Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis the Season to be Thoughtful

I was having a discussion with my youngest the other day and she said she was having a hard time finding Christmas Spirit.  We talked and attributed some of this to the fact she is just finished with finals and she's got a bugger of a cold and ear infection...that's enough right there to knock the wind out of any holiday's sails...but there is something more...we both got a bit animated about what Christmas Spirit means...for her it is all the traditions that we've passed along and at the heart of Christmas for her, is family coming together, happily, to celebrate Christ's birth and the hopes and values of our faith. 

For years now, everyone has been complaining about the lack of Christ in Christmas...Santa is the great commerical  icon for the holiday...he's meant to be the secular can "believe" in Santa and Rudolph and Frosty without having a stake in any religion...even one of my favorite classics, Charles Dicken's A Christma Carol,  first published in 1843, takes a rather secular view of this holy season. So the struggle to find the true spirit of Christmas is an old one.

I guess it is up to each individual and family to keep Christmas in our own way...but we need to be mindful, thoughtful and patient with one another.  If celebrating Christmas is not your "thing", that is your choice, but if you so choose, please do not be put out by the traditions and celebration of others.

I am thrilled that this is a holiday season...Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza ...there is even "Festivus for the Rest of Us"...thank to Frank is wonderful to see the signs and symbols of all these celebrations.  It is wonderful to share and learn other faith and family traditions.  I see this as an opportunity to grow as community but sadly, more often than not, we hear story after story about public holiday displays and events marred by court orders, protests and complaints because there must be a separation of Church and State...God, prayer, thanksgiving, tradition and so on have no place being mixed up in schools, Town Hall or even on public commons...what??

Have we become so insensitive or overly sensitive, that we cannot find common ground?  Can't we share faith, hope and love without having to foster an agenda?

So I believe in Jesus Christ...I believe one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.   I believe and follow the Ten Commandments...and I seek forgiveness when I do wrong.  Each day I hope to leave the world a better place than when the day started.  These are some of the foundation of my faith I choose to live my life...and if you are interested, I'd be happy to share my views and values with you...but I would never impose them upon you...the lights in my windows are there to remind me of my faith, my family, our traditions and to share our joy with our neighbors...we do not intend to offend...and yet, we cannot control how others have to own that one.

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge awakens to find he has not missed Christmas and in his personal epiphany, he promises to keep Christmas in his heart and try to keep it all the year.  I try to live this way perhaps that is why one of my character flaws pops up from time to time during the holidays... I get so impatient with people trying to cram kindness, charity and even religion into the 30 or so days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.  Christmas is a holy day of celebration.  It is filled with  beautiful rites and rituals and a beautiful story of miracles and hope, which continues through the Epiphany in January.
For me, the story doesn't end...we need not close up the book (in this case the Bible) and tuck it back on the shelf until next, the message of Christmas lives all year long...the ornaments and parties...they are kind of the exclamation point for the message...but the meaning is found in each person we meet in the days after...and the gifts we give ourselves are the relationships we form and share in those following days.

So back to finding Christmas Spirit...we're listening to holiday music...except for WHAM's Last Christmas...ugh...I've baked all the favorite cookies...we have friends stopping by for our annual Christmas Eve Open House...and we are bringing the Spirit...we are not looking for is in us!

We came up with a list to help us be more thoughtful, avoid hurting feelings and honoring the meaning of all the holidays celebrated at this time of year...maybe our list will offer some holiday cheer to you!

  • Keep your expectations real...we do not live in a Hallmark Holiday Special.
  • Remember you can only control your own feelings and actions
  • Be thoughtful and kind.  If someone wishes you Happy Holidays and not a Merry Christmas...accept the goodwill and do not seek injury where none is intended.
  • Remember to say please and thank you...sometimes we are in such a rush, we forget to be polite!
  • If you get an invitation to a party or gathering, let your host/s know if you will or won't be coming...a quick heads up either way is kind and if you are not attending...prevents worry, overbuying and waste for the host.
  • Do not think that if someone makes a charitable donation in your honor, they "cheaped" you out of a  present...remember it is the thought that counts and the giver thought enough about you to include you in their goodwill.
  • Write good old fashioned thank you is a wonderful tradition and again, demonstrates that it is the thought that counts!
  • Christmas and I think it is fair to say the other holiday observances are NOT a competition.  We give gifts because we care and think about are not a measure of are an expression of well wishes!
  • Take time to pray or meditate.  It is a fact that the holidays are crazy...a fact we can only minimally control...prayer centers you again and refocuses your spiritual energy to deal with the crazy that is out of your control!
  • Do not judge a person until you've walked a mile in his or her shoes...especially during the holidays!
  • Remember that love is patient and kind...
  • And if you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all.
Merry Christmas...Happy Holidays and Cheers to Peace and Happiness in 2012!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Take Back Thanksgiving!

For most of my adult life, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday…my husband’s too.  There is no question about why our family gathers this day.  We come together to count our blessings, do something to help those less fortunate and to enjoy the warm, sometimes kitschy  annual traditions which the more they change the more they stay the same!
For example, sometime during our early Groton years, we started hosting a pre-Thanksgiving High School Football Game breakfast….complete with the requisite Monkey Bread from my youth.  Over the years, the venue for the games changed; Groton-Dunstable broke away from Ayer High and created its own successful football program…then the impetus of the gathering changed as kids returning home from college used our Turkey Bowl breakfast as a chance to reconnect after a year away from former high school chums…and as was evident this year, the faces are the same…somewhat…older, thinner, facial hair, make-up…but those smiles, they will never change.  Go to the game, not this year,  let’s linger around the table a bit longer, savoring the stories, smiles and holding hands as we know the time to give the hug that must last a year draws near.
With the exception of a few Thanksgivings Interrupted over our 28 years as a family, most years Thanksgiving dinner is just about the four of us.  Just after Halloween, I start trolling for Turkey Day dinner requests…roasted carrots and stuffing for Emily, squash soup, string beans and no sausage in the stuffing for Carrie…Bill wants homemade cranberry sauce and extra of everything for sandwiches.  For me it is the hugs…I’d be happy  with PB&J as long as I get my extra-long hugs…and smiles…I am all about the Happy in Happy Thanksgiving.
I truly enjoy cooking for Thanksgiving.  Some years I challenge myself to make the meal for less the $50.  Sometimes the meal is over the top…but every year, I buy a bag of groceries to donate to our local food pantry.  I plan for weeks and I cook for days.  I know it is a successful workout when I feel that burn in my calves and dull ache in my lower back after standing by the stove, sink and food prep areas for hours.  I am trained to clean as I go, but at a certain point, the used pots and pans and of course the dishes catch up and it is then, that I, for the only time in the year, turn my kitchen over to my personal clean-up crew.  I grab a nap during the second half of whatever the second football game is on the TV.
Dessert isn’t a big deal for us…there are some cookies, Clementines , a pie and leftover Monkey Bread…we save room for our 9:30 pm sandwiches.  Sometime around 7pm, we put in the first of our holiday tradition movies…ELF…to be followed by HOME ALONE…I don’t know how or why these movies became our Thanksgiving “It’s Now OK to Start Thinking About Christmas” selections, but they are and we laugh just as hard each and every year.  Intermission brings out the sandwich fixin’s complete with squishy bread and many a “food baby” is conceived!
Friday means Mom is exhausted and free range foraging in the fridge is the rule of the day.  Pie for breakfast? my guest…Turkey Club sandwiches…Brilliant!  I read, blog or catch up with family far away…the rest of the family does their own thing…Bill and Emily break out the Christmas lights for the windows and tackle adjusting lights on a few trees out in the yard…Carrie heads out to the movies and a meal with her childhood best friend and travel buddy, Meghan.  No Black Friday mania here. 
I have a personal grudge against celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving.  I don’t have a problem with people pulling a plan together for Christmas…that is actually a sane approach.  I already have a few Christmas presents and stocking stuffers tucked away here and there…you’ve got to take advantage of coupons and availability when possible…but the business about radio stations playing Christmas music (much of it crappy and depressing) starting in early November…wrong, wrong, wrong…my heart sank when I saw the Hershey’s Holiday Kisses “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” commercial during the October 30th football game…wrong.
Thanksgiving is a great holiday…a NATIONAL holiday…it doesn’t rely on religion, commercialism or specified social convention, well except for the turkey thing…but if you want ham, duck or tofu…no one really cares about that…no matter who you are, you can and should stop to give thanks, count your blessings and share your blessings with those whom you love or who are less fortunate.
We know about the “first” Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims…or the Jamestown settlers…and Native Americans…it is where our turkey legend/ tradition finds its origins…but more importantly, it focuses on people thanking people, being grateful for the bounty of hard work, cooperation and understanding.  Later in our history, President Lincoln inspired by Sarah Hale’s campaign to focus on American unity during the Civil War, established a recurring, national day of Thanksgiving.  Americans were asked to pray for an end to the war and reconciliation between the states and even families.  It was a time to come together as Americans, humbly and thoughtfully.
In 1941, the 4th Thursday of November was established as Thanksgiving Day by federal legislation.  President Franklin Roosevelt had originally wanted to set the date two weeks earlier, but coming out of a depression and in the midst of war, Congress saw the need to establish Thanksgiving later in November to…and here is what I call  “the historical rub”…promote economic stimulus…prior to Christmas…the more things change, the more they stay the same…
Nowadays, it seems that Thanksgiving is about football and preparing for… insert ominous music cue here…Black Friday.  Those of us blessed to live in the Northeast still have images of Plimoth Plantation (yes that is the correct spelling) and Sturbridge Village and Thanksgiving of yesteryear…our iconic white spired churches celebrate actual Thanksgiving prayer services…you know giving thanks to God, our communities and each other…in Massachusetts we still have Blue Laws prohibiting most businesses and stores from opening on Thanksgiving…honoring the true meaning of the day and allowing everyone to gather without reference to religion or ethnicity, and recognizing the “American-ness” of the day. 
But something…some new cultural insipidness…is threatening to minimize Thanksgiving as a national day of celebration…apparently buying a new  42” HD TV for $150, on a prescribed sales day, is more important than celebrating family and counting blessings…that standing on line for hours, maybe even days so you can buy one and get one free is more valuable than passing on family traditions or helping those who are in need…that spending money (and in many cases money you don’t have) is better for America than spending time with family and friends.  And don’t get me started about the trampling, crushing, punching, swiping from carts and new this year, pepper spraying…that now mark this infamous shop-a-looza.
I don’t think so!  If everyone else would acknowledge that I am queen of the world…or at least benevolent dictator, I would declare Black Friday illegal and make the Friday after Thanksgiving, Family Friday, a day of rest and fun focused on family, friends with perhaps a dash of community service, the law. 
As of today, there are 29 shopping days until Christmas…plenty in my book…and if you think about the old world traditions observing Advent, a time of prayer, reflection and making yourself ready for celebrating Christ…not Santa, who can be a wonderful role model and hero…you can celebrate 12 days of Christmas…and not be exhausted, disappointed and letdown when the commercialism of Christmas leaves you feeling flat.
Take back Thanksgiving…give time to those who matter, who need you and count those blessings.
Christmas is a magical season and it is a religious season…for those of us with a faith tradition, to quote a trite but true saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”   Let’s wait…observe quietly Advent and perhaps folks won’t be sick of Christmas by Christmas Eve and  be glad when it is over…but I am rushing that seasonal blog….Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cinéma...Vérité ?

