Thursday, December 31, 2009


As Ellie pointed out, today is not only the start of a new year, but of a new decade.

So with this big day, do we choose to embark on bigger resolutions? Decade-long resolutions?

Actually, I'm not much of a new year's resolution person. If something in my life needs to be tweaked, I generally find it's better to work on it when the issue arises instead of putting it off until the new year.

Plus, when you think about it, new year's day is a rather crappy time to begin said resolutions because who one wants to stifle new year's eve celebrations? No one, that's who.

I agree with Bridget Jones's assessment of the situation:

I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second. ~Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary

I do happen to be hungover this morning, and will be eating a cheesy, avocado and tomato omelet in mere minutes. I've got no time for calorie counting this morning. Plus, there are beers in the fridge in need of drinking. And, there is even some Champagne leftover too.

But in the spirit of good works and self improvement and general betterment of my life, I am willing to make one new year's resolution.....

It's something I've said I was going to do, but have thus far failed to accomplish. In fact, I missed the opportunity three times yesterday alone.

But no more.

I hereby vow to play Champagne Homerun Derby with every bottle of campers that is opened in my home this year.

And I'll not even put this off until tomorrow. I'll start this very first day of this new decade.


Let's Call It A Decade

Happy New Year's Eve!

On December 31st it's required by law to reflect on the happenings since January 1st. But since this New Year's Eve is special -- out with the 2000s and in with the 2010s and all that -- let's reflect on the decade in its entirety, shall we?

On January 11, 2001, Mistah and I set off on an adventure we thought would last a year or so . . .

We'd already rented out our house in Fairfield, Connecticut, so we took off from my parents' house in Norwalk. The world was covered in snow. I slipped, naturally, and bashed my forearm on the Westy, and started our Big Adventure with a big bump and bruise . . .

. . . but 5 days later, when we arrived in Key West, I cared not the least.

We stayed in the Florida Keys for months. We met people who took us out on their boats and taught us to fish and with whom we camped and cooked and became lifelong friends. With them and with the Keys. And nothing, frankly, has ever been the same.

2002. The Anza-Borrego Desert, southern California. Hey, this is a highlight reel. We got around.

And after our first loop of the country, we were back in Connecticut, with my sister Julie's kids -- and Jacquie's baby -- at my Mom and Dad's, in the summer of 2002.

We spent the winter of 2003 in Mexico's Baja Peninsula south of San Diego.

The Westy and wide open spaces. Two of my favorite things.

We headed east quickly that spring, though -- through the Mojave Desert . . .

. . . with a stop on the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon -- on the south side, in Hualapai Indian Territory -- and quickly eastward back to Connecticut . . .

. . . because somebody needed a kidney. And I had one to spare.

March 2004. The Sonoran Desert, south of Why, Arizona. One of our favorite spots. This was our front yard . . .

. . . and this was our back.

Oh, we spent tons of time with these hooligans during our years on the road. We were in San Diego in April 2004 . . .

. . . and in Fort Davis, Texas, in May 2004, where we bought this sweet little house . . .

. . . and in August 2004 my whole family got together in Phelps, Wisconsin for a week of eating, drinking, water skiing and frivolity. Because that's what we do.

March 2005, we were back in Fort Davis, for a full-moon-rising hike in the Davis Mountains . . .

. . . and a visit from the Mumsie. Who loved it.

June 2005. The Westy can find the cool camping spots, she really can. Look at her in Canyonlands, back in Utah. Happy.

That same month we were in Chicago with my sister Jane and her family, heading east. Hey, we make a lot of loops. And we tend to return to our favorite spots, again and again:

Take 2006. The Florida Keys in the Winter . . .

. . . Asheville, North Carolina in the springtime . . .

. . . the Dutch Tavern in New London, Connecticut, always, constantly, but in this case, in October . . .

. . . north central Florida in November: Florida's central ridge (where there are hills. In Florida) . . .

. . . and back to the Keys in the winter. Our beloved Florida Keys. I love no place on earth quite like I love Bahia Honda State Park. Talk about touchstones. 2006 was filled with them.

We spent the winter of 2007 at Bahia Honda . . .

. . . before we landed in Fort Davis again, in the spring of 2007 . . .

. . . and continued west. Oh, hello Mistah!

