Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Wishes for a Healthy,
Happy 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009


Am I the only blogger out there/here not interested in monetizing my blog? Does everything have to be about money?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Acting Like a Teenager

Lots of articles have been written lately about the inner clock of teenagers. It seems most have trouble getting up early for school especially after having stayed up late. I don't remember staying up particularly late as a teen but I do remember rolling out of bed about 20 minutes before I had to leave for school. I walked to high school (almost a mile, up hill both ways) so missing a bus wasn't an issue.

I seem to remember sleeping late on weekends but it's so long ago, I can't say for sure. I think 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. was probably as late as my parents would allow.

Fast forward to the last 15 years. I have not used an alarm clock for at least that long, unless I have to catch an early plane. And then I set two clocks and wake up hourly thinking I've overslept. I might as well not go to bed the night before traveling.

The rest of the time I am up before 6:00 a.m. regardless of what I have to do. Sometimes it's even earlier than that if I wake up and begin thinking about things. I will lay there for a while, not able to go back to sleep and then just give in and get up. I really do like the morning the best anyway; I get more done than any other time of the day.

Yesterday, the Day After Christmas, I slept until 2:00 p.m. And it felt so good! I have been fighting a cold for a week or so. With the holiday and all it's craziness I have just been ignoring it and trudging through. Yesterday I got up with Paul at 6:30 when he left to go hunting with Rosey. After they left, I gave in, took some cold medicine and went back to bed.

I went right back to sleep and woke about 10:00 to Lucy barking and growling. A squirrel in the yard no doubt. I yelled her name and she stopped. At noontime, the same thing, Lucy barking and growling. Again, I yelled her name and she quit. I heard Paul come in around 1 p.m. but I didn't bother to get up for another hour. Finally I thought I better get up since most of the day was gone. I was a little groggy but felt great.

When I came downstairs Paul was huffing and puffing and swearing and I noticed the door to the den was closed. I opened it to peak inside, and there was a bucket sitting there with cleaning stuff. Lucy had apparently pooped and puked all over the den while I slept the day away.

Was that why she was barking? Probably. Poor thing. All while I slept like a teenager. Oh well, these things happen.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reflections and Anticipation

It’s been a long time in between posts. I’ve missed being here and plan to get back into a routine of writing and reading. I know there have been lots of things going on with my bloggy friends, and I’m going to do my best to catch up.

Today is the Day after Christmas which to me is like New Year’s Day. I’ve never been one to make resolutions but when I woke this morning I spent some time thinking of the year past and the year to come. I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or whatever it is you celebrate and had the opportunity to enjoy family and friends.

The last two weeks are a blur. Christmas was especially nice this year. The kids and grandkids were with us as usual on Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year. The grandkids are growing up so fast. Next year at this time Katie will be a freshman in college; where did the time go? We had Christmas dinner with Pam and Geoff and extended family and friends. It was a quiet day. It felt like everyone was winding down from the craziness of Christmas.

Yikes, this is beginning to sound like one of those Christmas letters we all make fun of. Another sign that I’m getting old, I guess.

Adopt-a-Family is over for another year. Our hard work I’m sure brought sighs of relief to more than 1,100 parents and excitement to 2,311 children who received gifts of toys and clothes from generous people they don’t and will never know. For me it’s a satisfying feeling. I can’t say enough how wonderful it is to watch this program come together every year and how much I appreciate the work of the volunteers and donors. I know that almost everyone was affected this year by the economy but you wouldn’t know it from the gifts that streamed in and the mail containing donations of money that will ensure our continuation next year. I’m happy that we can help so many needy families but I’m not happy that they need us at all. People often ask if we helped more this year than last. We did but that’s not our goal. I have said many times, I wish there was no need.

My real estate business has slowed over the last few weeks. Not unusual between Thanksgiving and Christmas but I need to get back into that routine and just get back to work. I feel in my bones that 2010 will be a better year, and I don’t want to miss anything.

We’ve got travel plans to look forward to. Paul, Jr., and Martha are talking about bringing the kids to spend some time with us in May at OBX. This will be the first time any of the kids will be able to join us, and we are really looking forward to that.

In July Paul and I will celebrate his birthday cruising the Danube River in central Europe. It’s a trip I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a long way off but it will be here and gone before we know it. Paul gave me a Lonely Planet book for Christmas about the area of Europe we will be visiting so I’ve got studying to do.

He also gave me a macro lens for my new camera, so be prepared for lots of photos of bugs and flowers this year. I need to find a basic camera class to refresh my memory about f-stops and shutter speeds. It’s been a long time since I’ve shot an SLR. I’ve mostly been using my new Canon Rebel in the auto mode which is a waste of its technology.

I recently came across my grandfather’s journals written in the 70’s and 80’s. I’d like to go through those and find some stories to share. And while Christmas shopping for other people, I bought myself a scanner that transfers slides and 35mm negatives to my computer. Once I learn to use it, I’d like to put all my father’s slides from the 50’s into a format that I can enjoy and share.

This does sound like a list of New Year's resolutions after all. I guess that's okay. Even though New Year's Eve is a few days away, let me be the first to wish you a very happy and healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Adopt-A-Family Update

I've been somewhat AWOL for a few days. Haven't had much time to blog or visit my peeps.

But I'm not being lazy! Just busy. But it's all going to be worth it.

For some really good news about our Christmas program, visit our blog.

