Sunday, August 28, 2011

Joy (two)

I'd often call my mother when my kids were fussy or sick.  "What should I do?", I would ask in a plaintive, whiny voice. 

Her reply, in a matter-of-fact voice, would invariably be, "Give them a bath."

Casey, Aubrey and Joe in an old wood-fired hot tub (1986).
Joe (1979)

In the bathtub...why did they always line up according to age?

It usually worked to calm us all down.

I guess I took this to heart and maybe I expanded a bit because it's interesting how many of our family photos involve children in water. 

Grandson Jake, a water gun and a wash tub...a winning combination (2005).

I was thinking of this when granddaughter Margot visited a couple of weekends ago.  I cleaned out the old wash tub, Casey filled it with water and let it warm in the sun, and in she went. 


Simple Joy.

I wonder...what brings you joy?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Joy (one)

Way back before the beginning of time when I was eighteen years old I decided to make a baby quilt.  I was renting a room from a couple who had a small child.  Caroline, the wife, had a quilting frame and she suggested that I use it to make this quilt.  It was the only thing I've made that was totally hand-quilted.  Soon I was married and had a child of my own...Joe. 

A couple of months ago I was rummaging through a box and found that quilt.  Yessiree, it looks like it was made in the 70's.  Groovy!
It survived my three children, but the binding had been mostly ripped off in the process.  I decided to restore it and went in search of matching fabric for the binding.  Surprisingly, I found it.  I cut new binding and sewed it on by hand while Noel and I were flying back to Maine to see our newest grandson, Finn.

Now my first-born son has a first-born son and the quilt was handed down to him.  Perhaps it will survive even another generation.  Perhaps not.

All I know is that giving it to Finn brought me great joy.

I wonder...what brings you joy?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to Have a Perfect Sail

Preparation for a Perfect Sail:
1977:  Give birth to a son, Joe who has the patience of Job and who has inherited the love of working with his hands.
2001:  Joe marries Katie.
2002:  Joe and Katie move to Maine so that Joe can apprentice in wooden boat building at the Atlantic Challenge Apprentice Shop.
2008:  Joe and Katie buy Robin, a 40-foot ketch that has been badly damaged when “she parted her mooring” in a storm.  Restoration of the boat begins.
2009 - 2011:  Restoration, rebuilding and refitting continues (and will continue for all time.)
2010:  Shelley gets a Southwest Airlines credit card that gives one free round-trip just for signing up.
2011:  Shelley encourages Noel to also get the credit card so that he, too can get a free flight.  He does.
April 2011:  Joe and Katie give birth to their son, Finn.  Noel and Shelley have the perfect excuse to use their free flights (as if they needed one.)
Execution of a Perfect Sail
August 2011:  Noel and Shelley fly to Maine.  Noel spots whole lobster at the store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for $4.99 per pound!  He pairs it with corn on the cob.  Joe, Katie, Finn, Noel, Shelley, the lobsters and the corn board Robin in Rockland Harbor and set sail for a two-day journey on a lovely, blue-sky day.  

The new little family.

We're heeled over pretty well here.
It truly was perfect.  And it was only 33 years in the making.

Joe had to repair a light.

Finn Taylor, the First Mate.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rules of Engagement

