Category Archives: Celebrate

Just Clif and Me

For the first time ever, Clif and I will be spending Thanksgiving alone. No children, no friends, just Clif and me. It hardly needs to be said that there will be no going to the cinema to see the beginning of the season’s blockbuster movies, a family tradition that stretches way back.

For the most part, Clif and I have accepted our situation with what might be called equanimity.  Or acceptance. Or whatever. We’re not angry, and we’re not depressed. However, I would be lying if I stated that we aren’t a little wistful as we remember past Thanksgivings. That’s allowed, I think.

More than anything else, this holiday feels flat. There hasn’t been a flurry of cooking and cleaning, the way there usually is before Thanksgiving. No planning. No anticipation. In some ways, this week seems like any other week during the time of Covid-19 and not like Thanksgiving at all.

However, I will be preparing a meal that’s a little special for the two of us: a green bean casserole made with with cheese and a sour-cream sauce, stuffing, potatoes, and carrots. For dessert we have a chocolate satin pie, commercially made but good nonetheless. No turkey, as Clif and I are vegetarians, but we will enjoy our veggie feast.

We have also put out our holiday lights, to brighten the long nights of November and December.

The wee camera has made the lights more purple and glaring than they actually are, but this gives an idea of how the lights look, a glowing spot on a dark country road.

We will be Zooming with the kids, which perks up any day, Thanksgiving or not. Thank goodness for technology!

We also plan to watch Babette’s Feast tomorrow, an oldie but goodie. The story, set in the 1800s, revolves around a French refuge—Babette—who is taken in by two Danish women, the daughters of a strict (and selfish) father who was a pastor. I don’t want to say too much about the plot in case you haven’t seen this delightful movie that deals with coming to terms with a difficult and disappointing past. And food. Lots of food. Hence its appropriateness for Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American blogging friends. I hope you find a way to make the day special even if there isn’t the usual gang of loved ones and friends around your table.

The day might be lonely and quiet, but truly there are things to be grateful for. A very effective vaccine is on the horizon, and in January, we will have a new president.

Onward to the longest night of the year. Onward to 2021.

 

2020 Reprise: I Need a Little Christmas, Now!

For the first time ever, I have begun my Christmas decorating before rather than after Thanksgiving, the time when most folks in the United States think we should be decking the halls. (I do, however, have a cousin who bucks the trend, and she sets up her Christmas village well before Thanksgiving. Go, Cousin, go!)

Here are some of the many Santas that are decorating the bookcase in our living room  Most of the Santas are gifts, and how wonderful it is to see them again after nearly a year.

This picture features two gifts: The lovely panel is from my blogging friend Judy of New Hampshire Garden and Thread, and my mother gave me the Santa Clause.

Let’s face it—2020 has been one heck of year, and I suspect many of us need a little Christmas now. Here’s a rousing version of the song the title of this post borrows from, with Angela Lansbury belting it out as Auntie Mame. Wasn’t she cute as a button in her younger years?  Confession Time: I have never seen Auntie Mame as a play or a movie, and this just might be the year I rectify that mistake.

Haul out the holly, and slice up that fruitcake, now!

An Announcement and Some Giveaways

Glory be and Hallelujah! Clif and I have finished proofing Out of Time, Book Three in the Great Library Series.

Do I feel like butter spread thin on too much bread? I certainly do. But I also feel a keen sense of accomplishment. Out of Time took two years from beginning to end, and finally it is ready to go out into the world.

Right now, Out of Time can be ordered through Amazon. Next week, our book can also be purchased through bookstores and other online vendors. By November 28, we will have books on hand so that we can sell signed copies to readers in the United States. I will keep you all posted as I know many of you like to order directly from us.

For readers new to my blog, here is a brief overview of the Great Library series: In our universe, two forces—Time and Chaos—battle for control of the Great Library, a mysterious place where all information flows. From the Great Library come the sentient Books of Everything, which contain the vast knowledge of the library. The Books are sent to planets across the universe to help the various inhabitants.

