Thursday, August 31, 2006

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

After waving and blowing a million kisses to my children as they left for school on the bus, I headed out for a much needed walk. We live on a virtual pedestrian speedway. At any given moment there are people walking, (biking), jogging and running errands by our house. And even though we don't know 99 percent of these individual's names, familiarity is close to family. Or is it?

Today, as I ventured out, I passed one of the usual, but nameless. I see him everyday. So do my children. This is what worries me. Two monthes ago I saw this man placing a pint of clear liquor into each of his front pockets as he searched our neighbor's recycle bin for returnables. (He knows not to look in ours, we cherish every nickel.) I tried to tell myself that I was seeing things. After all it wasn't even 9 o'clock in the morning. Still very loud mental bells were ringing.

This morning as our paths crossed, he was drinking from an oversized can of Bud wrapped up in a napkin. He was all smiles. My heart raced as I offered a passing wave and replied to his hello, making tracks to put distance between us.

Rounding the corner, and feeling safer, I started to recall the other constants that walk by. The older woman that used to run with her even older dog. Now she is walking and she is dog-less. I fear he passed away. The man not much older than me. Usually walking alone but lately pushing a baby in a stroller. Could it be a grandchild? He offers a wave as he races by. The two older gentlemen that wear out sneakers going from recycle bin the recycle bin. Somedays they are so loaded down with cans that there is a noteable skip in their steps. I wonder what they use their treasure for, the rent or a coffee or some liquid relaxation?

Then there is the overweight hitchhiker. Always laughing, always trying to engage me and the kids in conversation. For monthes we kept our distance. Seeing him by the grocery store, in coffee shops, standing on street corners. When he saw our car he would wave. Soon the kids were waving back. Then one day, in a coffee shop he gave us a Pooh umbrella. Telling us he found it and thought one of the kids would like it. I thanked him, and as I turned he said, "I find pens everywhere. And when I don't find one I steal one."

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. "Oh, really."

"Yes, and the other day I found a pen at the mall and when I opened it..."

"Why would you do that?" I asked.

"Because, inside was a ten dollar bill and some coke. It was a great lunch."

So, I ask, who are the people in your neighborhood?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Getting into gear

I know this may seem like small taters to some of you, but I put my motorcycle into first gear and rode it on our driveway this evening. Yes, the engine was running. I did this feat several times and I loved it. Of course the next step is to get my feet on the pegs (ie not dragging on the ground).

It's such a nice little bike.

Sorry, kids...

this fat lady is singing.

Our house has the first day blues.
The backpack is loaded,
Tissues, hand sanitizer, paper, pencils
Markers, erasers, crayons, art smock, and binder
Lunch is made.
Bologna sandwich special -- a first day tradition.
The favorite shirt, the most comfortable pants
Sneakers or tevas --
Is the bus really coming?
Or can we just pretend?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Our Hike

This past weekend we shared a house in NH with my brother and his family, and my parents. Eleven people; one bathroom -- but that's another story.

We had one day to do any real hiking. And it being our first day, it had to be gradual, short, and kid friendly. We picked the hike up Middle Mountain. Actually, I picked it and then convinced everyone else it would be fine.

The age range of the hikers was 5 (Mommy, I'm almost 6!) to 69 (NO, I'm not pushing 70!). The little ones were running ahead and I was in the rear, counting heads and nursing the tendonitis in my heel. Hoping we would all be able to make it. Praying I had read the contour lines correctly and I would have both feet functioning and attached when I got to the top.

Little legs tire easily, and soon we were stopping and resting after every 200 feet or so. A few times there were tears, and a bit of whining about wanting to go back. But when given the option to turn around, little legs ran on ahead.

About halfway to the top, our path went from being a six foot across road way to single file. We consulted the map quite a few times, made sure we could see a red blaze, rested some more and then pushed on to the tune of "I'm tired, can we rest. Grandpa how are those replacement knees doing?"

All the while, steadily climbing. Finally, the junior choir hit a crescendo... unlike our valiant party. Being the map holder, I replied, "After a quick left, we'll be circling to the summit."

Little eyes, and a few sets of older ones looked at me. The trail was still going straight and up.

"Well, eventually it will take a sharp left."

We climbed on. Finally the kids emerged out of the woods and on to a barren rock. Cheers erupted. "We're here."

I hated being the bearer of bad news, "Not quite. Close -- we're definitely getting up there."

More walking and not so much climbing... a cheer went up from ahead. "The trail, it's turning! Are we there?"

