Mmmmmmm, I’m going back to Massachusetts, something’s telling me I must go home…..

And that is where I spent last week with my mother and father, and the boyfriend, AKA the best sport that ever was.  We had lots of plans:  Boston, a Red Sox game, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (that plan was mine, I’ll admit), but ultimately we just wanted to spend time with the elder Paces.  Here are some of the highlights:

The Springfield Armory museum (big innovative gun factory in its day) and home of STCC, my AD in nursing alma mater.  Quite interesting, and we had a nice walk around campus, now bustling and updated, but the quadrangle is still there, lined with oaks and maples, dotted with dogwoods and even redbud trees.

Another day, we went to the history and art museum, featuring an enormous collection of Indian motorcycle memorabilia. Amazing.  Ben would have LOVED it.  Also an assortment of really fancy old motorcars, made by Rolls Royce, Pierce Arrow, and the like.  Indian made a prototype automobile, and it was on display.  Herb and Shirley joined us for that, and a stroll past the Dr. Seuss memorial, a cluster of brass sculptures of Horton, Thing One and Thing Two, Theodore himself sitting at his desk, and the Cat in the Hat.  Dr. S. was from Springfield, and established the city’s park (Forest Park) way back when.  I have lots of memories of the park, but did not visit this time.

We helped with some yardwork:  I turned over flower beds, and Doug cleaned out the eave troughs, known here in the South as gutters.  The weather was utterly perfect the whole week, cool and sunny and breezy.  Perfect.  And yes, at eighty-nine, my dad will still set out a bed of impatiens and other annuals to brighten the yard.  My mother can out-shop me any day, too.  They are both amazing.

Doug and my dad played a game of golf, and Doug and I played a round of miniature golf.  I got a hole in one!  Psyched!  I’m a golfer now, boy.  I’m sure I’ll be reminded that it was off a mulligan, but whatever.  It went in with one shot.  Afterwards, we walked the lovely 9-hole Longhi golf course in my hometown of Southwick, and my golf enthusiasm was pretty dampened by the daunting hills and sheer length of the holes.  Could imagine needing dozens of shots to even get to the green.

My cousin Danny, fifteen years ago, bought an old theater and did the renovations, and has been putting on plays ever since.  The Odd Couple was a perfect play for us, if you know what I mean.  We really enjoyed it!  and it was great to see Dan, who just became a proud grandfather.  He’s a playwright, too, and they’ll put on one of his works next season.  Proud of that, too.

The last day we were there, we trekked to Rhode Island to the beach, and had lunch there, walked around the little town of Point Judith.  We watched the Block Island Ferry come in.  Breathed ocean air.  Visited a state park organized around a kettle pond.  This from Wikipedia:  Kettles are fluvioglacial landforms occurring as the result of blocks of ice calving from the front of a receding glacier and becoming partially to wholly buried by glacial outwash. Glacial outwash is generated when streams of meltwater flow away from the glacier and deposit sediment to form broad outwash plains called sandurs. When the ice blocks melt, kettle holes are left in the sandur.

The photo is of a brook running through a nature preserve on Mort Vining Road, that Doug and I both walked, just at different times.  I was untroubled by the gnats and skeeters, but they ate him UP.  I took him to the Granville Gorge, too, a rocky stream and place of beauty, not to be missed.

Talk about the life in Massachusetts,
Speak about the people I have seen,
And the lights all went down in Massachusetts
And Massachusetts is one place I have seen.   (thanks, Bee Gees)

Back to job-hunting.

Yes, I am.  In addition to seeking employment, I’m not doing a lot else.  Stuff costs money, right?  Glad I’ll soon have the diversion of going “home” for a visit with my folks.  Meanwhile, I thought I’m make a list of things on my mind:

I’m scared of my basement; I just don’t like going down there.  I MUST suck it up, though and make a point of going down there once a month at least to be sure things are OK in this old house.  It’s those fat, long-legged humpy crickets……

Beloved Rumer is old, too.  Her hearing is really bad, and her vision is the same.  She fell down the other day when we were walking.  It’s distressing.  I’ve started her on glucosamine to try and ease her arthritic pain; hope it helps.

