Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jasper Beach and Russell hugs...aaaaahhhhhhhh

Sunday was spectacular and some of my family (Matt and Kiley, Faye, Taryn and Russell) headed to Jasper Beach - miles of coastline that consists of finely worn rocks, all tumbled and tumbled until they are smooth as silk. Everyone that goes comes back with their pockets filled with beautiful stones.
Kiley and daddy got to feel just how cold the water can be in Maine!
And we all got to see how beautiful it can be....
Russell found a driftwood saxophone and played us a tune...
And Kiley spent a happy hour picking up stones and putting them in daddy's hand.

We also had a rock throwing contest targeted at a driftwood log but SOME of the kids got carried away and began throwing them at me while I was taking pictures. The one that hit me in the head was small and Russell said he was very sorry...

Sunday ended with a wonderful meal - meat on the grill, roasted onions, white and sweet potatoes, a big salad. We drove on down to The Shake Pit but I was so full I couldn't even fit a baby cone. Taryn got a "black and white" which we learned is vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce (or the reverse) and it took her three times to explain to the teenage clerk what she wanted. I guess the Downeaster didn't speak Jersey.

We collapsed on the sofas and in the morning, Russ and Taryn left for the horrifically long drive back to Bayonne. I will never, ever let this much time go by without seeing them (six months!) and I'm already checking plane fares for mid-May.

A highlight of the weekend was early Saturday morning, when Russ woke up and came into the kitchen and wrapped me in one of his big bear hugs. "I don't get to do this often enough,'' he said.

So to all you mothers out there that are being kept up all night by crying babies, or are wallowing in the terrible twos, or struggling through the horrid teenage years, I promise you there will come a Saturday morning when you will get your special hug.
I promise.
And it will be so incredibly, overwhelmingly worth it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The luau was fantabulous!

Here's the birthday girl with her frosting face, celebrating the great age of ONE!
Could there have been any more presents?!?!?
These were the fun flamingo and palm tree cupcakes that were the birthday cake - just the right size for a baby's hand! Lots of fun, good friends, my wonderful sons and their wives/partners, amazing, amazing, amazing! No time today to write, though - will fill you in tomorrow!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Of vists - unexpected and excitedly awaited...

Here's Buddy, one of the many squirrels in my yard. He's robbing the bird feeder. We call all the squirrels Buddy in honor of one that used to visit our window. Miss Emma and Buddy had quite a love affair going on - nose to nose through the glass - crying for each other. We identified Buddy because he had a unique ringed tail. Circles of white hairs shone clearly on the grey.

One day Buddy stopped coming and we told Emma that he had moved to a farm in the country....she was never the wiser. But she was heartbroken. She pays absolutely no attention to any squirrel at the feeders now. Not even a look. She won't even pick up her head. Love scorned has turned her into a bitter, bitter bitch.

Tonight, around midnight, my youngest son Russell and his sweetie Taryn will arrive!!! WAHOOO!!! They live in New Jersey and I haven't seen them since last November!!! I was so excited that I went to bed at 6:30 p.m. last night - it was still light out! But I got 12 hours of sleep and I am ready and raring to go for this weekend.! We'll head out Friday or Saturday for Kiley's birthday in Machias. PARTY TIME!!! See you next week - if I survive!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Miss Emma's big one! She is 35 today!

Clearly she is not impressed - with her little face buried in her quilt. "Go away,'' she is saying. "I'm no longer young and beautiful.''

Did I ever tell you the story of how I got my sweet Emma? Five years ago today, I went to the circus in Augusta to do a story on alleged elephant abuse (See? That's how you can tell I'm a real reporter - the use of the word "alleged" right there).
My daughter was with me and she took my hand and dragged me over to a herd of puppies.
Yes, I am admitting it here - and maybe that is why Emma's face is hidden in shame - she comes from performing folk.
Her mother was Angel.
Her father was Bambino.
Of course they weren't performing when we saw them. Bambino was no where to be found (oh how typical!) and Angel was lying there desperately chanting "Will someone please come and take these puppies so I can fit back into my tu tu?"

