{this moment}

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maple meadow

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

{this moment}

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planting trees and caterpillars

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

how we care for each other

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Easter

Many times, I try to keep this blog “light,” to look for the pretty, the happy, the inspiring. And I think this post will fit those categories, but it’s not light. It’s heavy, it’s serious, and it could change the world.

I am lucky enough to have outstanding parents. They aren’t perfect. They have often struggled. They’ve screwed up. But, man. They are out-of-this-world fantastic. And they shouldn’t have been. They didn’t have the best models. No one taught them about openness, about expressing affection. My mother’s parents controlled her every choice, to the extent that she picked a tiny college in the Midwest over Radcliffe (Harvard), because college in Boston meant living “at home” and commuting. My father never knew his real father, and the man whose name he bears left when he was tiny. His mother drank too much, raised her children in poverty, and my father has few childhood memories that don’t include “a beating.”Daddy

And yet, they rallied. When I came along, they got their acts in gear, and they stepped up. Sometimes, there were meltdowns. Sometimes, there was therapy. I didn’t always feel safe. And yet. And yet. And yet I ended up with these parents who held me and told me they loved me. Who supported the things that interested me. Who didn’t beat me, and yet set boundaries. Who went without so very much, that I could have musical theater, or a new blouse, or my own paperback copy of Gone with the Wind. Who taught me that human beings depend on each other, and that kindness mattered.MomWedding

I always knew I was loved. I always knew I was valued. I always knew they were doing everything they could to make everything alright. Many adults I know cannot say that about their childhoods.

But despite how hard they worked, how kind they were, how much they loved me, life was sometimes hard. We were often poor. We were sometimes homeless (I write more about this here). Many people (some of whom I still don’t know) helped us, at one time or another. My parents didn’t always talk to me about this help, at least not when it was happening. In most cases I found out later, when I was old enough to understand. Friends and acquaintances gave us money, food, places to stay.

As our situation improved, through my high school and college years, my parents (intentionally? unconsciously?) adopted what I can only classify as a “Pay It Forward” philosophy. Always, even when we were struggling, our doors were open to anyone, and Mom could always stretch supper. As I got into high school, our house became the place the kids went, whether things at home were good or bad. My folks had two rules:

1. Your parents need to know where you are. (And they were always happy to talk to wary parents/guardians.)

2. You must be kind.

Very few people were ever asked to leave our house, and in each instance, the catalyst had something to do with not being kind. In some cases, having a soft place to land and a safe place to stay changed people’s lives. In other cases, what seemed to be common kindness left a bigger, longer-lasting mark, as I recently learned from Julia.

People could (and did) count on my parents to advocate for their special needs children in the school system, market their struggling band, hold their hands through medical treatments, mark their departure for college with a handmade quilt, and call them out on bad behavior. They adopted everyone we knew, as children, parents, siblings. The world view my parents presented to me was one in which we are all related, in which support was the only option.

In high school and college, when things were a bit better, as we drove through Portland, I often saw Mom stop and hand any money she had–sometimes a couple of ones, sometimes a five, or even a twenty–to panhandlers. Once a friend of mine told her it was dumb, because “he’ll just go buy booze.” Mom’s response was excoriating and classy, as only she can muster. She broke out her best erudite, proper, Boston Brahmin accent and said, “I don’t care what he buys, and neither did the people who put money in my hand when we needed it. You buy what you need to get you through, whether it’s a cup of coffee, a hot meal, a cheap room, or a bottle. I can’t judge him, and neither can you.”

That philosophy, that idea that you only took what you needed and that you gave all you could, that belief that we must all care for and support each other, if any of us are to survive–well, it puzzled me sometimes, angered me at others, and marked me indelibly.

In the end it did all work out. We found a home, and called it ours for 14 years. I went to college, and to grad school, and “made something of myself.” Mom’s career took off in ways that we hadn’t imagined. We chose and purchased permanent homes, that we will always own. Mom still “adopts” people who need a family, and Daddy pretends to be irritated, but never balks at setting an extra place at the table. I teach my kids that “hate” isn’t an option in this family, and to be compassionate in considering the needs and actions of others. As far as I know, Mom still hands out money when she goes to the city (I know I do), and I know she’s first in line when someone (anyone) needs help.

