Digging in


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Grey made this cake from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. At 9, he’s already a better cook than I was when I graduated from college.

So you might have heard that New England is looking at a wee bit of snow tonight. Just a trace. Hardly more than two feet, with hurricane force winds. I mean, barely hurricane force – no more than Category 1!

Tonight, the great city is quiet. The blanket of softening snow has begun to fall, but the vast dimensions of the sky have not yet opened their portals to loose the flakes upon us. In another hour, by law, we will be contained to our homes with those children who lay slumbering in guaranteed-snow-day anticipation upstairs. There is no sound of traffic outside – no airplanes flying overhead. There is the hum of the furnace and the creak of a hundred year old house settling in the cold night air. The winds are sliding past – not yet howling or moaning. The house is warm and slightly messy – scattered with Transformers, stuffed animals, cables & little boys’ socks.

The entire region on every side gives a great exhalation from the normal pace. We lay down our commutes and our schedules and our appointments. We forgo our childcare. We do not go into work. (Although – curse of the age – work we must tomorrow since our labors depend hardly at all on our physical location.) In the morning the world will be transformed into twisting snow, cutting us off from the burdens and comforts of our society and demanding that we take a few moments to think of who we are and what we are doing in this world. We will shut the doors against the icy gale, but open the curtains to see the power of the storm. Before the world resumes anew there will be shared meals, laughter, sledding, video games, board games and baked goods. Some of those moments will soak into the souls of my young sons, and become the definitions of winter, of storm, of blizzard.

Assuming the power stays on (we’ve never **knocking on wood** in the seven years we’ve been there had the power go out in any meaningful way), this storm will be for us an interregnum. A gift. (I know it won’t be that way for everyone. We are very lucky in our circumstances.) For us it will be a time set apart.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably live-blog it for you – not so much because I think you’ll be fascinating, but because our era allows us to feel most connected when we are most apt to be isolated. I’ll tell you whether it’s a lark, or getting a bit scary. We’ll ponder together the likelihood of school on Wednesday (low). We’ll be joyful and funny and snowbound together. Tonight, I feel great gratitude for the circumstances of this storm, that brings us together even more than it keeps us apart.

Two decades of building a bikeway


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Over 30 years of leadership is represented with these two gentlemen

Over 30 years of leadership is represented with these two gentlemen

Back in 1988, a few folks had an idea about turning an old rail line in Stoneham into a trail. It was a cutting edge idea, at the time – the rails to trails projects were just kicking off. But the land was publicly owned, and it seemed like a good idea. Twenty-seven years later, the plan has final cleared (almost) all the hurdles required to break ground. My own part in this saga was trivial from that big picture perspective, but it was extremely illuminating for me.

Looking from the outside in, it can be awfully hard to get a hook into local politics. For example, googling my selectmen before a vote revealed… pretty much nothing (fun fact – my blog posts are like time 20 hits on nearly all of them). You can find some general information on what they do for a living. One or two of them have campaign pages, which reveal, well, nothing. Without a hook into the community, it’s hard to tell the obstructionists from the development-happy, the cooperators from the blockers, the sensible from the selfish. It’s almost impossible to educate yourself to vote responsibly when neither you nor anyone you know has any insight into these candidates.

Then came the Greenway. This project was so incredibly clear cut, I didn’t need a 20 year Stoneham veteran to explain the ins and outs to me. The pro was that we had an amazing project on public land paid for by state funds and sponsored by MassDOT. On the opposing side we had… uh…. safety concerns (which were bogus – the crossings will be much safer with the new work to be done) and uh… … The funny thing was that despite voting down a delay of a vote, and then voting down the initiative in the October meeting, no one could or would articulate a real & compelling reason why they didn’t think Stoneham should have this awesome amenity. The reasons, I believe, were all buried in relationships, history and some selfishness on the parts of the businesses who had been using the land for years with little or minimal compensation to the public. (I’m left to speculate. Anyone who’d prefer to explain the real reason is free to leave a comment!)

So in this complex community, I finally had a touchpoint. Using information available to me, I could see that the Greenway was good. This provided me the entryway into understanding more about the town. My involvement started out very lightly. In 2011 I walked the Greenway route. In May of 2013 I wrote about the project. In a sign of my outsiderness, I tried to reach out to the Selectmen using the publicly available contact information (which was rather unsuccessful). Then this fall, at the request of a friend, I went to the Town Hall meeting where the vote was both delayed and denied.

