Category Archives: personal

Be Mine ~ Or at Least Be Someone to Somebody

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I have a plan this year for Valentine’s Day. You might like it. But first, the conventional stuff.

Again, it’s marital engagement season. One of them, anyway. I’m in the in-between years where my peers are married or done with all that, and my YPs aren’t old enough to get hitched, so other than working the weddings of strangers for pay (often hilarious), I have gone to no weddings in decades except for those on Gilmore Girls. Which I did feel that I attended, with my niece. We cried and cried.

As things progress somewhat towards post-pandemic on Earth, and the “wow factor” heads once again to new heights at parties, I’m super looking forward to over-the-top wedding Port-o-sans®, which reside now inside a sort of mobile home. (“Rosalyn, aren’t you coming back to the reception?” “Oh no, it’s much nicer in here, what with the little fireplace and sconces and chutneys and all…I’m just going to knit a few rows…”).

Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby, since the 1969 Woodstock Concert in terms of portable toilets. Though its famous Port-O-San cleaning man’s noble attitude towards his job, which probably cannot be found in modern tymes, made up for lack of fancy amenities in the concert’s potties. See him excerpted here from that classic documentary, Woodstock (1970).

When figuring out what year something happened, I find that because I didn’t bear children to do the reverse math by (“Hmm, Trevor was utero then and now is 23, so it was the year 2000…”), I sometimes use disasters as time delineators. “It was right before the Oklahoma City bombing; 9/11; Haitian earthquake; Indian Ocean Tsunami; BP Crisis; S&L scandal; Hurricanes Katrina (2005) or Sandy (2012) or the slew of 2017—Harvey, Irma and Maria (paper towels, anyone?); Cali mudslides and wildfires (which ones?!). This is a horrible way to track time, which I highly unrecommend. I recall a few Valentine’s Days that were disasters in and of themselves—for friends or myself. Surely we are not alone in this.

So here’s my Valentine’s plan this year: on that day, I’m just going to spread love and affection. Why does it have to be about romantic love?  My mother sent us “balentines” up until she died. A friend and I call each other “Val” because we decided to be each other’s, the year after our mens disappeared. Someone recently dropped off a great number of fleece hats at our church, with a note that said simply, “Use them.” Now that’s a valentine, a symbol of love, given freely. Thank you, kindly hat maker.

If I had a lot of time or coin I’d do something major on that day, but I’ll have to satisfy myself with small gestures. A door held open. Groceries carried. A wheelchair pushed. A phone call long overdue. It doesn’t have to be about Hallmark but if that’s what you want, no shame! Cute cards are all over, try Royal Towne Gifts—get one for your lonely neighbor or favorite librarian. An underpaid worker you see weekly. The mail carrier. Road crew.

I think our true Valentine this year will be the comet named C/2022 E3. Which I haven’t seen due to our seeming perpetual cloud cover. Hopefully, someone spotted the small asteroid 2023 BU as it whizzed by within 2,000 miles of South America last week, in one of the closest approaches ever recorded. Crazily, it was discovered by an amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennadiy Borisov, who has discovered other comets plus asteroids from his very own observatory. I like this guy!

Your last, best chance to see Comet C/2022 E3 should be during the Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 5 when it will be close to star Capella, so bundle up and look up – instructions here. Binos required. That’s what bird watchers call binoculars. Show yourself, C/2022 E3! Be mine. Be ours.

Promise to Dear Reader: if I ever get married, I’m going to have the most exquisite Port-o-sans you’ve ever visited. There will be Baroque décor, stationary bicycles, palm readers, hovercraft, origami – and a petting zoo for the children. When someone at the reception says, “I’m going to see a man about a horse,” s/he won’t be kidding. You’re all invited. Good Valentine’s Day.

The Little Engine That Could, Part Deux

In December, 1,500 toys were collected one by one for the children of our Vermont town’s “sister city” in Ukraine. Once again, our town thought it would be a miracle if our shipment made it. Once again, we gave it a go anyway.

Thought it might be nice to remind people of the good in this crazy world. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen. Here’s a great little video from the woman behind the sleigh. Break out the Kleenex®.

The New Year: Just Grab That Ball and Keep Running

New Year’s Resolutions have a bad rep, perhaps deservedly so. That said, I made some and have been sticking to them. More or less. Has Dear Reader made any? Are you complying?

I read odd ones that people had submitted to the New York Times. One person vowed to stop using the words “very” and “really” so much (seems innocent… I mean if that’s all you have to change about yourself, you’re doing really very well). So I guess we can resolve to do (or stop doing) whatever the heck we want! I’ll come up with something embarrassing for you by the end of this piece.

