April 2014

Today I’m home from Northampton, home from Amsterdam, from the tiny town of Giethoorn, Holland, all homes for a time. When I arrived yesterday morning, debating dropping off Richard’s car at the shop or coming home first to drop off my bags, Ben Harper and his mom were singing to me on the radio, and I chose home first, shop second, so I could take a listen. Here’s their song for you, youtube style:

Some days I do wonder where home is, especially days when it’s just me and the cat here, even more so when the cat is here on her own, poor Frances girl. Home is with my kids, wherever we are, with my beau, wherever we are, with my friends and family, wherever we are, in the day care here, or making my way from home to Northampton or here to LeRoy and Pavilion and Attica, New York, where I grew up, walking around Somerville and Boston, on the campus of the Healey or Sudbury Valley Schools, in the living room of the Charter School Founders Group, at the park with my day care buddies, all those places are home. Still the house is here, home to me and my kids and my ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, current guy for over twenty years, and it’s got its own vibe, is a hard place to imagine leaving, though these days I do spend time wondering if and when and how.

When I come back from other places, where I’ve mostly lived with a few things, clothes, books, computer, phone, I wonder at this four level house of stuff. I’d just as soon be rid of lots of it, but the memories are imbedded and the time and energy it takes to sift through those is time I’d rather devote to living.

Monday Richard and I walked in the woods of Mount Toby, a place I’ve never been, a place he’s walked a lot. At the top there is a fire tower, which we climbed, hoping to be let in by a worker who drove ahead of us on an ATV and was too busy working when we were up top to let us have a look from inside the tower. Instead we sunbathed at the base of the tower, a ritual of Richard’s climbs, new to me. To have the earth warm enough below us to lie for half an hour, faces to the sun, was a new pleasure, first time for me this spring. Walking back down the mountain, we passed a group of older women hikers, seeming to be in the same spot they had been when we hiked up, halfway up the trail, but this time they were split in two, one group walking down the mountain further up the trail, the other group waiting down below, one of whom commented as we passed that one of the members of the slower group was getting “you know what”. All I could imagine was old.

Richard is fifteen years older than I am. Getting old is something we think about a lot. For now, though, we are hiking, enjoying a fine life together. Halfway across the Atlantic, up in the air with Aer Lingus, tears came to my eyes, out of the blue, as I imagined Richard at 96 like his mom, me at 81, like the parents of my good friends Laura and Dave. I figure he’ll be a fine old man. I don’t’ count on dying first. Life will have to go on. Until then, though, I’m pretty happy hiking, drinking maple milk and tea and sharing salads at the Book Mill cafe, browsing the shelves of new and used books after wards, going home to Richard’s Northampton place for a quiet Monday night on our own after a busy weekend of socializing in Northampton and Somerville, after a week apart while I was traveling, before heading back to Somerville on my own. We don’t make big plans to plant a garden or remodel the house. We don’t buy furniture or make children. We aren’t building careers or even a social circle. We’re holding on, keeping things going, trying to sort out life in two cities, one small and one big, mixing up our family and friends little by little, trying to figure out retired and working, older and younger, his kids and mine, two/three homes, much older mom and not so much older mom, both dads gone.

When I was in Amsterdam, I thought I would visit the Ann Frank House. We didn’t, for lots of reasons. Richard’s parents came to the US during the Nazi era, lost many members of their families, their homes and livelihoods, and started fresh here, supporting both sets of parents, building new lives, bearing and raising three sons. Its a story I’m interested to learn and join, one as a descendent of German emigres I feel I ought to know. Today a friend liked a Humans of New York photo and story that made me smile, happy that as the subject said, “You can’t kill a people with hate. There will always be someone left to to carry on”..lucky for me that Hilde and John Brunswick carried on, to make the man I love, giving me another chance to try and make a life that’s not so on my own. Here’s the HONY, so you can see and hear the woman as I did:

We are on our way home. Walk from B and B to bus from Geithoorn to Steenwijk, train from Steenwijk to Amsterdam, surprising us with a train directly to Schipol airport rather than to Central Amsterdam with a connection to the airport, then bus to our hotel, Courtyard Marriott, name reminding us we are on our way home. Early in the morning we’ll catch the airport shuttle for our nine o’clock flight home, time change bring us to Logan by half past one. Amazing to go so far around the world in one day.

It’s been a fine week, museums, shopping, eating, drinking, eyes and ears wide open, taking it all in, first five days in Amsterdam, last three in a rural zone on foot and bike and boat, three kids operating the whisper boat this morning after breakfast negotiating canals and lake, watching birds and cows and people before we all head home.

No more for now. Back to watching the works outside the train from rural to suburban to urban and back again, Netherlands style, still brand new.

