Featured Post

The Autumnal Equinox

                                           Last rose petals linger....                                                               ...

Friday, September 30, 2011

In Perpetuity



Over the summer, I decided I would undertake the project of computerizing everything I could from my file labeled “Family Heritage.” Over the past 35 years, I have thrown all sorts of pieces of history into this benign, manila folder. I added obituaries, hand-sketched family trees. I salvaged notes in my mother’s strong hand, reminiscing about her family life. I have a piece of paper from a yellow attorney’s pad that bears my father’s nearly illegible scrawl detailing advice about marriage and life on the Grand Scale of Time. He talks about a Higher Power. I have glanced through this file infrequently, so each time it seems fresh. However, I have always known precisely where I kept the file through four relocations and three children. I have been drawn to the notion of converging my husband’s family history with mine. I envision a neatly typed family tree that stretches back through centuries. Moreover, I feel an obligation to deliver unto my children a package that tells the story of their pasts. The complicated relationships and emotions that brought people together, tossed them apart, and caused them to cross an ocean to greater opportunity attracted me.
Since my mother’s death, I have collected even more scraps and pages from the past – the award my grandfather received for saving a drowning man, my great-grandfather’s death certificate and a photo of my grandmother’s home-sewn, award-winning travel suit. My decision to join Ancestry.com was first made as a kind of lark. What I never expected was the visceral thrill I experienced when I saw the passenger manifest of my grandmother’s trip to Europe when she was twenty. My husband’s history has been preserved in Volume II of the tome Our Portuguese Heritage. This book does not, under any circumstance, leave Martha’s Vineyard. I was thrilled to find valuable, original documents through the U.S. Census of 1910 documenting his grandmother’s arrival from the Azores. All the Agatha Christie and John Grisham novels are serving me well as I piece together the past. I feel the confidence borne of self-righteousness as I play detective. After all, I am preserving the past for my children and their children with each click and document link to our family tree.
As I have blogged previously, I am frugal. To cut costs on my search through history, I signed up for a two-week trial period as an Ancestry.com member. This allows me full access to international records dating back to the 1600’s. I have two weeks to search birth certificates and travel manifestos and death certificates from New York to Scotland to Germany to New Jersey. If I am unable to complete the work in a timely basis, then I may be forced to convert my membership to a permanent one at the cost of $189.95. I am left to wonder if this drain upon my checking account may well be worth the preservation of my family legacy for all perpetuity. I have another twelve days to decide!
www.ancestry.com
Day 25

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Westbrook Runs

Today was a day to which I dedicated much of my day to learning. I started learning how to create web-based marketing strategies and found that, somehow, I lost three hours. It was 9:45 when I first started out on the odyssey. When I lifted my head up from concentrating on my computer screen, I found the clock across the room said it was 12:48 pm. I pushed my computer glasses down my nose to better engage my distance vision. Still 12:48. Finally, I checked the computer screen. It was now 12:49 pm. I felt like I spent the morning discovering all the things I don’t know. Yet, even with the acute awareness of how much I have to learn, there was the familiar thrill of learning. I enjoyed trying to understand how the things I was absorbing might apply to my work as a writer. It is a profoundly different world technologically than when I published my first article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette in 1980.
I made lunch, threw in a load of laundry and emptied the dishwasher before returning to my laptop. There, I spent two hours cleaning house on my computer so I could be certain I was getting full speed out of it. Suddenly, it was time for the quick run to the post office for mail. Meeting Kevin, the postmaster, is part of my daily ritual. Today, he had two packages for me. I was telling him how the morning’s torrential rain had created wash-outs in my driveway. Part of my road was nearly under water. Just as I said that, a mind-blowing clap of thunder caused us both to jump, then to laugh. Just one boom, and that thundercloud passed over. Heading back uphill to my house, I was amazed how the quiet, lazy, winding brook that usually meanders along Westbrook Road had swelled to flood level and was racing wildly downstream. I stopped to shoot a few pictures before tucking my very wet feet back in the car and going home. As a measure of my small technological gain today, I am proud to have posted my very first You-Tube video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXxaPU8QHTs
Perhaps, I should have oriented the camera horizontally when I was filming, but hey, I am still learning.
Day 24

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dog Tales


I was filing the bill for our dog’s most recent visit to the South Deerfield Veterinary Clinic. My eye was arrested where his name was neatly printed across the top of the bill, Scooter Evans. I have three children and not one of them bears my name, but my dog does? It was an unsettling thought. What is even more unsettling is Scooter’s predilection to eat inedible items. This dog that bears my name has eaten, in entirety,
my $495 progressive lens prescription glasses one week after they arrived from the optometrist. He crunched through pencils like they were pretzels. He chomped on a light bulb, leaving no residue of glass or wire as telltale evidence. He bit through a medicine bottle and ingested pills. He eats whole Kleenex for hors d’oeuvres, leaving trash baskets mysteriously empty. As he has aged, his diet continues to require vigilance.
Recently, Scooter has been feeling under the weather. The vet prescribed antibiotics, an ear ointment, and prednisone. As a result of feeling sluggish and medicated, he has been uncommonly docile. For this reason, I never suspected that he might use his paw to drag my recently removed pain medicine patch from the back ledge of the sink into his mouth. However, that is the only possible way to account for its disappearance. I turned my back for fifteen seconds, and GONE. I was quite concerned about the ramifications of him taking the medicine. I knew from previous experience, the biggest concern was that his heart might slow down too much. I took his heart rate, a happy thumping 84. Next, I got out the activated charcoal antidote the vet gave me last time he consumed medicine not meant for him. I recruited Charles to hold him down, first handing Charles an apron. The charcoal is spectacularly messy and black. The label suggests if an assertive method of downing the medicine didn’t work, to bring the pet to have a stomach tube inserted so the charcoal could go right to the source. I used a turkey baster to try to shoot the 12 mls. of activated charcoal past Scooter’s lips. He wasn’t having any of it. He held it in his mouth until I withdrew the baster, then he shook his head, mouth open, sending lava dark charcoal spatter everywhere. I asked Charles to hold the bowl containing the residue while I wiped up the floor. Charles said, “Mom???” I turned back to look at Charles and Scooter. I knelt beside them in utter disbelief. Scooter was lapping up the charcoal like it was bacon drippings. I raced back to the kitchen to mix another batch so he would have a full dose. He scarfed that up as well. Sated. Scooter laid down to rest. His heart
rate -- a strong 84. I had Googled and found a dog his size should have a resting heart rate of 60 -80 beats per minute.
Two hours later, Scooter seemed fine. It was time for bed. I set my alarm to check him every two hours until dawn. At 1a.m., Scooter’s heart rate was down to 68. At 4a.m., it was 44. I sat with him anxiously. He kept lifting his head and looking at me. I felt like he was trying to figure out why I was bothering him. At 6a.m., his heart was beating at
72 beats per minute. We had weathered that storm.
And here is the embarrassing part. I didn’t learn my lesson. A friend took me to do an errand this morning. The vet had instructed that I leave Scooter inside. I shut all the interior doors to restrict his access to the house, put a gate across the stairs, and did a scan of the rooms in which he could roam. All seemed well. Imagine my surprise to come home two hours later to find the table runner on the dining room table askew and a 9” dried starfish had completely, and utterly, vanished. After my friend and I had conducted a thorough search, we had to draw the conclusion that Scooter might want to experiment further with sushi. Scooter has shown no ill effects of this latest culinary exploration except he may be slightly more thirsty than usual…..
Day 23

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Parlez-vous Francais?

