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Less Information, More Wonderment


The other day Rose commented, “The curve around the corner with the writing is a joy Heather, I'm loving the ride.” A few others have noticed a shift as well, even suggesting my recent posts were “Hewittish.” After recovering from how uncomfortable I felt with the comparison, I appreciated the sentiment (even if I cannot agree). Your generosity has me thinking though, maybe I should post some homemade music videos with the hope someone will say I remind them of the most precious impromptu musical performance ever to have graced the internet. (Please?)

The truth is, the writing I’ve shared in recent weeks is the type of writing I’ve always done, but typically file away on my hard drive. For nearly a decade I’ve been hitting publish on this blog and in doing so, I’ve censored the hell out of myself more than I care to acknowledge. This was not so much for my own sake, but for the people in my life who are far more upstanding than I, and who happen to lead fairly public professional lives. I’ve always been protective of that boundary, and I still am, but it’s time to reconsider exactly where those boundaries are best placed. Do you ever feel like you’re too old to be so careful all the time? Yeah, me too. To clarify, this is not a proclamation to say that I’ll be sharing all sorts of personal details from this point forward, not at all. There’s a lot of praise for bloggers who “keep it real,” as if sharing a positive story or photos of a gorgeous meal are less real. They’re not. And that’s not the type of writing shift I’m talking about. Who knows, in six months I might feel the need to write nothing but sewing tutorials... but for now, not so much.

I’m way overstimulated by life and the internet and changes and my god the presidential primary and fracking and starving refugee children and people denied access to bathroom use and one million other things too. Overload. Right now, I need so much less. I need less information and more wonderment, less Pinterest porn and more human experience, less thinking about “what should I write” and more sharing the stories and anecdotes that I already write, but never release. Less effort, more flow.

Who knows, maybe we all need these things.

The Stories Here are Endless


My favorite place in town. Been coming here since I was five years old. 

In the shade of a small maple grove, a keg of beer sat on ice as the men played softball and the women moved about arranging platters of homemade food, stopping periodically to flip burgers over the fire. They exchanged niceties and town gossip, both in equal measure. A small group of folks, who likely preferred a sport that could be played with beer-in-hand, found themselves at the horseshoe pit. Iron clanked as shoes circled spikes in the ground. The town’s children ran free across the river and through forest trails. Clothes were wet and faces muddy, bodies salty with sweat and sticky with watermelon juice. So much dirt under fingernails. Nobody seemed to mind. Dad pitched the softball game in denim cutoffs and work boots, talk about a classic seventies outfit if ever there was one. Six year old me wondered if anyone knew he was once scouted by the Red Sox farm team. Vietnam saw an end to that possibility. No matter, a pick up game at the town picnic with the promise of a few cold ones was enough for him. Or so he let on.

The town picnic that I recall from my childhood no longer happens. The parking lot of this remarkably beautiful place holds about forty cars at best, something that worked fine in 1978, but not so much for the scope of today’s town population. I found myself there yesterday, walking the woods, entire place to myself. Such is your chances if you're among the few who finds forty degrees and rainy a good time for a hike. Solitude is the reward. I was having one of those antsy  “I have to run a few errands” kind of afternoons, and well, the photo up there is my idea of running errands. 

Not much has changed through the years. The river continues to barrel through bedrock, but to my untrained eye it looks the same as it ever did. Although the forest did grow smaller. Funny how that happens when a seven year old becomes a seventeen year old becomes a twenty-seven year old, and so on. So much of my life has happened here. Camping along the once abandoned train tracks, about a mile into the woods; today the track is refurbished and serves as a much used bike system, which is cool too because it gets people outside and moving. It’s just different. As I did in high school, I still look for that perfect slant of light through the trees or across the water, camera in hand. Today my gratification is instant, there is no darkroom nor the slow anticipatory build as an image reveals itself in a tray of developing solution. Bittersweet. There was a guy named Tom who sold nickel and dime bags out of the back of his van. He loved to read the bible and would often share passages with those who cared to listen. To pass the time, Tom enjoyed foraging through the swap pile at the town dump and always had some new to him lamp or book or knick knack to show off. He’d use these things to decorate his van. It was impressive. Sometimes these items became currency for other goods, always they were to be taken notice of, and admired.  One day we arrived to meet up with friends, as was often the thing to do after school, given the lack of cell phones and all. Do you remember that? Checking in with friends by visiting one of the few designated meet up places, to see who was there and determine what sort of riffraff could be caused before dinner? (Kidding. I was a lot of things, but a rouser of riffraff was not one of them. At least in my mind.) On this day, Tom’s van was parked in the shady spot he loved, but it stood locked and empty. He was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, the cops had caught on to his little cottage industry, and I’m not talking about the swap shop of dump treasures. Busted. As far as I know, nobody ever did see Tom again. In the weeks that followed, I remember people missing his kindness and good nature, but nobody said a word about the absence of dime bags. 