One of my favorite SNL skits comes from the minds of Amy Poelher and Seth Myers...they observe insane, inane stuff from current events and then posit..."Really?".  I have lifted this schticky behavior for my own amusement as I observe the world, but this weekend, it took on a darker, more serious note. Really...well you be the judge.

Bill and I opted to go to the movies rather than watch the Red Sox choke once again on Saturday.  Ironically, we went to see Moneyball, a movie about baseball, starring Brad Pitt.  Normally,  I am not a BP fan, but I love America's favorite pastime, (except when the Sox are in a nose dive in the standings) and Bill, who doesn't care what we see at the movies, really wanted to see this.

We went to the theater to catch a late afternoon show, with plans to go out to dinner night!  We bought our tickets and entered Cinema 9, to a room  half filled with lots of middle aged talky teens with smart phones glowing in the dark.

After turning off our cell phones, we watched the coming attractions, making mental notes of things that look interesting...Hugh Jackman...always "interesting", wink, wink...Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy...that could be really, really.   Movie about cancer...not so much...The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...for real I am going to see that!

I don't know about you, but when the lights come down and the coming attractions are on the screen, my movie going experience has begun.  I don't talk or whisper...I hold my husband's hand, give it a squeeze if I see something of note for later conversation and enjoy his company and whatever world to which I am about to be transported.

If I had some movie sound effects, this is where you would hear the screeching sound of a record being scratched as the needle mercilessly rips across its tracks...enter two 30-something ladies and a large brown paper bag...really?  Seating themselves in the two seats right behind us....really?  The theater is half pick those seats...really?  Let me add an important side note here...I hate it when people walk behind me.  I shiver as if someone walked over my should see me at restaurants when waitstaff come up behind me...I practically jump out of my skin and well, the seats behind us...really?

I also believe I suffer from Misophonia...the visceral dislike of certain sounds.  Just ask my family what happens when they chew with their mouths open or God forbid, gulp.  It makes me ill...really.  There are some days when it gets so bad I have to leave the room for fear of snapping at someone.  So imagine my joy when 2 ladies and a brown paper bag break out smaller bags and open said brown shopping bag, filled with popcorn...and they started doling it out...talking all the while, really!  Not whispering...not quietly, but a full on conversation about popcorn and what does a dragon tattoo got to do with that movie?  Really!!??

Being the subtle sort, I gave the noisemakers a long glance over my shoulder...making note that the woman seated one seat over from me too was making a glance askance.  For a brief all knowing moment, our eyes locked and we telepathically observed., "REALLY???".

Moneyball is a movie about baseball.  Actually, it is about baseball management.  There is no overture or swelling soundtrack.  No car chases or crashes...just lots of dialogue.  There is baseball history and trivia contained therein as well.  And one popcorn CARR-unching, lipsmacking lady knew EVERYTHING about baseball. or so she thought..."Hatteberg...I didn't know he played for the Red Sox!"... really... and had to share it with the other bag wrinkling, popcorn snarfer, who only wanted to know which one is David Justice...because as everyone in earshot now knew he beat up Halle Berry when they were married....really.

So over the course of the first twenty minutes, I would tense up at the annoying sounds and think...I could bop these two...really.  Should I say something?   Should we move?  Move? Really? I don't think so.

I realized I was becoming my own nuisance when my dear husband, squeezed my hand, hard...really hard.  I then promised myself to offer it up. 

Things went along okay for a while and the story drew me in...until I came rushing back to reality when one of the brown baggers grabbed the back of my seat and the collar of my shirt as she hoisted herself up out of her chair and in the worst stage whisper ever, proclaimed she was going to the bathroom and then to get some drinks....really!?....I mean really?!

After what seemed too soon, she returned with two of the largest ice filled mega-gulps the concession stand provides.  And the noise began anew.  REEEally.

In short order, the beverage portion of the purchase was consumed.  I know because that gawd-awful sound a straw makes when there is nothing liquid left in a cup cascaded over my loudly that I actually missed some dialogue...really! And the shaking of the cup to assure oneself no liquid was available was akin to a rattle snake...which if there was one I would have begged it to bite someone to end the misery!   It could be too that the blood pounding headache that was forming in the back of my brain was ebbing through my eardrums further exacerbating my misophonia. I was on the edge..until...

God bless my husband...he started to laugh know, shoulders bouncing up and down, heading wagging from left to right and he pinching his nose so he wouldn't snort.  I looked over at him, in think this is funny?  Really? 

It was then I knew not only does my husband have a wicked sense of humor, but so does God and his timing is perfect...the woman seated one seat over whips her head over her shoulder and says, "Could you make some more noise?  I can still hear the movie!"  And get this, she finished by saying... "Really!!"...really!

I had to put my head between my knees to stifle the guffaw.

With one last shake of their ice, 2 ladies and a brown bag were quieted.  Really.

We enjoyed the movie.  We are probably going to catch it on see what we missed.

