Monday, January 31, 2011


In the book, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O'Connor McNess, Bronson Alcott greets Mr. Emerson, yes that is the Mr. Waldo Emerson, with these words, "Hello, my friend. I knew this promised to be a pleasant day."

In her talks Gurumayi Chidvilasananda electrifies her listeners with her greeting of, Dear Ones. Despite the fact her talks are distributed on CDs, and not always delivered face to face, every audience member matters.

And a dear friend of mine closes all her telephone conversations, both work and personal with the words, "Well, my friend..." Everyone, in business and in leisure, is cared for.

Greetings, they are windows to the soul. Care, concern, love offered on a silver palate. How lucky are those to be engaged.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lemons... Lemonade - Snow...Tracks

There is always a brighter side, goodness comes out of all situations; even the worst circumstances. Sometimes it's apparent, and in your face, and sometimes it's at a distance, or removed. But it's there -- always.

We have woods across the street from our house. Spring, summer and fall we avoid the woods; to avoid Lyme Disease carrying ticks. We've had Lyme Disease. We don't need it again. But winter... is different.

When in winter we enjoy the peacefulness that is but a stone's throw away.

We make tracks.

Yes, I have a cold nose.
Proven with infra red at the Museum of Science.

Friday, January 28, 2011

LIke a tidal wave

It hit me like a tidal wave; all this snow. Thigh deep drifts between the house and the compost bins. Snow piles six feet tall lining driveways and streets. All that snow translates to all that water. And all that water translates to all that sap for the sugaring season. Come late February the trees will be bulging. With runs resembling a gushing river. The pan will be lit 24/7.

We could top our all time backyard record of 5 gallons of syrup in 2009 when 66 inches of snow fell that January. Only time and the weather will tell.

Oh My Goodness! Be still my heart.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I have the pleasure to share part of two Sundays a month with a great bunch of seventh graders. This past Sunday it was not only below freezing outside, but it was Mission Sunday. Mission Sunday is the day where we discuss a social problem then propose a project through which the class can help. This year's topic was poverty.

Now this class already collects flip tops for the Ronald McDonald House. And this past Sunday a student came in with a peanut butter jar full -- almost 8 pounds worth. They are already helping out in the community. So imagine my delight when I asked them, "What is your vision for our Mission project?" and they came up with putting together kits for the homeless. Not a little bit more effort -- but a whole new project.

Where each kit is a backpack, containing a sweatshirt, reusable water bottle, a pair of socks, and the usual Generic Ministry lunch. I mentioned their plan to our Director and she gave me the look... You know the one that says, Huge effort. Our battle cry to push onward.

I have a class of big hearted dreamers. Last year they worked all year to design and sew a quilt for a little boy with Leukemia.

Care to help? Feel free to send or deliver your gently used and very clean backpacks, adult sweatshirts, socks and water bottles to St. George Youth Ministry, 74 School St., Framingham, MA 01701

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baby it's bitter outside

Yesterday, if you stayed indoors, snug as a bug, you couldn't really tell how cold the outside air was. For the sun shone, from sun up till sun down. Not a cloud impacted the blue sky. But truthfully it was -4F, nose hair freezing cold, outside as I walked my little one into school. With a scarf wrapped around her head, she resembled the little boy in the movie A Christmas Story. She was not pleased with her head gear -- but her ears were warm, and mommy was happy about that.

For the past three weeks, there has been a batch of homemade soup at the ready; hot steaming bowls of broth and vegetables. "Need warming, have some soup," is my dinner mantra. And that just might stay my mantra till after the sugaring season. Soup and hot tea... staples of the winter.

It warmed to a mighty 10F by afternoon. One more day of this arctic blast and then it will be warmer winter 20's as usual, and more snow.

But what of the people who can't escape this cold, day in and day out, all winter?

Monday, January 24, 2011

What you give and what you get

This weekend was a nonstop parade of commitments. Meditation, breakfast set up, funeral, altar serving, retreat meeting, parish breakfast and religious ed. Even before the itinerary check off commenced, I was already tired and feeling stretched to snapping. How did I get myself so involved? Why? Was I crazy?

But then, it happened. As the days progressed I realized that I wasn't the one being pulled and used. I was the one on the receiving end -- every time.
I was the one to revel in the enthusiasm of the parish activities committee as they tirelessly worked on our first breakfast of the year.
I was the one who heard the eulogy stating that I had inherited a piece of John Dillon's love for his community.
I was the one who felt the meditative peace of being placed in God's hands.
I was the one who smiled when the newest altar server swung his robe ties like a double dutch jump rope. Such innocents.
I was the one who got to once again ask my students,"Who are you?" And I delighted in their answers.

