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Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

We are inching closer to Labor Day, with lazy summer days getting shorter and shorter. If you haven’t packed up for a family vacation yet, now’s the time. In Europe, people flee their city homes in August searching for some rest and rejuvenation. We Americans have picked up the habit of leaving later in the season, packing up the Subaru with iPads full of movies and cinching our wee ones in their car seats for multiple hours on the road.

So I was wondering, what’s your ideal summer holiday? Would you like to check into some posh resort to ride around on a golf cart chasing a small ball? Or do you much prefer standing shirtless in a small river fly fishing?

When our children were little, we headed off to Martha’s Vineyard in the Spring, dogs in tow. We shared a house in June on the wild side with my BFF Lee, who is a fierce attorney. There was no internet and no such thing as a cell phone if you can remember back that far. I had a cassette tape of Cinderella I could play in the car while the Bride turned the pages of a book…

We laughed a lot, we dug for clams, and Lee baked bread almost every day. She didn’t have a cell phone and home computing wasn’t really invented yet. In other words, she left her work behind her and was present with our families. This is the gift, the actual present we need to give ourselves when we search for a holiday.

A new friend of mine, Mary, has packed up her vintage Volkswagen bus, tricked out with lots of power and a pop-up roof, and is heading for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, and then Devils Tower – almost 6,000 miles on the road. She’ll be camping and hiking for the month with her husband, her son and her 4 year old grand son! She is fearless and takes the most amazing wildlife pictures.

Not everyone can take a whole month away, but what we plan for on a vacation, and what we actually do once we get there, says quite a bit about us – as a person, as a family. Do we want to gaze out to sea at the horizon and put our feet in some sand, or do we want to learn something new and traipse around a different city?

Mary’s trip, immersing her family in the Wild, gives me serious FHE (family-holiday-envy). I will look longingly at her social media pictures, and listen to her recount the things her grandson said on a trail through wildflowers. I know this is not healthy, and that she is not your average grandma.

My Nana pickled vegetables and stored them on shelves leading down to the cellar in Scranton, PA. I have a vague memory of the Dutch kitchen door, and her black stockings and shoes, her continual love and hugs. I wonder what the Love Bug will remember about me? I know the Bride remembers the Flapper and her condo on a MN lake. She gets her grit and determination from my Mother I’m sure.

Lake house, beach house, whatever you have planned before the school year begins, I wish you safe travels. But a word of warning if you’re headed toward the Jersey Shore, avoid a certain Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. Some people take “working vacations.”

Here are the Grands on their FL beach holiday with the Groom’s family last week!

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Stripping away the mandate for people to purchase healthcare, chopping healthcare down to the bare bones of a “skinny” bill that would have thrown millions off Medicaid, with a simple assurance of replacing the ACA in the future, was unacceptable to three Republican senators. And thank the Lordie for that!

Now we can return to our summer fun with a side-eye on politics, waiting for this administration – and NOT our healthcare – to implode. If you’re in the market for a good beach/lake/pool read, here’s what’s on my revolving nightstand (a bookcase in the form of a table).

I just finished reading one of Parnassus Bookstore’s Special Editions, “Do Not Become Alarmed,” by Maile Meloy. It’s a thriller, with three families on a cruise ship to South America when their children are suddenly swept away by a tide during a botched shore excursion. I approached this read half-heartedly since I didn’t need to be depressed in my fictional life, but I was swept away by the prose. Full disclosure, I didn’t finish the book at night since I was afraid it would have left me sleepless!

I’ve joined a virtual book club that has another Nashville connection. I adore Reese Witherspoon, probably because I can see her playing the Flapper in the movie version of The Novel, and she just started her own book club on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RWBookClub  She gave her followers three choices, and the winner is  “The Alice Network,” by Kate Quinn. The year is 1947 and although I’ve only just started, I’m in love with the main character. Based on the true resistance network of brave women and men who had gone behind Nazi lines in France, I’m anticipating a wonderful ride.

