Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween

Frightening as it is, on Halloween I am going to head in the same direction as the national media, the candidates and a million campaign aides as I set my sights on Pennsylvania.

I hope to do a quick swoop and snatch of my son without being polled, prodded, interviewed or bribed by NBC, ABC, Fox or Comedy Central. The broken blood vessel in my eye still makes me rather unsightly so I do not think that any of the media would make me the new Joe the Plumber.

Humbling experience of the day: I was in a meeting with a man involved in one of my cases who has more than his share of gang tatoos from a stint in a Texas prison. He looked at me when I greeted him and said, "Wow, you are really scary looking." Hmmm, thanks.

But now cheered by one of SJ's quiz discoveries: What my favorite candy says about me. Candy Corn! and the yellow is the best part.

What Your Love of Candy Corn Says About You

You are a very strange character. Much stranger than people realize at first.

Like candy corn, the more people think about you - the weirder you seem.

While you are quite quirky, that's what is lovable about you.

You are bright, bold, and simply happy. What could be better?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

From Macedonia via Skype

Sara has been in Macedonia a month now and is settling in pretty well. Until late December, she will be in training with intensive language immersion that includes daily classes and life with a host family in the city of Veles which is smack, dab in the middle of Macedonia. She seems happy and is enjoying her adventure and learning about her new culture and language.

Sara is a picky eater, she does not mind eating the same thing meal after meal, day after day, week after week but there are only certain things that she can manage to eat. After a month of experimenting and without a common language, her host mother has figured out that she likes cucumbers and radishes and cheese and bread.

The host mother sounds very sweet and is taking good care of her. The first day that Sara was there, host mother walked her to school--holding her hand when they crossed the street.

Sara is a very petite person and, in addition to being particular about her food, she is particular about the length of her pants. She has to have them hemmed when they are new because we can never buy them the right length, but I have learned through years of trial and error that the hem must be barely above the ground at the back of her shoes. Host mother told Sara that her pants, carefully hemmed to specifications by me prior to departure, were not beautiful so while Sara was off at the internet cafe, host mother cut 2-1/2 inches off all of her pants and hemmed them so that she would be beautiful. Oh dear.

She is loving learning about the culture and while this culture misses her, the internet does make it all a lot easier.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More on the Beavers

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, the beavers are picking up the pace and working hard to build their pond before the ice closes the waterways.

Yesterday my mom and I headed down to the river at the back boundary of their property to see how things were coming along.

The little furry engineers have built a big dam which caused flooding upstream and created a really nice pond. I hope that the pond will be permanent and give us a nice swimming hole to enjoy next summer. The dam still has a lot of rushing water so I imagine the beavers instinct to stop the sound of the rushing water has them cutting and hauling and patching all night long.

We found two beaver lodges in the pond. One was well camouflaged, close to the dam and hard to photograph; the other was far upstream and built into a bank right at the end of the first beaver trail that I found a month ago. That made sense to me because the trail led to a large grove of young popple trees which the beavers must be hauling and storing for their winter food supply.

I just can't get enough of this beaver activity and am so happy to have them in an observable location. At night, I sometimes wake up and wonder what they are doing and try to imagine their busy little night-time world.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Near Brush With Greatness Game

Several months ago, Rach wrote about a game called Near Brush with Greatness. She described it as a simple game: the goal is not to have encountered a famous person, but to know someone who has, and the further removed you are, the more points you earn.

Well, the one that I came up with today, should be a real point bonanza. I am definitely far removed from the famous person but the connection is purely in the realm of speculation--kind of like what the National Enquirer makes millions of dollars doing every week.

Fact: Amy Poehler from Saturday Night Live had a baby yesterday whom she named Archie.

Fact: I have a son named Archie.

Fact: I named my son Archie for my great grandfather Archie Higgins.

Fact: Amy Poehler is married to Will Arnett who played G.O.B. on Arrested Development during its three season run on Fox.

Fact: In five episodes of Arrested Development, a character named Wayne Jarvis was played by an actor named John Michael Higgins.

Fact: John Miichael Higgins' great grandfather and my great grandfather were brothers.

