New-Old Things (repost from FB August 10, 2014)

imageI’m embarrassed to admit the last time I went berry or anything picking was 2 age brackets ago so yesterday’s blueberry outing with friends was a welcome new-old venture. A leisurely drive up the winding country road to Pitcher Mountain on a warm and sunny Saturday morning set the tone for a relaxing day.

After gathering our baskets and buckets we walked up the main path together in search of blueberries to be mixed, frozen, snacked on, sprinkled, baked and pancaked. The loud and clear voices of other pickers nearby drew us to a quieter area to find bushes less picked over. I focused my attention on finding areas with abundant fruit in larger bunches deeper and deeper into the field, trailing off by myself. Treading carefully between branches and over old rock walls, I walked through a labyrinth of growth, periodically settling in an area abounding with mature berries waiting to be liberated.

Voices faded to low murmurs, the buzzing of a bee or fly became my soundtrack accented by the periodic laugh of an excited child. The morning sun and breeze created the perfect climate. My initial industrious intent to collect as many as possible, melded into a walking meditation, my sole focus seeking out these minuscule globes that grow wild, so miraculously without tending or interference. The power of nature captured in these sweet blue-purple orbs.

I was roused from my trance with the brisk ring of a text calling me back to the parking lot and to reality. We packed up our treasurers and descended back into the world on the bumpy dirt road leading to the honor box to account for our bounty on trust.

As I popped the fruits of my labor, yes literally, into my morning pancakes, I was able to appreciate them as much for their being as for the gift of nourishment and how wonderful they would taste with my morning coffee. A blessing in any age bracket.

Stop Mowing the Weeds

I moved into my new-to-me house last September and have enjoyed watching things bloom and grow in my yard through the Spring and Summer.  I’m relieved to have a smaller yard (downsized from 2 1/2 acres); gardening and mowing are now doable tasks without committing an entire weekend. I’ve downsized my life as well: big yard to little yard; big house to little house; lots of stuff to less stuff; “frenemies” to friends; couple to single. I had to do a lot of weeding on all fronts during the transition and it wasn’t easy.

My previous yard had beautiful green grass. My new lawn, well, not so much. The dirt is more sand than anything else. The few times I’ve mowed, I kicked up enough dirt and sand to look like I just face-planted in a dirt pile. My friends know this is a very real possibility. I’ve managed to locate 6 or 7 healthy blades of grass among the dandelions, horse weed, crab grass, ragweed, quack grass, and mug wort (thank you Google Images). But as long as it looks like grass on the surface that’s good enough, right? For a minute maybe.

I went out this morning to weed and mow before the heat took over the day. The gardens looked good so I turned my attention to the lawn and the plethora of non-grass plants (weeds) protruding from same. I could clearly just mow over the weeds, like unpleasant problems, and move on with the rest of my yard.  But as I said, I’d done that before but the weeds kept coming back because the roots were still there, under the surface, ready to spring forth unbidden at any time.

I decided that today I would try the same approach with my lawn that I’d taken with my life. I would dig up the weeds first, thank them for keeping the soil together when nothing else would, and then unceremoniously toss them into the pile of detritus that no longer served a purpose in my life. I grabbed my pitchfork and shovel, my tools of destruction, to have at it.

The smaller weeds came out easily with a twist and turn of my hand. Gone. The larger weeds, the ones that had planted themselves and taken root many years ago, took quite a bit of effort and I considered just cutting off the tops to make things look better. But I was committed to doing the work to rid myself of them long term, roots and all. After about 45 minutes I looked around and realized that once I dealt with the weeds, the rest of the lawn looked pretty good.

Weeding is hard work. I fully anticipate that some of the weeds will return on occasion and some new weeds will appear as well. But now I have the tools to manage them. Stop mowing the weeds.

weeding

 

 

 

Date Bait: Pictures

If you’ve done any surfing on any dating website at all, admit it, you look at the pictures first. If you haven’t, don’t – you can’t unsee it. We all like to say we’re not shallow and that the person him/herself is more important than the appearance but we know we’re lying to ourselves. And it doesn’t make us shallow, it makes us realistic.

Subconsciously we want to date someone at least at the same “level” of attractiveness, for lack of a better term. Ideally someone with the same interests…and a soul. The pictures can reveal that certain “je ne sais quoi”: the handlebar mustache; the mountain summit; the proud marathon finish moment; the joy while holding the grand babies, bringing in the big bass/trout/tuna/shark, etc.

One or two selfies on your profile is great. If all you have are selfies to post, that’s just sad. Ask a friend to take your picture. If you don’t have a friend perhaps you should start there before dating. It’s a challenge figuring out which pictures to post. Fortunately, I have friends who take great pictures (thank you Debbie Pickering and Dave Teubner). If you’re posting an older picture, please date it. I recently went on a date with a man who clearly looked waaaay older than represented.

