New Year’s Dissolutions


At the time of this posting, it is T minus 7.5 hours until the start of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar.  At exactly midnight, we ring in the year 2016.  Most of us do this with great fanfare, some of us stay comfortable at home in pajamas with a champagne toast as the clock chimes, and others of us sleep right through the event.  I have done all of these – I even wore a tiara last year because I had never done so before, and in case you don’t know, they are uncomfortable.  This year I am shooting down the middle again, watching the year change from the comfort of my sofa across a coffee table laden with snacks and a few holiday gifts that I have yet to put away because:

  1. Seeing them makes it feel like the holidays are still ongoing;
  2. They remind me of the thoughtfulness of others;
  3. I have lost my ability to worry about tucking everything neatly into an assigned drawer, closet, shelf or box;
  4. All of the above.

While it is customary to make New Year’s resolutions to create new habits, reform unhealthy patterns, and achieve goals, for me this year is officially about what I can live without, and I bet there is a lot more I can (and probably will) live without than even I have considered, material and otherwise.  Granted, there are some physical things we all need in the best of possible worlds: a good roof over our heads, nutritious food and clean water, climate-appropriate clothing, the essential tools for good hygiene, and a sound mode of transportation to get to and from a job that hopefully allows us to afford these things and still have something left over.  That said, it’s also good to look at giving up that which does not serve us.

Dissolution of material items:  Give it away, give it away, give it away now. 

Several years ago, I signed up with Freecycle, an awesome (in the literal sense of the word) global grassroots initiative with almost 10 million members.  Have something you want to get rid of?  Join a Freecycle group in your area to give (or get!) items for free to (or from) people near you simply by entering a description of the item and how you would like people to contact you.  I have given away overgrown aloe plants the size of my torso; piles of books, CDs, and movies; golf clubs (apologies to my golf pro brother-in-law); and even a piano.  Maybe these items were polished up and sold, to which I say, “Great!” if others had the inclination or ability to do something I didn’t.  Beyond this, lots of nonprofit organizations accept gently-used items to sell and invest the proceeds in their cause.  This year, our local SPCA and another national charity have been our go-to organizations.  Find one or more that are meaningful to you.

In other realms (I can’t tell if this is emotional or psychological, but I think it’s both):  Don’t harsh my mellow, man.

It might be time to dissolve my perhaps utopian notion that we all do our best to play fair in the sandbox.  It’s really a shame to let this one go, and it’s a serious downer, but not everyone has our best interests at heart all the time.  There are people who, through whatever internal mechanisms of their own, take strides to injure happiness, undermine security, or damage important relationships, including but not limited to our relationships with ourselves.  Here’s my motto:  You don’t have to love me, you don’t even have to like me, but I would appreciate your mutual respect for the position I hold in whatever capacity you know me.  I will do my best to meet you somewhere in the middle, but if you treat any part of myself like a piñata, I am prepared to move on with or without you.  Maybe that’s the desired outcome anyway, and if so, I sincerely hope we are all the better for the change.

In the grand scheme of things:  Wash it all away.

Thank you to President Obama for signing the ban on microbeads, making products that contain them illegal in the United States!  Huzzah!  Microbeads are a manufactured hazard to aquatic life that, I think I can safely say on behalf of everyone, we can live without.  The centuries old washcloth (not an actual centuries-old washcloth, I am speaking generically of the product) does the same thing without hurting a soul.  Please pass the soap!

In keeping with washing up and washing out, I hereby dismount my soapbox to prepare for festivities.  Life is complex; don’t overthink it.  It’s been my joy to share this new blog with you, thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!  Catch you on the flip side of the calendar page.



A Visit from…St. Nicholas?

Xmas village Bumbles
Even the most abominable creations have their merit.

With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore…  

‘Twas the week before Winter, and Christmas Day too

And I worked on a blog post, to try something new;

No hosiery, dress code, nor office attire,

For transmitting thoughts over ether and wire;

My husband was nestled asleep in our bed;

While phrases and verses did vie in my head;

The hour struck midnight, I’d hoped to be done,

As my goal was to wrap up this poem by one.

