School’s Out for Summah!!

FullSizeRender (17)In just a few short days my kids are going to be done with 7th and 3rd grades, and all I can think is- holy shit, where did the year go? Holy shit- where did the last 13 years go? And also, what the hell are they going to do all summer?  And, also, I’m really, really jealous of them. And, also, I haven’t even bought this year’s supply of sunscreen OR bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year. And also, I don’t think I have a bathing suit that isn’t stretched and faded to the point of being embarrassing.  And also, I haven’t even cleaned out our beach bag from last summer yet.  I shudder to think what I’ll find. A pound of sand? A half-eaten candy bar? A single water shoe? Some crab carcasses? Waterlogged magazines and books? Yes, probably all of that. And also, seriously, what are they going to do all summer? I mean, they are both signed up for sailing and camps here and there, but the days are long, and the potential for shenanigans is high, at least with my daughter.  My son, I’m not so worried about- I can picture what he’ll be doing in his free time:  read, lego, repeat.  But my daughter… well, I’m sitting here letting my imagination run rampant.

The summer I was 13 my parents sent me to Mexico City to visit my friend, Erin.  Erin was my next door neighbor when we lived in Panama.  We were inseparable in 5th and 6th grade. But, she moved right before 7th grade; her lovely family replaced with one with two bratty kids that weren’t nearly as fun. I made some hard-earned babysitting money off of them but that’s all they were good for. They told me I smelled and that I needed to shave my legs (which was probably 100% accurate but made me hate them all the more).  It was a long year without her. Also, I wasn’t too thrilled about moving to Alabama (after living in paradise for three years it seemed like a crappy hand to be dealt) so the Mexico trip was presented as a way to soften the blow.

I was only there a few weeks, but we did a lot.  The things I remember most are: stealing her parent’s car and joy-riding around the city; meeting up with her older brother’s friends to drink “cokes” that made me feel giddy and nauseous; making homemade aloe face masks that left us rashy; visiting like 200 museums with mummies and pyramid replicas; spending a dusty, hot day at some Aztek ruin that I didn’t appreciate at all; staying up til all hours of the night watching highly inappropriate movies; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road heading to Ixtapa; eating tortillas hot out of the oven from roadside shacks; sneaking out and smoking cigarettes on the beach when her dad went to bed; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road on the way back from Ixtapa; and wishing her cute older brother would get back from wherever he was already (I had a mad crush and he was the first and only boy I’d ever kissed). He never showed, but that was still the best vacation I’d had in my young life.

So this is why my mind is going to all places crazy right now. I do not want to imagine my daughter driving, drinking, smoking or kissing this summer. Eh gahhh!  But left to her own devices anything could happen, right?  She is the same age I was that year and look how I spent my time! It was probably a good thing that I moved to Alabama after that and spent a miserable year friendless and mopey, listening to Elton John sing Sad Songs Say So Much and pining for my old life.  It definitely tamed the wild side that Erin introduced me to.  But what’s going to tame my girl’s wild side? Wait, does she have a wild side??!! Ugh… I don’t want her to find out. Not yet.

FullSizeRender (16)Our town isn’t nearly as exotic as Mexico, but there are similarities- there’s a beach for example, and boys, and cars.  We even have a museum of sorts. And we do kinda buy into that free-range-kid philosophy to a degree.  I like that both my kids have their independence and that they can take off on their bikes to meet friends at the general store, the beach, the playground, or any of the other local hangouts around town.  I do trust that my daughter will make good choices.  But we’re getting to the point where those good choices are going to be harder and harder to make. How much freedom do we give her? Enough to feel independent, but not enough to get into trouble? But what does that even mean? Here we are, entering into another phase of parenting and I am completely unprepared.  I don’t even have bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year…

 

Mom, then and now (and all of it beautiful)

FullSizeRender (6).jpg This is my mom (on the right) and her friend Barbara, back in -oh I don’t know- maybe the early 80s or late 70s. Back when to me, Mom was just MOM. She was just the woman who took care of me and my sister, the woman who made dinner, the one who cleaned the house, the one who left behind a cloud of White Shoulders perfume and a smudge of lipstick on my cheek when she and my dad went out on weekend nights. She drove me to the emergency room when I sliced my leg wide open on the neighbors swing set and was the one who helped dry out my favorite stuffed animal after I left it out in the rain one day.  She braided my hair for school and made me drink my milk at dinner. She was the one who let us get a cat, and then took care of it when we didn’t. She was Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy.

