Small Town Love

Our family is like a little solar system.  At our center is our sun, my sister Sue, radiating warmth and love that sustains her six siblings, who, like planets, revolve around her.  Although she never had children of her own, she is a second mom (and now grand-mom) to satellite nieces, nephews, cousins’ and friends’ children.

Although four of the seven “kids”  have moved away, Sue, our sister Sandy and brother Tom have all  lived in the same area their entire lives, accumulating a glorious galaxy of friends.  (See how you think after being married to an astronomer for four decades?)

Recently, Tom’s daughter gave birth to premature twins.  Sadly, one died shortly after birth, but thanks to the wonderful medical team in Providence, his twin has grown from 1 pound 6 ounces to just under 4 pounds.

Modern medicine is truly amazing; it is also really, really expensive.  Even with insurance, the high deductible, coinsurance, and uncovered expenses all equate to huge bills, as any parent with a sick child can attest.  So, Sue decided to gather the troops to create a benefit dinner– “Pasta with a Purpose”.

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Fortunately, Sue has a talent for choosing loyal and giving friends, that are just like her.  Sheila, an elementary school buddy, has worked in the restaurant business for years, and like our brother Tom, is an amazing chef.  Who expects benefit food to be good?  It was at THIS benefit, thanks to a team of cooks.

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But the real stroke of genius was making friends with Debbie, who like other elementary school teachers, is a force to be reckoned with.   Teachers know how to create something out of nothing, how to get the unruly to behave and how to keep calm in the midst of chaos, and how to make great displays.   Let’s hear it for the teachers!

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Within three weeks, family and friends had secured the Knights of Columbus hall,

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The “elves” worked hard to get this all set up and orgnized

gotten food and raffle donations,

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As the evening progressed, donations kept coming in– we were running out of space!

found a DJ,

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sold hundreds of tickets, enlisted student volunteers to serve food,

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These kids were “on it”, serving, clearing, and setting up for the next round of diners

and taken care of the hundreds of tiny details necessary to make the event a success.

And what a success it was!  All to help this little guy and his loving parents.

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With so much negativity and violence these days, it is heartening to see how people can come together to support each other in time of need.

Our family includes the normal mix of in-laws, out-laws, and sheep of all colors.  If you were to chart us — along economic, political, and religious lines, you’d find someone on just about any point in the spectrum.  But when it comes to things that really matter, that all gets put aside.  It is family and friends,  all the way.

So in addition to paying tribute to my amazing sister, Sue, this is a huge thank you to all you small town inhabitants with big hearts, who came out on November 5th to show the love for Haylie, Greg and Baby Spencer.  Forgive me for not mentioning or photographing all of you who did so much to make the day so special.   You know who you are, and so do we.

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Could this be the start of another lifelong friendship?  

 

 

Citizens of Planet Earth

The first time I visited our nation’s capital was in 1970, when I hopped on a plane (another first) to join with hundreds of thousands protesting the Vietnam War.  My college roommate and I had no idea where we would be staying. and as typical college students, we had very little money, but somehow it all worked out.  Like Blanche DuBois, we depended on the kindness of strangers, and we weren’t disappointed.

Fast forward 47 years. Sadly, so many of the issues we THOUGHT were being addressed are still problematic. Though we recite the pledge of allegiance, we still have to work to make  “liberty and justice for ALL”  more than just empty words.  Surprisingly some of the truths that Tom Jefferson thought were “self evident”, today are not.

Yesterday,  Mike and I arose at 4:30 AM to board a bus for D.C. with 50 like minded citizens to participate in the People’s Climate March.  Spirits were high. On the drive down, Stacey, our efficient and amazing leader, reminded us of the rules of engagement established by the March organizers: No violence, verbal or physical toward anyone, be respectful  toward all people and property, look out for each other, pick up after ourselves.  Essentially, reminding us to behave the way we should every day.  Got it.

It was not surprising that this year’s march had a bit of a political bent to it, given our current president’s assault on the environment.

