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I have been to camp myself, back in the days of latrines and mosquitoes that could carry off small children and I enjoyed it. Having only pretty decent memories of times living in canvas tents on wood platforms.

I left my son at camp – where he learned sailing for a week and he loved it. He was so eager to go and have me leave him I almost felt unloved. Living on an old metal ship on a river, small shifts due to tides and winds adding to the old maritime fun. Eating at a restaurant called the Galley. Sure he had to wear khaki shorts and real shirts … but he survived and lorded it over my daughter.

My daughter was a completely different story. Because of a slight miscalculation we actually arrived at camp a half hour early and we listened to an audio book. We were listening about a runaway king who had his leg broken and was in manacles and fell asleep while in manacles with his leg broken and he slept four hours sleeping in his manacles in a mostly standing position. He then woke up and convinced his cell-mates to help him get the pin out of his boot so he could pick the locks and break a chair to splint his leg. Does anyone see the problem of this situation? Other than a teenage king who was in prison to begin with? It is a great book series but the lead character doesn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the world, until the end when it all miraculously works out and you say … how did that happen, but he knew what he was doing ALL along. So there I am stopping the story while we sit in the driveway of the Girl Scouts camp and saying to my children … always splint a broken bone immediately. The longer you wait, the more the tissue will be damaged and the swelling will be worse. See, I have learned something in my Emergency Medical Responder course! Yes indeed my kids and I have uplifting discussions about broken bones and compound fractures where you splint the bones in the way you found them … not in the way you want them to be. My daughter turned a strange color on that one.

So — they finally open the gate … my daughter is in the unit Birch Valley. We go in and talk to these people … and then get passed to those people … do we want a photo for ten dollars, oh sure, why not. Despite the fact that my daughter brought two pillows saying that she would make no friends and just hug the pillows all week — the pillows who would be her only friends.

I hold her hand and try to convince her that she really will have fun. She really will make friends — maybe not bosom buddies that she will stay in contact all her life… but friends she can hang with for a week. Nowadays with Google+ and email, you never know, maybe they will become bosom buddies, I know I am not in contact with anyone today that I met at camp, but that was back in the days of the Pony Express.

So we were escorted to the unit with only the carry on baggage. Her big bag would be delivered later by trailer. She had her pillows and her back pack. She was the first camper and was very clingy. I had told her many times that I had to be at work and so we would have to leave and couldn’t stay, but as we turned to leave I felt devastated. Really? How could I leave my baby all alone with a bunch of strangers? What kind of mother was I? But I do know in my heart that she is going to enjoy herself. She will learn new things and really what was her question? Will I get mail? Did Gma send me letters? I think she will be pleasantly surprised by how many letters she gets …

I helped her make an address book. I had received a pretty little notebook from a vendor at BEA (Book Expo America) — it had a Chinese print on it. I told her to look in the Rolodex and write down addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of important people that she thinks she will write to. I only gave her eight stamps — I asked if she thought that would be enough. She seemed to think so … if not, she can buy more stamps. She loved the fact that I got Harry Potter stamps for her enjoyment. I saved the Severus Snape stamp for my letter to her …

I met two counselors … I don’t even remember names, but one was from New Zealand. That was pretty cool. The counselor doesn’t like spiders so Lillian said she would help get the spiders out of her cabin if she had any. My son laughed uproariously, for he is usually asked to perform that duty at home. I guess when she has a big brother around, she doesn’t need to feel as strong as when her friend is wigging out about have spiders around. I had to leave, it was 3 o’clock, and she hugged and whined. I told her to talk to the counselors — to tell them about the last book she read. Her last book was – “Breaking Free” about girls who escaped sexual slavery… another uplifting moment in the lives of the Steinmayers!

I walked away with my son … and I felt like a bad mother and yet better doing short doses now than never letting her experience this independence until college. She CAN survive, she will have fun, kids have been going to camp for more than a century … yet I still feel like I abandon my child … how is that possible?

When you are young — you are sure forty was so far over the hill that you would have died by natural causes before then. Somehow I made it to that decrepit old age and, astonishing surpassed it, if my 16 year old self could meet me today she would shriek and go play in traffic … but since she grew up in a rural area … she could nap in the road for half an hour and not have any problems. Today she might not be so lucky.

