Walking Together

Walking has become a daily family event during the pandemic.  Since March, when our adult daughters came home from New York to quarantine with us in CT, we have been walking together.  We have different walks for different kinds of days and different kind of purposes. We have sunny day walks, quick walks, exercise walks, relaxing walks, and even get away walks.  Here are a few of our favorites:

The Neighborhood:  One of our favorite walks, and a walk we can take even when we have just a short time before dinner or between activities is a loop around the neighborhood.  We park at a church lot, stroll along the sidewalks, past a park, through an apple orchard – complete with community garden (our favorite part of the walk), across a bridge over a frog pond, and back along the sidewalk.  If we have extra time, we loop though our community park which includes another pond and some beautiful trails.

Twin Brooks:  We live in a town filled with parks.  One of our favorites for walking is Twin Brooks.  We walk around a big pond (The pond used to include a beach where we took the girls when they were young, but the geese have decided that they should have a beach and swimming hole in town, so we have kindly given it over to them.), and then, depending on the day, we walk either along the paved paths or up and over one of the trails through the woods.

The Trail:  The trail is a walk for hot days as it is completely shaded and runs along a river.  The top trail is a railroad bed and is great for an easy stroll.  The problem these days is that it is often crowded with bikers, runners, and other walkers, and with the pandemic still a threat, it feels a bit less safe that some other walks. So….we have moved to the other side of the river to a trail that runs right alongside the water, offering nice opportunities for wading (for the humans and the dog).  One day we will wear our bathing suits and go for a swim in one of the nice swimming holes. We meet very few people on this side of the river as we walk over the rocks and through the pine woods.

The Shore: When the weather is beautiful, we are drawn to the shore.  We head to a nearby town, park along the seawall and walk.  We spend our time admiring the beautiful homes on the water, the gorgeous flowers on everyone’s lawn, and we just breath in the fresh salty air and realize how lucky we are.

Special Walks: Some days we decide we are going to venture out and discover some new places to walk. We have gone to Lyndhurst on the Hudson River, The grounds of The Glass House in New Canaan, a trail along a river and through the town in Milford, and many more.

Walking has become another constant during this time of unrest and uncertainty.  A routine that we all (including the dog) can count on and look forward to each day.  At breakfast, the conversation always includes the question, “So where shall we walk today?”  We check the weather, the temperature, the day’s activities, and we plan the walk of the day.  Now, where shall we head today?

 

Family Crossword

Our family has been quarantined together for more than three months now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been such a gift for my husband and I to spend this kind of concentrated quality time with our two adult daughters. I really think they have enjoyed the time too.  After all of these months together, we have established some routines that have now become just “the way things are done around here.”  One of the routines the girls and I have established is to tackle the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

Each weekend, one person gets the copy in the magazine and I make two copies from my New York Times Weekend Briefing email for the other two. Mackensie usually gets going first.  She is very good at the crossword and has incredible persistence.  Morgan is next.  Every morning she grabs her coffee and cereal, moves to the table in the living room and works on the puzzle for a while.  I tend to start last and work on it in fits and starts. I don’t seem to have the patience and persistence for puzzles that my girls do.

We all start by filling in the clues we know.  Then, as we begin to struggle, we start working as a team and reaching out to each other for help.  We try not to just give the answer (if we even have it), but to give clues and suggestions that might help the other person move closer to solving the word on their own.  This can be maddening at times, but in the end we all appreciate the feeling of accomplishment we get when we get the big “Ah Ha!” Across the week, there are usually events that happen or movies we watch or conversations that we have that connect to the week’s puzzle.  We talk about the clues at meals, suddenly run off to grab our pencil and puzzle when we come up with an answer, and we take our puzzles with us everywhere we go (OK, we don’t go too far.).

The weekly crossword puzzle has become such a nice experience for the three of us. I hope that we can continue this routine even when the girls head back to their apartments, and our worlds start to look a bit more like they used to.

Summer Projects

Two large boxes have been sitting in my guest room since January.  They are filled with photographs, the last items from my mom and stepfather’s home in Florida.  Yesterday was a hot summer day.  Too hot in the middle of the day to go for a walk or garden or go to the beach or play badminton. I decided it was time to tackle the boxes.

