The Oysterville Sewing Circle…and a socially distant NH getaway

What would you do with six hours of time just to yourself? That’s a no-brainer for me. Read and drink tea.

We took a quick two-night trip to New Hampshire last weekend. Tom had a wedding to shoot on Saturday, which left me with six or seven hours of alone time in our Airbnb condo, and no responsibilities. I thought briefly about checking in to my work email, but quickly dismissed that idea.

Aside from a quick walk to the nearby plaza for gelato, I spent most of the afternoon and evening sitting on our balcony reading. I’d brought along the Zen tea as a companion to the book I was reading: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I have to say, I didn’t love that one, and after a chapter, I put it aside in favor of “The Oysterville Sewing Circle” by Susan Wiggs.

After her fashion career hits disaster, Caroline inherits her friend’s two small children, and retreats from New York City to her hometown in Washington. Caroline builds a new life with the help of her family and friends, old and new.

Underlying everything is the shadow of her friend’s abuse and subsequent death. Caroline, in an attempt to understand and to help the kids, reaches out to other survivors of domestic abuse and the Oysterville Sewing Circle is born.

There is a lot about women supporting each other in this book, and that is something I have been fortunate to have in my life. Coming from a large family of pretty strong women, I have never felt like I couldn’t ask for help if I needed it. (Although not asking for help is a bit of a family trait.) It was nice to see Caroline both accepting support and giving it to the women in her family and community.

Overall rating for this book: 3 stars (out of 5)

Reason for reading: I’ve been a fan of Susan Wiggs for quite a while, and have read several of her books

This copy came from: my sister Erin, who is one of the major feeders of my book addiction. We swap books often.

Favorite line: “Ice cream is not as good as a shot is bad.” (I loathe needles and totally agreed with 6-year-old Flick.)

Tea: Tazo Zen Tea – perfect for an afternoon of solitude and calm.

The rest of our trip to New Hampshire was mostly focused on beer and food. Lunch at Schilling Beer Company in Littleton was our first time dining out since March. We sat outside and I had a Berlinerweisse with raspberry syrup. It went perfectly with the soft pretzel and poutine we shared for lunch. It may have been the best poutine I’ve ever eaten, but how can you go wrong with french fries drowning in brown gravy and chunks of Cabot cheese?

After checking in to our Airbnb, we hit up Aloto Gelato for coffees and took a sight seeing ride down the Kancamagus Highway, followed by dinner at the Woodstock Inn and a night of beers on the balcony. Despite warnings of bear sightings in the area, I am sad to say, we didn’t see any this trip.

Saturday brought a mellow morning with White Mountain Bagels for breakfast and a walk along the Pemigewasset River before Tom headed off to the wedding and I settled in for my afternoon of solitude.

It’s a little odd to be looking for solitude while we have all been quarantining for so many months. But as an introvert, I need my alone time to turn off my brain, not talk to anyone, and recharge my mental batteries.

Our attempts to hike on Sunday morning were thwarted by the weather, so we changed up our plans and made a lunch reservation at Stoneface Brewing Co in Newington. I was happy to just sit outside, drink a beer, and eat a burger and fries. Their Farmhouse Noir was my favorite beer of our trip.

One other highlight of our trip – we hit the NH Liquor & Wine Outlet to stock up on Cabot Trail Maple Cream Liquor. You can’t get it in RI, so a trip north always means stocking up on some maple cream, both for us and for the rest of the family. They only had 4 bottles (which I bought), and when I asked if they had more, the clerk’s response was “More? Is it that good?”

Yes. It’s that good. It’s nice on it’s own over a little ice, and it’s even better in coffee.

A quick trip, after so many months of being home, was exactly what we needed. And yet, we were happy to be back in our own space at the end of the weekend. We’re stocked up on beer and maple cream and I’ve gotten the motivation to restart this blog. So it was definitely a worthwhile trip.

