Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hometown joys...

My hometown is kind of "Hometown America". It's quaint. It's picturesque. It's full of old time locals (and more than I'd prefer "people from away"...). It's connected. 

I had to come to CT to help my dad with some business but decided that I wanted to get into town for the Parade of Lights which is a relatively recent annual tradition with a parade of fire trucks, tractors with trailers etc all covered in Christmas lights and playing Christmas music with people waving from makeshift floats (hay wagons) and fire truck beds. It's a fun way to kick off the season (it was postponed this year due to weather - lucky me to have it fall on a day when I'm in town!) and bring out the locals!

Also happening in my hometown is a gingerbread house display. Local people and groups made 42 gingerbread houses and dioramas which are on display at various businesses around town. The fun thing is that many of them are replicas (or slightly rough renditions) of local buildings, churches and landmarks. I haven't seen them all but the ones I've seen are fabulous! One local woman made the episcopal church complete with Cheerio trees, dried lentil grass, dyed Rice Krispie hedges and fruit roll up stained glass. It's pretty amazing! I'm looking forward to seeing the gingerbread  grand piano made to honor the restaurateur who is well known for playing his piano in the dining room of his local restaurant. His daughter made it as I believe he just celebrated his 94th birthday (or so). 

Below is the one some local students made for my step-dad's book shop. The trolls around the cottages are from my mom's collection. 

My dad and I wandered town and enjoyed some visits, seeing the houses, going to the historical society party (double bonus - got to see my mom and step-dad and some other family there) and after the parade and more visiting at the fire house, we picked up my 18 year old nephew and had a lovely dinner out with him.

The evening ended up being just what I needed as a way to blow off a little steam after working on Dad's stuff all day. Feeling that connected is what I miss living on the Cape. Occasionally I run into people I know but not often! Maybe some day I'll feel more like that but it is good to know that I can always come home to get a taste of it.... Even if I hear "Which one are you?" (People can't tell me apart from my three sisters most of the time...) more than a dozen times at events like these. Oh well. At least they know I'm not "from away"!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Water Water... Take 2.

The theme continues. Ugh. 

Yesterday in the late afternoon after a lovely day out with a friend, I had big plans to catch up on some work since A was working a double until midnight. "First", I thought, "I'll run down and put in some laundry and spend 10 minutes tidying up the stuff that has been hastily tossed down to the basement over the past few weeks." (My inner dialogue probably wasn't actually that formal and really might have had some expletives included about how embarrassed I was when I had to let the appraiser in the basement the other day and noticed, as I led him down the stairs, that it looked like a bomb went off down there!)

Upon arriving at the bottom of the stairs last evening, I heard the distinct sound of running water... Like someone was running a sink upstairs... But I was home alone. I followed my ears to the inline filter system we installed a few years ago (I won't even go into WHY we had to do that as I'll just get fired up again) and found that the first filter in the overhead system had water running in a steady stream down it. Most of it the water had been caught in the trash can A had left underneath it but it was so full, it was now splashing over and the floor was wet along with much of my raw materials for my art pieces. Yippee. Did I mention that A was working a double and that it was now Sunday evening?

So... A VERY cranky and unhappy non-plumbing-specialist called A at work who tried to calmly talk the non-plumber through some fixes... only to be snapped at by said non-plumber because nothing worked. After several sprays to the face and failed attempts to stop the flow, we determined it was time to shut the water off to the house at the main line. 

Did I mention he was working until midnight? I don't think I mentioned that he had training the next day so calling out wasn't an option. And I probably failed to mention that I hadn't showered yet that day. The prospect of 24 hours of no bathroom, no hand-washing and no shower really rankled me!

So, knowing from experience that Home Depot doesn't close until 8pm on Sundays, I hop in the car and drive 15 minutes to find out that their hours changed... And today only, they close at 6pm. It was now 7:30. It was my only hope for a quick late night fix when A got home. 

So a VERY unhappy person with no parts to repair the filter decided to go to Whole  Foods and get the tags off of the giving tree (they send the gifts to children in local homeless shelters) so it at least wouldn't be a wasted trip. After selecting the tags of a 7yo girl and a 5yo boy, I purchased a few items and just about got strip searched at the door by a young manager who tried to convince me that I simply could NOT leave the store with the tags. A SUPER CRANKY but determined not to take it out on him wanna-be do-gooder escorted him to the giving tree and read aloud to him "take a tag from the tree, purchase a gift for that child either at Whole Foods or elsewhere and return the gift and tag to the store by Dec 14". He was still freaking out a little so I decided to just go to Kohls across the parking lot (because WF only had toddler gifts) and bring it all back right away. Sigh. It was done. I usually LOVE doing our "Christmas angel" shopping but the stress around it PLUS how difficult it is to find age appropriate non-plastic-crap gifts for children I don't know at Kohls made it not the most enjoyable time. At least I know there are two kids who will have a gift (two each actually) to open on Christmas morning so that softens the rough edges of the experience.

Annnnnyway... I returned home empty-handed due to Home Depot's hours change and broke the news to A. 

My ever-positive husband thought he could do some sort of workaround when he got home around 1am so that I could at least use the bathroom while working from home the next day. 

He arrived home at almost 2am because, as luck would have it, the highway was closed for median work and he had to take side roads halfway home from 35 miles away. Ugh. 

After some brief wrestling, he managed to determine that the filter was too broken to patch up temporarily and therefore, we were BOTH out of luck with regard to morning showers and I would have to spend the day hitting up various neighbors for use of their bathrooms. Ugh!