Emma was one of about eight puppies going CRAZY for us. Well, Emma was actually the only one NOT going crazy. She was sitting back from the rest. Her little bowed legs making her look a bit like a duck. She kept tipping her head this way and that way, wondering what all the excitement was about. I know now that she probably couldn't see us very well. She seems to be very near-sighted.
Well, I hemmed and I hawed. Then hawed a bit more and finally my daughter convinced me.

I have the smartest daughter in the world.

Emma was just what I needed as I was suffering from the worst case of empty nest syndrome ever diagnosed.

We brought her home - all four pounds of her - and here she is, the real queen of the household. She's never chewed anything except a pair of flip flops she thought were a new toy and my daughter's invisible braces. She sleeps behind my knees and snores louder than a roaring freight train.
She's afraid of thunder, afraid of riding in the car, afraid of half-opened doors and is the-dog-that-hates-water. And when she is stressed or thinks I've left her, she'll have an accident (can you call a deliberate poopie an accident?) She's massively allergic to bees and cats and I have to put lotion on her poor dry belly all the time. She never really grew and stayed the runt - she weighs a whopping 12.5 pounds now.

And she loves her rotisserie chicken. I'm headed out right now to buy her one for her birthday supper.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl. You have enriched my life beyond measure, saved me countless times from oppressive loneliness and made me laugh when I wanted to cry. You've snuggled your little head under my chin to catch my tears and literally dance around the house when I sing. (Maybe it's my voice?) Six times you have warned me that a bat has invaded the house yet you sweetly won't bark at the deer in the backyard.

You deserve an entire farm of rotisserie chickens.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's raining, it's pouring.

And yes, that is green grass outside my window! The tops of the trees are so fuzzy that I can almost imagine the leaves bursting forth... the weather is expected to stay wet until Thursday afternoon and then voila - 70s!!!!
Won't that be perfect for the amazing Kiley's first birthday party Saturday?

It's not hard for me to look past this rain in expectation of my youngest boy Russell arrving here with his sweetheart Taryn on Thursday night. WAHOOOO!
We are going to head up to the party and spend the weekend in Machias. My daughter Faye is planning a luau. She has party lights and flamingoes to stick in the cupcakes and little grass skirts to put around the glasses.
I'm making my famous Ooey Goey Pineapple Cake.
Well, okay. You caught me. I'm lying.
I do make a famous Ooey Goey Pumpkin Cake for Thanksgiving and it has an alternate pineapple version but I've never made it. Cross your fingers!
I'm making the crabmeat purses that I made for Easter dinner (Matt has requested them!)
And I'm making a big pitcher of Jamaican Hammocks - an amazing rummy fruit drink.
The kids are setting up a burger bar and cooking on the grill, and there will be a bunch of salads.
We are all supposed to wear Hawaiian shirts and I have a raspberry muu muu...It ought to make for great pictures!
So for now I'll watch the rain, celebrate the greening it is bringing and most IMpatiently wait for my Russell and Taryn to arrive.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Pittsfield landmark, struggling for survival.

Miss Emma and I went back to the shoe factory today - it's an enormous building. Boarded up. Vandalized.
It sits on one side of the Sebasticook River while a keeper's house sits across the Waverly Dam, spring waters crashing over the top.
The front door of the factory could be on a church....If I were to win the lottery I'd buy the factory and turn the first floor into restaurants and artisans' shops and make the top two floors into lofts....what a reclaimation of the past, a reincarnation of the forgotten it could be...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What a difference a day of sunshine makes!

To just stand for a minute this morning and capture the azure sky washed my bad week completely away. To be outside, feeling the breeze on my cheeks, the sun on my skin, was restorative and calming. Peace - so elusive at work this week - filled my heart and I just stood and smiled.
This morning the dog and I headed to an abandoned shoe factory that lies along the river that runs through Pittsfield. There are acres of park land around the old mill and I can tell you, it was a sweet and relaxing excursion. No worries; no deadines; no pressure. Just a slow easy walk through the trees with the sound of the rushing river as accompaniment. A few birds yelled warmings that we were there and the sun played hide and seek with us.