I have watched HOURS of movies and such on Netflix:  the instant play list is pretty darn long.  Officially a Gleek now, too.  Good free entertainment.  Thank you!  The company has flexed to meet consumer’s needs since 1999; I joined soon after, and wish I had bought stock.  If it ever went public.

My second unemployment check is in the bank, just in time for bills.  Not that it is by any means enough.

You’d think my house would be clean, but it really isn’t.  Dis-motivated from such lofty goals.

Job applications.  Every day.

Reading The Lacuna (Barbara Kingsolver), and will watch The Last Station (about Trotsky) to see how compatible the two versions are.  Thinking big here.

I’m boring myself, can’t imagine what it’s like for you.  Onward…..

PS:  the BF is back in.

It’s so strange, being without a job.  Any other time I’ve not worked, it was planned and short-lived.  When I moved back to Nashville from Atlanta, I took a couple of months off just because, and there were brief interludes many years ago when I did not work.  I’ve been working at something or other since I was thirteen years old.  Summer jobs, after school, during college.

Today I learned that I will be receiving unemployment benefits, for which I am incredibly grateful.  I also learned names and circumstances leading up to my being fired, that previously I had not been told by my former employer.  Apparently the Tennessee employment office was more deserving of the details than I.  I cried for the first time during all the upheavals I’ve recently gone through, simply because the TN. gov. person I spoke with on the phone was so very kind.  Now those are some people who’ve had good training in customer relations; It’s on my list to figure out a way to say thanks.

Still trying to decide about whether to reconcile with the boyfriend.  He came over to see me last night, and I miss him a lot.  We had planned to go and visit my parents in a few days, and I really wanted that to happen.  It’s so very difficult when two worlds collide:  there’s a great light, but ultimately?  I need a sign or something telling me the right thing to do.

The past few days I’ve done some gardening, some visiting, some birthday-celebrating, some film watching.  I’ve communicated with friends and my children a lot.  I’ve become a “Gleek” and watched, I think, sixteen episodes from the first season, kind of obsessively.  This morning I made a list of art galleries housing some work I want to see, and I think I will take the day “off” to browse, feast my eyes, and ponder.  I’m awaiting a decision on a job I’ve interviewed for, not anxiously, but hopeful.  I need to have the RIGHT job for me; hope I know it when I see it.  And vice versa!

Unemployed.  A strange condition.  Not fatal!  just strange.  And kind of peaceful, when one takes a break from worrying.  I’m gonna go and do just that.

Last year, when I turned fifty-nine, I started saying that I was sixty, just to get in practice so I wouldn’t gag on the word when the time came.  Now that the time has come, I have absolutely no problem with being this age!

And even though I didn’t expect to be fired from my job three weeks ago, and am a bit devastated, I welcome the chance to reinvent myself.  I’m now shopping for exactly the right position and for work that I will do happily for the next five (best case) or ten years.

I wasn’t so happy at that job, anyhow.

And now, I appreciate that I’m able to roll with punches, having seen it all, done most of it, and am OK with most any circumstance that comes my way.  I think it’s called acceptance.

Another event occurred yesterday to further strip me from what/who I think/thought I was.  My boyfriend (hate that word, and need to invent another, more appropos term for a consort of a certain age) of almost a year, inexplicably dumped me.  No reason given, no sense that we were on the rocks beforehand, a sudden shipwreck, with the news delivered via text message:  “your house keys are in the mail.”  REALLY?  the day before my 60th birthday?  Geez.

Well, OK.  Time to count the blessings, and I have MANY.  Great kids, wonderful friends, supportive parents (still alive, yes!), a great place to live, the best dog ever.  Just as an aside, waking up on my 60th with all this going on, Rumer, who used to hear my eyelids open as her cue to remind me it is breakfast time, was not even in the kitchen after I had gotten up, gone to the bathroom, started coffee, and taken my wake-up self portrait.  I took a deep breath, went to where she was sleeping, and, crossing my fingers, patted my thigh for her to come get her kibble.  When she clambered to her feet, it MADE MY DAY!  That would have just been too much, people.