At one time in my life, I was close to fluent in French. I was able to read anything put before me. I could understand 90% of what was said to me. I could respond coherently 75% of the time. This is not braggadocio; it is fact. Today, I realize those skills, honed over twelve years of study through elementary school, high school and college, have sadly atrophied. I am disappointed that I let those abilities lapse. The thought of retooling them is intimidating. However, I am up for a challenge.
I was last in France five years ago. My verbal skills embarrassed me quite frankly. Inexplicably, I could still understand most of what was said to me, however, my responses were, at times, comical to even me. For example, a translation of some well-intended statement might be,
“Will we be attending yesterday’s party if it rains tomorrow?” Oh, if only the earth could swallow me. Trust a Frenchmen to feel the correct prononciation was more important than even content. I was openly tutored in dialogue by children, redressed by verb choice by strangers, and prodded by my French friends to express my thoughts fully – even it meant they had to prompt vocabulary that was locked somewhere in the deepest vault of my mind. Just as in school, my saving grace was my literary ease. I could read newspapers, menus and signage. I just went shocky when I had to call for a cab on my own. Oy! The telephone. If making myself understood in person presented obstacles, the phone was the Great Wall of China in communications.
Part of my overall self-improvement campaign this year involves addressing this weakness. I have a three-pronged solution. First, I have written a friend in France to ask her to send me the title of a popular book that she thinks I might enjoy reading. I will slowly, with dictionary in hand (I actually still use my Larousse French-French Dictionary, maybe it’s time to think of using the online version?.....) begin the laborious task of reigniting the dormant language part of my brain. I will order the title and work my way through.
Second, I perused various French language programs to purchase. I went with the Pinsleur Approach. Intuitively, the way it is taught seems well-adapted to the way I learn. Finally, I am watching ticket prices for France. I would like to go next June. I have an invitation to spend some time outside of Paris as well as at a friend’s summer home several hours south of Paris. That’s the Big Ticket incentive to improve my French. If that fails, there is always Montreal.


If you want to learn, too: http://www.pimsleurapproach.com/

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mother's Connection Cookbook

Once upon a time, when I was a very young mother, my dear friend Elizabeth was editing a community cookbook. She is an accomplished writer and editor and it was only natural that she was recruited for the job. When she had finished the work, she mailed me a copy with a note of encouragement about the many confounding days ahead as a parent. At least, she said, she had got me covered on recipes!
The Mother’s Connection Cookbook has remained front and center on my bookshelf for twenty years. With rare exception (page 32, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread seems to be missing some ingredients), every recipe I have tried, my family has relished. Goop, which a sort of homemade silly putty, was one of the first recipe on which we experimented. The Elmer’s glue makes it less than edible, but it was the first recipes in the Kids ‘N Cooking section that appealed to them. Rainy day fun. Edible Play Dough made from peanut butter, honey and powdered milk is kind of funky to the touch, but really is pretty tasty. That was our second recipe. From there, our taste buds wandered.
This cookbook has provided kugel recipes and brisket galore. I have made Lemon Chicken, Easy Pot Roast and Chicken Divan 1 (I stopped there and never tried Chicken Divan 2). The Mandarin Sesame Chicken Salad is commendable, as is the Autumn Butternut Squash. However, the page that shows the most egg white legs, oil stains and gritty flour residue is page 31. There you will find the Anything Goes Bread. In the book, in my own hand, I renamed it The UBIQUITOUS Anything Goes Bread. It is the most forgiving quick bread recipe I have ever made. You make the basic recipe, but you have 2 ½ cups left to add whatever you want. Pumpkin, squash, pumpkin and squash?
Or maybe yogurt and carrots and raisins and nuts? Cranberries and walnuts? Delish.
Nothing short of your imagination limits you.
In a sweet irony that I wonder if Elizabeth intended, the facing page has a large chart entitled
SUBSTITUTIONS FOR A MISSING INGREDIENT.

1 square chocolate (1 oz.) = 4 TBS coca plus ½ TBS. fat
1 TBS cornstarch = 2 TBS flour for thickening agent
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour = 1 cup flour plus s TBS sifted cake flour
1 cup sweet milk = 1 cup sour milk or buttermilk plus ½ tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream, heavy = 1/3 cup butter plus 2/3 cup milk

The list goes on. There is, as well, a table of equivalencies. One never knows when one might need to know that 2 cups of sugar equals 1 pound, for instance. Or that 7 0z dry pasta equals 4 cups cooked pasta.

In my continued quest to understand life and to bring order out of chaos, I look for answers in tea leaves, road side signs, the Bible, and yes, even cookbooks. What I glean from the wise women of the Mother’s Connection is that there are substitutions and equivalencies that will serve if our plans are not going quite as imagined. Your friend can‘t attend a movie with you? SUBSTITUTION: apple picking with your children.
You can’t drive to the mall? SUBSTITUTION: internet shopping. Your career takes a right turn unexpectedly? SUBSTITUTION: go back to school. I would contend that an EQUIVALENCY for a one hour face to face visit with my daughters might be half an hour on Skyppe. An EQUIVALENCY for a short walk with my husband might be three turns around the field. Not quite the same, but it is somewhere in the same neighborhood.
So, this morning, when I opened the Mother’s Connection Cookbook and started measuring ingredients to make The Ubiquitous Anything Goes Bread, I was grateful for all the book has taught me about life. And today, my 2/12 cups of anything consisted of carrots, apples, craisins and coconut.
Day 21