Was I crazy? No I was lucky.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Pristine. A clean slate. A gentle nudge. A prayer. A blank piece of paper. An open field. An empty document. An open door. A quiet banjo. The calm after the storm. A camera at the ready. Endless possibilities.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Composting Hint

When placing your compost bins think about that winter trek... through knee deep or better snow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snow Joke

Like most moms, I wish I had a weather crystal ball or knew a good joke, but I have neither. School or no school.... Work or no work.... Scouts or no scouts.... those are the questions. There isn't much fresh white on the ground now, but for the height of the morning commute the expectation is for it to lay down 7 more inches fast and furious.

Days like today are great for play it by ear, relaxation, and wait and see. There is a path and a lesson. Whatever the call, we will be good to go. No sense in fighting it...

This just in:
Town Schools
Friday: Closed
Submitted at: 5:23 AM EST on Friday, Jan 21

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Who Are You?

Yesterday's question of the day: Who are you? And I thank blogger friend, David Balentine, for answering this question with hope.

Yesterday started off with a stomach punch. Splashed across the news was the story of another blogger, who allegedly wrote that it was not okay to shot innocent people, but it was okay to target politicians and their staff. And what was so shocking is at one point in my life, our professional and social paths crossed. Years ago, I knew this person -- on the news. So upset, I had to fight the urge to keep my children home and have us never go out. My day filled with the questions, "Who are you?" Do we really know each other? Coworkers? Office mates? Next cube neighbors? Acquaintances? Really -- to think that violence and killing are okay? And to write that it is okay? Really?

My thoughts and conversations were consumed -- at work, in email, at the dentist, at home, until, David, a Retail Manager in the the Atlanta area, and blogger -- answered yesterday's question, Who Are You? superbly. And so much so, I wanted to share it here.

David is All About The Customer, and offering the best service to his customers. Through his blog he delivers business sense and strategies, but I find that his posts are applicable to a mom's life. For in living, we are all in the business of customer support to those around us. And his closing line from yesterday:

Live to serve. Humbly. 100% of the time. Make it who you are.

Thank you, David.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Many Hands

Make Light Work

We've all heard that saying. Yesterday my girls helped it to come true. Snow and more snow. Snow and then ice and rain...

I couldn't imagine what it would be like for my husband to drive home from work to face the unshoveled driveway. In our house -- the shoveling is his domain. We of course help by clearing the walkway and stairs, but he is the master of shoveling ceremony. Still we gathered the shovels.

The little one, like a tiny plow that could, pushed the snow in front of her giant-sized shovel. Soon enough we had cleared enough room to get his car off the street. He would be safe. Then without a word, a bit of playful banter, and a little extra effort, my Big Rig was cleared without complaining. My silent mantra: Each shovel full we move is a shovel full that he won't have to move later -- when it's dark and frozen into a 6 inch layer of ice.

We kept going. Counting the shovel fulls of the heavy slush deposited at the end of the driveway by the town plows. That stuff, once frozen would be impossible to drive over. By the time our path to the street was clear, I lost count.

The middle one and her friend made quick work of the walkway and stairs. Then salted and sanded to keep it clear -- before heading off for some sledding fun.

For all work and no play makes Janice a dull girl.

And for the man, it was a tough commute home, followed by hot homemade soup and no shoveling.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do We Stop Growing?

Years ago we adopted a 5 inch plecostomus. Its owner, complaining the fish was ripping up his tankscape, wanted peace and tranquility restored. Sure we'll adopt it. After all we just had a 20 gallon tank with a handful of playful guppies; plenty of room.

So Pleco came home. And she has never torn up the tank, but she has grown. At first it was slowly; hardly noticeable. Then two years ago, while eating breakfast I looked over at the tank and she was, nose to tail, 11 inches, spanning the width of tank. She was having trouble turning about. She had outgrown her environment. She needed a new space.

And I wonder, like our beloved fish, do we require bigger tanks? Of course our children do. By eighteen years of age, they are out of the house, off to college, out into the workforce. But what about adults? Do we continue to grow?

Unlike Pleco at this point in my life, I'm seriously putting the brakes on any physical growth, but I like to think that I learn new things everyday. Where my endless learning limits run wild and unchecked within a few pounds of gray matter safely contained and protected under my many gray hairs.

And Pleco... she got a hand me down 30 gallon tank a few years back. And yesterday, once again, I noticed, nose to end of tail, she spans her water world.

Do you fill yours?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who Are You Called To Be

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Eyes Have It

I've noticed when kids are engaged in a conversation, they don't always look that person in the eye. For my own, I remind them to have eye contact with the person they are talking to. It's a respect thing. But as a societal whole have we forgotten to teach them this little gem? Or is it a texting thing? Are we teaching, but they are not learning...

