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Finding Home

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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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The wild ways of my youth.

Hello from cloudy Vermont. Last week I did one of my best pieces of writing, and about half of you read it. I think it has to do with word choices matching up to Facebook algorithms. I guess “phenomenology” doesn’t cut it in the social media world.

This week I’m writing about time, and how quickly it passes. Yesterday I replaced my summer flowers on our porch with autumn fare–orange and cranberry gerber daisies, burgundy mums, a small pumpkin, and an arrangement of tall, soft pennisetum. Then I took a break and sat on our metal bench. Its red paint is peeling off in slivers. and sticks to our shirts when we get up. But I like its distressed look. Anyway, I thought how quickly things can change in a year. Like where home is. I remember when we moved into Schoolside, how excited I was to find my forever home, back in my hometown, near my parents and sisters. Twelve turns later, I feel like that for Soft Landing. Is there something wrong with my heart, that it can change loyalties with such facility?

My younger daughter and I planned to walk to our new village’s yearly Rocktoberfest this afternoon, but the clouds have taken on that mean look, and the wind’s picking up. I feel like curling up on the sofa and taking a nap, or better yet, crawling into a tent on a knoll somewhere, surrounding myself with wool blankets, and listening to the wind howl as I drift off to sleep. I’ve done that once or twice in my life, and am glad for the memory of it. Back then, nature wasn’t so complicated. I just went out into it. Now, my back hurts just to think of lying down on the cold, hard earth. And I don’t have to tell you how I feel about ticks. Time and aging and fear; it seems like my capacity to enjoy nature in the wild ways of my youth has long gone.

And now it’s time to close this post, and as I look back on my words, I realize that I really haven’t said much. Some weeks are like that. Are any of you in your fifties and still camping?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

 

 

The phenomenology of my dad’s coat

Good morning from clear and sunny Vermont. I had breakfast with my friend and former professor last week, and somehow we got to talking about how I missed my dad, and how I thought of him every time I saw and felt his old work coat, folded neatly on my closet shelf. She suggested that I write about his coat, and so today that’s what I’ll focus on. In case you aren’t familiar with phenomenology, it’s the act of studying an object through direct experience and awareness.

Coat. “An outer garment with sleeves worn outdoors and typically extending below the hips.” First used in old French as the word “cote,” hill, and then in middle English in the 14th century as “coat.” The natural hair of an animal.

I wear it, and sure enough, it falls below my hips to my mid-thighs. If I reach into the hand pockets, I can feel the gap of fabric where my dad’s portly belly used to rest. Warm. Zipping all the way to his neck, with spare room underneath for layers of turtlenecks and long john tops and coveralls. This garment held him together, contained him, kept him from losing himself, as he faced the vagaries of nature.

Lined with fleece, it’s soft to the body but rough to touch, worn by  contact with rough wood and tractor parts and the never-ending brushing off of thick, leather, winter gloves. Lumberjack plaid–large blocks of black, royal blue, and indigo heather. I look for marks of spilled coffee or pools of diesel fuel, tree pitch–anything to show how this coat lived. But the plaid is unstained, only faded. How did he do that?

My dad’s coat. The natural hair of this homosapien at work. Protecting him from the dangerous world of logging chains, the sharp and cold ends of metal equipment, and the deep scratches of falling branches. I’ve washed it since he died, to tone down the smell of gas, pitch, and sweat. But all these remain, and I’ll never wash it again.

I’ve hugged this coat hundreds of times, often distracted, occasionally in tears, and it always held me tightly. As if my dad knew he was holding me for the last time. Each hug a goodbye forever, until it was. Cote. Hill, in French. An incline. Rising up to cooler temperatures and the need to put a layer on. Coat. This coat has two buttoned-down pockets. I quickly reach in each to find some remnant of my father. Nothing.

Will you try your hand at phenomenology? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

A mixture of hope and uncertainty.

Lifestyle. Good morning from foggy Vermont. I write to you with a mixture of hope and uncertainty. Yesterday my dear friend of many years, along with her husband, took me out to lunch, and we talked about everything. I came back to Soft Landing refreshed and focused, despite the annoying cold I picked up a few days ago. Today I get to take another dear friend out to breakfast, and I suspect we’ll talk about more of everything. Some of you wonder how I handle all the difficult hurdles and burdens in my life. “How do I get through?” you ask. That’s easy to answer. I have a strong sense of survival, and perhaps more important there are these: friendship, family, faith, and grace.

After I finish this post, I’ll settle down on our comfortable sofa with my cup of PG Tips, and I’ll pick from my stack of books on faith, and I’ll read and pray. This is my morning ritual. It prepares me for whatever may pop up in the day ahead, and it gives me a foundation for how to act. Discernment, kindness, and patience. Sometimes I miss the boat on all three. At the same time, I’m quick to apologize.

You already know about my large, extended family. Ever since I can remember (my third birthday?) they’ve been there, guiding me, challenging me to be a better person, showering me with time and treats. They are a soft, warm blanket to my sometimes chilly, oxygen-depleted days. I’ve been blessed as well with Tim’s side of the family. There’s no shortage of love in my life. And remember all those friends–and Scout!