This place and I, we go way back. The stories here are endless.  

See what happens when you "run errands?" A full-on trip down memory lane, when all you were in search of was a breath of fresh air. Perhaps they are one in the same. 

This May Take Awhile

Emily heather 1

Depending on the hour of the day, I vacillate between the deep euphoria that comes with being so close to a type of freedom I have not known for eighteen years, and utter devastation at the loss of nearly everything I have known for the last eighteen years. The pendulum swings and I feel every bit of beauty and pain this transition has brought forth, as all mothers before me have felt. I don’t want to do this today. I want to go back to the tiny nursling whose dependent gaze traced my every move. To the babe who understood Tupelo Honey is a perfect lullaby. To a younger me who was so clear on her purpose. Everything was simpler then.

Equally, I am desperate for everything that stands before me now. The unknown, and even more. I want it all.

I can taste the horizon, it’s right there. Non-homeschool-mom-me is in sight. So close. She looks sort of lonely, kind of afraid, totally ready. I can tell she is searching for solitude and deep rest. She feels guilty about this. I wish I could tell her to relax her shoulders, their slight upward turn reveals she has carried too much for too long. She can let go now. I’ll be standing beside her in just a few weeks and it will be the first thing I say to her. Let go... rest. Then I will tell her it’s okay to still love fiercely. Actually, that she must still love fiercely.

Meanwhile, I am rendered speechless by this young woman before me. Memory tells me I had a significant hand in raising her, but we are such different people, I’m not really sure where my influence lies. Most of the time I feel inept at channeling her gifts and interests, so I just refer to the most utilized play in our made-up parenting handbook: Get out of the way.

It’s not exactly that simple, of course, but mostly it does feel like my best work over the last six years of homeschooling has been spent getting out of the way. As a result, she has come into her own so fully that I’m never sure if I should be proud or envious. I’m definitely in awe. What I see before me is not a result of anything extraordinary that we’ve done; I couldn’t say exactly what created the commanding, self-assured, smart young woman we call daughter. I do know that when I held our newborn for the first time, I made a promise to myself and to her that I would base our life on love, respect, trust, non-judgment, and that it would be void of shame. Everything else would just have to work itself out.

Last night we attended an exhibition round as part of an open house for Emily’s debate school. This is a real treat because debate is not typically a spectator sport, we almost never see our kids debate. But the last few months Emily and her partner have been on a tear in the debate world; they’ve placed First Varsity at UPENN, Third Varsity at Yale, First and Second Varsity Individual Speakers at Yale, and Emily is ranked Second Place Varsity Individual Speaker in the state of Connecticut, 2016. They amaze me. So yes, it was really nice to see them in action last night. Proud, envious... in awe.


One of the greatest benefits to homeschooling is the time it affords a young person to go deep with an area of study or skill. Our days are spacious and parameters are loose. To the average onlooker this can appear imbalanced, that perhaps the student is lacking in certain areas while greater emphasis is placed on another. To the fortunate student, it is clear that balance is an impossible achievement no matter what model of education you follow, and that to do anything one way means you must give up doing something another way. What is discovered however, is that learning without boundaries actually brings entire diverse bodies of knowledge and skill closer because “learning” and “education” do not lose their beauty or luster under the guise of something we must get through. Learning is coveted and continuously sought after, usually without us even realizing it. Humans are curious beings and when a new idea or topic enters the psyche, we naturally want to explore it. When intrinsically motivated, learning is not an obligation or an item on our to do list, instead it feels worthy of our attention, even if  challenges and hard work present themselves along the way.