Miss Emma was in heaven - there were a bazillion scents to follow, lots of space to run in and new places to explore. I have always thought her vision was compromised and this trip really confirmed it. I called her to me at one point and she lifted her head to find me but couldn't see me. I was about 600 feet away and it wasn't until I moved that she finally spotted me and came running. What a fine time she had and it did my heart good to see her off the leash.
What a surprise! Someone had hung little homemade bird houses all through the absolutely lovely and unexpected.
Everywhere there was evidence of the final passing of winter - a little bridge over a stream was littered with pine cones and needles, blown from the trees in fierce winter storms.
No one was home when we visited but birds (?) or others have made this tree into an apartment building.

This little trip was a gift - and just three minutes from home. Sometime the sweetest treasure are right in front of us...unseen, unexpected and often unappreciated.
You know Miss Emma and I will return again and again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

you have no idea

how close to killing myself I am.
Today was five hours of Legislative testimony on genetically engineered crops.
Yes, yes, I know - it is a passionate, serious topic.

But I can't take any more. And on top of it all, my BFF Trudy left today for two and a half weeks in Europe. Without me.
And my other BFF Donna, left for Texas. Again, I was left behind.

I'm going to eat an entire package of Reese's peanut butter cups and then take the dog for a walk.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Look into my eyes...

Another all-day event today - a symposium on the ethics of raising animals to eat. It was a fabulous discussion: religious leaders, farmers and a roomful of vegetarians, all contemplating food with a face.
I was reminded how uncomfortable I used to be when my dad cut into the roast every Sunday and he would "moooo."
I have to honestly say, though, I LOVE meat - give me a big juicy steak, nice and rare; give me a crispy fried drumstick; give me a pound of hot Italian sausage or a Parmesan cheese encrusted pork roast; give me bacon, lots of bacon. I even like bologna with mayo and lettuce on white. And cappicola...yummmmm. And Thanksgiving turkey (even the leftovers)...double yummmm.

And since I traipse through barns and pastures nearly every day of work life, I can say that Maine's farmers are the best stewards ever. They do it right. I can honestly say that I have seen a few cleanliness issues but I have never, in more than 25 years, seen outright animal abuse at any of the 100s of farms I have visited. Well, they wouldn't let you visit, you might say. Ha - got you there = I also have never been turned down by a farmer when I requested an interview or farm visit. One of the farmers at the symposium today said it best. "I don't have a relationship with my animals,'' she said. "I have a responsibility.''

Still, after hearing all the talk today, I may bite into my roast beef sandwich and see some big cow eyes staring at me. Or hear a chicken peeping while I enjoy my chicken enchilada.

Maybe I'll just stick to salad for a week....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Get along little doggie, get along!

This was one of those days that being a reporter is not only NOT fun, it is trying. I sat on the floor (on the floor, her creaking old bones said) in the state Legislature's Agriculture Committee room and listened to five and a half hours of testimony on dog bills.

You heard me. Dog bills.

Should kennel owners get to vaccinate their own dogs?
Should the definition and fees for kennels change?
Should their be a surcharge for rabies vaccine?
Should cats and dogs be licensed like dogs?

woof. woof. bark. bark.
For five and a half hours.

I'm dog tired. Throw me a bone and I'm headed for bed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

There's an air of expectation around here.

First, I spent some time painting - this was the first day off I've had in 14 days and my paintbrushes had been crying...This is called The Swim Team. I just love these ladies, especially the fat one in the black suit, trying to hide her extra weight by wearing black...I still have some subtle shading to do but so far I'm happy with my girls. (And please notice my poor pitiful easel being held together with duct sad.)

And then I was cooking all afternoon. This is my special carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting and hazelnuts...

Tomorrow is a HUGE family dinner at my son Danny's house. I also made an appetizer: a mixture of cream cheese, scallions, tiny shrimp and fresh crabmeat that will be cooked in tiny puff pastry purses. I made the always required green bean casserole. And the cake is for Matt, whose birthday was last Wednesday.

Now here is a special surprise: Danny and Amanda are having a baby!!! I am ecstatic - they are smart and funny and loving and will make great parents! Poor Amanda has been pretty sick this past week (she had to have fluid therapy at the hospital several times) but she seems to be better on Friday and today after getting some anti-nausea medicine. Most of the rest of us are doing the cooking so we've ordered Amanda to stay on the couch and let us wait on her!