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Puzzles

I have always loved doing word puzzles. This morning, I spent an hour doing puzzles and testing my brainpower on www.lumosity.com. I expect that I will be unqualifiedly successful at math problems and am constantly surprised when I am not!
Please, put away the suduko. I have read lately that the regular use of the brain in ways that cause it to stretch in new ways is one of the key factors in staving off dementia. The number of online sites that offer free puzzles reflects the growing need for that kind of stimulation. Music lessons, art projects, and blogs are also valuable contributors to sound exercise for the brain.
Since I was very young, I enjoyed putting together picture puzzles. I liked bringing order out of the many irregular pieces. I liked watching a picture emerge from the colors and multi-edged pieces. I always start with the edges. It occurred to me that by the end of the year, when I have written 365 blogs, I will have nothing more than 365 pieces of the puzzle that, together, will begin to define me. The colorful anecdotes, the mundane observations, and the occasional illuminating thoughts that I will have shared are simply pieces of me. As I mull this over, I don’t find it puzzling at all.
Day 21

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Welfare-free

I went to the grocery store yesterday. Most people would not consider this much of an accomplishment, but, lately, my mobility has been more restricted than I would wish. The drive, the cart, the very size of the store each represent something of a challenge to my uncooperative joints. That being said, I was there. I held my list in one hand, my car keys and wallet in the other. As I pushed the cart into the vegetable and fruit aisle, I felt the familiar surge of excitement. What would I find on this expedition? What I found surprised me. As I slowly pushed my way through each aisle, I had conflicting feelings. On one hand, I had a sense of pleasure at seeing all the products neatly stacked and arrayed; on the other hand, I was burdened by an overwhelming fatigue. I was mentally calculating what I could do to shorten my list, thereby shortening my trip. As I turned
into the cookies and crackers aisle, I noticed the entire length was empty except for one elderly woman clinging to her cart. Even at my letting-the-paint-dry pace, I caught up with her. She came up to my shoulder – she must have been less than five feet tall. She needed help reaching something and I offered to reach it. She declined and suggested that I go around her because she is too slow moving. I laughed, and said, “You’re the first person today who has been slower than me! I know how big this store is. Where are your children, anyway?” Of course, I meant why weren’t they helping her. She made me laugh aloud when she responded, “They are all in Hatfield. All nine of them! That’s why I am this way.” Her eyes glazed over for a second while she went somewhere in her distant past. She went on, “There we were, my sister and I, turning over the cold, barren soil looking for potatoes. I sent the kids to pick dropped apples. As soon as they were old enough, off to the fields to pick cukes. We all worked real hard.” Then she followed up with pride in her voice, “Nine kids and never once did I turn to welfare. I kept my kids fed and dressed. No, none of them went very far after that.” As I angled my cart to veer around hers, I touched her shoulder and said “Can I tell you something?” She nodded assent. “It is a real pleasure to meet you. You inspire me with your spirit.” As I left this petite slow-moving doll of a woman, I had no doubt that, with her determination, she would get exactly where she wanted to go.
Day 20

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mama told me there'd be days like these...

All day, I’ve known exactly what I would write. I won’t give it away.
Suffice it to say I made an observation about life that bears comment.
Unfortunately, today was not one of the stellar days that my muse reminded me to sit down at the computer and actually write. I found other ways, less productive ways, of spending my time. As I brushed my teeth in my pre-pre-bed ritual, I realized I had never fired up my MAC and put words to blog (so to speak). The best I can do is plead guilty and acknowledge that Mama told me there’d be days like these.
And surrender. I will do better tomorrow.

Day 19

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"I heard the news today, oh boy...."

I do not make it a habit of watching the evening news. I can find out about the world during the day from NPR, online reports of the New York Times, or early morning tv
news. I find the evening news disagrees with digestion and over-all well-being. Tonight, I made an exception. Here are some of the highlights I took away when filtered through my own, admittedly, biased screen of life experiences.
Chelsea Clinton was interviewing Hilary Clinton on-stage at a Clinton-sponsored forum.
Chelsea’s hard-hitting questions concluded when she took time to reflect that she taught her mother to text and added that her father calls the Internet the World Wide Web. It was a mother-daughter relationship as convoluted as any of the millions of other mother-daughter relationships in the world. Except theirs’ has the benefit of cameras trained on them for a good part of the time.
Bullying continues to be a source of major concern in the U.S.. There is a conference going on to discuss strategies to eradicate bullying. This, while a 14-year old boy killed himself in Buffalo, N.Y. because of incessant bullying because he was gay. Lady Gaga, his idol, has taken the stage repeatedly to bring to bear her belief that we are all due respect just the way we are.
Family dinners are one of the biggest predictors of children staying out of trouble – drugs, teen pregnancy, jail. While family dinners may not be as idyllic as
Leave it to Beaver would have led to believe, there is a magic that they impart that can be reproduced no other way.
I will have to completely leap over the political climate and economy world-wide. That is too very depressing.
There were commercials about medicines to treat erectile dysfunction, depression, and coronary disease. Other commercials touted salves to make women more youthful, cars that would make men more powerful. Delicious, low-calorie foods promised good health and weight loss.
After my thoughtful attention for half an hour, I was left wondering if I have been a good mother and a good parent. Do my children have a chance? What of the many mistakes I have made as a parent? Did I do a good enough job? And incidentally, am I aging prematurely, might I be depressed, am I getting sufficient nutrients?
All in all, it was as I remembered. The Beatles had it right.
"I heard the news today, oh boy…"
Day 18

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scoop on Groupon

Scoop on Groupon
9.21.11
Day 17

My daughters introduced me to the concept of BIG savings offered daily by a seemingly random selection of companies. By definition, that's Groupon. Daily specials lure me. The window to purchase the item is often 48 hours. If I spend ten minutes reflecting, I generally defer until the next day my big BUY decision. If I wake up thinking about it, I will sign in to Groupon and spend money.
As I review my history of purchases, I see the broad assortment of items that have managed to woo me. Among them are...