I was shocked into action. The excuses for failure were SO LAME. And they looked very much like they were going to successfully kill the project. I spoke at the meeting, and came to the attention of the advocates. Coming back from that meeting, I wrote a letter to the local newspapers. I reached out to the supporters, and helped collect signatures for a special town hall meeting. I engaged in the ad hoc group that pushed to get out the vote over a one month period. I walked door to door with my kids. I cold called 200 likely voters (a more pleasant experience than usual, based on the fact that 99.8% of the town thought the Greenway was a great idea). I called for the vote in the special Town Hall meeting, packed to the gills with hundreds of usually unheard residents who had answered our calls to support the project.

The townhall meeting felt like a movie where the hard work all pays off in the end

The Town Hall meeting felt like a movie where the hard work all pays off in the end

My portion of the effort was definitely at the eleventh hour and much less than that of others, but when the time came for drinks afterwards, I got the invite. I sat at a table of people who had poured years, tens of thousands of dollars and their hearts and souls into making the town a better plan to live, with no ulterior motivation. There was elation. There was exhaustion. There was a vague sense of unease that the opposition might find one more thing we hadn’t known about or thought about to block the project. I looked at those people, still struggling to put faces and names together, and settled into my place in the community.

Many things have come from this effort. The largest, of course, is that we now have a Greenway (assuming nothing bad happens from here on out). We have invited many residents of Stoneham to their first ever Town Hall meeting – hopefully some number of them become more engaged in guiding our community. I hope that the older entrenched interests in the town have realized that there are many more people in Stoneham than the handful of hundred who have historically done so much for the community, and that our planning needs to take both new and old residents into consideration. And I – I hope that I and my neighbors become more engaged in the town. Finally, enduringly, I have made some new friends in this adventure, who may be my friends in this great town for years to come.

What about you? Do you understand how your town ticks? Are you a voter? How do you figure out how to vote on local issues? How does a stranger come to become a local in your community?

Becoming a family


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There are two socially sanctioned ways to increase the size of your family: babies and weddings. Adding babies is a lot of fun, but it’s not really a team activity. At most of the key stages, there’s two or a few people there. Also, pictures of the precise events are not, shall we say, to be encouraged.

Weddings, on the other hand, involve a team. Heck, they involve a tribe! And the moment where two people create one family is one of the most public, most photographed and most iconic in our culture.

New family!

My family just grew, this past Christmas. I thought it was growing by one – my sister-in-law Andrea. But then I met Harvey, and it became clear that it was growing by two.

We had almost a week together – my parents, my siblings and my new sibling and puppy-in-law – before we had to kick into wedding mode. The first activity was the traditional Johnstone Christmas, with the uncles and cousins and grandpa’s famous chip dip. I finally got my uncle to tell his war stories, and there were the age old arguments about which Seattle street had housed which relatives. These are the brothers and sisters by marriage in the prior generation whose relationships have lasted for over forty years. It was my oldest family – the family at whose feet I wandered when I was a kid and didn’t think much about what made a family. It was the first time I’ve been together with them in several years, and it was lovely.

Spinning yarns around the Christmas tree.

Then, the team turned to decorating cupcakes to be planets. It’s possible that way too much frosting was consumed. WAAAAAY too much frosting. It’s possible we stayed up a little too late giggling. We siblings by marriage started to get to know each other, under the influence. Also, the cupcakes and cake were delicious and way cooler than anything we could’ve bought.

Decorating. Not all that frosting made it onto the cupcakes.

Over the next few days we added in adventures – we went to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and wandered through a submarine. We watched animation techniques, had dinner together, poked through Powell’s books for an hour and made commando raids to find a better wireless router for the home castle. We talked Space Law & Insurance and then somehow gravitated to book recommendations on the long dark ride home. The week went on and Harvey went on walks, we went on hikes, puzzles got half-started, sewing and banners were created, children hid themselves in the basement and created imaginary worlds inhabited by Warrior Cats. By the time we rang in the new year, we were starting to feel gelled and connected, family-like.