Important: If you had a resolution but dropped the ball, no need to chuck it into the stands and limp off to the locker room in disgrace. Just pick up that blasted ball and keep on going. There’s no ref, baby. No rules. It’s all you. I paraphrase the Alec Baldwin character in “Glengarry Glen Ross”: Always Be Resolving. 

For now, I’ve resolved to: join a gym (or something); make more time for spirituality (of a cosmic stripe); learn a bunch of tech (e.g., how to operate 10 things on my phone that I don’t even know exist). Maybe how to insert a Box and Whisker into a Word document (what?).  Hell, I might need that. To learn the lingo of the young people, such as “quiet quitting” and “flava,” along with “le dollar bean” so I know what the heck people are talking about. 

Timing is everything. Who wants to jump out of bed on a winter’s morn? Perfect time to read. The local paper (ahem) or an actual book. Not screens. It feels a luxurious indulgence in the morning, not like a checklist item, and deliciously old school. When stuck somewhere traveling, delete photos, video, apps, and emails that eat up phone space. I deleted ALL on my junk email account with one motion… freeing! Timing.

Yes, timing. Who wants to drink booze in January after all that bloaty holiday merrymaking? Meditate, not medicate! It’s more calming, more slimming, and way less wear on your organs. Meditation and rest make your organs happy.

Further: I resolve to drink as much hot cocoa as want and cry as much as I please. Who cares? There is much to be sad about. Let it rip. Cocoa beats scotch, which is pricey, makes you loopy, and glosses over your sorrows. Why not experience your sorrows and wail away for a bit? Then you’re able to move onto Mood B, which just may involve Hope.

True Goal: Rather than focus on the problems I can’t solve, I aim to focus on those that I can, like helping with literacy (okay, “such as” helping with literacy). Give someone else hope. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the despair.

Mainly in 2023, I aim to laugh and make others laugh more because I’ve noticed that, for sure, people used to laugh a LOT more. Life has gotten harder which means we have to laugh harder. When you’re laughing, you can feel hope. Have I dropped this ball yet? Yes! But I can pick it right back up or pass it to the experts.

There are plenty of hilarious books. Countless funny movies and shows, e.g., Avenue 5Silicon Valley, the John Mulaney standup shows (try New in Town and The Comeback Kid), and apparently mind-blowing Rothaniel comedy special by Jerrod Carmichael, or that clean old movie gem, Mother, with Albert Brooks. I allow myself two TV shows per week. My TV is mostly cheery background noise. Including football where grown men slam into each other for big paychecks. I can’t watch, but I can listen to the fans. It’s like an expensive radio.

Ah, radio! Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me at 11 am on Vermont Public Radio on Saturdays (or podcast) has you hooting no matter what mood you’re in. Get in a car or go to vermontpublic.org and play it there as you putter about if you own no radio. Who does?

Word to unload in 2023: this “huddle” word used in business, for “small group meeting.” It comes from sports, but it sounds way too much like “cuddle.” Cuddling with coworkers…the visual…snort. 

In closing, I acknowledge that Dear Reader is tired. We all are. Sleep more while the nights are still long. Sleep well. Dream of dropped balls retrieved with ease, and laughter, and problems solved, and hope. Good rest, good year, and good day.

O Come, Let Us Assemble It    

There seems to be some pushback this year, in various media, against the “Magic of Christmas.” I understand. Times have changed. It’s not Bing Crosby’s holiday so much any more. Hallmark’s cookie-cutter Christmas movies seem woefully out of touch. (The personal assistant saves the day and wins the heart of the widowed billionaire… again! The guy on the Snow Ball committee helping the down-and-out girl, able to value her quirky ways, is secretly… a prince… again! With the requisite cookie-baking scene…flour on his and her noses… adorable!). What happened to the good stories? They used to be good.

This year perhaps more than most, money is an issue, germs remain an issue, and weather, fuel costs and world events are bringing us down. Power outages have caused many people and businesses real hardship.  Perhaps a creature or person you love died. It’s hard to care much about the Perfect Gift—or even wrapping it. I, for one, used to get very, very into wrapping.

They say nostalgia glosses over the past. Makes it seem prettier or more enchanted than it was at the time. As a nostalgic, who talks to other nostalgics, I don’t buy that. We say it was in fact enchanted. The following story illustrates when Christmas was pure magic. 

