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Finding Home

Angels watching over you.

Good morning from snowy, cold Vermont. At my Mom’s, people are always dropping things off and picking things up. It’s the grand central station of housewares, clothing, and shared foodstuff. Yesterday, someone dropped off a card for us Kents and left it in the inside of the front storm door. When Tim went to check on Serena, he brought it home for us.

It was a rare Friday night here. Liv, Tim, and I were tucked into the sofa with the dog. Tim worked on his Sudoku puzzle, Liv read, and I worked on a New York Times crossword. I casually opened the card, assuming it was from one of my cousins. The card itself was pretty–“Joy to the World,” it read, in greens and reds, with a background color of gray. I opened it to see who it was from.

“There are angels watching over you,” someone had written. I didn’t absorb the reference until I noticed what was tucked inside. And then, the floodgates opened as we held hands and cried. Angels from somewhere, somehow, gave us exactly what we really needed to close the year and start anew.

Just in case these angels are reading this blog, thank you from every inch of our hearts and souls. In an instant, you have turned something laborious and even grim into something joyful. And while I’m at it, thank you all you other angels, who have given of yourselves to help us get through this trying year. Angels all over the United States. Angels from Canada. Thank you again and again, and may you truly be blessed as you have blessed us.

Do you have a blessing story? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Her cursive is still lovely.

Good morning from brisk, clear Vermont. As last week I wrestled with writing a Christmas letter, today I’m wrestling with whether or not I should start journaling again come January 1. My mom, who’s been journaling ever since she was ten, has one of those pretty seven days on a page books where she writes the most important daily events in a smart, little block–who came and went, what appointments she had, how many deer surprised her at the front window.

She’s done this style of writing for years now, and when we’re allowed to read them, we’ll easily get a picture of the rhythm of her days. She keeps her book on the counter (right next to her purple orchid) for easy access and as a reminder to write. I think her cursive is still lovely.

In sum total, I do a large amount of writing during the course of a week. There’s work on my book (still no news yet), blogging here, keeping up with Liv’s journal, sharing a journal with my sister-in-law Maggie in Alaska, designing help guides at work to help students research, regular correspondence with friends and family, and even the inevitable grocery list. Remember a prior blog where I gave up to-do lists; I still am holding true.

The year passes so darned quickly, and if you ask me what I remember of it (especially those exquisite moments of being human) I will look at you blankly and mumble, “What?” So I want to write them down again, like I used to before life got, well, like it is now. And once I die, I want my girls to get a sense of my life’s rhythms too. And maybe if I just have a smart, little block to fill in, I’ll actually keep up.

Perhaps when I finish writing today’s blog I’ll have some fun searching online for a journal like my mother’s. Maybe it will have sparkle on it and be left-hander friendly. My husband just chimed in, “When it comes to writing, it’s just a pain being left-handed; let’s face it.”

Writing a journal again isn’t really a resolution–I’ll save that for exercising. No, it’s more of a necessity of leaving some of my genetic code for future generations. And, in case I lose my mind as I age, it will be a prompt into my personal history. But where will I keep it? How will I remember to write every day? What if I fail?

My mother doesn’t worry about any of that stuff. She just gets it done, and she loves the process. If she can do it at close to 85, then I can do it a double nickels, purple orchid or not. Do any of you keep a similar journal?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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A look of concern.

Good morning from snowy, windy Vermont. Someone is stirring upstairs, but for now, I’m alone watching the weather and appreciating our lit, decorated tree. I know it’s early, not even Advent; but I need that joy in the house. In addition, our cactus is blooming in pinks, and our stockings hang by the four little nails I hammered into the top of our old chest, the chest that holds our television. Can you see it all?

I return to work today, after having the week off. The students return as well, and must tap into their reserves to finish up this semester. Though the library’s been well used this term, our numbers will swell as students look for a quiet place to review their work as they prep for final exams. Some of their faces hold a look of concern: is it all just too late to pull it together? I remember those days–wrestling months of work into outlines, and then smaller still, into bullet points, until my knowledge was so diluted I hardly remembered which exam I was studying for. But that feeling after I finished the term, when my dad stopped his chores on the farm and drove to Burlington to take me home? Ah, that was so sweet. And no homework either.

