November 30, 2012

At the twilight's last gleaming

Tonight, my husband and I went downtown to watch a professional soccer game. Well, to be honest, we weren’t actually there to watch soccer. Unlike the hundreds of sports fans who crowded into the stands, we went mostly to hear the national anthem. It was sung by three high school kids — two girls and my son With-a-Why.

I wondered he’d be nervous singing in front of a couple thousand people. I think I would have been. When the announcer said, “Please rise for the national anthem,” everyone in the stadium stood up, went silent, and stared right at the three kids. If it was me, I would have turned and run from the field. But all three kids seemed completely calm. With-a-Why stood at the microphone just as if he was standing in our living room and sang his part in a clear voice.

With-a-Why was a shy child, and as a teenager, he’s still pretty quiet. He doesn’t talk unless he has something to say. But he’s not the least bit shy when he sits down at the piano, or stands up to sing. Music has transformed him from the kid who used to hide behind his hair to the poised, self-confident young man who has played piano for many recitals and has sung solos in front of crowds.

With-a-Why has many different talents -- he's smart, creative, athletic, and artistic -- and I have no doubt he will succeed at anything he does in life. But music is the passion that pulls him out of his shell, challenges him, and makes him believe he can be part of something larger than himself.



 Shaggy Hair Boy, making breakfast.

November 27, 2012

Le réveil

You’d think that students and faculty on a college campus would all be rested and relaxed after a nice Thanksgiving break. But no, that’s not how it works. That week off is a mirage. When you’re approaching it, the week beckons with the promise of a desert-like expanse of time for those projects you’ve been putting off. But alas, no one ever gets done the work they thought they were going to. When Thanksgiving week is over, and the cold reality of the work week hits, students and faculty alike come back to campus with long to-do lists, heaps of guilt, and very little holiday cheer.

Thanksgiving doesn’t give students enough time to really catch up on sleep or work. Nope, they really just have enough time to go back to their home communities and exchange viruses, which they bring back to campus to share. So yeah. It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and everyone on campus is sick, sleep-deprived, and overwhelmed. The dark, cold evenings we get in November don’t help one bit.

The one bright spot I had today was during class. A group of students were doing a presentation about educating children to connect with nature. Even though it was cold, the students insisted we all go outside for the first ten minutes of the presentation. “Because that’s our point,” said Long Brown Hair. “All education should include the outdoors.” We huddled together near a cemetery filled with trees and tombstones. Red Beard asked us to close our eyes, and he led us through what he called a “Senses Meditation.”

First we had to listen. I could hear the wind pushing the bare tree boughs, the breathing of the students on either side of me. Then we were asked to taste. The sweet taste of the grapes and cereal I eat between classes was still inside my mouth. Then, while holding those sensations in our mind, we had to smell. The wind brought me the scent of dead leaves and of mud, plus a whiff of laundry detergent from the jacket of the student next to me. Just as Red Beard got to the part where he asked us to feel sensations on our skin, the sun came out from behind the clouds. I could hear the sighs around me as we all turned our faces towards the warmth.

That meditation was the best ten minutes of my day.

November 24, 2012

A kiss is still a kiss

View from the front porch

We woke up this morning to snow. We didn't get much, but still the weather was cold enough to send me out to the garage for an armful of logs. We've spent the last few days eating, talking, and playing games by the fire. I saw no reason to change that pattern.

It was a good day to make soup from leftovers. I searched through the refrigerator to find some leftover squash that Shaggy Hair Boy had roasted, a bag of leeks from our CSA, and some celery stalks. I grabbed some potatoes, onions, and apples from the counter, chopped everything up, and then threw in a bunch of spices. There's really no way to make soup wrong.

When With-a-Why arrived home from his voice lesson, he had his girlfriend Shy Smile with him -- and two bags of groceries. "We're going to make soup," he announced.

"Two different kinds," Shy Smile said. She'd brought her mother's recipes with her.

I moved my pot of soup to the back burner. "I'm done with the kitchen," I said. "You can use the two front burners." You can never have too much soup.

Dandelion Niece and Taekwondo Nephew joined us around the table for the game where everyone writes names of famous people on slips of paper and then we have to guess them in teams. "We've been told not to eat here," Tawkwondo Nephew said every time I offered him food. "We're supposed to eat at Grandma's house."

"I love that everyone's cooking so much," said Boy-in-Black as he finished a bowl of soup.

Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Sailor Boy arrived with a big tin of homemade cookies. Sailor Boy's family, who live in our town, always spend the Saturday after Christmas making huge batches of Christmas cookies, an event that we usually benefit from. They're sugar cookies, decorated with icing and sprinkles. I put on the kettle for tea.

Taekwondo Nephew and Dandelion Niece gave us hugs as they left. "We're driving back home after we eat supper at Grandma's house," Tawkwondo Nephew said.

"We'll see you again at Christmas time!" everyone called as they headed out the door.

Shaggy Hair Boy has a job Monday night, so he settled down at the piano to practice. He'll be playing for an older crowd so we heard stuff like  As Time Goes By, After You've Gone, and Rose Room. Boy-in-Black found a trivia game online so as many people as possible crowded around him on the couch, everyone shouting out answers while he typed as fast as he could. I think our household must have the record for how many people we usually manage to fit on one couch.

When we heard a knock on the door, everyone knew who it was. Quick is the only extra who ever knocks — everyone else just walks in. That's one of the nice things about Thanksgiving week: all of our college-age extras are home.

Our downstairs is one big room so there's not much privacy. Luckily, none of the young couples are at all self-conscious. When With-a-Why and Shy Smile were cooking, I looked over to see that they'd put down their knives and were dancing by the stove.

Dancing in the kitchen

November 22, 2012

Food, conversation, and a dramatic haircut

My husband had to work yesterday, but the rest of us were in holiday mode.

Shaggy Hair Boy has been on a cooking streak. We get two bins of vegetables from the CSA farm each week, which means we often have piles of leftover veggies on the counter and in the refrigerator. Shaggy Hair Boy decided to tackle the squash, onion, and brussel sprouts. He went on the internet to find a recipe so that he had a general idea of what ingredients to use. Soon he was chopping every thing up, adding a glaze made of oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices, then putting it all in the oven to roast.

 Boy-in-Black, who finished his research paper earlier this week, decided to relax by taking apart Blonde Niece’s computer, which had crashed. He got out his set of little screwdrivers and soon her laptop was in pieces. “I hope you can save all the data,” Blonde Niece said, “because if not, I’m screwed.”

I got out my favorite jigsaw puzzle and dumped the pieces out on our large wooden table. Jigsaw puzzles are perfect for a family who likes to hang out and talk. When Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Sailor Boy arrived, they sat down at the table to help me with the puzzle. Well, Sailor Boy began working on the puzzle, while my daughter grabbed a fork and began eating from my plate of food.

Shaggy Hair Boy and Smiley Girl left to drive back to her family’s hometown: she wanted to be home for an event she calls Pie Night. It’s a tradition each year for her friends from high school to get together the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and spend the whole night making pies. Judging from the photos that get posted on facebook each year, the night includes lots of joking and silliness as well as serious baking.

My daughter baked sugar cookies, decorated with little candy pieces, which made the house smell nice. With-a-Why and Shy Smile snuggled in their usual spot on the end of the couch, playing music and watching clips on his laptop. When my husband came home, he joined them for an episode of the Walking Dead, which meant that this cosy scene was punctuated by the sound of zombies getting killed.

We ended the day with a haircutting party. Boy-in-Black and my daughter only needed trims, but With-a-Why’s hair was all the way down to his waist. I offered to take him to an actual haircut place for the dramatic haircut, but he shrugged and said, “No, you do it.” My kids all think it’s stupid to pay money for a haircut, and the fact that I don’t really know how to cut hair doesn’t stop them from asking me to do the honors.

Everyone gathered around to watch me cut With-a-Why’s hair – it was pretty much the most exciting thing that had happened all day. He decided to donate his hair, so I tied it into four ponytails, and then just snipped each one off. The crowd exclaimed as the ponytails came away. His thick, dark hair stuck out in all directions. He looked to me just like the anime character L from the show Death Note. 

“You’re so cute,” my daughter said. “It looks so good.” Shy Smile was nodding in agreement.

I measured the ponytails that now lay on the table. “Eighteen inches of hair to donate.” I loved how crazy With-a-Why’s hair looked, sticking out in all different directions, but he wanted more of a normal haircut, so I set to work snipping it off, evening it up. His hair is baby fine and straight, but there’s lots of it, and the more I cut, the more hair there seemed to be. Soon his chair was surrounded by piles of dark hair.

