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Purging and vulnerability in the internet universe

I have been purging my home office lately, and by that, I mean going through old bank statements, paid bills, insurance statements, and other sorts of paperwork to get rid of the boxes that have accumulated in my life. For instance, last night I went through a box of papers dating from years 2000-2003.  Since I’ve been told the IRS only goes back seven years (only as if that isn’t enough), I’m thinking it’s not necessary to hang onto anything prior to 2005. 

But in terms of today’s world, discarding that information is not simply throwing it out with the trash or recycling. There is a very real threat of stolen identity, and I have been SHREDDING mounds of papers–so much so that I actually overheated my little shredding machine and it quit cold turkey, refusing to take another bite; perhaps burning is a faster option? Anyway, it feels good to purge, but along with that is the realization that our personal information is not safe, and we are all at risk of having it stolen.

Meanwhile, I just heard that LinkedIn has been hacked into and millions of names have been released. Users are encouraged to change their passwords as soon as possible! As if I don’t have enough trouble remembering passwords, just add it to the list of “things we do differently” because of the internet world we live in.

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Excuses, excuses

Since Jackie relayed the story of the family wedding at her house as a reason for not writing, I thought I would offer my excuse for being a lax blogger. Not that excuses mean much in the blogosphere – as in academia, it is strictly “publish or perish,” but we’re hoping that we can be more dedicated going forward. My excuse is that I decided to try to resolve my ongoing midlife crisis (what do I want to do with myself?) and go back to school by taking two challenging and radically different classes – one, an online course in Legal Research Methods which involved many hours at the law library and the other a graduate class in Literary Theory which was literally the most difficult and challenging class I’ve ever taken. (I’m actually not quite done with the theory class as I’m still writing my final paper and am only about a third into it.) Between reading cases at the law library and reading dense, scholarly journal articles three or four times each, plus writing law memoranda and theoretical response papers, I’ve been putting in a good 6-10 hours a day, including weekends. So, all of my blogging had to be put aside, along with house cleaning, yard work, socializing, etc. Well, I hope I don’t sound like I’m complaining – I love taking classes and feel rather lucky to be doing so. If nothing else, I’m too busy to worry about what I “should” be doing. Okay, back to that paper….

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Wedding reception at my house

Okay, I know I’ve been out of the loop for weeks, violating the golden rule of blogging: that is, to post regularly. Enough people have emailed or called asking when we were going back online that I was prompted to start again, realizing that some folks are still interested in what we have to say. Even when I’m overwhelmingly busy, I feel better about myself and my life when I’m writing. This is especially true during difficult times when my tendency toward strong opinions on just about everything (ask how I feel about artichokes) is heightened. Lowell schools, in particular, are facing a financial crisis as the committee must deal with devastating cuts to meet revenue shortfalls, so it’s not that I don’t have anything to write about. Once I get over the inertia and procrastination that comes with getting out of the habit, there are a lot of posts percolating in my mind. I am, however, inclined to reveal the reason for my hiatus, as an excuse and explanation:

On May 1, we hosted a wedding reception for 75 family members and close friends at our home. As you can imagine, I spent the many weeks preceding the event doing major cleanup and renovation work. Thankfully, May 1 was a beautiful day, so all our efforts at gardening, edging and mulching paid off because even in a big old house like ours, 75 is a good crowd and you need to have the yard and deck available. My nephew Matthew and his bride Jessica were able to spend time with the family and receive our blessings before heading back to Lake Tahoe for their new life together. And I, finally, am ready to get back to writing.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

As I rush off to two school committee meetings (finance subcommittee at 6 and regularly scheduled meeting at 7), both televised live from LTC cable channel 10, I wanted to take a moment to share an Irish blessing on this, the very American holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. Celebrating the day has always been a big tradition in my family, mostly because my father made it so, with his green attire and accessories (right down to shamrock boxer shorts). For me, the day will always be about family, wearing green, and eating corned beef and cabbage, and especially remembering my father, who died on St. Patrick’s Day 17 years ago. In that spirit and on this glorious feels-like spring day:

May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And the rain fall soft upon your fields

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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Rainy day for a train ride