Isn’t it hard to believe that it is necessary to demonstrate for clean air, clean water and the preservation of our planet for future generations?  Who could possibly be against that?

Perhaps companies and innovators will view the masses of demonstrators as potential customers for their energy efficient products.  Perhaps our legislators will recognize that they have a constituent or two (or a few thousand) that cares about our beautiful country.  One can only hope.

I marvel that suddenly politicians are glorifying working in a coal mine.  Is it worth defiling our nation’s waterways to allow miners the opportunity to get black lung disease?  Loretta Lynn isn’t singing “Proud to be a coal miner’s grandmother”.   Full disclosure.  My knowledge of mining is limited to watching Loretta Lynn’s movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter”and reading the news, but I believe that miners are like the rest of us, wanting a good job, healthcare and a better life for their children.   I also have a sneaking suspicion that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell wouldn’t be thrilled to have THEIR offspring going down into the mines doing those jobs they are hell bent on preserving, but I digress.  Back to the march.

How wonderful to see all ages represented, from babies in strollers to seniors carrying pictures of their grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Despite there being marches throughout the country, many marchers traveled great distances to surround the white house.  We encountered travelers from Minnesota, Ohio and Iowa. Now that’s what I call commitment!

It was difficult to get a sense of the size of the crowd while we were in it.  Fortunately, photographers along the route were capturing images like this one ( grabbed from 350.org’s facebook page).  Despite a late start, and April temperatures that should have made believers out of any climate change deniers, the crowd was focused, disciplined, polite and spirited.   “This is what Democracy looks like” was a popular chant, as we made our way to the White House.

I offer photos from this inspiring day in the hope that you will join us, in whatever capacity you can, as we all continue to protect Pachamama (the name given to the earth, by the indigenous people of the Andes–a goddess indeed).  It isn’t a march, it’s a movement!  Remember–

THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

   

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Confessions of a GrandAunt

We’ve all heard that being a grandmother is way more fun than being a mother.  Well, the good news, for those of us with uncooperative offspring, is that being a grandaunt is equally thrilling.  Luckily for me, two of my nieces chose to reproduce, so I now have 3 little girls and 1 little boy in my life.  Unfortunately, 2 live in Massachusetts and 2 live in Virginia, so I’ve had to figure out how to make those magic moments together really count.  And since I’m in a figuring mood, I figured, why not share what I’ve learned with any blog buddies who have important little people in their lives?   

My most recent discovery is  the Providence Children’s Museum.  Here’s what you need to know:  

  • It is open every day except Monday. 
  • The parking lot is small, and there is construction next door that limits parking further, so arrive with lots of quarters to feed to the on street meters.  
  •  The museum offers the use of umbrella strollers for free. 
  • There is no food service, so you need to bring your own snacks.  These can only be eaten in the lunch room or outside.
  • Storage cubbies are free, and are easy to access so you can store your snacks and drinks there
  •  The $9 per person admission was so very worth it, offering hours of entertainment.  What better way to spend a rainy day?

Now that we have all of the ‘good to know’ stuff out of the way, how about the museum itself?  
In a word, it is absolutely FANTASTIC!  That place is perfectly sized for young children, with tons of fascinating, hands on activities.

For example, one whole room is completely dedicated to water fun.  It’s even educational!   “Let’s see what happens when you move those gray rectangles.” 


The museum supplies aprons so kids can splash away.  The blue aprons were a little large for the younger girl, so we downsized to red. 

There is something to delight everyone, regardless of whether you want to paint with water, or scrape an ice like substance from a table.  (No, I have NO idea what it was).

Notice the red and yellow circles on the walls?  Those are notes to parents, in English and Spanish, explaining the educational purpose of the activities.


The museum is spacious, colorful and loaded with child sized spaces to explore.  


Soft sculptures provide great photo opportunities for cell phone paparazzi (we are EVERYWHERE)!

There is something to delight the future cowgirl, 

as well as the budding heavy equipment operator…

Her grandmother is going to put these gardening skills to good use!