Category Archives: General

Spring – Step Two

Spring has already sprung around here, so I’m wicked late with my Spring – Step Two post.  But I didn’t think it would be fair to skip directly to Summer – Step One (upcoming!) without touching on my favorite Spring ritual, the Smith College Bulb Show.  It’s always a beautiful experience – just when you’re feeling like you can’t take even another second of winter (and this year was a doozy), along comes the Bulb Show to give you a taste of the possibilities to come in just a few short weeks.

This year’s show was spectacular.  The theme was “A French Impression,” and it was set up to mimic Claude Monet’s gardens (in real life and in his paintings).  I don’t think I’ve ever actually gasped when walking through the bulb show – smiled, sighed, breathed deeply… yes, all of those.  But gasped at the beauty?  Not until this year.  They really outdid themselves.  Here are just a couple of shots of the 100 or so I took.  I also printing a framed a couple and sold them at our elementary school’s charity auction.
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Stay tuned for Summer – Step One… the garden is going in!!

 

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Spring – Step One

The very first thing to think about when Spring is just starting to spring is… drainage.  On our lovely street, we have only two storm drains, located directly in front of our house.  Our street is a gentle valley, not so much that you notice it when you walking down the street, but definitely enough to notice it when it’s raining and your storm drains are clogged up with leaves and there is an eight inch deep lake in front of your house.  Because the city has basically no interest in maintaining said drains, it usually falls to us to trudge out there in the pouring rain and rake the leaves up off the drain so that we can get in and out of our driveway.

This whole problem takes on gargantuan proportions in the Spring, when there is melting snow combined with rain, and the water has nowhere to go because the drains are buried in snow that has been repeatedly plowed over them.  This leaves standing water on the road which then freezes into a skating rink at night.  We had a rainy day this week, and when I came home from work, there was about six inches of standing slush in front of the house.  I wrangled Jacob into helping me dig the drain out.  This is the progress we made before we gave up:

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Note that Jake is standing in front of a three foot pile of packed, icy, dirty, plowed-up snow.  Also note that there is no curb… not only could we not find the drain, but we suspect that the actual curb is at least a foot and a half back from where we were digging.  Also note that we had hacked through about four inches of solid ice and still hadn’t reached the pavement.  We gave up.

So I called the city and left a message on the snow line, asking them to pretty please come dig out our drains before the next rain arrives.  And lo and behold!  They did.  They must have brought a back-hoe.

I brought Jake back out for comparison picture purposes.

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I can’t even imagine physically shoveling all that snow aside… thank you, thank you, dear public works employees for taking care of this for us!!

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Spring Fever

Today ends the short, snowy month of February.  Tomorrow, we enter the long, long last month of winter.  March is not technically the longest month of the year, but it sure feels that way.  We’ve had so much snow already, and we are poised for more on Monday.  The real kicker is that it’s been so unbelievably cold that we haven’t even had much opportunity to go outside and PLAY in the snow.  We’ve been stuck inside, getting annoyed with each other.

But it sure is pretty out when it’s actually happening:

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So pretty at 5 am – no one has shoveled, no plows have come by. It’s peaceful and quiet.

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And then the sun comes up and you say to yourself, “Holy Christ. I have to shovel all this?”

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And then you hear the blissful noise of a snow blower being started up next door by your lovely neighbor.

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And all the while your cat is staring at you from the warm, dry indoors, laughing while you try to sweep a foot of snow off the top of the minivan. It’s not funny, kitty!

 

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2014

Well, here we are in 2014.  Every year I make New Year’s resolutions.  I like the idea of them.  The new year seems a logical time to think about life, and the future, and your place in the world moving forward.  I’m not always successful at keeping my resolutions, but just the act of making resolutions feels like you’re halfway there.  It requires taking stock of where you are, and visualizing where you want to be.  So here goes:

  1. I will smile more.  I spend all day at work smiling at my patients, making them feel comfortable and welcome, that when I get home I often don’t have any smiles left in me.  I’ve noticed these last few weeks that it’s been hard for me to smile at my children, especially with the hustle and bustle and pressure of the holidays.  I’ve started trying this over that last few days, and it feels like everyone is happier.  So I will smile more, and bring more of that sunshine into my life at home.
  2. A corollary to item #1 – I will not sweat the small things.  This will enable me to smile more.  Does it really matter if the kitchen floor doesn’t get swept today?  Will it really be the end of the world if the kids have hot dogs for dinner – again?  No.  Hot dogs with a smiling mom is way better than a bitchy mom with all the food groups on the table.
  3. I will give more.  I worry that I’m not teaching my kids that value of giving – giving of gifts, giving of time, giving of support.  I was shocked recently when Lydia asked my why people are homeless, and didn’t seem to realize that there are people in the world who don’t have a home, or a family, or support of any kind.  I think this year we’ll spend more time thinking about others, whether that means raising money for a charity, donating our time to help others, or something else entirely.  I don’t know what it will be, but if these kids are going to grow up to help other people, they’ve got to learn it somewhere, and who will teach them if not us?
  4. I will lose 10 pounds.  Still.  This is a recurring resolution.

Can I get by with only 4 resolutions?  Reading back over them, they seem like enough!  Happy New Year to you and yours!