I was listening to WCAP this morning, so I heard about the delays on the commuter rail line from Lowell to Boston. I checked online, phoned for an update, and sure enough: Due to flooding, the trains were stopping in Wilmington to unload passengers and shuttling them by bus to Anderson, where they would get back on a train for the rest of the ride to Boston.  This supposedly would make the trip only 30 minutes longer. Even with that hassle and having to allow extra time, the thought of fighting traffic and paying to park in Boston rather than sipping coffee and reading the paper made the train/bus/train option still my first choice. Fortunately, by the time I left on the 12:15, they had resolved the flooded-track issue somehow, and we took the train straight into North Station, albeit slower than usual.  As we rode, we passed wetlands of trees standing in small ponds, backyards that had become dark lakes, above-ground pools encased in water, and homes floating in puddles halfway up garage doors.  Alongside the tracks, a rushing gully of dark water kept pace with a current of tiny waves. Later, when I left North Station for the 15-minute walk to Beacon Street, the wind savagely ripped my umbrella into a deranged tangle of metal and torn cloth, rendering it useless, while rain sliced through my coat and stung my face. I was soaking wet and cold when I got to my meeting, and as much as I dreaded the walk back to North Station and the slow ride home, I knew I would dry easily. Not so, for those folks whose homes and businesses had been deluged.

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Lucy Ball goes to the wrong house on New Year’s Eve

Since childhood, I have had these experiences, which I call “Lucy Ball moments” and last night was one of them. It was cold, we were running late, and we had two parties to attend before the clock struck midnight. My husband had pulled up to a huge mansion of a house in Belvidere with cars parked everywhere. He suggested I get out so he could pull closer to the snow bank. Armed with a bottle of wine and a platter of brie cheese with cranberry chutney and toasted bread, I hustled toward the entrance when I noticed a young, very large brown dog pacing on the front stoop. He appeared harmless, so I cautiously passed him and rang the door bell. Just as I released the bell, I heard my husband shout from the street, “Wrong house!” Before I could move, a man opened the door. I apologized that I was at the wrong house and turned away to leave. He called out a happy new year and closed the door. At that moment, the dog started jumping on me. (I think he wanted the brie.) I turned my back to him, shrieking, as his paws hit the top of my shoulder blades with a staggering force. I screamed again, this time for my husband. At that moment, the door opened and a couple came running out, calling and chasing after the dog, who was jumping on me while I made my way down the slippery drive—cheese platter aloft—as quickly as I could.

Once I got to the right party, I shared my embarrassing story and learned about similar escapades: One was an elderly aunt who went into the wrong house, put gifts under the tree, and got a plate of food before noticing she was not with the right family. Another attended the wrong funeral and didn’t realize it until the eulogy. Perhaps you’ve had a Lucy Ball moment... It certainly seems an adventurous way to begin the New Year.

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Thoughts for Christmas

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pharo

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Traditions for being thankful

No matter what this day means to you in terms of food, family or friends, take a moment to incorporate giving thanks as part of it. In my family, we have tried different ways of formally expressing thanks with varying degrees of success. We have held hands at the table while each of us takes a turn sharing something to be thankful about. We have written anonymous notes of thanks on slips of paper, put the folded notes into a box, and then pulled them out to be read at random. We have had one person read a prayer, verse or poem of thanks while the rest listen. We have made jokes about silly things we are thankful for, repeated what people before us said for lack of something else to say, and sat through lectures about keeping priorities straight and being thankful for what’s important. Whatever approach you take, the act of being thankful makes a difference in your day. When we remind ourselves and each other about what we are thankful for, we enter a state of being grateful, which brings additional benefits to our attitude, outlook and health, as this post from the past explains. So consider being thankful today along with whatever else you do, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fifty years in less than three minutes

My brother sent me this link that shows 50 years of history in less than three minutes, set to Billy Joel’s song We Didn’t Start the Fire. It is amazing to see how much has happened and how many of the images were familiar to me—guess I’m showing my age. See how many of the images you recognize. Be patient though, it may take several seconds to upload, but it’s worth it.

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Enjoy a day of rest

Happy Labor Day! Hope you’re able to enjoy today with family and friends, doing something fun outside, or simply relaxing wherever you find yourself. I admit, I don’t have the details of how the unions initiated this holiday or when it started, but I am grateful for another day to enjoy the fleeting warmth of summer. Labor Day always carries a tinge of sadness for me, as I inevitably feel the summer went by too quickly—this year, in particular, summer flew by because so many days in an already-too-short season were lost to rain. Now that I’ve reached a certain age, I understand it is better NOT to spend Labor Day in traffic, and so, if we go away for the weekend, we always return home Sunday night. This year was no exception. We spent the weekend in Bar Harbor, swimming in Echo Lake (gloriously refreshing), sailing in Frenchmen’s Bay, and biking/hiking Acadia National Park. We will spend today relaxing near home and preparing for another busy fall season. Cheers!

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