When people ask me if I like being a twin I often reply, "yes, but of course its all I've ever known."  I could write volumes about what my sister means to me as a friend and family member but sometimes the relationship is best expressed as having someone to embark with on a semi-preposterous adventure and be able to pull it off. This past Friday morning the two of us mothers and five children between us drove down to Ocean City, NJ. Our goal was to visit a place that brought us much amusement as children and to share it with our own.  The place is largely untouched from when we were kids and so it succeeds in bringing the same kind of cheap yet meaningful thrills that it always has. The familiarity yields great reward. We don't have to think about where to go, or what to do because the prescription has always been the same.

 The two of us share a spontaneity gene. In our minds, a carefully laid plan can bring on its own set of anxieties and so the thought of throwing everyone in a rental car for such a trip brings a variety of freedom and excitement that makes summer feel like a genuine adventure. We searched far and wide for a beach rental to house our crew for the night to no avail, so the only plausible alternative was to head back north and stay over in NYC, right? Right! After four and a half hours of fun in the sun, pizza and birch beer, porpoise sightings, salt water taffy, and the tilt-a-whirl we hop back in the car and head for the Lincoln tunnel. Two hours later we are pulling onto West 97th street, find free parking out front and step in to our lodgings for the night.  The hotel was really more of a hostel and providentially and affordably perfect. All seven of us slept comfortably thanks to the friendliest staff in town and a few pallets on the ground.  In the morning Lenny's Bagels welcomed us as did the Westside Market for everything a body could need for the last leg home.

I nearly forgot to tell you about the other companion on our journey. His name is Samuel West. We owe so much to dear Sam. He faithfully narrates Phillip Pullmans Grimm Tales for Young and Old for us and the trip really couldn't have been possible without this friend of ours.  He's quite a flexible chap and I recommend bringing Mr. West with you for any trip planned in the near future.

  We completed our mission safely and generally unscathed. I will not bore you with the finer details in an epilogue to this story. But to keep things a bit honest I will say that some sleep was lost and that the eldest of the youths has always struggled with this sort of deficit and began to show some signs of behavioral decline in the immediate hours and days after.
  I will also say it was worth enduring and that I am thankful we took on this challenge.


On gratitude

The thing about social media that I hate is the breeziness of it all. Oh just a few pictures here of an exotic vacation. Oh and a few pictures there of a gathering financed by family heads so that children and grandchildren can congregate with nary a worry. No big deal. This kind of stuff happens all the time right? Wrong. Firstly, it is has never been easy for me to be light and informal. I was a serious child, and then became a serious adult. I try to participate in certain forms of social media when I channel my easy going self. I post things that may also appear glossy and enjoy the glossy posts of others.  But in my natural more broody state what I hate the most about social media are the constant questions I ask myself. Are you grateful for what you have? Are you content without all the beautiful things? And sometimes I have to realize, no I'm not very grateful. In the summer in the Cambridge when it feels like everyone has evacuated the hot city streets for their cottages in the country, it is hard for me not to think about how much better my life would be with one of those places too. It makes me miss my mother who would be throwing my sister and I lifelines of help, both emotional and physical.  It is likely she would be hosting these sorts of moments for her own family. It feels like we lost everything when she died, and the things that she took with her like stability, love, assurance, kindness are gone forever and ever. This is not true. But it sure feels true.

I have much to be grateful for. The city of Cambridge offers middle school students free math mornings from 8:30-11:30 and my own very reluctant middle schoolers are enrolled. Yay. It has been beautiful outside. I have a cat, a family, a sister. I have libraries. I am in good physical (not to be confused with mental) health. My kids got to swim with Canadian geese yesterday.These are real blessings. Everyday I want to see these things and be glad.

The library came up with this game for adult summer readers and I am having so much fun.
I wish us all more gratitude (and luxuries..shhhh).


How to make mochi and live deliberately

If you give a thirteen year old a cookbook he's going to make mochi. When they make mochi, they are going to want some ice cream to go with it. This is what we have been up to this summer. Myles checked out three ten pound cookbooks and has been pouring over them ever since. He made mochi today, and vanilla ice cream and a then dairy free version, for a family dietary need. He and I have been like two partners waltzing through summer. Stumbling over each other's feet, finding our stride, and happy enough at the end of the day for from the effort of surviving the first days well enough. We hosted our 1st annual Auntie Camp. Myles was the lead counselor. He led littles on treasure hunts, selfie photo shoots, and water balloon games. I couldn't have done it without him.

What does it mean to live deliberately? This is what Myles asked me this morning when we visited the site of Thoreau's house in woods by Walden pond. And so we contemplated that question. I do know are minds are torn asunder by distractions of the physical and non, and so I alluded to that struggle. And then prayed that the pond could offer its own answers.