I preface the tale with my own childhood proclivity for holiday snooping. Driven in part by our keen sense of smell, my siblings or I would notice something in December when we went to, say, get a towel from the closet. That smell. Sniff, sniff. Why does it smell like that in here? The unmistakable smell of… fun

The smell of toys. Plastics. Whatever they pumped into the air in toy stores to make you want live there. That smell was, weirdly, right in our own closet. Let us get a step stool and investigate! Dear Reader knows where I’m going with this. Snooping for presents secreted away by the parents during the weeks leading up to December 25th. Many of them mercifully already wrapped by the grandparents and aunts who’d mailed them. 

On to the story. I hope to do it justice.

My Vermont friend was a little boy growing up with his older brother in the 1960s. Remarkably, their parents took seasonal nighttime jobs in addition to their already demanding day jobs in order to pull together a nice Christmas for their two sons. Which left the sons entirely to their own devices several nights per week. At which point the snooping naturally began.

They found in a closet one year a well-made and elaborate Lionel train set they had badly wanted. Overcome with excitement, they got on the step stool and brought it down. Very, very carefully, they unboxed it. And proceeded to put it together. It was complicated and took a long while. Then they played with it happily for hours. With an eye to the clock, they very, very carefully re-boxed it, got on the step stool, and put it away. Each night they went through this ritual. Each night they got faster at assembling the set, and at re-packaging it perfectly.

On Christmas day the boys could have won Oscars® for the gleeful surprise they displayed upon opening the well-made and elaborate Lionel train set they had badly wanted. They were eager to put it together, this time without fear that they might get caught. The train set was finally theirs.  

The parents were beside themselves with the Christmas Day delight they had brought to their sons. All their hours of hard work had paid off. They felt as much joy as their sons. Their joy was overtaken by astonishment. Look at them go! Our boys! How could our sons be this clever, this talented, that they could assemble the thing with such rapidity? They must be advanced, possibly even geniuses! Clearly, they must go into engineering.

I love that story. I don’t know if they ever told their parents—ask David Atkinson for the full story. For now, it stands as is: a charming, true tale told at dinner one night at a holiday party in Vermont. It brought the house down. Magical times revisited.

The story takes me back to our own childhood. When Mommy would make a huge deal about  snowfall, illuminating the outside lights and opening the curtains so we kids could gaze at the different sizes and shapes of the swirling flakes. When Dad building a fire was a thrilling and special occasion; even the dog got excited. When hot chocolate was made by us children with 50% marshmallows—the big, fat, “jet-puffed” kind—as tinsel clung to our polyester pants and dog, and the parents sloshed brandy into their eggnog. Our hearts soared at the holidays.

Now Mommy is gone and Dad can’t build a fire. But there is still something about snow falling, seeing someone drive by with a carefully selected tree atop their car, children terrified or overjoyed to meet Santa at a town gazebo, and the first few bars of pretty much any Bing Crosby carol. It legitimizes our nostalgia. There was holiday magic. There was. I was there, I felt it. As, hopefully, Dear Reader, did you. If we can’t feel it this year, for whatever reasons, let us quietly watch others feel it. It’s out there. Even if we’re taking a year off ourselves. Good (holi)day to all, with love and memories.

Tip for Parents: Hide the step stool.

The Underdogs of Foliage

All the old Vermont post cards depicting fall foliage had on the back the phrase, “ablaze with color!”

Ever since I had a tiny bush at my then-house go ablaze 20 years ago, I’ve looked for the underdogs during foliage season.

Look at this runty little feller, admired by none.

Virginia Creeper, I presume.

Truly sad. But it’s happy you’re looking at it!

This is some kind of weed. But ablaze.

I love this thing. No idea what it is. Wait –there’s an app for that (“Seek”)!

It’s a Smokebush. I highly recommend. Obviously can stand nasty winters and summer drought. Doesn’t grow too quickly.

It drops mini tumbleweeds. And it’s turning…maroon.

Surprised you made it this far.

Every dog has its day? Not always, IMHO, but today they did.

THANK YOU from the underdogs of foliage.

The NBC NBs

Here we go. The Night Blooming Cereus night blooms once again! It reminds me of women giving birth in the back of a taxicab.

Ah, the guts are becoming visible.

It’s like the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau in there. Or another planet. Or a concert with the diva star out front.

Can’t photograph the smell.

(Photo courtesy of Chris.)

Nitey nite!

Thanks for the show, NBC, after your harrowing 80-mile ride.

You’re a tuffie. We LERV you.