Teed up and ready to read are two more books: J Courtney Sullivan’s “Saints for All Occasions,” and “Hunger,” by Roxane Gay.

Who wouldn’t love Sullivan’s exploration of family and faith? I read her novel, “Maine” months ago and it had the ring of truth to this lapsed Catholic. Here is what Ron Charles at the Washington Post had to say about “The year’s best book” – “Saints for All Occasions:”

“This family has a way of forgetting what it doesn’t want to know,” Sullivan writes, and Nora depends desperately on that common predilection. “She wondered how much longer she could keep up the lie, even as she understood that she had committed herself to it for life.” The most fascinating element of the story is watching a daring act of deception coalesce into the solid-seeming shape of history.    https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/j-courtney-sullivans-saints-for-all-occasions-is-this-years-best-book-about-family/2017/05/08/3a57acd8-30ca-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?utm_term=.d32d5c3a3b0f

And getting skinny is somehow not on and always on the mind of memoirist Roxane Gay. In “Hunger,” another First Edition’s pick, she chronicles her childhood rape and her reaction to that trauma by overeating. In her own words: “I grew up in this world where fat phobia is pervasive,” she says. “And I just thought, ‘Well, boys don’t like fat girls, so if I’m fat, they won’t want me and they won’t hurt me again.’ But more than that, I really wanted to just be bigger so that I could fight harder.”

Whether you get your books in the mail from Nashville, download them on your tablet, or visit your local bookstore or library, you may want to peruse the Man Booker Prize long list: http://themanbookerprize.com/news/man-booker-prize-2017-longlist-announced

And if you are lucky, you may light upon a free book in a public place. Yes, I did say free so keep your eyes peeled! The talented Emma Watson is an official book fairy, but you could sign up to deliver books too! All you have to do is clap your hands, and visit their site, truly. http://ibelieveinbookfairies.com/

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The latest This American Life podcast on NPR was all about summer camp. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/109/notes-on-camp

About those people who absolutely loved camp and still think of it as a highlight of their young lives; and those who either never went to camp, or hated it for one summer. I fall into the former category. I started attending Camp St Joseph (CSJ) for Girls in the Catskills when I was around 10 years old, for the whole summer, and made it all the way to Counselor-in-Training at 16.

Which means I was a glorified waitress, but it was my first real job, and I was ecstatic.

Of course I was homesick that first summer. I had been contemplating moving home with the Flapper, and she was a working single mom at the time. So if I wanted to make the move work, she and my older sister Kay insisted I go to camp. CSJ was run like a military base camp. A bugle woke you at dawn and points were deducted from your team if you were late for the flag raising, if your uniform was wrinkled, or if a nun couldn’t bounce a coin off your neatly made cot/bed. The rafters were open so evening temperatures plummeted – we slept in our sweaters and socks.

Did I forget to tell you that each cabin had a nun sleeping in it?

Or that we went to Mass. Every. Single. Morning.?

But this is the place where I came of age. Where we sang Ave Maria on our way through the woods to a secluded grotto with a statue of Mary. Where I played Sir Lancelot in the play because I was taller than the other girl with a voice. Where I learned to play basketball like a pro. I can still remember the smell of the basketball court’s wood floor. The stomping, the cheers from the crowd, the ice cold Pepsi bottle from a machine after all our games.

I think the Flapper was pleasantly surprised that I cried when it came time to leave camp that first summer. After all, there were no smart phones to keep in touch; in fact, the camp didn’t want us to contact our parents at all. Every now and then we’d have to sit down and write them a letter, but that was voluntary – hence the phrase, no news is good news! After my first letter pleading my case to return home, my Mother never heard from me again.

Separation is an essential part of human development. Who really wants their kids living in their basement forever? Every year, when it came time to sew my name tags on all my camp clothes (khaki shorts and white polo shirts), the process of mini-individuation would begin. Raised as an only child with my foster parents, I learned how to handle conflict. I was also free to ride horses, learn archery, and play a mean game of jacks on our cabin’s front porch!

