She's Crafty! · Uncategorized

Flowers for Sanity

When I worked in publishing, early in my career, I was introduced to the thrill of buying cheap flowers from street vendors in Boston. Every now and then I would grab a bunch of roses on a Friday and bring them home on the train to enjoy over the weekend. They never lasted much longer than that, but for what little I paid for them, it was hard to mind. I wasn’t home during the week to look at them anyway.

There aren’t as many vendors as there used to be. You might find them at Back Bay or South Stations, but no longer at North Station, where I would pass through to the commuter rail. The guy who used to stand in a doorway on Boylston Street with his buckets of about-to-fade bouquets is long gone; no doubt chased away by the new managers of the storefront, or new owners of the building.

This week’s choices. Roses, freesia, hydrangea, and I’m not sure what those spiky things are.
A group from early summer. Roses, peonies, alstroemeria

When I stopped commuting and was home in the colder months, I started to buy tulips at the supermarket, when they were available, to keep me sane during the winter. The cold weather irritates my lungs and makes it harder to breathe, so I don’t get out in nature much during the winter. Just to be able to pass by a vase of flowers and take in their bright green leaves and pastel petals gives me hope for Spring and lightens my spirit. I tend to gravitate toward the hybrid tulips with two colors; lavender and white, pink and peach. I thought I would stop buying them when the weather got warmer and I had my own garden to visit, but what happened was that the variety of flowers available expanded. So I started changing it up a little.

Overflow arrangement from this week

Now almost every week I get several bunches of flowers from Trader Joe’s and mix and match to create my own arrangements. I have no training in this sort of thing, so I’m making it up as I go along, but I just find it so peaceful to work with the flowers and bask in the freshness of them.

A family friend owned a florist shop in Pacific Grove, CA, and as a wedding gift she did the flowers for the ceremony and the reception. She flew the flowers out to Connecticut and assembled them at my mother’s house. Had I not been the bride, I might have had the opportunity to learn a thing or two from her, but there was no time.

So I’ll remain self-taught, and keep bringing flowers home to get me through the winter.

Fun with Food · Uncategorized

Less Meat Mondays?

I will never be a vegan. I mean, never mind meat, I don’t know if I could go through life without butter or cheese. I grew up in a very meat and potatoes oriented home. My dad frequently ordered prime rib at restaurants. We always had our spaghetti with meat sauce. Cheeseburgers were a staple of summers

But with all this concern about global warming that is finally seeming to get the news attention it deserves, one of the suggestions for adapting to the climate crisis is to eat less meat. Now that I can do.

I was raised Catholic. During Lent we weren’t supposed to eat meat on Fridays. That led to weekends beginning with homemade mac and cheese or tuna fish and macaroni salad. I’m lucky that I really do like salads, and vegetables, and fish.

I was thinking about this as I made dinner tonight. Now that I’m home, I am either making dinner or at least coming up with ideas for L to make when he gets home. Somedays are just for leftovers. It’s a bit easier now that both boys have their own schedules and I don’t always have to come up with things that all four of us will eat.

Tonight’s offering was risotto. I’ve been experimenting with different ways of preparing it. Our most common effort is with butternut squash and parmesan cheese. This time I used acorn squash, onion, garlic, white wine, and a single Italian sausage stripped of its casing and chopped up for flavor. It was pretty good!

Uncategorized · What I'm Reading

Sunday Reads 11.24.19

There’s nothing like hanging out on the couch on a Sunday morning reading a book or the Sunday paper with your coffee or tea. What I’d like to do with this occasional series is showcase some of the books I have read and enjoyed. Some will be current, and others with be old favorites of mine that might deserve a new audience.

I’m no book critic or professional reviewer, and that’s not my intention here. I’m merely sharing titles that struck me and hoping that you enjoy them as I did.

This week, I’m sharing a book I first read in my twenties. Composing a Life is a study of the improvisations of women’s lives and the shifting of experience to accommodate childrearing, career, or creativity. Using her own story and those of some of her friends, Mary Catherine Bateson, an anthropologist, looks at how women adapt to different stages and roles.

I relate to this book more and more now that I’m older and have seen more of these phases as a woman trying to balance childrearing, a career, a ridiculous commute and trying to find time to write for myself. Now that I am in my 50s and looking back on what I was doing in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I can see places where I had to adapt, particularly around parenting when there were a lot of expectations and not a lot of answers.