I promise I'll be back in action just as soon as possible. Hope everyone is well.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow of the Season

We woke to a Winter Wonderland.

Rosey enjoying her first snow of the season.

Delivering the newspaper.

All dressed up and ready for Christmas.

Guess what this is!

They look like snowy soldiers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Message for a Lifetime

Last night I had the opportunity to hear Elie Wiesel speak at Bryant University. Brought to the University by the Student Arts and Speaker Series, the lecture was free and open to the public.

It's hard for me to characterize what I think of Professor Wiesel. Admiration seems too small a word. I am definitely in awe of where he has been, what he as seen and what he has and continues to accomplish. That I had the opportunity to see and hear him speak in person is still unbelievable to me. As I expected, the lecture was full.

Professor Wiesel is 81 years old. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, he is an author, professor, political activist and Holocaust survivor. His biography is extensive. For that you can go here, and I highly recommend that you do because his life from birth in a small town in what is now Romania until today is extraordinary.

Last night he entered the stage to a standing ovation. Sitting at the front of the stage at a small table with only a microphone, he spoke for nearly an hour during which he held the attention of a rapt audience and then took a handful of questions.

Summarizing what he said during that hour is very difficult. I went in thinking I knew what he was going to talk about but he touched on so many different topics, I don't know where to begin. A professor at Boston University, it felt very much like we were sitting in a lecture class.

He referred to his time in the concentration camps during World War II (read his book "Night"), told stories of meeting with Presidents, speaking at the United Nations, and one particularly fascinating story of a conference in Oslo in 1990 when he took Nelson Mandela and a proponent of apartheid by the arms and put them in a room together with the direction "talk to each other."

He spoke of being a member of an 'endangered generation,' and that he worries that the world is going to forget what happened in World War II. And, of course, the history of the Holocaust must never be forgotten. Professor Wiesel is also a Bible scholar. One statement from last night that will stay with me forever was his suggestion of an 11th Commandment which would be "Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By."

Shortly after being awarded the Nobel prize, he and his wife, Marion established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. On the website, the foundation's mission is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogues and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.

A message to everyone and something we should all strive for daily.

Image courtesy of Google.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Highbush Cranberry--December

Even though the grass is still green, all the leaves are gone including the Highbush Cranberry. Some berries remain and they will through the winter. Maybe the next time you see it, there will be snow. That's the next time the bush looks really pretty. Stay tuned!

To see the changes, go to June, July, August, September, October, and November.

Get It While You Can

I started researching my family tree at the age of 20, much younger than most get bitten by the genealogy bug. I don't know what the big draw was to find out where I'd come from but my interest was piqued by my paternal grandfather. He often spoke of Mother, my great grandmother. Great Grammie died when I was 4. Lots of people never know grandparents, so I was very fortunate to have known a great grandparent. She lived on the first floor of the same house we lived in, and I remember her.

One particularly strong memory I have was when my grandfather was bringing me home from the hospital after having my tonsils removed. It was raining and he had me wrapped in a blanket on his shoulder. Great Grammie met us on the doorstep. I distinctly remember their exchange about me. She must have died soon after that.

I just finished a six-week class about real estate title searching, sort of another kind of genealogy. Most probably know that when a piece of real estate is sold or transferred, a search of the title is done by a title examiner or attorney. This search is almost always done in person but many municipalities now have their land evidence records online.

The first thing I did when I found these records were available online was to look at the various recordings of documents associated with the house I grew up in. I was never certain when the house was built but it looks like it was in the 1850's. I do know that it had been owned by my family since about 1905. My father was the fourth generation to own the house. He sold it in 1996 before I had the chance to be the fifth.

As I went through document after document of mortgages, liens, and deeds for the property, I became a bit melancholy seeing signatures of my grandparents and my father, all gone. Then I came upon a reference to a Nora B. Lewis. It had to be my great grandmother.

But Great Grammie's name wasn't Lewis! I know her maiden name did begin with a "B" but I have a copy of her death certificate, and she had my great grandfather's last name. The only conclusion I can draw is that after my great grandfather's death in 1926, she must have remarried, but I don't know where or to whom.

I went to my mother and she didn't know the answer. Although these are her inlaws, my mother has been part of that family since she was 16 so it seems she would have heard something. My grandparents, my father and my aunt are all gone. I have no one to go to for an answer. I could probably do some research and try to find an answer but it's not going to be easy as she lived in at least four states over the course of her life.

I think I have a couple first cousins once removed still alive but I'm not sure. Finding them is going to be a challenge but I'm going to try.

I sure do wish I had talked more to my grandparents when they were here.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Crunch Time at Adopt-a-Family

I hope everyone had a peaceful Thanksgiving! I know we did. We spent a wonderful day with family. It was pretty relaxing for Paul and I since Pam did most of the work.

Pam is amazing in so many ways but to watch her host a party or family dinner is like watching no one else I know. When we got home last night my kitchen was messier after cooking some dessert and a vegetable to contribute than hers was after feeding people for 8 hours! Pam's organizational skills are second to none. Although I noticed that she isn't putting little sticky notes in the serving dishes anymore. I kind of miss that.

Thank you Pam, Geoff, Katie & Madeleine for a very enjoyable family day.