When we arrived yesterday, we had not slept much. Late in the afternoon we realized we had better make a trip to the grocery store before we crashed. Tonight we arrived home late after a night of deep sleep, which didn’t end until near noon for four of us, me included, a midday of eating delicious Dutch food for breakfast, croissants, nespresso cappuccino and latte, muesli with yogurt drink, and then a long, rambling, wonderful walk through Albert Cuyp Market, many neighborhoods, a visit to three museums, the Hermitage, the Rembrandt House, and the Van Gogh, open until 10 on Friday night. So, on our way home, we hoped to stop at the grocery for a re-up. The only sad news on our very secular Good Friday was that the grocery closed at 6 instead of 10, so at home we were left with rummaging..chocolate hazelnut spread on a croissant for my gal, chocolate bar with hazelnut for me, a pot of roibois tea made with the new found boiling water tap, leftover baguette for our young friend, stroopwaffles left by our host for three of us, and a salad with hardboiled egg, tomatoes, english cucumber from the store, cheddar from the day care fridge, brought across the Atlantic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil from the cupboards here. It was a fine ending to a fine day. Now it’s officially day three, past midnight in Amsterdam, and Bob Dylan is on my mind, his Amsterdam lyrics ringing in the quiet spaces, of which there have been few, racing bikers and motor scooters and fast cars, even a zig-zagging street sweeper cleaning a figure eightish park the fear in our day, the scenes and people and art and newness of this other world taking up all five senses and more since we woke up this morning, steep and narrow stairs greeting us right outside the bedroom door, confusing shower taps and light fixtures and toilets and outlets and hardware reminding us that we are not alone in the world as Americans, that others have their ways and we might as well adapt, appreciate, soak up whatever we can as long as we’re here, green salad as close to home as we’ll get, and eggs and vinegar and oil, even the lettuce head was enormous, the tomatoes sold in cups that look more like frappucino cups as much as anything else.

Good night world. Six thirty at home is twelve thirty here, and my goal is eight am wakeup to restock the pantry for the next two or three days of the Easter weekend..not knowing what we’ll find on Easter Sunday and planning to be out all day tomorrow to visit the Keukenhoff Gardens with the tulips we flew across the ocean to find.


Turns out it’s not Bob Dylan in my head singing about Amsterdam, but Michelle Shocked, who was a favorite of mine once upon a time, about the same time as Bob, so perhaps that’s why I’m confused.

This youtube doesn’t do it for me, but it’s the only one I find here in Amsterdam, not far enough from 5 am to justify more looking. Enjoy:)


Here we go, after months of preparation, longer in anticipation:) lucky life, lucky, lucky life:))

Yesterday I woke with matzo ball soup in mind. We walked to the store with packs we filled with matzo bread and meal, fresh and parsley, dill, celery and onion salt, chicken and beef broth, and half a chicken breast. We returned to the kitchen to add the soaked and crumbled 10 pieces of matzo bread to a skillet of three large onions browned with a stick of butter. I diced two carrots and a hunk of broccoli while Richard heated the broth and tossed in a chicken breast, which later we would also dice. Meanwhile, in the skillet, Richard mashed the mateo with a potato masher, added some water until it began to mush. Then I chopped small piles of fresh dill and parsley, Richard sprinkled the matso mush with celery and onion salts, a bit of nutmeg, then in went the fresh herbs.

After this, it was time for me to beat the eggs, five of them over the ten matso bread mush, and to mix and add matso meal to get the consistency for rolling the balls. Richard dipped his hands in cold water, the broth came to a boil, and the first ball went in to cook. When it floated, we tasted it, cut in half to cool. More of this, more of that, until the third trial looked and tasted just like Richard’s mom’s, learned at the side of her family in Germany before the second world war, recipe transmitted in her mind and with her family across the ocean as she fled the Nazi’s, written by her on a piece of notebook paper, photocopied by Richard, sitting on the counter here now in his Northampton kitchen, soon to be photographed by my iPhone and shared her with you, over the internet.

We shared the real soup in Hilde’s kitchen with Richard’s brother and sister-in-law, to high praise, put the leftover matso balls in the freezer for his older brother, left some for his mom and the brother and siter-in-law to eat the following day, spreading the taste for another Passover, Hilde home from rehab after nearly six weeks away, all of us at home in her kitchen, taste of home in our mouths.

My kids have left for school, second son now such a regular driver I barely acknowledge the fact that life has changed..I’m at the kitchen table paying bills, listening to an album I don’t think I’ve ever listened to, given to me by my son at Christmas, but every song is full of memory. Finally, after listening to Boots of Spanish Leather, recalling Bob Dylan singing this song through a good part of my marriage, and moving on to a song I distinctly remember John Prine singing as I drove to and from my Michigan retreat at Gilchrist one year, I check my iPhone to see the name of Nancy Griffith’s album, Other Voices, Other Rooms..