She might as well take advantage of it now - come Thanksgiving, it'll all be over....

Friday, April 10, 2009

It was a poop-fest and I loved it!

What a fabulous place! Trucks going in, trucks going out - municipal biosolids (poop) from wastewater treatment plants gets mixed in a recipe with sawdust, paper flakes, etc., and then gets cooked for six days in a concrete tunnel at 167 degrees. What is left is turned, allowed to age, screened and by then it is black gold: the richest, blackest compost you ever saw. And not really a stinky poo either - sort of like an aura of mild cow with overtones of dirt...really. It's kind of amazing to think that this stuff was dumped into landfills just 15 years ago and now is a premium, recycled product that is used on golf courses, new housing developments, athletic fields and by landscapers all over New England.

Literally from poo poo to production line - I love American ingenuity!

BTW, going off on a tangent and randomly changing the subject, if you want to see a great movie, watch "The Boy in The Striped Pajamas" which has a heart wrenching, very sad ending. Now, I don't really want to make you cry, but the acting in this is so superb that I have to recommend it. It prompted a lengthy discussion about history and perception at last night's Movie Night. If you hate sad endings, don't watch - this one will stay with you for a long time.

BTW again, what the heck happened to just having popcorn on Movie Night? Last night there was a pretzel/cheeto mix, some amazing pretzel rods that had been dipped in melted chocolate first and then rolled in crushed chocolate chips, caramel chips and nuts, real made-by-an-Englishwoman hot cross buns, a fabulous sugar-crusted lemon bread, and.........popcorn. We are getting ridiculous.

Does this sound like dieting to you?

We have gone to hell in a handbasket.

Speaking of poo, little Kiley will be here for spring (easter) dinner Sunday and will stay until Wednesday. WAHOO - I just got back from shopping and bought four new books and a little pair of Crocs for her spring basket and I can't wait to have in her my arms... Happy spring to you too! Don't eat too many marshmallow peeps and jelly beans! Save some for movie night!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What can be wrong with me?

I'm doing a story today at a composting facility.
And I'm excited.

You can take the girl off the farm but you sure can't take the farm outta the girl!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today was not about creativity. It was about work.

Lots of work today - three stories, first interview was before 10 a.m. and I just finished - 9:30 p.m. A long day.

In between, I got the oven cleaned.

Oh get over yourself, Queenie - it's a self-cleaning oven.

Well, I did clean out about four pounds of papers, coffee cups, empty water bottles and one pair of socks from the floor of my car. There actually was one of my granddaughter's diapers in there too - just a wet one, no poopies - but I wasn't going to admit that. Okay, I know, you hate me now.

Then I went on a marathon errand ride: post office, bank, gas station, police station, card store, grocery store, redemption center and back to the post office to mail Easter cards to my grandsons. And I still forgot to buy mayonnaise.

If it would only stop being so dismally dark and rainy. Maybe I could get something done.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two chicks wearing high heels went into a sushi bar.

Check it out! My latest foray into the world of fused glass. I love me some chickens! These two fine girls are wearing yellow high heels... They seem particularly spring-y and happy this morning, even though it is raining - again - here.

Today I began the day with real inspiration: a speaker at the local high school was Enthusiastic, with a capital E -
But he imparted some wonderful advice for the kids. These are the tools he said they will need for their life journey:
* good health
* curiosity
* people skills
* books and reading
* education
* travel
* analytical skills, and
* an enthusiasm for reflection.
He said "Surround yourself with stimulating people. Don't spend 10 minutes with boring people because that is 10 minutes of your life you will never get back.'' He said to take risks and get out of your comfort zone.

He said that in the final stage of life, you begin to ask yourself "Have I lived the good life?"
Let's reflect:
I have six of the most wonderful children I could ask for, three amazing grandchildren, a job I love, incredible loyal friends; I can cook and sew and paint and write; I'm overweight, which I've taken as a sign that I'm living a VERY good life.
Okay - I'm blessed
"Life is neutral,'' this guy said. "The way you see it is everything.''

Today I see a smile on my face. I see a peace and happiness filled day. I'm going to smile at everyone I meet and find the good in every corner....I'll let you know if it works...It seems to be working for my two chickies.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I recently made a decision that hurt someone.

