Monday, May 3, 2010

Bridgewater Raft Race - 2010

I have a guest writer today, my wonderful Sweetie. He wrote this for his Facebook page, and I thought it was so good I would honor him here. (That, and I'm too lazy to write my own.) More photos can be seen at

Having run the usual gauntlet of law enforcers in Woodstock we pulled in to the anything-goes cantina atmosphere of the Bridgewater Raft Race.

We unloaded our simple rig and registered. The race, now in it's 36th year is growing in popularity and there were about 50 "boats". I d
rew poorly, getting a starting position of 42. We were there early so we observed the melée of last minute construction by many motley crews.

Pipsqueak dressed smartly with a wetsuit and grass skirt while I sported safariwear, a pith helmet and "binoculars" fashioned from a couple of empty Bud "Pounders" we'd picked up on our Green Up day rounds. Cameras and videographers were in abundance so we hung around the boat to hang ten on demand. We also spoke with some returning entrants from Boston and NYC. Seems I'm not the only flatlander with a taste for the offbeat.

The entry forms read "no alcohol please" but by the looks of many of the entrants we have a literacy problem in Vermont. Even the racemaster interrupted his reading of the rules for a "social" which became the euphemism of the day. We walked around looking at the wild creations and, better, wildlife. If Pip learned some new words she didn't tell me.

The rules state that the hulls and paddles must not be commercially built and that crews provide the only power. Beyond that, pretty much anything goes.

A raft race vet informed us that the early races were started with the firing of a Colt Special and the awards were rocks taken from the river. A loaner cannon (the usual one was lost in action this past year) shattered the silence and the race was on.

Starting near last and with the river a bit low (or is it always this way?) we were caught up in a bollix of rafts. Everyone bumped rocks here and there, some lost parts or coolers (horror of horrors!) and some sank.

We soon found deeper water and read the riffles to stay off the stones. What became immediately clear was that Pip was not in this for a casual float downstream. Every raft was a challenge to be passed. It was crucial to be on the lookout for submerged boulders; drift over one and the craft stops until dislodged. Pip is a chatty sort and, being young and beguiling attracted the attentions of other rafters as we drew close. Being her father I have learned to ignore such attentions, if only briefly, and stayed on task. It wasn't long before our opponents were hung up on a stone and we poled by them. I dubbed the strategy "distract and attack" and Pip fell off the raft in laughter. "Keep going Dada", she said as she pulled herself aboard, "I can get back on, just keep on paddling".

We did a lot of passing. One longboat was constantly dogging us, but his craft had a sink/bail cycle every 10 minutes allowing us to stay ahead.

We crossed the finish line in just under an hour feeling both spent and triumphant. At the awards ceremony the winner received a $100 cash prize. Pipsqueak, as the youngest entrant, also received a prize, a family gift certificate for one month at the new Upper Valley Aquatic Center, value $127!

Starting from 42nd position we had maneuvered and powered our way past 26 competitors finishing sweet 16th!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Less Binge, More Purge

No, I'm not considering an eating disorder...

This time of year, every year, I feel like getting rid of stuff. I'm not sure if it's all the loot that just arrived by Santa's sleigh or being "stuck in the house" for winter, but I definitely have the urge to purge. This is the sort of thing that I have to harness and ride when I get it because when I'm not in the mood, it's a pretty daunting task, and if I'm feeling a little melancholy or nostalgic, it's hard to get rid of things.

This week, I've been going through stuff in my office area which has been a WRECK for months. It'll take some time and dedication to get through all the rubble, but I made a good dent and a lot of stuff got tossed. Pipsqueak got inspired when she got home from school one day and cleaned out some of her art supplies that are kept near my office area. She found a good pile of stuff to get rid of, too. I noticed all the Disney Princess stuff is going... the end of an era.

I also feel like buying less. That should be easy; stay out of stores and delete online sale announcements without looking at them. I need to start shopping in my own house. I have plenty of books and craft supplies, which are my weaknesses, so it's time to start reading them and using them instead of buying more. I'll still allow myself the occasional thrift shop spree. Yesterday I went to Border's and TJ Maxx looking for a present for a birthday party. The only thing I bought was the present even though there were lots of great sales going on. The reward of shopping less will be two-fold: I'll have less stuff coming in the house and I'll be saving money.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Return

Boy, did I ever lose my writing mojo. I lost my mojo for a lot of things, but I've pulled it together for nearly every else. During the Christmas season, I had so many things that I wanted to share with you, but I couldn't seem to get them out of my head and unto your screen.