The extended team

As they year ticked over to 2015, the rest of the team arrived. I’d quickly met Bobbi before, but not Joe or Susan. The wedding crew was in place, and we delved into the work with a passion. Fingernails were painted. Flowers (which were ordered but did not arrive) were purchased and crafted. Tuxes were obtained (with much angst – the flowers and the tux were the angst moments of this wedding). We were on the slopes, getting closer and closer together as we went, to the final moments of the wedding.

Group pedicures

The very best moment was the night before the wedding. None of us who had grown up in Mineral had EVER been to the Headquarters Tavern there. Given that Mineral has two churches, a general store, a bar and a post office… this seemed a lapse. We decided to cut apart an hour to go rectify said lapse the night before the wedding. It was fantastic. It’s possible there was head-banging to Bohemian Rhapsody. Some people might have reported that the dulcet tones of Sweet Caroline (so good! the bride is from Saugus) reverberated for the first time in the crawdad traps in the ceiling. It was, generally, phenomenal.

Such a sight the tavern hadn’t seen since fishing season ended

The wedding was beautiful. It was small, but lovely. I played trumpet. My mom performed the ceremony. The bride was lovely. The groom was smitten. The children (and dogs) were adorable. The two people became one family in a kiss.

Practice kiss

It was lovely. We took pictures at the Museum of Flight in Seattle and dined in the Melting Pot in Tacoma. From there, we all fragmented back to our packing and our regular lives. (Funny story about the rv we were staying in and the broken door latch… which wasn’t really all that funny until we found an unlocked window.) Our Kindles as thoroughly mixed up as any French farce could devise we parted – as a family. A new family. A larger, more joyful family, connected by frosting, puppies, submarines, Staples-runs, pedicures, Arbys, ice-crystals, Kindle-swaps and lipstick-color-arguments. Welcome to the family, Andrea & Harvey. Thanks for inviting us into yours. Welcome, Joe & Bobbie & Susan. I’m so glad we are together in this!

Team wedding

The lines between Christmas and wedding are blurry. I have two sets of pictures – the first half are here, and the second half you can find here!

Back to life, back to reality


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Was this Christmas afternoon disc the last frisbee session until April?

Well, it’s done. We have Christmas Eve’d, Christmas Day’d, flow out to Washington, done Christmas twice more with the natal clan, relaxed, hiked, had a wedding*, locked ourselves out of the RV, got back in, returned to Boston, deconstructed the Christmas tree, put away all the suitcases and watched “The Battle of the Five Armies”. (Because being home at 3 pm on a Monday is an opportunity not to be wasted. We had the theater to ourselves!)

The frenetic pace of the holidays is well and truly done – even Epiphany has passed – and we’re through to the other side.

Oh, what a dark and bleak other side it is. The oppressively cold, persistently dark, nothing-to-look-forward-to time of year. I was reminded, being in Washington in January, that at least here in New England we periodically see daylight. Yesterday was a day of darkened skies and lowering clouds in the Northwest. The rivers ran high with rain and snowmelt. It never got above dim the entire day. Returning to New England the winds blew through our coats like Legolas’ knife through Orcish armor as we stood shivering, half-asleep at the taxi stand. But at least there was daylight.

I haven’t quite decided whether I kind of like this time of year, or actively loathe it. Let’s review:

Actively loathe:

  • It’s really cold
  • I’m never warm
  • Paying off the bills from Christmas
  • No days off until like May
  • Also, Christmas cookie weight, and January gyms
  • Commutes in snow
  • Tax time

Kinda like:

  • No pressure to “make the weekends count”
  • Looking outside and noticing that it’s snowing
  • Snow days
  • Feeling like you can really settle into hard work at work, and plan
  • Time to read
  • Hot tea

I think that even in the final analysis, the negatives outweigh the positives, but there are some small compensations to treasure. The ground is still bare here in Boston. The weather this week is supposed to hit negative numbers. I am ready for a month of seeing people I always intend to see and have trouble making the right time for, reading books, and wearing my fuzzy bathrobe as much as possible.

What about you? Is Q1 your favorite time of year, or least favorite? What small compensations are there to the lousy-weather, no-holidays time? What, if anything, do you look forward to?