Competitive debate has been Emily’s “thing” over the last four years. With a healthy degree of confidence I can say that debate has influenced the trajectory of her life, thus far, more than anything else she has done or been exposed to. No, she has probably not dissected the number of animals the average public high schooler has dissected, but is that really necessary? Is the average public high schooler able to skillfully stand before a full auditorium and argue the ethics of assisted suicide, or, whether it is in Iran’s interest to develop a nuclear bomb, and is it really necessary for them to do so?

Sometimes I think people view our homeschool story as an example of “success” because Emily has naturally gravitated toward academics and that feels safe to many of us. To me, that is a limiting mindset and one that I would discourage. Because believe me, standing here on the cusp of our final homeschool days, I do wonder if there was some way I could have convinced her to fall in love with preparing meals... or growing  food... or sewing clothes... or... or... or. She can do all of those things, and she will help whenever needed, but these are not areas of interest that she initiates or takes ownership in. Don’t we all have things we’re just not into? I know my list is pretty long.

And isn't this the way for us parents, often finding ourselves in that “what if” place? Did I miss an opportunity? I try to talk myself out of such thought patterns as they arise, but oh man they do show up again and again. On the flip side, this kid of mine is good at tapping trees and hauling sap, she also has decent knife and ax skills... so I imagine she’ll find her way beyond the podium and mic just fine, if needed. You may want to hold off on asking her to cook you dinner though, or you’ll likely be dining on fare from the closest takeout place. Of course, five years from now I could be telling a different story, and that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. 

All this to say, as if you couldn’t tell, I am so unbelievably deep in processing mode right now. And I struggle to write my way through this while maintaining the privacy and humanity of those that do not write here. So, for what it's worth, I'm here... closing one chapter and trying to find my place in the next. This may take awhile.

I'll Ask About the Oak Leaves


Raspberries are coming to life.


Adam and I are currently three years younger than my own mother was the last time we lived in Vermont. At the time, I did not think my mother was old, but I'm sure I thought she was older. That was decades ago and as difficult as it has been at times, not returning  to Vermont sooner, life certainly has a way of working itself out despite our best efforts to muck it up. If one of our half dozen attempts to move back ever materialized, I fear the way we approached the land would have been rooted in youthful idealism more so than aging pragmatism. Because at 43, you can imagine being old in a way that you cannot when you’re 33. At least, that’s how it is for me.

The good news is we’re not actually old yet, so we can still go about this process with relatively youthful abilities, but the choices we make, particularly those related to settling on a raw piece of land, are done through the lens of two people who appreciate the passing of time, with bodies whose finest hour, in all likelihood, is a thing of the past. In short, we’re not going to place the barn and the garden 500 feet from the main house. We know better now. About a few things, anyway.

Vermont spring 2016 before

Vermont spring 2016 after

Adam took quite a few trees down last weekend as we continue to prepare our mostly wooded property for gardens and such. Clearing land is never easy; I can’t think of much else that makes me feel so destructively human, but opening up the sky and readying the soil is the only way this piece of earth will see substantial food production. Patience is essential. This is going to take some time.

With chainsaws screaming, we whisper promises of how much better we’ll make the land in the end... trust us. The remaining trees look on, incredulously. There is more clearing to do, but these before and after photos show a good first attempt for the year.


Many years ago we lived in a house with a quarter mile long driveway - give or take a couple hundred feet. And it was entirely uphill. Both ways. We were in our early twenties and by gum when it snowed we grabbed shovels and cleared that entire freaking thing by hand with the ease of young Olympians (because it sure felt like driveway shoveling could have been an Olympic sport). We were unstoppable.

Last year for my birthday Adam gifted me a snowblower. Ladies, don’t be jealous. It was a Craigslist find from an older woman who used it for one year and then decided she’d be better off living in Florida. We’ve been getting so much snow in recent years that he thought I’d like it for clearing paths to the chicken coop. Not something that is necessary with just a few inches of the white fluffy stuff, but around here you just never know when a blizzard is going to hit.  He figured the tool was priced right and didn’t take up much space. Not a bad idea to pick it up as a gift for his chicken loving bride.

