Saturday, June 30, 2012

A New England Way of Life

Stowe, Vermont. May 2012

Last June, my family of four left the midwest for the northeast--and this new blog was born. A few weeks ago, Boy and I were discussing how beautiful New England summers were--particularly the graduated shades of green splashed upon infinite miles of trees and mountainsides of the Upper Connecticut River Valley.

"Was there ever a moment in your lifetime that you thought you'd live in New England?"

To a girl born in the great American Wild West, the very thought of living on the opposite end of the country was inconceivable. Once I hit college, my mind began to shift open to the possibilities: First came China, somewhere around the middle was Israel, and near the end was my courtship with New York City. None of these places were in the cards for me, but the process of dreaming and planning taught my heart to soar. Somewhere within those years, an independent streak--I didn't know I had--began to take shape.

But, New England?

In the fifth grade when studying all fifty states and state capitols, I always transposed New Hampshire and Vermont. How ironic that I ended up living in the twin states; my days in Vermont and New Hampshire are pretty equally spent, if that makes any sense. The amount of times I've crossed the state line over the Connecticut River and back is easily up in the thousands.

So, what is it like living here? What's that you say? A list? You wanna know what you'd expect if you decided to move into my backyard? (Hey, why don't you?) I've gathered a few things to highlight some things unique to the Vermont/New Hampshire border.
[Disclaimer:  My list contains what I've observed in my locale. Any additions to the list are welcome.]
  • If a person is talking about going to "Mass" over the weekend, he or she is likely traveling to the state directly south, not to a Catholic service.
  • Hot dog buns are slit on the tops, not on the side. "New England Style," yo.
  • Signs warn drivers of speed tables, not speed bumps.
  • Cars don't drive around a roundabout, it's called a rotary.
  • Moxie: a distinctly flavored soda pop that I don't recommend trying.
  • Whoopie pies of all flavors and sizes are abundant. 
  • Wearing makeup is optional.
  • Having a trendy haircut and color is unheard of.
  • A good bug spray is your best friend.
  • Checking the heads of your kids for ticks is a normal thing to do at the end of the day.
  • Built-in air conditioners in homes are rare. You'll only need it for 2-3 months anyway.
  • The word wicked is everyone's favorite adjective, especially when describing how cold it is.
  • Rain boots (or wellies if you want to use the cutesy name) are not worn to make a fashion statement--they're a functional shoe needed for what is called mud season.
  • While at the store to buy cheese, most often your options are limited to sharp or very sharp. Plus, if you want orange cheddar, you're out of luck--all the cheddar you'll ever find is white. 
  • There is a reason why so many blueberries are grown in Maine. They truly and honestly are the best.
  • People take their maple flavoring seriously. It's kind of a big deal out here.
  • I've previously mentioned the French-Canadian neighborliness in another post
  • Although there is no law against plastic bags (yet), bringing your own shopping bags is the popular thing to do--and the only thing to do in some places.
  • You must have cash and pocket change on hand at all times: farmer's markets, toll fees on the Interstate, local stores that forbid credit card machines, parking meters.
  • Older homes are still heated with oil; newer homes use propane. 
  • Having a garage is a luxury. A garage hooked the house? More of a luxury. A two-car garage? Utterly impressive. After many winters in Utah and Ohio of having to park my car on the street or in uncovered residential parking lots, I'll never understand why people around here don't have garages.
  • Tourists who come to New England to see the leaves are called leaf peepers. I still consider myself one and my mouth will always gape wide open as I drive along I-89/I-91.
  • This is definitely specific to where I live--no lights on the freeway at night. It's freaky. Just you and your headlights driving through complete darkness as you're hoping that those little reflectors from the side of the road don't veer you off the bridge. 
  • Every now and then hippies are seen hitch hiking in White River Junction (where the two freeways intersect). You think it's fascinating to go people watching over in Boston? Chicago? NYC? You ain't seen nuttin' yet. 
  • Speaking of people watching...once in awhile, you'll notice some bearded backpackers around: They're hikers from the famed Appalachian Trail.    
  • Everybody shops at thrift shops. Yard sales? Those too. Every Saturday during the summer, you'll drive past one. 
  • There's an excessive amount of antique shops in any town or village you drive through. It's out of control.
  • I know I've missed a lot on this list. Fill in the blanks if you're itching to share.