This past week I tried to write a Christmas letter. For years and years I crafted holiday letters and sent them out to my tribe. I stopped when Serena got sick, finding myself wordless. Anyway, I tried again, and got this far:

“Dear ones. When my dad died in March, and then a few months later, my aunt, I reached for the wine, the sweets, and finally the eggnog, until a thick padding lay around my middle, and I tucked it all into a girdle of grief.” And that’s as far as I got, because no other words would come. Perhaps next year.

Are there words you can’t express? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

Here’s a recent photo from the camera girl.

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“The Tree at my Window.”

Good morning from gray, grey Vermont. This day could not be more somber–with its cold, dark, rainy weather. Inside, with the blessing of electricity, there’s light and heat and enough good cheer to match this day’s gloom.

Today I’ve a story to tell. My husband’s boss makes pens out of old pieces of wood. We met him and his wife for dinner last Saturday night, and before we started in on our meals, he gave me a brown leather pen case. I looked inside and then carefully pulled a pen out. It had silver trappings with a wooden barrel, and the wood was smooth and shiny–an ivory color swirling with beige highlights. I felt the weight of it, and thought immediately that this would be my special book signing pen. This pen would see me through Quill Point and beyond.

But Dennis wasn’t quite done with his story. He knew a friend who knew some land, and a certain tree had fallen down. Did Dennis want some of its wood? When the land was once Robert Frost’s and the tree the topic of one of his poems, there’s only one answer. My pen is made from the tree that Robert Frost wrote about in The Tree at my Window. I the author, and Frost the poet, are connected through time by my beautiful pen, thanks to Dennis, who envisioned the connection as he worked the wood. How can I not aspire to great works of my own?

It’s pouring now; the wind has picked up. For a little while at least, I can stay in this refuge, away from the reality of wet gloves and drippy glasses. I have some time off from work this week, and I look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. You may remember that it’s my favorite holiday, because most of us do have at least one thing to be thankful for, to celebrate, even without the great food and family gatherings. Me, I’m grateful for too many things to list, but I will say this: Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your coming along on this writing journey of mine.

What are you grateful for? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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A flat tire stops everything.

Good morning from gray, chilly Vermont. This past Thursday, when it came time to bring Serena back to my mom’s after an oxygen treatment appointment, I realized I had a flat tire. I called my cousin, who owns a wrecker service, and he had another call headed the opposite way, so he told me to call 1-800 Triple A. Well that seemed easy enough. But I forgot the brain mush factor.

You see, every time I hold a cell phone in any type of emergent situation, my brain skips out and my fingers turn into cooked linguini. For instance, instead of entering AAA, I spelled out T-R-I–P-L-E. Serena finally took my phone from me and dialed the number herself. That saved us a few minutes, and I finally connected with a local garage. Not longer after, a kind man took my flat off and added my spare. He showed me the large nail embedded into my tire. We got back on the road, losing about an hour.

After I dropped Serena off, I took my tire to the shop, and headed home. I got a call later that I had ruined my tire by driving on it at low pressure, and would have to wait until a new one came in the next day. Here’s the thing. Every time I get my tires changed, my tire warning light comes on. After having it checked a few times to find nothing wrong, I’ve learned to ignore it. So when the warning light flashed on after I got my winters on, I blew it off. How did I know that I’d picked up a nail? Lesson learned. Do not ignore tire warning lights; even if they cry wolf, check them out anyway.

Something sweet came out of being car-less. A flat tire stops everything! I stayed at home, puttered, rested, worked from home tending to my online classes, and cranked my crazy life down a notch. I return to work today feeling peaceful and ready for the coming week.

You might be wondering why I didn’t change the tire myself. I know how to change a tire, though I think this was my first flat in my 30 years of driving. But I’ve had trouble with my shoulder in the past year, and I knew I’d add further damage if I tried to get the lug nuts off. So I called for help. And why not? The repair man reminded me that I’ve been a card carrying member of AAA for 30 years. That long? These are the situations that remind me I’m getting old.

