Escape from Reality

I just returned from a week long escape from the ugly and frightening political scene in America. My husband, daughter and I used her “spring break” to travel to Europe! As the days before the trip decreased in number, I became more and more excited about our getaway. We had made plans to fly on Icelandair to Paris (more on that later) with a 2 day stopover in Reykjavik. We left on March 4- right on the cusp of Trump’s ridiculous and unfounded accusation of Obama wiretapping him. Very glad to leave that one behind and fly to one of the more remote areas of the world.

When we disembarked in Keflavik Airport, the temperature was warmer than when we had departed Boston. So much for thinking we were going to “icy cold land”. Granted, we still needed to bundle up because much of the land was covered in layers of snow, but with the sun out it still felt pleasant compared to back home.

The jagged volcanic rocks showed through the fluffy white snow and were in sharp contrast to the lush greenery growing in proximity to the multiple geothermal pools and hot springs. The smell of sulfur in the air and the gurgling sound of the water reminded us to use caution when sticking our hands into it and not get scalded.

We drove many kilometers from the airport to the famed Golden Circle, Geysir

and Gullfoss waterfall

until finally arriving at our hotel in Hvergardi, appropriately named Frost and Fire. All across the land we were impressed by the geography of the mountain passes, the flat plains, the high buttes and the frozen lakes or steaming creeks. Signs of humans were densely concentrated in the city and outlying towns and then only found on random ranches and small settlements as we drove farther out.

 

Something about the majesty of the territory and the sense of what it takes to survive here just seemed so amazing. It made me realize that no matter how in control and powerful we as humans think we are, Mother Earth will do just fine after we have wiped each other out through greed, hate and stupidity.

The plants and animals that can survive in these surroundings will still be around long after humans are extinct. To come to this place is very humbling indeed.

 

Peace!

Adjusting to the Empty Nest

babies4613Today marks the second time in the last 4 months that my husband and I have been “Empty Nesters” for over two consecutive weeks. The first time was in September, when we dropped our son off at his freshman dorm and our daughter returned to her college a few days later. The house all of a sudden seemed very quiet. No jam bands playing in the basement, no piano improv going on the the living room, no late night doors slamming or microwaves and dishes clanking. Our meal sizes had to be adjusted as well. We realized we didn’t need to make such huge portions or we would be forced to eat leftovers for days. And just as we started to settle into our new patterns- our son came home again. He was unhappy with his choice and decide to withdraw. We of course let him come home until he found his way again. After a few months he accepted an offer to work for his uncle across the country. A few days after he moved out, our daughter came home for her winter break. It was great to spend time with her, but again, our pattern was totally disrupted. She returned to school 2 weeks ago and he is still in Texas  so at this point, we are readjusted to our “Empty Nest” lifestyle. We are finding new activities to do together on the weekends and making time for ourselves to take evening classes and socialize with friends. I am enjoying not having to coordinate schedules for everyone and be a little more spontaneous. Hopefully I will now find more time to write and share my experiences. But I will not take this for granted. I have no idea what my son will decide to do in the future, and I already know my daughter plans to study for her MCAT at home this summer. So my advice to myself is to enjoy this calmer, quieter period while I can.

It is Good to Be a Dog

img_2968  While my mind and emotions are still in turmoil following this week’s presidential election, I find comfort in my canine companion. How great it would be to be my dog for a day! Relaxed and content without a care in the world…

No concerns about when he will get his next nutritious meal. No doubts that he will always be able to snuggle on his bed, warmed by a cozy fire. No consideration that he will not be able to get his medications or see the vet when he needs to. No fears that the beautiful parks and nature preserves where he loves to roam will no longer exist. img_9310

Taking for granted that his day will always be filled with kind, caring people who will continue to shower him with abundant treats. Falling asleep each night to chase dreams about squirrels and waking up in the morning being able to fulfill them.

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Having the expectation that everything will always be the same and there is no reason to assume that anything bad could happen.

It sounds nice, but I suppose it would get a little too routine and boring for us humans after a while. So, instead I will try to tap into some of my dog’s calm and steady reassurance that life goes on, the sun will always come up and a new day is ahead- which will hopefully put me in a better state of mind.

So now, please excuse me, my dog is letting me know that it is time for our daily walk. Who knows what exciting things we will find today!

