Dispatches from the Road – Down time


Something about dropping everything seemed to open the floodgates. We’ve been on the road for almost 2 days now, and, except for posting a few photos to friends and family, my digital life has gone dark.

My creative life is exposing as page after page of my notebook is filled. It’s not just about having time either. It’s about the fresh perspective that comes from crawling out of our cave and getting to know different cross sections of the planet.

Climb Any Mountain


The road from our driveway down to the main road winds around our hill, creating an idyllic s-curve framed by the trees that line the horse farm near the bottom of the hill. Since the bridge at that bottom closed, I haven't seen my favorite S-Curve much, but a few days ago, I took it into my head to incorporate more hills into my run and, instead of running the quarter mile laps around our house, I walked to the top of the driveway and then down the road. It's hardly the path not taken, but it's rarely done on foot, let alone at a decent pace, and that made all the difference.

Swinging my arms, music turned off so I could hear the woods around me, I marched down the hill at a good clip. There's a fallen tree in front of the defunct bridge at the bottom of the hill, and I decided it was a good place to turn around.

Katy, my wonder dog (she wonders about everything), had run our trail back and forth several times and wagged her tail as I started back up the hill. She bounded up the first swell in the road, stopping at the orange barrels and 'Road Closed' sign just as the sun climbed high enough in the sky to begin casting long purple shadows on the road. Shadows still covered my part of the dirt road, but Katy was now silhouetted in silvery gold, and the mountain behind her was completely illuminated. I couldn't see the rest of the hill I had to climb, and as I started back, I felt as though I was entering new territory.

This is a place where I make time for fitness and where fitness propels the other things in my life that matter. It's a place where I take the time to savor the simple things around me.

By the time I walked back to the middle of the hill where our driveway begins, I was huffing and puffing, but I was still climbing. The climbs have gotten easier each day, and each day I add a little more hill and a little more road to the routine.

I still do my dance at the scale – finding triumph or shame on any given day. On any given day, I may find Katy, neighbor's dogs, sweltering heat or soothing cool morning air on the trail, but I always find some reason for triumph. And I never find a reason for shame.


Lettuce Listen


Today I hustled. I fed. I chauffeured. I walked. I shopped. I chauffeured some more.  I prepped.  I cleaned.  I chided.  I sat at a desk in a windowless office watching the light change as clouds softened the sunlight hitting the door.  I messaged.  I read and typed.  I focused and tinkered.  I emailed people in Hawaii and Maryland.  I ran.  

When evening came, I washed and peeled and chopped and cut and cut until I noticed I had one more thing to wash and cut and walked through the door into the rain and out to the garden.  I walked to the middle of the deserted plot and knelt down to pick some lettuce.  I plucked, and as the raindrops softly plop-plopped on my bare shoulders and rat-a-tatted on the lettuce leaves, for the first time all day, I stopped thinking and working and hustling, and I listened.

Great Escapes and Guilty Pleasures

I’m in the middle of my latest favorite guilty pleasure. It’s Monday. The kids are in school. I have the day off, and I’m hanging at Bob’s Diner, indulging in a veggie burrito and listening to Queen on the jukebox as I write. There’s no champagne or pate on the menu, and I’m not likely to blow through 17 rolls of film recording it, but my Monday mini-vacations are fast becoming great escapes.

Once upon a time and for a few years, the Big Guy and I were DINKs (double-income-no-kids), and we loved every minute of it. We ate out. We went to movies – at an actual movie theatre. We took our time wandering through museums, and we watched rated R videos before nine o’ clock. It was one long date.

We knew kids were in our future, and, while we looked forward to that time, we had enough friends with school age kids to know we didn’t want to take our freedom for granted. Eventually, we got tired of just enjoying other people’s kids and decided it was time to have one of our own. Before we embarked on that journey, however, we decided to take one to Europe as a last hurrah with just the two of us.

