snow while talking out loud about all this
stuff and came up with this answer: there's such a thing as over-thinking a story
and it would be wise to relax and enjoy the ride. 

                                                             image from

Wishing everyone a whirly-twirly, fun-filled weekend!


Friday Five: The Out-My-Window Edition


It's a gray, dreary day and I'm battling weepy-sack-of-Tracy feelings 
but am hanging in there thanks to the activity outside my window:

                                                                                              **all images © Tracy Abell 2012    

Wishing everyone an activity-filled, not-at-all dreary weekend!