No editor here to revise or improve this,

Confuse not devotion with artistic smoothness.

By monitor light my mind spun like a top,

To quell writer’s block for I disdained to stop.

The glow from the terminal monitor screen,

And the blueness of pixels were almost obscene,

When what from my key striking fingers emerged,

But ideas coalesced in a creative surge,

With a Muse who descended, crowned myrtle and rose,

By piping her flute, thus Euterpe composed.

More rapid than broadband, ideas they came,

Create groupings and tags, on the byline my name:

Compose it!  Post pictures!  Now preview and publish!

Upload it!  It’s sending!  Connection is sluggish!

To the internet swift! To the internet take!

Now blog away! Blog away! Make no mistake!

But words can before one’s eyes lose their traction,

And out to the world fly, fragmented and fractioned;

I pulled back from the web my unpolished work

Success was diminished, I felt like a jerk –

And then, with an inkling, I knew in my pate,

That now was the time to improve on this slate.

As I sucked in my breath, and rended my hair,

Beatific Euterpe was still standing there,

In her resplendent vestment, her swathe how it flowed

She leaned in and she winked, and keyed airs I’d not known;

A bundle of words did slip soft from her drape,

Wafted in through my mind and the poem took shape.

Her eyes—how they twinkled! Her music, how merry!

Her cheeks flushed like roses from vocabulary!

Her features then sharpened, my pulse skipped a beat,

Anapestic tetrameter’s a bitch to complete.

She raised up her flute from the crook of her arm,

This gesture dispelling the fog with its charm;

The gentle notes floated from over my shoulder

The verses flowed on, and the measure grew bolder.

Oh her presence was grand, statuesque she inspired,

Silver flute flashing brightly, with success we’d conspired;

And giving a nod, she was gone on a whim

The notes of her flute fading distant and dim;

She never did speak but she finished this rhyme,

I posted this blog, it submitted on time,

Divine inspiration has brought this to be,

This confabulation has rarefied me,

I’m now off to bed, and I thank you for reading,

I desire to dream for aesthetic reseeding.

And I say to you all, ere I log off tonight –

“Merry Christmas to all, may your Solstice be bright!”









Truth in Advertising

The Pleiades.  Photo credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech.

With the holidays looming large, commercials abound, and with the Super Bowl two months away, they only stand to get better.  A former advertising major, I often ponder the taglines of products.  While Keebler cookies might be considered uncommonly good, they aren’t baked by real elves; I never took the time to separate out the raisins in Kellogg’s Raisin Bran to count whether there are in fact two scoops, whatever that measure amounts to; and I have never conducted a randomized controlled double-blind study to confirm whether my choice of laundry detergent is providing me with the whitest whites.  However, I have come to the conclusion that it’s true what they say about Subaru cars:  Love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru.

A lot of people probably feel about their cars the way I do mine, so this sentiment may not be unique to Subaru, but I’m rolling with it because it strikes a deeply personal chord.  My Subaru Legacy carried me safely inside its cabin in fine weather and bad, over winding rural roads and unending highways, for nearly a dozen years.  I made three interstate moves with beloved animal companions riding shotgun, landed three major jobs, and my husband drove it to several interviews during the winter of 2010-2011 through snow and ice, over mountains, and across state lines.  I had insisted he take it because I wanted him to return safely, and I knew my Subaru would do it’s part.

It escorted us on our first date, to and from the restaurant where he proposed on bended knee, and to the Stowe resort where we were married.  During the intervening years, it was the repository of, among other things, the score card from our first miniature golf game (I won!), and a map he drew for me when I needed to drive to an unfamiliar town to meet a friend and didn’t have a GPS.

It chugged through multiple Vermont mud seasons like a locomotive, and only the New Hampshire license plate crinkled when I skidded headlong into a snow bank because I had braked too late on the ice to execute my turn.  I was in a snit over something so insignificant I can’t even recall what it was; the bumper made such a satisfying “piff” when it nosed into the snow, I broke into laughter and forgot about my irritation.  It seldom pays to let petty annoyances get the better of us, and laughter can cure an awful lot.

