Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Rounding Out New England

     The final leg of our (what is becoming annual) drive through New England took us through Vermont, into New Hampshire, and over to the coast of Maine. Steve made arrangements to meet up with a blog acquaintance at Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater, VT for lunch. They serve a nice lunch at Long Trail and we opted to dine outside on the deck overlooking the Ottauquechee River. It was a very hot day so, after lunch, we walked down to the river, took off our shoes, and cooled off in the icy water like everyone else. We spent the remainder of our visit standing in the shallow river, picking up pretty rocks. I noticed that the brewery was packed when we departed at 1:30pm on this Friday, July 5th.


     We finally arrived in New Hampshire for a visit with Chelsea and her family. Seeing our children and grandchildren only twice a year is never enough and I this visit was a highlight of our trip. It had been eight months since we last saw Hugo and Charlie and they embraced us as if they saw us every day. We played at the house, spent Saturday morning at the Concord, NH farmer's market where Simon sells his organic vegetables for The Vegetable Ranch, hiked Kearsarge Mountain, went to fireworks, had a day at the beach, and ate lobster (of course!). We packed a lot into those four days but it didn't feel rushed or stressful. We had plenty of down time in between activities for naps, Sponge Bob and Care Bears videos, digging holes in the yard, splashing in the wading pool, building blocks, and eating Chelsea's good dinners.

Hugo took to wearing Pop's hat

Steve and Chelsea checking in with Simon

Charlie waits in his stroller for us to take a walk. Simon beautifully displays the vegetables.




















 



The children play in front of the state capital building across the street from the farmer's market


Hugo waits.




Atop Kearsarge Mountain. Hugo is already an enthusiastic hiker and made the climb on his own.

View of the White Mountains
Charlie with his kite at Parson's Beach in Wells, Maine

Steve's favorite beach activity; playing paddle ball. The tide was rolling in.
As always, it was very hard to leave. We had been away for two weeks and I was ready to be home but, it's a sad effort to turn away from the people and places I love so much here in New England.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Schroon Lake and Brant Lake, Adirondacks, NY

    
Contessa Resort, Lake George, NY

   
     Before we left Lake George I snapped two photos of our motel room. It was the funkiest room I've ever seen at an old motel/cabin resort from a bygone era. The enormous king size bed didn't quite fit into the room, so they placed it in the only large enough space available which was right in the front picture window. When lying on the bed, we were in full view of the parking lot as if being on a stage for all to see. This placement caused the bed to be in the middle of the kitchen area at the front of the room instead of in the back. We had a counter and sink on our left and a refrigerator straight ahead. The owners opted for no bedside tables or lamps and our lone light was a bare fluorescent bulb hanging down from the ceiling fan above our bed. We wondered what was up with this huge, ornate king-sized bed in this little Adirondack motel room. It was so weird! We had a few good laughs about it all. It was clean enough and the bed was comfortable so it served its purpose for a quick shower and comfortable place to sleep while we spent our days out on Sarah Island. Ironically, the place was  packed full of travelers all week long and had no vacancies.
      The cabins back a wooded area and on the second night, right at bedtime, an odoriferous skunk let himself be known to all the sleepy residents. It wasn't your average skunk odor; it was strong and nauseating. I couldn't decide whether to close the windows and trap the odor in or open them wider and turn up the speed on the ceiling fan to blow it all over the place. It was a lose/lose situation and we basically just had to wait for it to go away. What can we expect when we want to vacation close to nature?
    
Baker Street House, Schroon Lake, NY


     All this made our Airbnb at Schroon Lake feel like a dream. The house was originally built in 1922 and served as the administration building for a Jewish boys camp. The current owners have made it homey and comfortable and offer rooms at a rate of $65/night which is far below any in-season hotel or cabin in the area. The one caveat is that three rooms share one bathroom. We lucked out on the first night because we were the only guests and we had it all to ourselves. On the second night, one other room was occupied but we never bumped into each other for the bathroom. My favorite "room" in the house was the expansive front porch. I felt myself relax here and become re-energized for the second week of our trip.

