Saturday, February 27, 2010

Habits and Power

I realized that in the year or so since I began using Twitter, I have changed my blog habits. If I read an interesting news article online, I will often quickly send out a link via Twitter. But then I don’t necessarily follow that up with a blog post. Readers of my blog (either regular - Thank you! - or serendipitous - Welcome!) are not all the same folks who I interact with over on Twitter. Because of that difference, I want to remember to share some of those items back here on Pink Granite.

With that in mind, I read a very interesting article on MSNBC a couple of days ago: “Interval Training Can Cut Exercise Hours Sharply; Intense, brief workouts twice as effective as other regimens, experts say”. Once upon a time, when Chuck and I were exercising regularly, with intensity and in a goal oriented way, we learned of the advisability of such interval training. We called what we did “power bursts”. During our walking, we would count down 3, 2, 1 and then really pick up our pace (including punching out with our arms) to a count of ten or twenty or thirty or sixty. After the power burst we would resume walking at our original pace. We would repeat this several times during our walks. To be absolutely clear, in no way am I comparing ourselves to elite athletes. Ha! To the contrary, I was working hard at losing weight and increasing my strength, stamina and overall health. Chuck was going along with me mostly in support of my efforts, but he too reaped the same benefits. What I am convinced of, is that whenever we worked our power bursts into our routines, we progressed more consistently toward our goals. And if we had reached one of those maddening plateaus, increasing the power burst strategy, kicked us down to the next level.

The astute (or merely conscious!) among you will wonder why I wrote “Once upon a time”. Darn you attentive/conscious readers! Simple answer: we fell off the exercise wagon. We continued to walk, which is clearly better than not walking. And we continued to have fun with seasonal snowshoeing, cross country skiing and Carriage Trails in Acadia. But pushing ourselves with our walking, incorporating power bursts, lifting free weights and close attention to what we were eating, well, not so much. As a result, we lost a lot of the strength, stamina and overall fitness and relocated too much of the weight. Sigh... So, since last Autumn, we’ve been gradually focusing our attention back to doing what works. That has recently shifted into higher gear, which is why the Interval Training article jumped out at me, why I Tweeted it and why I have written this post!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Six Weeks

We’ve been in a cycle of winter storms for the last few days. It’s expected to continue into Monday. Here in the hills of Worcester County, we’ve had snow, rain, fog, sleet, an hour or two of sun, howling winds and more snow. Coastal New England, on the other hand, has been hit much more severely with hurricane force winds, downed trees, damaged buildings and widespread power outages.

Out of curiosity (and driven by more than a touch of cabin fever) I looked back through my spring photographs. Using the past several years as a guide, we’ve got about six more weeks before anything as lovely as these crocuses push up through newly thawed ground and last year’s autumn leaves, to delight and dazzle.

Six weeks.
I can handle that.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I don’t mind math. But I hate middle of the night math. The sort of math where you wake up with a start from a dream you can’t remember, but the feeling clings to you like a damp nightdress on a sticky summer night. But it is not summer. The feeling is somewhere between anxiety and dread and sadness. And your mind is not still. That’s when math can be at its worst: bills that need paying; things which need fixing or, heaven help us, replacing; interest rates; IRA and 401K balances.

But dark of night fiscal math is nothing compared to loss and actuarial math: my father died at 68; I was 29 when he died; he’s been gone 22 years today; I will soon be 52; Dad was only sixteen years older than that when he died; Chuck will soon turn 67; that’s just one year younger than my Dad was when he died...
The math beats on until sleep once again pulls me back and lets me rest both mind and body.

Dad was robbed. I was robbed. The whole family was robbed.
Even those of you who never knew him, you too, were robbed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heavy Snow

Oh our poor rose bush. Last winter it suffered through the ice storm. Now the eight inches of heavy, dense, snowball-making snow which fell last night caused its branches to bow low once again. It wasn’t just the rose bush. It was the mock orange, the hemlocks, the lilacs. Even the boundless honeysuckle I despise was brought low, but seems not to have broken. We did what we could to ease the burden, but only spring sun and much warmer days will tell the final tale.

Here’s something a little prettier:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Never Miss A Moment

For several years, Chuck has created a calendar reflecting the schedule for the Boston Red Sox, using an Excel spreadsheet. This year, he discovered that the Red Sox have a downloadable iCal subscription!