Stay tuned for future book and tea reviews…

Summer fun and a fictional interlude

It’s been a busy summer, and most of my writing time has been devoted to fiction. I am four and a half chapters into the novel I’ve been meaning to write for years. Is it the Great American Novel? Probably not. But I’m writing it anyway.

Aside from that, I’ve been trying to catch up on my reading goals. As of today, according to Goodreads, I’ve read 84 books so far this year, which puts me 11 books behind schedule to get to 155 by the end of the year. I’ve also been working on the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge – I’ve got 5 books left to go to finish that up.

Hiking and photos at Black Point with Tom

In between reading and writing and working, there have been lots of other activities to keep me busy. June was mostly rain and more rain. But I did get a sunny vacation day hike at Black Point followed by lunch at Iggy’s. I ended my vacation night with “Dips and Del’s” – this month’s alternative to bunco. Everyone brought a different dip – savory or sweet – and we had a fun night of eating and game playing…many laughs as usual.

Peanut Butter Cup Imperial Stout at Trillium

July started with a few days off over the holiday and a weekend trip to Boston with Tom to see Phish at Fenway. A visit to Trillium – and their Peanut Butter Cup Imperial Stout – kicked off the afternoon, followed by lunch at Row 34. A rain delay at Fenway held up the start of the show, but our grandstand seats were nice and dry and I enjoyed watching the lightning out beyond the park. It was a great show, including Wolfman’s Brother – one of my favorites. I’ll be honest, I’m kind of a Phish fan by marriage. I like them, but I’m not really a jam band girl…my mind wanders too much and next thing I know I’m writing a blog post in my head instead of listening to the music.

The following week brought a concert of a different kind – Mom and I headed to The Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid and knew him only as the guy who sang that Popeye song. He put on a two-hour show without a break. It got me thinking a lot about my taste in music and how much I really do love rock and roll. Stay tuned for a future post about that.

The Great Nana Special

I had another vacation day in July – a summer pool day and bunco at Mom’s – another crazy day and night of family and fun. The bunco girls teamed up for a special gift of “16 treats” for my nephew Ryan’s 16th birthday. Always one of my favorite nights of any month. As usual, the food was fabulous and I helped myself to the Great Nana special – a little bit of everything at dessert.


Another highlight of July was Hamilton at the Providence Performing Arts Center. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack obsessively for ages so it was a thrill to be able to see the show. We had pretzels for dinner at Malted Barley before the show – it’s a quick and easy walk from the theater and the food is fantastic! I’m slowly working my way through “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, and hearing snippets of the soundtrack in my head as I read. (Photo of Ally and Ryan posted with their permission…not that any of their friends are likely to see it.)

Looking forward to August being a bit more mellow – although I’m missing this year’s trip to the Jersey Shore because I couldn’t get this week off. Hopefully next year we’ll finally get our pizza delivered to the beach, Jamie!

Tom has gone with his brother to visit their parents in Alabama, so I’m on my own this week. Reading, writing and eating all the food I know Tom doesn’t like while he’s away. I’m on a mission to clean sweep the house too…already have two bags of clothes to donate. We’ll see how long I drive them around in my car before I finally drop them at the St Gregory’s clothing shed.

It’s been a bit of an adjustment for me this year, not taking most of my vacation time in the summer. Not being tied to the high school calendar any more has freed up my vacation availability somewhat, so I took the week of Columbus Day in October, which just happens to include my birthday. That will be a nice break, but in the meantime it’s been a long hot summer with not much down time. I’ve got the last week of August booked for vacation and I’m very much looking forward to it. Stay tuned!

Everything I need to know, I learned from Trixie Belden

I never liked Nancy Drew. I dabbled with the Hollisters, the Bobbsey Twins, and Cherry Ames. I even read one or two Vicki Barr mysteries. But the teenage detectives that I loved the most were Trixie Belden and her friends, the Bob Whites.