So, if you know someone like our popcorn nemesises, tell them of those of us who suffer from Misophonia and bring to light that if they like to talk through movies and munch popcorn like they are eating rocks, it would be a great kindness to please find a seat away from others, or better yet...stay home and rent a movie...really.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe

We remember…we celebrate…we believe.                
The words in this post’s title are from a Catholic hymn written by Marty Haugen.  For some reason, probably because “Never Forget” is plastered on pictures, newspapers and social networking sites, this song has been the score to my life during the week leading up to today’s poignant anniversary.  In addition to being the soundtrack, it has also been my prayer.  I have thought a lot about that day and each time I see or hear the questions “do you remember what you were doing”…or “what image do you recall?”…this song quietly enters my thoughts and I remember…
It is the tenth anniversary of September 11th.  I, like millions of Americans, remember exactly what I was doing that beautiful morning.  My husband and I had attended a before school meeting with our youngest daughter’s fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Kilroy, together, building a partnership and strategies for a successful year to come.
As we drove home from the local coffee shop we stopped in, after the appointment, we talked about how pleased we were and glad Emily was going to have such a wonderful influence in her life. When we turned the corner onto our street,  we waved to our neighbor Sharon who was sitting in her ginormous Yukon truck at the end of the road…we assumed she had just put her youngest on the bus for school.  It was the look on her face that made me question if everything was all right.  I pointed her out to Bill and was in the process of asking him to stop so we could check, but he told me had taken enough time off from his work day and needed to get to the office…so he raced on up the hill to our home and with a quick peck good-bye, dropped me at the doorstep.
I went in the kitchen and put the tea kettle on and thought about calling Sharon, asking her to stop in for tea.  I popped into the den to put the TV to keep me company while I tidied the kitchen.  As the image appeared, I could hear something vastly strange about Matt Lauer’s voice.  I was unable to process the image of smoke billowing out of the tower…and as his voice explained about the plane crash, I saw the second plane fly so deliberately into the second tower.  I screamed. 
Within seconds, the world turned upside down.  I knew why Sharon looked the way she did.  I ran to the phone to call her…to seek comfort as well as to offer comfort…no answer.  I ran to the door but turned around and stared at the TV hoping this was all a terrible joke.
 I called Bill, knowing he was in the car and left a voice mail that something awful was happening and to call me as soon as possible.
I was frozen, standing before the TV in the den.  The kettle whistled and I tore myself away from the images to turn it off.  I was afraid that if I stopped viewing something more horrid might happen.  I was willing all that was sacred to stop the madness…to prove to me that what I was witnessing wasn’t real.
For some reason, when Katie Couric spoke, I began to shake and I changed the channel to ABC.  Charlie Gibson…he would help me make sense of it. 
As the words terrorist attack, Al Qaeda, Bin Laden breached the September calm, I felt sick…so sick that I had to run to the bathroom to throw up.  And then I began shaking and crying and praying…
I called the elementary school as soon as I could catch my breath.  I asked the secretary if they all knew what was going on and if so what was going to happen with the children.  My first reaction was to get in the car and go get them but as I talked to Patty  R, I realized that until any of us knew what was what, the safest and most “normal” place for the kids to be was in their classrooms. 
I sent an email, (because by now the phone lines were jammed),  to a friend at the high school offering to come and help with my other daughter’s situation.  I knew that they would be more aware of the circumstances and have questions, fears and concerns.  I got a quick reply that I would be called if needed (and God, did I want to be needed!!) but that the superintendent had encouraged all district personnel to proceed through the day as normally as possible.  Parents showing up could make things worse.  After school activities had been cancelled and in the hours that lay before me, I was trying to process what I would say to my girls.
My sick vigil in front of the TV continued.  I prayed violently.  I paced and cried and struggled.  My dog Molly paced with me, looking up at me, knowing something was wrong but being a dog, could only match my strides.  When I finally sat down, she crawled on my lap and licked away the tears on my face…this only made me cry harder!!
When the reports about the Pentagon broke, I was frozen once again.  I thought of all the people my family knew through our Coast Guard and Air Force connections.  I called my dad, a retired Coast Guard Captain and not knowing what to say, I cried for a while, told him I loved him and I hung up. 
When the towers fell, I threw up again. 
After a while, I muted the TV.  I couldn’t listen to the reporters on site cramming down panic in order to report what they were seeing.  The images were saying enough.   But the silence in the house was scary…mostly because I could now hear my own ragged breathing…the sobbing.  I turned on the radio thinking I would hear my favorite classical music station, but there was only more reporting.  I put in a CD of classical guitar music and turned to put the tea kettle back on…but as I stretched my hand out to grab the teapot, I couldn’t stop it from shaking.  Turning the music off, I slowly walked back into the den to once again take up the vigil and listen to the details over and over again.
 I remember being out on the deck, looking up at the brilliant blue sky asking why when I heard through the slider door about the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.  I was certain that I could take no more of this. 
Bill got to the office and with his colleagues watched the unfolding horror.  He called me and I begged him to come home, but he said that he needed to stay.  At the time I was crushed…I thought he would want to be with me, to take care of me…it was not until weeks later that I (finally unselfishly) realized that he was in no emotional shape to drive and that being at work was his “normal”.
Over the years, we have been told by journalists, analysts, talking heads and historians that 9/11 was the day the world changed forever.  We would know our modern history as, before 9/11 and after 9/11. 
That day, I changed forever.  I feel it deep in my bones.  For a long time, I felt defeat.  I felt  that despite the fact that the US was the most powerful and influential nation on earth and that as Americans we came together so uniquely unified to face this most heart aching tragedy, we let the world down.  How else could one explain such an attack?  Days or maybe it was weeks after 9/11, rumors, based on a book, soon to be released in Europe, started in France that the attacks on the US were not a terrorist plot, but a shrewd, cold-hearted plan exacted against our financial and government institutions by our own government.  I had read about this in the papers and again I was sickened…how could anyone believe this?  In October 2001, I was shocked to find out some colleagues from France, who were in Massachusetts for a business meeting, were buying this BS and actually had the gall to broach the subject over dinner.  If we had not been in a restaurant, I would have slapped both of them across their faces.  Bill and I told both men that if they valued any part of our friendship, they would never speak of that conspiracy again.  To this day, they never have.  Shortly after the bombings in London in 2005, one of these gentlemen apologized to me for his 9/11 remarks and that has been then end of that.
So this change in me…it has made me more tolerant and less tolerant…depending on my circumstance…I admit that when I am at the airport, I look for anything out of the ordinary…suspicious.  Immediately following the attacks, I “profiled”…and I pray that my prejudice would be unfounded, as it always has been, and I prayed for forgiveness for thinking the way I did... but I keep a watchful eye…for that which is suspicious.  But I cannot stand it when someone is sorted out because of appearance or custom.  While I lived in Paris, the French government was crafting laws that would make it illegal for a woman of faith to wear a burqa or veil covering all or part of her face.  The “French” felt this form of covering was oppressive to a woman’s rights and of course, it was not at all French in custom.  Being a First Amendment loving American in Paris, I often found myself asking my new French friends how they could support a law that did not allow someone to express their faith willingly.  Most of the time my friends believed that Muslim women are forced to wear a niqab veil and that they are afraid of the men in their lives…to which I suggested wouldn’t it be better to first identify those who are choosing to wear the niqab freely and support them while going after the men who are abusive…and somehow it would come back to the notion that that wouldn’t work because men have the right to manage their households…but if the burqa is illegal then the state wins…huh???  For a country that has so many churches, faith is not very French anymore.
This change has made me love my country even more…and question the choices our leaders are making.  I turn time and again to the words and examples of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams…to the ideals of Henry, Madison and Franklin…and to the inspiration of Lincoln and ask myself when and where did politics and governing become blurred?  Are these truths still self-evident?
The struggles we face today arise not from being affiliated with a party…they arise from a need to be right all the win at all cost…and put one’s own interest ahead of the common good.  My goal is to teach my children and others I love that what makes us great, what makes us strong are liberty and justice for all.  If you exercise your rights, your opinion or your work to the end that someone else is not treated justly, then you have crushed liberty…for all.  Liberty is freedom from arbitrary controls or restrictions and with these freedoms, come responsibility and accountability…to oneself, one’s neighbors and fellow citizens…without judgment…save that for God and the Supreme Court.
This change in me has made me calmer…I am still a worry wart…but I do not rush to judgment as quickly as before 9/11…I have become pretty good at seeing the BIG picture and I never forget all that with which I am blessed.  I think about the Hanson family who died that terrible day…a beautiful little family, from my town…so full of life and potential…gone.  I thought of them each day I served as a volunteer in a school, on a committee or for a youth organization…I worked to make this place a place they would have been happy to thrive in.
This change in me has made me a less silly person.  I still have a strange, dark sense of humor and I laugh at goofy things; but I do not suffer fools well and I cannot stomach prejudice in the guise of a joke or rumor that one needs to check with Snopes regarding its veracity.  I do not have time to waste on people tearing others down because it makes them feel superior…as my friend Shua quoted from the Quran at an interfaith service today, I heard her say that superiority is not about where you come from, or how strong you are…rather superiority is God’s way of recognizing your character and your actions and how you support those who need you.
I thought the change in me had made me nostalgic…always looking back to simpler days…to the days before…what, I don’t know…to before Oklahoma City…or Waco…or Munich…Dallas…or Pearl Harbor?
Today I heard two things that just may have changed me again.  First, I heard Christianne Amanpour say that the 9/11 10th anniversary was not about closure, it was about moving on.  I never thought about not finding closure…or in my mind justice.  But now I think, I will focus on moving on and that change as it will come in who knows what way, shape or form, is one force that will get me going…
The other thing I heard was the story of BC graduate Wells Crowther, a red bandanna wearing finance guy at the World Trade Center and how on that day he saved the lives of a dozen people and died trying to save many others.  It was recounted to me that he called out into the black, smoke up on the 78th floor, “If you can stand, stand now.  If you can help others, do so.”
I can stand.  I can help others and I will do so.
God Bless America and you my dear friends.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Tales of a Town

