Too-rah loo-rah loo-rah

A week ago Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day, I observed an odd but interesting sight.  As I trudged to my car, not fully awake and tempted to crawl back into bed,  I saw a Christmas tree standing next to the trash bins.  I didn’t fully comprehend this until I returned home that afternoon.  The trash pick-up dates are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; which meant the tree, complete with a broken stand and a full complement of needles, was still there. Was it an artificial tree?  Hardly.

I pondered the tree for a moment.  All the Christmas trees that have graced my living room began shedding needles BEFORE Christmas.  What made this tree so unusual?  Then I began to contemplate its existence.   Christmas is in December and St. Patrick’s Day is in mid-March – three months apart!  Why is it here right now?

Here are the possible reasons why this tree didn’t appear until well after Yuletide:

  • The owner of the tree was a sentimental sod and wanted to prolong the Christmas season well past January.  They didn’t have the heart to pitch it out the door and left it up in the corner, stripped of its ornaments and lights.  Besides, the pine-fresh scent of the needles gave the room a rustic air.
  • The owner of the tree was a lazy bastard and didn’t want to be bothered with hauling it to the curb.  Instead, he rationalized that he would vacuum the dead needles as they collected at the base of the tree.  Once the tree was reduced to brittle and bare branches, and the weather was warmer, they could quickly removed the tree.
  • The owner of the tree stuffed down the basement stairs, where it was converted into a scratching post for the cat.  Along with the dead needles was a pile of wood shavings, which meant more work for clean-up

My vote is for #2.  Any way you look at it, the presence of the tree on a Irish holiday, was a cultural curiosity-a pagan symbol appropriated for a Christian holiday, found on the day that celebrated an Irish monk, who converted the pagan Irish to Christianity.

At least it was too cold for snakes, but not for a pint of Guinness.  Slainte!

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Posted in Christmas, Holidays, Life, Reflections, Saint Patrick's Day, Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm, Thoughts | 3 Comments

New Toy

One of the best things in life is filing and receiving your tax return early.  The filing – not so much.  It’s always a huge hastle that, if you file your own taxes, leaves you wondering if you missed something.  I am cheap.  I would prefer to do my own taxes by using a IRS-recommended free site, because if there is a problem, there is an option to speak with a live body.  I don’t itemize because I don’t have assets that require me to itemize.  It’s an odd upside to divorce that makes filing income taxes simpler.

I like filing my taxes early.  I like it because I get the refund early and it’s direct-deposited into my checking account.  I got my refund on Friday.  I get a boost of energy and inner joy having that money available.  I now have options and the ability to conspicuously consume.  It made me feel normal, almost human.  When money’s tight, you have to prioritize, so it’s liberating to have expendable income.  Yes, I do intend to spend it on non-essential items.  

First,  renew my passport. I now have the ability to pick up and travel anywhere at a moment’s notice.  I feel that the options available to me have now multiplied, that if all the resoucres are in place, I can pursue my passions.  I paid a visit to the post office this morning, filed the appropriate paperwork (complete with updated photos), and  I can expect delivery in 6-8 weeks.

The second item on the list was to purchase a netbook.  I wanted something that allowed me to journal my thoughts and update my blog, and would be mobile so I wouldn’t be dependant on the library for internet.  I bought the netbook yesterday – a  Toshiba NB505 that was on sale for $279.  I did the research on my lunchhour at work, and discovered favorable reviews from users and techies alike.  The downfall to the machine is that it has only 1GB of memory (which means it’s a bit slow ), and that the keyboard is small.  Or at least smaller than my hands are used to with a regular keyboard.  The heel of my hand rests dangerously close to certain command keys, causing strange things to happen.  I love the fact that I can write when the mood strikes and that I don’t have to wait until the library opens.  ( ironically, I am writing this piece at the library.  Fortunately, I don’t have the hour time limit, so I can write for as long as the library is open. )  I can make notes, file them, and copy them into the blog when I am ready. I really look forward to using this netbook.

There isn’t a third item on the list.  Or a fourth or fifth item.  I stopped at two items because those were the only items I really wanted.  I could buy more CD’s (a very good option for the money), eat out a few times (off the Cracker Barrel after I finish), perhaps take in a movie ( I haven’t seen most of the Oscar winners.).  Who knows what I’ll do, but I do know that it won’t be for anything practical.