Today has been amazing!  I slept late, talked to someone about a job, had lunch with my BFF (red curry), watched a movie (Water for Elephants), ate a cupcake, made a wish on the pretend candle, and had supper at friends’ house with another woman whose birthday it was, too.  Got more than fifty facebook messages!  Wow.  Sweet.

Trying to decide what to do about the boyfriend who now wants to say sorry and start over.

Here are two self-portraits I took today, one having just rolled out of bed, and the other taken when I was ready to leave the house.  Can you tell the difference?  I think maybe you can.  Either way, sixty looks like this.

It lives!  The dogwood tree is leafing out!  I’m so happy.  Thank you, Susan.  Ben.  The weather.  Little tree.  There might even be a few blooms.

What’s next?  a gingko, a redbud, a cherry tree.

NES has left me a note that they will be trimming trees around my yard to protect the overhead power lines.  Leading me to wonder why not bury the power lines…..

Anyway, pretty much ALL the trees along my fence are slated for the chop-down.  Thankful they haven’t doomed the gorgeous walnut tree in the corner.  This should change my back yard dramatically.

I met my neighbor, Ruby, the other day, and we made plans to get together around gardening, birdwatching, yard cleanup.  She is a spry eighty-three year old, a role model for the future.

Got the lawn mowed for the first time this season, have cut a bunch of trash trees and bushes, made a huge pile in the front for the city to pick up whenever the spirit moves (August?  my neighbor says–guess I’ll get used to looking at it).  So the beautification project continues.  Hard for me to understand how a house that’s one hundred years old has never had ANYthing done to its yard.  No perennials, no ornamental trees, no nothin’.  Sweet little house deserves better, so I’m working on it.

Well, I forgot to mention:  there IS a beautiful yellow climbing rose with a trellis against the chimney, for which I must give someone props.  Thank you, whoever you are.  The preacher?  The girl who I bought from and never met?  The blossoms are fragrant and gorgeous, and were in full bloom when I first looked at the house.  Big selling point!  Can’t wait to see them again!

Ben’s neighbor, an amazing gardener named Susan, dug up this perky little dogwood just for me, and today, he delivered the tree, dug a big hole, and settled it in its new home.  To me, it looks perfect, absolutely meant to be right there.  We liberated a bunch of grass-choked daffodils, too, and set them at its base.

So, having begun a little patch around the mailbox, I was inspired to finish prepping the area for a perennial bed.

Even though we’re a month away from our last frost date, I learned, it’s OK to set out hardy perennials.  A very nice kid named Matt helped me pick out an assortment of plants for the mailbox garden:  echinacea (white and purple), Tennessee natives, as well as a red honeysuckle that will obediently, I’m sure, climb and decorate the post box.  There’s an alarmingly big clump of something called switchgrass that appears completely dead, but I fear will take over should it leap from dormancy.  Matt was confident it would work out fine.  There’s a purple salvia plant destined to be thirty inches tall, and a couple of other, shorter plants for the front.

It began to rain, soon as I was done planting, surely a good omen.  Tomorrow I’ll mulch the bed, and then all that’s left is to worry over everything until it bursts forth with color and vigor.

Have started some herb seeds in pots, always a leap of faith, and brought home a rosemary plant today.  Another irresistible find was a patchouli plant!  That was a new one, but that delicious exotic scent had to come from somewhere, I suppose.  It smells divine, though it is an utterly nondescript plant.

Visiting friends today, I noticed an enormous jade plant, something I have always coveted.  A baby plant was given to their son on his fourth birthday by another child, and it’s lived and thrived all those years.  Alex and Alma are now in their mid-thirties!  So I could not resist a lovely variegated jade at the nursery, and a sassy red ceramic pot, even though I have murdered every jade plant that ever came under my care.  If not optimism, what IS gardening about, after all?

