Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Memory Bites

Memory cannot be forced. Details are lost. Later used to fictionalize a life that was worth the detail.  Many hours were spent in her tidy apartment that was tucked in the back of the building and under a zig-zag of ascending stairs. I was always first to make it to the back door stepping into the sweet aroma of Toll House cookies. She made the best ever cookies. I remember smells so vividly like mothballs in the closet and the dried rose petals that were held in a plastic cylinder with holes from which the fragrance would escape with gentle shaking.  When I spent the night, she would spread freshly laundered sheets on the monstrous couch. I remember how cool they were as I slipped in between the linen.  She always put the wooden straight chair from her old maple desk to prevent me from rolling off the couch in the middle of the night. She would lean down, her loose flesh swallowing me in love.  I cannot hear her say, “I love you.”  I know she did.  A voice is so uniquely individual yet, I cannot remember how she sounded.   I wish I could hear her voice again. Just a sound bit will do.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Debate Rages

A debate rages in my head. I am passionate about writing, and I have gone through phases over the last few decades in which I write everyday.  Then there are those long stretches that have included little dribbles of what I would term as writing. Am I a writer?

The truth is there are some days that I feel like a writer.  Then there are those days that I stare at the computer screen and everything is one big blank.  The words do not come easily.  I slowly came to the realization that that is the life of a writer.  The single most important thing is to “just do it.”  It sounds quite easy, but it’s not.

There is time.  I schedule writing periods that are carved into my day. After 9 p.m. is not my most ideal time. This discovery became clear this evening- as  I view a blurred computer screen through eyes that close without a single command. The deep lion-like yawns leave me blurry eyed and wanting to sleep.  

Tomorrow is another day for contemplating my worth as a writer.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Return

The Maine woods beckon and upon returning you are forever changed.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Loving Through Dreams

 This morning, I dropped my sons off at the Mount Desert Island High School and as I turned the car around in the parking lot, I  faced the mountains that border the property, Suddenly, I felt like balling, stopping the car and just letting the emotions rip.  The view was the exact one my mother and I had shared on a visit here long ago.  It reminded about the bittersweet nature of the passage of time.

My mother and I  on campus for an event, stood at the threshold of an open door and gazed at the beauty that surrounded us.  We had spent the weekend on Mount Desert Island hiking and such in Acadia National Park.  It was my first visit.  I was fifteen years old.

Standing in that open doorway which some believe to symbolize discovery and connection with the natural world, I announced, “I’m gonna live here someday.”

When I graduated from college, there were few teaching positions available.  I was granted an interview in Bar Harbor.  It wasn’t until I drove across the bridge onto Mount Desert Island that I understood that I had visited here before.  I got the job. 

My mother was able to enjoy Acadia for more than twenty years.  For this I am grateful.  The ping of sadness that hit me out of nowhere, reminds that I miss her. Standing in that doorway of Mount Desert Island High School and proclaiming a future that came to pass was an important moment.  One that I will always cherish and my mother was there to love me through my dreams.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lucky 13!

A few extra adolescent boys showed up at the house. Six to be exact-possibly at the same time that my daughter called and asked, “Hi Mama, what are you fixing for din-din?” her voice light-hearted and sweet.   Eight homemade pizzas and nearly three hours later, everyone is fed and satisfied. Not bad, considering I expected our usual six for supper. Isn’t 13 a lucky number?  This mama is a happy one. (By the way, that is turkey pepperoni and all the veggie pizzas were devoured.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Screen-Less Time

Giving up screen time when I am teaching and taking an online course?  Impossible. I often think about how I would spend hours on the phone at school before email and coordinate meeting times for a dozen or more people.  Now, this process takes less than five minutes.  What a time saver!

I admit that I rely on the computer for my writing as well.  It isn’t that I have given up writing in a journal completely, but again the computer is faster and perhaps can keep up with my quirky, ever-changing thoughts that dart here and there when I am in the writing mode.

I am also happy to report that I can go at least a week without a computer. I have never had an opportunity to experience being “wire-less or unconnected” for a longer period of time.  I read.  I wrote. I sewed. I opened my sketchbook and created.  I went for walks and I swam.  Fires were built, dishes were washed and meals were prepared. Cell phone coverage is non-existent at camp.  The temptation to see if I received any e-mails or comments on my Facebook post did not gnaw at me.  It was simply an impossibility.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


We never had guns in the house.  My father did not fish nor did he hunt.  Foraging for me meant gently plucked field strawberries.  This teeny tiny variety took weeks to gather enough to fill the bottom of a pail, so it meant that berries never made it home.  A little practice and the right amount of pressure exerted between thumb and pointer finger ensured that the berry would not smash, but made it safely to the mouth.