In the middle of this battle between Time and Chaos is one kid from Earth—Maya Hammond, a girl who has the ability to see to the heart of things. She comes into possession of Earth’s Book of Everything, and adventures ensue as she tries to protect the Book and the Great Library from Chaos. In Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost, Maya goes back in time and across the universe, all the while being pursued by Chaos’s minions.

In Out of Time, Maya travels to Elferterre, which is in a dimension ruled by Magic. On Elferterre, Maya hopes to find a magical artifact that will help tip things in Time’s favor.

The overall message of the series is that facts do matter, which somehow never stops being a relevant topic in our real world.

So there you have it. Nearly 900 pages in a nutshell.

Now here’s the fun part—to celebrate the publication of Out of Time, we are giving away one signed copy of Out of Time and three calendars that feature Clif’s snappy map of Elferterre.

Click here to enter the contest.

Prizes will be mailed anywhere on the planet.

Entries will be accepted between 11/14/2020 through 11/28/20.

The drawing will be held on December 1, 2020.

So don’t be shy! Sign up for the giveaways.

Walking on Sunshine

Yesterday, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted from me.  Pennsylvania was called for Joe Biden, and he therefore had more than enough votes to win the electoral college, the arcane way our country selects a president. Each state is assigned a number of  electors, who in turn have one vote. The number of electors in each state are based on population. In turn, those electors are pledged to vote how the majority in each state has voted. The winner must get at least 270 votes. With Pennsylvania, Biden reached 279. (President Trump has vowed to challenge in court the results of the election. The general feeling is that too many votes have gone to Biden for any of the challenges to change the outcome of the presidential race.)

Do I think this is a strange way to elect a president? Yes, I do. But it is the system this country has, and for now we must go with it.

At any rate, despite the fact that Trump has not conceded—customary but not required—Joe Biden is now our president-elect. There was literally dancing in the streets as people across the country celebrated the news.

On Saturday night, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and President-elect Joe Biden gave speeches that were full of empathy, hope, grace, and resolve. On the stage I saw joy and love as their families joined them after the speeches were over.

As they face formidable challenges in this country and around the world, Biden and Harris will need every bit of grace and resolve they can muster.

Best of luck to them!

And the song below, sung by the buoyant Katrina & The Waves, exactly captures the way I felt yesterday.

 

Correction: My daughter, Shannon, very nicely let me know that when Pennsylvania was called the numbers were 273, before Nevada was added. ;))

October Birthday

Today is the birthday of our eldest daughter, Dee. I have always loved the month of October, and her birth made it even more beautiful to me.

In honor of Dee, I post these pictures of this golden month that glows even when the days are gray and dreary, when even a walk to the mailbox across the street glimmers with a yellow- and russet-difused light, and the brisk air is filled with the nutty scent of autumn leaves.

Happy birthday, eldest daughter!

Juneteenth and Hot Weather

In the United states, today is Juneteenth.  As someone who lives in one of the whitest states in the country, I hadn’t heard of Juneteenth until a few years ago. Here is a description from the New York Times:

On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”

In the days before electronic media, news traveled slowly. Hard to believe that it took two months for African-Americans in Galveston to learn that the Civil War had ended. But such was life in the mid-1800s, thus proving yet again that not everything about the good old days was good.

So happy Juneteenth! I hope all who celebrate will find a safe way to do so. In some states, it is a big day for cookouts and family reunions. (That ratty covid-19 just keeps taking.)

A little closer to home…Clif and I finally broke down and bought an air conditioner. We have lived in the woods for nearly forty years, and for most of that time, a fan in the attic pretty much did the trick. At night, when things cooled down, we would turn on the fan and all the hot air would be directed up and eventually out of the house.

But for the past ten years, summers in central Maine have become hotter and hotter. Once upon a time, our biggest worry for the Fourth of July was whether it would rain. Nowadays, it’s whether it will be such a blister of a day that we won’t be able to enjoy the yearly gathering we usually have. (Alas, not this year because of the aforementioned ratty covid-19.)

Last July we had thirteen days where the temperature was above 90° Fahrenheit. And here we are again, on June 18 with 90° weather. (We were there in May, too.) In what universe is it 90° in May and June in Maine? In this new universe of climate change, I guess.