Posted in CD's, Choices, Life, Living, Me, Money, Movies, Passport, Possibilities, Ramblings, Reflections, Tax refund, Travel, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Hello, Dear Friend

There are people who stay with you all through your life.  They have given your life meaning and purpose.  They have been at your side and in your heart.  They are here and now,  they have been every so often, or once in a blue moon.  They have been birth-to-death, with you no matter what, and you can’t imagine life without them.  Whether they are a spouse or friend, we all have one.  I have K.

I spent the first 5 years of my life in  small Connecticut towns.  My mother is from a small Connecticut town; my dad is from a similar town in Massachusetts five miles away.  As I gained a brother and two sisters, we could have to move to a larger apartment or house.  When I was 3 years old, I lived in West Suffield, across the street from a girl with whom I’d have a life-long connection.

K and I have been close friends for most of our lives.  She mostly hung out with my sister and I was “allowed” to tag along.  She would be a constant in the summers my family would spend with my grandparents – my mother’s family.  We could be found in swimming holes, running through cow pastures, and riding in the back of my grandfather’s puke-green Chevy pick-up truck, singing “Angel of the Morning”.  She told me those were the most memorable times of her life.

A few weeks back, my mom had called me on a Saturday, asking me if it was okay if she coould give K’s mom my email address.  My mom and K’s mom graduated high school in the same class, and had stayed in contact through the years.  They would have lunch whenever my mother was in town, which the latest was a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure why she needed my permission, but I told mom to pass the address along.  A few days later, I received the first of many emails from K.

She’s had a tough life.  Once a promising artist/designer, she’s battled her share of demons; bad choices in men and the fallout of those relationships.  She teeters between confident career woman and insecure girl.  She carries the burden of single mother and sole provider, and she lost her best friend to a heart attack last fall.  Needless to say, she was in need of a friend when we reconnected.

The last time I saw K was at my wedding reception in 1987.  She still had the fresh, youthful face that has since been replaced by one affected by her hard life.  I dug out my wedding video ( I have it because my late grandparents are in the video ) to refresh my memory.  She was cute – just this side of hot – and it made me wonder why our relationship didn’t turn romantic.  I recall visiting her on a summer break from college.  We took a six-pack of beer out to the airport and sat at the end of one runway, watching the planes fly over.  I had tried to kiss her but that resulted in a most humiliating result – she laughed.  It was until last week that I learned that she had harbored a huge crush on me.

After numerous phone calls and emails, we arranged to meet.  She would come to Maine and buy me dinner if I’d show her the art museum and Winslow Homer’s studio in nearby Scarborough.  It was a no-brainer.  She stayed with me and we talked, drank, laughed and dug into the deepest parts of our being to talk about fears.  For her it was the fear of growing old and being alone;  for me it was the fear of getting sick and not having someone to care for me.  We agreed that if we were still alone by age 60, we would get together.  It was a wonderful time.

We all have the same shit.  Some of us get it all at once; others get it bit by bit.  It’s more tolerable if we have someone to share it with.  It always seems less shitty.

Posted in Big 5-Oh, Connected, Connecticut, Experiences, Feelings, Friends, Life, Love, Me, Musings, My Friend, Past, Ramblings, Reflections, Relationships, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cupid, Pull Back Your Bow

I will not be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year.  I refuse to be sucked into the vortex of sappy cards, overpriced chocolates, and outrageously priced floral arrangements.  Not gonna do it!

I liked Valentine’s Day when I was in elementary school.  We would bring an empty shoebox from home and decorate it with hearts, doilies and little Cupid silhouettes.  Before the actual holiday, I remember walking to Woolworth’s to buy paper Valentine cards, to put in the decorated box of each of my classmates – even the ones I didn’t like.  These were delivered before the start of school, although most of the kids waited until a couple days before – or even the day of the Valentine party.

I remember some of the mothers coming into the classroom to help out with the party.  Cupcakes, cookies, and punch were the standard fare, with those candy hearts or other Valentine candy. It all came together in the last hour of the school day, when we would rip off the tops of the boxes.

Now that I am an adult, I appreciate those innocent times.

