Category: Ideas

Spring is Here – Finally.

I woke up about 1/2 hour ago listening to the birds singing outside. I’m thinking they have commandeered a nest in one of the trees outside but I can’t see them, I can only hear them.

Anyhoo so I’m thinking today is the first day of Spring and it’s a wonderful way to wake up. At 7:00 my alarm goes off and I see that it’s 28 degrees outside. A little chilly for all that singing they were doing. But now it’s quiet and I’m thinking they probably just said “screw this – let’s go for cawfee” and they’re on their way to the diner down the street.. or maybe Panera.. dunno.

Spring is here, let’s all make a ruckus.

Long Ago To Now

A few days ago I was watching Jeopardy with friends. It’s become a fun way to spend the evening as, whenever we yell out the answer to a question correctly, we all yell “YAY!” – loudly. It’s inspiring to be with them because of how intelligent they all are.

Once it was over, we all walked down the hall to our respective apartments. As we walked, we talked about cable streaming services. Our 2 90-something y/o friends mentioned how much has changed since they were younger. “Back then it was only 30 cents to go to a movie and that included the cartoons and the newsreels”, one said. “Popcorn was only a nickel!” said the other.

We all reflected on how much had changed since then and how expensive it was to go see a movie now. We also discussed our amazement at the fact that you could watch movie after movie from the comfort of your own living room.

Once I arrived back home, I picked up my new guitar – a Christmas gift to myself for enduring the covid19 pandemic safely and an inspiration to stay home a little while longer and learn how to play it. On the table in front of me was my iphone with the app I used to tune the guitar and learn to play. I just needed to turn on the (phone’s) microphone so the phone could hear the strings as I played.

And then I thought about the conversation I had just had with my 90+ y/o friends.

My phone, the size of a deck of cards, sat about a foot away from me on top of a 300 y/o antique sea chest made in Boston, could pick up the sound of each string of my guitar to let me know if it was in tune by flashing a green light on the app.

I wonder what my life will be like when I’m 90?

What Will Be the Legacy of Our Nation?

Lincoln Memorial – Washington DC / S.A.Leys Photo

I took this photo sometime around 2010 ish. One of the benefits of working 12-hour shifts every Friday, Saturday and Sunday was that around 6:00am on a weekday, I could get up, grab my camera, drive into DC and get some photos of some of my favorite places without a lot of people around.

On this day, I was leaning against one of the stones on the back of the WWII memorial and looking through my viewfinder – totally in awe of the reflection of the Lincoln Memorial and the history of the Washington DC area. I now wonder about the legacy of our nation and I’m apoplectic about the fact that we can use DNA to cure cancer, wireless networks to communicate anywhere and we still can’t abolish racism and treat each other equally.

And in the words of Langston Hughes, “What happens to a dream deferred?

“How Do I Cope With The Fact That I Can’t Keep My Children Safe?” – My Lesson from 9/11/01

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On this the 18th anniversary of 9/11/01 I wish we could have a national (if not a global) debrief on where we all were and the lessons we learned. But because there is not enough room in my apartment to do this – I’ll just give you my short version.

On 9/11/01 at the point where the two planes flew into the World Trade Center, I was facilitating an orientation for the nurses and staff at Adventist Behavioral Health and teaching them about how to manage stressful situations in fast-paced healthcare environments. When I left the orientation and heard what had happened from the staff huddled around a computer, the rest of the day just felt numb and robotic.

It was a few weeks later that I came to understand the challenges we were facing.

A few weeks after 9/11, a member of the Adventist leadership team asked me to help a member of their church whose 8 y/o daughter didn’t want to go to school. She had seen several professionals already but no luck. I told her I didn’t think there was anything I would be able to do differently but she said, “look I know you like talking with children, can you just see?”

I agreed and met with her the next day.

The next day our little patient and her mom came into my office. Clearly – she didn’t want to talk to me as she buried her head into her mom’s sweater as soon as they sat down. I asked her mom about the different people they had seen, and her mom said, she wouldn’t talk and wouldn’t go to school. “I don’t think she trusts anyone” she said.

As soon as her mom said that, our young patient picked her head up and looked at me. I gently asked her “is that true? Is it hard to trust someone you don’t know?” I watched as she nodded her head up and down.

“That’s okay” I told her “I know trust is something you have to earn, right?” Again – she nodded her head up and down.
I told her it was important for us to know why she didn’t want to go to school. But that I also knew that I had not earned her trust. The only solution I had was to see if she would be willing to tell her mom why she didn’t want to go to school. When I asked her this, she agreed to whisper her reason for not going to school in mom’s ear.

