I am so crunchy and healthy……

I am SUCH a crunchy granola aging hippy!  I tell ya.

I recently wrote a post called “Abbondanza” where I wrote about how excited I was at the incredible bounty of fresh foods at my farmer’s market.  I was thinking about the fact that pretty soon it will be the dead of winter, and we’ll be reduced to eating canned tomatoes and frozen peas.  Yechhh.

I saw this.

I saw this.

So this morning I woke up and thought to myself, “I’m an Earth Mother type!  I should buy and can a whole bunch of tomatoes!”  I was overcome by the image of my healthy woman self whipping up a delicious lasagna in February, using those vibrantly delicious tomatoes, onions, basil, garlic and oregano from the summer.  Mmmmmmm, good!  I could just picture my grandmothers, great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers nodding in approval.

And I pictured this.

And I pictured this.

I was psyched!

I headed off to the local farm stand.  I was about to grab a whole bunch of fresh, perfect tomatoes.  I smiled at the farmer, and announced “I’m going to can tomatoes!”  She looked at me like I was insane.  “You can’t use THOSE!  You’ll go BROKE!”  She hustled out the door of the stand and grabbed a huge box of slightly imperfect tomatoes.  “You want THESE.”, she announced.

Oh.  OK.  I quickly chose a bunch of other ingredients and grabbed the big box of “canning tomatoes”.  I was so impressed with myself!  Heading home to “put up” vegetables for the long winter!

“Bring back my box!”, the farmer called as I pulled out of her driveway.  I waved in response.  She’s a little scary.  I’ll be bringing that box back tomorrow.

I got home, and spread out all of my treasures.

Holy healthiness! Look at this!   I was so excited.

I breathed in deeply, smelling the golden late summer air.  I felt just exactly like “Ma” in “Little House on the Prairie.”  I thought about putting my hair into a long braid, or a nice little bun at the back of my neck, but I had just had a hair cut, and it was only about an inch long.  Still, I felt pretty wholesome as I wrapped myself in my organic, sustainably raised cotton apron.  From “The Kitchen Store”.

I began by chopping up huge piles of veggies.  I’ve done this before! I hummed to myself, thinking of the millions and millions of women who have come before me, seeing the incredible richness of summer as a time to prepare for the long, cold winter.

I decided to get myself fully into the mood by listening to some old folk songs.  Just like all of those women in those healthy olden days, I thought that music would ease the burden of all the hard work ahead of me. Feeling one with my ancestors, I popped my iPhone onto the dock and booted up Pandora.  Bluegrass music enveloped me as I dropped the chopped veggies into my Cuisinart and hit “high”.

I pureed the entire box of tomatoes, plus two fresh onions and ten cloves of garlic.  I added in the organic basil and my own garden fresh oregano.  I let it all simmer on my electric stove, thinking of all the women before me, forging a new life in a new land, facing untold obstacles.

Even though I was pretty sure that I knew how to do this safely, I decided to be extra cautious.  After all, I am a Mother! This food will no doubt be used to sustain my family in the harsh winter!

I googled “canning tomatoes” and watched three You Tube Videos to make sure I was getting it right. Yup. Just like a Pioneer Woman. I knew what to do!

So here I am, five hours after I started.  A real, honest-to-God, back to the earth, all natural hippy granny woman. All I had were my hands, my local farmer, Michael’s Crafts for the mason jars, the internet, YouTube, an electric stove, a thermometer, a set of oven mitts, some “can grabber” tongs and my internal drive and innate knowledge.

I ended up with this.

I ended up with this.

I. Am. Amazing.

What a self-reliant, simple, back to nature woman I am!  I can’t wait to google some awesome recipes for all this deliciousness!


“Boom, boom, out go the lights.”

Uzi_of_the_israeli_armed_forcesI don’t understand.

I don’t get it.

It makes no sense to me.

How did our culture, our community, our society, our beloved country, come to believe that all guns are good, and that all people should be allowed to shoot them at will? How did we ever come to accept the bizarre idea that the more armed we are, the safer we will all be?

