Is This Healthy? Or Am I Kidding Myself?


The thing about summer is that all of the veggies are amazing.

Right?

It’s July now. So I can drive up the street to the local farmstand where I can buy fresh, buttery lettuce, fresh peas, tomatoes still warm from the sun, cucumbers that are as crisp as breadsticks.

I can run up to the weekly farmer’s market and get garlic scapes, fresh spring onions, tender, fresh kale.

I can go home and microwave some beets, then cool them and mix them into all those fresh, tender greens with a bit of goat cheese.

Holy delicious.

I am the healthiest eater in the world from June through October.

But does all that delicious green goodness buy me extra time on this earth if I refuse to touch salad in the winter?

I mean, I try. Every single year, I try to eat salad in the winter. I buy grocery store lettuce (bitter!) and grocery store cukes (flabby!) and grocery store tomatoes (tasteless!).  And they sit in the fridge until they begin to liquify, at which point I give up until the following summer.

So am I still healthy if I sort of stock up for six months? Can I still call myself a healthy eater if I only eat roasted carrots, beets, potatoes through the fall? Is it still a good veggie side dish if it’s roasted butternut squash with butter and real maple syrup?

My theory is that New Englanders learned to eat a whole pile of greens all summer (I DO!). And then they learned to preserve summer veggies like corn and tomatoes and beans (I DO THAT, TOO!) so in the winter they could eat pig fat while telling themselves “Well, at least we have veggies put up in the old root cellar.” (YUP, THAT’S ME.)

The early New England settlers managed to survive without eating hothouse tomatoes. They didn’t die of scurvy just because they refused to eat hothouse kale.

And I won’t either.

Right?

By shucking the corn and taking the peas out of their pods all spring and summer, I am earning my way into ‘healthy eater’s heaven’, aren’t I?

I love summer food. The peaches, the cherry tomatoes, the ripe berries all over the yard. I love it. I could forage all summer on the garden delights that surround me, as long as I could get a free pass to eat pork and butter my bread all winter long.

What do you think?

Am I delusional, or can I really save up my health points before the cold New England nights set in once again?

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Let the Autumn Come


SONY DSC

It was a September Tuesday.  It should have been fresh and brisk outside.  Our small New England town should have been feeling the oncoming change of seasons.

It was nearly 90 degrees outside, and as humid as a typical July day in Massachusetts.  My friend and I, both retired as of July 1st, decided to spend the day kayaking on a local lake. When we made the plan, of course, we knew that it would be a “weather permitting” event.

Well.  The weather certainly permitted today!

I woke up early, showered, dressed in a bathing suit and shorts, cleaned out my kayak, and found my paddles and jacket.  I filled a water bottle, walked the dogs, and waited for Lesley to arrive.

So funny!  My dear friend, with her graying hair that matches mine, arrived in a big old pickup truck, her kayak tied safely into the back. We did what ladies our age always do (we used the bathroom before we left), then piled into the truck and headed to the lake.

The place where I took my friend is a good sized lake about ten minutes from my house. It is common in that it is a lake in a region of many lakes. It is unusual in that it is nearly uninhabited, except for a big boy scout camp on one side.

Because it is September, and schools have opened, the camp was empty when we arrived. We parked the truck, unloaded our kayaks and happily headed out into the beautiful green waters of the lake.  We paddled our way around the cove, passing the boarded up camp cabins.  We made our way to a few of the small islands that dot the lake.

We let ourselves float for a bit, watching a family of loons as they fished in the cool water.  We looked at an abandoned beaver lodge, admired the water lilies, watched a graceful blue heron groom his wings.

The sun beat down on our backs.  The sky was a perfectly clear, dry blue.  The water kept calling us.

We put the boats ashore at a tiny beach that was most likely part of the Scout Camp. We let ourselves fall into the cool, clear water.  We floated.

There were no other humans in sight.  We heard only the loons, the gently lapping waves, and breeze in the pines.

How did we get so lucky, we kept asking ourselves, grinning at each other as we lay on our backs in the middle of the lake.  How did we ever find ourselves in such a perfect place, on such a perfect day?

We closed our eyes.  We let the water carry us.  We smelled the metallic herbal tang of the water all around us.  We watched a hawk circle, high over head.

