Sunday, August 31, 2008
So, figuring we only have, what, one or two mows left this season, I asked a neighbor-friend if any of her three sons could mow for us -- of course we'd pay him. Her reply was a bit more terse and tense than I'd anticipated -- because school started last week, they just don't have any time for mowing lawns.
OK, fine. So we could borrow someone's mower, I'm sure, or we could just go to Sears and buy one of their on-sale mowers. But what the hell do we know about lawn mowers? I don't want to drop a few hundred dollars without doing some research first. Well, no, really, I don't want to drop a few hundred dollars period. I suppose we could buy another second-hand mower from the fix-it friend, but then we'll be right back in this spot in another year or two.
Then I had a brilliant idea! Most of our so-called lawn is dead and brown, so really we just have to clean up the weedy-sprouty spots and do some edging. Easy -- I'll use the weed wacker! So I headed out this afternoon, plugged the wacker in and cleaned up most of the jagged spots in the back yard. Then I moved to the front yard, which of course is the more important spot because it's the part of our yard that people see. About 2 minutes in, I notice the weed wacker sounds a little funny...but I keep going, cuz it's hot and I'm grouchy and I want to just get it over with. (Oh, and I'm feeling major annoyance that Big Daddy is inside playing video games!)
Finally, I realize that the edging is really not going well. The weeds are still standing tall, bending in the breeze. Mocking me. Which is when I notice that the little spool of thread that wacks the weeds is completely empty. So it's just spinning around, cutting nothing.
Excellent. Curse you, lawn gods! Why do you hate me?!
It's easy enough to fix the wacker, of course (just have to go to the hardware store, which is now closed because it's Sunday, and purchase a new spooly thing), but I'm taking this as a sign that our yard is meant to look like ass. For at least one more day.
Friday, August 29, 2008
It’s late, the end of a long wonderful day. So I’m tired. But I can’t sleep. I feel energized and excited and happy. Because I just watched Barack Obama give an amazing speech accepting the Democratic nomination for President of the
I hope Senator Obama will be our next president, someone you will come to know and respect as you grow up, someone your own children and grandchildren will learn about in history class. But if he doesn’t win this election, he will still be remembered in history as the first black nominee for President.
As I watched the speakers at this week’s DNC, my mind kept going back to my mother, your grandmother, who would have been completely over the moon to have witnessed this. Her generation fought hard for civil rights for blacks and women; she told me stories of protest marches in which students and leaders stood up for equal rights, and she taught me that all human beings are worthy of compassion and equal treatment, and we should never judge other people by their skin color, religion, or gender. She would be so thrilled today. She and my dad also taught me about our inheritance as Americans, that our country was founded on the voice of the people, and that voting for our leadership is the key to this country’s greatness. We traveled all over the country when I was a kid, and we visited battlefields where men died to found this country and to keep it united, we visited countless monuments to great leaders, and we saw the beauty that has been preserved by our national parks. We live in an amazing country, Hayden.
Here we are taught from the time that we are very young that anything is possible if you work hard. It’s the American promise on which Obama pinned his speech tonight. But until now, until a black man and a woman squared off for the Democratic nomination, I don’t know if this promise was entirely true. Tonight I feel it’s important to let you know that it is true. You are an American, and you can do anything you set your mind and heart on. And I hope that you will grow up in a country in which people will be judged not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. When Martin Luther Kind spoke those words, it was a dream. Today, it is a reality. And it overwhelms me.
As Obama spoke tonight, goosebumps rose on my arms and tears filled my eyes. I believe he is earnest in what he says. He moves us all to believe in ourselves, to believe in one another, and to believe in
George W. Bush has been the president for 8 years—that’s a quarter of my life, and certainly all of my adulthood. I have watched our country decline both at home and in foreign eyes. And I have spent 8 years worrying and fearing so many things: terrorism, war, deteriorating environment, recession, failing public education, energy and grocery prices. I worry about our day-to-day—whether we can even keep up our lifestyle—and I worry about the country we will hand down to you. I don’t want you to fight in meaningless wars, but I don’t want you to grow up fearing unseen terrorist threats. I want you to get a solid education and have affordable choices in where you can go to college. I want you to see the beauty in nature that I have seen before it is destroyed by industry and consumption, and I want you to live in a world in which the air and water is clean and safe. I want you to be able to build a life with whomever you love without shame or penalty. I want you never to worry about whether you can afford to go to the doctor for a check-up. I want you to live in a world that is open and supportive of scientific research and medical innovation; I don’t want you to ever even think about diseases like cancer or AIDS that have destroyed so many lives in my generation. I want so much more for you than what this country is providing its people at present.
Obama laid out specific plans in his speech that showed me he has the same dreams and concerns for his own children. Even more, though, he demonstrated that even though we all have different fundamental beliefs, he wants us to come together to find solutions and build a stronger nation. We have to make a decision now to take a chance on this man. We have to stand up for what
Hayden, I don’t know how the next few weeks will play out. I don’t know that I trust the American people to elect a relatively unknown politician to the highest seat of power in the world. And I don’t know that this country is truly ready to elect a black man; it’s only been 54 years since blacks even had the right to vote! It could get truly ugly here before November 4th. But this week has reinforced to me that I have to see the promise in my fellow countrymen. I have to hope most Americans are as thoughtful, open-minded, and patriotic as I am, and I have to hope that
This man is earnest and intelligent and determined and charismatic. His smile lights up a stadium and his words bring people to tears. He has made so many of us want to stand up and be better Americans. He has made me and millions of other Americans believe in the patriotism at the core of this country: We are responsible for our own success, but we are also responsible for the well-being of our neighbors. His most important message tonight was this: Change comes from people, not from government. It’s time now, on this historic night, in the words of Michelle Obama, to listen to our hopes instead of our fears.