As a communication thing: I find eye contact is key for discerning the truth. It helps in getting to the crux of the conversation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Quiet Place

We took a walk today and besides being quite beautiful with the snow, there was a deep sense of homecoming. As the names on the stones carried a sense of the familiar: Hemenway, Esty, Cahill, Eastman. They were all there, and more. And as we walked, there was excitement in finding friends.

Sun kissed. Blanketed under the pristine new fallen snow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

From the President...

"’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

His complete message from Tucson can be found here.

Do You Listen to Your Children?

Since the Christmas break my oldest has been urging me to watch the TIVO'd Dr. Who Christmas Special. Yesterday, home for a snow day, I finally took the time to watch it with the girls. To my delight and to my surprise it is a Dr. Who version of A Christmas Carol. And I absolutely love love love it.

Halfway through I shouted, "Pause the show!" (I never get to hold the remote...) The action stopped, a huge smile on my face, I turned to my child and said, "This is just like when you insisted that I ride the Mountains of Disney. I thought you were crazy; thought you didn't have a clue, (I totally avoided roller coasters before taking on Disney's mountains.) but you were so right."

My daughter opens my eyes and my world.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And Now The Storm

The snow is falling. Schools are closed. Flights canceled. The plows are out. Except for their rumblings the air is still. As I sit here I wonder what we will do today -- besides shoveling after the storm passes. We girls have several projects in the wing, games to play, sledding, hot chocolate with whipped cream, and there is always baking. Is it bad to look forward to ginger snaps or shortbread before the morning oatmeal?

These storms are gifts of time together. We stop and pause. Taking a collective breath, while the sugar shack sleeps. No worries shack, your time will come. All this snow is necessary for maple sugarmaking.

postscript At 1PM there is 16 inches of snow... That's a lot of snow, and it's still coming. Maybe no school tomorrow.... Time will tell.

(postscript)2 No school tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

Today, the day before the storm.
Twelve inches of white stuff. Tomorrow.
A snow day. But what about life's
Calms and Storms?

Sometimes we're lucky enough to
See them coming.
Appreciate them. And then
Sometimes we're not.

Live each day.
And breathe.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's Easy...

Not To Quit

when the water's of life are smooth. But
when the winds of change whip up the surf...

It's Easy to dream of building sand castles on the shore.

Swim On...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Undecorating - dislike

We undecorated yesterday. And for many reasons; it's not my favorite day of the year. First of all, help is scarce. Everyone wants to put up the tree. Everyone has tons of homework when it comes to taking the tree down.

But the worst of it is, packing up the memories. Our tree is covered with ornaments -- each holds a story; almost like the pensieve from the Harry Potter books. Trips to Maine, or the wedding roadtrip to Virginia. That's a Great Grandpa ornament. Memere's sand dollar from her bowling banquet. Peggy D forever. Off to Europe with Nana and Grandpa. Disney, Disney, Disney. Good times. Great people. All packed away for another year. Well almost, there is one ornament that stays out. Too fragile to weather the climate changes in the attic, she sits on a shelf; smiling the year long. Great Nana's little bell girl.

Bell Girl holds the memories of camping, of learning to sew, of Thanksgivings and 4th of Julys so long ago. Waking to the smell of bacon, and being wrapped in woolen car blankets by the campfire. Of Christmas plays on the stairs, hiking in the White Mountains, and eating bologna sandwiches and watermelon on the porch.

I just can't pack those memories away.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

My Neglected Camera

I haven't shot one picture since New Years and I'm feeling a bit of withdrawal. I know it's crazy. After all it's just a camera. But there was a time in my life that I thought I was going to have it surgically attached to my right hand; just for convenience. Instead it sits, at the ready, on my desk, next to this computer; which is always at the ready as well.

I know life isn't black and white, but lately, I like to shot it that way. Maybe, it's not all about the black or white extremes, but in the multitude of shades of gray in between.

Philip Gura, co-author of America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century said, "You can't help but smile when you hear a banjo." I think it's, "I can't help but smile when I play the banjo."

Just a few black and white shots before going to bed.

Friday, January 07, 2011

What happens when we don't learn?

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)

The email went out. The call to gather at the church for all of a half an hour -- 45 minutes if the participants have the gift of the gab. To make 60 lunches for the homeless. And when we arrived; we were greeted by one other World Youth Day pilgrim. That's it... And I'm not writing to pat our collective families on the back for showing up. After all my children weren't too happy their TV time was being interrupted.

I'm writing because I'm worried. What happens if we don't we learn? Haven't we read the book A Diary of Anne Frank or watched the movie Pay It Forward? Don't we know the tsunamic value of seemingly small acts of kindness?

