Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Report Card Pride

We received Parker's first ever official Report Card today and this is what greeted our eyes.   Let's remember that we spent the first 15 years of Parker's life avidly avoiding grades and tests.  I firmly believe that grades and tests are NOT what truly tell us how a student is doing and what he/she is learning...... I am a firm believer in play and project-based learning.... and yet I'd be lying if I didn't admit to an initial flush of pleasure when I saw this card....... I still don't believe these A's tell me how "smart" my son is but I can't help but see it as a good sign of how Parker is acclimating to life in a new school in a new place....... and getting a letter inviting us to a special Principal's breakfast reception to "honor this significant accomplishment"?.... well, okay... I'm letting myself feel a little proud of my boy.... at least for today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Sixteen-Year Old "Little" Boy.....

An amazing thing happened on Thanksgiving Day.... my "little" boy turned 16.  As you can see from the picture I took of him and his Dad this past Sunday morning while on a beach walk (60 degrees at the end of November?... not too shabby!),  Parker is not anywhere near to being a little boy.... at 6'2" he's half a foot taller than his old Dad and has the build of a football player (not that he would ever play that "violent sport")...... But although he's a teenager and is many years away from the toddler he used to be.... I can honestly say that most of those characteristics he first started exhibiting at 2 and 3 years old,  can still define who he is today....  independent thinker, articulate, opinionated, tenacious (stubborn!), single-minded (always on a mission!) , funny (great sense of humor!), sensitive, a leader (bossy at times!), ambitious, self-driven, fair-minded, full of questions.... Yes......he's all that he was at the age of three years,  just much more so!.... Many of those characteristics were challenging to parent when he was three and sometimes they are now at fifteen as well...... but I wouldn't change the young man he is becoming for the world....

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Peter and I have been going to the Unitarian church services over the last 30 or so years while we have vacationed  here on Nantucket.  For many years the main attraction of these services was the minister, Ted Anderson, whose sermons were always thought-provoking and inspirational.   We liked Ted so much that we asked him to officiate at our marriage.   I'll never forget that intimate ceremony in our Surfside road home.  When we moved here in August we had already decided to start attending the Unitarian Church on a regular basis.  Ted has retired but remains on-island and we still have opportunities to interact with him.......

We have been enjoying the new minister very much and have felt extremely welcomed by the fellowship as well.   Today's service was about, predictably enough, Thanksgiving,,,, and much of  the morning focused on the ways and whys of giving thanks.   The children in the congregation set out with their wagons through the town to collect nonperishable foods for the Island Food Shelf, the singing involved hymns of thanks...... When it came to the sermon, however, David (the minister)  turned the theme around just a little... or maybe a lot, depending upon how you look at it.  He talked about the idea of "being in thanks" rather than "giving thanks"...... it sounds kind of simple but it made me think about the differences between the "being" and the "giving"....  "Being" to me implies more permanence, a kind of natural, on-going, almost subconscious  state.  Giving, on the other hand, is something that you have to think about.....it's something you consciously do and it doesn't necessarily mean that you are truly a thankful person in the complete sense of the word.  

 "Thanksbeing" is a state that we strive for and part of that striving usually involves the giving of thanks.   It feels to me like this state would be peaceful as well as joyful.  And, in the real world, if more of us achieved the state of "Thanksbeing" just imagine the decrease in whining and complaining.... not to mention how it might impact the planet's political culture.... now that would be something really worth striving for..... 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Abigail, Our Senior Citizen

Our house on Nantucket is an upside down house.... the main living area/kitchen (plus the master bedroom) is upstairs.  This is so the beautiful view across the moors to the ocean can be appreciated by everyone.  My parents didn't hesitate to build the house this way even though my mother was in a wheelchair... they just had the staircase built with the electric chair lift.... very useful for my mother and for occasional rides by the grandkids as a special treat.  No one else really used it.   My mother,  being of the generation that didn't want or expect "special" treatment just because she was physically challenged, was somewhat embarrassed by this concession to her needs.   As time went on, however, my father came to need to use "the chair" and as we have made this house our own, Peter and I have used it to move heavy boxes (not to mention grocery bags) to the 2nd floor...... very handy!   And now, as you can see in this picture, our 9&1/2 year old bulldog, Abigail, has come to appreciate the chair,  as navigating the staircase, especially going downstairs, has become so difficult for her and her increasingly arthritic shoulders and legs.   I know my Mom,  would be so pleased to know that "her" chair was becoming more and more useful.  As an extremely devoted dog lover, she would be especially delighted to know that  her "granddog" was benefiting from it!  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brussel Sprouts