I did take my sweet time going BACK to Home Depot today to get the new filter and used every public restroom I could find. 

At last around 4pm, A arrived home and with the new filter was able to fix it. After about 24 hours, we finally had water again!

But... As I posted on Facebook last evening, despite such a crappy day, it wasn't nearly as crappy as that day that will live in infamy 73 years ago in Pearl Harbor... It's all about perspective!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Treats for Troops - Year II

Thursday I made 41 dozen cookies with the help of A and another friend - 25 dozen rolled and cut sugar cookies, 8 dozen Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies, and 8 dozen dark chocolate peppermint chip cookies. Whew! It was a loooooong day!

It was made challenging by the fact that my first helper had just had minor surgery on her foot that morning and couldn't stay long. The additional issue was that I was using the kitchen at the Mason's Lodge (which isn't entirely well-equipped) and hadn't been able to find crushed peppermint chips, I decided to crush hard candies by hand. It was a LOT harder than I thought! After several failed attempts at crushing them in a variety of ways including bashing them with my rolling pin, A arrived with a cheapo "slap chop"... and succeeded in crushing about 1/4 of what we needed before the cheapo machine disintegrated in his hands. He proceeded to revert to a hammer and played "Candy Crush Live" with shards of candy shooting every where. Sigh. But we got it done!

Today we had about 20 volunteers help decorate the sugar cookies, write cards, and load 25 boxes with cookies, candy, toiletries, and holiday decorations to be shipped out on Monday to deployed troops. 

I was a little overwhelmed by making the 41 dozen cookies and was pretty certain that I wouldn't do this again next year... But the group that came today had such a great time and I know that the service members who receive the packages will be so happy that it made it all totally worth it!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thwarted plans, Thankful outcome...

Thanksgivng Day was wonderful! My in-law's are like the Waltons. :-) We eat great food (who doesn't?!?!) and play games and sing etc. I love it! This year we went headlong into the games! First we played charades which is always a crowd pleaser because of some of the hilarious antics that bubble out. This year we noted that my mother in-law is completely incapable of NOT whispering when she's communicating the opening clues like "movie", "three words", "first word", "two syllables". She had us in hysterics but really couldn't help herself!

Then we moved on to a game called "The metaphor game" which was introduced by a teenage boy and I'm pretty sure that all of the adults decided to give it a shot for his sake but didn't have a lot of faith in its success. It turned out to be a lot of fun!

It's played by having one person leave the room and the group selects one person in the room. When "it" returns, he or she must ask metaphor questions to determine who the group selected. At one point, we selected my 21 year old step-son J and A's cousin (mother of the teen boy) was "it". She asked questions like "If this person was a tree, what kind of tree would they be?" "If this person was a ice cream flavor, what flavor would they be?" and so on. The group members have to answer in a way that resembles the person but doesn't give it away. Eventually "it" has to try to guess who the metaphors are describing. So... When J was the group pick, H asked "If this person was a smell, what smell would they be?" Since J has long had a reputation for horrific smelling feet, the adults in the room erupted in laughter. He, his grandparents (who often do his laundry for him), his father and I were the ones who could NOT pull it together. We must have laughed for five minutes solid! It was a lot of fun!

Anyway... The next day we were supposed to install a couple of windows and then head to see my family in CT. Unfortunately the installation of the second window extended much later than we had anticipated so we pulled the plug on the trip in favor of taking the pressure off the project and giving ourselves some breathing room to get some things done around the house. 

And that's what we did! We finished the last of three new window installations plus all of the siding shingling and weather-proofing necessary. Then we tackled our huge stained glass window at the top of the stairs which had some major rot along the exterior sill. Of course it took longer than we anticipated and required yet ANOTHER trip to Home Depot (five total for these little projects...). But, in the end, we finished all of the windows and the only thing left is to rebuild the interior trim for each new window. But that doesn't require a lack of precipitation or wearing a headlamp (yep.... That's how A wrapped up each evening of projects). 

And... When A didn't need me to run the chop saw or run up and down the stairs for tools and materials or clean up debris, I stacked firewood. Lots and lots of firewood. We've got more to do but I got a good jump on it!

It didn't turn out to be the weekend we planned with visiting family in CT but it did turn out to be the weekend we needed!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Water water everywhere...

As 2014 draws to a close, I look around our house and notice that apparently the theme of this year's house projects was "Water!".

- Repair/replace all innards of a constantly running toilet so it stops wasting water. 

- Replace a leaking bathroom faucet so it stops wasting water (and making me crazy with the drip).

- Replace/repair outdoor "rinsing station". 

- Replace our roof due to water leaking in through the skylight... and threatening to invade other places too. 

And... Before the end of the year, I'd venture a guess that we will replace the entire leaking toilet as all of the new parts haven't stopped the leaking. Ergh. 

Being a homeowner is fun. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Family fun...

My in-laws have a long tradition of singing and doing recitations when they get together. It's always good fun! Even my husband gets in the game and does a recitation about spitting that the kids love! Even the big kids. There are books that some of the cousins put together of the songs and recitations that have been handed down through the years. 

During a recent visit from A's cousin from Seattle, a friend of the family also joined us and brought her ukulele and fiddle. One of the 13 year old girls who is in an Irish dance troupe did an impromptu performance in addition to the traditional songs and recitations. It was so much fun!

Uncle N reads "Br'er Rabbit" with his wonderful character voices. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Happy happy HAPPY dancing!!!