I am a small town girl.  In the 60's and 70's, I grew up in a bedroom community 12 miles north of Boston.  Over the course of my adult life,we moved to a couple of more affordable towns early in my marriage and then moved to my favorite "hometown" about 12 years ago.  I moved here because this town represented all that "hometown" means.  There was a strong and evolving school system, a family friendly library, small businesses like the apple orchard on Old Ayer Road, that drew us in  from miles away, from our previous towns...and there are the people who smile, ask you if you are new to town...recommend a dentist, introduce you to the police chief and the school principals...even if you aren't a "townie", you were welcomed to become time!

Late in 2009, I was blessed (and cursed) to move to Paris, France.  My husband and I thought we'd be there for three years, but due to happy circumstances, we were recalled back to the US.  My time in Paris was très intéressant.   I was a small town girl living in one of the most exciting cities in the world...well shut my mouth, butter my buns and call 'em biscuits...I did okay.  I had a good six months of homesickness, but in that time, I found a voice...a written one....but a strong one...and I found an untapped strength and confidence that I never knew existed.  I also found my opinion...but I think this is more a fact of age than locality.  With all this newness, I started to push Paris' and my own boundaries.  Not having the benefit of small town connectedness, I struck out to form new relationships and connections.  I had more than a nodding acquaintance with the waiters in the Cafe Sorbonne, located beneath our apartment.  Each morning, when I would pass by on my morning walk with Reilly, my faithful canine companion, the young, bald waiter, Alex,  would come out and give Reilly a robust scratch about her ears...and sometimes a piece of croissant...and he'd wish us a "bon journee".  And when all three of us would pop into the cafe for an afternoon pick-me-up, our mustachioed waiter friend would shake our hands firmly and with friendly conviction. Reilly would get her own special water bowl and a treat while Bill and I enjoyed an espresso or a glass of Rose'.  We experienced many such connections throughout the city...along the quais of the river Seine, in the Jardins du Luxembourg and all along the Blvds St. Michel and St Germain.  From my dear friends at the Salon de Audebert to the wine merchant and my florist on rue des ecoles...I had made some French connections...and happily some wonderful friends (miss you Juan, Nadine, Gabrielle, Roland, Tim, Chou, Janine, Peter, Phillipe, Patty, Roger and Christine!)

When we got word that our time in Paris was to be cut short, I was both happy and sad.  I knew I was going to miss the "potential" of Paris. I would miss the culture and the access to so much that is "haute" and chic and ooh, la, la.  But I was going my my comfort my little town and that fact made me supremely happy.

I returned to Groton, one year to the day of finding our apartment in Paris.  This coincidence still strikes me as funny...why, I dunno, but it does. We came back just before the holidays. I returned to Groton a new and improved woman...with an empty nest and a husband whose job was keeping him busy and on the road...but I was home.  Although I was often alone, I wouldn't be lonely and with the holidays and other homecomings, I was too busy to notice how life in a small town had changed in a year.

Within a few days of being home and folks realizing we were home, I was getting calls from people to see if I would pick up where I left off in my non-profit and volunteer "jobs"...or if would I join this cause or was flattering and nice to be needed, but what Paris taught me was that after 25 years of volunteering in an alphabet soup of organizations, it was time to focus on me for a while.  I met friends for coffee or lunch for the sake of seeing each other, not to have a meeting with the goal of setting up more meetings.

I have maintained some of the cultural and behavioral habits I adopted in Paris.  I like to shop for groceries more frequently, with a particular menu in mind, rather than stock up for a the days when time was short and Mom's Taxi service was at full throttle.  I have had time to explore places in the area, from gift shops to museums....something I never would have done on my own before Paris. My favorite custom  I employ is the Parisian/French habit of always saying hello upon entering a business/establishment and making eye contact, then saying thank you and good bye upon leaving said is the most civilized thing I do and it makes me very happy to do so...I encourage all Americans to do home and abroad!

But something changed in the year abroad...I know I did...but my hometown changed too.  It seems harder to find the friendly face in the grocery store or walking along any number of paths in town. I have noticed too, that this place that once welcomed newcomers, new ideas and new energy seems to be closed down to that which is "new".  This town used to be a place where people came together to build a future...and, to quote the school district motto..."together a promise to excel" seems to be a place where NIMBY (not in my back yard) is a rising sentiment.  We have come to a place in time where perceptions are not lining up with realities.  People say they want a vibrant and busy downtown, but then complain that traffic and parking will make life miserable.  People claim they want family friendly venues and activities...but families with children and dogs shouldn't be allowed to play or have access to parks and trails because some people don't like dealing with such things while jogging, riding bikes and wearing spandex.  We've had people complain because they moved into a newer residential development built down the road from a successful working farm and they want the farmers/town/board of health to do something about the smell...really?  You moved to an agricultural community...with farms that have been here for hundreds of years. 

We have seen local businesses struggle as well.  Our town is a bit confused about business.  On one hand, the citizens and leadership want to maintain the quintessential small town feel of days of yore, by limiting the types of businesses welcomed here...with the exception of Dunkin' Donuts and CVS, you won't find any chain stores, fast food joints or big box stores...and on the other hand, when local businesses do set up here, it is too inconvenient for locals to visit them (parking issues, the stores are specialty shops, etc), especially when a trip up to Nashua provides everything you need in a half mile radius of the mall.

Recently, Groton tragically lost an historic landmark and central business to fire.  It was this incident which showed me that perhaps this is not the Groton I moved to twelve years ago.  With the exception of a few people, there was little outpouring of support for the owner and the residents of the Inn who were displaced by the conflagration.  The night of the fire, Karen Tuomi, a truly awesome lady and in my opinion a town hero, organized shelter for the residents of the Inn's apartments and folks set up sustenance for the stalwart fire fighters.  Within hours of the fire's being extinguished, a local organization called an emergency meeting about preserving the historic inn, but to this day, I have yet to hear of an emergency meeting to address the needs of the families involved or the wounds to our town as a whole; we lost a local treasure, filled with memories and filled with potential.  Granted there were plenty of Facebook comments...but where was our neighborly response...a real, physical, human response...the community supper...the prayer service...the collection of goods to replace stuff lost in the fire?   We didn't gather as a community to talk about how we could help...make a difference...and "deal"  as a town.  Within a week, a couple of people with gumption organized funds for the families with local banks...but as a whole, Groton just gawked at the ruins and then...much to my dismay...speculated about the cause of the fire. Once that can of worms opened, unwanted and unnecessary opinions about the fire and the future of the Inn were shared.  Through the veil of e-mail on our local list serve...writing critical words is easier than sharing them face to face...some vociferous people expressed their desires for the site...often accompanied by cruel and crude criticism about a family that had been in business in town for over thirty years.  Admittedly, there were people on our local Google list serve who were dreaming about a better Groton...about honoring an historic site and the legacy of all the Inn's owners...but there were many more who out and out disparaged folks who are facing the hardest time of their lives only to make themselves seem bigger by knocking people when they are down. 

I was disappointed in my hometown when I read those posts and the articles in the papers.  I was shocked that some of my neighbors would go there, down a very disturbing and distrustful path...and the surprisingly few retorts to all this negativity...I plead guilty to not responding, until now and in this somewhat sheltered forum...because the invective of those few, sharp tongued is so opinion and observations in that forum would have no meaning and frankly I don't want to be the next target of their venom.

I think there is still time to right the course that we took as a town during this incident...and then there is the amazingly hope filled and happy story of Riley. 