I knew she liked to drink Tab and smoke Kents, and that she stockpiled crime and mystery paperbacks. I knew that she missed her mom and that she loved to travel. She sang loudly and off-key in the car to music my sister and I hated, and she liked to make small talk with the checkout lady at the grocery store. She had a short temper but a great laugh that came from deep inside when she thought something was really funny. She hated her teeth and never smiled for pictures. She had an amazing sense of style and for a while she made most of her own clothes. She hated to exercise but once she took disco lessons and she had one signature move that she used over and over. When she went in the pool or ocean she never got her hair wet. She was a master at floating with a cocktail in her hand. She liked parties but hated that my dad always had to be the last to leave. She was the family Jeopardy champion because she was sharp and smart as a whip. She made tuna casserole for dinner way too often. She had a seemingly endless repertoire of idioms that she could wield on a dime as unsolicited advice or a spot-on reprimand. She liked daffodils because they were yellow and she seemed to know the name of every plant she came across. Her boarding school days didn’t do anything to dim her spit or fire but did instill in her a deep appreciation for and insistence on proper etiquette. I knew all of this, I saw all of this, but I didn’t see HER. All of these things were just things about my MOM that I knew.

I think sometime in my early 20s I started to think of my parents as people and I started to realize that I could have a relationship with them that went beyond the daughter- parent one. There were a few really good years there when my mom and I could have nice conversations over a glass of wine and really connect. I think if we had been contemporaries we would have been great friends as kids, teens, young adults. I think if she hadn’t gotten sick we would have been great friends as grown-ups. But she did get sick, and that’s where the trajectory of the story changes.

You see now, these days, Ceci struggles with the ravages of Parkinsons Disease.  And it’s a bitch.

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Over the 15 years that my mom has had this devastating disease it has slowly robbed her of many of the motor and cognitive skills that have always defined her.  She can no longer boogie down and sing at the top of her lungs while driving down the street. She can no longer tell you the name of every President and Vice President (and who ran against them) in the order they were elected. She can’t paint her toenails fire engine red and some days she can’t put her lipstick on straight. Cooking is a chore because getting dishes out of the oven is complicated. She can’t sew because her fingers don’t work that way anymore and sometimes she needs help putting on her shoes. She can’t string beads to make necklaces and she can’t refinish a piece of furniture when she gets bored of its current state.  It’s hard for her to turn the pages of a book. And there are days she can’t get out of bed. She asks the same questions over and over again, and she forgets things we already talked about. We don’t have conversations about complicated things. I can’t ask her advice when my own daughter has me at my wit’s end or when I feel overwhelmed with the everyday chaos of my life.

I feel like she’s lost so much of herself and so, subsequently, we’ve lost so much of her and sometimes that leaves me breathless. But then I think of who she’s shown herself to be, and with that, what we have been given– and that too stops me short. Because despite all of the challenges she’s faced with this disease, despite all of the limitations she now has, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t give up and she doesn’t give in. I know she has bad days, and I know she gets frustrated and depressed. But she almost always puts on a brave face. She never says no, and she never says “I can’t do this”. She still travels, she still has dinner parties, she still goes out with her girlfriends for lunch or to the movies. She still tries. Every. Single. Day.

She is the epitome of grace in the face of adversity. She is resilient and brave and determined. She is a reminder that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it, but if you try, if you really try, you can make it work for you. Sometimes really shitty things happen that you can’t control, but if you have the right attitude and enough determination those things won’t destroy you. They won’t define you and they won’t destroy you.

Mom, I knew you back then, but I didn’t KNOW you. Now I know YOU. Getting to here from there didn’t happen the way any of us wanted, and I’d still change it for you if I could. But, it’s your life, it’s my life, and all of it’s beautiful even when it’s scarred and imperfect. Thank you for teaching me that.