On the last day of our incredibly relaxing and wonderful vacation, we got two pieces of GREAT news!

First, after one year in a condensed master's degree program that A juggled with many other intense responsibilities (and got straight A's, I might add), he took his comprehensive exam two weeks ago. At the end of the exam, he felt good - like he'd nailed most of the questions solidly on the five hour essay exam. We were a little nervous when one fellow came out of the exam before A and told me that he'd taken it four times. (Turns out that after listening to him for a few minutes, he's a dolt and didn't bother to properly prepare for the exam.) We weren't worried that A was going to pass but... Ya never know!

So... On our last day of vacation, A received an email that he PASSED the exam. Yahoooooooo! Now he just has to to finish this last class in December and he's got his master's degree. Yay!!!!

And around the same time, we learned that A's dad, who has been battling Stage 3 lung cancer since May, had a very good scan last week! The scan shows a "significant reduction" in the tumor and in the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes. YYYYYAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

So.... It was a HECK of a vacation and pure delight to wrap it up such positive news!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Vacation... Part 3

Today we hiked South Bubble and North Bubble Mountains in Acadia National Park at the suggestion of my friend who grew up here. It was magnificent with views of Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor (I think), Jordan Pond and another vista I'm not sure what it was but it was all amazing! I LOVE New England!!!

After we summited both of the boobies (that's what they look like....), we summited Cadillac Mountain as well. Well... This time it was in our truck. :-) We are planning a sunrise visit to Cadillac on our last morning here. I hope it's clear that morning! From Oct 7 to March 6, Cad is the first place to see the morning sun! (I didn't know this! I always thought it was Eastport - the eastern most point in the US.)

Panoramic view from Cadillac Mountain

Atop North Bubble with Jordan Pond nearest and Northeast Harbor-ish in the background. 

Hey! I DO go on vacation with my husband! (I'm usually behind the camera but he's done a great job documenting my existence on this trip. :-) )

Glacier rests atop South Bubble

Andy holds dogs during our 500' ascension in 4/10 of a mile while I pretend to take pictures (but I'm really resting my thighs!)

Just before this stop, we met an older Asian man picking his way down the VERY steep rock trail. He said "if you see my son, tell him to come this way". An HOUR later, we saw a young Asian man on the summit looking a little anxious. I asked if he was looking for someone and he said yes, his dad. We described him and told him which way his dad had gone sooooo long ago. I couldn't stop worrying about the older fella and I was a little concerned about the son as well as they CLEARLY were not hikers, didn't have a plan or a map or provisions. I really kicked into "obsessed mode" when as we were leaving, two rangers went flying by us toward where the man and his son might be with their lights and sirens on. I said a little prayer hoping to see the man in Bar Harbor later when we went in for dinner... Apparently my prayers were answered as Andy pointed out a man who he was 85% sure was the older man. Pheeeeeeeew!!!

Andy and the dogs take in the view from South Boobie

We are goofy at Cad

Balancing rock on South Bub

Another GLORIOUS DAY on vacation! Did I mention that I LOVE LOVE LOVE New England?!?! We didn't even plan to be here during leaf season - it was the ONLY week we could both get out of town - but it's worked out beautifully! If only I could post what New England smells like at this time of year. It's earthy and delicious!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Vacation... Continued

I'm told I need to learn to do Instagram... Maybe I'll figure that out this winter. For now, here are a few more vacation photos....

Today we stumbled upon Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor, Maine. It's magnificent! You can access it two ways - one is to drive up to it. The other is to park in a lot at the edge of the main road and walk up some beautifully built granite staircases and a trail about ~1/3 of a mile. Since we've got dogs to exercise, we chose to walk. It was lovely with several places to stop and look out on the harbor through the fall foliage. There were several open-front lean-tos with benches so you could sit and enjoy the view at various places along the trail.

At the top of the trail is a visitor's center (apparently closed...) and the garden. I planned to just pop in for a quick look while A held the dogs (no dogs allowed) but with my camera, the peacefulness, and the beauty, I got swept away and probably spent a half hour in there. I could have stayed for at least twice that! Here are a few of the pictures I took in the garden...

After A had his turn (which took longer than I had anticipated because apparently he quite enjoyed it as well!), we headed back down the trail to meet up with an old college friend who works in Northeast. 

This was the view as we left the garden and headed back to the trailhead. 

I can't even remember how I learned about the garden this morning. Somehow I stumbled onto a website with information about it and it intrigued us. I am SO glad that we went! 


Sunday, September 28, 2014


This morning we woke up to this view from our vacation bed. Arriving late last night and only seeing stars as we relaxed on the deck made it like Christmas morning when we woke up. Gorgeous!

And this evening's view was this glorious slice of heaven - Delicious husband-prepared dinner, a glass of wine, and a magnificent sunset over Bass Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Pure delight!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I didn't have time to get in any miles yesterday but I finished my 100 mile summer challenge today with 3.3 miles (.25 miles to spare but not a whole lot of time to spare!). 

Now it's time to switch over to the fall challenge that started on Sept 1. I know. Sept 1 is NOT fall! Apparently someone picked the random dates of Sept 1 to Nov 30 and because my summer challenge actually followed the summer dates and ended on the autumnal equinox today, I'm now 22 days behind on the "fall" challenge! Eek! I can do it though. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reality TV...