I was deeply engrossed in the SkyMall magazine, contemplating ordering a toilet paper holder in the shape of a very long-necked giraffe when Noel leaned over.  “You know,” he said “we have a four-hour layover in Las Vegas.  Why don’t we find the city bus and ride down to The Strip and have some fun?  It’ll be better than sitting in the airport.” 
“You’re kidding, right?  The pilot just announced that it’s 98 degrees there.  I can’t imagine anything worse than traipsing around in 98 degree weather with my carry-on and then having to get back on the airplane for six more hours.  Besides that, we were just there a couple of months ago.”
“No,” he replied, “it’ll be fine.  We’ll jump right on the bus and go to a casino and stay there.  It won’t be hot at all.”
I hate it when he says “It’ll be fine” because it usually isn’t.  I was certainly not convinced about the ‘fineness ‘ of this plan and hoped that he’d give up the idea.  I knew he wouldn’t, but somehow hope always springs eternal.  And then, those hopes were completely dashed when the first thing we encountered as we got off the plane was a luggage locker.  He figured it out, our carry-on bags went in, and we were off in search of a bus within five minutes.  And we only wandered around in the searing heat for about ten minutes before we found the bus stop.  At two minutes before one o’clock we approached the bus.  It left at one o’clock.  As I sat down I thought to myself, “Maybe this will be okay after all.”  I leaned over and said, “The first thing I need is a glass of water to take my headache pill.”  I’d had a migraine for two days and it had taken on a life of its own. It was not happy about the blinding sun or the heat. 
“Sure,” he said.  “No problem.”
Well, we got off the bus by the MGM Grand and wandered around in there for a while looking for a restaurant, but found nothing to our liking.  I was in search of a salad.  Noel wanted a drink.  Everything was too fancy or had too many people.  Back out on the sun-baked street we went up and down escalators, over sky bridges, located the return bus stop for later and then finally into the Tropicana.  Surely there would be something in there.  We went up and down more escalators, down hallways and through the casino floor and found nothing open except a Starbucks and a pizza place.  By now my head was throbbing with the addition of the noise from the slot machines.  Noel announced, “I’m just going to wait until we get back to the airport to eat.  Let’s go find that drink.”  I made some sarcastic comment under my breath about how I wished I was still at the airport and turned to follow.  I had thrown away the breakfast I’d ordered from the fast food place that morning, declaring it “Not fit to eat.”  I hadn’t snacked on the plane either.   By the time we got to the lounge I was in a distinctly sour mood.  I felt like snapping and whining and throwing a fit.  Instead, I dutifully followed Noel to a bar near the gaming floor of the Tropicana.
And then the bartender approached.  His name tag announced that he was Eddie.  I had scanned the bar menu and noted a list of exotic cocktails, but I thought I’d probably just order a beer and looked for the cheapest option.  So, I was very surprised when these words escaped my mouth:  “Hi Eddie.  I am really treating myself today and would love a cocktail.  Would you recommend the pomegranate lemonade?” 
He rolled his eyes in a gesture of sublime pleasure and said, “Oh yes!”
“Well, that’s what I’ll have then.  And a glass of water also, please.”  I smiled at him with my biggest grin and he returned the favor.  I liked Eddie immediately.  He would be my savior.
And I sat there in the cool, dark lounge and watched Eddie’s every move as he made my twelve-dollar cocktail.  I’ve never had a twelve-dollar cocktail in my life, but I figured I may as well splurge, since this was lunch.  Noel just sat there casting surprised sidelong glances at me. 
And then the pricey concoction came and it was truly sublime.  Just gazing at the tapered glass rimmed in sugar with the deep red liquid and floating pomegranate berries gave me pleasure.   But I must say that the cold water and the chance to take my medicine was just about as wonderful.  Between the Grey Goose vodka and the Imitrix I began feeling a whole lot better.  I decided that I could traipse around on blistering pavement under an unrelenting sun more often if that road led to Eddie and a pomegranate lemonade. 
In between sips of this delicious nectar we chatted with each other and with Eddie as he went about his work.  He was an exceptionally nice man with an accent that I couldn’t readily place.  As we turned to leave, I impulsively said, “You know, we’re just on a quick layover.  We’re on our way to see our newest grandson in Maine.”  His eyes lit up and he said, “Please wait here.  I have something for you.”  He rummaged around beneath the counter for a minute or so and produced a lovely, wooden toy car.  “Please give that to your grandson for me.”
Now, I’m not sure how he came to have that toy behind the bar, but that simple gesture made my day.  As I hurried off to show Noel my unexpected treasure I marveled at how quickly a human exchange can alter a mood or the course of events.  Thank you, Eddie, for willingly becoming my savior when I sorely needed one.  Thank you for engaging me in conversation and making me think about something besides myself.  Thank you for reminding me to be kind even when I have a splitting headache.  Thank you for the little toy.
I read somewhere that even during a short exchange you should look at people long enough to tell the color of their eyes and whenever possible, call them by name.  Smile.  It makes a huge difference.  We all want to be recognized and acknowledged and when we make the effort, the pay-off can be magical.  And now, as I write this, my headache is completely gone, the little car is tucked into my bag at my feet, and I am imagining myself presenting it to my new grandson.  I smile.
A simple exchange of more than words.  A simple gesture. 
Life can be simply wonderful, can’t it?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Retreat Update

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but didn't get it posted.  Better late than never, I guess.