48 (or so) hours on Long Island

IMG_8984Last weekend some friends and I headed down to Long Island wine country for a little mini-break. None of us had ever been there, but we’d heard good things. And even though we normally plan a bit better, this is such a busy time for all of us that we didn’t put too much thought into the trip. We booked a house but pretty much left the rest of the weekend open to hap and circumstance. I don’t know if it was because of or despite that, but we had an amazing weekend. It is an absolutely beautiful spot to spend time in, and the quality of the wine is very, very good.  And, if you’re not that into wine (um, what??) there are other things to do too–eating, shopping, antiquing, boating, swimming, bike riding, or just lounging– you name it, you can do it on the north fork of Long Island!

I’m going to tell you our story through pictures because I have like 400 of them on my phone.  I may have been a bit snap-happy. But really, you’ll see why now:

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It’s a quick ferry ride from New London and if you go in April you won’t have touble finding a seat.
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Kontokosta Winery was on the way from the ferry to our rental so we didn’t see any reason not to stop.
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I love a beautiful barn, and if there’s wine to drink inside- well then, all the better!
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Girls are headed in…
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After you!
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The tasting room had us like…
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Time to shop!
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We met a friend who insisted we pose like this.  It works.
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Cabernet Franc is a good way to start off a wine tour- and this one was fantastic. Nice view too…
Fog rolling off the water gave us this view of the barn. Didn’t want to leave, but:
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Next stop: our rental. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this cottage.
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This place had everything we needed and more- plus was kinda like stepping into a West Elm catalog.
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Entry- kick those shoes off and stay awhile!
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I like it when there’s a nice bathroom. Bathrooms are important.
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My bedroom.
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Waking up here was a pleasure (well except for the massive hangover).
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First order of business, relaxing on the patio!
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Friday night we hit the town in our blazers. Didn’t mean to dress alike, but it is what it is: blazer brigade
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Cocktails at American Beech.  We felt like we were in Miami and Tina got attacked by a big palm frond.
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Might have overdone in Friday night, but couldn’t miss a beat. First stop Saturday was Croteaux, the rosé winery.  This place was seriously a little slice of heaven.
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The wine here was as lovely to drink as it was to look at.
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All day.
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Cheers to sunny days and the best of friends.
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So good. I love rosé when the sun is shining and there’s a Citroen Hvan in the background.
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We wanted to sit here but the stools were too tall.
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More ambiance at Croteaux. Would have been nice to stay all day BUT…
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More wine to try! This is Lenz.
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The tasting barn at Lenz.
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Lenz has a great old vine 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Really tasty! Also, their merlot is very good. I don’t usually drink merlot, but this one was pretty inspired.
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Lenz vineyard
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Lieb was next. I loved this place. It had a great low-key vibe: great staff, live music and more really good wine. Merlot again. Maybe I am a merlot drinker after all.
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Listening and tasting at Lieb
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It was too nice a day to stay inside so moved to the patio to soak up the sun and enjoy the view. Nice way to wind down the tour.
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This is Chris, our driver from North Fork Designated Driver. Best decision we made. He was super nice and we didn’t have to worry about being safe on the roads.
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We were probably really annoying.
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Saturday night we had dinner at American Beech (which was top notch) and checked out the local bar scene at Brix&Rye and Lucharitos. No pics of that (probably a good thing).  Happy to report we didn’t spend any time inside here.
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This is American Beech in the daylight. Great spot!
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I loved how the town was cute, with lots to do but not overdone or pretentious.
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Thanks for the memories Greenport! We’ll be back for sure.

Goals

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My house is a work in progress. When we bought it back in July of 2014 it was in a sad state.  It was built by a stone mason in 1957 and had some interesting features that we liked for their uniqueness and, as they say, the bones were good- so we made it ours, even though there were layers of grime, miles of wood paneling, scratched and worn floors, weird tile, funky windows, an overwhelming odor of stale oldness and a few stray cats living on the porch (and leaving interesting piles of you don’t want to know what on the floor).  The kids saw a house of horrors, my husband and I saw potential. This was nothing new; it’s our fourth fixer upper. I’d like to say it’s our last, but I have a penchant for rescuing sad, ugly houses and there are a few around here that I’d love to get my hands on, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Anyway, so we’ve done a lot to the house. We took down walls, we reconfigured the living space, added a new kitchen and a second bath, converted a porch to a family room, built a big deck (outside living space is mandatory in a beach town!) and invested in millions of gallons of white paint. We’ve put a ton of time and energy into making this house a home. And it is great, it does feel like home. I love everything we’ve been able to do with it. But there was one little thing that we just never really got around to and it was driving me bananas.