Today I got totally sucked in to a new TV show. I'm ashamed to say that it was during a family reunion... But at least I was visiting with people while it was on. It's called American Ninja Competition... or something like that. It is a team event where four members on three teams have to make it through several rounds of these incredibly impossible looking obstacle courses... I got completely sucked into the competitive nature and sheer athletic ability of all of the competitors (one who happens to be from the next town down from my hometown). 

So... on the way home, A and I got talking about reality TV and I said that I would like to shoot a documentary/reality TV show about working for a month or so at various jobs that interest me just to see if it's something I'd like to do and to spotlight the inside view of real jobs. Obviously we can't pick something like being a surgeon  because you can't really acquire the skills necessary for some level of success in only a month but we can assist in careers that require higher levels of training and education. For fun, A and I listed off what we would each do.

Interestingly, we both started off with being cattle ranchers without even consulting each other. Apparently we are THAT compatible. Haha!

A's list also included:
Over the road truck driver
Tow truck driver
Work on a large research or salvage vessel
Rodeo announcer 
Bulldozer operator
Civilian on an aircraft carrier 
Race car pit crew 

My list included:
Eco-tour guide in Costa Rica or the like
Baker (bread etc - not so much pastry)
School counselor 
Veterinary assistant to Dr Pol (we love that show and he reminds me of A's German uncle that I adored!)
Travel agent
Military (non-specific but NOT in a submarine)
Artist/creative profession

It was fun to see where we would wander if given the opportunity! If I won the lottery, I would go do this stuff on a volunteer basis just for fun!

I love our road trips. We rarely listen to the radio etc and it's really fun to see where our conversations go!

3.05 miles...

Today A had to take his comprehensive final exam for his master's degree in Bristol, RI. And since we had to continue on to his family reunion in CT, the dogs and I decided to tag along to RI and entertain ourselves for ~5 hours while he squeezed every drop of criminal justice knowledge out of his exhausted-from-an-intense-year brain. 

So, Brody, Glacier and I went to Colt State Park for a walk along Narragansett Bay. It was a PERFECT day to be on the water - low to mid 60's, cloudless sky, and just the slightest of breeze to keep the sun from feeling too hot. I considered curling up on my yoga mat with my blanket and a good book but alas, a late night last night plus a 5:30am wake up this morning meant that I forgot my yoga mat. And a book. And a blanket. Total failure on that account. But my poor planning made the dogs very happy!

Because I had nowhere to curl up, nothing to read, and nothing but eight squirming legs and two wet snouts (incredibly well aimed at my mouth, usually, wet snouts) to cuddle with, we walked. 

We walked past the school group carrying half full trash bags of garbage they were picking up along the beaches. We walked past the family of Asians fishing off the rocks. We walked past every trash barrel in the entire park writhing the first three minutes of the walk. (This point comes clear as to why later on.) We walked past the family of three middle-school aged kids, their parents and their (silent and adorable!) beagle all huddled under the shade of a tiny sapling. We walked past several signs about irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and colitis. 

At about 7/10 of a mile into the walk, Glacier, who NEVER poops while walking on a leash, pooped... as the Environmental Police truck rolled slowly by surely waiting to see if I was going to scoop that elephant pile or ignore it. I scooped it and then had to carry the bag for the next 2.8 miles because of the total lack of trash cans in that part of the park. Ergh!

We walked past the five ~8-9 year old boys pumping quarters into the binoculars but using them to stare at people on the walkway instead of the birds etc. We walked past the picknickers and not-sure-what-they're-doing-in-that-car-ers and the pocket dogs (anything smaller than 30 lbs) and the elderly ladies on walkers chattering to their nurse. 

We walked to the end of the walkway and sat down for a moment until I realized that someone in the gathering on the hill behind me was belting out the national anthem and with that, the sudden realization that I was about to be trampled by 300 Chrohn's, IBS and colitis sufferers during their fundraising and awareness walk that was about to unfold. 

Me, my two dogs, and my bag of dog poo I had now carried so long, I was considering naming it hit the trail ahead of the walking crew just in time! (There's an irony to leading the charge in a walk of this nature while carrying a bag of poo... But I was quite certain that although I was making myself chuckle with some of the clever witticisms I could share with the walkers, doing so would be at best, poorly delivered... at worst, insulting. I kept my bag of poo and my jokes to myself as I hoofed it back toward the truck.)

Crossing the footbridge, Glacier had caught sight of some cormorant and geese when I had her and Brody jump up on the wall for a photo. 

Glacier then spent the rest of the span of the bridge jumping up, surveying the winged community situation, and jumping back down every 8 seconds. The wind was just right and she kept looking right into the wind so that her ears stood straight up and I was laughing so hard at her I could barely snap a picture. I finally did and I've looked at it 50 times today since then and it's makes me happy too!

Above, Glacier checks out the birds by going under cover as a "skinny Samoyed". 

After 3.5 miles, I was finally able to part with my fourth child - "BoP" (Bag of Poo) and put two hot, tired dogs in the truck (after they drank ALL of my water!), and figure out my mileage. 

Another adventure in the books and all I can say is... Summer isn't over until MONDAY, Sept 22, NOT Sunday so I've got a little breathing room to finish up my last 3.05 miles and then jump right into the fall challenge ASAP! :-)

And... After an early day, a busy day, and a gorgeous day, I'm wiped out!

Monday, September 15, 2014

24 miles...