After a dear old friend had asked me why I was distancing myself from her, I thought long and hard about a reply.

I waited an entire week before answering. I weighed the options; to tell, not to tell, and the ramifications of all. I talked to four friends about it, including my daughter, who has always been a wise one.
In the end, I felt that honesty was the best answer and took the chance that the friend - who had ASKED me for honesty - was open enough to receive it. She wasn't.

She is hurt and angry and it is absolutely understandable.
We don't really want to know the truth about ourselves, do we? I think most of us would prefer to believe our own version of ourselves. We don't want to know if we have failed as a friend, a partner, a co-worker or a parent or child.
And believe me, I understand that it is not my place nor my job to "fix" someone. But when I felt that this person's actions were becoming more and more unacceptable, I pulled away.
She reconnected and wanted to know what was wrong.

I could have lied. I could have said I had just been busy. Or she was mistaken in thinking I was pulling away. And I have to ask myself whether, in looking back, that would have been a smarter response.
But for me, it would not have been the TRUE response. I would have been living a lie, and as so, would have felt part and parcel to her actions. I truly believe that there is no place for lies between friends - none.

This friend said true friendship is unconditional. That our friendship should have weathered her absence of years, her distance when involved in other things, as well as hurtful actions she has taken. Yet I think the very definition of unconditional implies that friends don't abandon friends, friends don't disappear for years, friends stay connected, despite everything else in life.

I do not want a friend that hurts others. I do not want to share my life, my secrets, my most innermost self, with someone that is so selfish that her own needs, desires, whims, replace friends and family, and she doesn't even see the hurt she is causing. Isn't the first and most important rule of real friendship to do no harm?
But, in being honest, in telling her the frank truth of why I put distance between us, I have hurt her. Wasn't that what I was so upset about in the beginning? That she hurt others? And by hurting her, haven't I now become the one thing I said I can't accept?
Despite my desire to have an honest, true relationship, my brain keeps shouting:
"You hurt someone."
"You hurt someone."
"You hurt someone.''

In the end, I guess, I feel I hurt a friend that I had already lost. It was clear in my heart that there was not going to be any way to salvage this friendship. And so now I must live with that - that I hurt another. My worst fear.

Would you have done differently? Please share your thoughts...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dear friends, I may have been a bit optimistic about both the owls and the handsome scientists.

WHHHHHOOOO - no, the stuffed owl cannot hoot.
Neither can the dead owl being dissected by Unity College students.

I got home at 1 a.m.

1 a.m.

I'll say it again. 1 a.m.

The rain didn't help.
That there was no coffee or cookies or even a damn piece of wet toast didn't help.
And the scientists?
I want you to close your eyes and picture the type of man who would get incredibly excited about dissecting dead owls in the woods of Maine on a cold rainy SATURDAY night..
Yup. You got it. You know the physicists on the t.v. show Big Bang Theory? They had nothing on these guys: one studies the effects of arousal and excitement on sweat.
Another is developing software that will allow our cell phones to recognize by sight who is calling...or something like that. A lovely young woman studies the effects of PTSD on elephants (at least I found this topic slightly interesting!)
This was a classic case of the engineers met the biologists and it all went down hill from there.

I could have been snuggled in bed with Miss Emma warming my toes and the t.v. on and a bag of hot popcorn.

I could have gone to a hoe-down, or a jamboree, or a jazz festival or a dark, dirty bar and ordered sweet rum drinks with wild abandon.

I could have visited my son and let his wife feed me the state food of Maine: whoopee pies.

I could have lounged in a bubble bath and given myself a pedicure with the most lovely shade of blue polish I just bought from Nicole.

I could have built a fire in the fireplace here at The Mansion and I could have toasted marshmallows and watched the coals and contemplated the state of the world.

Did I do any of that? OF COURSE NOT! Instead, I watched college kids - who I think had more than one beer between them - dissect owls and play with their parts. They delighted when they found not one, not two, but THREE mice in the stomach of a Great Horned Owl.
They plucked and cut and it was disgusting. And extremely stinky.

And the trip to the woods to call and possibly hear back from the birds?
no owls.

