Friday, May 29, 2015

Can the ticks please stop?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

The story, as I was told many times, as I remember it now, is this:

My parents met while in high school. My father went to a public school, and my mother to a Catholic girls school. They were from different towns, but my mother knew of my father. My mother had a friend whose brother was pals with my father. The guys fixed cars together, drank together, and smoked together.

My mother and her friend strolled by my father as he leaned over his car, fixing it. My mother's friend whispered, "He's so..." (I forget the word she used, but in today's terms it would be "hot"),

Teenaged pictures of my parents - my mother with teased hair, dark miniskirt and my father with slicked back hair, trim ankle length slacks, pointy shoes.

In his high school yearbook he stated his graduation plans - U.S. Marine Corps.

My mother and father planned to get married. Wedding invitations were printed, and his deployment date bumped earlier. Wedding invitations were reprinted so they could marry before my father deployed to Vietnam. 

"Don't do it," my mother's friends whispered. "I know he'll come back," she told them. "I knew he'd come back," she'd tell me. My father swore to attend church weekly if he returned.

And so, he returned. And, my parents have been married and attending mass weekly since the late sixties.

My father has told me that his return from Vietnam was not easy. His welcome home meal, spaghetti and meatballs, made his stomach turn. Not rations. He was ticketed for blowing a red light after hearing a car backfire. Sounded like enemy fire. The crowd at today's Memorial Day parade waved flags and clapped their hands for the veterans, but they did not fifty years ago.

Welcome home, Dad. Semper fi.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


About 15 years ago while an undergrad at Mason Gross, I was told I'd be "an awesome forty year old."

"What about now?" I asked of the grad student. No adequate answer.

I was studying photography. He, performance art. Could linear communication be expected of two art students?

A decade and a half pass, and here I am on the eve of forty. My mom invited us over for a birthday dinner. "What would you like me to make?" she asked.

"Pot roast," I replied. "If that's a pain, burgers on the grill is good, too." Pot roast historically has been my birthday meal. My other favorite Mom-cooked meal is chicken, potatoes, and carrots roasted in shortening. Pot roast tops the list, however.

Dial back 20 years ago or more, I worked at Spencer's Gifts in a mall. Yep, remember Spencer's? They're still around.

I wore a purple name tag. I sorted size small through extra-extra large shirts that said, "Uh-oh, the Big 4-0" and "Over the Hill". I tidied boxes of gummy candies labeled "Sex Booster for Old Goats" and boob and penis shaped pasta... black light posters, Skid Row patches, and 24 carat gold jewelery, too.

Forty seemed an eon away. I hardly wanted to think of it. Spencer's made it pretty tawdry. I had a vague feeling I might catch something from those boxes of raunchy jelly beans.

The calendar rolled on, and here I am. Forty.

I'm not feeling over the hill. I'm not feeling particularly "awesome", either.

"Just fine" might sum it up. I live just one ridge north of where I grew up. I'm married and have a young son. I pass by the church where I was confirmed a couple times a week. We occasionally go to the playground of my grade school. I like to stop in the mall to grab some cheap clothes at Old Navy, right where Spencer's used to be.

I think "just fine" is just about right.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Taking a Hit

While at kung fu class, I found myself getting "punched" repeatedly in a two person drill. It was more like being tapped, not actually punched. We were working on accuracy strikes and blocks, and were not adding power.
Nevertheless, I wondered what I could do better. Certainly, my speed, aim, and stance could be improve. That's why I'm there after all.

While I'd rather never be punched, I'd also like to learn to take a hit properly. If I can do that, I'm more likely to get tapped than truly hit. And, should I get hit one day, perhaps I'd react with some shred of what I've learned. Yes, so I'll take those taps.

It's funny... I work really hard to live in a peaceful and harmonious home. I prefer to choose friends who are empathetic, with whom conflicts are rare, quite rare, if ever.

I travel among people who, at least on the surface, also share these values. Fist fights at barbecues never break out. Many of us might be shocked and embarrassed if our kids tore each others hair and kicked each other.

And yet, honestly, I love kung fu. I'm nothing more than a novice, but when I break a sweat and feel my internal energy flowing - I sparkle.