So I choose, dear baby, to listen to my hopes—for this country, for my friends and neighbors, for our family, and especially for you. I love you, and I want this country to be great again for you. We’re standing on the threshold of a new era, I hope, I hope.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
This YA tale of a teenage girl who falls in love with a teenage vampire is nothing like I'd expected from all the hype surrounding it. I was expecting intense romance and suspenseful action. But no. Instead there is way too much corniness like "and when he looked at me, my heart stopped/quickened" or "he dazzled me with his smile" or "I'm trying not to hyperventilate" for my tastes. I wanted to yell, "OK we get it! He's gorgeous and undead, and you're into him, and he's into you (though I can't understand why)." In fact, I didn't really get interested in the story until around page 390 (of 498), when a bad vampire starts to hunt our heroine and the good vampires come together to protect her.
The characters are trite, the dialog is forced, the action is predictable. And I don't really even like or believe the main characters; all they talk about when they're together is how much they adore one another, but there's really no reason for it--other than he's gorgeous and she smells good enough to eat. Really, the only thing I liked about this book is that it was a fast read that didn't require a great deal of brain power. (I know...pretty lowly criteria from this editor of literacy books!)
Yet somehow, despite my strong dislike, the second (and longer at 560 pages) book in the series is calling to me from the shelf. I've read spoilers about a triangle between the human, the vampire, and the Native American werewolf-boy...interesting. But I don't want to be disappointed again. For now, I'll hold out hope for True Blood, HBO's new vampire series, to fill the post-Buffy void in my life.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
That's right, sports fans. Due to an unforeseen conglomeration of novice-parent choices (I'm chalking it up to half a can of mandarin oranges for breakfast, three organic tangerine juice boxes and a bowl full of blueberries at the party, and a worthless pull-up diaper), Sweet Boy had a brief-yet-powerful bout of diarrhea while playing. And before he or I knew what was happening, there was a big ol' puddle of watery poo at the top of the birthday boy's fancy slide and a couple of kids yelling "ewww!" Yikes. I'll be forever haunted by the look of confusion and horror on my son's face when he looked down at the grossness running down his leg.
To her credit, though, the hostess cleaned it all up with her younger child in the sling on her hip and a smile on her face as I whisked Sweet Boy home to clean him up...and decide if either of us were too mortified to show our faces again. Sweet Boy insisted that the call of the cupcakes was much stronger than the embarrassment, and I didn't want him to feel like he was being punished for a potty mishap outside his control, so we did return. And although I was a pariah to the other mothers, the hostess was completely congenial and acted as if nothing had happened. Which I am extremely grateful for because it spared Sweet Boy's already fragile potty ego.
So maybe we can be friends after all. Who knew all it would take was a poop mishap?
If you don't have time to watch or read the full speech, here's the tidbit that got my attention. (And judging from the teary eyes around the convention hall, it got many).
She hit a soft, squishy spot with this mother, that spot in my belly that really, truly wants to be an optimist, to listen to my hopes for my family instead of my fears of what ifs. We've all been too caught up in and force fed the scary, worst-case scenarios these last 8 years. I'm ready to start thinking more about the best-case scenarios instead.
Millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams; that Barack will fight for people like them; and that Barack will finally bring the change we need.
And in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago. He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love.
And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they'll have families of their own. And one day, they – and your sons and daughters – will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country – where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House – we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.
Awesome speech, tall girl. You've got my vote for First Lady.
Monday, August 25, 2008
* I don't want to drink this orange juice because it has some funky fur in it. (meaning, pulp)
* You know, Mommy, if you put this cup over your weenie, you won't get any pee-pee in the tub.
* [while riding in the car around Mt. Desert Island]
Happy: Did you see the goose, Voo?
Voo: No, what did it look like?
Happy: It was white with white fur and white face and red eyes.
Voo: Oh, interesting...where did you see it?
Happy: Right out there...chasing the alligator. And the lion. It said "aw-aw-aw" and ate the lion right up.
Voo: Wow. I can't believe I missed that?
Happy: It's ok, Voo. I tell you 'bout it tomorrow.
It's obvious that the DNC is reaching out to those of us who really wanted to see Hillary in the White House -- there are a whole lotta women on the speaking docket. Anyway, here's a quick rundown of the speakers:
Monday -- Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama, President Carter, Jesse Jackson Jr.
Tuesday -- Hillary Clinton, Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, and Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts
Wednesday -- Bill Clinton, Bill Richardson, John Kerry, Joe Biden
Thursday -- Barack Obama (in a stadium!)
I'm looking forward to hearing Michelle Obama's address tonight. I really respect this lady, even though she's taken some harsh criticism. But really, what strong, intelligent, outspoken woman in the public eye doesn't get harsh criticism? When she's not pushing the party line, she is candid about her role in her household, as well as how difficult it is to balance work and family and public service. And my gut tells me that she and Mr. Obama really are as close as they look...which tells me he turns to her often and would rely on her opinion if they move into the White House.