I learned how my chronic lateness affected others when I pulled into a park to meet a friend for a snowshoeing date and she wasn’t there yet.  I thought she was late, but it turned out she had told me to meet her at 10:15, figuring I wouldn’t arrive until 10:30, which was the time she really wanted to start.  I often quipped that I was born late and have been late ever since, but my predisposition to tardiness has been replaced with respect for other people’s time.

When my friend Ann cancelled group dinner plans one afternoon due to a dilemma involving 11 Rhode Island Reds, I asked for a little time, found homes for all of them in a single afternoon, and then ran to my Subaru like it was a trusty steed waiting at the post.  Ann met me at the barn with goggles, gloves, and a chicken transport crate she borrowed from a farmer down the road, and together we caught six of the chickens.  I drove them to a parking lot in Woodstock, VT where I connected with a veterinarian who had agreed to let them live out their days on her farm.  A day later, my husband helped us capture the remaining 5, then we drove through a whiteout blizzard to deliver them to their swanky new coop in Plainfield, VT where they shacked up with a fancy black and white speckled chicken named Lucky.

Photo credit  Someday I will the find the box in which the actual chicken rehoming photos are packed.

We drove home with our youngest rescued parrot clinging to the front of his new carrier in the backseat, his face pressed against the bars to peer across the console at us.  Our much loved cat Nebraska took her last ride to the vet in this car, her failing body cradled in my husband’s lap, and I made the sad drive home with her cremated remains in a small wooden box on my lap.  Eight and a half months later, we spontaneously drove to an animal shelter where we found our Maine Coon cat Acadia, who seemed to have been waiting for us since the day she was surrendered.  The following year, I drove my mom to a different animal shelter where, at my ailing dad’s request, we adopted their Maine Coon, Coco.

Three years later, I cried as I drove to my parents’ house after my mom called to tell me that my dad had just died.  I had been thinking of them when I bought this car, because all of the seats are easy to get in and out of.  Some weeks later, with a purposeful mind and heavy heart, I packed the car and trunk with household and garden chemicals my very industrious dad had used to maintain home, cars and lawn.  It took four trips to three different county drop-offs to ensure the chemicals would be handled correctly, because I wanted to honor my dad’s hard work by doing the right thing.

My car carries meaning like a passenger, and this has over the years led me to meditate on the very name Subaru.  In Greek myth, Atlas (the Titan embodiment of endurance) and Pleione (protectress of sailing) married and had seven daughters, who, long story short, Zeus turned into the seven stars that form the constellation known as the Pleiades.  Two of the stars appear so close together that the naked eye perceives only six stars, but they are all there, the constellation a symbol of family and of unity.  “Subaru” is the Japanese name for this constellation.

So when I watched my Subaru drive away, a new owner at the wheel, I realized what a time capsule of my life it had become.  Within its silver panels are memories mundane, sorrowful, and joyful, each one poignant for a different reason, touching on all manner of lives and traversing the stages of my existence with impressive traction.  Change can be scary, but I think it’s easier when we choose change, maybe because doing so creates for us the illusion of control, and that helps us accept responsibility for our lives.  Here’s to those who journey with us, and the vessels in which we travel the time-space continuum, where the visible past recedes in the rear view as we propel ourselves ever forward.  There will always be dips, bends and potholes that surprise us, but to paraphrase the Irish proverb, may the road rise up to meet us.  Steer true and enjoy this serendipitous ride, my friends.





Mistaken Identities

Walking into a shopping mall department store alone with one thing on my mind (miniature Italian bittersweet chocolate bars at Lindt), I was mildly distracted from my mission by the sound of a man’s voice rising above the din.  I glanced casually toward him while weaving through people and racks of clothing; he was young with a slight build and dark hair, one arm waving frantically overhead as he careened through the crowded store in my direction.  I hastened my already brisk pace to get out of his way, but his voice grew louder instead of distant.  His course had shifted with mine, and he surged toward me, calling, “Wait!  Wait!”

I stopped, in case I might be the one millionth customer to enter the store that day, or possibly my belt loop had hooked a high-security item that I was unwittingly dragging toward the exit into the mall (seriously, these were my thoughts at the time).  He loomed out of the garments on my left, placing a hand on my arm.

