Wednesday, December 20, 2017


If you look at the varied websites I bookmark on my computer, they provide a pretty accurate snapshot of my scattershot brain. There are oodles of craft project sites, which I mine for ideas for our church playgroup, Sunday School, etc. Mind you, this does not mean I master ANY of these creations. Our Halloween playgroup activity was making origami bats. Even after studying the online directions, I folded and unfolded and refolded, producing nothing remotely resembling a bat—or anything else. Writers’ sites also abound, (such as “Who Pays Writers?” and honestly, gang, it is a shame how little lots of outlets pay) and I can disappear down the internet rabbit hole for hours just comparing submission guidelines for various publications.

MacDowell Cottage in Winter--how cozy is that?

But of all the writer resources, the most daydreamed about are retreat centers, beautiful spots to escape with your manuscript and work away in blissful quiet: Santa Fe, Aspen, the Berkshires, picturesque places in Europe, etc. Artists of all kinds (painters, musicians) spend time in these fabulous (and inspirational) locales and I wish I could too. A very talented composer of my acquaintance travels quite regularly to different lovely retreat centers around the world, and always returns with significant work completed. She posts pictures of the grand pianos in the cozy studios nestled in the mountains, or by the sea, and it all looks idyllic.

But I wonder—even if I COULD go to Yaddo or the MacDowell Colony, just how productive would I really be? I fear I would be paralyzed by the clock ticking the hours away, ever closer to the time I’d have to vacate the premises. Plus, as I don’t exactly enjoy my own company, why do I think spending days all alone would be a delight for me? So there I’d be, heading home with only blank pages and boredom to show for my time away.

I seem to be most creative and successful with plenty of noisy humans close by. At the house, there’s always plenty of hubbub provided by the resident one and three year olds. This afternoon, Rose and I are typing away on our laptops in Starbucks, surrounded by several loud conversations and endless recorded Christmas music. I am getting quite a bit done. Rose too seems to be producing work across the table from me, “Santa Baby” blaring from the speakers notwithstanding.

I will continue to fantasize about writing my blockbuster novel in a coastal Maine solo hideaway, but deep down I know that I will probably never “retreat” more than a few miles from civilization. Clearly, I do better NOT far from the madding crowd. And I bet I’m not the only one.

Hmmm, now that I think about it, our fam could bring in some extra income by opening our abode to retreatants! I invite you to bring your unfinished projects over, and get to work. I’ll clear off the dining room table for you! Scads of company and distractions at the Seyfried Retreat Center, guaranteed!

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Epicenter Dover Delaware (about 1 1/2 hours away)

This afternoon at 4:48 I was just putting the finishing touches on my second to last skit (of this batch) for the company I’ve been working with (providing funny, grace-filled skits for progressive churches). I was due for a break (my back was bothering me), and I was planning to transition to Blog Post #3, when all heck broke loose. The house definitely shook. My scented candle skedoodled across the desk, and I could feel the intense rumble from attic to basement. For an instant I doubted the stability of our house, and pictured it in rubble. But then, in a flash, it was over—no harm done chez Seyfried. 

I was once again reminded of our geographical good fortune. Earthquakes (or “earthshakes” as my little ones used to say) are quite rare in the Philadelphia area, as are tornadoes and  hurricanes. We don’t even get that much snow! How did we get so lucky? Some might say that our status as the long-ignored sibling of behemoths NYC and DC has been punishment enough. But in reality, it’s just been random good fortune, and I don’t expect it to continue forever.

Among the (many) questions I have for the Almighty someday are those related to natural disasters, and their disturbing frequency in countries that can least afford to recover. I mean seriously, how much more can Bangladesh take? And, in this hemisphere, there is our ever-struggling sister Haiti. In the last few years, Haiti has been hit by hurricanes and floods and a significant earthquake. That on top of being the poorest nation in this part of the world. Even when all is meteorologically calm, summer temps soar past 100 degrees, with humidity to match. People live there still, and work, and raise their families, but under a never-lifting cloud of strife. When Haiti was colonized, their beautiful mahogany trees were cut down all along their mountain ranges, and sold. As a result, now, when the torrential rains come, there is nothing in place to stop the mudslides.

Why was I born in the US instead of in Haiti? Talk about your accidents! But here I am, and I have a responsibility, a sacred duty. I cannot turn a blind eye to my relatives (and we are all relatives) in peril. There are incredible organizations (Food for the Poor among them) that are dedicated to improving life there, but there is such a long way to go. I need to do my part.
Meanwhile, I sit in my intact, sturdily built house, rocked by a mere tremor. I picture a house in the developing world, crumbling to dust, the inhabitants trapped within. And I pray for a fair deal, for everyone. May we ALL survive our “earthshakes”, together, united when disaster strikes. The world, often a pretty scary place, is much less scary when we aren’t alone. Pray for Haiti, and Bangladesh, and everywhere Mother Nature shows her cruel streak. And then, let’s see what we can do to help.

Wish List

Christmas!! Yippee!!

Dear Santa,

I have been, on the whole, a relatively good girl this year (relatively as in, I’ve been better than most of the outrageously misbehaving people in public life these days). I know you have your sleigh full of treats for little tots so I won’t overburden you. Aside from a few tangible items, most of my “hearts desire” things take up no space at all. Here we go!

I would like a dentist who will congratulate me for brushing and not demonize me for not flossing.

I would like a doctor who doesn’t point out the date of my last checkup (always at least five years ago) and make a big deal of it.

Please bring me a self-driving car (or, failing that, a chauffeur-either would be fine). I just received “night vision” glasses I had ordered online in hopes I can drive at night again. Haven’t tested them out on the road yet, but they make me look like The Fly, so there’s that.

I would love a Fitbit variation that credits me for breaths, not steps, taken each day. Imagine the thrill of those high numbers! And if it’s getting late and you’re short of your goal, you can always just pant!

While we’re at it, how about clothes that wash themselves? Kind of like taking things to the dry cleaners, but in this case I’d just dump everything into a laundry basket in the hall and find it magically spotless the next morning. And there’d be no one to pay! Mind you, we wouldn’t get those flimsy complimentary hangers, but I’m good.

Along those lines, a self-cleaning kitchen would be swell. Right now my kitchen is cleaned by whoever isn’t cooking (which means I am usually off the hook, but I feel for the dear ones who wash the insane number of pans and spatulas I require for the simplest meal). I would love a dishwasher that wheels itself out to the table, scoops all the plates up and scurries away with them. And a floor that scrubs itself on command also! Don’t stop me now, I’m on a Jetsons roll!

I’d adore a lifetime supply of hugs from my grandsons, against the future day when hugging me will be much too embarrassing.

May I please have sunny summer afternoons on the beach on constant repeat? Preferably with my gang, but also quite content with a book, and feet in the sand.

Santa, blog post ideas ALWAYS welcome! I’m sure you have your stories to share!

While you’re at it, throw in some general peace, love and harmony for this crazy mixed up world. If enough of us have it, maybe together we can fix things.

Guess that’s all. Oh, I’m almost out of lipstick, so please toss one into your bag o’ gifts. That really is it. Thank you. Wait. Just remembered a few other small items…I’ll text you.

As Aiden’s favorite veddy British cartoon character Peppa Pig would say:  Happy Christmas! Cheerio!