But that really doesn’t matter at this moment. I pick up my purse and scattered mail and shake the dirt off my knees — tripping over a tilted stone in the sidewalk is not a happy thing, but when you are thinking of other things it is what happens. I vow to take things more slowly. I mean, do I have to look at the mail the moment I open the mailbox? Will anything be so super grand that knowing it moments before entering the house will be a life changing occurrence? Life would be better if I entered the home and made a cup of tea and carefully opened the mail – separating the bills from the junk from the mail that I needed to keep. Wait … was there any that needed to be kept? Anything really worth looking at? No not really. Any personal mail was sent to me via text or email … because of this, mail is often left in a pile on the kitchen counter where it stays until I decide to either shred or recycle most of it depending on who the sender is. The problem of paying bills online is that most of the time the company still sends paper bills which aren’t needed.

One of the cats meets me at the door, attempting to cleverly hide affection with a true desire to trip me. I go into the kitchen and drop the mail onto the counter and start the electric kettle, since my plan is to stay in for the night, I decide to make a pot of tea and so pull out the pot and cozy. Letting the tap water get hot I fill the teapot that my grandmother gave me and let it sit as I go into the bathroom. The cat following me in and rubbing against my trousers as I sit on the toilet. I have to chuckle … cats don’t care what you are doing … they just want attention. Mom, they say, it has been HOURS since we have seen you. However, when I actually sit down and read and have my lap empty for an hour … where is the cat? Nowhere to be seen until I need to get up and relieve myself again, Cats have impeccable timing.

The electric kettle boils and turns off. I empty the teapot and find the herbal tea that I need at night to help me to calm down … I place the cozy on the teapot and turn to the fridge … I have a load of leftovers. I should heat up some of them. It would be fast and less wasteful than starting something new. Maybe if I were virtuous and ate leftovers for dinner, I could then be naughty and eat some dessert that I REALLY shouldn’t have. Ah the bargains we make when we are more experienced.

The kids are away for the day and so today has calmed down, sort of, but my big old farmhouse echoes with the memories of its near two hundred years of existence and the thundering steps of my cats. I know I do have hefty cats and the vet will tell me so every time they go in for a physical, but I swear they sound like elephants when they chase each other up the stairs. I have three of them: one sleeps with me, one sits on my lap when I read and the third will sit on the arm of my chair. They are each unique and so very special. Almost as unique as children … but possibly more so because as my parents often tell me “apples don’t fall far from the tree” — so kids, though often surprising, have traits similar to other family members, they might exhibit an unusual combination of traits … but they will reflect their DNA and upbringing, usually … often … sometimes … depends on the phase of the moon? But cats … they are gods and are not like anyone else. You can ask them … they will tell you so.

I find a mug … I know I should have a teacup and saucer, but I draw the line somewhere and a mug is easier for washing and holding. My big hands are more comfortable wrapped around a mug. I pour tea and sit down with my tea. I pick up my book and decide to read a short story before heating dinner. If all I am going to do is through leftovers in the microwave, I have time. The cat jumps up on the arm of the chair and his fur brushes my arm soothingly. I feel the blood pressure lessen and I sip my tea. I need more moments like these. Where have these quiet moments gone? I SO need them back…

Summer is supposed to be filled with sunny days and blue skies and happy thoughts … however, this June has been a bittersweet mix. My son “graduated” from eighth grade and will be going to high school – yeah! My best friend’s mother had a stroke – boo… My best friend and I got to go to a casino and have dinner and then hear Janet Evanovich speak and it was like the best night I have had in a very long time – yeah! My best friend’s mother had another incident and a week later she passed away – double BOO big time …

This has been a winter of which many people are saying never again — one acquaintance said his neighbor is renting out her condo and moving to the Canary Islands … I never really thought about moving South … but every once in a while I am sorely tempted.

I want to pull a “Beauty and the Beast” moment and start singing about – there must be something more … but I think I wouldn’t look so good dancing with dandelion fluff.

I want to get a hive a bees or two. I want to get a few chickens and maybe, just maybe actually start a garden of my own … but then maybe not for I do like to be able to go to someone else’s house and support local agriculture that way. I want to be able to help out at the local organic food co-op and be more healthy … somehow, having a job and getting benefits doesn’t leave enough time to follow my heart. It is not leaving time open to spend with my kids and family and there is sadness in that. When did progress interfere with heart’s desire?

I know this all comes from thinking of my poor friend and her loss — I have said in the past that each and every funeral is a reliving of all the funerals you have been to in the past. It is a hard time. My friends mother was far too young to be leaving her family. My husband was too young. My high school neighbor was too young …

So I know this will pass and tomorrow the sun will rise again and hope will spring forward anew … but sometimes, it is just hard.