Today parents can keep track of their kids at summer camp via social media. I hate to sound stodgy, but IMHO this is not a great idea. Instead of separating parent from child for the summer, and allowing your child to blossom, constant virtual contact can give rise to separation anxiety… for the parent. Why isn’t Johnny in the river rafting picture? Where are Jane’s bunkmates in the craft cabin photo?

If I remember correctly, there were certain things I’d rather NOT tell my parents. Today, privacy is a thing of the past, and we Boomers are to blame. Kids share every detail of their lives on so many sites I can hardly keep track. Which is why I find it particularly hard to believe that Donald Jr didn’t say anything at all to Donald Sr about the possibility of digging up some dirt on Hillary via Russia last summer…

Now I get that Don Jr was raised as an entitled, elitist prep school snob. And I get that he thought he could pretty much get away with anything he did because Daddy’s money and power would bail him out of trouble. But I can’t buy into the “rookie” mistake language, or that he was an “innocent” bystander in all things Russian.

I think the President’s son needs to ship out to summer camp now, yesterday! Get off Twitter, remain unplugged and take a canoe out on a lake somewhere far away from reporters. Because even if his meetings with Russians were pure, and not illegal, they were certainly not saintly.       IMG_0809

 

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Ibsen’s dollhouse it’s not.

But like Nora, I’ve left my serene mountain retreat behind for a week of city life. And since this city is the cathedral for American music, we seem to have picked a particularly jam-packed weekend to be here.

Bonnaroo is happening outside of town https://www.bonnaroo.com/lineup/ Our Jersey Shore girl Nicole Atkins is playing this year.

In town we have the CMA Fest http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival/ with tons of free music everywhere.

And of course since last night was a full moon, we all had to go to the Full Moon Pickin Party for the Friends of Warner Park. We arrived early with the Bride and Groom to meet friends and neighbors for a tailgate cocktail/supper soiree. There were food trucks galore inside the gates and so many musicians I lost count.

As we spread out our blanket and set up the Pack n Play last night for an adorable 7 month old baby boy, I was reminded of going to Tanglewood with our babies in Lenox, MA. I would make some newfangled cold strawberry soup, my friend Lee would bring the main course and another friend might bring dessert. We had elaborate wicker picnic baskets, real plates and sometimes brought candles. Listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra each summer conducted by Seiji Ozawa under the stars was a high point of our life in the Berkshires.

Last night we had a total of nine kids running through fields, catching fireflies, petting multiple dogs, and climbing sand hills. We even got to see Jupiter through a telescope with her moons. Bluegrass and country music filled the air but it was really the fellowship of fun-loving, happy people that filled my heart.

Nashville is a particularly friendly city; you can start talking with a complete stranger at a sidewalk cafe and feel like you’ve known each other for years after paying your bill. Yes, that happened. He talked about calling the wrong “Holly” on his cellphone, which led to catching up and an invite to see U2 at Bonnaroo. We talked about serendipity, and how we must sometimes just jump into that stream and go with the flow as trite as it may sound.

Jumping may be out of the question now, but we are walking everywhere! And a beach house is still in the works once we’ve settled into city life. I wish we had a “summer home,” a family place for generations at a lake or a beach that our grandparents may have built. My family’s summer home on Lake Wallenpaupack in PA has been long gone since my Father’s death, though I do have a memory of roaming the gardens in my First Holy Communion dress and veil. Bob’s grandparents, Russian immigrants, created a bungalow colony on some land in NJ. It was called “Four Bridges” and sheltered Great Grandma Ada and her sisters’ families for many summers. Unfortunately, that parcel of land just sold last month!