I just don’t understand.

I’ve written about this before.  I’ve written about the fact that I live in a rural community where many people hunt for deer, turkey, ducks, even black bears.  Most of the hunters I know eat the meat that they procure.  I get that.  I admire it. I even enjoy it when I get a chance to eat some fresh turkey or deer.

Guns for hunting= makes sense to me!

And I even understand those people who tell me that they like to shoot guns “for sport”.  Ok.  It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me, but neither does bungee jumping or playing football or catching catfish with my bare hands.  If people want to go to a legally registered gun range or gun club and shoot a weapon at a non-living target, go for it.

Whatevah.  To each his own, right?

As long as “each” is an adult who understands the repercussions of his actions, that is.  As long as “each” shooter is old enough to give informed consent.

I mean, we live in a society that tells 19 year old men and women that they are not yet adult enough to handle a beer. We tell everyone under the age of 18 that he or she is not yet mature enough to consent to sexual activity, not matter how deeply in love he or she may feel. We tell them that they are not yet old enough to give informed consent to actions that we deem to be detrimental to their health.

So why, for the love of all that is good and sacred, do we happily put absolutely horrifically lethal weapons into the hands of our 8 and 9 year old children?  WHY?

I teach ten and eleven year olds.  I know very very well how illogical and how impulsive and how fragile those young people are this very tender age.

Anyone who believes that it is morally right to put an Uzi into the hands of such a little being is a self-serving idiot in complete denial about the purpose of such a terrible, lethal machine.

I am willing to bet that the parents who take their prepubescent children to the gun range and hand them an automatic weapon are also parents who make sure that the very same children have all of their shots.  I bet that those children rode in car seats and booster seats until they reached the proper weight to ride safely with only a seat belt.

I am willing to go out on a limb and wager that the majority of those kids wear bike helmets when they ride around the block.

So what the hell gives with the damn guns?

How did this happen?

How did well allow the NRA to convince us that it is “fun” to let a little girl put down her dolls and pick up a deadly weapon?

I don’t blame that poor little child, whose life is now irreparably broken. I don’t even blame her parents. I blame every single member of the US government who took a dollar (or a million) from the NRA and who looked the other way as more and more weapons were allowed to flood our streets.

And I blame every single responsible adult who doesn’t stand up right now and say that enough is enough.

If we really want to tell the world that we love our children, we need to outlaw these weapons of mass destruction. Or at least take them out of reach until the age of informed consent.

What we miss

I love to sit in my hot tub at night, as late as possible. I love to soak and relax and slowly melt into a state of sleepy happiness.

I usually go out after everyone in my neighborhood has gone to sleep.  I turn off all the light in our house, and I sink into the steamy bliss of the water. As it rises above my aching back and begins to soothe my sore shoulders, I tilt my head back, as far as it will go. The swirling heat of the hot tub jets surrounds my stiff and painful neck, rising to my ears and up across my always clenched jaws.

I relax.  I let go of control.  If I am very lucky, and very attuned, I am able to ignore the words that define each moment: I allow myself to simply feel.  I am happy/sad/lonely/proud/curious/angry/anxious. I stop trying to define and explain each feeling.

When I go outside at night, I turn off all of the lights in the house.  I step onto the deck, embraced by the total darkness. I feel and hear the dogs as they take their places around me, but I am adrift. I float in the inky darkness of the woods around my house.

And when I reach the edge of tub, and lower myself in, I am embraced by the heat. I feel the salty, briny arms of the water as they wrap around my ribs and back and neck and jaw.  I sink into the healing hug.

And I always, always, tilt my head back, just as far as it will go.  And I let my eyes rest on the sprinkle of silver above me. And I wait.

There is always a shooting star, arcing across the heavens, gone before I can fully grasp that it is there.  And I always arch my neck backwards, just that tiny bit more, to catch the next spark from Heaven.

But I rarely catch a glimpse of that second miracle; I rarely have a chance to cast my heart’s most fervent wish into the heaven’s before the stargazing is over.