Now that Turkey Day is behind us, we are in the last two weeks of preparation for the week when all the hard work done by so many people who participate in Adopt-a-Family comes together. That is the week when 150 volunteers work in various shifts over 12-hour days to make it all happen. When they handle 4,000 to 5,000 bags and boxes of gifts and dozens of bicycles brought to us by our generous donors. Those gifts and bikes are then put into the hands of needy families of nearly 2000 children.

Unfortunately right now it looks like we may have to turn some families away. We've got 11 more days to match donors with families and we are ever hopeful that we will be able to help 100% of eligible families who ask.

Time will tell. You know I'll keep you posted!

Image from Google Images

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Best Wishes to All for a Peaceful,
Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This Is It

Yesterday afternoon I took myself to see the movie This Is It about Michael Jackson. I decided I wanted to see it after watching an interview with Kenny Ortega, his friend and director of the movie. Only in theaters until Thanksgiving, eventually it will be available on DVD, but it's definitely one of those movies you need to see on the big screen.

Kenny Ortega put together the two-hour movie from 120 hours of video footage taken during rehearsals at Staples Center in Los Angeles between March and June of this year. This was to be the 50-year-old's comeback tour scheduled to open in London just days after his untimely death on June 25.

Because it was so close to the opening they had film of several of the big numbers with all their pyrotechnics and special effects. The screen is filled with performers, musicians, choreographers, and crew members and gives you a real feel for what happens behind the scenes of such a production. From the casting call on, it was fascinating to watch it all take shape.

The last time I paid much attention to MJ's music was when Thriller came out in 1983. I distinctly remember seeing the video when it debuted, and I thought the dancing and theatrics were fabulous. I had the album and still know most of the cuts. He got a little weird after that which turned me off to his music.

I thought it was very sad when he died so unexpectedly but I can't say I was surprised. So many stories of his eccentricities including his much-denied plastic surgery, reports of sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, living with Bubbles the monkey, and then the charges of child molestation made me forget about him long ago. All that said, you can't deny his incredible talent, and they did a wonderful job showcasing that talent in This Is It.

In the first part of the film they interviewed several of the dancers who all said how much of a dream it was to be on stage with their idol, Michael Jackson. Whatever was happening in his life, he was obviously in fantastic condition and kept up with dancers decades younger. Split screens convey Jackson, nearly always in sunglasses, performing the same number in different days with different wardrobes and different approaches. There's no question who the director is here. Jackson is in complete control. The few times he was shown correcting a performer, he was especially gentle in the delivery of the criticism, once saying simply 'This is why we rehearse.'

There's also several sequences of numbers done with the Jackson 5 in much younger days obviously not part of the recent filming but certainly included to show where he came from. Many times at the end of a number you expect to hear the reaction of a crowd and the camera pans to the groups of performers and crew watching who are on their feet jumping, clapping and cheering.

All the songs were familiar and for the most part didn't seem to vary much from their original recordings. Several of the musicians had quick interview clips. The one musician I wish they had interviewed was the lead guitarist, Australian born Orianthi Panagaris. Her bio says Orianthi has played with the likes of Eric Clapton and Santana and was named one the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists. Incredible to watch, her style made me think of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Apparently she played and sang at MJ's memorial in Los Angeles in July, and I'm sorry I missed it. I plan to look for it on YouTube.

Despite not having been a recent fan of Michael Jackson, I totally enjoyed This Is It, and I'm really glad I didn't miss it in the theater. I was really ambivalent about seeing it until I saw the interview with Kenny Ortega who seems like a very sincere, thoughtful man. The way he handles MJ in the movie proves it. If you ever enjoyed his music & dancing, go see the movie.

You won’t be disappointed

Monday, November 23, 2009

Get Them a Dog Towel

I was just washing a load of dog towels and thought of this story. We have two dogs, Rosey and Lucy, who get toweled off when they come in from the rain, hence, the dog towels.

Several years ago Paul was hunting and fishing with a guy named Chip. Why any 60-year-old man would go by the name CHIP is beyond me but he did. Even Paul thought he was a bit of a bore who talked and talked but never listened but he had some good hunting spots and a nice boat so he put up with him.

So Chip and his wife, whose name escapes me, invited us to meet them for dinner near their house at some special place they raved about. I figured it had to be a nice place so I got moderately dressed up. Big mistake, the joint wasn't much more than a diner, and I could have worn my gym clothes and not looked out of place. The food was okay, and they invited us back to their house for dessert.

They took us through the garage which was in the lower level of the house. But before going upstairs we had to sit and watch videos of them catching fish in Florida. That was just a thrill a minute, and I tried not to fall asleep figuring I'd miss dessert.

Upstairs we go and out from one of their bedrooms, where she apparently had been crated, flies this hyper little spaniel who jumped everywhere including on us. I hate to be jumped on by a dog, including my own who know better anyway. This dog was nuts.

They made little or no attempt to call her away. That was bad enough but then the little shit starts running to her water bowl, slurping up a faceful and then running back at us with water flying everywhere. I'm doing my best with my hands to fend off the shower of water and dog drool.

A normal person would have called the dog away from the guests, right? No, he says to his wife, "Get them a towel." I had noticed a nicely folded pile of towels in the garage when we came through. Sure enough, she heads for the basement and brings back two of the towels. Paul and I are giving each other are they kidding looks.

Finally dessert time arrives and we sat on one side of the island and they were on the opposite. Sure enough the dog starts climbing all over us as we sit. Paul reached down and slipped his finger into the collar and twisted a little for a second or two, not to hurt her but to give her a message. When he let go, said dog walked away and laid down.