It's hard to cull highlight photos from 18 million thousand choices. I tried to choose photos that depicted the Westy and the peeps in the places, but some photos made it for their sheer beauty. Like this one. I love this photo. Of southwestern Arizona, on our way west . . .

. . . back to San Diego. The Fourth of July in Mission Bay. Now that's a party.

And in the summer of 2007, another trip up the West Coast. The Westy is NOT cowed by the gigantic trees; she communes with them.

Nevada. As a native New Englander I didn't used to think too much about Nevada, but I do now . . .

. . . Nevada made for a great ride east in the fall of 2007.

And in the early winter of 2008, my parents came to Fort Davis! The peeps, they love Fort Davis.

And we? We love San Diego. We began our last push west in the early spring of 2008 with a fabulous Westy camping trip at San Elijo State Park.

The Anza-Borrego Desert again, in April 2008, at night . . .

. . . and into those iconic, iconoclastic saguaro fields of southern Arizona . . .

. . . where the saguaros look like they're making hip ghetto hand signs.

After our Motel 6 debacle in Nogales, Arizona in April 2008 . . .

. . . we busted out and headed south to lovely Patagonia, Arizona and to points east. . .

. . . specifically, to New London, Connecticut in May 2008, where we landed at the home we'd somehow bought through emails and online money-wiring . . .

. . . and so far, we're still here. Me and Mistah and Ledgie.

Augst 2009. Five years after Phelps, my family got together again. The Poconos wasn't just a highlight of the year, it was a highlight of the decade. I can hardly wait for 2014.

And New London? Our for-the-moment-home? The perfect place to end one decade, and start another.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

guest blogger Keith!

While Jacquie is away, some of her friends have agreed to come out and play! First in the line up is an old pal from college: Keith.

When I first came to San Diego, I found a room in an apartment that was being shared by two other girls. It was walking distance to State, where we were all students. One of my roommates was dating the guy who lived in the apartment right on top of our heads. That guy had roommates, too. And they were in a band! Can you think of a better formula for fun in college? The band was called Groovehouse, and the singer was a smiling guy named Keith. When Keith wanted to talk to me, he’d hang over the balcony and yell: “Connecticut!” Those were some mighty good times. Keith and I kept in touch for quite a few years after school; his friend Paul met my friend Aline and she and I would go visit them when they moved to the gun club… but perhaps that’s a story for another day…. Once we became so-called adults, we lost touch until just recently, when we reconnected through the magic of facebook. I missed Keith, he’s one of a kind. And when I asked if he’d do me the solid of writing in my place while I’m off frolicking, he jumped right on board. And look, just look at what he gave us:

The Farm In My Backyard
Keith Boyd

My wife has a fondness and affinity for animals that verges on the Doctor Doolittle variety. In the time we’ve been together (is it really possible that it's been almost 16 years!) she has raised or adopted dogs, cats, fish and now chickens. Yes, you read that right, chickens. Our suburban backyard has become somewhat of a test-site for the various farmery impulses that overtake her. So along with the tire-stacks growing sweet potatoes, the “recycled” wood (read gathered from various trash cans on our street) raised beds for vegetables and the self-taught masonry which delineates the herb patch, we now have four interesting, and actually quite beautiful, chickens with a coop.

As I mentioned before, my wife is actually amazing with animals. She seems to intuitively understand what it takes to raise sweetly tempered and loveable pets. Our first dog Louie was a prime example. Louie was an African mutt that Kim adopted when he was about one hand length in size. He was Kim’s constant companion during our years in the Peace Corps and every time I would see him his temperament seemed to drift closer and closer to that of some Tibetan Buddhist Saint. This dog exuded a gentle and quiet understanding that was simply disarming. You’d offer him a bit of meat from the grill and he’d almost apologetically take it from your hand. You’d come home from a hard day and Louie would rest his head on your lap and looking up into your eyes simply melt away all the accumulated badness. Our current dog, Moxie, is another wonder of loving kindness wrapped up in a dog body. She will curl up in a ball on your lap and proceed to lick any available exposed skin in a Motherly and loving way. Although I’m sure that many people would say that they love their animals or think that they are great, our animals seem to go it one further and exude the unconditional caring and sweetness that Kim brings to their lives. In a certain sense I see the reflection of her in their behaviors and in the ways they fit into our lives.