At the top of the box were all of the little photo albums I had made for my parents as the girls were growing up.  Albums of holidays, gatherings, and vacations.  Albums of some of the small moments that grandparents want to be part of.  Then there were the disks;  CDs that must be filled with pictures.  I put those aside for another summer day (maybe a rainy one would be best for this task).  Then there were all the pictures my parents have taken of our girls.  Some beautiful photos, and some that anyone else would have tossed in the garbage, but not my parents, and not me.  How am I going to throw away a picture of my daughter sitting on her grandmother’s (who is no longer with us) lap, both of them laughing hysterically?  Yes, the picture is a bit fuzzy, and yes, there are other pictures of the two of them that are much better, but this memory can’t be tossed in a garbage can!  Into the “To Be Saved” pile it goes.  Then there are pictures of my sister, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins.  I sort those into piles labeled “Mail to ____”  And finally there are the old black and whites.  There are pictures of my grandparents when they were young, my parents as kids and young adults, my parents with their friends and families, my parents when they were young and in love, my parents getting married (They divorced later.  There are no pictures of that!), my sister and I as babies and young children. These old pictures also had people in them that I didn’t know and were in places that weren’t familiar. I had to call my dad numerous times to get more information about who was in the pictures and what was happening.

The goal of today’s project was to sort through the photos and keep a few good ones.  The goal was to get rid of these boxes that have been sitting around for months.  That didn’t happen. Instead I spent the whole day enjoying old memories and making some new ones, calling my husband and daughter over each time I found a new discovery or a fun picture or wanted to share the story behind a photograph.  I haven’t accomplished anything.  There are still lots of photographs in a box, but I feel so satisfied.  I feel like I spent a day with family.  I feel connected.  I feel grounded.  I feel safe.

Resist the List

Today is my first official day of summer vacation.  I imagine that most people get excited about the freedom summer brings, the lack of an alarm clock and schedule.  The time to relax and just do nothing. Not me.  What I want to do this morning is grab some paper and a pen and create a list; A list of projects to do, plans to make, items to purchase, books to read, posts to write, places to visit.  You get the picture.  A long list.  A list that will make me feel productive all summer long.  A list that will guide me through the weeks ahead.  A list that will make me feel in control of my time. A list with items I can cross off as I go, and add to as I think of new things that need doing.

But….I’m not going to do it. Nope.  Not this week. I’m going to try something new.  I’m going to try (It won’t be easy.) to live in the moment, to go with the flow.  I’m going to try to see where the days will take me.  To be honest, I’m worried about trying this.  It feels like I will be floating in space, and I like to be tethered to something.  I like to get things done, and that might not happen if I don’t have a plan. But….I’m going to give it a try.

OK.  I’ve finished my writing.  I don’t have a list, so I can’t cross that off.  Now I don’t know what to do.  I guess I’ll just see where the day takes me.

If you don’t see a post from me next week, I guess you’ll know that I’m enjoying summer without a list! 

This Year is Ending…

The school year, that is.  This is our last week of school in my district, and what a strange last week it’s going to be.

The truth is, I never really enjoy the last week of school.  Yes, I love my summer vacation, but I really don’t like endings.  I don’t like packing up, putting away, covering up, and shutting down.  I don’t like saying goodbye (even if it is just for 8 weeks).  I miss my school family, and I never like the idea of not hearing the voices of over 400 children every day for a full two months.

But this year is the strangest end to a school year ever.  I’m sitting up in my little office I carved out of the corner of a small guest room.  There are no children’s voices.  I have to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues over Google Meet or email.  There are no quick visits to classrooms to give hugs and say, “Have a great summer!” The fifth graders will not experience the annual “clap out” through the hallways of our school, but will have a drive-through graduation with staff lined up along a route wearing masks. No final concerts.  No final Whole School Meeting. No final celebration. And no idea what the fall will look like.

This year is ending.

How? Why? What?

How is this possible?

How can we be in this place?

Again

and again

and again.

Why hasn’t there been more progress?

Why is this country so stuck?

So violent?

So immoral, so inhume, so unjust?

What can I do?

What part can I play?

How? Why? What?

So many questions.

What are the answers?

 

 

Honoring the Brave

I put on my red shirt and blue pants, and my husband grabbed the small American flag from the porch. We donned our raincoats as it had unexpectedly started to drizzle just as we were getting ready to leave.

“Let’s go.  It starts at 9.  We don’t want to be late.”

My husband and I hopped in the car and headed off to find our place along the route. There was one car already parked in the lot that we had designated as a good spot.  We waited.  We could see the firehouse from where we were parked.  The trucks were out front, buntings on.  We saw a motorcycle with a flag head out of the station and head the other way.  Are we in the right spot, I thought?  I read the maps so carefully last night. Another truck pulled out and headed away from us.  It’s not even 9:00 yet.  Maybe they are just lining up.

Then we saw them.  Two Nichols firetrucks. Lights on. Heading out of the lot and in our direction.  We jumped out of the car, waving our arms and our little flag.  They put the sirens on and honked the horns. They smiled (At least I think they smiled.  It was hard to tell behind their masks.).