Feeling wistful about a summer home after reading “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan. It’s  about an Irish Catholic family’s summer cottage and the secrets of its matriarch who is masterfully drawn. It touches on three generations of women, and the expectations society and religion placed on them. One character, in fact, is obsessed with building dollhouses! Like Ibsen, the juggling act we women must do to navigate a marriage and children hasn’t changed all that much. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/books/review/book-review-maine-by-j-courtney-sullivan.html

Today, with professional women the journey can be more complicated than ever – because we still do the “mental” work of a household. The scheduling of doctor appointments, the camp and school related activities, the meals, the grocery list….even the best dads seem to need direction when it comes to domestic chores (sorry Bob). Still, our stellar Groom is right in the thick of it, on daddy duty all weekend while the Bride sees the results of all the music-alcohol-related-accidents…

Speaking of which, I’m very careful walking down the stairs of this townhouse.

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It’s been three weeks. The new laundry room door just went up, the vents and smoke detectors are going up as I type, and the painters are touching up all over the place. It will be good to get our house back, but to be honest Ms Bean will miss the constant company. Granted she barks initially, but then she warms up and keeps track of everyone. My little, lazy, adorable mutt transforms into a real watchdog! She wakes every morning with a sense of purpose; sitting in front of the front hall windows and listening for the sound of trucks.

Poor baby, the contractors will be done today, just in time for the Fourth of July Fireworks. Anyone with a pup knows the sounds of summer can drive them to distraction – to hiding in bath tubs and even sometimes running away given half the chance. Great Grandma Ada told me about this article, which I had to read on my phone since I couldn’t find my computer.

By some estimates, at least 40 percent of dogs experience noise anxiety, which is most pronounced in the summer. Animal shelters report that their busiest day for taking in runaway dogs is July 5. Veterinarians tell of dogs who took refuge in hiding places so tight that they got stuck, who gnawed on door handles, who crashed through windows or raced into traffic — all desperate efforts to escape inexplicable collisions of noise and flashing light.                                          http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/why-thunder-and-fireworks-make-dogs-anxious/?_r=0

It was a rainy, stormy day when the Bride and Groom graduated from medical school. We had a few people staying in our newly built house, and the last one out must not have latched the door. Because when we returned several hours later, the kitchen door was wide open and Buddha Bear came strolling around the corner with an accusatory look in his eyes. As if he was saying, “Where have you guys been?”

He also managed to lock himself in our guest bathroom during a storm. I returned home and called his name so many times my throat was hoarse. Buddha wasn’t a barker. Before I started to panic and jump in my car thinking he must be able to walk through walls, I noticed the bathroom door was shut. He was so big, when he tried getting into the tub he must have accidentally shut the door and he was just waiting patiently for me to free him!

Ms Bean wasn’t anxious in thunderstorms before she watched Buddha’s behavior. Now, she becomes a twitchy, shaking mess stuck permanently to my knee. We stroll into the laundry room and I pull out a dryer sheet, the kind without any perfume. She looks at me longingly and submits to my hand stroking her whole body, head to tail, with the little piece of paper as her body relaxes. Long ago I read that a rubdown with a Bounce sheet would reduce the static electricity on her fur; and now I’m a believer.

I’m not a pill person, but of course in the NYTimes article above there is a new medicine for dog anxiety during storms and fireworks. I’d rather just go into a windowless room with my dryer sheet and comfort Ms Bean. After all, she’s been through alot these past three weeks. She already has to take a pill in order to ride in a car, so I don’t want a loopy puppy in the house all summer. Vets say it’s best to desensitize your dog to noise.

But carpenters hammering the basement ceiling under the floor of our living room was pretty strange, and not soon to be repeated. All the building noises are almost done, so relax Ms Bean for a little while. Your world is safe and secure. Time to get back to lying on the deck and watching for deer and vermin!

