Sunday, December 31, 2006

Thank You 2006 - Welcome 2007

Several years ago, I was going through a rough patch. It was an unfortunate confluence of big things and little things, that all arrived to challenge me at once. Any single one of them was something which, through concentrated effort, I could have worked my way through. But because it seemed as if every trip to the mailbox, every ringing of the phone, brought a new wrinkle, another dropped shoe, I felt overwhelmed. The longer this went on, the more sunk I felt. The more sunk I felt, the more I felt as if I was slogging through molasses and I just wanted to pull the covers over my head.

One day, I peeked out from under the covers and watched a woman named Sarah Ban Breathnach on the Oprah show. She had been in a similarly dark, deep hole caused by her own unique set of circumstances which, while different from mine, resonated with me. I listened intently and followed one of her simplest, yet ultimately most transformative pieces of advice. I began the long slow process of developing “an attitude of gratitude”. With the help of her book “Simple Abundance” I started to keep a Gratitude Journal. Every day I sat down and wrote five things I was grateful for. Sometimes I struggled. Sometimes I wrote the same things day after day. Gradually, my focus shifted. I started focusing on what was still working, still good in my life. Then I started chipping away at the problems. Some of those challenges yielded quickly. Some dragged on for months upon months. But I kept on developing that deep sense of gratitude.

In time, with lots of hard work, lots of love and support, I bounced back. But I had really bounced forward to a whole new place, a stronger and more resilient place. It’s almost hard for me to believe how sad and overwhelmed I was back then, compared to how I feel now. But gratitude still helps me cope. Whenever I am faced with something negative, big or small, I cast around for what is working well, what’s good, looking for the upside in the situation. I don’t mean to imply that I no longer get scared or sad or angry or frustrated - Lord love a duck I feel all those and more - just ask Chuck! But that frightfully sing-song phrase: an attitude of gratitude, goes a long way in helping me on a daily basis.

I wish you all a wonderful, wonder filled and peaceful 2007!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Revels 2006

The snow began early this morning. By late afternoon we had very little accumulation, just enough to cover everything lightly. Unfortunately the back roads became quite slippery. Driving the couple of miles to the center of town in the rented Malibu felt like more of adventure than I needed or wanted - especially because the accident happened a month ago today. It was also strange, after five years of relying on “all wheel drive”, to be in a “regular” vehicle. My anxiety level was no doubt extra high after a close call we had late last night. We were merging into traffic via an on ramp and had needed to slow to almost a full stop. Suddenly a car came up the ramp behind us, veered to the right, and nearly sideswiped our car as they passed us and raced directly into the highway traffic! I don’t know if they had been celebrating the new year too exuberantly, too early or if they were too young and inexperienced to feel the need for caution, but they left us shaken.

The automotive scare notwithstanding, we enjoyed a wonderful evening together last night. We drove in to Harvard’s Memorial Hall, in Cambridge for The Christmas Revels. We attend almost every year and when we aren’t able to, we feel as if an important holiday ritual has been missed. This year’s theme was based in Germany and Switzerland. This production was not their absolute best, but was definitely near the top. As he has in recent years, David Coffin served as host, glue and choral director. At the end of the first act he led the audience from Sander’s Theater, out into the cathedralesque lobby of Memorial Hall while everyone danced to and sang “The Lord of the Dance”. Every year, huge numbers of audience members hold hands and weave in ever tightening concentric long ovals. As the lobby becomes almost too full for anyone to move, the song is sung for the last time. We all come to a stop, raise our hands to clap and cheer, as the final notes from the horns in the balcony drift down onto us. This year, Chuck and I were just a couple of people behind Coffin and therefore finished in the heart of the crowd! Despite such a spectacular end to the first act, the second managed to hold its own and was filled with singing by both the cast and the spectators. The final cry of “Welcome Yule” rattled the rafters with more than a thousand strong voices. There is always a spring in our steps as Revels ends and we spill out into the frigid winter air. Last night was no exception!

Thursday, December 28, 2006


My sister Gail told Chuck (Wonder Hubby/Hero/BFF) that he came off like a saint in this, my Blog. Well, clearly my communication skills are up to speed and I’m getting my point across! While I’m not sure Chuck will ever be canonized - I mean c’mon, even Blessed Pope John XXIII hasn’t made it past the beatification stage!!! - he is most definitely The Bee’s Knees!