We haven't been back since, but if we ever do visit again, I'm wearing a rain coat.

Image from Google Images

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Please Mr. Postman

I hate to shop. Somehow I didn't get the shopping gene many women seem to have. I'm not being sexist, it's just that most of my friends love to shop. I'd rather get a sharp stick in the eye.

Nothing fits; I'm too tall. I have long arms and long legs. Waists are always in the wrong place, sleeves are too short, and pants are never long enough unless I buy from a specialty store (read $$$$). Plus I hate trying things on in those little dressing rooms with those freaky lights.

It took me years to wear capris. Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be the one who can wear that style, but I've been struggling my whole life to find pants long enough, and now you want me to wear them short on purpose?! I don't think so.

I was given a $50 gift card to a local mall back in June. Last week I finally got there and tried to use it. I couldn't find any clothes. Found some bags I liked but I wasn't in the mood to pay the additional $60 they would have cost over the value of the gift card. I ended up in Bath and Body Works buying soaps and lotions to add to the stash I already have.

Online shopping, however, is another story. I can sit here for hours and click away through the various online stores and catalogs that have clothes that DO fit me. All it takes is money or rather a credit card. I recently spent an evening here catching up on some of the things I need. I did some serious damage to the credit card. Within a day or two the boxes began to arrive. And arrive. And arrive.

Paul once said that a UPS truck cannot drive by our house without stopping. We happened to be standing in the driveway when he made the comment. A Big Brown truck drove by just as we were having this discussion. I immediately pointed and said...."no suh, there's goes one now!" The words were barely out of my mouth when the truck stopped, backed up, and pulled into our drive and the driver jumped out and put a box in my hands.

Maybe they should assign me my own truck and driver.

Photos courtesy of Google Images.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Baby You Can Drive My Car

When I was five years old my father had a 1959 Rambler with a 3-speed shift on the column. I used to sit beside him and as we were driving along he would tell me what gear to shift into. Years before seat belts or car seats, I probably couldn't even see over the dashboard. He would say second and I would shift over and up, third, I'd pull the shift down, first when we came to a stop, back over and down. It was very cool and I thought I was all that and more. We didn't do this when my mother was in the car for obvious reasons.

So began my love of driving and most things with wheels, two and four. When I was 14 Dad brought home a motorcycle, I think he paid $100 for it. No name on it, the tank had either been replaced or painted, but we thought it was a Yamaha and at least 100cc. It wasn't very big but held two people. It ran fine for years, and I had a blast with it. There began my love of riding bikes, or driving actually, I've never been much of a passenger. I've only been on the back of three bikes; my father, my high school boyfriend and Paul. Paul has always had bikes and used to race motorcross and trials in his younger days. He now rides a 1500cc Kawasaki Vulcan.

I spent my summers in rural Connecticut at my grandparents' campground, and I rode that little bike all over the trails and occasionally ventured onto the country roads. Cops were a rarity in that area and I never got caught. All the other kids were so jealous.

In those days there were few restrictions on new drivers. You needed 30 hours of classroom instruction, could get your learner's permit at 16 (I was there on my birthday) and take your driver's test twelve days later. I think I waited fourteen days. Not long after getting my license, I went with my father to the DMV and took the road test for my motorcycle license so at 16 I could legally drive just about anything.

About that same time Dad bought a new bike, a Yamaha DT3 which was a 250cc street-legal dirt bike and I soon took that over. I road trails, old railroad beds, whatever we could find. It was a great time.

At the campground I also drove the dump truck that we picked up trash with. Because it required constant stops and starts when I got out after a run, my left leg would be shaking so from the stiff clutch I could barely stand, but I was very cool. I drove the garbage truck!

My grandfather also had a backhoe/payloader at camp which we called TONKA after I painted the name on it. I drove that. The first time my father put me on Tonka he was riding with me. After a few turns in a field as I was heading for some trees I asked "Should I go through there, Dad? Dad? Dad!?" No answer, I whipped my head around to see him standing on the other side of the field with my mother. He had jumped off at some point and I had been driving around alone. He said my smile was about a foot wide. Good times back then.

In my 20's I had a street bike for a short time. I didn't care much for riding in the street and got rid of it. Since those days I have mostly stuck to four wheels. We've had two Corvettes. The '69 was a standard transmission which I drove occasionally. The '90 that we have now is an automatic and not nearly as much fun to drive.

And although I love cars and enjoy looking at them, I drive a fairly normal sedan. I have clients with me often so I don't have much choice. My car does have lots of bells and whistles that I enjoy.

Lately I have been seriously thinking about buying a weekend driver, maybe a two-seater. I haven't decided what. I met a college friend for dinner recently, and she drove in with a BMW Z4 which was pretty sharp.

We are definitely going to need an addition to the garage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Please God Don't Make Me Play You

We are fast approaching crunch time at Adopt-A-Family. This is the last week that the families can apply, and when we will put a big push on to attract people to get involved and help.

For the last six years we have been able to provide for every child in every family who qualified. That means an average of 2100 children got Christmas presents because of people in the community who wanted to do something for someone less fortunate.

Are we going to make it a seventh year? My gut is telling me no. When I made that announcement at a Board meeting last week, one of the Board members piped up with, "Sandy, you say that every year, and we always do it." As the saying goes, Brenda, from your mouth to God's ear. Please let me be wrong.