And I pull myself from the briny water, rub my arms and legs to remind them that they are earthbound tools.  I wrap myself in my towel, and cast one last, longing glance at the heavens.

Then I take myself to bed. I wrap in my covers, my teeth brushed and my face washed clean.  I curl onto my side and let myself slip into sleep.

But when I wake up in the morning, I begin to wonder. What did I miss in the night? How many gorgeous golden stars went arcing across my heavens?  How many beautiful, elusive animals went prowling past my house as I slept?  How many tiny insects crept carefully around my blooming flowers?

I wonder, so often.  What is it that we miss when we curl ourselves into our beds at night?  And what wouldn’t I give to be awake and alert for just one full day, to see what it is that I have missed.


My son Tim came home today.  We had a wonderful time chatting, catching up on news, having a bit of lunch.

Then we headed off to our local Farmer’s Market, just to grab a few goodies.


Wow.  We drove up the hill, into the small town center.  We parked along the town green, parking on the grass across the small road from the old white houses and rambling farms. It was raining hard, for the first time in several weeks. Tim held an umbrella over our heads, but the rain streamed down over us nonetheless. We were chilly and wet by the time we got to the first vendor’s tent.

As we stood shivering under our small umbrella, I gazed at the incredible array of fresh, organic, locally grown foods.  There were baskets filled with beets, kale, onions, garlic, red and gold potatoes, lettuce, beans, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, turnips, parsnips and fennel.  Tim and I chose a few items to take home, chatting and laughing with the young man behind the counter.  No need for garlic or tomatoes, or carrots: I grew those at home! No need for beets or onions, I just bought those at the farm stand in town.

We chose some eggs, some lettuce and small, crisp cukes.  Some broccoli and a few sweet red peppers.

As we walked around the rest of the market, we bought some fresh, colorful eggs, a loaf of crisp fresh bread and a local package of goat cheese.

We stopped at the freezer truck where our friend and local farmer was selling fresh sweet corn and all kinds of local organic meats. We bought a dozen ears of corn and two pounds of freshly ground beef.

As we headed back to the car with our treasures, I kept telling Tim that I was feeling overwhelmed by the bounty all around us.  We had enough money to buy as much fresh, safe, healthy food as we could use. We had a choice of fresh foods that was almost an embarrassment of riches. I wished that I could buy and save enough of this wonderful food to see us all the way through the winter.

And two things struck me then: One is that I absolutely CAN buy and preserve enough fresh food to last until next spring. I only have to put in the effort to cook and can or freeze it all.  The second thought was more profound: how is it that I find myself surrounded by more food than any of us could ever consume, when the world is filled with so many hungry families? I thought of people far away, suffering in Syria and Iraq and Gaza and Ukraine. And I thought of people in my own community, young families with hungry children, who are unable to access the incredible bounty of the summer in New England.

I don’t know how I can share all this wealth. I don’t know how I can manage to feed those hungry children.  But I do know that I am committed to buying, saving, cooking, eating and sharing as much of this fresh, nutritious food as I possibly can.  And I will do whatever it is that I can do to bring these wonderful treasures to hungry people wherever they may be.

In praise of local farmers, who work so hard to bring us the beautiful gifts of summer!


Writing just to write

Oh, oh.

This is about to become one of those incredibly self-serving and self-conscious posts about blogging.


I hate those.

But I’m in a weird place!  I need advice/comfort/support/head slaps/eye rolls/”get over your bad selfs”/hugs.  I started this blog way back when because I was really, truly depressed about the emptying of my nest.

I was picturing this:

Wicked cute babies.

Wicked cute babies.

When in reality, my children looked like this:

My sweet occupiers.

Whoah. They grew up. A lot.

I was a very sad out-of-work Mommy.  So I poured my heart out into “Post Departum Depression” (get it??) and I cried and I mourned and I grieved.  And I found some wonderful kindred souls and some very smart and talented writers.  And slowly, slowly, I grew out of my sadness and my depression.