Think me hyperbolic? I have lots of proof. Not the least of which was evidenced today when Chuck donated blood at the American Red Cross. Over the years, he has donated literally gallons of his B Positive blood. (Don’t you love that he is “B Positive”? I don’t know what my blood type is, but compared to Chuck, it has to be "Some-Letter Negative".) Anyhoo... lately he has been donating “Double Red” which means he can only donate every four months versus every two for a typical donation. I know that people all around the world donate blood every day, but I remain impressed by Chuck’s multi-decade commitment to donating. So if you want to follow in Chuck’s footsteps and be a hero, click on the this link to find out when and where you can donate!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

His Given Name Was John...

His given name was John - John Mervyn actually. So to many of his friends and family he was just Merv. To all of the guys he played baseball with back in the nineteen teens and twenties, he was known as Bunny. But to me he was always my Gramps. Gramps was married to Gagee. He was a study in contrasts. I was in my early twenties when he died the day after his 83rd birthday. It would be another five years before I would write and deliver my first eulogy. I was old enough then in years, but not in experience, to write a eulogy for Gramps. At the funeral, his parish priest spoke for the family, before Gagee, their friends and the rest of our extended clan laid him to rest. I wouldn’t have known then how to sort out the two sides of Gramps. I probably would have spoken about the way he gave up his dream of professional baseball, to come home off the road and help raise up his two daughters with Gagee. The way he continuously provided for his family, even through the long, lean years of The Great Depression. How much he loved to play golf and how skilled he was at the game. How, long after glaucoma had stopped him from driving, he could still beat every single one of us at lawn darts! But what to say about his cantankerous, curmudgeonly side? Where did that fit in with his warm smile, laughter, generosity and the obvious love he had for his family and friends? Somehow all those facets, the shiny and the tarnished, made up who Gramps was in life. But those negative ones were what I like to think really died back in 1983. Now it’s the love, friendship and loyalty that remain with us, like the Claddagh rings of his mother’s Irish ancestry. Love you Gramps. Nearly a quarter century past your passing, we’re still thankful for all the good you left behind.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

No Danger Here

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of a stranger
If one’s own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

- Ogden Nash, 1902 - 1971

I am in no danger from the wiles of a stranger, my husband and my extended family are way too much fun to be with! In the midst of a string of humdrum chores today, my mind kept tumbling back to the festivities yesterday. Like ping pong balls in a brass bingo cage, thoughts popped out: how lovely and festive Gail’s home looked; how the laughter never seemed to stop; how delicious the food was; how much we all have in common, while each is unique and different...

Then there are the handheld gifts that keep on giving: The Q20 by Radica. We had never even heard of it until C&A and K&P gifted it to us yesterday. It is a wild little gizmo that takes the traditional parlor/car game Twenty Questions into the electronic age. So? Well, it knew we were thinking of the darndest things - many of which are not suitable for posting here! It provided a great deal of silly, almost spooky, fun yesterday and we are continuing to try to stump it!

Unfortunately, the Q20 can’t answer the question that naturally popped into my mind today: wondering where will we all be next year, not just geographically for Christmas Day, but in our lives. But it won’t matter what houses we are living in, or even what states, nor will it matter who has been added to our clan and who sits around which table. We will still be family. Love you guys!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas To All

I’m grateful I’m part of a family that likes to laugh - a whole lot!

I’m grateful for family members whether nearby or oh so very far away.

I’m grateful for a voice over the telephone line.

I’m grateful for family members who found their way home.

I’m grateful we made it home before it began to snow and sleet in earnest.

I’m grateful for kind, generous words, about my words.

I’m grateful and tired and happy.

:: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Santa Baby

Dear Santa,

Here’s what I would love you to slip under some special people’s trees:

D. would like all her kids and grandkids to be happy and healthy (and she wants it now!) Feel free to throw in a winning Power Ball ticket as well.

G. would like a cash buyer for her fabulous condominium so she can move down to Georgia - which she has already fallen in love with!