This year has brought a lot of ups and downs. A lot of happiness and tears. A whole lot of humility. And a lot of wonderful discovery. But if there's one thing for certain: The firefly show out here ain't cutting it for me--that part of the midwest I will really miss. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

New York a la Ephron

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."
--Nora Ephron

My fingers have been too lazy to prop themselves onto the computer--and computer time is not conducive to precious husband time either. In fact, my blogging negligence is due to snuggling with my man on the couch and watching the first season of Prison Break. I say there's nothing better to end the day for a confined-at-home mother than by watching other people use desperate means to escape their prison. Wink, wink.


So, I am lagging behind to say a few words about the late Ms. Nora Ephron. I was going to sit down to collect my thoughts on Tuesday night when I first read about it, but my brain was too pooped. It's now Friday and I feel a bit reluctant having to say anything at all because a popular blogger, who I share similarities with, had beat me to the chase*. It left me feeling unauthentic, again. I may expound upon this another time, but to any of my friends who happen to read both blogs: my writing and ideas are not plagiarized--they are my own. Blogging is a work of my heart, and not a business-like or a notorious agenda. *If this doesn't make any sense, it's not a big deal. I say it for my own peace of mind.

I have a lot to owe to the reputable Ms. Ephron. After reading many news columns devoted to the memory of this celebrated author and screenwriter, I reflected on what influence her work had on me:

--It was her who instilled in me the lofty desire to run a little book shop of my own. Yes, I said lofty, but it's never too late.

--It was her who modified my perspective of New York City from a crime-infested metropolis to a charming big city filled with flower stands and nonthreatening Brownstones.

--It was her memorable one-liners and ideal scenes of life in the Upper West Side that had me watching You've Got Mail more times than she likely had.

--It was her romantic representation of NYC that had me striving for years to make it there.

After years of school, meticulous attention to my copy editing portfolio, and money being stowed away into my savings, there came a time that I started the so-called 'spreadin' the news.' The plan was finally in motion: airplane tickets, a publisher job agency meeting, a clean bill of health, and no emotional baggage keeping me in Utah. New York and I would be together at long last. But she and I were not meant to be together. I never imagined that my pair of vagabond shoes would decide to walk in any other direction, but it did. And the course of my life changed forever because of it. Yet, Nora's New York will always be an imprint on who I am. 

I have come to terms that my writing is a pile of sawdust, but if there's any hope for me, her work inspires me to dig deeper. And that's okay. There is always a story to tell about who we are and every thing we do. Write about what makes you happy. If it's not happy, write so you can laugh about it later. Never be the victim. In the next lifetime, I'll be taking a writing class from her and somehow figure out how to be half as clever and entertaining as she was...

Such as brightening someone's day with a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils. Ah, wouldn't that be nice.

Friday, June 22, 2012

From One White River to Another

2011, Indiana
White River

2012, Vermont
White River

2011, Indianapolis Zoo
White River Junction

2012, Vermont
White River Junction

 It's quite amazing how life for us has changed so much in only one year, but these similarities are just uncanny.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Face Time

Quality one-one time with Miss Indy happens in little moments. As second born, she doesn't know any differently. Little does she know that when her older brother is off to preschool this Fall, I know she and I will be getting lots more than just those brief moments.

Man, she's a lot cuter than I was at this age. And her budding personality is as bright as the morning sun. I don't know how this vivacious little person came from someone as boring, serious, and dull as I am. Must come from her father.