I grew to the point where I began to appreciate the pleasures of the post-baby phase of life.  And I began to write for the pleasure of writing.  I no longer needed the therapy, I no longer needed the outlet. But I kept on writing.

Why, you ask? Why did I continue to write, even when the therapy was no longer needed? Well, first of all, WordPress has these horribly addicting things called “Freshly Pressed” and “stats”.  You start to look at them.  Like every day.  Or maybe 43 times a day.  You notice those rare and exhilarating days when you have been “Freshly Pressed” or when a famous educational blogger like Diane Ravitch has shared your post. You become entranced as your stats go from 30 daily reads to 3,000 daily reads.  You start to feel moderately famous. You grab your laptop and frantically search for a topic.  You write because you want to be read!

I know that these little blips of success are fleeting. I know that I am not actually on my way to that Pulitzer Prize.  Still, I keep writing.

I write because every time I start to think, “Who the hell do I think I am, expecting people to read my drivel?”, I run into a smart, thoughtful, wonderful friend who tells me that she reads my words and that “they touch my heart”.  Gulp!  Talk about a boost of adrenaline and a boost to the ego! I write because the people I value find something meaningful in my words.

I have discovered that blogging has opened my world. I have blogging friends now in Scotland, England, California, Connecticut, Maine.  I have blogging friends who share my ideas, and friends whose ideas are totally foreign to me.  I have exchanged thoughtful comments about parenting, teaching, marriage, dog training, gun laws, the Arab Spring, Gaza and Israel, local foods and herbal medicine.

I learn something every time I check my reader.

But here is my dilemma.

I no longer feel that “Post Departum Depression”.   I no longer mourn over my empty nest.  Truth to tell, I am gearing up to be (hopefully) a grandmother one day in the not-too-distant future.

So.  Do I end this blog, and start another? Do I change the name of the site? Or do I honor the time in my life that helped me to find my writer’s voice, and keep the site and name as I grow into my “Nonni” years?

I’d love it if you would weigh in on this, everyone.  What should I do?

I can see every side of the issue, and I am not sure what to do.

Let me leave you with this. The image of my beloved babies, as they celebrated together at Kate’s wedding.

My favorite photo of all time. Truly.

My favorite photo of all time. Truly.

What’s your advice?


True Romance

My honey and I, back in the day.

My honey and I, back in the day.

My Dad was a true romantic.  He was always one for grand gestures.  He would routinely reach out to my Mom while she was trying to make dinner, pull her into his arms and tell all six of us giggling children, “Your mother is the most beautiful woman in the world!” He was always the guy who bought the huge Valentine card with the red velvet ribbon, full of words of poetry and schmaltz.  He would sometimes sing to my Mother, in an off-key voice, so full of love for his girl that he couldn’t contain it.

And I will never, ever forget the Christmas morning when he really went over the top. They had been together for probably thirty five years by then, weathering times of struggle as my Dad worked full time in the day and attended classes at night.  They had raised six children into healthy adulthood.  They had scrimped and saved and worked very hard.  Now they had come to a place of relative bounty, and Dad had gotten a hefty bonus at work.  On Christmas morning, in front of the assembled kids and a couple of spouses, Dad ostentatiously presented Mom with her gift: A full length mink coat, with a pair of diamond earrings in the pocket.

Wow. Right out of a Cary Grant movie, right?

I sort of always wanted that kind of romance for myself.  In my secret heart, I guess I always assumed that I would find a man who would kiss me lavishly in front of our children, praising my lips and my hair and my heart of gold, all at once.

But then I grew up.  I fell in love with Paul.  I fell in love with a quiet, gentle soul who tended to avoid the limelight.

Presenting your true love with a full length fur in front of the assembled family is not exactly avoiding the limelight.

But that isn’t the only thing that differed from my childhood daydreams.

Once I grew up, and became a well educated and professional woman, I found that I preferred to buy my own jewelry and clothing.  I was happy to find myself married to a man who gave me practical gifts.

