Saturday, May 31, 2008
One of the local papers had a very nice article about her commencement speech. Unfortunately, it's not on line so I can't e-mail it to the world, but I did buy 20 copies of the paper and invited the reporter who wrote it over for dinner last night. I'll admit to a teeny weeny bit of gentle matchmaking.
We had a very nice meal of Sara's favorite mom food (manicotti) and much spirited conversation. The reporter is a hiker of great accomplishment; having hiked all of the 4000 footers in New York and New England, he is heading west to hike Mts. Ranier, Hood and Whitney this summer. I asked him about emergency provisions when hiking those high mountains. He said that he is taking some emergency rations but it is something that he would only eat under the most dire conditions.
My first reaction is that he is DEFINITELY a more serious hiker than I am. My emergency rations almost always need to be re-stocked before the next hike.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Alrighty then, build 'til your heart's content.All finished but the painting. What a difference! Thank you!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
In about 1971 when I was 12, I got a clock radio in my room and listened late into the night to a station called WAQY that played rock and roll. I loved the independence of listening to a station of my own but really just wasn't a rock and roll kind of gal. Eventually, the dial found a country station and then I found the theme songs of my teenage years--love songs, ballads, harmony, and gospel quartets. Looking back, I realize that I was a geek--I totally missed the best decade of rock and roll and missed having anything in common with my generation. It is especially ironic since 35 years later I married a man who was in a rock and roll band in the 70's.
During the primary campaign of 1976, a handsome nephew of my mother's came to stay with us--he was in the secret service and protecting a candidate who was campaigning in our area--I think the candidate was Jimmy Carter and the nephew was definitely Texican. Anyway, Texican played the guitar and didn't think I was such a geek for loving country music. He brought my brother and me a couple of country and bluegrass albums and I think we just about wore those albums out.
By late 1976, I was playing the bass and singing in a bluegrass band and spent several summers traveling around New England going to bluegrass festivals. Those were good days. We would play on the stage--early on Friday because we weren't that good--the bands would get better as the day and weekend wore on. When we weren't enjoying the music on stage, we were picking with anybody that had an instrument. Some beautiful music lofted into the heavens on those nights.
By the mid-80's, there wasn't time for music unless it was lullabies or Barney songs. Four kids came along between 1984 and 1990 and I don't remember any pop culture from the 80's or 90's. Folk songs from my bluegrass days worked well as lullabies but before long life just got so busy that I forgot to sing.
Then slowly, I remembered singing and the way it felt to wrap harmonies around each other like a vine. I missed it terribly and still do.
But, I digress. I was going to writ about theme songs.
One night several years ago, Charlie and I went to a folk festival and a woman named Lui Collins performed. I liked all of her music but her last one floored me--before she had finished her last chord, I was out of my seat and headed to the CD table to purchase a copy. The song is Swimming to the Other Side and it's by Pat Humphries. This is an interesting NPR interview with Pat Humphries about the song.
This song is definitely my theme song--any time I need to re-focus these are the words I remember--Here's the chorus.
By Pat Humphries
We are living 'neath the great Big Dipper
We are washed by the very same rain
We are swimming in the stream together
Some in power and some in pain
We can worship this ground we walk on
Cherishing the beings that we live beside
Loving spirits will live forever
We're all swimming to the other side
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Molly peacefully petted her pet rabbit, Thunder God, and kept me company while I planted in the new vegetable garden.
A truckload of topsoil wasn't really in the budget this year, so we went with Plan B. We had a load of compost that had been cooking since last summer, so we worked a little bit of the compost into each of the planting holes. Fingers crossed--maybe it will work--if not we'll live off the surplus of squash and tomatoes from our friends and neighbors. I actually kind of like the idea of making the soil rich with our compost even if it takes a couple of years to get it right.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The hike inspired him to do something he had been thinking about for awhile--so welcome to the community of River Valley Bloggers, Charlie!
Looking at the list, I realize that I am the only one who does not work in the school system AND that with the addition of Charlie to the community--Katie and the Music Man may be under some pressure to join us in order to provide symmetry.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
After my children were born we moved many times as their dad completed graduate degrees and began his career. It is difficult to be a stay-at-home mom with young children and to make friends but we did it time and time again.