It seems I brought the new season back with me, upon returning from skiing.  It was most definitely still winter when I left Colorado!  We could see green from the air when descending to BNA, and in the back of my yard, I found daffodils and daylilies whose existence was previously unknown.  And I am most delighted to see the daylilies and daisies I planted along the driveway last year, poking eagerly through the mulch.  They came from a roadside “FREE” plant treasure trove.  I’ll be on the prowl for more such bargains to plant this year.  My friend Nora, gardener extraordinaire, has been giving me advice and offering “babies” from her lovely yard to bring here and start.

We are having stormy weather today, and I started out the morning late, still catching up on sleep, with coffee and music and the sound of rain on the roof.  My little house is snug and cozy, inasmuch as I wish it were clean, snug and cozy.  But no rush on that; it’ll just get dusty again!  and who can keep a floor clean with a black lab in residence?

So I’ve checked on the rose bush (yep, some new growth and leaves starting), the forsythia–blooming!, moved some pansies into a new pot on the porch, encouraged the irises by the chimney in front  (can’t wait to see what color they are), and am plotting the backyard garden.  I’ll start in the middle of the yard with some beds, and let the garden expand from there.   And I’m going to get some perennials going by the mailbox, to cure the feng shui of having the sidewalk end abruptly before the yard ends.

Spring.  It’s the sweetest time, except for fall and winter.  Summer, not so much.  Each year I plan not to be hot and complaining, so I’m trying, just so you know.

I haven’t been skiing in eight or nine years, seemingly because I moved away from Vermont and its readily accessible slopes (I miss you, Smuggs, Mad River Glen, and Sugarbush!!), to which my pal Shannon and I would trek every chance we got.  But just because I live in the deep south, there’s no reason not to plan a SKI TRIP!  Why I haven’t up to now is kind of beyond me.  Skiing is and has been since I was a child, practically my favorite thing to do.

Reflecting on this as I sit watching the Grammy Awards and the great performers–Jolene with John Mayer, Nora Jones, and Keith Urban–and Bob Dylan, Lady Antebellum and even Gwyneth singing in her amazing shoes.  There has been some truly excellent music published this year.

So when an old friend asked if I was interested in going to Colorado with her because her husband, who, I hate to tell you, hurt himself skiing……I thought about it for a minute, and said YES!  because I realized that the only reason I hadn’t skied in all that time was lack of initiative.  I am planning on having a great time, and hope to take a ski trip every year until I just can’t do it anymore.  I believe the last time my dad went skiing he was eighty years old, and if my nephew hadn’t gotten hurt on that trip, he might have not quit at that point.  (Most ski resorts give you a free lift ticket if you’re over seventy, in case you didn’t know.)

Pause to give a nod to Rhianna’s incredible dress, geez.  Gorgeous.  At least I think that’s Rhianna, not really my genre.  And then she wasn’t wearing the dress anymore, or I’m very confused.  Pretty annoying they are blanking out Eminem’s and Dr. Dre’s cuss words, for crying out loud, it’s not a surprise.   And I think Mumford and Sons were robbed, even though I’m willing to give this Esperanza girl a listen.

Back to skiing.  My ski pants shrunk in the closet, so I’ve had to seek out some new, much less cool ones.  But Tristan has sent me a wicked snazzy jacket, a Ninja suit long underwear, a trendy new helmet, and some other terrific VANS snow goods.  Next year I WILL be wearing my favorite blue Special Blend pants with all the fabulous pockets.  TJMaxx provided a nice wicking shirt, a fleece jacket, and a shell for cheap.  Judy is lending me a ski carrier and boot warmer.  Amazing how much gear is needed for sliding down hills on two sticks.

