The Chrismas List. Not.

The Hammacher Schlemmer catalog came in the mail today. If you’re like me, you  thought, “The what…?” I’d never hear of it. Dave was impressed and sat down to cruise the pages.

The kicker headline on the cover indicates it is  “America’s Longest Running Catalog” and it boasts “Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 169 Years.” I love initial caps in headlines. Actually, I don’t.

Anyway, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog is filled with lot of bests and onlys and mosts and superiors, all things my life is lacking. I don’t have:

  • The Worlds’ Largest Pac-Man
  • The Only Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator
  • The Best Nose Hair Trimmer (or Best Cordless Hand Vacuum)
  • The World’s Best Prelit Noble Fir (Or Best Fraser Fir or Best Dual Light Concolor Fir or Best Douglas Fir)
  • The Only Heated LED Travel Pillow
  • The Best Heated Throw (or Best Bluetooth Shower Speaker)
  • The Most Efficient Fireplace Grate
  • The Best Photo Converter (or Best Digital Camera Binoculars)
  • The Superior Comfort Bed Lounger
  • The Best Tree Stand (or Best Emergency Radio or Best Gentleman’s Foil Shaver or Best Pocket Radio)
  • The Forever Sharp French Chef’s Knife
  • The Better Generic Ancestry Profile
  • The Best Projection Clock (or Best Genuine Turkish Towels)
  • The Better Outdoor Furniture Covers
  • The Best Heated Vest (or Best Digital Tire Gauge)
  • The World’s Smallest Automatic Umbrella
  • The Best Heated Blanket (Or Best Heated Car Seat)
  • The Total Body Support Pillow
  • The Superior Grout Scrubber (or Superior Beard and Mustache Trimmer)
  • The Best Bug Killer (or Best Multi Handset Cordless Telephone or Best 1,000 AMP Jump Starter)

One thing is intriguing, The Warmest Steering Wheel Cover. It’s $119.95. I’ll wear gloves.

Wait. Free shipping on orders over $99.

Lemme know if you want to borrow my copy. Or you can shop online at hammacher.com.

Hammacher Schlemmer Lifetime Guarantee. Unconditional and Unwavering.

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A ramble for a 12-year old

When I walked into the house last night, there was chatter on the police scanner. The police dispatcher instructed an officer to respond to a local condominium complex and speak to a man who had called to help settle an issue with his 12-year old daughter.

What could possibly be the issue between the two that he had to call the police for assistance?

Wait. Don’t reply with your thoughts just yet.

I was born in 1953 and raised by two people who liked each other. The “like” is crucial to my story. Sometimes we love another because we are supposed to (like crusty uncles). Sometimes it’s more important to “like”.

My parents were each other’s best friends. They were thoughtful and considerate to one another. They didn’t fight. They disagreed but did so respectfully. They laughed with one another. If one went to the kitchen for a refill of beverage or snack, they asked the other. “Can I get you anything?” When my dad walked through the room he’d touch my mother on her shoulder. I saw these gestures and heard the language and thought every kid grew up in the same kind of home.

I grew up innocent. I was a sophomore in high school before I understood sex and conception. I drank once at a gathering and was so horrified I’d been peer-pressured into doing something I knew was wrong that I confessed the sin as soon as my parents were on their feet the next morning.

As much as I longed to be, I wasn’t one of the cool kids in high school. I wasn’t part of the clique, wasn’t invited to the cool parties. There is a photo in my yearbook of the popular girls draped across one another on the steps of the Wakefield Police Station. I hated them for being so pretty and popular, so tight with one another and such good friends. I wanted to be one of them and was devastated to feel that they probably didn’t know my name.

I don’t remember the Vietnam War protests. I didn’t hang with people who smoked pot. I was so naïve.

What I didn’t know was that I was blessed more than many.  I was encouraged and treasured. I was challenged in healthy ways to grow and find my voice, and once found, to use it. I was allowed to fail and regain my feet based on my abilities. My accomplishments were celebrated. My personal goal was the never hear my father say that my actions (or lack thereof) disappointed him.

I met a great guy and wanted nothing more than to marry him. I could not wait to live the life my mother and father lived—because that’s the way everyone lived, right?

The last 40-plus years have been an interesting journey. Our marriage has hit some bumps (whose hasn’t?) but we worked through them. We never gave up on each other or on ourselves.

I co-raised a strong, confident child. She was more savvy than I’d been, smarter to the ways of the world at every age. She was kind and she made me proud. I’d have done anything for her.

She hated high school gym classes and I wrote her “get out of class” passes so often that when she was a senior, graduation was threatened because she hadn’t taken the minimum required classes (she caught up). She hated riding the bus so I drove her to school every morning (and she was late nearly every day).

When she was in college she fussed about having to write a paper for a class. I wrote it for her. She needed to take an online management class and asked me whether I’d consider… I took it in her name. I’d have taken the fatal blow for her.