And the years went by.  Like my parents, Paul and I have both worked hard. We have raised three children into healthy adulthood.  We have lived through graduate school together,  we’ve both had night jobs, we found ourselves working two jobs. We have experienced the scrimping and saving and keeping our fingers crossed that the furnace would stay on and the roof wouldn’t leak. We have eaten our share of beans and rice in an effort to cut costs.

We have had many Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries together.

We are not a traditionally “romantic” couple.

And here is what I have learned.

Romance is in the eye of the beholder.   My husband, my friend, my love, does not bring me jewels and flowers and perfume.  Instead, he brings me tiny gifts that tell me that I hold a place in the forefront of his mind and heart.

Sometimes he stops to buy me asparagus. Sometimes he walks the dogs even though its my turn.  And sometimes romance is found simply  in what he says.

My husband is one of those “reach out and touch someone” guys. He absolutely loves Facebook for the way that it lets us reconnect with old and dear friends.  Paul is the most loyal of friends: he will not forget you even if he hasn’t seen you since you were both walking around without your front teeth.

He recently connected with a group of people who worked together at a local ice cream parlor in the 1970’s.  He has been out of his mind with joy at finding them again. He has spent hours exchanging messages and emails with his old buddies.

I will be honest, I had to talk myself into letting go of my frustration the 900th time that he started a sentence with, “My old friend B. was telling me………”. He has met them for lunch, gathered them for group phone chats, helped to organize a reunion cook out.   I have tried to grin and bear it.

“Huh”, I have thought to myself. “Where is that romantic guy I was supposed to marry, h’mmm?”

And then I found him.

We were sitting together the other night, talking over his recent visit with his wonderful old friends.  And he said, “One of the ice cream parlor women said the same thing that our old High School friends have said to me. They both told me that I’m not the same as I was back then. That I’m so much more open and confident and friendly.”

I laughed and joked, “Well, of course!”, I said with a smile. “You owe it all to me.”

My husband didn’t laugh. He reached out and took my hand.  He said, “But its true, honey. You didn’t make me more outgoing.  But you always gave me room to grow.”

There you have it, my friends.  That is true romance.  Recognizing the little things that someone does to help us become our very best selves.

I will treasure that statement for the rest of my life.  And I’ll buy my own earrings while I do.

Sempre La Famiglia


Uncle Bob and his beautiful daughter.

Uncle Bob and his beautiful daughter.

When I was a little girl, my siblings and I were sometimes watched by my Mom’s baby brothers.

We knew them as “Bobby and Joey”.  They were cool, young, fun, hip, interesting.  We had a great time when they were in charge.

Uncle Joey was the one with the crazy wit; he often made jokes that I couldn’t totally understand, but I knew they were hilarious.  He was all about puns and word play.  I learned to appreciate the nuances of language from him. I learned to really love word games from Uncle Joey.  He taught me to play “Tinky Pinky”, a game that I still play with my students, some 50 years after he taught it to me.

But Uncle Bobby was the Uncle with the gentle soul. He was funny, smart, kind, loving.  He was the young Uncle who wanted desperately to be a doctor. He was determined to learn about the body, about medicine, about healing.  He was the Uncle who taught me that you have to keep trying, keep pushing, keep digging if you really want to achieve your dreams.

When I was nine years old, and nearly desperate for a dog of my own, Bobby was the Uncle who came to my house with a tiny brown puppy, saved from a medical lab. I immediately fell in love with her, and named her “Coco”.  She was my first “baby”, my first responsibility, my first real love. I will always associate my Uncle Bobby with my little dog.

As I grew up, Uncle Bobby remained the Uncle with the incredible sense of humor, the amazing work ethic, the inspiring love of family.  He became a doctor, a surgeon, and a father of eight.  His children, my cousins, are uniformly beautiful, charming, kind, thoughtful and loving.

I remember one spring day, when my family was gathered to celebrate the lives of my grandparents.  We all stood around, and listened as the Uncles, Roy, Joe and Bobby, shared memories of their parents.  Uncle Bobby raised a hand, as if holding a glass of wine, and said, “Sempre la Famiglia”.  The family forever.