By the time Film Guy arrived, the floor had been swept and the jigsaw puzzle was almost done. My daughter poured glasses of milk and cider so that we could finish the cookies. I pulled the lamp at the end of the couch over to the table, and we gathered around to finish the puzzle. Then it was time to go to bed, to rest up for another day of eating and talking.

November 19, 2012

Standing in a rainbow


It’s 31 miles, but it’s a mostly familiar drive. It’s along the route I take to the monastery, a landscape of red barns, cornfields close-cropped for the winter season, and woods that fill steep hillsides. I passed the turn-off to the small mountain where I used to ski and snowboard with my kids. I passed the little white church where I attended the funeral for my friend Ornithologist Guy. Then I followed the emotionless voice of my GPS to the foster home where Biker Boy lives now.

“I used to come out this way as a teenager,” I told Biker Boy, after he’d gotten into my car and buckled his seat belt. Ski resorts used to make money in the summer by running cement chutes down the sides of the mountain. We’d pay money to ride the chairlift up and then careen down the mountain in these wheeled carts that went crazy fast. I suspect lawsuits are what put an end to the alpine slide: people were always getting hurt.

“But it was fun,” I told Biker Boy. “You would have loved it.”

He grinned. “I know! And I wouldn’t have minded getting hurt.”

Even though it’s November, the sunlight shining down on the hills made for a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. Biker Boy’s newest foster mother — who seemed pleasant and grandmotherly — said he didn’t need to be home until 4:30 pm so we had the whole afternoon to spend outside. We stopped at the little convenience store in the center of town to buy fruit and chocolate. Snacks are a necessary part of any hike I take.

“Look!” Biker Boy said in a whisper as we pulled into the parking lot. The pick-up truck next to us had a dead deer strapped to the back. We walked up to it slowly, and Biker Boy reached out to touch a dangling hoof. “It’s the first weekend of hunting season,” I told him. Another pick-up truck pulled up: this one had antlers lashed to the grill in front.

Our next stop was a place that I’ve hiked many times before. The trail includes a long boardwalk that winds through a boggy area and then eventually out along a lake. Biker Boy kept pointing out things – the green moss that appeared like magic after the summer foliage fell away, the woodpecker holes on dead tree, and a half-submerged log that looked like an alligator, although of course it wasn’t.

We found a bench in the sun and ate some of the fruit and all of the chocolate, and then Biker Boy told me about his week. I’d had a long talk with his therapist, whom I really liked. “I think you can trust Therapist,” I told him. “She reminds me of my daughter.”

He considered that. “Yeah, she is like her. But I still don’t know her very well.”

“And Dark-haired Caseworker? I like him too,” I said. “You have a whole bunch of people looking out for you.”

“I know,” he said. He leaned his head against me. “But still ….”

DSC_0650But still. He doesn’t know what his future holds, and neither do I. The foster home where he’s staying now will not be permanent.

After walking around the boardwalk, we drove to another nearby trail that runs along a creek. It wasn’t long before Biker Boy had found a stick and was poking in the water, splashing and turning rocks over. I found a tree that had fallen over the water and showed off my mad balance beam skills: Biker Boy was suitably impressed.

“It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” I asked him as we hiked along the trail. He nodded and took my hand. “You always find beautiful places.”

As we neared the end of the trail, the water noise got louder and louder. Finally, we rounded a bend and saw it – water crashing down from a steep cliff. “A waterfall!” yelled Biker Boy. “I LOVE waterfalls!”

It’s a small waterfall: the stream cascades over a lip of rock and then falls about eighty feet over boulders to the floor of the forest. What’s fun is that you can climb part of the way up. Biker Boy took the lead, scrambling over wet rocks, grabbing tree trunks to steady himself. I could hear him muttering to himself, “Come, on, Biker Boy. You can do it.”

Our goal was a little ledge, part way up, right where the spray formed a rainbow. Biker Boy got there first and he walked right into the spray, with a fine disregard for his sneakers or clothing. “You’re standing in the rainbow,” I yelled to him.

He waved me over. “Put away your camera – it’ll get wet!” I shoved the camera into my bag and joined him in the spray from the waterfall.

There was no one else around, so we both yelled and jumped up and down. Our voices echoed off the overhanging cliffs, barely noticeable beneath the sound of crashing water.

“We’re standing in a rainbow!” Biker Boy yelled. “We made it!”

We stayed until the rocks were in deep shade and drove back to the foster home, with Biker Boy taking charge of the GPS. “You just put in an address? And you can find it?” he said, fascinated.