All that work making peace... All those times someone else took the life of an animal so I could eat... All those easy, danger-free moments in modern life... All those bad days that are mental or emotional punches, not physical ones... Sometimes, I'd rather exchange a few taps.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy mother's day

I noticed Jared and Beren picking flowers on the other side of the farm. I almost drifted towards them, but sensed they were on task.

Beren bounded up with a bouquet of yellow rocket, columbines, ragwort, and a couple stubby pansies. "Happy mother's day!" he exclaimed.

I went to give him a kiss, and he backed away. "Hug?" I asked. I got one, a good long one. It was worth the wait. I could count Beren's hugs on one hand.

I glanced over Beren's shoulder. Jared's eyes were wet, as mine were.


Little one, being your mother has been a joy. What a journey it's been for our tiny family!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Back to work

Sometimes it feels like we're just talking at each other's backs as we go from task to task. Jared finished the firewood hutch on Friday while I packed the truck for our big spring sale the following day. 

Once the warm weather hit, I'm up with the sun. Not dawn, nowhere near dawn, but somewhere closer to when the sun is a half hour below the ridge behind our house. I pull on yesterday's (or possibly that week's) work pants and shirt. If Jared stirs and his eyes blink open, I'll whisper, "Good morning," and maybe, "How'd ya sleep?" I wait for his answer and then pad down the stairs.

The cat meows, but I'm moving fast now. No time to open the crooked, squeaky door behind which Mountain Kitten sleeps. I take a sip of water and head outside to... the garden, the nursery.

Once the warm weather hit earlier this week and in earnest this weekend, more plants jumped our of the ground. There's a window of time for everything on the farm. That window is now, not for every task but it's the ideal time for many. Root growth, top growth. Time to transplant, pot up, germinate and go for it.

About two weeks ago, we were waiting and waiting. Our plants weren't emerging. Days and nights were cold. We were all sick, but still dragging ass around the farm. Hard, extended cold was coming, irrigation lines had to be bled and shut off. "Twenty-nine degrees isn't 35 degrees," Jared said. The forecast for two nights looked bad. Temperatures dipped below freezing and held for hours. The following morning I felt the soil in some of our containerized plants. Frozen solid.

I hardly remember that time. Jared likes to say, "Spring is hurry up and wait." Now, it's try to catch me.

Some weeks it seems we just grind on, without stopping. No time to stop. It's incredibly exciting, unbelievable things happen - hoophouses go up, plastic films enclose them. Plants thrive in the warmth. Just weeks later the sun is strong. The plants slow down in the heat. The film comes off. Shade cloth goes on.

We smile a lot. We high five, and things go well. Then suddenly several things go badly. We all suffer a bit. We each take turns feeling irritable, critical, or criticized.

Meals come a little later than they should. One of us gets hungry and cranky. We entertain going out to eat, but it's far easier and less time consuming to boil another package of hot dogs and fry garlic mustard. This is a funny dream I'm living.

After dinner, we work until the sun goes down and the moon comes up. Tonight the moon rises over the same ridge the sun did this morning. Those glowing spheres cause the plants to charge from the ground, or dry to a cinder.

Once Beren is asleep, the night shift. Email, writing, and catching up on dishes or packing tomorrow's lunch. I hardly feel up of the task. I feel a little blue some evenings. I'm tired.

I remember when Jared and I moved to the Sourlands several years ago. It was November, winter was coming. We felt it. We bought warm, incredibly warm socks. We took window screens out and closed storm windows. We cut firewood. We had some purpose. We weren't waiting for the the building superintendent to turn on the heat in Queens anymore. Thank goodness.

Now that purpose, that sense of weather and seasons has even deeper meaning as we work on our own land. If we don't complete a task - making growing beds, transplanting, tilling - then when? Next year? That doesn't do, as Beren says.

Perhaps I appear to be complaining. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. I am not whining, because I attack whiners like Mountain Kitten attacks my feet after sunset. Like the advertising execs at Home Depot say, "Let's do this."

Anyway, it's spring, and I better back back to work.