My friend and I, two women who have worked together for many years, allowed ourselves to steep in the perfect heat and cool of the moment.  We paddled our way back to shore.  We loaded the boats and went home for lunch.

Let Autumn come, we told each other.  Today was the most perfect celebration of the Summer.

Something about the sea


I don’t know what it is about the sea.  I don’t know why it reaches out to us and grabs us and pulls us in so completely.

A gull on Assateague Island.

All I know is that every time I smell the salt smell of the ocean breeze, my lungs feel more open. My heart feels stronger. I can feel the blood moving in my veins.

I feel more myself when I am in the ocean’s arms.

When I see a gull, swooping out over the rolling waves, I almost believe for a moment that I too can soar away as far as the winds can carry me.  I almost believe that I can be that free, just for a little while.

It doesn’t matter what beach or coast I am on when I find myself in a spot where I can see the ocean at last.  As long as I can touch my lips with the tip of my tongue and taste the briny tang of salt and seaweed, I am home.

A winter day on the Massachusetts coast.

The ocean in winter is spectacular.  Cold and so sharp.  The beautiful gray of the water merges with the icy gray of the clouds. A study in monochromatic beauty.  I wish so much that I could live in a place where I’d see the ocean racing in every winter day.

But the ocean in summer, on a sweet July evening, in a place where the blue ocean meets the crystal sands.  Nothing in life is more alluring to me than that.  The spiky shards of beach grass poking up through the white sand, the restless movement of the dunes.  The incredible sight of a sailboat passing in the twilight.  Almost too pretty to be real!

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I would give anything I have to one day live in a place where I could watch that motion every single day.

Ah, but if wishes were horses……..

For now, I will have to content myself with occasional days at the beach with friends, walking in the surf, watching the gulls, finding sand dollars, daring each other to dunk in the freezing waters of high tide.

For now, I will count myself lucky to live as close to the Atlantic as I do.

For now, I’ll have to keep dreaming of one day owning that beach house.

Yesterday’s gift.


Sometimes life surprises you with a gift, dropped right in your lap when you least expect it.

Yesterday was one of those days.

It has been very, very hot here in the Northeastern US for the past week, so we’ve been trying to stay near water as much as possible. Anything to keep cool!  We’re lucky enough to live in a place with many small lakes and ponds, and we’re extra lucky to have good friends who like to kayak with us. So yesterday, after doing our errands and household chores in the raging heat and humidity, we wrestled our boats onto our car roofs and headed off for a paddle.

Lovely little Comet pond was filled with sailboats, kayaks, canoes and even some waterskiiers.  The sky was hazy, the pine trees growing along the shore seemed to droop in the heat.  We paddled away from the boat launch, hugging the shoreline to avoid the speeding motor boats and the waves they created.  After a while we pulled out our usual kayaker picnic of wine, fruit,  cheese and crackers and ice cold beer.  We floated together, each with a hand on another’s kayak, to keep us together in a happy little cluster, loving the sunshine and the gentle breezes. We were chatting, and laughing and just enjoying each other’s company, when suddenly our friend Doug called out, “Look!”

He pointed up, into the dazzling blue of the summer sky. At first I only saw a few wispy clouds, and the tops of the hemlock trees that surrounded us. But then my eye was caught by a dark, sweeping motion, gracefully arching above me.

We all knew at once what we were seeing: an eagle. An American eagle. Right there. Soaring, rising, looping in the air above us.  A sight that none of us had expected, but one that left us breathless.

Paul had never seen an eagle before this one.  For me, it was only the second time in 57 years of life.  But there he was, so big and beautiful and strong; so absolutely in his rightful place.

We watched him for about ten full minutes, craning our necks and paddling furiously to turn our boats, desperate to keep him in sight.

An American eagle.  Right above our heads.

It was a gift.

We live in a very small town, in a largely ignored part of our affluent state.  We often feel slightly ashamed of this poor, struggling community and its lack of amenities.  We sometimes wish that we could live in a more respectable part of the state.

Yesterday  changed my mind.

I didn't take this photo, but he looked just like this.

I didn’t take this photo, but he looked just like this.

It feels like it will never end…..


Winter.

It keeps coming at you, even when you think it is finally done.