Back in June I committed to doing 100 miles of walking, running or biking between June 21 and September 21. I was off to a great start and then life really got in the way. Yesterday I realized that I had one week to complete the challenge and 24 miles to go. So... I've committed to cranking in as many miles as possible on the days that I can go and HOPE that I can reach my goal... in part because there's another 100 mile challenge already in the works that I've committed to doing as well and I've got to get going on it! 

Here's how tonight's walk went.......

8pm. I'm finally done with work and my sister (not the one recovering from a major accident) arrives. We embark on a trek. 

Me: "I've mapped out a 4 mile walk and a 5.5 mile walk. Which do you want to do in the pitch dark?" 

Lib: "I'll get my coat. Let's go with the long one."

 ..... 4.5 miles later and we haven't shut up and we are at a crossroads.... 

Me: "If we go that way we will be done in a mile, this way is even longer. Which way do you want to go?" (While trying to pretend that the howling coyote that sounds only a few hundred yards away isn't freaking me out a little...) Lib: "Let's go long." (We select the route that takes us for a second tour past our old house that we loved, past the cemetery, past the old German's house that we were sure was a Nazi war criminal with the barking/tail wagging yellow lab who replaced the scary German shepherds of our youth, through the woods Lib tells me that she's felt "spirits" in and once found an old tub in the woods with a bucket where a local color fella used to sit and soak, and I'm telling her it's the hill that tuned my thighs to near pubescent perfection riding up it on my one speed bike so I could have enough speed to blaze past the Germans and their shepherds and hold my breath past the cemetery) down to the swamp where we stand in total silence for one long minute listening to the tree frogs, the owls calling to each other and a pack of coyotes that have obviously just scored while summer afternoons of tracking beavers and turtles at this same spot swirled in my head, and then we hit the home stretch to my sister's house (the injured one), were startled by a doe just off the edge of the road in a field and secretly mourned the end of a magical walk that included the smells of dirt and wood smoke and cow manure and cut grass and sweet hay in just the right amounts to let my mind entertain only the best memories of living in this neighborhood and feel grateful for the opportunity to enjoy such treasures. In short, I did 6 miles tonight. It was perfection. Only 18 miles to go.

 Day time view of the swamp.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lost (and found) art...

Recently I've been staying at my sister's house helping her after a bad accident at the end of August. I haven't stayed here since her boys were really little and I used to babysit them all the time while she worked at the ski area or plowed snow. The oldest is now 24 and the youngest is 19. Time flies!

The other night I went in to "tuck in" the big boy (him living at home at this age isn't weird. He's got plans. :-)) and as I was scanning his room as we chatted, I noticed a shirt he had hung up on the wall. I said "Oh! You kept your shirt!" And he said "Yeah, I found it when I was going through some stuff and I put it up. I don't know who made it though." It's funny... I just assumed he would know that it was me! I spent the most time with him as a little kid aside from his parents and the day I moved away, I cried my eyes out because I was going to miss the boys so much and miss seeing them growing up. So as any good aunt would do, I smacked him on the rump and said "It was ME doofus!" And we laughed. 

Even though he didn't remember who made it, I love that he still has it and treasured it enough to hang it up!

His parents run a ski area where he has worked since he was about 12...

And from the first moment he could walk and talk, he was OBSESSED with two things... Heavy machinery ("ack-a-baiters" aka excavators, "a-go-tahs" aka tractors, and "goomers" aka groomers) and dinosaurs. I felt I had a better chance of drawing the latter than the former as Mr Details would have explained to me the proper positioning of the smoke stack/cab position/track rotation etc) on a 1990 Pisten Bully snow groomer... (Yes, his college internship was with Pisten Bully... He was "groomed" (haha!) for that job from birth! :-)

He loved this shirt and wore it all the time! I think it's funny that 20 years later. I'm back in the shirt making "business" for someone else I love... My father in-law. More to come on that...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy 45th to me!

Birthday perfection... In my book anyway. 

- Having family around to share it with. Quite literally in the case of my mother in-law as we actually share our birthday! August 30!

- Getting news throughout the day that my incredibly tough sister is improving  after a bad accident just Thursday.

- An afternoon nap. 

- Lobsters and lemon cake for dinner. (It's my birthday and I'll skip the veggies if I want to!) Three lobsters. Well... Plus two lobsters on Thursday that my darling child brought me for my birthday! It's officially a lobster-Paloozza in my belly.

- Visiting around the fire pit. 

That's pretty close to all I could ever need for a birthday! But... I can't wait to redeem my gift certificate for a massage that A gave me! I think it's a theme because my mom gave me spa goodies too and a vegetarian cookbook that I can't wait to poke through. And Lego earrings. Yep. As in real Legos! And my bonus dad (I just heard that the other day and I like that so my better than "step-dad") gave me a sweet little keepsake box that looks like a book. I'm a lucky woman!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Leap of Faith...

Before beginning my job as the Program Director with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps back in 2003, I learned that they were unsure about hiring me because of my lack of experience with grants. They actually hired someone else. He was local (I was living in MD at the time) and within a few weeks, he proved to be a poor fit. They called me. The President of the organization was very candid about his reservations in hiring me but after much direct and honest conversation, he announced that he was going to "take a leap of faith" and hire me. It's one neither of us regrets (despite there being some bumps in my journey at VYCC... I consider them "growing pains"). 

Today I gave my notice to leave my job as the Fieldwork Coordinator at the Senior Environment Corps. As I was driving away from the office, the term "Leap of Faith" popped back into my mind. 

