Early Morning Thoughts

Last night I dropped into bed while the sun was still lighting the sky.  All of my exertions of the weekend finally caught up with me, and I took my aching back to bed nice and early.

Slept the dreamless sleep of the innocent for seven blissful hours.   Heaven!

Of course, the downside of being in dreamland by 9pm is that I was up for the day at 4, but I’m not complaining!

It is a cool, clear morning.  There are a million birds singing in the woods and the sun is just beginning to show itself through the trees. I decided to pour an iced coffee and go into the hot tub to watch it rise.

Can anything be more indulgent and more soothing than that?

I don’t think so.

I lay there, listening to the birds, watching the sky turn from gray to palest blue.  I felt the hot jets massaging my neck muscles.

My eyes focused slowly on the leaves of the nearest trees, and I realized that I was looking at a tall young oak.   It got me thinking, which shows you how well I slept last night.

When we moved in here, 24 years ago, that little oak was a tiny sprig. It was in the grass, in the yard, but I didn’t want to kill it with the mower.  We left it to grow.

Nine years ago, when we got our little puppy, Tucker, that oak was about twice as tall as I am.  I remember a summer day when Paul and the kids had gone hiking.  Tucker and I took a nap in the shade of the little tree.

Now it is some 30 feet tall, rising above our deck.  It looks like a real tree, not a sapling. It is spreading its branches out on all sides, reaching for the sunlight.

And it no longer stands in the yard; I hadn’t really noticed it, but the woods have crept slowly closer to the house over all these years. Now the oak is at the edge of the woods, surrounded by smaller saplings of pine, maple, ash and birch.

I wonder when the acorn that formed it fell?  There are no other mature oaks near this one.  Did a squirrel drop the acorn that managed to root here? Did it roll down the hill in a storm?

I have no idea, and I like it that way.  I am just an observer, watching the sun rise, the sky clear and the trees growing taller.SONY DSC

Hot, hot, hot

Only its not, not, not.....

Only its not, not, not…..

Alrighty then.

It’s May 26th.

Time for shorts.  Time for flip flops. Sun tan lotion.

Time for sweat.


So why am I sitting in my living room in fuzzy socks and a sweatshirt?  Why do I still have a blanket and a quilt on my bed? Why aren’t the dogs shedding and the fans blowing and the windows wide open?

Its time already!

I want to sit out on the deck with an iced coffee.  I want to fan myself with a folded paper, wipe my wrist across my brow and say, “God, its so hot!”

I am ready.

I want thunderstorms.  I want hazy, hot and humid. I want to be happy when I feel the air conditioning come on, instead of zipping up my sweatshirt.

I want summer, for God’s sake!  And I want it NOW!

I hate to be a climate change denier, you know? I’m into science and all that.

But, seriously?

What global warming?


I really miss my flip-flops.

Losing my mind games

I am really good at playing little mind games with myself.  Really good.

For example, if I know that I need to get on the elliptical, I start picturing myself in my new, buff body.  I have a ridiculously good imagination, so I can blow through my workout (ok, my “twenty minutes of slow paced panting”) by imagining myself striding along a beach in Costa Rica, my long tanned legs taking me easily through the sand.


Effective little mind game there!

So this morning I woke up feeling great about having a day off, but knowing that I had a ton of school work to do.  I’ve been trying to put together digital portfolios of my students’ work this year. I keep their documents on Google Drive and I needed to check off and quickly read 24 essays and move a ton of documents out of the kids’ folders and into my individual portfolio folders.  Get it?  Read 24 essays, check 24 shared folders and move approximately 300 documents into 24 separate portfolio folders.

Yeah.  On a sunny day off.

Because I know myself oh, so very well, I knew that I’d need a mind game to get through it all.  So I made a plan: I told myself that I would read three essays, then spend 15 minutes with the incredibly seductive mindless book that my friend AmyJo got me reading.  I figured I would get through all the essays that way. Correct: read.  Correct: read.  It was going take about six hours. Perfect!