Oh save me, I love Mick Jagger.  Speaking of seventy.  How old is he, anyway?  He’s doing what HE loves, that’s for sure.  So, no more putting it off:  I’m going SKIING!  Hope it looks like this:

Giving the new version an enthusiastic thumbs-up!  Matt Damon was so in character as the proud and vulnerable Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (hilariously pronounced la beef), I didn’t realize it was him until the next day.  As expected, the Coen brothers’ rendition is a little darker and in-your-face funnier than the original, and it surpassed even my high expectations.  I love all movies a la Coen, and anything with Jeff Bridges.  Indeed, his Rooster Cogburn was as memorable than John Wayne’s, but I’ve ordered up the original via Netflix, so I can watch it again after however many years, and do the comparison.  But as in Crazy Heart, Jeff has got drunk down pat.  In True Grit, he has courageous, bold, and charismatic, too.  Mattie’s grownup character–I had forgotten this–is an embittered spinster, but knowing what I know now, the child no doubt had PTSD.  Didn’t stop her from yearning for la beef (another double entendre exploiting the hunkiness of Matt Damon?) all those years.  True Grit delivers the laugh out loud, the drama, love and loyalty, with incredible Western cinematography to boot.  Thank you again, Joel and Ethan.

I have history with this game.  My mom’s been playing with a group, informally known as the “scrabble girls,” for nearly thirty years.  They meet like clockwork on Wednesdays, share news, coffee, a sweet, and play some devastating games of Scrabble. They use strategy, and are merciless, so don’t let those innocent faces fool you.  They are former teachers, secretaries, stay-home mothers.  Each Christmas, they surprise each other with a little gift.  They are steadfast, loyal friends.  The drivers fetch the ones who can’t drive, and they work around each other’s limitations.  It’s a beautiful thing to see.  They even allow my Dad, on occasion, to play, but he usually gets trounced.

We started around 1984 or ’85 with 9 charter members, all members of the Southwick Womens Club.  It was a Ways and Means project to raise money for the club.  Each person was to give $1.00 each week and alternate being a hostess.  She would also serve a dessert.  Each year we discussed where we would donate our dues money.  Over the years we gave to the Southwick -Tolland  Regional  High School scholarship fund, the local fire department, the local police department , the Southwick Public Library, the Family Support Coalition and a Children’s Museum.  I figure we have donated well over $10,000 dollars.  Right now we have $425 to decide where we want it to go.

These women are in their eighties and nineties, with one or two exceptions.  They meet on Wednesdays at each other’s homes, as my Mom says in the paragraph above.  They will kick your butt, I tell you!  I played with them last time I visited, and comported myself with a semblance of dignity, thanks to all the practice I get playing Words with Friends.  I outscored one of the fiercest competitors, and she was none too pleased!

Shirley again:  I started this by announcing at a SWC meeting my idea  and placed a paper and pen on a table and asked anyone who wanted to play scrabble to sign the paper.  Our Southwick Womens Club no longer exists but we continue to play. We have had many women die and new ones join.  We now have 11 players and one who comes from New York  two or three times a year (a former member) to play with us.   Our oldest member was born 8/31/15  and our youngest  7/31/42.

When we moved to Southwick, there were only about seven thousand residents, and though it’s grown, this is still a very small New England town.  Everybody, especially those who’ve been there awhile, knows everybody.  Loss is felt by everyone.  People care about each other.  This group embodies the mentality of the town.

When I lived in Vermont, the Milton Bradley factory where the little maple (no surprise) tiles for the older games were once fabricated, was just down the road.  The newer versions have plastic tiles, some a cool translucent red, some white.  The boards are endlessly varied in color and complexity, with little pockets so your tiles don’t move around, maybe on a lazy Susan, or just a cheap edition you can get in Walgreens.


Words with Friends (copyrighted) is an online game that replicates Scrabble, though it automatically adds up the scores, and won’t allow a player to lay down tiles for an “illegal” word, so you lose a bit of the fun.  It makes up for that in convenience, though. My son, Tristan, plays with me from his home in California, and I’m grooming him to take over the family Scrabble empire.  My eighty-six year old mother beats me almost every time, although I’m getting better at remembering the trick words and strategy.  Video games, most other strategy games, and anything involving a ball are utterly beyond my capabilities, but give me random letter tiles, a board, and I’m ON!  Obsessed.  Seriously.


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January 2020
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