I watched as she put her hand up against her mom’s ear, so I couldn’t hear her and then I saw her whispering something. Mom’s face turned pale and she started crying and gave her daughter a huge hug and said, “it’s okay honey, we’re going to all be okay”.

I asked if I could have a minute or two to meet with her mom and she agreed and one of my colleagues took our young patient across the hall to sit with her where they would still be able to see us. Mom looked at me and said “she told me she was afraid to go to school because if she left, she was afraid the terrorists would come to get her (mom). So together we developed a strategy which we hoped would help integrate her back into her classroom. Also during that time (and from working with the teachers in some of the school districts in the area and hearing their suggestions, one of the things they stressed was having kids being able to attach pictures of their families to their backpacks so that they felt they would have their family with them – at least in spirit.

But one of the most challenging and poignant conversations was with another one of the church organizations I had been consulting with when I asked the members present if there were any questions (related to the developmental issues and ideas for coping skills) I was speaking to them about. One woman raised her hand and when I called on her, she asked

“How do I cope with the fact that I can never know that my child will be safe when I send them to school?”

To this day, this question haunts me. And when I think about all of the chaos and turbulence that has and continues to take place in our country and the anger, fear and divisiveness that is present, I think that this is the issue that’s underneath all of it – the vulnerability and sadness in knowing that we are never able to know for sure that our children and families are safe. This idea haunts me – and I’m not even a parent. But the one thing I remain inspired and sometimes saddened by are the strangers who assist each other to get the help and support they need even (sometimes) at the cost of losing their own lives.

Delft

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Delft

“What the hell is delft?” I ask my mom.

We’re touring around our over 55 living community in Florida in our golf cart looking at all the homes. It’s the beginning of summer and most of the winter residents have already left. The people who live in the neighborhood year ’round have been working on fixing up their homes.

There’s one street where several small bungalows have been renovated. As we drive up the street slowly to make sure we don’t miss a thing – a door that has just been painted or a decoration that has just been installed, I say to mom “I would buy one of these homes in a minute if I could afford it.”

“They are really nice” she responds, but then scoffs at a home which has just been painted a color which is somewhere between pea green and olive. “Ugh, that’s awful,” she says, “I would never live there”.

“Come on, it has a nice yard”, I tell her.

By then, we’re further up the street. She looks over at the wooden door of one of the larger bungalows that has a pool in the back. “Nice blue color”. I say.

“It’s delft,” she responds.

“Delft? What the hell is delft?” I’ve never heard of this color. As I drive the cart a little further, I quickly scan my mind looking for the place that has all of the colors in a  Crayola 64 pack of crayons. I’m thinking midnight blue, navy blue, sky blue, blue-green, periwinkle and then off to the land of lime green, bubble gum and burnt sienna.

“There’s no such thing as delft”. I tell her. I am certain of this. Yet I’m also wondering how she would know this and more importantly, how she would remember. By the time of this tour around our neighborhood, my mom had been diagnosed with vascular dementia which had progressed rapidly. If you asked her what we had had for dinner the night before, she may have been able to remember but it would have taken her a while and she wasn’t a fan of being “quizzed”.

But the more I thought about it – back in time to several years before, I remembered that she loved designing the rooms in our home and had spent many times picking out paint, fabric, and wallpaper for not only our home but for the boat as well. Of course she knew about this color “delft” and I regretted that I had forgotten about her passion for decorating and designing.

“It’s a color that is prevalent in the Netherlands,” she tells me.  “We saw it in a lot of places when we went there, and in Denmark and Sweden as well.”

I had forgotten that she and dad had traveled to Scandinavia; I think it was one of their anniversaries when she and dad had decided to go – just the two of them.

This was the blessing of being able to care for her for the three years before she died. We were able to reconnect with each other and laugh and have great conversations like this one; but at the same time, it occurred to me how sad it was that I hadn’t been able to spend the time with her and dad that I would have loved to. And I wished that we had had more time to reminisce about the extensive traveling she and dad had done instead of worrying more about upcoming appointments, medications and making sure she had the care she needed.

As we continued to drive up one street and down the next, she continued to point out everything she could spot that was delft. By now, we were both laughing but I remember her conviction as she pointed each door or set of shingles out to me upon saying “that’s delft and that’s delft… and so is that!”

Suddenly it seemed that the entire neighborhood had transcended to Delft.

Not only was it a colorful lesson for me, but I think the #Crayola people may have some serious catching up to do as well!