The 'Aha!' Face.
Where's your tongue?
Can you show me what a puppy dog does?
The smirk. 
The scowl-turned-oh, no!-face.
Back to tongues...a bit obsessed with our tongues, aren't we?
My absolute favorite face of all--a tradition started by her brother--
the Monster Face.
 The words iPod and tongue were two of the first words in her vocabulary. Wow, I can't imagine why.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Good Health

Six whole years ago in June, I carried a golf-ball sized tumor in my pelvis all the way down into the Grand Canyon and back up again. Red mountains, aqua blue waterfalls, nights sleeping under the stars--it was the best vacation of my life. After conquering those wicked switchbacks like a desert mule, I had convinced myself that I was in good health. That protruding little devil from my abdomen, in my mind, was nothing more than a bubbled-out muscle that stuck out of place for the time being. Denial became my bosom buddy. I laugh now at my ridiculous way of thinking, but when it comes to my health, taking immediate action requires a painful and necessary trip to the Emergency Room. And that, is exactly how it all went down several weeks later. I don't need to fill in all the deets, but two surgeries followed and I had my first encounter with Percocet. Let me state right here that if I were on Percocet for the rest of my life, my storytelling would fall within the genre of Agatha Christie. In my constant drowsiness, I dreamed of thrilling mysteries with elaborate plots that ended with a twist. Kids, don't do drugs.

After six years and seven post-surgery CT scans, I'm done with this whole shindig. Throughout it all, I've successfully gagged down several liters of contrast fluid and I now don't bat an eyelash when somebody stabs my arm with a needle.


To make matters more celebratory, the large bottle I had to consume this time around was by far the best-tasting contrast I've had. In the past, my puke reflexes have been told to behave themselves, but chugging on this new metal-flavored water was improvement--to say the very least.

The latest results showed everything clear. It feels good. I wish I didn't have to battle my body the way that I do, but at least this particular one is over. Here's to hoping for more healthy years and no more scary stuff.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

VT Places: Hope Cemetery

For Memorial Day this year, we drove to Barre, Vermont to see its beautiful cemetery. (I took many-a-photograph, so it wasn't until now that I went through my files to delete, organize, and edit.)

Barre is known worldwide for its granite. I'm actually surprised to have learned this because New Hampshire is The Granite State after all, but what do I know? Cemeteries in New England are so ancient (in American terms) and fascinating. Some find them to be spooky, while I find them spiritually uplifting. At the Hope Cemetery, deceased loved ones are honored with beautiful headstones carved with impressive detail and skill. I'm impressed with the creativity that it took to pay tribute to their lives; the painstaking workmanship of the headstones is incredible.

While my kids were being entertained by grandparents, I walked up and down the winding streets of the cemetery, taking photographs in the hot Monday sun. The experience was sobering for me; each unique headstone seemed to tell a story of the person buried here. I reflected on my own life and wondered what kind of legacy I would make for my posterity. As I was snapping away, the hope of life after death rang true in my heart. My breath caught a new determination for improvement; I felt a peace within and a knowing feeling that I am living as best I can. What a gratifying irony it is that the dead can inspire and teach the living. The pictures I took from that day are, to me, certainly worth thousands of words.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Zero Productivity

Today was another one of those days that I was happy for it to end. However, I do recognize that I should be grateful for another day to breathe air. Another day of being with those I love. Another day of being a mother. Another day of spilled milk. But, I'm going to be practical here and suggest that not all days are created equal, nor are they equally snuggled up to my heart. Today was just not one of those Hallmark card moments.

Dialogue around the house went roughly like this:

"She's pushing me."
"I want a drink."
"Not the yellow cup! I want the blue cup!"
"I need to pee."
"Ow! Ow! I fell down, Mom!"
[Obnoxious fake crying]
"Kiss my owie, Mom."
"Where's my blue truck, Mom? Find it."
"Look, Mom! It's an ant on the ground! Come see!"
"Watch me, Mom."
"Come here, Mom."
"She's screaming at me. Tell her stop."
[Joint screaming]
"I'm hungry."
"I need to pee."
"I need a Kleenex."

My baby girl doesn't talk a whole lot, but her presence is sure to be known. Here's her contribution:

"Mamaaa! Mamaaa! Mamaaa! Mamaaa! Mamaa!" (repeat as many times necessary before acquiring a migraine.)
"Up! Up! Uuuuuup!" (meaning to pick her up)
And plenty of high pitched girly screams enough to perk the ears of all the neighborhood dogs.

