lisamoniquekent

Finding Home

My noisy pansies.

Good afternoon from beautiful warm and sunny Vermont. I’m out on our little porch writing in the silence of all the neighborhood toddlers napping. Soon they will be out with their parents and brothers and sisters, shrieking and jabbering like my own toddlers did at that age. For me, their noise, the silence, both are good.

This morning I drove northwest to visit with my sister in her lovely garden shed. Shed is not the correct word, because it’s actually a little one-room cottage with white chairs, pink cushions, and my dad’s old tools displayed on the framework of a side wall. She served me black tea and homemade coffee cake, all with graceful social distancing. We walked her flower gardens and she told me stories about the plants. I was so happy to be there catching the merry little breezes in the shed, talking, enjoying such a nice spring drive both ways, and then heading home to my own noisy pansies as they bloomed with much fanfare in my red Radio Flyer wagon.

And to think, that was just the beginning of the excitement. When I returned, my husband having informed me that 1) it was time to upgrade my phone (I trust him implicitly on these types of matters), and 2) my iPad had died and he couldn’t fix it, I pulled up the Tracfone website and had a nice long e-chat with a representative. The representative was very patient, even when I asked if the phone I was thinking of purchasing could fit in my purse.

I picked out a Samsung, Tim approved, and then, imagine such blessings, I ordered a pair of earphones as well. So now I’ll be able to download audio books on my phone, listen to them with my headphones, listen to my Spotify playlist through my phone in Mrs. Potts, and even have a GPS to get me to places unknown. Serena and Tim promise that they will help me get all set up, and they will teach me how to use everything. This accounts for big news at our house. We don’t buy things often.

I haven’t written much on With Regards, Stella Ramone. When I try, it all sounds like “blah, blah, blah.” So that’s it then, I’m in my “blah” period, which means I can focus on other things like reading about urban gardening and building up my repertoire on Dad’s guitar. Or sorting through my clothes and passing them on if they don’t quite fit anymore (which, unfortunately is a thing). Somehow I went into fall with five summer dresses fitting, and came into spring with just one left on the hanger. I guess I’ll have to dance more vigorously when I stop for my 2 PM daily work break.

I’m still working from home; the college is still in flux. At the same time, I’m living with the uncertainty. Aren’t we all?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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My red cleaning bucket.

Good morning from possibly sunny Vermont. The temperature is getting warmer here in Morrisville, and I’m finding myself pulled to the porch chairs, morning, noon, and night. Right now our porch is surrounded by various containers filled with garden soil. There’s my dad’s sap bucket, my red cleaning bucket (received as a gift and working hard since 1987), two cracked flower planters, the large tin I showed you last week, and a few other odds and ends. And we have plants too! One zucchini, a red pepper, two basils, a cilantro, a dill, two cherry tomato plants (one yellow, one red), and at least one more I can’t readily remember. The whole container garden business is really Serena’s deal, but I’m playing back up on her bad days. I’m curious as to what we actually harvest.

Going to the garden store was frightening. I’ve only been out in public three times since the virus hit, and each time there has been little social distancing, varied use of masks, and a strange lack of courtesy. What the governor is saying and what I’ve experienced hasn’t matched up. Underneath my mask, I’ve made some terrible faces–frowns, fear, and outright bewilderment. Is it me not able to relax or is the general public slacking off? Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

I thought I was returning to work tomorrow, but no. I am home for May, it appears. I’m so grateful for my little office desk and the routine I’ve created there. At the same time, I miss my coworkers, students, and instructors. I miss college life! We Zoomed with our work study students last week, and they were resigned and down of heart. Of course they were. We still don’t know what’s happening with our campus in regard to the virus or the closing. Unsettling times.

I leave you with a photo of my favorite garden store in Maine. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Poor man’s fertilizer.

Good morning from cloudy Vermont. For those of you who are out of state, we had blizzard-like conditions yesterday, and all of us native Vermonters are glad we didn’t plant our annuals early. My dad used to call snow like this poor man’s fertilizer. I don’t know what that means, but it must be something to do with the nitrogen in the snow? Hmm. I wish I could ask him.

Today is Mother’s Day. I wish all of you had the same relationship with your mother as I do with mine, sheer joy at having this 87-year old wonder woman in my life. But relationships are complicated–I know that, especially as I maneuver through and work to improve my relationships with my own daughters. In any case, I hope you all have just the kind of day you need.