photo.JPGOn Friday Peter and I were grocery shopping together.  As a rule, I do not like shopping of any kind with my husband.    In our 30+ years of life together we have discovered that we can enjoy many activities together.... shopping is NOT one of them.   A typical Susan and Peter shopping expedition sounds a little like this: Me: (picking up a large container of hummus) "This is Parker's favorite kind of hummus" -  Peter (checking out the price) ; "I CANNOT believe that hummus cost almost $8!.... why do we need that much hummus? Isn't there a cheaper store brand? I hope we're not going to get expensive chips to go with that hummus.  Can't we make our own hummus cheaper?   I didn't even know what hummus was till I was in my 30's!..... blah, blah, blah...... "    

Now,  picture variations of that dialog going on with practically every grocery store item I pick up.  Yeah... now you may begin to understand just why I don't like shopping with my husband..... However, there was one ray of sunshine in Friday's outing to the grocery store..... I noticed that they were featuring Brussel sprouts by the stalk.... I picked up a huge stalk and held it up for Peter to see... he actually smiled and then checked out the price... $3.89!  This inspired a huge grin from my frugal husband as he considered this to be  a real bargain.  Never mind that he and Parker absolutely ABHOR Brussel sprouts....  a deal is a deal and we added the stalk to our cart.....

Which brings me to my thoughts on Brussel sprouts....a vegetable I happen to love.  I've never felt that Brussel sprouts get the credit they deserve..... they are an amazing vegetable.....  I started growing them in my Vermont garden many years ago and could not believe how easy to grow and hardy these little veggies are!  I could trudge out through the snows of November and December and those little Brussel sprouts would be sturdily hanging on to their stalks, all green and happy and ready to be picked.... a truly admirable vegetable!  

Eating wise, they are without peer.... simply the aroma of cooking them is a unique experience (in my house I can count on my son whining about the "putrid smell of those disgusting green things" within minutes of starting the cooking process) ... ... I love them steamed with a little salt and margarine or as the featured veggie in a winter soup,  but my favorite way to have them is in a stir fry with other veggies like onion, peppers, cauliflower, etc. etc..... simply delicious!

Finally, when I see those little green globes,  well... they just look like tiny cabbages to me...... I can just picture a late October work-line of tiny mice or perhaps bunnies happily harvesting them from the garden, anticipating a long winter full of Brussel sprout creations.... one "sprout" could easily provide dinner for an entire  family of field mice...

Okay, perhaps I've read a little too much Beatrix Potter...... I've always taken my animal literature very seriously.... Charlotte's Web,  Winnie the Pooh, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Redwall series, Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, Watership Down, Black Beauty........ have all contributed to me becoming an devoted animal lover, a vegan...... and a lover of Brussel sprouts.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Dad

My Dad died a year ago today.  I couldn't sleep at all last night and when Peter reminded me this morning that Dad had died on November 5th, 2010..... it seemed to be a good explanation for my inability to get to sleep.  Last year, I had come down to stay with my brother several days before Dad's death as the nursing home and hospice team had let us know that they didn't think it would be long.  As it turned out he hung in there for several days and I got the chance to spend a lot of time with him.  In the beginning, he was quite responsive to my presence, smiling, chuckling, even managing to sing a chorus of "Que Sera, Sera" with me when we were talking about Doris Day coming into his Dad's drug store when he worked there as a kid growing up in Cincinnati.