Then I’d tackle the portfolios.

Organize one portfolio, check Facebook.  Organize one portfolio, make a snack.  You get the idea!  It would have taken me until midnight (well, I have to make dinner and have some wine, don’t I?) but I would have gotten it done.   I HAD to get it done; I have conferences all week, and we need those portfolios!

I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to begin.  Checked my battery status as I opened up the laptop.  Oh, oh, only about 48%.  Where is the charger?



OH, NO!!!!!!   MY CHARGER!!!!!  I didn’t bring it home!  I figured I could use Paul’s all weekend!!  But he took his laptop to work! Gah!!!!!!

In a complete panic, I gulped my coffee and started frantically scanning, checking off and commenting on essays. Didn’t stop to make toast. Didn’t stop to write down any notes on anyone’s work.  Didn’t look up, didn’t pee.  After about 20 minutes, I sat back: Done!!!!! The power was down to 40%.


I literally dove into the folders, one after the other. “Student number one- five homework assignments-MOVED! Two essays- MOVED!!!!” On to student number two!  I didn’t spend any time thinking critically (“Does this work accurately reflect the student’s mastery of the voice trait?”) 

Nuh, uh. I just clicked, moved, looked at the battery status, clicked,  moved, checked the status. By the third portfolio, I was in a groove. I knew which essays to move and which to skip. I was on fire!  Finally, it was done!!! It only took an hour, and it was done!  And there was still 5% power left!   I took another ten minutes to review the portfolios. Pretty sweet! They actually looked great.

Phew!  I gasped with relief. I had done it!  I shut down the computer and headed for the kitchen for some sustenance.

Ouch! What the heck did I step on?


Paul’s computer charger.

I love playing mind games, but I hate it when I lose…..!


What I gave up……

Sometimes I look back at those Mommy years and think that everything was sunshine and roses.  From the vantage point of “they aren’t here any more”, my kids seem pretty darn angelic.

Sometimes when I am sad and lonely and I miss those hugs and kisses, I delude myself into thinking that it was easy to raise three children while working full time.  Sometimes it seems like I didn’t have to sacrifice a thing!

Then I look in the mirror.

Now, I was never exactly a high maintenance woman.  I came of age in the 70’s, so my idea of fashion began and ended with jeans and a flannel shirt.  My idea of “make up” was tinted lip gloss.  And as for hair? Don’t even go there: the only mousse I ever mastered was chocolate.

But still, when I was in my thirties, I was a relatively attractive young mother.  I was never skinny, but I had a waistline and some curvy parts above and below it.  I wasn’t too hard on the eyes, that’s all I’m saying.

Now? Not so much.

And I want to be clear: I never actually decided to “let myself go”, as they say.  I didn’t exactly make a decision to become frumpy.  In fact, I thought that everything was going along fine while I was in the middle of my mothering life.

It’s just that it can be really hard to find time to exercise when you work 50 hours a week and have an hour and half commute every day.  That thirty minutes to yourself just doesn’t seem to appear when you rush home to three little kids who need dinner, baths, homework help, bedtime stories and lunch made for tomorrow.

And after you drive everyone to CCD, girl scouts, boy scouts, hockey practice, birthday parties, soccer practice, guitar lessons and a track meet, you don’t have a lot of energy for facials or manicures or yoga or pilates.  In fact, you kind of don’t even have time to brush your teeth thoroughly before you fall into the bed face first, thereby making even more of a mess of your formerly glowing skin.

So now that I am an empty nester, I know that I can blame my physical decline on my kids.  The jowls? Hey, I must have been at a hockey game when I should have been doing those firming exercises.  The wrinkles? I definitely got those while squinting into the sun at baseball/soccer/football games.  The flabby middle? Well, jeez, if you are going to be making homemade bread, real Italian meatballs and lots of chicken pot pies, you have to expect some of that to stick to your ribs, right?  The bags under the eyes that now lie like empty sacks on my cheeks?  Totally caused by high school curfews and those who failed to meet them.