Posted in Browsing, Children, Holidays, Life, Love, Me, Musings, Ramblings, Reflections, Thoughts, Valentine's Day | Leave a comment

Mush and Slush

Up here in the Northeast, up in God’s Country, we have three seasons.  They are summer, winter and mud.  You may ask, “what about autumn?  You must have gorgeous colors on the trees in autumn.”   Yes, this is true – it’s why busloads of tourists from the Midwest and South love to come here in September and October, riding through the countryside “leaf peeping” and spending tons of cash.  Autumn is a colorful transition between summer and winter.  Mud season isn’t until late March, so we have to contend with winter.

Winter has dumped over 2 feet of snow on the coastal towns.  We have more snow that some of the communties up country, and we’d love to truck some of it to them.  They’re also welcome to the ice on the streets, too.  It’s a package deal.  We’ll even throw in a couple windshield scrapers and a bucketload of sand/salt mix.

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But enough ranting about winter – congratulations to the Green Bay Packers on winning the Super Bowl.  I’m a Patriots fan, but I am also a traditionalist.  There are certain organizations who keep it real.  My Red Sox, the Yankees, any Original Six hockey franchise (Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers), my Boston Celtics, LA Lakers – they respect tradition and respect the fans.  The Packers are owned by the community, not an absentee ownership.  The best tradition in Green Bay  is during training camp. The local kids will carry the player’s helmet while the player rides their bike between the locker room and practice field.  It’s a hoot seeing the grown men riding kids’ bikes, their knees wedged in behind the handlebars, trying to pedal while wobbling.   I find it endearing, almost quaint.  In this age of multi-milion dollar contracts, stratospherical ticket prices, and detached players, this ritual is proof that the game, any game, is the most important.

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I did the preliminary “number crunching” on my taxes – 1040EZ, and the return isn’t what I hoped it would be.   BUT….I will have enough coming back from Uncle Sam to renew my passport.  It is my ticket to get out of Dodge and LIVE!  Not having my passport doesn’t mean I can’t travel, but it limits it to the Lower 48.  I have a friend in Canada with whom I’d love to share dinner and drinks.  Without the passport, unfortunately, she and her paramour would have an empty chair at the dinner table.  I have made a decision that, once my former home is put up for sale and I get my share of the money, I am going to Europe.  I have friends in Germany, Scotland and France, and I want to visit them.  More reasons to get my passport renewed!

Posted in Autumn, Choices, Connected, Europe, Football, France, Germany, Goals, Heavy Thoughts, Inspiration, Life, Me, Musings, Possibilities, Ramblings, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Scotland, Snow, Sports, Tax refund, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized, Wanderlust, Winter | 2 Comments

Snow On Snow On Snow

As I write, I am looking out the library window that overlooks the public golf course.  The sun is beginning to set. with silhouettes of trees against the orange light on the horizon.  The snow is taking on a bluish tint, which gives it a otherwordly glow.  Winter is beautiful from my indoor perch. 

The library is busy today with children.  Young mothers and their children are here, looking for the weekly supply of story books.  They crouch low among the short stacks, looking for old favorites and fresh discoveries. Children moved around the room with a random spontaneity.  They find books about dancing feet, snowmen, teddy bears and trains. They create spontaneous dances, twirling with excitement with a book in hand.   There are books that capture their minds and nurture a love for the written word.  They’ll take them home and will cuddle with Mom or Dad tonight, reading a bedtime story, filling their dreams yet dreamed. The books are filled with sumptuous illustrations that capture the mind.  I watch these children around me and I smile. I find joy in their innocence and beauty in their smiles, and they remind me of my children at that age. I wonder how the years have passed so quickly.  What happened to their innocence or the joy of discovery?

There is a storm coming.  More snow on the already white landscape makes the skiers excited, but for us, those who hide behind storm windows, clutching mugs of hot chocolate and dreaming of summer breezes, the prospect of another storm darkens the mood.  I can enjoy the stark white season from my apartment without the slush, the ice, the snow, the cold – all at my convenience.  But Winter is not convenient.  The streets are becoming increasingly narrow with each storm, making driving almost suicidal.  As theplow trucks push the snow back and the banks grow higher, the oncoming cars cannot see you and you cannot see them.  You take a chance and pray, moving cautiously forward and hope to avoid the possibility of an accident.

