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Kind of an Endearing Thing


I spent most of yesterday figuring out how to best navigate working from home (in Hibernate mode, no less), while above and beside me, two bathrooms were simultaneously being demolished down to the studs. Next, they will be rebuilt to modern specifications, because buyers today seem to have lost their affinity for 1978 classic design. Yes, the plan is to impress folks for resale. Us humans are pretty good at reserving the best stuff for other people.

Tiles smashing, dust flying, classic rock radio turned up. These walls are now filled with the sound of twenty predictable songs on corporate owned repeat. Maybe I should offer up the house stereo... even a mixtape or two. The guys seem like good people. Unlike me, they have no trouble finding their groove. I’m awkward at the start: Do I make them coffee? Should I bake muffins? Would I be forcing these things on them if I did? They, however, they slip right into the flow, hardly noticing I’m there. Not in a way that disrespects our space or what we have going on, they’re just comfortable. And how could they not be? Day in and day out, they earn their living while weaving themselves into the personal lives of strangers.

Before I know it, I’m comfortable, too. I find myself busy in the kitchen, talking on the phone with a friend, leaning into the stove while one hand stirs ginger in a pot of honey. Life. I almost forget about the three men I do not know, helping themselves to all corners of our home. Actually, they are not helping themselves. In fact, they keep asking permission every step of the way: May I unplug this lamp? Is it alright to use your kitchen sink? Can I park my truck here? Do you mind if I leave my trailer?

I watch their ability to stack trades with considerable envy; this is no easy task and they make it look effortless. Time is expensive within this model, and lining up the progression of work is impressive when done well. And they seem to do it well. You just don’t have the painter sitting around all day waiting for the tile guy to finish; you have him at another job. But the way they're timing the arrival and departure of each job is something to watch. I bet the advent of the cell phone makes this particular ship sail much smoother than in decades past.

Anyway. What I’m trying to get at is not the technical dance between electrician and plumber, but the human interaction among this crew.

They tune me out, play their classic rock (but ask if I mind the radio being on), and move about the house in a familiar and comfortable way. They are at ease. The few expletives that slip through their conversation tell me they do not know I can hear them. That they do not realize this house, with its uncarpeted floors, is a vessel for sound that although once haunted me as a teenager, currently aides in my curiosity. A couple of words that feel non-derogatory, yet generally frowned upon in briefly acquainted company, offer me an understanding that everything else I overhear, is a genuine exchange between men.

So what was I listening to? Good people, that’s what.

They talked about avoiding high-fructose corn syrup, that Mexican Coke is better than American Coke, and how they read books to their children every night. I overheard one of the guys talk neurotic-leaning-Scout through thirty minutes of nail gun and associated air compressor use. There were also a few direct quotes that I wrote down because for some reason, that’s the sort of thing I do:

“Dude, keep your head straight. She really does love you.”

“Your pride will come back, man.”

“You got a little something on your beard.”

See? Good people. There was more, of course, but that is a brief overview. I don’t know much about male-centered locker room talk, or deer camp talk, or, or, or... but I’m currently living in the thick of construction zone talk, and I gotta say, it’s kind of an endearing thing.

Tomorrow, I should definitely make them some muffins and coffee.

Best Seat in the House


Standing in the kitchen, chopping and sautéing my way toward dinner, I looked up and felt overwhelmed by the presence of trees all around me. Overhead, down the walls, underfoot. I’d stood in this very spot countless times performing the same familiar task, and while it was always a beautiful space to me, sometimes you forget. Why do we forget? But in this moment, be it the slant of fading light, the scent of woodsmoke, or the earth’s axis being just so, I stood breathless and felt small. At once, I knew everything and I knew nothing. I felt my own insignificance without being scared or disappointed. It was okay. To bring the forest inside like that, what a thing to do. I still miss that cabin made of logs. 

This house is surrounded by sugarwoods and beautiful stonewalls. Actually, if you were a bird in flight over our “neighborhood” in late winter when the snow is gone but the leaves have yet to emerge, you’d notice hundreds of acres of old farmland, flanked in grid-like formation by centuries-old stonewalls, defining  pastures that are now filled with hardwood. Aside from still retaining some pretty fertile soil, I’d say these stonewalls are about the best thing Connecticut has going for it. Because in a place where nature closes at sunset and clean waters are difficult to find, it is somehow a comfort to know that if our stonewalls were stretched out and linked together, they would circle the earth eight times... or so the story goes. 