And really, when it comes down to it, she's at least 6 feet tall and looks her husband right in the eye. I like that.
It's interesting to me, too, that throughout his memoir, Obama talks about how difficult it was for him to find himself as a child, being the child of a white mother and African father, raised in the melting pot that is Hawaii. Michelle Obama has a degree in African American studies and sociology from Princeton and wrote her thesis on being a black woman in a white-male-dominated university. She knows who she is. And I get the sense thats what drew them together, and maybe she is the cornerstone. (And isn't it goosebumpy to think that the Obamas might be on the threshold of a USA in which their daughters wouldn't even blink at the thought that one of them could someday be President?)
I can't wait to hear what Mrs. O has to say tonight. I've got the popcorn out and ready to go!
Friday, August 22, 2008
It flashed across my mind that I had not traced and cut out his hand for his 1 or 2yo birthdays. And the tears just burst out of my otherwise overdry eyeballs. Uncontrollably. Seriously...like someone had just died. It was right before bed, too, and Big Daddy was all wtf about it (which I don't fault him for...he tried to console me, but the only words I could eke out were "his...little... hands! Won't...get that...back!" and I know when he saw the cut-out hand in my hand, he thought, uh oh, irrationality alert!), so I ended up sitting in the sunroom in the dark crying until I couldn't breathe anymore.
As I write this, I'm cringing now at the pitifulness of the scene. So pitiful that even the cats kept their distance!
I hadn't had a good cry in months, so maybe i just needed the release. But really, am I going to be a crying mess all throughout his life? Because the kid is going to keep growing up! Whether I like it or not. And I most likely will not be able to document every small change, no matter how many photos or journal entries I write. And I will most likely always feel guilty that I rush through every day without truly paying attention to the details, and I will most likely always regret that I yell at him so often, and I will most likely always feel inadequate as a parent. So get a grip, woman!
This is another reminder that I become more like my mother every friggin day. A realization that might have contributed to the sob-fest, really. I can handle inheriting personality traits, because you have some control over that, right? I mean, I can choose whether or not I want to say things like "Do you want me to give you something to cry about?" or whether I grit my teeth when I discipline my child. But I can't control the medical conditions or physiological breakdowns that I am bound to inherit.
Around this time every year I get all macabre and melancholy about the dying-young thing. And obviously with every year that passes, I feel it more distinctly and dwell on it a little more. Because 47 is way closer than it used to be! Apparently my eye doctor's comments about medical ailments being hereditary hit a nerve deeper than I'd realized. Don't worry...as far as I know, there is no direct medical connection between dry-eye and cancer, just in case you're wondering. Evidently, though, it's the leap that my neurotic subconscious made.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
My favorite quote, by far, is this one, from Billy Gaines, the co-founder of the official beer pong website, which also hosts the World Series of Beer Pong:
"Beer pong is severely misunderstood. It's a sport. It just happens to involve alcohol. People are not playing the game to get drunk but because they love the challenge of throwing a table-tennis ball into a cup with some type of liquid in it."
Really, Billy? Have you ever played beer pong? In my day, we played it to get effed up! And the better you are at beer pong, the more rounds you play, which means the more beer you consume. One doesn't need a college degree to understand that most folks, Billy, play beer pong to get drizunk. (By the way, readers who didn't know me in college, I was really good at beer pong...)
After you read the Time article online, sit back and watch this 5-minute video, Beer Pong Strikes Back, which the pongers made in rebuttle. (Really, you don't have to watch the full 5 minutes to get the gist...the message is loud and clear about 1 minute in.) Could these guys be more ridiculous?
Don't get me wrong, I love the game. But it's a game. A drinking game. And it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a sport. Although I admit, I'm kinda pissed that I didn't know before now that I could be winning money and vacations and exciting prizes playing beer pong. I just checked the website, and can you believe the grand prize for the WSOBP is $50 grand?! If I'd known, I never would have let myself get so far out of shape.
In fact, I'm off to Home Depot right now to purchase an 8-foot sheet of plywood...anyone want to meet me in the backyard with a pitcher, some plastic cups, and a ping pong ball?
I'm a few days late in mentioning this particular head-turner, but I'm still thinking about the silver medalist in the women's vault competition, which took place Sunday. I was really touched by the story of Oksana Chusovitina, at first because of her endurance in a sport dominated by teenagers (and pre-teens, a-hem, China), but then struck by her personal triumph-over-tragedy story.
Chusovitina started competing at the age of 13 for then-USSR (she has been competing at the Olympic level for 20 years!), but when her young son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002, she could not get treatment for him in Uzbekistan, so she reached out to international gymnastics contacts for help. A German coach heard her call and offered to help, so Chusovitina moved her family to Germany, where her son was treated, she became a German citizen, and now she competes under the German flag.
I am awed by the lengths this mama went to in order to save her son's life. The deep friendship between Chusovitina and her coach, Shanna Poliakova, was apparent on Sunday, too -- you could tell that they've weathered many a storm, and the medal was that much sweeter because of it. Best of all, her son is now in remission, and he was able to see his mother win a medal this week. That, to me, makes her a diamond-encrusted platinum medal winner.
