#1 Grow

Good Morning!

Another rainy day here in Rhode Island. The silver lining on these dark clouds might be that everyone actually stays in the house. I like to go out each day to feel the rays and appreciate nature as much as the next guy. But there are many fools out there, in groups, acting like nothing extraordinary is happening. Being quite reckless.

Yes, everyone is getting a bit antsy. I totally get that. Our routines are upside down. There’s isolation. Maybe more people (kids) in your house than normal. Or fewer folks. But let’s remember one thing. One very important thing.

Health is wealth.

That is the only reason we are upending our worlds. For us and our loved ones.

What we can do is use this time wisely by trying different things. In my last posting I wrote that I would share ideas to pass the time while we are isolating indoors. Here is the first.

A friend of mine, KB, recently posted a photo of her avocado plant named Avi. She rooted it in December. Said it took weeks suspended in water before it split and produced roots.

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This is a very long process. If you grow your tree from an avocado pit it might not bear fruit for ten years or so. Nothing shouts out hope like a stay-at-home avocado plant!

So next time you are whipping up some guacamole (because there is nothing else to do but eat) or preparing avocado toast don’t throw away the pit.

Here is mine. I know it looks like a little brown alien. And if the good Lord is willing, it will soon look like a hairy, little brown alien.

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So, yes, you can try this at home. Great for kids and adults. Doesn’t take up room or require much care. Give it a name.

Have a good weekend. And remember.

Be like the avocado pit. Stay at home. Be hopeful. Keep growing.

Catching Up

I recently received a “Happy 11th Blogging Anniversary” message from “Wordpress.” It’s a yearly occurrence and it always causes me to reflect.

What has happened in the last year? What has changed in the past eleven years?

Quit smoking. Lost my dad. Moved half a dozen times. Embraced new friends. Explored exciting places. Mother-in-law passed away. Tried different hobbies. Accepted unique challenges. And so much more.

That’s sort of what I usually share each year with the folks who follow my blog. Of course, with a big thank you attached.

I had a lovely year. Wonderful Fall. Was looking forward to a lot of new things and celebrations in 2020.

This year’s 11th anniversary update was going to go something like this.

I was going to share that I started Weight Watchers the week before Christmas. Like who does that? Everyone knows that you wait until January 2nd! But I went with a friend.

That I completed my 2019 book challenge (100 books) on Goodreads. Like who does that? To be honest though, I was still reading the last pages on New Year’s Eve. But I did it. Won’t do it again.

I was going to share my attempt to sign up for a writing workshop this past Fall. The librarian said the class was full but took my name/email and said she would pass it along to the instructor for the Spring class. I then totally forgot about it. Apparently my request was buried deep in a pile somewhere until the workshop leader contacted me just before the new session began.

That I tried something for the very first time. Tamarind. I lived in Malaysia for five years and never tried it. Resided in India for a year and it never passed my lips. Just for the record- it’s delicious. Tastes like a date. Also supposed to be super good for you. I also tried Husk Cherries at a local outdoor Market. They look like cherry tomatoes in a husk but taste like pineapple. Amazing.

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I was going to share that I started a Women’s Walking Group. Because I met a woman in the deli line who was new to Rhode Island. Knew nothing about the area. I asked if she liked to walk. She said, “Yes, but I don’t like to walk alone.” I told her that we would accompany her after the holidays. She wrote her contact information on a piece of paper. I finished my shopping and when I reached in my pocket for the paper it was gone! Back into the grocery I go. Retraced my steps. and spied the paper on the floor in aisle 5. A seed was germinating. So I contacted a handful of women I knew to gauge interest in a group walk. Everyone responded happily. But then something got in the way after only one walk.

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That I did my first Alzheimer’s Walk with a group of friends. To raise funds for a cure. My friend has early onset Alzheimer’s and I pray that someday soon it will be eradicated.

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I was going to share that I am making an effort to explore locally. Walking, shopping and supporting small local businesses. I’ve lived away for so long I am appreciating being close to home. I am enjoying the peacefulness of nature every day.

That I am trying a new aluminum free deodorant. Keep you posted on that one.

