Tuesday, October 31, 2017


T got me a new door sign for Halloween and I placed it on  the door in time for the trick-or-treaters to enjoy.

My small town is at its best on Halloween, with the neighborhood kids and the parents out in full-force for the evening’s festivities. We had more than 200 trick-or-treating visitors, several a but put off by the witch who answered the door and many dazed and excited about getting so much candy.  I love the trick-or-treat season because it means friendly neighbors, cute kids in costumes, and candy in Halloween baskets and bins.  As the darkness descends, it feels like there is plenty of magic to be found in the crunching leaves and knocks on the door.  That’s happy!

October Book Report: The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton

Several friends had recommended The Winthrop Woman to me before I finally picked it up.  It had all the signs of being my sort of story: a story about a woman, plenty of history, set in England and colonial America…..it’s rather a wonder that I hadn’t found the book sooner.  The novel is story of Elizabeth Winthrop, an early Puritan settler in Massachusetts Bay.  Expertly organized as fictionalized history, Seton has carefully researched all the details of Bess Winthrop’s life and then brought her to life.

And that’s a good place to start, because most women from the 1600s don’t have lives whose history is known and marked, let alone shared.  We know who these women were, but we rarely know how they felt; how they experienced their lives.  A woman’s life in the 1600s was shaped by the men who ruled the society, both at home and in public life.  Women weren’t often in control of their fate and those who pushed against this restriction were often punished for such defiance.  That is certainly the case with Bess, who had three husbands and would give birth to eight children over the course of her life.

I read this novel as I was teaching 7th graders about colonial history.  We spend a great deal of time on the social history of the colonial world both because that’s what the students find compelling and also because it’s the best way for me to introduce all the people whose experiences will form America.  Everyone knows Ben Franklin, of course, but it’s the lives of regular settlers, slaves, and indentured servants who make up the the backbone and story of our nation.

To read the story of a woman whose hallmark is her challenge to patriarchy in the midst of the re-surfacing of allegations against Harvey Weinstein (and others) is to be reminded of the fact that women’s lives have been constricted for years.  It’s also a reminder that our collective strength comes from a willingness to rebel against those constrictions and to stick with one another as we do so.  It’s not often that I can claim that a story set in the 1600s is timely, but this one certainly is.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fall Storm

Five years ago this weekend, Hurricane Sandy arrived in our corner of New Jersey.  I thought of it yesterday, when a much smaller Nor’easter storm blew through the state.  My experience with Sandy means that I don’t take any storm for granted.  I am prepared, with charged electronics, a full tank of gas,  extra food, and emergency numbers at the ready.  Yesterday’s storm was more of the garden variety storm we frequently experience, with plenty of rain and wind.  Because there was no trouble, it was pretty to look outside the windows and watch the wet leaves flutter to the ground.  

I’m always glad when storms like this don’t result in problems and are just nice to admire.

Yesterday’s Nor’easter was the sort of storm to make a pot of chili and grab a cozy blanket while scrolling through our DVR options.  I’m grateful for storms like this, where there’s no enduring trouble, and we take the time to cuddle up and enjoy the day.  At this busy time of year, a lazy day is always welcome.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fall Quilt

With the arrival of September, I swapped out my Summer quilt for a taste of Fall in the form of this quilt.

A few weeks ago, I added a blanket to ward off the chill on cold evenings.  I love to tuck under this heavy quilt and sleep with the window open.  In my mind, open windows and quality bedding is one of the greatest pleasures of life.  They make me smile and that’s happy indeed.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Not a Fan: Dirty Laundry edition

The backstory: On Instagram, I follow a woman named Jen Hatmaker.  She lives in Austin, Texas and writes about her life as a wife, mother, and Christian.  On the face of it, we don’t have much in common, but I like her sensibility and her sense of humor.  From her, I’d adopted the idea of an occasional rant about the small annoyances in life.  She calls her grievances “Not a Fan” and that rather sums it up, so my occasional rants will also arrive under that title.

I am not a fan of people who learn that I wash my teenage son’s laundry and then take the opportunity to primly explain that their children do their own laundry.  I call bullshit on that claim.  For starters, I straight up don’t believe you.  Your children don’t consistently arrive in clean clothes that they washed themselves.  I am sure that on occasion your kid goes to school in dirty socks and underwear. And if you think I don’t know of what I speak, let me remind you that I am a teacher.  I know the difference between kids who stink from lack of deodorant and kids who stink because you make them wash their own clothes and they’ve taken a pass on that option.  For fuck’s sake, wash your kid’s clothes and then brag that you do it.

And on that subject, for those of us who do fulfill minimum parenting responsibility by taking on the laundry, I’d like to speak to our children.  Child, do not place rolled up, sweaty socks in the laundry. Unroll. those. socks.

And now you’ll have to excuse me.  I have to get the laundry going.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: October 25

This week, the woods around town have really taken on the colors of Fall.  My backyard dogwood tree is leading the way.

For much of September, I admired this tree as I watched the sunrise.  As the days are growing shorter, the sunrise is later and later and I'm typically on the way to school when the sun comes up.  But each day I find time to step to the back window and admire the colors of this tree, which are really quite lovely.  This tree is my daily bellwether of the season, a reminder to stop and appreciate all that Mother Nature has to offer.  