Strangely and wonderfully, over the last two weeks I have been able to re-connect with three of those awesome friends that shared a few years with me. Finding them again has been better than Christmas and hearing about their families and their lives has been like a long drink of cool water on a hot day.
Twenty years ago, we moved to Franklin, Tennessee. My beloved Cousin Charlene lived there and helped us find a home and get established. One day at story time at the library, I noticed another mom with children of similar age to mine. She seemed kind and smiled a lot so I introduced myself and for the next four years or so, we shared many, many afternoons at the park or at each other's home. Her name was Joy and we lost touch after I moved. A couple of weeks ago, Joy ran into my Cousin Charlene and asked about me--email addresses were exchanged and we found each other again. Our children are all grown up now, and interestingly our three grown sons all grew into Civil Engineers--all those afternoons of building dams and forts in the yard perhaps?
In 1993, we moved to Falls Church, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. I don't exactly remember how I met Mary, but I know that I was drawn to her right away. We were neighbors and maybe our children found each other and introduced their moms. Mary had a beautiful garden and 3 sons and a husband who loved sports. I thought she was about the coolest person in the world to be able to juggle all that testosterone and balance it with the loveliness of her flowers. I remember she would sit out in her garden in the fragrant evenings while her men were inside with ESPN. I called Mary last week and invited her to Sara's graduation. She came and I am so glad.
In 1995, we moved to Iowa City, Iowa. Janet and I met through our children and we fell into a comfortable friendship that extended to our families. We led a girl scout troop and went on field trips and met up for a vacation in South Dakota. Like Mary, Janet was an extraordinary gardener and a good mom and a good friend. I thought that I had lost her e-mail address forever until today when she sent me an e-mail. She's moved since the Iowa City days, too, and her children have grown up as mine have.
New days ahead for all of us moms as we find out what's next, but I am so happy to have re-claimed friendships with some really special ladies with whom I shared some very special years.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Ten years ago, I was living in Iowa City, finishing up law school and enjoying Ethan's Babe Ruth games, Molly and Sara's softball games and Archie's t-ball.
Ten months ago, I was reading the first pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows in a sleeping bag at Camp Calumet in Ossipee, New Hampshire after C had done a rockin' good concert for them.
Ten days ago, I was enjoying mother's day phone calls from my three older children and burning a pile of brush with my youngest child.
Ten hours ago, I was wincing as Derek Jeter got hit in the hand by a pitch in a Yankees-Orioles game.
Ten minutes ago, I was sipping my first cup of coffee and trying to remember what I was doing ten years ago.
Ten minutes from now, I will be taking a shower and getting ready for a day of juvenile criminal court in Farmington.
Ten hours from now, I will be home from said Juvenile court and changing into my play clothes.
Ten days from now, I will be hoping for sunshine because I intend to climb my first 4000 footer of the year on that weekend.
Ten months from now, I'll be shoveling snow and trying to figure out if I can afford to fly to Macedonia for a vacation.
Ten years from now, C and I will be living in a little cottage in the woods, working less and playing more.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Thank you all so much for the kind comments you have left over the last several days. I think the nicest people in the world must read my blog.
The George Washington University graduation was spectacular on many fronts, but not the least was that 10 members of Sara's family were together in the front two rows of the crowd of 22,000.
The picture on the left is from the school's website
Below is the speech given by Sara Ray on May 18, 2008.
As a junior in high school, my mother told me that my best memories of college would be of staying up late with friends solving the world’s problems over leftover pizza. At the time, I thought that sounded like a pretty dim forecast of college. Now, however, six years later, I will very publicly admit that my mother, on THIS point, was correct. Today, I’d like to talk to you about this sentiment, how it relates to my experience at GW and how it assures me that the real world is nothing for us to fear.