I finally want to get moving. I have shifted around the furniture on my screened in porch and opened the window for the cats some days. I have put the screen in the kitchen window and keep looking for that package of trees to arrive Fed Ex.

I have wanted to go walking and NEED to get moving for it has been a stressful winter in so many ways and I have tried to relieve that stress by consuming vasts amount of coffee and chocolate and that is rarely a healthy combination.

It is such a trial of self sabotage … why do I do this? Does drinking coffee (especially when I had gotten to the point of only drinking a cup or two a week!) really relieve my stress? No – it adds to my stress … does eating chocolate relieve my stress? Well it feels good going down, but I can never stop after a piece or two … I open the bar and somehow the whole thing is gone. It is a mysterious occurrence.

The other day I finally got out into the fresh air … I walked three miles and then I was visiting friends in Albany and spent lots of time swimming with my kids in the hotel pool. After all that I was pleasantly tired and felt so good. Now I wonder … we know it is good for us. We know that we need it and yet unless we force ourselves to get up and move (and we aren’t working, chauffeuring kids or sleeping) we somehow find something else to do like cooking dinner, doing laundry or cleaning dishes!

when you reflect upon your life … what stands out?

Usually I remember the times when I made a choice and I want to think about what could have happened if … ?

If I had applied myself in the sciences in high school and I had gone to the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor ME which I would have LOVED to go to …

If I had actually done what I wanted to do in college … become an English major, but I became a Theatre Studies major because I was afraid of Old English …

If I had stayed in Poland longer and actually learned the language completely and maybe decided to stay there … it is a lovely country

If I had stayed in New Hampshire longer and continued work there with students and craft stores and…

If my husband had lived and we had stayed in Stonington …

There are moments when I would love to see the alternate reality … like that episode in the original Star Trek when they find a planet in which the Roman Empire continued unchecked and there were cars and airplanes and gladiators …

I do not regret the decisions I made in life — I think that given the information I had at any moment in my personal history, I made the best choices; however in moments when I can reflect … I wonder, where would I be if I had gone into the sciences and studied Human Ecology in Bar Harbor ME? I doubt I would be living where I am now!

Charles Gilkey of “Productive Flourishing” had a post a few weeks ago that made me stop and think. He said that it was not a problem with time management (as in we need to be more organized) — people have a problem with priority management. Mr. Gilkey then went on to say that any given person can only juggle three to five priorities well. So when you think, what are my titles/priorities. Then we need to realize that at some point we need to learn to say “No!”

I personally find this scary as I juggle being a single parent and two jobs and chauffeur and volunteer and home owner and pet owner…

Hmm, no wonder I have moments of feeling overwhelmed.

Recently I worked on a five year plan. What do I want to be doing in five years? I must say I came up with five things I want to be doing in five years (remember the three to five priorities?) and not one of them was currently what I was doing!

I want to study … I am curious and feel the need to learn more because there is so much that could be learned.

I want to work more with spiritual issues for I have missed that lately in the rush of parenting and work.

I want to work on my property and gardens.

I want to be encouraging to my children (ok I am doing this already!) at this point my son will be in college and my daughter will be evaluating colleges. Becoming adults and so will not need as much chauffeuring as now — but they will still need encouragement!

I want to work on my creativity. Whatever form that takes. Writing, photography, knitting, quilting … who knows what I will want to do then … though I have always wanted to make quilts for the kids.

So now I need to determine:

where am I now?
where do I want to be?

How do I get from point A to point B?

Isn’t life fun?

Last summer I had a “to read” list that was quite ambitious and I think I got to about 2 of them … if that.

I finally got around to listening to one of them just the other day and I wonder why I hadn’t listened to it earlier — it is awesome! “World War Z” by Max Brooks. It is read by a large cast — in interview format and it is a pleasure to listen to and I am shocked.

My son read the book and he loved it — so I wanted to read it so we could talk about it; however, I just somehow pushed it to the back of the to read or to listen list. There were SO many other “more pertinent” books to read.

How silly!World War Z

This audio book has an all star cast … and I mean ALL-STAR: Alan Alda, Denise Crosby, Nathan Fillion, Bruce BoxLeitner, and too many others to count. They may only read for 5 to 10 minutes depending on their role, but it makes it such a rich theatrical experience. And I hope that they thought it was fun too.

Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) is the interviewer and it sounds like he had an amazing time talking to all these actors. I can just see him calling these people … hey can you do me a favor?

So do yourself a favor and the next time you are looking for an audio book … pick up World War Z. You will be glad you did.

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