When we bought the house we knew that renovating the weird and creepy basement would be a project for the future (possibly the far out future given everything else we needed to do). But, as I was looking for the different elements that would turn this fixer into our home, I found the PERFECT light for the stairwell going down to the basement. Everything about it was exactly what I wanted- the size, the style, the material, just everything. I did not know it was possible to care so dang much about a light. But, well, let’s just say it was love. True love!! So, I bought it.

And, it’s been sitting in our garage, still in it’s original box, for 2 1/2 years.  My husband started using it to store his car gear on, like a work table. No, no, no, no.

It does not feel good to leave something hanging for that long (ha- no pun intended). It was a project that I wanted to finish, but just never did. It’s like that one thing on your to-do list that you keep writing down week after week because it somehow just never gets done. The one you never cross off for whatever reason. I hate that.

If you leave something for too long, the desire fades and you end up settling for the way things are, not the way you want things to be. And, I think that’s a shame. I am at a point in my life where I don’t want to leave things as they are if I’m not satisfied with them. I want to be motivated to make positive changes. I do not want to avoid doing something because it’s hard. I no longer care about low hanging fruit. I want to climb the tree and go for the best that you find at the top. And, I guess maybe finally getting this light hung represented a little bit of that for me. A small catalyst.

So!!! We hung the light! It was a feat of balance, acrobatics and upper body strength- I didn’t think about the logistics of hanging a 20 lb light from a 15 ft ceiling over a steep, unforgiving brick stairwell, and you probably never have either. Yeah, it was not easy. But we did it, and we did it without killing each other (figuratively or literally).

It feels so good to cross that off the list. Every time I open the door to the basement I get a little happy flutter in my heart. Why? It does look damn good, especially with all that beautiful white paint (I do love white paint!) and maybe that’s part of it. But also maybe because for me it represents something more. It’s goals.

Citizen Girl

map2Today I spent the day at Our Sisters School in New Bedford. I’ve been volunteering there as a grant writer and researcher for several months now, but rarely have the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time there during the school day. But today I made time. I knew it was special, but I didn’t realize how truly wonderful it was  or how good I would feel about being a part of it until today.

OSS is a tuition free, non secular, independent school whose mission is to educate and inspire economically challenged middle school girls from the Greater New Bedford area. The goal is to help them reach their full potential in a safe, supportive and academically rigorous environment. If left to navigate through the New Bedford public school system, many of the girls might fall victim to the current statistics- New Bedford has a dismal 60% graduation rate and 17% college matriculation rate, while OSS boasts a 100% graduation rate and 99% of their graduates are accepted at a higher education institution. Not only that, but without OSS the girls would probably not have tools and resources needed to help them manage tough living environments and compromising social situations.

What impressed me most was not that the girls LOVE their 11 hour school day, that the quality of the education they’re receiving is on par with the best our state has to offer, that the curriculum is innovative and challenging, that there is a focus on enrichment or that this small school has managed to acquire resources and support a talented staff completely via community and foundation support- though all of those in themselves are impressive and important.  No, what really left an impression on me was the sense of self the students have, the leadership qualities they emulate and the total and complete commitment to being an inclusive community that they all share. Not to mention the fact that all of the students embrace the idea of giving back- they are required to complete 10-15 hours of community service each year, depending on how old they are, but one student explained to me that most of the girls far exceed the required hours simply because they love volunteering in their community and they don’t see it as a chore.