*I promise I’ll give you a full rundown, and I did take approximately ninety-bajillion pictures, but my sister-in-law has requested that we wait to Socially Media her wedding until she’s back from her honeymoon to join in the fun!

New Year’s Resolution 2014


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I have actually had a wildly successful New Year’s resolution before. I’m still keeping it up as part of habit and second nature, instead of intentional resolutioning. It was to serve a vegetable at every meal (well, lunch and dinner) and I changed my life in order to accomplish just that. So I’m ready for another real resolution this year. In business, when we set our objectives, they’re supposed to be S.M.A.R.T. That means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. In New-Years-Resolution-land, a resolution of “Lose weight” isn’t really specific or measurable. “Lose 80 pounds this month” fails to be attainable or realistic. Just “Lose 20 pounds” isn’t timely. It’s difficult to fully separate what you know (work version) from what you know (real life), so when I was thinking about my resolution, I carried over some of those S.M.A.R.T. attributes.

Truth be told, I’m pretty happy with the person I am. Yes, I could be fitter, smarter, kinder and better organized. But I think I work just about as hard as I’m capable of working, so I’m not TOO hard on myself for failing to attain those. (Plus, I think most people think that’s true of themselves, so I have good company.)

What I wish I did differently was… well, this. I miss blogging. Back before kids, I wrote (short form) multiple times a day. Then after kids, but in a much less absorbing job I blogged every day, or sometimes every other day. But now that I’m in the white-heat of both career and kids, I’ve been trying for once a week. Lately, I’ve been failing, and that makes me sad. I don’t have a big readership. I don’t get to write sponsored posts. I don’t write professionally. (Well, I do, but not this.) I just *like* to write. This blog has over 750 posts. I like to tell people what I’m thinking, and hear their thoughts back. I like to look back and my posts and remember what I’ve forgotten. I like thinking out my conversations to you in cold, quiet moments. And lately I haven’t been doing much of this thing I like doing.

So here’s my S.M.A.R.T goal: to post once a week on Thursdays at 11 am EST. I would like to be so consistent you can rely on “Oh, it’s Thursday lunch! Let’s see what Brenda posted!” Of course, given that I’m working at 11 am on Thursdays, this means that it’s very likely to be written ahead of time and queued. (In fact, I’m thinking that I should write up a number of backlog, non-time-sensitive posts just in case I have a busy week!)

One sign of resolution success is a public declaration. This helps your friends hold you accountable to what you said you’d do. So I am empowering you, beloved reader, to go ahead and give me a hard time if Thursday 11 am passes and I haven’t posted my blog post yet!

What do you think? Will a once a week post beat my current average? Is Thursday 11 am a good time for it? What goals are you going into the new year with?

2014 Year in Review


My boys

My boys

I did not manage to write a Christmas Letter for my Christmas cards this year. I know, I’m so terribly sorry for disappointing you like that. I’m sure you’ll somehow manage to pull through… but the Christmas letters serve a useful purpose in addition to making my Christmas Card process even more complicated. They’re a nice moment to reflect back on the year and set down the milestones, for posterity as it were. So in this close of year time, I’ll take advantage of the six hour flight to Washington to do just that. (Then I’ll play Minecraft. My sons are guaranteed to think this is entirely unfair.)



Grey is nine, and started third grade this year. Thane is six, and starts his school career in Kindergarten. We had his preschool graduation this year, with cap and gown. Both of them are doing very well. Grey is majorly obsessed with screens of all sorts (can’t imagine where he gets that from…) and has dabbled with blogging and Scratch programming. His online time is primarily spent playing mindless video games. His favorite is Minecraft. Grey has gotten very good at board games. On a few occasions, he’s stayed up late and played “grownup” games with our friends (like St. Petersburg or 7 Wonders). He’s done quite well.



Thane is a still a young and innocent 6. He’s less all about screens than Grey. His DS has gone unplayed for at least a year. He loves that fiddly finicky work – like making mosaics or building with Legos. He can sometimes disappear for several hours into his room, building things and singing to himself. Less charmingly, he’s definitely at the disgusting-obsessed phase of life. If I never hear about poop or vomit over dinner again, it’ll be fine by me. He is reading, but it’s heavy work for him. You can watch him visibly tire over the course of a book. So he reads… but he’s not really a “reader”. Lately he’s been in constant motion – unable to stop bouncing. He never walks – there’s always a hitch or a skip in his step!