The Cats Are Alright

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This is Nate. He’s my guy, named after the author Nathaniel Hawthorne. For the last threeish years, Nate and I had been living with my mom in Florida and taking care of her. She had two cats of her own, Trey and Callie (pictured below).  Trey is the oldest, a Maine Coon cat who thinks he owns the world, Callie is a little diva (who’s a year younger than Nate) and then Nate, who sort of has a personality of his own and is probably one of the most affectionate cats you will ever meet. He is a master at headbonking.

Mom and I had made a deal that if I found a new career endeavor in New England, she would move back with me as she wanted to see her friends and watch the leaves change in the Fall. Hearing her discuss this made my job search more focused as I wanted this wish to come true for her.

A few months later, I was hired and we made plans to move. Initially, she wanted to live with me but then decided that it would be better for her to be in an assisted living place closer to her friends in our hometown. I decided I would stay in the town where my new job was and then commute back and forth to visit her on the weekends.

Originally, because it was only a few days, I left Nate at home to guard the fort on the weekends I would visit her. But as mom became iller and I was spending more time with her, I decided to keep Nate with me. Together, we would drive to and from Mom’s normally listening to books on tape or podcasts along the way. He seemed to be a lot more relaxed everytime we listened to “This American Life” so it became a thing.

From our visits and conversations during the week, I thought mom was getting better. This thought was short lived however as, on a Friday when I spoke with her, I heard her coughing and realized this wasn’t the case and that the pneumonia she had developed was still present. I decided that Nate and I would head out earlier than we usually do the next morning and also called the staff and asked them to check on her that Friday night.

Early on Saturday morning, her nurse called to tell me that when she had arrived to give mom her medications, she had died.

It was news I never hoped (and wasn’t ready) to hear.

After making calls and asking for help from a friend, Nate and I got in the car and headed south to mom’s.

The next month was a foggy blur as I emptied out mom’s apartment while taking time to have a few big ugly cries as I wasn’t ready for her to leave.  And while Nate and I spent time getting things together, Callie and Trey were definitely struggling.

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S.A.Leys / Take Paws Photography

Callie is a rescue cat (her story is here). A beautiful and also very affectionate little girl who had a tendency to sleep with mom on her pillow above her head. Mom would go to bed and she would tell me “the next thing I know, Callie’s on the pillow kneading before settling down and purring while finding her comfortable spot to spend the night”.

And because she was a girl, every time one of the guys got close to her, she would growl wanting to make sure she had her space and her “mom time”.

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S.A.Leys / Take Paws Photography

Trey was the master of the house. He was “mom’s cat” and had been part of our family for several years. Even before they settled in Florida full time, Trey had traveled with them back and forth to Rhode Island. At one point, during one of their flights, she had opened his carrier to pet him during a layover at Dulles International when he decided to push by her hand and take a nice long walk along the concourse.

Mom, not wanting to scare him, followed him from behind until she could finally get close enough to grab him. Hearing her tell the story was hilarious and Trey had many events like this but usually did really well between living in Florida during the winters and on their boat with them during the summer.

But when mom died, he was lost. And while I knew that cats grieve when their owners die, I never realized how bad this grief process could be until I watched Trey for several days after her death.

The morning I arrived, mom had died but was still in her bed. What was reassuring to me was that she looked the way she always had whenever I arrived early in the morning; resting quietly looking content.

Trey was lying across the doorway to her room. It almost seemed like he didn’t want anyone to enter and didn’t want her to leave. And he didn’t move – as the nurse, and subsequently, the funeral home director went into and out of the room, he stayed exactly where he was – lying fully sprawled out, blocking the doorway, watching everything.

When the funeral home director came back with the gurney, I picked Trey up and took him to mom’s chair in the living room. I think he liked that he could still smell her presence so he stayed there… watching everything like a hawk with those big Maine Coon Cat eyes of his.

Callie, initially had hid under the bed but then followed us into the living room where her “people” were.

The following days were the worst as Trey and Callie realized that mom was no longer there. I’d watch as Trey jumped from the top of her bureau (where the clothes she had worn most recently were still in a pile) and then to her bed; he was clearly looking for her. Callie had settled into the floor of her closet where she slept on top of her shoes.

A day later, it was early in the morning when I decided to take a shower. I had closed the door when I could hear the feverish scratching of paws against the door and loud yowling. When I turned the shower off, I grabbed a towel and opened the door to see Trey – it was like you could actually see the sad, disheartened, “oh, it’s only you” look on his face.