That’s happy!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

At 50K

In less than two weeks, I will wake up and be 50 years old.  


T reminds me that it’s just a number.  I remind myself that it beats the alternative.  Part of me is simply bemused by the development.  I suspect that one of the secrets of life is that there is always a tiny core inside of you that feels 17.  Hair turns grey, joints age, comfortable shoes now seem fashionable…..in every way, you have aged.   But your inner 17 year old is still there, waiting to grow up, driving a little too fast, and playing the music a little too loud.

It’s a station wagon that you’re driving too fast.  The music is from 1988.  But still……


This is me at nearly 50.

I like the black and white version better.   It covers a variety of sins.

It’s been two years since I broke up with contact lenses and I still don’t recognize myself in glasses.  My hair is long because why not?  I don’t have any makeup on because I am lazy on the weekend.


I’ve decided to take the approach I’d take to a car with 50,000 miles.  The new smell is long gone, but there are plenty of miles left on this journey. And time enough to get after it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


When I was a kid, my dad did all the lawn mowing that was to be done.  I always assumed he did the work himself to avoid hearing the griping and complaining of children forced to do the job.  I don’t mow for myself until I was nearly 30 and living in my first house.  It was then that I discovered my dad hadn’t taught us to mow because to teach his daughters to push the mower would have meant foregoing the very best of the gardening chores.

I love to mow.

My first mower, a bargain priced number from Walmart with a Briggs and Stratton engine, was a basic machine.  It had no fancy features but jumped to life for years and mowed mile after mile of grass in Nebraska and New Jersey.  It died four years ago and was replaced by a red mower with big back tires, which makes it easier to push.  It’s stylish and a little fancy.  I love to use it.

I am the mulch-mowing type who disdains those who bag their grass cuttings.  That’s a waste of effort and fertilizer in my view.  I love the smell and look of the fresh-cut lawn, with the just-mulched cuttings left in tiny, neat rows.  I like the lines made by fresh-cut grass, those lines slowly expanding as I push the mower to the next row.  I like to admire the grass after its cutting, neatened and tidied.  I feel a virtue pour over me when the job is complete.

In the Spring, the grass is thick and lush and the job takes more time.  In the heat of Summer, the job is hot and sweaty and after I mow, I drink cold iced tea on the front porch and urge the grass to grow quickly so that I may mow again.  In the Fall, the lawn is drying and worn and running the mower in rows cleans up the fallen leaves.

Cutting the grass in October is a bittersweet task; each turn of the mower may be the last of the season.  One day soon, I’ll wheel the mower into the garage, drained of gas and ready for a Winter of rest.  It will sit quietly as the cold descends and the snow falls.  We’ll both wait for Spring, one of us more patiently than the other.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Kind Hearted

As my 17 year old edges ever-closer to 18, more and more often there are glimpses of the man he will become.  He’s filling out college applications and finishing an essay that reveals a strong and accurate sense of the experiences that have most enriched his life and made him the young man he is.  Aware that I’ve had a hard day, he reminds me that he’s here to talk and listen if I need support.  At the end of the week, when I remind him that I will make him breakfast before he heads to an ACT workshop in the morning, he kisses my cheek and tells me he loves me.  Planning to write thank you notes to his coaches, he asks for my advice to select the right cards.

Parenting often feels like you are cheerfully stepping into an abyss, hopeful that it will all be okay.  There are plenty of days when you live with a cranky baby, a moody tween, or an angry teenager and you wonder how this whole thing is going to play out.    But if you are lucky, there are days when you think you’ve sent a kind-hearted person into a world that needs kindness more than ever.  And on those days you count your blessings.  Today is one of those days.  

That's happy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: October 18

Though I remind myself that this year is an especially good year to live in the moment, something about cool mornings has me longing for the full-time arrival of sweater weather.  From there, I get to thinking about Winter: heavy down comforters, cozy blankets, coats and scarves and mittens……..before I know it, I’m planning my first snow day.  The dogwood is right here with me.

The color change accelerates as the nights lengthen and the warmth of the day feels thinner.

Halloween is on the horizon, with little ghosts and goblins crunchy through the leaves.  My task between now and then is to live in the happy moments.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Garden Report, Week 20: October 16

After another unseasonably warm weekend, Fall is in the air this morning.  The garden is long past prime, weary of the growing from the previous months.  

My raggedy plants have little left to harvest, though there are still tomato blooms, which is lovely though not especially promising, given the late date of the season.

The green tomatoes that remain are in a race against time; there is a frost warning for Tuesday night.  I expect that this is the final garden report for the 2017 season.  

I’ll pick everything left before the chill descends and offer thanks for the garden season that was even as I begin my daydreams and planning for the next garden season.  That’s the beauty of a garden; it’s a place for patient hopes and dreams.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Here and Now

When I first became a single mama, in the enveloping sadness that followed I found that the prospect of future happiness suddenly felt elusive.  I missed the ability to look into a future of assumed happiness.  Over time, I came to appreciate my immediate blessings.  My world felt more fragile but I found a way forward to moments of happiness.  As my heart healed, I once again came to see a future with happiness at the core.  That was a blessing for many reasons but especially because it gave me the chance to once again dream of the future.