K. & J. would like health and happiness for themselves and all the branches on their family tree.

T. & G. would like to know what their next successful adventure will be.

K., M., A., & C. would like lots of time together to enjoy their family.

C. & A. would like more time together and a new home to call their own.

K. & P. would like more time together and to have that honeymoon feeling never fade away.

J. & L. would like more time together and to keep making their newlywed dreams come true.

M. would like her kids and grandkids to be happy and healthy and she wants a Democrat in the White House - now!

Actually, Santa, we would all like World Peace, good health, increased sanity and common sense in D.C., and just a little bit more of a cushion in our retirement accounts.

As for C. & me, thanks for everything!



P.S. Yes, everyone has been almost entirely nice this year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Different Holiday

I was born and raised Roman Catholic. So for me Chanukah is an “easy” holiday. I came to Chanukah less than two decades ago, by way of the man who would become my husband. I have no childhood memories of latkes, dreidels and lighting the chanukiah. Therefore, emotions don’t get stirred up the same way they do at Christmas. Say the word Christmas and I’m back in Warwick. I can barely remember Christmas in Providence - all my holiday memories from there look like black and white photographs, not real, vivid, video style memories. I’ve written about some of those memories here already. They were exceptionally wonderful holidays, year after year. Impossible to recreate as an adult. Because as an adult I’m no longer playing the role I starred in and mastered as a child. Now I am producer, director, prop master, set designer and, oh my, “Today the roles of Mom and Dad will be played by Lee.” Wow. Totally different holiday production. No wonder so many of us enjoy Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. We get swept up in that dewey eyed nostalgia of Christmas Past, are confronted by the reality of Christmas Present and then, after being faced with a cold, grim future, like George Bailey finding Zuzu’s petals, we get a do-over. Our resolve is strengthened and we try to find some new production of Christmas that takes the best of what was and combines it with the realism of what is now.

Chanukah is nearly over, the last of the latkes have been enjoyed and the Chanukiah already cleaned and polished and returned to its place of honor on Grandma Rose’s sideboard. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I can barely type the phrase without being overwhelmed by emotion. But this is now. We are a little family of two. Tomorrow I will make chicken soup, then chicken salad. Gagee, my mother’s mother, first made it and created a tradition. Then my mother took up the torch. Now my sister Karen knows how to make it, as do I. So tomorrow Chuck and I will have our Christmas Eve dinner of chicken salad on little finger rolls, with pimento stuffed green olives, sweet pickles and potato chips. We will be dining together. We will be dining with my memories. We will be dining with angels.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Eighth Night!

It all builds to a crescendo tonight as we remember a miracle. Gazing at the flickering flames we think about all the other miracles that have been recorded and retold down through the ages. Perhaps even more importantly, we think about the little miracles, the ones we take for granted, or nearly overlook in our daily lives. Sunrises, sunsets, a cat in your lap, a dog by your side, a thunderstorm when we are in the midst of a drought. Finding true love, and fanning those flames. Laughing, laughing until you can barely breathe and the tears are in your eyes. All the little courtesies and social graces, the please and thank you, having a door held open for you. Driving on your own side of the double yellow line, while everyone headed where you’ve already been, stays on their side. :: I wish you all kinds of miracles - medium, small, nearly invisible and even film-at-eleven-knock-your-socks-off spectacular ones!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Beat Goes On and On...

We are weary. When Chuck brought up today’s mail from the box, we found several items concerning the accident. It happened three weeks ago today, and we still don’t have the Subaru back. What followed were lots of phone calls and faxes - our insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company, the dealership, the auto body shop - and then some more back-ing and forth-ing in various combinations. Bless their hearts, our winning streak continues, in that everyone was easy and pleasant to deal with! When all was said and faxed, we learned that our car makes the trip to the body shop first thing tomorrow to begin getting all smooth and shiny once again. Sitting on the curb in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot on November 30th, we never guessed it would take this long. I do know that in the big scheme of things this is small potatoes. Really I do. Patience. Patience is a virtue. Apparently patience is the lesson to be learned this month. Luckily I still have ten days left to get some!