Last week, a family posted  on the list serve, an urgent request for help in locating their lost Sheltie dog, Riley.  Immediately, a small group of the kindhearted in Groton offered suggestions, assistance and prayers.  People organized searches for the skittish pup and posters and fliers popped up all over town.  Shortly, news of Riley sightings were reported and search parties were narrowing down the rescue and recovery areas.  As I drove around the back streets of town, I kept my windows rolled down and I would whistle or call out "RIIII-LEEEE"...always with a hope and prayer in my heart that I might see the wayward tail wagger. 

Today, good news was posted on the Groton List and Riley was found...through cooperative efforts of neighbors and strangers...and there was nary a nasty word about leash laws and dog parks and woulda, coulda, shoulda-s...just a very happy ending. This is the stuff that makes me proud to be a part of my hometown...and in my heart and in my humble know the one that age and Parisian life emboldened, this is the way we should focus our energies...building up, bringing together...being there for our neighbors, in good times and in bad...this is and should be the stuff of our  town's stories....our history.

Merci....bon journee!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Re-inventing Reading

I just bought a stack of books...more serious reading for the upcoming shorter days and longer nights ahead.  I used to be a voracious reader, averaging at least a couple of books a week.  Now I am lucky if I finish a couple of books a month.  One of the reasons is that the books I read tend to be Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals.  It is 757 pages reading text and has another 159 pages of notes and the index.  Another reason, in the summer, I can sit by the pool and bang off a couple hundred pages without feeling guilty that I am not doing something else...but now that Autumn is approaching, my instincts are to get back into routines and my reading routine includes a paperback in my purse or the car for when I am standing in a long line somewhere, sitting in a waiting room, or getting my hair done.  I try to read at bedtime, but...zzzz...I fall asleep so fast that I haven't had time to process the paragraph or two I managed to skim and I wind up re-reading the same pages the next time I squirrel a few minutes away with my book.

I love, love, love public libraries.  But, with my children grown, my weekly excuse to hurry up and read my books, moved out of the house.   I just am not reading fast enough to justify the extension request and late fees...sorry to say.  I have resolved though to visit the library once a week, to get myself out and about...not hang around the house so much...give myself permission to put off that load of laundry until tomorrow...let's hope that this little personal indulgence is stronger than domestic diva guilt.

Technology doesn't help.  I spend too much time on the computer, surfing the web, chatting with friends on Facebook, updating my Linked-In account and of course writing posts for my blogs.  I do read a lot on the stories, food and recipe sites, reviews, other people's blogs...but it doesn't feel quite the same...kind of like reading newspapers and magazines isn't  really reading...instead it is information gathering.  Splitting hairs but that's how I feel.

In recent months, many of my friends (who are turning the corner into another decade) have been thinking about reading...and their future method and mode of reading...queries about e-readers...Nook, Kindle, iPad and other tablets/notebooks or electronic thing-a-ma-bobs.  I have to admit, I am curious about this too.  We forced our eldest daughter, a world traveller to own a Kindle, by giving her one for Christmas...she would pack about 20 pounds of books for her trips abroad and this left little room for essentials like travel sized toothpaste and underwear.  She was most reluctant, but after a time, saw the luxury of clouds of books.  She still loves the feel of pages, so when she's home, she reads and re-reads many a tome.

Back to my peer group...I have read their fb conversations about which e-reader to get..."Is this one back-lit?"  "Can you down load magazines on that one?"  But in almost every case, the deciding factor is..."Can I increase the font size so I can see the words? "  Yup, who needs drugstore reading glasses when you can increase the size of the words!! Who wants to be spotted with the obvious LARGE PRINT edition of anything?  And yes, aside from the fact that if I get a tablet, playbook, notebook that fits in my bag so I can blog on the go...I am vainly intrigued about not having to wear my dopey .75 readers...not even a full 1.00... point 75!  Ugh.

The rest of the world seems to like the idea of plucking great literary works from the ether and storing them there.  Our local library has an account for people who want to download books.   I dunno.  I was brought up to value books; their heft, the feel of the page, that book smell.  My home is filled with packed bookshelves.  All the  nightstands in my house have books on them...even in the guest rooms.  A home library is a precious thing...a measure of wealth...of knowledge, time and yes money.  I love loaning books to friends...but if I switch to an e-reader, that joy will be diminished.

Even some restaurants are changing the menus we read...iPads are showing up with pictures of the day's choices and patrons touch a pad and boom...their filet mignon, medium rare is on its way.  I am too old fashioned.  Pouring over a menu, better yet, looking at a hand-written chalk board of choices...there is a familiarity, a sensory connection to the people offering you a meal....the "oeuvre"/masterwork of their hands. Talking to wait staff is one of  my favorite things to do when dining out...discussing the specials, asking about staff favorites and is all a part of the ambiance. If computers are going to supplant service this way, I am not so sure this is an improvement and it certainly won't be my idea of dining out.

So...if video killed the radio star, will e-readers kill book stores, libraries, newspapers...all the tactile haunts of reading?  Am I contributing to the death of  actual print if I succumb to the 21st century call of the wild?  Will I read more?  Will I enjoy reading as much?  Will I get this app or that and find myself watching news, talk shows or movies  on my tablet/playbook/e-geegaw instead of reading? 

Irony of ironies...after I finish this blog, which I hope lots of my friends are reading read, I am scheduled to work for two hours writing my cook BOOK. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to School...Traditions Retained and Revised.

It is August 1st and I am itching to get into back to school mode.  My favorite commercial of the season (which I have yet to see this season) is the one with the dad coasting through the aisles at Staples to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"...the gloom-filled kids pacing along, swaying in time to the music... cracks me up every time! But the hitch this year is that my "student" child is soon to be 21 and back to school shopping with Mommy is not high on her priority list.  Needless to say, shopping with and for a college junior who'll be heading off to New Zealand second semester isn't the same as a high school junior for whom the color of three ring binders is crucial to trendsetting!

We have a list...most of which is set for a Costco run...bulk toilet paper (there are four girls sharing the dorm suite), printer paper and ink cartridges, hot cocoa mix,  instant oatmeal and etc...we may go clothes shopping for a few things for the cute girl on campus, but alas, she is old enough and certainly independent enough to buy her own wardrobe supplements.  At this age, buying clothing is more to keep things up to date and fresh rather than address the summer growth spurts of years gone by.  And what 21 year old woman want to go shopping for intimates with her mom? Awkward!

At this stage of the game,  back to school time is more about reassessing, revisiting and resolving.  I find that after twenty years back to school shopping mode, I am all about reorganizing and preparing for new routines.  This time of year is more like "New Year's" than January 1.  It certainly is more practical to set goals, assess your surroundings and make adjustments for transitioning from lazy hazy days of summer to the school days, schools days, dear old golden rule days.  Even with my nest emptying once again, I find that employing my back to school mentality helps me engage with my community and gets me out of the house! No more sleeping in until 8am....

In the coming days, those of us still at home will look through our desks for working pens and pencils in need of sharpening.  We'll double check the staples box and see if we need has been a few years since we bought staples.  There will be a sticky note check, postage stamp count and of course the drawers and files will be organized, refreshing our brains as to what's what and where.

One tradition that still stays the same is the closet and dresser purge.  Everything comes off hangers, out of drawers and boxes.  Shelves are emptied and large bins and bags are strategically placed around the room.  If it fits and is in good condition, it returns to its storage place (or packed for the trip to school).  If it has been outgrown or doesn't suit the wearer anymore, into the give-away bin and if I cannot get the stain out or the fabric around the hole is so threadbare that a repair is impractical...into the trash...although I pull off all the buttons to donate to Goodwill.  Based on what remains, I go out and restock undergarments, socks, basics like long and short sleeve t-shirts, a couple of pairs of jeans, a sweater or sweatshirt or two (we keep the house cool in the fall and winter). Sneakers are the big must have for each of us! 

We usually do a major revamp of Bill's work clothes and shoes...for a guy who works in an office, he can be a bit hard on stuff!  Back when the girls were young, we developed the philosophy that for everything new coming into the closet/drawers/shelves, something would have to go out...preferably to be handed down to someone who needs it.  I am pleased to report that this philosophy has stuck for both my adult children and they are thoughtful  about their purchases and generous to those who are without.

It is kind of husband rarely takes part in the clothing clean out and invariably he'll ask, "Where's my blue Patriots sweatshirt (or something along that line)?  You know the AFC championship one from 2001?"    I'll point him to the new 2011 Bruins Stanley Cup hoodie and he's happy...the disposed of, paint stained, out of shape faded talisman of yesteryear's glory forgotten for a while.

