Friends and Family Per Mile 2018

0A07C87D-3249-47DF-B173-B328450AF965Every summer I embark on what I refer to as a “friends and family per mile tour”. It is always by car and on the East Coast because, well, I can drive there. The usual destinations are Connecticut to visit one of my sisters, New Jersey, “the homeland”, to connect with long-time friends, or Rhode Island to my mother’s childhood summer home.

Some people would refer to this as a “road trip” but I associate “road trips” with buddy movies, adventures, misadventures and lots of drinking. Been there, done that – not anymore. I pack up my vehicle with books on Audible, podcasts, music and at least one four-legged friend in a very cushy dog-seat: and clothes, I do bring clothes. I’m also armed with my cell phone contact list, Facebook and a memory easily jogged by songs, smells, sights, and (road) signs. No, I cannot/will not cease alliterating! It was a gift from my mother so I’m keeping it. 🙂

The friends and family per mile tours started several years ago. The title is derived from the “friends and family plan” from the Verizon folks and “per mile” added because it just seems to fit. It is more accurately miles per friends/family but that just doesn’t sound right. Friends and family come first right?

This year I traveled dogless leaving “the boys” with an energetic early-rising friend. I logged 900 miles and 25 friends and family, some planned, some impromptu. That’s 36 miles/ff for those keeping track. Bonus new friends not included in original mileage.

But the data only tells a small part of the story. In more or less chronological order, those miles include “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” with the best little sister ever, 50 cent donut day, the beach, skipping rocks on the ocean, teaching a child how to skip rocks on the ocean, McDonald’s Play Place, finding a new binge-worthy Netflix show (Bloodline), breakfast with a beloved friend and mentor, iced tea with a longtime theatre pal, pop-up visits with some of my favorite people along Main St. in Keene, picking blueberries, feeding ducks, apple cider donuts (yes, more donuts), the arrival of another sister in Connecticut, making dinner for my sisters and family, driving to NYC, checking out pocket parks and little bookstores (Book Book and the Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Book store), dinner with sisters and nephews, cupcakes at Mollie’s Cupcakes (all on Bleecker St.), seeing hometown friend and performer par excellence Michael James Leslie in Sweeney Todd, a restful morning and a safe and uneventful return to Philadelphia and my faithful companions, Dobbie and JohnnyB.

My gas tank is empty but my heart is full.




Real Life: the bully

I came across this essay I wrote in October 2014 while looking through my computer files in an effort to clear things out a bit. I don’t remember exactly what was happening in my life at the time although I believe it was health-related: 2014 was a banner year for that. I didn’t know it at the time but it was about the midpoint of 5 years of incredibly challenging, and sometimes dark, times

October 6, 2014

Reality barged into the remaining hours of my Zen-like vacation much the way a bully interrupts a child’s game of kickball turning it into dodge ball, or bombardment as I knew it growing up. The name conveys the game’s aggressive nature, bombardment with the weapon of choice or dodging same.

In this case, the weapon was the reality of everyday life. Not just the dirty dishes and the laundry and the housekeeping but the tragedies: a parent lost to death, a marriage lost to infidelity, a beloved pet lost to age and infirmity. As I write this I realize I could easily be talking about my own life over the last 2+ years but in this case the losses are those experienced by friends in the last 2 days.

My role, as it has been for most of my life, is to be the protector, the mediator, the consoler. I can’t stop this reality from forcing its way into the lives of those I care about but I can provide solace.  I can be a sounding board, a shoulder, a worry doll, an ear to hear the pain and heartache, to send it out and up, to relieve the heaviness of it so they can make space for peace and love.

The bully cannot be contained or punished into submission. It is unapologetic, unyielding and unkind, like the bullies we knew from our playground days. These bullies, these realities, cannot be avoided or cajoled; only confronted and managed. And they make us stronger in their wake.

Epiphany/epiphany/epiph: they’re all cool!

Epiphany/epiphany/epiph: they’re all cool!

Today is Epiphany: “a manifestation, a striking appearance”. Most folks associate Epiphany with its religious context but there is more to it.

