They Aren’t Bad Men, Just Bought Men

We have a little fishing camp cottage in Harrisville, NH.  The year we bought it (2001), Granny D, Doris Haddock had been on Good Morning America talking to Charlie Gibson.  I was in awe of this woman, who at the age of 90 decided to walk across America to raise awareness and rally citizens to reform campaign finance laws.  In the interview she proudly stated that she lived in NH.  I couldn’t recall where at the time, but I did remember she was from New Hampshire.  Later that summer we bought the cottage and after our initial two week vacation began traveling there every chance we could, but mostly on weekends.

Little by little we began exploring our town- an old mill town- very picturesque with several ponds and lakes, a general store, church and little library at its center.  The closest large grocery store was in Peterborough, NH.  So we frequently traveled into Dublin, NH on the way to Peterborough.  On the first trip through Dublin, just down the street from our cottage, I noticed a van parked in front of a home.  On it was painted Go Granny Go with a Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do IT” motto also painted on the side complete with Norman Rockwell’s image of Rosie.  I looked at my husband and my kids.  “That’s Granny D’s van!” I exclaimed.  “Who is Granny D?” they all wanted to know. I told them her story.  Subsequent to having seen her on Good Morning America, I had read her book, Walking Across America in My 90th Year. I loved her book, and once I learned that she lived down the road from us I became Granny D obsessed.

Every time we drove by her house I would be looking to catch a glimpse of her.  “Stop,’ my kids would yell, ‘You’re becoming a Granny D stalker!” I know, right.  Only I would stalk a 91 year old! But read her book! You will understand.  It makes you laugh, it makes you cry and you will fall in love with this lovely, lovely lady!

Anyway, there I was several years later at our cottage.  I was in the kitchen making blueberry pancakes.  The coffee was perking.  The lake was lovely that morning with a light mist or fog seeming to float above it.  Not a cloud in the sky.  “Hey Ab!” my husband called.  “What?” I asked. “Get over here and look!” he said.  I expected to see a bald eagle or maybe even a moose, he sounded so excited.  Looking in front of our cottage, walking down the road was this little old lady with her characteristic and famous wide brimmed sun-hat.  “Oh my God!” I said.  “Is it her?” he asked.  “It’s her!  It’s Granny D.  What should I do?”  I asked.  “Well, you could start by saying hello. Ask her in for a cup of coffee!” he said.

I opened the screen door yelling “Excuse me! Granny D, please wait!”  Now I have to say, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she bolted in the opposite direction.  Instead she found our neighbor’s bench to sit on and did indeed wait.  I came upon her extolling, “I saw you on Good Morning America. I loved your book!” How stupid did I sound?  Her only response was, “Well I’ve been admiring your bench here for many years.  It is a lovely spot.”  “Oh,’ I said. ‘It’s my neighbor’s bench.  Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?” “I don’t drink coffee,” she said.  “Well, how about tea?” I asked.  “I would,’ she said. ‘But I have to get back to my house.  You see I am running for Senate.  I have bricks in my back pack and I am training for another walk…to Canada this time to raise money for my campaign.  There is a man from the New Yorker coming to interview me today.  I have to get back to brush up on issues.  You know I have been a kind of one issue woman for many years now and I can’t run for Senate unless I know where I stand on a wealth of issues.  I don’t know if you know the incumbent Senator.  He’s not a bad man.  But, he is a bought man.  That is the trouble with our government.  We need to elect people who do the will of the people, not corporations!” I just stood there in awe…listening to her gentle New Hampshire twang, which sounded almost British.  “If you’re sure you won’t come in for tea!” I said.  “I would love to on another day,” she said.  “Can I give you a ride to your house?” I asked.  “No, thank you.  I am in training as I said.  It is a lovely day.  Hope to see you again one day.  That is your house there?” she asked. “Yes,” I said.  “It’s a happy house.  I can tell by the way you decorate it. Well, I am off.” And with that she stood and was on her way.  I think I just stood staring at her as she left.  My hero!

I came back inside that day thinking…I am going to remember this as one of the greatest days of my life. The day I met Granny D.  Well, you know the story.  Campaign finance reform was passed- it was known as the McCain-Feingold Act.  Years later a very important part of it would be overturned by the Supreme Court.  Wandering along Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire one very cold and raw November day, I heard a familiar voice.  It was Granny D speaking on the Green, in the gazebo.  She had a microphone.  It was the kind of day that would make any teenager shiver, yet there she was standing there giving a speech.  The speech wasn’t publicized that I know of, she may have mentioned it on her website.  I listened.  She was encouraging young people to get involved with their communities and with their government.  “Do something!” She said.  She sounded a little out of breath.  She apologized as she explained she was recovering from a throat operation.  95 years old.  Recently operated on.  Standing in the center of Keene, NH on a brutally cold day.  Offering inspiration to a growing crowd.  Well…I thought.  Maybe this was one of the greatest days of my life. Not to just hear of it.  But to hear it.  Her voice.  Her voice rising above the whoosh of passing cars.  Her breath rising in vapor from her lips.  Go Granny go!