A few days later, my brother arrived. Together we discussed Callie and Trey and keeping them together or separating them. Because Trey had been the only cat my parents had had for several years before rescuing Callie, we decided that Trey would go back to Florida with Scott and Callie would move in with Nate and I as they seemed to get along pretty well.

The next few weeks also seemed trying for Callie and Trey as furniture was donated (along with antiques and books and other belongings). What had been their home had transitioned to suitcases, duffel bags, and boxes which subsequently were taken to different places. The emptier the room became, the more confused they all appeared to be.

Because of this transition and the grief they had, I paid a lot more attention to what I was doing and made sure that we developed as consistent a routine as possible for them regarding spending time together, feeding and bedtime. I also made sure that some of mom’s clothes were available for Trey to lie down on.

On the last day, I put Callie and Nate in their carriers and took them to my car. Trey and I were the last ones to leave mom’s room. I made sure we had a conversation and a prayer about mom watching over us in heaven and then thanking Trey for being so brave before we closed the door behind us.

A few weeks later Scott returned to take Trey home with him. Watching them together going through security at the airport, I knew that both Trey (and Scott) would be happier together but I cried as I watched them leave.  Trey had endured probably one of the toughest times in his life but I knew he would be happier having all of Scott’s affection to himself and being in warm, sunny Florida where he could watch the birds play outside while watching the world go by.

And Callie and Nate have settled in well together here in our home – adjusting to their new place.

Grief is hard; but the cats are alright.

“Home is The Sailor, Home From The Sea”

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The title “home is the sailor, home from the sea” is from the poem Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson. This was how my mom would greet me whenever I would return home after being away at school. 

When my parents sold their house, they asked me if there was anything I wanted to take. The one thing I really wanted was a picture (this picture above) that had been in the attic and had a huge slash in it where the moonlight is reflected.

When I was younger, I had spent many years carrying sails up the stairs to the attic so I could hang them up to dry after an evening of sailing. Every time I would hang them up, I would turn and see this picture leaning against a table, torn and in rough shape, but reminding me of the awesomeness of sailing home in a storm.

Home to the comfort of a safe harbor.

When I discussed wanting the painting with mom, she hesitantly said she didn’t think it could be repaired. But on Christmas of that year, she and dad gave it to me (fully restored as shown here) as a Christmas gift. Mom told me she had taken it to a friend who was an antiques guy who knew a painter who restored art.

It’s still here with me – with a little extra light from the moon to find our way home.

A Legacy In A Quilt

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Of Santa Claus, Farm Animals and Beautiful Colors / http://www.SALeys.photo

I still feel nauseous when I think about it.

Two years ago, when my mom died, the assisted living facility where she lived gave me 30 days to pack her belongings and move them out of her small apartment. As much as it seemed like 30 days was a long time, it wasn’t. As we had relocated to New England from Florida, a few months prior, some boxes remained unpacked as we struggled with the transition. I felt like I had completely lost my sense of “home” and couldn’t imagine how, at 86, she must have felt during this challenging transition.

But I realized I just needed to stay in her room at the assisted living place and finish everything while we also planned a memorial service for her and my dad. Some boxes were easy. Sometimes, I knew immediately what to keep and what to donate. Other times, when I would open a closet or a drawer or look at a picture, I felt the immense sorrow and grief that went with missing mom.

Every time I opened the door to her closet and looked at her clothes, I felt sick.

My sadness went on for another week and became more uncomfortable until I knew I had to do something because I was running out of time.

I took all of her clothes out of the closet and separated the ones I could donate from the ones I knew I needed to keep because of all of the memories they carried with them. Slowly and meticulously, I went through piles and piles of clothes.

When people die, I heard that there are websites listed on the internet where you can make quilts out of clothes. As I skimmed from site to site looking, they all seemed robotic and impersonal. When I told one of the staff members at the assisted living place that I was thinking about this, she said: “I have a relative who makes quilts.. all by hand.. they’re beautiful; let me ask her”.

A few days later, she returned with a phone number and said, “she hasn’t made a lot of quilts but would be willing to help you; just call her.”

So as I sat on mom’s bed among the piles of clothes, I called her and introduced myself and asked her about her willingness to help me with a quilt. She agreed and told me about the quilts she would be able to make and asked: “are her clothes dark colors?”.