I’ve been feeling melancholy all morning. The Food Program reimbursement from last month is all messed up. Going through my pile of papers I look at the Claim Summary and Errors Report again and find I can barely understand it, just enough to know we messed up big time and lost a lot of money as a result. Time to sort that out. The kids are off to school. We were all up too late last night. Next week this time we’ll be on our way to Amsterdam, our flight leaving at 9 pm on Wednesday, flying overnight to Dublin, then on to Amsterdam, where we’ll arrive midday, their time. This is our first time overseas together, my first time since age twenty, when I studied and traveled abroad the second semester of my junior year of college, assuming that would be my life, traveling abroad. It hasn’t. At 47, one son in his second year of college, I take the leap, uby plane tickets, tag along on a friend’s vacation with her son. They have chosen Amsterdam, not a place I ever wished to go, but this time, it’s where we’re going, as much to go, as to go there, which is not to say we aren’t excited, just that it’s not a lifelong dream to go to Amsterdam, but a lifelong dream to travel, to take my kids somewhere special, to make a memory we won’t soon forget, before the next one leaves, or the next one after that, before they’re grown and disappeared, first one not coming this time, too busy with school and not on the same schedule as we are.

This weekend I’m invited to some things here I’d like very much to do, but instead I’ll visit my beau in Northampton. A year ago the kids and I hosted a woman from Spain who was visiting SVS. She and I went to Northampton for the weekend, where we met her friend in Spain’s childhood friend Richard, and the rest is history, life split in two again, this time not Exeter and Somerville, or Sudbury Valley School and West Family Day Care, or Ashfield and Somerville, but Northampton and Somerville for me, Cambridge and Somerville for my kids. So, this weekend, we’ll visit his mom and I’ll meet his brother and sister-in-law in Connecticut. We’ll have breakfast with his daughter and son-in-law in their home, purchased around this time last year. I’ll take my ailing van to the Northampton Honda dealer for repairs. We’ll go to a seder, first one for me, hosted by a friend of his who was also a friend of a good friend of mine, in the company of his daughter and son-in-law and others in his world. This time I’ll miss the rice feeding ceremony and the book club reunion, time with the cat and friends and kids in my world traded for time in his. This is the life I’m leading at this stage of life. Old boy friend is married, as is the ex-husband, living that integrated life I thought I wanted, instead I found something else. Other voices, other rooms speaks to me. Some days it’s like living a life I never planned for myself, one day at a time, learning how live the one I’m in.

Today in Exchange Everyday, there is a piece on choice, on setting up the environment so children can be independent, so that each individual can follow his or her own thoughts and interests throughout the day.

Today after lunch of yogurt, raspberries, english muffins, and cucumbers, one of our favorites, two twos climb up to the tall table. One says to the other, “Hey, H—, do you want to play checkers?”

For the last two weeks, there has been a set of checkers on the tall table, a wooden board and a red can of checkers. My co-teacher first got it out to occupy some restless fives and a ten in the late afternoon. Then it became popular with the young ones, who like to line up the pieces, to stack the checkers on the table, sometimes to see them drop to the floor, probably also to see me react when they do that.

But, today, it’s the two initiating a game with her friend that interests me. For a long time, since the very first moment these two entered the care, they have been curious about one another. First thing I remember was a scuffle at the play sink and stove when the mother of the inviter was dropping her off that first day.

Today the guy accepts the gal’s invitation..and for a few minutes, they take checkers out of the can, put them on the board. Then a third two, almost three, comes along, and there is a spat, which I don’t fully follow, as I am at the sink washing dishes, and shortly that game ends. That is how it is with twos. The game starts and ends, often very quickly, often with a spat, but over time, it is building in it’s way, from grabbing, side-by-side at the play sink to invitation at the tall table, from dumping plastic fruit and veg to organizing small parts of board games, lining things up alternated with tossing them about.

Life is a little like that, I think. I’ve been reading a good book about adolescents, and teens, as my life is full of those, too, and many friends are sorting out life with older parents..The struggle between being a baby and being independent seems to strike in all three places, toddlerhood, teen, and elder..and we middle agers are struggling with it all, asking the twos firmly but kindly to pick up the checkers as they toss them on the floor, asking the teens to take out the trash and recycling and compost, even as they disappear into the worlds of their phones and their rooms, offering choices to our parents, who often choose the thing we wish they wouldn’t, inviting us all to live with the consequences of our decisions, choice at the heart of living a good life, no matter our age or stage. Grateful as always to live in places where choice reigns.

Here is the piece from Exchange, should you be interested in that. Also, if you are interested in teens, consider “Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager” Fascinating read for me, fine to put it off if you are living more exclusively in the world of the very young.


The Right To Choose
April 8, 2014
Cheerful company shortens the miles.
-German proverb

“Our view of children strongly determines if we support and challenge them or direct and correct them. Adults must believe that children deserve the right to choose and are capable of understanding that with rights come responsibility. If we believe this, then we will use our role to coach children in making good choices.”

These are the words of Deb Curtis and Jess Guiney in their Exchange article, “Seeing and Supporting Children’s Right to Choose,” which serves as the basis for Exchange’s newest Out of the Box Training Kit by the same name. The authors give an example of how to support children in making choices:

“A teacher who values autonomy in decision making will organize his classroom so that materials are accessible to children — and so that children are responsible for the care of those materials. Children benefit from an environment that is intentionally designed and well provisioned with engaging materials so they are able to see what is available. The arrangement and care of the environment communicates to the ­children the value of focus, collaboration, and choices for complex play and learning.”