I nodded. “Yep. That’s how I found you today."

“Anywhere? You can find me anywhere?” he repeated.

“Yep,” I said. “Just about anywhere.” He put the GPS back on the windshield, satisfied,  and then we drove back through the winding hills to his foster home.


November 18, 2012


Ah, Thanksgiving week. It’s been such a busy semester that I’ve looked forward to just hanging out at home, crossing things off my to-do list. I began yesterday by making a big pot of lentil soup, since soup is my favorite meal and snack. Besides, I’ve got portfolios to grade, and cooking is an ideal form of procrastination.

Boy-in-Black, who moved home for the week, sat at his usual spot at the end of the couch with his laptop, writing a research paper. It’s been a busy semester for him as well, and he looked like he hadn’t slept in days. His hair stuck straight up in the back, the way it did when he was a kid. “I’ll take a shower after this paper is done,” he said.

“What’s the paper about?” I asked, looking across the counter while I chopped onions and celery. Boy-in-Black clicked something on his keyboard and showed me the title of his paper: ““Minimal spanning trees at the percolation threshold: a numerical calculation.”

Um, yeah. I went back to chopping veggies.

"Maybe you should make the lentils spicy this time,” Boy-in-Black suggested. “Kick it up a notch.”

I split the lentil soup into two pots: “Here, you can take over the pot on the left. Add as many spices as you want.” Soon Boy-in-Black was over at the stove, rooting through the cupboards and refrigerator for ingredients: cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, chili powder, barbecue sauce. Hey, physicists need to procrastinate just as much as composition teachers.

That’s what we ate yesterday – plain lentil soup and spicy lentil soup, many bowls of it. I graded some portfolios, began cleaning my office, and practiced the holiday song I’m learning on the piano: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” With-a-Why went to play practice, then he and Shy Smile snuggled on the couch with a bunch of books and his laptop computer. My husband got out his laptop and spent hours catching up on work emails.

Shaggy Hair Boy went off to work: he’s helping his jazz piano teacher move stuff. Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Sailor Boy came over for a while: they’d been at a fabric store, looking at material to make curtains with. “Fabric is really expensive,” Sailor Boy reported.

My parents came by after a long walk at Green Lakes. “Lots of people with dogs,” my mother said. She was trying to get a head count for Thanksgiving dinner. Red-haired Sister and her family are coming later this week, although no one knows when.

I did get some work done – a few portfolios graded, a little writing, a little cleaning – and I played the first page of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at least 37 times. It was nice to feel relaxed and not rushed. We’ve still got a whole week ahead of us.

November 16, 2012

Rules to live by

Every kitchen needs rules

During the day, the various members of our household are mostly at work or school, so it is puzzling when I come home to find the kitchen counters filled with dirty dishes. It’s like a bunch of thirsty elves sneak in and use every glass in the house.

“How can this place possibly be such a mess?” I asked the other night in frustration.

My husband looked up as he dumped pasta into a strainer. “Well, we’ve got so many people using the kitchen, and everyone with different eating habits.”

He’s right. When Shaggy Hair and Smiley Girl are here, they’ll often tackle the box of veggies we get from our CSA farm, cooking up squash or fresh potatoes or those oddly shaped root vegetables that mystify me. With-a-Why and his girlfriend bake cookies and once, an apple pie. My husband makes goulash: that’s pretty much his go-to meal. I’m mostly likely to make a big pot of soup from whatever veggies we have on hand, with the idea that it can be eaten for any meal or even as a snack. Tall Boy seems to make pork chops a lot, which excites the cats, who swarm to the kitchen at the smell of cooking meat. Blue-eyed Ultimate Player specializes in macaroni and cheese, or any meal that can be heated up in the microwave. When Boy-in-Black is here, he mostly eats granola, fruit, and yoghurt.

“No one ever knows whether or not the stuff in the dishwasher is clean or dirty,” said With-a-Why. “It’s confusing.”

“THAT’S the problem?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “We need some kind of signal to let people know.”

The next thing you know, he was sitting on the floor in front of the dishwasher, creating a color-coded system with index cards. Blue means dirty, pink means clean, and white means in process. Then he began writing up rules. The general ideas was that all members of the household were expected to clean up after themselves, but he had a precise formula for each situation:

If there is no room for your dish in the dishwasher, you are obligated to run it. In the meantime (while it is running), rinse your dish and put it to the left of the sink. 