 My experience with deer has been largely limited to the movie Bambi. When I was six years old, I stood in a long line with my Aunt Karen and cousins outside the theatre in downtown Portland and was instantly horrified by all the dangers in the forest, especially fire and hunters. 

Now I live on an island where hunting deer is against the law.  Deer are plentiful.  They are often in my yard, along the road or in the road.  All hours behind the wheel are spent with eyes darting to either shoulder of the road, prepared to break for unexpected leaping or crashing. When given warning, motorists can stop and just watch a succession of light-footed deer prance into the woods in search of tender green shoots and leaves that come with spring.

Late in the season, movement is a frenzied dance that becomes a fruitless wild parade from the pesky swarm of black flies.  Their escape into the woods is often swift.  This is no time to fumble with a camera, yet I am a fumbler.  It is rare that I am able to capture the beauty and grace of our local deer, but when I do, I remember, there are some places that they are protected.  Yes, I am grateful.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rites of Spring

A fistful of lilies of the valley was not easy to pick.  My mother planted them in a tight corner, in clumps on the right side of the front porch.  It faced south, the sunny side.  Although that corner seemed dark, it was wet and filled with little sticky webs that clung once you brushed into it.  There were other precious plants to stride over before securing a toe-hold on the nearest patch of bare soil and reaching in the corner to cut each long green stem.

Each spring as soon as it was short sleeve weather, everyday I began to visit the corner, pushing back the shiny big green leaves of the lilies. I watched the bells form and take shape. When they were ready, my teacher received a bundle of the white blossoms wrapped in a wet paper towel held together by a piece of crinkled foil.  Until I passed the bouquet off to my teacher, the good pleasure of inhaling the sweet fragrance of these flowers was mine. 

As an adult, I have never successfully grown lilies of the valley.  This time every year, I watch my First Grade-self handing the fistful of lilies to Sister Mary Natalie as a smile formed across her face, her eyes closed, as she inhaled deeply and just sighed in gratitude.

My students present me with dandelions heavy with pollen and droopy by the time they reach me.  As the recipient of this gesture of affection, I automatically draw the flowers close to inhale the earthy tones and sigh as I recall the simple rites of spring.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cat or Dog?

I just can't do it.  Why should any animal lovin' girl have to make a decision between whether they are a "cat person" or a "dog person."  I cannot do it and I WON'T do it.

As a kid, we always had cats and lots of them. My little sister Bethany was always telling my mom some story about finding a cat abandoned in a paper bag on some obscure trail in the neighborhood and my mother, my soft-hearted mother always fell for it.   My mother and my sister were always bringing more felines into our family.  I loved my kitties.  I cuddled, kissed and dressed them in my baby-doll clothes and swiftly pushed them in a small chintzy carriage.  The baby buggy handled corner turns well on two wheels.  My kitties were my family.

Shh, don't tell anyone. Yes, I loved my cats, but I wanted a dog too.  I later learned my mother secretly wanted a dog as well, but to keep peace in the family she never let on, especially to me.  My father would not hear of having a dog in the house.  "Too much work.  Too much trouble," he said each time I tried my sweetest little whine on him.

"Please, I'll do all the work, PLEASE?!" Famous last words.  My father never fell for it.

Nonetheless, I got to borrow the neighbor's dog and take him on walks, my sister used to share her lollipops with Zook and we would help return all the items that the dog would haul home like the toddler's wading pool that sat in some nearby yard. Zook had a personality.

I vowed early in my life, that when I was able I would have a house with a dog and a cat.  My husband and I love our little family.  Our bed is just big enough for all the kitties and doggies that gather each night.  See, I did not have to choose.  I love my cats and I love my dogs too.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Morning

This day feels different from any other.  The preparation begins early.  I never know who’s going to show up.  This morning, we have a house full of teenagers and their friends in varying degrees of awake, although adult children, their partners, and friends from down east may likely show.  Eight cups of flour later…a toppling stack of homemade Belgian waffles, local Trenton maple syrup, whipped cream and fresh strawberries await.  Good food and plenty of it (a bounty), a gathering of extended family and friends (another bounty.)  Cooking for others is one of my pleasures in life.  So, if you are hungry and want some company-the door is always open.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We All Move At Our Own Pace

 Some just a little faster...

than others. 
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston: April 19, 2013

SWAT Teams
Don’t shoot to maim
They shoot to kill.