Maybe the music of my favorite animated cartoon from childhood: The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will lift my spirits. That’s the ticket! W.W.C.B.D.? What Would Charlie Brown Do? :-)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Indulgence? Nay! Necessity!

How could I have gotten to my 26th Post without mentioning Scharffen Berger chocolate? Well, I didn’t mention air, or breathing in, and breathing out much either...

Scharffen Berger Chocolate is deliciously complex. If you take a sip of wine and then cast about for just the right adjective to describe the taste and the experience, then Scharffen Berger is right up your alley. While everything in their line is delectable, my personal favorite is the Cacao Nibs. They take the perfectly roasted beans and crack them into little crunchy bits. If the only chocolate you like is super creamy milk chocolate, this may be at the wrong end of the spectrum for you. But do consider adding some to other chocolate. The crackling, intense bursts, only make the other flavors richer.

You can purchase Scharffen Berger direct from their own site, and many other on-line locations. But much of their product line can be found in Whole Foods Markets as well.

I am confident, that in the near future, the FDA, in a brilliant flash of insight and inspiration, will declare Scharffen Berger chocolate to be its own food group and will build a new foundation beneath the food pyramid made entirely of Cacao Nibs! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

There's No Place Like Home

So many holiday activities have taken center stage over the past few days. In the days to come, I hope to have a chance to just sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy it all. I’ll probably spend some time in this cozy corner of our living room. That lovely peach light (It's not as bright as it looks in this photo.) is a Himalayan Salt Lamp. We love the soft hearth-like glow it gives off. What we have, what’s captured in this photo, is very different from what many people experience. We know how fortunate we are. We know we can’t wave a magic wand and make it better for everyone. But we can make some small contributions which when combined with other donations and volunteer efforts, can change someone else’s life for the better.

Here is one organization that helps poor and homeless women and their children. The Women’s Lunch Place, in Boston, offers a variety of services from bathing and restroom facilities, to nutritious meals, to simply a safe place to rest that’s not on the streets. They also help with clothing, advocacy, job applications and so much more. Perhaps most important, is that they treat every woman with the utmost respect. I can only begin to imagine what it’s like to be homeless. But I think The Women’s Lunch Place would feel like a safe haven and a lifeline to me, if I were in that situation. :: Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Neither Snow Nor Rain...

According to a report on NECN over 900 million pieces of mail will go out today through the United States Postal Service. Isn’t that 90% of a billion??? Yoiks! Today we had our fair share of mail delivered to our home. We received 15 pieces of mail, two of which were holiday cards (Yay!), two were things we had asked for and the rest was mostly ho-hum and third class mail, which needed our attention before shredding and recycling. But just because we were happy to see little more than 25% of what arrived, it was still all delivered to our mailbox by our letter carrier in remarkably good order, from all around the country. I unsuccessfully tried to find the quote, but I remember hearing that the amount of mail we receive has grown dramatically over the years. Something like the number of pieces of mail received in a year in 1900 was the same as during a month in 1950 and in a day in 2000. (I Googled and Wiki’d for it in vain. Any facts to share?)

I also have heard that despite continuing increases in our postal rates, the U.S. still has the least expensive and most reliable mail service on the planet. I found a Christian Science Monitor article from 2002 which spells this out quite clearly.

So remember to say please and thank you and a cheerful Happy Holidays to all the postal workers who continue to live up to their unofficial motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. Especially, a dear member of our extended family, who's a really great guy! :-)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

PAX Does Mean Peace

‘Tis the season of “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men”, but what I’m referring to is a PAX wardrobe unit from IKEA. Many years ago, Wonder Hubby and I bought an old house with three bedrooms - only one of which has a closet! We tried to adapt and make do, but we were always struggling with how and where to stow everything from clothes to sleeping bags. We always felt as if we were failing to keep things tidy and accessible. Then a couple of years ago I became aware of, and completely infatuated with, the IKEA PAX wardrobe system. This past May, on my birthday, we drove the hour and forty-five minutes from here to the nearest IKEA.

We had done all our homework: studied the catalogue, gone on-line and fitted out our virtual PAX unit, measured our bedroom and had the numbers and details in hand. It was a wonderful birthday! We had been to IKEAs in New Jersey and on Long Island, but this one was “ours”, right here in Massachusetts. We went all over the store, loving every minute, and then headed to the in store cafeteria to have lunch, recharge our batteries and finalize our decisions.