But Winter has to be taken as it comes, on its own terms.  You deal with it.  There will be snow and ice and cold, so you dress warm.   You cherish the automatic car starter on mornings with single-digit temperatures.  You clear the sidewalks and diveway. Then, after the work, after the shovels and snowblowers go back in the garage, comes the reward.  We can build snowmen and snow forts. The cold air becomes invigorating.  The clear night sky is bejeweled with stars.  The crunch of snow underfoot is a metronome keeping your pace brisk. The rush of a toboggan ride down a steep hill makes you question your sanity.  I have been harsh with Winter.  I’ve forgotten what gifts it offers despite any discomfort.  Sitting here and looking out the window reminds me that Winter is indeed beautiful.

Posted in Books, Children, Community, Connected, Dancing, Dusk, Experiences, Gifts, Inspiration, Life, Me, Musings, Ramblings, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Snow, Thoughts, Watching, Weather, Winter | 10 Comments

Dear Diary

I went forward into the past this week when I visited my parents.  I will reserve every other Tuesday to drive out and spend an afternoon.  Aside from the company, I get a chance to load up their washing machine and do laundry.   Mom is always willing to cook for me and Dad is usually good for a religious/social justice conversation, so everyone gets what they need.  I tag along with Dad when he tends the alpaca (they have three – according to Dad, they’re an investment – their fiber is in demand ).  What I get is a home-cooked meal, good conversation, and sunlight – who could ask for anything more?

( well, there IS something, but you shouldn’t expect it from your parents.  Let your mind wander where it wants. )

My folks have been in this house for almost one year.  Their old house is still for sale.  If you know anyone who’d like a 2-bedroom cottage an hour away from Acadia National Park, let me know.  If not, I plan to buy it when I win a big money lottery and you’re all invited to visit.  When my parents decided to move, the biggest challenge they encountered after deciding they’d move was for my mother to manage her clutter.  Mom is a packrat and it frustrates Dad.  She’s a quilter, so she has fabric, pattern books, more fabric, a couple sewing machines…did I mention she had fabric?  She also cooks, so there are boxes of cookbooks and loose recipe clippings.  Mom is also the unofficial family historian for her family.  While my Dad was out in the barn tending the alpaca, Mom was working on my Christmas present – a quilt, so I decided to sit with her and go through some old diaries that belonged to my great-grandparents.  My knowledge of my Mother’s family was limited, so this was a great opportunity.  This was a chance to go back in time through the pages of these diaries. 

These were not  typical journals or diaries.  These were written by Connecticut Yankees, the original uptight generation.  The intimate details of their lives were not included in these books.  Their opinions on matters of the day were omitted, as were expressions of emotions.  Think of a typical photograph from the turn of the 20th century – monochrome tones, emotionless expressions, stiff posture – all carry-overs from the Victorian Era.  Nobody is smiling for the camera in these shots.

The daily entries consisted of the high temperature for the day, along with a brief weather observation, short bits of daily events, maybe the price of gas ($3.50 for ten gallons of gas)or groceries (2 1/4 lb. of bananas for 45 cents)…stuff like that.  It was common to find accounts of someone dropping by the house or calling on a neighbor, all from a time when folks did that on a regular basis  My great-grandfather kept track of his stock information in his journal.  According to my mother, if it weren’t for the Crash of ’29, her family would’ve done nicely in the market.  He also kept track of his bowel movements.  Back then they called it “elimination”. That was a growing concern for that generation.  Strange times, indeed.

My great-grandfather died in 1967.  I was not quite 7 years old when he died.  I never knew him and cannot recall any events that included him.  I only know his face from a photo taken in 1961, with my mother, my grandfather (her father), and my great-grandparents.  My great-grandfather has the same expression on his face that he wore when the family had their photo taken in 1917.  That expression gave me no indication of who this man was, what he stood for, and what in life gave him meaning.  What brought him pleasure? Did he enjoy listening to the radio in the evening?  Was he a fan of sports – did he follow a ball team?  My mother tells me that he was stoic and difficult to read, with a face similar to his photograph.  His days were long and full of chores.

The past and its stories have a purpose.  We are not meant to live in the past, but in the stories of another time we can see bits of ourselves.  We can take those bits and reflect on our own lives.  I look back and wonder what of my great-grandfather has been passed on to me.  My words on these pages resemble little of what he wrote; you will not read about my bodily functions, gentle reader.  If I do discover something that grabs at my brain, you’ll be the first to know.

Posted in Browsing, Connecticut, Discovery, Experiences, Family, Life, Me, Photo, Ramblings, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Thoughts, Uncategorized | 5 Comments