Granny D passed from this life March 9, 2010 at the age of 100. But her life continues to be an inspiration to many and in an era when the air waves are filled with accusations of corruption in politics I think I can hear her.  “He isn’t a bad man.  But he is a bought man.”  Granny D we need you still!

Lunch at Lasalle

Lunch at Lasalle

Snow falls softly and is encouraged by a gentle but bone chilling breeze. Inside I sit in this warm bright restaurant, market and gathering place. The sweet spicy tang of balsamic vinaigrette awakens my senses while I finish my last bite of flank steak salad with baby spinach, pears, tart strawberries and walnuts. Lasalle Market in Collinsville, CT is the place I most want to be on this day, at this time, of this month, in this weather. I feel so fortunate to be able to spend an hour here at lunchtime. When I moved to Canton, CT (Collinsville is in the southeast corner of the Town of Canton) just over 7 years ago and discovered Lasalle Market I pictured setting up a computer on a snowy day and writing in just this spot.

About the size of and with the feel of a Vermont or NH General Store, Lasalle beckons us all. – Today it has beckoned a gray-haired man and woman couple; a pair of smartly dressed women discussing a possible job opportunity (I only say that as one took notes on the other’s responses while sharing a portfolio); a plaid shirted college student studying for a test…no, no…a serious appearing young teacher correcting papers. Lasalle beckons with its four palatial glass windows overlooking quaint shops and the wine bar restaurant across the street. If you look down the street you will see the Collinsville Axe Factory building now home to an antiques market. The Crown and Hammer Pub sits before it nestled inside an old train depot. If you look across the way you will see a small part of the Farmington Rails to Trails bike and walking trail…just a few steps from the old walking bridge which crosses the Farmington River.

Most importantly Lasalle beckons me. One day last year I set out to go to work on a particularly snowy day only to find the roads really impassable. I have nearly an hour commute to the pediatric office where I work and I wasn’t too far from Lasalle when I realized I better get off the roads for a time before I got stuck or had an accident with my car. Lasalle welcomed me with open arms. Sipping my hazelnut coffee and snacking on a whole grain bagel I took a deep breath. Ah..I thought, I have to do this on a day I don’t have to be anywhere else. I pictured little children all bundled up trudging in all red-faced from a cold afternoon of sledding- the buckles on their boots throwing caution to the wind while their hands rested firmly in their mothers grasp. No place like Lasalle for a cup of hot chocolate before going back out for another ride down a snowy hill.

The blackboard behind the counter is where the menu is written. Alongside the counter is a refrigerated display case with an assortment of salads, Quiche and delectable desserts. I have been on an “eat mostly healthy” diet for over a year. Desserts are not on the diet. But there is a slice of pecan pie in there that beckons me…Let me think it over.

A young college student brought her own lunch to Lasalle- purchasing just a Snapple Ice Tea to drink. She sits reading. No one here minds that she brought her own food. Lasalle is the perfect college dorm lounge. No one minds that I have been here for an hour now sipping my tea and typing away on my computer. Lasalle is the perfect place to people watch and write. I want to work in Collinsville so that I can have lunch every day at Lasalle. I don’t think this is too much to ask?

Talking voices mingle with laughter- a shout of an order to the cook- today a pop station plays on the radio while I keep my eye on the now blowing snow. Roads beginning to become snow-covered. I realize my perfect day, at my perfect place is coming to a close. But I have grocery shopping to do, and a few miles to go before I sit watching the storm by a brightly lit wood fire, inside my four walls, my sanctuary at home in Canton, CT.

Down Town Abby

Today was an unusual Saturday morning. Instead of watching endless news programs first thing in the morning I cajoled my husband into watching 2014 episode 2 of Downton Abbey, which I had saved on DVR. Every so often he would interrupt the show, with questions. “Didn’t the head of the household get killed in a car accident last year? Whats that Mary so glum about? Are the regals playing cards with a member of the staff?” Of course I filled him in. As I write this I can’t quite get the language out of my head. I think he has the same issue. When I asked, “What shall we do today?” His answer was, “Well, begin it with a proper breakfast of course…in the dining room. I’ll alert the staff.” My answer was, “Oh right…and afterward a brisk walk in the fields followed by tea by the fire!”