Once we placed our order for the PAX units and all the fittings, we headed to the self serve store and shopped some more. Finally, we picked some items up in the warehouse area and checked out. Wheeling the huge flatbed style carts out to the car was a bit of an adventure, topped only by the adventure of loading up our trusty Subaru (BTW, we still don’t have it back yet). There was one moment when we were wrestling an enormous flat packed piece of the PAX onto the roof of the car when we looked at each other and thought: we are getting too old for this! That dreadful idea only strengthened our resolve and we got everything crammed in and tied on top of the car in short order!

It was a long ride home. We stopped a couple of times to check the tie-downs. (Helpful Hint: If you plan on strapping things onto your car, buy some of the ratchet tie downs with heavy webbing straps. They work great.) Once we arrived home, we brought everything into the living room and used that as a staging area. Over the next couple of days we assembled the whole gorgeous thing in our bedroom. That’s when the peace began. Suddenly we had a place for everything, and everything was in it’s place. It’s been seven months, and it’s still true. We continue to marvel at how serene and organized our room is. It’s now wicked easy to find everything and to put things away. After seven months of ongoing peace and order, we have forgiven ourselves for much of the disorder we blamed ourselves for, over all those years. Now we’re planning on working the same magic in the other bedrooms. IKEA here we come!

In the spirit of peace and harmony, the CD getting played around here today is “A Brasilian Christmas”. It’s sweet and soothing, just the thing to calm the jangled nerves brought on by the last minute rush to get ready for Christmas, while still celebrating Chanukah. :: Happy, peaceful holidays to you all!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Tastes Like More!

The latkes were scrumptious! Truly yummy! Or as we used to say in my family: "Mmm! Tastes like more!" What you see here are the before (basket of Yukon Golds), during (potatoes with onion, post Cuisinart) and almost-after (on griddle) photos recording the preparing of the latkes. Once they've cooked on the stove in a combination of olive and canola oils, I finish them up in the oven on parchment covered cookie sheets. It allows the insides to cook to a creamy, yet still textured, consistency, while the outsides continue to crisp. Because it's just the two of us, I usually make one batch of latkes and then re-heat them during the week. We enjoy them as a side dish, an appetizer/snack, or as dessert. They are delicious plain, with sour cream and lox, or with sour cream and applesauce, or just applesauce - anyway you like!

Last night we listened to part of "Chanukah - A Singing Celebration" a CD by Cindy Paley. We also listened to one of the bonus stories on the CD included with the book "Hanukkah Lights, Stories of the Season" from National Public Radio. Tonight, more of the same as we add another candle to the Chanukiah. This increasing is according to the teachings of Rabbi Hillel. Happy Chanukah!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Preparing For The First Night

Potatoes? Check.
Onions? Check
Oil? Check.
Eggs? Check.
Salt, applesauce, sour cream? Check, check, check.
Candles? Check.
Chanukiah (Menorah) shined and ready? Check.

Tonight it will be the Chanukah candles we light first, before the Shabbat candles. We will read from “Haneirot Halalu - These Lights are Holy” (by Frishman & Baskin) and we will sing. Everything from the traditional “Rock of Ages” to The Short Sisters’ “My Candles” from their album “A Planet Dancing Slow”.

The Latkes will be just as good as when I used to hand grate the potatoes into the ice water, then drain the water and harvest the potato starch. Thank goodness for the twenty year old Cuisinart, and having lived long enough to let go a little.

Chuck and I wish everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful Chanukah! And Shabbat Shalom!

P.S. For an abundance of information on Chanukah and all things Jewish check out this link.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Inside Baseball

Writing about writing, or writing about attempting to get published is so inside baseball, but if not in one's own blog, then where? True, never is an option, but it’s my blog, so here goes. (Woof!)

I like writing. I like writing poetry, prose, this blog, letters, even notes on greeting cards. But I do not like naming my poems, nor do I like choosing which of my kids - er - poems to send out into the world.