Why aren’t you all jumping up and down with unbridled excitement?

It’s the Boston Red Sox.
It’s a downloadable calendar for Apple’s iCal.
And it’s a subscription - meaning if there’s a change, it will automatically update your calendar.

There you go, now I can feel you jumping up and down with unbridled excitement!
For just a second there, you had me a wee bit worried.

So good, so good, so good!

Party Of Four!

Veronica’s second daughter Emily made her appearance in the world today! Best wishes to Ronnie, her husband Steven, big sister Sarah and, of course, little Miss Emily!

Monday, February 22, 2010

#FoodFail - Response

Or: I Am More Than Just Rubber Chicken!

A couple of weeks ago I saw a new, very simple recipe for spaghetti squash - somewhere. I can’t find it now, but it stuck in my mind. I’ve cooked spaghetti squash before and it was always pretty good, but no way was it my favorite veggie. When we were shopping with my Mom in Rhode Island I found a spaghetti squash which was a Goldilocks - not too big, not too small. I bought it. Then this how to was posted by Steamy Kitchen over on Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen Blog. It reminded me of the earlier (now missing) recipe. I knew the stars were aligning.

I’ve never had trouble cutting a Spaghetti Squash in half. So that’s what I did first. I placed it cut side down in a baking dish and popped it in the microwave. Six or seven minutes later, I added a little water to the dish and slid it into a 375F degree oven. (If you’re a Spaghetti Squash virgin, follow Steamy Kitchen’s how to and read the comments as well - lots of good tips.)

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, I added a generous amount of crushed garlic to some olive oil and butter. I grated in a little nutmeg and added some salt and pepper. Once the Spaghetti Squash was cooked, cleaned of seeds and spaghetti-fied, I added the squash to the garlic mixture in the pan and tossed it. When I served it as a side dish, I grated some Asiago cheese over the top. Delicious!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I’ve heard of “rubber chicken” when folks talk about having to attend big conferences and awards dinners where lackluster food is served. But it wasn’t until this evening that I was the one responsible for serving it! Oh my God! It was terrible! I honestly haven’t a clue what the heck went wrong. All I know is that the knife bounced right off the chicken breast. We’re lucky nobody lost an eye! Chuck reaffirmed his eligibility for sainthood by simply saying that I have “made better meals” - - - and then he ate it! There was a moment when I wondered if I had purchased a fake chicken breast like the plastic sushi in the windows of some Japanese restaurants; or the wax fruit on my grandmother’s dining room table.

It was dreadful.
And, I’ll admit it, I cried.
Trust me, that chicken was no laughing matter!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ice Out

Our local high school track is clear! Even though our part of Central Massachusetts has missed out on the very heavy snows which have pounded our neighbors to the east and south, we have had constant snow cover for months. Our snow sneaks (similar to these) are great, but the iciness and uneven surface, pushed us into the salty, sandy parking lots. This afternoon we were able to wear our regular sneakers and walk on the track. With the exception of some icy puddles and slick spots it was good. And the slippery sections just gave us an excuse to hold hands to insure against a fall!

When the weather has been truly dismal (snow, sleet, bitter cold, etc.) I’ve been doing some of my Leslie Sansone “Walk At Home” tapes. (Also available here) My VHS tapes are several years old, but I assume that her contemporary DVDs are just as good, if not better. You start out walking in place - easy peasy. Then you add a few extra steps and you can incorporate your own hand weights as well. The introductory tape is brief. You get to the end of it and think, O.K. I can do this. Where’s the next tape? Soon you’re up to thirty minutes and then more. Honestly, once you get used to the pattern, you can flip on the TV and watch your favorite show while you walk. Chuck has tried doing the “Walk At Home” tapes with me. Let’s say it wasn’t a good fit for his personality! He didn’t mind Ms. Sansone. However he does want to actually go somewhere when he walks! So do I. That’s why we were both so happy to have the track available again. But, for me anyway, the tapes are good back up plan.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Less Than Two Weeks...

Olympics shlympics!
The very first spring training game for the Boston Red Sox will take place Wednesday, March 3, 2010!

Yes, I know the Olympics are happening in Vancouver, British Columbia. (I’m even aware of the oddly international family of skaters: The Reeds. There are interesting sports and less interesting sports; nifty outfits and zany outfits; and fabulously beautiful medals being awarded - and occasionally broadcast. Despite NBC’s endless hours of frenetic, scattershot coverage, they seem less interested in the events and more interested in their “packages” and interviews in front of the fake (Thank you Stephen Colbert!) fireplace.)