Brant Lake, NY
   
      We popped over to Brant Lake on the 4th of July to visit family and revisit Steve's childhood summer stomping grounds. Sister-in-law Joyce and I kayaked while Steve and his brother visited with old friends at Mead's Cottages. Mark and Joyce grilled a nice lunch and then Mark gave us a tour of the lake on his boat. I hadn't been on the lake in thirty-five years and it brought back many good memories from when Steve and I were dating. Later that evening, we all met up in Schroon Lake village to watch the town's 4th of July parade. There were fire trucks and boats, a high school band, a mariachi band, horse riders, and a Pipes and Drums band. The marchers all flung candy to the children. It was noisy and upbeat and children darted to and fro to gather candy. After the parade, everyone made their way down to the beach on Schroon Lake to wait for the fireworks. We had two hours to wait for fireworks but, the time passed quickly with all the people to watch, hot dogs and ice cream to fetch, and music to hear from the bandstand. It was small-town, old-time stuff and it made the evening really enjoyable. The fireworks were displayed from a barge on the lake and many folks came out on their boats to watch from the water. The boats' lights twinkled like fireflies all along the lake's surface. The fireworks were grand and when they finished everyone departed in one big swell to walk, en masse, a mile or so to our parked car. It was a warm evening and the walk felt good after all that sitting. Folks talked quietly as they walked in their groups and the night was hushed with a feeling of a day well spent. We relaxed back at our room after a full day of sun and activity. We had the fan gently blowing the cooling, Adirondack night air lulling us off to sleep.

Schroon Lake 4th of July parade

Schroon Lake beach before fireworks

Same view at dusk
Schroon Lake, view south

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Aahhh...

    
On Sarah Island
     I think we're doing a pretty good job of finding moments for this while we're away. Those aahhh moments where you can feel your body relax and your mind detach from the worries and stresses of everyday life are rare these days.

Lake George

     Our vacations usually include time with extended family. Because everyone lives so far away, we make a variety of stops in different states as we travel along to see father, brothers, sisters, children, and grandchildren. We're halfway through our time away and we've seen a lot of family and a few friends! We have two nights to ourselves at a delightful Air bnb with the largest front porch I have ever seen. Steve and I are fairly quiet when we are alone and this wonderful Air bnb space has given us some recharge time. That amazing front porch sure helped!

Some narrows between the islands

     We are visiting three lakes in the Adirondack Mountains of New York this week: Lake George, Schroon Lake, and Brant Lake. Lake George has changed little since our childhood summers of the 1960's. The village has updated many of its restaurants and storefronts but I spotted some that hadn't changed a bit. It is a weird sense of time warp to see the old and new side by side. While at Lake George, we stayed at an old "resort" that has seen better days. Candy and John use it because it is dog-friendly and has boat docking space, both of which can be hard to come by. Even as is, it is still booked full over the holiday weekend. We used it as a place to simply shower and sleep since we would be out on the island and lake with Candy and John during the daytime. Candy arranged for cousin Tony Michael and his wife to spend a day on the island with us and we all had fun reminiscing and catching up. It was a lovely day with a gentle breeze and cool shade. Our next day back to Sarah Island was warmer and we swam in the blue-green water of Paradise Bay. We watched boats both large and small parade by throughout the day. A family of ducks swam with us and chipmunks visited us at our picnic site. It was wonderful to relax under the hemlocks and pines. Their aroma was intoxicating and when the wood smoke from a campfire blended with the pine, we closed our eyes and lifted noses to breathe it in.
 
I love the turquoise color of the water in Paradise Bay.
     When I visit with my sister, I laugh longer and harder than any other time. It's pure silliness and we become young again, reverting back to a time when we were like two pups teasing and romping just for fun. We laugh at ourselves and live in the exact moment with not a worry. It's good for my soul.
   