Last August, when I went to get my hair cut, I told my hairdresser that we didn’t have air conditioning. I mentioned how hot and uncomfortable we had been in July.

My hairdresser said, “Laurie, it’s only going to get hotter as the years go by. You really should  consider buying an air conditioner.”

I agreed, and her words stuck with me.

So this year we did it. Here it is, and as Clif has noted, it looks like a maintenance droid out of Star Wars.

We decided to get a free-standing unit rather than one that goes in the window because we figured it would be easier to wheel this into a backroom and store it for the winter rather than heft a unit in and out of the window each spring and fall. It is also a heat pump and energy efficient, which means we might be using it for heat come spring and fall.

Yesterday, just in time to make us glad that we followed my hairdresser’s suggestion, I read in the Times that “Scientists Predict Scorching Temperatures to Last Through Summer.”

We will be ready with our air-conditioning droid.

 

A Sweet, Sweet Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and the kids know exactly what I like—sweets and flowers. (I like to joke that I don’t have a sweet tooth but instead a whole mouthful of them: Sweet teeth.) Truly, I received an abundance of good things from my family, and I am oh so grateful.

Here’s a sample of what the kids gave me. The chocolates come from a local business called Scrummy’s, which I’ve written about in previous posts. The gift card is from Longfellow’s Greenhouse in the next town over from us.

Plus there were actual flowers,

and gelato, tea, and Ghiradelli chocolate. These last three, along with the above flowers, were ordered via Instacart from a local grocery store. Instacart is an excellent service that I can highly recommend for folks in the U.S. who are of an age where it’s recommended that they don’t go to the grocery store.

A brief explanation about how I handle treats: One day a week, I have a treat day, where I can indulge in as much as I want. That day, usually Sunday, is a day for candy, for popcorn with butter, for whatever else strikes my fancy. I have a stash, and I am good at not raiding it until treat day. (The candy I got for Mother’s Day sure livens up my stash.) The other six days of the week I stick to the straight and narrow and eat food that is good for me—mostly plants and not too much. Might sound a little weird, but this regimen works for me, and I have even lost weight during this time of the coronavirus.

But the biggest treat of all came late Sunday morning, when Clif and I Zoomed with the kids—Dee, Mike, and Shannon—for over two hours. How lovely to see their faces and to discuss all the things we enjoy talking about—movies, books, politics. Conversations with the three of them is always a delight.

In the course of our conversation, Mike recommended Crooklyn, a 1994 semi-autobiographical movie by Spike Lee. Intrigued by Mike’s description of the film, Clif and I decided to watch Crooklyn last night.

Crooklyn, set in Brooklyn in the 1970s, has been described as messy, and it is, just like real life. However, Crooklyn is also warm and moving, cruel at times, and brave in its depiction of family life. A true indie film, its pacing is what might be called deliberate and requires patience. But by the middle of Crooklyn, I was hooked on this movie about the Carmichael family and their struggles. (Clif was less enthusiastic about it.)

Then there’s the fantastic soundtrack, chockablock full of music from the 1970s, when I was teenager. I knew every single song featured in the movie, and I could even sing along with most of them. Truly, a blast from the past, even though I grew up in rural Maine, and the move is set in New York City. (Spike Lee and I were born the same year.)

Anyway, all in all, a wonderful Mother’s Day. Many, many thanks to Dee, Mike, and Shannon.

And to Clif, who made pancakes for breakfast.

Remembrance of a Mother’s Day Past

In the United States, Sunday, May 10 is Mother’s Day, but because of the pandemic, most of us will not be able to get together with our children, no matter how close they live. Many of us will make the best of it through Skype or Zoom, and that is exactly what Clif and I will be doing on Sunday morning. Despite having bad points, technology really is a blessing. Being able to see and talk to my children makes me feel ever so much better.

Recently, as I was scrolling through my vast library of pictures, I came across Mother’s Day photos taken seven years ago. I was younger and in better shape. My hair was still dark. Liam was alive, and my daughter Shannon and son-in-law Mike lived in South Portland, an easy drive from where we live. (Dee, in New York, was too far away to join us, but she would come later in the summer.)