Meanwhile, Back at the Monarchs

There has been a series of hatchling batches over the last few weeks, so they’re different ages. I missed my shot with this big fatty elder-pillar who was perfect to bring indoors in a container to do its chrysalis thing.

But I was going out of town and didn’t want to drag the poor thing along. I only hope it wasn’t eaten by a bird.

The milkweed plant serves several purposes. A place to hang your hat, a buffet to be ravaged, and…

And a latrine.

I’m not sure where they sleep, but they climb down the milkweed well before dusk. Surely napping not far from their beloved milkweed plant that provides All. A home you can eat!

Hoping to show you a chrysalis from one of the now-toddlers one day soon.

Update on the Night Blooming Cereus

Daily, the bud elongates and gets fatter and fatter. When I return from work, it has grown! Stretching and swelling and becoming more defined, it seeks to grow and bloom just as we crazy humans do.

This is a couple mornings ago.

And this was yesterday morn. Boom!

More on her precarious positioning later. Every year it’s dicey, and for a different reason. Not sure how to solve this year’s dilemma, or if I’ll even try.

Sometimes we just let nature run its course, no?

Thar She Blows – Night Blooming Cereus 2022

Night Blooming Cereus: ugly duckling, protector…then entertainer for one night a year.

Protector? There were some sketchy things going on in my neighborhood. My NBC shot up a new leaf, the tallest it ever has, which bent towards the window.

She looked like a cobra (see shadow). I snickered and thanked her every time I saw her ~ for menacing evildoers out in the ‘hood.

Yesterday, her first bud appeared. August is her month, normally, so I’ve been looking.

It never gets old!

Looks like the bud is giving us the thumbs up, no?

The bud grows hourly. Stay tuned!

Those Three Little Words

tempImage9gL1KMThis time of year, the romantic love promo machine kicks into high gear. People without a partner, or a partner that seems not to care, feel Less Than. It’s enough to make you irritable.

But then everyone is irritable lately, so you’ll blend right in. Even Siri is cranky. “Ready to send it?” she asked this week. I did not respond quickly. READY TO SEND IT?? she repeated. I said never you mind, Missy, I’ll send it myself.

The reality is you don’t need romantic love to be happy. You can love all manner of things. Your home. The arts. A creature. Night. Friend Denise said that in 2022 she wants to do more things that bring her joy. Smart. Maybe you love a sport or hobby. Doing good deeds. Cooking. Napping.

Me, I love bargains. Like discounted grocery items (expired oatmeal: the other ancient grain), and buying used medical supplies on eBay. Also watching the Olympics, much as the winter sport crashes terrify. Resting. Learning an instrument or language. Sending unexpected gifts. And reading those three little words that form the perfect sentence. More on that later.

Angels among us 

In December I searched online for Flash Mobs because my niece had suggested we do one at a Catholic christening we were to attend. I gazed at Youtube, entranced by mall shoppers suddenly ripping into Ode To Joy. As one will, I got sucked into other Youtube recordings, and came across Angels Among Us by Alabama. Despite the corny 80s filming and styling (sunglasses indoors) and overt whiteness, I dug the song; the images of simple people who had done great deeds (including two children) had me bawling. I dare you.

Never trust a snow bank

In a recent storm, I drove through a slender snowbank in a parking lot, which sadly concealed a curb I had never seen before. In nautical terms, I ran aground. After frantic calls to the manly men I know, no one could help beyond some best-guess suggestions, including Trusty Editor who was, I think, impressed with my trick driving. I sped on foot to NAPA for pro advice, where two manly men were eating pizza in a large pickup, the kind of rig that means business. You could tell they were the sort of men that know…everything. I explained my car was on a curb. Expressionless, they set aside their pizza and followed me.

At the scene, one instructed, “You’ll throw it in reverse and we’ll lift it.” (You’ll LIFT it? A car?) Sure enough, after briefly analyzing angles, they lifted it exactly right, off the curb. I gushed, “I wish I could embrace you without COVID!” One replied, almost amused, “There are nice people out there.” With no ado they returned to their truck and pizza pie, which I’d have paid for if I’d had any cash. While they looked like the type of men that don’t accept much in the way of thanks for a good deed, I nonetheless should have offered. Gentlemen, if you see this, I owe you a pizza. Good people indeed. Angels among us.

So, Dear Reader, stop being cranky, shop local for your Valentine, whoever or whatever that is, and do things that bring you joy. Lie down outside and look at the stars. Help or be helped by a stranger. Build a snow fort. And, oh, the perfect three little words?  Reduced To Clear. Bring on the bargains. Good day.

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