I love a parade….

 

It’s Memorial Day. Parades are a quintessential part of the day.

As a kid here in my hometown, the parade was a family outing. We would all go up to City Hall and watch as the bands came marching by. The parade always wound itself into the cemetery where it would stop at the veterans memorial to pay homage to those that sacrificed their lives for this country. A lone bugler off in the distance would play Taps. It was always a somber moment. In those days, we were treated to the Marine Corps band, straight from Quantico Virginia. They were so impressive. So sharp in their dress uniforms, crisp creases, perfectly straight hats, movements that were completely in sync. There were the usual array of elected officials, the local Judge (and former Mayor) was always among the marchers. There were large groups of veterans from the various wars and columns of police officers and fire fighters. Even the school crossing guard ladies marched! And then came the kids….Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Brownies. The local high school band marched with the mascot Tiger leading the way. There were mounted police and trick horses. The various Elks, Moose, Masons and other assorted groups marched. And Little League kids as far as you could see, followed closely by the dancing school girls. And then came the cars…the fancy ones, the old ones, the ones carrying the Gold Star mothers and the Grand Marshall…always a local hero.

Along the way peddlers pulled their carts carrying balloons, horns and every toy that lit up and sparkled. Children rushed to the cart to buy their favorite items. And of course a balloon would get free and float to the sky leaving a very sad child behind. The ice cream man came along and rocket pops, ice cream sandwiches, creamsicles and fudgsicles were on the menu. Always so hard to make a choice! It was Americana at it’s best.

Today I went to the local parade with my bff T. And for sure none of this parade harkened me back to “the old days”. Sure, the Police Honor Guard led the parade, of course following the float with the giant bell that signals the parade is coming. And then it all went wrong. There were the local officials, the Mayor wearing red and glad handing as she went along. The bands….it’s hard to call them that. There were musicians walking in small groups, no real uniforms, nothing crisp and in sync. There were a few dancing kids and a small contingent of scouts and ligerbot teams. There were LOTS of big trucks that seemed to have no real purpose. There was a float for the late Stan Lee….we are still trying to figure that out. Notably missing was the Fire Dept Honor Guard and some shiny new fire trucks. There were some minutemen (and women) and a few horses. There were some go carts driven by kids wearing red, white and blue pajamas (that’s what they looked like).  There was a stilt walker and Pat Patriot and some unicycle riders….and tow trucks and landscape companies with beds full of mulch and fake gardens planted. And then there was the fruit and vegetable band. I mean really, what’s a parade with out a carrot, a banana and a pepper?

And then it was over. And we left wondering how it came to this point that our local parade is a shadow of it’s former self? The day is all about honoring those that fought and died for our freedom. And today, I barely saw a veteran at all. But I will return to this parade next year because after all…”I love a parade”!

A leap of faith…

There comes a point in life where no matter who you are, what you do, where you live or what your circumstances are, you should pamper yourself once in awhile.

I’m not big on the mani/pedi thing, and massages are ok but not really my thing. But for a long time, I’ve wanted to have a housecleaner. It’s not that I can’t do it because I can and I do and I have for my whole life. But really, who wouldn’t like someone to come in and do it all for you? My problem is (was!) finding someone who was responsible, reasonably priced and most of all, was trustworthy to be in my home. Quite a list to fulfill!

I have a habit of investigating and reviewing and researching things so deeply that I end up not ever being able to make a decision. So I do nothing and continue to clean. But then something happened….

My friend T was walking along a busy street when a woman approached her and handed her a business card. They had a conversation. It went well. They went on their way. And then T told me about it and so we decided to dig a little and see what we could find out about this woman….we will call her S. Suffice it to say we were able to find that S was actually quite impressive and seemed to be the real deal. So I took a chance…and emailed her with my information and a little about what I was looking for. She called me the next day and all I can say is WOW. She was so impressive just over the phone! We agreed to meet at my house so she could give me a quote on a deep clean of my apartment. We spent over half an hour just chatting (mostly her) and I learned that S was a very motivated young woman. She came from an immigrant family and was sent on scholarship to a very swanky girls school in the “burbs. She went on to college, receiving 7 full scholarships and ultimately graduated with 3 degrees. This girl is no slouch! So why is she cleaning homes and businesses? Because it’s the family business and she wants to show her parents how she can grow the business. And mostly, it’s what makes her happy. So a young woman who could write her own ticket to any corporate job chose her family and her happiness over a life in an office. That impresses me.