Over the twenty years that I've been part of this wonderful organization, first as donor, then volunteer, then Board member and now Program Coordinator, I have been asked WHY I do what I do. My answer is usually Because I can. Memories of my own happy Christmases as a child and now as a parent and grandparent motivate me to try to bring a bit of that to children in families who are struggling. And honestly I do it for me, too, because it feels good.

I have always said that AAF serves two distinct parts of the community. The first is obvious, the kids who probably wouldn't have much of a Christmas if it weren't for our program.

The second, probably less obvious to most, is the donors and volunteers who help us make this happen. During the week this all comes together our little board of sixteen members swells to include 150+ volunteers. That doesn't count the donors who provide for these 1000 families although most of our volunteers are also donors.

So when I say we serve the donors and volunteers I mean we give them a place and an opportunity to get involved. So many people want to do more than write a check. They want hands-on participation. And our volunteers love working with us every year. It's hard work but it's also fun and fulfilling.

But the reality is, we have 150 families without donors and I'm expecting at least that many more before the deadline to apply. So that's probably close to 700 kids. And the donors have dropped off dramatically, much earlier this year than usual. A sign of the poor economy, I'm sure.

Below is a photo of the applications from families yet to be matched with donors.

Before too long we will have to look at the applications from families without donors and decide who's in and who's out. Who will get a letter that says "we are very sorry but we can't help you this year." It's the part of the process I dislike most. It's when I feel like we are playing God.

I hope Brenda's right, and that we won't have to turn anyone away.

NOTE: For another personal view of Adopt-A-Family, go here to Rhea Powers' column in The Valley Breeze. And read about one of our volunteers here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Grampa

Today would have been my grandfather's 100th birthday. The date never comes and goes without me remembering his birthday but today is especially poignant. He has been gone nearly 13 years but some amazing memories remain.

My father's parents, he and my grandmother were everything grandparents are supposed to be. Parents to two (I wrote about their daughter, my aunt here) and grandparents to four, they provided love and comfort and always a safe haven and a sympathetic ear. The only thing my grandparents loved more than each other was family, and they were unconditional with their love for all of us. Not to say they didn't have their own fights. We used to call them Mrs. Cat and Mr. Dog.

Though never rich, they always had a buck when any of us needed it. They gave out many "loans" that I'm certain were never repaid. They provided some part of down payments for all of our first homes.

My grandfather was the son of what we humorously referred to as a non-pastorized Methodist minister. He had a church in Maine but never attended seminary school. My grandparents met in high school. Grampa was a member of the Class of 1929 of Harmony High School, and she was Class of 1930. Graduating from high school in rural Maine back then was a rarity and a huge accomplishment. Married in 1930, they had two children born during the worst of the Great Depression but I'm not sure how much of an impact it had on them since Maine, especially the interior, is pretty much always in a depression.

Some time around 1936 they moved south to Rhode Island, eventually settling in a house that his mother owned although the details of that move are lost to time. My father and I both grew up in that house.

In the 1940's they started a laundry and called it Laundromagic. A name I love to this day and can still picture painted on the front window in its fancy script. People dropped off laundry and paid by the pound to have it washed, dried and folded. My grandparents worked there side by side 5 1/2 days a week from six in the morning to sometimes ten at night. The laundry was my first and only daycare center since my mother worked there, and my father drove the truck that picked up and delivered laundry and dry cleaning. Even though it was during my first five years, certain memories are so vivid in detail.

In business together for 30+ years, he was a dreamer and she kept him grounded. In the late 50's my grandfather bought a used Buick. Attached to the Buick came an 18' Shasta travel trailer, and we became a camping family. My grandparents, my parents and I traveled the East Coast as much as week-long vacations allowed.

Within a couple years my grandfather got a gleam in his eye and a dream to own a campground. At 55 years old, unfathomable to me that he was only two years older than I am now, he and my grandmother took a mortgage on the laundry. For $3500 they bought 75 acres of virgin land on top of a hill in Connecticut and Sterling Highlands was born.

Grampa was the epitome of a Jack of All Trades. While living in that 18' trailer, within a year, he had cut a road, dug a well, brought in electric lines, put up a building with restrooms and showers for men and women, developed 30+ campsites and had a 60' pool installed. The only thing he and my father didn't do themselves was the pool.

They eventually sold Laundromagic but the first couple years the campground was open they kept 'day jobs,' she a waitress in the off-season and he a full-time machinist. Eventually developed to include 100+ sites, only when Sterling Highlands became a success did they devote all their time to it. And I mean all their time; they worked seven days a week. When I look back with my adult eyes I realize how hard they worked. Always a gregarious man, my grandfather was like a pied piper to dozens of kids who summered there, and he became "Gramps" to them all. At his funeral a man came up to me, said the usual "do you know who I am?" and then pointed to Grampa and said "that man taught me how to drive." He was one of the kids who had grown up at Sterling.

From age 5 to 17 I spent every summer running barefoot in those woods of Connecticut. I know that's where my love of the outdoors was fostered. It was a wonderful place to grow up, and it kept me close to Grammie and Grampa. In 1978 they reluctantly sold The Highlands. Almost 70 years old but still going strong, it was time to get out. In yet another travel trailer they hit the road and spent winters in Florida until their first great-granddaughter was born. Not wanting to miss anything, they stuck close to home after that.

