In the Rearview Mirror

We had a postponed Christmas dinner last night with Laura and her family.

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It was lovely. We toasted with blue champagne, had oysters and shrimp from the grill, country ham on country biscuits and my excellent curried cheese ball while we stood and chatted in Laura’s kitchen.

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I don’t know where Laura was in this photo. On the far right hand side, I think, behind her husband in the Santa hat. Then we made room for tenderloin, potatoes and fresh asparagus sitting at the beautiful dining room table. Laura loves to make a festive table.

I made the desserts. Two Key lime pies at Laura’s request and an apple pie. And because I had eight egg whites left from making the Key lime pies, I made chocolate espresso meringues. I don’t have a pastry bag so dropped the whipped mixture from spoons. They were beautiful and delicious.

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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I suppose I used to and they always seemed to be about losing weight. But 2017 was a year when I made a concious decision to step away from many volunteer activities. 2018 is going to be a significant birthday for me and I have a third novel to finish. It’s been marinating in my brain for ten years. That’s long enough. I’m getting close to the end of the first draft, but some of my characters seem intent on following roads I didn’t see, and I have to take the time to see what they want to do. They usually turn out to be right.

I suppose part of my decision in 2017 was because of volunteer fatigue. People come to assume that you will keep doing what you’ve always done. But I knew I was putting my own projects on hold and I didn’t want to do that anymore. The other thing is that I am making enjoyment a priority. If I raise my hand to volunteer, is it something I’ll enjoy doing? There are a lot of things in life that just have to be done, but I want to enjoy the things I choose to do.

Writing is one of those things. I find writing to often be an unconcious process. I get centered at my computer, sometimes using a dowsing crystal to help open my brain to the “movie” of my book. Then I write what I see. My friend, Helen, says I’m channeling and I won’t go quite that far. But I do enjoy the process!

In March of 2018 the Bay to Ocean Writing Conference will happen without me being part of the planning. For the past ten years I’ve been on the planning committee doing a variety of year-long tasks. By the time we’d get to conference day I was too tired to attend sessions. In 2018 I will enjoy attending.

Eastern Shore Writers Association is also going on without me. I’ll just be a paid member. Those almost daily hours spent keeping track of membership are now spent writing. I found some membership software to take over for me and the board agreed to the change. It was time that the organization moved in that direction and I gave them a push.

I stepped aside from my role as co-chair of Green Thumb, the St. Michaels Woman’s Club gardening interest group. It was time for new ideas, and there have been some splendid ones.

I did raise my hand to help at the St. Michaels Farmers Market last summer but it was just for an hour or so on Saturdays and an hour to send out a weekly market update. The market is undergoing a restructuring. I don’t know if I’ll raise my hand in 2018. I want to see what’s going to happen to the market before I volunteer.

And last year I was still involved in the organization of the St. Michaels Community Garden. A friend and I have been sharing the responsibilities for about five years. It’s time to pass the torch. We sent out an email asking for volunteers and got radio silence. The next step is to itemize what we do and send that out. Maybe if people see the discrete chunks, some will raise their hands. If people want a community garden it will survive.

I’ll stay connected with my Working Writers Forum. They’ve been reading what I’m working on for eleven years, and they always give me good advice.

Laura and I are hard at work for the Christmas play we’ve been commissioned to write for The Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota.  Collaborating with Laura is a priority for me. We both enjoy the process. It’s FUN!

It is now a little after 8 o’clock in the morning on the first day of 2018 and I’ve been up for several hours. I am at my desk and have just pulled up the file of my novel. I can’t wait to see where the story goes this morning.

I’m going to enjoy 2018. #enjoymylife

 

 

 

On the Way to Christmas

We were supposed to go to Washington, DC last Saturday to see my brother and his wife perform with their Scandia Dance troupe. The ice storm got in the way and by eleven in the morning when we needed to leave, the temps on the Eastern Shore were still at freezing and it was colder north of us. We decided not to go.

Laura had also invited us to an early Christmas dinner that day and we had turned her down because of our plans to go to DC. But once the no-travel decision was made, I called her and re-invited us. She said it was the third time she’d added place settings to the table, as the number of dinner guests around the table grew.