"Just follow it and see where it goes!" I yelled up from the rear.

"We're here!!!"

And they were. When we gathered for our summit photo. We were young and old. Some looking forward to more hiking, others picturing the couch as there next vacation conquest. But we made it. All smiles, we sat around, admiring the view and eating trail mix. And except for the steep rocky drop offs that kept calling the children to venture ever so close -- it was wonderful.

And my ankle -- it's sore, but it was worth it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Technological Puberty

As we ready for another school year, Ri-Ah is facing puberty. I shouldn't be having these sleepless nights. We've had all the talks. All seemingly one-sided. Where I stumbled over my words and her eyes glazed over. "Mom, they told us all about that in school."

"Really," I'd reply.

"Yes, in Tech-Ed."

"Hummmm.... Tech-Ed, they couldn't have covered everything. You need me to teach you about this stuff. I'm your mother. I know about these things. I watch CNN."

And last year, I thought, maybe this gauntlet would pass us by. Most of the children filing out of her school were either pulling out a cell phone or plugging into an i-pod before the school doors could hit them in the backpack. I was smiling, and thinking, maybe she won't be enticed, but I was wrong.

Last week, she asked for an email address. Without blinking an eye, I said, "Sure." She had had a yahoo account many many moons ago, but never used it. So this was a fine step towards maturity. Not a problem.

Then, earlier this week, along with picking up the usual two gross of pencils and pens (All of which will somehow evaporate before Thanksgiving.), notebooks, a new backpack, index cards, post its, you get the picture, she asked about a cell phone.

I took a deep breath, and as I pushed our overflowing cart from notebooks to ink cartridges I knew my decision was made.

Of course, I've told everyone, even Ri-Ah that it's my second phone. That I am allowing her to use it so she can call me. An electronic leash, as such. So that she can be out of my sight without me requiring certain medications to hold my embarassing mother bear anxieties at bay.

I justified the purchase on two levels, besides the medication thing:

1. The price of gas. Do I really need to drive her to and from school? It's less than a half of a mile from the house. With this she can call me when she gets there and when she is going to leave. Already I feel better.

2. It gives her some freedom without me giving up my parental rights.

Still it's my phone. We've had it two days and it's set to speed dial, me at home, my cell, (for when I'm out running errands), her grandparents, in case she can't reach me, and then those important numbers she felt she truly needed -- five of her closest friends. My phone, remember.

And then the second shoe fell today. Or to be more truthful, in that first hour with my cell phone in her hand, while shopping for a ringtone that was to be all hers, on my phone, (Of course, I get to pay for it.), she asked if she could buy an ipod.

"What," I said, "Frank Sinatra isn't your kind of music?"

She didn't even answer. I got the look. You know the one, straight lipped, eyes peering over the top of her glasses, kind of looked like me when I'm aghast at the little ones. I took a deep breath and asked the another question, "Who's paying for this?"

I should have expected the answer. Afterall Ri-Ah is responsible. "I will."

So for two days we shopped around. Visiting every electronics department within a 30 mile radius of the house and hitting every, and I mean every internet shopping site. The criteria, price -- with or without taxes and shipping. And last night we got.

We weren't in the house two minutes when she made the gentle request to put the software for the tiny device on MY computer. I took a sharp intake breath. This technological maturity was going to be stepping directly on my electronic fingers; the going price of motherhood. I pushed her off for the time it took to put the little ones to bed, and then gave in.

I won't mention the two hours it took me to install the software on my computer and then get it to talk with that little device. I won't mention the fact that during the installation my computer has now completely forgotten that it's closest and dearest electronic neighbor is a scanner.

This morning, I got up early in order to secure my two minutes of computer time. All of a sudden I see vailed looks of "Mom you're on your computer again" coming my way.

Technology, you have to love it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Huntress

Light upon the sun kissed apricot
The contortionist wore pajamas --
a whimsical tank top with neon pants
Skilled in the art of folding,
triangle, rectangle, rhombus.
With limbs, oversized for a bicycle.
Perfect for her chopper and French whore boots.

Weighted down by life's draining sands,
She devoured her mate in their bed of arugula.
His head no more than a spot of pus on her mandibles.
A nostalgic meal. Still her hunger grew.

Statuesque beneath her leafy shelter
Solitary -- An integer for the hunt
Dreaming of pulverized flesh.
A hyperbole of patience.