$10 for $20 at Broadside Books
$10 for $20 at Web’s Yarn
$40 for $80 for custom framing
$40 for $80 in American Eagle clothes
$75 for $150 flight lessons at Northampton Airport

I have made about 20 Groupon purchases since January. I even have the app on my iphone. What I don’t buy often tempts me, propelling me to research beds to ceramic flat irons. It's a way to learn about the world at large.
Hey, could I use a Brake King oil change? Today it is $9 for a $20 oil change.
I find myself pondering things, item by item, to see if they fit in my life or my lifestyle.
Over the past year, I can see how clearly the choices I make reflect who I am – in ways I had never considered.
The big decision today is regarding the Knork. I have spent thirty minutes reading about this product, following the links and watching the video on this innovation on the traditional fork. Rachel Ray says its her new favorite item. This fork is cleverly designed to allow the user to lever through food with just the slightest pressure. I am tempted, but I will practice moderation and wait until tomorrow before clicking on the BUY button.
Day 17

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A lesson learned, again

It surprises me how persistent the universe can be when it has decided to deliver a message. Of all the messages I might pull out of my recent life experiences, the one that strikes me most profoundly is that, if help is needed, help will come. It is not as if I haven’t had occasion to learn this previously. I think of when I was on complete bed-rest during my second pregnancy. I was told I would lose the baby if I didn’t spend the next five months recumbent. I was beside myself trying to imagine how I would care for my nine-month old infant during the days while my husband worked. A social worker came to my bed in the Maternity Ward of Baystate Medical to discuss the arrangements before I could be discharged. Did I have family, friends or church to help me through? I was dumb-founded. I had spent thirteen years as a career woman, my family lived out of state and my friends worked. We were on a budget -- I couldn’t just “hire help.” I had just joined a church, but didn’t have any relationships, yet. In retrospect, all of my objections, hand-wringing and uncertainty amounted to a distant memory. The part-time nanny I had coming in while I was working part-time myself was able to increase her hours. I was able to cover the cost with the insurance through work. She was willing to be our housemother three days each week. When people heard of our straits, somehow, meals appeared, offers of help came by mail and phone. I learned to say yes, please, thank you, thank you. My husband became an accomplished house-husband. Month-by-month, I laid in bed and grew a beautiful, 9lb., 15 1/2 oz. baby girl. Katherine arrived on September 29th, full-term and healthy.
Fast-forward to late September, 2011. I find myself physically limited in ways I hadn’t forseen. I am hopeful that the situation will be short-lived. However, I am working hard to find a way to meet my obligations, do daily errands and keep up on my commitments. Today, a friend came for tea and brought with her boundless energy, a positive attitude and a generous spirit. Later, I was delighted when a woman with whom I’ve enjoyed many conversations, came to see me, lunch bags in hand. She offered to do some driving for me – particularly to exercise! Just last week, I called a long-time acquaintance, Sharon, who had become a home heath aide. Her call today surprised me. She has a friend who drives to Boston regularly who might be willing to get me to my doctor’s appointments. Sharon said her Mondays may be open for a few hours and she could help out, if need be. Finally, her daughter, a Master’s candidate studying occupational therapy,will have time Wednesdays to do shopping or errands for me. As I let my good fortune sink in, my cell-phone tinged a text alert. A friend of mine wanted to know what kind of tea I would most desire from Two Brothers Tea. She wants to bring me some to give me a lift. Just when I started to think I was alone and overwhelmed, the Universe has spoken.
Day 16

Monday, September 19, 2011

Off and away

I spent one hour and ten minutes bidding on a two-night stay at the St. Giles Hotel in New York City. The website is sponsored by Expedia. When you win, you win big. Unfortunately, I have yet to win. The way it works is that interested bidders can buy bid shares at the price of $1 for each penny of the bid. The bidding is open for sometimes 12 hours, but the flurry of bidding comes down to the last two hours or so. And those two hours require significant bidding shares, a steady eye and a steady finger. Every time the bids come down to 1 second, bidders rush to bid. Each bid drives the price up by 15 cents. It is not unusual to get a hotel stay worth $2045 for $50 or so. It is an amazing opportunity for the winner. There is a way to submit automated bids, but I haven’t gotten sophisticated enough. Hotel bids that do not win are applied to a room rental should you decide to book directly through Expedia.
I am not marketing Offandaway.com. I am not on the advance team for any of the AMAZING hotels that participate internationally. I am simply a bargain-seeker lured by plush terry-cloth robes, 600t.c. sheets, Gilchrist toiletries and other luxuries. My mother called that having champagne taste on a beer budget. Guilty as charged. I have been fortunate to have enjoyed luxury, but I hope to find it an affordable price. I watch the names of the other high bidders scroll on the bidding page. I feel almost like friends as we take turns on the leader board. Friendly competition dissolves when it comes down to one second on the clock, the final, closing gong comes up and you stab at the enter key to get your bid in. In the time it has taken me to write these two paragraphs, the price for a
$2070 hotel stay has been driven up to $35.74 from $31.68. When it closes, sometime later tonight, I will look up the closing price and feel the weight of disappointment that it was not mine to claim. I will also check out what other auctions are going to be offered in the near future. Particularly in Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston. I will be ready, finger poised for the next go-round.
Day 15

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A diet of Hope

My life is run on hope. I will write about it often over the course of the year. In my view, hope is what makes a good life possible. Without hope, we no longer strive to get to a better, happier, more-fulfilling, place. Without hope, we live with the numbness wrought by despair. Hope is as much a part of my daily diet as the large quantities of protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Magnesium that I ingest to encourage neurogenesis. I was reminded of hope when I was sweeping the front porch today. There, covered in a slight hue of mildew black, were the two white wooden rockers that I had set outside so hopefully at the start of the summer. I would have to wipe them down before putting them away for the season… On the other side of the porch hung the glider. It was wedged with four cushions I had placed in invitation of an intimate chat or an hour with a book. The cushions looked weather worn and weary. I don’t remember seeing anyone sit there this summer. The three children were spread to the four corners and my husband was too busy to linger. I was rehabilitating from a hospital stay elsewhere. Even as I calculate the chores I will have to accomplish before storing the furniture, I am considering how I might refreshen the paint on the chairs for next summer. Maybe I will sew new cushion covers, too. I just know that, next summer, I will find the time to sit in one of the rockers to take time to enjoy the beauty of Chestnut Mountain and the expansive canopy of blue sky above. Hope, a companion worth keeping.
Day 14

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Grass. No, not that kind.