Today I am struggling with choosing which poems to mail out tomorrow for consideration in a local publication. I’m second guessing myself. I try to imagine what “they” might like. I read and reread the guidelines to the point of re-igniting previously squelched obsessive compulsive behaviors. I toy with the titles of the poems. What captures the essence of the poem without giving the whole thing away? What is too abstruse, too minimalist?

Then comes the moment of letting go, when I realize even if I’m not ready, my poems are ready. (I actually love the poem I wrote about that very topic, but it’s not compatible with the local publication’s guidelines.) That’s when I make my final decision as easily as I can help someone else send their ill fitting, doesn’t-do-a-thing-for-you clothes to the thrift store. Next, off to the Post Office and my poems are on their journey.

I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with the waiting. But the rejection remains a challenge. A challenge I’ll Scarlett O’Hara, and think about tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I laughed out loud in Barnes and Noble last night. Looking over a pile of box calendars I picked up "Cartoons From The New Yorker 2007 Calendar", by Cartoonbank. The cover illustration by Gregory, was a black and white line drawing of two dogs sitting and talking with one another. The caption below read:

"I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go
back to just pointless, incessant barking."

:: Oh My.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Welcome To Stars Hollow

We hit the road this afternoon and drove back home several hours later with a feeling of accomplishment. Yay! We may not have ramped up to the level my Mom used to operate at, but we were pleased. As we came through the center of town, the temperature was just above freezing and the sights on The Common compelled us to stop. It was quiet and lovely. As we walked around and snapped a few pictures, we joked that it felt like Stars Hollow on the Gilmore Girls - but with fewer colorful characters wandering about! I hope you all had a happy moment like this at some point today. Now I'm off to put my feet up...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Today Is What Date???

How did it get to be December 11th, with Chanukah beginning at the end of the week, and Christmas only two weeks from today??? It seems like only yesterday Chuck and I were running errands and then - Crash! - oh - never mind. I think I know where the time has gone! So I need to gear up and get back to that Seasonal To Do List we had been making such good progress on.
I have no idea how my Mom used to do it. She worked full-time outside the home, did all the Christmas shopping (except for Dad’s “special gifts”!), baked dozens of all kinds of different cookies, wrote the Christmas cards and made both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. Dad did much of the decorating, and as I grew older, I took on more of the gift wrapping (even my own gifts from Dad and Mom!). And of course all three of us girls helped with shopping, cookies, decorating and cleaning (one task less cheerfully than the others), but it was Mom putting in the overtime - in overdrive!
So in the spirit of Holidays Past, I need a little jolt. That means Barenaked Ladies' album “Barenaked For The Holidays”. (If you don’t use the link, be careful how you search for it!) This album ranges from sweet and poignant to frenetic verging on the hysterical. In addition to the Christmas carols, it has a few Chanukah songs as well.
:: P.S. Special thanks to our friends Tom and Gale (along with Adie and Don) whose Christmas card’s arrival caused us to look up from our insurance paperwork and check out a calendar! Miss you guys! :: More later.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Oh Holy Night

I can’t sing it. Not really. I can’t sing it the way I hear it in my heart. Echoes of my mother’s beautiful voice. Echoes of my father’s beautiful voice. Both combined - wrapped in a hazy Christmas glow from childhood. Logs crackling in the fireplace. Electric candles glowing in the windows of our two story colonial. Flames from wax tapers surrounded by glass hurricanes flickering on the mantlepiece. And voices. Lovely voices singing Oh Holy Night.
When my grandmother was lying in an ICU bed at the holidays some three decades ago, we gathered around her. Gagee was in a coma, on a ventilator. A little green light glowed every time she took a breath on her own. We spoke to her, encouraging her to breathe for herself, again and again. Daughter and granddaughters, we stood at her bedside and softly sang Oh Holy Night. We didn’t realize that the nurses at their station could hear us. That it brought them to tears, as it does me in the remembering. The green light glowed more often. Gagee eventually recovered after a very long recuperation. We called her our miracle.
Oh Holy Night is woven through my childhood and adulthood. Very few recordings of it can stand comparison to such vivid and sentiment laden memories. But Josh Groban’s rendition from his 2002 album “Josh Groban in Concert” is quite wonderful. I don’t own the CD, but I did download the song from iTunes for just 99 cents! I hope you enjoy it as well.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Farewell and December