Look at the pictures as illustrative of your profile. I love the Patriots and my amazing little shi tzu-poodle; the pictures of me at Gillette Stadium and me with Dobbie are prominently featured in addition to a few other just plain old pictures.

So, here’s a few pet peeves in the photo department:

  • Motorcycles everywhere – If you love motorcycles, a photo of your Fat Boy is cool. If all of your pictures are of your bike, you may be perceived as one dimensional.
  • Hats – I am a fan of the hat in a big way. I love wearing them and I like a man in a hat. If you’re wearing a hat in every picture, it’s hard to tell if you’re a die hard Patriots fan or if you are camouflaging a bald pate (just own it, bald is sexy), a hideous comb over, or some oddly shaped protrusion that looks like a broken finger.
  • The one armed photo – The only decent picture you can find of yourself is of you and the ex so you grab the scissors (old school) and/or crop the crap out of it. This is a dual offense: the photo is most likely old (the baby blue tuxedo is a dead giveaway) and there are no solo pictures of you – refer to no friends/sad above.
  • Fishing – Great hobby/great profession particularly since I come from a fishing town where fish are serious business. But there must be other prized moments that don’t include you, a set of dead eyes and gills. On the viewer end, we read this as “OMG, I don’t want to be a fish wife”.
  • Bathroom mirror selfies – Resist the urge to post these. They are not as flattering as you think and there is something horribly unappealing about seeing your toilet or dirty bathtub in the background.  Speaking of which,
  • Beware the background – A sink full of dirty dishes, trash and empty beer cans on the floor, dirty laundry, the hole in your wall (yup, seen them all) say more than any words.

Dating advice? Cautionary tale? You decide.

image#dating #onlinedating #datingprofiles #badphotochoices

 

 

 

You Lost Me at “GPS on My Wife’s Car”

Yes, I heard this. On a date. A very rare second, and now final, date. Oddly preceded by, “I’m probably revealing too much but…”. Why yes, yes you are, and I’m happy you did.

Ironically, the first date was after a sexual and domestic violence seminar at which I listened to a woman talk about being stalked by her ex-husband.  My date, I’ll call him, Terry,  was a nice, successful IT professional, fairly recently divorced. Smart, successful, humorous, devoted to his kids. The first date was iced tea and chatting about our lives and what brought us to our date – yes, online dating. Nice guy. No sparks but good conversation. Actually, didn’t think I’d hear from him again. No harm, no foul.

The next day Terry texted and asked to go to dinner. OK, maybe I missed something. I was going out of town for a week so we planned to meet when I returned. Dinner at a place I’d been to before (always a prerequisite), just outside of town midway between our homes. Much better conversation than the first outing, better energy. Until THAT. As much as us divorced folks like to say we’re not going to talk about the exes, it always comes up. We want to make sure that there is no possibility of going back. The greater danger is our inability to move forward.

Marriages don’t immediately combust. The deteriation is slow, gradual, mostly painful, and in the end liberating, with a soupçon of regret and/or anger. We try to move on quickly. In the short term we think we’re there. The farther out we get we knew we weren’t then. A year makes a difference…unless there is a GPS involved.

For Terry, his wife admitted to 2 affairs and instead of taking her at her word that she was a cheater and calling it quits, he needed to catch her. And he did. Because he put a GPS under her car. He caught her “in the clinches” in the back seat of that car. And then he waited for her to divorce him. His point in telling me the story was that his older son needed a car and “she stuck it in (my) face by giving him that car”.

I’m a nice guy, I’m smart, I’m educated, I’m funny, I work hard,  I love my kids, but don’t ever go somewhere where I can’t find you. Did I mention angry?

#dating #baddates #onlinedating #relationshipviolence #stalking

Don’t Take This the Wrong Way But…

Oh no, you didn’t…inhale really hard and suck the words back in…reverse, reverse…Control Z…something…please. There is no good that will come of this beginning. Ever.

Let’s start with the words themselves. “Don’t” or do not – starting with a negative right out of the gate. Then we have “wrong” – another negative. And then there’s the “But”; a conjunction, a joiner, BUT in a phrase like this, a joiner of two not so good things.

The speaker (allegedly) means no harm but the phrase establishes a position of judgement, of superiority, as in, “I have such amazing (pick the word of your choice) insight/perspective/education/style/beauty/talent/knowledge/fortune/finances, I’m going to tell you how to fix your little old flawed self”. Oh, oh, thank you soooo much.

The recipient (target) hears the wind up. “Don’t take this the wrong way but…” and is immediately on the defensive trying to figure out which of their terribly personal foibles has been the subject of scrutiny. Every adolescent insecurity bubbles to the surface, setting your teeth on edge, bringing back the odd eye twitch you overcame in college, the “here we go” eye roll and that little ache between your eyebrows. You want to hang up the phone, walk out of the room, close your eyes and ears, and start humming.