(Mitch Album, who was a good sports writer before he became a cheesy book writer, wrote a nice piece about all this, too, if you want to read more.)
So next time I'm writing out giant checks, I'm going to try to remember this quote that I read somewhere a couple years ago (when we moved into this house and I realized that in order to pay the mortgage AND the daycare bill, we were going to have to make many sacrifices):
If money is your only problem, then it's not a problem at all -- merely an inconvenience.
I'm not sure who said it, but it's definitely true. My family is healthy, we have many blessings, and really, I have no problems, just inconveniences. And wouldn't life be boring without such matters?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I just spent 45 minutes on the phone with Delmarva Power and Horizon Power, our "third-party energy supplier," trying to figure out why my electric bill went from $250 in July 2008 (which is already about $100 higher than July 2007) to $400 in August. WTF?! In this time bouncing between Delmarva and Horizon, on hold and trying to decipher multiple accents and speech problems, I received quite an education about what all that babble on the three pages of our bill actually means.
So here's the deal: Our usage is up about 500 kwh in August for some unknown reason (faulty, old, inefficient a/c is most likely culprit), so that's nothing that the power companies can control. However, I learned that Horizon, the supplier (Delmarva just owns the lines and acts as our electricity distributor) charges a variable rate each month per kwh. This past month's was 19 cents/kwh...compared to Delmarva's 11 cents/kwh. WHAT?
Of course none of this makes any sense to me, and I had to keep calling separate 800 numbers to talk to reps from each company until I finally got someone who could explain it in English. Turns out we signed up with Horizon crook because they said we would save up to 20% each month, but this variable rate business was part of the fine print. (Silly me didn't even know that one is charged a rate/kwh...that's how dumb I've been all these years, just sending the checks without knowing what the line items really mean.) I had been complaining that our electric bill jumps around a lot -- sometimes it's really high, but sometimes it's really low -- and now I know why. They basically just skip around the rate from month to month. So in the past year, our bill has gone from a consistent average of approximately $140/month to a jump-around range of $80 to $400/month. And I am enraged! Seriously, by the time I hung up the phone, I thought the top of my head was going to just pop off.
So anyway, I'll pay the bill, begrudgingly, and we'll survive on mac-and-cheese and hot dogs this month. I switched back to regular old Delmarva, though. Our bills were at least consistently high with them, instead of this jumping around crap.
Moral of this story requires me to mix a couple of hatefully trite adages: Always stick with the devil you know than switching to the devil you don't, because if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Oh, and to really enhance my pain, after writing the check for this month's oil bill (yes, we're still paying for last winter's oil), I called to find out what the current price cap is. We're locked in at $3.12/gal until January 1, which is a good thing because the current rate is $4.99. Which is down from about $5.50 a few weeks ago. Again I say, WTF?!
To put that in perspective, the oil tank holds 270 gallons...so one fill-up would cost $1350. And they usually fill it three times a year...so that's $4050/year, divided by 12, and you've got $337/month...which is $200/mo. more than what we currently pay. Awesome. I don't know what we're going to do if that doesn't go down substantially before January 1. i'd better start stashing money away now.
So we'll be sitting in the dark and cold this winter because we can't afford the luxury of lightbulbs or heat. And I won't even get started on lamenting the grocery bill. (I did our biweekly big grocery shopping today, too, and even with coupon-clipping and circular-studying, I spent $122. Came home with about enough food for, oh, 10 days, but we will certainly have to supplement this with at least another $100 in here-and-there purchases of milk, bread, produce, and lunch stuff before the next pay day.)
OK. That's enough. Rant over. I'm feeling better. I know you're feeling the same pain, and misery loves company (I'm just throwing around the adages left and right, eh?)
Friday, August 15, 2008
Today was the best weather day we've had all week, so we crammed in as much of Acadia as we could handle. Which really wasn't much, but it was good for us: Cadillac Mountain summit, Otter Point, Otter Cove, a quick drive around the Park Loop road, then into Somesville to visit the Port in the Storm bookstore (which we've driven by hundreds of times before, and I always say I want to go in there, so we finally stopped). We relaxed for, oh, about 40 minutes, then went back into Bar Harbor to eat dinner at Rupununi, and we wandered around the shops looking for souvenirs and gifts for family.
This late-evening wander seems to be a new tradition with my family. It's like we're all searching every storefront for that one thing that will signify all that this place means to us...but somehow there's no such thing, so we settle for a t-shirt. Usually a "Cool as a Moose" or "Life Is Good" t-shirt, another of which I bought tonight. Only this one is the "Cool as a Moose" logo with the "Life Is Good" motto...two birds with one t-shirt, how convenient. And it was on sale -- bonus.
It's been a good week, all in all, even with the rocky patches. The best times were the times we were all together, sitting around at the cabin or at dinner. Go figure. I don't know when we'll be back, although I know it won't be next summer. And probably not the summer after that, either. Perhaps we'll venture back downeast when Sweet Boy is old enough to hike alongside me, instead of on a leash or on my shoulders. I hope he'll have happy Acadia memories someday, like the rest of us do. This week his favorite thing was throwing rocks at the water. Which is just as good as anything else, I suppose. (He's going to have a tough time next week without his Uncle Nate, too. Oh, how he adores you, Uncle Nate!)
OK. Time to go to sleep. Goodnight, Bar Harbor. Sweet dreams, Acadia. Thank you for always being such a good host.