That was it.  This year’s Memorial Day Parade in Nichols.  We loved it.  It said so much about our small community.  These firefighters are all volunteers.  They, along with the many soldiers who fought so bravely to preserve our freedoms, are fighting hard to keep us safe and free from the horrors of the current pandemic.  Today, in some small way, we showed some gratitude to our heroes.

 

 

Cornflake Chicken

“Can I do anything?” Mackensie says as she comes into the kitchen?

“Sure!”

“Can I crush the cornflakes?”

“Of course.”

Mackensie gets out the large plastic bag, pours in 3 cups of cornflakes, takes the rolling pin, and crushes the cereal. I slice the chicken and melt some butter.  Mackensie dips each piece of chicken into the melted butter, making sure it is completely covered, and coats it with cornflakes to make one of our old favorites, cornflake chicken.

As a family, we have decided to cook our way through this pandemic.  We alternate nights.  The girls want me to make all of their favorite childhood dishes (while they make all sorts of new and innovative meals from the New York Times, the Missoni Cookbook, and a myriad of other sites and books and articles).  Tim makes our family classics; salmon with capers and feta, steaks with grilled asparagus, and anything that requires the outdoor grill.

I could not be happier with my task.  I’ve made Karp Burgers (burgers with toppings of avocado, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise), chicken fajitas, stuffed peppers, Chicken Marbella, and now cornflake chicken. Each time I make a meal, I’m taken back to an earlier time. A time when the girls were younger.  A time when Tim sometimes worked nights, and the girls and I had Girls’ Night with a special dinner and  movie.  A time when the girls were doing homework at the dining room table or practicing the piano or flute while Tim was making dinner and I was packing school lunches.  A time when Morgan would dance her way across the floor while Mackensie was singing a song or reading a book.

I love spending time with these memories as I cook another family meal.  I also love the fact that, for now,  we are together again, making new memories as we cook our way through this pandemic.

 

The Power of a Note

Today, like most days during this Distance Learning experience (or maybe I should say experiment), I emerged from my morning of sitting in my very small office at my very small desk on my very small chair, all tucked into the corner of our guest room, to grab a quick bite of lunch before hopping on to my next Google Meet.  As I grabbed the yogurt and a banana, my husband came through the door. “You got a card!”  he said, as he put the pile of mail down on the counter.

Hmmm, I thought.  Who would be sending me a card?  Mother’s Day is over and there are no birthdays or holidays coming up anytime soon. I can’t imagine it’s an invitation as no one is going anywhere right now.  I put down my bowl and spoon and reached for the card. As I looked at the envelope, I quickly recognized the handwriting.  Why would she be sending me a card? I thought.

I opened the envelope, unfolded the card, and read the words inside.  I was moved.  It was a note to say thank you. It was a note that recognized my efforts.  It was a note to wish me good health.  It was a note that said, “I see you.  I appreciate you.” It was, of course, completely unnecessary.  That’s what made it so special.

A simple note.  A few words. Such kindness.  Such power.

Working the Front Forty

I grabbed my book and stretched out on the lounge chair.  It was time to relax.  After all, we had spent a long morning on this very sunny and warm Saturday in May painting the garage, weeding and edging gardens, and hauling wheelbarrows filled with weeds and sticks and junk to the back dump.  My body was feeling the day’s work, especially after all the weeks spent on chairs, at desks, and on screens. It was time to relax.

I opened my book and started reading. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and all felt surprisingly right with the world. I was just getting lost in the story when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my daughter, hedge trimmers in hand, heading for the huge (and extremely out of control after years of being ignored) forsythia bush in the front yard.  I kept reading.  Clip, clip, clip.  The sun felt so nice.  I just wanted to relax.  Clip, clip, clip. I read on.  Clip, clip, clip.  I couldn’t take it.  I absolutely love trimming!

I closed the book, put it down on the chaise, headed to the garage, and grabbed my favorite tree trimming tool.  My dad gave me this amazing tool last year.  It’s just a long stick, with a hook and sharp blade at the end.  There is a long rope connecting me with the blade.  This tool can reach and can cut just about anything!  I joined Mackensie in her effort to trim back this crazy, untamed beast of a bush.  We trimmed and cut, and cut and trimmed. Trimming is a bit like eating a bag of potato chips.  Once you start, it’s almost impossible to stop.  Every improvement you make,  makes something else look awful.  We reached for the long branches, trimmed the under side, and the beast slowly began to take shape.

At some point, we decided that enough was enough, and we stopped our trimming and cutting.  We stepped back and admired our work.  What had, just hours before, been a completely disorganized and out of control mess, was now neat and organized and tamed.  There was something incredibly satisfying about that.