Shannon with her dog Holly, and me with my buddy Liam

For a Mother’s Day treat, Shannon made her signature low-flour chocolate cupcakes with peppermint cream. Oh so good. I could have one right now.

The day was cool and green. We took the dogs for a walk and then had cupcakes and tea when we came back.

These pictures make me both wistful and grateful, aware of both loss and happy memories.

Life is like that, isn’t it?

 

Earth Day 2020: In Celebration of Trees

“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.”
–Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees

Being a Mainer, I love trees too much to live in a place without them.  All my life I have been surrounded by trees—first in a neighborhood, then in the country, and now in a small forest.

Around our home we have tall dark pines, massive oaks, solid maples that blaze in the fall, and slender beeches that keep their leaves all through the winter. When I sit on my patio and look up through the tree branches, I feel as though the trees are holding me.

Trees tell the story of the seasons. They harbor birds and give shelter to many other creatures. They provide food, oxygen, and shade. According to the writer Peter Wohlleben trees are even able to form a kind of society.

Why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.

On a deep, psychological level, trees give us rich material for myths and stories, and  Arthur Rackham’s illustration is a haunting example of this.

And who could forget Tolkien’s ents, sentient creatures that lived in a slow time of their own?

Is it too much to claim that trees embody the life-force of the planet?  Not for this tree lover.

Therefore in honor of Earth Day, here are a few pictures of trees through the seasons, in my yard and around town.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And now for a complete change of tone. Shannon is our Earth-Day daughter, born on April 22 many years ago. This is a hard time for celebrating much of anything. Therefore I am posting a picture of happier times, when our dear Liam was just a puppy and Shannon was having a jolly trot with him along the public beach in town. Makes me smile just to look at it. Happy, happy birthday, Shannon.

 

Something Approaching Normal

Slowly, slowly, my schedule is returning to something approaching normal.  I have resumed posting three times a week and am working on Book Four of the Great Library Series. (No title yet. It might be Library Regained. It might be something else. It all depends on how many Maya books I write.)

It helps that spring has come to our home in the woods. Yesterday, Clif and I put on our jackets and had tea on the patio. The temperature was 50°, but it felt fine to be sitting there.

Sherlock joined us. That chair was set out especially for him. Unfortunately, it seems that felines can contract covid-19. Even though we live in the woods, we do have neighbors, and we might have to keep the cats in this summer. Blogging friends, any thoughts about this?

On a happier note, there are lots of green shoots in the garden.

And I  was able to get a picture of this handsome goldfinch, whose feathers are returning to summer yellow.

But sadness is never very far away. As we sat and had tea, I thought of our daughter in Brooklyn who is confined to a small apartment that is somewhere between 500 to 600 square feet. Dee hasn’t been outside for two weeks or so. She doesn’t complain—that is not her way—but when I asked her how she was doing, Dee did mention that she wished she had a small yard so that she could go out on nice days.

What I wish is that Dee were right here with us, and then she could join us on the patio and watch the fluttering beauties that come to our yard.

Alas, the time for that has passed, and Dee will have to hunker down in her small apartment until the worst is over.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From my very own town of Winthrop

Charlie Gove, 90, continues to volunteer at the Food Pantry.  For over 14 years, I volunteered with this fine man. If you click on the link, it will take you to the Facebook page with the article. If you click on the article, it will enlarge, and you will be able to read the piece.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 499

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 10

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

This piece by Christian Controneo about greenhouse gases surely falls under the category of it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

We’re poised to see carbon dioxide emissions plummet to levels last experienced around World War II. That’s according to the Global Carbon Project, a network of emissions experts, earth scientists and economists, that tracks greenhouse gasses and advises policymakers on the issue.

From Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Another bit of good news.

As the US heads towards the peak, Europe’s numbers offer some hope. Fatalities and infections seem to be slowing in Italy, Spain and France, among the hardest-hit countries on the continent — and in the world.

And wise words from Queen Elizabeth

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 1,280,046

Global Deaths69,789

My own take: Queen Elizabeth knows a thing or two about how a country can suffer. I am specifically thinking about World War II and her own exemplary service, in which she should take a great deal of pride.