I first read most of the series as a pre-teen and wanted nothing more than to be a Bob White myself. I’ve done multiple re-reads of them since. Mom and Auntie Denise had read the books themselves and between them, bought me most of the series at the first Building 19 store. I recently passed my collection on to my niece Lena, who is now a third generation Trixie fan. We’ve been reading them together, and are currently up to book 10 – The Marshland Mystery.

And, ok, I didn’t actually learn everything I need to know, but I did learn a lot from Trixie and friends. For example, from the very first book (The Secret of the Mansion), I know what to do if someone is bitten by a poisonous snake. I won’t be the one sucking the blood out, but I can tell you how to do it.

I learned genetics in The Mysterious Visitor – two blue-eyed parents can’t have a brown-eyed child. Knowing this fact helps Trixie solve the mystery of her friend Diana’s impostor uncle. A few books later, when the Bob Whites visit Di’s real uncle in The Mystery in Arizona, I was fascinated to read about The Day of the Dead.

The Bob Whites traveled a lot, always learning something new and solving a mystery. In The Mystery at Bob-White Cave I learned the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. (Stalactites hang from the ceiling, stalagmites build up from the floor.) One of my particular favorites of the travel books is The Mystery of the Queen’s Necklace – in which some of the Bob Whites travel to England. It featured both genealogy and Shakespeare, two subjects I very much adore.

It was not until a few years ago that I realized that my love of the “bad boy” in fiction stems from the Trixie series as well. Dan Mangan, former gang member, joins the Bob Whites in book 8 – The Black Jacket Mystery. From that moment on, he was my favorite character. With his slightly dark past and broody demeanor, it’s a short step from Dan to, say, Heathcliff or Mr. Darcy.

I’m not alone in my love of Trixie and her companions. There are numerous fan fiction sites featuring the grown up Bob Whites. I will confess I read a lot of them. In many cases, the Bob Whites are paired up in the couples that the books imply. Trixie is most often matched with Jim Frayne, her supple redheaded neighbor. But in my head, Trixie tires of Jim being “honorable all over the place,” and ends up with Dan.

It’s all speculation, of course, because the series ended after 39 books. It would be wonderful if some publisher would continue the series, probably with an update to modern times. Or a sequel series featuring the children of the Bob Whites. Something like that, as Honey Wheeler would say, would be “perfectly perfect.”

In the meantime, I’ll continue reading the old books and the new fan fiction. I may even try my hand at my own. And I will continue, as I often do in trying situations, to ask myself “what would Trixie Belden do?”

May in review

I did not post much in May as, quite frankly, I’ve been in a bit of a funk for a while. I attribute a lot of that to the weather – it was a particularly gray and rainy spring here in Rhode Island. It’s generally a mood that hits me in February, and I thought I had skipped it this year. But, I did spend a good portion of May wallowing on the couch, not wanting to do very much. I think I’ve come out the other side of that, though.

And, since I’m up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to try and get Hamilton tickets at PPAC, I thought I’d review my May reading while I’m waiting for my turn in the virtual waiting room. So…for anyone who’s keeping score: books read in May: 12, books read year-to-date: 60, books behind schedule: 3.

In keeping with my mood, I read a lot of books last month with heavy subjects. Oddly, though, some of them were my highest rated reads. I had three “four star” books this month: “The Snow Gypsy” by Lindsay Jayne Ashford, which was about a woman searching for her missing brother after WWII, who connects with a family of gypsies as her search takes her to Spain.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini told the story of two women in Kabul, set mostly in the 90s and early 2000’s. This one was on my to read list for quite a while, and I’m glad I finally read it, but it was brutal. Still one of the best books I’ve read in a while, though.

My third 4 star book was “Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris – the first Hannibal Lecter book. I have seen (and been terrified by) the movie, and I have to say it is pretty true to the book. There is one scene that has always haunted me and I got goose bumps reading it. For anyone who has seen the movie, I’ll just say – “Do you see?”