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(I would like to post this in tribute to all the dogs we have known and loved who bring peace, happiness and a bright outlook to their humans.)

Independence Day and Letting Go

It had been 5 weeks since the rescue. The helpless baby had been pried from the mouth of a dog by my son. He had wrapped it in a blanket of grass, cuddled it into an empty planter and frantically driven home for advice.

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We made calls to wildlife rehabilitators because we had been through this before and it had not ended well. Unfortunately, no one answered the phone so we did some quick research online and then drove to Petsmart. It was my day off of work and I was not expecting such drama. However, I knew how important this was to my son and I committed myself to the rescue efforts.

He attempted to feed the injured bunny with a rubber nipple and formula designed for orphaned kittens. Only a few sips were taken so when he wrapped the bunny in a dish towel and placed a space heater near the planter to keep the bunny warm for the night, I did not believe she would see the light of day.

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Shockingly, the next morning the bunny was not in the trough! We searched every nook and cranny of my living/dining rooms and finally found her huddled in a corner under the sofa. Amazingly, the crucial 24 hours passed and extended into days and weeks. My living room showed signs of stray hay on the floor and milk stains on the coffee table. The game of hide-and-seek continued throughout the 5-week period as the bunny was slowly nourished back to health. The containment vessel became larger and deeper with more obstacles to prevent escape until we finally used a 40 gallon blue utility bin with a mesh screen over the top.

My son took his rehabilitation responsibilities seriously. Every morning before school he got up early to feed it carefully warmed formula. Gradually a few sips became 10ml at a time. He supplemented her diet with tender lettuce greens from our garden. It turned out she had a voracious appetite for those and the supply could not keep up with the demand.

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As the bunny grew, she became more intent on escaping and foraging on her own. Finally, my son realized it was time to set her free. He knew he had done everything he could to prepare her for the real world. Now it was up to her to follow her instincts.

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So that evening, we walked down the wooded path along the power lines and released her in an area where we frequently spotted other cottontails. As we watched her hop away, we felt a little regret; but mostly relief that she had made it this far and that all of our efforts had been a success.

I recognized the emotions my son was feeling all too well. I will feel the same way this fall when he leaves home to pursue his interests in college.I know he is looking forward to his freedom and his right to choose his own path. I have gotten him this far (high school graduation was a week ago); now it is up to him.

Matt podium

My Grandmother’s Cookware

These were the pots that my  mom remembers from her childhood;  filled with delicious soups or stews when she walked home to Clarendon Road on her school lunch break.
Her mom alw20160522_114913ays had something delicious and perfectly prepared for her and her sister every day.
I was helping her sort through belongings stored in the house she was finally ready to put on the market as part of her downsizing. When we unpacked a box in her cedar closet, we found these treasured vessels which seemed overflowing with memories.
We put them aside and kept focused on our work; but later, when we sat down to sip tea and plan our evening, those memories, and the emotions that mom had been burying all day in her determination to get the house ready for sale, came flooding back.
With a voice strained  from choking back tears, she explained that she wanted to cook one more meal in these pots to pay tribute to her mother for all those fond memories of delicious meals.
The proposed menu was not what I would have liked for dinner, but I recognized the need to bring closure to this and that she also needed to do it with a family member. This outdated cookware was the source of her comfort food. So we purchased a nice Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoyed some cheese and crackers while she started the brown rice in her mother’s cast iron, plated pot. Next, she sauteed the chicken tenders in the frying pan  and, lastly, tossed in the snow peas for a balanced meal.
During the course of this process, the rice burned and stuck to the bottom and she realized the handles were hazardously loose. Is it possible that her mother- my grandmother-  had mastered these difficult cooking techniques so that she never burned anything? Or did she compensate in a way that children would never notice?
At any rate,  it was not about the food, it was the company. Ultimately, we shared one last meal which brought a fine conclusion to this honored cookware. We sat at the table with a gorgeous bouquet of lilacs and celebrated all we had accomplished during the day.
Thanks for the wonderful memories!
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themiddlegeneration

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

~Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC)
Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist.