I gave my notice for a few reasons. The first is that I feel like I've done all I can do there. It's not a challenge and I feel like I've grown the program as much as I can. It's time for new blood. I breathed a lot of life back into my region of the program over the past 3 3/4 years and now it's time to move on. It was never meant to be a permanent part-time job and it's now run its course. 

The second reason is that with my father in-law in treatment for his lung cancer and my only-child-husband having a have-to-do-it-in-person type job, I am ready for a job that I can do from anywhere so I can support my in-laws more often and the SEC isn't that. 

The final reason is that for the past several months, the powers that be at SNHU (my other part-time job where I've been for almost a year already!) have been working on a plan for me to work full-time. With my counterpart at SEC retiring in March, I didn't feel the time was right. But this past week, I was given a firm offer of full-time employment with SNHU and the option to start whenever I am ready. I don't have a salary or benefits package outline yet but I'm told I'll be "very happy" with it. They know what I need so it's not a total mystery to me but it's an untied loose end. 

And that's the reason that the term "Leap of Faith" popped to mind today. I don't have the last detail sorted out with SNHU so I feel a bit like I've jumped before the net is quite finished being assembled... But I feel confident that by the time I will need it, the net will be there. 

Then I started thinking that the term "Leap of Faith" had woven itself into my career years before the President of the VYCC ever used it with me. Back in my adventure education days, it was actually the name of one of the high elements on the ropes courses that I used to facilitate. It was an element that challenges mind and body in a number of ways. Typically it's a 25'-30' pole that one climbs up wearing a harness attached to a pulley system overhead. At the top of the pole, you have to put aside all fear and maneuver yourself so that you are standing on top of the pole with about a 7" diameter surface to stand on and nothing to hold on to while you wobble your way up there. Once stable, you dive and try to grab a trapeze (or similar item) thereby trusting the equipment and your belayer 100% - a leap of faith. 

I realized that every time I accepted a job on the other side of the country without being able to fully check it out, it was a leap of faith. When I quit my jobs to raise my brother's kids, it was a leap of faith. When I invited A to VT for a visit after just a few weeks of reconnecting over the phone, it was a leap of faith. 

Despite some more bumps in the journey (remember... "Growing pains") each and every one of these leaps have led me to a new adventure that I wouldn't trade. 

So here I stand, perched at the edge of the pole. A "last day of work" less than three weeks from now and a "first day of full-time work" still written in the sand (which is technically ground up stone, right?) and the nerves of "what if it crumbles" making me a little nauseous but the memory of all of the successful leaps in the past making me bold. 

For now, I will enjoy these next few weeks of work with the SEC. Say "see ya later" to my favorite volunteers and service partners (not goodbye because I'll be around!), enjoy the freedom of a few weeks of "only working 30 hours/week", and hope that our plan of recharging in the nooks of Mount Desert Island at the end of September comes through... And I'll remember to breath and enjoy it all because life moves pretty fast.........

Friday, August 22, 2014

Law enforcement rant coming your way...

Yesterday I watched the video of my husband getting tased as part of his instructor's training course to carry tasers for work as a police officer. I couldn't watch it without crying. I doubt I'll ever watch it again. If you've never seen someone you love in such a situation, I can assure you... It's VERY difficult to see! He doesn't take it lightly and neither do I. Should he ever have to tase someone, it will be because he has exhausted all options leading up to that. 

Today I watched the video and listened to the audio of a good friend who is a police officer (with a different department) as he and his fellow officers faced down a suicidal man with a gun... And the action they were forced to take. It's not sunshine and roses that a 63 year old man in chronic pain couldn't walk away from the situation but he wouldn't back down either and the officers did what they had to do. 

Over the past week we've gotten updates from Andy's cousin (and his wife) who is a police officer near Ferguson, MO. His department is on the short list to be deployed there (and some may already be responding). Despite what the news channels are or are not reporting, a "non-peaceful" faction of the protestors has released personal information such as addresses, makes and models of vehicles etc about officers and their families and have encouraged angry "protestors" to target them. It gets real when you get the call to be the guardian of your cousin's children should anything happen!

Having people you care about in the field of law enforcement is very challenging for a TON of reasons but it's made EVEN HARDER when people make ignorant broad-sweeping comments, posts, or off-hand remarks about "cops" and how corrupt, dirty, militaristic or inhumane they are or how they all have itchy fingers to hurt someone. Anyone.  

It's disgusting to me that people can't be sensitive to the fact that they are the first ones headed into the erupting chaos to sort it out. Or that they forget that officers act on the information in front of them. If that information is a Molotov cocktail being hurled at them or a cocked revolver being trained on them, they have to act to protect themselves and others. Police officers don't have the luxury to opt out when things are bad and only getting worse! It's also amazing to me how quickly people forget the fact that they are spouses, children, parents and loved ones of real people. They disregard the fact that despite being able to suit up and handle the worst situations imaginable, THEY ARE PEOPLE.

This week has been intense with all of these situations coming home to roost. But it's not been made any easier by the insensitive actions of others. 

Are there bad cops? Yes. Are there poorly trained cops? Yes. But that's the extreme minority!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Mother's Gift...

What do you get for a woman turning 80 who lives in a relatively small living space and isn't really in need of much? 

First you throw her a surprise party a few weeks before her birthday so she is completely caught off guard. You'll spend the next few weeks hearing her talk about "floating on air" from her joy and you'll hear/remember weird comments made at the party (if you don't know my mother they would be weird... But for anyone that knows how we regularly talk about her "croaking" some day, it's not so weird) like "Did I die?", "Is this heaven?" and "When I croak you don't have to have a funeral because we just had it and I got to be there!"