My children and my nieces and nephews took those words to heart.  They wear them now as tattoos, a pledge to always remember the bonds of love that make up a family.

Now my funny, loving, smart Uncle Bobby is battling against the ravages of ALS.  I find it amazing, but not at all surprising, that the infectious “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” is happening during his struggle.

Bob, Dr. Bob, would be just the right person to exemplify the need for more research, and for a cure.  My clever, dextrous, surgically skilled Uncle can show us what is lost when this terrible disease strikes.

Like about a million other people out there, I took the “Ice Bucket Challenge”.  I decided to get silly with it, and reached into a giant rubbermaid tub to pull out a small martini shaker of ice water.  And then I made a contribution to ALS research.

I love this challenge.  I love that it is bringing awareness to such an awful disease.

Mostly, though, I love that I had a chance to celebrate the generous, gentle, humorous life of my wonderful Uncle Bobby.

Sempre La Famiglia.


The Mt. Washington Auto Road.

The Mt. Washington Auto Road.

First thought: this photo has nothing to do with this post.

Which is pretty much the point. I’m sort of out of gas.

It happens to me every summer!  Every summer.

I don’t know why I’m still surprised, but what can I say? I apparently don’t learn from the past.

In June, there is nothing on earth more enticing to me than the idea of a whole day at home by myself.  In August, I’m getting a little bored with only me for company.

In June, the smell of the charcoal grill is like a siren song, calling me to days and nights of warmth and comfort. I love the lingering smell of hickory smoked chicken in my hair as I go to bed late, late on an early summer night.

In August, I yearn for the smell of baking apples and the warmth of the oven on a cool evening.  That rich charcoal smell now makes me think of forest fires and charred hot dogs.  I’m all done.

Ah, and in June, in June, in the lengthening days of June, this teacher craves a week without a single essay to correct, or lunch line to organize, or best friend conflict to mediate.  In June, the idea of a world empty of children’s voices sounds like the very definition of peace.

But come August, this aging teacher begins to dream of children past.  Their bright eyes and bubbling laughs fill me with longing.  This old teacher, mother of all grown up children, starts to gravitate toward the groups of kids on the beach, hoping to be invited in to look at the tide pool.

I can tell that summer is winding down. There are so many unmistakable signs.  The days grow just a little bit shorter.  The nights are almost crisp.  The leaves are beginning to curl, and turn brown or red.  The goldenrod is sprouting in every open field.

I can tell that summer, for all its glory and its gifts, is drifting toward its close.  My house is so clean that I barely recognize it.  The windows sparkle, the basement has been swept. The siding was washed of all of its algae and today I found myself taking apart window fans so that I could scrub them clean before putting them back together.

I know for sure that summer is past its prime, because I am really eager to see the names on next year’s class list. I have started to organize my “Week One” files, and I am making little maps to reorganize my classroom.

Thank you so much, Summer of 2014~ you have been a joy and a pleasure. I intend to thoroughly enjoy every day you have left.

But bring on the kids pretty soon, OK?  Its getting a little boring out here.

Expiration Date

Wow. Did I ever really look that fresh?

Wow. Did I ever really look that fresh?

My Dad, a very wise man, used to say lots of pithy things like, “No one gets out of this life alive.”  and “Getting old stinks, but it sure beats the alternative.”

He also used to say, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”

I used to roll my eyes and grimace.  I was young.  I was an idiot.

For a long, long time, I fully embraced the philosophy of the young, believing my life to be at least 10,000 years long and sure that I was basically untouchable by the fates.

I don’t know why I didn’t smarten up when young friends of mine died.  A 14 year old classmate died of leukemia. A 26 year old very close friend was killed by a random bolt of lightning on the beach.

Why didn’t I start to realize then that life is a short and beautiful journey? Why didn’t I come to understand that every life, animal or human or plant, comes with an expiration date?

I don’t know.  But I didn’t.

Now, of course, I am older and wiser.  Parts of my body hurt on a regular basis. I pay attention to my diet and my bowels and my posture.