I know the official Republicans are embracing the wingers and the extremists. (While they seem to relish being the party of NO, they want their power back. To get it they need, as George Steinbrenner was known to say, “meat in the seats”. To get that, they need voters in the booths. The TeaPartyTypes we see on television are just the ones who made the scurrilous signs and hit the streets. There are more of them at home shouting at their TVs. The Republicans are pandering to and partnering with them to get their votes, so they can be the party in legitimate power once again. Not just wielding the kind of power toddlers do when they throw themselves down on the floor of the grocery store, in a full blown tantrum, demanding the candy bar.)

In the good news column, I know the Public Option appears to have taken a turn for the better. (Although I don’t know exactly how the patient was resuscitated nor who administered CPR, I suspect it was the progressives - both voters and members of Congress. It is also possible that the Democrats, in a collective epiphanous moment, decided to leave the screaming toddlers wailing on the floor and act in the best interests of the American people.)

All that said, I confess to news burnout. Good, bad or truly strange news - I don’t much care. I am crispy. I am ready for spring training. I’m ready for old friends to take the field and the new players to introduce themselves. I want to hear Don and Jerry and the Eeyoresque sound of the foghorn as Jerry declares the “fog of spring training”. I want it to be simpler. And yes, the complex minutiae of baseball statistics and rules will be a blessed, comforting, distracting relief from governmental politics and the politics of international sport.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine’s Day Post Mortem

I’m sure that a gazillion tons of candy were sold last weekend, not to mention a bazillion roses and mountains of cards.
I have nothing against flowers, chocolates and a mushy card.
But gentlemen, I have to tell you that nothing trumps:

taking the compost out in a snowstorm
holding hands while watching TV
looking deeply into her eyes
calling when you’re running late
calling just because
taking the car in for the oil change
laughing together
going to her doctor’s appointment with her
wearing your seatbelt
not solving her problem
solving her problem
asking the waiter to hold the onions
fighting fair
learning the magic phrase “that doesn’t do a thing for you”
loading the dishwasher
welcoming her into your arms at night
saying please and thank you
handing her the remote control
dancing in the kitchen
the truth of I love you

We Lost A Star

Thelma Lucille Sayles Clifton passed away on Saturday at the age of 73. She was a brilliant, powerful poet.

Thank you Ms. Clifton, for your words, your courage and your heart.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This and That

: : It’s been snowing all day; a fine grainy snow punctuated by the occasional squall. Not too much accumulation, but it means the front lawn has continued to stay snow covered since, ummm..., forever? But as you know, I’m happier with snow, than without.

: : We took our first cut at the taxes today. When I got to the prompt in Turbo Tax where it asked about our medical expenses for the year, my hopes soared. With two, count ‘em two, root canals between us, plus other similarly fun filled expenditures, I was certain we’d crest over the floor. Turbo Tax quoted a number which we needed to exceed and I was sure we had it knocked. Lots of scouring of records, receipts and tabulating columns of figures later and we were done. I clicked “Done” and was informed by Turbo Tax that we did NOT have enough medical expenses - even though we had about 30% more than the number they first quoted! Color me “confused” with a splash of “freakin’ frustrated”!

: : Over the weekend, Chuck learned that next year his high school class will be celebrating their 50th reunion. 50 years? Whoa! We both needed to take a deep breath after that fact sank in! I have never been to any of my schools’ reunions. But we did make the trip to Chuck’s 30th high school reunion. He couldn’t get over the fact that nearly all the women appeared unchanged and nearly all the men were unrecognizable - including himself!

: : My Mom has been under the weather for the last couple of days. At 86, she continues to impress us with her determination and her resilience. Get well soon Mom!