Truth be known, I rather picture myself more as a member of the household staff. I throw dinner parties a little like Mrs. Patmore- the head of the kitchen staff. She had an anxiety attack on the last episode. That would be me. I have great ideas- I love decorating for company- but when it comes down to it I get all flustered when guests arrive just when I have to get it all together. I need a Daisy to keep me controlled and calm me down. After every dinner party I swear I will never entertain again! Until, of course I get another great idea and do it all over again!

A few years back my husband and I visited Newport Rhode Island. If you haven’t been- do sign up for a tour of the mansions. Even there, as soon as I walked into the kitchens I instantly felt at home. I rather hated the cold austere feel the grand rooms evoked. But the kitchen….! Ah…! Homey feel right away. Well worn countertops. Huge black sinks made of soapstone- dinged and scratched. A large wooden work table at the center- I couldn’t help picturing sticky bread dough being kneaded and imagine the sweet aroma as it is baked in the oven. I could hear the clanking of pots and pans- the scurry of feet as cooks work quickly to get food put on dumb-waiters so that servants in the upper floors could serve the wealthy aristocrats sitting about an elegantly long dining room table complete with fresh flowers, only the best porcelain, silver and crystal.

In my Down Town Abby, my kitchen staff are a close-knit bunch. They care deeply for one another and take care of each other like family! The young aristocrats think of them as family as well. There would always be a place at the center of that kitchen for a wee tot to sit and listen to stories- while enjoying a warm slice of bread or perhaps a slice of cake. When feelings were hurt or injustices done, my kitchen would be where the young aristocrats came to have their voice heard. Upstairs children are seen but not heard. Down in my kitchen they not only are heard, but understood. My version of Mrs. Patmore is a little like the maid Martha in the children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden. She takes the little aristocrats under her wing and encourages them to get out into fresh air and work hard, while always teaching respect and kindness.

There is a reason Downton Abbey is so popular! All the drama! My Down Town Abby is rather a little too benign. I need to work on squeezing in a little more shock value! Perhaps Abby (head of the kitchen)develops pneumonia and in her place (while she recuperates of course), an evil one becomes head of the kitchen. Someone a little like Edna Braithwaite, the evil ex-servant that reemerged in this season’s Downton Abbey. Ah crumpets! Even my re-write is taking characters out of the original series.

Well, the day is a-wasting. Time for my brisk walk and afterward tea, by the fire.

Give Me Patience

I recently returned to the gym after a 3 month hiatus.  I loved finally being able to get moving after two months of cold weather, keeping  me hibernating and of course post holiday craziness  ( including all the decadent food indulgences).   My gym has a happy vibe: there are many skylights and enormous plate-glass windows making it sunny even on cold overcast days. People of all ages come to the gym.  Little ones have pool classes- teens accompany parents in working out- older adults see trainers and have group fit classes.  There are yoga classes, Zumba classes, weight training classes- in short something for everyone.  I really love going to my gym, can you tell?

So there I was on day 3 of my return.  My routine is generally to start on the elliptical machine, followed by the weight circuit and some individual weights (concentrate on those abs) and finish with a half hour of treadmill.  Sometimes I actually get into a zone where I can forget I am working out and feeling great get into a magazine or the latest show on the televisions at the gym.  The chosen point to stress is “feeling great”.  I can’t read or watch television while working out unless I have gotten into the zone.  Otherwise I am absorbed with the idea of how much longer do I have till I can get off this thing.  So, when I actually get into the zone and find I am reading or enjoying a show while working out, it is a great thing for me. 

So while on the treadmill feeling great, getting near my half hour completion but still within my time- Oh, forgot to mention that the gym puts a 30 minute time limit on any of the machines so no one hogs them and they make you sign the one you are on out- I was approached by a woman.  Looking ahead at the magazine I was reading, I heard, “Excuse me, how much longer do you intend to be?”  I honestly felt a little jolted out of my zone.  I looked down at this very well coiffed late 50 or so aged woman with a book tucked under her arm that had come right next to me and was now looking up at me.  I did a double take.  “What?”, I said, in a confused voice.  “You signed up till 2:30′, she said, ‘How much longer will you be?”  I looked at the clock- I still had 2 minutes on the clock.  I looked around- there were at least 4 other treadmills unoccupied near by.  My zone gone- my good mood rapidly deteriorating I spit out, “There are no other treadmills you can use?”  She replied, “This is the only treadmill I can read on and you are nearly at your time limit.”  I responded- slightly out of breath,” I just can’t hop off- I need to cool down.”  She looked at her watch…”Well, you have 2 minutes.”  I pushed the cool down on the machine.  I stepped off the machine.  I looked at her.  “Maam’, I said, ‘you are more than welcome to this machine, but I have to tell you I would never sign up to a machine I saw someone else currently on- I would pick another machine.”  Her look became indignant.  “You know the rules, if you have a problem would you like me to get an attendant?”, she said as she made a motion to go toward the front of the gym.  “No,’ I said, ‘you are welcome to the machine but I have to say there is something to be said regarding rudeness!” She gave me a blank look. 