I looked around at the piles of (mostly) shirts alongside me. “No,” I told her, “there are mostly bright colors; mom loved bright colors.” I hadn’t realized how bright the colors were, or how distinct some of the patterns were. But as I looked at them, my memories came flooding back. I saw the shirt she had on when we sat on the back deck of the boat cooking dinner as we looked out over the harbor in Block Island, and then one she was wearing more recently when we cruised around the neighborhood in our golf cart in Florida. I saw the one she was wearing when we sat together on a bench eating lunch as we looked out over the intercoastal waterway watching the dolphins. That shirt was a “must-have” in the quilt because of how beautiful that day was.

Teaching mom how to take a selfie while she was wearing that “must have” shirt. / http://www.SALeys.photo

Looking at the pile of clothes and remembering those days, I realized that, as sad as I felt, everything would eventually be okay. I wasn’t sure, I felt a little better, but I still really missed mom.

“What should I do with the remainder of the clothes that I use or the ones that I don’t?” she asked. “Keep them,” I said definitively. I couldn’t explain why but the thought of some of mom’s bright colors going into making a quilt for another person – another family, seemed like a perfect idea.

Aristotle once said “the whole is more than the sum of its parts,” I felt that spreading all of the bright and dark materials, colors, and textures that mom wore broadened the perspective she brought to us all.

When I ended my conversation with my new quilter friend, the intense sadness I felt became a little more manageable.

A friend had told me about a “fluff and fold” place about a mile away, so the next morning, I filled two large duffle bags with the clothes for the quilts and dropped them off. A few days later, when they were ready, I took them to FedEx and sent them to my new favorite Quilter in Virginia. 

There were only two additional emails from the Quilter which followed our initial call. When she asked about an idea for a pattern, I sent her a photo I had of a quilt that mom’s grandmother had made for her. When we discussed size, I told her that a 60-inch by 60-inch quilt would be perfect and asked if she could make two of them, one for my brother and one for myself. I also told her to take her time as I wasn’t in a rush and knew that our loss’s most difficult memories were in good hands.  

Mom’s Grandmother’s Quilt / http://www.SALeys.photo

Six months later, I received an email informing me that our quilts were ready and on their way to my home in New Hampshire.

“I hope you like them,” she wrote.

Since sending her the two duffle bags of clothes, I had consistently thought the day I received them would be like Christmas morning. I knew I would receive a beautiful gift but had no idea how they would look.

They would be sent by a woman I’ve never met, who had agreed to preserve the legacy of someone she has never met whom I loved very much. Sometimes the world is impressive.

The quilts arrived in October. It was precisely like Christmas morning, and I couldn’t help but stare at them because of how beautiful they were (and are). I took pictures and sent them to friends as I was so impressed with the result. The hand stitching was lovely, as was the juxtaposition of color and texture in the materials used.

I told one of my friends, “it feels like I’m looking at a legacy in color and texture.” I remembered that poem, “The Dash,” about the quality of your life from when you are born until the time you die but in the form of the colors, textures, and fabric we wear. 

When I think of all of the decisions I’ve made since mom died, having our two quilts made is one I will never regret. I challenge you to consider where your thoughts go the next time someone mentions the importance of “living your dash.” If you’re like me, maybe the subsequent thoughts you have will be more related to colors, texture, and the time you had that shirt on when you did that thing that you remember because it was such a great time.

Live your life; foster your legacy.

Just Gotta Love Shirts With Zoo Animals on Them / http://www.SALeys.photo

Why I Will Never Own A Gun

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I don’t want to hear it anymore. 

I’ve seen post after post about gun rights. Who should own a gun and who shouldn’t. Here’s the thing: I will never, ever, ever own a gun.

Yeah, I know – you’ve owned guns because you’ve used them hunting in the state where you’re from. And that’s an acceptable reason to own and use a gun and yes, it’s your 2nd Amendment right and I support that.  Not a fan of automatic assault rifles that can shoot several bullets in a few seconds is all I’m sayin’

But as we sit on the eve of having anyone in the world able to create an unregistered weapon from a 3D printer recipe on the internet – whelp, that’s where I’m stepping off of this train of the second amendment debate.

Here’s the article about 3D guns

I grew up with guns (several of them) in our home. Every single day, I only had to look up at the wall in our family room to see my father’s very extensive collection of guns. From the early 1800’s on forward, he had several guns, pistols and rifles and swords. He hunted as a young boy, joined the Navy and knew (was taught by his dad and trained by the Navy) how to use his guns. The ammunition was kept separately and far away from the guns he had (Mom – an ER Nurse – made sure of this).