I got cats in high places

I got cats in high places

Our cats like to sit on Adam’s head. Their hobbies include eating things that aren’t food, and throwing up.
Neither Adam nor I made major work changes this year. Our roles and companies remain the same. Work is, of course, a thing that requires a tremendous amount of time and energy, and creates a significant part of identity. It seems misleading to talk abou the year without work. But, on the other hand, a personal blog is really no place for work talk. So let’s leave it a big part of our lives that shall go unremarked.

Tropical Island boys

Tropical Island boys

This year, in the “fun things” category, we went to Cozumel with the kids. I was nervous that we’d go through great expense and effort for a vacation that would end up wearing us out. Happily, it was a tremendously relaxing and enjoyable experience! There was snorkeling, game playing, lying reading on beaches, jeep adventures, Mayan ruins and early nights. I think we’re all hoping that the future will play out in such a way that we can go back again!
Adam and I also celebrated our 14th anniversary with a meal of dehydrated noodles on the north side of Mt. Rainier. We had a superb five day backpacking trip that fed my heart, soul and imagination.

Adam & John

Adam & John

Our family experienced some additions and subtractions this year. In the subtraction category, Adam’s grandfather, John Turley, died in October. He had come to the end of a long, and largely joyful journey. I was extremely glad that I had gotten to spend a bit of time with him a few weeks before he left.

In the addition category, on Halloween my brother asked his lady to build a life together with him. I’m delighted to report that she agreed to this plan! We’ll be celebrating their wedding in the first days of the new year (assuming that spending a week with my entire family doesn’t scare her off the proposition). It reflects that last time someone will voluntarily enter my family in a generation. I’m really looking forward to getting to know her better.

This year was one of the years in the heart of the “young family” time of life. My children are getting so big, so fast I can start to understand that confused lamentation of the parents of teens, wondering where their babies went. Grey is halfway through his childhood – with as much behind as there ahead. We are busy busy busy – at work, at play, with our children, with our chores. I have a hunch that this will be the time of life that we look back on most fondly when the business ceases and the house quiets. This was a lovely year. I have great hope that 2015 will be lovelier still!

Mutiny from the Bounty



Every week.

There are few things that make me feel richer and more fortunate that putting away my groceries. I grew up *hours* from the nearest grocery store. My parents went shopping once a month (with exceptions for milk). I, meanwhile, live minutes from the nearest grocery store. And Peapod delivers. But if you looked at my pantry, you’d think I was stocking up for the quarter. So when it’s time to put produce away, I practice a form of meditative ‘fridge reorganization that bears a striking resemblance to Jenga with Carrots. (This is aided not at all by the fact my kitchen organization requires a smaller-than-average ‘fridge. This is “on the list”. Tragically, about $20k of more pressing updates [see also: furnace, windows, attic redo] are above the it “on the list”.)

Typical Monday night fridge

Since about the first of June, I’ve been signed up for Farmer Dave’s CSA. This is our fifth or sixth year as Farmer Davers, and the first year I’ve been able to stomach the thought of extending the season into the late fall share. (It’s a sign your CSA is working on changing your eating habits when you’re tempted to keep it going because broccoli.) Every week, when I get that ginormous box of farm-fresh produce, I have this mental dialogue as I put it away.

Hippy Brenda: Oh! Arugula! Let’s make lots of salads this week!
Skeptical Brenda: You’re gone for like three days this week, and Adam isn’t going to make salad. You might as well kiss this arugula goodbye.
Homesteader Brenda: I bet there are some great arugula pesto recipes out there. I could just spend the next three hours whipping up a batch of arugula pesto to see us through the winter.
Sleepy Brenda: It’s already 11 pm. Seriously?
Liberal Guilt Brenda: How can you contemplate wasting arugula? Don’t you know that most families across America lack access to affordable healthy food? There are people out there who work three jobs and just DREAM of arugula! And don’t get me started on food insecurity in Africa. You better enjoy this arugula, because you are darn lucky to have it.
Practical Brenda: Let’s compromise. We’ll wash & spin the arugula, beet tops & red lettuce together in salad mix, and cram it in the left drawer which almost still closes. Then in the off chance we can find a time for salad, at least we have the salad fixings.