Naïve am I.

All the sorrow of
New England
Has been collected
Hour by hour,
Day by day.

Old wounds,
New wounds,
Bracing for
Future wounds.

Those lost

No one
Heart hurts.

8:42 p.m.
Is it over?

How did we

(Partially a found poem as I listened to various news reports following the drama  days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Monarch

Metamorphic miracle, subject of scientific discovery.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Vacation Squeeze

It is days like today that I wonder how I work full-time and fulfill my roles as wife, mother, housekeeper, and “chief bottle washer.” This being my third day of vacation; I continued to tackle the “To Do” list. 

Picking out a paint color for the kitchen and hallway that suited everyone’s taste was much more difficult than picking out names for a newborn.

Here is a partial list of today’s accomplishments:

  • ·      Paint purchased requiring a trip to Ellsworth. Check
  • ·      Portion of the wall painted.  Check
  • ·      Enjoyed picnic lunch in the sunshine. Check
  • ·      Begin to prepare garden beds for planting. Check
  • ·      Drive to Ellsworth for the second time today to pick up son’s friends. Check
  • ·      Purchase and plant bright yellow pansies.
  • ·      Stretch meal since one friend turned into three friends eating supper.   Check  
  • ·      Read.  Check
  • ·      Write. Check
  • ·      Watch movie with daughter. Check

How do I ordinarily squeeze work into the equation?  I really don’t know since I haven't found much respite during vacation either. Time's running out.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding My Way

Sometimes I lose my way.  I complain too much.  Sometimes the little annoyances in my life become bigger than they are because of my reaction.  I’m working on it. I pray, meditate, walk, write (I also keep gratitude journal), and most of the time I eat fresh, unprocessed foods.  Still, I slip.

It is events like yesterday’s bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that jar me into remembering what is important.  It is the kindness, strength and courage of the human spirit that shine light on this tragedy. We all have the capacity to find the light within us. 

I am victim of the human condition, so therefore I must forgive myself for shortcomings.  I will falter, that is a given.  Being responsible is not expecting perfection, but picking myself back up and extending love and kindness to all, who cross my path.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Facing Tragedy Together

Tonight’s blog is dedicated to all those who were affected by the tragedy today that occurred in Boston and for all those souls who live in fear on a daily basis.  May you find hope through the kindness of humans.

Every generation has had to deal with heartache and terror, but it doesn’t get any easier to understand.  When I was little, I selfishly felt insulated and safe because for a time all the bad things were happening half a world away.  And then, bad things happened here, in this country.  The president, my president (at six years old, I understood) was assassinated, then Martin Luthur King Jr. and then another Kennedy brother.  I sat on the couch watching the replay of Bobby Kennedy’s attack on TV over and over.  I rocked back and forth. I didn’t know what else to do with my nervous energy.  I could not move.  Truly, I lived in fear; waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Reassuringly, my mother would say, “That happened far away from here.  It is OK,”  but I knew it wasn’t.

Today, the world is a small place.  Boston is the wonderful city, my family would day trip to and immerse ourselves in history.  In 2013, I can experience Boston from my computer.  It is nearly impossible to isolate our children from the harsh, horrible realities that are part of our present life.  Our children will be part of the solution for a better future.  For now, we can all partake wisdom from the late Fred Rogers,

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.”

Let’s hang onto the essence of human goodness through all our helpers.  The brave souls in Boston who risk their lives to help another are heroes.  It prompts me to pay close attention to how I conduct myself in this world of helpers.  Truly, we are in this human existence together.  We can all help. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Cove

There are times that I just want to stay still and not move. The image is just too beautiful not to stop for extended moments and take notice.  Our little cove that I can see this time of year from our bed affords the most luscious views. This morning the sunrise was a rosy pink smudged, just above the horizon.  When I stop at the end of the road on my way to work each day, I take notice of the full expansive beauty of the cove, some days are a slate blue hue, while others are peachy or yellow.  I never tire of this ever-changing image that fills me with gratitude

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Simple, Yet Complex

How many times do I have to get whacked right between the eyes, before I discover the lesson I am to learn, but have yet to after all this time?  I guess I am a slow learner indeed. Sometimes, I think back to my earliest days and I seemed to carry myself with confidence and grace.  Now, life is much more complicated, but it does not mean that I don’t keep trying to live my life as intended.  My purpose is simple, but yet so very complex:  To know God and to love God.