A couple of months ago I was talking with a friend about this new machine in my life, and she commented that she prefers shoveling. I get that. We do a lot of shoveling too. Mostly we shovel, actually. 33 year old me would have scoffed at the idea of spending good money on a loud, gas-thirsty snowblower, but 43 year old me? Yeah, she knows better. 43 year old me is discerning and knows when it’s time to flex her snow-shoveling Olympic muscles and when to embrace appropriate technology. Time’s ticking and the years are flying by; if a snowblower can hang out in our garage for those days when the snow comes fast and hard overnight, leaving us to deal with the forecasted six inches that actually resulted in over a foot... well, then I guess that’s just what we’ll call peace of mind.  Perhaps even wisdom. I hear we acquire some of that with age. Anyway. Little decisions, like why not pick up a snowblower if the price is right, just to have on hand? And why not put that barn much closer to the house? And why on earth would our water source be solely dependent on electricity? And so on.

About two weeks after this conversation with my friend, our neighbor died suddenly while shoveling snow. It's the sort of thing you hear about on the news, followed by lots of warnings to "be safe out there." I don’t know when our little street will get over the shock of Bill's passing. I’m sure no sooner than his lovely wife Nella, his devoted son Paul, and his loyal canine companion, Fenway. This family has lived across the street since I was about twelve years old; my father has painted the inside and outside of their house several times over. Adam and my dad hunt on a parcel of land they own in another part of the state. Good and kind neighbors. All you could ask for, and more. We weren't close friends, but good neighbors are just as valuable. I remember about two years ago Emily went up and down the street handing out flyers soliciting donations for goods that she was collecting for women’s shelters throughout the Hartford area. This kind of thing is hard for everyone. It’s hard to ask, and it’s hard to give. Scratch that, it’s not at all hard to give. But nowadays it seems a day doesn’t go by that we are not presented with righteous and noble opportunities to give. It can feel like a lot. Also, Hartford is not exactly our immediate community, so the folks on our street might not feel as compelled to give as they would had the cause been more local. Regardless, this was something Emily was working on and so I encouraged her efforts. On collection day, there were a few parcels dropped off on our front porch. But of all the parcels dropped off, nothing quite compared to the quantity and quality of goods that were delivered by Bill and Nella. I remember not being surprised by their generosity. It seemed fitting.

Bill was not an old man, mid-sixties is my guess. The last couple of years, with Emily needing to leave the house most weekdays for classes, we would often drive by Bill on his long morning or afternoon walks. I thought of those walks immediately when I heard of his passing. But he was so active... this makes no sense. The weight of snow is intense and doesn't offer much in the way of explanation, nor does it ask permission. Nobody plans to take their final breath while shoveling snow.

When we drove by Bill all those times, as he enjoyed his daily walks, I noticed he always carried an oak leaf in his hand. Always. It was never the same leaf, but a fresh sprig he picked up with each new outing, the colors changing with the seasons. Why? I wondered, but never asked. If I am fortunate enough to see Bill on the other side someday, I’ll be sure to ask about the oak leaves.

The Only Coffee Table Book We'd Ever Need

Wfk collage 5

The photos in this post are samples from last year's kitchen tour participants. I love working everyone's words and photos into a pretty design/layout. Imagine how amazing they would look if I actually knew what I was doing!


The concept of Whole Food Kitchen Tours, or, perhaps even more specifically, Kitchen Stories, would make an incredible book. Totally big and heavy and gorgeous with lots of pages and color photos. It would be the only coffee table book we'd ever need! A collection of stories and photos to pick up and peruse whenever our own kitchen spirits could use a breath of fresh air. I've probably mentioned this book idea before. It's something that has been on my mind for years now, but seems like the creation of it would be an incredible labor of love that I haven't been able to make the time for. I'm going to be one busy retired lady.

Wfk collage 3

Thank you for all of your kitchen tour submissions! Truly, there is no wrong way to share your kitchen - they were all perfect! Just as it played out last year, what it came down to in the decision process was simple diversity. So, we'll be represented by an off-grid kitchen, a non-American kitchen, a single professional's kitchen, and a farmer's kitchen. You will love each of them.