Pretty much everything else I read in May was a 3 star book. Interestingly, a few of them came from a box that I rescued from a minor basement flood when our water heater let go. “Red Dragon” was in there, but I also discovered Steinbeck’s “The Winter of our Discontent” and “The Wind is My Mother” by Bear Heart.

“The Wind is My Mother” was interesting, but it struck me more for the memory of where it came from. There used to be a store called Buck-A-Book which was, as the name implies, a store where every book was a dollar. I purchased a lot of books during the short time it was here.

I had two Robyn Carr’s this month – “The Summer That Made Us”, about a family of cousins reuniting at their family’s lake house, and “The Best of Us” – book 4 in the Sullivan’s Crossing series. Another good installment in that series, but I had one complaint – overuse of the word “prolly.” It’s not really a word in my opinion, although I acknowledge that people say it. But Sully’s character said prolly in virtually every conversation he had, sometimes more than once. It was very frustrating and almost made me stop reading. I’m all for using slang in writing, but this was prolly overkill.

Because we briefly reinstated our subscription to HBO in order to watch the last season of Game of Thrones, I also read and watched “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. I enjoyed the book – it was suspenseful and had great character sketches of each of the women portrayed. I didn’t love the tv series. It was ok, but some of the changes from the book seemed unnecessary. I’m sort of ambivalent as to whether I will watch season 2 before we give up HBO again.

So there’s a recap of my reading highlights for May. And since I seem to be more inclined to write again, I hope to be a more frequent poster in June. Stay tuned…

You may say I’m a dreamer…

…and you’d be right. I have always had very vivid dreams, and most of the time I remember them. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that a lot of people either don’t dream or don’t remember them. I need to put a notebook beside my bed because some of them, I think, would make for interesting fiction.

They’re not always pleasant. I’ve had seriously scary nightmares since I was very small. A lot of the time, it’s me trying to get away from someone or something and either there’s no where to hide or I can’t run. Other times it’s something that starts out perfectly normal and then is suddenly horrifying. Either way, I wake up gasping, and have to lie in bed listening to the house noises to make sure it really was just a dream before I can relax enough to go back to sleep or dare a trip to the bathroom.

Another recurring dream is that I am back in the house I grew up in. A house that was bought by the airport and bulldozed several years ago. But for whatever reason, I’m either living in that house or back there trying to finish packing. Never mind that I wasn’t even living at the house at the time it was sold. Similar to this are dreams where I am back at my old job at the IGA, which is also no longer there.

The strangest dreams are the ones in the early morning before my alarm goes off. Often, I think I’m awake and living my daily life until I realize that something is out of place or someone is there who shouldn’t be. Or I can’t seem to open my eyes, even though I’m up and around.

My favorite, though, are the ones with visits from people I’ve lost. During my misspent college years, Uncle Art would generally appear in my dreams to warn me not to do whatever stupid thing I was planning to do. I didn’t always listen. Nana and Great Nana often show up in dreams about family functions.

My grandfather appears fairly frequently as well. It took a few Grampy dreams before I realized that in every one, either he’s handing me a cup of coffee or I am making one for him. Logically, it’s probably just my subconscious, because coffee is something I always associated with him. But there’s a part of me that is convinced that these dreams are really Gramps dropping in from the afterlife to have a cup of coffee with me and catch up. I look forward to those the most.

April showers…

Bring May showers? Now that we are in to May, I was hoping for some nicer weather, but here in the northeast it is still pretty gray and gloomy. On the bright side, that makes for plenty of time for reading.

As I’ve mentioned before, I read a lot. My goal for the year is 155 books, and I’m currently at 48. I was kind of impressed with myself for that, until I looked at my Goodreads reading challenge and learned I’m 3 books behind schedule. Still, I read 10 1/2 books in April…here’s a recap of some of the highs and lows.

