“Oy, my aching head,” said the intuitive

A few weeks ago I shared a personal problem with my advisory board: the loose grouping of friends and colleagues whose opinions I trust and sometimes even listen to. Their words were wise but I was still undecided, and so I decided to see an intuitive who lived on the outskirts of town.

A friend’s daughter had consulted the woman (I’ll call her Cassandra), and Cassandra’s reading was spot-on. Cassandra identified the daughter’s medical issue and suggested a course of action, which turned out to be a good one.

My issue was relatively minor and likely would have resolved itself had I been more patient. The problem with problems, however, is that they linger. They are like houseguests who trash the place, promise to leave but do so only when there’s nothing left to munch on.

Now, for those of you who have never consulted an intuitive, be forewarned: sitting across from one is unnerving. You realize suddenly that you are paying a stranger $60 to nose around in your life for 30 minutes and that within milliseconds she’ll know you cheated on your 4th grade math quiz and are wearing holey underwear. You’ll get this sinking feeling that she’ll make horrid pronouncements, like your dog is going to die, which will freak you out even though you don’t have a dog.

Cassandra the intuitive didn’t smile as I stepped into her office. She sat on one side of her huge desk, I sat on the other, feeling like a job applicant. She closed her eyes and told me she was going to do a quick scan of my body to see what was what. Oh no! She was going to see my underwear.

When she opened her eyes, she looked at me accusingly. “You’re giving me a headache,” she said.

This threw me. I know I can be a pain in the ass, but a pain in the head? Continue Reading →

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Car names — dumb, funny and dangerous

Author Beth Mende Conny of Lifenicity and Write Directions wants to know who gives cars such dumb, funny and dangerous names.So here we are, Joe and I merrily driving along Pennsylvania Rt. 322, going at a pleasant 60 mph when — gimme a break! — an RV darts in front of us at a blazing 15 mph. We curse, brake.

“Well that was dumb,” I say, though not about the driver. I’m thinking about the dumb ad execs who chose the name of this 40-foot monster whose belly holds 60 gallons of highly flammable liquid. The name? The Inferno.

Inferno? What’s with these people? Were they devotees of quality films like “Fast and Furious” or “Smokey and the Bandit”?

This got me thinking about an article my father once wrote about ad campaigns gone wrong. Here’s what I remember:

A group of execs are sitting around, trying to think up an appealing name for their client’s laundry detergent. Hours go by and finally, they find it: Dreck. Pats on the back. Yes, Dreck!

And then they got lucky. Continue Reading →

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Reconfiguring our lives

reconfiguring

© 2014 Original art by Beth Mende Conny. Lifenicity.com

Let’s talk about the seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Or is it Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring?

There is no official order, of course, but they are ordered nonetheless, lined up like school children. One follows the other, no pushing to get ahead.

To shift their position is to upset the world order and realign the planets. That certainly won’t do. We humans don’t handle change well. Hell, we get disoriented when forced to change sides of the bed.

And yet, at times, there is a seasonal shakeup, a melding. Fall becomes Spring, as buds of dreams break through barren soil. Summer becomes Winter as love grows cold and hibernates. And so it goes, this year and every year of our lives.

There is mystery and madness to the seasons, hope and glory and sweetness and laughter. And change. Like it or not, the seasons reconfigure our lives. It is best not to fight the inevitable or, at times, to try to understand why it is so. What matters most is to let the planets follow their course and to align with them as best we can.

 

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Focused ion beams, climate change and the Other Woman

focused ion beam

Sideview of a soot particle as seen in a Focused Ion Beam thingie.

My friends Glen and Kimba and I were hanging around last week and somehow our conversation shifted from Facebook to a discussion of particulate matter, focused ion beams and climate change.

My husband, Joe, happens to study atmospheric particles as part of his climate change research. A particle is a mere spec, but get a bunch of them together and they produce clouds and smog, among other things.

Each spec is made of molecules, and to figure out what they are, you need an electron microscope armed with a gizmo called a FIB (focused ion beam)

 

focused ion beam

Top view of same soot particle.

The FIB enables you to view particles three-dimensionally and on a molecular level. A two-dimensional view is insufficient. It cannot identify which molecules are on the particle’s sides or back; nor does it identify which are buried within its depths.

The FIB works like a bread slicer, only instead of slicing bread, it slices the particle. The particle is placed (staged) on a wafer (think of it as a plate) that is made of germanium. Wafers can also be made of silicon, carbon, etc. (Joe explained his preference for germanium, but I wasn’t listening because I was trying to grasp the whole bread slicer thing.)

 

focused ion beam

Same soot particle, staged in carbon and partially sliced; molecules beginning to show.

Anyway, instead of making 20 cuts per loaf of bread, the FIB makes hundreds of cuts per particle. Each is measured in nanometers (1 millimeter = 1 million nanometers).

As the FIB slices the particle from the outside in, its innards (molecules) are revealed. The FIB then identifies the what’s in the molecules themselves, e.g., silicon, iron, carbon, copper, etc.

Why go through this rigmarole? Because if you can’t identify the elements floating about the atmosphere, you can’t tell which are contributing to climate change. For example, some elements absorb light, heating the atmosphere (bad), while others reflect light, cooling the atmosphere (not so bad).