As the fight or flight response gears up, the pitch is made and it has to compete with the sound of pounding in your ears because of the elevated blood pressure that so kindly wreaks havoc on your heart. Oh, yeah, I’m really open to hearing this and I’m sure I’ll absorb every single word and change myself immediately and irrevocably.

Unless your, “Don’t take this the wrong way but…” is followed by:

  • …you’re the kindest person I’ve ever met;
  • …you have the most amazing insight;
  • …you have a beautiful voice;

…use a different phrase. Or better yet, resist the urge to speak at all.

#dontsayit #saynothing “donttakethisthewrongway #relationships #friendship

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This Makes It Real

I had occasion to visit one of my former students while I was attending a professional conference on Cape Cod this week. Melanie Sachs, KSC class of 2013, saw my Facebook check-in and we were able to connect for coffee and a tour of the Children’s Cove Child Advocacy Center in Barnstable.

Melanie was in my Case Studies in Violence class in the 2013 Spring Semester. Her semester project was on Erin’s Law and the development of child advocacy centers, two topics about which she is passionate. Erin’s Law, named after Erin Merryn, a friend of Mel’s and a child sex abuse survivor, requires public schools, pre-K through 12) to provide age appropriate, prevention-centered child sexual abuse education to children, and educates teachers and parents about what to look for and what to do.  It has now passed in 26 states (yay NH!) and pending in 17 others.  About Erin’s Law

Child advocacy centers (CAC) provide services and support to child victims of sexual abuse and children who have witnessed domestic violence.  The CAC model focuses on the needs of the children and their families (Mel is a family advocate). Interviews take place at the centers which have a homelike feel with lots of soft colors and toys, as opposed to police stations which can be scary and sometimes make the child feel that they are in trouble. The Children’s Cove CAC has 2 comfortable and quiet living rooms (waiting areas), one on the main floor where we entered, the other on the ground floor where the families enter. Children’s handprints decorate the walls in the stairwell that leads from the main floor to the ground floor to the interview areas. The handprints belong to the children who have come through this center and the walls are full. Yes, that many kids.

In each interview room there are 2 big comfy chairs, a table, a box of tissues and the obligatory video and audio equipment. One wall is a two way mirror that hides those behind it; those waiting to hear the disclosures of these little people who have endured things we should not even have to imagine.

We then moved up to the third floor as Mel introduced me to the staff members we encountered along the way. In (mental health health coordinator) Cherie’s office there is a locked door that leads into the examination room. CC employs a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) to avoid the trauma of the ER (unless an emergency of course) and this is her workspace. Cherie unlocked the door exposing a lovely soft yellow-green room with bright pictures, toys and a gyn exam table about 1/2 the size of one that would be used for an adult. This took my breath away. I experienced a profound sense of sadness that we needed to have a tiny little exam table for these tiny little children who have been preyed upon by adults with no concern for anything but their own hideous urges. The green frog socks over the stirrups and the stuffed frogs on the table did little to camouflage what happens there.

I am not feint of heart and have seen my share of the terrible things that happen in life, but this room, this table, made the horror of child sexual abuse real to me in a way I had not experienced before.

One in 4 girls and one in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. I encourage you to check out the awareness campaign at the link below. We can keep our children safe together.

Children’s Cove Awareness Campaign

#childrensadvocacycenters #children #childsexualabuse #keepthemsafe #cacs

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The exam table at the CAC. 

 

About A Flag and a Sister

In about 3 hours, we will flip the calendar to June 14th.

The date is important for 2 reasons: it’s Flag Day, first declared so by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. But more important, it is the birthday of one of the kindest, most forgiving, loving and understanding people I have ever met; my sister Nancy Guthorn Harrington.

Growing up she was a little bossy, probably just a little resentful of having to take care of her younger siblings but when push came to shove, she was Mama Bear and she still is. Growing up in a “survival of the fittest” environment (with 7 siblings) being tough was our armor. We all had it and we still do. With Nancy, you would never see it and that’s what made it so powerful.

As the siblings grew older and apart, some by miles and some years, distance and time mellowed us. Careers, lives, relationships, birth, death, marriage, illness, sadness, kids, no kids, brought us together in different ways and for the most part, at different times. We have been, at best, asynchronous in the things that have shaped our lives.We can recite the dates of birth, deaths, weddings and divorces, the exact legally documented moments of the events that changed our lives but it is so much harder to name those moments when someone helped us reframe them, helped us make sense of them, and put them into context without judgment. And that is where Nancy mastered the art of humanity.

There is no blame or guilt, we’ve all got that in spades. There is love, there is listening, there is forgiveness, there is my sister.