My grandmother was a stocky woman of Germanic and French heritage. Her determination in the face of all obstacles was a thing of legend in our family. Elsie would put her shoulder and her intellect to any task, and with dogged determination, accomplish it. She retired to Martha’s Vineyard after a career as a book-keeper, mother and widow, at the age of 72. She designed and g.c.’d the addition to her little cottage. She delved into town building ordinances and library texts books as well as relying on some guidance from my cousin, an architect and my husband, a builder. Her husband died young, leaving her with her three daughters to manage; two were out of high school, one was in grade school. My grandfather, Charlie Beauchamp, was the love of her life. After his death, until her death three months shy of her 93rd birthday, Elsie never dated another man. She spent more of her life as a widow than a wife. She said there was no point in dating. No one could measure up to her husband. In a quirky sort of nod to Elsie, she and Charlie blessed their three daughters with a middle name that was, in some manner, a derivative of Elsie’s name. Thereafter, my parents respected this tradition when they named my sister Deborah Elizabeth, and me, Dawn Elise. For thirty-five years, my husband has called me, with affection, humor and some respect, “Little Else.” The first time she heard it, she was confused by what he meant. He quickly gave her an example of the behavior he had observed in her that he saw mirrored in me. “Do you remember the time you cut your lawn – admittedly a 20ft x 20ft patch – on your hands and knees, using scissors because the man didn’t come to mow. What were you then, 86?” Another time, Elsie, was in her 80’s, and we went up in a glider together. She didn’t let anything stop her from enjoying and living life the way she chose. She was instantly gratified that he would honor me in that way.
So, today, I found Elsie sitting on my left shoulder. I have been stuck home by limited mobility for some time. However, the three large grass plants I gave my husband for his birthday on 2 September were looking pretty unhappy about not being in the ground. I knew I couldn’t dig a hole since I can’t lift a shovel. But wait, I do have a trowel. And a foam pad. I used my new porcelain and titanium hips to lower myself to a kneeling position. From there, I started scraping, digging, and fighting the earth and stones while all the while picturing prison break movies and Escape from Alcatraz. After thirty minutes, I succeeded in digging two holes deep enough to accept 18” root balls. In went the grasses, the soil was packed, the mulch was spread, the fertilizer introduced into water and the plants were soaked. Elsie was right there, the whole time. About that third plant? She suggested I come back tomorrow.
Day 13

Friday, September 16, 2011

A New Dawn: Out of Darkness, Light

A New Dawn: Out of Darkness, Light: I have a special friend. I have never seen her or talked to a member of her family. I don’t know how she decorates or what style clothing ...

Out of Darkness, Light

I have a special friend. I have never seen her or talked to a member of her family. I don’t know how she decorates or what style clothing she prefers –except her shoes, we talk a lot about shoes. I can also tell you what she can eat and entire pages from her life story, but, before last year, I didn’t have an idea that she existed on the planet.
It was an unexpected, and totally unexpected, pairing. The nameless woman that brought us together is an office manager in a busy doctor’s office in the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City (check out US and World Report – HSS is ranked #1 in the U.S. for orthopedic care). I had followed two leads that both led me to the office of Dr.Edwin Su. He is renowned for his work on hip repair and I had been told he might be the man to tackle my uncooperative hips. I called and asked if Dr. Su had prior experience doing repair on Ehler’s-Danlos patients, because the entire game is a bit different. His manager said she would check and call me back. When she called (yes, she actually did!) she said that he had expertise in that small niche and that he was willing to see me. She was helpful in setting up an appointment expeditiously. Before we hung up, she blurted out, “I take voice lessons with a woman with Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome. Would you be willing to talk with her sometime? She has never talked to anyone else that has it.”
“Of course, she could call my house and get two of us here!” I laughed.
The office manager confirmed that I wouldn’t mind if she shared my information with her friend and teacher. I put her mind at ease that she was free to do so.
The call came about a week later. A woman whose voice I can best describe as having a honey and lemon quality – some zing in the smoothness—introduced herself as Lynn.
She was in her late 70’s, wasn’t diagnosed until 65 or so, after an unfortunate lifetime of medical calamities. I was drawn to her immediately. She had humor, perspective, and grace, but still managed to maintain her straight-shooting-I-tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Really, almost impossible to resist. She had recently moved from her lifelong home in New York City to Princeton, N.J.. Lynn missed her community, her roots and her life in the City. Her son was raised there, her career as an opera-singer was built there. Her husband felt finances dictated the move. We swapped the basics and promised to talk in a few weeks.
Lynn has been a totally unexpected angel to touch my life. During my very hard weeks in the Rehab. Hospital last summer, she sent me cards of encouragement regularly. She
continues to call every so often, and if I don’t answer within a week, she’ll try again. She said she senses something must be going on because I am usually prompt about returning her calls. If I pick up the phone to call her, I can never guess there is anything else going on in her world than making time for me. How a writer in Whately can recognize in an opera-singer from New York City the prospect of hope, I can not guess. However, Lynn, repeatedly over the past year, has found me in times of darkness and brought me light.
Apparently, there must be something to that line in King James Bible, Exodus 1:3 when God is reported as having said, ”‘Let there be light.’ So there was light.” It seems that light can take many forms and colors in our lives.
Day 12

Thursday, September 15, 2011

One of Those Days

There are days that seem, from that moment of first consciousness until that exhausted heave of breath before you fall asleep, that things go wrong. There seems to be a strong correlation between these events and the weather. The bright days are less likely to be muddied by many of life’s annoyances, frustrations and miscalculations: it’s almost as if it would be an affront to the vast panoply of blue sky stretched taut over those of us living in its umbrage to demean it with tickets, lost keys, mislaid receipts and petty bickering. The grey sky, heavy with precipitation just begs strife. I have a theory about most things. It’s what makes my world work so well. These theories of mine. This particular theory is that on grey, dull days, our happiness isn’t-life-great vibes are dampened by the moisture in the air. What’s more, we are all gravity-bound to earth and continue to pollute our world with negativity. How’s that for a good one? Much of the time that works for me. However, with every rule, there come exceptions. There are days, drizzly, grey, damp, raw days so particularly well-manufactured in New England, that, when a flame-shaped, green tip emerges from a rain-soaked earth in hint that a daffodil is stirring below, the spirit expands. There are days when every layer of clothing is soaked through from a drenching, bone-numbing rain that later include a roaring fire, a cup of hot chocolate, a fuzzy blanket and a good book. Could there be anything much finer? So, try out my theory about grey days, grey outcomes. But keep your eyes open for when it’s the exception rather than the rule. You won’t be disappointed.