Jekyll Hyde
Photo credit

He started to gush something enthusiastically, but stopped abruptly, his face morphing from joy to puzzlement and settling into shock.  “Oh my god, you’re not Caroline!”  He released my arm and recoiled, apologizing profusely, but then lingered to gaze into my face with wonderment.  “It’s uncanny, you look exactly like my friend Caroline, even now that I know you’re not her…” he said, shaking his head as he retreated back into the garment racks.

This happens to me with surprising frequency.  I’m not always accosted, but I have been mistaken for various people’s cousin, daughter, niece, colleague, and on one really fun excursion in Chicago, a barista stared me down because he was sure I was Julie Delpy (I should be so lucky) until I placed my order in a clearly American voice.  In every case, I was well met by the strangers, each wanting to share something or extend a kindness toward me.  It’s strange being a doppelgänger, and I’ve never worked out a way to use my commonly arranged features to my advantage.  I can be understanding of the situations, though, having made similar errors in recognition, just not with people.

For example, one rainy fall night, driving home from a 14-hour work day, my eyes scanned the roadsides as they always do for dark forms that might leap out in front of my car.  As I rounded the corner onto my street, my headlights glaring off of the slick pavement, the silhouette of a small animal emerged from the right side of the road and scampered across my headlights.  I had seen two kittens recently but hadn’t been able to catch them for safe keeping, and I knew the temperatures were going to plunge that night.  I braked and looked around for the other kitten.

When the animal stopped and turned its head to look back, I opened my car door to call to it, but it trotted further up the street away from me.  That is an ugly kitten if such a thing is even possible, I thought to myself, and it’s weird the way it scurries on those long legs.  The ears were disproportionately large and the face was broad across the cheeks, but I attributed these features to water-drenched fur.  The poor thing!  It was cold and I had to catch it before it froze to death or something ate it.  I got back into my car and rolled a few house lengths to turn into my driveway, and as I did, the kitten darted across my headlights again, back to the other side of the road and down the hill into the next door neighbor’s front yard.  Perfect!  I could lure it close, scoop it up in my arms, and carry it inside for warmth.

I parked my car in the driveway, slowly opened the door, and softly called to it while it studied me guardedly from the deep shadow of the neighbor’s house.  I crouched down in my suit and heels, extending a hand toward it, making the classic “here kitty” call, which for the uninitiated sounds like, “Spss spss spss.”  The kitten started toward me, picking up speed until it was in a dead run directly for me.  It was about that time I realized that this was, in fact, not a kitten, and I catapulted to my feet as I vocalized the comprehension with an involuntary expletive.  My back was against my car and I didn’t know which way to move, but the animal made a split second 90-degree turn before coming into the porch light, paws kicking out behind it, and disappeared into the woods behind my house.

I went inside, breathless and bewildered, and recounted to my husband what had just happened.  My stepson walked into the room just as I was describing the animal, and they agreed it sounded like I had tried to bring a coyote pup into the house.  I had never seen a coyote, but I was sure they were mistaken until a few days later when someone at work circulated an email cautioning everyone to be attentive while hiking with unleashed dogs because a large coyote was seen with pups along a hiking trail in nearby woods.  These are the same woods that extended to my home.  A quick Google search offered photographs that supported my family’s assertion that I was the mistaken one.

Coyote pup
Photo credit –  Ugly kitten or cute coyote pup?  My judgment is faulty.  You decide.  

There are far worse cases of mistaken identity, and I’m lucky to have not been hurt in mine.  For the most part, the experiences turned into humorous circumstances for everyone, the only possible exception being the coyote event.  I will never know if it thought I was offering food from my hand or my hand for food, but while I am charitable, I have to draw the line somewhere and this is as good a place as any while I still have two hands with which to do it.

Until we meet again, be generous and kind, use caution around strangers, and keep your hands inside your vehicle at all times.  Unless, of course, you see a legitimately stray animal in need of a figurative hand, or can call a local wildlife rehabilitator for wild animals in need of help.