TODAY I LEARNED
when hiking on the rocks on the side of a mountain, it really is best to keep the 3-year-old on a leash.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Sweet Boy and I got up early this morning and headed down to Bar Harbor, just the two of us and the jogging stroller and our raincoats, to walk on Shore Path. The fog was so thick that not only could you not see more than, oh, 30 feet ahead of you, but the air was actually wet. Serious downeast Maine weather. I love it.
Shore Path is exactly that: A mile-long path that ambles from the pier in Bar Harbor all along the shoreline. You pass the Bar Harbor Inn, which is a place I will stay someday after I write my bestselling novel and have lots and lots of money, and you walk by some amazing waterfront mansions. (This is a place with serious old money. The Rockefellers actually funded most if not all of Acadia's infrastructure before it was a National Park.) The best part of this trail is not the crashing surf right at your feet or the amazing vistas (on a non-foggy morning) but the lack of people. Apparently very few tourists know about this path, or maybe they can't find it, so it's quiet and serene and peaceful. Even with a 3-year-old!
We walked along and counted seagulls and kayaks, and Sweet Boy asked about 100 times if he could go down to the rocks to see turtles (there are no turtles, of course, in the crashing North Atlantic surf). Eventually we came to a spot that wasn't so steep, so we climbed down -- after I reminded Sweet Boy of the three major rules: (1) hold Mommy's hand, (2) do what Mommy tells you, and (3) go slowly. The mist made everything slippery, so this probably wasn't terribly responsible parenting, but sometimes you just feel the pull of the ocean, you know?
We played in the rocks for about 10 minutes, just collecting rocks and throwing them back in. We found seashells and emptied-out crab shells, and splashed our hands in the cold, cold water. It was just awesome. And I will never forget the look of sheer joy on Sweet Boy's face, his hair matted down with saltwater and his cheeks chilled red.
We warmed up in town at this cute little internet cafe, which was fully decked out as someone's living room, complete with cushy chairs and books and board games. Mommy sipped a blueberry cobbler coffee, Sweet Boy glugged a chocolate milk, and we shared a gooey coffee cake. What a wonderful day of fun.
TODAY I'M GRATEFUL FOR
the giant jacuzzi tub in my vacation house...ahhh...
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Around mid-afternoon, I hiked down to our family's little tidal pool spot, near Blackwoods Campground and across from Otter Point, with my brother and my dad. It's a place that my family has been visiting since my mother and her brothers were children, and although we have many happy memories there, we also have some sad ones, too. This is the place we scattered my mother's ashes 11 years ago, so it's a bittersweet sojourn that we make every time we're here in Acadia. We don't have a headstone to visit, which is the way my mom wanted it to be, so this is the next best thing, I suppose. Honestly, my brother and I didn't really want to go down yesterday -- we're both of the "let the past be in the past" mindset -- but it means a lot to my father and we didn't want him to climb down those rocks alone, so we went. And I'm glad we did.
The climb down is more treacherous than I remember, perhaps because my legs are longer, my knees are weaker, and my balance is wobblier, but Mother Nature is also trying to reclaim this little patch of beauty. Rightfully so. I'm happy to let her have it back, not because I don't love it, but because I remember how fiercely my mother loved this spot. I don't want anyone else to know it the way we do.
When we were kids we camped here in Blackwoods, and would go down to the tidal pool and spend hours scrambling barefoot on the rocks, playing with plastic boats in the tidal pool, watching the lobster boats pull in their traps. We ate peanut butter sandwiches and lounged in the sun. It was secluded and secret and just risky enough to fulfill our need for adventure. And the tidal pool rests about five feet from the North Atlantic, so when it often felt like we were about an arm's length from God.
I always took a book to read and my notebook to write (I recall a few really bad poems about seagulls); my brother would climb and explore and wander far from us, humming all the while so my mom always knew where he was; my sister would collect periwinkles and hunt for starfish. We were always barefoot and sunburned, and I have a distinct memory of peeing behind a rock ledge -- communing with nature, as my dad called it. This was the Mello Tidal Pool, claimed and staked and forever. One time when we were down there, another couple ambled out of the woods and started to make their way down the rocks, and my mother said in a voice just loud enough to be clear, "I hope they don't think they're coming down to our spot." They didn't stay.
So now the path is mostly covered in underbrush (poison ivy!) and trees, and even the poplar that we marked 11 years ago to show us the spot to head down the cliff has been taken over by pines. When we got down there to the top of the ledge, after scraping our way through the brambles, I told my dad that this is probably the last time I'll go there, and he said in his typical melancholy way, "yeah, maybe it's time to let go." But I don't think it's letting go. We can cling to those good memories forever; why keep going down there to remember, when it's so loaded with both happy and sad?
Regardless, while we sat and watched the lobster buoys bob on the surf yesterday, the lone kayaker paddle around in the cove, and the gulls circle the rocky shoreline, I heard a faint echo of children's laughter. It's a good spot, our tidal pool, and maybe someday I'll bring Sweet Boy here, too. But if we can no longer traverse the path, that's ok, too. I can tell him about it as we climb over rocks to find a new family spot.