First of all, I’d like to thank the remainder of my class for the faith you’ve given me in our generation. For years, people our age have been typecast as apathetic, selfish, close-minded and lacking a social conscience. Our late night discussions, arguments and strategizing over pizza boxes are what have convinced me unfailingly that this characterization is false. In our lives, we’ve seen our environment fade, politics divide our country and we’ve all seen friends sent overseas to
Each one of us has a unique story, a different path through our university poising us to go different places to do different things. I came to GW wanting to be a physics major, a dream that lasted precisely one calculus class. It wasn’t my crushing failures in calculus that convinced me I wasn’t a physicist. Rather, it was the feeling I got when talking about language and culture and its role in building bridges between cultures with my peers that convinced me I was an anthropologist. Interning full time, unpaid with the State Department gave me a passion for education as a mechanism for foreign relations and a dispassion for office jobs. Working on Colonial Cabinet 2006 showed me how much I loved working as a part of a highly energized team. Those experiences now imprinted in my personal history, they’ve led me to the future of my dreams: going to
Every one of us could tell a similar story. Each one of us has an issue or a cause that, no matter what the hour, ignites the deepest passion within us. And I believe many of us have realized that our true calling in life is to address that issue with action. Some of you are holding the solution to the medical crises that plague the planet. A remarkable number of you have been grabbed by the pressing need to help alleviate inequality in our domestic education system. Over four years, I’ve heard many visions of the ideal president and I am not doubtful that he or she sits somewhere in front of me today.
This is the last time that our paths are convergent. A ten-person trip to a restaurant will never again be as simple as a few phone calls and text messages. To this end, I’d like to give credit to my father on being correct when he told me that I would meet people in college who would remain my friends forever. Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2008, there’s nothing for us to be afraid of. In the past four years, we have honed in on the passions that drive us and found the people who will always hold us up. No matter where you go or what you do, you have found people, sitting with you somewhere here today, that will be there at your wedding, baby shower, bachelor party, retirement party and, if all goes well, will be there wreaking havoc in the nursing home right by your side.
Today is graduation. We are graduating from sitting with friends talking over pizza about how to make the world a better place. Today, everyone, is commencement. It is the beginning. We are graduating from talk and commencing to action to leave this world a better place than we found it. Take the lessons you’ve learned, the friendships you’ve forged, get out into the world and let’s make it work.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I'm driving today to Pennsylvania to spend the night with Ethan and then we are driving down together to Washington, DC for Sara's graduation. The rest of the family is flying in at various times but we will all be in the front row at 10:00 on Sunday.
After the last picture has been snapped, Molly and Sara will pack their dorm rooms into my car and we'll drive back to Maine.
We've done this drive many times since Sara's freshman year and it was nice to add Molly to the mix when she started college last Fall.
As we drive, we play a game called "Yellow Car". I think Sara made it up, but maybe it's a game normal people play, too. It involves shouting "YELLOW CAR" any time we see one--it offers various opportunities to argue about the different shades of yellow and whether a car might actually be green or orange--it also offers the opportunity to argue about whether a yellow Hummer or cadilac should be worth extra points (yes). Obviously, utility vehicles, school buses and taxi cabs don't count. There are more yellow cars than there used to be, so the game isn't quite as much fun but I'm sure we'll play it one last time as we drive back from graduation. Maybe Molly and I will come up with a new game for our future drives.
Here's a link to an article in the local paper about Sara's opportunity to give the student commencement speech.
So, Rach just a warning, I will be adding to the yawning silence of the River Valley Blogging Community for a few days. But a P.S., to the River Valley Blogging Community--the teenager has a school commitment and can't go with us so he will be home alone--if you drive by and the house is rockin', people hanging out of the windows, cars parked on my flower beds--well you get the picture--stop in and do the "It takes a village" thing. Thanks!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
There is still plenty of work to do in the flower beds, but little pieces of beautiful are popping up.
I bought this house in January, 2004 and had no idea of what laid beneath the snow. That first spring was full of surprises that we still marvel at.
Before me, this house was owned by a pastor and his wife and their 8 adoptive and foster kids. They were going to move to a ministry in another state and offered their house to me knowing that I was a single mom, renting a home and operating a law practice out of my living room. The price was one that we were both comfortable with and they moved out and we moved in in a mind boggling short time frame.
