Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Five Minutes

It takes five minutes…

to brew coffee in the French press.
to pick up my daughter from school.
to walk from my office to the library.
to send an email to a friend.
to write a card to someone.
to say goodnight to my kids.
to organize my backpack for the next day.
to set the table.
to read a blog post.

It took only five minutes
for a young man
to kill 26 people,
most of them children.
What does that say about our world?

I choose to focus on the five minutes...
that it takes to love those close to me.
to tell my kids that they are special.
to reach out to others with my heart
and soul.
and to pray that this madness ends. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What if he were here now?

Today marks three years since my Dad's death.  He'd be 92, almost 93, if he were here with us now.  And this year, I wonder--what would he love if he were here now?

My Dad would love:

1) That Obama won a second term (more to the point, he would love that Romney lost).

2) All the new great grandchildren coming his way, especially those girls.

3) Lecturing everyone over what should happen regarding the fiscal cliff.

4) Being with his family in the holiday season.  If he were still able to, he'd be making seafood chowder for everyone on Christmas eve.

5) Reading, watching TV, and napping in his big comfy chair.

6) Complaining about how everyone today has too many fancy electronic devices that they are plugged into all the time.

7) My mother.  As always.

Mostly, Dad was a guy who loved his home and his family, even if he had some mighty strange ways of showing it.  I think he'd be just as interested in politics, just as ready to argue, and just as joyous in small pleasures now as he was years ago. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tournament Day

It was a lot of waaaiiitttinnnggg today, and my back hurt terribly from sitting on bleachers for 4 hours.  But, that's a small price to pay to watch my son do his black belt form perfectly and win a first-place trophy for it, and to see my daughter overcome her nervousness and give a solid performance in her first ever competition.  I'm so very proud of them both. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Three Generations of Amusement

On a walk just now, Samuel did something to remind me of a hilarious story about my mother from about 25 years ago (or more).  I have to share it:

My mother and I went for a walk one day near my sister Pat's old house in Lanesville (which is part of Gloucester, MA).  On one quiet road near a field, we heard noises.  My mother exclaimed "It's cows!  Quick!  Get a weapon!"  And she snatched up a long, thin branch--you know, the kind that waves in a gentle breeze?  I laughed so hard that I think I nearly fell over.  To this day, I have no idea why my mother thought it was cows, let alone why they would hurt us...

Fast forward several years (about 10, probably).  I was in a mall with my sister Kaethi.  We went into a Bath & Body Works shop.  I was looking around, and suddenly--I hear her voice behind me, exclaiming (loud enough for most people in the store to hear): 
"I'm so soft and fragrant!" 
Yet another moment when I had a hard time remaining standing, because I was laughing so hard.

Another fast forward, to yesterday.  Samuel handed Howard and me menus that he and Anya made.  S & A's restaurant.  Prices for appetizers, lunch, drinks, and dessert.  Howard pointed out that this was a bad deal for us parents: not only did we have to go grocery shopping and buy the food that morning, but then we had to pay for it again through the restaurant.  Samuel blushed, laughed sheepishly, and explained that we would, um, be paying for the service.

Oh, and the entertainment: the kids singing to us while they tortured an old play guitar:

...Sadly, they inherited all of my musical "talent."

Okay, so what funny (but innocent) stories can you tell on your family and friends?

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Yesterday, I ran into images like this, of people voting in New York.  Here it's Queens, another was Staten Island.  If anyone had the right to say "I can't vote today," it was these people, whose homes were ruined or who still didn't have power (etc), and whose usual polling locations were not functioning.  I suppose some did decline.  But many did not.  They took time from rebuilding their lives to vote at last-minute tents set up for just that purpose.

If these people could manage to vote, none of the rest of us had an excuse not to do so.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