As long as the governor agrees, I return to my office in the library next Monday, after this last full week at home. It’s a topsy-turvy time these days regarding the success of the Vermont State Colleges. All I know is that we will be open for another academic year, but we will have another severe budget cut, and I was the last hired. Though uncertainty gives me stomach aches, I have a robust Plan A regarding moving to Maine. Really we just have one last piece to put into effect and then we are ready to go whenever. Even my resume is spiffy. So all of you, watch me shine as I make this long-term transition into a new life!

I haven’t written much on my new book, because I’ve been knitting and listening to an audio book. That’s what I plan to do with any free time today. knit and listen. And because I was starving for new reading material (the libraries are closed, remember) I splurged and ordered some books of stories on my new passion (really an old one from prior blogs) urban gardening.

Well, that’s it for this week. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

P.S. It just started snowing again. Sigh!

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All my callouses are gone.

Good morning from cloudy, warmer Vermont. Yesterday and its blue skies, crisp winds, and warmer temperatures reminded me so much of similar mornings growing up on Sunny Side Farm. We’d be up early, my sister and I, have our breakfast, get our school paraphernalia ready to go, and wait for the cows to start coming out of the barn. Out we’d go. Gisele would head up the road to the gate, and I would wait for Dad to lead them up to the driveway to our house, where he turned off to head to breakfast, and I took over to drive them up to the open gate.

Was I six, or ten? It doesn’t matter because I did this for years. The cows, mostly Holsteins, were bigger than I was. Some of them had big, nasty horns. Imagine the adrenaline and fear I felt. Would a cow turn on me? What if one crashed through the fencing that lined the road? And of course, there was this ever present concern. Would I get poop on my sneakers?

Gisele was always there, steady on, with the gate open and facing her own fears as our herd of cows came at her. She was stronger than I, so she had the task of closing the gate by pulling the barbed-wire line taught and hooking the handle to its clasp. Then we’d run home to pick up our school stuff and wait for the bus. Sometimes the bus would have to wait for the cows to enter their new pasture. The driver would ride ahead and sit in the driveway until we could catch up and get on the bus. Often the other children would moo at us and tell us we smelled like cows. That was probably true.

But that’s not what I remembered yesterday. I recalled instead the beautiful mornings when I could see every spiderweb delicately attached to the fence line, wondering, always wondering, how the spiders didn’t get shocked. The many birds alighting on the fence posts, chattering and chirping as I passed by–yellow finches, wrens, sparrows, swallows, a rare cardinal or bluejay. Thistles with their pink blossoms spiking up in the pasture; they weren’t supposed to be there. Buttercups mixing with alfalfa as the fields grew their tall grasses. The hard, firm feel of the dirt road as I ran home. The relief of another successful herd drive.

Looking back, it was a bittersweet way to grow up, facing my fears amidst shear beauty. I have so many farm stories in me; all of my sisters and brother do, and our five cousins, who shared the farm with us. In the summer, when I drive by farmhands picking up hay bales and piling them on a wagon, I get the urge to stop, to help. But I’m a city girl now, and I don’t keep gloves, old jeans, and tees in my car anymore. And tractors’ shifting mechanisms have advanced since I drove our old Massey Ferguson.

But I have to say, transitioning from full-time farming to caring for my two little outdoor planters and my inside plants has been a process, a letting go, a settling from hard and wondrous nature to the ease and forlorn feeling of standing on the sidelines. All my callouses are gone.

And so I wish you all a good week as we continue to shelter in place. I may be returning to work on May 11, if our governor allows. Check back next Sunday for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Living in a space colony.

Good morning from cloudy Vermont. Wasn’t yesterday a fine day? I sat outside for part of the morning, and then Tim and I took a trip to Newport to sit on a bench near the lapping waves of Lake Memphremagog. Social distancing wasn’t hard, as there were just a few people in the park. It’s true that we did travel more than two miles. It was either that or lose our sanity.

I’m starting to struggle with being inside so much. I understand the impulse to gather in groups and hug and touch again. To go back to the office and converse with coworkers. This new normal that we are in, well, it’s wearing thin. At the same time, that’s what we must do right now, for maybe another month or even two. I’m going to have to brainstorm to come up with ideas to manage. Even with all my hobbies and interests, they are barely enough to keep me centered at home. Of course, all of you are probably feeling the same thing. In worse circumstances. It’s obvious that I’m not a candidate for living in a space colony.

By the way, we rose up as a community to tell our chancellor that what he was proposing, shutting down three colleges, was unacceptable. He withdrew his proposal. Now the legislature is involved. It looks like we have a year to steady the course and make the changes necessary for the colleges to thrive. We are all in.