I realized this morning that I have now been on my summer retreat for a full month.  During that time, the weather finally turned and it feels like summer.  It’s been wonderful…not too hot, a few days of colder weather to break the monotony and some fierce thunderstorms to provide punctuation and water the lawn.  The perennial garden is in full bloom and I get wonderful whiffs of lavender and lilies as I pass by.  I hear the motor boats racing around the lake from dawn until past dusk mingled with the laughter and shouts of glee as voices travel for miles across the lake. 
July sped by in a whirl of activity and it’s hard to even remember all that has happened.  But, since I’m currently held hostage by the man who is aligning my car, I have a bit of time to reflect.  All in all, it has been good.  When I decided to retreat this summer, I felt both excited and anxious.  I looked forward to simply giving myself a break…allowing myself to kick back, unwind and slow down.  But at the same time, I had some anxiety because I wasn’t sure if I really could do it.  Sometimes the scurrying around seemed like an end unto itself and the tasks I was completing weren’t as important as the fact that I was staying busy. 
My mom had a good friend who would stop by for coffee every once in a while under the ruse that she needed a button sewn on.  Mom was a seamstress and this lady, Dorothy often used her services.  Mom swore that Dorothy would pull buttons off just so she would have the excuse to drop by for coffee.  Dorothy loved our cat and would often stop to pet her.  I remember my mother remarking one day, “I don’t know why you like that useless, lazy thing.”  Dorothy snapped back, “Lois, unless everyone and everything sews or knits or does carpentry you think they’re useless.”  That was pretty much the way I grew up.  Unless you were busy (or at least looked busy) you were considered lazy and you’d better change your ways pretty quickly.  When I had this summer retreat idea I really didn’t know if I could make myself sit down and read when the floors hadn’t been dust mopped or if I could sit in my garden without weeding it. 
I know now that I can, but it takes a bit of work.  I have to coach myself.   I constantly remind myself that I am on summer retreat and sitting, sewing, leisurely gardening, cooking fun meals (or not cooking at all) and basically enjoying myself is my priority.  Of course, I still get a bunch done, but I really do evaluate whether it is necessary.  It’s amazing how much scurrying around I have the tendency to do just because I feel compelled to scurry around.  I’ve come to a few conclusions along the way…not quite epiphanies, but important nonetheless.
For instance, I really do feel better without my lists.  I thought that my continual list making was freeing.  I thought that it allowed me to unload my mind once I wrote it down.  But, instead of serving as memory aides, I think I began serving my to-do lists.  Once I wrote down my plans I became overwhelmed and couldn’t rest until every single thing was scratched off.  And if I chose not to work on the list items I felt guilty.  I still make lists, but they’re short and sweet.  I have kept my resolution to limit my lists to what will fit on a Post-It note.  Amazingly, I don’t forget many things and I still manage to make it through my day.  It’s funny how we let things of our own making rule our thoughts and actions.
I also have thoroughly enjoyed our recent company.  Aubrey and the boys came up earlier this month and we had a grand time on a pirate adventure to one of the local islands. 

We even dressed up like pirates and found hidden treasure after following a map that happened to fall out of one of the boys’ books. 

And one morning Aubrey and I sat on the deck soaking our summer-worn feet in lovely warm water and then painted our toenails an outrageous pink.  I had a great time just being with Aub and the boys.  Honestly, I so often am worried about the next activity or the laundry that needs to be done that I can’t simply enjoy the important, yet simple moments with those I love.  We also had an old friend visit last week.  Kelly is one of my dearest friends whom I’ve known for almost twenty years.  She and her husband, JR and their kids, Megan and Cody came for several days.  They’d never been in this area before, so we got reminded of just how lucky we really are to live where we do.   Seeing our sights through their eyes was energizing. 
And having a twelve-year-old and a sixteen-year-old around also gave us a burst of energy.  Whether we were all being pulled over choppy water on an inflatable behind the motorboat or sitting around the campfire, it felt like we were at summer camp.  Their vacation became our vacation.  And I am sure they are quite grateful for my detailed instructions on how to roast a marshmallow to perfection. 
I’ve also enjoyed the time I’ve not spent watching the news or surfing the Internet.  I guess I didn’t realize how much my mood was influenced by the information coming in on a continual basis.   The other night I did watch an hour of news.  It was all horrible and left me depressed all the next day.  There’s something about inviting this all into my living room in living color that is too intense.  If I read the same news in the paper I can stay informed without being inundated.  And not spending so much time on the Internet…well, that has freed up a bunch of time for doing what I enjoy more.  I was surprised when I told myself one evening, “I don’t have to check my e-mail today.”  It has all become a chore to sort out the few e-mails I want to read from the barrage of unimportant ones.  It’s the same as sorting out the junk mail at the post office.  Such a waste.
But, I think the best surprise this month came from removing the rigid structure that forms the framework of my days.  I do love my routine, but sometimes it becomes so unbending that I can’t be spontaneous.  When my datebook is filled and I am staring at a list of tasks for the day or for the week, I have a hard time allowing time for the serendipitous events that pop up.  Noel is great about the spontaneous adventure.  He’ll suddenly announce, “Hey, let’s go to the play tonight.”  I would often respond, “But, we haven’t got tickets.  They’re probably sold out.  And anyway, I planned to do paperwork.  Why didn’t you mention this a couple of days ago?”  I would often put the damper on anything that wasn’t planned in advance.  But now, I don’t have a whole bunch of plans so his suggestions are welcome.  In fact, I’ve come up with a few of my own.  We linger after dinner longer to talk about our days.  We snuggle on the couch while listening to our new Paul MacCartney CD.  We work side by side doing the yard work, and this makes it feel less like work.  Put more simply…I’ve been happier and had more fun this month.
I look forward to the continuation of my summer retreat. Perhaps it will be even easier to slow down during the dog days of August.  Also, I have a whole month of experience under my belt.  I do know that I’ll keep trying to decompress not only for myself but for those near and dear to me.  No one has actually come out and said this, but I have a feeling that I’m a whole lot more fun to be around now.  And what better time than to have fun than this time of year and this time in my life?