Saturday, November 18, 2017


Last Sunday, I looked up and realized that the dogwood and Old Man Tree had dropped their remaining leaves.  There had been some windy days and that seemed to do the trick.

I took a pass through the yard with the mulching mower, a Fall chore that I always enjoy.

Elsewhere in my yard and neighborhood there are plenty of leaves yet to fall.  That means that plenty of raking remains.  The weather has been cool and this weekend a windy rainstorm is expected to pass through; that will likely set the stage for Fall to finish up its efforts.  Garden chores like this help me put the garden to rest and give me plenty of time to daydream about the next garden season.  

Bring on the seed catalogs!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reflections on a Nicer November

Listening to NPR this morning, I heard an interview with Joe Biden.  He’s written a book about his son Bo and in the media tour, plenty of journalists are asking him questions about the current political scene.  I was struck again by how much I miss civil, articulate, and thoughtful political discourse from leaders who wish to help us to be better.  Biden pointed out the danger of silence in the face of Nazi and KKK-supporters and called it out by noting that, “silence is complicity." At one point in the interview he notes that American influence and strength in the world is less about “the example of our power” and more about “the power of our example.”  It was refreshing and honest.  It was leadership.  Vice President Biden spoke of a nation I want to be part of; one that is aspirational in search of being better together.  

In last week’s election, New Jersey elected a Democrat as our next Governor.  His name is Phil Murphy.  He comes into office with a Lt. Governor named Sheila Oliver, New Jersey’s first African American in the position.  In this morning’s news, I learned that Murphy’s transition committees are majority woman and majority people of color.  Murphy is white, a former banker, and at the start I feel like we may very well have a thoughtful woke leader on hand.  In any case, it’s a promising beginning and I feel optimistic, a far cry from the sentiments that consumed me last November.

As I think about this year of Trump, I’m struck by the realization that things have been every bit as horrifying as I feared.  Trump had no honeymoon, but in all fairness he never made a single effort to govern as a leader with a tentative hold on the position.  Rather than acknowledge the reality that winning the Electoral College without securing a majority of the national vote placed him on thin ice, he bullied forward with slippery lies (looking at you, inaugural crowd claims) and an attachment to the bully side of the pulpit that show him to be small-minded, self-absorbed, and ignorant.

At every juncture, Trump has dodged responsibility, blaming the Obama Administration for all foreign policy challenges he faces and announcing that all policy failures belong to Congress.  He doesn’t understand even the most basic principles of our system of government and he doesn’t care to try to understand.  He’s made things uglier and meaner; his only skills are in self-aggrandizement and lying.  He uses those deceptions to attack everyone, including the media, and challenge the very idea that truth exists.

At 10 months in to his leadership, his presidential approval rating is the lowest of any president in the modern era.  It shows signs of sinking further.  As a nation, we are divided and wary, some of us furiously angry and others of us disheartened and afraid.  It doesn’t feel very great.

Last week’s elections in New Jersey and Virginia offer the prospect of much-needed hope; a semblance of measured reason in a sea of ugly tweets and lies.  I find myself clinging to them as we head into 2018 and the next electoral season.  There are signs that we understand the power of our example.  For ourselves and the world I sure hope that is the case.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Race Day

JT ran his final race of his Senior year Cross Country season on Saturday.  A week before, at the second to the last race of the year, I felt emotional.  I expected that his final race in our school’s uniform would be even more emotional.  He’s been at this school for 15 years and Cross Country was the first school uniform he ever wore.  At the time, as a 7th grader, he was proud to wear the school colors.  If anything, he’s even more proud today.  T and I headed out on a cool day to cheer him on.  The course is one of the hardest in the state and he ran all out.

He’s not the kind of kid to hold back as he approaches the finish line.

I knew the kid in red was getting passed.

At the finish line, JT was all in.

I was cheering like a lunatic but I didn’t cry.  It’s not that I’m not proud or emotional; I’m very proud and I think a lot about the next part of parenting, the part that features me sending my boy out into the world.  My boy is a committed runner and a good one.  Running has been an epiphany for him; he loves every element of the sport.  Running has fed his soul as well as his muscles; it’s taught him to value hard work and train for more than tomorrow’s event.  I love the fans and the crowds at a race and I expect that I will be cheering on this runner for a while to come.  For starters, he’s registered for a race in each of the next two weekends.  His college choices are all schools where he will be able to run competitively.  Next fall, I expect to be watching my boy run in a new school’s uniform.  I expect that I’ll be excited.  I know that I’ll be proud.  But mostly I'll be glad that he's found something he loves so very much.  That's happy!

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: November 8

This Fall has been rather a quirky season.  After a cool start in September, warm weather settled in as if it planned to stay for a while.  Fall leaves made stately progress toward the inevitable seasonal change.  There are a good deal of leaves to be collected.

 Now that we’ve made the time change, I have the chance to see the dogwood in dim morning light.  Most of the leaves are gone; those that remain are deep red.  

It looks like the mulching mower, my rake, and I have some work to do this weekend.  But that’s the beauty of Fall, a last push of yard chores before a season of still and rest.  I expect to rake, put some bulbs in the ground, breath in the chilly air, and collect some bags of leaves for collection by my town.

I’ll also do plenty of daydreaming about next year’s garden season, because that’s how gardening goes. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Front Porch in November

Right on schedule, my porch exchanged October for November and now we are ready to be thankful.  Pumpkins and mums remain the order of the day.

There’s a new flag for the month.

The crunch of leaves , the shortening hours of sunlight, and the chill of Fall have all taken hold around here  But the porch is a cozy welcome home each day.  