From the Peanut (butter) Gallery

So, here's an opinion piece that my son wrote for me the other day (he calls it a report, but it's not):
The Amount of Peanut Butter and Why ( A report)
                Have you ever gotten criticized by anyone? For how much peanut butter you put on a peanut butter jelly sandwich or a peanut butter bagel? It has happened to me many times. Why, you ask? Because some people out there are critics. Everyone should be able to put however much peanut butter they want on something, so I’m here to say it. I put a good amount of peanut butter on anything. It’s a fact.
                There are many reasons that I am making this claim that everybody should put a certain amount (or more) of peanut butter on ANYTHING. First of all, it is a free country, so everybody should be able to do what they want. If someone just leaves someone to butter their own thing, then the person has every right to put any amount of peanut butter on anything. Also, it’s delicious! It’s irresistible! It should be eaten by anybody, no matter how many times. Lastly,  people can treat their health any way they want, s it’s their fault when they die of too much protein.
                There are also many reasons why I think I put good amounts of peanut butter on my things. First of all, to all you critics (yes, mom, I mean you), have you ever seen that on peanut butter jars, there’s no suggested serving size? Sure, there’s a regular serving size on the nutrition label, but does it ACUTUALLY suggest how much peanut butter to put on specific things? No, most likely not. Also, if , people should already have out a dish of how much peanut butter they want someone to use if the critic doesn’t want the lover of peanut butter to have a great amount of it. Lastly, the more I, or anyone for that matter, have, then we get a whole lot more protein.
                As you can see, all you critical folks, a lot of peanut butter is OK. Wait, it is AWESOME! It gives all sorts of nutrients, and it is very tasty. There are even different kinds, making it even more mouth-watering.  Peanut butter should be used by all. They should be able to use any amount of peanut butter they want (even if it kills them).
Yum, Yum, Yum J
Sadly for my boy, his arguments did not work.  I still don't let him put 1/2 a tub of peanut butter on three graham crackers.
Still, you've got to admire his tenacity.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Hilarity

This has got to be the best Halloween candy I've ever seen--I guess you can keep the candy teeth for when your real teeth fall out from an overload of sugar, huh?

What an insane holiday...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Measure of the Nation?

This morning, while listening to NPR on my walk, I listened to this excerpt of a speech that Robert Kennedy made in 1968, months before his death by assassination.  I have been thinking about it off and on all day, so I thought I would share it here.

Robert Kennedy, in his remarks  at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968:

"I have seen the people of the black ghetto, listening to ever greater promises of equality and of justice, as they sit in the same decaying schools and huddled in the same filthy rooms - without heat - warding off the cold and warding off the rats.
If we believe that we, as Americans, are bound together by a common concern for each other, then an urgent national priority is upon us.  We must begin to end the disgrace of this other America.
And this is one of the great tasks of leadership for us, as individuals and citizens this year.  But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction - purpose and dignity - that afflicts us all.  Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.  Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.  And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

(accessed at:

I don't know much about Bobby Kennedy, but this made me wish I knew more.  This excerpt inspires me... and it overwhelms me by reminding me how desperately we, in this nation, need to re-orient our values in order to solve our dire social and economic problems.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lost Opportunity

He tried to explain that he meant them no harm, that he only wanted to study their ways and learn from them, to help them if he could.  "I come in peace," he explained, with his limited ability to master these human languages.

The townspeople would have none of it. They were wary of any outsider, and this one spoke strangely and looked different.  It came in a freaking space ship, for god's sake.  No way were they going to trust him.  The police put him into custody, the town council deliberated, bringing in local judges.  People waited in crowds outside town hall, determined that this stranger would not sully their town, not endanger their poor impressionable children with what were, no doubt, his barbaric and ungodly ways.

Later that day--ironically, on a beautiful afternoon--the crowd took over and killed the creature.  Put its head on a stick and paraded it throughout town.

And so the human race lost its chance to learn from a culture that could have helped them solve global warming, end wars, and find solutions to dwindling water and food supplies.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Into the Woods

We just came back from Maine.  We were afraid that it was going to rain all weekend, but instead it was crisp and (mostly) clear New England Fall weather.  Perfect.

Yesterday, we celebrated fall with a walk in the woods.  It was invigorating, beautiful, and relaxing.  Just what we all needed.

What do you do to celebrate fall?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Morning

I have lots to do--groceries, cleanup around the house, work--but so far it's been a pretty lazy Saturday morning.  I'm trying to let go of ambition and just enjoy it.

What do you like to do on Saturday mornings?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Home Sweet Home

After a full and intense day of teaching, it's nice to come home to "ordinary life," don't you think?

(What, you don't have an alien head biting a princess wallet in your house?  Pfft)

What warms your heart at the end of a long day?

Friday, September 7, 2012

How Curious

How is it possible that I can skim through a draft of a complex scholarly essay, understand the multilayered arguments, and recommend what needs to be kept/let go in order to get it to page limit and focus it...

But I cannot understand really simple knitting patterns until I've read them twelve times and asked someone about them?

How did I end up so hopelessly impractical, coming from a family of DIY and artistic/crafty types?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuned in, Turned off?

Last week, while sitting in the rather large waiting room before Sam's endocrine appointment, I looked up and glanced around the room. Suddenly, it occured to me:  Every single person except for me was staring at a smart phone.  Me?  I had a book in my hand.  Eventually, I saw one other woman with a book as well. 