The picture above is a photo of my grandmother – she didn’t hunt. She was a fisherman who used a drop line to catch fish. See a fishing pole in this picture? – It’s because there isn’t one. The Northeast is known for fishing. Watch any fisherman head miles out into the North Atlantic during the late summer / early Fall months when hurricanes and strong Nor’easters are prevalent and you will know how tough fishing can be. In our family, our freezer was filled with frozen fish that helped keep food on our table through the winter months. Ask me to join you for a dinner consisting of bluefish or mackerel and I will politely turn you down because I have had far too much… okay, maybe Cod.

My grandmother’s mom died shortly after giving birth to her. A few years later, her father was struck and killed by a cable car when he was crossing the street, leaving my grandmother in the care of her older sister and her sister’s boyfriend.  They didn’t have an easy life. But my grandmother made it through to marry my grandfather and give birth to my mom and her brother (my uncle).

To this day, I have never met a woman as firmly grounded in her values as my grandmother. How do I know this? – Because I tried to buy a gun.

It didn’t go over well and it wasn’t even real.

Once when I was visiting my grandmother, she gave me some money and said to go to the little store down the street to get whatever I wanted. So off I went and walked down the street trying to decide what I was going to purchase.

Upon reviewing all of the toys available to me, I selected a very small, bright orange squirt gun. (Nope, not kidding, it was a squirt gun). It was about two inches long and seemed to hold a lot of water in it. It wasn’t even one of those semi-automatic super soaker squirt guns that you see today; it was an “old” one (yeah, you probably weren’t even born yet so just keep reading..). Happily, I walked home, ready to fill it and squirt people – aka my grandmother (who was taking care of me while my parents were away).

When she saw the gun I had purchased she became apoplectic. “Take it back!” she demanded. I couldn’t understand why. “Take it back!” she said again. “Little girls do not use guns!” (I was six or seven years old at the time).

I walked back to the store, sad and dejected because she did not approve of my hunter / gatherer & squirt decision. I traded it in and returned with a super ball which I played with outside until it was time for dinner.

Over dinner, my grandmother explained to me that yes, some people owned guns that they used for hunting but that I did not need one. She also explained that police officers carried guns to protect those of us in our community and again affirmed that I would never need a gun. If there was a conflict that needed to be resolved, she explained, then this was what our brains were for. That we used our ability to communicate with each other tactfully and in a way that reduced any potential for violence.

“Use your head”, she said “that’s what it’s for; to communicate with each other and resolve arguments and misunderstandings. And if you ever need help, ask us!”

To this day, I have never forgotten the conviction she had during that conversation. 3 degrees and 2 graduate certificates later, I know for sure that I have enough knowledge, conviction, empathy, tact and compassion to know that I have a keen ability to resolve a lot of different conflicts. Guns will not be playing a part in my life (at least not of my choosing anyway).


As much as I often miss my grandmother, I’m glad that she is not around to see what the internet and 3D printing have produced as it relates to guns.

And while I will never know if guns in the possession of someone else will ever affect my life or the lives of my family and friends, I have learned that there are just some things in life that you can’t predict or control.

After 9/11 and United 93 (the flight that crashed in Shanksville, PA), I also learned that you can’t predict what will happen if terrorists take over your flight and try to fly it into a building or something else.  And that you certainly can’t predict who will stand up and try to overpower them, even if there is the potential that they will also die.

But this is where my head goes whenever there are increasing discussions about guns and gun violence:

Sometimes when I’m sitting by myself at a gate in an airport waiting for a plane, I look around for “that guy” or “that girl”. The one I think looks like they have the ability to stand up, fight back and overpower the terrorists and try to save those who are on the plane. I look at their posture, stance and non-verbals – trying to find the heroes among us – the ones you don’t notice and don’t know who walk among us every day. To me, these are people who don’t need guns. They have a keen, MacGyver like sense to figure out what to do and how to do it, quietly and collaboratively in a tribal, patriotic “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers” sort of way – no matter who they are, no matter where they’re from, no matter what their gender, religion, education, nationality, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation is.

They’re just caring, compassionate people looking to help those who need help even though they don’t know them and even though they may die themselves.

They may use guns for hunting or drop lines to fish and / or their brain to communicate. But what’s equally as important is what Martin Luther King once described as the “content of their character”.

Lobster Rolls I Have Loved

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Lobster at Mabel’s Lobster in Kennebunkport, ME – best lobstah evah!

So let me just preface this by saying that I’m not sure how this lobster roll thing started but I can tell you I have had some wonderful lobstah this summer.