If the dishes in the dishwasher are clean, unload it and then put your dish in. You are obligated to unload it if you need to put your dish in and it’s clean but not running. 

If you ABSOLUTELY do not have time to unload the dishwasher when you are obligated to, you may either get someone else to do it with their consent, or you may do it when you have time. If, when you find you have the time to unload it, you find someone else already has, you must seek out said person and make it known that they can now make you unload the dishwasher at a time of their choosing. 

Big dishes must be cleaned and put away in a timely fashion by he who has dirtied (cooked in them). 

If cooking for others, you may make them clean the dishes, as you have cooked. They are obligated to obey this request if they ingest any amount of the food. 

You are obligated to move your dishes to the appropriate area (rinsed out) in a timely fashion. No leaving them around the house for extended periods of time. 

He kept adding more rules as he thought of every possible situation. Pretty soon both sides of the folder he'd taped to the dishwasher were full. Then he looked up, “Do you think it’s sufficient to use the phrase in a timely fashion? Or do I need to be more precise?”

“Um, I think that’s probably good,” I said. I had just read the rule at the bottom, which was: We reserve the right to make anyone who does not abide by these rules clean the kitchen.

He added another sign over the kitchen sink, informing all members of the household that they needed to read the rules and sign them. Then he went back to over to his spot on the couch and opened his computer to finish his homework.

November 14, 2012

New computer for an old customer

The salesman was skinny, with curly hair that hung into his eyes. He seemed awfully young, but he did a great job answering my questions. I'd already gone online to figure out which laptop I wanted so it didn't take long to choose.

"We have one in stock," he said. "Someone will bring it right out."

We chatted we waited. He seemed eager to reveal his wealth of computer experience. "I've only been working here for a few months," he said. "But I've been using Mac computers for years."

"My first computer was the Mac Classic," I told him. I saw no flash of recognition in his eyes.

"I bought it in 1991," I added.

 He flashed a shy grin. "I wasn't even born yet."

November 12, 2012

Another change for Biker Boy


“I hate how things change,” Biker Boy said to me. We were sitting at the pond yesterday, watching ducks swim on a summer day that had trickled into November by mistake. The scene was peaceful, but that’s not what was going on inside Biker Boy's eleven-year-old head.

Longtime readers know that Biker Boy used to live on my street. I’ve known him for four years. When he lived nearby, he and his little sister used to come visit me every day, escaping from a home in which he was not safe. A smart reader told me once that I should teach him my phone number – and I did. “I’ve got your phone number in my heart,” Biker Boy always says.

For the last nine months, Biker Boy has been living in a foster home on the other side of the city. It’s been a safe place for him. But it wasn’t a permanent situation. This week he will move again – to a new foster home in a small town about 25 miles away from me. The change was sudden news for him: he found out at school on Friday.

Yesterday, Biker Boy and I ate pizza because that’s our tradition. Then I asked what he wanted to do. He wanted first to come to my house. For a little while, he acted like his old self – joking around while we took zombie photos to put on twitter. Then he wanted to drive to the railroad track that we used to walk to. Then we stopped to see the little house that my older two kids rent so he could say hello to them. Then we stopped at my parents’ house.

Biker Boy is usually a high-energy kid, but yesterday he was not. After we visited everyone in my family, we drove to the duck pond and took a walk. He didn’t run around like crazy the way he usually does. I didn’t have to tell him even once not to chase the swans. He sat quietly in the sun and leaned his head against me.

“I hate change too,” I told him. I rubbed his back. Then we kept walking around the pond.

November 10, 2012

I was on twitter during the zombie apocalypse

A scary-looking zombie leapt at me, trying to bite my shoulder. I dodged just in time. Then another attacked. I cried for help and three humans came to my rescue: a former student who has all kinds of zombie-fighting experience, a friend who lives on the other side of the continent, and the other, a person I know only in virtual reality. The battle was a blur, but thanks my rescuers, I survived to see another day.

I spent the morning perched high in a tree, watching helplessly as the zombie horde swarmed through the twitterverse, biting innocent humans and converting them into hungry, mindless bodies searching for another meal. “I need to find the other humans and make a plan,” I thought to myself. But alas, I’m too impulsive. I leaped into the fray to save a friend and soon I was fighting for my life.

That’s when a text message from my sister chimed in: “Hey, what’s with all the crazy messages on your twitter account -- ?”