The front yard had pretty flower beds with plants that seem coordinated to bloom one after another through the whole season. The back yard is full of raspberry bushes that yield luscious red raspberries for July.
We spent last weekend cleaning out the raspberry patch and were sad to see so many plants broken from the deep snow that has covered them for five months.
This morning a gray catbird came to our kitchen window suet feeder and a dove, two common grackles and two bluejays discovered the feeders in the yard. In other years a dove has nested in our barn, flying in and out through a broken window. I keep meaning to fix the window but once she starts flying in and out of it, it's too late.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
In Greek mythology, Iris was the Goddess of the rainbow. That seems like a very appropriate name since the beautiful flowers come in so many colors.
It was a treat to get these pictures--they remind me very much of those happy days in Hopkinsville and after two unexpected days in court--I was ready for a reminder of fragrance and simplicity in my inbox.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Yesterday, C and I walked to the Front Porch Cafe for a Mother's Day breakfast. As we walked along down Main Street, we passed a driveway with a sign that indicated a yard sale. I peered up the driveway to check out the sale and saw a nice looking couple walking down the driveway toward the sidewalk. The man gave me a big smile and said "Do I know you?"
People often remember me from court because I'm one of the few attorneys in the county without a receding hairline (oh, I hope they don't read this). But this friendly man looked far too content to be either an attorney or a criminal--so I was at a loss.
I smiled and said, "My name is Beth."
"Oh, yes, I read your blog and recognized you."
We laughed and had a fascinating few moments of acquaintance time. He is a historian with family roots in Dixfield and while he lives in another part of the state, he spends much time at our Historical Society. His companion is researching spool factories. Did you know spools were made entirely of white birch?
Don't you just love the human brain? There are no limits to journeys fueled by curiosity.
So, to new friend Peter--it was very nice to meet you and please stop in for tea sometime and tell me stories of the past.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
My mother lives with the glass half full--someone once observed that if she was the director of public relations for the devil his image would be quite different. But, that said, I think her childhood was difficult and when people talk about the hard times of the Depression, she offers that on the farm in Mississippi they never noticed the Depression--they were always just poor.
While still in high school, she was swept off her feet by my dad and in a few weeks they will have been married for 53 years--sweethearts still.
In 1965, my father's job transferred him to Massachusetts--it may as well have been Siberia to all of the family--but move we did. Mom may not have wanted the move, but once it was made, we were going to make the best of it. One thing I remember about that adjustment is something that pretty well capsulizes my mother's personality. She went to a rummage sale and bought ice skates for herself, my brother and me. Then she drove to a pond where people were skating. We weren't even real clear on how to lace up the skates, but we did our best and hobbled on floppy ankles out to where everyone was skating. My sweet mother said with her soft southern accent--"Kids, I can't help you here, just watch what other people are doing and do it." So, we skated--we skiied, we went sliding, but we also planted the most beautiful gardens that Massachusetts had ever seen. We had dinner parties that were renowned throughout the area for the hospitality and the cuisine. We sang Stamps Baxter gospel songs around the piano and ate pralines and divinity at Christmas. In short, Massachusetts knew that a southern magnolia was in its presence.
My father's job took them south again about the time I graduated from high school. They were very happy to be back and I thought they would never leave. But, when life brought me to Maine, they decided that they were right behind me--and they have been in every sense of the phrase.
Something I told my daughters once when one of them said something that could have come out of my mouth--you can't fight it--we are our mother's daughters, so just go with it and be proud.
I love you Mom and Happy Mother's Day
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Spring is definitely making itself known in northern New England. The last snow patch beside our driveway should be gone by suppertime.
My urge to be up in the mountains is powerful but it will still be a few more weeks before the trails are ready for visitors.
Last year about this time, Ethan and two of his friends decided that they wanted to backpack during the week prior to their college graduation. Their plan was to hike the Mahoosuc Range. They drove up from Massachusetts late the night before their planned hike and somehow Archie convinced me that he should be able to skip a few days of school and go with them.