I was going to share that I am trying to be more focused on reducing packaging. We are great recyclers and compost kitchen scraps but there is just so much more to be done. Maybe I should buy more in bulk. Like toilet paper.

That I was on Grand Jury duty for six weeks beginning in October and I would do it again in a hot minute. Murder, madness and mayhem. I would have paid them.

I was going to share that I saved up my pennies and finally made an appointment to see if I was a candidate for Lasik. I was scared stiff (these are my eyes!) but had the procedure. I no longer have to wear glasses for distance. I did not like having to be so careful with them. I could never get over the cost of prescription eye glasses (or the horrible decision making process in choosing the perfect specs. Absolute hell for a Libra)and wondered why one Italian company basically owned all the glass companies in the entire world. I am now back to the cheap cheetah cheaters (or any print I want) for the fine print.

That I was thinking of starting a community day or project to assist folks that needed yard work or simple chores done. Something I had the pleasure of being involved with when my eldest was in university. Within a month of me thinking this my town (and the neighboring town) hosted an event called “A Day of Giving. Like it read my mind. Like Facebook and the government. lol.

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I was going to share that I had a lovely Fall visit with my youngest in Burlington, Vermont. I happily attended two of her classes. One was taught by a professor who is also an author. Had coffee, a chat and got my book autographed. The title is <"Black Is The Body" by Emily Bernard. Visited a farm and hiked to the top of the hill to take in the glorious colors. Finally ambled out to the whale sculpture on the side of the highway. It’s called “Reverence” and symbolizes the frailty of the planet.

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That I had a fabulous time visiting my eldest in Oakland, California in January. Saw a wonderful play (Becky Nurse of Salem) at Berkeley Rep. Ate fabulous Ethiopian and Indian food -how I missed it! Watched “Queen and Slim” at a cool neighborhood cinema. The movie is “edge of your seat” material. Went on a hike with views of San Francisco Bay. Attended two law school classes. Visited Oakland Museum and enjoyed everything. Their “Burning Man” exhibit was fascinating.

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I was going to share that I had a business idea. Something fun and right up my alley.

That the youngest and I were going to Florida to visit my brother for Spring Break.

You’d be totally caught up with me.

Then everything changed. Went sideways very quickly.

We were beginning to hear about this virus. Cruise ships. Passengers stuck off the coast of Japan in quarantine. It still seemed so far away. Literally and figuratively. I start to think, “Is there anything good that actually comes out of a cruise?” Honeymooners throwing their new spouses over the side. Airborne illness again and again. People missing from the manifest. Then the big one. The
Corona Virus. But it’s not just the cruise lines.

My husband said, “Why go if you don’t have to?” Truth. Plans canceled.

The youngest, a junior at university and an RA, arrived home two days before Spring break was due to commence because she was ill. While at home her campus closed. On-line classes only.

The oldest, a law student in her final year and also a TA for undergraduates, had all campus courses canceled. Then the entire Bay area was directed to “Shelter in Place.” Graduation ceremony canceled. Even the Bar Exam pushed to the Fall. It’s unbelievable. Trying to figure what the best way (and when) to bring her back to Rhode Island.

Each and every day there is something new. We are glued to televisions, computers and phones. Looking at numbers, graphs and trends.

Schools, libraries, restaurants, businesses, cinemas, salons and more begin to close. Advised to stay close to home and stay far from others. If you are elderly do not leave home! Always ensure six feet between you and another person. Six feet apart or you’ll be six feet under! Practice social distancing. Wipe down packages. Wear masks.

It’s so, so, so surreal.

I received (and so did you) emails from every company I ever had contact with in the last two decades. Theaters, restaurants, utilities, schools, churches, cemeteries, genealogy sites, on-line shops, doctors, banks, car shops, etc. All letting me know the steps they are taking because of the Virus.

This week I had a look at some old blog postings from the Winter of 2018-2019 when I was listing/sharing ideas on ways to avoid the winter blues. I will update them, if necessary, and share them again for the days ahead. And any new ideas that pop into my head to combat the Virus blues.

You are now officially caught up.