The sun finally came out just before we headed back up the rocks, and I said hello and goodbye.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Yesterday was a good day, all in all, though we really didn't do very much. And it's looking like we won't be doing much today, either. But then I ask myself, why do you have to do stuff constantly when on vacation? Ah. You see. This is the conundrum of this entire week. I'm vacationing with my father, who cannot sit still, ever. (My dad wants also to re-create good memories...I'll get to that another time.) And my husband, who really only wants to sit still, always. Throw in a child who needs constant stimulation, yet still naps in the afternoon, and you've got yourself one crazy vacation stew. To me the perfect vacation mixes activity with rest, and this place offers opportunities for both, so I'm trying. Hard. To balance all these people with all these ideas of vacationing.
Right now we're watching Sesame Street. I've been up with Sweet Boy since 7:30, while everyone else slept. No problem, really, but even with three separate bathrooms in this house, you can only really take one shower at a time, then wait about 10 minutes for the hot water tank to refill. So it takes FOREVER to get everyone up and ready and out of the house. Voo wants to take us all for blueberry pancakes this morning, but it's starting to look more like a blueberry pancake lunch than breakfast. And the people who are ready are restless and grouchy, waiting for the others. Not to mention I'm trying to keep the kiddo busy. By the time we eat breakfast, we'll have to come back and take a nap. Super.
Tomorrow we will NOT wait for everyone before leaving the house. This is ridiculous. And not in a fun way.
Maybe we can hit the Oceanarium after pancakes and let Sweet Boy pet some lobsters before returning for naps. That would at least be one fun memory for him.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Thunder Hole has been neatly cordoned off with banisters and stairs, but there are still plenty of opportunities for climbing around on the rocks nearby. Tourists abound, most of whom are not really rock climbers at all, but who want to say they climbed rocks...which pretty much describes us, too. We harnessed Sweet Boy up with this silly contraption we bought at WalMart, more for my peace of mind than for any actual safety. It did help a few times to give a little tug on the leash just to remind him to take his time or not to move away from us.
So we scampered around for a little while, took some fun photos, and Sweet Boy told everyone who passed that he was "climbing on rocks! see me?" When I was a child, you could find all sorts of little sea creatures in the tidal pools on these rocks, but now they're just murky, full of algae and tiny little mussels. Global warming? Who knows. Sweet Boy still delighted in getting his hands in there and squishing things around. While I yelled "Don't get your shoes wet! The black rocks are slippery! Someone grab him! Where's the hand squirty?" The magic just isn't as magical when you're a mommy, but I hope I didn't kill the fun for Sweet Boy.
Big Daddy won some love points when we got to the top of the trail and he suggested that he take Sweet Boy (and Voo) back to the car so I could have some alone time. They would go to the port-a-potty, have a snack, and drive slowly to the next point, while I continued hiking on the trail by myself. Oh, the kisses you earned with that one, babe!
I had about 15 minutes of lone hiking, and it was lovely. Here are some of the photos I took while foraging for wild blueberries. I have beautiful memories of blueberry picking as a child, then again with my sister on top of Cadillac Mountain about eight years ago. When we were kids my mom would take us off the trail with little baggies, and we would spend a little while just picking and eating, eating and picking, soaking in the sunshine and breathing in the salt air. (Which is why the book Blueberries for Sal is such a favorite, although I never came across any bears in my blueberry picking.)
The blueberries you buy in ShopRite are fine, sweet and delicious and everything, but the tiny little wild ones you pick off the ground here in Maine are small and sweet-tart and wonderful. They probably taste even better because you're really not supposed to pick anything in the Park, so there's that forbidden fruit thing going on. I snagged a handful of berries, then stood for a minute on the edge of a cliff, and I felt very much alive and relaxed and happy and energized all at the same time. That's what Acadia does.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
We drove for about 8 hours from New Bedford to Bar Harbor, Maine, yesterday -- me, Big Daddy, Sweet Boy, and Voo...and all our luggage, swimsuits, groceries, DVD player, Playstation, laptop, toys, jogging stroller, chairs, tennis rackets, and hiking shoes. (I swear that car-top carrier that I bought off Craigslist is the best $25 I ever spent!) By the time we arrived, I think we were all done with togetherness for a while...but we rallied long enough to eat at Pancho Villa's down in town. I have been dreaming of their tableside guacamole since last summer.
We're here in Maine, in a rented house outside Acadia National Park, for a week. I'm hopping online now to do some research to find things to do that we've never done before...which will be hard to do because I've been coming here every few years with my family since before I could speak. This is the first time I'll be here with a 3yo boy, though, so I hope to find some new adventures to share with him.
Since we left home on Friday, we've been telling Sweet Boy that we're on vacation. He doesn't get it. Keeps asking "when are we getting to Bakation?" I'm pretty sure he thinks vacation is really all about sitting in the car all day, watching as many Disney DVDs in succession as possible. Driving back from the restaurant last night, when telling him we were going to our vacation house, he was like "no! I don't want to go on Bakation again!"
Please say some prayers for decent weather. The forecast is for off-and-on showers all week, with highs in the mid-70s during the day and 50s at night. The temperature is perfect. If it rains in the afternoons, that will be fine because it will give us all a good reason to go back to the house to nap and relax. But all-day rain would be sucktastic.