I loved my mommy years. You know I did!  And I didn’t mind the little daily sacrifices that I made while I was in the middle of them, either.

But I want to be clear that if I hadn’t made so many sacrifices for my best beloved babies, I would no doubt be slim, smooth and sleek right now, instead of looking a whole lot like a sack of wet cement.

So kids? If you’re Mom isn’t as pretty as she used to be?  Just remember: I blame you!


In the little town where I live there are many, many buildings that stand empty. Some were left behind when the jobs and the money disappeared. Some are in a limbo of legal wranglings. Some have simply become too old to be maintained.

On our town’s main street there stands a crooked,  creaky,  wooden building that once housed a little general store. For so many years, the town’s children came here for candy. The mothers came for fresh milk brought in from the farm up the street.  Generations of families came in for the newspaper, a loaf of bread, candles or kerosene or batteries.  The store’s wavering, rippled windows have looked out on the central street of this little town since the 1920’s.

Now the store is empty, the window displays show only dust.  The milk from our local farm has long since been sold to a big interstate conglomerate. The candy is gone, the papers are now read on-line.  The wooden beams that hold up this hulking old building have warped and bent; the roof is leaking and the wiring is brittle and frail.

I am guessing that the beautiful old red and white clapboards will be taken down soon, left in a pile of dusty memories.

In my small town there are so many houses that have been left alone, empty, abandoned.  Each is marked with a vivid red X, a sign to local firefighters, saying   “If I am burning, you should let me go. No one hides inside. No one lives here now.  I am an empty shell. Let me burn.”

SONY DSCNo matter that the house was once the pride of a young family. No matter that at one time the graceful slope of the roof was a sign of genteel prosperity.  No matter that in a time gone by the delicate posts of the porch sheltered a happy family out taking the evening air.  No matter that these gnarled old trees used to hold swings where girls in gingham dresses giggled at the sight of boys in suspenders and straw hats.

Now the house is empty. The prosperity is gone. Now the trees are old and bare, the street is cracked and worn.

No family laughs around the fireplace here any more.  No mother croons a lullaby to her baby in these rooms. No lazy dog is left to doze by the front door.  No letters are delivered here now, no packages wait on the step for the birthday boy to arrive.

In my small town, there are so many proud old houses that stand marked by an X. Dark, echoing, alone.  Waiting for the fire or the storm or the wrecker that will come to finally bring them down.

In my poor little town, the rhododendron and the hemlock have proven to be stronger than the people who once called these places “home”.  Every day on my way to work, and every night on my way home, I drive past a house that has been abandoned and alone for so long that the bushes have grown right up and over the door.SONY DSCEvery day, and every night, I picture the children who must have eaten their breakfasts and headed out this door to school.  Every day I think of the mothers who must have carried groceries in through it, and the grandparents who must surely have arrived here on Christmas Eves of the past, loaded down with gifts and cookies and love.

And every day, and every night, I wonder how long it has taken for the bushes to cover the path and hide the door.  And I wonder if those wise and strong old plants are trying to shield the house, and keep its secrets safe.

He bought asparagus!

Paul and I have been married for a really long time.  And we were a couple for a long time before we got married.  And we were friends for a long time before we became a couple.

We met in the seventh grade, isn’t that weird? We fell in love at the tender age of 16, and we married at 22. We are heading for our 35th anniversary this summer.

Well, yikes.

How have we made it last, you ask?  How have we managed to stay together all this time?

That’s a really good question, and now that I am the mother of three young adults, I have asked myself the same thing many, many times.   I wish that I knew the answer. I wish I knew how to advise my children.  I wish I knew the secret.

After all this time, it is still a mystery to me to find that Paul still loves me, and that I still love him.  It kind of makes me laugh, to tell you the truth!