Highest rated: “Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter” by Adeline Yen Mah. I knew that girls were treated badly in China, but wow. I was appalled at some of the things her father and stepmother did. Even her siblings, who should have been allies, were awful. But, it was one of the best written books I’ve read recently.

Lowest rated: “One Day” by David Nicholls. This was a book club choice – our last topic was an epic love story, and three people suggested this one. Sadly, none of us liked it. Only a couple of us actually finished it. I had seen the movie, and I can truly say that this is one of the few times when the movie is better than the book. I thought both Dexter and Emma were terrible people and I had no interest in what happened to them.

World War II: I have a tendency to read a lot of books set in WWII. I don’t know if it’s because there are a lot of them out there, or if I am just drawn to them. Maybe I was there in a past life. I don’t know. Anyway, I read three books with a WWII connection in April. “Last Train to Istanbul” by Ayse Kulin was the best Kindle book I read this month – a story about Turkish officials trying to get their citizens out of France after the German occupation. Kate Morton’s “The Secret Keeper” bounces between modern day Laurel and her mother Dorothy during the war years, as Laurel digs into the secrets of her mother’s past to understand the horrific crime Laurel witnessed as a teenager. And “The Carlswick Affair” by S.L. Beaumont featured a modern day feud between two families, surrounding the sale of artwork stolen by the Germans during the war. Not my favorite, but it was a Kindle freebie, and I try not to judge those too harshly, as they are often put out by struggling self-published authors.

Series: I’m a sucker for a series, especially one set in a small town, and Robyn Carr’s Sullivan’s Crossing series fits the bill. I finished “The Family Gathering”, her third book set in Colorado, and have added “The Best of Us” (#4) to my TBR shelf for May. Side note, I’m very much looking forward to seeing her Virgin River series produced on Netflix. One of these days, I’m going to write one of my own…stay tuned for more on that another day.

Great Nana-ism: Elin Hilderbrand is another favorite – her Nantucket books generally appeal to me as a New Englander. I was pleasantly surprised, however, as I read “The Identicals” to come across one of my favorite Great Nana lines: “Who is she? The cat’s mother?” It was used a few times throughout the book and made me smile every time.

To be continued: As April ended, I was mid-way through our next book club read “The Last Good Heist: The Inside Story of the Biggest Single Payday in the Criminal History of the Northeast” by Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worcester. It’s the story of the Bonded Vault heist in Providence in 1975. This was the first I’d heard about the robbery, as I was quite young in ’75 and mostly preoccupied with how to take my crib back from my baby sister. It has so far been an interesting look at how things worked in Providence in the days of Raymond Patriarca and Buddy Cianci. More on this next month when I recap my May books.

In the meantime, I’m always looking for book suggestions. Read anything good lately?

Write more, stress less

That was my New Year’s Resolution this year – write more and stress less. I’ve been doing great on the “write more” part of that goal. The “stress less” part, on the other hand, has been a little more difficult.

But, for the last few months, I’ve been subscribing to Therabox, a monthly collection of stress reducing products. I’ve tried a few here and there, but for the most part I’ve been collecting them and not using them.

Tonight, with my husband out of town, and a seriously stressful week ahead of me next week, I decided to have a home relaxation night. I had a dinner of Panera mac & cheese (and can I just say that Panera offering delivery is a wonderful thing) and a glass of Cupcake Red Velvet wine.

I’m in my most comfy yoga pants and new PHACE t-shirt, and settled in on the couch with Legally Blonde on Netflix. And I’ve got three months worth of beauty products to test out.

First up – post shower, I’ve got Unicorn Whipped Body Butter. The swirl of pastel colors is pretty and my arms and legs are now silky smooth. And I smell like a candy store.

Next, the Farmer’s Touch foot cream and a big fluffy pair of socks. I made a deal with myself that I will get a mani-pedi when I hit my first goal weight, which is still several pounds away, so in the meantime, this will soften up my heels.