But as the days went by, he began to slip away and on that last night, I decided to stay over with him because it really seemed like he would be leaving us soon.  I sat by his bed, holding his hand, talking a bit about family members and old friends.  I played some old Harvard songs I had downloaded on my iPhone and we also watched his favorite musical, "The Music Man" (also downloaded on my trusty iPhone).... It was a peaceful night... Dad lingered on into the early hours of the next day..... One of his nurses asked me if there was anyone who my Dad hadn't said good-bye to and suggested that perhaps he was hanging on, waiting to say that final good-bye.    I thought about it for awhile, and then came to the realization that perhaps he was waiting to say good-bye to my mother.  In the later stages of Alzheimer's,  he often became confused about where my mother was (she had died in May of 2008) and would ask me where she was and when she would be joining us.  So maybe he was waiting for my mother.   I leaned up close to him and reminded him that "Mom and all the dogs (Jessie, Boots, Goody, Sami, Rudy, and Winnie)  had already left and were waiting for him" (If you know my Dad, you know how important his dogs always were to him).   And yes, that really seemed to do the trick.  A few minutes later, he quietly took his last breath.... I waited for another one to come,  but he had gone.  I can only assume that hearing that my Mom and the dogs were waiting (somewhere....... where?) for him was, in the end,  all he needed to know.....

The rocking chair in this picture is one that my brother and I had given to our parents on their 25th wedding anniversary (back in 1976).   Peter and I had just dug it out of the corner of the back bedroom in our Nantucket house (yes, after 3 months, we're still unpacking and moving stuff around).   It's in pretty rough shape (all of the Kanter and Richards cats have insisted that it was a giant scratching post and have used it accordingly,,,, naturally, this never bothered my parents at all).     I took a picture of it and sent it on to my brother.... an empty chair where my Dad used to be....  We're lighting candles for both my Dad and my Mom tonight.  I miss them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Believe it or not I was insulted when I turned 50 and AARP didn't send me an invitation to join them. Before my husband's 50th he received numerous entreaties from them, with all sorts of deals promised if he joined their forces. But I received nothing... nada... zilch... zero........ until today.  A nice thick invite to join with the additional promised treat of an absolutely FREE insulated travel bag was waiting for me in my mailbox. 

Why, after 8 years, have they decided that now they want me??  I was tempted to deny them the pleasure of my company....it feels kind of like being chosen last on a playground kickball team (which incidentally I almost always was)....  Could they be more interested in me now that my address is Nantucket Island??   Maybe they have the (very) mistaken impression that I have joined the ranks of the fabulously wealthy and am now living in a oceanfront mansion on the Atlantic?   Whatever.... they'll soon find out that I won't be making any huge donations....most of my charitable spending is devoted to animal causes.....  I've always been someone who basically flaunts my age with every silver toned hair on my un-dyed head....so, I'm not about to say no to this rite of passage.... I took the 3 year package.... can't wait for my insulated travel bag. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nantucket Mornings

I actually enjoy my mornings these days.  Let me make something clear, I am NOT a morning person.... I am a TOTAL night owl.... I love puttering around at night and often do the things morning people get done in the AM at around midnight or so... laundry, letter writing, general housework.... It does seem to me like there are many more morning people than night people... especially as I get older.  Going to work with an abundance of perky morning people can be a tad trying so I am enjoying my Nantucket mornings with my son and husband who understand me and refrain from any perky behavior.

On a typical weekday morning these days I am up by 6.... before the sun now of course.  I have time to putter around in the kitchen, fill up my bird feeders on the back deck, make my coffee (actually that's the first thing I do) and make breakfast for Parker who I give a "gentle" wake up call to at 6:30.  In the past couple of years Parker has done a complete turn-around in terms of morning behavior.... Waking him up used to be the least favorite part of my morning.  It seemed like no amount of cajoling, nudging, whining, yelling, and various other modes of communication that I'm not really proud of, could move his inert body from his bed.  We would inevitably end up rushing around at the last minute  to get out the door by the necessary time to make it to the bus stop....both of us ending up in terrible moods....... Peter was usually the innocent bystander to the angry whirling dervishes that mother and son became.....  For a non-morning person like myself, it was especially painful.