And there you have it: focused ion beams, particulates, molecules and climate change. Impress your friends. (FYI, should you be impressed with me, my husband actually vetted the above.)

You also now know what my hubby does for a living, does for love. The FIB is the Other Woman with whom he spends an inordinate amount of time. Unless there really is another woman. Hmmm … is he FIB-ing?

 

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Sisterly Bonds and the Mountain Miracle

sisterly bonds

I recently found this essay among old writings. The memory it evokes is as vivid as the mountains and, most especially, my daughters. Let me share it with you.

I’ve got two kids, both girls and they’re nearly eight years apart. Given their age difference, there’s little they have in common, save fighting, which they do often, most especially when our family’s on vacation and they’re forced into each other’s company. Each year, I swear I’ll never go anywhere with them again. But fool that I am, I do it anyway.

A couple of years back, my husband and I decided to take the kids to West Virginia and hike in the Monongahela Forest. This was a pretty risky proposition, given we couldn’t get them to trek from the couch to the kitchen to toss their candy wrappers. Nonetheless, we got them into the car and up a mountain from which we had an incredible view of six counties’ worth of blue sky and dense forest. All we heard was birds and wind.

But here’s the best part: For whatever reason, the girls not only called a truce but instituted a love feast. They laughed, hugged and acted like the sisters I always hoped they would be.

To convince myself I wasn’t hallucinating, I grabbed my camera and snapped away. And when the film came back, there was my four-color proof: the girls’ full smiles and arms wrapped around each other.

I have the photos hanging above my desk. It’s my reminder that miracles happen.

sisterly bonds

P.S. The miracle continues. My girls are now 28 and 20. They live in the same city, and rarely does a week go by that they don’t see or talk to each other. They hug, they kiss; they are each other’s confidants. And I am their very happy mother who has above her desk numerous pictures of them together. They are the sisters I always hoped they would be.

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Meet Poet Judy Korotkin

new book judy

Just released!

Let me introduce you to one of most influential writers in my life: Judy Korotkin (aka my mom), who has just published “Horizons,” her second volume of poetry. Her first volume is “The Whirlwind Heart.”

Judy came to poetry later in life (after her novel and several plays), and it is through her work that I finally understand how poetry simplifies the complex, strips away excess, and clarifies ideas and experiences. Through her poetry, I’ve gained a greater understanding of her life, of life.

Judy writes movingly about her worldview and the world’s view of her as an older person. She doesn’t take kindly to typecasting. And why should she? She’s younger than many of us and can laugh you under the table.

Judy Korotkin and I reviewing a proof of her poetry book Horizons.

Judy Korotkin and I reviewing a proof of her poetry book Horizons.

The “Horizons” collection is whimsical, insightful and at times bittersweet. It captures dreams past and present, as well as life’s daily magic. She also writes of the inevitability of her passing (which I refuse to believe possible).

Below is one of my favorite poems. But first, let me share a dream — to sell enough of Judy’s books to cover her tuition to the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference in Vermont. (It is one of the premier writers’ retreats in the country.) It would be her reward for a life well lived — and well written. All book sales go directly to her.

The book is $10, click here to order.

 

“At This Age”
© 2014 Judy Korotkin

 

I can’t believe I’ve reached the age

where my horizon is today,

where all I want is to engage

 

with myself right on this page

so those who read my words will say,

her words, her wit deserve the stage!

 

It warms my heart that at my age

I still can move, I still can sway

the young, the old, the fool, the sage —

 

I still can show them at this age

(with no sign yet of mind’s decay)

what’s still possible if you engage!

 

I’m really thrilled that at my age

I can write and still convey

my view of life and love and gauge

 

why I can’t accept I’ve reached this age

where my horizon is today.

I’ll admit there is some rage;

I’ll explore that on another page.

 

Watch our fun video, “Two bored girls on a Friday night.”

 

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Why You Should Deviate

deviateMy husband and I are making a cake. Open before us is the bible for lost souls: the Joy of Cooking. Across the countertop are the requisite ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, eggs and salt) and various implements of destruction (measuring cups and spoons). The Joy (ha!) of Cooking makes clear the precise measurements and order of ingredients. It states, “Deviation brings disaster.”

Deviation brings disaster? Joe and I frown as we reread the warning. We then look at each other and smile: “Screw ‘em.”

Why this story about cake, you ask? Because it’s not about cake but deviation.

I am a writer, and to not deviate brings disaster. If I can’t mix ingredients the way I want and in the order and proportions that strike my fancy, why bake at all?

So what if flour spills on the counter or I mistake the salt for sugar. Who cares if I turn my three-layer cake into an apple pie, or preheat my oven to broil. Or simply serve my pie raw, in wine glasses. Or toss the whole mess in the trash and begin again, this time with chubby blueberries that stain my fingers as I plop them into a paper cup. Perhaps I’ll sprinkle fairy dust sugar on them. Or add chocolate syrup with a twist of lemon. Lemon? Yes!

So there Joy of Cooking! Deviation does NOT bring disaster. It brings surprise, which can be just as sweet. Ask any writer.

(By the way, the cake my husband and I made? It was delicious.)

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