Have I ever really outgrown my childish representation of God, that long bearded ancient man in the sky?  I want to say that I understand God, but I really don’t. That is why God sent manifestations or messengers for man through the ages-they have been more approachable. 

While I continue to try to untangle “this mystery of God” I pray I will live my life with compassion, kindness and love.  I pray that I will not be tied to the material, but to the spiritual.  It is pretty simple.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sick Room

I was closed up in a darkened room. The trajectory of mist that shot toward me caused a droning- muffling the sound of life beyond the door. If I postponed sleep, the dream would not come.  The insanity of watching car tires rotate mile after mile created a monotony that was unbearable.  The smell of pungent rubber was intense, I swear I could taste it.  The hours, blackened by night and sickness, dragged heavily. Morning would not come soon. I concentrated on the hum of the vaporizer and when I opened my eyes again, I saw shafts of light break into the room.

I was eight and in third grade.  That was my sickly year having missed two or more weeks of school.  Day after day, I would lie in my mother and father’s double bed.  Most days too ill to do much beyond sleep and watch old re-runs on a small black and white T.V.   The small screen doctor, Marcus Welby, made house calls like my Dr. O’Sullivan and later Lucy and Ethel crushed grapes into wine.  Early each morning my mother brought me breakfast on a tray.  Sometimes an egg, other times toast.  Midmorning I would have a thinly, sliced orange sprinkled with powdered sugar.  “This is what my mother made me when I was sick,” she wanted me to know.  Sometime early in the day, my mother opened both windows in the small bedroom to air out the sickness. I shivered under the layers of blankets. Alcohol baths lowered a fever.   Fresh pajamas followed by a good layer of Vick Vapor Rub on my chest and back usually set the course for sleep. 

Thankfully, it was not long before I outgrew the recurring dream of rolling tires, but even today when I visit a Tire Department and smell the rubber, my stomach feels unsettled.  Yet, when I close my eyes the fragrance of Vick Vapor Rub plants an aching in my heart.  No one loved me like my mother. She took good care of me.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Little Boy's Dream

All day you were on my mind.  Perhaps if you had known what a monumental day it was you would have freaked, just a bit.  I bet you don’t know just how often I think of you.  From the first time I met you when you were eight years old, there was something about you, a sweet gentleness.  I have always loved you. Always.

I can still picture you playing with your coveted Matchbox collection on the deck with your red ball cap tilted back on your head.  The “putt-putt-putting” sound and then the ultimate clashing crash.  You would play for hours.  Happy.

You were also happy with our dear Ozzie dog.  You could not resist those sad eyes or the swish of his tail.  That dog was spoiled in your arms.  Then there was Shiloh.  Remember how he used to howl his signature beagle howl?  Tears rolled down your freckled cheeks when you found out about the life he had before he came to us. You asked in a small shaky voice, “Why would anyone hurt a dog?  Why?” My eyes burned with tears and I wondered why too.  We cried together, perhaps for different reasons.

Today, I cried for you.  It has been a tough ride.  We both know that.  With the support of a lot of people who love you, a milestone was reached.  You were accepted to college.  That is a big deal.  You can fulfill your dream.  Since you were little, you have had an obsession with cars.  You will use your hands and work under hoods.  This is always where you dreamed you would be, since you were a little boy pushing those Matchbox cars around the deck.  Now, you have to make it happen. I am so very proud of you and all that you have overcome.  Make that little boy’s dream come true.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I just sat back and let the night unfold before me.  Three out of four of our adult children* gathered with our four youngest to celebrate their little sister’s birthday.  We now have four teenagers in the house.  As a parent of these eight souls, it was fun to listen to the stories exchanged among the generations of offspring.  Despite their varied young experiences, they now have a common bond.  We are a family.  Stories emerged through the night, “Remember the time that dad shot himself with his nail gun?”  And the sharing of a current adventure, “We got stuck on the sandbar and called the Brooklin General Store.  In thirty seconds some guy shows up to tow us out.  Good thing.  We were thirty minutes away from being engulfed by the sea.” Laughter.

The new teenager and her “first favorite brother” took goofy photos together with lime and lemon wedged candy as their teeth.  More laughter.  Big brother puts his long gangly arm around his little sister and shows those white teeth with bookend dimples.

My heart is full of love and full of hope for my eight kids knowing that once Jerry and I are gone that they will have each other.  There will be many stories, much laughter and love.