Day 11

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Things Could Be Worse

Among the many things that stay with me now that my mother is gone is how, in her
cautioning voice, she would remind me that, “Let’s remember dear, Things Could Always Be Worse.” I found myself feeling that she was somehow minimizing what I was going through. However, before she went there, whatever the circumstance, disaster or strife, my mother would listen wholeheartedly and allow me to pour out my heart to her. That is a gift that is hard to come by. As a mother myself, I can now better understand the powerful impulse to want to fix every disappointment or challenge that stands as an obstacle to my child’s happiness. When a note from Mom or a call from home no longer suffice as the all-purpose palliative they once were, as mothers, we are left with few real words to ease their pain. There is faith, there is commiseration, and there is – as my mother found – the reminder that no matter the circumstance, someone else has it worse.
When my sister’s house burned to the ground, my sister called my mother who, naturally, reminded her that there was no loss of life. Yes, she lost her work on her master’s thesis when her computer melted down, her photographs and memories of a lifetime and her entire library, but her cat made it out alive. After all….wait for it…..it’s coming….
Things Could Always Be Worse.
My sister and I have often laughed at this panacea my mother offered. In fact, for years, we sought out birthday cards that included that exact sentiment.
Two years ago, I was in a small room that contained two chairs, side by side, and a medical exam table pushed up against one wall. I felt like I had waited a lifetime to find myself in this room, with a renowned geneticist who had made her mark studying Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome. I brought reports from a rheumatologist, a cardiologist and my orthopaedic surgeon. I brought optimistic doubt that the diagnosis I had been handed previously would be correct. That would mean that the diagnosis my 18-year old daughter had received must be incorrect as well. I hadn’t polluted her gene pool.
Dr. Davis and I talked for about twenty minutes. She asked me many questions, things I had forgotten, stored and catalogued in the “to be forgotten” category. Were you clumsy as a child? Did you have frequent sublaxations of your joints, which ones, under what circumstance? Were either of your parents “double-jointed” in the same way you described yourself? Did you miss sports because of joint issues? Were you often ill in adolescence? Even as I answered these questions to the best of my ability, I had another dialogue running, “This is silly. She will say this was a false alarm. Better to put this to bed once and for all.” I actually had to stop her at one point, because I lost track of her thread of the dialogue.
“I was saying that I reviewed all you information and it is a pretty easy call to make that you do have Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome, Type III. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if your grandfather’s early coronary event at age 43 was related to this disorder. As you probably know, there is no cure. There are pockets of research being done – here in NYC, at John’s Hopkins and out in Washington State. We are constantly collecting data and trying to understand how we can help patients. As you know, it can be painful and often, as joints age, the pain is exacerbated……”
Her voice seemed to fade away and all I could hear was a drumming in my ear. Was that my heart? I felt one tear slide out of the corner of my left eye, then one out of my right eye. Dr. Davis reached for a conveniently placed box of tissues. As I pulled one out, I apologized. The proximate positioning of the Kleenex reminded me of how much Bad News she must dole out in that small room. “I am so sorry, I know that there are people who have much worse genetic disorders, but it is hard to hear confirmation of what I feared.” …. (And now, here it comes, ladies and gentlemen) …..I said, “After all, Things Could Always Be Worse.”

There, I said it.
And do you know what she said? “Dawn, you are perfectly entitled to be upset and to be worried about your daughter’s welfare. This is bad news. Just allow yourself to sit with that for awhile before moving on to minimize what this means to you and to your family.”
Dr. Davis had just dispensed some very sound advice.
I am practicing the notion of allowing myself room, in the face of calamity, loss and disappointment, to be upset sometimes.
But the truth is, most of the time, all I can think is, “Things Could Always be Worse.”

Day 10

For information on Ehler's-Danlos Syndrome, go to www.ednf.org
A Seussical lyric from the Dr. Seuss Musical to make you laugh!
http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/seussical/act1-finalehortonsitsontheegg.htm

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Photojournal

When I insisted on the first day of school picture for my son this morning, he paused reluctantly before allowing me to take the mandated First Day of School Photograph. I have 35 of these momentos now, collected every autumn as my children headed toward a new academic year. My son has just one more year that I will insist on this photographic record. My daughters have fulfilled their requirement to provide me with this talisman. As they entered college, I, reluctantly, released my daughters from this tradition.
I was ever so pleased when my oldest daughter sent me a text with a photo of her on the morning that she started her senior year at Georgetown. I wasn’t disappointed that my middle child’s first days of freshmen and sophomore years at Pratt Institute didn’t prompt a photo. She had her head down, focused and ready to storm the hallowed halls of higher education. It would be unlike her to pause and photograph that moment. With one more official “first day of school” shot left to the Frank family, it is something of a bittersweet moment. There is every reason to celebrate the children's journeys into adulthood. Yet, an inescapable tug on my heart reminds me that their wings are spread and they will soon be aloft.



Day 9

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yogurt beats Thrift




When I first embarked upon this endeavor, it occurred to me that, in all likelihood, I would reveal aspects of my character that I would otherwise have kept hidden under a rock. Small price, I thought, for the satisfaction of doing something wholeheartedly as writing a daily blog for an entire year.
Today brings with it the first big reveal -- my attitude toward Money. I felt this topic was important enough to touch on early in the game. You may run, my views are not popular. In today’s world of instant gratification and easy credit, my tight fist seems archaic. It’s true, I am very careful about the way I manage and spend money. I look for value. I will spend three hours on the Internet looking for a twenty percent coupon on a purchase. I have done an analysis of my time versus savings. If I can save $45 dollars, I will spend three hours. For $30, I will scour the web for two hours looking for money-saving offers. Basically, I bill out my time at $15 hour. I am not the kind of crazy spendthrift that now boasts a show of her own (though, the idea of a $2.09 grocery bill appeals to me, how many jars of marmalade can one family use?). I am just a practical-I-have-three-tuitions-to-pay mom. I don’t add enough to our joint income tax to warrant reporting, so part of my contribution to keeping this ship afloat is the careful distribution of funds for good and services. And why, you might ask, this discourse on my financial frugality?
It comes down to yogurt.
I love, beyond all reason, Fage Honey Yogurt. The idea of a little cup of honey and a petite serving of yogurt appeals to some child-like part of me that loved tea parties and finger foods. The Fage Honey Yogurt is not, in any way, part of my regime of careful spending on groceries. First, the brand itself far out-prices its competitors. Then, rather than buy the 16 oz. tub and earn the savings there, I choose a smaller size. Finally, I actually pay more for the Honey Yogurt then plain Fage Yogurt because I am sacrificing the volume of yogurt and replacing it with honey. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this one small vice of mine. Yet, thanks to the wonder of advertising, I have found a way to put my mind at ease. Finally, I can justify the undue expense of funding my Fage Honey Yogurt Habit. Appropriating the L’Oreal tagline, I stockpile Fage Honey Yogurts ……Because I am worth it.