What are we teaching our youth? Apathy, complacency, selfishness? Really, is that it? Obviously we are not learning from past world experiences. Whether you want to put a religious spin, or a karmic spin, on it -- What goes around, comes around... When the smallest succeeds; we all succeed.

Thirty minutes, a hour max with travel time -- and 60 homeless men, women, teens, and/or children got a bologna sandwich, juice box, bag of chips, and a couple of pieces of candy. Aren't we worth it?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Can we learn from each other?

Setting aside our differences, can we learn from each other?

The Talmud says, "Kindness is the highest form of wisdom."

Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love.
Loa Tse

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. [Matthew 7:120]

Or maybe we learn because of our differences... Or maybe the better questions is: Are we learning at all?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

There is comfort in routine

Vacations are wonderful. We let our hair down. We eat whatever holiday foods grace our tables, counters, and buffet lines. Meetings and commitments fall to the wayside. Bedtimes get pushed off to the next day. We forget what day it is. Everything morphs into a vacational blur.

But now on the third day back to reality, I am seeing comfort in routine. The healthier side of getting a good night's sleep, of eating oatmeal for breakfast, and vegetable soup for lunch. Despite the still sore heel, I look forward to my morning treadmilling.

They say we should fight living in a rut; spice it up. But I wonder... When the girls were younger we kept their morning routine pretty regular. To this day a school morning holds to a certain scenario, and when it will vary due to doctor's appointments or Chinese, the announcement is made the evening before. The girls have the morning expectation and despite my thinking, "Their not going to make it to school today." they always do.

Maybe life in a healthy rut is the way to go.

Monday, January 03, 2011

St. George Cat's Meow Keepsake

The Saint George Youth Ministry has arranged with Cat's Meow to create this keepsake wood cut of our parish. We are selling them for $15. All profits will go towards sending our parish pilgrims to World Youth Day this coming August.

If you are interested in ordering a keepsake, please leave a comment and I will get back to you to arrange payment and delivery.

Thank you.

It's Here

We all knew it was coming. Watched its approach on the calendar. Packed our school bags to be ready. And now vacation clock ticks off. Always I want more vacation when the end of vacation is upon us. Oh, for just one more day. I just wanna... finish... start... try...

Life doesn't end when the vacation is over. There is still time in each day to head out in a new direction. I must remind myself of that.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Lessons Learned

I work in a cemetery. Not the one pictured in this post, but a cemetery just the same. One might think it's not the greatest job, but I love it. I am entering all our residents into a database so that their loved ones will be able to find them -- more easily. And while doing my job, I am learning a lot. And it's not always who's who and who is interned where.

For instance one very old plot holds the remains for 17 family members; 14 of them, children. Young children -- ages 8 and less. Babies and infants, days old. And as I typed in their info I couldn't help but feel for their parents. Oh to hear their child cry again, just one more time.

To hear their child cry again, just one more time. That thought hangs with me. Weeks ago when we flew to Florida for a family wedding there was a child who was not the happiest soul. But instead of rolling my eyes and waiting for the flight to be over, all I could do was smile. All that inflight child wanted was to be held by her dad. What a lucky dad to have the opportunity to hold his child, one more time.

Then this past weekend at Mass there was a mom tasked with the job of herding her very active son. And again, all I could do is smile. And I wondered if that mom saw herself as blessed. Her son was with her, in her arms, under her legs, out in the aisle; active. Asking if they could now go have a hot chocolate. Lucky mom.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Years

New Years, wouldn't be New Years without visiting friends and family in Vermont. The icing on the cake was a quick trip out to the Shack... Mind you, despite having no electricity, heat, or water, we do have a few over wintering guests. I don't imagine, come Spring, they will be willing to wash the dishes they are currently sleeping in... probably not. Still I am looking forward to summer's lazy days of fishing and kayaking, and leisure walks around the lake.

For the last three years, if not more, New Years has been a day for taking a photo walk. Today's weather was perfect for it. Warm, scary sap running warm, and sunny. I wondered with my brother in law as we walked through town, "Do you think the sap is running?" We looked at each other and agreed it was. But who would tap their trees on New Years? Here's hoping for a deep cold snap and gradual warming come the end of February into March.

This old Thunderbird is a photographer's dream. Crushed by a tree, years ago, it has been left to rust by the side of the road.

I've photographed this post, standing outside of a very nice Vermont made gift store, at least three times before. I love the rust coloration and the texture. Hmmm... rust...

Can you read the sign? Click on the image to enlarge it. As many times as I have drive these roads, and walked through town, I had never seen it before. It's amazing what you will see when you slow down. And it is even more amazing what you will find when you are looking through a camera.

Still, photographing lights at night is bug I can't beat.

My Chinese Fortune Cookie

"You are free to invent your life."