A man of many talents, Grampa also was a writer. He kept a journal for many years and had stories published in camping magazines. He also had an amazing gift for crocheting and knitting. He developed his own patterns and made dozens of tablecloths, bedspreads, and doilies.

In 1997, after 67 years of marriage, Grampa died. Although he wasn't well in his last years, his mind stayed sharp, and he knew all of us to the end. I look back on that with such love and appreciation because although she didn't pass away until three years later, Grammie left us mentally soon after he died. Maybe because she just couldn't adjust to life without her partner of 70 years. But it meant everything to me that Grampa knew me right to the end.

So today as I recall sweet memories of my grandfather, I say Happy Birthday, Grampa, you were the best.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Looks Can Be So Deceiving

Is it possible to be OCD just about certain things in life? Or is OCD a condition that shows up everywhere?

Take a look in our closet:

Here's the other end. There are actually more shoes on the shelves to the right of those you can see:

I can't believe how much I have pared (not paired) down my shoes. I think there are about 75 pairs here. A couple years ago I sold 60 pairs on eBay. Sent my shoes all over the country. Hey, if I can't go, they might as well.

I'm not a compulsive shoe collector in the same sense as women with so-called shoe fetishes. You won't find any Prada, Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnick in my closet. (I wasn't even sure of the spelling of the last two) In fact, you won't find many with heels in there, certainly no high heels or pointy toes. I'm more into comfort: flats, clogs, boots, sandals. I do have a few pairs of heels in the requisite black for events that absolutely require them.

And unlike most women who buy a new outfit and then shop for a pair of shoes to match, I buy shoes and then find an outfit. What's my problem you ask? I have big feet. I am six feet tall and wear a size 12 shoe (quit snickering). At least I'm pretty certain I'll never blow over in the wind. And they are not easy to find.

When I was a kid we didn't have much money. I got the obligatory new pair of shoes for school annually. Back then finding shoes to fit was even more difficult, and when I did they often looked like something my Aunt Mabel would wear or maybe not. They could be that ugly.

My father was 6' 6" and as you'd expect also had big feet---14AA. He, too, had trouble finding shoes and clothes in his younger days. Consequently, he was the one who had the patience to take me shopping from store to store to find what I needed. I remember one year, I was maybe 12, when we actually found TWO affordable pairs. My father said that for a week every time he looked at me I had the other pair on. I kept going back into my room and changing. I was so excited to have TWO new pairs of shoes at the same time!

Consequently when I started buying my own I learned early to take care of them. Notice they are all in their original boxes? When I used to work in a more corporate atmosphere which required suits, dresses and heels, I had a 'driving shoe' in the car. As soon as I got in, I would slip my shoe off and put on the driving shoe so as not to scuff up the back of my right shoe.

So here comes the OCD....notice in the photos there are little pictures on the ends of the boxes? When I get a new pair, I take a photo and tape it to the end of the box. I used to just write a brief description on the box but tan sandals got a little confusing when it was written on six boxes. Which tan sandals?

My shoes seem to be one of the few places my OCD shows up. Otherwise, I'm a piler of books, magazines, mail, catalogs, bills, receipt, etc. Just take a look at my desk. I'm one of the most disorganized people I know accept when it comes to my shoe shelves!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Title Meme

I seldom participate in memes but I saw this one on Pam's Perspectives and although I don't read nearly as many books a year as Pam does, I thought I'd give it a try.

What To Do: Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

How do you feel: Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Describe where you currently live: Snow Island by Katherine Towler

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine and Love in Italy by Michael Tucker

Your favorite form of transportation: Passionate Nomad by Jane Geniesse

Your best friend is: Away by Amy Bloom

You and your friends are: The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney

What’s the weather like: Five Skies by Ron Carlson

You fear: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

What is the best advice you have to give: Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gilles

Thought for the day: Tell No One by Harlan Coben

How I would like to die: Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

My soul’s present condition: What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love by Carole Radziwill

Give it a try and leave me a link here. I think a couple I may have read last year but they are all pretty current in my reading list. It was fun....give it a try!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Please Pass The Peas

Does anybody remember spoon rings? I guess they're still around but I first remember them in the early 70's. My boyfriend used to make and sell them. He'd find an old fork or spoon at a yard sale or flea market, cut the utensil end off and polish it up real pretty.

He gave me several but one with delicate scroll work was my favorite. I probably still have it in a jewelry box somewhere. I loved it, wore it all the time back then.

Until one Sunday dinner at his grandmother's house when I reached across the table for the peas. The pattern on her silver serving spoon was the same as my ring.

Never wore it there again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Confession Thursday

CONFESSION: I have never been to a football game. Gasp

Am I an American, you ask? Yes, a 14th generation American. I'm a Pilgrim. I have been to basketball, baseball and hockey games. Not many, but I've been to them. But never a football game. I never paid attention to sports in school. My high school boyfriend was not a jock, and I just wasn't much of a joiner. Going to games never appealed to me.

My father wasn't much of a sports fan either. He watched a little professional basketball when I was a kid , and he did seem to like car racing later in life. Paul doesn't care for ball sports of any kind, but I suppose he went to games when he was a kid. I've never really been around sports much.

I have, however, watched every Super Bowl that the Patriots have played in since 1997. I believe that would be five. Being a New Englander and not watching the Patriots in the Super Bowl would just be wrong. But I also confess that I really still don't understand the game.