So we agreed on a price and a day and I put my trust in this young woman to be in my home, the place that means the most to me and is my sanctuary. S and her worker A arrived as scheduled and I went to work, excited about what my house would look like when they were done. I was absolutely not disappointed! I walked into my home and the first thing I noticed was the GLEAMING hard wood floors. Every surface was clean and shiny. Furniture was moved, cleaned under, polished and put back. The oven….appears brand new! The bathroom shined. And the cute fold on the towels and the Kleenex roses were an added touch! S and A surpassed my wildest dreams about how cool it would be to have someone come and deep clean my house.

I have since recommended S to several friends and co-workers. I hope they take her on as I know they will not be disappointed. And I am glad I took that leap of faith and allowed a stranger into my home for the sole purpose of pampering myself. Sometimes you just have to take that leap….

 

In the wee small hours…

For nigh on 25 years, I worked while everyone else slept. Working the overnight shift is a challenge all on it’s own. It takes a toll on your body, your brain, your relationships. The human body is not meant to be awake in the nighttime. But there are many who rise in the nighttime and live lives others can only guess about.

Many times over those 25 or so years, I would take a break and go for a ride. This was mostly to get fresh air and a change of scenery…not to mention being able to get away from the job, even for 15 minutes. I would get in my car and drive around. What always fascinated me was seeing lights on in homes at the hour when most should be sleeping. I’m not talking about lights on at midnight, or 5 am. That’s pretty normal. I’m talking about the 3am to 4am hours….the wee small hours of the morning.

Twice this week I have been out during those wee small hours. I see lights on in a home and wonder….what are they doing? Is there a baby that needs feeding? Is someone sick? Are you reading a good book that you just can’t put down? Does a person live alone in this big old house and finds comfort by leaving a light on all night? Does a blind person live there and have no concept of time? Of course I can never know what the answer is to why someone is up at that hour. But it is fun to guess!

What are you doing up at that hour?

Adulting

Not to be confused with adultery….

A few weeks ago, I heard from a friend that a mutual friend had passed away “suddenly” at her home in California. She had not been seen in a few days and the Police responded, gained entry into the home and found her dead. She lived alone and had become somewhat of a hoarder and a recluse. Very sad.

My friend MC called me, hoping I could use some magic to try and find some information on next of kin. LC (the deceased) was not particularly close to her family and nobody in her small circle of friends had any clue on how to locate contact information. LC’s phone was locked and nobody knew the passcode to get into it. It was only through a few calls to some other friends that out friend RV was able to figure out the code….he’s a numbers kind of guy and knew LC well. So notifications to family were made and now the struggle to determine what to do next began. Was there a will? Was there an executor? At some point it was thought that MC was the executor but nobody knew for sure. One of the friends was able to get into the home but the hoarding issue makes finding important paperwork very difficult. So a larger group of friends will be flying west in another week with the purpose of finding the necessary documents, cleaning up the house, arranging for any repairs to be made and then placing the home up for sale. Quite a daunting task lies ahead for this group…which may or may not include an actual family member.

So all of this left me thinking about my mortality. I know that just a few short weeks ago I commented on turning 60…and having no desire to be dead at this point in my life. But what has happened to LC has been a huge wake up call. Would anyone know the passcode to my phone? Would they know who to call? Would they find any paperwork in my house that would indicate how I wanted my “affairs” to be handled? The answer is likely no to most of these questions. So what did I need to do to make sure I don’t leave this mess behind should I die “suddenly”?

On top of not having a plan in place, I also had been less than efficient on dealing with my financial matters. No, I am not in debt (other than the normal kind) and I don’t have an “estate” to leave behind. But I do want to retire (soon!) and need to make sure that my lack of attention to this has not been so bad that I’m doomed to the poor house. On the advice of a trusted co-worker, I went to see a financial advisor. The bad news? I have made some mistakes. The good news? It’s not as bad as I had imagined and in fact, can be corrected to the point that I will not end up in the poor house. Phew!