With that being said there are also the ways in which these furry family members have learned to take advantage of their situation. My wife and I are both teachers and while we bring a ton of energy an creativity to our jobs we like to save the best of ourselves for family time. That is of course until Friday night. After a LONG week of planning, meetings, IEP’s, lessons, fight breakups, paperwork and parents we find ourselves rather deflated come Friday night. So in those cases it’s pizza/video night and we kick back with a cold drink and relax. Well to put it mildly the animals have figured this out as well. So after their long days of….hmmmm….let’s see….sleeping (?) they like to, how do I put this, colonize Kim for the body warmth. It all starts out innocently enough. Moxie will come along and stare at Kim with her wide set eye that look in different directions, basically begging to be pet. The cat sees this and pours herself from a high perch and proceeds to form herself into a ball on Kim’s lap. Then the real manipulation starts. Moxie will wedge herself face forward between Kim and couch. Sheba (the cat) will form an unmovable ball on Kim’s lap and before too long the three of them are sound asleep. The animals get yet one more soft, warm place for a nap and Kim, surrounded by all of that warmth and love, falls into a deep slumber that lasts until I shoo her hypnotists away. In the case of Moxie this isn’t too big of an ordeal but the cat is a different story. Not only does she get surly about it, she gives me this seriously ticked off look that only a cat can give. All of this is to say that in a very real sense these animals have made Kim one of their own.

Now we come to the chickens. Kim and I both love gardening. We are amazed all over again when the seeds and seedlings we plant bear wonderful, ripe vegetables for our summer dinner table. I suppose that might be the root of things but my lovely wife likes to take the ball and run so to speak. We’ve had mountains of top soil dumped on our driveway. We’ve started a seriously smelly compost heap that seems to grow on its own. We’ve got worm bins set up for table scraps and now we’ve got chickens. The chicken arrived all at once and along with them supplies for a coop. Originally there were three birds; Goldie, Ethyl and Oddball. We weren’t sure what the sex was for any of them but Kim was “sure” they were all female. She said she just had a feeling. Well feelings, it turns out, aren’t always great at telling what sex a chicken is and Oddball was a rooster. This we found out the hard way when one early morning he announced himself with a horridly loud and broken sounding call. I suppose that this call was his burgeoning sexuality asserting itself because within a day of his crowing’s start he began courting the chickens. Let me just explain for a second that Oddball was a Bantam. This designation was one of the many things about poultry that I have learned this year. So being a Bantam, Oddball was on the small side. The girls however were full sized chickens and let’s just say that all of the poor boy’s advances were both bodily and verbally rebuked. Too see a small horny rooster literally bounce off of a disinterested full sized chicken gives new meaning to the word rejection. To see him do it about 100 times a day is just sad. What with his “amorous” ways and his loud calls, Oddball had to go. Through the miracle of Craigslist Kim found a suitable home for him and in his wake we now have four lovely chickens. In addition to those mentioned above the newer chickens are Cleo and Cowgirl. I’ll say this about them, they are beautiful birds. The same love and care that Kim pours into everything she does is lavished on them as well. Their feathers shine, their eyes are clear and wonder of all wonders 2 of them have started laying eggs! These eggs are simply amazing. Once we got my younger daughter over wanting to keep EVERY single one, we’ve had some lovely scrambles on the weekends. I also enjoy watching them wander through our backyard from my perch in the hammock as they strut around like feathery dinosaurs eating bugs and taking dirt baths. It turns out I sort of like life on the farm.

So my wife is a combination of Farmer Jane and Doctor Doolittle. It could be much, much worse. In fact when I stop to think about it or when I see her in the animal nap pile resting comfortably, I think we’re actually all pretty lucky. The gentle love and caring attention she devotes to those around her reflects back and creates in our home what home should be, a wonderful refuge from the cares and currents of the world.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cookie toss

I'm going to employ a technique of Jacquie's, and provide a pre-post warning.

Warning: This post contains descriptions of not-so-happy people feeling unwell. Proceed at your own risk.

The week before the week before Christmas was an interesting one at our house, and by interesting I mean colorful, and by colorful I mean of the technicolor yawn variety. It was an act in three parts, if you will.