We are all in the same boat. We are all in the house. We are all in this together. And we are all going to get through this.

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We are all just walking each other home.

Stay safe and thank you for reading!

Thing of Beauty

I’m not going to lie. This morning when my eyes opened I actually thought about just lying there and not getting out of the bed. My very first thought was, “Ugh.”

Now I do realize my “Ugh” is certainly different from many of the “Ughs” currently out there. I am incredibly grateful for that.

So I got out of bed.

On March 21st, my friend and fellow blogger Ernie, posted some photos on his Facebook site. As an aside, he has a wonderful blog about trails and walks in Rhode Island. If you need to find uncrowded places to walk see his blog listed below. Just make sure they are open before going.

https://trailsandwalksri.wordpress.com/

Anyway, he had just visited Parson’s Reserve in nearby Dartmouth, Massachusetts. There are trails, groves and vernal pools. A big attraction in the Spring is the field of 11,000 daffodils. Ernie shared his photographs and noted that the place should be in full bloom the following week or so. Yay!! I immediately put it on my list of safe places to visit/things to do for the next week. Especially during this unprecedented time when we could all use some fresh air and the peacefulness of nature to quell our fears and anxiety. My youngest daughter said she would accompany me on my quest for cheerfulness and beauty.

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By March 24th, the entire property was closed. The trails and the daffodil fields. Too much risk involved due to the virus. Smart decision. Another day of “That’s disappointing but understandable.” It seems that every day is like that now.

But that’s not what I want you to take away.

When I was researching the Dartmouth daffodil field I found this.

According to local lore, the daffodils were planted by Raymond Pettey in the 1940s to sell during World War II, while the U.S. was unable to get bulbs from Holland. The war ended and the flowers remained. The daffodil field is a popular attraction with over 9,000 visitors in 2014, and there are over 11,000 daffodils planted at Parsons Reserve.

I needed to see that. Whether the story is true or not. A time of extreme hardship fostered ingenuity and resulted in a thing of beauty. One that continues to grow and bring joy.

What can any or all of us do now that will result in a thing of beauty? That will continue to grow long after the dark days have passed?

Be safe, everyone. Follow directives. Remember that we are all in this together.

Wonder Of It All

I was doing some gardening a few days ago. That’s my go to place for exercise and peace of mind. Just turning over soil and trying to hurry Spring along. Starting to see buds on trees and bushes. Green leaves from the many bulbs planted last Fall.

As I was working around one of the hydrangea bushes something caught my eye. Near its base. Wait, is that an egg? It was a good size and it was an oval shape. Yes, I decided. It was definitely an egg. And what a great spot for a little nest of one! Awwwwww! Another sign of Spring. Life happens no matter what else is going on in the world. I then began to wonder what type of bird it was. My imagination was soon soaring!

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Why just one egg? Where was Mom? Where was Dad? How long was it there? Although I didn’t want to disturb anything in progress (read: didn’t want Mama poking my eyes out for messing with her nest) I did want a closer look. Sadly, it looked like it might have been cracked. 😦 I then noticed the coffee grinds above and around it.

Wait, what? It’s starting to look an awful lot like breakfast out here.

Didn’t take me long to solve the puzzle. I compost food scraps in a big bin by the side of the house. But my coffee grinds go directly into my gardens. Especially near the hydrangeas-I am changing the colors of the blooms with acidity in the soil. Anyway, I soon determined that an egg shell must have been in my kitchen pail with the coffee grounds. And I dumped it on the hydrangea.

So my excitement was tamped down pretty quickly. But it had been there. A surge of wonder. Curiosity. Thinking about something pleasant. Getting my mind off the uncertainty this virus is thrusting upon us. It was just nice to be outside and enjoy nature.

I would encourage everyone to get out and explore(not near anyone!)during these troubling times. Even in your own backyard. Keep your eyes peeled for a past breakfast, signs of life, promise and renewal.

Just enjoy the wonder of it all.

Caughterized

Hope you all are doing your best to enjoy the new year. Wait, what? February almost a thing?

Hello, summer!

Speaking of sunny climes, my older brother is in Florida for a bit and loving it.