Some of both partnering and parenting has evolved since this book was written, but women still carry an outsized share of the physical and emotional burden. As much as it might not seem so when we are in the throes of it, parenting is just a few chapters in the long book of most of our lives. Now that I am approaching the end of my active parenting years, I am already thinking about the next stage, the next step, the next improvisation.

Other things that caught my eye this week:

I have a couple of projects that I am researching. The first is a story that takes place during WWII. I was trying to find out more about Lyons, France at that time and discovered traboules. I can do something with these for sure.

Another thing I am looking into is a possible family connection to rum-running in Connecticut during Prohibition. It’s gotten into the family lore, and it’s certainly possible, but my mother vehemently denies it. This is a story of rum-running in the area. It’s given me a good starting point.

Life on the Island · Uncategorized · Writing Life

Lights On, Anybody Home?

Wet woodpile. Sigh.

The November rain is kicking my ass; the constant grey, a dampness that chills the bones even when the temperature is reasonable, in the 40s. Blustery days have more leaves in the wind than on the trees now. At this point, I think I might prefer snow.

It doesn’t help that when it’s this cloudy out, my house, which is full of windows, is very dark during the day. It can be really depressing to come downstairs to an empty house with all the lights off. I fell weird about putting the lights on when it’s just me in the house, but I really need them.

Last year, I think I slept through most of the winter. It was an extremely stressful year on all fronts; health, work and family. This year is better, so I’m a little surprised to be getting hit with the same sluggishness. I know part of it is the medication I’m on. We’ve talked about switching medications, but I have to be in the hospital for three days to do that and that costs money.

This quote was in the box of my full-spectrum lamp, literally branded Happy Light. They are not kidding.

I was not this tired in the Summer. Yes, I still took naps, but I was also able to do stuff without constantly yawning and struggling to keep my eyes open.

Last winter I actually bought a full-spectrum light, but never opened it. It sat on my desk for months and today I remembered it was there. I was never sure about whether I really had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), because I used to really love the winter months. Today I used the light for the first time and it made a difference almost instantly. My energy levels improved quite a bit. Considering that I haven’t been able to write much in the last several days, I’m grateful to have found a seemingly simple solution.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and a bit warmer, thank goodness. I need to get outside.

Uncategorized · What I'm Reading · Writing Life

Sunday Reads 11.10.19

This is a bit of an experiment. We’ll see how well I am able to keep up with it.

One of the good things about being home these days is that I have much more time to read than I did when I was working full-time. Last year, when I was really and truly resting and trying to recover from all the health-related and teenager-induced stress, I read constantly, partly as an escape, partly to fend off boredom, and partly to explore the kinds of stories I wanted to try my hand at writing. I’ve slowed down some recently, which is not a bad thing; I am feeling better and a little more active.

But I’m still reading, and what I’d like to do is showcase some of the books I have read and enjoyed. Some will be current, and others with be old favorites of mine that might deserve a new audience. There’s nothing like hanging out on the couch on a Sunday morning reading a book or the Sunday paper with your coffee or tea.

I’m no book critic or professional reviewer, and that’s not my intention here. I’m merely sharing titles that struck me and hoping that you enjoy them as I did.

Last week I finished reading The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht . This book was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is an unusual story of grief, fantasy, and folk-tale superstition in an unnamed Balkan country after the war there. I was hooked right away. It deals with themes of war, family, and the things we do and do not say to family and friends.

Other things that caught my eye this week:

I have to make some side dishes for my neighbor’s Thanksgiving. I want to do something different. I looked up rutabagas because I’d never had them before. They look an awful lot like turnips.

This is one of the most awkward marketing campaigns I have ever seen.

This guy took the term Napoleon Complex to extremes (graphic story).

Finally, this is a story that took place locally many years ago. There are still people living around here who claim to know whodunit.

What are you reading?

Uncategorized

We Need a Little Christmas?

Husband is kind of creeped out by toy soldiers / nutcrackers.

I had a little time between pick ups this afternoon, so I ducked in to a Home Goods near campus while I waited for T. This is always dangerous. In fact we have a brand new Home Goods much closer that opened last month and I’ve been avoiding it since I don’t want to spend more money right now.

Of course, they are all set up for Christmas. Yes, they had a few tables that still had Thanksgiving related merchandise, but most of rest of the halls were fully decked (seriously, you know how hard it is to get past another person’s cart in an aisle because that place is so stuff with stuff?). It made me think about how often recently I’ve seen people complaining about others decorating for Christmas already when we haven’t had Thanksgiving yet.