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Podcasting

I haven’t written much about my new job – mostly because life is just getting in the way.  My life has a new, less stressed rhythm to it now, which I’m still trying to settle into.  My new schedule is such that I can pick the kids up at school three afternoons a week.  This means that I can spend those afternoons with them.  I have vowed that I will not spend *ALL* of those afternoons doing chores and/or errands… instead we have been playing games and generally spending time together for at least part of that time.  In addition, the weekends are more relaxed because I’m able to do some things in the afternoons, like pick up a little, or rake leaves, etc.  So I am generally more calm, which makes everyone else more calm.

The negative about this job is that it’s further away, which means I’m spending more time in the car each day.  I used to have a 25 minute commute three days a week, and 30 minutes on the other two.  Now it’s a 40 minute commute.  On paper, that really seems almost the same, right?  Well, it doesn’t feel the same.  For some reason, maybe because it’s mostly freeway driving now, and it’s kind of straight with no traffic… it feels like it’s a lot further.  I was listening to music, but it was getting me down.  There was a lot is sighing, a lot of looking at the clock, more sighing.  It was really getting to me.

So I decided to try listening to podcasts.  I have been listening to a couple of podcasts for years, but never while driving.  So I looked around for an app that would make podcast listening easier (this was just before the new ios from Apple that actually made their podcast player functional).  Anyway, I found iCatcher, which is easy to use and chock full of features.  It basically just lines all your podcasts up, and plays them one after the other, downloading them as they become available.  It makes it really easy – I just plug in the phone, start the app, and I’ve got 40 minutes of interesting listening.  Now rather than dreading the drive, I look forward to it twice a day.

What am I listening to?

  • Fresh Air
    • Terry Gross is such a fantastic interviewer.  I generally only listen to her entertainment or science interviews, though.
  • This American Life
    • Love.
  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
    • I usually listen to this on the weekend, but I download the podcast just in case I missed part of it.
  • Jim Hightower’s Common Sense Commentaries
    • A Texas populist – he’s always got interesting things to say about big business and agriculture.
  • StoryCorps
    • This is NPR’s project to record Americans interviewing each other.  It’s short and often very touching.  I usually hear it Friday mornings on the news, but sometimes they put additional ones in the podcast.
  • TED Talks
    • I end up listening to only the ones I find interesting, but there are plenty.  If you don’t know TED, it stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.  They have conferences around the world and ask interesting people to give lectures on interesting things.  I’ve learned a lot, and been inspired by many.
  • TED Radio Hour
    • This is the NPR show that takes various TED Talks and pulls them together into a wonderful hour-long show.  They supplement the talk with interviews of the speakers, and tie all the talks together.  It’s wonderful.
  • Radiolab
    • One of my absolute favorites.  It’s like This American Life, but science-y.  Check it out.
  • Science Friday
    • This is always the Friday show on Talk of the Nation on NPR.  Lots of good science talk.
  • Selected Shorts
    • Airs on NPR on the weekends.  It’s short stories read by actors.
  • StarTalk Radio
    • One of my favorites.  This is Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast, in which he and a (varying) sidekick talk about space and science-y stuff.  So fun – he is amazing.
  • The Moth
    • More stories – these ones are more personal anecdotes told onstage in front of an audience.  Have made me laugh and cry.

As you can see, I’m an NPR nerd.  There are a lot of “story” podcasts in there, with a health dose of science, and just a sprinkling of politics.  Right now, I have about 7 hours of listening waiting for me, but I listen to about 6 hours a week, so I think my list is just about perfect.

If you have any suggestions for me, leave them in the comments!

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Mums!

Our local college puts on two flower shows each year, the Bulb Show in the spring, and the Mum show in the fall.  We try to make it to both, because a) flowers are nice, and b) it gives us a great excuse to wander the whole plant house, visit all the rooms, and marvel at the strange and wondrous things contained there-in.  We always have a great time.  Added bonus this year: the first day of the show coincided with the last day of my parent’s fall visit, so we got to show Grandma and Grandpa all of the flowers.

These mums were grown high up and then trellised down the wall:

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This giant mum is about the size of a grapefruit.  Apparently, if you start a mum plant, and keep trimming and trimming and trimming it until it’s growing just one long stalk upward, it will bloom this gigantor-mum at the top:

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A little reflection pool in the mum room – when people found mum-heads that had broken off their plants, the placed them in the pool.  You can see the greenhouse glass reflected:

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These are not mums, but they are some of the most interesting flowers I’ve ever seen:

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Stay tuned for more fall adventures in the coming days as I try to catch up with my blogging life…

 

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Fall in New England

Fall is the most beautiful time of year here in New England, and for us, it’s also the busiest time of year.  School starts, with all that entails, plus two birthdays, the yearly visit from the California parents, and all the fall activities that we enjoy each year.  As a result, I’ve been remiss at updating the old blog.  But here I am, giving you some scenes of fall from our beautiful neighborhood.

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We are very lucky to live near the campus of a small liberal arts college, giving us access to beautiful grounds to enjoy year round.  Of course, the fall is the most beautiful time.

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Isn’t it strange how summer and winter both seem endless, while spring and fall go by in a heartbeat?

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