The turn of the calendar from July to August spurs me to "nest" clean, clear and organize.  My kitchen and bathroom cabinets are a key targets.  I check expiration dates on everything...tossing old spices and questionable coffee beans.  I crush old medications and put them in a clear plastic bag and set them in a safe place until the next hazardous waste or medicine collection day.  This preamble to my fall cleaning which usually happens over a long weekend in October...helps me recognize and hone my needs versus wants...and using the coupons from the past few weeks, I rebuild our stores for the fall and early winter.  I guess much like the rodentia in our yard, I am getting a little squirrely!

Later today, I'll be out on my deck drinking in the summer sun, with my notepad for lists and calendar handy to update appointments both professional and collegial.  I'll make note of sales and create the "care package list" for Em's return to University.  She has no say in what goes in is all about me still being Mom...wink, wink...and when she gets back to school, she'll find  among the prizes and treats, a few new pens, some Raisinettes, a new DVD or two,  new socks, practical, white undies...perfect for running and rock climbing and a hand written note wishing her the happiest first day of school ever !

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Peri-Menopause is NOT a Song and Dance Show!

Warning...Hot Flashes!  This blog post is meant to be seriously funny and funnily serious. 

I hit fifty a couple of months ago and somewhere, someone flipped a switch and the woman I knew disappeared!  Whoever did that, I am gonna find you and you are gunna get it...and no jury with even just one post-menopausal woman on it will convict me.

For just about two years now, my life has been one big roller coaster ride...first, moving to Paris for what we thought would be three years, only to be recalled back home for good and happy reasons one year later...then the ride continues with trying to find my purpose driven life, only to turn 50 and have my brain turn to cotton candy, my body into a furnace and my emotions a wreck!

I used to be smart.  I could read several books at a time and in a relatively short period of time.  Now I find myself, using  .75 (yes that is a decimal point in front of the 75) reading eyes changing JUST enough to make things fuzzy and my eyes tired...but darn it...they are still old people reading glasses.  I have to re-read pages that I just read and if in a couple of hours you ask me what I am reading and who wrote it, it is quite possible you might hear crickets.

For the longest time, I have been known as the Queen of Useless Information...I am the person you wanted on your team playing Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy and so forth and so on...but lately, that cotton candy effect has totally clogged the information highway in my brain.  One of my favorite (and a wee bit snarky) "games" was to watch a movie or TV show and say to my kids and or husband, "You see that actor?  Guess what TV show/movie he/she was in!"  Then I would reveal a trivia  nugget from eons ago and smile smugly. ( A variation of that...see that actor...he's dead. yeesh...but funny in dry, morbid sorta way)  Nowadays, I can bearly recall what the heck we are watching...I recognize people and know I know them from ...ehhhh....argh...what????...when????.  It is so frustrating.  The worst though is when I am trying to have grown-up conversation and I forget what I am saying as I am saying it, or I cannot for the life of me recall a word...words...really?  Sometimes I feel so thick...stupid cotton candy brain.

For the most part, I have been going this peri-menopause thing alone...I am consulting doctors.  My new primary care physician, whom I love, is a guy and he is being a great advocate for me, but being younger, male and married to a woman still in her child bearing years, the dear man just doesn't get it.  I am meeting my new gynecologist next week...please God, let her have a functioning, cotton candy free brain...but by the grace of her ovaries, she will have a clue as to What The French is going in my body, heart and head.

As I said, for the most part, I have being going this change of life route mother passed away when she was 51 (and don't think for a moment that that fact doesn't add to my angst!), but she had a hysterectomy early on, as did most of the older women in my life so...menopause is not a topic of conversation...and that generation doesn't talk much about ladies' issues anyway!  I am surprised there are not more books, support groups, documentaries on the subject, but then again, if young women knew what was coming down the line for them...a curious desire to crunch ice, itchy skin, hair growing out of places hair never grew out of before...changes in bowel movement, aches, pains, cramps, fits and starts, weeping, forgetfulness, morbid thoughts, wicked thoughts... sleepless nights, totally gross BO (who knew a person who showers daily could stink sooo much)and of course, "PLEASE do NOT touch me!", sadly there is more...much  more...if we knew then what I know now...there would be a shortage of 60 year old women in the world!

God bless my sister-in law for sharing...but the first thing she said to me was and I am paraphrasing here...'I get it, but what you are going through is yours and your is your body and it is changing to a whole host of separate variables and timetables'.  Ugh.  We can commiserate about hot flashes, mood swings and night sweats...we talk about "triggers"...and it all helps.  The best thing though is when I share something with her, or something witchy comes out of my mouth before I even know what I said, she gets it and I do not have to apologize for going through what I am going through.

Aside from the physical challenges, probably the most difficult component of this whole thing is the sense of loss of who I am and was...I really don't know what happened, but I feel like somehow I disappeared.  Sure part of this is the fact that I am entering a new phase of life...empty nesting...downsizing...planning for a new future with my husband...but something or rather, someone is missing...and it is me.

I am still with it enough to know when I am going to be moody...and moody I will be.  I haven't figured out how to control that level of change...but when I get that feeling that if one more person does more more stupid thing that I will tear into them with epithets (why is it I cannot remember some words, but I never forget curse words?) or hit them with my seven iron, ...I can shut down and spare them the rancor or harm.  The unintended consequence is I seem aloof or worse, ticked off...but quietly so. If they only knew the alternative!

My next challenge is to stop apologizing for going through what I am going through.  I cannot help why should I apologize?  Certainly, I will own my behavior and if I behave unfairly or badly, I will apologize for that...but I am not going to say I am sorry for fanning myself, drinking gallons of ice water, or even begging off from plans made because I feel like crap.  Nope.  I will not apologize for peeling off layers of clothing (to a point) or tossing the covers off only to grab them and cover myself up again minutes later.  Don't expect a sorry if I am up pacing the floor at all hours of the night...worrying about stuff I cannot control...paranoia plaguing my thoughts and dreams...speaking of which...since that jerk flipped my switch, I have had THE strangest and most vivid dreams...there has got to be a best-selling science fiction novel in my head somewhere..fingers crossed! 

The other major hurdle facing me is trying to find balance...physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  I think if I can get these in some order, then dealing with that which cannot be controlled may not be so overwhelming.  I am hoping to find grace, peace and patience, so when my husband (God Bless him) comes home from CVS with a list of any drug, supplement, cream or spray that mentions the words menopause, hot flash, mood swings, bloating, night sweats, etc...I won't want to deck him...I know he means well, but there is no pill...there is no operation...there is no is what is and hold onto your hats...this could last for...OMG...10 more years....shudder, shudder, flash just hit.

I have started to do some research and with the help of my new GYN...(please, please, please)...I will learn to live with this.  I hope I can get the people whom I love and many of you whom I live with it too.  It is the next leg of my life's journey.  And here's the hard part of it all...I am coming into the home stretch...not any time too soon...but this change of life means I am that much closer to end of life and the great mystery beyond that...and that kind of scares me.  I am not afraid of dying...just afraid that I haven't done all my living and with this spate of personal craziness...I am afraid of...what?... I don't know. 

So for the first, last and only time, I will say I am sorry I am peri-menopausal; really you have no idea how sorry I am. For nearly 30 years I have been taking care of people...most of whom I love...and now, without apology...I am going to take care of myself.  And if you come over and put a dirty glass on my counter...when the dishwasher is sitting open waiting for said glass...just remember... all I'll need is a jury of my peers and I'll be found not guilty of manslaughter...just saying.

From my heart...thank you to all my friends and family who are so 'there' for me and understanding.  I appreciate your patience and kindness...I'd give you all hugs...but please do not touch!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kids These Days!

"Kids these days..." is/was often uttered by my dad and my father-in law whenever they saw someone from another, younger generation straying outside their moral zip code. I would secretly roll my eyes and ignore whatever perceived mayhem and foolishness existed to their older sensibilities.

Get ready to roll your eyes!  I was in Boston this past weekend and gosh darn it...KIDS THESE DAYS!!!

Okay, so let me backtrack a bit...our youngest, Emily had made plans to visit with college and post grad friends in Boston.  One of the young men in the group is beginning intensive training and discernment for a future vocation and a teaching assignment in Micronesia...very laudable, and the Loyola crew wanted to send him off with fun and well wishes!  Anyway, with all the roadwork around the city and limited public transportation out here in the boonies to the big city, Bill and I volunteered to drive her "in town"...that's what we say about goin' ta Bahstin up heyah...and drop her at South Station around 5:30pm.