Last weekend was the start of “Daylight Savings Time” and at long last, I am coming home in the daylight hours.  Spring must surely be on its way.  St. Patrick’s day is coming up fast, there are daffodils for sale in all the local groceries.

Spring must be near!  Time to think of seedlings and lawn care and bug spray.  Time to think of flip flops.

Except that it is snowing tonight.

Big, fat flakes of fluffy white poison, floating down and coating the deck once again.

Spring? You coming?!  Of course you are!  The vernal equinox is only a few days away!  Time to think of chicks and bunnies and peeps and pastel colored sweaters.  Time for renewal and rebirth and lambs and tulips and Cadbury Creme Eggs!

Except that the weather channel is predicting another snow storm on Tuesday.

I know that spring will come.  It always does, right?

But…..you know…..like, what if….I mean, it could happen, right?  What if this is the year when it never arrives? What if we are stuck for eternity in the icy slush of mid-March in New England?  What if the grass never shows up, the crocuses are locked for good beneath the layer of frozen muck?

What if the days don’t get warm, the birds don’t start to sing and the Red Sox decide to stay in Florida all summer?

It is nights like this that truly test the faith of a person like me.  My bones are cold. My toes are begging to be free.  My heart is yearning for the sound of distant thunder, my nose for the smell of warming earth.  I want to hear the peepers! I want to barbecue some sausage! I want to light a mosquito coil and rub on some SPF 50.

And its snowing.  A lot.

I think that I will go to bed, pull the big pile of fluffy blankies over my head and dream of this:SONY DSC

It has to come eventually.

Doesn’t it?!

Best. Weekend. Ever.


Don’t I sound young and hip?  Young people always post updates with a period after each word.

It makes everything so much more emphatic, you know?

Best. Weekend. Ever.

But this weekend was really, truly The. Best.

I had so much fun.

Friday night was spent with our boys, listening to music, drinking beer, having fun, watching them flirt and chat and show how much they have conquered their local world.  Very. Cool.

And Saturday was spent with my baby child, Tim; he let me take him shopping for food, shoes, school supplies.  He is pretty independent, but he let his Mamma indulge her Mammaness and we had a fun (if somewhat expensive) afternoon together.   I was in my element, throwing things into his shopping cart right and left. Peanut butter!  Echinacea! Ibuprofin! Cereal!  Garlic! A good butcher knife!

It was a lovely mishmosh of supplies and it made me feel fulfilled. Then home for a little hot tub time, and a chance to reconnect with Dad.  Lovely.

Discussing life, politics, women and beer.
Nice!

Then his friends came by to pick him up and take him home.  BUT: they stayed for dinner! Oh, joy and more joy! I had three young men and one young woman to feed; nothing on God’s green earth makes me feel more needed and more secure than cooking for hungry young people.  Fresh, organic, locally raised pork on the grill. Fresh, local corn, tomatoes, salad.  A peach tart (local peaches, did you even wonder?) We talked, we laughed, we ate.  Heaven, if I ever get there, will be filled with hungry people for me to feed.

Sunday was a day of relative rest.  Just Paul and I, two big old dogs and a lot of household chores. Let me just say; there were naps.

And today, Labor Day, we went off with friends to kayak.

Oh. My. God.

We were on a gorgeous, pristine lake, floating under a perfect blue sky.  We had cold wine, cold beer, delicious salsa and crackers.  We had people we love, admire, trust and really, truly, enjoy.  We had three hours of uninterrupted fabulousness.

This is a good friend!!!!!

It is most likely the last real day of summer, and we swam in a cool, silky, clean lake with two of the world’s best friends.

I hate to gloat.  Really.  But you know what?

This was, without a doubt

The. Best. Weekend. Ever.

Life. Is. Good.

Another point of view


Last weekend we hosted my brother and his family, my Mom, and my sister and her husband.  They all drove an hour or more to come to our little town to attend a “Fireman’s Muster”, which is a crazy competition in which antique fire trucks try to outdo each other in sending streams of water as far as possible.

I was happy to have them all at my house, and excited to cook and to be the hostess at my humble abode.  But I was more than a little embarrassed to know that they would be seeing my poor, low income, struggling town when they came here.

You see, my mother lives in an upper middle class community of mostly healthy, mostly solvent, mostly successful professionals.  My brother and his family live in one of those historic New England seafaring towns that boast of whaling captains, colonial villages and families Who Came Over On The Mayflower.