For all of you who live in warm climates, we have snow on the ground, and it’s taken its sweet time getting here, actually a whole month late. But it’s here, and we’ve got boots, mittens, scarves, and coats scattered in the foyer.

I wish you all a good week, and I ask you to remember the flat tires in your own lives. Did they make you stop? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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One of them’s happy…

A second chance.

Hello from partly sunny Vermont. Guess what? I have time today. I won’t hear about my manuscript for another eight weeks, and I’ve moved things around in our garage so I can park my car inside. Chores are done. So I if want to play my uke or take the dog for a long walk, or read my nephew Connor’s book The Swan Throne, there’s nothing stopping me. When’s the last time I wrote that in this blog? Hmm. Never!

This week we hope to sign papers to officially hand over Schoolside to the bank. I started working with a representative months ago because of our high medical expenses, and my labors and angst paid off.  There will be no foreclosure proceedings at 77 Depot. Now we wait for and sign and return paperwork, and, no pun intended, the deed is done. A huge pile of concrete taken off my back. Wouldn’t you feel lighter too?

This morning after breakfast club, my daughter and I went to Second Chance, the local hospital auxiliary’s thrift shop. She found a shirt and I found three oversized, warm sweaters that I didn’t buy. We decided that we’ll rotate Saturdays between the library and the thrift shop, so we have little adventures every weekend. You should know by now that it doesn’t take much to make our family happy.

You know that wonderful librarian job that I go to joyfully every week, my place of serious decompression and temporary haven from all things stressful? Well, the online embedded librarian program I developed with loving hands is under scrutiny for all kinds of reasons. It doesn’t matter anymore that it’s successful. What matters now is that it conforms. “Back inside the box and stay there.” That’s the message of the day. And I, your trusty writer, am definitely outside of the box. (I think it all started when I taught my girls to color. I showed them how to draw political tattoos on Barbie’s arms, and bubbles coming from Ken’s mouth saying, “Shall we skip?”) It’s all coming back to haunt me.

Anyway, I’ll do what needs to be done to keep my job, and I’ll probably even enjoy my job again once I’m on the other side of this, but I don’t have to like it right now.

I leave you with a happy image of Scout, my loving, sweet companion. When he was born, God said, “Your mission is to cuddle in the laps of your loved ones.” He’s acing it.

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Bow and Arrow Season.

Good morning from dreary Vermont. This past week I switched my summer tires for winters, and cleaned the three bathrooms and refrigerator at Schoolside. The upstairs is almost hoed out. The house definitely has that abandoned smell and feel to it, but I hope by the time we are officially out, it will look neat and cheerful for the next owner. Outside of one last sweep, I think I’m done there.

Yesterday, after much toil and stress as I tried to follow the formatting style guide for book submissions, I finally sent off my manuscript to Curiosity Quills. I got so worked up that I sent it to the wrong department. Let’s hope Quill Point gets to where it’s supposed to be. I did ask them to acknowledge receipt. I don’t know why I get so muddled following simple online instructions. The same thing happens when I try to use a cell phone. My brain disconnects with my hands, and when my fingers reach for delete, they hit return, or visa versa.

It’s bow and arrow season in Vermont. My cousins and brother-in-law hunt, and I’ve eaten their deer, moose, and bear meat, so I should have nothing to say about this practice. Yet is seems so stacked. They’d say, “Is it better to let deer starve, then?” Of course not: I don’t want anything or anyone to starve. But stalking and shooting? Hunting is one of the many set ups I don’t like about this world. For the record, I suspect I’ll go vegetarian in a few years. My conscience is killing me.

All’s good at Soft Landing. We’ve had a frost, but my outside posies managed to survive. Inside, I’ve started to cook more, making one-pot stews and old-fashioned meatloaf meals. Meat again, but they’re delicious.

Do you have any fundamental values you struggle over? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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It’s all about laps.

Finding Home. Good morning from misty Vermont (heading towards partly sunny!). This morning I meant to get up my usual time, early, to slog through the millions of things on my to do list. I slept in. The hard sleep that hears nothing. The uninterrupted sleep of the very tired. So now it’s just a few hours before I go to work, and the millions of things are chitter-chattering in my head. You know who doesn’t care? My dog, Scout. His head is resting against my left hand as I type. He knows what to do. If he’s fed and he’s been out, then it’s all about laps.