I don’t have a will but I will when the will man writes the will for me. God willing! So what to do with the things I have and the small amount of money I will leave behind some day? Without getting into specifics, I am making sure that my wishes are clearly defined and are easily located. I do not want to waste any money on buying a cemetery plot, a casket, a wake and funeral. Please, just cook me to oblivion, gather the ashes, drive to Maine, rent a boat and go out in Penobscot Bay, preferably near Pumpkin Island and drop my ashes into the sea. It’s where I belong.

And lastly….when I write my obituary to be published upon my death…it will simply say:

“Remember me is all I ask, but if remembrance be a task…forget”

That’s what adulting is all about.

 

 

whis·per·er

“a person skilled in taming or training a specified kind of animal, typically using body language and gentle vocal encouragement rather than physical contact.”

“They” call me the Deer Whisperer…ok, maybe I just call myself that but whatever…

I have developed an interesting fascination with deer. They are really quite beautiful. I think they are very elusive also. I imagine that’s due to being shy…or being hunted. I don’t hunt them with weapons, I hunt them with my eyes and my camera. I have no issue with hunting animals for sport as long as the kill is used for food and not for trophies. I eat deer, and I like it. I’m not sure that I could pull the trigger and kill one but since I’ve never tried, I guess I don’t know what I’d do. I know that I don’t need to kill one so I won’t.

Deer are plentiful in these parts. In past years, I have seen them on occasion as I drive through some of the areas of Lincoln and Concord that I frequent. Sightings have increased over the years as the herds have grown and civilization has encroached on their habitat. They are less afraid of us as we have become part of their space.

This past December, I was in Concord and saw two different herds of deer in fields just off the road near some farm land. It was late afternoon and the 5-6 deer in each group were in the fields eating the grasses they find there. It was so cool. I had not seen that many deer at one time before. So I went back to the same area a few days later to see if they were there….and they were not. Why? Where were they?

So I did some research and found that they weren’t there the second time because it was the wrong time of day. Deer are likely to come out into the fields just after dawn and just before sunset. So, basically breakfast and dinner. Deer tend to be more active at night and will sleep during the day, taking short naps in the sun to keep warm. When it snows, deer tend to seek cover under pine trees. They move into the wind to try and stay warm and avoid predators. They don’t have “dens”, they just sleep in areas with good cover and sleep in short naps, always aware of their surroundings. Deer can sleep with their eyes open or closed. It is unlikely you will ever walk up upon a sleeping deer…they know you are there and will dart off in the blink of your eye!

So I started going back to the fields where I first saw these herds at the times I thought they might be there….and I was right! On several occasions, I found the deer in the fields, keeping a watchful eye all around as they nibbled on the grasses. I noticed that the herd was never far away from the tree line and that if spooked, they could bolt into the woods in a matter of a few seconds. An excellent survival skill. One day I just stood by my car, camera in hand and watched them as they ate. They often lifted their heads, looked around and went back to munching. I was about 100 yards or so away from them…a safe distance for them and me. Clearly I did not threaten them as they often looked up in my direction but stayed in the field. They knew I was not there to hurt them. On this one day, I watched them for about half an hour. I was just off to the side of the road and afternoon traffic whizzed by, not bothering the deer. I wondered if the people in the cars even saw the deer. You had to look closely sometimes because the deer blended in very well with the brush at the edge of the woodlands behind them. Mother Nature was pretty smart when she designed these dainty little creatures. I say “dainty” as I have yet to see a full grown buck…but I know I will and I can’t wait!

I have more research to do but for now, I just want to enjoy watching these animals. I have found several different locations in the area where deer seem to be plentiful. So I go to these areas and they come out of the woods to feed. I keep a distance away and they seem to tolerate me. We have an understanding…

 

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Sixty

Sixty….the number of seconds in a minute.

Sixty….the number of minutes in an hour.

Sixty….the number of years ago I was born.

Sixty is a monument birthday, one to either be celebrated or feared, or maybe both! I choose to celebrate these monument birthdays. Every year I live gives me experiences beyond my imagination. Some of them are simple and others are far more complex.