Twitter vs Zombies is an online game taking place this weekend on twitter. It’s based on the Humans vs Zombies game that students have been playing in real life on college campuses across the country. (Well, as “real life” as a zombie game ever is.)

Here’s the way the game goes. All but one begin as humans. Any human “bitten” by a zombie turns into a zombie. And once you’re a zombie, there’s no going back. The zombie horde keeps getting bigger, and the human population gets smaller.

Star Trek fans have no doubt heard of Kobayashi Maru, the no-win scenario that’s used as a training exercise. It’s supposed to test your character – or something like that – to be put in a situation where you just can’t win. This human vs zombies games feel a bit like that.

You know, I’ve long wondered about my students’ fascination with the zombie apocalypse. And after playing the game this weekend, I think I’m beginning to understand. The Kobayashi Maru is a relevant game to play when you look at the earth we are living on, a planet in which human influence is so large that we’ve actually changed the climate.

We’ve warmed up the planet just one degree so far– and yet, look at how disastrous it's been. This year has been filled with record-setting temperatures, droughts, floods, and weather-related disasters. Even Big City Like No Other, that invincible city, was hit with a storm that flooded subway tunnels and turned the whole south end of the island black. When it comes to climate disruption, the future for our species looks pretty grim. Forget about the zombies, we are killing ourselves with a reckless unwillingness to give up our dependence on fossil fuels.

My students haven’t given up hope, I know. Many are joining the newest campaign to fight climate disruption. But I can see how playing laser tag with zombies – or even fighting zombies in virtual reality – might be an important training for the world they are going to inherit.

November 07, 2012

The day after the election

I’d thought students on campus would be talking about the election today, but for the most part, they really weren’t. They’d been confident all semester about who would win the presidential race, and naturally, they were right.

“OF COURSE Obama was re-elected,” Green T-shirt said. “I mean, Mitt Romney? Seriously?”

They seemed pleased with the results, but not surprised. “It’s ridiculous that gay marriage was even up for vote,” said Purple Glasses. “That should be an automatic.” The students around her nodded.

What students were still talking about is the damage from the storm Sandy. Some students have family and friends back home who were affected – some without power, some without homes. Last week, there was an initial surge of relief as text messages and facebook updates brought the news that their relatives and friends were safe. This week, the phone calls are more somber as families are beginning to realize just how much damage the storm did and how long it’s going to be before any measure of normalcy returns to some of these towns.

At a meeting this afternoon, students weren’t talking about the election or gloating over victories. They had already moved to what they considered the important issue, brainstorming ways to raise money for the relief effort, ways to help their friends and families back home.

November 05, 2012

A few days of sunshine

From the kayak</

It was a brief respite. I had just a weekend in the Sunshine State. Then I had to fly home while my husband stayed on for a conference. But we had two wonderful days of sunshine and warm weather, and we made the most of it.

We went kayaking at an island state park, visited a lighthouse, explored some beaches, walked trails in the Everglades, and wandered through an amazing botanical garden. We even ate our meals outside to soak in as much sunshine as we could before returning to our own cold climate. As I walked barefoot in the sand, I kept saying dramatically, “This is the last time my feet will be warm for months.”

Everywhere we went, people were still talking about Hurricane Sandy. When the woman ringing up my purchases in the little grocery store heard where I was from, she asked immediately, “Is your family okay? After the storm?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Some family members are without power still, but everyone is safe.”

She’d lived her whole life in the islands: she’d seen any number of hurricanes. “We’re used to them down here,” she said. The woman at the next register began chiming in with hurricane stories, both women jumping back and forth between Spanish and English while they talked.

“We don’t usually get them up in the northeast,” I said. “Or at least, we didn’t used to. But I guess with climate change, things are changing.”

“Yeah,” the first woman said sympathetically. “You’re like us now.”

November 02, 2012

Sneaking away

Soon we'll be entering the winter, the season when it makes sense to stay home by the fire with a bowl of hot soup and a good book. I'm looking forward to the holidays and all the crazy stuff my family does simply because it's tradition. Red-haired Sister and her family will be coming for Thanksgiving, and I think pretty much everyone in my extended family will be here over Christmas. From mid-November to January, the house will be filled with food and company.

But the snow isn't here yet. The trees are mostly bare and the nights are cold, but we still have a few fall days left. I'm sneaking off for a weekend away with my husband, time for just the two of us to spend together before the winter begins.