I’ll miss this stonewall when we’re gone, and I’ll miss the prime spot at the kitchen table that my father claimed for himself just as soon as the last nail was pounded and our sparse furnishings moved in. I was five years old. Every meal, for all those decades, he enjoyed with a front and center view of that stonewall. It mattered to him. It’s funny, when he comes to visit now, we always rearrange seating so that he may continue to enjoy his seat at the table. To be sure, this is not about fulfilling some patriarchal head-of-the-table ideal, it has always been about those stones. I totally get it. At first, it bothered my father that we shifted our seating for his pleasure, that it should feel like our home now, that he’d sit wherever. But really, the guy (with a friend) built the damn place, he can very well sit at the best seat in the house.




Friday the 13th was a tsunami of bad news. Do you ever have those days? Boom! All at once. I guess it's an efficient delivery, at least. By the end of the day, as Emily prepared for dinner out with a friend, my maternal paranoia set in and I knew I couldn’t deal with one more thing gone wrong. Seeing as it would prove difficult for them to drive around in head to toe bubble wrap, they conceded to the more practical option of Adam chauffeuring, just to make mom happy. I know, statistically it probably didn’t change diddly regarding how the night was destined to shake out, but isn’t it nice to feel like we have some semblance of control? They all made it home safely. Of course, there is no greater illusion than that of control and a final piece of bad news was dispatched a little after 11pm. Unreal. That night I slept hard and long and did not wake until 8:30 the next morning. 8:30! It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve seen such a late start to the day. Man, it’s bright at 8:30 in the morning. 

On the 14th I was determined to stay positive and what better way to do so than refill the spice jars. And not just the pleasant but hardly romantic varieties such as garlic, oregano, and the like, but the aromatically transportive spices of the east. Chai spices. You can’t beat the mood lifting therapeutic benefits of a kitchen table covered in cardamom, clove, anise, and more. Better than any spa day I’ve ever known. (Actually, I have no idea what a spa day is like. Maybe replace “known” with “imagined.” That’s better.)

Later, I spent some time catching up on Instagram and noticed Corina left a comment on my dismal Friday the 13th photo - the one featuring cheap swill beer illuminated by our STILL UP Christmas tree. My caption was something along the lines of declaring the utter bullshit of the day, saved only by this still-twinkling tree. Corina, being the kindred that she is, remarked that she “hoped this bottle contains beer, because sometimes when the shit hits the fan, beer and a Christmas tree are the only thing that will save you.” 

Isn’t that the truth.  

Moving on, I scrolled for a few more minutes and stopped on Chrissy’s post; a photo of her son and two of his chickens with the caption: This is Phillip today watching the girls as they sunned themselves. Now, wind the clock back 15 years when he was diagnosed with his neurological disorder. I asked the doctor “what do you think he will be able to accomplish?” The reply was simple. “I’m not sure what you believe, but this is between him and God.” I knew there were milestones he might never experience. Driving, girlfriend, career, etc. That’s so hard because parents don’t want their children to miss out. Fast forward back to ten minutes ago. Bedtime. Phillip questioned hanging his hat on the bedpost. I told him, “Go ahead. You are a farmer and that’s where farmers hang their hats so they are ready in the morning.” As I watched him hang up his hat, it hit me like a brick! Phillip is a farmer! God made Phillip a farmer. What a beautiful job Phillip has... 

Look at that. More truth. 

I truly appreciate the redemption of Saturday the 14th. 

No Coffee No Prana


It’s been over a year since we’ve brewed caffeinated coffee here at home. At someone else’s house I’m happy to indulge, and there’ve been a few times on the road where caffeine saved the day. But mostly, I’ve been off it as a daily thing for one year and four months-ish. Well, at least until about five blissful minutes ago. This decision has been in the works for several weeks and the level of consideration I’ve leant to it is borderline ridiculous. At least it seems like it to me. We’ve got a pretty intense few months ahead, both work and life related, and I was starting to crave that medicinal boost one finds in a reasonable amount of caffeine. So I pondered and meditated and spoke to the gods. Then I talked about it relentlessly with Adam and Emily (I’m sure after the third time of bringing it up they wished I would just reach for the freaking jo already). I reminded myself that if it felt out of hand, if my nerves became depleted rather than sharpened, I know exactly how to gently yet effectively cut it back out. I’ll totally rule the brew! Heh. Says every coffee drinker ever. 

