Friday, March 18, 2011


It has taken me months to solve a hijack problem here on my blog. I have been unable to post as well as have been receiving THOUSANDS of emails directed from the blog to my personal email that are all spam or advertising.

I will be suspending this account.

I'll let you all know when I have a new one on a safer server.

Adios muchachas!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'm unbalanced. A bit unsteady on my feet.

My family has had an injury this week - a close call that could have been oh so much worse, as painful as it is. My beloved granddaughter fell down the cellar stairs and broke both wrists. The mailbox has been full every day. People sent cards; called; emailed; baked her cookies and came to play. A stuffed pink flamingo arrived in the mail. A bouquet of pink carnations was delivered in a snowstorm.

I went to an amazing farmers' market convention Friday - yes, the same convention I was on the way to last year when I totaled my car, a fact that I OBSESSED about all week, making myself CRAZY about driving back there again - but I got there safely and spent hours in the company of passionate, dedicated, wonderful people who spend their lives in the dirt to feed us.

And tonight I went to a public supper and auction for a friend's husband, who is suffering through pancreatic cancer. More than 200 people showed up, dropping $20 bills they couldn't afford into a barrel and then eating soggy spaghetti and overdressed salad, swaying to the music of a ukulele band playing "Stand By Me" and "You've Got a Friend."

I am overwhelmed with the kindness that has been revealed to me this week.
I am overwhelmed by the passion that Maine's farmers have to provide safe, quality food.
I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of an ENTIRE county to help one of its own.

It would be easy to say that all is right with the world. That it is all apple pie and Cheerios and fine red wine.
But there has to be balance, it seems. The pendulum must swing in both directions for it to work at all - some sort of idiotic rule of nature. We all seem to shout "That's not fair!" when the deck is stacked against us, but not when it is stacked in our favor...

And so today I wrote a story about a 55-year-old woman, dearly loved by her community, that fell down her stairs and died.
And a man out for an afternoon snowmobile ride hit a moose and was killed.
And as I sit here, the scanner is squawking about a house fire a few towns over.
And Egypt has gone berserk.

So much is out of our control - waves of bad news that can knock us down. A friend wrote today "We are such fragile vessels."
Yet, we are vessels that share what we contain.
We enrich others lives when our owns are lacking.
We give because we want to, not because we have to.
We share.
We love.
We shovel our neighbors' driveways and carry pies to a public supper and fix the wheel on the child's bike and send flowers and a stuffed snowman to a suffering little girl. We line up to donate blood and drop our change in all the canisters sitting by every cash register. We bring supper to a shut-in, knit a blanket for a cold child, shop at our neighbor's stores even when it is inconvenient and more expensive.
We are good and we deserve good.

Tonight I will go to sleep knowing that there will be more bad things to write about tomorrow, another tragedy to report. I am a realist. But I will not lay sleepless in worry because I believe in us and I have hope. I know hope because it was revealed to me this week.
For me, the glass is more than half full. Tonight I feel it brimming over and I'm thankful.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The ice cream on the pie!

Today I head off to the Maine Agricultural Trades Show at Augusta - I always feel like this is dessert for many of the farming stories I write throughout the year.
It's a big convention center filled with everything from homemade sausage vendors to milking machines, huge tractors, beekeeping supplies, and every farming agency you can imagine.
The event is showcased by dozens of workshops held over the three days that deal with issues farmers are facing - marketing, pests, certification, networking.

One group - Food for Maine's Future - is a bit of an extreme, alternative group, but they have come up with a spectacular plan. They are presenting our new governor with a list of changes that are required to keep the small family farms that populate Maine going and growing.

They have suggested:
* Enact an immediate moratorium on farm foreclosures.
*Conduct an inquiry into how corporate concentration and free trade has impacted Maine farmers.
*Provide assurances that Maine farms, cottage-scale food processors and cooperative food buying clubs will not be subjected to the harsh law enforcement tactics being used in other parts of the U.S.

As for the last one, many states, including Maine, have been cracking down on the sale of raw milk. Raw milk sales are illegal in many states, but they are legal here in Maine. However, some inspectors have gotten a bit extreme in their desire to regulate and test raw milk. Not in Maine, but in other states, people have been held at gunpoint when their food was seized for testing.
This does not concern me in Maine. If a producer is a clean producer, making good milk, he/she has nothing to fear when the inspectors come around. Enough said.

The other two issues, I believe, are real and serious. Many large producers, for example General Mills and Smithfield, are able to leverage government programs that allow them to buy inputs such as wheat or corn, below the cost of production. Smithfield has been particularly shrewd in using NAFTA terms to move much of its production out of the country, to Mexico and Germany.
All of this, as FMF states "undercuts Maine producers who have higher standards and charge the true cost of their food."