At the end of the day I sat in on their community meeting. It was an interactive, lively hour with both students and faculty contributing stories and sharing ideas. It wrapped up with a shout out session where students were encouraged to give kudos to another student or teacher who had done something exceptional. Student after student stood to give props to someone else- mainly for things a lot of people either take for granted or don’t focus on. Simple things like being easy to work with, keeping cool in a tough situation, being brave enough to share a unique idea or making someone smile when they needed it most. The confidence that peer accolades help instill in an adolescent girl is immeasurable and you can tell that these girls benefit immensely from the positive reinforcement they get from their peers. These girls are building each other up, not tearing each other down. And all of them are completely invested in the core values of the school: Community, Citizenship, Leadership, and Excellence.

I love that the school is based on these values, because they are the essence of sustainability- the foundation we need to build and maintain successful local and global communities.

This school year OSS is providing an opportunity for 68 impoverished girls to empower themselves to become leaders in their school and their community and is giving them tools and experiences that will shape their future and the future of their families and our world. It’s giving them a chance to succeed. It is giving back to our community girls who can rule the world with knowledge, confidence, kindness and compassion.

This post is not an advertisement or request for support. And by no means do I think that OSS is the only school that emulates these values or graduates productive citizens- I know that so many schools now strive to educate the whole student and support their academic and social growth, just as they do at OSS. I see it in the schools my own kids attend. I just came away from my day with such a positive, hopeful, happy feeling that I felt I needed to share the good things that were happening there. And I know that these days lots of us need to feel hopeful for tomorrow. So, if you want to know more about this special little school and the important work happening there, click here: http://www.oursistersschool.org. Or if you want to share a story about a school you know, I’d love to hear it!

Being 13 in 2017

img_7002As a parent of a newly minted teenager I feel as though I’m constantly navigating land mines and making compromises that keep the beast at bay while simultaneously trying to encourage and nurture her to be the best and happiest person she can be. It’s not easy and a lot of the time I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And, most of the time I’m worried that means that I’m doing her irreparable harm- that somehow my lack of expertise in this parenting arena is going to mean she’s never going to live up to her full potential. But tonight something amazing happened. Tonight I saw a rare glimpse of the complete and whole person my daughter is going to be.  And it was beautiful.

My daughter has a friend sleeping over tonight and they came home from school and proceeded to spend the rest of the day behind a closed door in her bedroom. This irked me to no end, but I thought I’d leave it be, mainly because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the eye rolling and huffing that I knew would ensue if I suggested they do something a little less lethargic. Dinner time came and I asked them to come out and eat with us, fully expecting that it would be a rushed affair that they tolerated in order to get on with their night. But it didn’t play out like that.

Both girls started an animated recount of a few different things that had happened at school that morphed into a larger discussion about the current state of our world, how it’s talked about at school and what it means to them. I was so impressed with their impassioned opinions and that they had all sorts of facts and research to back them. I loved that our discussion included deciphering fake news from real, tolerating other people’s points of view, and ideas about how to combat injustice. And I really loved that they know how to use Snopes and that they read Politico! But most of all I loved that both girls were making some serious eye contact and were completely engaged in our conversation.

We generally have good family conversations, and with this current political landscape I’ve seen that my daughter can be passionate about critical causes and issues but it’s rare to have the type of discussion we had when she has friends around. I know that they are all deeply interested in what’s going on, but I don’t often hear them discussing it with each other. For me, that was the best part of the night. Knowing that their private teenage world has expanded beyond following social media stars, debating about what color Converse to get, and making musically videos shows me that there is a silver lining in everything. We might be in really tough times now, but these tough times are turning our teens into informed, motivated leaders of tomorrow.

I look at my daughter and I see the future. I want her to be 13 and not have to worry about what’s going on in the world too much, but at the same time I want her to know how important it is to be a responsible citizen and care about the world around her. Sometimes I’m not sure that message is getting across. But tonight, tonight was sheer validation that it most definitely is. Tonight I was reminded that she is a 13 year old girl, with all the frivolity and self absorption that comes with that, but she’s also a 13 year old girl with strong convictions, a big heart and a desire to do what’s right. And tonight I am breathing a tiny little sigh of relief.