But now.... I just go into Parker's room, turn a low light on,  utter a gentle good morning, calmly let him know what time it is, and that's all that is needed for my 15 year old son to start his morning.  I go back to my puttering, may even have time for a Facebook scrabble game or two, and then, after showering, dressing, and organizing his school stuff, Parker is sitting at the breakfast table with me, and we may even have a little bit of a morning conversation while we munch on our morning meal.... not bad for a non-morning mother and her teenage son!    I am thinking that our mellow mornings may be resulting from a combination of;  Parker maturing, and the fact that I'm not rushing off to work these days so I'm in a much less stressed place in the mornings.... Whatever it is, I am actually really liking my Nantucket mornings.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Three Months

Yesterday at approximately 10:15pm, marked our 3 month anniversary of living on Nantucket. My husband, Peter, my 15 year old son, Parker, my 9 year-old bulldog, Abigail, and our two sibling 8 year old cats, Minerva and Sirius (named in the midst of Harry Potter fever) stepped foot off the Ferry and onto Nantucket at 10:15pm (we took the 8:00pm ferry from Hyannis). When I bought the ticket I realized that it was the first time I had ever made a one-way only car reservation.

I have personally been coming to Nantucket since 1965 when I was 11 years old. My family had been renting summer cottages in Chatham on the Cape for several years and we're introduced to the joys of Nantucket at some point in the early 60's during a weekend visit to a friend's place. We happily rented on Nantucket though the summer of 1980 when my Aunt Jane (my Dad's sister), in a fit of disgust over the rickety outdoor shower we were all forced to use in our family's latest rental,  convinced my Dad to seriously consider buying a house which he did in early 1981... our house on Surfside Road. That summer I met my future husband at the Atlantic Cafe (the notes he passed to my cousin Pam and I via the friendly bartender, Spider are framed and hanging in our bathroom). We were married in that Surfside house on May 29th, 1983.

Fast forward 12 years to 1995. My Mom and Dad decided to build a house on a less busy section of Nantucket (after their beloved Springer Spaniel, Winnie was almost hit by a car on the increasingly busy Surfside road) and ended up having the same man who built their Surfside Road house (Steve Kotalac), build another home for them on Ridge Lane, Fishers Landing, Madaket. My parents spent their first night there on November 24th, 1995, coincidentally, the night that Parker was born. Parker's first visit to Nantucket was when he was 5 weeks old and we celebrated New Years Eve on the island (the first of many trips up the steeple of the Unitarian Church to ring in the New Year.... this trip was made in a snuggly on his mother's chest... he slept soundly through the entire event).

Fast forward 15 more years and here we are.. Nantucket is now our permanent home. Parker is a sophomore at Nantucket High School (his first public school experience.. he's doing very well academically and quite well otherwise as well, trying his hand on the Sailing Club this Fall and joining the Veritas staff (high school newspaper). Peter is happily retired and seems to be born to it....cheerfully making lists of things to do and puttering around the house to his heart's content. I am semi-retired so far.... looking for a part time job that I can enjoy but not finding one yet. Peter and I are volunteering regularly (3-4 times per week) at the local MSPCA - he's the Cat man, and I walk the dogs. I am also tutoring in the library's English as a Second Language program.... I have a young woman from El Salvador as my first "tutee".

Peter's and my biggest worry was how Parker would handle the transition.... so far he is doing wonderfully.... big relief! I remember when we dropped him off for his first day at the high school back on September 6th. When Parker left us in the car and walked off into the huge (to us) new school by himself, Peter turned to me and said; "I feel like I'm going to throw up".

After 3 months we are definitely enjoying our life here. Things that have surprised us (sometimes a little, sometimes more so) are (in no order of importance):

* The summer crowds!.... Yikes! August was an eye-opener! We have mostly been renting out the house in the summer and coming for long weekends off season when it is MUCH less crowded. What a relief when Labor Day rolled around ---- it made a noticeable difference. And actually this year, the crowds died down during the week before Labor Day because of Hurricane Irene (which actually basically missed us and did much more damage on the mainland)

* The humidity!...This seems like a no-brainer..... Obviously we expected some moisture living on an island and our house so close to the ocean... but.... it is WET.... we invested in a small dehumidifier (25 pints) and have been rotating it in the downstairs bedrooms... it easily fills up within 24 hours ....

* The wind!..... rain or shine there is almost always some degree of windiness on our little island. During this past October Nor'easter, winds got up to 70mph. It's getting to the point where I am so used to the sound of wind that it sounds weird when there is no wind (which doesn't happen very often)

I hope to use this blog just to record and reflect upon my life here on Nantucket Island. If people choose to read it... well that would be nice.... I enjoy writing and hope that others can get some enjoyment from what I write as well.... I am new to the world of blogging... just thought it would be a fun way to journal and might inspire me to keep at it too!