Now I take medication to lower my blood pressure.  I have been told that my cholesterol is creeping up a bit, and that my blood sugar could use some tweaking.  I should be eating more vegetables and fish, more tofu, more quinoa.  I should be avoiding salt, and white bread and pasta and processed sugar.

I should definitely be cutting down on the alcohol and the caffeine.

I should.

But here’s the thing.

Even if I become a marathon running vegan tea totaler, one of these fine days, my time will run out.

Like everyone else, I come with an expiration date.

So the question that I am now wrestling with is this one: What do I give up in the pursuit of more life?

I want to be alive and vibrant when my grandchildren (hopefully!!!!) are born. I want to be a fun grandma.  I want to dance at the weddings of my sons, just as I did at the wedding of my daughter last month.  I want to be around long enough to travel, to buy that RV that Paul and I keep thinking about.  I want to see the Grand Canyon.

I’d like to live long enough to see my tiny baby spruce trees grow to at least the height of my shoulder.

But.  I don’t want to make it my life’s goal to wring out one more day or week or year.  I don’t want to give up things I love, like good pasta and a delicious grilled steak and a great cold glass of prosecco.  I don’t want to spend my time worrying about my blood sugar when I could be enjoying home made chocolate ice cream.

Life is not to be treated lightly.  I love mine, and I’d like it to go on for quite a while.  But I don’t want to spend what time I have left obsessing about death.

I won’t mind if I die while my friends are still around. I won’t mind if I die while I am still able to lift a glass and sing a round of song.  I won’t be sad if I go out with a wonderful meal in my belly.

I guess I think that life for older folks is a balancing act. We don’t want to be irresponsible, or to throw away the gift that has been given to us. But we don’t want to forgo all pleasures in the hope that we can bargain with the devil and gain ourselves eternal life, either.

It may be too late to die young, but at least I hope that I will die with my joy intact.

Pass the ice cream please.  Yes, I think I will pour some Kahlua over mine.

Oh, Canada


We are on vacation in Canada.  We’re up on Prince Edward Island, to be precise, where we are surrounded by people from all parts of Canada: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Montreal, Ontario, Alberta.  It’s been a wonderful trip, let me tell you!  I have learned so much!

First of all, I have learned that the ridiculously broad and sweeping generalizations about Canadians are all true.

These people are frighteningly nice.  This whole country is nice!  I feel as if I’ve spent the last five days in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

It’s so uniformly pleasant here that it almost seems fake, at least to a couple of jaded Americans like us.

First of all, there is absolutely no litter anywhere, even though there doesn’t seem to be anybody out there cleaning it up. Every street is spotless.  Every field is clean. Every beach is immaculate.

I think Canadians are just too nice to make a mess!  Even the two cities, Summerside and Charlottetown, are so pristine that they make me feel bad about the state of my kitchen.   They’re like Disneyworld, only with awesome pubs and great seafood.

We’ve met tons of people here, because every single Canadian seems to have been born with a gene that programs them to smile at you and ask you how you’re doing.  We’ve been greeted warmly and kindly by the guy who runs our motel, the teenaged kids in the little souvenir shops, the young waiters and waitresses in the restaurants and an old lady sitting on a bench outside of a knitting shop.  They all ask where we’re from, how we like the island, and if we need any advice on good places to eat. And they all say lovely things about the US, too!  I’m not sure if they mean those nice things, but they are too kind to say anything disparaging.

And Canadians don’t seem to ever swear (at least away from the hockey rink, they don’t). Truly, I haven’t heard a “freakin” or an “effin” since I crossed the border.  So refreshing!

Of course, it’s not all perfect. We almost got killed on the roads a few times, because we weren’t prepared for drivers to stop and let other cars cut into traffic. We were totally shocked to find that merging in traffic up here is smooth and effortless, and when you let a guy pull in ahead of you, he smiles and waves.  And he expects you to smile and wave back!

The city of Charlottetown had us a little thrown off for the first few hours. We couldn’t figure out why it sounded so strange, until we realized that we weren’t hearing honking horns, sirens, jackhammers or people screaming.  We were in a city.  A capital city, and we could hear the clopping of hooves from the horse-drawn carriages.