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Usually when we are home for Christmas and invited to Laura’s for dinner, I make the desserts. This time someone else had that task. We just showed up for wonderful food, warm friendships, and shared stories. Thank you Laura, it was a gift, as was the sunset out the back of your house as we enjoyed a glass of wine before going to your beautiful table.

img_2159Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, dear friends. Take time to watch a sunrise or sunset and rejoice in the wonders of our world.

 

Why House Tours are Good for My Mental Health

Last weekend I was a hostess at one of the houses on the Christmas in St. Michaels house tour – a lovely big house, on the Miles River, at the end of our street. Twelve years ago the owners demolished the small rancher (probably just like mine) on that lot and built a new house. It’s really nice. Of course all the houses on the tour are decorated – sometimes by the owners, often by professionals.

I had a two and a half hour hostess shift during which I stood near the top of the stairs on the second floor and told people about the three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the adorable space created when the owner realized what had been in the plans as a storage room had fabulous views. An additional window was added and it was turned into a small fourth bedroom/sitting room. It really was a perfect place to curl up, watch the river or read a book.

When I came home I told my husband that these house tours were bad for my mental health. That’s because when I walk back into MY house with the clutter, the dishes in the sink, the manuscript living on the table where we eat, the bed still unmade and the headboard I’ve been thinking about recovering for three years shouting at me…for a very few minutes I believe I live in a hovel.

Those hovel thoughts doesn’t last long when I look at the overlapping photos of my grandchildren that cover my fridge.

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Or the artwork by my mother which adorns many of my walls.

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That’s when I’m reminded that I love my little one story house that doesn’t hurt my knees with second story steps. I see the only Christmas decorations I have in place. A boxwood topiary tree I made at a Green Thumb meeting and a ceramic Christmas tree that Laura gave me when my husband and I were helping her clean out her mother-in-law’s house. I am beyond grateful that she is in my life with her creative energy and friendship.

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Maybe house tours are to remind me that most of us live in palaces compared to so many people in the world. A reminder that gratitude should be the order of my days. My fridge is full of healthy food and when I run out, the grocery store is minutes away. I hear the furnace go on and am grateful that we had the money to replace it this fall.

During this holiday season, I’ll try to be more present with gratitude for what is already in my life – including my adorable cottage nestled among large old trees and the gardens I’ve created. In my mind it is house-tour worthy.

What are you most grateful for?

 

 

These Boots Aren’t Made for Walking

White work boots are iconic for Eastern Shore watermen. These boots are at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum as a photo op. You stand behind on a step and put your legs into the boots while someone snaps your photo.

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They reminded me think of boots I recently bought.

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I’d bought a pair of tall boots from Tractor Supply a couple of years ago, but the bottom seams began to leak. I tried an epoxy fix which worked for a while, then epoxy with a mummy wrapping of cammo duct tape. They still leaked. I needed more substantial boots. I had a pair of Sloggers slip-ons that I really liked, but they didn’t work when we had standing water in the back yard and I needed to get to the compost bins.

I’d been in Baltimore for a dental appointment and wasn’t that far from Valley View Farms. It’s where I used to buy most of my plants when we lived on the Western Shore. I love that place. Anyway, I needed a size 10 and there was only one pair of tall boots in that size. I’d brought a pair of socks so I could try them on. I stuck one foot in and the size seemed fine. But I thought I should really try them both on just to make sure. I didn’t want to have to drive two hours back to return them.

I had just taken the photo above when I realized the boots were clipped together. I now had both feet in and short of falling over and removing them, I couldn’t figure out how to get them off. I debated about calling out for help, “boot removal needed in shoe department.”

Making sure no one was around,  I kangaroo hopped to a place on the wall where I could lean and managed to extricate one foot, then the other. Clipped together boots are not made for walking!

Two days later the Green Thumb group of the St. Michaels Woman’s Club held its annual garden tour. It was a nice day so I didn’t wear my chicken boots. This year one of the gardens we visited was the Children’s Garden in Idlewild Park. I didn’t even know it was there. If you haven’t visited it, it’s wonderful. It includes a maze in the shape of an oyster with a pearl fountain at it’s center. The concrete edging the maze has animal and bird foot prints.