My two favorite products, so far, come next. First the Z Skin Extreme Moisturizer – this arrived in my first Therabox and I’ve since ordered 3 or 4 more tubes of it. My hands are usually red and dry all winter. This magic lotion is the only product I’ve found that clears them up. Here are some before and after photos:

The jade roller is fantastic for headache relief – I keep it in the fridge so it’s always nice and cold. Rolling it across my forehead makes even the worst headache a little bit better.

With several face masks to choose from, I opted for the Bubble Bubble Pop! Mask, as it seemed the best fit for a viewing of Legally Blonde. Upon opening, I discovered a foamy mask to be applied to the face. I was going to post a picture, but honestly, it made me look like Hannibal Lecter. I didn’t really enjoy the bubbling sensation – it made the mask feel like it was slipping off. I wore it for just under the 10 minutes recommended on the package, and then washed off the bubbles. That was followed up with a spritz of Modern Skyn Alchemy Shimmering Rose Moisturizing Mist which smells lovely.

Last but not least, I’ve done my nails – fingers and toes, in the Taupe Coat nail polish that came with the March box. It’s not my normal color, but I like it enough to hold me over until I lose those last few pounds and hit the nail salon.

For the record, I’m getting nothing in return for this post – it’s a purely unsolicited observation of my experience with the various products I’ve received through the Therabox subscription.

So here I am, fully relaxed on a Friday night, with my feet up and a glass of wine at hand. And despite the week coming up in my near future, I’m going to, as my sister Erin would say, “Choose to be happy.”

An afternoon in Providence

Tom and I spent the afternoon in Providence, or Downtown, as it always is in my head. And of course, when I hear the word downtown, I end up with a song from my childhood stuck in my head. One I learned from Nana or Great Nana. I forget who, but I have a memory of being bounced on someone’s knee to the following tune:

I went downtown to see my lady. Who should I meet but Kitty and the baby. Kitty was drunk, and I was sober. Kitty went “plbbt” and knocked me over.

So anyway, I went downtown, not to see my lady but to catch a Providence Bruins game. I won a four pack of flex tickets at a silent auction last spring, and we needed to use the last two tickets before the season ends. With a busy weekend planned next week, today was our last chance to see a game together.

With a little time to kill before the game, we stopped in to Malted Barley for a drink and a pretzel. Not wanting to drink a full beer, I went for the Dave’s Coffee Martini – I don’t know who Dave is, but his namesake drink was pretty yummy. I had a regular salted pretzel with beer cheese, and Tom went for the cheddar and bacon pretzel with spinach artichoke dip. Malted Barley is quickly becoming one of our go-to places downtown. Can’t beat a pretzel and dip, and their pretzel sandwiches are the best.

After our quick snack and drink it was just a short walk to the Dunk where we traded our flex passes for the best available seats:

I was a sophomore at RIC in 1992 when the Providence Bruins played their first season. Somewhere in a Rubbermaid container in my basement, among the other detritus of my college years, is a keychain replica of the first game’s ticket, along with an old bumper sticker that says “Something’s Bruin in Providence”. My suitemates and I were at opening night and many, many games after that. For the next few years, I knew the P-Bruins roster better than the Boston roster.

We would hit the games and then head over to Players Corner Pub in hopes of meeting the team. One of my friends had a crush on Mike Bales, the goalie, although Andy McKim was more my type. We never met either of them, but I did once get an autograph from Sergei Zholtok.

The games were different then – the crowd was rowdy and between periods Samboni, the ice-skating bear mascot, would fire t-shirts into the crowd. If you got there early enough, you could watch the pre-game warmups and maybe catch a puck. I once had a puck land right in front of my seat. But that was before the ceiling high nets went up around most of the rink.

There was a “mad trumpeteer” who roamed the crowd, bursting into loud trumpeting when play stopped. Every time I go to a game now, I wonder what ever happened to him. I distinctly remember a friend getting up and dancing with him when he neared our section.