: : Last, but by no means least, we’re sending all sorts of positive energy and good wishes Veronica’s way as she comes down the homestretch to the due date for her second child! Yay Ronnie!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy February 14th

Oh how I dreaded Saint Valentine’s Day as a little kid! All those cute little die-cut cards, slipped into thin white envelopes and delivered to one’s classmates. All the inevitable scorekeeping as it became clear that Donna D. once again had received a “Be Mine” Valentine from every single student in the known universe. Or so it seemed to the little girl with the cats’ eyes glasses with far fewer cards. ;o)

So on this Valentine’s Day, I will send one wish out to all of you:

Photograph and Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Font: Hypatia Sans Pro from Adobe. Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac.
You’re welcome to “drag and drop” this image onto your computer for your personal use.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Today has been Chuck’s Dad’s yahrzeit. One year ago today Chuck’s sister Carol was sitting at Dad’s bedside in Washington state, knowing the end was very near. She dialed Chuck and held the phone up to Dad's ear so that Chuck could speak to his Dad one last time. Soon Dad took his last breath, surrounded by family and love.

This is the memorial card we made in honor of Dad and shared with folks at his memorial service. It was printed on parchment and mounted onto a piece of heavy brown cardstock, tied at the top with a ribbon.

Photographs from our family collection. Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Fonts: Humana Serif Md ITC TT and Lucida Calligraphy. Paper: “Maps” from the Bookworm Collection by Erica Hite. Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac.

Friday, February 12, 2010


During most of the year, when the ground is free of snow, unless we are lucky enough to see a visitor, it’s hard to know who’s living with us on our land. But when the snow has blanketed the front lawn, we can see that it’s a bit like the intersection of the Mass Pike and Route 128 - only very, very quiet.

Could this be where a cottontail stopped briefly?


Even as I type this, the Red Sox are loading the equipment truck for spring training.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

At noon today the truck will leave Fenway Park in Boston and begin the trip to Fort Myers, Florida.

Spring training is coming!
Spring training is coming!
Spring training is coming!

So good, so good, so good!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Look Ma - No Hands!

My Mom doesn’t have a computer, nor does she want one. When I started this blog three plus years ago, it was a little difficult for her to wrap her mind around the concept. Heck, it was a little hard for me to explain in the beginning! She finally settled on the notion that it’s like a diary and my readers and fellow bloggers are like pen pals. Not bad! And she has picked up enough computer lingo and information to advise her friend on how to begin researching a medical condition: “Just go to that Google place and type it in!” Two thumbs up Mom.

Today we went to Rhode Island to visit with Mom, have lunch together and run some errands. (Mom stopped driving back in August.) I decided to bring along a copy of last week’s Worcester Magazine. I wanted her to see where an excerpt from Pink Granite had been published in lovely, tangible, non-digital newsprint and ink in their Blog Log column. I showed her. She read it. And she seemed decidedly underwhelmed. Ummm... Mom? Something I wrote is in black and white in a genuine, honest to goodness newspaper! This is the moment when you’re supposed to clip it out, stick it on the refrigerator and leave it until the edges curl and it yellows - aren’t you?

To be fair, Mom was ridiculously proud when my poem was published. And she often leaves my greeting cards up well past their expiration dates as if they were on loan from the Louvre. Actually, she liked an abstract mother and child print I made so much, she framed it. So it’s not like I’m lacking in appreciation from the woman. I guess I thought she would naturally feel the same dizzying rush of excitement I felt when Chuck brought our copy of WoMag home. It’s good fun to write and post here on Pink Granite. It’s great when SiteMeter shows visitors popping in from all over the world. And it’s absolutely fabulous when readers become regular readers and commenters. Nothing can beat that community and friendship. But holding WoMag and seeing Pink Granite in Blog Log, I have to admit, I did a little happy dance.

So, in the spirit of fellow Rhode Islander George M. Cohan, may I say to Worcester Magazine and Pink Granite’s readers and yeasty commenters:
"My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you and I thank you."

And thank you Mom - without you (and Dad) I wouldn’t be here doing my little happy dance...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Compass

There’s a little brouhaha going on in the blogosphere. Someone who used to be a Christian is now an Atheist. O.K. I’m cool with that. I’d actually be cool with just about any point A to point B transition that a person wanted to make. To each his or her own. Unfortunately, the gal making the transition is slamming (hard) where she used to be. Perhaps that’s what she needs to do to fully break free. I get it, but I don’t like it. It feels a little immature, rather like a teenager lashing out against authority as they separate and individuate.