My answer? Buy local whenever possible. Don't purchase products from companies whose business practices are suspect or you personally have researched and found unacceptable. Simplify what we buy. Don't expect peaches in January - be real in the seasonal expectations you want. When food/fresh veggies are plentiful in the summer, can or freeze the bounty. You can buy in bulk at all farmers' markets and buying clubs when the veggie is at its premium.

It all comes down to personal choices. What is best for you? What is best for your family? And what can you afford?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oh help, help, help, help, help.

I've done either an incredibly brave thing or a very stupid thing - depending on which side of the issue you stand.
Today, while visiting Facebook, one of my "friends," who is actually a service-provider and I don't know her well, described her child's classmate as "the colored child."

The COLORED child. I actually got nauseous. What is this - 1965? Are we whipping out the fire hoses Thursday afternoon? Are we getting ready to hang signs up over the water coolers again?
In my mind, COLORED is a racial slur. An ethnic insult. A polite way to cover the word nigger.
With all the black host students who have lived in my home over the past decades, you can imagine we have had plenty of deep, meaningful discussions about the power of words.

I stood in my driveway as a child and sing-songed "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." But that is such a lie - scientists have found that just hearing sentences about elderly people led research subjects to walk more slowly. In other research, individuals read words of 'loving kindness' showed increases in self-compassion, improved mood, and reduced anxiety.

But today, it was damn hard to look prejudice in the face.

And so I was faced with a choice. I could have skipped on down to any other message, watched a video, gone back to writing, and ignored the remark.
Or I could do what I believed was right and take a stand.

I confronted. I sent her a short message that said I found her choice of a racial slur unacceptable and could no longer be her friend. I then "un-friended" her.

I'll admit - it was hard to be a bit confrontational. Hard to call someone out like that.
And it had ramifications.
Several of her friends and relatives began bombarding me with FB messages.
Her husband telephoned me.

I asked him where I was supposed to draw the line? Should I get upset if my friend's child is called a faggot? How about when my son is called a dago or my daughter a squaw? Do I accept kike or queer or cracker or honkey? Do I only react when a label is pasted on someone I know? Or someone I love?

Advise me, dear friends. I'm not feeling like a brave activist tonight - in fact, these people have me feeling like I've done something wrong.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why don't the tiny, hollow bones of birds freeze in the winter time?

Or - Do dogs get headaches?
I have been driving myself crazy with these questions all day.

What the hell did we ever do before Google?
Well, I often asked my grandma and she didn't have too many answers - or any that actually made sense.
I remember the giant 12-inch thick DICTIONARY at my house, which was mostly used when babies came to visit to allow them to be tall enough to sit at the dinner table with us. If they were really little, we could always grab a couple of Collier's Encyclopedias.

Google has made it possible for every tidbit of information that we would ever want - not need, mind you - to be reached in a nano-second.

A friend told me when I asked someone about this Saturday that before Google "We walked around stupid."

I like to think it was uneducated but I really think she was a bit right. How often did we not check, research, look into something because it would have been a cumbersome process? And so that question would go unanswered. And 35 years later, when someone asks you how to blanche almonds... see? You don't know! What else did we fail to know? Could there have been information out there that would have changed each of our lives, set us on a different path, given us options (am I projecting too much here?)

And look beyond Google's educational value.
We can watch penguins dance, grown men make fools of themselves by trying out their sons' skateboards, our grandchildren proposing to their prospective brides, document and keep the sounds of our children's first words, find out how much shipping would be on a full-size leather ottoman, and reunite with lost loves. Wait - scratch that last one. As some of my friends remember, that didn't work out too well...

So I think it would be stupid to not get rid of a little stupid. I've thought about this all day and I can't really see a downside to this landslide of available information. I'm going to turn into a Googling Fool, a G-Maniac. I'm gonna Google this willy-nilly and Google that madcap. I'm going to look up cherry vanilla cake recipes and classmates from 1966. I'm going to check the words to Stairway to Heaven. I'm watching marching bands take the field, cats sing dance tunes, and listing which plants will grow best in my shady yard.
And I'm finding out why birds don't freeze and if dogs get headaches.

Hold on there - it only takes .00034 seconds.
And, voila!

Birds actually use several tricks to keep their legs from freezing. First they can stand on one leg and pull the other up under their feathers when one leg starts getting too cold. And if it gets really cold, they can squat to cover both legs with breast feathers. If you see a bird doing this, they may be getting uncomfortably cold legs.