It’s Good Now

womenThis weekend was beyond inspirational. The hundreds of thousands of (mainly female!!!) people who marched and protested peacefully in so many cities sent a powerful message to our government, our nation and the world. Voices loud and strong united to stand up for what is right and best for our citizens- for all of our citizens- and for the first time since that cold dark November day when the world seemingly went mad, I feel real hope. Not sort of-hope, not lukewarm-hope, not wavering-hope but real, true, deep hope.

We can work together to fight the injustices born from this administration’s policy and executive orders. Together we can support our communities, we can strengthen our foundations, we can provide solutions, we can empower our young. We can lead by example. We can be stronger and better than childish tweets, unfounded accusations, blustery egoism and “alternative-facts”.  We can make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of those who are the most threatened. We WILL make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of those who are most threatened.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I needed this weekend to happen. I needed to see it all come together and be real. And, I needed to be reminded that there are change makers out there, that there are smart, engaged, motivated people who are doing things at the grassroots and national levels that are going to keep the moral fabric of our nation strong. I needed to be reminded that I am a change maker.

Today feels like the beginning of something new. And for the first time in months that feels like a good thing.

 

 

Bad dream, bitter reality

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We can’t go back to yesterday, but we can change tomorrow. Right now that’s how I’m getting through this week. I, like so many others, was absolutely stunned, sickened and terrified on Tuesday night when it became clear that our nation had just elected as our President a man who stands in direct contradiction to everything I know to be right and true. We elected a man whose entire campaign was run on hate fueled rhetoric; a man who has absolutely no experience with foreign policy, with the military, with healthcare, with environmental issues, with social causes, and who seems to have very little understanding of our constitution or how government is run in general. We elected a man who selected a vice president that thinks he can “cure” gay people.  I mean, this is incomprehensible.

And yet, here we are.

I spent all of Wednesday in a stupor of disbelief and grief.  But now the shock is starting to wear off and I feel this desire – this NEED to do something. To motivate, to organize, to get involved and to add my voice to the millions of others that I know feel the same. I think the next four years are going to be hell, but I think we can get through them if we come together and stand up for what is morally right. We need to continue to teach our children that all people are created equal, that kindness above all is what matters, that there is no place in our home, in our schools, on our streets for racist, misogynistic, bigoted, or xenophobic words or actions. And we need to help protect the people who are going to be hurt the most by a Trump presidency. You know, my eight year old son was hysterical on Wednesday morning when he told him that Trump had won. The first thing he said was “we’re all going to die” and when we reassured him that he was safe and protected the next thing he said was “well, a lot of my friends are going to have to move”.  As a fairly affluent white child living in Massachusetts he is generally immune to the damage Trump could do. But even he knows that so many others are not, and this is one of the (many) things that has been keeping me up at night.

The Muslim population, the undocumented immigrants, people of color, the LGBT community, ALL women, and yes, even the poor, uneducated white people who have placed so much hope in this man who fed them lies and false promises are all at risk, in grave danger of losing so much. The people who voted for Trump because they think he can provide a better life for them have no idea what they have done, but we can’t rail against them. We have to now somehow help combat the damage that is going to be done over the next four years. It is true you know, that we are stronger together. A divided nation is a weak and vulnerable one, and we cannot afford to be that. But yet, yet, we cannot accept the diseased underbelly of our nation that this election has uncovered.

I’m not saying anything new. I’ve read so many similar posts and articles over the past few days. I just felt the need to add my voice and my vow to do what I can. I’m starting to think about the types of organization I want to be more involved with, and the causes that I think I can help and support. And I’m thinking about what I can do every single day to ensure that my family’s morals and values and beliefs are not compromised. I’m thinking about how to preserve the good that DOES exist.

No matter how small it seems, YOU can make a difference by the actions and words you chose in your every day life.  If you can’t think of any other way to help, then focus on that. Practice kindness, and if you have children, teach them to do the same. We can’t let our future generation believe that if you bully people long and hard enough, if you scare people badly enough, you get anything you want- that you get to be President of the United States.

Beer Culture on the South Coast

buzzards-bay-brewery1A little while ago I reminded you all how important cranberries are to the region I live in here in Massachusetts (and to the world at large of course!) Don’t worry, I’m not going to dedicate another entire post to cranberries, amazing as they are. This time I’m going to talk about something else we have going on here that’s also pretty special. It’s called beer. Not just any beer, mind you. I’m going to tell you about the exceptional beer that’s brewed right here in my own back yard (well, practically). So, hold on to your drink coasters people, this is going to be good.