Yet, wandering around amid the festive tchotchkes, the trees painted with faux snow, and the holiday dishes and linens, I didn’t feel annoyed or rushed, I felt happy. Now, I’m not going to be one of those super-early decorators, but I am on their side. These are dark times, and for those of us who are uplifted by whatever the season means to them, bringing out the spirit early offers a little reprieve. There’s a feeling of nesting that goes along with that, and the revisiting of family traditions with ornaments that may have an origin story.

I didn’t buy much this afternoon. I really don’t have room for any more decorations. By the way, it always amazes me that the smallest houses seem to have the most lawn ornaments for any holiday – where do they put them when they are not on display? I bought a new tablecloth and napkins, a gesture of hope that we’ll be having more family dinners this winter. I sort of want to dig out the Christmas dishes, but I probably won’t.

Tell them, Lady Mary

Last year I was part of a discussion with some women about when the Christmas / holiday decorations come down. Several took everything down the day after Christmas, others waited until after the New Year or the 12th Day of Christmas (Epiphany). In my house the tree comes down the weekend after Epiphany, the lights outside will come down slowly through the winter. Several years ago a local wrote to the paper asking people in the area to leave their holiday lights out through February so that there would be light through the dark hours of winter. As someone for whom the first three months of the year feel interminable, I signed on right away.

Uncategorized

You Can’t Go Home Again, But You Can Visit on the Internet

A few weeks ago, I got a Facebook invite to a new group of people from my old hometown. Unlike similar groups I have joined in the past that were started by town historians or gentrifying newcomers, this one was started by someone who had been in my circle of friends in high school. Its membership is mostly my peers – or at least within a ten year window whether older or younger.

Senior Photo. I have no idea what happened on those dates in my sketch.

For the first week or so, as the group continued to grow, I scrolled through updates from people with whom I had once been friendly but hadn’t thought about in 25 years. It was interesting to see what people looked like now that we were all in our 50s. How many had stayed in the area? How many had moved on?

There were several threads about elementary school and middle school (I wasn’t a full-time resident there yet), various teachers; the good, the bad, the funny, and the creepy. Much reminiscing about parties I was never allowed to attend (did no one else have parental supervision in high school?). There was a whole thread about people who had passed away since high school (so many, OMG!). Some I knew about, most I didn’t.

I wasn’t contributing very much, just reading. As days went by I started to realize that I was feeling very unsettled by all this revisiting of our youth. I’m still not entirely sure why. My post-high school experience felt very different from many of the other participants, perhaps, in part, because I left.

I loved my high school experience and most of the people in it, but I’ve always said that I’m glad I’m not living where I grew up because I’m not the same person I was when I was 17. Yet, although I only lived there year-round through high school, it is more “home” to me than the place I’ve lived for the last 28 years. There’s a pull that never leaves, I guess.

I felt it last year when I went back for my uncle’s funeral. My grandparents lived in the next town and we spent a lot of time there with cousins. My uncle was the last person to be buried in the family plot that holds my grandparents and a couple of my grandfather’s brothers. After the service and some time spent with my cousins I drove around both Branford and Guilford for the first time in over a decade. For reasons that have more to do with family history, I think the sadness I was feeling was about lost opportunity.

One thing I do like about this new group is how much they support one another. 30 + years seems to have erased the clique and class differences and people are banding together to do things like raise money for a veteran’s remembrance effort and a local business owner who just underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. If I had more cash available, I’d send some their way too.

Do you live where you grew up, or do you go back to visit?

Uncategorized

National Blog Posting Month 2019

If you are a writer, you may know November as National Novel Writing Month. Every year I see notification of this effort, and I think – – well, maybe I should try this. This year I actually have a project but I am still in the research phase.

It also happens to be National Blog Posting Month. This was an effort begun by Eden Kennedy, and revived by Asha Dornfest, both longtime bloggers and writers. The goal is to post every day for the month of November, though the “rules” are much looser than that this time around.

I’m going to participate because I need the motivation, and I may do something that I haven’t done much of before: planning. This afternoon, I’m going to sit down and list the various things I might want to write about or share.

I’m also really interested in hearing from other participants who still have blogs. I’ve been blogging off and on since 2005. I didn’t get to go to a lot of the early BlogHers so I sort of missed out on that part of the relationship building. My current contact with other bloggers of that era is now mostly from following them on Instagram. Many of them have moved on to other projects, just as BlogHer has moved on from what it once was. I miss the long form writing, the humorous episodes, the frank treatment of life’s difficult experiences.