Wfk tour collage 1

I have already contacted those people and wanted to extend my gratitude to all of you who submitted. There were dozens and dozens of you that sent me photos and words at a moments notice, which honestly impressed the heck out of me. You people work fast! Can you imagine all of this pulled into one book? I'm telling you... I'm not much for bucket lists... but I think this idea might be on mine. Not because our kitchens are perfect and organized and every dinner sees a well balanced meal that includes multi-step recipes, but because sometimes it can feel that way, but sometimes it also just feels like a comforting bowl of roasted carrots with a big brownie (raises hand). And you know what, that's pretty darn nourishing, too.

Wfk collage 4

To those of you who have not heard from me yet, keep an eye on your inbox toward the end of next week for a little thank you gift, I am ever so thankful for your submission. And please know that I'll be calling each of you if I can ever bring this book idea into the world. Seriously, we're onto something. Now let's all go make those brownies I linked to, they're amazing. 

Entirely Worth It

DSC_1408Restocking candles before the snow hit. Still need that winter ambience, apparently.

You would think after forty three Aprils in New England I would learn a thing or two. But don't you know, us humans have tremendous ability for blocking out the hard things, glossing them over in hopes of a better next time. Like childbirth, April can be painful and messy and takes far longer than one would like. And yet, you can be sure we’ll greet subsequent Aprils with the same hopeful enthusiasm as we did the last. Perhaps our relentless optimism stems from what is waiting on the other side of April... May! Not quite the same as a new baby, but it sure is the calendar’s version of one.

In my early twenties I worked on an herb farm and like many plant production farms, we closed down for a few months each winter (save for a small greenhouse crew). Come April first though, you can be sure the staff returned with enthusiasm - sleeves rolled up and boots laced, ready to dig into another season of planting, harvesting, and cooking up meals for our near 100 luncheon guests each day. But the romance was short lived. It never failed that by April 3rd, most of us could be found multiple times a day hovered around the woodstove in the old barn, or the cookstove in the main house, shoveling wood in at a steady pace, lamenting to one another about the desolation of April in New England. “I’ll take a crisp, zero degrees over bone chilling thirty five and rainy, any day of the week,” we’d take turns pridefully declaring, as if nobody heard the first six people that said it.

After a few weeks of good old fashioned curmudgeoning, we’d somehow make it to the other side. We turned the calendar and the gardens came alive after months of dormancy. We ditched the warmth of the woodstove for sun on our shoulders, and even tossed aside boots in favor of bare feet on the earth. May is a thing of beauty.


But April, man... April is a tease. You never know what she'll dish up and just as you’re starting to feel chipper and head out to loosen a few garden beds, readying them for carrot and spinach seeds, you wake up to a fresh five inches of snow. That was our yesterday. Today, more snow. Several inches it looks like. April snow interrupts life in a way that January snow does not. This time of year, we shift to the outdoors and one can’t help but feel hopeful during those early days of the month, miraculously erasing the memory of last April’s labor and delivery. How quickly we are humbled though, as April rains and snows and freezes and releases an amount of mud that will surely swallow us whole. Yet soon enough, the precious new life of May will arrive, and we’ll realize our endurance of April was entirely worth it. In the meantime, we'll light a few extra candles to brighten the mood, and keep our hearts tilted toward the promise of warmer days. 

Professional Development


A great deal of time has been spent over the winter months talking with Ben about homeschooling. We’re cooking up a project that will hopefully be ready to share with you sometime in April (read a little more about this project here). It’s easy to talk to Ben. He’s friendly and energetic and comes across as being genuinely interested in people. And I don’t think he’s pretending. We’ve discovered we can easily burn through two hours on the phone and hang up with a list of things that we’ll get to "next time."

I do not write much about homeschooling these days, but my inbox tells me it remains the single most inquired about topic from those of you reading here. This observation, my talks with Ben, and the fact that we are a mere six weeks away from officially closing our family’s homeschool chapter, are all compelling me to spend some time with the subject here today.