When I visited last March he showed me small holes in the lawn left by some varmint. There were no sightings of the animal. Just the piles of dirt each day.

He started off the new year buying a brandy new cage. I guess enough was enough.

On January 30th, he sends me (and my other brother) an email with the caption, “Finally caught him!”

This is the critter.

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It’s an armadillo for those of you not familiar with the animal. I lived in Texas for a dozen years so had my fair share of them poking in my gardens.

Anyway, I was glad that all of my brother’s hard work paid off in the end. I know the battles that can be waged. Humans vs. nature.

My dad was forever on the losing end with the skunks and squirrels. He’d trap and release them at the nearby golf course. I felt like they played a quick round on the links and hightailed it right back home. He never made a dent in his backyard squirrel population.

I have also kept myself up, many a night, plotting revenge and planning strategic moves to stop squirrels from eating every single bit of the backyard bird food. My mind is like a game of freaking Stratego. Serious stuff.

Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I have greased the pole (that holds the bird feeder) with oil so the squirrels couldn’t climb up it. They did anyway. Sure, they looked like little strippers in an adult club but they did it.

I sprayed a mixture of cayenne pepper and water on the food-supposedly it doesn’t bother birds but squirrels don’t like it. Didn’t work.

Bought special bird feed that was already treated with “hot” spices.

Also measured the space where the feeders were positioned-far enough from bushes and branches so they couldn’t catapult themselves. But they still managed to attend the early bird special. Munching away. They’ve chewed on the feeders and broken them.

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I’m not gonna lie. I feel like I’m being mocked.

So I can appreciate the glee that comes with winning. I can’t wait for all of the juicy details. Tell me, brother, every step of the hunt.

After my initial “Wow!” I send another email.

Gonna lob an easy one at him-for starters.

“What did you use as bait?”

Eagerly anticipating the blow by blow. The hunter and its prey story.

I’m thinking maybe he put a slab of meat or peanut butter in the cage.

He sends me a response,”Didn’t even bait it. Took three weeks till he finally wandered in. Lol”

What???

I immediately text back, “I do not think THAT constitutes a “Finally caught him!” header on an email. While you’re floating around the pool in your lanai slurping on a Bud Lite doing absolutely nothing!” For three weeks. And then Dopey wanders into the cage.

Update: Today he sends me an email. “Caught another one. Could be the same one. LOL.”

Mocked and burned.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the weekend!

Good Spirits-Part Two

Happy New Year to you all! Wishing everyone the very best!

I need to finish up “part two” so I can get it out of my head to make room for more.

So, in the last posting, I wrote about how we (the Hannah and I) happened upon a witches’ tea and a spirit gallery in the Northeast pocket of Vermont. You’ll need to go back and read “Part One” if you haven’t seen it yet. Just to familiarize yourself. Totally random.

We were signed up and ready to participate. It was a group setting. Salicrow, the Medium, would pull five or six names out of the jar and act as a conduit for the visiting spirits. One at a time, of course!

The session, per her numerology love, begins at 3:33pm and ends at 4:44pm.

As I previously mentioned there were a few folks finding comfort in hearing from parents who passed. As well as the very sad case of a spirit whose earthly body left way too soon by ghastly measures.

Salicrow displayed nothing but compassion and care.

She reaches her hand in the jar and whips out another ticket. I check my stub and it’s a match! I’m never a winner. Not saying I’m a loser. Not that. I just don’t usually win things.

So, I have to go and sit in the chair next to Salicrow. My daughter is thrilled. She later tells me she prayed so hard that I would get chosen.

It was mentioned, at the beginning of the session, that some people record the experience because it can be a lot to absorb. We didn’t but I wished that we had.

I’m skeptical. When it comes to me. I am a pretty grounded person with a light-hearted personality. But I am no airy fairy. I’m tolerant of those folks but I am not one of them. It’s just a fact.

Except.

Except when it comes to friends and family who I miss. The welcome mat is always out for any/all signs and visitors.

Salicrow asks who I want to communicate with today. I should have said, “Strongest spirit” to see if this gig is all legit. LOL. But I was a little nervous about being the center of attention in a group.