So... In the midst of near disasters with cakes, sibling head-butting, and watching your nieces and nephews delightedly gather wildflowers and decorate the ski lodge for the party, you begin to think... What can I possibly GIVE Mom?

I decided to keep it simple. I gave her 81 acts of kindness in her honor. (One to grow on!) 

It seems simple enough. Acts of kindness are part of my life naturally (not to brag or sound "self-serving"). But now that it's time to get started, I find myself mired in a dilemma... What constitutes an act of kindness worthy of making "the list"?

The other day at the beach, I offered to take photos of families trying to capture "the group selfie". It's kind. But is it kind enough?

The same day I stopped on my way over the dunes to bend some wire on the fencing inward so that nobody got jabbed or scraped by it. Is that kind enough?

Daily I take extra seconds to hold doors for people (often not getting thanked but smiling at them and saying "You're welcome" hoping they get the hint). 

Yesterday there was a woman outside the market in a wheelchair. She appeared to be waiting for something but it was really hot out. I asked if she needed a hand but she said she was all set. Does that count?

I have a funny feeling that I might get to my mom's 81st birthday running low on acts of kindness on the list... But that's okay. She taught me that every extension of myself in a kind way - a smile, a helpful gesture, a significant act of assistance - makes the world a better place. So in the end, no matter where the list ends up, I hope to have made a difference to at least a few people in honor of my wonderful mom!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Suitcase...

When I told my husband tonight that I plan to deal with the pile of clothes that has been accumulating in front of/on top of/around and near my dresser and hamper for the last ~10 days... He asked me if I will finally unpack my suitcase. Truth be told, it has not been completely unpacked in three (possibly more...) months. The travel I've done since the snow melted has been insane and exhausting. And more truth to be told... I'm ready to be done and stay home for a while. I don't have the heart to tell him that I'm traveling again this week and will be in NH Thursday to Saturday this week for work. I guess, if he has time to read this post, the cat is out of the bag now. No. We no longer have a cat so he wasn't in my suitcase. He's in a box under my husband's nightstand (his ashes anyway)... Another thing I need to unpack one of these days. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Relay for Life...

About six weeks ago my wonderful father in-law was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. It's inoperable because it has grown into his chest cavity so he is about to start six intensive weeks of chemotherapy and radiation combined. We feel pretty helpless and aside from visiting the oncologist with him and my mother in-law, there's not much we can do. 

My friend in Maine posted on her Facebook page that she was doing a Relay for Life in Windham, Maine and I thought, "I can't do anything to help ABG1, but I can walk to raise money for cancer research!" So I jumped onto my friend's team - the Windham Police Association team. (My friend's husband is an officer with Windham PD) and raised $235 in about ten days. Yay!

I ran my 5K the week before the Relay (more on that in another post) and was wiped out all week. It was more than the run... It was a busy busy weekend with friends and travel etc. So after the race I didn't exercise all week. 

We arrived at the Relay in the late afternoon and I had been warned that this would be a "life altering experience" but I hadn't put much thought into that part of things. After a rather long opening ceremony (during which I felt bad for one of the women we were walking in support of as she had had a chemo treatment the day before and standing for an hour in the sun was too much!) they did one lap with all of the survivors and caretakers. That was intense. In that procession were cancer patients from ~18 to ~80 - one young girl on a walker with a port in her arm and one very elderly gentleman in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank - and their loved ones. Too many in all!

Then the walk began. The idea is that someone from your team is on the track walking at all times during the 12 hour overnight walk. Our team was small but mighty! We had about nine on the team but only four committed to walking through the night. 

After dark, the hundreds of personalized luminaries were lit and the stadium lights were turned off. Then the team captains spent the next ~1.5 hours reading the names of those that we were walking in honor or memory of... That was also really intense!

I had made luminaries for everyone I love who has been affected by cancer - my mom, my dad, three of my four grandparents, my brother, my sister, two of my uncles, two of my aunts, and, of course, my father in-law. Finding the luminaries as we walked around was touching and after a while I had to stop reading all of the bags of all of the different people - again... Too many!

We had thought that our team captain had dropped the ball on getting our list in but (because we were the very last team in the alphabet), the very last two names read were my father in-law's name and my friend's father in-law's name. It took my breath away and my friend (whose beloved father in-law passed away a few years ago) melted down. It was incredibly emotional. But we kept walking. 

We walked all but about an hour of the whole walk. We took a few short breaks (it was too damp and chilly to sit for long) but for the most part, kept moving. We also had to take a short break when we got "arrested" and had to beg for money for "bail". Thankfully we had a friend visiting who bailed us out! Around 10pm, the same friend who had stopped by earlier in the afternoon with her kids came back to walk with us and that was such an encouragement! She spent the whole night walking with us!

The organizers have a brilliant way to track your mileage. You get a string and every time you complete a lap, you add a bead to it. 

By the end of the night, we had collected 68 beads! And when you are walking on a quarter mile track, that adds up to 17 miles!

By quitting time at 5am, my hips were tight, my calves were locking up, and I had a huge blister on my toe (which thankfully I didn't know about until I took my shoes off at the end)... But I could have kept going. Sunrise does that for me. 

In the end, it was a long night that was filled with many tears, lots of laughs, deepening of old friendships, and a truly life altering experience... Just as I had been warned!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Love in the rear view mirror...