Next to me, of course, because we stand in line together, still paying it forward, still knowing that we only survive together. I hope my boys will get it and remember it 20 years from now.

BrotherlyLove

10 random things

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sun

Playing along with Erin today, and ten random things:

1. Acoustic guitar and lyrical vocals make me cry. Every. single. time.

2. I miss the ocean every day. But when I was away from Maine, even near the ocean, I missed Maine every day.

3. Thursday afternoons are reserved for talking to my best friend, Meg. We’ve been doing this for 16 months now. Every week makes me glad to be alive.

4. I love snowstorms like a snow-obsessed child. I wait for them, I watch them, and I delight in them. All winter, my motto is, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

5. Fair food makes me swoon. Mostly, I like to eat healthy things, but present me with pier fries, fried dough, sausage bombs, etc. and I am a bottomless pit of joy.

6. When my first son was born, they didn’t bring him close enough for me to really kiss him, so it was over an hour before I touched my baby. I’ve been making up for it for 8 and 1/2 years.

7. I spent 5 years in NC without really acquiring a Southern accent. However, all I need to do is have a drink or hear a Southern accent and I’m “y’all”ing all over the place–and pretty authentically, if I do say so myself.

8. I love to make/do things for people I love. Sometimes, my vision of what I can/will do gets beyond my time/ability, and I flake out completely. Then I hate myself.

9. In my old age, I have learned to love so many foods I detested as a child/young adult–mushrooms, eggplant, mayonnaise, pizza, ham, sandwiches, onion, bacon. I still cannot abide green pepper. Perhaps I never shall.

10. Making friends is hard for me. I don’t do small talk, and it takes a long time for me to open up. But once I’m yours, it’s kind of a lifetime commitment. As one (long, long, longtime) friend once told me, “You’re sort of the gift that keeps on giving.”

 

If you play too, please leave me a link in the comments.

still my baby

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On March 30, my small boy turned five. FIVE! Wow. Though I know where those years went, where did those years go? Five, according to this BIG boy, is a big deal. Five means you feel bigger and “longer.” Five means you get dressed by yourself (!) most mornings. Five means you ski faster than some of the bigger kids. Five means you’re ready for your own violin lessons. first lesson

The big day came with a predicted major snowstorm, and we scrapped any thoughts of a party, except one here at home. And it was a lovely day, with special breakfasts, and gifts of Legos and spy gear (big brother did well this year), and a white cake with chocolate frosting and strawberries on top, as requested. perfect cakehappy birthdaywished

But he cried, hard, when we told him there would be no “real” party. The roller rink? he asked. The Maine Jump? A house party, here at home? Though we assured him that a party would come, he cried. And cried. As it turns out, a party was what he wanted most.

So we made a party. It took a week, but he got a big gym, full of people he loves, sweet cake, make-your-own ice cream sundaes, paper airplanes, balloons, craft projects, and fun. balloon playmoms' cornermagic fishbutterflymaking thingscraft tablefish on hookskeep the balloon afloatget itfirst giftwar to come

I think we won.

However, five or not, he’s still (ALWAYS) my baby.

 

dare we call it spring?

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The small boy, who celebrated his 5th birthday on Sunday, has inherited his big brother’s cold and nasty cough. He has put his own stamp on it though, by segueing the cough into gagging, retching, and sometimes up-chucking. That’s how we began our day.