My town is poor.  We used to be a textile mill town (in the 1890’s) and a woodworking town (in the 1930’s).  We have had some dairy farms and some small vegetable farms.  But right now, we are a community of lower income, poorly educated, under employed people who are struggling to stay afloat.

I was ashamed to have my family see my environment.

And tonight I attended a birthday party for a friend in our small town. He was turning 50, and a whole group of our friends had gathered to celebrate with him.

As I sipped my wine and nibbled on baked brie, I was somewhat on edge.  Most of my friends have children who are attending good colleges, working toward very practical degrees.  And in the past few days I have had conversations with friends whose kids are in great schools, or have big money jobs, and when they have asked about my kids, I have felt a little, well, protective.  My boys are still figuring it out, and they live in an “interesting” little house with a group of other 20 somethings.

So I stood at the party tonight, feeling defensive about my kids and their life choices.

And here is what has happened to me in the past week. Here is what proves that I am a shallow, conformist, peer pressured jerk.

Last weekend, my sister-in-law spent a couple of hours wandering on her own around my town.  When we got together that afternoon, her comment to me was, “What a beautiful little town! The houses are so gorgeous! You must love living in such a quaint and historic place.”

Um.   Really?

And tonight, at the party for our friend with the highly successful kids, one of those kids asked me, “Have you talked to Matt about going to New York for the Occupy Wall Street anniversary?  I sent him a message, because I really want to go with them.”    Um.  Oh?  And his sister said, “When your kids went to Occupy last fall, I was so excited!  I told everyone, ‘I know those kids! They are from my town!’

I didn’t know what to say.

The conversation swept around me.  The young people from our town were telling each other about where they were when they heard that my three children had been arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in October of last year.   I heard about how teachers at our local High School shared the emails and Facebook messages from my kids.

Apparently, they are local heroes.

In our historic and quaint little town.

Who knew?

I guess it takes a different point of view, from a fresh pair of eyes, to make us appreciate what we really have in our lives.

Tonight, I’m incredibly proud of my activist, hippy children.  I’m also proud of my beautiful, struggling little town, where friends can gather for a birthday party under the late summer stars.

Those were the days….


I made a terrible tactical error today.

I was well on the way to recovery this summer, well on the way. I was so over that whole     “postdepartum” thing, you know?  Empty nest syndrome? Pah!

I was doing really, really well.  Kayaking with friends, taking nice long dog walks.  Gardening, reading, going to the beach, enjoying quiet dinners with Paul.

Well on the way to recovery, that was me!

But, you see, one of my annual summer chores is to organize closets and deal with all the photos that have accumulated over the year.  I tell myself that I can’t do these things during the school year because I’m such a busy, busy lady!  I put chores like these off until the lovely, restful days of summer.

So this morning I gathered up a big pile of pictures, and a few photo albums. My thought was that there might be room in some of the albums for me to store the new pictures. Not very organized, I know, but at least its better than the old shoebox storage technique.

I grabbed the first album, popped it open, and fell into the abyss.

Like a punch to the chest.  Like falling off a ladder and landing hard.  I had the breath knocked right out of me.

There they were, my beautiful, smiling children, arms entwined, laughing at the camera.  Page after page of special moments: beach trips, camping trips, blueberry picking, amusement parks. Sunburned little noses, and gap toothed grins. Sun hats, baseball caps, visors and bike helmets.  Every happy summer moment of the past, captured in beautiful color, right there in my hands.

I leafed carefully through every page, remembering each special moment, each funny adventure.  I scanned most of the best pictures, saving them on line so that I will never lose them.  I cleaned out the closet, put the albums back, wiped my eyes and blew my nose.

It was just a setback, OK? Tomorrow I’ll be back on that cheery road to the future, on my way to full recovery.

Sure I will.

A New Challenge


A long, challenging school year has come to a close, and summer vacation is finally here.  No more math papers to correct, no more history lessons to plan.  Ten long weeks with no need to fight the traffic twice a day.  No need to keep the kids focused and productive.  Just a long ribbon of freedom, days and weeks stretching out before me with no one to worry about or please or fuss over.

So why am I not euphoric?  Why am I not doing the happy dance?