*Unfortunately, Gabrielle had to work.  Surely, had she been in attendance, the  stories would have tripled in number and drama.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Full of Bologna!

After thirty-two years of marriage our conversations have suffered from lack of substance. Our conversation tonight went like this:

“Did you have fried bologna when you were a kid?” my husband asks as he bites into the unorthodox, never before had supper (bologna, scrambled eggs and English muffin) that he prepared.

“No, not much,” I reply.

“We had it all the time."

 “It’s not good for you, “ I said flatly.

“So what!"

Gosh, I do my best to provide my family with fresh vegetables, fruits, filtered water and lean proteins like fish and poultry.  Every once in a while, we stumble. I can’t blame it all on my husband.  Wait, let’s be honest, every night I stumble.  After eating an orange for dessert,  soon I will be asking for chocolate.  We have our stash.  We usually have a little bit each night.

Can I be allowed that indulgence?  Neither of us smoke. We don’t drink alcohol.  Everything in moderation, I guess.

But, in all honesty bologna is where I draw the line.

Monday, April 8, 2013


As we make our way down the rolling hills of the field after our hike through the woods, I found a flat spot among the hay dried and pressed from the weight of winter and I lay quietly on my back.  Arms spread.  My eyes gaze at the blue hole being swallowed by the surrounding cloudy puffs. The rain is coming.  For now, I enjoy this moment.  With my body quiet, I seem to hear more keenly.  The hum of traffic from afar, ducks in squawk, then quiet almost a hum.   In the distance a woodpecker taps after his supper.  Persistent.  I lay this way for a bit and breathe in and out in a slow, slow, rhythm. 

The walk back to the car is slow.  My husband reaches for my hand and we amble down the muddy steep bank to the stream.  I hear the roar.  I do not remember the stream this way when I first arrived.  It is hard to miss the roar now. 

For me, quiet fills my senses with all that I am grateful.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Balance

The year after Auntie died was tough.  Imagine my mother escorted by police to the three-story Victorian brick boarding house in Portland that held so many Sunday memories.  She had come to rescue my uncle from some “friends” who had sold his antiques, got him drunk enough that he signed over his property including the “Blue Bell” a vintage Dodge Sedan.  My mother sought legal counsel for her beloved uncle by marriage, but was told there was nothing that we could do.   It does not seem just.  All that was left for my mother to do was to save my uncle Gene.  He went to live with his sister in Sanford and never saw his home again.

Gene grew up in Livermore Falls, Maine.  As a young man, he was awarded a full scholarship to Bowdoin College, but passed it up to help his family on the farm.  When Auntie met him he was a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman.  After a time, they opened a health food store in Biddeford, but my earliest memories were Sunday visits to their home on Cumberland Avenue in Portland.  Sometimes we ventured a few blocks to Deering Oaks to feed the ducks, took a few terrifying rides in the “Blue Bell” (my uncle was a wild driver), played cards, dominoes or gathered around a puzzle with what seemed like a zillion pieces.  When I was about eight years old, I remember my uncle had purchased a contraption that would roll cigarettes.  It included the filter, papers and tobacco.  One quick demonstration, and I was rolling cigarettes for him. (Oh, God! Please forgive me.)

Gene was part of our family.  Regularly, as a young mother, I would drive four hours each way to take him to my home for a week’s vacation at Christmas time.  Everyone loved Gene and Gene loved everyone. At ninety years old, he was laid back enjoying the high-energy antics of my four year old son, Sam as he crawled all over his uncle. Gene was spontaneous, energetic and full of adventure.  In the biting cold of December, he hiked through a stony trail veined with roots to see an osprey nest and marveled at the experience.

Despite his gentle temperment, he was fiercely competitive when his handmade checkerboard was placed before him. The board was handcrafted by Gene’s brother and given to him as a gift.  He brought it everywhere with him, always ready for a game. He held no mercy for anyone of any age who wanted to play.  He was ruthless against each opponent. As a six year old my mother would give me a little talk about good sportsmanship.  The unanticipated, but inevitable multiple jumps in one move that wiped out all my checker pieces would bring me to tears each time.  This did not deter Gene and his quest to win. In the decades of recorded games, I never beat my uncle. Before each game, I was reminded of this hard fact and he refused to divulge his strategies.

Auntie and Gene balanced and complimented each other. Gene was gentle, laid back while Auntie was feisty and assertive.  She was never afraid to speak up for what was right.  The years following Auntie’s passing were hard for all of us, especially for Gene.  We never realized it until after Auntie was gone, but she was Gene’s protector.