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via Daily Prompt: Shine

I awoke this morning to see the sun rising over the soft gray hills that surround my log cabin home in central PA. Downstairs I could hear rustling as my husband  opened and closed the wood stove that heats our home. A light aroma of smoked wood filled the air. The sky was lit with pinks, and purples and literally glowed. I stretched and after stepping into slippers I slowly plodded down the stairs to the kitchen where I joined my husband.  The coffee was on. The day was on.

I listened to the morning jabber of news programs. The latest the fallout over Meryl Streep’s speech  at the Golden Globes. I listened as people weighed in as to whether they supported her or not. It became clear that her words were lost on most that supported Donald Trump. Criticism of our president should be something we are used to.  We have had eight years of nothing but criticism of Barack Obama . But this was different. I think this hit many in the gut.  The criticism never mentioned Trump by name.  Clearly everyone knew who she was referring to. She was specific.  She spoke fact.  She spoke from her heart.  She reminded us all just who “we” elected to be our next President of the United States.  I was reminded of how I felt the morning after the election.  I awoke to the sun rising and my first thought on that day was…”Oh a new day!”..and then remembering as though remembering a nightmare or great pain my next thought was…”Oh Donald Trump is going to be our next president.”

So here after many weeks have passed since the election I again awoke.  I breathed in the new day. I heard Meryl’s speech. I was reminded of my own visceral reaction to Trump’s election.  Her words reminded me that  words and behavior have consequences.  What bothered me so about the election of Trump was that many people seemed to give Trump a free ride on his behavior and actions.  But last night a very respected and admired individual spoke up. She held him up to his words and actions.  She reminded us who “we” elected. Her words put a crack in Trump’s armor. Her words let the light shine through. Like the emperor who wore no clothes, last night Streep undressed Trump for all the world to see.

So here I start again.  I haven’t blogged in ages.  But today, I am inspired to use my words and begin again.  Words do matter. Thank you Meryl Streep. It is a new day.


New Beginnings

So many thoughts come to mind. Daring to try something new. Daring to leave your home and home state. Daring to leave your house when you know no one. Daring to find new places to love. Daring to be different. Daring to create new routines. Daring to trust that even though you have moved farther away from your friends and family, you will keep in touch. Daring to make new friends.
Opposite is also true. Being fearful that even though you have made the leap, it won’t work out. The fear is that your mind has been in the loving hands of routine and normalcy. Those hands have massaged and nurtured the outlook to which your world is witnessed. While no place is perfect, routine and normalcy have left a rose colored image in the back of your mind. As you open the door to a new day and a new world your fear is it will never match up to that other place.
It’s what most of us do. We grow up in a place. We leave to go to school. We leave to get a job. We can’t always live where we would like. For some this process is painful. For some it’s downright excruciating. Some run back. Some need to stay where it was always safe. But sometimes that safe place isn’t the same. The place where it all seemed so easy and normal has changed. The world moves you forward.
So you leap. And while in the air you begin to notice. A beautiful sunset out your new back door takes your breath away. A shopkeeper in town has your taste and her goods are pretty affordable. There is a little coffee shop that makes the best sandwiches and soups. There is a little college nearby and they have a pretty good soccer team. Everyone you meet seems pretty welcoming. Your neighbors have made a point of welcoming you. And soon, the routines begin. The gym is found. The walking place. You find your church, your community library, your farmers market. It begins…and slowly even though really you weren’t feeling brave or daring at all, the new place, the new routine begins to massage that mind. It becomes home.

The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

                A household of children.  Seven to be exact.  No alarm clock is needed to start the day.  Jack will be the first out the door.  He got in about 11 pm last night after a late “case”; an emergency appendectomy.  He has his routines down.  A cup of coffee, cream no sugar.  A soft-boiled egg and slice of toast.  The buzz of the electric shaver signals he is about to embark on his day.  A kiss goodbye.

                Next up bacon begins to sizzle in the fry pan.  Steve, Rob and Jon arrive on cue, sitting watching television while their breakfast finishes.  Abby last to come down the stairs, yawns.  It is not her thing, mornings.  Breakfast finished, the boys walk out the door and on to school.  No bus is needed.  It is less than a mile to school.  Abby waits for her friend Tina. Soon there is a knock on the door.  They exchange a few words and set forth on their walk to school.  No lunches needed to be made today, everyone gets hot lunch.