When he was about 11, our grandson Travis tried to explain the whole game to me. Travis LIVES for the Patriots. I thought it was so cute that he wanted me to know so I paid serious attention until the end even though my eyes glazed over after the first three minutes, and I was thinking about what I was going to make for dinner when we got home.

During one of my first Super Bowls back when I was really trying to understand the game beyond the concept of touchdowns (I got THAT right away), I started asking Paul questions. What's first down? What are they snapping? What was that penalty for?

At first he answered the questions as patiently as he could which always lead to more questions. Finally, after about the fourth one, he said "Why don't you just shut up and watch the game?"

I decided right then and there that he didn't know any more about it than I did!

Wordless Wednesday--What Lobster?!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Who Knew? Certainly Not Me

Since I'm hearing that November is National Blog Posting Month, I thought it a good time to say a few things about what blogging is doing to and doing for me. It's become a bit of an addiction. This is my 128th post, and I probably spend too much time here reading and writing. I don't talk about it to non-bloggers as much as I used to. I think I was becoming a bit of a bore. So that's the doing to me part.

I have recently put a gadget on my blog which tells me where my readers are. I have been surprised to see how far away some of you are; literally all over the world. How cool is that? And it has also confirmed what I thought. I have lurkers, people who read my blog but seldom or never comment. Based on the locations, I have a pretty good idea who some of you are. And I'm flattered.

Although I try not to make this always about me, I have written several posts that were very personal. I've written about how Paul and I met and about losing my father. Those two posts were definitely at opposite ends of the happiness spectrum, and I was really touched by many of the comments I received about both. Then there was the post about an ambulance ride to the hospital that I tried to make funny and light. I heard from many people who were concerned and wanted to be sure I was taking care of myself.

I have become acquainted with some amazingly thoughtful and caring people in the blogging community. Many I know I would feel comfortable chatting with over a cup of coffee or a drink. And the talent that's out there among my blogging friends! I am constantly blown away by writing that makes me never want to write another word but then inspires me to become a better writer.

Paul stopped making negative comments about the time I spend here long ago, but he only reads my blog every couple weeks. He usually checks in after I mention a particular subject I've written about. A couple nights ago he sat for a while and caught up.

A man of few words and very little praise, when he was finished he said “so when are you going to write a book?” Now understand, he hasn’t had the pleasure of reading any of you other bloggers who I think are so talented but coming from him, that was a big compliment. I have actually been thinking of finding a creative writing class. I’ve become that hooked on this. But a book? Not likely. That's the doing for me part.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finding Good News in Bad

In an article in Parade magazine in yesterday's paper entitled "How the Economic Crisis Changed Us" written by Michael J. Berland and Douglas E. Schoen there was a section about benefits some have realized during the crisis. They said that in the past year "creating a more meaningful life" and "giving back" have been important to 68% of those Americans polled. The article also said that 35% had rediscovered community or religious groups and 30% are volunteering more for charities.

None of that really surprises me. I have said for years that our Adopt-a-Family program brings out the best in people. For a touching example of that, read about my friend Joe in a post from last summer. Joe, by the way, is still with us. He and his biker group plan to adopt a little boy through our program this year and Joe has promised to be there in December to volunteer.

AAF gives people a chance to get involved; to do more than just write a check. It's a very personal experience to be able to get a Wish List from a needy child that not only tells you their name and age but their clothing sizes, favorite colors and what kinds of toys and games they like. Although anonymous on both sides, by the time you are done shopping, wrapping and tagging the gifts, you have a little picture in your mind of what your child actually looks like. It's a very satisfying way to get involved.

I haven't had the opportunity to talk to many donors yet this year. That happens more as we get closer to Distribution Week in December when the donors bring in their bags of gifts for the children they have adopted. But one man that I talked to last fall stands out in my memory.

He called the first week in December to ask if he could drop off their gifts early as he would be with his family in Disney World during the week of scheduled drop off. We made arrangements for him to bring them to my house, and as we were unloading his van, I asked about his upcoming vacation. He told me he and his wife have three little girls, and they were all excited about going to see Mickey.

Then he said something like, "We weren't going to participate in your program this year because money is a little tight, and we had this vacation planned and all. But then one day I looked at my girls and thought, 'what if we couldn't buy Christmas gifts for them........." His voice trailed off as he didn't seem able to finish the thought. I was pretty sure he was a little choked up so I tried to fill in with something about what a great job it looked like they had done for their adopted family and hoped they had a wonderful vacation.

I could repeat stories like that all day. And I have to say that as wonderful as it feels to know we are providing gifts of toys and much needed clothing for so many children every year, I personally get more joy and satisfaction from speaking with our donors and volunteers. There is just so much good in people that we don't often have a chance to experience, and with Adopt-a-Family I get to meet and work with these people and I love it!

ADOPT-A-FAMILY UPDATE: As of today we have 548 families matched with donors. That's probably about 1150 children who we know will be getting gifts this year. As great as that sounds, I expect at least that many more to apply before the application period ends on November 20. And our response from donors has definitely slowed. It looks likely that this is going to be the first time in seven years that we may not be able to provide for all the eligible families who apply. A second mailing to last year's donors who have not responded yet will be going out in the next week. We'll keep our fingers crossed that many of those people will be sending back their Donor Reply Card soon!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Highbush Cranberry---November

Fall is officially here. Fewer and fewer leaves on the bush. The berries are getting sparser as well. The birds have been helping themselves. There were several hopping around as I approached to take this photo.