Day 8

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Call of the Turkeys

People have varied reactions the first time they see where I live. Most are as awe-stricken as I am every morning when I awake and see the Valley as it was carved out by ancient glaciers moving slowly southward. I am captivated by the play of light and the expanse of sky when each morning dawns. I have three cameras; each one has dozens of photographs I have taken to catch the lightning, fog, snow, fall foliage. I keep trying to catch just the right photograph, the one that catches the splendor stretched out before me. Other visitors are horrified that I live so far from city conveniences such as free food delivery, theatres and gas stations. None of them, I am quite sure, imagine the turkeys. Yes, they ask, “So, do you have bears? Ever see coyotes? Any sightings of bobcat, red fox, deer, grouse, pheasants, owls, or otters(only locals would guess to ask this one). But the lowly turkey is overlooked. Living here, I have grown accustomed to all manners of bird calls. The early morning hoot-hooting of owls will wake me through closed windows. The angry cawing of crows, for reasons harking back to some primitive instinct, gives me chills. I listen closely for cardinals calling. Once so common, I see them less often here. The woodpecker’s knocking heralds his visits every time. What I have not seemed to become accustomed to is the perversely LOUD sound of twenty or more turkeys gobbling. Our property seems to be their heaven. The serenade starts as early as 4:30 a.m.. These fowl paw the ground as they hunt for food, then pause to gobble, gobble, gobble. This is not a delicate or gentle sound. It is loud, gutteral, and forceful… even more so when the males go head to head in a dispute, presumably over territory. The males’ feathers are duller and they are slightly smaller than the females. I read that when I was trying to learn more about their behaviors. One night, I was outside when I heard the unearthly, blood- curdling cry of turkeys under attack, presumably by coyotes. I listened helplessly as the slaughter seemed to go on and on. Suddenly, the moonlit, snow-covered evening was restored to quiet. The next day, the turkey population had shrunk by half. The turkeys and I have established a truce of sorts. So, too, has my cat, apparently. I have a video of my cat milling among the turkeys. Suddenly, he paused to dig a hole. Business done, he crouched down, honed in on his prey and dove in to attack. Seven turkeys escaped in a running, flying hop. That running, flying hop was almost the undoing of one of those turkeys last week. I heard the fowls snacking under my window. Something spooked them. I heard the alarmed flap of their wings as they charged uphill. They rounded the corner of the house and came into full view. One of them took a flying leap and the others bravely followed. A loud, wall-shattering thud was evidence of what poor aviators turkeys must be. He had flown head-first into the house. I hurried to my window and expected to see a turkey, stunned, or more likely, dead, on the brick walk. Instead, the turkey shook its head, and raced to catch up with its compatriots. It would seem their survival as a species may be well-assured. Day 7

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Haircut

Over a week ago, I opened a “Madewell” catalogue. As I perused the trendy clothes and felt the pangs of apparel envy, I saw a haircut on a model that stopped my page turning. I angled the page to the left, then to the right, hoping, by some magic to gain a view from the back of her head. The page remained two-dimensional. I recognized that the cut was an age-appropriate, fashion-forward style -- just right for my shoulder-length hair. I earmarked the catalog page and left it on the stairs so I could see it every time I treaded on step 16. Finally, I made an appointment at the hairdresser. Sarah has been my “stylist” for some time. I was confident; I knew she could recreate the style with my locks. I was half-way to the salon when I realized that I left my template for the future of my tresses back home on the staircase. Wing it. All I could do was wing it. I described what I had in mind to Sarah. We traded our ideas, all the while, her fingers artfully rearranging my hair into different shapes. After our conference, she led me to the sink to begin my transformation. When she had washed, conditioned and toweled my hair, I settled into my stylist’s chair. I kept my eyes shut the entire time. I noticed the snipping, snipping in a way that seemed somehow magnified when I relied on my other four senses. At one point, Sarah asked me to put my chin to my chest. Wow! An unbidden memory sent its tendrils deep into my sub-conscious. When I was nine, my mother let me walk to the hairdresser and ask for a haircut by myself. I was so proud of my new-found independence that I did not complain when the hairdresser managed to cut my ear and nick my neck. I stuffed down that ancient memory because it was irrelevant; I trust Sarah. A felt her run a new pomade (with an inviting scent) through my hair. The blow-drier and the round brush were soothing as Sarah set to work drying and fashioning my hair. “Is it time,” I asked? “Should I look?” “Go ahead,” she said. The face looking back at me was familiar -- but the new, short bob was not. I loved it. It was me, but better. Next time, maybe we’ll do something about all those grey hairs. Day 6

Friday, September 9, 2011

A New Dawn: Sleep-walking

A New Dawn: Sleep-walking


http://www.dawneliseevans.com/

Sleep-walking

When I was a young child, I reread the beloved story of Heidi until the binding on my picture book started to crumble.  I was particularly intrigued by her sleep-walking. When Heidi was forced to move off the mountain, away from her grandfather and her blind grandmother, she internalized the loss.  That's what the psychiatrist her host hired explained to her.  Her subconscious desire was to return to the mountain with its tall evergreens and freshing breezes.  I knew about sleepwalking having taken a few unexpected excursions during the night myself.  I was most likely to wander just a few hours after falling asleep; I was even more likely to talk in my sleep.  Something didn't quite turn off when I entered the blessed world of somnolent heaven.  I kept right on washing dishes, making beds, and discussing homework assignments.  My friends and family had fun eliciting answers to questions that I would not recall in the morning.  By the time I was in college, I was able to draw a direct correlation between stress and my nocturnal adventures. Stress precipitated the interruption of a normal sleep cycle. It was mostly amusing, sometimes disconcerting. Once,  I woke up standing on the kitchen counter, sponge in hand, wiping down the dust that accumulated on top of the cabinets.  Another time, I was in the garage when I awoke, trying to wrestle the kitchen garbage into the garbage bin.  I have found pages of cryptic notes that I wrote during the night, except I couldn't read them in them daylight.  The occasional lines that were legible astonished me with their profundity.  One night, I sat up (while asleep, I promise) and punched my husband in the stomach with everything I had.  I was replaying a dialogue from the previous afternoon in which my lab partner, taunted me to "Go ahead, punch me, I won't even feel it. Go on, Dawn.  What are you afraid of?"  My dream-state answered that to my husband's startled dismay.   In recent days, my sleepwalking has reached an all time high.  During the past several weeks, I have walked straight into walls thinking I was in a wide corridor or outside in a park.  I woke up the other morning and found I had folded all the laundry.  Another day, the dishwasher was emptied.  No one claimed responsibility for these good deeds.  This morning,  I found a neatly folded piece of paper in the bathroom drawer.  It left me marveling at what a complex and incomprehensible wonder resides inside of my skull.  Here's what I had written:
The seed of doubt once planted grows roots as eradicable as the most tenacious weed.