Coincidence? I think not.

Not even close to a Fact: At a fancy Hollywood party, Amy leans over to Will Ferrell and tells him that she and her husband are expecting a baby. John Michael Higgins, is seated across the table and says, Y"ou know, I always thought a great name for a baby was Archie. My great-grandfather's brother was named Archie and they lived in Western Kentucky and fished and hunted and fought the Night Riders."

Well, I'm sure it was a lot funnier when they said it, but it could have happened.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Indian Summer

It was the last girls' soccer game of the year yesterday and I finally managed to go and see one of my favorite kids-that's-not-my-own play.

My high school experience is one that I rarely talk about but it did not include high school sports. It did not include dances or clubs or field trips or science labs or foreign languages or even teachers. I went to a small Christian school back in the 70's during a Christian school movement that swept the country at that time. My school used an independent learning curriculum called Accelerated Christian Education and I was one of two graduates in 1977.

Like I said earlier, I don't talk about it, I certainly regret it and I once heard my oldest son tell his then girlfriend--"Don't ever ask mom about high school."

But, I survived and made it to college and the scars of the past are just that nothing more. Nothing, though, was more important to me for my children than a real high school experience and this little town gave it to them.

I wish that I had been able to absorb lessons from high school sports and from teachers that challenged me to venture past the boundaries of what I thought possible. But, that's water under the bridge. I've learned to think, I figured out what I should have learned then and after four kids I have been to enough sporting events that some of those life lessons should have rubbed off on me.

Those thoughts come back to me from time to time, though, as I sit in the sun and watch soccer and wonder what it is like to be 16, have a ponytail, wear shorts and chase a ball up and down a field relying on your teammates.

Friday, October 24, 2008


It's been a busy week and hard to find the time to write my blog or even to follow other ones, but a few posts have blown through the clutter in my life and mind and grabbed my attention.

Jayne has written a series over the past week re-counting her experience the week before on a jury in a child maltreatment case. She did a very good job of explaining the case and the deliberations and it gives us all a little window into the mind of a juror.

My work is primarily in cases where there has been abuse or neglect of a child and I write obliquely about it from time to time in this space but Jayne's artful handling of the trial and the interest shown by her commenters made me think that I should start sharing more of my work. All of my cases are highly confidential but with care certain aspects and principles can be shared.

Another post that woke me up and had tears running down my cheeks this morning was one from Grace, Every Day and it said "If you read nothing else today, please read this post." I did and agree. Read it. You won't be sorry.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Main Street Monday

With all the politicians trying to distance themselves from Wall Street and attach themselves to Main Street, I have decided that for a while anyway (until I get bored with it), I will feature Maine Main Streets on Mondays.

Dixfield's hub is at the intersection of Weld Street (Rt. 142) and Main Street (Rt. 2).

Doug's Dogs is a staple of the intersection. Every day from the time the snow melts until it comes back again, Doug is selling hotdogs from his little cart in the parking lot of the American Legion. Doug has outlasted at least four restaurants who have opened and closed in the time that I have lived in town. In the winter months, he travels to Florida with his hot dog cart. I suspect that he is a very successful businesman, I know he's a nice guy and Charlie takes every opportunity to pick up a Doug's Dog for lunch.

Across the street from Doug's Dogs is the Bangor Savings Bank. If Bangor Savings Bank has had to be bailed out by the federal government, that news hasn't broken in the Rumford Falls Times yet. National news reports say that small local banks are the safest from the current financial sunami.

Alot of big trucks rumble through town. We have a lumber mill and there is a paper mill downstream in Jay and one upstream in Rumford. Huge 20 ton trucks hauling logs rumble through town at all hours of the day and night.

The gas price at the new Towle's Corner Store is at $2.69 per gallon today. Lower gas prices have to help the truckers and loggers whose incomes support the other businesses in town.

The Towle's Corner Store is a new business by a family who also owns the adjacent hardware store. The Corner Store opened up last fall and features really tasty meals and wireless internet along with the usual convenience store stock.