I was forced to think about the things I had to say today, so the next several phrases summarize the best of what I could come up with:

"If you don't want your sister to push you, don't push her in the first place."
"The blue cup is dirty. Choose another color."
"Either drink from this cup or no drink at all."
"Can you ask nicely?"
"You're not bleeding. Stand up and shake it off."
"Stop taking toys away from her. Please, give it back."
"That was naughty."
"Time out."
"Please share with your sister."
"Where did you put your blue truck? You have two feet--you look for it."
"Those rocks can't come into the house; they need to stay outside."
"Who turned the hose on? You need to ask permission first."
"Go sit on the stairs."
"Was that a good decision or a bad decision?"
"Where should you be using your chalk? Yes, very good, on the ground. Should you be writing with it on the screen door?"
"Hey, stop shutting the door on your sister!"
"Time out."
"What does stop mean?"
"Can't you see that she's crying? That means you should probably stop."
"I'm serious."
"I mean it."
"Both of you need to chill out."

It takes an inner skill to not let certain repetitious moments get the best of me--I'm working on it. As I lugged around the lingering cold that I've had for a week now, I would have to say that I performed 80 percent of my parental duties, single handedly, on auto pilot. Not bad for a tired and sick mom such as myself. While the kids were napping, I took a nice, long, hot, and long overdue shower. And I did my hair. Pretty soon, my sinuses were clearing up, my hair was all purtied up, and I got my bang on. Bangs like Zooey, that is.

I used to like Z.D. as an actress, but her overexposure lately kinda kills it for me. She may or may not have influenced me to cut bangs over a year ago. And she may or may not have influenced our long list of baby names either.

At the end of a fantastically whiny day where the only clean thing in my house is the kitchen sink, I can rock out in my bangs and feel somewhat good about myself.

And maybe even laugh about it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

I don't know what it is about England's monarchy that has me going to The Daily Mail to read about the latest news and photos on the Royals. What is Kate wearing? Look at how handsome William is in his uniform. What exactly is the Queen's Diamond Jubilee? Beatrice is giving a tour of the Queen's old play house to the press--how quaint. Look at all those boats floating on the Thames! Big Ben is being renamed Elizabeth Tower? Keep Calm and Carry On. Long Live the Queen! What I love even more is listening to the BBC news on PBS. The newscasters read the news with style. The articulation! The execution! The vowels that glide off their tongue! Unfortunately, this Britt cannot speak like a Brit. I try to pull off the accent, but I can't--Boy mocks me, so I keep my mouth shut. I'm an Eliza Doolittle, I am. (The cockney-speaking one, that is.)

[image source]

But what do my little ears tell me? My daughter speaks British?

"Here," she daintily says, picking up something from the floor. Except it sounds more like hea'yuh as one would say out there in the motherland. I know she has it in her, so more of those perfectly formed English words are bound to come out.

By the way, I just love watching her sleep. Isn't she so loverly?


When the day comes when I'm off to England to experience the hustle of big-city London and the timeless beauty of the Lake District, I'll find my own Professor Higgins so I may speak like a true Brit. Or Britt.

Saturday, June 2, 2012



His parents: Grandpa and Grandma.
My parents: Papa D and Granny.

His parents: traveled by car.
My parents: traveled by plane.

His parents: have visited New England a handful of times.
My parents: first time visitors.

His parents: came to spoil the young'uns bearing gifts.
My parents: came to spoil the young'uns bearing gifts. Yeah, it's a grandparent thing.




One of the most fulfilling things of my life has been watching my children interact with their grandparents. Indy gets toted around wherever she pleases and is smothered with kisses along the way, while her older brother gets playfully tussled and teased until his belly aches with laughter. I stand there as a spectator, watching them react to each other; bashfulness and caution quickly turns into explosive acts of love. Their wrinkled smiles--both young and old--are exchanged, followed by an outbreak of tickles. The heart in my chest swells and grows and if the moment is right, my eyes get a bit misty.

If time could only slow down, it would've been last month. If time could rewind, it would be now. As much as I have loved living in some pretty incredible places, the fact that we live so far from our extended families can be such a drag. We miss out on family vacations, birthdays, graduations, baptisms, dance recitals, basketball and football games, and all types of events that bring us together. But because we are family, we still belong and our ties are strengthened and bound with love. A family is forever and I'll take whatever I can get with the time we have now.

Thank heavens for Skype.