The Sagamore's tour boat, The Henry Morgan (I think that's the name of it)
      We are off to Brant Lake today, home of Steve's childhood summers and current location of his vacationing brother Mark and family. Our Air bnb is on Schroon Lake so we will drive the short fifteen minutes back and forth as we like. We are planning to watch the fireworks on Schroon Lake tonight. Tomorrow we are off to Vermont to lunch with a friend of Steve's and then finally to New Hampshire to see Chelsea and her family. We haven't seen her, Simon or the grandchildren since last November so we are way overdue for some hugs.
 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Beginnings of Summer

     Before being cast in Hitchcock's movie, "Vertigo", it was a busy start to the summer. Daughter #1 and her family are moving to Colorado tomorrow. I spent a few days with them in Raleigh where we had a chance to do some fun activities and just be together. A few days later, Claire brought two of the children here for three days and we squeezed in another visit while she also got to spend a little time with two of her sisters.
    Here are a few photos from BV (before vertigo): grandchildren, gardening, hooking. Today is the one week mark from hitting the floor and I am feeling much brighter and more hopeful. I went to the gym yesterday and rode the stationary cycle. I pedaled for thirty minutes, went 5.6 miles through the forests of Saxony, Germany (via the computer screen),  broke a sweat, and burned a whopping 107 calories. Sheesh! That's not even the equivalent of one little ice cream cone. Afterwards, I popped into a class to say hello to Daughter #3 where I saw weights and heard the words,  body pump. Part of me longingly wanted to stay and own that class. Baby steps, I told myself. And stop fearing the word, pump.

Daughters 1, 4, and 3 with three grandchildren and three cousins, plus Henri

The border is planted with lavender and yarrow. The deer won't touch it. (evil laugh)  We still surround the entire garden with electric wire during the growing season. The neighbor's boxer loves to bound through our yard and other dogs roam the neighborhood. I cringe at the thought of dog pee on the herbs, hence the electric fence for all four-legged creatures. We also have a resident rabbit family of six but they haven't damaged the plants yet. I do love to watch them play in the evenings.


The herb bed. Mint is planted in a sunken pot so it won't spread.
This sweet little rug is destined for the guest bedroom. I chose the color scheme particularly for that room. I just have the outer border to complete, then steaming and binding.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Alfred Hitchcock's Got Nothing On This

     So... what does one do with "retirement"? One joins the gym, of course! In my quest to remain physically fit and agile in older age, I decided that stretching would be a good idea. I think "limber" is the word that comes to mind when I imagine how I want to feel as an older person. The day before school let out, I joined the Y. They handed me a calendar of activities which I excitedly perused. I saw several limbering type classes that were just right for me. With names like, "Gentle Yoga" and "Body Flow" I had hit the mark. I steered clear of class titles that contained words such as, "Power and Pump". I was not planning to power or pump anything.
     I bought a pair of yoga pants, dusted off my yoga mat and joined in! The classes were wonderful! After three classes I could already feel my body stretching and strengthening. I modified some of the moves in consideration of my sore hip but even that was feeling better and better. I felt like I was coming back into my younger self and retirement was feeling pretty good! Until one night when I woke up to one of my worst nightmares. Vertigo.
     There's a common form of vertigo called, Benign Positional Proxismal Vertigo" or BPPV. I've had it for twenty years and there are ways to manage episodes of it when it flares up. It's purely a mechanical, vestibular canal problem and it's easily fixed with a head maneuver done by a physical therapist or at home by yourself when you've learned the proper technique. Even mild vertigo is disconcerting and it's difficult to function normally during an episode of it. However, I woke up last Tuesday night with THE worst vertigo I never imagined could exist. All of my senses quit functioning and I was unable to even speak. The room spun so violently that all I could do was land on the floor and be ill in the bathroom until Steve and Tess carried me to the car and off to the E.R. It was a nightmare. At the hospital they quickly rolled me into a cubicle and started an IV with anti-nausea meds and Valium. I knew I was improving when I was able to form sentences again and answer questions. I remember laying my head back on the raised hospital bed and falling into a heavenly rest. The violent spinning lasted for over an hour. It should have lasted only thirty seconds. The memory of that night is difficult to forget.
     A week has gone by now and I have almost all of my balance back. Higher thinking is still difficult along with many little things like typing on the computer, bending over, reaching up, etc. I'm waiting for an appointment with a balance doctor in Charlottesville which is slow coming. I think what troubles me the most is that I have limitations. Limitations make me frustrated and very sad. Many of my friends have limitations of various sorts and I have been thinking of them and empathizing with what their day-to-day lives must be like. These same friends are also an encouragement to me because they are strong, happy, vibrant people in spite of their limitations.
     My vertigo should eventually go away. But, I will not be joining the yoga class anymore. Instead, I will hit the treadmill, the bicycles, and perhaps try the water aerobics. I also saw a class titled, "Zumba Gold". With a word like "gold" in it, it must be for me, right?!