Repeat for an entire crate of luscious produce.

Worse than zucchini

Of course, then there are the _other_ bits of produce. Let us take kohlrabi as an example. Kohlrabi grows amazingly well in New England. You just think about kohlrabi while looking at a patch of soil, and it starts growing. Kohlrabi is what we call “edible” which means that if you can deep fry it in butter the butter tastes good. I have yet to find a recipe improved by the addition of kohlrabi (after six years of trying) and have frankly given up. My new goal with kohlrabi is plausible deniability. My favorite technique in this regard is to put it on the counter and ignore it until it goes bad. Kohlrabi, of course, requires about three straight weeks of ignoring before I don’t feel too guilty composting it.

What you bring to parties when you have a veggie share. Everything but the carrots was seasonable farm share produce.

In truth, I think the farm share has fundamentally transformed the way my family eats. If you ask my children for their favorite vegetable, they cheerfully profess a string of vegetable-adorations. Spending week after week wracking your brain for yet another use of arugula (see also: romanesco, cabbage) you develop a much more robust repertoire of veggie heavy dishes. You serve your children (and, let’s be honest, your husband) vegetables over and over again in desperation, and on some glorious day those veggies go from despised to a favorite. (True fact: Thane loves cooked collard greens! Grey adores broccoli, even raw!) Last week, at our last pickup, I found myself thinking “yum!” at almost all the produce (there was no kohlrabi). That’s a huge improvement from my attitude toward veggies ten years ago!

Medley of root vegetables, thanks to an entire crisper teeming with root vegetables

Farmer Dave reckons he saves us something like 30 – 40% over buying the produce in a store. There are several ways in which this is a completely useless calculation. For example, I have never once seen some of my favorite veggies in a store. Romanesco? Garlic scapes? Purslane? Amazingly, Stop & Shop does not stock these delicious offerings. (Of course, they’ve also never inflicted kohlrabi on me.) But it’s very difficult to use all your weekly onslaught of produce. (Did I mention we got fresh sweet corn in NOVEMBER this year?! Craziness!) I would never, in the normal course of things, buy nearly as much produce as Farmer Dave brings me every week. And that’s a bit of the point, my friends. We eat SO MUCH MORE produce in order to be able to see the fridge light again than I normally would. And that’s great for all of us.

I adore garlic scapes. They’re basically scallions, but for garlic. Also, they look like hydra heads.

So if you’re interested in kohlrabi, contact me and I’ll send you mine. Otherwise, if you’d like romanesco, herbs, root veggies, garlic scapes, greens and a wide variety of foods-not-found-in-stores, now is the right time to sign up for the 2015 Farm Share! I find the small vegetable share is enough, and I combine it with a fruit share. (Mmmmm fruit.) Farmer Dave has pick up locations all across Massachusetts. If you aren’t near Farmer Dave, there are CSAs available in most regions now!

Ooh look! Is that arugula?!

Meanwhile, I’m personally looking forward to a few months where the only produce in my crisper is stuff I actually bought on purpose and know how to use. We get to eat asparagus (which Farmer Dave does not yet produce) and tropical fruits! I can buy frozen veggies that are pre-cut! I know that by June I’ll be dying for some fresh local goodness, but for now… bring on the bagged spinach!

Bring on the heat


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Heating in 2+ hours… or never.

I woke up yesterday morning to a cold house. I contemplated whether my son figured out how to open his heat vent and steal the heat back into his room (after we’ve rightfully stolen it into ours)… but no. Too cold. The hallway was cold too. The heated floor in the bathroom couldn’t get up to temperature against the chill of the air. I went downstairs praying the battery in the NEST had just died, but no. It was the furnace. We had quick and chilly morning ablution with two icicle-boys eating breakfast in their coats. I called my amazing furnace company Royal Air Systems, and they sent someone right away. This hero of heating replaced something as part of my plan, then checked back an hour or two later. No dice – it still wasn’t working right.