I love this particular city and any excuse to visit, I am all over it!  As this was a rather impromptu event, we texted a friend who lives in the North End and asked if she'd like to meet us for dinner or drinks...she agreed to the drinks, but encouraged us to visit, for dinner,  a cute little out of the way restaurant about half way between Quincy Market and the Commons.  We took her advice and headed to Marliave on Bosworth Street.  To be honest, if we hadn't got a recommendation, we probably would have passed this place by. But, once settled into the flower box lined patio, Bill and I relaxed and absorbed the somewhat European atmosphere that embraced us as the soft summer breezes cooled us off from the heat of the day.  We were greeted by a lovely and friendly young waitress and informed her we were there for the long haul...Emily had plans to see the last Harry Potter movie with her buds...and the movie would get out around 11:30 pm!  Our after dinner drink plan was for around we had some time to relax at this new spot.

We ordered really cool, funky, cocktails, along with some cheese and charcuterie...ah...just like Paris <sigh>...and we talked and people watched...and Bill checked the Red Sox score periodically on his BlackBerry.  We were in no rush and our waitress friend was happy to have our company as we appreciated this little gem of a restaurant. 

As the hour drew later, we noticed that a number of foreign tourists found our little retreat...there were folks from France, Germany and I think one of the former Soviet countries...definitely a Russian accent!  This interesting turn brought us back to our time in Europe and we were happy.  We also noticed that around 7-ish, a younger, hipper crowd was joining us out on the Bill talked about his upcoming sales meetings, I people watched and reminisced about our the time we were the age of the cute couple sitting across from us, we were married and had our first daughter...I was slightly jealous...but then I remembered that at my current age, my nest was empty and woo hoo...we still have enough life AND maturity to enjoy the good things to come our way.

Then it happened...those kids...a group of early 20-somethings entered the patio.  Now this group of 4 guys and a girl were out of towners...and Marliave was not the first public drinking establishment they had visited in our fair city.  Dressed in various designer labels that immediately lead me to believe these were Hamptons kids...Ralph Lauren pink button-down , oxford cloth shirt and cargo shorts and docksiders...2 of the boys wore RL Polo t-shirts, plaid shorts and Bjorn flip-flops; weird kinda Bobsy-twins, I guess...a Ralph Lauren polo shirt with the collar popped and skinny jeans...Oakley sunglasses perched on sun-kissed know the stereotype.  The young lady was cute, cute, a sun dress, sandals and that quintessential hair bob, which at first was bunched up in a large butterfly clip, but the breeze begged for her hair to be loosed from its clip! 

At first the group seemed boisterous and a wee bit lubricated...but add more alcohol to the mix (get ready to roll your eyes)...and kids these days think that if they are having a good time, then everyone around them should know it!!

I mentioned that this restaurant had a quirky, cool cocktail list...but Oakley boy, rather than <quietly> peruse the cocktail menu insisted that everyone MUST have mojitos...dopey lad...although yummy, mojitos are soooo 2009! He convinced one of his buddies to have one and the other lads tried a variation on a mint julep...tres chic in my humble opinion and Miss Cutie...well she decided that even though they were not driving in the city, she would be the designated "driver"...someone has to be able to read the GPS on the iPhone.,,and ordered diet coke.  Mr. Oakleys gave her a rash of  you know what, until he thought about it and then loudly proclaimed,"Oh good!   Then we won't need to take a taxi...way to save us some money Bro!"  Silly boy...she is a lovely girl!

In the meantime, Bill and I ordered dinner and the wild bunch ordered oysters...and more drinks...our neighbors from Germany, packed up their leftovers and little curly haired daughter...I am not sure if they were done, done, or had had enough of the conversation dominating our end of the patio from a few tables over!

After their oysters and cocktails, the group ordered dinner and wine. Oh joy...more loosening of lips...then all of a sudden, the strangest thing if being called from the mother ship, all 5 of the prepsters pulled out their iteration of a cell phone and checked eerie calm ensued...momentarily... and then the loud mouth of the bunch called whoever texted them and everyone on the patio was briefed as to the groups' plans for the evening.  And was Oakley boy!  He talked over the person on the other end of the phone, idiotically forgetting that if you listen to the get the answers to your loud questions....about where the club is...who will be there....what time you should be there..are Southie, South of Boston and South Boston the same place....and as his frustration grew over the fact that he couldn't talk and hear the answers at the same time, and, I'll go out on a limb his third glass of wine kicked in...his language became the stuff that makes sailors blush.  Our friendly, young waitress, asked him to keep his conversation private or to perhaps leave the patio area...but he and his friends, ignored her request.

Being the mother of 2 twenty-somethings, who are wonderful young ladies and were brought up to know better, my tolerance for this young man's behavior had just about reached its limit.  Having a direct line of sight to the next table and the mommy secret super power of being able to stop idiots in their tracks with the arch of an eyebrow, I set to work on this pesky nemesis! Alas, the alcohol seemed to make him immune to my power, but his lavender t-shirted friend, was not so inebriated nor immune and upon seeing my brow arched sharply and upon hearing his lead-headed companion exclaim one of George Carlin's seven things you cannot say on television (at least back in the 60's) to the verbal abuse victim on the phone, reached over and gave said potty mouth a purple nurple...reached right over and twisted his nipple as hard as he could!  It took the breath and voice away from his pal...the other t-shirted fellow...his was a lovely shade of apple green...took the phone, concluded the call and dope slapped his friend for being such a loud mouthed jerk.

Bill and I had been on the fence about getting dessert...and with evidence that the Hamptons' crew were going to outlast us on the patio, we opted to take a walk over toward the North End.

Our stroll was not without further evidence of kids these days...I do not know what some of these young women were thinking when they got dressed before heading out...but it looked like this Saturday night, Boston was host to a hooker convention...mamma mia!  On a couple of occasions, my husband stumbled, his eyes transfixed by barely covered breasts, overly tight skirts and for want of a better term... je ne sais quoi...attitude, behavior and public display of practically pornographic mating rituals in and around the bars and restaurants at Quincy Market.  I can't fault the guy...he is only human and even after living a year in Paris, we were both a bit dumbstruck with the scene.

Seeking respite and wanting to make our way over to Hanover Street in the North End, we skirted around to the outside of the Fanueil Hall complex and crossed the street to the Greenway...ah..just the sound of traffic...not shouting, screaming, guffawing...and then we entered the quiet back streets of the North End.

We checked in with Bill's colleague and set to meeting for our after dinner drinks.  We were informed that another couple in for the sales meeting would also be joining us.  After a quick stop at Bovas for cannoli, we popped into a little cafe for some sangria for our younger colleagues and coffee for us coffee drink consisted of  espresso, Starbucks coffee liqueur, vanilla vodka and Godiva white chocolate liqueur.  We chatted about the upcoming sales meeting, stuff in the news and Kristen, a woman after my own heart, was "people watching" the young guys at the next table...eating, drinking and one point, on guy said to the other that he had to go....his girlfriend was really mad at him for being out late, or whatever and he showed his buddy the text.  It made his friend, mouth filled with food, garble what seemed to be an expletive...he was so vociferous with his exclamation that he made our friend Kristen, turn to him and say, "What did you just say?"....awkward pause...."Not that I was eavesdropping or anything!"  Laugh. laugh...and we resumed our conversation. Shortly thereafter, our server, who knows Kristen well, asked if we knew where the guys next to us might be...out for a cigarette? the restroom?  And Kristen indicated that based on her encounter and subsequent additional people watching skills that the guy with the text message had left because he was in a heap of trouble with his girlfriend...and she assumed that the other young man left too...well, shut our mouths...they dined and dashed...stuck the waitress with the bill...they left their beer, food and yet not even a couple of $20s to TRY and cover the these days I tell you!  How can you do that?  That waitress has to pay for those chumps!

Well, we finished our coffee (wink, wink) and it was time to head back to where we parked our car and collect Emily.  We timed it so perfectly that as we passed the Loews Theater at the Commons, Emily and friends were just crossing the street.  There was our almost 21 year old daughter amidst a group of young men....reminiscent of the group we left earlier at Marliave!  As they crossed the street, one young man took to her side as the other two fell in behind, creating a little safe cadre for our girl.  Emily made introductions and each of these young gentlemen extended a hand, shook ours, firmly but genially.  We enjoyed enthusiastic conversation...each speaking and listening in turn...and with well wishes to Gabe, who was beginning a very happy and exciting journey, we said our good-byes.  After Emily doled out hugs (and I got a very warm embrace from Gabe), we headed off to our car.  Thank goodness we finished our night with these kids...they demonstrated what is and can be so right with kids these days.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stuff Happens

As I look back on my life, I realize I have been affected more than my share by Murphy's know the adage, if something can go wrong, it will.  It must be due to my Irish heritage.  When I was young, I took it personally.  As I grew older, I was often piqued by circumstance.  Now as I round the bend squarely into middle age...I plan on living a long time; God and Murphy willing... when stuff happens, I make note and sometimes write a blog.