First there was Anneke’s performance. She told us she was not feeling well in the morning, and honestly she was not looking well either, but this was a Saturday in December, which meant the schedule was nonstop.

First there was a holiday dance performance that both she and her sister were to perform in, then a gymnastics birthday party to attend, then we needed to go immediately home for her step dad’s birthday celebration.

She timed it well, somehow managing to get in her bit between activities. She danced her way through her performance and did quite well; upon arrival at the gymnastics venue she was looking a bit worse – pale and somewhat listless, but still determined to participate. By the end of the party she was looking green and resting in the car, seat way back.

After fetching her younger sister and both gift bags at the end of the party, we started our short drive home.

She started up almost immediately.

“How much farther? I’m not feeling good. Really, mom, I’m not.”

“We’re close, very close, you’ll be okay,” I replied, but I knew she wouldn’t. I handed her her goodie bag and told her to empty it out and hold on to it “just in case.” She did as she was told, and used it. For what seemed like forever. It just kept coming. Her younger sister, sitting right next to her stated, “I’m not watching this,” as she turned her head to the side looked out the window and continued sucking on her Now ‘n Later. Luckily my girl had only had water in the few hours preceding the incident, so the copious spew was clear-ish and as far as I could tell, odorless. But even though she had amazing aim, and managed to get all her emissions into the paper goodie bag, the bag was no match for the wet, heavy load. Just as I managed to dump clothes out of a plastic bag and hand it back to her, the bottom of her now ruined goodie bag burst open, leaving all her recently emptied stomach on her lap.

She looked pathetic, with her soaking wet legs and spit dripping from her lip, but all I could do is laugh, and tell her I hoped she felt better because there were people coming over as soon as we got home. In fact, the first guests were arriving as we pulled up.

Merrell started feeling unwell the next afternoon following our return from The Nutcracker, and did not eat much of her macaroni and cheese or carrots at dinner. I should have known better, because I swear every time this girl pukes it’s some form of semi-digested mac 'n cheese. But I live in denial at times, and really did not see it coming. If I did, I would NOT have put her in her usual top bunk.

But come it did. Right off the top bunk onto the bottom bunk. This stuff was not colorless, nor was it odorless. No, no, it was orange and stinky. Luckily, it hit the sheets but not her sleeping sister in the bunk below. Bunk assignments were quickly switched and my poor girl continued to hurl into a trashcan placed lovingly by the side of the bed.

She was fine by noon the next day. But not without managing to pass it on.

My husband looked a bit off a few mornings later, but assured me he felt fine.

Turns out, he did not. Because a few hours later I received this email:

“…Threw up in the bathroom at Ralphs. Yes I know, I "ralphed" at Ralph's. I did finish shopping after though. No quitter here.”

Poor man. It hit him in the produce section. And I’m assuming it was colorful, although I did not ask for details.

I do, however, have to ask, once again, who names a grocery store Ralphs? I could not believe it when I moved here way back when. Ralphs? Really? Ralphs? Who’s going to shop there?

Sick people, that’s who.

Here's to a healthy, happy 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009


What a weekend! The frivolity never stopped around here.

It all started, as these things often do, with prepping baked ziti on Christmas Eve.

Friends dropped by to drop off festive gifts wearing festive garb.

The soldiers all lined up in their little rows, ready for action.

Then Christmas Day dawned with my sister Jane's kids -- who live in Illinois -- making our local paper.

The table was sparkling and ready, set by Mistah Schleckah himself.

After hosting us on Christmas Eve, Mom and Dad joined us on Christmas . . .

. . . they were my island of Coreys in a Sea of Hanrahans.

We ate, we drank, we talked . . .

. . . then we talked and ate and drank some more.

Sadly, it all had to end. Mom and Dad went to bed, Mumsie and Kelly hit the road . . .

. . . and Mistah and I reflected on a lovely festive day.

But wait!! Saturday was Boxing Day and the frivolity started all over again. We had peeps over, including this 7-year-old who drew us many many pictures. They're for sale, by the way.

My girl Dawnie came by, bearing more festive gifts . . .

Owen and MB danced under the palm trees . . .

And at the end of a long, festive, frivolity-filled weekend, we've got a full fridge . . .

. . . and a whole lot of empties.