And grace? I’ve written about that too. Yesterday my sister gave me a new day book to read; she and my mother have the same edition. Every day, in our separate homes and situations, we’ll read an inspirational page and join together as we contemplate the words in front of us. My daughters and husband, they pull me toward them for hugs when I’m so jumbled I forget to reach out. Grace too abides with me.

So as I look ahead to this week and its many challenges, I’m fortified. We’ll move Serena into another temporary home to see if this is finally the one she can breathe in. I’ll bring us to four doctors’ appointments. I’ll work full-time. I’ll give Schoolside one last cleaning before we close up the house. I’ll handle whatever crises come along. And I’ll sneak a few moments to finish up Quill Point.

This week, I hope that you too are fortified for the unpredictability that’s built in to this thing called life. We may be buffeted, whacked at, and sometimes crushed, but thanks to family, friends, faith, and grace, and our pets, we get back up, square our shoulders, brush ourselves off, and keep on going.

What is your foundation built of? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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If a hand reaches out for us.

Hello from cool and cloudy Vermont. If time was an automobile, this week I drove a jaguar. Students have returned from summer break, and my online forum is alive with questions and comments about research and the online tools we have a the students’ disposal. Meanwhile at home, we continue to manage two living spaces, Soft Landing and Schoolside. Soft Landing continues to be a sweet hug of welcome after a long day. Schoolside has its difficulties. We need to be out of there completely, but we are struggling to close the gate.

Perhaps after an enormous garbage/recycling run, and another small load of furniture and books going into storage, we’ll be able to turn off the utilities and wipe our hands clean of 77 Depot. And what of Serena, you ask? Well, we’ll try to get the best VOC filter system we can and run it here. By God’s grace and cutting edge technology, hopefully she’ll be able to breathe. I look forward to having us all under one roof again, “in the shelter of each other” (Pipher).

Ever since my cousin posted a day- by- day update regarding their home and approaching waters in Houston (thankfully, they and their home are safe and sound), I’ve been thinking about the people in Florida as they wait for Irma to land. A scarcity of food and water on the grocery store shelves, not enough gas to get out, routes blocked with traffic. I’m sure that’s not the case in every town or city, but even if it’s true for one, it’s terrifying.

When I lived in Boston in the mid-80s, Hurricane Gloria struck. I too braved the lines for food and water, and when I got it all home, the power went out. It stayed that way for two days and nights. On the third day, power returned. I spent a lot of time on the phone with my family in Vermont; they took turns keeping me company, as I had no flashlight or candles (not much common sense back then). In a basement apartment, alone, I worried about water, trees breaking windows, the screaming wind tearing the building apart. Water did come into the basement, but not where I lived. Trees came down, but spared my windows. I ate peanut butter and drank bottled water. When Gloria moved on, I took a bus ride around the city to see the damage–so many huge trees and power lines down. And that was a mere category three.

In 1995, we got married and spent a week in beautiful St. Martin. We had trouble with our flights getting home, because hurricane Luis was expected to hit the island the next day, and lines and lines of people were trying to get out. The next day, Luis destroyed the island. Staff and guests at the hotel we had just left had to be evacuated by helicopter. We saw pictures on television and didn’t find any of our landmarks. They were gone.

When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, we brought money and supplies to the Vermont State House. Volunteers filled trucks, and drivers drove caravan style to the parishes hardest hit. And then, of course, I remember the destruction of Hurricane Irene, right here in Vermont. And that’s recent enough for all of you to still know the story and see its effect as you drive down I-91. This is our world now. Along with, in our case, the exquisite beauty of foliage, there are fires, earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes.

But here’s the thing. As long as we care for each other, we can get through these bad times. As soon as she could, my cousin arranged for groups of her friends to help out the people in her neighborhood who weren’t so lucky. She made sure everyone she knew had food and shelter. Later she arranged for school rides. She took people in. We Vermonters did the same thing after Irene swept through. Helping out, helping hands. The basis of humanity.

I hope Irma runs out of steam before she even touches down. And I pray that not one life is lost–not one human being, not one pet. As a society, we must stay vigilant and alert and be helpful during the suffering of others. As individuals, if a hand reaches out for us,  let’s take it.

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soft Landing–the Outside.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. Last week I wrote a small paragraph, basically telling you all that I was struggling. We were victims of identity theft, but we didn’t stay victims for long. Thanks to clear heads and immediate action, we were able to contain the damage. Another bump in the road met and passed.

I have four more chapters to write and then my first draft of Quill Point is done. I’m so behind when it comes to social media. I have to update my Amazon author page, reconnect with Goodreads, contact my website administrator to do some updates and re-establish my domain name (if it’s still available), read and thank my Amazon book reviewers, and prepare for my first craft fair of the season, being held at St. Teresa’s parish hall in Hyde Park on October 7th. I’ll be selling my three books next to my nephew Connor, who will be selling his first book, The Swan Throne, as well. I know this craft fair will be lots of fun because one of my sisters is running it, and she’s a retired kindergarten teacher. She knows all about fun.