I wish you all a good week, wherever you are and however you are sheltering. Me, I’ll be the one at home waiting for our governor to turn the spigot enough so I can get back to my office, give my mom a hug, have breakfast club with my daughter at our favorite diner, and take trips to Maine with Mrs. Potts. And get my hair cut! All for now,

Lisa

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This good thing though.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. I’ll be outside sure enough today, gathering up batches of Vitamin D. The fiddleheads will be making their way to us out in the forests. Green and yellow, two of my favorite colors.

I write with sadness this morning. The chancellor and the board of trustees of the Vermont State Colleges system will vote tomorrow to close down three colleges. Our union is putting up an incredible fight. Still, I must prepare for at the earliest a May layoff, at the latest, one in August. No more wonderful early retirement benefits. More important, no more health insurance and free college tuition. I feel so pushed down by the enormous responsibilities I have to my family. I must find another full-time job this summer with benefits. In the time of a waning pandemic. No pressure there.

There’s this good thing though. I’ll do my job search on the coast of Maine. Today I’ll work on my resume and cover letter (is that the way its done now or is it all digital?). I’ll spend hours on getting each word right so that employers will really notice me. As my niece said when she was little and wanted our attention: “SEE ME!”

I don’t think I’ll find a librarian job–those are difficult to come by, and frankly, higher education is not the most stable of fields right now. I think I’ll look for a desk job with a cubbie and a good benefit package. I still have a lot to offer as an employee; I’m productive, creative, nice, and low maintenance.

But you know what? Right now I’m really tired and discouraged also. What the heck was I thinking when I made a plan?

More next week in my nextboat-821626_960_720 segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

Joy for hats!

Good morning and happy Easter from possibly sunny Vermont. I woke up with joy in my heart, and perhaps, in this trying time of COVID 19, I can share some of that joy with you.

I wasn’t so joyful this past week, when our governor extended our shelter in place order by another month. I felt trapped and restless, and, as my kids used to say when they were little, I didn’t want to play anymore. Luckily, my “flat mates” coaxed me out of my funk. They sent me outside on the porch, wrapped in my dad’s work coat. They sent me to fetch pieces of birthday cake from my mom’s deck. And they gave me permission to do a small bit of retail therapy so that I’d have the arrival of a package to look forward to. April 21–that’s when my chair seat cushion will arrive. It has the wildest colors…

My desk chair is a ladder back with a rush seat. It’s old and tedious and uncomfortable, I tried to give it to the local Resource store but they rejected it. But I’m going to make it glorious. This summer I’ll paint the wood black. With my zippy cushion, it will look sophisticated and fetching. Score one for reusing and recycling.

So joy. Joy because there’s a small dog on my lap who wakes up every morning in a good mood. Joy because I’m free to celebrate Easter without persecution. Joy because there is Easter. Joy because today is hair cutting day for the dog and me, and by the time Tim is done with us, he may look like me and I may look like him. Joy for hats!

I wish you all a joyful week, and if you are sick, a speedy recovery. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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A science-driven man.

Good morning from gloomy Vermont. We had a small window of sun yesterday, and we all spent time outside. This county’s weather takes a hard toll on the spirits of us everyday human beings. Add a virus to that, and we’ve got our work cut to remain upbeat, helpful, and hopeful during these unusual times. Still, that’s what’s required of us.

I spent this past week at home, mostly at my desk working for the college. I added a 2 PM boogie break, in which I play the Rolling Stones on Spotify and dance around our bedroom. I also am realizing that the coffee I drink during my 10 AM break, though I’ve acquired a taste for it, isn’t settling so well in my stomach. Today I’ll switch to homemade hot cocoa to see if that works better.

Other changes? The only news I give my time to now is our governor’s press conferences. He’s a thoughtful, calm, and science-driven man. When he tells me to do something, or not to do something, I listen. Apparently it’s time for homemade masks, though sheltering in place comes first. I don’t go anywhere, so I haven’t had to use one. Tim wears his when he ventures out to do groceries on Friday mornings.

Whoever came up with the expression “sheltering in place” must have a really good heart. It’s not scary or dictatorial, but rather kind and positive. I think we’ll continue to use it even after the virus is gone. “What are you doing this weekend?” “Oh, just sheltering in place.” Meaning we’re at home loving each other, taking care of each other. Putting our families first. How useful, though I imagine if you are alone and scared, any phrase like this is depleting. If you are home alone and scared, I’m sorry. My email is lisamoniquekent@gmail.com if you want to reach out.