However, the whole thing got me thinking about kindness, about intention and about the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated; Love others as you love yourself. As Hillel is credited with saying: Everything else is commentary... The wonderful thing about what we know as the Golden Rule is that it emerged in some form in many ancient cultures. It’s a common rule of humanity. Do we all live up to it? Sadly, no. Have some cultures and societies disregarded it? Sadly, yes. Yet if you asked people, on camera, under oath “Is the Golden Rule a good tenet to live by?” I believe most everyone would say yes. They might want to qualify it, embellish it or tack on other rules and regulations. But I think we could easily find common ground there. The Golden Rule is a sort of wonderful passport or Rosetta Stone or compass; a peaceable, moral way of understanding each other and behaving in the world.

Or, as I like to say: “The Golden Rule has never jumped up and bit me on the ass.” And yes, you can quote me on that!

First Flakes Falling

The snow began at about 9:15 this morning. Big, fluffy flakes are drifting down now. The meteorologists are continuing to revise their forecasts. We were in 12 inches plus for quite some time. But now Matt Noyes of NECN has “tightened” his snow accumulation prediction such that we are now in 3 to 6 inches. Mr. Noyes is very good at his job and I have no complaints about a downgrade from a foot of snow! Compared to southern and coastal New England, not to mention the Mid-Atlantic states, we have gotten off very easy this winter. So as Chuck’s 101 year old Grandma used to say when she felt she was not in as tough a situation as someone else: “I’ll take my own laundry back in off the line, thank you.”!

: : 11:20 a.m. Update: Nary a flake is currently falling.

: : 1:50 p.m. Update:  Snow is falling again & just beginning to stick to walkways.

: : 5:30 p.m. Update: As the last of the light drains from the sky, we still have light snow, but very little accumulation.

: : 9:25 p.m. Update: Was it the comedians Bob and Ray who used to say: “Well this has been one big fizzle.”? Anyhoo, at least here in Central Massachusetts, this ballyhooed storm has been one big fizzle. Even Matt Noyes Tweeted the following: “Oh Boy. Most of you saw a big, fat forecast "bust." Sincere apologies...”

Considering how brutally the storms have been hitting other parts of the country I am not complaining. May everyone stay safe and dry and warm...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I apologize in advance to any and all non-Apple users. But I have to say how much Chuck and I are continuing to love iCal (more info here). iCal is Apple’s paperless calendar. After decades of being tied to two different styles of DayTimer calendars, iCal has been a revelation. We have iCal loaded on each of our computers as well as our iPod Touch. Within iCal we have color coded calendar categories. Birthdays and anniversaries are in one color, appointments in another and so on. My Mom has a color coded category all her own. We type in when we’ll be going down to visit with her. When we click on that item we can edit it to add a note. So if Mom wants Chuck to bring along some tools to fix something, it gets jotted down. Likewise, all of Mom’s appointments are written in. She keeps her own paper calendar of course, but there have been times when I’ve been able to clarify or confirm a time or how she’s getting to an appointment. Plus, if I call her and get no answer, it’s nice to open iCal to double check her schedule!

All of that may seem ho-hum, but the really nifty part is that when either Chuck or I add or delete something from the calendar, iCal syncs with the other calendars! Yes! And as I mentioned back in May, that same sync-ability is continuing to be a wonderful feature of Apple’s Address Book. Chuck recently added a slew of contacts and phone numbers for his 87 year old aunt. As soon as he finished typing, I had the cards in my Address Book. Lastly, we no longer have to lug our DayTimers around with us. As long as we have our light and low profile iPod Touch, we have our calendar and address book tucked in a pocket or purse - well, Chuck’s pocket, my purse! Not to mention, it holds our music and access to the internet - sweet!

I’m sure there are lots of other paperless calendar applications out there. But if you are an Apple user, take it from me, iCal and Address Book are both big time savers.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


This morning, my sister Gail down in Georgia e-mailed us. She wanted us to check out Pomplamoose. No, Gail was not trying to get us to include more citrus in our diet and inadvertently misspelling grapefruit in French! Ages ago, she had followed a trail of breadcrumbs from here at Pink Granite, to Ree at Pioneer Woman, to Rechelle at My Sister’s Farmhouse. It was there that today Rechelle posted a YouTube video of an amazingly talented, quirky, clever couple of musicians named Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte - who also happen to be a couple. They’re out in the San Francisco area and they have a sound all their own - even when they are covering other artists. Their primary medium is “VideoSongs” which Jack defines this way:
1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, you see it at some point (no hidden sounds).