It’s tricky to always look forward to happiness because it puts me at risk for failing to appreciate the here and now.  I’m especially aware of this conundrum now, as JT applies for college and I prepare to send him from the nest.  Last week, my parents visited.  These days, time in their company always reminds me of the rapid passage of time.  

In the midst of a Senior year which seems to be all about JT’s future, I’m more determined than ever to enjoy the here and now; to appreciate the moments at hand.  The future gets it fair share of our thoughts and imagination but in the here and now there is the beauty of happiness to be found.  I plan to claim it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: October 10

The last week has mostly been filled with warm, humid air.  Good for the tomatoes, but bad for folks like me who wish to sleep with the windows open to an evening chill.  My parents are in town to visit with us and watch the boy in a few Cross Country races.  Pumpkins and mums are everywhere, but otherwise it hardly seems like Fall.  Enter the dogwood, always at the ready to provide a charming display.  Up close, these leaves are well on their way to a Fall celebration.

In the mornings, the backyard squirrels scamper up and down the limbs.  In the afternoon, we are sometimes lucky enough to see the cardinals that hang out here.  It’s a treat to look out the back window and see the tree as it embraces the season.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Garden Report, Week 19: October 9

I wouldn’t say that the garden is flourishing at this point, though the warmth of the past week ensures that I still have a few tomatoes to pick.

Historically, the first frost should be close at hand.  But it doesn’t quite feel like that today, with a humid and rainy day on tap.  As long as the cool weather holds off, I’ll have fresh-grown tomatoes to enjoy.  I’ll take it!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

October Front Porch

October is the month that first inspired my monthly porch decorations and it remains one of my favorite months to enjoy the porch.  For starters, the prospect of cool weather is usually very welcome come October.  Mums, jack-o-lanterns, gourds, and ghosts are some of the best treats of the month.

My flag welcomes visitors.

So far, it’s been a warm October and so there are summer plants still comfortable outside.  They’re tucked into a corner soaking up the warmth and sunlight.

By the end of the month, I’ll have trick-or-treaters to go with some cooler evenings.  That’s happy!

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Family Pastime

My parents are in town to enjoy the Fall and watch JT in a few cross country races.  Last night, we watched baseball playoff games.  We don’t have a dog in the hunt, but baseball is baseball and so we watched.  JT and Grandpa were watching together and there was pretty constant commentary when a Cleveland player connected and in unison they called, “that’s gone.”  Gone it was and JT smiled and said to his Grandpa, “we both knew that.”  Grandpa is the source of his love of the game and watching baseball together…..well, that’s happy!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: October 4

Fall is really starting to hold on around here and the cool evenings have led to some excellent sleeping weather.  While I rest, the dogwood is clearly getting after it.

That’s happy!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Cross Country races occur at courses all over the state, some nearby and some further away.  I enjoy the road trips that get me to the courses and I’ve found plenty of pretty parks in the process.  Last week, JT’s team completed against a local school at Natirar Park, a lovely, hilly park that was a former estate.  JT has run here before and that’s an important thing in cross country because it’s hard to lead a race if you don’t know the path to run.  

Natirar has wide swathes of green grass, woods, and hills.  The race starts in the middle of a big field, and then sweeps through the woods and up the hill seen here.  From there, the course rolls up hills in and out of the woods.

JT started strong and as I glimpsed him running in and out of the woods, he moved into first place.  That’s where he finished the race.

He didn’t run a personal best time, but it’s his first race with a first place finish and he was best pleased by that development.

Cross Country fans are the best.  They cheer for everyone; it’s not a sport with contact or personal fouls and the fans reward effort as much as they cheer victory.  We stay until every runner crosses the finish line.  I’ve spent plenty of time cheering my son as he finished a race in the back half of the crowd and always I've been proud of his effort.  But I have to say the first was pretty damn sweet as well.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Garden Report, Week 18: October 2

The garden is looking raggedy and dry; the tomatoes plants are clearly coming to the end of their season.

But as long as a warm sun shines, I water the garden.  So there are tomatoes to pick and enjoy each week.

That’s happy!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Old Man Tree: October

After a wet Summer, September was a dry month.  The leaves had started to turn as the month began. Temperatures warmed for the latter half of the month and it was hard to believe that Fall had arrived.  But the lawn is covered by a carpet of leaves when I set out to mow each week.

When I run the mower, I mark my rows by the mulching of these leaves.  

When I look overhead, I see that Old Man Tree is nowhere near shedding his leaves.  His embrace of the next season is more stately than mine.  There is a lot more raking and mulching to come.

Cool, crisp mornings have once again taken hold; evenings arrive sooner.  There are pumpkins and mums on the front porch.  In the coming weeks, the pace of leaves changing colors and dropping into the yard will pick up.  I keep watch for a glimpse of the harvest moon as I step out back under the limbs of this tree that has passed many more years than I have.  I offer a thanks to Mother Nature for all those years and a wish that Old Man Tree weather many more of them.