Hope y’all have a safe and Happy Fourth and a strees-free summer time with your fur babies! Here is Ms Bean in the Zen shade garden.IMG_4763

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I was listening to a program on the plight of the helicopter parent vis a vis sleepaway camp. One would think that summer presents the opportunity for a reprieve; parents might relax and let go just a little. Instead, camps today employ photographers who are tasked to just wander around the campgrounds taking pictures of kids being kids – preferably happy and smiling campers – to be immediately uploaded to said camp’s social media pages! And so the phone calls begin to camp directors: “Why is junior’s shirt so dirty, didn’t he get my care package?” Or worse yet, “Why are there no pictures of my kid?”

For many years, I dreamed of my camp experience. These were my most cherished memories. I attended Camp St Joseph for Girls at the age of ten for a full 2 months, and went back every year until I was finally a counselor-in-training (CIT) and waterfront boating and canoeing counselor on the lake my 16th year. In the years before Title IX, this was the one place that allowed me to excel at sports. It may be hard to imagine, but PE at Sacred Heart School consisted of jumping jacks next to our desk, when we weren’t practicing hiding under them in case of a nuclear attack.

Most school days found me just sitting at my desk, hands folded carefully in front of me, counting the bricks in the wall of a car dealership across the street, and the days left until summer, dreaming  about camp. About the first frozen chill of the crystal clear lake water, about the sound of jacks being played on the cabin’s porch floor, about the pungent smell of the auditorium at a basketball game. And about nuns singing Ave Maria in a sun dappled procession to Mary’s Grotto in the woods.

It was a place to forge friendships, to be empowered when I was shuttling back and forth between two homes. I guess I was sent there since the Flapper had to work, because in those days, only kids from “broken” homes or those who’s parents were so wealthy that they were always flying around the world went to sleepaway camp. So it was a mix of the well-to-do with the down-and-out. And at camp, we were all equal, our best and only competition was the color of the team we played for, each year.

We never received phone calls or packages from home. I might have been homesick the first week a little, but I don’t remember that. My only memory is crying my eyes out at the end of each season. I never wanted camp to end. One day was set aside for Parent’s Day, I remember one summer the Flapper bringing her new husband, the Judge.  We were  expected to perform our duties raising the American flag, horse back riding, shooting arrows, playing tennis or basketball – my personal favorite. The nuns were large and in charge, no one would dare ask for special treatment. We went to mass every morning of every beautiful day.

Camp was a haven, the one place in a changing world that expected the best of its girls, where the rules were clear and laughter was the our constant companion. Here is a montage of the few pictures I could muster up this morning, One at an ice cream parlor, a treat with the Flapper outside of camp. She is standing in the dark sweater, while I’m petting a puppy. I wonder if 11 year old girls today like having their pictures posted all over Facebook from camp? I feel sorry for parents who can’t let go, and let their children grow up.

I am 16 in the picture with the flip, and the confidence you can see is all due to Camp St joseph. Just don’t ask me about the altar boys, and the golf course between the boys and girls camp…

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Here in the South, children go back to school very early. Maybe it’s our agricultural roots, but for some, backpacks are already packed, the yellow buses are rolling, and all the papers that must/be/signed have been returned to the school administration. I wonder if parents still have papers to sign, or have they gone paperless too?

For all my Northern friends, who insist that summer will last through Labor Day goshdarnit, here is a six worded memoir of summer so far.

My butterfly tree is done blooming, but the white hydrangeas are alive with golden monarch wings: Breathtaking photo copy

Sometimes, a Grandpa misses his little Love Bug, he takes to the sky for a quick trip to Nashville: Enchanting photo

On these wonderfully crisp mornings, the sleeping porch becomes an oasis of bird song and sun:  Musing IMG_1480

To prove that aging isn’t a dirty word, one Great Grandma tackled the wonders of the digital age:  Gratifying photo copy

Not wanting to be left behind, the local sport club’s pool beckoned for fun joint-pain-free exercise: Energizing  photo copy

And a fifth tooth has appeared in my dose of almost daily Baby Bug pictures, with bagel/on/nose: Captivating  photo copy 2

Hope your summer has been wonderful so far!

 

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