So as I relate a few of my recent brushes with Murphy's law, please note it is just an observation, not a criticism (well there may be a bit of criticism and all for humor's sake).  When Murphy strikes, I often think back to the scene from Forrest Gump...when he steps in a pile of dog droppings and calmly states, "It happens."...thus spawning the somewhat infamous bumper sticker, "$#!T Happens!"   Well it does.  Let me preface, I am the person for whom Murphy's law was written...if I need to be on time for something extremely important, I will be a few cars behind the truck that jack-knifes... go for a colonoscopy...they find and remove polyps...when given the task for ordering wine at a restaurant, I always pick the bottle from the list that they no longer have...I stand in line at an event and the person in front of me gets the know how it goes.  Darn you Murphy!

I have been told that I always pick the best meal off the menu and am often asked by others to make I am usually the last to order.  Last night, Bill and I went to one of the few restaurant chains I like, Legal Seafood.  I was excited to go because a very special menu item had reappeared after a few years absence.  I learned of the additon from the June Legal Seafood wine e-newsletter that I receive...and the topic was wines from Alsace and one my favorite meals ever was to be the selection for the wine pairing.  We hit the Legal down at the Burlington Mall.  The menu still had the insert for the Alsace event and the wood grilled trout with juniper scented choucroute (sauerkraut) was still featured!  I knew what I was having. But, just in case the June Alsace specials were was July 1, I knew I would like the fish and chips as my second choice.   Bill wasn't in the mood for trout  or fish and chips, so he asked me what I thought he might like.  There was a crab-stuffed flounder Florentine with spring pea ravioli that I thought might fit the Bill...yes, there is a pun intended there...when the waitress came for our order, I asked her if the trout was still available...she said of course that it was.  I was so happy I actually clapped my hands!  Then she looked at Bill and asked what he wanted...the flounder...she looked back at me and I could hardly believe I needed to say it, but I did enthusiastically order the trout. 

As we recounted our day and the 18 holes of golf we walked, it dawned on us that dinner was taking an awfully long time getting to the table.  Just as the thought popped into my head, the restaurant manager came to the table asking who had ordered the crab stuffed flounder...I pointed to Bill and he again asked, did we order the flounder and the choucroute...Bill said yes, and the manager said, that he was sorry to say they just ran out of it.  So presenting Bill with a menu, he asked him to make another selection and stepped away from the table...Bill looked at me and said, "I am not surprised that they ran out of something YOU picked."  I then replied, "Yeah, I am surprised its the flounder...that kind of thing happens to me all the time."  Bill then selected the wood grilled fish platter...very much to his taste, but not mine.  I like lighter white fish...swordfish, salmon and barramundi are not my favorites.  The order went in...our seafood sampler appetizer came out and all was right with the world again.  Our server cleared the dishes and we waited and waited and finally out came our dishes...a different server asked,"Who gets the grilled fish and who gets the flounder?"  Neither of us replied because we weren't sure of what we had just heard.  He asked again..."Who gets the wood grilled fish platter?"  Bill raised a finger.  "Here's your flounder. "  I said," I ordered the trout choucroute.  We were told you were out of the flounder."  MURPHY!!!!

The server took the flounder back to the kitchen.  Our original waitress came back to the table with the flounder, her apologizing and saying that it was the trout they were out of and I could have the flounder...I looked at Bill, who wanted the flounder, but who was now enjoying the salmon...which I do not care for and I agreed to take the flounder. I really didn't want flounder, but I was not asked if there was something else I would rather have...I guess our server,  1)  would rather not bring the flounder back to the kitchen and 2) assumed the late hour might mean I wouldn't want to wait any longer for food...but she never asked...she just placed the overly caper laden fish in front of me. fish and chips.  I like flounder.  I make a mean sole meuniere.  But when your heart is set upon one of the most memorable meals you've ever had...the flounder, well..meh.

Eventually, the manager returned to our table, apologizing for the mix up (he admits that he never said there was no trout)...seeing my picked over plate, asked me if I would rather have something else...I could keep the flounder and they would bring me something else...or perhaps we might save room for dessert or bring some dessert home...on the house of course...I just looked at him...I might have had a slight puss on...and finally he said, "And of course, we won't charge you for the dinner you didn't want".  At this point, I was no longer hungry.  As a matter of fact, I was feeling a little green in the gills.  I didn't want dessert, but the staff insisted that we order something since it would be free...I just wanted cappuccino (they wouldn't comp that), so Bill ordered some ice cream bon bons...their peace offering had been made and accepted. 

10 years ago, I probably would have made a stink and been really ticked off.  Last night, it was just what was...and of course I said to Bill that this is the stuff of blogs!  With age comes wisdom and patience.  I am still honing those attributes in my life...thanks to Murphy...but I also understand that in this world there are so many people who go without...who do without...who suffer and don't complain.  If Murphy needs to kick me in the butt now and again to remind me of all my blessings, then I'll take the hit and grow as a person...and perhaps tell a somewhat amusing  fish tale.

I am inspired to try and recreate the trout recipe from memory!  I'll let you know if Murphy comes to that dinner.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Private Parts

There have been a number of congressmen who for one reason or another have been compelled to film themselves in various states of undress...and next week I will join them so to speak, but for much more logical and practical purposes.  Being the big 5-0 means it is time for my very first colonoscopy.  My primary care physician is sending me to one of the best endoscopic "guys" in the country...he is referred to by his peers as "The Wizard with the Wand".  Hmmm.  It is a good thing I have a sense of humor or I could be the butt of some jokes...but seriously folks...

I began the pre-op preparations yesterday, stopping my vitamins and iron supplements.  Today, no more aspirin or blood thinners.  This weekend starts the "low residue diet" unappealing is that.  I, being a self-proclaimed foodie, see this as a challenge and the chance to eat stuff that has been forbidden for years...look out squishy white bread...woohoo, here I come!

Breakfast looks like Special K cereal, skim milk and sliced bananas, (the only fresh fruit I can eat), herbal tea and for my protein requirement, eggs whites seasoned with  dried dill.  I can have some white bread toasted...but why bother, really?

Lunch is shaping up to be a piece of white fish or low sodium vegetable soup,  steamed string beans and some canned skins.  I can have skim milk, clear apple juice or seltzer to drink.  Of course I have to drink lots and lots of water too.

Dinner just might be sauteed chicken breast, marinated in soy sauce, the juice of freshly grated ginger and  cumin.  I can have baked sweet potato, applesauce and more steamed green beans.  There is no mention in the diet plan about a glass of white wine...I'll have to ask someone about that!!

Sunday will be a variation of that stated above. Most herbs and spices, onions, garlic are all verbotten therefore it looks like dining will not be about depth of flavor.  I will also be weaning myself off caffeine starting Friday...who needs a caffeine withdrawal headache when you have a camera you know where!

The real challenge comes on Monday...the all liquid diet!!  I have my chicken and vegetable broth, lemon and orange Jello (no red or pink jello allowed) and National Lampoon's Animal House has put me off green jello forever.  I have lots of Sprite, seltzer and the 3 bottles of magnesium citrate, lemon flavored...for the actual colon cleansing! 

Good colonoscopy is scheduled for 9 am on Tuesday.  I should be in recovery by 10:30 am and on the road by noon...where to make reservations for lunch, that is the question!

All kidding aside, this procedure as uncomfortable and embarrassing as it may seem is truly important.  Colon cancer has very few obvious symptoms and the colonoscopy is the best diagnostic tool available to catch it early on...of course, eating a healthy diet, rich in antioxidants and fibre ,exercising, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and knowing your family history go along way to preventing or early detection of colo-rectal cancer.  It is sad and surprising to note the number of people I know who have suffered with this disease.

My husband is accompanying me to my appointment...I am not allowed to drive myself home after the procedure...anesthesia...and I am certain that if allowed, he will sit in on the procedure, asking questions.  He may just get a copy of the endoscopic procedure...he still has his gallstones in a jar in his nightstand...gross, I know...let's just be glad he's not on Facebook...but he does have a Twitter account...Anthony Wiener may have some free time on his hands soon, maybe he'd like a look at....Nah! Fuhgedabowdit!