My big goal for this week is to relax at least one hour per day -- I mean, full-on relaxing, which requires sitting with feet up and not hearing any little kids asking for more juice, fruities, toys, etc. I wonder if it can be done. I did find a day spa in town last night...hmm... My husband has already threatened to toss the computer. So I'm not sure how often I'll be blogging the adventure.
And a second goal is to eat as many blueberries or blueberry products as possible, which means at least one blueberry item every day. I have good memories of picking wild blueberries on top of Cadillac Mountain and around the park with my mom, brother, and sister years and years ago, so I'll have to take Sweet Boy on a blueberry hunt to carry on the tradition.
Oh, our first stop this morning, before hitting the Acadia visitor's center, is to head back outside town to the Wallmart so Voo can buy some undies. Hee. He had to run a load of laundry last night because he forgot to pack them.
Friday, August 8, 2008
I can't believe this place with the water-stained walls, the basement-musty smelling a/c unit, and the burn holes in the bedcovers has complimentary wireless, but I'm thrilled. Also thrilled that there's a pool in which Big Daddy and Sweet Boy can play a little while. Ahh...quiet.
This evening we'll be in New Bedford, my dad's hometown nicknamed "the whaling city" because it was once home to the whaling industry. (It's the city that inspired Moby Dick, which I have never read, but its full text lives on the web, so I really should check it out one of these days.) New Bedford is a working class city right on the water, between Boston and Cape Cod, with rich ethnic and cultural heritage. The population is almost 40% Portuguese (much like me, who is 50% Portuguese), and when we were kids we always got a thrill looking in the phone book to see the pages and pages of people with our last name, which was very uncommon in southern New Jersey. In the past 10-15 years, the city has really come up, and a great deal has been done to restore it's downtown area. One of the highlights of a visit a few years ago was a couple hours in the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which gave me a much greater respect for the whaling and fishing tradition in this part of the country (and a bit of pride to have family roots in such an interesting niche in American history).
Anyway, Big Daddy and Voo have been talking about dinner at Me & Ed's for, oh, like 11.5 months, since just after the last time we visited the family here. And with good reason: You don't get seafood like this anywhere. I mean, sure it's good in Maryland or California or even Florida, but New Bedford seafood tastes like they just pulled it out of the sea and warmed it a minute before serving it. And at Me & Ed's, you can get it with garlic-smashed potatoes, my personal favorite touch. Awesome.
(Fast-forward to about 11pm...)
Well, Me & Ed's did not disappoint. We had a great meal -- topped off with the menfolk groaning about their overstuffed bellies -- then went back to the house to play a little while. Really good visit. Sweet Boy and his cousin (who he kept calling "my best friend") played with bubbles and cars, and he tore up her bedroom while she very patiently stood by. (Thank you, patient girl!) The men could talk Red Sox for a little while, and we girls caught up and laughed a bit. I wish we could see this chunk of family more often, and every year I say "this is the year we'll visit more than once!" but alas...maybe this year. I hope.
Day 1 was long, but the night was deliciously good.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I read this on Yahoo News a couple days ago, and it made my heart leap:
The, based at New York's Bronx Zoo, and the Republic of Congo said their census counted the newly discovered gorillas in two areas of the northern part of the country covering 18,000 square miles.
Previous estimates, dating to the 1980s, put the number of western lowland gorillas at less than 100,000. But the animal's numbers were believed to have fallen by at least 50 percent since then due to hunting and disease, researchers said. The newly discovered gorilla population now puts their estimated numbers at between 175,000 to 225,000.
Of course this doesn't mean that gorillas are out of danger, but it's a little bit of happy news in an otherwise troublesome tale.
If you haven't been following the plight of the gorilla as closely as my primate-loving family has been, there was a story about mountain gorillas in DCC in National Geographic a couple months ago that gives a great deal of background into what's happening. Nutshell: Gorillas are being slaughtered for, of all things, charcoal, which is formed by burning the wood of the very old trees in which the gorillas live:
One 150-pound sack of hardwood charcoal lasts the average family about a month. With more than 100,000 families living within 20 miles of the southern end of Virunga National Park, the demand amounts to 3,500 to 4,000 sacks of charcoal a day, and this does not include the needs of Rwanda, which has outlawed the production of charcoal to protect its forests.
This much charcoal cannot be transported without a fleet of trucks. The Congolese army has the trucks, and it has suppliers in the forest: the Hutu militias. A sack of charcoal sells for $25 on average. Do the math: De Merode estimates that in 2006, when gorilla tourism brought in less than $300,000, the Virunga charcoal trade was worth more than $30 million.
So you see, it's simple: If you don't have to protect the gorillas, then you don't have to protect the trees. If you can make a lot more money off the charcoal than the gorillas, and you have the backing of both the military and the militias, it's a no-brainer.
File this away in the "what the hell is wrong with our world?!" folder in your brain. And keep your eye on the gorillas.
Alas, I stopped reading this one about halfway through, and I just returned it to the library dropbox (in the hopes of avoiding the librarians' judgmental stares...that's a post for another day, for sure!). I didn't hate the book, nor was it poorly written, but I found after about 300 pages that I just didn't really care. At all. Here's the gist:
- Jameson's life story is extremely predictable, but terribly sad -- lost her mom at age 2, her dad was unavailable emotionally and married a few wackos; she entered a bad relationship as a teen, which led to rape and drug addiction; she discovers her talent for stripping after a brief stint as a showgirl (like her mother) doesn't work out. She makes a ton o' money stripping, finally feels empowered, starts posing for magazines, meets a few hot lady lovers on the way, gets into porno acting, and voila...a star is born. (I only made it as far as her entree into gonzo films, then skimmed around a little in the later chapters. No real surprises.)