Pipsqueak got Wii Fit Plus for Christmas, which includes several games, one being Snowball Fight. One of the opponents is in a snowman costume. The first time you hit him, he falls over, the costume falls away and he pops up in human form looking dazed and shaking his head. You have to hit him again while he's dazed, before he recovers and redons the costume in order to win that point. That is a metaphor for my life the past few months. I was hit by a friend's death, and before I could shake that off, I was hit by another.

I don't make New Year's resolutions because I don't need a date on a calendar to dictate when I need or should make a change, and the changes I make are usually long term rather than for a year. This year, I felt like I needed a fresh start, and I hoped that New Year's Eve would be sort of a magic portal from a year that sucked to a brighter tomorrow. Of course, New Year's Day came, and I didn't feel any different. But I did realize that I don't feel as bad as I did a month ago.

I think I'll still make some changes... a few things that will make me happier: lose a little weight (as soon as all the holiday goodies are gone), exercise a little more (just because it feels good and I'll be healthier), paint a few things that need painting, purge a lot of stuff that I don't need, spend a little more time being creative (which includes writing here), finish several projects that have long been in progress and experiment with cooking more.

I also need to start accentuating the positive. I've never had to do that before, because I've always been a positive-thinking person, but I've felt way too negative lately. There are a lot of positive things in my life and a lot to be happy about. Those are the things that I've got to move to the forefront of my mind.

I've been away for awhile, but I'm on my way back.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Mark

How do I say goodbye to someone that has been a part of my life for almost as long as I remember... someone whose life was too short? There were more smiles to smile, more hugs to give, more gossip to share, more times to see him throw back his head in laughter.

It all started back in kindergarten. I was freakishly tall... a head and shoulders taller than everyone else, except for Mark. We saw eye to eye. We were the token tall kids that got to do everything that no one else could reach. I was drawn to him like a moth to a flame because we were alike, he was kind and gentle, and when he smiled, he made me smile. Back then he said he wanted to be a dentist, so I decided I would be a dental assistant so I could work with him and be with him always.

We lived with only three houses between us and the route we walked to school ran somewhere down the middle. I would wait for him at the intersection, and we'd walk the remaining quarter mile together. After school, we'd walk home together. One particularly brazen day at age five, I kissed him at the intersection (on the cheek, as I recall) and ran the rest of the way home. Mark told his grandmother, who lived with him and his family. She said I was a wild girl, and he shouldn't be spending time with me. (I didn't hear that part until we were adults, so obviously he didn't heed her warning.)
As early, as elementary school, I knew he was special in a sophisticated, refined, vintage-y way. He always gave beautiful Valentine cards instead of those juvenile things most gave. He had an attention to detail and creativity that was different than most boys. His handwriting was impeccable. His clothes were always clean and never in disarray... shirt tucked in, collar straight, pants hanging perfectly, all layered in the preppy style that was the rage then. His hair never got too long and it was always neatly combed. I loved all these things about him, and it wasn't long before other girls noticed those things were pretty special, too. By then, I was over my crush and we had a strong bond of friendship.

As tweens and teens, we spent a great deal of time at each other's house or on the phone together. We were in most of the same activities together: band, chorus, pep band, drama, photography club, prom committee, yearbook committee, National Honor Society. Since we were part of the same clique, we went to the same parties. He was ever present in my life... we were in each other's orbit. I remember disco dancing to the Saturday Day Night Fever album on his porch. We did homework together and hammered out school papers on my Underwood manual typewriter that was so heavy that I'm surprised it didn't fall through the table and the floor. We shared secrets and gossip... we shared our lives.

He went away to college; I did not. But when he was home, we'd get together and catch up. Close to Christmas, I'd go to his family's house. He'd put on the Charlie Brown Christmas album, and we'd share an eggnog while we exchanged gifts, stories and gossip. That tradition continued long into adulthood.

We knew each other so well... 4o years of living, sharing, loving. We had numerous nicknames for each other. There were private jokes where a word or two could start the laughter.