I don’t have all the answers.  But I think I have figured out a few little nuggets of wisdom to share.  These are the things that have worked for us, as far as I can figure.

#1) Be honest about your partner.  Don’t try to ignore his faults and only see his virtues. I mean, how unfair can you be to someone? We’re all human, and we all deserve to be loved for who we are, not for who our lover wants us to be.

#2) Be honest about yourself. Don’t try to pretend that you love fishing if really makes you sick to even think about it.  I learned this one the hard way, on a few too many hikes above treeline. Be yourself and tell the truth!

#3) In spite of number 2, be more generous than you want to be! Do things just because they make your honey happy, even if they sort of make you crazy. (Note the multitude of hikes mentioned above.) The thing is, though, its important not to pretend that you love what he loves. Be honest and be clear, and then do some things you don’t like to to do.

#4) After you do those things you don’t really like doing, forget about them.  This is vital.  You can’t go on the hike and then complain for two weeks that you did it. (OK, you CAN complain all you want, just not to your spouse. This is why God gave you friends and siblings, right?)

#5) Be romantic.  And I don’t mean the whole candles/champagne/flowers thing.  That is just plain trite.  Be honestly romantic, by thinking of those little things that will please your love.

Here is a perfect example of a romantic gesture. I think it explains why I stay married to my friend Paul.

I have had a rough couple of weeks, for various reasons. Just feeling sort of blue, sort of stressed, sort of fragile. Paul knows that.  On Friday I was at school, and I got a text. It was from my hubby.  “I just bought some strawberry plants, and I got fresh asparagus.”

Now you should know two things about my husband.  The first is that he loves fresh strawberries with a passion that defies description.  Last year he built a raised bed and filled it with strawberry plants. He was in Heaven all summer, picking and eating that luscious fresh fruit.  This year he decided to expand his bed and double the crop.

The second thing that you need to know is that Paul absolutely loathes asparagus. He hates the taste, the smell, the texture of it. He would never, ever, ever spend a nickel on this veggie for himself.

But I love it, especially when it is fresh and local.  Especially in spring.

And so my honey scooped up a lovely fresh bunch of asparagus, just for me.  And then he took the time to send me a text about it.

THAT, my friends, is romance. It isn’t jewelry or roses or a trip to some exotic locale.  Romance is when a nice man is running an errand, and something little makes him think of you. Romance is when a guy buys his wife some fresh asparagus, knowing that it will make her smile.  Knowing that he will have to light some scented candles after dinner to cover up the smell.

So this is what I wish for my children: I wish you someone who loves you so much that he will buy you something that he can’t stand, just so that he can see you smile.

Wild and Crazy

Huzzah! What a wild life!

What a wild life!

There was a time in our lives when Paul and I were pretty wild and crazy.

I remember when we were in our early 20’s, newly married, and living just outside of Boston.  Weekend nights started at 10 pm, included visits to a couple of clubs to hear local punk bands and ended at dawn.  Sometimes we were on the “guest list” and got to drink and dance for free at Boston’s finest grunge bars.

Ah, those were the days.

I remember when we were in grad school, in the early 80’s, and we’d drive to the beach at the drop of a hat, or pack 5 people into a Chevette and drive from New Jersey to Florida for spring break.  We drove all night, under the light of a full moon, and sang out loud to every song on the radio.

Then life changed. Kids came on the scene, and our idea of “wild and crazy” was going out for ice cream on a week night.  The peepers came out, we hopped in the car, and everyone got a cone.  Woohooo!!!

Now that the kids have all grown up and moved away, it is suddenly clear to me that we never, ever, ever do anything that could even remotely be considered “wild” or “crazy”.  We have our routines, we stay close to home, we are in bed early.

We are, in a word, that awful, boring old couple that you always swore to yourself you would never become.

We are Ward and June Cleaver.