Obviously, I kept him home from school, because even though it’s “just” a cold, and he could go to school, it’s just not fair to send him off in that condition. We ran some errands, had a lunch date at a Chinese restaurant–one with a perpetual fountain and wishing well, “fancy” lanterns, and lots of “fancy” decorations (his words), and then came home for a bit of R&R. At some point, I looked at the thermometer and realized that it was 45°F out there (I know I’m heavy on the italics today…. call me Emily of New Moon). As it has been a loooonnnnggg, COLD, snowy winter, and as we all need exercise, and as hubby and I sincerely believe that most anything can be cured or improved with sunlight, fresh air, and/or exercise (think about it: it’s true), we suited up and headed out.best road time buddymy little palready to gogood friends

It wasn’t long, it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t far, but it was the best part of my day.

education night

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Our children attend what can only be described as a small country school. We house grades Pre-K through 8 in one building, with combined grade classrooms (Pre-K/K, 1/2, 3/4/5, 6/7/8). Earlier this week, our little school combined with the school in the next town (we are a School Union) to present the annual Education Night–a sort of Open House event. This year, the theme was “STEAM”–Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math. The boys and I arrived early for the free community supper featuring chicken soup, whole wheat rolls, and apple crisp, and spent some time catching up with friends before the event kicked into high gear.sig

excitementWhen Daddy arrived, we ventured to the small boy’s classroom, where we checked out their “Handwriting Without Tears” curriculum and materials, and took a sneak peek at the incubator and supplies for the 24 chicken eggs the Pre-K/K class will be hatching soon. We stopped by the big boy’s classroom, and saw the “brain caps” some classmates had worked on in science, and the spaghetti tower building exhibit.lego robot

The big boy’s science classroom was humming with students eager to demonstrate their Lego robotics to anyone who would stop and listen. roboticsSilas and his partner Reid showed us their building components, and talked to us about gears and programming. Daddy and the small boy were immediately engrossed. lego roboticsbuildingScience teacher Mr. Easter explained some of the trials they challenge their robots with. teachinghow they do itThis class has been the big boy’s favorite this year, and apparently he has become quite the programmer. He’s lucky enough to work with a partner who is a talented robot builder, and their robot has performed best in several trials.

Walking back through the halls, we enjoyed the artwork on the walls, including some of the big boy’s work from his once-a-week afterschool art class.watercolor fantasy

The evening ended with a rousing performance of the mini-musical Annie by the 5th-8th grade Show Choir. I did musical theater for years and years, and when I say these kids did a terrific job, I mean what I say. I was surprised by the quality of singing, choreography, and the preparation of the group. (And I’m so kicking myself for not taking any pictures!)

We’ve gone back and forth on education issues over the years (and I imagine we will continue to do so, because anything that matters requires constant evaluation), but I’m so proud of and satisfied with this little country school. They’re doing some really good (HARD!) work right now, and I’m thankful we’re a part of it.

repurposing, for a friend

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A while back, someone shared with me this post about creating mittens from old sweaters, and immediately, my friend Sigrid mentioned this sweater. Many, many moons ago, when she first learned to knit, she painstakingly created this creamy wool tunic. She loved it so much, she said, because it was completely her style, and totally the right length and loose slouchy fit, with interesting details on the hem and cuffs.sweater

Somewhere along the line, the sweater shrank. But Sigrid just couldn’t get rid of it. And when she saw the mitten idea, she envisioned a new life for her old sweater.

I was scared to try. I’d never done this before, and this sweater clearly held meaning for Sig. What if I cut it and couldn’t make it work? Not only was she game to try, but she thought perhaps I could make a hat too? I could see how I’d have enough surface, until she suggested I cut the mittens from the sleeves. Brilliant!cuff

I watched the above video a couple times, then turned it off and started my own project. First, I cut the mittens from the sleeves, and stitched them together. I wasn’t completely thrilled with how they turned out, but encouraged enough to press on.mitten form

Next, I used Soulemama‘s Family Sweater Hat pattern from her book Handmade Home, to trace and cut a hat. Having used this pattern before with too small results, I sized up (which might have been a mistake, as I ended up restitching and cutting down several times to get something resembling the proper size).hat pattern

Once everything was stitched, I was happy enough with my efforts, but it looked a bit bland. Though I haven’t done much needlework at all in close to a decade now, I sat down and began to create a design, freehand, with the bits and bobs of yarn I’ve got kicking around here. finding a patternhat motifThis is what I ended up with.

mitten and hat set