The Mahoosuc Range is a 30 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Gorham, New Hampshire to Grafton Notch, Maine and the 1 mile stretch through Mahoosuc Notch is considered the most difficult mile of the entire 2000 mile trail. The boys woke up early and drove themselves to the trailhead with my promise to pick them up 3 days later in Grafton Notch. C had researched the trail conditions on line and warned them that there was still 3 feet of rotten snow, blowdowns across the trail and raging river crossings due to the snow melt. Young men between the ages of 16 and 22 are not easily deterred but I wish that I had exerted parental influence over the one of them that was still a minor.
So, they set off on a Monday morning. I had a busy work week but had my cell phone with me and on all the time. On Tuesday afternoon, it rang as I was in a meeting. I left the room and heard Ethan's crackling voice say "Mom, the trail is really bad and Archie's in trouble."
To understand the impact of those words you would have to know Ethan. He is the oldest of four siblings. He is the most responsible brother in the world and he loves and fiercely protects his mother. He would not have told me something that would scare me to death unless things were really bad. Ethan had little battery on his cell phone and poor reception but he told me that they all had inadequate clothing for the terrible conditions and that they were all experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. He was looking at the map and hoped to be able to get off the ridge before going through the "Notch."
My helplessness and terror in the face of that phone call was only balanced by my belief in Ethan's ability to take care of everyone. They did manage to get off the ridge the next morning and were picked up with warm clothes, blankets and soup by my father while I was in court with a mother who was surrendering her parental rights--there's irony there, I'm sure.
The story of that harrowing experience is for him to tell and I hope he will write about it soon on his new blog.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Our house is located right on one of the two main streets in town. About 1/4 mile south of our house is the intersection of the two streets and about 1/4 mile north of our house is the high school.
There is a lot of foot traffic by our house--recreational walkers, school age kids on skateboards and teenagers experimenting with their individuality.
Often there is drama accompanying the teenagers, not so much with the recreational walkers and the kids on skateboards. This evening as we were watching the Red Sox, I heard loud sobs and saw two girls embracing and crying on the sidewalk in front of our house. I went out to see if this was something that could be helped with a drink of water or a band aid and was met with one of them saying, "Boy problems." Oh, well, can't help you there.
One night last winter, we were awoken by flashing blue lights coming through the curtains in our room. Ever curious (and nosy) I got out of bed to see that the police had pulled over a truck in front of our house. I kept watching as the police discovered that the driver of the truck had a warrant out for his arrest. At this point I woke C up, this was too good to let him sleep through.
C isn't the experienced snoop that I am, so he wasn't really comfortable peering through the curtain at 2 a.m., but the level of excitement increased to where he couldn't very well go back to bed. There was a passenger in the truck but apparently he didn't have a license so with the driver going off to jail, there was some discussion about what to do with the passenger and the truck.
Soon, another car came along and parked across the street--we gathered that the newcomer was the father of the passenger. We noticed (as did the police) that the newcomer got out of his car somewhat belligerently and definitely holding a beer bottle. The police discovered that the newcomer also had a warrant for his arrest--so out came the handcuffs yet again and he went into the back of the police car, too. So, now we are up to two cars whose drivers are headed to jail and one passenger whose level of anxiety was increasing in volume.
At this point, the policeman called for backup from a neighboring town. Dixfield only has one policeman on duty at night and the situation, while being handled well by the lone officer, was starting to blossom. The policeman warned the passenger several times to get himself under control--at this point I should add that the passenger was, shall we say... very hefty.
The young man did not get himself under control and, in fact, grew more combative and started to threaten the policeman. Fortunately, the other policeman got there about that time, because we were starting to wonder if we should reveal ourselves and come to the policeman's aid. They ended up arresting the young man, too, although Policeman #1 was out of handcuffs and had to borrow some from Policeman #2. The young man's girth was such that he couldn't be handcuffed in the traditional manner and the suspension on the police car was seriously compromised.
Eventually the policeman headed off on the 45 minute drive to the jail, by morning the cars were moved by other family members who presumably did not have pending arrest warrants and we woke up wondering if had all been a very strange dream.