    

    

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Shiver Me Timbers



     Earlier this spring I read that there would be a high number of snakes in Virginia this year. Lo and behold, I have already seen many. Typically, I will see one or two on the road throughout the summer but this year I have already seen four in two weeks time. The last one was in the yard.
    On Monday, I was relaxing by the pool (as in kiddie) and I saw two Brown Thrasher birds hopping around the trunk of the plum tree. At first I thought they were fighting with each other. Steve watched from his porch seat and I from the pool as they hopped in circles around the trunk for several minutes. Then Steve said, "There's a snake there!" I stood up and sure enough there was a black snake and the birds were hopping on it and fluttering back and forth as they attacked it with their feet. The snake was languid about the whole thing until Steve went out and shooed it away. Unfortunately, it went straight under the forsythia bushes where there erupted a panic and noise from within. The mockingbirds had set up house in those bushes and when they saw the snake all heck broke loose. It was pure mayhem as birds squawked, branches shook, and three baby birds came hopping out from underneath. We stepped back as the battle raged inside the bushes. We watched as other species of birds swept down to investigate the commotion. Thrashers, mockingbirds, blackbirds, and martins all dove down and swept past. Two blackbirds actually entered the fray and Steve's commentary followed with, "Here come the blackbirds to save the day." We had never seen anything like this and it was more entertaining than any action adventure movie.
     Well, all of this went on for a good twenty minutes until I finally decided to visit Mrs. Cahoon with an apple pie. The birds and snake were fighting it out within the bushes and whatever happened happened. When I returned forty-five minutes later, all was quiet. Steve had continued to watch and he was convinced the birds killed the snake. I was more inclined to think the snake slunk away unnoticed by Steve's eyes. We may never know.
     What I learned, according to this article, is that snakes like brush piles and railroad ties. We have both. We also have a wood pile and I know snakes like those too. What I also learned from this article is that it is generally illegal to kill snakes in Virginia unless they are a hazard. I don't mind having these black snakes around because they keep the mice and rodent population down. However, even though not venomous, they will bite when provoked and I really don't want to come into a close encounter with one. Steve was bitten by a snake years ago when we lived in Alabama. He never saw what bit him, but there were two punch marks on the back of his leg it made him sick and damaged the skin on his leg so badly that he needed to go to the E.R.
     Because of all the snakes I have seen, I am more vigilant when I walk outside these days. I try to scan the ground ahead, walk with a stick, and weed very, very carefully around the railroad ties and rocks that form the hardscape in one of our flower beds. I will also need to give the grandchildren a brief lesson in snake awareness when they come to play on the property. We will learn to coexist with them as best we can and I hope and pray that we only see black snakes and no rattlesnakes or copperheads...please!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Like Good Friends

    
     Like a faithful friend, here is my journal waiting for me to pick up our relationship right where we left off six months ago. It feels comfy and familiar and I've missed it.