Oh my God.

Next week is April school vacation.  We don’t have plans to fly to Barbados.  We are not taking a cruise.  We didn’t make ourselves a reservation at a B&B on the Vineyard.

Nope. Not us.

I have a physical scheduled, and the dog needs to go to the vet. One day will be taken up with installing our new pellet stove, and I plan to clean some closets.


So the other day, I came to a drastic conclusion.  I find myself standing on the brink of the abyss.  If I take one more step, I will fall into the pit of inescapable boring monotony.  The time to act is now!

I MUST reclaim my risk taking, living-on-the-edge, grab-life-by-the-balls old self!  I MUST find a way to reignite my inner wild woman.

I will get out there and live big and bold!  I will!

So next Monday, no matter what, I am going to set my alarm for 3:30 AM, shake my hubby awake, grab a coffee to go, and drive to Lexington Mass, where we will watch a reenactment of the Battle of Lexington Green.

It doesn’t get much wilder than that!

Not at our age.

Pendulum Swings.


I can’t keep up with the pendulum swings.  I really can’t.

When I started teaching, the “latest ideas” and “best practices” told us that we had to group kids in mixed level groupings at all times.  The education gurus of the day (in the 1980’s) shuddered at the memory of those backward teachers of the 60’s and 70’s who grouped kids into homogenous groups, based on skill levels.  Those terrible, stifling, demoralizing leveled groups were soundly and logically and carefully denounced.  We turned our backs on them with pleasure!

Now, of course, the “latest ideas” and “best practices” of education, brought to us by the latest batch of newly hatched gurus, tell us to carefully measure each child’s skill level in each academic area, and to group them accordingly. In leveled groups.  Just like the ones we were told were “stifling and demoralizing”.  Huh.

Yup.  Today’s gurus are denouncing the gurus of 35 years ago. The pendulum has swung back.  Education is right where it was in 1967.

You gotta love progress.

And I was thinking about how the old pendulum has also swung back in the area of politics and social awareness, too.

I mean, when I was in my 20’s, way, way, way back in the 1970’s, most progressive young couples refused to get married. That was the hip, liberal, nonconformist thing to do.  The conservatives of the day were constantly extolling the virtues of legal marriage.  Marriage, they said, would save society and would end all of these “sinful” couples who lived together without the legal sanction of marriage. Everyone must get married, they declared, everyone!!!

Soooooo, compare this with today. Today, conservatives are all about “civil unions”, which back in my day meant “living in sin, you damn hussy”. Conservatives now want to stop people from getting married.

Pendulum swings.

And I remember back to the 60’s and early 70’s, when so many lefty young people were marching in the streets, demanding changes to the government’s policies of war in Southeast Asia.  It was the liberal, progressive, lefty young people back at that time who proclaimed that it was a patriotic act to oppose an undemocratic, tyrannical central government.

Back then it was the staunch conservatives who answered those anti-government actions with the sweeping statement, “If you don’t like the US, get out!”  And they were adamant in saying that anyone who posed any threat to the US government was a “commie”, a “traitor” and should be either jailed or packed off to Cuba.

Ah, yes. I remember it well.

So where are we now?

Now it is the conservative, right wing factions who are claiming that they absolutely have the right, the duty, the obligation to own the biggest, baddest weapons that they can find.  Why?  To oppose an undemocratic, tyrannical central government, that’s why. Its now a good thing, a conservative idea, to plan on shooting up any government agent who comes to your door.

Talk about a pendulum swing.

The whole damn thing is making me dizzy.

Why I will never be thin. Ever.

I am a pretty healthy eater, over all.

I love my fruits and veggies.  I only buy locally raised, organic meats and eggs.   I love whole grains.

It’s just that I am struggling to keep my mood upbeat, you know? Life can be stressful, and its easy to feel overwhelmed.  Sometimes the combined pressures of home and work make me feel as if my life is careening out of control.  I feel like I am just buffeted by the winds of the world, and that I bounce back and forth between demands on all sides.