How do you translate dog behavior into human behavior? What would my life be like if I made it all about laps? Too deep a question for me this morning. So here’s some book news instead. I completed editing and proofing Quill Point. This week I hope to format it according to the Curiosity Quills style guide, and then submit the manuscript to CQ by the end of next week. Then I’ll forget about it until I get a reply. Soon I’ll be able to blog that special phrase “done for now.”

Other news? Serena started her own blog, but I haven’t got her official permission to link to it. Won’t it be good to hear her words about how she’s doing, rather than mine? And for those of you who live far away, I’m getting my winter tires on this Wednesday, but there’s no snow in sight, since it’s still unseasonably warm. The Farmer’s Almanac says we’ll have a long, snowy, cold winter. I think we’ll fare pretty well here at Soft Landing.

And I’ll finish on this note (no pun intended). On November 1, I start listening to Christmas music. All the Christmas music I can find. I’ve got playlists on this computer, on my iPad, on Pandora, and of course I have all my old CDs for the car and my computer at work. My dad wouldn’t let us listen until Thanksgiving Day, and that seemed fine growing up, and even when the girls were little. But now I figure if it makes me happy, then why not? That’s kind of like a lap, isn’t it? My cousin Mimi listens to Christmas music everyday. Who knows. In a few years, I just might do the same.

What are your laps? Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Over the top.

Hello from cloudy, warm Vermont. This last week felt over the top, and I’ll tell you why. First, we had another great trip to Maine. We walked on the beach, looked out over the water until our minds went blank, ate well, and visited with our friend. We read Louise Penny’s new novel to each other. Though we didn’t completely recharge, we at least added water to the bottom of our wells. The way back took seven hours of driving, thanks to two bottlenecks on interstates 93 and 95. We arrived four minutes before Liv and her team played their first volleyball match.

From there, my week filled with appointments and work, appointments and work. In the little spare time left, I edited and proofread Quill Point, and though I didn’t finish, I’m almost done. It will go to Curiosity Quills by November 1, or at least that’s my goal. But there’s a new book in town. A few years ago, my friend Amy sent some possible titles my way, and I discovered her email while looking for something else. One grabbed my attention, and now I have the characters developed, the setting chosen, and I’m still working on a plot. You ready for it? The Love Letter Clinic at the Bonnie Fay Book Stop. I can’t wait to start writing.

Some of you have been asking for a status on Serena’s living and health situation. Health-wise, she’s struggling. Breathing is hard, and she’s started a few very tough meds that make her even sicker. But this is the start of her third week at my mom’s house, and the two of them are getting along and loving each other just fine. Once we find a filtering system that works for her room, once the hard frost hits to kill the leaf mold, and once we replace some cleaning products, we hope she’ll be settled for the winter. We are also seeking second opinions, just in case we’ve missed something that could fast forward her recovery.

Regarding our old house, I figure that I have about two more hours of hard work cleaning out the kitchen and I’ll be finished there. Tim is still sorting and loading, but the power, heat, and water will be turned off by the end of October, and that will be when we say our official goodbyes.

Last night I went to bed so tired that I never thought I’d be ready for a new week and all of its obligations. But sleep heals, so what felt undoable yesterday feels manageable today. I wish you all a good week, and ask you this:

What do you think a love letter clinic is? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll recognize me by my pumpkin.

Good morning from cloudy, warm Vermont. As soon as I finish writing, I’m off to my first craft fair of the season for book signings and sales of my three novels. I’ll be at Saint Teresa’s parish hall in Hyde Park from 9 AM to about noon. You’ll recognize me by my pumpkin. Bigger news than that? I finished writing Quill Point yesterday, and I have the first draft manuscript in hand. My husband and I are off to Maine this afternoon to get recharged, and hopefully I’ll have some time by the ocean to work my way through the draft. Thank you all for your positive comments about camping. There’s hope for me after all. More news next week about the girls and our old house,

Lisa

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