Yesterday, sunny and bitterly cold, began for us with the funeral of a neighbor. We weren't coffee klatch neighbors. We were talk to each other at the mailbox or walking down the street or while working in the yard neighbors. We knew some big things about each other’s lives, and lots of little ones. We were always happy to see Phil, and he always seemed to feel the same about us. When we got the news he had passed, it came as such a shock. He wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, having achieved octogenarian status. But in the thirteen years we’d known him, he always seemed the same. Friendly, chatty, warm, with a variety of aches and pains that he acknowledged but just as quickly brushed aside. Now there’s an empty space, a hollow feeling, not having him next door. Difficult to believe he won’t come down the road tomorrow and stop to talk. There was a deep comfort in his constancy. Phil will be missed and remembered by so many.
Today, sunny and cold again, the most appropriate music is George Winston’s album “December”. Contemplative, calming, Winston’s exquisitely beautiful piano solos are also uplifting and a little Christmas-y.
:: Enjoy and be well.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Happy Holidays!

That's right. I said it. Happy Holidays! Wait. Wait for it... Nope. No bolt of lightning. Not even the rumble of thunder in the distance. Despite all of the brouhaha in the last couple of years, I don’t believe Christmas is threatened or under attack if I wish someone “Happy Holidays”. Saying Christmas is at risk of being destroyed in this country strikes me as being as absurd as saying rich, white men have no power. It’s a paper tiger. I think Happy Holidays is a more egalitarian way of wishing most of the people we come in casual contact with good cheer. The vast majority of Americans self identify as belonging to one of the myriad Christian denominations. So why are some folks trying to make us believe there is a war against Christmas? For decades, good people have done lots of ecumenical work finding common ground and educating people about the diverse and varied ways God is understood on this little planet. Let’s not undermine that work by buying into a trumped up war. Instead let’s wish for and work for Peace, Shalom, Pax, Salaam, Mir, Santi...

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Beat Goes On

We are continuing to deal with the paperwork, phone calls and financial facts of our November 30th crash. The best news remains that no one was hurt. The next best is that it looks as if everything that was supposed to collapse or crumple on impact did just that. We returned the Subaru Forester after the overnight rental from the dealership. We test drove one five years ago before we bought the Outback. The Forester’s ride and creature comforts have definitely improved in the intervening years. We now have a longer term, agency rental under us: a Chevy Malibu. As you can see from the photo, it’s very nice, but we still miss our Subaru. Thanks to everyone for your concern and good wishes. Remember, “Buckle Up For Safety”!
It’s pretty nippy around here again today. In the 20s outside and I won’t tell you how low we keep the heat set indoors. Let’s just say that we have reached the point in the season where layers are de rigueur! So in order to get a bit of a jump start this morning the iPod has Sugarland’s “Twice The Speed of Life” coursing through it’s digital self. I tend to enjoy country music seasonally - usually in summer. However, Sugarland’s freshman album is terrific anytime. I haven’t bought their new CD yet, but I am hoping that by going from a trio down to a duo, they haven’t lost anything vital from their sound or their lyrics. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


Perhaps the word snow followed by an exclamation point is a bit of a stretch for the flurries and snow squalls we experienced today, but it did stick to the ground so “Snow!” it is! Here’s a photo from our back walk. I must admit that while it was neat to see the big fat flakes swirling in the air and the dusting clinging to the already cold ground, my thoughts did fly to the worst of winters past. But since it’s only December in southern New England, we hopefully have a few more weeks before winter officially begins and we are plunged into what this other photo captured Chuck dealing with last year. And this wasn't even a really big storm!
Music playing around here today is The Chieftains, "The Bells of Dublin". It’s a great holiday album with everyone from Elvis Costello to Burgess Meredith(!) performing with them. The bells, as in "The Bells of..." are truly spectacular. Enjoy and be well.

Monday, December 4, 2006

One Is The Loneliest Number

Hi All (?) -
I was listening to Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann tonight when he shared this little news snippet: According to Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, a new blog is created every second of every day. Mr. Schmidt also said that the average blog is read by only one person.
To anyone reading Pink Granite you have my humble and sincere appreciation! :: More later.

