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This time of year is the one my children hate the most. Wood stacking time.

My son wants to create a computer game that judges your stacking ability for speed, accuracy and durability of pile.

My daughter just wants to avoid the whole thing and offers to give her grandmother a mani/pedi in lieu of stacking wood.

Yet when the wood arrives you know that despite the balmy 60 degree morning — the cold dark season is just around the corner. The wood doesn’t get delivered in summer when it is 80+ degrees. It doesn’t arrive in winter, you need to have a pretty good guess of how much will be needed and order that at this time. Technically still summer but so close to autumn, you may as well call it fall. Some nights have been quite crisp … we have awoken to temperatures in the 40’s. Some people have put the furnace on already. Some people have had fires in the wood-stoves, but I look at the calendar and say. Dang it is only September if you start burning wood NOW it will never last until April or May or June. We just add more blankets.

My son watches TV with a wool blanket and my daughter has a snugly wrap thing. I have a lap blanket and a shawl and I tempt the cat to be a portable hot water bottle when he is feeling cuddly.

I am thinking that October will be when I pull out the wood-stove black and get ready for winter. How many years ago did the October blizzard hit and wipe out electricity for days? I know that was a year of no Halloween … maybe three years ago? The winter of the snow piles from he**…

Yes the wood will be stacked and covered and some brought into the house. Some kindling will be put under cover for the long winter months … being the ants that prepare for the time of need. Not your first choice when you are young, only with experience do you see the need.

the leaves are turning … my son is looking me straight in the eyes and I swear next week he will be looking down from a height on high … my daughter is speaking of boarding school (the same one who wants to buy the neighbor’s house so she doesn’t have to really leave home) … and then we look at the calendar and do the math and yes … twelve years will have passed by the beginning of October …

Now I usually feel kind of mopey in September facing this gloomy anniversary and this year is no different. Not really sad or depressed, I mean it has been twelve years … just kind of … mopey. This year, through no actually planning on my part, the beginning of October is booked with an author visit which is a rather huge thing for it is a large financial commitment for the library which I have had to get sponsors for and I am coordinating the communications between book seller and school and library.

This has turned out to be such a headache that I am really wondering if this was a smart thing to do. Like, really, who in their right mind plans this? Then again, when was the last time I claimed to be in my right mind?

So if you are looking around for something to do on Saturday October 4 at 2PM — come to St. Thomas of Villanova Church (71 North Street, Goshen, 06756) and hear Former Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan speak on “Until Tuesday” Until Tuesday

I am always a little late …

Last week was the 13th anniversary of September 11, 2001. I can recollect exactly where I was that day. At the Subaru dealership in New London, being a good doobie before taking the car on a trip to New Hampshire for a Scottish Festival. I was reading with one eye and watching my toddler play with the toys in the waiting room contemplating if I really should let him play with toys in the public venue when someone came in and said that we needed to turn on the TV because someone just flew a plane into a building. We in the waiting room were thinking — it’s a little early (or late) for April’s Fool, but turned on the TV anyway and we saw it all and watched all morning even after the workers at the dealership told me my car was ready.

I asked the kids last week what they did in school and if they spoke about 9/11 at all.

My daughter said oh yes they had a 2 period Social Studies class and her teacher was thirteen when it happened and … ugh, really, my daughter has SUCH a young teacher. Can she really teach history when she is so young?

Later that day my kids and I went to a music concert and the first part of the event was a dedication to first responders, the deputy fire chief was sharing some thoughts and said that some of the new fire personnel were ten years old when 9/11 occurred. It certainly does make one feel old.

The fear of not knowing if family was well, the wondering of what would be next, the flags flying everywhere. My husband coming home early from work, us going to the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm to pick up our weekly share — and everyone saying … I just can’t believe it.

Even thirteen years after the fact … I still can’t believe it happened. Yet it did and somehow we have moved on, most days … until the anniversary comes and I look at my daughter and think … for her this is prehistoric. I am so old …

I read something this morning that made me think.

It said something about how we have dealt with more information this morning than a person in the middle ages had to think about all year. I want to say it is wrong. Sure we have thought about different things this morning than a person did back then … but it is September. Any person from that time period would be thinking of how much fodder was already put aside and how much more needed to be set aside for the animals that you wanted to keep. How much food for your family? How much taxes to the land-owner? How much tithe to the church? Would your child be apprenticed out to the (fill in the blank)? Just because the information was different, didn’t mean it was inconsequential. More than likely … the decisions then were more life threatening if answered without serious thought.

Sure when we are contemplating federal taxes and changes in deductions — it seems very important and it is. The last thing anyone wants is to be audited by the government and find out that things were done incorrectly. We all know stories of fraudulent tax filers and people loosing houses and businesses; but there is a process that is followed in those cases. Most times it takes years to actually loose your home. During the middle ages if the land-owner decided to raise rent or taxes … it was done and if you couldn’t make it – you had to move.

If you didn’t set aside enough fodder for your animals, they died of starvation for there wasn’t a Blue Seal store around the corner or in the next town where you could purchase more food. If you didn’t set aside enough turnips, oats, or grain … your family went hungry.

Maybe people didn’t read or maybe people couldn’t do calculus; but figuring was important and information processing helped get them from one harvest to the next… and the truly intelligent and forward thinking people kept things for when the harvest developed poorly and you needed help from a previous harvest.

So maybe people are more educated now and we can think about comparative religion and the pros and cons of hybrid cars … but could you go to the middle ages and prosper?

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.

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