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Docents visited the gardens the day before the tour so we could see them. We also saw the wonderful gardens at the historical society and three different gardens at the Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. Usually we do member’s gardens, but decided do something different this year.

I was a docent at the Rohman’s urban homestead in Easton. Their lot is 1/5th of an acre and the house sits on half of it. They grow an abundance of fruits and vegetables and have chickens, rabbits, and honey bees. They espalier, grow on wire supports, anything to give them a more productive garden in their raised beds. It’s an impressive undertaking.

The friends I have made in the Woman’s Club are a joy in my life. Marcel Proust said, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” I am blooming.

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Why You Should Get an Education

I was in West Palm Beach, Florida when I came across this ad in the local paper. It’s why kids need to stay in school.

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This is screwy on so many levels.

  1. Let’s face it, this would be a shitty job. Pun totally intended.
  2. If you have a dog and you see where it poos, how hard is it to pick it up right then?
  3. You have more money than you know what to do with (or dozens of dogs) if you hire poo removal at $75 a week.
  4. Somebody is making enough money from this that they can afford a pretty big ad.

When I went on line I found a second poo removal company — also in Florida.

The reason my husband and I were in West Palm Beach was to help Laura set up a condo where her pilots can stay. She had ordered all the furniture to be delivered to the new condo and the garage at the furnished rental house was crammed with the stuff you need when you have to have a move-in ready unit complete with a fully equipped kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms ready to sleep in. She’d rented a Ford Suburban to haul those items, including the big screen TV her pilot husband considered a necessity.

The furniture was coming from three different companies, all of whom had been advised of the condo’s rules about the documentation needed for their delivery guys to come on site. Laura’s office had contacted them again the Friday before the scheduled Tuesday delivery and all said everything was in place.

They lied.

Only one company submitted the proper documentation. The other two had hired guys without workman’s comp which was a requirement. One company unloaded their boxes in a parking lot outside the condo gates. Laura wore out her cell phone. She was able to “hire” another company’s truck and put their guys on her company’s insurance. That was about three in the afternoon. She’d been on the phone since 10 that morning.

The new condo is on the 25th floor and she only had the elevator until 4pm. By 4:15 the boxes were in the condo and two guys walked away with very happy smiles on their faces. I didn’t ask how much cash she had to give them. But if I am ever kidnapped in the middle east, she’s the one I want to come and get me.

On Wednesday and Thursday we opened boxes and put furniture together. I wondered why I had thought it necessary to wet Swiffer the empty condo before the furniture was delivered. Cardboard had to be flattened and taken to a special recycle place in the condo parking garage. Lots of boxes had Styrofoam sheets or packing pieces to protect the furniture. It all had to be broken up and bagged. In the process tiny pieces of foam attached themselves to everything, including walls and my black leggings. Thank goodness a Dustbuster was in one of those boxes from the garage.

By the end of Thursday the condo was set up except for one bed which would be put together on Saturday when Laura’s husband and the other pilot wouldn’t be flying. The kitchen was in place with post-it notes on the cabinets to let people know where things had been put. I learned that trick from my daughter when we moved into our current house. After a few days you know where things are, but at the beginning the notes mean you don’t have to open every cabinet door to find where you put the glasses.

Laura and the pilots had to be out of the rental house on Saturday but the condo had two bedrooms ready for occupancy when we left the unit on Thursday afternoon. We were going to go out to dinner but were just too tired. Leftovers from a previous night’ s carryout tasted delicious. Wine helped, too.

My husband and I flew home on Friday. I was so glad the timing worked out for us to be able to help. We needed every one of us to get the job done. It’s what friends do. When I needed to bring my husband home from Paris after his leg got smashed in the subway door, Laura was the first call I made. Best friends are there when you need them.

I saw Laura last night at our Working Writers Forum. She said everything was in place before she left on Sunday and the pilots had moved in. No poo removal needed at the condo. No dog. I asked about plants and she just shook her head. The pilots wouldn’t remember to water them.