An old friend from high school is getting married this year on New Year's Eve. She's marrying a guy we knew in high school. They didn't date back then but she was friends with just about everyone! They didn't see each other for 20+ years. But when they got together (through Facebook I believe) it was as if it was always meant to be. 

She's led a chaotic life. She will be the first to admit it. Addiction, co-dependent relationships, crazy living situations, strays of all manner tucked under her wing, geographic cures. But in her late thirties, she set about putting things in order for herself. Within a year of doing so they crossed paths. Around the same time, she started a job that led her to start a business of her own. Now she's in graduate school getting a degree in psychology. Life is 1000% better for her than just 6 or 7 years ago!

We've been invited to join them for the Jack & Jill shower this summer and for the wedding this holiday season. We aren't super close these days though Facebook keeps us in touch but we always have a great time when we see each other and I'm honored that she's invited us. Seeing her so happy is wonderful because even at her most chaotic points in life, she always meant well and had a HUGE heart!

Thinking about their high school friendship-turned-romance makes me think about love in the rear view mirror. Call it hindsight perhaps but sometimes returning to your roots is exactly where you'll find what grounds you. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rebuilding the "Outdoor Rinsing Station" aka the outdoor shower

Over the winter, the outdoor shower, which was poorly built to begin with, took quite a beating from the wind. One night I could hear banging with every big gust. I thought the door had come unlatched again but when I looked out, I realized that pieces of the siding had come loose and were swinging in the wind. The support pieces had rotted and the screws were no longer holding the siding to it. Eventually one fell off and more came loose. With every gust of wind, it sounded like someone was falling down the stairs. It was clearly time to do something about it. 

We have been talking about fixing or replacing it since we bought the house seven years ago. It was another half-assed attempt gone wrong courtesy of the previous owner. The plumbing is backwards - hot is cold and cold is hot, the narrow wooden temporary flooring sits directly on top of the brick patio which allows the slugs to hang out underneath and crawl up while you are showering (EWWWW!!!!) making it impossible to relax and enjoy the shower, and the door is attached to a post that sits on the patio with no support so it leans in when the door isn't closed, out when the wind blows and nearly knocks you over if you don't pay attention to the swing. It's also far too small, has no proper place to sit and shave your legs or dry off, and the only place to hang a towel that feels semi-clean is over the door. 

So... A few weeks ago I sat down with a ruler and a pencil and drafted a larger, more useful, more lovely space for what visitors often consider to be the best room in our house. A was on board and drew up the technical specs (I love having a handy husband!).

So in preparation for two whole days off together over the weekend, off we went to our spring home-away-from-home, Home Depot, and stocked up on all the goods. Then A had homework due so while he studied I went out and took down the old enclosure - tearing it all down took me less than ten minutes! I removed everything except the plumbing. I don't do plumbing... That's A's job!

Here are a couple of "before" pictures:

And here are a couple of "during" photos:

The construction would have gone more smoothly had A gotten some sleep before we went to purchase the materials but he'd worked an overnight double and might not have been thinking entirely clearly. After hauling all of the lumber around from the driveway to the construction area, A realized that he had made some minor miscalculations and we were short three 4"x4"x8' posts, one 2"x6"x8' boards and four joist hangers. Having made design changes on the fly didn't help in calculating either. Not a big deal since we are lucky enough to have a lumber yard 10 minutes from the house. 

Once we had completed the shopping, we were on a roll! On day one we got the posts and frame set, the deck built, and all of the decking cut and installed. Day two will include cross-bracing the frame and updating the plumbing. We've had some very cool ideas for how to plumb this thing - rustic but eclectic!

Day three will involve a trip to the saw mill over the bridge at some point this week as we priced out rough cut pine and found it to be less than half the price directly from the mill. Yahoo! The other half of day three will include staining the boards and installing them. 

Days 5 & 6 will be working on the art pieces that will make this shower incredibly unique! I can't wait to see how my vision comes to life!

This is an old window that will be part of the privacy screen. I'm happy with how they are coming out!

Okay... The reality of life prevented us from finishing the outdoor shower before early July but aside from the hunt for a couple more themed towel hooks, it's done! We absolutely LOVE it! 

Here are the "after" pictures. 

The "riptide door" from the outside. We realized it was a tad short and you could see in from the living room so we added another row of waves going the opposite way... Hence the riptide. 

Finished privacy window. They are designed so that when we move, we will take these with us and replace them with boards or less personalized windows. 

The rustic plumbing. Notice the rain shower head above and the shiny thing at the bottom right is the top of the handheld wand - perfect height for dog washing. 

Opposite the door, the "privacy waves" which may some day be replaced with more privacy windows. 

On the right is the shower curtain that gets pulled across to keep the hanging towels etc dry. On the left is a shelf where I like to put my bluetooth speaker and phone for some shower tunes. 

Very important feature is the broom... Spiders like taking up residence and I don't share well with spiders. They ARE better than the slugs that used to crawl on my feet in the old shower though! Oh... And on the right is another privacy window. 

One of the cool things is that the two smaller windows are from A's family's cottage in Eastham and as I was varnishing them, I saw A's grandfather's name written in pencil on the side. I like to imagine that he wrote it there 50+ years ago. 

And... Looking up. Wisteria and "old" fishing buoys. Trees and blue sky. So lovely!

Overall it was a relatively easy project with me as the designer and A as the engineer, architect, plumber, and carpenter. We make a great team! And yes... We are for hire! :-)