Here’s where to find them:
The Pomplamoose YouTube Channel
The Pomplamoose homepage
Pomplamoose on MySpace
Pomplamoose on Twitter

Here’s just a little taste to whet your appetite:

Thank you Gail!

Friday, February 5, 2010

On Blue

It’s funny, we say we are feeling blue to denote sadness. But we take delight in blue skies. We say we swore a blue streak or that the comedian worked blue. But we also say that a great idea came to us out of the blue. We use bluing to whiten and brighten our clothes. Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album was one of her darkest, brightest and finest. And Mrs. Slocombe’s occasionally blue hair still makes me smile.

Today, I am somewhere in that list of blues; luckily, more than one.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On My Honor...

We lost the electricity, again. This time it was only for about an hour and a half or so. But we decided to go ahead and haul out the generator and fire it up. It was a good idea because I had been meaning to type up a clear set of directions for myself. I had gone through the process several times with Chuck last year during the ice storm. But I wanted an insurance policy in case Chuck was ever eaten by alligators and we lost the power on the same day.

No, I never was a Girl Scout. Why do you ask?

Anyhoo, I now have an excruciatingly detailed list of how to shut the house off from the grid and get the generator running safely. The only hitch in the giddy-up is that I have an “uneven” success rate in pulling the cord with sufficient gusto to start the darn thing! But, if someone brawny happens to stop by on the very same day Chuck has been eaten by alligators and we’ve lost the electricity, I’ll be able to walk them right through the proper steps to get that generator roaring.

Yes, I do understand my plan needs a little tweaking.

I’m thinking the best thing would be for Chuck to never, ever be eaten by alligators.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Tonight we watched the PBS Frontline special called “Digital_Nation, Life On The Virtual Frontier”. We found it fascinating and thought provoking. We had recorded it on our DVR. From time to time during the hour and a half program we paused it in order to pop on the internet and look something up. To say we were self aware would be an understatement; self conscious would be more accurate. In my own defense, I did refrain from Tweeting during the broadcast!

The program highlighted many positive aspects of how we are increasingly connected to each other via technology. The most troubling aspect of the show was their discussion of technology, especially video games, as addictions. But the most fascinating segment was the early research which shows that folks who multi-task excessively with technology aren’t absorbing information in the ramped up, super-efficient way they think they are. Stanford Professor Clifford Nass said: “We have not yet found something that [multitaskers] are definitely better at than people who don't multitask.”

Uh oh...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

That Famous River In Egypt

I’m a crummy passenger. Actually, I used to be a terrible passenger, but now I believe even Chuck would say that I have improved to being a mediocre, occasionally pleasant passenger. Back in 1998, when we drove cross country, I was still too much of a control freak to be consistently comfortable just sitting in the passenger seat while Chuck drove. It was much easier on both of us when I was behind the wheel. So after we checked out of our motel each morning I would start out driving. At the various rest stops, gas stations and restaurants we would walk around a bit, stretch and then head back to the car. Chuck would invariably ask if I wanted him to drive the next leg. I, most often, would demur. And so it went, mile after mile after mile. Chuck did drive every day. But that meant we had two drivers - only I did not have a gas pedal, brake pedal or steering wheel. Which, as far as I was concerned, put me at a distinct disadvantage!

In addition to the OCD/control freak issues I was also in denial. I knew I was a good driver. I knew I was a dreadful passenger. I knew I might drive my husband crazy if I chose to sit in the passenger seat for too many miles. But I had convinced myself that we were splitting the driving dead even, 50-50, completely egalitarian. That is until the third night on the road.

We had left Yellowstone and headed for Cody, Wyoming. That was where my wristwatch alarm went off and I began looking for a payphone. While I was checking in with my Mom, Chuck went across the street to a place we’re pretty sure was called Taco John’s to get us some dinner. He got us a couple of amazingly tasty burritos to go and we ate them in the car, on the main drag in Cody. Fed, we continued on our way. At some point we decided to aim for Sheridan, Wyoming as the place we would sleep that night. As the night drew in around us, we chose to continue along Route 14. On our paper map we saw that the road looked twisty, but we couldn’t see the elevation. It turned out to be crazy steep and full of sharp twists and turns.