The Towle's Hardware Store is undergoing extensive remodelling and expansion even in the face of headlines that scream recession.

There are a lot of houses for sale in town and some that have been sold for far less than they should have been worth. I have no doubt that people are suffering greatly from the current financial situation, from fuel prices and fear but I also think that people on Main Streets in Maine and probably all over the country try to live within their means, pay their bills, raise their children, take care of their elders and they can't really comprehend what a trillion dollars looks like. I know that I can't.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Grand Tetons? Not quite.

Maine's third highest peak is Sugarloaf Mountain in Carabasset Valley--a playground for the rich and famous and an incubator for many an Olympic skiier.

There are at least two other Sugarloaf Mountains in the state. One is in Rangely and one (or maybe two) are in Dixfield. A quick look reveals why they are affectionately referred to locally as The Boobies.

I judge the weather each morning on whether or not I can see them as I make our coffee. Most mornings they are there--perky as can be--it takes a lot of precipitation to cover those girls up.

Today we decided to take a walk up to Bull Rock. Bull Rock nestles like an ugly tatoo on the front of the right boobie. It is a sheer rock ledge about halfway up the mountain and is spraypainted each June by the high school seniors in a late-night ritual to which we adults turn our heads. But, spraypaint aside, the ledge offers a beautiful view of our little town.

We packed a picnic backpack and walked up Lancaster Street past MH's house where Molly and Sara went to thousands of sleepovers, through the woods and up a hill, through the front yard of a girl who drove Archie's car into a ditch during homecoming last year, up the driveway of one of Charlie's ski team parents and then back into the woods on a little trail to the Ledge.
From Bull Rock, we could see forever. The last layer of mountains in this picture are Mts. Washington, Monroe and Adams, an hour to the west in New Hampshire.

I love nothing more than a sunny day on a rock. The rock holds heat and from many years of experience I know exactly how to mold my body into any rock until it is as comfortable as a feather bed. Usually Charlie rouses me before I'm through with my rock nap, but today he let me be while he snapped pictures of the countryside from our perch.

In silent reflection, we enjoyed our picnic lunch and sparkling grape juice left over from the wedding.

We walked home the long way through the cross country trails behind the high school and down the hill the runners always referred to as Psycho.

Another perfect day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Saturday

Brother and family headed back to Chile today after a wonderful visit and a sweet wedding ceremony made extra special by the Spanish translation provided by friend and blogger, Amity.

It's been quite a week with Brother visiting, a presidential debate and a couple of Red Sox games; throw in a gross and hideous physical ailment and I'm ready to be put out to pasture.

Last Sunday, the mirror revealed my right eyeball pooled with blood. I quickly took out my beloved contacts and thought it would go away in a day or two. It has actually gotten redder and uglier every day and for the last 5 days my entire right eye has been red.

My eye doctor wasn't in the one day this week that I had available time for an appointment so I went to see my regular doctor--oh bad news there, she's gone to another practice and I had to see a young lady certainly younger than most of my children and who didn't see any cause for concern but who had to leave the room 3 or 4 times during my exam--presumably to get instructions.

Ugly or not, this morning I woke up with energy to tackle a BIG JOB. This big old house has five bedrooms and the back bedroom has always been the catch-all room. We all throw things in there and it is full of boxes and crates and tubs dating back to Ethan's senior year of high school with layers of the detritus of four childhoods marking each of the six years since like the rings of a tree.

There is a bed in there and if Ethan and Ann are home they use the room and various other visitors have called it home for varying lengths of time but the room is really just a clutter clutch and not hospitable enough to make anyone want to stay for long.

Well, it looks like the teenager is going to come home and finish his senior year back in Dixfield. I think that's good news--except I took him at his word when he shook the dust of Western Maine from his feet and with a heavy heart turned his bedroom into a very nice guest room. Charlie painted the walls, we moved a nice double bed in there and I'm really not willing to relinquish it.

Perhaps, then, the back room--all it really needs is a little elbow grease, a few buckets of hot soapy water, some tubs from Walmart along with a sharpie to let each child know which tub contains their trophies and 3rd grade class pictures, a few trips to the attic and more than one trip to the dump. So, this morning when Charlie pulled out of the driveway at 6:45 a.m. to head to Augusta for a class, I headed up the back stairway and got to work.