So I spit out, “My Dad.”

She begins. Says my dad is here. He’s proud of me. She says that he was more involved as a grandfather. That he’s sorry he didn’t play with me. He says he loves me. Said that one of the grandkids was clingy.

Wants to know if the number fifty-six means anything to me. It doesn’t. I’m skeptical (like I said) so I’m thinking she can ascertain ages of people. And does math in her head. I’m fifty-four at the time. But I do try to cooperate because I am a pleaser. It’s tough when you are in the spotlight. All thinking goes out the window.

I offer, “Maybe the year he came to this country?”

But I don’t think that’s it.

Then she is asking if he had an accent (because I said he came to this country?) so I laugh and say, “Yes, he had a heavy Rhode Island accent.”

Everyone chuckled.

And that is true. Even though my Dad was raised in Ireland he died with a Rhode Island accent. But he never let go of the Irish pronunciation of TH. It came out as just T. He’d be yelling for me, “Mary Bet”-my nickname was Mary Beth. In all fairness to dear old Dad I have heard many Rhode Islanders who suffer that same affliction.

To prove that I am not making up this bit. On his eightieth birthday I had a prepared speech (as the self anointed emcee) which included a game, “How well do you know Pat?” This skit included memories and fun facts.

One of those memories was when my kids were little and teasing him. Asking, “Papa, what are the gas prices in Rhode Island?”

They couldn’t wait for his answer, “Tree-tirty-tree.”

Total setup. How they giggled.

One of his six sisters, my Auntie Maureen, immediately came to his defense (even though she wasn’t even there-but that is sister behavior all over the world) and said that the Irish don’t pronounce the TH because the Irish language didn’t have a TH. And I guess never fully converted to the English.

So this party is documented somewhere. And Hannah is the one who later reminded me of that memory.

The session this day began at 3:33pm. Like Papa and the gas price. Tree tirty tree.

Anyway, I didn’t learn anything new from this session. I know, without any doubt in the world, that my father loved me. And I loved him.

True, he didn’t play with us. Except on vacation. Or sometimes throwing baseballs to my brothers in the backyard. But there wasn’t a dad in my neighborhood who I can recall playing with their kids. It was just the time. The seventies.

And Salicrow could have figured that as well.

Anyway, it was all a feel good moment.

When I returned to Rhode Island I was sharing the experience with my older brother. He said, “I’m fifty-six.” Which is also how many years my parents would have been married at that time. Sometimes when you are on the spot you suffer a mental block!

Fifty-six, three-thirty-three and more. A lot of coincidences that day.

Reminds me of Albert Einstein’s words,”Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

I’d like to think that’s true.

Wishing you all a year of health and happiness.

Good Spirits-Part One

Finally I will write this one. It’s long and windy. Not windy like the wind. Like lots of bends. So strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride. Grab a glass of wine (or water) and sit back.

Sometimes I wonder why my head doesn’t explode with all of these stories just sittin’ and fermentin’ every day.

On Mother’s Day weekend I was up in Vermont. Met the youngest daughter at her university dorm room on the Friday and we loaded up the cars (hers and mine) with the boxes. Another school year in the books. Lol.

I planned to stay for the weekend. So Saturday and Sunday was ours. To do whatever we wanted.

Our destination was the Northeast Kingdom.

I had never heard of the Northeast Kingdom. It sounded like something out of a movie I probably wouldn’t even like. Shivers. But it is actually a region in the Northeastern part of Vermont-wriggling its way right up to the border with Canada. A natural, rugged beauty. Protected areas. Lots of wildlife. Not a ton of people.

Lake Willoughby, our final destination on this trip, was lovely. And empty since lake season had not quite arrived yet. We walked and stretched our legs. Had a good look around and took in the glory of nature.

Here are some of the photographs taken that day.

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We were soon on our way back to Burlington, Vermont. No rush. Enjoying the scenery and the company.

Like all long road trips sometimes a rest stop along the way is a necessity.

And like most small towns all over New England there isn’t much to distinguish one from the other. Quaint main streets, charming historical brick buildings, lovely flower arrangements hanging in baskets and window boxes. Always a train depot. Defunct or not. Mostly defunct.