Even the dogs here are nice.  They’re everywhere, walking along with happy doggy faces beside their polite owners. Some are on leashes, some are off.  All of them walk along joyfully, tails wagging, greeting people and dogs alike with gentle “woofs” and lolling tongues. We haven’t heard a bark yet.  Stranger still, we haven’t run into a single pile of poop.   I am NOT kidding.

Naturally, I began to wonder how it could possible be that every aspect of Canada and Canadians seems to be so civilized and pleasant, when so much of life in America is not. It really got me to ruminating, you know?

Luckily, I know a fair amount of American history, and I got a chance to learn a little bit about Canadian history while we were here.  By comparing the two, I think I’ve solved the mystery of Canadian gentility.

For starters,  both countries began as Colonies of England and/or France.  Both were part of the major tug-o-war between those two huge powers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Both had original settlements in the early 1600’s on their East Coasts.  Both of them were big on fishing, cutting down huge trees, trapping fur bearing animals.  So far, not much difference.

Eventually, all of North American came under the control of England, and France had to slink away and try to control places like North Africa.  No difference between the northern part of the continent and the southern.

But when the Colonies decided that they wanted to have autonomy from their English rulers, they took two very different approaches.

The Americans had a “revolution”, replete with fiery rhetoric. Everyone knows the quote “Give me liberty, or give me death!” There were famous battles, like the ones at Lexington and Concord, that are still commemorated to this day.  There was international military intervention (from the same Frenchmen who had been booted out earlier).  The whole thing dragged on for eight terrible years, costing countless lives and millions of dollars, and leaving the new United States in a shambles as it tried to claw its way to its feet and take its place among the sovereign nations of the world.

And then there was Canada.  The colonies of what is now Canada were perfectly happy to be run by the British right up until 1864.  They just went along fishing, growing food, trapping furs and rolling their eyes at those violent thugs from New England, content to let the British provide protection.  It wasn’t until the middle of the Civil War, it turns out, that a bunch of leaders in the maritime colonies decided that maybe they should band together and form a Confederation so they could fight off those crazy Americans if they decided to attack. (Nope. Not making that up.)  The folks in the other Canadian Colonies (West Canada and East Canada) sort of crashed the meeting, and showed up on Prince Edward Island to join in the discussion of whether to form a Confederation.

As an American, I sort of expected that there would be a huge fight between the maritime colonies and the others, but there wasn’t!  Instead, the maritime leaders invited the Canadian leaders to a whole bunch of parties. They ate, drank good champagne, danced with the ladies, got to know each other.  When they all finally got together to hash things out, they did it behind closed doors in the Charlottetown Province House.  Nobody knows exactly what was said, because they made sure that nobody took any notes.

Why, you ask?

Well, so nobody would get all riled up, that’s why!!  They didn’t want to cause a fuss. They just sort of made a nice gentleman’s agreement and formed a Confederation.  Simple.

And they didn’t break off from Britain, either.  That might have been rude.  Instead, they just gradually and peacefully took over more and more of their own governance, and the British just let them drift gracefully away.

No fuss, no muss, no death or blood or famous quotes.

And there you have it, my friends!  Canadians are so nice and polite and pleasant and kind because, gosh darn it, they’ve been that way from the very beginning!

I’ve realized that Canada and the US are like brothers.  The US is the older brother, the one who always had tantrums as a toddler, and who was a sulky rebellious teen.  He was always making trouble, pushing the limits, taking risks.  He kept his parents up at night with his out of control behavior. They wondered if he’d ever mature and settle down.

Canada is the quiet younger brother.  The one who does everything he’s told, and apologizes when he accidentally breaks the rules.  He kind of admires his big brother, kind of worries about him, and is a little bit scared of him, all at the same time.  Canada is the younger brother who learned from his older sibling’s mistakes, and is determined to do things the right way.  His parents adore him, and so do I.

If you have a chance, come to Prince Edward Island.  Just be careful of all the polite drivers!