Will, I be able to post every day? Probably not, I’m a slow writer, but I’m going to try to do as much as I can. This is going to force me to think of things to write about, and that’s not a bad thing.

Uncategorized

Sere

One of the nicer things about the cooler weather is that it gets me in the mood to cook. There’s currently a chicken and barley soup simmering on the stove. It started with a roast chicken over the weekend, from which I also made chicken broth, pot pie, and this soup.

Very high tide in the marsh behind Long Beach.

There is a half-bushel bag of apples on the counter waiting to be made into apple pies and applesauce to go with the pork roast I am planning for next weekend.

I’m still trying to see as much of the sun as possible. The light is currently filtered through the yellows and reds of the autumn leaves; those still on the trees and those spilled on the ground. It gives the deceptive impression of warmth, but requires a sweater to enjoy. A passing deer blends into the landscape and can barely be seen save for the waving of his white tail. The dog, barking for blood, alerts us to her presence. The deer looks toward the noise, but remains unbothered.

It rained and stormed this week and the wind was quite serious. For all the downed limbs and local power outages, I’m surprised there aren’t fewer bare branches. We’re into November now and with so few evergreens in the yard, it will be quite bleak by the end of the month.

My days are divided between chauffeuring the boys to their various schools, jobs, and friends and trying to write. When I can, I travel via the beach roads on the southern side of the island where the marshes meet the pavement, and there’s a good chance to spot wildlife from the car. In the summer there are often stark, white egrets or an occasional heron fishing among the grasses. In the winters you are more likely to see hawks perched on bare limbs closer to the road. This area is a winter harbor for many birds. There have been snowy owl sightings; sadly, never by me.

Even in the tight grip of winter, the marsh is a place I love. More than the sandy beach or the rocky point, it reminds me of the hardy New Englander that I always imagined myself to be. In the warmer months, it sings with the constant song of frogs, insects, and the chippering of red winged blackbirds. Colder months bring forbidding wind and frozen pools among the waving brown grasses. There is a lonely romanticism to it, as if you might expect to see the figure of a man in a pea coat and bog boots tramping through with his collar turned up and a spaniel at his side. The word that comes to mind as I pass through is “sere.” I looked it up the other day and was surprised to find that it was not a color, but a state of wither. Maybe it’s not an accident that the old Aerosmith tune begins with the sound of the winds.

Placid ducks unfazed by the wind

Politics · Uncategorized

MAGA Hat on the Highway

It was one of those moments when I wished I could get a picture. I was driving and alone in the car, so that would have been unsafe, and in any case, impossible to get a good angle.

There was a bright red MAGA hat sitting on the highway this morning, in between lanes of traffic. It had not yet been crushed; cars were avoiding it as one might try not to run over a dead squirrel or a large piece of tire from an 18-wheeler.

I live in Massachusetts. We don’t see a lot of MAGA hats. Trump bumperstickers and banners, occasionally, but few hats. Some months ago, on the highway, a car beeped at my husband and me as it passed, and the driver waved a sign made from a Trump sticker. Our reaction was probably not was he was going for. We laughed at him and figured he was reacting to the Elizabeth Warren sticker still on our car from the early days of her first Senate campaign. Way to own the Libs, dude!

More randomness – what’s the story here?

The MAGA hat on the highway was the kind of randomness I love, like seeing a soccer ball up against the Jersey barriers or a single shoe on the road. How did they get there? In my old home town, a lone demonstrator spent the better part of an afternoon on the town Green holding a large sign that read “The Wrecking Ball LOST!” What was the story behind that?

More than likely, the reality of the hat was that it simply blew unnoticed out of the back of someone’s pickup truck. Maybe its owner will miss it, maybe not. But I like to imagine there’s more to the story.

Picture two people in a truck. Perhaps they argued about the impact of Trump’s tariffs on the construction industry, their livelihood. In a fit of frustration, one snatches the hat from the other’s head and throws it out the window to the road below.

Or perhaps a daughter stole it from her father, whom she lost months ago to the treachery of FOX News. This small act of rebellion won’t bring her father back, but as she tosses the hat gleefully on to the highway, she imagines her father spending half a day looking for it instead of watching TV; a temporary victory.

The best scenario though, is an epiphany on the part of the owner himself about the meanness of our times and Trump’s leading role within it. Unable to continue tolerating the deliberate and gleeful cruelty of Trump and his Wormtongue advisor Stephen Miller, he pitches the hat into oncoming traffic to be run over as Trump himself has done to so many.