So we stopped in a place called Lyndonville. Pulled in a parking spot curbside-in front of a cafe. Perfect. My daughter, Hannah, wanted a coffee or tea so we popped inside the shop.

I felt like I was walking onto a movie set. No joke. The place was filled with females with pointy ears and elaborate makeup. I didn’t know what to think. We were in the company of fairies. I honestly (no joke) started thinking to myself after a few minutes, “Fairies are real?”

Oh my gosh. Wait, are unicorns real??

Hannah orders her coffee and we ask the woman behind the counter what exactly is going on in the shop.

It was actually a “witches’ high tea.”

Okay. Not exactly what I was expecting but okay.

She went on to explain that they had hosted different workshops that day. She shares that the last event will be in a half hour. We ask for details.

It’s a spirit gallery with a psychic named Salicrow.

My daughter and I looked at each other questioningly like,”Want to?”

“Why not?”

It was currently 3:00pm and the event was scheduled to begin at 3:33. Not 3:30. But 3:33pm. Would end at 4:44pm.

I figured there would be safety in numbers instead of a one on one. So I’d be protected from any haints gone rogue.

You pay for a ticket and your number goes in the jar. Salicrow will pick out maybe five or six names in the hour. If your number is called then you up and sit in a chair next to her. The spirits will use her as a conduit for communication.

You could buy more than one ticket and increase your chances of being chosen. I declined.

We purchased our tickets.

Had some time to kill so we checked out the bookstore on the corner. Lovely spot. Crammed with lots of reading material. We scored. Hannah found a book that was on her “to read” list. The last one on the shelf! The author, Emily Bernard, is a professor at Hannie’s university and on her radar. As an aside- the title is “Black Is The Body.” Great read!

Then I found a children’s book I had wanted to read. Miss Rumphius. A story about making the world a little more beautiful. Also the only copy left on the shelf.

We both felt good and ambled back to the cafe.

Chairs were positioned in the rear of the cafe space. To be frank, it appeared to be mostly middle-aged white women. A few younger ones. There was one young fairy girl breast-feeding her baby who I assume was a next generation lil fairy. I think just two men were present.

So Salicrow is cool. I like her.

One of the guys asks at the beginning why we are starting at 3:33pm. She said numerology is her thing and gives some explanation. Doesn’t bother me none.

She starts pulling out names and has the person sit beside her and asks them who they want to hear from today-someone special or the strongest spirit?

A few ladies want to talk to Dad or Mom. I guess that’s normal. We will always want to hear from those who gave us life/a life-especially if we loved them. No matter how old we are.

She calls out another number and a young, blond woman with red-rimmed eyes takes the chair next to Salicrow. Obviously going through an emotional time.

Salicrow says something about the woman and why she is upset. I then realize that we (Hannah and me)are probably the only two people in the room who are not from the area. We don’t have a clue as to what/who she is talking about when she mentions the case of the school teacher. But we didn’t just fall off the turnip truck so quickly figured out that something very bad happened to a beloved local woman and that this blond woman was a cousin of the victim. Wanting to connect with her.

It was hard to watch. To see a young woman crying her eyes out because her cousin died as a result of a vile crime. Wanting to communicate with her-letting her know that she was advocating for her son (who was a two-year old, strapped into a car seat, during the actual crime). Yeah, none of that was easy to hear. Except that she was hearing what she wanted from her cousin’s spirit.

Once again, reminded about the unimaginable horrors inflicted upon women. The perpetrator (as I would later read) told police, “I wanted to get a girl.”

Let that sink in for a bit.

A woman living her life. Teaching at a private school. Caring for her little two-year old son. A good life.

And some evil person says, “I want to get a girl.”

I am sorry for the darkness. But I didn’t create it. I am just sharing it.

There is a whole lot of light in the world. But don’t forget that the darkness exists. We don’t need to be paranoid but we do need to be aware and vigilant. Be kind but be careful.

I told you this story was going to be longer than usual. Leaving off for now. Will finish this story in my next posting.

Bless you all. Stay safe.