Best Lobster Roll #1 (pictured above) – from Mabel’s Lobster Claw Restaurant in Kennebunkport, ME. The above is the “Savanna” which is lobster, scallops, and shrimp with their Newburg sauce topped with cheese (which I’m pretty sure was provolone – which gave it all a really nice “bite” while not cutting into the taste of the seafood). Best lunch ever (and expensive at  $37.00+ ish – depending on season prices but very well worth it given the portion of seafood that you get; and did I tell you there was cheese?).

Best Lobster Roll #2: from the Academe Restaurant at the Kennebunk Inn (see photo below right). This was a lunch order stacked with huge pieces of lobster (seemed like more than 1 lobster as well). Did not have a ton of mayo but enough to keep everything together. The onion rings were also really great.

When you look at the menu, you will see they also have Lobster Pot Pie which is also highly recommended (by Oprah!) but the Traditional Maine Lobster Roll was the best (price was $29.00 – I know, but remember, you’re on vacation – go ahead; and get some ice cream when you’re done!).

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Lobster Roll from the Academe Restaurant at the Kennebunk Inn

Favorite Lobster Roll #3 found at The Harbor Room in New Harbor, ME (pictured below) We ended up here on a very rainy day in October. We hadn’t heard about The Harbor Room restaurant but saw a very packed parking lot so we stopped in. The lobster roll was packed with lobster and was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had. This is a beautiful restaurant with photos done by local photographers and a Sunday brunch that is phenomenal. I would suggest you grab a reservation via open table before heading there so you don’t have to risk not being able to be seated.

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You should also have the desert – say it with me: “apple cobbler heated with ice cream”!

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Favorite Lobster Roll #4 found in Bristol, New Hampshire at The Big Catch. There isn’t a picture because it was so good that I ate it really fast. All I can say is get there early, see if you can substitute onion rings for the French Fries (if you’re not a fan of fries) and enjoy!

Favorite Lobster Roll #5 was from The River House in Portsmouth, NH. There was a combo that had seafood chowdah (consisting of lobstah, clams, shrimp and fish which was very well seasoned and creamy) and a Lobster Roll (see photo below). The Lobster Roll itself had just a smidge of a little too much mayo but was packed and really good. Additionally, the service along with the view of the Portsmouth waterfront was beautiful. And – just to make things really interesting, the restaurant is just down the street from the tour that can bring you out to Isles of Shoals.  

All this to say – it’s summertime, kids! Make sure you spend the time to park yourself in front of a top-notch Lobster Roll if you are spending time in New England!

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Lobster Roll from The River House in Portsmouth, NH

Lobster Roll #6 with chowder for lunch at Bob’s in Kittery (pictured below right). Here’s what’s great about these lobster and seafood places along rt 1 – they’re typically crowded (this time of year), and because of this it’s not uncommon to share a table with others that are there. Today I met a couple from Ct on their way to Ogunquit to spend the weekend with friends. “We do this every year,” they told me, affirming they like being in Maine this time of year (just after Labor Day) when things are slowing down a little.

When I told them I was researching kayaks at the Kittery Trading Post next door, they told me they were kayaking in Block island a few weeks ago. “I love Block Island!” I told them, recounting stories of mom and dad and their weekly walks to the library for books and fresh, sweet corn on the cob from the farm stand.

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Lobster Roll from Bob’s in Kittery, ME

Sometimes it amazes me how much we have in common with the people who step into our path – even if it’s just for lunch at a shared table.

Lobster Roll #7 (pictured below) at home in Newport, Rhode Island. After arriving to meet a friend for lunch at the Black Pearl, I was informed that I couldn’t “be seated until everyone was present”. When my friend arrived, we went in and were informed it would be a “lengthy wait” at >30 minutes. So we resorted to “plan B” – lobster at The Lobster Bar at the end of Bowen’s Wharf.  We decided to go with chowdah and lobster rolls.

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Lobster Roll from The Lobster Bar at the end of Bowen’s Wharf in Newport, RI

When the lobster rolls arrived they were pretty big and stuffed with tender pieces of claw meat that was cooked to perfection. There was a very substantial lobster menu as well as clams, scallops and fish and chips. The restaurant itself is at the end of the wharf and on this early October day was perfect to sit at a table outside while enjoying wonderful food, excellent conversation and a great view of the busy harbor.

Doesn’t matter what day it is – there’s a lobster roll waiting for you. Go!

The Thing About Selfies…

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This is the top of Cadillac Mountain in Maine. I recently took a trip there with a friend hoping to get away for a nice weekend, eat some lobster and take some great photos. The other part of this story was that my mom had died a few months prior to this and she and my dad had taken my brother and I here on a vacation when we were really little.