At 7 pm last night he was just leaving my house, having ordered a part from the warehouse. “I adjusted your furnace manually, so the pipes won’t freeze. But please, don’t sleep in the house with those boys. There’s a chance there might be Carbon Monoxide.” Right. Cold temperatures I can handle, but even with CO monitors throughout the house, I’m not a fan of dying in my sleep. The boys were thrilled, THRILLED to have a sleep over with our kind next door neighbors, who opened their home to us last night. They were awfully cute together this morning!

The furnace news is not good. Either it needs to be replaced like today, or it needs to be replaced really soon. If it has to be replaced, it’s entirely possible I’ll need to impose on my friends’ hospitality for another night. (The kids are rooting for this outcome, since they think their sleepover is SO COOL.) I’m cheering for really soon since I am not a fan of snap purchases. My beloved husband is also – conveniently for him – traveling this week, so it’s all on me.

I would say something cheerful about how times like this make me feel lucky because I have such amazing friends, and am capable of handling projects, and am impressed as heck with my service provider, and lucky enough that we can postpone our planned home improvement project (the freaking windows) and do this instead but… I don’t feel 100% and it’s a gray rainy nor’easter outside and I’m not feeling cheerful. So bah humbug!

UPDATED: Just got the call from my dude. He managed to fix the part that needed fixing. He checked on the part that that might have required a new furnace and it’s ok. He ran tests on Carbon Monoxide, and there is none. So we can go home and sleep tonight in a warm house and not die. Yay! We probably need to replace the furnace this year – likely in January. But I don’t have to do it like today. YAY YAY!

And the total out of pocket with my service plan? Not a single red cent. $0. No invoice. The parts alone cost $700 and the dude was there for HOURS and it cost me nothing. YAY YAY YAY!

Liturgically Red Winter


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Three years ago, in December, I stood in the sanctuary I was raised in, confirmed in, married in. I was dressed in red, and slung my trumpet up to play “Thaxted” (from Holst’s planets). It was in celebration of a rare sacrament – a once in a life sacrament. My brother was being ordained, and the spirit of the Lord was with him as it was in Pentecost.

On January 3rd, I will stand once again in that century-old sanctuary with the view of Mt. Rainier. I will be dressed in red. I will sling my trumpet once more, and play Thaxted. It will again be for a once-in-life ceremony. My brother and his bride will become husband and wife on that day.

My l33t photography skills failed to get a single picture of them with all their eyes open, but you get the idea.

My l33t photography skills failed to get a single picture of them with all their eyes open, but you get the idea.

Guys, that’s pretty awesome. I’ve had the chance to meet my brother’s intended (who has been patient enough to put up with me calling her my “sister-in-law-elect”). She’s fantastic. I could go into details, but that would probably be bragging on my part. Let’s just say that she’s a Space Lawyer (working on becoming a Space Doctor because just one 7 year degree isn’t enough) and – best of all – she loves my brother. Also, I’m currently batting 1000 for her bringing me donuts when she comes. And there’s an extremely cute Beagle that comes into the family with the ceremony.

I’m really looking forward to spending the Holiday Interregnum with my family, in Washington State. That weekend ordination aside, we don’t all make it home for Christmas very often. (My parents, souls of gracious practicality that they are, encourage us to come home for Camp Gramp instead, which is at our convenience.) We’ll be there for about 10 days, with a mix of chillaxing, weddinging, taking off with my own husband, staying together and generally being a family. The older I get, the more I appreciate both the family of my birth, and the combined family of my married life. It seems rare to luck out on both sides!

So a little googling reveals that there’s actually a lovely wedding hymn set to Thaxted. I’ll leave you with this lovely thought:

We pledge to one another,
before the Lord above,
entire and whole and perfect,
this union of our love —
a love that will be patient,
a love that will be wise,
that will not twist with envy,
nor lose itself in lies;
a love that will not falter,
a love to hold us fast,
and bind us to each other
as long as life shall last.

We pray that God will guide us
through all the years to be,
our lives be shaped by courage,
hope and serenity.
Through joy and celebration,
through loneliness and pain,
may loyalty, compassion
and tenderness remain,
that those who share the blessing
of love that cannot cease
may walk the paths of gentleness
into the place of peace.