Well.   I guess its because the summer is a long ribbon of days and weeks stretching out before me with no one to worry about or please or fuss over. Or play with, or talk to or take to the beach.  I have no one who needs me at home or at work.

That has never happened to me before.

When Paul and I were first married, 34 years ago, we both had jobs. We both headed off in the morning and reunited at dinner time. We took turns cooking, or we bustled around the kitchen together, sipping wine, talking over the day, settling in for the evening.

Then we started grad school, and our hours were hectic and unpredictable. We both studied, we both held part time jobs, we had a big group of friends in the same situation.  Life was full, busy, active.  There was always something to be done!

And then the babies came, and my busy life got that much busier. I worked, I rushed home, I cooked and cuddled and bathed and read books.  Every minute felt full to the brim. Every day felt too short and too fast.  Every night Paul and I reconnected and shared the remaining chores.

During those years, vacations were busy, too.  Summers meant beach trips, picnics, the zoo, sleepovers and campouts and S’Mores and birthday parties.  Summer vacation was my time to throw myself heart and soul into Momminess.

In those years, the last day of school was a reason for intense celebration.  I clearly remember driving home on the last day of school after my first full time year of teaching.  The kids were 9, 5 and 3 years old.  I remember pulling onto the highway, rolling down the windows, sticking my head out and just screaming like a banshee.  That was joy!

Even last summer, when everyone was all grown up, I wasn’t home alone in the summer. Kate lived here, and Tim was home from school.  Summer was busy and full and I ran around cooking, shopping, coordinating events.  Last summer was really, really fun.

This year, though, is a whole new challenge. No more kids at home. This year I get up  with Paul in the morning, and have coffee and chat.  He heads to work, and I walk the dogs and throw in some laundry and weed the flower beds.  I feel like Laura Petrie or Lucille Ball, keeping house while my husband earns a living.  I feel like I should be wearing pearls and a white apron.

This is distinctly and decidedly NOT fun.

So I’m looking at it as a new challenge.  I have plans to go to the beach this week, to meet some friends for lunch, to visit a new baby.  Next week I hope to take out my new kayak with another old friend, and maybe take a day to visit my boys in the western part of the state.  I am thinking of an overnight trip to Maine, and I have two weeks planned for a history course that I am taking.

I know that I don’t have to turn into a 50’s housewife. I know that.  I know that life is still interesting and fun and full of adventure.  It’s just that I have never had this much freedom before.  I’m finding it all a little scary.

I need your help here……


I have never done this before. I have never turned to the blogosphere for help, but sometimes a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.

I have put together a lovely little slide show about this school year for my class.  I have only two more half days with this fifth grade class before they leave me in the dust and move on to greener pastures. I am feeling very emotional, more than a little bit clingy, and kind of just burned out.

Once again, it seems, I am being left behind by those who I helped to launch.

This is not an unusual event: at the end of every school year, the teacher has to say goodbye to the kids who have kept her awake and alert for ten months. But this year, I have been made aware (by the children and also by their disgustingly young and hip parents and my ridiculously, laughingly young and immature colleagues) that I have literally no idea of what is in style right now.

Of course, even at my best, in the laid back “what is fashion anyway” seventys, I managed to miss every musical, artistic, fashion and food trend that came along. I seem to be allergic to pop culture.  Try as I might, I cannot seem to grasp which songs/colors/foods/books/tv shows/shoe styles/movies are popular at any given moment.

So. Here is my dilemma, and here is my question for you, my blogging friends and companions.

What song should I put in the background of my slideshow for 25 upper middle class eleven year old kids? My first thought was “Forever Young” by Joan Baez, but I played “Circle Games” by her today and they couldn’t stop laughing over her “weird” voice.

Huh!?!

I thought of “See you in September”, or “Friends” by Bette Midler, but they both feel, well, really out of date.  I thought about “Bobby Jean” by Bruce, but I don’t think the parents of these very sheltered kids would approve.

“In My Life” by the Beatles?  Too serious.

“Summertime” from Porgy and Bess? …….Dude, seriously?

I am out of ideas.  So I have come to you.

I have about 36 hours to pull this off and put it all together.  Please, all you young, hip, up to date yet mature types out there.  What song should I put in the slideshow?