Turning 10 was kinda cool. A double-digit first. Life was far more simple and carefree. Turning 20 was fraught with some angst. Too young to legally drink, too old for the shenanigans of my teen years. Turning 30 defined for me the life path I would take. I had chosen a career of public service by the time I turned 30. The 30’s were the years I thought I’d meet the man of my dreams and get married, have a kid or two, have a nice home…all the things “normal” people do. I’m not normal. Turning 40 happened and the idea of the family life was slipping away. Some things are just not meant to be. And then came 50. That’s a big one! Half way to 100….if you really want to live that long. But 50 was more a time of reflection. Had I done okay with my life? Was I a productive member of society? Where did I go from here? But 50 was also a number that haunted me….

My father died when he was 50. I could not fathom my life being over at 50. I thought (and still do think) of ALL the things he missed by dying at 50. He missed his first grandchild….and the ones that came after. He missed the Red Sox actually winning the World Series. He missed the election of the first African-American President of the United States. He missed the birth of his first great-grandchild. Dying at 50 meant he missed so much. I did not want to die at 50.

So I went on and here I am at 60. Some days I feel every one of those 60 years. Other days I still feel the carefree spirit of the 10-year-old. I’ve seen the Red Sox win the World Series not just once but 4 times! And The Patriots….now 6 time Super Bowl Champions! I still have no kids but I have a niece that is like a daughter and her son, my great-nephew, is as close to a grandchild as I will ever have. I continue down the path of public service and still find thrills in the job even after all these years. I have found a profound love of nature and creatures. And the sea calls to me in ways I never thought possible. I find great pleasure in simple things, a good book, a beautiful spring day, watching my garden grow, and any time I can be in or on the water. I don’t know what this decade will bring for me, but I am happy to be here to find out.

Sixty. It’s just a number.

 

Hot Chocolate

It’s a lovely but cold January day and I just got back from taking a 2 mile walk along the Codman fields in Lincoln. There is something special about these fields. In the summer, hay grows and the farm cuts it and stores it for the winter. Freshly mowed hay has the most amazing fragrance….sweet and sunny. Yes, sunny does have a fragrance, at least to me. In the spring, one section of the fields is home to the egg laying chickens. Gladys and the girls are very busy all day, running from under one coop to the next and back again. There is a flow to what the girls do….I just have yet to figure out why they do it! Among the egg layers are the chickens that are destined to a terrible fate….if you are a chicken you’d agree with me on this one. I try not to think of that and just know that the life they have had in the fields has been good. Gladys and her friends spend the summer and into the fall in the field, moving from one section to the next, eating the clover and making delicious eggs. They are good girls and field dog Andy keep them safe by keeping the foxes and coyotes out of the pastures.

Across the road, in a far corner of the field are the turkeys. Not the wild ones, the farm raised for only one purpose turkeys. They are tucked away in an area where they are less likely to be observed. This is probably good because we know what fate awaits them in the fall. I would not want to get to chummy with them because any friendship we might make will be short lived. Toby the field dog keeps an eye on them.

Andy and Toby are Anatolian Shepherds that are meant for this kind of work. They are big but seem to be quite docile, laying in the grass, chewing on big old frozen dog bones and enjoying the goings on in the coops. But I imagine that if you are a fox, Toby and Andy are all business. Good boys.

In one field, there is a small but fun herd of Red Devon cattle. This is where I first met my little friend Curly. This small herd whiles away the day, eating grass, fertilizing grass, and spending every second of every minute trying to swat flies away from their bodies. It creeps me out since I dislike flying bugs immensely. But the cattle appear used to it. On more than once occasion, Curly managed to get out of the enclosure and wandered freely along the edge of the field. But he always went back because he was smart enough to know where Mom was. In the fall, the cattle are moved back to the main farm where they spend the winter with the rest of the herd in the high pasture.

And then there are the Llamas. They have their very own big fenced in field with a Llama barn and all the things Llamas need, whatever that is. I don’t spend much time with them, they are not so friendly. Maybe if I did spend more time, they’d warm up to me. Maybe this year….

So today I walked along these fields and aside from the Llamas, the fields are empty. Gladys and Curly are back on the main farm and the turkeys…..well, we all know what happened to them. But as I walked along, the sun was shining brightly and the smell of the freshly cut hay still lingers in the air. It is why I walk along these fields so I can bring back the feeling of warmer days where life on the farm seems so carefree.

So what about hot chocolate? It really has nothing to do with anything other than I made myself a cup when I got home to help warm me from my travels.