- Heterosexual married ladies are not the intended audience -- the majority of the (explicit) sex scenes are girl-girl, which leads me to believe Ms. Jameson knows exactly the demographic of her readers. Duh, of course she does.
- Why is this book 600 pages? She's only 34 years old, for pete's sake...has the woman even lived long enough to warrant such paper?
- Wait for the movie...oh, no, that's right, the movies are already available -- I'm pretty sure everything you need to learn about making love like a porn star you can learn from one of Ms. Jameson's videos -- and without as much time invested.
Although the title is effectively a misnomer (yet attention grabbing, I admit), beyond getting some good advice on how to give a b.j. and how to avoid getting screwed (pun intended) by the porn industry, I did learn a few helpful tips from this book:
- Use Noxema to shave your "area" instead of shaving cream, as this will reduce shave bumps.
- If you ever see an ad for models that leads you to a strange hotel address, think earnestly about your life goals before you knock on that hotel room door.
- You can lose a lot of weight very quickly by smoking meth (though it does a job on other aspects of your life) -- and your house will be squeaky clean.
- Marilyn Manson really likes anal sex -- a tidbit that will come in handy for most of us, oh, NEVER!
- If you're going to take a book about a porn queen out of the local library, expect it to be missing some pages (and consider wearing gloves while reading it).
And I do have to give props to Jameson for making the most of a terribly rough life. I mean, her dreams may not have been the same as mine, but she kept them in sight and did whatever it took to reach them. She knows how to market herself, and now she's a bajillionaire adored (or lusted after?) by millions with her own product empire, so she deserves our respect, despite whether you agree with her lifestyle and choices.
Monday, August 4, 2008
This is one of the most honest commentaries on the green movement that I've seen. Stanley Fish is old and cranky, yes, but I totally understand his point. And I agree. I mean, we all want to do what we can do to save Mother Earth, but why make yourself crazy? And how do we know that what we're doing in our day-to-day lives are actually being carried through? I speak, for instance, of our wacky, throw-everything-into-one-bin system of recycling here in my home state...how do we know that the plastic milk jugs are being adequately separated from the green-glass wine bottles?
I say do what you can do within your financial means and comfort zone, and always be mindful of your footprint.
Extremism in any form is dangerous, even extreme green.
(Read some of the vitriolic comments to Fish's post, too...scary radical tree huggers!)
TODAY I'M GRATEFUL FOR
time with my best girls in NJ...it's always better when we're together.
(Oh, and I'm really grateful for Memere's sewing skills!)
Saturday, August 2, 2008
"What? I can't hear you! There's a zucchini in my ear!"
HA! I never tire of this one. Just as funny with a banana, too. (Though not with cherry tomatoes, we discovered. Hmph.)
Good thing I stuck the plastic info card in the soil next to the plant, or we'd be waiting a loooong time for these sweet little delectables.
With the big pinkish-red Brandywine tomatoes, I made some of the most delicious caprese salad ever...fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil...ooh, baby. Big Daddy made fun of my "savoring face," and Sweet Boy said "What's the matter wit' Mommy?" when I took that first bite.
I loves me some tomatoes, hot off the vine.
TODAY I LEARNED
one can collect an extra hour or so of Saturday-morning sleep by plopping the toddler in front of a DVD in the guest bedroom. Be prepared, however, for the occasional shut-eye interruption, with statements such as
"Look, Mommy, it's blueberry poop!"
"Mommy, I squished the kitty..."
"I pushed all the buttons and it's not workin'."
So, it's not restful sleep, but I'll take it.
Friday, August 1, 2008
He's verbal now, so the crying is often accompanied by streaming entreaties intense love, longing, and despair. Today he got me with this, complete with gigantic crocodile-tear sobs:
"Mommmeeeee...don't go! No, Mommy! I love you so much! When you go, I miss you! Please don't go, mommmeeee...I love you! Please don't take my sunshine away!"
How do these little brains learn so quickly just exactly what's going to break you?
I'm now tearing up again, so I'm gonna go grab a hanky.
TODAY I LEARNED
when the swimsuit that your ordered from Lands End a year ago starts to disintegrate (because of the massive amounts of chlorine in the YMCA pool), you can just call 'em up and they'll refund your money or apply it to the purchase of a new suit. You can then just return the old suit in the mail or take it to your local Sears. How awesome is that?!
Those lab mice get all the perks. And the article talks about how this would be used to treat diabetes and obesity...which is great, but just imagine all the real human applications for this pill:
- Want to run a 5K next weekend, but don't want to miss today's Mad Men-athon?
- Need to fit into that bridesmaid dress in a couple weeks, but don't want to skip that hunk of stromboli?
- Cholesterol a little high, but you prefer bacon and eggs to oatmeal?
- "Because sometimes you just don't want to get off the couch."
- "Have your cake and eat it too."
- "Skip the push-ups, eat the brownie."
- "Life is short; why walk?"
Lunesta + Avodart + exercise pill = Never need to get out of bed again.
Get on it, drug companies. I need this pill. The world needs this pill!