A few hours and several Advil later, the room is cute and welcoming and ready.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One more wedding!

In April, my family traveled to Chile to witness Brother's marriage to Luz Maria. The wedding was elegant and moving with a full wedding mass in a lovely adobe church and an all-night fiesta with a full orchestra.

This week, they are in Maine and Brother thought that it would be a good thing to solemnize their marriage in the United States---so guess what? We're going to have a wedding tomorrow!!!

I've only officiated two weddings--I'm not sure how the first turned out because the couple was from out of state, but the second one....well, it didn't really take, shall we say. So, I'm a little nervous about my ability to pronounce anyone man and wife but am willing to give it another shot.

Amity is going to come and translate and any other River Valley Bloggers who are interested in joining us at 7 p.m. Thursday at my house are welcome!

Suggestions and ideas are welcome in e-mail or comments.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Franconia Fall

This has to be the most beautiful fall foliage weekend ever. With a long weekend and gas prices hovering closer to $3 than $4 per gallon, New Englanders ventured away from the bad news on CNBC to see what beauty was unfurling in the woods.

We spent the last few days in Franconia Notch re-visiting tourist attractions that Brother and I had not seen in 40 years and straying into the streams and the woods to share with Luz Maria and Ignatio the parts of the United States that we are most proud of.

When Brother and I were children, we would spend every long weekend camping in Franconia Notch and both of us have very happy memories of the area. It felt good to re-live the memories with him. My memory is beyond terrible and just full of vague recollections; his memory is like flypaper full of distinct multi-sensory experiences, so while I drove and guided, he filled in the gaps of my childhood, story by story.

We jumped on rocks in the Pemigewasset and took the tram up Cannon Mountain. We explored the Flume and the Basin and listened to the nickelodean at Clark's Trading Post.

Sleep was welcome last night and I can't imagine that any of us made it to the 11th inning of the Red Sox/Tampa Bay game.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Revisiting the Wire Bridge

Five months ago today, I wrote about The Wire Bridge in North New Portland. Today, I was again in the area and stopped to take some pictures.

When I arrived at the bridge there was a couple getting out of the car with their dog. The told me that they had been at the Common Ground Fair a few weeks ago and were very taken with a photograph of the Wire Bridge so had decided to take a day trip from their home in Brunswick to see it.
They couldn't have picked a more beautiful day. The doggie was blind but seemed to enjoy the outing with his people. Perhaps he could sense the peace and tranquilty.

All is tranquil and quiet in the hills of Maine as Autumn works her magic.

Brother and his family are flying in from Chile today, we will enjoy sharing our home and lives with them over the next few weeks. Luz Marie and her son have never been to the United States before--they spent yesterday in New York City and today are flying on to Maine. I'm not sure how representative New York city and the hills of Maine are of the United States but at least it's better than getting their depiction of the United States from Desperate Housewives and The Biggest Loser!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Those Intrepid Beavers

Last weekend we had more than eight inches of rain fall on Maine due to a nor'easter on Friday and Saturday and then the effects of Hurricane Kyle on Sunday and Monday. I was worried about the beavers and when the storm let up, my mom checked on them. The fledgling building project that I had discovered the week before was completely washed away but the hard-working, resilient little rodents had moved their operation farther downstream to the southeast corner of my parents' property.

Yesterday, Charlie and I were over helping Dad clear up some trees. After the wood was put into our vehicle and Charlie headed home to stack it, Dad and I headed down to the river to check out the beavers. From the top of the hill where their woods road ends, we could see the dam and the evidence of clear cutting and dragging. Beavers build dams to make the water near their lodge deep enough that the water will stay open under the ice. I could see their lodge farther upstream but could not get a good picture of it without getting wet.

Farther downstream, in a boggy area there is another dam under construction. This all bears more exploration.