Day 5

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Ponderometer

Today I found myself wondering whether it would be better to receive good news and have no-one with whom to share it....or, conversely, to receive bad news and have nobody who would want to hear it. 
I suspect this idea is closely related to the question of the tree falling in the woods or the sound of one hand clapping.   Fortunately, I was rescued from going too far afield with this mental exercise because my friend Elizabeth called.  She wanted to know all about my visit to the doctor this afternoon.  I was glad she called because I was still sorting our whether I walked out of the doctor with a good news or a bad news story.  I had a twenty minute visit with a highly-esteemed  musculo-skeletal doctor in the Boston area.  He spent a fair amount of time carefully acquainting himself with my history and magnetic resonance and CT images. One of the reasons I sought his opinion was his experience with helping patients with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome - my particular gift jettisoned from the giant wheel of genetic roulette.  The doctor recommended that I return to the pain management specialist who initiated a trial using a spinal column stimulator in me back in 2007.  The trial was derailed when we discovered that, for the past ten years, I had been living with a fractured spine.  Thereafter followed two spinal fusions, two hip replacements ( and a partridge in a pear tree!).  The learned physician I saw today said my spine is severely compromised at numerous levels and my best shot at regaining a bit of normalcy in my life is to return to the trial of the spinal column stimulator.  If I achieve 50% relief of pain, it would be considered a successful intervention.  If I do not gain relief, my team would have to help me better manage pain with pharmaceuticals.  He encouraged me by saying that I was using an appropriate and systemic approach to my care.  He felt I had assembled a fine team, some at the top of their game, to help me in my search to manage this disorder.
I do not want to spend undue time dwelling on the future, what may or may not happen if result A occurs rather than result B.  Finally, a brainstorm hit.  There are pedometers and speedometers.  Why not ponderometers?  They might alert those of us who are prone to ponder excessively -- some might say compulsively -- that we are approaching a level of contemplation that might be hazardous to our health.  The red zone would mean it's time for chocolate.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Found My Son at the Mall

My son and I went on an expedition last night.  He made a 7p.m. appointment with a man he found on Craig's List.  We drove for a little over an hour while it was pouring down rain, and the traffic was heavy; red brake lights stretched ahead of us for as far as we could see. Charles had a geography lesson; going south from Northampton, we passed Holyoke, next we waved goodbye to Springfield, then we crossed the border from Massachusetts to  Connecticut. Later, Charles asked about the high rise buildings he saw up ahead.  "Charles, that's Hartford!"  He had no idea it was so big. "This I said, "Is the problem with using GPS!" 
We arrived safely at West Farms Mall.  The location is a popular mecca for shoppers within a radius of two hours.  Charles and I used the Mall Map successfully to locate the Starbuck's he had chosen as a safe, public place to make the trade.  His contact kept Charles posted with his e.t.a.s as they were recalculated on his iphone. 
The Craig's lister arrived, a young, neatly dressed Hispanic man who had a retinue of two other young men.  I was there merely as an observer, discretely settled in a lounge chair in the corner while the four of them made introductions.  The young men chose a square table for four, then pulled out chairs and settled down to business.  Charles and the Craig's Lister exchanged their offerings so they could each assess whether the deal would go any further. The nods and smiles led me to believe all was well.  Within eight minutes, the deed was done. 
As we left, Charles walked on the balls of his feet with a little bounce that had not been evident on our way to the mall.  He guarded his new laptop he had exchanged for his iPad as we wended our way back to the parking lot.  We had a lengthy discussion on how to protect his computer from the rain.  Charles wrapped it inside of a canvas bag we had brought for that express purpose.   I was instructed to hold it close to my chest while Charles escorted me to the car. His arm was fully extended as he held an umbrella over my head. 
On the ride home, the anxiety and uncertainty that was in the air on the way south had dissipated.  With the rhythm of the wipers, my son and I were insulated.  It was one of those moments that I will always treasure.  Charles talked about how he saw himself now and his goals for the future.  He was passionate, secure and detailed in his articulation for the next five years. What was memorable and made the drive home special was that it was the first time I saw Charles as an individual.  I perceived him as a young man -- not merely as my son.  What's more, I realized that he was a young man I really liked.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tea for All

It's inevitable.  As I write these blogs, I will reveal myself in unexpected ways.  We might as well start with the ritual of tea.  I have standards for producing the perfect cup of tea.  Not to say that I disdain tea from Dunkin Donuts when I'm desperately craving a cuppa, after all, when a girl has a craving, what's a girl to do?  Recently, my dear friend delivered a Breville Tea Kettle to me.  I have wanted one for such a long time.  The first time I saw one was in France.  It was so handy to have water heated to the correct temperature to make tea. Not all tea leaves brew well with boiling water.  Some need their delicate flavor coached out at 175 degrees or 185 degrees rather than 212 degrees.  Having the proper tool is essential.

There is not enough time to discuss the varieties of tea: herbal, organic, medicinal, teas made for mass-market appeal (there is no reason to snub your nose at Lipton and Salada drinkers - they are our brethen, too), home-grown and any number of mixed flavors such as lemon mint green, strawberry oolong etc...  Suffice it to say, there is, indubitably, a tea waiting to be brewed for you.  Currently, I am partial to Allegrs'a Organic China White Citrus.  I wake up and within minutes of cracking, popping and easing my joints into place, my mind turns to having a cup of tea.

A further idiosyncratic quirk; give me porcelain.  I want to feel the delicate, smooth rim of a porcelain tea cup between my lips as I take that first sip.  Mugs hold greater volume but the satisfaction of drinking out of porcelain can not be disputed.  I prefer sugar cubes to granulated sugar.  I use honey with teas that have a mint or lemon note.  Tea bags are easier than loose tea, but there is a ceremony to making and pouring a pot of tea using loose teas.  It turns a moment into a special moment. 

I have four tea pots. I am able to welcome guests when they come to call.   The Japanese tea pot is a tiny pot that serves four petite demitasse cups.   The second pot has "made in Japan" stamped on it.  A high school friend found it in an antique store and bought it for me.  The largest pot serves six generous cups of tea, or four mugs.  It has been in our family for sixty five years.  Just the sight of it reassures me.  There's very little in life that can't be faced with the calmer countenance one gains after a cup of tea. 
 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 1

My husband heralded my birthday with his Today my Birfday wish, a nonsensical phrase we have used for over thirty years.  I had few expectations of celebration and oh, what a surprise-filled day it was.  We went on a ride along the Deerfield River so I could photograph some of the ravages of the flood.  Further north, we stopped at Gould's Sugarhouse where I proved I can still pack away pancakes.  Onward we drove to our destination, the Bridge of Flowers and the Glacier Potholes in Shelbourne Falls.  With a little luck, I will download some of the better pics and we can oooh and aaaah together.  At home, I had numerous phone messages from friends who remembered it was my birthday.  My delight was amplified when a couple of my closest friends came over bringing me gifts, good cheer, and, of course, FOOD.  Later, on the computer, I discovered how Facebook can bring us together.  I admit to feeling really amazed that people would take time out of their days to write, Happy Birthday, Dawn.