Today I’m writing the scene in my new book about when an applicant questions Stella Ramone about her diversity practices. Since she has none, this should be good.  I wish you all a good week, taking care of one another.

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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As I prep for Algebra.

Good morning from rainy Vermont. I just learned from Sunday morning mass that “quarantine” is an old Italian word that means forty days. When ships came into port, they’d have to stay off shore for forty days to clear the plague and infections. That’s Lent–a forty day quarantine.

Yesterday, in my new bedroom office, I started my Master’s of Everything. I looked at the root words for good and morning, examining the phrase in Italian, Latin, French, Spanish, and English. I followed that up with some basic arithmetic as I prep for algebra. I got stuck on three digit multiplication. That’s what happens when you get dependent on a calculator. Anyway, I used my color pencils to brighten all of my good work. It was an excellent first session. I hope to continue today.

Sheltering in place, working from home, being with my family for hours at a stretch, I’ve made a few observations. First, I work much harder at home than I do in my office. In the beginning of the week I forgot to take breaks. By Friday I had developed a better schedule, but heck was I tired. Second, with Tim sharing the chores and responsibilities at home, I have more fun time to myself. For instance, I finished the back of my sweater, practiced on Dad’s Taylor, did more hoeing out, worked on a puzzle, wrote more on my book, wrote some letters, did a crossword, and wrote in my journal. That’s a lot of free time in regard to what I’m used to having. Is that what retirement will be like? More pleasures, less chores?

Third, since we aren’t going anywhere, we are spending less money. That’s good, because less money is coming in. Fourth, I really miss seeing my friends and family face-to-face. I’m an introvert, yes, but I’m not a hermit. And last, I feel like I’m in a bubble. Since Tim does the groceries and I don’t look at news much, I’m just hanging out until this virus is spent. And yet there’s suffering all around me. So I pray, and make phone calls, checking in where I can, trying to keep pace with what’s happening locally and globally. I talk with my friend in Italy every week and though her country is in dire straits, she too feels like she’s in a bubble in her small town, restricted to her house with her family. Thankfully, for them, all is well.

The rain is coming down hard now; it will surely take the last bit of snow in these parts. I’m okay with that. We’ve been taking walks on the rail trail in back of our home, but that won’t happen today. Perhaps I’ll sit on the porch with some tea, wrapped in my dad’s work coat. One note on social distancing. Parents in our development are gathering with their children, trying to keep themselves and their children from going stir-crazy. The occasional times I look out the window onto the street, I hear our governor’s words about staying six feet apart. That’s not happening.

I have a letter waiting for me in the garage, and I’ll close now so I can get it. We keep our mail in isolation for twenty-four hours, packages longer. Yesterday we received two pineapples in the mail; we made an exception for them, and now they flank our galley kitchen with their exotic leaves. There’s a rumor that Tim will make pineapple coconut scones. I love those kinds of rumors!

That’s it for me. Please take good care of yourselves. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

pineapple, fruit, food, food and drink, healthy eating, freshness ...

 

 

 

 

 

Good morning from crisp, sunny Vermont. Our state’s death rate has started, and it’s a somber time. We are extra vigilant here, and outside of our getting food once a week in the early morning and my going to work to a near empty building, we are here, hunkered down, for as long as it takes for this virus to be neutralized or run its course. As a whole, our family’s anxiety has risen, but surely yours has as well. Find your sources of hope and stock up.

Today I’m looking for and trying to create moments of joy. I’ll work on three birthday cards, continue to fuss around my new desk area in our bedroom, and go for a walk with Tim on the rail trail. There’s my knitting and my crossword puzzles. My book to write. And there’s my fully-charged cell phone to call friends and family. I miss my mother’s hugs in the worst way.

Some positives from our isolation? Scout loves the extra attention he’s getting with everyone here. We can have dinner earlier than usual because Tim doesn’t have to commute home after work. Liv gets to sleep in because school is online. It’s easier to make a left hand turn at the bottom of Clay Hill when I leave work.

Meanwhile spring hasn’t stopped coming. I’ve heard three flocks of geese this morning, and Friday I saw my first crocus in full bloom. We have lost most of our snow here in our development, and the children are out with sidewalk chalk and bicycles. Somehow I have to get my Adirondack chairs from my mom’s to our backyard.

I hope all of you are healthy and managing to find your own list of joys. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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