The game today was a good one – and ended in a P-Bruins victory. But it was almost like the game was secondary to the other entertainment. Every stoppage of play included another song and opportunity to get your face on-screen. I’m fine with the occasional dance or even kiss-cam, but now everything is sponsored. The low point for me was when they asked the crowd to “Get silly for chili” – the silliest fan won coupons for their section for a free chili at Wendy’s. Really?

Our initial post-game dinner plan had been to try Ken’s Ramen on Washington St, but a visit to Yelp determined that it is permanently closed. So, option two was The Vig – a new-ish restaurant in the Hilton Hotel. I had heard good things and the Yelp reviews were positive.

It was pretty empty, being fairly early on a Sunday evening, and the service was spot on. The bacon caramel popcorn was fantastic!

We ordered poutine for an appetizer – it was not bad, although I felt it needed more cheese. The heavy appetizer filled us up quickly, so we were hesitant when our entrees arrived. I went with the French onion burger, while Tom opted for the bacon mac & cheese. Both entrees were ok, but not anything I’d rush back for. We took our leftovers to go, including the popcorn, which I’m looking forward to enjoying later during our latest Doctor Who binge.

So, Rhode Islanders, if you’re reading along, what are your go-to dining spots in Providence? We do most of our dining out in the Warwick area, so it’s always good to have some other ideas if we are going downtown. And there I go again…I’ll be singing that song all night.

Ever have one of those days?

You know, the kind of day when the best thing you can say about your day is that you made it through without stabbing anyone. I had one of those today.

Here are some of the things I use to shake off a bad day:

A frozen mocha…doesn’t matter from where. Starbucks or Panera are my go to but Dunkin’ will do in a pinch. Something about the chocolate and coffee and whipped cream makes everything better.

Bob Dylan’s album “Desire.” I’m pretty sure I napped to this a lot as a toddler, which I assume is why it has such a soothing effect on me. By the time I get to “Romance in Durango”, I’m usually singing along. It is also a good accompaniment to washing dishes.

A hot shower – the hotter the better. It’s really my cure for anything. Headache, stomachache, back pain, and especially a vague sense of malaise. Nothing better for washing away a crappy day.

Making stupid faces on Snapchat. I rarely actually take a picture and almost never share them. But why be in a bad mood when you can be a unicorn?

Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea. As far as I’m concerned, this stuff is calm in a mug. It’s my go to when I am worrying excessively over things that will probably never happen.

If all else fails, I remind myself, as Monty Python would say, to “always look on the bright side of life.” (You’re singing along, aren’t you?)

Tell me a story

I can’t count the number of times I said that as a kid. I still like to hear a good story. The adults in my life all obliged, in very different manners.

Great Nana’s stories were about her life, and I very much wish I had paid more attention or written some of them down. Her most frequently told story, that I recall, was about the “bums” (her word, not mine), who came off the railroad and tried to steal their chickens. Her mother would feed them so they would leave the chickens alone, but they were never allowed in the house. I don’t know why that particular story stuck with me, but I know that I spent a semester turning it into a short story for a senior writing seminar in college.

Nana, on the other hand, would simply respond to my “tell me a story” request with this: “I’ll tell you a story of Jack Anory, and now my story’s begun. I’ll tell you another of Jack and his brother, and now my story is done.” It did the job, at least until I figured out that she wasn’t really telling me anything.

Dad’s bedtime stories revolved around two sisters: Suzi and Sally. They were remarkably similar to Erin and I. Except their bedroom was always clean, they always obeyed their parents, and they never, ever, fought about stupid things like whose turn it was to turn off the light. (Seriously, Erin. You were closer!)

Grampy told some wild stories about his life, not all of which I am sure are true. But he did perfect the world’s shortest bedtime story. On the nights when I slept over his response to a story request was simply: “Once upon a time. The End.”

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