To the unsuspecting cicada,
the praying mantis whispered,
"Do you feel lucky?"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Sinatra Effect

When I was young, no matter how much I loved my aunt and uncle, and I love them more the moon effects the tides, I never looked forward to dinner at their house. For one simple reason, they played Frank Sinatra during the meal. That voice, that music, I remember complaining it was bad for digestion. I begged for the Rolling Stones, Bay City Rollers, or at least some Partridge Family. Am I dating myself?

Needless to say, my requests were never heeded. And once, and it only took the once, my grandfather sang, "I think I love you, I think I love you, I think I love you..." His 70 year old voice was off key, and out of beat. I squirmed. "Grandpa, do you have to?"

He smiled, and replied, "What? You don't like the Partridge Family?"

I rolled my eyes. Lesson learned. I never asked for my music again.

Time passes, and at each memorable family gathering Frank was there. His words and signature timing became as much apart of the meals, as the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Then the unthinkable happened, Mr. Sinatra died. Regardless of their venue every radio station was playing his music. And as I drove home from work that day, I realized I knew all the words and that I was crying as I sadly sang along. When did this change of heart occur?

That evening I ordered Frank Sinatra's Golden Hits. Rainy afternoons, his music sooths me. On vacations, his CDs are the first to be put in the car case. In the quiet of the early morning, somewhere between here and Florida, Frank serenades me as the rest of my family sleeps. On the way home from Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's, the Christmas music highlight is him. I love his rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. One of these years we'll pick up a lavendar tie for our dear one.

As I've grown older, I proud to say I've grown to appreciate the music of Frank Sinatra. But what does the Sinatra Effect mean in the grand scheme of life? Sinatra's music means family.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Stockbridge Part II

The trip was wonderful. I saw the Elementary school, the Elm Street Market, the library, St. Joseph church, Sarah's house on Ice Glen Rd., (along with a family of turkeys and a snapping turtle), and Melody's house on Cherry St. The hills are where I wrote them, and the sun sets right into the attic window. It's almost scary how similar things are.

At the Norman Rockwell Museum I looked at the Saturday Evening Post covers he painted. The cover for July 1, 1944 is called War Bonds. It has two soldiers still experiencing the war in the background with another soldier in the forground, on crutchers, holding a bond. I have since bought this cover to hang above my desk.

The SEP cover for August 12, 1944 is of a soldier and his wife sleeping on a train, and looking at them is a little girl. On August 14th, Martha Boss received a letter from Charles' dated July 19, 1944. This cover and the letter raised her spirits and she dreamed of long comfortable train rides with her husband. Obviously I need to get this cover as well.

I can't wait for the kids to be in school so I can sit down with the book and make the gentle little changes so the story will ring true to Stockbridge.

B.C., THANK YOU for suggesting the road trip. I can't wait to go back again. Myabe on our next trip we will see Sarah and Melody skipping down Main St. Be still my literary heart.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Stockbridge here I come!

I'm heading to Stockbridge. I couldn't be more excited, unless of course, I were to run into Sarah Cahill or Charles Boss. I'm hoping for a homecoming, of sorts. Will I find the house? The one with the ghostly attic window. The Elm Street market, St. Joseph's Church, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the library, and Stockbridge Elementary -- will they ring true? Is the school surrounded by a short chain link fence? Is there a lone swing set set apart from the ball field? Is the roasted chicken at the Elm Street market the best chicken in the world? Can I get to Melody Westgate's house by walking down the train tracks? Will I spy Jeff Lane riding his bike -- a bit more caution these days? Or a tanned Ms. Johnson shopping for school supplies?

I'm packing a map, my camera, my book and a pen and pad of paper.

Stockbridge here I come!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Who Else Can I Still Be?

After reading FC's wonderful answer to this question, as I bandaged a hurt toe while answering the age old question, "What's for dinner?" I wondered, Who am I not?

I am a mother, a writer, an artist, a sewer, and short order cook.
I am a lover, companion, someone's one and only.
I am a daughter, an aunt, sombody else's ex.
I am a scientist (drug designer), chemistry teacher, a Quality Assurance Engineer.
I am the house nurse, the nurturer, and sharp tongued diciplinarian.
I am a library mystery reader, a school volunteer, a Girl Scout cookie mom.
I am a taxi driver, a gardener, our cruise director and reluctant housekeeper.
I am a referee, a mediator, a holder of secrets and fears.
I am a friend, a mother bear protecting her cubs, a walker, and a swimmer.
I am a camper, a hiker, an old time sailor.
I am a typist, an organizer, a wanna-be knitter.
I am a woman, kicking and screaming as I slide into middle age.
I am a math tutor, a photographer, a chick-lit movie lover.
I am a builder, a painter, a tiler, and a maple sugarmaker.