                Martha comes down the stairs.  “Have you had your breakfast Polly?” she asks.  “No mother. I thought I’d wait for you.”  They sit over coffee and the last of the mornings French Toast.  The clock ticks.  Just then the door bell rings.  Helen.

                “Well good morning Helen.”  “Morning Polly.  Here’s the paper.” The morning ritual.  Helen lived next door and got the morning paper.  She was always up early.  After finishing it, she brought it to us.  We got the evening paper and it was hers the next day.   It was a morning exchange that had taken place for the last 5 years since Helen retired from school nursing.  “Everyone out the door no problems today?” she asked.  “No problems.”

                This was the routine.  This was always the routine.  The older boys Jack Jr, Rolf, Jay were off to college and beyond now.  A similar routine took place when they were younger.  The clock ticks.

                The house is different.  Not the old colonial I remember.  I look down.  A dish in my hands.  I wash it, dry it and try to remember where it goes.  The cabinets don’t look familiar.  I’ll leave it on the counter.  I feel tired.  “Where is Mother”, I wonder.  So quiet.  I open the door.  A beautiful day.  The birds are chirping.  I can hear the ocean crashing in the background.  What to do with this day?  Who will I see?  Will I remember them? I go sit on the couch.  The clock ticks. The day is endless.

                The snow starts at 7 am today.  Lauren is off from work.  She works at the College.  She is recovering from a case of the flu.  Bob is up first.  He brings me my coffee this morning as he does every morning.  I turn to my side.  Mornings are not my thing.  We turn on the television.  We watch the weather, channel 3.  Then, we turn on Morning Joe, MSNBC. Bob is first in the shower, dresses and with a kiss goodbye is out the door.  I hear the chime of the Grandfather clock downstairs.  I am home today.  My routines are becoming more related to home than work.  I am a nurse.  Within the last year I have gone per diem. This means I go in when I am needed, if I choose to go in.  Things were different when my 3 girls were small. I stayed home with them.  A day was filled with what to do based on what they needed doing:  Transport to a friend’s house.  A trip to the library to get books or to start on a paper for school (this was before computers in the home).  A snow day meant sleep overs with friends or the friends came to our house.  Winter brought sledding, and occasional ice skating on the pond in town.  The clock ticks.

I pour my morning coffee.  I make my bed. I listen as snow plows make their way down the street.  I take my morning shower.  I sit with my I Pad and “converse” with old friends and new friends.  I called my daughter Sarah, and left a message to be sure she stays safe on the roads today.  She doesn’t live far, but she gets involved in her life and it is morning.  Mornings are not her thing.  Lindsay lives on the island of Nantucket.    I face book texted her to find out how much snow she got out there this past weekend.  She is busy as her good friend just got back from vacation.  The clock ticks.

Lauren awakes and looks pale.  I feel her forehead.  Fever seems down.  “How about French toast?”  I ask.  “Sounds good to me”, she says.  I whisk together eggs, pumpkin spice blend and cardamom with a dash of almond milk.  While the whole wheat bread “toasts” on the old cast iron skillet, I slice strawberries, and place a handful of raspberries over the top of the now finished dish.  A sprinkling of white powdered sugar.  Everything is placed on a tray, with some strawberry yogurt and warmed maple syrup.  A mug of Hazelnut coffee, fresh from a Keurig  finishes the breakfast.  “How’s that?” I ask.  “Good Mama”, she says.  “Thank you!”  I finish the dishes in the sink.  I look out the window to see the snow coming down harder now.

The weatherman didn’t make the storm out to be much of anything today.  Yet a car had to stop from turning down our road, not five minutes ago.  I think the plow drivers are tired of plowing the snow.  This is the 7th or 8th snowfall in about 4 or 5 weeks.  At least 2 feet of snow sits on the front lawn and much of the same on our roof.  The gutters on this old 1805 colonial are pulling away from the house.

Lauren sits watching television.  I sit writing my blog.  And the clock ticks…

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!