I leave you with a short story about kindness. This morning, my daughter and I walked to our Saturday breakfast club diner, Deb’s Place. While we waited in line to place our order–one grilled blueberry muffin, one maple cinnamon bagel with cream cheese, and two teas, my cousin Paul came up and gave me a hug. He and his wife came up from Massachusetts to visit their dads. We caught up on our lives, and then when we were in line to pay for our meal, Paul said, “Breakfast’s on me. It’s all taken care of!” How’s that for a great way to start a Saturday?

What kindness has come to you this morning? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home. And here’s photo of Soft Landing, the outside.

Lisa

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In a village in Africa.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. A few months ago, I read about these women in a village in Africa. They were experiencing an awful drought and the men, who made decisions for the village, seemed to be out of ideas. Meanwhile, the women kept saying there was a well under the ground capable of providing water for not just their village, but also the villages surrounding them. Out of desperation, the men allowed the women to start digging. They dug for almost two years until they hit water, enough water for their village and their suffering neighbors. Now the villages are flourishing, with all sorts of small business projects and effective water management.

This morning I feel like those women must have felt when they approached year two. I’m not so sure anymore that there’s water underneath me, but I’ve got a shovel in my hand and there’s the dirt, so what else is there to do but keep digging?

Perhaps next week I’ll write more, but right now, I’m maxed out with my hole in the ground. Have a good week.

Lisa

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Driven off into the sunset.

Storytelling. Hello and welcome from rainy/sunny Vermont. Twenty-two years ago on this day I pledged my love to my husband and he pledged his to me in a simple ceremony in an old church. We held our reception at our home on top of Hollister Hill, with friends and family, good food, plenty of music for our eclectic collection of CDs, and snazzy portalets. Several women wore pretty hats. Someone set up a croquet game in our apple orchard. My cousin Mimi wore a fantastic red dress. Since we didn’t have a photographer, everyone snapped photos for us.

The afternoon unfolded into more and more happiness, as we sat down under the tent to visit with our elderly relatives, and then meandered through the grounds, catching up and giving hugs to each person who was there. Later, as our visitors started into their second round of food, our nephew chauffeured us into New Hampshire to a bed and breakfast at the top of another lovely hill. His dad drove our car right behind us so we had a way to get home again. We literally were driven off into the sunset. What a day.

Getting married to a good man, that was a goal of mine, right along with getting a college degree, and I never thought much about what our lives would be like after. Just, you know, married stuff. Besides, I was young, in good health, very strong and resilient, and really, we were together. Couldn’t we handle anything?

I like to go back and remember how sweet our wedding day was, because on that day, everything was possible, and our hands and hearts were wide open to each other and to life. The best feeling in the world was holding my new husband’s hand as we walked down the aisle together. We had done it. We had committed. No longer were we partners or mates or boyfriend and girlfriend. We were spouses–for life!

Twenty-two years later, we really have a grip on what “for better or for worse” means. And those forever promises I made then are just a wee bit harder to keep now.  But the thing is, I still love holding my husband’s hand. In that simple gesture, no matter what the day’s been like, we continue to commit and to pledge. And as every year of marriage passes, I still feel a sense of renewal. What gesture keeps you going?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

 

 

 

 

When I wasn’t looking.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. I’m at Soft Landing sitting on the sofa, looking out through our three picture frame-like windows, and the weather looks fine. A good day for a wedding, so my cousin Jacques and his bride will be pleased. I look forward to attending their celebration. Today I hope to get some art up on our walls. I’ll make a run over to Schoolside and load up my car with our best paintings, and then mix and match here until I come up with the right combinations.

Meanwhile, Tim will bring Serena to her apartment for one last crack at her staying there and being able to breathe. If you missed last week’s blog, we have no plan B. We expect the perfect solution to drift down from the heavens right into our brains. And then we’ll all step back and say with wonder, “Why didn’t we think of that?” Hey, it could happen…

Here’s some exciting news. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking–as in, I hadn’t looked for months–Peace Cottage took off in rankings and sales. Take a look:

I now have 45 reviews at an average of 4.5 stars, and Peace Cottage was spotlighted by ReadingDeals.com as a recommended book. Go figure. I’m so glad I checked! And I got the nicest post from a new reader; Marilyn, if you’ve found this blog, welcome aboard.

This past week I also found out that I’m returning to full-time hours as a librarian at the college. That’s excellent news in regard to our personal budget and service to our students. I’ll be an online librarian in over 70 courses this next term. I’m supposed to use the amazing powers of technology to accomplish this feat. That’s funny.

I’ve been writing quite a bit on Quill Point, and I can actually see the book finished now. I should be done with the first draft by the end of September, and I’ll get the manuscript submitted to Curiosity Quills by the end of October. It’s a good book, and I’m proud of it. I think you’ll like the ending.

One more thing. My neighbor gave a great old terra cotta pot, and I filled it with annuals using our very own compost from the bin at Schoolside. We actually made dirt! Enjoy this beautiful day. Is anyone else going to a wedding? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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