Yesterday was the big day. I hit the co-op and poured a pound of Mind, Body, and Soul from the bulk bin, which was more satisfying, if only in a Pavlovian way, than grabbing those Breakfast Decaf beans a few doors down. I’m sure I’ll revert back to the boringly benign decaf at some point, but not today. Today is a celebration of the senses. This moment has been weeks in the making and painstakingly deliberated on. I feel like I’m in one of those super-enlightened relationships that have the ability to “consciously uncouple,” except I’m doing the far less enlightened and opposite act of consciously recoupling... with my morning brew. Because right now I'm in a no coffee no prana chapter of life, and a girl’s gotta pay attention to that. Bottom’s up. 



(The method of ditching caffeine that I linked to really does work, if you’re looking for such a thing. There is no reason to drop caffeine overnight. Go slow. Also, my reintroduction of caffeine is not because I’ve “slipped up” or anything like that. All jokes aside, I’ve mindfully chosen to reintroduce a small amount as a therapeutic method of sharpening the mental ax. But if and when that is no longer needed, I’ll be more than happy to boot the caffeine again.)

It's Nice to be Seen


Spent some time this week rendering lard and we’ve got about twelve quarts put up so far. We’ve made only a small dent in the generously-sized stash of fat waiting its turn in the freezer, but a definite dent, indeed. Getting there. 

I recently read of a practice that includes starting each new year with a big empty jar, a stash of scrap paper, and a pencil kept close by. Throughout the year as good things happen in your life, you write them down and place them in the jar. If you’ve got a family, share the jar with them. Then, on New Year’s Eve, with friends, family, alone, whatever the case may be, you pull out the many pieces of paper and read them to yourself or aloud, reminiscing and appreciating all of the good times. There are always good times. Another common (probably more familiar) practice is writing down your gratitudes, but it’s never been something I’ve gotten into. Probably because I tend to walk around gobsmacked by the miracle of another breath after I’ve finished my last, I'm  fortunate to live with a man who is kind and together we have a healthy kid who seems to like us, and doggone it, the sun actually continues to rise each day. I can’t seem to get out of gratitude’s way. But reflecting on specific good times, big and small? That sounds intriguing. 

If 2016 had a jar of good times, one of the earliest stories I’d have placed in it was overhearing my father tell someone, “I’ll tell you one thing about Heather, she’s always doing something: in the kitchen, in the garden, making something... she’s never just sitting around, her hands are never idle.”  Now listen, I promise you I waste plenty of time in life, but my dad is a man of few words who values hard work above most things, as do I, so even if I can’t agree with him completely, it’s nice to be seen in that light. There are few things as validating as being seen. That’s the sort of snippet I’d put in my big ol’ jar of good times. Not necessarily the eventful tale of attending a Skynyrd concert, but I’m mostly into life's small, unexpected moments (although if Stapleton plays within 200 300 miles of us this year, we’re on it, and you better believe the memory will be added to our jar). 

I don’t know, maybe the significance of overhearing my dad’s conversation is mostly about finding comfort in an unsolicited reminder that I'm not completely sucking at life, because we all have days when we’re convinced otherwise. As for 2017, there have been a few good times worth noting so far, like this morning’s pink and gold painted sky. And what a tease that such a sky only lasts for three minutes before dissipating into the clear light of day. Or maybe it’s not a tease at all. Maybe the fleeting moment is by careful design, ensuring us mortals will stop and look up. That we’ll pay attention. For some of us, it might be the only time we do so all day.

Thanks for Lending Me Yours

Jan feb march

January, February, March.


About a year ago I became bored with the way I was writing here on this blog. This has never been a “5 Steps to Simpler Homeschool Days,” or “How to Make Bone Broth” type of blog, but it wasn’t too far from it either. Basically, I shared snippets of my days, and often those days included broth making, and in the past, figuring out how to simplify our homeschool days. It’s fair to say things did lean in that direction. Blog-y. It was safe, protected a good deal of privacy, and if I’m being real honest, was a saccharin way of writing that after nearly a decade of doing so, felt pretty tapped out. For a few months I wondered what direction to take this space, how to write content that was a pleasure to produce, and maybe even to read. Perhaps it was time to close shop?