And when I feel like that, I find that I can’t sleep.  I am awake for hours, worrying about all the things that are happening without any input from me. My heart thumps, my mouth goes dry, and I lie awake as rigid as a board.

And when I get up in the morning, after a night of worrying about everything from a nuclear Iran to the new math standards, I find that I am irritable and short tempered the whole next day.  I snap at poor Paul, I yell at the news, I grumble at the dogs. If I’m at school, I am snippy with the kids.

This is not good.  Not at all.   So what’s a cranky, middle aged lady to do?

Today I tried the usual mood lifters.  I went on the elliptical for a half hour.      Ended up crabby and sore.

I soaked in the hot tub. Now I was crabby, sore and hot.

I took a long walk with the dogs and Paul out in the back woods, in the fresh spring air.  You guessed it, crabby, sore, hot and covered in pine needles.

I don’t want to turn to a glass of wine; that is a slippery slope that I’d rather avoid! When it comes to altering moods, a drink feels like a very bad idea.

So what could I do?  I had no choice.  It was noon on Sunday, with a very busy, very stressful week looming ahead.

I did what any crabby old Italian lady would do.

I baked.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake.I will NEVER be thin.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake.
I will NEVER be thin.


This is why I will never be thin.  But at least when it cools,  I might be more cheerful!

Internal debate


If I was a natural optimist, I would never have started this blog.

I mean, this whole writing exercise was the suggestion of a therapist, who probably just wanted me to stop whining and taking up valuable couch space.

I’m Italian.  I’m a Pisces.  Drama is my middle name. I gripe, therefore I am.

Lately, though, I have been trying hard to look on the bright side of things. I’ve been trying not to cry and moan and complain so often.  I smile so much at school that my cheek muscles get sore (oops! That was a complaint, huh? See how hard this is for me?) I work very hard to see all points of view and to empathize with everyone around me.  I try to speak positively and look at the future with hope and pleasure.

But you know what?   It’s March and we’re in the middle of yet another whopping snowstorm.  More shoveling, more slush, more wet-dog-smell.  I’m trying to be positive here, but its damn near impossible at this point!

I am supposed to be picking up my baby boy for Spring break today!!!!   I took the school day off, and left elaborate lesson plans all neatly queued up on my desk!

And now its a snow day.  I can’t hit the road to head west until the plows come by, and I wasted three hours of writing, organizing and copying things for my sub.  And, to add insult to injury, I have to make the day up.  In June.


I’m trying to be upbeat.  I am!

But I am turning into one of those cartoon characters with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. You know the ones I mean, right?  The angel whispers positive messages in the right ear, but the devil whispers bad stuff in the left?   Yep.  That’s what’s happening in my tiny brain today.  Snow is pretty-angel.  Snow sucks-devil.

Kind of sounds like this:

Look how the snow coats the trees like lovely whipped cream!

Look how the snow is breaking the branches. The yard is gonna be a mess in April.

The snow flakes look so peaceful, falling gently.

I am so bleepin sick of feeling like I live in a snow globe!  Its making me dizzy.

We can go snow shoeing!

I want to go swimming!

We can sit by the fire tonight.

All this smoke is giving me asthma.

There has been so much snow this winter; the plants will really thrive with all this moisture!

There has been so much snow this winter; we’re going to be eaten alive by mosquitos!

Gosh, how nice to have a snow day! I can catch up on some housecleaning chores.(Angels always things like ‘gosh’ and ‘golly’. Makes me want to slap them.)

Damn, another snow day! We’ll be in school ’til freakin’ July! (Devils are of course, potty mouths. I can relate.)

And on and on it goes. I want to be positive, but I also want to be a size 8 blonde, walking on a beach on Oahu. Some things are not meant to be.

Damn!  That’s a lot of freakin’ whipped cream.