I am ME.

Lack of schedule = FUN!

Got a late afternoon call from family inviting us over for dinner. So, we packed up bits of our anticipated dinner and headed over. The kids played. We ate. The kids watched a movie. We drank. We played poker and cribbage. An impromptu child swapping sleepover happened. You have to love unscheduled, undictated, free flowing times. The utter surprise in a child's eyes when you let them sleepover without the proper prior planning of a toothbrush or clean clothes.

Oh the beauty of summer. Sadly soon to be over. Seventeen days and counting.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A picture made up of many words

Thanks FC...

HELL Revisited

How can a person love you one minute and when nothing seemingly changes, loath you the next?


We ventured north to Grand Isle, VT for some camping. The park is right on Lake Champlain. The rocky ledge under the beach area made sure the water temperature was very close to bath.We did some adventuresome swims out into the lake. It was lovely. There was a fantastic nature center with classes for the kids (and adults), a horseshoe pitch area and the sites were big enough for a decent game of bocce.

The nature center caught all our attention. We learned the best cure for poison ivy is jewel weed. Saw a freshly shedded snake skin. Left by the snake that lives in the walls of the center. I learned that you can make a great tea out of maple flowers and that you can eat roasted maple seeds. Two things we are going to try next spring. Hopefully we won't need the help with poison ivy.

The daytime temperature was warm in the sun, but there are enough trees to give the majority of the sites a goodly amount of shade. Night time cooled right down and a sweater and fire for warmth as well as roasting marshmallows was in order.

Our days were filled with horseshoes, bocce, poker, chess, mancala, checkers, taking walks, visiting the nature center, fishing, fossil hunting, swimming, sewing and reading. Our evenings -- marshmallows, and cool sleepy breezes.

Grand Isle is definitely on our to camp list.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Highly Infected

I knew all along, or at least I had my suspicions. I have a serious full blown infection called Mapleus sugaris. I went to see a expert today. Someone who has had his diagnosis since he was nose high to an evaporator pan. He said I have all the symptoms:

1. Counting buckets and taps all fall.
2. Reading everything and anything that relates to Maple sugaring.
3. Checking out the sugar houses of others with such infections.
4. Being addicted to the weather channel.
5. Love the smell of maple in the morning.
6. Knowing that a hydrometer can be your best friend.
7. Having full knowledge of all the dates when we first set our taps, the amount of sap we collected, and the amount of maple syrup produced.

Can the season start any sooner?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Another early morning

I woke up this morning with thoughts of coffee creamer, sugar, and butter. With our camping trip pending, I must've been mentally reviewing the food list and realized I hadn't packed these items.

I rolled over, thanking God and my dear husband for the AC perched in our window and said to myself, "I'll get them in the morning." And as I laid there for 45 minutes... I said, "later in the morning, like any other normal person." But I'm not any other normal person. Once an idea is in my head, I can't get back to sleep. So the sugar, and creamer are packed (along with the ziplock plastic bags) and the butter is sitting with the rest of the food that will be placed in the cooler.

The bright side: I'll do a few more of those promised chapter summaries. The best laid plans of mice and women never came up against back to back visiting from relatives, and a camping vacation.

Until I write again... stay cool.


p.s. Chapter summaries 32/41 :-)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is it August already?

Not only is it August, it's August 2nd. Where has the time gone?

I remember when I was little, summers would last forever. Now, one quick sip of ice cold lemonade and it's over.

I hate the school year schedule. I hate waking the kids up and packing their lunches. I hate all homework except writing, science, and math. Those assignments I try to steal away from my children. It used to work, now they fight me. I hate the winter cold and the fact I head for bed around 6 p.m., just because it's dark out. I hate driving in the dark. I'm not a candidate for living up by the Arctic Circle. Last winter I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a place that didn't see the sun for months. A place that was dark all the time. I didn't like it. But I wouldn't mind seeing it on vacation just once.

I love the summer. The girls getting up when sleep releases them. And I love watching them grow. I think they grow more in the summer. Or maybe it's because I see more of their long legs that I get the feeling they are growing. Or is it the hard fact that I spend a fortune on clothes at the end of each summer because nothing fits? Whatever it is, I love it.

I love the more laid back schedule. The fact that some days on the calendar having nothing written on them. That dinners are barbequed and usually late.

There are four more weeks of summer. I heading to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and by the time its gone, so will be summer. I better kiss the kids on my way. Soon they will be gone too.