The new year is here, the holidays have passed, the gifts have been received and, for all we know, the world may be coming to an end. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about gratitude. According to Cicero, gratitude is the root of all other human values. Why, then, does it come more naturally to some than to others? We teach young children to say “please” and “thank you”; but is that really enough to impress upon them the real meaning of appreciation? From the piles of presents mine opened during Christmas, you would have thought there would be nothing but smiles. As adults, we all know to express appreciation whether we love the gift or not; but…

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A Voting Reflection

Several years ago (actually 2011-is that a few?)  I posted a copy of an Op Ed that I had published in a local paper Voting Booth Nostalgia .

I bemoaned the switch from  “now-vintage” voting booths with levers, tabs and curtains to the digital scanning method of voting.

Local school budgets are up for voter approval today. My 19 yr old daughter is home from college for a few weeks . So I told her she was eligible to cast her ballot. My husband even tried to entice her to participate by telling her that this was her chance to use the old voting booths.

Despite what my hypothesis was in my OpEd Voting Booth Nostalgia ,

she was totally against my expectations (should I be surprised?)

Her reaction was: “Well, I’m claustrophobic. Those booths would scare me. I would be afraid I couldn’t get out. And I don’t understand how to flip the buttons.”  Who would have thought? I guess my argument was totally wrong. (Actually my argument has been disproven).

Nevertheless, I went to vote today, all excited to pull the lever, and instead was handed a paper ballot and a pen.

The mechanical era is over…

 

Snow and Politics Come to Town

Finally, it snows- on April 4th

I don’t usually discuss politics on this blog, but these are unusual circumstances. With no clear nominee for either party this late in the race, all of a sudden New York has become a high stakes battle ground. Candidates, who normally would bypass this area, are motivated to connect with upstate voters. On Monday, Hillary Clinton was the first one to visit.

Over the years, I have participated in peace demonstrations and marches for women’s rights, but never in a campaign rally. Excitedly, I contacted a friend who wanted to join me. Her 17-year old daughter also wanted to bring a friend. Both of them will be able to vote in the general election, so I thought this was a fantastic way for them to start their voting career.

The day of the rally was the only day we have received significant snow since January. By 3pm it was up to 5 inches. Thankfully they did not cancel the event, but it made driving messy and it was very challenging to find a parking spot. By the time we found one on a side street several blocks from the site, people were already walking away, shaking their heads that we would never be able to get in. Still, we were too excited to turn around. We found the end of the line that wrapped around the building into the parking lot and there we stood- in the snow and cold- hoping we would be lucky enough to get in.

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As the time passed, we chatted with fellow ralliers who said they hadn’t seen lines like this even for Black Friday. Every so often, a group would break away from the line in defeat, either out of frustration or frostbite. Occasionally a staff member would walk down the queue and every 10-20 feet make an announcement about the progress of the security check, when Hillary was expected, or promise that they were going to get everyone in.

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Even though I was bundled up in my long parka, it was freezing cold. I offered my hat to my friend, but the young women were frozen. I felt torn between wanting to see Hillary or get the kids back to the car to warm up. As we crept closer to the entrance, we saw the Secret Service drive behind the building and few moments later we could distinguish cheers from inside.

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My husband was home by the fire, following the news on tv and texting me updates on who the various speakers were- assuring me that it was not yet Hillary the crowd was cheering. We finally entered the building and, just before we walked through the metal detectors, the security official told us that Hillary was just starting so we wouldn’t miss much.

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We quickly entered the gym and, amazingly, found plenty of space to stand with a good view of the stage. We were within 50 feet and felt embraced by the energy of the crowd.

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Every time Hillary paused, a wild cheer and applause would erupt. The students in the bleachers would wave their pompoms and raise the letters that spelled her name.

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Hillary knew how to rally the crowd by continually connecting with people in every direction to show them that she cared. She seemed very warm and genuine and the crowd loved her. After it was over, I congratulated my friend’s daughter on her first rally at a much younger age than me or her mom. I hope the long wait in the cold will not discourage her from doing it again. But was it worth it? #HillYes!

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When we got back to my car, I discovered a parking ticket on my windshield. Apparently the empty spot I had found was blocking someone’s garageless, unmarked driveway, buried under the snow. Oh well, I will consider it part of my campaign contribution. Immediately after this event, all the other candidates announced stops in the area prior to the April 19th primary. It is very flattering, but I think I will pass. One is enough for this week.

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