My cynical side is disturbed at the exploitation of the mountain.
My curious side wonders about all the details of executing the climb.
My cynical side tell me that there will be a book out very shortly to answer all of my curious side's questions.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
It is a wire suspension bridge built in 1864.
As the granddaughter, daughter, niece, sister and mother of engineers, it felt good to pay homage to a Maine Civil Engineering Landmark.
The keynote speaker at the seminar yesterday was Daniel Shapiro, the associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project and the author of Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as you Negotiate.
It's always reassuring when science and research back up common sense, and essentially his message boiled down to the wisdom that I was raised with, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
Most negotiations are on a personal level and although many of the anecdotes that accompanied the lecture were with regard to international border disputes and clashes between historically warring sects, I think the techniques are ones that we should all embrace in our personal relationships--and they really boil down to being polite and genuine and respectful.
The first tool in a successful negotiation is reason--know your position and the purpose for it. But, beyond that there are certain things that can enhance the chance of a successful negotiation and will preserve the relationship.
Appreciation Understand the other person's point of view, find merit in what they think, feel or do and communicate your understanding.
Autonomy When autonomy is impinged, we no longer listen. So always consult before deciding.
Affiliation Find a way to connect on a structural level with the other party. Find common ground not associated with the conflict.
Status We all have areas of particular expertise, acknowledge the other person's status in that regard.
Role Make sure that each person's role is fulfilling.
So, yes, Beckie in answer to your question, here are some ideas that might help. Good luck!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Today I am going to Freeport for a seminar on mediation.
I loved law school and almost every course that I took has proven valuable to me, but the ones that I took on mediation, negotiation and alternative dispute resolution were among the most useful.
Going to court is a last option and not always a good one for clients. Litigation is expensive and the stakes are high. In many cases, the emotional issues laid out bare in the courtroom are ones that never heal.
Fortunately, for all but the most intractable clients or difficult cases, there are means of settling disputes that do not involve judges, juries or even Judge Alex.
Sara read a book for her senior thesis called You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen. It it she talks about communication methods and how they differ by gender. I haven't read the book yet, but my understanding from her description and from the section that I did read is that women use communication to negotiate intimacy. If you think about how women talk to each other, it's easy to see--we compliment each other, ask for details about life situations and try to leave most conversations feeling closer to one another.
Enjoy this beautiful Spring day.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
As they were driving, the car in front of them hit a turkey and didn't stop. The boys did stop and now it looks like we're going to have fresh turkey in our freezer.
So--if you actually see it get hit it's not really roadkill, right?
It is an ugly weekend in New England. The rain isn't even the sort that invites play, it's the sort of rain that says "Fire up the wood stove again and find a comfortable spot to curl up." The bad thing is that yesterday was just as bad--anyone can stand one weekend day of ennui--but two is pushing it.
Last night, Prairie Home Companion was in Bangor. It was as good as ever and featured a poet that was new to me. Her name is Maxine Kumin and I plan to search out more of her work.
This afternoon a mother and son from Maine are singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame at the Red Sox game to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that great American song. I hope the weather in Boston is nice for them.
It's almost noon, the teenager and all the cats are asleep. C is reading and I'm about to start baking--warm blueberry pie may be the antidote for this miserable day.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Today, she got her posting and it is to Macedonia! How many of us whiled away our time in Vacation Bible School or Sunday School looking at the colorful maps of Paul's journeys in the back of our little Bibles? Well, I hate to say it but until today that is about all I knew about Macedonia.
I think the world has shrunk since those days of daydreaming in Sunday school. The country looks beautiful and Sara is so happy.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
The Aroostock County town of Fort Kent where the U.S. Biathlon team is headquartered is really suffering. The St. John River flows through Fort Kent (quite literally right now). The St. John provides an international border between the United States and Canada.
We were up there in February for a ski race and the picture on the right was taken then. The County received several more feet of snow after our visit and the melt along with 5 inches of rain early this week have made things pretty dicey up there.
Maine is a beautiful state, abundant with natural beauty and rightfully coined "vacationland" but Spring isn't the best time to plan a visit.