It feels weird to say that one of my favorite spots to visit in southeastern Massachusetts is Buzzards Bay Brewing, in Westport. Especially considering that this region probably has some of the most beautiful, unspoiled landscape in all of New England. That’s saying something when our rivals are the lush green mountains of Vermont, the craggy coastline of Maine, the crystal lakes of New Hampshire and the – umm… pizza?  of Connecticut.  Sorry- I spaced a bit there on what CT has to offer. I know it’s lovely but mostly I just drive through it to get to New York, and usually the only place I linger is at Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria in New Haven- which is a landmark in it’s own right, and the pizza is the best in the country (for real, it even says so in magazines and stuff). But anyway, here you’ll find acres of unmarred fields, miles of rocky and white sand beaches, an abundance of the aforementioned cranberry bogs, sun-dappled forests, bubbling creeks and streams, quaint hamlets and quiet harbors. It’s postcard pretty.buzzards-bay-brewing

And that’s kind of the thing with the Brewery too. You don’t just go there for the beer.  You go there because it’s a pretty sweet place to be.  It used to be a farm and the huge converted barn would be cool enough, but the grounds are really what sets it apart. Not the only thing, of course- the beer is pretty darn great too, but I’ll get to that. I want to talk about the setting first. The ambiance, if you will.

Ok, so to get there you have to drive down some pretty dang picturesque roads that take you past fields and farms and beautiful old colonial homes. Then you pull into the property and drive up this long dirt road through a huge open field. You can see the barn in the distance. And, as you get closer you can see the people mingling outside, you can hear the music playing, you can smell the tasty offerings of the Fancheezical food truck that’s always there and you get a little giddy before you even park.

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On Saturday afternoons in the summer it is hands down my favorite place to be. We bring our kids and a picnic blanket and settle in for a few good hours of relaxed fun. We wait our turn for corn hole or tether ball and we save room for a rediculously insane gourmet grilled cheese sandwich from the food truck. And of course we come thirsty! The vibe there is really awesome- totally laid back, with no attitude at all. It’s just lots of people enjoying beer and good company.

img_3144And that brings me to the beer! I was supposed to be talking about beer wasn’t I? Oh yeah!! Well, Buzzards Bay Brewing has a few that I just love. Their three staples are the Golden Flounder, the Moby D and the Buzzards Bay IPA. All delicious in their own right. And throughout the year they serve up specialty brews like my all time favorite- the Sow and Pigs. It holds a special place in my heart because some of the proceeds go directly to the Buzzards Bay Coalition an environmental non profit based in New Bedford that is doing amazing things to help protect our beautiful bay and watershed. Plus, it’s tasty stuff- a perfect light and crisp summer beer. So, if you drink Sow and Pigs, you’re helping yourself but you’re also helping save the Bay! How cool is that?

winter-in-the-brewersAnd whenever you happen to stop in (and you can all year because in colder months the party moves inside!) there will probably be some fun new brews to try. Maybe The Space Left Intentionally Blank will call to you- it’s a pale ale with an intriguing name which makes it way more interesting and fun to drink, or you could sample Lizzie’s Famous 81 Whacks India Red Ale. It’s hoppy and malty- a real killer!  But, perhaps you’ll keep it simple and just go with the Octoberfest because fancy names just aren’t your thing.  Really, you can’t go wrong.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of beer (which- um… what??!!) there is something for you. It’s called Farmers Fizz and ya’ll this stuff is yummy. It’s kind of like Prosecco- so yeah, yum. You non-beer drinkers (whoever you are) will like it.  I know it.

So, we have this pretty awesome brewery in Westport. And, in a few short months there are two – TWO!- breweries opening in New Bedford. Oh happy day! That’s honestly kind of life changing. And, it shows you that the beer culture on the South Coast is alive and well… thriving even. This is great news for all of us who live down here because we are starved for culture of any kind!  And beer culture, yep- I’ll take it!