She knew she could come to Dave or me with anything and we’d have helped her find a way to deal with it. She had great people in her life that she could go to if she felt she couldn’t come to us. We talked about that a number of times so I could be sure she knew she had a safety net. She named parents of a few of her friends, her uncle Ted, our church assistance minister Allen. It gave me great comfort to know that she knew she was building her foundation on her own confidence, her own voice and her network of mentors.

I blame my mother (because she is my only living parent) for my sheltered upbringing. I didn’t understand unhappy marriages, parents who couldn’t communicate with one another or nurture their children, people who disrespected one another on the basis of skin color or economic status or the kinds of houses they lived in or the jobs they performed. It has taken me years to wake from my Ward and June blissful state of mind and acknowledge that the world can be a harsh and hateful place.

(Disclaimer: My mother and I have talked about all of this. She knows that, with love and thanks, I blame her and my Dad for my rose-colored glasses view.)

What is the point of my ramble? I’m not sure but I offer a challenge. Do something to improve a corner of your world. Speak a kind word. Ask to forgive. Accept an apology. Offer your hand. Encourage someone. Smile at a stranger and say “Good morning”. Hold a door. Let the other driver go first. Small things become big things. Realize it’s not all about you.

If your reaction is to chastise me or rant a lecture, so be it. I may disagree but I support your right to do so. If you rant, I may just slide on those rosy glasses and opt not to finish reading what you have to say.

I’m good with myself. Can you say that?

I hope you find you have something to offer to someone who deserves your attention. Can you do that?

I will be thinking about that dad and his 12-year old daughter and his shout out to the local police. They need to find the energy to find their way, with each other or without. Hopefully with.

 

 

 

 

Virus-free. www.avg.com

 

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Vacation A to Z

A: Air (sweet, clean, fresh)
B: Beech tree, Birds
C: Cousin, Cronin
D: Dark skies, Dragonflies
E: Early morning
F: Friendship Sloops, Fire pit
G: Glorious
H: Harmonic, Happy (birthday, Ted)
I: Ice cubes
J: July
K: Karma
L: Lobsters. Light house,
M: Maine, Morang; Mexicali Blues, Moody’s
N: Nobleboro
O:  Ocean
P: Porpoise, Port Clyde
Q: Quarry
R: Rockland
S: Sun, Seal (in the harbor)
T: Tenant’s Harbor
U: Unwind
V: Vodka
W: Weather (perfect)
X: Xenial
Y:  Yellow chair
Z: Zinnea

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Wednesday from the Yellow Chair

Thoughts from the yellow chair on the front porch.

The air smells so sweet, I think it’s the hay in the neighboring fields that’s been cut for the dairy cows.

People who drive by with their car stereos playing loud enough for me to hear the music should be shot.

The State of Maine does not require motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Helmets are confining, hot, and not particularly comfortable. Anyone who rides without one is a fool.

The breeze is rustling the leaves in a beach tree next to the shed. I would know that tranquilizing sound anywhere and it’s one of the triggers that makes this place so special for me.

There are multiple conversations going on among the birds in the trees that ring the house and the front and side fields. They chatter, sing, and scold one another in dialects I don’t understand but appreciate for the apparent simple ease at which they entertain me. 1It is as if I’m in the balcony of a grand music hall, listening to an avian opera. The leaves of the beech tree are the gentle applause.

I have not heard a human voice for almost two glorious hours. I wonder if I could spend a week here and never hear a human voice.

I task myself to expend some energy on learning how to be happier with less.

porch.jpg

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When time served equals freedom

Rachelle Bond was sentenced today to time served and probation in the death of her two-year old daughter Bella. The woman’s former boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to death for killing the child.

Rachelle cut a deal to testify against McCarthy and was sentenced for being an accessory after the fact for her role in disposing of her daughter’s body two years ago. The dead child was put into the refrigerator in a trash bag, then, days later, into a duffle that was weighted down and tossed into the ocean. It washed up on a Boston harbor island a month later.

Rachelle’s penalty is time served – less than two years, and probation. She is a former heroin addict. She will be released from jail, likely later this week, when a bed opens in a residential substance abuse treatment facility.

Her attorney told the media:

“[Rachelle] really doesn’t have family. She doesn’t have friends. People are very hostile towards her. She has nothing. She is scared about her future. And regardless of what people think about her involvement or not, she grieves the loss of that child every single day.” (Source: Boston Herald, July 12, 2017).

I have never spent a moment in jail. I am not a heroin addict. I’ve never been subjected to domestic violence. I’m lucky. I have so much and I’m grateful. Perhaps Rachelle would call me “privileged”.

I have never lived with someone who threatened me such that I allowed him to step between me and my child, kill my child and, following her death, held me in such a state that I would help him wrap her up and throw her away like last night’s garbage.

I have family and friends, a good job, health insurance, no mortgage on my home, and a good man in my four-plus decades husband. I don’t live frightened about my future. Rachelle Bond and I are as different from one another as two people might be.

Except that we have each lost a child. My daughter died a few weeks shy of age 26. She lived a life that she filled with friends, great times, personal challenges, ups, downs and experiences that carved her into the fine young woman she became. Her death was shattering and I miss her terribly.