So for two weeks, we skipped around Spain and prowled the streets of Paris. Letting serendipity steer us, we eschewed schedules. Spain and Paris were already sultry in April. We consumed art in the mornings and tapas and sangria in the afternoons. We wandered gardens and sampled chocolate concoctions with our afternoon tea. It was an escape filled romance with just a bit of hedonism, fortifying our marriage with fun before a third person came into our family.

Fast-forward fourteen years, and our future is here and full. We’ve added two the family roster, and there are no waking moments when one of us isn’t busy playing chef, referee, chauffeur or tutor. Reality is everything we hoped for when we fell in love with the idea of being parents. It’s also very much what we anticipated, and, while the memory of sun and sangria still makes me smile, sipping a soda, uninterrupted by email and household eruptions is the ultimate great escape.

What’s your favorite great escape?



The Night Owl and the Early Bird

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I have been night owl for as long as I can remember.  Worry and obsession often follow me to bed, and, as they are not anesthetics, I often take flight to escape them.  Over the last few months, I’ve been working to become an early bird, but there are times when the night owl threatens to eviscerate her before she feathers out.

Friday night I had willingly made the mistake of reading a few news items shortly before bed.  Having invited the news of the world into my nighttime consciousness like a vampire over my threshold, I knew the only recourse was to let the night owl take flight.  I needed sleep – even wanted it, but activity is often the only antidote to worry.   So I went to my desk and closed the door, securing my sanity with pencils and paper and paint.

The alarm was set for five – I had intended to write – but by the time the night owl had driven the shadows from my mind, the early bird was trying to rise.  The night owl was keenly aware of this, and, for a moment, seemed prepared to consume her as she began to flutter.  But something – wisdom – perhaps overtook the night owl, and she let the fledgling alone to do her work as the sun rose, warming them both.

Saturday evening I again let myself be seduced by the news of the world.  The previous night’s flight and the morning work, however, had built a wall around my worry.   That wall may crumble –  my walls usually do.  But as the night owl learns to live with the early bird, I’m hoping whatever balance they find will permeate the other parts of my life.


Home Alone – Almost


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I like to think my writing group met today – even though the advance of Hurricane Sandy kept attendance down to two of us.  We even managed to speak of writing a little bit and even about the logistics of blogging.  In reality, our mini-meeting was just a little bit of a day with the girls, and it was just what this gal needed.

I’ve been part of a writing group for the last five or six months – Hubbard Hall, a local community theatre and arts center in Cambridge, NY.  Led by author Jon Katz, I initially came to the workshop with specific ideas about what I wanted to write and what I wanted to learn.  I hoped that the year-long experience would be my long-coveted MFA in writing.  It has turned out to be so much more than that for so many reasons, and today’s get together highlighted that once again.

From an educational standpoint, the Writer’s Project at Hubbard Hall has been an awakening for all of us.  No longer do I call myself a wannabe artist or writer.  I am now simply on a creative journey that will hopefully last a lifetime.  And, as I read the posts of my comrades, I see the same exuberant embrace of this ideal permeating our increasingly tight-knit group.

That small, eclectic group of writers is the other, completely unanticipated, aspect of this project.  Our first meeting was pleasant and friendly, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only attendee who worried that my work might not measure up.  In the course of the last few months, however, this creative collective has conjured its own special magic.  Wielding encouragement and hope, constructive critiques and glowing reviews, we banish anxiety and trepidation everyday online.  Today, two of our number sat at a kitchen table and compared notes and shared the histories of our creative lives,  and we banished it again.  

The rest of the group was sorely missed, and we’ll meet again another weekend with the entire crowd.  Assembling even the tiniest fraction of this group, however, was invaluable to me not only because it was a chance to talk about our work.  For me, it was the first grown-up, face-to-face social activity I’d had in over a week of chauffeuring children to doctor’s offices and pharmacies when I wasn’t working at or setting the kitchen table.  For me, the few stolen hours at that same table chatting and snacking with a new friend was just what the defense I needed against the dulling monotony that lurks at the corners of my very domestic life.  

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