It was eerie.  Even teenagers interacting with each other did so by showing each other stuff on their phones. 

Now, I know that I am something of a relic (I downgraded from a smart phone to just a regular cell phone, and I don't tweet)...but, I've got to wonder what's happened to us as a society when all we do is spend our time on tiny little screens.

It scares me, this constant busy-ness and tech connection.  For a while, I lost track of reading for pleasure because I was "too busy."  I might have mentioned earlier that coming back to it has been like coming back home to my true self.  I love the feel and smell of a book.  I love "falling" into it, whether it is fiction or nonfiction.  Kindle books aren't the same, though I will probably have to put up with them when in Ecuador next year.

I also love conversation, especially in person, but also on the phone, via letters, or even via email with the handful of people in my life (yes, you Kevin) who know how to treat it like real letter writing.  I have no great desire to share my thoughts in 140 words or less, or to stare at tiny little screens instead of talking with a real, live, breathing person.

I worry about a society in which few people ever experience the joy of reading a good book, or of engaging in a real, full (and in-person) conversation.  I wonder if I am made for this world, at this time.

Are there any modern "conveniences" that scare the heck out of you?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Moon Magic

We're back in Maine for the weekend, and there was a beautiful moon last night.  Here is a picture I took with my camera:

And here are pictures that I took putting my camera up to Howard's new telescope!

I wish I could have gotten more; it was hard to capture it with the camera...sometimes we could even see craters.

Color me captivated.  How are you capturing the moon these days?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Silver lining

If there is any consolation for me about losing access to the claw-foot tub in Maine, it's returning to my rickety, beloved screened in porch in Mass.  Oh, and the espresso in the mug from Cuenca doesn't hurt either.

Thank you, Howard, for getting the porch ready for me while I was on campus yesterday!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Yesterday, we drove back to Massachusetts.  Time to transition back to life here, getting ready for the academic year and for the upcoming trip to Ecuador in January. 

I'm sad to see the summer come to an end.  It was a time of tremendous productivity with my new book, and lots of ordinary magic with the kids.  There are things that I will particularly miss:

This lovely stove, with Anya's artwork above it:

My pantry (I do so love pantries):

Sam's moon painting:

Walks along the breakwater:

Sam's rediscovery of sketching:

Anya discovering a love of reading while snacking:

And, of course, there's the tub.  I might just miss the tub most of all:

But, although I am not looking forward to a rushed pace when the school year starts, there are reasons that it's good to be back:

It's so interesting seeing how lush things have gotten since I left in late May.  On my morning walk, I went past sunflowers taller than me!  (I adore sunflowers).

Oh, and we have a sitter coming over tonight!  First time in about 3 months. 

The kids were getting antsy toward the end of our time in Maine.  It is time for them to get back to their regular school year routines.

And, although I hope to keep the craziness at bay during the semester, I think it's time for me to be around more people in my daily life than I was over the summer.

We did bring some things back from Maine.  The kids are still doing lots of art, and we plan trips to the library soon.  And they've already requested pancakes for dinner:

What will you miss from summer?  What do you look forward to as fall approaches?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The smell of sadness

Tonight, while getting a drink of water from the kitchen tap, I caught an odd, sweet, distinctive smell.  For a moment I tried to place it, then it was obvious: insulin.  Sam's been running in the 300s with his blood glucose all day, so Howard changed his reservior tonight in case there were bubbles in the tubing that were keeping the insulin from getting into the boy.

It's a smell that, when it catches me off guard like this, makes me so sad.  Not weeping sad--nothing that dramatic.  Just a hollow kind of sadness that Sam has to deal with this crap every day of his life.  It was four years last Saturday.  Mostly I am grateful every day for insulin, because my son is healthy and funny and vibrant.  But today, taking me by surprise, it made me blue.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer time

I keep thinking about posting, but there isn't anything particularly noteworthy going on around here these days--just writing (a lot), lots and lots and lots of board games, walks along the ocean, much time spent in libraries, etc.  I often let the kids decide what we're going to have for dinner (which means that we eat things like spaghetti and meatballs or pancakes quite often).  We read a lot.  And the kids are drawing a ton. 

We do some "special outings," of course.  One of the best was when we went to the independent (one-screen) theater in town to see three silent movies from the 1910s and 1920s, accompanied by a live orchestra (just as they would have originally been seen). 

But, mostly, it's just life, on summer schedule. 

The board games I can live with, and sometimes they are a lot of fun...but oh, that day this week when the kids came to the library with me and just hung out, reading, for over an hour...


What's your summer all about?