Owls are WISE, remember? They were smart enough to say inside, paint their talons blue, enjoy a warm bubble bath and devour bags of popcorn mice.

Tonight will definitely be a HOOT!

I'm headed into the woods of a nearby college to find owls with a bunch of scientists from MIT...

As your award-winning, go-anywhere, do-anything, dig-and-scratch-until-I-get the answers-I-want, never-to-give-up newspaper reporter with an inquiring and steel trap mind,
here are my burning questions:

Why are we trying to find owls?
How will we find them?
What will we do with them when we find them?
How many do they think we'll find?

and the most important:
How cute will the MIT scientists be? and will there be coffee and refreshments?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Last night was a blubberfest.

Seriously, we saw "Marley and Me" for movie night.
Now, I have to tell you that I thought we were going to view a comedy. That's what all the commercials seemed to portray, with dogs running willy nilly and puppies getting into mischief.
That's what all the other Movie Night women thought too.


If you see it at your house - get out the tissues.
We went through a full roll of toilet paper, passing it around the room.
Everyone EVERYONE was blubbering. Hazel blew her nose so loudly we couldn't hear the dialogue! Jean rushed out of here like her pants were on fire because she said she had to get home to hug her own doggies... My own dog, Miss Emma, was so disconcerted by all the crying women that she actually left the room...
The movie is a beautifully told story of marriage and dreams and goals. It takes a couple from their wedding day to mid-life and how they struggle with their ideals and egos along the way. The only constant in the movie is Marley, a very naughty yellow lab.

There is no gratuitous violence. No raunchy sex. No swearing. No guns, espionage or terrorism.
It is a sweetly told, real story.
That makes you cry like a banshee at the end. And then for hours afterward. And even the next morning at breakfast. Except for Hazel, who said that after going outside and picking up a plastic bag full of poopies from her three dogs, she was definitely over it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

You asked about the pattern...

Here's the next dress - a floral with a pinafore apron of Scotties!! Notice the sweet buttons.
Here's a fanciful kitty pattern, with a matching headband. This one was really fun.

I didn't have a pattern (have you seen them lately? They are outrageously priced!!) So I unrolled some Christmas paper - a lovely shining green - and turned it over. I sketched the pattern on the backside, measuring the width and length. I then wrote my own instructions right on the paper and began cutting and sewing. It was really easy - I do not own a button holer (the machine goes frontwards and backwards and that is it!) so I either sewed the shoulder straps shut with buttons or cut them on a taper so I could tie them. Each dress has four parts: a front, a back and two linings for the top. I just cut them the same as the front and back, sewed the right sides together, turned them right side out and then sewed the front to th back at the side seams. I did the hems by hand. Once you get started, the dress takes about 20 minutes (not counting the hem!) The hardest part is picking the fabric.

Today I'm headed to the Maine Press Association Spring Conference in Augusta - I'm really looking forward to spending some time with colleagues....

Isn't it nice to have a job where you really like the people you work with? They are some of the smartest, kindest, most caring people I have ever met. Doesn't that just fly in the face of how newspaper reporters are portrayed in movies and on t.v.? Those images are such crap.

We are moms, dads, grandmas; we get scared at accidents and cry in the bathrooms of courthouses during trials. We mourn for losses and worry about our neighbors whose homes burn. We must watch our small town politics unfold with NEVER expressing our own feelings or opinions. Our primary goal is to record history, whether it be the history of our towns, the history of our state, our businesses, our people. We are ALL after nothing but the truth of the word. And if we print the truth and you don't like it? Kill the messenger.

Wow - where did that soapbox come from?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I finished five dresses and I'm working on the sixth.

Here is Kiley's birthday luau dress - made from a man's Hawaiian shirt. The headband has a kind of wild tropical flower on
This one is because she loves fishies! It's made from a very lightweight flannel. I stuffed one of the sharks and put in on her headband! More fun....

I'm working on one now that has adorable little Scotty dogs on it and I found Scotty dog buttons! This is the most fun I have had. I finished her dolly yesterday and have two outfits for it as well.
I'm hoping to have enough Scotty material left over to make a matching outfit for the dolly...oh my, isn't being a grandmother just the most fun....