For those whose faith tradition is Christianity (in particular western Christianity which uses the Gregorian calendar; eastern Christianity uses the Julian calendar and celebrates on January 19th) it is the Feast of the Epiphany and the twelfth day of the liturgical Christmas season (your 12 lords a’ leaping should arrive any minute now). It is also called Three Kings Day or the Feast of the Magi, when Jesus became manifest to the gentiles.*

There are a number of traditions associated with the day. Since it is the end of the Christmas season, many folks take down their trees and decorations. You may also want to enjoy a king cake; a ring-shaped bread or pastry in which a small, plastic baby  Jesus is hidden. Baptisms and house blessings are common. In some cultures, children will leave their shoes outside the door to awaken to gifts and candy.*

In our more common usage, an epiphany is a revelation; discovery or clarity about something usually triggered by new information or deep thought. That is a pretty tall order for most of us just trying to get through the day. For me, “Deep Thoughts” are the business of Jack Handy of SNL fame. But I do periodically have what I refer to as “epiphs”, not necessarily groundbreaking moments of clarity or revelation, but certainly finding a new way of looking at something I’d not previously considered.

The challenge is staying open to the opportunity for epiphs or even full blown epiphanies. You see, I have a thinking problem. When my thinking or methods are challenged, the internal visceral response is typically something like, “Uhhhh, NO! You have no idea what you’re talking about. You cannot possibly know as much as I do about what dragons do on vacation (or whatever) so I am shutting you down, shutting you out, or shutting you up until you come back around to my way of thinking. ‘k?” No, not okay.

I wouldn’t typically say this outloud but my actions and overactive facial expressions are basically a visual interpretation of every negative thought marching through my head. So I have been practicing acknowledging that visceral impulse and then acting from a thoughtful, rational, compassionate place. I’ve found when I shut up long enough, I can sometimes actually learn something or at the very least not hurt someone who’s just trying to help. I’m not 100%; remember, I’m practicing.

So today, I will be open to new thoughts, ideas and information and create more opportunities for “epiphs” or perhaps even a full blown epiphany.




Choosing Sharing Over Shitty

I don’t have an overwhelming number of shitty days but today would be one. Ok, honestly so would the last 6: but work days only. Because in between all of the layers of shittiness, I choose to beef up my  Dagwood sandwich with good things and good people.  Blessedly.

Briefly, I (and my staff)  have been criticized for unresponsiveness: we record everything with time and date stamps-not sustained. In another case, someone complained for 15 minutes about an issue that had been resolved a week earlier (she didn’t have time to call before).  Someone who sustained that sexual assault wasn’t always forcible (it wasn’t Donald Trump) and, most furiously, someone who questioned my integrity. I have strived to do the right thing, many times to my own detriment.  Am I 100%? But I’d say 98% – pretty close.  And I will own up to it if I’m wrong. My friends know I will fight for what’s right, even if it’s unpopular.

So that was last Friday,  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In survival mode, I choose to review and share the amazing layers in between because I can, and I have to, for me.

Friday, a bike ride, an evening with friends, a really cute baby “I stole”. Singing harmony with a street performer because we can. And paying it forward.

Saturday, sleep, community fundraiser, soccer, field hockey, shopping for a great dress (on sale), wine tasting, karaoke (my friends are f’ing awesome), dancing, more friends.

Sunday, work (gotta get shit done) then off to Vermont to have dinner with one of the many teachers who shaped my love for learning and teaching  and he’s funny and he has a great spouse. I could not possibly encapsulate all my teachers have shown me.

Drive home: Patriots Win!!!!

Monday, I come in to my office to see the people who mean the most to me along with my family and friends: those who respond when others call for help and still show up every-damn-day. They cannot be exceeded.  Pick up the phone, blah, blah, blah, problem already solved.

To Concord for stressful doc appt, email about more aggravating stuff. Really? Call friend who rescues me from myself.  I asked for help and someone answered. Still sometimes feels like foreign territory to me: I worry about rejection based on so many old messages.

And everyday, I come home to a 4-legged, “I love you no matter what” amazing  shitzu-poodle, named Dobbie. Friends and dogs are God’s gift to helping us maintain our sanity and sometimes just helping us maintain.

I have so much more good in my life than not good,  and I have a being that appreciates me and that immediately recognizes my need for love and comfort.

Asking for help, loving your friends. Scary/great. I have so much more than I realize sometimes and that’s what I choose. 💕❤️ .







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.





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