Beaver fun fact: Their teeth protrude through a hole in their lips so that their lips can close behind their teeth keeping tree debris from getting into their mouth when chopping and allowing them to swim with a tree clutched in their teeth.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Seasonal Change

It seems like just yesterday that we were excitedly watching the big maple tree in our yard bud out with leaves, now we are raking those leaves along the side of the house to insulate against the winter wind. By the time new leaves are budding on the tree, these will be wet, compact and ready to go into the composter for a last transition before being spread on the garden where they will nourish next year's tomatoes. Somehow thinking about this year's leaves gives me real comfort in these days of confusing and turbulent national news.

All over town, people have piles of wood in their yards or already stacked in their wood sheds, barns and garages. We have 3 cords stacked, another 1-1/2 cords in the driveway waiting to be stacked and another 1-1/2 to be delivered. We have an oil furnace but the more wood we burn, the less oil we have to buy. We've been firing up the stove the last few evenings. Our little Jotul stove, heats the rooms we spend our evenings in and the heat floats up the stairs to warm the bedroom by the time we head up there.
In mid-September, before the first freeze, I brought the tomatoes still on the vine into the house and they have ripened by the south facing windows. The cats have occasionally used them for bowling, but I think that I've retrieved all the ones that rolled under furniture--if not, I suspect that I will find them in a diminished state while cleaning and you can be sure that I will take a picture to share!

This afternoon, I am going to be able to go check on the beavers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hayden Carruth, American poet

Hayden Carruth died yesterday. In 1996, he won a Pullitzer prize for his collection of poetry called Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey.

I am an appreciator of poetry but have little critical insight. I understand what is written and sometimes if I mull on it for a while I understand what is not written but most of the subtleties are probably lost on me.

My daily poetry tutorial consists of Garrison Keillor's Writer's Alamanc on the radio during morning drives. Several years ago Garrison read a poem called Memory that stuck with me until I got home, googled and copied it to my list of favorite poems.

Yesterday when I heard that Hayden Carruth had died I thought that perhaps he had written that haunting poem--he had.

"Memory," by Hayden Carruth from Doctor Jazz (Copper Canyon Press).


A woman I used to know well died
A week ago. Not to be mysterious:
She and I were married. I'm told
She fell down dead on a street in
Lower Manhattan, and I suppose
She suffered a stroke or a heart attack.
The last time I saw her was in the spring
Of 1955, meaning forty-four
Years ago, and now when I try
To imagine her death I see in my
Mind a good-looking, twenty-nine-
Year-old woman sprawled on the pavement.
It does no good to go and examine
My own ravaged face in the bathroom
Mirror; I cannot transpose my ravage-
Ment to her. She is fixed in my mind
As she was. Brown hair, brown eyes,
Slender and sexy, coming home
From her job as an editor in a huge
Building in midtown. Forty-four
Years is longer than I thought. My dear,
How could you have let this happen to you?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just an October day

After a rainy summer, autumn is shaping up the same way--maybe, maybe, maybe all the precipitation means another super snowy winter!

The foliage this year does not seem as spectacular as it has in other years but it is still very beautiful.

Today I drove through the western edge of Maine through the towns of Stoneham, Lovell and Fryeburg. I met with one of the teenagers on my caseload at Fryeburg Academy. Fryeburg is a quaint town with a Main Street full of antique stores and large colonial homes resting behind wide yards. The sprawling campus of the Academy is the centerpiece of the town and students travel from all over the world to attend the school which claims Daniel Webster as one of its first headmasters. Local students use the Academy as their local high school giving kids from Fryeburg an opportunity for a much different educational experience than most high school students in Maine.

From Fryeburg, I headed across the border and into New Hampshire to a town named Effingham--why do I feel like I am swearing when I say the name of that town? The road leading to Effingham twists around lake after lake and I risked life and limb to pull over on the narrow road a time or two for photo ops.

High on Green Mountain in Effingham, there is a rehabilitation facility for people with brain injuries. I had a client to meet there and his case gave me a lot to think about as I twisted my way back home.

Now at home, the rain is pounding the tin roof, Charlie is at a pre-season meeting for ski coaches, the cats are all restless and the Red Sox don't play until 10 p.m.