A Different Drummer

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
- Henry David Thoreau

When I was around 12 or 14 (the same age that I first began writing poetry) I copied this quote onto a small piece of note paper. I folded it carefully and slid it into my wallet. I don’t know for sure when the piece of paper was finally lost, the creases worn to pinpoint holes from repeated folding and unfolding. The back of the paper was stained a burnt umber from the raw suede of my wallet and the edges were dog eared from my reading it over and over. I know I carried it to college. Perhaps it was lost during some grim years after graduation. During those same years the message of the quote was muted, but deep inside I was still stepping to that other music.
When I first read Thoreau’s words I felt a deep resonance. I felt someone brilliant and well respected understood me, at an age when I barely understood myself.
These photos are of little things I saw today. Little things that caused me to slow down, listen to that different drummer and feel grateful.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Happy Feet

No, not the new animated film - honest to goodness happy feet! When I was in college, more than a quarter century ago, (typing that last phrase I suddenly feel woozy and lightheaded... ) I had a pair of multi-colored striped socks. Whenever I put them on I felt chipper. Last fall, we were up at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine when I spotted a pair of Smartwool striped socks. I smiled. Chuck smiled. We bought them. And since then we have purchased several more pairs! The great thing is that not only do I always feel in better spirits when I slip them on, but they keep my feet toasty warm in winter and surprisingly cool in summer. Plus, they are machine wash and dry and they never feel itchy or scratchy. Now that it looks and feels as if winter is settling in for the duration, I wanted to share this unsolicited testimonial with all of you living in northern climes. Be well and keep warm!

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Deck the Halls

Winter blew in overnight. It came roaring in after thunder, lightning and torrential rains swept across southern New England. Yesterday the high was 65 and tonight we're hovering just above freezing, with the winds still brisk. 'Tis the season to begin discussing the chill factor. That's as big a topic around here as the humidity is in the summer! Despite the cold (or perhaps because of it) Chuck got the ladder out this afternoon and strung the icicle lights along the edge of the front porch. I love this photo, but I wish I could Photoshop a crisp paint job onto our house, with just a few clicks of the mouse!
As I type this, The Roches Christmas album "We Three Kings" is playing in the background. The album is fun, cheerful and filled with the three sisters' sweet harmonies. Thanks to everyone who's been reading this Blog. I'm having an awful lot of fun and am delighted to have you join me! :: More later.

Calgon, Take Me Away

Friday was a long day. Lots of phone calls to insurance companies, rent-a-car agencies, auto repair... Throughout the day, sitting crosslegged on the bed, with papers and policies and Post It Notes stuck everywhere, moving the phone from ear to ear, while voice mail music played, I let myself think of this place. This photo was taken at the end of a very different kind of long day, one autumn in Acadia. Across the meadow is Jordan Pond, and The Bubbles. Chuck is sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs just outside Jordan Pond House. I can smell the wood smoke from their chimneys, feel the nip in the fall air. I wanted to magically teleport myself into the empty chair next to Chuck. I also wanted our sturdy, reliable Subaru to be waiting safely in the parking lot- with our License Plate list resting on the dashboard!
Happily, every single person I spoke with on the phone today was very nice! But I must admit, today I felt a little peeved with the gal who drove into our car, and was able to then drive away. I do remember having to call my parents (on more than one occasion!) after an accident when I was about her age. The worst was after Mom and Dad had the '68 baby blue Chevelle completely redone - bodywork plus new paint job - and I had to make one of those heart in my throat phone calls: "Hi Mom! Is Dad around? No everything's fine. I just want to talk to Dad!" Gulp! I can still see my Dad standing in a sea of flashing red and blue lights, in the middle of a group of exceptionally tall state troopers and local police officers from two different towns. Dad looked around, assessed the situation and quietly took charge by suggesting we all get out of the middle of four lanes of traffic. It's a miracle I'm still alive. No - not from the accident - that my parents let me live another day! But they did and hopefully the college student's parents from yesterday's adventure will let her live another day as well!
I’m weary, still grateful and after remembering back all those years, a little less peeved.