Just a little thank you, Mr. President

p012513ps-034111The other night my daughter and I were watching a photo montage that someone, somewhere on some social media site had posted that documented the inner heart of Barack Obama’s presidency and I just have to tell you that it brought tears to my eyes. It left me with a gut wrenching sense of loss. And I can’t say my daughter was dry-eyed either. She’s 12, she shouldn’t be moved because she sees the President of the United States acting like a human being. But she was, and more than that… she was sad. She was sad because she, like the rest of us, knows what’s coming next.

The video collage was just a series of pictures of him being the decent, respectable, good humored, intelligent, thoughtful man that he has proved to be over the past eight years. None of the content had anything to do with public policy, or climate change, or health care, or arms agreements, or immigration reform or anything like that. But it was a stark reminder of what we’ll be giving up when he leaves office. Because being President of the United States also means being the type of person that all of America and all of the world can look up to. A leader that kids want to model themselves after, someone parents want their kids to strive to be. A good, moral, upstanding, pillar of our nation who exemplifies our values, mores and ideals. Someone who truly believes in America and puts the nation first (or mostly first- it is politics after all).1d4de8e2-e62d-4ab5-ac07-b3e048f04785-620x372

I am not here to talk about what he did or didn’t accomplish as President (that’s a different post entirely).  I’m just trying to say that I will mourn the loss of a President and First Family that I can look up to and respect. The Obamas have been GOOD for America- because they showcase what’s good IN America. They are a loving, generous, grounded, close knit family who believe in each other and believe in making a positive difference in this world. I am proud that they are the First Family of this great country, because for me they exemplify what we can be as a nation. We can be inclusive, we can be tolerant, we can create positive change by taking good ideas and working together to turn them into actionable plans.

That’s why the sharp contrast of Donald Trump is so completely incomprehensible to me.  I simply do not understand how anyone- ANYONE- could support him even if they despise Hillary Clinton with every bone in their body. And, I get it- I can see that people do, and I’m not going to use this post to try to change people’s minds about her. I’ve done my research and I’m satisfied that I’ve vetted her enough to understand that she is probably the single most qualified person to run for office EVER, and I’ve researched all the right-wing propaganda and media hype and have found most of it can be completely debunked or found at least to be mostly untrue. I did that on my own and it’s not my place to tell anyone that they should do that too (although by the way it’s pretty easy). But what I would like people to think about is this… Donald Trump has absolutely no idea what it entails to be President of the United States- not from a policy standpoint, and not from a temperament standpoint. He doesn’t even seem to understand the laws of our nation or have a good handle on what our Constitution is all about. And furthermore, he’s a misogynistic, narcissistic hate-monger who continuously tears down the good people of this country and pits groups against each other to incite violence and instill fear. How on earth is that going to make America a better place than it is now?

We aren’t a perfect nation; we still have so far to go to get where we really ought to be… and what we need is a competent, qualified, sane leader who can at least move us in the right direction. Someone who, even if they aren’t quite the total package, is at least someone who has proved to be dedicated to her country, someone with more than 30 years of practical, hands on experience. Yes, politicians are self serving, but they are also public servants and I think it’s unfair to say that Hillary Clinton has spent her entire political career ONLY being motivated by personal gain. I mean, there are really so many other things she could have done to earn a ridiculously high paycheck. But she has chosen to remain in public service and be embattled, criticized and ridiculed and she’s done that, at least in part, for us.

What do we get with Donald Trump?  Just “not Hillary”?  That’s just stupid, because “not Hillary” is NOT good enough for us. We deserve better. We all deserve better.

So, anyway… I kind of got off track (this really ugly election tends to stir up this roiling uncontrollable urge to vomit my very passionate opinions whenever I have the opportunity) but as I was saying:  THANK YOU Mr. President, and THANK YOU Mrs. Obama for being inspiring and positive role models for my kids, for making me believe that the world CAN be a better place, and for making real strides in helping our nation become a welcome place for all people from all walks of life.  This election season has shown the worst we have to offer and has created a deep and ugly divide, and the bitter aftermath of it will surely test all of our moral fortitude.  But during these trying times we won’t forget the message you’ve given us: the beautiful message of hope.

 

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