Then I thought of the long maintained separate body of writing that I never shared here. Maybe I should start doing so? I’ve talked about it before, these writings were the kind of random stories and observations we all experience in our day to day lives, but I have this habit of writing them down. Never in a journal (pen and paper cannot keep pace with my thoughts), always on the computer. I know, not very romantic. Word doc after word doc I’d click save and be done with it. Never read any of it again. I don’t think too much about the point of this type of writing, probably because I'm not sure there is one, other than as a useful tool for transferring the incessant ticker tape of words that slip through my aging mind to a more permanent location. It’s a win-win: freeing up precious mental and emotional space while also recording a few stories. Sometimes it’s about writing my way through a nagging question or predicament, but mostly, if I had to offer up one reason, I write because it’s the only way I know to capture the fleeting moments in life that to me, are the beauty that moves. 

April may june

April, May, June. 


At some point last spring I decided to ditch the blog-y type posts and share some of the aforementioned work that is normally, once written, filed away and never seen again. And you know what? This blog did not implode. I did not implode. You were actually totally fine with it and the world kept spinning. So I’ve carried on in that vein and am no longer bored. It’s nice not to feel bored. I still don’t share as freely as I might like to (if only for ease of storytelling, more than wanting to); I delete and self-censor all the time. Anne Lamott says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I get the sentiment, but it’s not always about them behaving better: Sometimes you want to write really nice things about people who treated you well, and you refrain because for some us, the real task is to tell our story without telling their story, at least when sharing publicly. Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me that is the task. So even though I'm sharing more freely than I have in the past, I do keep a few boundaries in place, am mindful of the privacy of those around me, and my hard drive continues to hold plenty of work that will never see the light of day. It is an outlet that remains cheaper than therapy, and my time is not up in an hour. 

July august sept

July, August, September. 


As for other 2016 reflections, it was a year filled with more change and transition than any in recent memory. I had a feeling it would be. Homeschooling is behind us and Emily has flown the coop, at least for a few college years. We’ve talked with my parents and set in motion a plan for them to finally sell this home that we live in, and that I grew up in, which means we’ll be moving on. We are not clear on what that means just yet, but I’ll share more as we know more. I spent most of summer and autumn in Vermont, which I’d hoped to do so that was nice. Time divided between two states made for a tricky gardening season, but we managed. Up north we cleared land and opened up the sky so that food could be grown. We pulled more of those Vermont pebbles from the ground than could be counted. And tree stumps. Dozens of tree stumps. In the end, we got pretty close to having a garden space. Actually, we definitely got there, and now it is the soil we need to tackle which of course we intended to make happen in the fall and time just ran out. Down here, it was a plant and walk away type of year, which does not make for the prettiest endeavor, but you do what you can. Basically, I didn’t plant anything that would require me to be here too often to harvest (beans, cucumbers, summer squash, etc.), and instead focused on long term planting (tomatoes, potatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, peppers, etc.). There were plenty of leafy greens because who can resist planting those, and of course perennial berries that produced whether I was here to harvest them or not, but it was a different kind of garden for sure. Wild and unruly. 

Oct nov dec

October, November, December. 


I’m entering 2017 as I have the past two years, with a guiding word in hand. If things go according to plan, it will serve as a reminder and place to return to over the coming months. It’s been kind of remarkable how effective this practice has been for me, surprising really, I mean, it’s just one word. But two years ago, knowing we were in the final stretch of hands on parenting and day to day homeschooling, I chose Cherish. Every moment to be savored. And most days, I truly did. Last year, Transition gave me permission to flow with the waves of emotion, conviction, doubt, joy, fear, and everything else that comes with moving on from being an all hands on deck homeschool family to an empty nest. I’m not sure where I’d be without having that word imprinted down the length of my spine for the last year. Probably exactly where I am now, but it sure was comforting to feel the support of it. As for this year, I’ve known for a couple of months now what 2017’s word would be, and I’m sorry to be a downer but it’s actually too precious to give voice to. It’s one of the holiest words I know, perhaps the holiest, and this year, I will live and breathe it. I’m sure at the tail end of things I’ll be able to speak about it, but it’s too soon right now. 

Onward. I’ll continue to write here about nothing in particular, and as always, will feel immense gratitude, and even surprise, for the time you take to read. It’s a sweet release to collect my scattered thoughts onto a page, and for some reason, the release is more definitive when it lands on ears and eyes other than my own. Thank you for lending me yours. Wishing you all the very best in 2017 and beyond. xo