To see the changes, go to June, July, August, September and October.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Job Well Done

Back in April I wrote about our town's Clean and Green Day. That day the members of the town's Conservation Commission, chaired by my husband Paul, and assisted by several our of grandchildren spent many hours cleaning up a 10-acre parcel of land that has been donated to the town. Once a nursery but dormant for many years, the property is being donated by an elderly lady who wishes it to be named for her late daughter as a tranquility garden.

A valuable gift to our town. Paul and his commission have continued to work on the property in preparation for a granite sign to be delivered soon and a dedication in Dr. Monica's honor sometime this fall.

In addition to the general clean up of years of leaves and overgrown brush, they have also installed a split-rail fence and spread gravel for a visitors parking area. Below are some photos I took of the progress of the project. The photo on the right was taken this last weekend after the fence project was finished.

Here are some photos of the clean up in April.

These were taken after the first phase of the fence was installed during the summer. What a difference!

And here are more from last weekend in all its fall glory!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Morning Thoughts

I woke early this morning thinking about the arrival of November. It's just next week. I can't believe this year has gone so quickly.

I have very mixed emotions about the months of November and December. On one hand they bring the holidays which are fun and hectic. Pam and Geoff host Thanksgiving Dinner. Christmas Eve is always here at our house. It's a crazy few hours that I totally enjoy.

And, of course, all the work with Adopt-A-Family culminates with Distribution Week in December. It's an exciting, exhausting, satisfying, emotional week which I am so happy to see come and go.

But what I really woke thinking about this morning was that November 14th is the 8th anniversary of my father's death. Who decided to call that an "anniversary?" It's eight years since he died. Eight years since that Wednesday morning when at 9 a.m. as I sat eating my breakfast my mother called screaming unintelligible words, and I knew exactly what had happened. It's not a moment you ever forget.

I had been to the gym that morning so I had to shower and then just threw on some clothes. Somehow I ended up in a bright yellow sweatshirt which I looked at as I sat in the undertaker's office that afternoon wondering What was I thinking? Obviously I wasn't thinking about my wardrobe as I dressed that morning, only of getting to my mother.

As I made the 30 minute drive to what was now my mother's condo, I kept saying This is too far, this is too far. I knew we'd have to move her closer as soon as possible. There was a police officer and a neighbor with her when I arrived. Dad had gone to sleep Tuesday night and never woke. Mom had a restless night so she had gone into the guest room sometime during the night. She woke at 6:30 and peeked in to see him still sleeping. She did again at 7:30 with the same result. At 9:00 when she went in again, she knew.

Paul was hunting in Canada that week with his cousin. We had cell phones back then but there was no service where he was. The hunting camp didn't have a telephone. I called Carolyn, his cousin's wife, to ask for help in reaching them. She called the local police who went to the camp and put a "Call Home" sign on the door. I remember standing in my mother's driveway that afternoon screaming into my phone "I need you! Come home!" They drove straight through and got home late that night.

By then I had already been to the funeral home and made all the decisions, alone. My mother was with me but in body only that day. I had never really discussed with my parents what their wishes were regarding their funerals. The wife of one of Paul's longtime friends is a funeral director so we went to Liz and she was a great help, but the decisions still had to be made and I did it basically alone. During that time I was fine and kept my composure as long as I had my mother to comfort. When I was alone, it was a different story.

My father was only 68. My parents were together for 52 years. Retired for a little more than 3 years, my folks were on their third RV. They traveled for 2-3 months at a time and had visited 45 of the lower 48 states. They had not made it to the West Coast yet. He still had places to go and things to see, but I am so thankful for the time they had.

That morning all that came to an end for my mother, and she entered a new chapter in her life. We had the funeral that weekend. In less than three weeks we were under contract to buy a condo 5 minutes away from us. Thankfully her condo sold quickly, too, and soon she was close. She was still driving and actually adjusted to her new life pretty well. But she was lonely.

In less than three years we sold that place, and she moved into an apartment in a retirement community also nearby. Again she adjusted pretty well. It wasn't quite like her own home but she's resilient, and I'm lucky that she is still somewhat independent.

Early last year she started talking about John, another resident in her complex. They had met through their cardplaying group. One day last summer I answered the door and there stood Mom with John. They were out for a Sunday ride, and she had directed him to my house without telling him where they were going. John stood in my doorway looking like a deer in the headlights. He was that concerned about meeting me. It was cute.

Last fall they moved into a bigger apartment together. They were so happy. He had 4 children also nearby who were very attentive. They had lost their mother a couple years earlier, and they were totally accepting of my mother. Christmas Eve Mom and John were here with us and the rest of our family got to meet him. Christmas Day they had dinner with John's youngest daughter. Sometime in the night the day after Christmas, John woke, sat up, had a heart attack and died.

This time when my mother made the call it wasn't to me but to John's son. She called me in the morning with a simple "I lost my friend last night." For her it was almost as painful as losing my father. They had three short months together and he was gone. It was horrible watching my mother go through this again.

So as I laid there this morning thinking about my father and how much I miss him sometimes, I couldn't help but think of my mother and how hard these next few weeks are going to be for her. Life just isn't fair sometimes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


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