Just over a week ago, while on the way to the hospital because of pneumonia, he went into cardiac arrest. After several days, it was clear he wouldn't recover. His family and partner said goodbye, and the machines that were keeping him alive were turned off. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I wanted more talk and laughter and hugs. I wanted more reminiscing and more memories. The pain of his death is so intense to me that it feels physical. I know that time will make the pain fade, but there are things in my life that will always remind me of him, and I will carry him in my heart forever.

This comes too soon, but goodbye, Mark, my dear friend. I hope you knew how much I love you. Too much time has past since I told you last.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Thankful for... (the final chapter)

I try to take time in everyday life to appreciate things and not save it for a special holiday. But then, it's usually just in my head and not shared. Today, I'll share with you, a few more things I'm thankful for...

Where I Live - From the country, to the state, to the town, to my house, they are all special to me. I am proud to be an American. For while, I wasn't feeling that way, but it's starting to come back. I love Vermont... the changing of the seasons, the rural atmosphere, cows and maple syrup. I live in a town where strangers wave to each other when they meet on a road, hold doors for each other and everyone helps one another when it's needed. I love living at the end of a dirt road where I can open the door and let the dog out, and wild animals roam in my yard.

My Friends - I have friends that I see frequently, some I see once or twice a year and a few that our only communication is through Christmas cards. Thanks to Facebook, I have friends I haven't seen in a quarter century. They're all have a place in my heart because of the memories we share and the laughs we've had.

Food and Drink - I can't imagine living in a place where I ate the same tasteless food every day and had nothing to drink but dirty water. I love good food and drink... the preparation, the flavor and the ritual. We are so lucky to be able to get fresh food in such a wide variety.

Environmental Conservation - I'm so happy that efforts are being made to protect our planet and wildlife. Nature is so important to me. While I don't live a totally green life (it's very hard to do), I do make an effort.

And a final few things... music, theater, laughter, the power of a hug, a comfortable bed, instant access to information, good health and when I don't have that, good medicine, thrift stores...

and you, my blogger friends, for your comments that keep me writing. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm Thankful for My Mother

My mom had me when she was 43 years old and raised me on her own. As a child, I was way too busy having fun and being a kid to realize what a struggle this must have been for her, but now I can appreciate her and her efforts.

We didn't have a lot of money, and I guess I realized that on some level, but I never felt poor or that the essentials were lacking. She always made Christmas special, and while I didn't get EVERYTHING I asked for, no kid should.

She taught me about frugality, although she was probably frugal to the extreme. She grew up during the depression which created a pack rat mentality. The two things that I still laugh about was her saving the waxy bags from inside cereal boxes to use instead of new wax paper, and keeping spray nozzles from cans. If she had a faulty one, she could use one from her stash instead of throwing out a can with something in it.

My mom was strong in mind and body. She taught me not to worry... "the worry is always the worst", to think positive thoughts, and to be independent. She could single-handedly move a refrigerator and do small carpentry and plumbing jobs.

Now that she's 88 years old, she is weaker and less sure of herself, but she passed her strength on to me, and I'll use that strength to help her. Just before Pipsqueak was born, I convinced her to sell her house of 35 years and buy the one next door to me. Since then, she's given up driving and says that she thinks she's a burden to me. The fact is that she's a blessing to me, and I'm glad to have her so near so I can frequently see the smile that lit up my days as a child.


Tomorrow, I'll be doing a Thanksgiving wrap up with all sorts of things I'm thankful for.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Thankful for My Daughter

Pipsqueak almost didn't exist. We were rejected from the local hospital's IVF program and were referred to Boston. After two IVF failures there, it was recommended that we consider adoption or a childless life. I pleaded for another chance, and voila! (I really should write about this whole experience in detail sometime.)
Right from the start, she was a happy, adaptable, easy baby... except for the part where she didn't really like sleeping for more than twenty minutes for something like three years. She embraces life and whatever it brings her. She's kind, thoughtful and naturally funny. I love spending time with her, doing things with her and going places with her.
Living with her is like living in a musical because she breaks into original song and dance numbers several times a day. It could be an upbeat, "Wow, These Brownies Taste Good" or a more soulful, "My Mom and Day Love Me, and I Love Them."Every night before I go to bed, I go in her room to check on her and adjust her covers. I stand there for a moment just looking at her sleep, and I feel my heart swell with love. I am so lucky to have Pipsqueak in my life.

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