No surprise, I was at the wheel. It was a tough drive, in total darkness, on a two lane road which we were of course completely unfamiliar with. Let’s just say there were white knuckles on both sides of the vehicle. After what felt like forever, we reached the highest point of the road. There was a wide, dirt pull off area and I eased the car over. I shut off the engine as we took deep breaths and collected ourselves. It was then we noticed that in the now pitch darkness the sky was filled with stars. We stepped out of the car and stood, awed by the enormous beauty. Out of the stillness we were startled by a rustling nearby. My adrenaline rushed back. More sounds - we were not alone. Then we heard a lowing. There were cows around us also taking in the night air - although not with the fast gulps I was! We laughed with surprise, relief and wonder. As we got back in the car, there wasn’t a peep out of me when Chuck headed for the driver’s side.

I’m convinced Chuck had the tougher leg on that winding road. He had to ride the brake, but not too hard or for too long. Perhaps halfway down, we came upon a school bus and a couple of cars on the side of the road. It looked as if the brakes on the bus had overheated because we could see a combination of dust and smoke in the headlights of the attending cars. Chuck soldiered on the rest of the way down the mountain and into Sheridan. We found a motel. We got the last available room - apparently there was a rodeo in town.

When we opened the door to the room, I flopped down on the bed. My entire body was vibrating from the feeling of wheels on the road and automobile engine rumbling. Chuck hustled about, unloading the car, getting us some ice from the machine down the hall and generally settling us in for a very brief night’s stay. I couldn’t move. I asked Chuck where he was getting all the energy, when I was so exhausted. He said he had only driven that last leg. I protested, insisting we had divided the driving equally all day. Chuck patiently reminded me I had driven all the way from Yellowstone, except for the downslope of the mountain, after the cows. And that the two previous days I had driven well more than half.

I was busted. I knew Chuck was right. For the next five days I still drove a lot. But I had the good sense to turn the wheel over to Chuck more often. Late in the evenings, when we stopped for the night, I would still be tired, but not nearly as close to trembling. And now I would tease Chuck, saying I couldn’t imagine why I felt tired, because I “only drove halfway”!

Twelve years later, we spell each other on long trips. Now I really do “only drive halfway”.

Well, at least in my mind it’s halfway - - - right Honey?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Trip & A Song

Back in 1998 Chuck and I had the occasion to drive cross country from Washington to Massachusetts. It wasn’t a vacation. It was a trip. I don’t mean a hippy-dippy trip. I mean it was basically a means to an end. Chuck’s parents had generously offered us their car; ours being on its last leg - er- wheel. All we needed to do was to fly out to Seattle and drive it back home. I won’t say we were poor, but money was very tight and we were frugal. So even though Chuck had only a limited amount of vacation time available, we went for a quick visit with the family and then loaded up the new-to-us car and headed back home.

Most days we just got up and drove, from early morning to sometimes late into the evening. We made brief stops for fuel - both for the automobile and the humans. We had no reservations, so each afternoon we would begin looking in the AAA guide books for a place to stay, somewhere up the road. It was a long trip - according to Google Maps some 3,316 miles (5,336 kilometers). We did squeeze in three fun things: Yellowstone National Park (which is mostly in Wyoming), Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and Lehman’s Hardware Store in Kidron, Ohio. All of which were done at something just shy of a dead run; all the while we kept promising ourselves we would come back, some day. Most importantly, while we were in Ohio, we visited with Chuck’s beloved Aunt Frieda. She was seriously ill and passed just one month later.

Cell phones existed back then. We actually owned an enormous “bag phone”. But because of roaming charges we didn’t even consider bringing it with us. What we did do was to set the alarm on my wristwatch to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. Every day that we were on the road, the alarm would go off and we would look for a phone booth. Then I would call home to my Mom in Rhode Island to let her know where we were and that we were fine.

The radio was our constant companion. NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered bookended our daylight hours. Delilah filled our evening hours. And whoever wasn’t driving was in charge of tuning something enjoyable in on the radio as the miles clicked by on the odometer. Often, what we found clear as a bell was country music - classic, contemporary and a blend of country/rock/pop. We heard one song over and over again. It was “26 Cents” by The Wilkinsons (Music plays!), a Canadian family trio of a sister, a brother and their dad. It told the story of young woman on her own, who treasured a letter from her Mom with 26 cents taped to it. The song went:

“...When you get lonely, call me
Anytime at all and I'll be there with you, always
Anywhere at all...
...Here's a penny for your thoughts
A quarter for the call
And all of your Momma's love...”

It just fit, you know?