     The Blue Ridge Mountains are looking very blue this evening. It's easy to see why they were named as such. You can see that the fields in the foreground have just been cut and the sound of tractors with their swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of cutters is now heard from neighboring fields. It's a soothing, summer sound. The smell of cut and drying hay mixed with the heady, sweet scent of honeysuckle fills the air. It is a mood altering aroma for certain. 
     I am home alone this afternoon and evening and it's given me a carefree opportunity to wander around the field and garden, catching up on what I've missed of late. Today was the last day of school and the two weeks leading up to this have been intense. My particular job is nothing stressful compared to what the teachers and full time staff endure nevertheless, the stress is palpable. The last day of school is one big release from all of that building up of stress. We have reached the finish line. Remember being a child on those last days of school and what that felt like?
     Today was a big milestone in what feels like a year of milestones. I tendered my resignation last month and today was my last day of work. It is a bittersweet feeling because I worked in a very nice school with superb staff and a perfect work schedule. I regret leaving that behind. However, I also turned the big 6-0 this spring and it caused me to think about how I've been spending my time and made me realize I want to spend more time with my busy family. They are scattering all over the place and no one is getting any younger so the time has come for me to chase after them. I also feel a strong desire to be more creative and these are the things I look forward to doing without being on a tight schedule.
 

     
Along my walk, I pause at the swing and see that Mr. Squirrel has been dining on the seat. I can't help but wonder if he had a hard time keeping his balance as he ate. Did the swing move while he dined? He certainly had a table with a view.
     I'm taking in all these pleasant sights and smells and listening to the distant tractors. It is not lost on me what a balm these sights and aromas are. They are the same environment of sixteen years yet they are completely new every season and every year. It is far from me to ever take them for granted. I'm reminded of a book I listened to called "The Three Day Effect" by Florence Williams. She also wrote a book called, "The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative". We don't need a book to tell us what we already know from experience but, it was interesting to listen to the data and hear examples of people's lives touched by spending time in nature.
     I haven't had an unbroken three days to spend in nature however, I do like to be outside as often as I can. We've done one three mile hike this spring, we've run up and down the fields with kites, spent many hours grooming the garden, and Tess and I ventured into the woods a few times to forage Virginia Creeper vines with which to build a wattled compost bin. Tromps into the woods are my favorite! (I do not like finding ticks in my belly button while lying in bed at night nor seeing snakes everywhere! But, that comes with the territory.)



     As I walk up and down our gentle slopes, I am aware of the lack of intense hip pain that had been my companion for the last five years. After a year of doctor visits, x-rays and MRI's, suggested surgery and two rounds of physical therapy, I feel armed with coping mechanisms to reduce the pain and avoid surgery for the time being. The torn cartilage can't be healed but the pain it causes can be managed. Another milestone reached. I've joined the gym, attended my first yoga class and lost three pounds thus far. There are still days of pain but, they are less frequent and I am encouraged by my regained abilities.
     Finally there is time and place for contemplation. I feel like I can really think when I'm outside. For some reason, I seem to need a lot of that. Whether I'm mowing the lawn, pulling weeds or walking up the road, it's the right environment to sort things out. It was a winter of discovering things about myself that I did not know, of long ago secrets that I will never, ever understand, an unearthing of truth that caused me to question the very pores on my skin and the furrow on my brow. I am too old for self discovery. I assumed I had already arrived at myself. Haha! But, not so. Like the damage in my hip, this damage will never heal. It is something I must learn to live with, like a sliver under the skin that can't be removed. Acknowledge it, yes. Accept it, probably no. Subconsciously, one just wants to keep digging at it to make it go away. I'm not sure there's enough walking in the woods or staring at clouds that can sort this one out but, I'll try. I certainly have the time now, don't I?