Several times throughout our homeschool years I’ve tried to convince Emily to adopt a three weeks on, one week off, year round schedule. It seems like a great idea to me (and actually covers a few more days than the typical school calendar, if you keep track of that sort of thing). My biggest motivation for this was that in addition to being the primary homeschool parent, I also work full time. It's not always the easiest thing to figure out. I figured one week off from homeschool per month would afford me the time to really buckle down on work projects. I also thought Emily would be into the idea of a "break" right around corner, pretty much at all times. But, not surprisingly, this idea was not received with great interest. If you know Emily, you know she prefers a more conventional status quo. Which is to say, our homeschool experience has been largely curriculum driven and our days structured similarly to a typical school day. (All of this has definitely relaxed over the last two years, but certainly our first four years followed this pattern.) This self-imposed formal style has not always been easy for me. I mean, I do tend to be a fairly organized person and like most people benefit from a good rhythm to my days, but the moment I begin to feel confined by obligations, to do lists, or schedules, is the moment I lose my ability to breathe and begin plotting my escape to the mountains with no plan for return.

As it turns out, the learning environment which I thrive in is not the same as that which my daughter thrives in. Given the fact that one of our primary reasons for homechooling was so Emily could enjoy her unique potential, I resigned my hippy ideals that included mornings tending the garden together and crafty afternoons spent making macramé plant holders as we listened to Van Morrison. Sigh. A mother can dream. Instead, I have a powerhouse of a kid who spends much of her time studying public policy, government, international relations, plus a little Nietzsche, Leslie Knope, and Ron Swanson pedagogy thrown in for good measure.

I would like for my parenting record to reflect, however, that I do hear great music through her bedroom walls. But sadly, there is no macramé to speak of.

Even though I didn’t get any takers on the three weeks on, one week off year round proposal, I was able to convince her to “do school” for only a half day on Fridays. I mean, we have to embrace some of this freedom, right? As it was, she clocked far more engaged learning hours than she would have in a typical classroom, so why not put our feet up for a few hours come Friday afternoon? She sort of bought into it. And by sort of I mean she was cool with closing the books by lunchtime on Friday, but she also wanted to spend the bulk of Friday afternoon working together to get the house in order so we could head into the weekend with reasonably clean floors and fresh laundry for all. Being the pro-weekenders that we are over here, I was happy to oblige any request that encouraged more pleasant downtime on Saturday and Sunday. Besides, I’m a big fan of tending the nest so she didn’t have to twist my arm much. (Before you get any crazy ideas about Emily being some kind of clean-freak, school-centric super kid, please know that I am one of those mothers who is in awe of families where the kids "cook dinner once a week!" Let me tell you, that is not happening over here. We all have our strengths...)

And now, maybe I’ll get to the point of this post...

Something I started doing during our Friday afternoons, after things were picked up and maybe even some food prep for the weekend was done, was to sit (alone) for an hour or so, and intentionally fill my homeschool mom cup. The house was in order and our homeschool area put back together from a week of heavy use. For me, this was the perfect environment to soak in fresh insight and new ideas... from others.

And you know me... it all started with setting myself up right. I’d light a patchouli scented candle, make a cup of herbal tea, prop myself up on a soft satin pillow, and say a prayer to the patron saint of education (kidding! the pillow was hand quilted...). Then, I'd settle in for an hour of reading homeschool blogs, homeschool magazines, and books on education and being human. Never underestimate the power of a good book on  being human. Sometimes I would research things Emily mentioned she was interested in, to see if we could bring said things into our days. There was no agenda, just me and one hour of my time spent receiving inspiration, questioning some big ideas, and feeling supported in areas that I was convinced I was failing in. There was something about taking this time, with a freshly cleaned house, a meal waiting on the stove, and patchouli wafting through the air, that almost made it feel like a practice. A ritual. And I suppose in some ways it was. It was the perfect way for this mom to end the week. No matter what method of homeschooling you follow, an inspired parent with a full cup can make all the difference. It might even be critical. (To be clear - the clean house first part? That's optional. Filling your cup? Less optional.)

While I think it is important to not stress and obsess over every little outcome related to our kids’ education and future, we of course need to keep tabs on the big picture, and periodically check in with our own reasons for taking on the monumental, sometimes difficult task of assuming the responsibility for our kids’ education. It is no small thing.

Anyway. If you’ve never tried setting aside this time for yourself, I highly recommend it. One hour a week, just for you. Consider it professional development.