ok. So I was in my zone and maybe her question was justified.  Maybe she had someplace else she had to be and this was the only machine she felt she could work out on with her time limit.  Maybe I looked like I was in no way getting ready to leave my machine.  Maybe I need a little more yoga- so that I could just smile in the future- enter my Zen place and not be shocked when confronted by confrontational people.  I think I will work on this!

Bailey Thinks She Is Human

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 She has long shiny black hair and dark dreamy eyes.  She prides herself on knowing just when you need a hug or when it is appropriate to put her head in your lap.  She speaks to you not by barking but by long drawn out phrases which sound a little like “arrah….whew.” When you ask her a yes or no question she will grab a toy if the answer is yes, right after she responds with, “Awhew!”  She has taken to sleeping in the various beds in the house.  When she does, she drags down the covers and rests her head on the pillows.  She has recently gotten into some bad habits.  She has a love of fresh-baked bread.  We know we can’t leave anything edible on the counter when we are out of the house as it will be gone when we return.  She even managed to lick the butter off of the butter dish on the kitchen counter at the same time she ate the bread thereby buttering her bread. 

She is a Gordon Setter on paper and yes, she does do doggy things.  She is expert at hunting for birds or squirrels in the yard.  Her job is to point them out.  She gladly will go “hunting” any time you would like her to but rarely on her own, as she looks to please her master! She is just as content sleeping on a chair in a warm spot in front of a sunny window, a cheerful fire or the bed you just warmed for her. 

Bailey prefers humans to canines.  This fact has ruined her reputation at the doggy daycare.  Once revered as the dog with the best doggy manners, when as a pup she stayed while we worked.  As an adult she now stays home unless we are on vacation.  The doggy daycare will not keep her any more unless we put her on doggy Zoloft.  “She begins to whine about one in the afternoon’- states the doggy daycare owner. ‘ It is driving us all crazy.”  This bothered me terribly, until I understood that Bailey had crossed over from canine to human. While initially Bailey enjoyed being with canine friends- she now longs to be with her kind..the human variety.  I doubt other canines understand “awhew”.  Needless to say- we now make other arrangements for her at home if we must be away. 

I think it would be a great idea to have owners of dogs list why they love their particular pets- in a blog perhaps- rather than some textbook of doggy traits.  You know what I mean.  If I looked up Gordon Setter I am sure it would say something about them being highly energetic- needing lots of space to run- and tolerating the affection of other people but being very attached to owners and family members.  While all of that is true- it doesn’t tell you that sleeping comes just as easily as the running.  Or the fact that once they are in your life, you can’t imagine life without them.  That when my husband and I go on vacation without her, we spend just as much time missing her as our grown children.  (Oops- probably shouldn’t have said that). Meaning really that in our hearts she isn’t just a dog or a pet, she is family. While Bailey thinks she is human, we in turn more and more think of her as such.  

Well, that is my post for the day.  I look over at Bailey.
She is sleeping in “her chair”.  The one with the cover pulled down. 

 

A Dark and Stormy Night

Midwinter in CT.  That’s where I am at this moment.  Physically that is where I am and mentally that is where I am.  What does that mean exactly?  Well…we just finished an arctic blast followed by above normal temperatures bringing with it freezing rain and flooding.  The weather in CT this winter is like someone with bipolar disorder. Mentally I am feeling a little bipolar myself.  This is the time of year when I hibernate.  I hate cold weather more than anything in this world.  I don’t ski.  I don’t ice skate.  The idea of winter to me is something to endure..  and yet… I love to sit inside next to a fire reading a great book.  Who doesn’t love baking something amazing on a frigid day and eating it or serving it with  a hot cup of tea. Life slows down in the winter…in CT.  I am a gardener, and while I am sure Martha Stewart can find plenty of gardening to do in the winter, I enjoy the fact that this time of year I do not have to weed, prune nor kill driveway vegetation.  Winter pace provides more time to visit with friends and family.  Winter provides more time for hobbies such as starting a blog!

So you see….I am bipolar! I guess I have a love, hate relationship with winter.