And yes, scientists believe that dogs get headaches. But apparently not enough - have you heard about the exploding pet population???

Sunday, January 2, 2011

So there I was, enjoying Christmas.

When along came "THE BUG."
First it struck my granddaughter.
Then my daughter.
Then me.
Then my son in law.
Then my daughter's friend's mother.

Well, you get the idea.

Five days later, I crawled up off the bathroom floor and headed off to work.
And there - on the shores of Passamaquoddy Bay, where Maine kisses the Atlantic Ocean and if you had radar vision you could see Europe - is where I found Molly, Suzie and Donna. They also seemed a bit surprised to find themselves there.

Three old ladies, they called themselves.
On just two days' notice, they flew 15 hours from Seattle to watch the sun rise over Eastport, the country's easternmost city.
They are 62 to 70. They've watched husbands die, lost their parents, worked entire careers and retired, and one day about five years ago, they took a good look at each other. They saw three old ladies. Gray hair. Sweet wrinkled faces. Bodies that sag into themselves. And they said What The Hell Are We Waiting For?

And so they hit the road - together.
They've been swimming with the dolphins in the Bahamas.
Flew by bush plane into a remote village in Alaska, seeking long-gone gold mining relatives's graves and found them.
Watched humpbacks breaching in the cold Pacific and sat in a yurt in minus 30 degree weather waiting for the Northern Lights - which didn't show up.
They've experienced the Ernest Hemmingway Look Alike Contest and all the rowdiness that entails at Key West.
They've seen volcanoes at Maui.
At Eastport, they dove up the elbows in their first Maine lobster dinner while tipping Coronas.
They put on silly pointed party hats and watched a four foot sardine fly from a building at midnight.
And they stood together the next morning overlooking the ocean and watched the first sunrise of the year, and pondered their own insignificance.

Through it all, they told me, they have one goal: to find out what makes each place they visit individual, what the heart of the place is. All along their travels, they stop and talk to all the people. They don't just stand at the rim of a canyon, snap a photo and sigh. They turn to the person next to them on the ridge, in the train, at the tourist shop, and begin a conversation. A dialogue about life. They ask. And then they listen.
And by engaging with those around them, they learn. They learn about the place they are in, about new places, about dreams, about love, about loss, about all the good bad and ugly details that make this a life. And through this process, they have learned the most about themselves.

And isn't this just what we all want? To get to the heart of a place, a person, the matter? And while we making that trip, to get to even the most deep part of ourselves?
The rock in the bottom of the stew of our lives is always the question "Who am I?" and the quest is always to find the answer.

So here's a New Year's toast to Molly, Suzie and Donna - they have truly embraced the premise that life is REALLY all about the journey and are willing to step out on that ledge and leap.
Where next? I asked them. "We have no idea," they answered, with a hearty laugh. They seem to laugh alot, these three.

Let's start our own journey of discovery this year. Let's look a little deeper, be a bit more reflective, and - along the way - have a grand adventure or two. I for one am more than ready.
Who else is coming along?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Well, it's a happy new year, isn't it?

I'm not making any resolutions - I fail miserably at that - but small promises to myself. One of them includes adopting a healthier lifestyle.....Oh, I eat healthily. I'm not a big sweets eater and junk food is to a minimum. My problem is quantity. I just can't stop....being sick for a week with the stomach flu has given me an edge on that! What a great diet...I still can't look at food. Ginger ale, tea and some bits of bread are all I can manage.

So when I was falling asleep last night (or was that early this morning?) I was reflecting on what the people of 1911 would think of us, here at the cusp of 2011. You know, I was sort of assessing our lifestyle choices.
What would they think of our constant cell phone chatter - everywhere at anytime?
What would their thoughts be on how addicted we have become to our computers, our social networks, our email communication?
And how about instant food? From soups in a can to frozen mashed potatoes, when I see the array in the grocery store, it is hard to believe that anyone cooks from real, raw, healthy food anymore.

So here are some of my goals:
Turn my cell phone off when I am not working.
Write at least one letter a week to someone that would have received a quick email.
Give up all prepared food. (except Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, of course.)
Carry no tales, share no gossip, speak not a word of ill will - even if it IS true - about anyone.
Be more spontaneous - say yes instead of a quick no to new adventures and offerings.
Renew my promise to work 37.5 hours a week and no more. (unless I get paid for it.)
Make one new friend a week, at least.
Swim every day.

I can't promise to keep these goals - but I do promise to try. If I fail, I'll start again, and that is part of this too - accepting my mistakes and forgiving myself for them so I can move on.

What about you?