On Saturday I told the kids, "Today we will journey to Concord."  We needed fresh air, cool water, and books.  Concord, Massachusetts is good for all of these things. The library is situated downtown and its shelves are overflowing with hard to find books. It smells musty and familiar and is reliably quiet and peaceful. Yes, there are busts of old white men following you with their staring eyes, but there is also Louisa May, thankfully.  And she is actually spoken of by the librarians as if her presence lives. They said, "Take the stairs beside Louisa and then a sharp right at the top to find the adult fiction." "Why thank you," I replied enjoying the inclusion of Louisa May in the conversation. The kids each made a stack for checkout. Myles an ambitious one filled with Gaiman artifacts after reading and viewing the momentous Good Omens.  Fiona's was smaller. She likes to have one or two carefully selected good books on hand, nothing more.
Afterward we went to Walden Pond for a swim so Fiona could cram for the dreaded swim test. At camp, in order to avoid swim lessons which are scheduled during choice activity slots you have to pass the "stroke test." This requires a swimmer to successfully swim four different strokes for a set distance. Preparing for a swim test in romantic pond is still a chore, but an enjoyable one. (Below is the site of her actual swim test)

 This Saturday felt significant in that I had the freedom of mind to be present.  Graduate school responsibilities were not nipping at my heels. My job was to spend time with my kids and give Eric some space to get some of his work done. It was lovely. I hope it goes without saying that it wasn't literally perfect. There were grumbles about the lunch spot choice, and differing opinions about other minor details, but in general it was lovely.
   Time has been my friend these days. I find myself sitting and staring and thinking. And I don't feel lavishly idle, like I should be doing something else. It feels restorative and I am thankful. These moments don't come often or freely enough for all of us in this challenging world.

      I am reading the first chapter of piles of young adult books to prepare for a new job this fall. I will be a high school librarian in a nearby town. It wasn't the urban site I had imagined at first, but it was a good offer and one I couldn't afford to pass up. I am looking forward to hanging out with teenagers :)



October is a lovely month, this be true. But it is a bit more challenging to enjoy such a lovely time when it rains every day and your windows are taped shut because the first floor flat you rent is being painted. Our land ladies take wonderful care of our shared home but currently all the light is shut out and there is no end in sight to our situation because of the relentless rain. Like a friend said at work, "Nothing happened to me, I'm fine. It's just the weather." Yes, the weather indeed and a few other things that will go unnamed.

I believe I mentioned at some point that I was suffering through graduate school? Well that is very much still the case, but right now the blow is a bit softened by the fact that I am currently the full-time caregiver of a beautiful library. This is wonderful in many ways because the birth mother is bettering herself in graduate school as I get valuable work experience and credit towards my degree. It is amazing, and also really hard. And also amazing, and the paper work nightmare is a real thing. I have to create a literal 3 ring binder filled with dead trees etched with lesson plans and photos me standing like the statue of liberty holding a book for all the little people to see. To prove that I am a librarian who does in fact put books into the hands of trusting children. Rant over.

I have missed you all and this space. But I must tell you that you haven't missed all that much (if anyone is still out there.) There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth as I trained my mind and hand to think like traditional student again. This was not easy. But alongside me the kids did grow a bit in strength and stature which is miraculous and humbling. Praise be to God.

Today was a good day. I walked Myles to school and met my sister for a warm beverage. Then she showed me some photos of our mother that she had dug up. As we approach All Souls Day and her birthday I can feel the grief cloud thickening and gaining matter. Who knew 11 years later, this blog would be like a wailing wall of sorts for me.

But it is. The loss of my mother lives with me every day. And with my children. Myles said to me last night, "you know that piece of music that Marmie really liked, Im singing it at Father Jarvis' funeral on Saturday. I guess I had mentioned that she would play a Sarah Brightman CD at her store, Friends & Daughters and on it was Pie Jesu.

And then moments later (today) my sister and stumbled into this book.  I guess Mary Shelley lost her mother at a young age too. For me the most poignant moment of the story is when the brilliant author writes, "As a girl, Mary learned the alphabet by tracing the letters on her mother's tombstone." This book is so beautiful. My siblings and I were raised on the 1931 film courtesy of my grandfather, but now I must actually read Shelley's true account. I hope I will soak in some of her kindred spirit as I turn the pages.

I love being a librarian. The first few times people asked me for some book recommendations, I struggled for words at the wonder of it. This is something that I have dreamed about for a long time. And then I'm doing all the wrong things in the best of ways. Like I'm buying books that I want to give to kids because I'm too impatient to wait for them to arrive the traditional way. I am checking books out for students on my own public library account like their my own children so they can get them faster. And it thrills me.