(Youtube for those of you who can’t immediately come up with the hymn tune… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2rednwDOd8)

The Birthday of Ten Thousand Pieces (or Thane Turns Six)


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Thane as a gigantic, nearly grown person

At some point after Thane’s birthday, I did a mental count of the number of individual pieces he got. Two tubs of Perler Beads (one regular and one glow in the dark) – 12,000 pieces. 200 piece puzzle. Four Lego sets (~1000 pieces). Box of actual sand (gazillion pieces). In truth, it was probably the birthday of 20,000 pieces, but that’s far less poetic.

Scientist Thane investigates the shells.

It is, however, very much Thane. From the first, he would patiently try to force tiny fingers into minute actions far too finicky for toddlers. He would try persistently, over and over, until he got it to his satisfaction. He still does. He sat down and did two “6 – 12″ Lego sets, back to back. He created completely symmetrical designs with his beads. He has this capacity for quiet, by himself play that still astonishes me.

He holds his own with the big brother contingent.

One of his favorite gifts from his birthday was a Science Kit. For quite a while he was going to be a Chef/Scientist/Judge. He’s sort of settled on Scientist now, so he was super excited for the Science Kit. As we walked to the Library on Monday, he told me about how his laboratory was going to be right next to the Library so he could get science books to do experiments. It was an awesome plan.

Even on a cold October day, I could not keep Thane out of the water.

I asked Thane the other day (in a fit of trying out various cameras) how Kindergarten was going. He said, “Well… it’s so-so.” He’s actually doing very well. His writing is emerging out of appalling and into almost legible. (That whole forcing your hands to do the small motor things you desperately want? He’s never really wanted to write legibly.) He writes his full name, which still looks strange to me. (He went through a phase of wanting to be called “Nathan” at home. Although I like the name Nathan very much, I was pleased that he wasn’t very adamant and I still get to call him my sweet Thane.) He does not like to color much, I think. His reading is coming well. The books he can read get longer and harder, although it still seems very tiring to him. He is making good friends at school, and has emerged with a new best friend (whom I haven’t even met yet!)

His creations are usually very innovative.

We’re currently between obsessions. He told me, disdainfully, that he doesn’t like Scooby Doo. DOESN’T LIKE SCOOBY?!?!?! He’s spent most of his life completely obsessed with Scooby. There isn’t a Scooby episode, toy, book, spinoff series or live action theater event in the last four years that we haven’t been in the throes of. No Scooby? He’s always had an area of massive interest: Scooby, puzzles, dinosaurs. Legos, of course, persist. I have to guess that he’ll discover a new passion soon. Perhaps Science?

He’s just about too big to swing.

Soccer this fall went much better than in the Spring. This year, he was a big kid who actually kind of knew what he was doing. (Attending each of his big brother’s practices was a completely unfair advantage overlooked in second sons.) He’s incredibly tough and shrugs off physical discomfort. He ran fast and strong, although he does not seem to like the sensation of physical exertion. He’s looking forward to it in the spring, which is indeed progress!

He loves games. He’s been working his way on reading all the cards in King of Tokyo.

He’s still a homebody. He’d far rather hang out in his room doing Legos than go on whatever crazy adventure you’re proposing now MOM. Once we cajole him into the adventure, though, he usually ends up enjoying it quite a bit. He’s still often very glad to return to his own bed and his own Puppy. For a long time we were putting he and Grey to bed at the same time. Now we’ve separated the boys’ bedtimes, he falls asleep much more quickly and easily. He doesn’t even protest the injustice as much as, well, I would’ve at his age.

Making the best of a beach closed due to thunder

Thane is still, to my joy, young and snuggly. He’s shy in the face of new people. He holds my hand with this fingers interlaced through mine. He never walks – he bounces, jumps, spins, hops, drags or dances whenever he moves. He likes to play the “line game” which involves jumping over lines and ignoring the fact you’re about to run into traffic. He giggles when you blow on his belly and tells wild tales about how he thinks reality should work (“I don’t think there should be other planets. It’s unfair!”). He sings to himself while he plays. He asks questions, repeatedly, to which he knows the answer without listening for your response. He thinks its hilarious to wear his underwear on his head, but is grown enough to only do that with clean underwear. He carries his heart in his smile, and my heart in his every small, unconscious act of joy.

We’re going to have a great year together, kid.

Thane and his two best preschool friends

PS – I have up pictures from the end of October! You can See them here!


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