Years ago, we went everywhere on that trip to Maine, but the trip to the top of Cadillac Mountain was my favorite. I remember taking the trip to Acadia National Park but I was so young that there were other parts of the trip that I couldn’t remember so revisiting this area was a way to reconnect with that memory and that time so long ago.

As with any National Park, it’s not uncommon to meet families from all over the world taking selfies and pictures of each other. As I stood watching them, I remembered my parents with their camera, taking pictures of my brother and I. This was back before there were cell phones, video cameras, cassette players in your car. It was so long ago that the car was a station wagon that had paneling on the side. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

I think Johnson may have been President. Back when the Beatles were not yet famous.

You get it right? – it was a long, long time ago.

Anyhoo – as I stood there watching, at least 10 families were taking pictures which were mostly selfies – extending their arms straight out to capture the picture of everyone with them.

Watching them bugged the heck out of me. I thought about how many pictures we had of our family together that it suddenly became very important for me to make sure every family I ran into had the ability to acquire the same memories and family photo that I did – a picture of them together. (And I mean TOGETHER – not this extended from an arm lengths away crap).

So it became my mission to ask every family I saw with a camera “hey, can I take that picture for you?”. Every one of them agreed and handed me their camera or their cell phone. And I didn’t take just one picture, I took at least five. And then I would teach them my favorite photography term – “scrunch up!”. It felt so good to see them all smile and hug their children and each other.

Suddenly – taking a picture, a panoramic like the one above (which I eventually did take when I ran out of families..) was not as important to me as making sure they all had great memories of a wonderful day in one of our country’s most beautiful parks.

At one point, I ran into two girls, sisters I think, who had a camera that I couldn’t get to focus. The camera owner acknowledged she had been struggling with it and said “I’m having trouble with my lens, here use my phone.” She handed me her iPhone and I was able to get great shots of the two of them together. But then I looked at the phone and had no idea what the language was on the phone. 

So I asked them “what language is this?” and they said “Finnish!”. “Ahh, land of the happy people” I told them (suddenly not sure if it was Finland or Denmark), but they laughed and went on their way, walking down the trail to get a better view of the beautiful sunset.

Watching them walk away from me I realized that I haven’t taken enough vacations to our national parks. And I realized that there may be a difference between taking a selfie and being fully present and engaged in a photo together with the ones you love the most.

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Let’s Just Think…

Welcome to the “Let’s Just Think” blog!

As a child growing up, whenever I would get stuck with trying to resolve an issue or challenge, my mom would say “Now let’s just think…” and together we would weigh the pros and cons of finding a resolution.

Over time, her “Let’s Just Think” comment became a mantra that was used frequently; and yes, there were also times when it was the punchline for a funny story or memory. But it always had a moment of clarity or insightful resolution as well.

Worthy of a blog and worthy of inspiring stories or quotes to accentuate the positivity of life, the insights from experiences and the wisdom we all gain every day.

Here we go!

Breathe Out Anger; Breathe In Faith

This is my favorite bench overlooking the intercostal waterway near Sarasota, Florida.

If you’re like me, sometimes stress can get to you. Without warning you may feel tense, frustrated, hopeless, angry, resentful…like an internal bomb is about to go off and you’re not sure why, what caused it, and what the best coping strategy is.

My recommendation, is to find a bench like this one and start with the basics. 

Figure out which emotions you need to let go of; and the positive emotions you would like to replace them with. Like all things, there is an ebb and flow to life; this is true in this situation as well. Here’s the other thing – only you know how to navigate the ebb and flow of you feel.

Only you know what emotions you need to let go of; and which are the best ones to “take in”. AND – take them in, don’t just say them, FEEL them. Life is short, there’s no time to fool yourself or diminish your potential.

Here are just a few suggestions you may want to consider:

  • Breathe out anger; breathe in calmness
  • Breathe out frustration; breathe in serenity
  • Breathe out fear; breathe in faith
  • Breathe out self-centeredness; breathe in love
  • Breathe out shame; breathe in hope
  • Breathe out sadness; breathe in joy
  • Breathe out pain (no matter what type it is); breathe in strength
  • Breathe out vindictiveness; breathe in compassion
  • Breathe out loneliness; breathe in trust
  • Breathe out turbulence; breathe in contentment

Most importantly just breathe, take the time you need to redirect your emotions and your thoughts to make them work for you instead of against you and, most importantly, remember it’ll all be okay.