That’s happy!

Monday, November 06, 2017

That’s Happy! What Else?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the mixed feelings that I have about turning 50.  This morning is the big day.  One of the nice things about being 50 is that I am both aware and grateful for the many blessings in my life.

I’ve declared a week’s worth of celebrations because I can.  Today, the celebration  began before dawn with a book from T and handmade card from JT.  There’s news of a surprise breakfast at work.  I’m starting off strong!

The rest of the day will include going out to supper and opening more presents with T and JT, the people who are the core of my daily world  This year, I treated myself to a present in the form of some Rifle Paper notecards and some books from Bas Bleu, two treats that are in perfect alignment with the bookworm girl I’ve been (and plan to be for my next half century).

I think that’s the best gift of being 50….the gift of knowing just who you are and being okay with your quirks and peculiarities.  Not just forgiving them but embracing them as the ingredients that make you who you are.  Like many women I know, I haven’t always been persuaded of my self-worth.  Having a child nearly 18 years ago involved making a pledge to myself to set aside those self-doubts so that they didn’t poison my child’s sense of his self-worth.  Often that’s been acting confident even when I didn’t believe in myself.  But all those years of a “fake it ’til you make it” approach have paid off and I’m glad of that.

The last 10 years have taught me that I must find hope and happiness where it is.  On my darkest days, I always look about to find a moment of grace.  Then I acknowledge it and value it.  From that point of view developed my habit of declaring things “that’s happy.”  I learned the phrase from a children’s book featuring a brother and sister set of bunnies.  The littlest one, Willa, says of all the good things in her day, “That’s happy!  What else?” I liked the idea that happiness could be everywhere and that we could still expect even more of it and so I embraced it for my own.  I find the happy things in my world and I declare it.

Today I have a family and a job that I love, a soft bed and a house that always feels like home, a celebration to enjoy, a good book to read.  I’m wearing shiny shoes and a terrific skirt I scored off the bargain rack.  There are presents, sweets, and flowers in my world.  I know that I am blessed beyond measure.  That’s happy!

What else?

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Real Life Conversations with T: 1970s edition

The backstory: While in Springfield, we stayed at a hotel across the street from a mall called “Riverdale Shops.”  T took one look at the sign, shook her fist, and announced…

T:  Riverdale!  If I see that Jughead motherfucker…….

I loved the Archie comic when I was a kid and T and I burst into laughter.  JT looked like kids look when their parents are hopelessly uncool.  So it was an all-around win.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Real Life Conversations with T: Political Scandals edition

The backstory: There are a handful of towns in New Jersey with the same name and East, West, South, North, or South before the name (for example, near me there is North Plainfield, South Plainfield, Plainfield).  On the interstate, the exit for the towns are simply marked “The Plainfields”.  On today’s drive north to Springfield College ( a story for another day), there was a sign for Pecquannock.  I had a comment.

Me:  That sounds like the name of a town in New Jersey.  In which case, there’d be a North, South, and West Pecquannock and the sign would simply say “the Pecquannocks.”

T: Or it’s a place where a Kennedy could dump a body.

Me:  For when Chappaquiddick is full.

And then we laughed because that is the sort of thing that amuses us.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Fall Leaves & the Dogwood Tree

I've been posting pictures of my dogwood tree each Wednesday this fall and got a bit behind this week.  But I made the pictures right on schedule and when I was thinking about the tree, I was reminded of how much I love Fall leaves, always one of the best parts of fall.

We're at the point in the season when the leaves drop everywhere, landing on piles on the sidewalks and grass, making pretty, multi-colored pictures that are everywhere.  All season long, I keep my eyes peeled for leaves with particularly striking colors.  It’s a lovely past time that reminds me to enjoy all the beauty around me.

My dogwood tree encourages all this Fall daydreaming.  My daily admiration of the tree reminds me to stop and enjoy the moment.  

That’s happy! 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Why Are You This Way?

I keep a seasonal closet and in true Sassafras form, declared the arrival of cold-weather clothing a few weeks ago.  This was clearly premature, but I was done with warm-weather clothes (except for flip flops, which can’t be worn to school, and therefore don’t play a part in this story).  Here and there, my cold weather choices have been appropriate; earlier this week, weather was cool enough to warrant the wearing of tights.

Yeah me.

But a warm up came last night and today and tomorrow will be in the 70s.  So I’m in search of things in my cold weather closet that won’t cause me to sweat.  I have a few choices, all of them in don’t f*ck with me black.  So that’s how I will face parent-teacher conferences in the next two days: a witch in black with a stunning array of grey hair.

It will perhaps be a comfort parents about to receive troubling information that I still have some worn out temporary Halloween tattoos on my hands.  Or perhaps they will conclude that I am the adult version of an occasionally-difficult 1st grader, a fair though unflattering reckoning of my character.

Today is scheduled to be 12-plus hours at school, the last four hours with a need for diplomacy, so those tattoos  may be the least of my problems.  Let’s go, Thursday!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Old Man Tree: November 1

Temps sank to 33 last night so an actual frost is just around the corner.  The trees around here have begun in earnest to turn colors; plenty have already fallen.  Old Man Tree takes his time to change over for the next season but the changeover is splendid.

Some leaves have fallen.  I will clean them up by mulching them with the mower.

There will be plenty more leaves for me to rake but I don't mind.  The view from the back deck is one of my favorite things about Sassafras House.  It never fails to please me and is a tonic in all seasons, a reminder to stop and admire all that Mother Nature provides.

That’s happy!