Rachelle’s daughter was two. Bella was beaten and stuffed into a bag and tossed into the ocean like a bag of trash. She didn’t get to go to school and probably hadn’t yet learned how to tie her shoes. She didn’t have a career, likely hadn’t taken a cruise, gone to Aruba or London, played the clarinet, fallen into and out of love a few times, enjoyed a good raw bar, or developed a taste for a nice Riesling, and Marker’s Mark whiskey.

From the moment I heard the news about the discovery of little girl in the bag on the beach, I wondered who missed her, who loved her, who was worried about what had happened to her. Little girls should never end up in bags on beaches—no one should—but please, not children, not beautiful little girls. There was outrage, horror and tremendous sadness when child was found, but not from anyone who knew who she was.

She remained unidentified for almost three months. He mother told people that her daughter had been taken by child protective services and then admitted to a friend that wasn’t true. The friend notified police and the little girl who had been known as Baby Doe finally got her name back.

Now her mother is free, or almost so. Rachelle will feel sun on her face and the wind in her hair. She’ll have a chance, perhaps, to go to Aruba and London, find work that brings her satisfaction, fall in love with a better person than Michael McCarthy, and enjoy a whiskey by a campfire with new friends.

Bella will never do any of those things in our world.

There is a part of me that wants to contact Rachelle’s attorney and tell her that I would like to meet her client. Tell her that as a mother without a daughter, I know how hard it is to grieve the unforgiving loss of a child. I live with that heartbreak in my private hell every single day.

Perhaps Rachelle could tell me about her private hell. Maye she could explain to me how heroin, a bad relationship and poor decisions made it OK to let someone kill her child and then help him cover it up.

Maybe I’d then I’d know why but I doubt I’d ever understand why.

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She didn’t know he was getting married

“I didn’t get you a card!” his mother said.

“It’s OK, Ma, you didn’t know I was getting married”, her son replied.

“Oh, right,” she said.

And so it was. After eight years together, the last three of those years engaged, the couple decided it was time to get married. They considered marrying on the Bermuda cruise they are taking next week but heard horror stories about getting an official marriage license from the cruise line.

Better to just do it here at home. Something quick and simple. Find a Justice and get married at the Bride’s mother’s home.

So it was not only time for a wedding, but time for the Groom’s mother to finally meet the Bride’s mother.  Groom’s mother was invited to lunch, or so she thought.  She arrived to find her son opening the door.

Wait. He’s wearing a suit. With a white rose pinned to his lapel.

“Hi Ma.”

“What are you doing all dressed up? You getting married or something?”

“Yea, Ma. We’re getting married.”

“Be serious.”

“Hey Penny, can you come in here?”

Enter the Justice. The look on Groom’s mother’s face says it all. She looks at her son.

“I didn’t get you a card.”

Mothers greeting one another. Mothers gentlemen companions shaking hands.

Apologies that it was raining and the wedding has to be held in the living room.

Everyone taking their places.

Do you? I do. And do you? I do, too. Rings. A blessing. A kiss.

And it’s done.

Pictures. More pictures.

Champagne.

A lovely repast.  More like a small feast. Take a bigger plate.

A beautiful cake. Bride’s mother admonishes her grandson not to put his fingers in the frosting.  Eye roll.

Mothers, now in-laws because of this marriage, chatting. Making plans for how to tell the rest of the family. When?

Bride plays with the new ring on her finger. She looks at the man, once the boyfriend, then the fiancé, now her husband, and she smiles. You can feel her heart smiling too.

Something quick. Something simple. Something sweet.

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Independence from obligation

My wise friend Victoria nailed it with a post today on her Facebook page:

It is the best when you don’t have to talk to anybody and you don’t have to do anything. You don’t even have to go to the beach and get wet if you don’t want to even if it is a perfect beach day. You don’t have to get in the car. You don’t have to wake up or go to sleep at a certain time. You don’t have to have a meal at any specific time and you don’t have to not have a meal or a snack.

You don’t have to go to a party! Not going to parties is so much better than going to parties.

You don’t have to wash your face or get dressed if you don’t want to but if you want to, you can wear a funny hairdo and a silly dress. You can leave the lights on in the other room or you can turn off all the lights. You’re paying the electric bill and that’s that. You can not do the laundry.

You can do the laundry but not put it away for a week. You can read ten books at one time and leave them everywhere. You do have to take care of the animals but you can also get on the floor with them or the grass and fall asleep in the middle of the day.

Just celebrating days of non-obligation.

I won’t put words in her mouth and tell you that she battles depression. I don’t know that I’d have said that I do, but if I’m being honest with myself, I must say that I do.

It still strikes me how difficult some days can be. This is of them, another holiday that should be filled with laughter, family and friends, good food and beverages of choice. Instead it’s filled with sadness, stinging eyes and a desire to be invisible.

The craving for invisibility becomes stronger as time goes along. That alarms me–I thought the opposite would happen. If I can’t be invisible I’ll take being anonymous.

 

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